Our friends at Pen & Sword have republished Peter Bagshawe’s Warriors in the Sky, Springbok Air Heroes in Combat, first published by Ashanti in Johannesburg in 1990. This collection of anecdotes is well worth a wider a audience, hence the description of the British publisher.
A history of the SA Air Force this is not. But in someway it is better, its anecdotes throw light on events and episodes often just glossed over elsewhere, for example the number of seconded SAAF officers serving in command positions in the RAF and, in consequence, the number of South Africans fighting in places such as Burma and the like. Many of the 40+ short stories in the title are autobiographical and most of the rest were written by one pilot about another. This makes for a no-nonsense, informative read with a good sense of humour.
The majority of stories concern World War II when, along with other Commonwealth air forces, the SAAF sought to claim the skies from their Axis opponents. The book successfully captures the esprit de corps that existed in the SAAF of that time and between all the nations that fought on the Allied side. It is a splendid record of the many heroic actions in which Springbok pilots fought. The remainder relate flying in Korea and during the Border War.
Bagshawe was himself a pilot, serving two wartime tours on Mustangs, Typhoons and Kittyhawks. He migrated to South Africa in the 1950s and became a commercial pilot, specialising in aerial photography and crop dusting. At the end of his flying career he had over 10,000 hours on the log.
Warriors in the Sky
Springbok Air Heroes in Combat
Pen & Sword