South African Military History 
Society

P.O. BOX 12926
MOWBRAY
7705

CAPE TOWN BRANCH
NEWSLETTER NO. 324 AUGUST 2005

Members and visitors who looked forward with anticipation to "Dick" Lord's talk at our last Meeting on 14th July, were not at all disappointed.

After he returned to South Africa from service overseas he joined the South African Air Force in 1972 as a Major and served until he retired in 1994 as a Brigadier. His first appointment was with 2 Squadron for two years which at that time was the only Mirage Squadron in our small air force. In order to become an instructor in this squadron, however, he was sent to Dunnottar to learn to instruct although he had been instructing for the past ten years in the Royal Navy, but this did not count in the SAAF with the powers-that-be. He liked Dunnottar nevertheless because he flew the Harvard, and because he liked training young pilots. One of them, however, had trouble remembering the correct sequence of external and internal checks before take-off and was handed to the most patient instructor to drill him properly. The instructor tried his best and one day he and the young pilot prepared for take-off. Everything went well, the pilot recited the many checks, the piston-engine was running, and now the instructor waited for the final command by the pilot; it did not come, he just could not remember that he had to cross his hands in front of his head to ask ground crew to remove the chocks. In desperation the instructor shouted: give them the signal! And sure enough the pilot gave them "the finger" instead! Well, that was the end of his flying career.

Many hours of lectures followed, one of them was meteorology, during which the instructor read from a RAF manual which is eminently suitable for the (mostly bad) weather conditions over Great Britain, while weather over South Africa is generally very good. Dick noticed that the instructor skipped pages and spoke to him afterwards. His reply was: "Well, I didn't understand it so I skipped the pages", and when Dick asked him if he should carry on with met lectures, the instructor readily agreed. From then on Dick did not only give met lectures but all other lectures as well. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, he was only given 98% after the exams were complete, because it was reasoned nobody gets 100%.

He went via Waterkloof to Pietersburg at the end of 1973 at the time when the new aircraft arrived from France. Pietersburg became an advanced fighter school when Dick arrived as a flight commander and where he was eventually promoted to OC. In his words it was a wonderful school with Impala, Sabre and Mirage aircraft, and all the young SAAF fighter pilots went through this outstanding school that produced fighter pilots as good as anywhere in the world. Dick served five "wonderful" years at Pietersburg and was then sent to air force base Hoedspruit as operations coordinator, expecting to finish his career with this command. But luck changed when he was offered the post of becoming OC of 1 Squadron in Waterkloof, the best squadron in the SAAF flying the Mirage F1. It was 1979 and the war had begun. Dick took part in operation Protea and all subsequent operations, but at the end of 1982 had to hand over command ending his flying career for good. He was sent to Oshikati to run operations from the Angolan border for two years. He recounted some of the funny and not so funny stories that happened to him during this time much to the amusement of his listeners who could appreciate army secrecy and misunderstandings. The air force also evacuated many bushmen from Angola where they were game for any of the other armed enemy units. The arrival and presence of UNTAG in the operational area with their diverse nationalities gave the South Africans reasons to smile when these soldiers were confronted by conditions in the bush. Afterwards he went to Windhoek to become Staff Officer Operations and had a hand in planning border operations for three years. A posting to Headquarters followed with promotion to Brigadier, and he was placed in charge of Air Force Command Post, effectively running air force operations. His first test came at once after his arrival when the "Oceana" sank, and Dick was in charge of the successful operation to save everyone on board which was a major achievement.

When in 1994 Dick witnessed the fruitless discussions of the electoral commission in running the election, he offered all his aircraft to fly voting papers, ballot boxes and personnel all across the nine provinces, the air force thereby undoubtedly saved the country from a revolution. He also described a police operation during which he lent a helicopter to surprise and arrest a group of AWB members at the old shooting range near Rustenburg with a large stockpile of arms and ammunition, ready to strike a blow at the new government in waiting.

The election over, the inauguration of President Mandela came next, and there was to be a fly-past with every squadron wanting to be included, 75 aircraft in all, from the fastest to the slowest, flying off from their home bases. Despite some hair-raising delays forcing the aircraft to be re-fuelled, the fly past was a fantastic success, as those who watched it on TV will remember. And with this achievement to his credit Dick decided it was time to retire from the air force.

Thank you, Dick, for giving us such a detailed and often funny insight into life in the old air force and your career. We all enjoyed it tremendously.

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Your Committee unanimously agreed to confer Honorary Associate Life Membership on Mr. Derick Dorn, one of the Founders of this Branch and a loyal member for thirty years. Derick informed us that he feels better, still has a keen interest in the affairs of our Branch and looks forward to receive our Newsletter every month. We wish him well for the future.

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Future Lectures:

11th Aug THE ZONDERWATER PRISON
Slide-Talk by Dave McLennan about the Italian POWs who were mainly held at this Camp during WW II, and their life inside and outside.
8th Sept THE FALL OF TOBRUK, 1942
Speaker: Colonel Lionel Crook
13th OctTHE REGIMENT WESTELIKE PROVINCIE FROM 1972 ONWARDS
Speaker: Colonel Ivan Bester
10th Nov THE BATTLE OF BLOUBERG
A detailed, illustrated talk by Major Tony Gordon

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Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month, except December, at 20h00 in the Recreation Room of the SA LEGIONíS ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road (off Lisbeek Parkway/Alma Road - Traffic Light), opposite Rosebank Railway Station. Secure parking inside the premises. All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

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Jochen (John) O.E.O. Mahncke, Vice-Chairman/Scribe,
Tel.: 021-797-5167021-797-5167
e-mail: koenigsberg@mweb.co.za


South African Military History Society / scribe@samilitaryhistory.org