The SA Navy (SAN), like its sister service the SA Air Force (SAAF), has a Sword of Peace award for the naval unit which provides the most meritorious aid in the humanitarian field, typically disaster relief or search and rescue operations.
SA Naval Museum Commander, Commander Leon Steyn notes “the award is not necessarily presented each year, only in cases that truly merit the award in recognition of a unit’s achievement”.
Presented to the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) by the Wilkinson Sword Company in 1976, it was first awarded the following year to SAS Flamingo.
The then air sea rescue unit based at Langebaan on the Cape west coast received the Sword of Peace honour for services performed and for numerous rescue operations between 1969 and 1977. This included the rescue of survivors from the stern trawler TracyJon which capsized 150 miles off Saldanha on 14 November 1969, together with a daring rescue operation to reach 10 critically injured men on the tanker Georgios V a few hundred miles west of Walvis Bay on 25 August 1970.
Other SAN units to be honoured as Sword of Peace recipients include the diving school SAS Simonsberg, the former strikecraft flotilla, the former Naval Command Natal, the hydrographic platform SAS Protea (A324), SAS Drakensberg (A301), the now decommissioned SAS Tafelberg (A243) and the now defunct strikecraft SAS Oswald Pirow (P1566) and Kobie Coetsee (P1568) as well as Naval Base Simon’s Town.
Elaborating on the award Steyn told defenceWeb his unit suggested as number of retroactive awards for consideration by Fleet Command and the Navy Command Council in recognition of humanitarian aid, disaster relief and search and rescue operations since 2011.
“Examples are the operation involving SAS Isandlwana (F146) when she came to the aid of the stricken Angolan yacht Bille on 7 January 2014 during the Cape to Rio yacht race and humanitarian rescue operations in January 2015 when Navy divers were deployed to a flood-stricken Mozambique.
“It is important to remember the frequency of naval operations such as these decreased in recent year, with mercy dashes into the Southern Ocean as an example due to the availability of the capable SA Agulhas 2 and the patrol vessel Sarah Baartman (DAFF). The rescue of 62 seafarers off Gough Island in October by Agulhas 2 is one example,” Steyn said.
Thanks to the SA Naval Museum for assistance.