South African Military History Society

P.O. BOX 12926


At our October lecture evening we were treated to a state-of-the art electronic presentation complete with sound effects, film clips and old photographs. This was thanks to our speaker, Simon Norton, who went all out to bring back the past. He began by showing photographs from archives as well as his own photographs of blockhouses from the Boer War, cemeteries, and battlefields. There were shots of Union Defence Force units in training and on the march, followed by photographs of South African troops in Egypt and Italy in WWII.

He then turned to the subject of the evening, Group Captain A.G. "Sailor" Malan, born on the 3rd of October, 1910, at Wellington in the Cape. We could only marvel at the extent of Simon's research, not only into the family history of the Malans, complete with numerous photographs, but also the history of Sailor Malan's early merchant navy career. Adolph Gysbert Malan joined the SATS General Botha as a boy aged 14 and underwent schooling and sea training on board ship. He joined the Union Castle Steamship Company as a Cadet in February 1927 and served on numerous Castle line vessels plying their trade around the world. Sailor Malan joined the RNR in 1932 and remained in the RNR until January 1936.

In January 1936 he volunteered to join the RAF and began elementary training on Tiger Moths at Filton in England. In December 1936 he was awarded his wings at Grantham and his superior commented: "this officer has fulfilled in every way my high expectations of him. An outstanding officer".

He was posted as an Acting Pilot Officer to No 74 Squadron at Hornchurch and in 1937 was promoted Pilot Officer and Acting Flight Commander of "A" flight.

Like the young and bold pilot that he was, he upset his superiors by daring flying displays and other incidents not calculated to amuse his superior officers. Nevertheless he became a good leader and his flight won the 1938 Sassoon Flight Attack trophy.

September 6th, 1939, saw Malan's squadron involved in the accidental shooting down of RAF Hurricanes, through a tragic set of circumstances, over Essex in the first days of World War II. The repercussions that followed, luckily, did not curtail a promising career.

However it was over France in May and June 1940 that he excelled and became renowned as a ruthless fighter pilot. He continued to display outstanding leadership and flying abilities in fighting off hordes of Luftwaffe aircraft sent to bomb British airfields and London. By 1942 he had shot down 35 aircraft and was the first pilot in the RAF to be awarded both the DSO & bar and the DFC & bar.

Sailor Malan rose to the rank of Squadron Leader in August 1940 and in January 1941 he was promoted Wing Commander. In 1943 be became CO of Biggin Hill Station with the rank of Group Captain and had a distinguished wartime RAF career. He was the acknowledged expert in his field, sought out by senior officers for his expertise and leadership qualities. He ended the war at the RAF Staff College in 1945.

In the latter part of WWII, Sailor Malan met Harry Oppenheimer in England, who persuaded him to join Anglo American and he returned to South Africa in 1946. He was at first based in Johannesburg at Anglo Head Office but in 1950 resigned to go farming near Kimberley and leased the farm Benfontein from de Beers.

Harry Oppenheimer had in the meantime become MP for Kimberley in the 1948 General Election, which saw the Nationalist Government of Dr D F Malan come to power.

Sailor Malan become heavily involved in the Torch Commando which set out to oppose the National Party plans to remove the Coloured people from the voters roll. He was outraged by the undemocratic actions of the Nationalist Government and was elected National President of the Torch Commando in June 1951. In 1951 the Torch Commando mobilised tens of thousands of ex-servicemen and women to oppose the Nationalists and huge marches took place in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Nationalists feared the Torch Commando and from this arose their hatred of Sailor Malan.

Towards the end of the 1950's Sailor Malan was still farming near Kimberley but the strain of the war and the Torch Commando had taken their toll and he became ill. He died aged 53 on the 17th of September, 1963, in Kimberley and a request to the South African Government that he be accorded a military funeral was turned down. The SAAF also did not pay him any tribute.

Thank you, Simon, for a fascinating presentation.

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Radio Documentary Series to Commemorate the end of World War Two - 60 years ago.

In partnership with FINE MUSIC RADIO our Society plans to collate and broadcast the second world war reminiscences of South African veterans and civilians, either at home or abroad. The series will take the form of personal interviews which will be aired early in 2005 on Sunday evenings at 19:00 on 101.3. If you are willing to take part in the making of these pre-recorded interviews, or if you know and can suggest anyone who would be suitable and interested to assist, please contact the Scribe or any Committee Member.

Your Committee is proud to announce that Fellow Member
Colonel O.E.F. "Ossie" Baker DTM, MMM, DWD
has been awarded the Medal for Distinguished Conduct and loyal service in Gold for 40 years service in the South African National Defence Force. Ossie is also the holder of a further 16 military medals for service in both the British and South African Armed Forces. We extend our Congratulations and best wishes to Ossie and Helen.

A new Branch was inaugurated recently in Port Elizabeth under the facilitation of Brigadier General (rtd) Malcolm Kinghorn SD, SM. His address is: 15 Conyngham Road, Parsons Hill, P.E. 6001. Tel.: (041) 373-4469, e-mail:

EILANDE, a historical novel by fellow member Dan Sleigh, is a work acclaimed by local and overseas critics, as well as being this year's winner of the Helgaard Steyn Prize for Literature. The prize is awarded for the best Afrikaans work which appeared on the open market within the previous four years, with the printing of at least 300 copies guaranteed. Congratulations Dan!

GEORGE BARRELL. It is with great regret that we received the news of the passing of George Barrell in Johannesburg. He was the Johannesburg Branch's Scribe for many years and served as Committee Member and National Chairman for our Society. Our condolences go to his family and Johannesburg members for their sad loss.

AIRSHOW at Ysterplaat Air Force Base.
An airshow will be held from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th of December 2004. There will be many SAAF aircraft on display, including the sole surviving flying Shackleton and the famous Thundercity planes. Entrance Fee: R 30.00 per adult.

IPMS SCALE MODELLING National Competition & Show
The annual IPMS Scale Modelling competition and show will be hosted this year in Cape Town. The event will take place over the long weekend of the 16-19th of December. The venue will be the Castle. Further details and the entrance fee will be disclosed at our next meeting.

Last Lecture for 2004:

11th November AIRCRAFT-CARRIER FLYING IN THE 1950s to 1970s
Brigadier General R.S. "Dick" Lord SD, SM, MMM, will talk about his flying carrier and experiences in the British Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the US Navy. He operated from carriers such as HMS Ark Royal and HMS Victorious, as well as the USS Constellation.

Correction for Newsletter No. 315. It has been pointed out to the Scribe that the Russo-Finnish war began already in 1939/40 and not 1943. The error is regretted.

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It is that time of the year once again for the


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The first Lecture in 2005 will take place on the 20th of January, which is the THIRD Thursday of the month. A new Lecture Programme is being compiled at the moment, and we will keep you informed in due course.

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Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of every month, except December, at 20h00 in the Recreation Room of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line. SECURE PARKING inside the premises. All Visitors welcome. Tea and Biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke, Vice-Chairman/Scribe, 021-797-5167 or 072-528-0987

South African Military History Society /