An important addition to South African military aviation literature will, aptly, be launched at the South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum Flying Training Day on February 2.
Compiled by self-confessed military aviation addict Dean Wingrin, “Tumult in the Clouds – Stories from the SAAF, 1920 – 2010” is a personal history of South Africa’s military aviators. Wingrin, the man behind the Unofficial SAAF website, personally interviewed and corresponded with almost all those who contributed to the book.
As far as can be ascertained, it is the first publication to include the views of people who became part of the SA National Defence Force’s airborne arm of service following democracy in 1994.
He noted the SAAF is “not just about aircraft and ordnance. It is made up of people and this compilation gives a voice to them, be they air or ground crew. These are their stories, all told in the first person by the participants as unvarnished, unabbreviated and intensely immediate and personal recollections.
“Through their stories of heroism, duty, adventure and tragedy the reader will follow the history of the SAAF prior to 1939 up to 2010.”
The final chapter complements the personal memories with a collection of squadron pub songs from World War Two and the Korean and Border conflicts.
Wingrin said the concept for the book came from two flanks “in a classic military pincer movement.”
“From one side I would listen to the ‘there I was’ type of stories at functions and socials which I found fascinating. Problem was, you had to be there and once a person had passed on, a particular story was lost forever.
“The second pincer was the number of e-mails I received requesting details of fathers, grandfathers and relatives who had died and never spoke of their military service. Family members wanted to know where their relatives had served and under what conditions they lived.
“The result is ‘Tumult in the Clouds’, of which the most difficult part was deciding what to include and what to leave out. Each story is worthy of inclusion as each brought a different aspect of the SAAF and its people to the fore. A major benefit is I now have a considerable head start for a possible second volume and I’m still conducting further interviews,” he said.
Guest of honour at the launch will be former Air Force Chief, Lieutenant General Dennis Earp, who also wrote the foreword for ‘Tumult in the Clouds’.