Nigerian military heritage delegation fact finding visit to two SA military museums

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Current expertise allied to experience gained, in one instance over more than 50 years, by South African military museums attracted the attention of the Nigerian Army Heritage and Futures Centre.

This developed into visits by senior staff to the SA Naval Museum in Simon’s Town and the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum at Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat in Cape Town.

The Nigerian centre in Abuja was taken into service in January last year and has a multi-pronged raison d’etre. On one hand it is charged with research to develop and formulate policy frameworks to entrench and preserve the heritage of the Nigerian Army. Other taskings relate to monitoring implementation of bilateral agreements and, according to a Nigerian report, “institutionalising and mainstreaming novel solutions to tactical, operational, administrative and logistics challenges of the Nigerian Army”.

Calls this month to Ysterplaat and in April to the Naval Museum were fact finding in nature with benchmarking and learning the priorities.

At Ysterplaat, one of three Western Cape SAAF bases and the only one in the province housing a museum, the Nigerian visit was billed as “a significant event that fostered international relations and cultural exchange”.

The Ysterplaat museum, along with its headquarters at the Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (AF MDW), previously AFB Swartkop, the oldest in the SAAF base inventory, and the Gqeberha museum at Air Force Station (AFS) Port Elizabeth, are collection, exhibition, conservation and research centres for the aviation component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

While at Ysterplaat the Nigerian delegation were introduced to the world’s last surviving Shackleton Mk III (P 1722) in hangar 4. They also had the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with other aircraft in the museum inventory and see currently in-service platforms including the Super Lynx maritime and Oryx medium transport rotorcraft.

In April, the Nigerian delegation was thoroughly briefed on museum operations for the SANDF maritime service, ranging from function through to cultural, society, environmental and economic aspects, before an hour-long museum tour.

Of the visit, Museum Officer in Charge, Commander Leon Steyn, said: “The recent trend and intent – to establish new military museums in Africa – points to a new and exciting era”.

“Revitalisation and appreciation of own military history and heritage is to be commended and supported.”

Two years before the Nigerians arrived to learn how the SANDF manages its heritage, they were preceded by a Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) delegation. The Ugandans’ first stop was at AF MDW to see how the SAAF Museum, set up in 1973, manages its exhibits, research library and a sizeable component of vintage and airworthy military aircraft. Stop number two was Simon’s Town for the naval museum, presently marking 31 years of welcoming local and international naval enthusiasts and visitors keen on learning about the maritime service.