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                                                                         NEWSLETTER OF THE DURBAN BRANCH
  PO BOX 441, UMHLANGA ROCKS, 4320     TEL/FAX 031- 561-5806           NUMBER 57                            October 2009
       e-Mail :

                                                     NEWS AND EVENTS

                        Chief of the SA Air Force unveils two memorials in honour of the late
                                             Major E. E. Swales VC DFC

The fruition of this project to erect these two memorials (one at the Durban High School and the other at the NMR
HQ) is the result of the initiative and hard work by “The Edwin Swales VC,DFC Memorial Working Committee” of the
SA Military History Society. The convenor and Memorial Sponsor was David Scholtz, a prominent Johannesburg
lawyer. The memorials, in honour of this gallant airman, were unveiled by the Chief of the SA Air Force, Lt-Genl
Carlo Gagiano on 11 November 2009. He was assisted by Prof Edwina Ward (Niece of Edwin Swales).

It is fitting that we publish the official VC citation, which reads:

“The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the under-mentioned officer in
recognition of the most conspicuous bravery:-

Captain Edwin Swales, DFC (6101V) S.A.A.F 582 Sqdn. (deceased):

“”Captain Swales was 'Master Bomber' of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23,
1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to
the main force of bombers in his wake.

Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of
action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with
his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter
closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost
defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had
achieved its purpose. It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war.

Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so
much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working.
Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After
an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud
and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to
control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to
bail out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved
in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft
plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls.

Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades
might live”

General Gagiano and his entourage were flown to the school grounds (and later to the NMR HQ) by an Oryx
helicopter from 15 Squadron (flown by the OC, Lt- Col Kitley). Our National President, Ken Snowball also attended
this noteworthy occasion.Some photos of this noteworthy occasion follow on the next page.

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Lt –Gen Gagiano, Mrs Leonie Gagiano & Prof Edwina Ward     Lt-Gen Gagiano delivering his address.
             before the unveiling ceremony

             The unveiling of the Memorial
                                                         Presentation of the SAAF Flag to Prof Ward

             The unveiling at the NMR HQ

                                                             The magnificent Memorial at DHS

         Nation SAAFA President Ken Snowball
                    The Sunset Call
                                                                     South African Pipe Specifications
Since the publication of our previous newsletter it is
with sadness that we report that Sean Butterfield,              1. All pipe to be made of a round hole,
Michael Gritten, Johan Meyer, John Redman &
                                                                surrounded by metal or plastic centered
Charles Smith have been called to Higher Service.
                                                                around the hole.
May they rest in peace.
  At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will       2. All pipes is to be hollow throughout the
                     remember them                              entire length - do not use holes of different
                                                                lengths than the pipe.
                    Annual raffle                               3. The I.D (inside diameter) of all pipes must
The entrance form for our annual raffle is attached –
                                                                not exceed the O.D (outside diameter).
please support us. The prizes are:
                                                                4. All pipe to be supplied with nothing in the
First -          R500
Second:-         R250                                           hole so that water, steam or other stuff can
Third -          R100                                           be put inside at a later date.
The forms must be posted to Basil Letherbarrow so as            5. All pipes should be supplied without rust -
to reach him before 1 December 2009. There will be              this can be readily applied at the job site.
additional forms available at our November and Xmas             NB Some vendors are now able to supply pre-
lunches. The draw will take place at our Xmas lunch.            rusted pipe. If available in your area it will
                                                                save a lot of time on the job site.
Members may also complete the attached form and e-
                                                                6. All pipes over 150m in length should have
mail it back to us ( and
                                                                "long pipe" clearly printed on each end so that
then transfer the applicable amount to our bank
account as detailed below. Please give your name as             the Contractor will know that it is a long pipe.
deposit reference.                                              7. Pipe over 3 km must have the words "very
Bank:                 Standard                                  long pipe" clearly painted on each end so that
Branch:               Umhlanga                                  the Contractor will not have to walk the
Branch Code:          05 78 29 44                               entire length to determine whether it is a
Account Name:         SA Air Force Association
Account Number:       053443373                                 "long pipe" or a "very long pipe".
Account Type:         Investment                                8. All pipes over 150mm in diameter must
                                                                have the words "large pipe" painted on it so
Please support us, all proceeds are earmarked for our           that the Contractor will not mistake it for a
Branch Welfare Fund – this year we have contributed             small pipe.
over R32 000 towards our benevolence recipients                 9. When ordering 90 degree, 45 degree or 30
                                                                degree elbows, be sure to specify right hand
                                                                or left hand; otherwise you will end up going
Our monthly lunches for the next three months will be           the wrong way.
held on the dates as tabulated below. Time is 12h00             10. Be sure to specify to your vendor whether
for 13h00 at the Combined Mess at the Air Force                 you want level, uphill or downhill pipe. If you
Base.                                                           use downhill pipe for going uphill, the water
13 Nov. Maj Bruce Fraser – 15 Sqdn                              will flow the wrong way.
11 Dec. Xmas lunch – Possible helicopter flip before            11. All couplings should have either left hand
the lunch – we will keep you updated.                           or right hand thread, but do not mix the
15 Jan. Speaker to be announced (Please note that
                                                                threads otherwise, when the coupling is being
                 this is the third Friday of the month)
                                                                screwed on one pipe, it will be unscrewed
12 Feb No speaker - AGM
                                                                from the other
The cost of the Xmas lunch will be announced well in
advance of the lunch, but please note that due to
rising costs we have been left with no option but to
increase the price of our regular monthly lunches to
R50 per person as from January 2010.

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 STALAG LUFT 3 (As remembered by Jack Spencer)

In a previous newsletter we asked for memoirs of people especially with regards to their experience in POW camps.
Jack Spencer has obliged with a full record of his service which we felt was worth including in this newsletter. This is
what Jack Spencer sent us regarding his SAAF service. We thank you Jack – and invite other members to put their
WW2 experiences to paper – we will publish them, as these memories must be preserved.

                         Jack Spencer of No.1 Squadron S.A.A.F. recorded as follows:

Members of my family and others have asked me to record my wartime experiences. At the risk of boring others that
might read this, I have included a brief record of the various training courses that we went through to become pilots in
the SAAF. The curriculum was standardized throughout the Commonwealth and later, I think in the USA. If my
memory is correct, it was known as the “Air Training Scheme”. Later many RAF pilots were sent to South Africa for
these courses at the expense of the many aspiring South Africans who couldn’t be accommodated. I suppose this
met the needs of the war effort, but of course, as I heard later, very disappointing for many. It seems like I must have
been just in time to get onto a pilots course. I enlisted, aged 19, in Durban on 5TH May 1941, to hopefully become a
pilot in the SAAF. After a strict medical I was given a one-way ticket to Pretoria and eventually arrived at Roberts
Heights. After waiting about a week for amassing of 100 recruits, we were posted to Lyttleton as “Air Pupils”, issued
with uniforms, which included a light blue cap band. We were then told that we were the lowest form of life – and for
the next 3 months were treated as such!
           ITW ( Initial Training Wing) was basic training and consisted of squad drill all morning and lectures in the
afternoon. Our drilling instructors were mainly NCO’s from the SSB (Special Service Battalion- formed during the
depression). They were fine types behind their facades of bullying taskmasters. I rather enjoyed this period of
acquiring strict discipline and I am sure most of us found the learning fun. Most air pupils were school leavers. I
remember one by the name of Stan Cloud from East Rand somewhere, whose irate and indignant father came and
pulled him out – he was only 16 years old! I think he had forged his father’s signature.
           After passing exam’s and some leave the 45 survivors were posted to ATW (Advanced Training Wing) This
course consisted only of lectures, lasted about 2 months, during which time we weren’t such “low lifes” and had to
write more exams. After some more home leave I was posted to EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) at
Potchefstroom. Course no. 5, housed in the Artillery camp. Flying at last! Started on Tiger Moths on 25th November
1941. This time it was flying in the morning and lectures in the afternoon. What a job to keep awake during lectures!
We were no longer “Air Pupils”, but “Pupil Pilots” with a different cap band. I soloed in 10 ½ hours. What a wonderful
little aircraft the Tiger Moth was and I thoroughly enjoyed the course. After 86 flying hours the course ended and I
was assessed to continue training as a pilot. Some poor guys didn’t make it and were “washed out,” as the term
went. However 12 of us were posted to Vereeniging, No. 22 Air school – SFTS (Service Flying Training School)
course no.15, joining pupils from other EFTS’s and started flying Hawker Hinds, Harts and Audaxes. These rather
antiquated bi-planes were powered by Rolls Royce Kestrel 600 hp. engines and were great to fly. After qualifying on
3rd July 1942 after 214 hours total flying time we were given home leave. Wow! Three weeks in Durban and a pip and
wings up!
           We had been trained as medium bomber pilots and had to convert onto twin engine Oxford Trainers at 26 Air
School, Pietersburg, which we started on 28th July 1942 and completed on 3rd September 1942. They then, much to
my disappointment, sent me to CFS. (Central Flying School) at Bloemfontein, on an instructors course. I managed to
fail that, and they then gave me 2 options - Staff pilot in the Cape, or conversion onto fighters, & up North. Well,
what a pleasure! After a short conversion course of 16 hours onto Miles Masters at Bloemspruit, I was assessed as
“above average” Group 1 Pilot on 28th January 1943. Next – awaiting embarkation to Egypt as a passenger in a
Lockheed Lodestar. Waterkloof to Cairo took 5 days – one day & night lost to a sand storm in Sudan – a place from
hell, called Malakal. In February 1943 I arrived in Cairo where I met up with ex fellow pupils who were green with
envy, I being the only one of our course to end up on fighters. They had been to Bomber OTU in Kenya.
           I had to wait until 16th March to start at 73 OTU. (Operational Training Unit) at Abu Suier, (Suez Canal)
putting in 46 hours on Harvard’s & Spits. Course ended 17th April. We then had to hang about at Castel Benito, near
Tripoli getting in a few hours flying at 244 Wing training flight. This carried on for months, waiting for posting to 1
squadron – 3 of us were due for there. We got up to various activities and I remember sharing a tent with an RAF
flying officer – Parbury, - waiting to start his 2nd tour (to a RAF squadron). The only booze available was gin &
brackish water – I couldn’t stomach it, but the awful taste didn’t worry Parbury. He would return to the tent later being
very talkative. His tales of his escapades in Cairo were very entertaining, and I often wondered whether he survived
his second tour. Three of us were awaiting posting to 1 Squadron who were part of 244 RAF Wing. As the war was
getting up Tunis way, in order to maintain our flying hours, we were posted to a maintenance unit and 244 Wing
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training unit, where we were able to practice battle              formation etc. We had to await squadron
vacancies such as casualties, or tour expired types. We eventually joined 1 SAAF on 7 September 1943, who were
then at Lentini West, in Sicily. We were then told that Italy had surrendered unconditionally, that day, I think. 1 SAAF
was due to leave 244 RAF Wing (after having had a wonderful period with them) and join 7 SAAF wing later in Italy.
No I Sqdn. SAAF would still take the fighter role, for example, top cover, escort to bombers and bomb line patrols
and the occasional strafing missions when required. The other 7 Wing squadrons were to carry out dive-bombing
and strafing missions.
          It was really great to be in a fighter squadron at last. We had a very young squadron doctor in Sandy Brown
who could play the piano and guitar, we had a Cecil Golding who was a super jazz pianist and I also played the
squash box. The atmosphere was a really happy one of bantering, jokes and leg pulling and was something to be
treasured. Sandy was such a caring and kind doctor, so when at night in the mess, someone would complain of
stomach troubles he would answer: “DRINK”, or for a cough; “SMOKE”. We all knew it was his humour again. I must
say as an oldie now, the jokes and antics appearing through this story, now seem a little silly, but please remember,
we were very young and in an exciting situation.
          I really can’t forget the wonderful music we had in the Squadron from the BBC. The greatest of course was
the American band of the AEF (Allied Expeditionary Force) which of course was the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Then
there were Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Harry James. Of course there were the
British bands – eg. Geraldo (British band of the AEF), Carol Gibbons etc. How about the vocalists such as Crosby,
Eberly Brothers, Bygraves and of course the up and coming Sinatra who had yet to become so well known and –
dare I say it – “famous”. Luckily I still have a lot of it on the (now) old audio tapes, which are quite good enough for
          On about the 6th October I was sent to a field hospital back in Sicily with Yellow Jaundice. I didn’t start flying
again till the end of October. I also seemed to be susceptible to colds and `flu, which extended my tour somewhat.
On Christmas day 1943 we were doing a bomb line patrol at the Sangro river in appalling weather – cloud down to
1000 ft. We were recalled and on the way back my engine started overheating and cutting out, due to a glycol leak.
My options were to try and put it down or bale out. As we had recently lost Bert Staples trying to force land in a dry
river bed, I took the option of bailing out, but you don’t bale out of a Spit at 900 ft, however I had no option and was
over the waves. As I left the aircraft my legs hit the tail plane and I thought they were broken. A split second after I
pulled the ripcord I landed in the waves and managed to release my ‘chute and with it my inflatable dingy because of
the strong wind taking me out to sea. I still had my “Mae West” to keep me afloat. There was a unit of S.A.
Engineers camped on the beach who had witnessed all. Two of them stripped and swam out to me in the freezing
waves, and were surprised to find me there, as they had seen a black dot disappear into the splash of the aircraft
going in. An amphibious jeep was sent out, which we all climbed onto. It then sank, and we were back to square one!
Someone had apparently forgotten to shut a stop cock or something! A second Duck was sent out, and we finally
reached shore – where I was given some dry clothes and a stiff shot of Issue brandy. I learned later that the two
Sappers were “Mentioned in Dispatches” for their fine efforts. I was returned to the squadron and joined the Xmas
lunch being traditionally served to other ranks by officers. I was given a loud cheer by all, as I hobbled in. According
to Sandy, I had bruised the bones in my legs and was given a week off flying.
          Although the Luftwaffe was virtually non existent in that theatre, we did occasionally run into them – once 4
of us clashed with 12 FW 190`s and ME 109`s and damaged a couple. Another time 6 of us took on 20 + 190`s and
whilst chasing 2, I was jumped by 2 FW 190`s who fired on me. I ducked, and they missed and it was over. They
had in the meantime shot down and killed my friend Johnny Oates, who had been flying next to me. I was No. 2 to
Col. Loftus and Johnny was No. 2 to Dave Hastie. We also did sorties across the Adriatic into Yugoslavia, which I
didn’t enjoy much. On about the 2nd June 1944 Butch Freeman and I were given a weeks leave at an R.A.F. “Rest
Camp”. Well this “Rest Camp” turned out to be the Hotel Cocumella in Sorrento. After living in tents for about 18
months, it was wonderful, so well run and staffed by Ities, who knew their jobs, complete with Palm Court Quintet
providing soft pre dinner music with our drinks. The war was suddenly far away. We spent some daylight hours
among the seaside rocks and having the odd swim. I heard for the first time “Come back to Sorrento” being sung in
Italian by a man walking in the street – just too beautiful. (Ities break into song any time) One day we took the ferry to
Capri, but it was taken over by the Americans, who were almost hostile to us. We managed to do a horse and
carriage tour of the island and were shown the home of Gracie Fields. (locked up and deserted) Also the grave of the
Swedish doctor and author who lived there and wrote a lovely book about the island and it’s people. Just can’t
remember his name. We also did a guided tour of the ruins of Pompeii which was very interesting. Also took in a
variety concert in Naples put on by the locals, and the artists were top class. As we were leaving Sorrento we heard
about “D” day (6th June 44) and headed back to the squadron at Orvieto via Rome – also full of Americans (they were

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          On the 27 June, we were on an armed recce            south of Rimini, and after a bit of strafing of m.t. we
were returning to base when we ran into very intense and accurate heavy ack ack fire at about 8000 ft. An 88 mm
got me just under and forward of the engine. I heard it, smelt it, felt it and the engine stopped, and the wings were
full of jagged shrapnel holes – smoke everywhere. I heard later, that my no.2 Cecil Boyd (killed later on, whilst
strafing) had quite a few holes in his a/c. My radio was still working and I called leader to say I had to bale. This was
about 21-00 hours and as I was floating down I could hear rifles and Tommy guns going and prayed it wasn’t in my
honour, I landed on a gently sloping hill, and down at the bottom I saw what seemed to be the entire German army
running up, and shooting wildly. I dived under a large bush and presently a guttural “Kom oud Englander”. I went out,
and was surrounded by a group with Tommy guns etc. A short little guy, ( It’s always the short ones!) started
shouting about a pistol in a very threatening manner – I think he thought I had thrown mine into the bushes, but I
never carried one. As he was about to start beating me up, a Feldwebel came running up and gave him a good
German tongue-lashing. He then said to me (in broken English), the inevitable, “For you the war is over.” How wrong
he was! He then said to me very politely “ Sir, do you need any medical attention and I said “ no, I am OK”. I had lost
one of my flying boots when the `chute jerked open, and they later gave me an old pair of Itie army boots taken from
a dead Partisan.
          In retrospect, had that 88mm shell exploded a split second later, I and not the motor would have got all that
shrapnel and on Christmas day, had my chute opened a second later, I would never have survived, and if those
190’s hadn’t missed when I saw those shells flying past my cockpit- same thing! Was it a kind fate or the devil looking
after his own. The memory is fading a bit on what happened next, but I remember being driven in gathering
darkness in some kind of small vehicle with armed guards who were more fearful of possible Partisan attacks, than of
me. I was locked up that night and the following day I was shunted about from unit to unit, under guard of course.
That night I was invited to dinner with their equivalent of a colonel. It was a pretty meagre meal, and of course the
language was a problem. He seemed to be quite well decorated (Iron cross hanging around the neck etc) and did
his best to be hospitable.
          The next day I remember being driven through Florence and entrained for Germany. I arrived at the Aircrew
Interrogation Centre, possibly 2nd July ’44. I can’t remember where it was – called Dulag Luft. Solitary confinement in
a small cell, full of fleas. Our boots were taken away every night. I remember overhearing an American saying to the
Goon in a loud voice “ shine ‘em up boy, shine ‘em up. After 5 days in this cell (believe me, solitary confinement is
not what it’s cracked up to be, especially after the wonderful camaraderie of a fighter squadron.) I was taken up for
interrogation. After my demanding that I only need give my name rank and number, the interrogator told me I was
from 1 Squadron and even named the O.C. He knew just about more than I knew myself.
          A group of “Kriegies” (prisoners) was then collected and for the first time since capture, I had contact with my
own. These of course were mostly Americans. Everyone was covered in flea bites and scratched for ever. I had not
one flea bite which I thought may have been due to the Jaundice I’d had. I didn’t think my blood was that bad. In the
meantime the Goons had confiscated my watch and signet ring, for which they gave me a receipt. More surprisingly
both were returned to me on arrival at Luft 3. We were then given 1 post card each to send to next of kin. I still have
this card in which I apologized to my dad for not writing sooner as I had changed my address suddenly and told him
not to worry as I was fit and well. I didn’t mention how bloody hungry I was. This was the first he had heard that I
was safe and a POW, so he quickly changed from being grief stricken to highly overjoyed. En route to Luft 3, I was
in a coach full of Americans and it was deafening after the “solitary”. They had the urge to tell their stories. I learnt
that Yank’s all talk at once and loudly!
          Stalag Luft 3 was at a place called Sagan in Poland (but at that time was said to be in Germany), about 60
km’s S E of Berlin. It had 5 compounds - 3 American and 2 British. I of course went into the Brits North compound
and first with a room of Poles. They were very nice and gentlemanly, but oh, the language problem! The bungalows
were divided into 16 rooms, designed to hold 6 Kriegies in each. After a short while a vacancy occurred in a room of
South Africans and authority from the Goons was obtained for m y transfer to them. Needless to say, things started
to get a little better. I would say there were roughly 1500 to 2000 Kriegies in the North compound when I got there.
There were of course many anecdotes told to me about earlier days there.
          There were some poor guys, who while on patrol in the North Sea with u/s radio, who having not heard the
news on 1/9/39, where taken prisoner that day. The many activities in the camp were strictly controlled by the highly
organized Brits. Of course the Kriegies were from all Commonwealth countries and the friendly arguments about the
merits and demerits of same were brisk and many. The summer sports were highly organized and I remember a
softball league being run by the Canadians. A lot of Sports equipment got through to us courtesy of the Red Cross.
Thanks to the Red Cross we were better off than the Goons (Germans). Cigarettes & tobacco were plentiful for us
and were used extensively for bribing the Goons. We had all kinds of illegal equipment, such as a secret radio,
digging implements etc. Every afternoon, with look out’s posted, a B.B.C. newscast was read out to every bungalow.
The Goons had “Ferrets” with short metal rods wandering around the compound, mixing with the Kriegies, getting
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friendly and trying to garner information. We had what we called “Stooges” shadowing them and watching
their every move.
          Luckily we were in the hands of the “Luftwaffe” and I like to think that our treatment was due to the mutual
respect we had as Airmen and not because we were winning the war, at that time. Hunger of course was the first
problem to overcome and I was told to hang in there, as my stomach would shrink. Sure enough it did and things
started to get better. I don’t think we would have survived without the Red Cross parcels. These came from Britain,
Canada and the U.S.A. To us the Canadian parcels were the best. That “Hershey Bar” of chocolate in American
parcels was tops and a whole Hershey bar was allocated to each Kriegie and probably came up every 10 days or so.
Each man was allocated one food parcel a week and they were pooled together per room and meals were planned
accordingly. Goon rations were added when possible, but were wanting, to say the least. I remember their Swede
“soup”. Slightly coloured water with a cube of swede and a cube of horse meat. One item of Goon issue food I will
never forget was what they called “fish cheese”. It looked like patties of haddock & quite attractive; but the stench
was unbearable. As hungry as we were, we just could not eat it and secretly buried it – just in case the Goons might
think we were too well fed! Swedes were actually cattle feed.
    I asked about the little black cloth diamonds worn on the sleeves of all Kriegies and was told about the “ Great
Escape” and the shocking murder of 50 Kriegies (4 South Africans). We knew nothing of this in the squadron. The
escape was from the bungalow next door to ours. When darkness came, we were locked in our rooms and shutters
closed. Sometimes card games started, or the little gramophone was played, when the room allocation came up. Of
course most of us smoked at that time and one could barely see the other for the smoke filling the room. At 22:00 it
was lights out and we could, thankfully, open the shutters. It may have been a bit later in the summer. If we turned
our room’s light out, we could open earlier. At night dogs were let loose in the camp and extra guards patrolled. At
this point in the war (latter part of 1944) our guards were mostly elderly Luftwaffe types and were almost kindly in
their attitudes. After the terrible murder of those Kriegies, escape ceased to be a priority and the guards were very
unhappy about the murders. At dusk they would have these beautiful Alsatian dogs do all sorts of tricks for us,
before starting their duties at nightfall. (More about these dogs during the march).
          Thanks to the Red Cross, we had a beautiful library and I read some very good books. There were also
musical instruments and I think many Kriegies learned to play them. There was a very good theatre set up and we
saw some wonderful plays and musicals (senior Goon officers were invited). The main occupation was “circuit
bashing”, when usually pairs, would walk around the perimeter next to the trip wire. (I’m sure, solving the world’s
problems) There was a continuous stream of walkers. I was told a few stories about Douglas Bader, who by that
time had been transferred to Colditz Castle. (punishment) We had a big fire pool with buckets hanging up. In summer
the Kriegies swam in it and in winter, skated on it. Bader whom I believe hated Goons with a passion, would take his
legs off and get into the pool and at dusk would float in the middle and refuse to leave. The Goons would start
pleading, cajoling, threatening with guns etc and eventually stripping to their underwear and pulling him out. Another
trick of his at night was to put his ear against the shutters and if he could hear the ferret listening on the outside,
would signal for the lights to be put out and then burst them open and knock the ferret flying. Very apologetic of
course. They called it “Goon baiting”.
          When winter came of course, the sports changed accordingly. I remember them flooding the sports fields,
which turned to ice. Then the ice hockey league was organized by the Canadians and became “Big Time”. I
remember that once, for some light relief, they organized a game for South Africans vs Australians. (both of whom
had only before seen ice in a glass). To watch them, just trying to keep upright was hilarious – to see them crawling
to get to that disc, (whatever they call it) was something else. One of the characters in the camp was a Canadian –
Steve Watson. He had a sense of humour second to none and loved to get into a “discussion” on conditions in their
respective countries. He liked to bait the Pom’s as they sometimes took it a bit seriously. I remember him asking one
if he had ever seen a refrigerator and started explaining what it was. Well it came pretty close to fisticuffs. In a
discussion with Polly Theron from Kroonstad, Polly got very serious about how they had fresh fish daily in Kroonstad,
600 miles inland. Steve casually replied that they had to hide behind a tree to bait the hook and when they pulled it
out, they threw it further than that. Steve was reputed to have trunk loads of watches, Hershey bars and cigarettes
and to have the goons in his pocket. He was a few years my senior and has probably passed on by now. I am sure
he must have made it big in civvie street. I must mention what I remember of the wonderful quick heating devices
which were in operation dotted all over the camp. They were used mainly for a quick brew up and were made from
old Klim tins. A fan geared to a very high speed forced air vertically through the flames, producing a blue flame
similar to a Primus stove and was very efficient indeed.
          About the beginning of September, the American compounds started to overflow and they started pouring
into our compounds. We had to take four into our room making it ten up. They were pretty good types, though of
course much more extroverted than most of us. One guy, Jimmy Fore couldn’t have been over nineteen but had

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apparently been a captain of a B17 bomber until shot             down over France. He was from Little Rock,
Arkansas, which produced guffaws from fellow Americans and remarks such as ‘razorback’ pigs etc. In attempting to
evade capture, he, with others had got hold of ‘civvies but were picked up and handed over to the Gestapo. Luckily
for them they still had their dog tags under the civvies, otherwise they would have been shot out of hand. Indeed
when they arrived they were flea bitten wrecks – no hair, very thin and very jumpy and nervous. An earlier American
in our room used to pull his leg later by shouting “HUGO”. Poor Fore would jump out of his skin, as Hugo used to be
called in to do the punch-ups when more information was required during interrogations. He was very young and
didn’t adapt very well to Kriegie life. He often shirked his allotted chores, which we all had on a roster system like
sweeping the room, setting the table for meals (such as they were) etc. A lot of Americans had the unfortunate habit
of spitting, so we had to stop walking around barefooted, which p__d us off a bit.
          I became quite friendly with an American, Robert H Clark and we used to circuit bash quite a lot, talking
about our respective homelands etc. He was a product of WestPoint and was more quiet than average. He was the
one who used to bait Jimmy Fore (Hugo!). He was about 4 years my senior and we corresponded for a short while
post war. He sure had some tales to tell about his escapades in wartime Britain. I think Klim tins (powdered milk)
part of Red Cross parcels were the most useful items and were cut up and used for all sorts of activities. There was
an American of Chinese descent and of course he was known to all of us as Klim Tin. I think it was in January 1945
we could hear the distant rumblings, during the night, of the Mosquitoes bombing Berlin.
          We knew of course from our BBC news service, that the Russians had reached Poland and were getting
close. On 28th Jan 45 around 10:00 pm we were rousted out and told we were marching out in 3 hours time. Some
managed to knock up sledges from bunk boards, which were dragged over the iced up roads as we walked. I can’t
remember what happened about the stored Red Cross parcels, but I have an idea that they were loaded onto some
form of transport and followed the column. Once again I am reminded of what we owed the Red Cross. On arrival at
Luft 3 we were given suitable kit if required and I was at last able to discard the awful Itie boots, which were replaced
by a wonderful new pair of British army boots and a great coat, among other items. This I am sure contributed to my
successful completion of the “march”. We later learned that it was the most bitter winter in living memory and some
chaps had to be left behind en route because of frostbite etc. I believed they were picked up by the following
transport, such as it was. We had our first stop at dawn after about 17 kilometers and arrived at Freiwalder at noon in
21 degrees of frost. We found shelter in a loft for the night. We left at dawn the next day for Maskau where we
arrived at sunset. I think it was during this trip that the guards had to abandon their beautiful dogs, as the ice was
starting to cut their paws. They left them with farmers. As cold and as stressed as we were, it was sad to see the
dogs crying and straining to follow the guards, who were very close to tears themselves.
          I remember it must have been the second or third day of the “march” when we were really battling to keep
going with the driving snow, freezing cold and very poor rations, there was this little Belgian called Joe, in the R.A.F.
who had a large well filled kit bag on his back. He was actually walking up and down the stumbling column calling
out words of encouragement to the guys to keep going. Where he found the strength to do this, I’ll never know. A
small guy again! I only remember his name being Joe – never to be forgotten. Of course rumours had started by
then. (rumours being a great part of Kriegie life) The strongest rumour doing the rounds, was that Hitler was going to
keep us somewhere as hostages for peace bargaining. At the start of the march they separated the British and
Americans and we never saw them again. They went south west and we went north west. We were 3 days at
Muskau, where Dysentery broke out. (squitters as the RAF called it) I remember seeing lots of brown jobs dotted
around the snow. Luckily I never suffered from it. When we left Muskau at about 10:00 pm, we had to start
discarding the sledges due to the thaw setting in. We got to Spremberg, probably about 2 days later, when we were
loaded into cattle trucks (40 per truck). We were, I was told, 110 kilometers from Sagan. Later, there was some
discussion about how long we were in these trucks. I think it was a few days, others say one day and one night.
What I remember most was the crying for water from the poor guys who were dehydrated from the squitters. It
seemed to go on for longer than one night. We were offloaded at Tarmstedt where we were searched for hours in
the rain, and eventually occupied a disused Naval camp. Although rations were getting very low being in bungalows
was a big improvement in our situation.
          On April 9th we were on the move again with much improved weather. By now we were able to watch some
heavy air raids on Bremen and Hamburg and saddened to see many of our aircraft shot down. We were strafed by
Allied fighters around April 12th when two of our Kriegies were killed. There were a lot of Allied aircraft flying around
now, looking for targets and it was starting to worry us a bit, so we started putting out RAF signals made of towels
whenever we stopped for overnight stays in open fields. We were approaching Hamburg and saw some heavy night
raids again. Spent the night on the south bank of the Elbe river and were ferried across the next day. This worried us
a bit with all the Allied aircraft looking for targets. However we got over unscathed – we were just outside Hamburg.
At one stage earlier, we actually walked along one of their much vaunted Autobahns, which I now believe were
ahead of their time – quite something for those days. I remember one break we had in the grounds of some kind of
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convalescence hospital for wounded German soldiers.            They were sitting out on the grass taking in the sun
and most of them were minus legs or arms. It was really tragic, them being so young – mostly teenagers and such
very nice chaps. Although there was a very big language problem we mingled with them and unashamedly
fraternized with them – in fact gave them cigarettes and whatever else we could spare. We were well aware that we
also had our chaps at home in the same predicament, although, I am sure, not so young. I think at that stage we also
were reminded of how stupid and obscene war really is.
         After crossing the Elbe on 16th April we rested for a couple of days in a field. We went on and reached
Hamberge. After a day or two we went on and reached our final destination. This was a large estate between
Hamburg and Lubeck and couldn’t have been a nicer place to end our captivity. This was on about April 28th. Of
course we knew the end was very close and to those who were prisoners from almost day one, the pent up emotion
must have been something. My 10 months seemed like 10 years to me. It really was a beautiful estate with a lovely
lake. We were allowed to wander freely around the establishment and heard artillery fire close by. On May 2nd the
guards started discarding their haversacks etc. and disappeared. At around 1:00 pm a British armoured car came
slowly up the road. We knew of course that it was the British 2 nd Army. In no time one couldn’t see the car as it was
covered in Kriegies swarming over it and yelling their heads off. What a moment in time, especially for the long
timers. They had watched the war pass them by and missed all possible promotions etc. etc. Not one of us in our
wildest imaginings ever thought of becoming a P.O.W. – killed or wounded maybe – but never this.
         We now had to wait for transport to the U.K., which understandably had to be organized, and took some
time. In the meantime we were allowed to wander around the countryside for a week. Needless to say, we had
become expert scroungers and pilferers. I can remember some (to us) wonderful meals we had. I had a beautiful
ceremonial sword and scabbard and other items, which I can’t remember now. On May 9th we were in convoy, to the
nearest airfield, standing in an open truck. An incident that stays in my mind; the convoy had stopped, near a
farmhouse when a family of beautiful white geese headed by a magnificent gander started walking across the
farmyard. While we were admiring this scene a South African major named J.P. took up a hunting rifle, which he had
stolen and for some mindless reason shot dead this beautiful gander. Well, we were only lieutenants and he was a
major, so all we could do was to show our disgust, which we did in no uncertain terms.
         On arrival at the airfield we were surprised to see Lancaster bombers awaiting us. We boarded same and
had to stand, I think about 20 per a/c. We landed at Guildford and were immediately grabbed by enthusiastic ladies
who had us on a bed and gave us a jet of DDT powder up each trouser leg. I wondered what awful diseases, or
whatever, they expected us to have after living like monks for so long! We were then sent to join all the other S.A. ex
P.O.W.’s down at Brighton – being billeted with several others in a house taken over by S.A. forces. We spent a
month in U.K. on leave and what a great month it was – mostly up in London by a very fast and efficient train service
(60 miles in 55 minutes and very comfortable too) While walking down the Strand in London with a couple of mates
we bumped into a former pupil pilot whom I hadn’t seen since E.F.T.S. and asked what he was doing there. His cap
was on the back of his head and he was swaying in the breeze and airily said he was there to fly us home. We had
recently been offered a sea voyage home and after seeing John swaying in the breeze, the sea voyage offer became
quite attractive. After surviving all those hazards, it was the ocean waves for me! It must have been about June 9th
when we boarded the “Alcantara” at Liverpool, that had been an armed Merchant cruiser during the war. She was a
22,500-ton ship and was very well appointed. (beautifully panelled lounge, dining room etc). By then I had become
friends with a couple of guys and were just starting to feel complacent about our choice when we were devastated by
being told that all troop ships were now ‘DRY”, thanks to Monty! Apparently the convoyed troops were the worse for
wear on arrival in Egypt, or wherever.
         We were about 6 to a cabin and in the bunk next to me was Donald Grey, a quite well known actor, he was a
South African in the British army and had lost an arm in Normandy. His real name was Eldred Tidbury, but he was
known as Lieut Grey in the army. I remember seeing him in a movie “The Four Feathers” which at that time
happened to be a set book at school. He ignored us totally and only fraternized with the ladies on board, of which
there were quite a few. These were mostly wives or fiancés or nurses returning to their homeland. I well remember
him arriving for bed mostly in the early hours. We had duties, like officer of the watch, orderly officer etc., on a roster
basis, which he totally ignored. His name was repeatedly called on the Tannoy to report to the bridge, again totally
ignored. I think he was rather bitter about being one armed, as it must have destroyed his acting career.
         About two weeks later, out of the morning mist, Table Mountain appeared; it was the most beautiful sight I
had ever seen. (I had never been to Cape Town.) I had been away from South Africa two and a half years and felt
quite emotional. When we docked and disembarked some nice ladies presented us with the biggest orange I had
ever seen. Our excess luggage had been stored in the hold of the ship and when I went to get mine, saw that all the
goodies I had acquired in Germany, including the ceremonial sword, had been stolen from the kit bag in which I had
naively put them. This brassed me off to say the least. We then entrained for Durban and what a journey it was.
The speed of the train was unbelievable, how it stayed on the tracks, I will never know. I think I was as nervous as
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on the trips to Yugoslavia! After the first stop (I think it   was De Aar) the troops on board got hold of some
booze and then the fun started. How there were no fatalities, I will never know. They were staggering all over the
train, putting their fists through the windows. Some ended up with severe lacerations etc. We were four to a
compartment and I was the only Air Force type there. The others having been taken at Tobruk. I remember a very
drunk private forcing the compartment door open and standing there insulting the officers, accusing them of
cowardice and everything else he could think of. This of course was absolute nonsense. They didn’t quite know how
to handle it and just stared out the window. I felt quite sad for them.
         Well, we finally arrived in Durban on June 27th, exactly 12 months to the day, since my capture. My family
was on the Station to meet me and I remember my father being completely overcome. My mother having died when
I was six years old. All ex P.O.W.’s were given their discharge immediately – I had about three months leave due and
took off. I went to see my employer and he wanted me to start work immediately. When I told him I had three
months leave he started telling me that while I was “up there enjoying myself and having a whale of a time, they were
having a rough time”; one meatless day a week, no white bread, butter shortages, blackouts etc. Needless to say,
he was my ex-boss as soon as possible.
         When I look back on the war, I feel that although things got pretty tough at times, there were very many great
times, which were most enjoyable. The worst time of course was being a Kriegie or waiting in the desert to get to
One Squadron and the best was getting my wings and getting to a fighter squadron like 1 S.A.A.F. also known as the
“Billy Boys”.

Thank you Jack.

Our members will recall that we mentioned in a previous newsletter that we have a copy of the POW diary of a fellow
SAAF pilot namely a Lt Williamson, who also an inmate of Stalag Luft 3. In this diary we found this poem.

         Here we sit in Stalag Luft 3                           When Winter comes and snow abounds,
             Drinking in the bar,                                     and the temperature is at nil.
      With lovely girls to buy the rounds                       We’ll find hot water bottles in our beds.
           Like bloody hell we are                                       Like bloody hell we will

          We travelled here in luxury                             It’s Heaven-on-Earth in Stalag Luft 3
          The whole trip for a “quid”,                                    A life we’d hate to miss.
        A sleeping berth for each of us                               It’s everything we ever wished,
            Like bloody hell we did.                                        Like bloody hell it is.

     Our feather beds are two feet deep,                                And when this war is over,
          The carpets all brand new.                                     And Jerry gets the bill.
         In easy chairs we sit all day                           We’ll remember all that happened here,
            Like bloody hell we do                                       My bloody oath we will.

      The goons are really wizard chaps,                                    By “”One of the Guys”
        Their hopes of Victory good.
      We’d change them places any day
          Like bloody hell we would.

It sure seems that the boys in “The Bag” suffered to a great extent – but their spirits never broken

PS – How about some stories from the past – before memories fail !

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