In memoriam: Leon Engelbrecht

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Leon Engelbrecht, one of the leading lights in the South African defence media and editor of defenceWeb, passed away on Friday after a short illness. He had just turned 44.

He leaves behind a son and a daughter, as well as tens of thousands of loyal defenceWeb readers who relied on his knowledge, insight, analysis and wisdom into defence and security matters.

Leon was amongst a handful of the most respected defence professionals working in the media industry and through defenceWeb gained a highly respected reputation at home, on the continent and abroad as well – he delivered a paper in the United States and undertook a course at a Paris war college.

Anyone who spoke with Leon will recall his encyclopaedic knowledge, sharp mind and witty sense of humour. He could recite verbatim quotes from hundreds of books and films, with particular favourites from the political satire Yes Minister.

But it was his ability to memorise and synthesise vast quantities of information that made Leon so good at his calling, as well as his military background – he rose to the rank of Lieutenant during his time in the South African Army.

After serving in the Army for five years, Leon worked for several news organisations, including Agence France Presse, Network Radio News and Sapa, before coming to ITWeb as an information and communications technology reporter. However, his first love was always defence – Leon always claimed to have been a journalist for 17 years and a student of military affairs for 27 years. His passion for history and the military resulted in the creation of defenceWeb.co.za, which was officially launched at the September 2008 Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in Cape Town.

The website grew beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, becoming one of the most respected online defence news sources in Africa. Initial traffic was just 1 000 readers per month in October 2008 but in four years this increased 40 times – an incredible achievement Leon was immensely proud to witness.

When most people talk about Leon they talk about defenceWeb – indeed, Leon was defenceWeb. However, he would be assured to know that the website will be taken from strength to strength and be something he would be proud to look upon. We go forward in his memory.