May is traditionally the month during which the South African Air Force (SAAF) recalls the memory of its members who gave their lives in service of their country in times of war and peace.
Although the main SAAF Memorial Service is held at the Air Force Memorial on Bays Hill south of Pretoria, localised services are also held at air force bases around the country. The first such service this year was held at AFB Ysterplaat on May 8.
The Memorial Services honour those members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. Senior SANDF and political leaders, military units, veterans associations, industry organisations and family members are afforded the opportunity to lay wreaths to commemorate the approximately 3 000 fallen SAAF members.
During the Ysterplaat service, the SAAF, next of kin and various veteran organisations laid wreaths. Brigadier General JCJ Butler (Director Combat Systems) laid a wreath on behalf of the Chief of the South African Air Force. Representatives of AFB Ysterplaat and the lodged units followed, alongside those of the South African Navy and the Cape Town Highlanders. Veteran organisations included the SAAF Association, Friends of the SAAF Museum, the RAF Association and the SA Legion. Denel and Sanlam were also represented.
Family of members who passed away were also afforded the opportunity to pay their respects by placing roses upon a replica of the Air Force Memorial. The SA Police Service Band (Western Cape) and the Chris Hani School Choir performed during the service.
The first memorial service was held in May 1950 and since then has been observed annually with the exception of 1961 when South Africa became a Republic.
The Air Force Memorial in Pretoria commemorates those who had died while serving in the former statutory and non-statutory forces that form the present air force and those who still will bring the supreme sacrifice. It serves as a grave for those who were buried in foreign countries and those for whom no grave exists.