The South African Air Force (SAAF) has held its first memorial service in three years as a result of the relaxed Covid-19 regulations, remembering their dead in both accidents and the pandemic.
During the pandemic, in 2021, two veteran pilots, General Des Barker and Colonel Rama Iyer, were lost when the SAAF Museum’s Patchen Explorer they were piloting crashed at the Swartkop Air Force Base.
SAAF Chaplain Melanie Smit paid tribute to SAAF members who were lost to the pandemic. She said the memorial was an opportunity to honour the families of Air Force members and to support those families who had lost loved ones.
The service opened with the placing of the colours and the flypast by an Agusta-Westland A109 helicopter of 17 Squadron. Following the Two Minutes’ Silence, a Harvard trainer of the SAAF Museum’s Historic Flight flew overhead. After the service and wreath-laying, an Alouette III of the SAAF Museum dropped rose petals.
The new Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, laid the first wreath, followed by the SA Air Force Association. Other wreaths were laid by military attachés from the United Kingdom, Burkina Faso, Brazil, the USA, the South African Legion and families of SAAF members.
An interesting fact is that the US attaché was from the famous 7th Cavalry Regiment of Little Bighorn and Vietnam War fame.