Improved security coming for SAAF Memorial

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The SA Air Force (SAAF) is “investigating security options” for the Bays Hill memorial it has joint ownership of with the SAAF Association (SAAFA).

The memorial was vandalised last November, provoking stern comment from SAAFA National President Mike Louw who called it “desecration”. The unfortunate event cast a shadow over the premises being able to host the annual SAAF Memorial Service.

As it turned out there was no need to make use of the Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (AF MDW – formerly Air Force Base Swartkop) number five hangar for last month’s memorial service, with generator power used at the memorial.

In response to a defenceWeb inquiry, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) said sensors, alarms as well as permanent guards and sentries are among options under investigation to secure the memorial.

“In the interim,” the response reads in part, “the protection squadron will conduct the site in their nightly and early morning rounds”. This presumably refers to 104 Squadron.

“In the medium term, the Acting Officer Commanding AF MDW will erect double fencing around the inner perimeter of the Memorial Site and place K-9 units between the two fences at night,” the response continues, adding costs and lead time investigations are underway and “will be confirmed once a contractor has been selected”.

SAAFA representatives met with senior SAAF officers to discuss prevention of similar unwanted events in future.

Speaking to a defenceWeb correspondent at the memorial service, Louw noted the Bays Hill memorial was “sacred ground” to the air force and the air force association.

The main distribution box was destroyed and all circuit breakers stolen, leaving the memorial powerless. Cabling, wiring and light fittings were also stolen.

The desecration was confined to the Wall of Remembrance on the historically important Bays Hill site where some niches were seemingly wilfully damaged.

“Fortunately none containing service members’ ashes were damaged,” Louw said.