100 years of air defence in South Africa


Kimberley will tomorrow see a march past of four batteries of air defence artillery accompanied by a 70 vehicle mechanised column to mark the centenary of air defence in South Africa.

In addition to the 100 years of air defence, the Air Defence Artillery Corps this year marks its 75th anniversary and the two Reserve Force units in the Air Defence Artillery formation – Regiment Oos Transvaal and 6 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment – celebrate 50 years of existence.

Brigadier General Sandile Hlongwa, General Officer Commanding the Air Defence Artillery Formation, will be the review officer and will take the salute.

The history of air defence in South Africa dates back to 1914 with the “Skinny Liz”. This was a purpose-built gun created from a pair of 15 pound BLC guns for use against aircraft. The “Skinny Liz” was first deployed to the then South West Africa under the command of Lieutenant EH Tomplin. Following the South West campaign the gun was moved to a coastal battery in the Western Cape and eventually retired.

The first South African anti-aircraft unit – 1 Anti-Aircraft Battery – came into existence on April 1, 1939 as part of the Coast Artillery Brigade. Training for battery members was done at Brooklyn airfield and Klaasjagtersberg, near Cape Point the same year. The unit saw service in East Africa in 1940.

Regiment Oos Transvaal was established and appointed as an Afrikaans medium unit of the Citizen Force with effect from October 1, 1964, with its headquarters in the Brakpan/Benoni area of what was then the Transvaal East Rand. The unit was to be equipped with 35 mm Oerlikon guns but on December 1, 1964, a decision was made for it to become a Bofors/Oerlikon gun unit. The Freedom of Brakpan was awarded to the unit on April 14, 1984.
6 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was established on April 1, 1965. The unit’s first headquarters was the home of its first commanding officer. The unit was equipped as a 35 mm Oerlikon gun regiment which included the Fledermaus radar system. A National Colour was presented to the unit on August 31, 1992. The regiment was affiliated with 14 (Coles Kop) Battery of the Royal Artillery in January 2000. It was awarded the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg in November 2002.