South African Air Force Reserve Force Squadrons

INTRODUCTION

 

The first involvement of “citizen-aviators” in the military environment in South Africa can be traced back to 1912. Cecil Compton-Paterson was appointed as the first instructor at the “Military Aviation School” established to train aviators for the “South African Aviation Corps”. A while later the Transvaal Air Training Squadron (TATS) was established to train aviators for the Regular Air Force, this was a slow process and by1923 only 17 officers and 218 other ranks were serving in the fledgling force. To speed up the process a Special Reserve of Flying Officers (SRFO) was established in 1923 to do refresher courses for aviators and in 1926 to do cadet training. (The SRFO existed for several years after World War II.) In 1925 the SAAF began training cadets to supplement the SRFO pilots. Ground subjects were presented at the Military College and flying training at Zwartkop Air Station. Ten student pilots were awarded SAAF Flying Badges (wings) after qualifying in 1927 and were absorbed into the TATS.

 

Two courses followed in 1930 producing a further 38 cadets. At the same time a scheme to train 50 artisans was initiated.  In July 1927 a scheme of part-time courses for undergraduate pilots and later for artisans was started at the Transvaal University College (presently University of Pretoria) who formed the TUC Air Squadron as part of the SRFO.

 

In 1928 this squadron was absorbed into the TATS and flying and ground training was done before and after normal working hours.  In Europe the rumblings of an impending war were being heard and South Africa, along with other European nations, began to look at military resources. In 1935 the ”One Thousand Pilots” Scheme to train 1000 pilots and 700 aircraft mechanics was launched with a view to training 1000 pilots and 700 mechanics by 1942. To achieve this, the TATS was expanded beyond the University of Pretoria to include ab-initio training at civilian flying clubs with advanced training at SAAF Flying Training Schools. In July 1938 the TATS was reorganized into 13 flights located at strategic points in the country and renamed the Union Air Training Group.

 

In December of the same year the Women’s Aviation Association was with established eight branches with no less than 67 pilots of which 18 were grade “A” and two were instructors. The day war was declared on 4 September 1939 the Association volunteered their services and in November the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was taken into the Women’s Auxiliary Defence Force. The WAAF was established as a separate entity, by government gazette on 10 May 1940 and by 1943 numbered nearly 7000 members in some 75 different fields of aviation. During WWII more than 10 000 women served in the WAAF. At the cessation of hostilities in 1945many South African volunteers had served in the Allied forces.

 

On 2 September 1963 the concept was embraced by the Army which oversaw creation of Air Commandos to assist with light air support functions a role not dissimilar from 42 Air Observation Flight at Potchefstroom also under Army Control.   In 1966, two years after the existence of Commando Squadrons had been announced, control of the units was transferred to Light Aircraft Command (LAC) under Brigadier R H D Rogers although they remained on strength of the Army Air Reconnaissance branch.  On 1 October 1968 the squadrons were officially transferred to SAAF authority where responsibility for them within the LAC structure was assumed by Captain D G Kruger.  The locations and administrative centres at the time were.

 

OPERATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

These functions remained consistent.  These ranged from transportation of Defence Force personnel around the country to the transport of light supplies, air reconnaissance, the dropping of messages to ground units and even the operation of Telstar, a radio relay function between ground forces and the operational headquarters to the rear.  103 Squadron based alongside the artillery spotters of 41 squadron at Potchefstroom, also received training in artillery spotting and were on occasion required to perform task as diverse as the transporting of prisoners and photo-reconnaissance, 108 Squadron meanwhile, moved from Port Elizabeth to East London on 23 October 1976 under Major A Britton before returning to Port Elizabeth on 14 December 1985.

 

The year also saw 102 Squadron “B” Flight move from Swartkop to AFB Pietersburg and on 1 August 1986 “A” and “C” flights relocated as well.  Following the closure of Pietersburg in 1992 the squadron moved to AFB Louis Trichardt. 111 Squadron remained dormant until moved to AFB Swartkop in December 1982, being activated with effect from 1 January 1983.

 

Most of the aircraft used during the utilisation of Reserve Squadrons were privately owned. Training and annual flying camps were presented to ensure that all pilots were qualified to operate in combined air operations.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The first involvement of “citizen-aviators” in the military environment in South Africa can be traced back to 1912. Cecil Compton-Paterson was appointed as the first instructor at the “Military Aviation School” established to train aviators for the “South African Aviation Corps”. A while later the Transvaal Air Training Squadron (TATS) was established to train aviators for the Regular Air Force, this was a slow process and by1923 only 17 officers and 218 other ranks were serving in the fledgling force. To speed up the process a Special Reserve of Flying Officers (SRFO) was established in 1923 to do refresher courses for aviators and in 1926 to do cadet training. (The SRFO existed for several years after World War II.) In 1925 the SAAF began training cadets to supplement the SRFO pilots. Ground subjects were presented at the Military College and flying training at Zwartkop Air Station. Ten student pilots were awarded SAAF Flying Badges (wings) after qualifying in 1927 and were absorbed into the TATS.

 

Two courses followed in 1930 producing a further 38 cadets. At the same time a scheme to train 50 artisans was initiated.  In July 1927 a scheme of part-time courses for undergraduate pilots and later for artisans was started at the Transvaal University College (presently University of Pretoria) who formed the TUC Air Squadron as part of the SRFO.

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