Newsletter No. 503
Our final meeting of 2017, which is also a cocktail party, began at 19h30 with announcements by the Chairman, Roy Bowman.
He reminded all present of the Annual General Meeting which will take place on 12th April 2018 and the need for all members to exercise their democratic right and vote for their choice of committee member and chairman. He also reminded members that it this Branch's 50th Anniversary in 2018 and the new committee will be required to work hard to set up a suitable event to remember this auspicious occasion by.
The Chairman requested members to give some thought to where they would like to visit for the Annual Ken Gillings Memorial Tour to enable our Tourmaster to set up the tour.
There was a short lecture by Capt. Nigel Lewis-Walker on the state of "Fortress Durban", the Bluff guns. Once again the call went out for volunteers to lend their expertise to this project to restore this installation for the future. The SANDF have come on board and I am sure they will become a major asset in this project.
The welcome news was passed to all, that word had been received that subscriptions for 2018 would remain at 2017 levels i.e.
Invoices would be sent out shortly from JHB.
There had been a request from Ken Gillings widow, Heather, that she had an original copy of John North Crealock's book of oil-paintings of the Anglo Zulu War of 1879 "The Road to Ulundi", at a bargain price of R1600.00. Please contact the Chairman for more details.
The Chairman announced that he had received sad news that Dr Graham Lynn Coggin, one of the Branch's long termed members was extremely ill and asked all present to say a prayer for Dr. Coggin's recovery. ( subsequently news was received that he had passed away and we are awaiting news of funeral arrangements.)
Roy Bowman then expressed his great pleasure at welcoming the guest speaker for the evening, Col. (Ret.) Steve Bekker SAAF, who would give a talk, in his inimitable fashion, on "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" the story of turbo prop Dakotas in the SAAF.
The presentation was opened by Col (ret) Steve Bekker who gave a technical description of the Turbo Dak (C47TP), and explained the differences between the old DC3 and the Turbo Dak.
As a VIP Commander on the Turbo Dak, Steve was tasked to take 20 or so foreign military attaches to the Denel testing range at Alkantpan. The take off time was at 07h00 but, since everyone was present at 06h20 already, Steve decided to take the passengers to the aircraft himself for an earlier departure as he could not find a ground hostess to accompany the passengers.
While Steve was briefing the passengers a ground hostess with the rank of Corporal appeared in the door of the aircraft at the rear and demanded to know who gave the passengers permission to climb into the aircraft. Steve replied that he had accompanied the passengers to the aircraft. The Corporal then demanded to know who gave Steve permission to allow the passengers to board the aircraft. Steve then explained that as the Squadron Commander and the aircraft commander, he gave himself permission to accompany the passengers to the aircraft. The Corporal then demanded to see Steve outside the aircraft. Before departing Steve told the American Colonel sitting in front to please excuse him as he was going outside for his "disciplinary interview".
Outside the aircraft the Corporal gave Steve a detailed lecture on the the Aviation Act, and the Base Standing Instructions, all of which had not allowed Steve to accompany the passengers to the aircraft as the ground hostess was qualified to do this. When she had finished Steve replied:
When re-entering the aircraft the Colonel asked what the Corporal had said, to which Steve replied
The flight to Alkantpan was uneventful. An inspection run was done over the airfield to check the condition of the runway, where after a text book approach was made. When coming over the fence, Steve reduced power for the landing. However, the aircraft just seemed to float down the runway while Steve and the co-pilot waited for the aircraft to touch down. At one point Steve decided that he either had to plonk the aircraft down or take power and go around as he was running out of runway, so he pushed the stick forward only to find out that the aircraft had been on the runway since the beginning of the runway.
He declares that this was the finest landing of his flying career and the only reason why he could not clap his hands like the passengers were doing was because he still had to control the aircraft.
The Duchess of Kent
44 Squadron was tasked to fly the Duchess of Kent to Ladysmith. As the Squadron Commander and VIP Commander, Steve decided to fly the trip himself to avoid any problems that may arise with the handling of the Duchess and the flight itself. Steve stated that this was possibly the worst decision he could have made.
Steve was briefed on the etiquette by Ms Emsie Schoeman, the etiquette expert, and all went well until the approach at Ladysmith airfield.
The mandatory inspection run was done and the final approach commenced. Steve said that he flew over the power lines on short final and proceeded with a text book landing. The co-pilot (who had been a ball boy at a Wimbledon Tennis Championship where the Duchess had handed out the trophies), still remarked that the landing was going to be "a greaser". The snag with the runway at Ladysmith is that the runway has an upward slope which Steve did not compensate enough for which resulted in a really hard landing with the aircraft bouncing back into the air. The next landing was a repeat of the first, as was the third landing. However, on the third landing Steve pushed the controls into the dash to ensure that the aircraft stayed on the ground. This made for a jarring end to the flight.
After shut down Steve told the co-pilot that, as he had always wanted to meet the Duchess, he must go and greet her on her exit of the aircraft. However, the co-pilot wouldn't budge from his seat. Steve then wondered if he could set fire to himself rather than face the Duchess, but decided to do the honourable thing and go and apologise for the worst landing of his flying career.
The Duchess was very gracious about the horrendous landing and said that the landing "had settled her breakfast".
Steve mentioned that if the Duchess and the passengers of the Alkantpan trip had met, they would never have believed that they had both had the same pilot.
Steve concluded his talk by answering a number of questions from the attendees.
After such a fantastically humorous presentation the Chairman gave the Vote of Thanks of all present and beside the customary gift to guest speakers he took the opportunity of presenting Col Bekker a collectors item, a book about the "Harvards" in the SAAF, a record of all Harvards that had done service in our Air Force and one in particular, the aircraft Col. Bekker had done his training in.
The draw for the raffle to assist in the payment of the rental for our venue took place and was won by Andy Allers.
Roy Bowman then announced January's two talks;
Rob Suberg telling us about "The South African Police cap Badge" and the Main Talk will be presented by a guest speaker, Peter Williams who will tell us about "ISIS. Only the beginning of the end".
Once again we kick off the New Year with a Bang.
The Chairman wished all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 2018, before inviting them to partake in the customary End of Year Cocktail Party.
On behalf of the Kwa Zulu Natal Committee of South African Military History Society I would like to wish all who receive this tome a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
SOUTH AFRICAN MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY
South African Military History Society / email@example.com