The South African Air Force (SAAF) and the Air Force Association have commemorated those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the 54th annual memorial service at Bays Hill outside Pretoria.
The good news was there were no SAAF deaths to recall this year. The memorial was showered with rose petals from a SAAF Museum Alouette III helicopter. Rose petals have also been strewn over the Zonderwater Block Memorial for Italian POWs of the Second World War.
A single Oryx helicopter of 17 Squadron flew the Air Force Colours during the Salute Flight, followed by a Harvard from the SAAF Museum and finally the Alouette, which performed the rose petal flypast.
The service was – unusually – presided over by three SAAF Chaplains. The Chaplain of the SAAF, Colonel Zolani Makalima, said the names of those who had given their lives was not “consigned to the dustbin of history, we always remember our own”.
The current service, he said, marked the second anniversary of the location of the SAAF’s Heptagon, which now adorns the wall of the SAAF Memorial. “The Heptagon symbolized the integration of the seven former military forces which include the former statutory and non-statutory forces into the South African National Defence Force.”
He added that the Heptagon reminds SAAF members where they came from, and it also remains a symbol of hope, unity and cohesion. These are “ideas which the SANDF and the South African Air Force aspire to.”
The other two chaplains mentioned were retiring this year. Colonel Mantsi Mohapi and Colonel (Padre) Addie Burt had often officiated at Bays Hill services and the Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant-General Fabian Msimang, had the idea to let them officiate at their last service together.
Following the Closing Prayer, the Last Post was played, followed by the customary two-minutes’ silence, then the Reveille.
General Msimang laid the first wreath for the Air Force, followed by members of the SAAF Association, General Denis Earp for the SA Korean War Veterans’ Association, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of SA and the South African Legion, the Warsaw Flights Association, the Royal Air Force Officers’ Association and other groups.
Military attaches who laid wreaths included Korean, American and British representatives as well as next-of-kin, and members of the audience who wished to lay a rose of remembrance. The helicopter flypast strewing the rose petals followed.