AFB Ysterplaat held its annual Air Force Memorial Service on 5 May at which the Air Force Base not only recalled those serving members who lost their lives during the previous year, but the memory of thousands of South African Air Force (SAAF) members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country in times of war and in times of peace.
May is traditionally the month during which the SAAF recalls the memory of thousands of its members who gave their lives in service of their country in times of war and in times of peace. Although the main SAAF Memorial Service is held at the Air Force Memorial on Bays Hill outside Pretoria, localised services are also held at air force bases around the country.
Senior SANDF members in and around Cape Town, 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.
Normally held inside a hangar, Col AJ de Castro, Officer Comanding AFB Ysterplaat, took the decision this year to hold the service in front of the Memorial Wall alongside the SAAF Museum.
Brigadier General Mac Matanda (Officer Commanding AFB Langebaanweg) 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 Army and South African Navy. Veteran organisations included the SAAF Association, Friends of the SAAF Museum, the RAF Association and the SA Legion. Sanlam also laid a wreath.
Family of members and friends of those who passed away were also afforded the opportunity to pay their respects by placing roses upon a replica of the Air Force Memorial. The AFB Ysterplaat Choir and the choir from Kenmere Primary School performed during the service, whilst S Sgt Pheiffer of the SA Army Band laid the Last Post.
The first memorial service was held in May 1950 and since then is 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.