Edwin “Ted”Swales VC. DFC.

Edwin Essery Swales (03/07/1915 – 23/02/1945) was born in Inanda, Natal, and flew as a pilot with Bomber Command during WW2. Flying as a Pathfinder he was awarded the DFC for his actions on the Cologne raid on 4 November 1944. He lost his life after the raid on Pforzheim when his badly damaged Lancaster stalled and crashed near Valenciennes, in northern France. For his actions he was awarded the VC Posthumously.

The grave of Edwin Swales VC.
The grave of Edwin Swales VC.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37049, Page: 2173 reads:

“Captain Edwin SWALES, D.F.C. (6ioiV), S.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. (deceased).

Captain Swales was ” master bomCaptain 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”

His is commemorated on the Roll of Honour at the South African Air Force Memorial in Pretoria

He was originally buried in Fosse’s USA Cemetery but his remains were relocated to Leopoldsburg War Cemetery.

He is also remembered with pride at his former High School where he was a pupil from January 1934 to December 1934.

He is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour of Durban High School.

Edwin Swales Drive in Durban was recently, and controversially renamed by the local authority.

DRW © 2014 – 2020. Created on blog 01/12/2014, edited 17/05/2017.  Photo Courtesy of Jim Mandelblatt, used with permission. Updated 08/07/2017, DHS images courtesy of Shelly Baker.

South African National Jewish War Memorial: West Park Cemetery. Johannesburg

Another little known Memorial in West Park Cemetery is the South African National Jewish War Memorial. The Memorial is situated within the Jewish Cemetery and is very close to the Holocaust Memorial. It is also very close to the Jewish Military Plot in the Cemetery at West Park. It is a quiet corner that I have missed seeing for a number of years.

The memorial covers both World Wars, the Border War, Defence of Israel, The Unknown Soldier, and the Six Million Martyrs.

It is possible that many of the names from the World Wars are also on the Jewish Guild War Memorial at the Museum of Military History in Saxonwold.

Dedication plaque
Dedication plaque


Google Earth co-ordinates are:  26° 9’56.47″S, 27°58’56.48″E. Images of the individual plaques are available on request.

© DRW 2012-2018.  Created 06/06/2012. Moved to blog 01/02/2014

Jewish Guild War Memorial in Saxonwold

These photographs of the Jewish Guild War Memorial, were taken at the South African Museum of Military History in Saxonwold in 2008. It was erected by the Jewish Guild War Memorial Association and the United Hebrew Congregation of Johannesburg and unveiled by H.E. The Earl of Athlone K.G.  Governor General on January 5, 1930. Images of individual plaques are available on request.

© DRW 2008-2018. Created 12/2008. Images replaced 2011. Moved to blog 01/02/2014

South African Heavy Artillery Memorial: Johannesburg

71st (Transvaal) Siege Battery: Johannesburg Zoo

These photographs of the South African Heavy Artillery Memorial (71st (Transvaal) Seige Battery) at the Johannesburg Zoo were taken on 20 August 2011. Special thanks to Carl Hoehler for the  information on where this memorial can be found, as well as additional information on the 6 guns that made up the memorials to the South African Heavy Artillery. Of special mention is the worker at the zoo called Kevin who assisted me in getting these photographs.

This 6-inch 26-cwt howitzers is one of 6 brought back from France and Flanders to be part of the memorials to the South African Heavy Artillery that were established in major centres in South Africa. It is currently in the grounds of the Johannesburg Zoo. Like its counterpart in Port Elizabeth, part of the memorial is a dedication plaque:

 Erected by the Officers, NCO’s and Men of the South African Heavy Artillery in Memory of their Comrades who fell in the Great War 1914-1918

The SAHA ROH in JOhannesburg
The SAHA ROH in Johannesburg

The inscription is followed by the names and ranks of the 167 men who died in the Great War.

The gun has been in place at the zoo since 1920, and was restored in 2007.

Information Sheet
Information Sheet

It may be found at Google Earth Co-ordinates 26° 10.111’S, 28° 2.039’E

The 6 Memorials to the Heavy Artillery can be found in: (Open in new page)

© DRW 2011-2018. Created 21/08/2011. Roll of Honour list supplied by Carl Hoehler. Moved to blog 30/01/2014, Updated 08/07/2017

South African Heavy Artillery Roll of Honour

This Roll of Honour is a collation of images that I took at the SAHA Memorial in Johannesburg. The image is 1500×403 wide and opens in a new window.

South African Heavy Artillery Roll of Honour. Johannesburg.

South African Heavy Artillery Roll of Honour. Johannesburg.

The SAHA ROH in JOhannesburg
The SAHA Roll of Honour in Johannesburg

The six memorials relating to the South African Heavy Artillery are:

© DRW. 2014-2018.  Created 29/01/2014, updated 08/07/2017.

Commemorative Plaques at the Museum of Military History: Saxonwold

These photographs were taken at the Museum of Military History in Saxonwoldon. Sadly, no information is available on where these two plaques originate from, but it is thought that they were originally erected at a school in Natal.

© DRW 2007 -2018. Moved to blog 26/01/2014

Anglo Boer War Memorial in Johannesburg

This impressive memorial in the grounds of the Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg was formerly known as the “Rand Regiments Memorial” and it was originally erected in memory of the soldiers who served and died with the Rand Regiments in the 1899-1902 Anglo Boer War.
It was designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and a commemorative stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught (Prince Arthur) on 30 November 1910. The memorial features an ornate figure of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory atop the dome and the pillars inside list the Rand Regiments and soldiers from these regiments who were lost during the conflict.
In 2002, the memorial was re-dedicated; recognising  all of the Men, Women and Children of all races and nations that lost their lives in the Anglo Boer War.
The statue faces west and is the creation of Naoum Aronson, who was commissioned by Sir Hugh Lane, following consultation with Lutyens and Lionel Phillips. who was a key figure in the implementation of the project. The memorial was finally completed by 1913. The statue was placed above the Memorial in April 1914, and is often referred to as the “Angel of Peace”.
The columns contain the names of members of Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, the Commander In Chief’s Bodyguard, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, the South African Light Horse, Imperial Light Horse, Railway Pioneer Regiment, Imperial Light Infantry and Rand Rifles who lost their lives in that conflict.
© DRW 2007 – 2018. Edited images 22 August 2011, added to blog 06/01/2014

Airborne Memorial

This image is of the Airborne Memorial at the National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg. It is dedicated to those who are members of, or were members of a parachute regiment, or affiliated organisation.
Name list
© DRW 2007-2018. Edited 22 August 2011. Moved to blog 01/01/2014

61 Mechanised Battalion Group Memorial

“Mobilitate Vincere” – Destruction of the enemy through mobility.
When 61 Mechanised Battalion Group was disbanded in November 2005, amongst its regalia was the Memorial Needle where the unit remembered those who had died in battle. This memorial had been with the unit since Omuthiya, where it had been originally erected in 1984.  When the unit re-located it was moved to Walvis Bay for storage.  During 1992 it was moved once again to the Army Battle School at Lohathla and re-erected. With the disbanding of the unit the memorial was left without a home until the formation of the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group Veterans Association. High on the list of priorities was moving the regalia of the unit to somewhere safe, the most logical place being the South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
I had first become aware of the memorial through John Dovey who posted photographs of it on the Armytalk  webgroup. My own connection to the unit had ended in December 1981, but I still consider it to me my “Home Unit”. The image below, found in a “Paratus” of Feb 1985, shows the Memorial as it was at Omuthiya. 
I was a member of Bravo Company that served with the unit from Dec 1980-Dec 1981, and have 3 friends listed on that memorial. I really hoped that one day I would be fortunate enough to see it up close and personal.
The move to the museum was set in motion, and on 25 May 2010 it was re-erected at the Diphong Museum of Military History in Saxonwold (aka National Museum of Military History), and the unveiling of the memorial was set to coincide with the Anniversary of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) as well as the Annual General Meeting of the 61 Mech Battalion Group Veterans Association.
Like many such memorials it is visually striking, replete with the original 61 insignia on the needle. The name plates had been fixed around the base and the white stones provided a contrast with the gry granite from Karabib in what was then South West Africa.  The grounds of the museum provide an interesting contrast with weapons from both World Wars and those who attended on this day were veterans  of the Border War, and most were proud members of the unit, having served with it over the years.
We were blessed with perfect weather on 12 June 2010, and we all gathered at the National Museum of Military History. The functionary was Maj Gen (retired) J.M Dippenaar SD, SM, MMM SA ST K (ARMY) Who is also the patron of the 61 Mech Military Veterans Association. The parade commander was Lt (Veteran) Ariel Hugo, who served with 61 Mech during 1980/81. The parade Warrant Officer was Chief Warrant Officer J.J Kemp, PMM, MMM, of 43 Brigade HQ and ex RSM of 61 Mech from Dec 1986 to Dec 1992. 
The unit existed for 27 years, and participated in 37 large scale operations and actions. Earning itself a fierce-some reputation and was considered to be one of the finest fighting units in the history of  South African military operations. 
Originally founded as Battle Group Juliet for an operation against the Chetequera base in Angola, it was renamed 61 Mechanised Battalion Group in January 1979, and took its place in the regular order of battle as the first ever constituted multi-arm fighting unit, later becoming the armys’ rapid response unit.     Comprising a semi permanent force of Infantry, artillery and armour, it was equipped with Ratels, Eland and G5 artillery pieces, these being upgraded as newer weapons came available as a result of experience gained in the border war. It’s main base was in Omuthiya in Owamboland (Google Earth co-ordinates: -18.491546°, 17.061755°) where the memorial was first erected. The unit was based at Walvis Bay for a period before relocating to the Army Battle School at Lohathla where it remained until it was disbanded. 
Sadly, like so many other units, it bore a number of casualties, and the names of these are inscribed on plaques around the base of the memorial; each major operation being covered by a plaque. The full Roll of Honour may be found at the appropriate webpage of the veterans group.
Finally disbanded on 18 November 2005,  the battalion group became part of history, and a much feared unit that was respected by friend and foe and one that carried the fight deep into enemy territory. 
The Hind Memorial forms part of the legacy and traditions of 61 Mech.
The brass bell, engraved “Ano De Santo 1950”  was liberated from the battlefields by members of 61, although the origin of where it came from is not known as it was in the hands of FAPLA at the time.  It was taken to Omuthiya where it was placed adjacent to the 61 Memorial. It is named after 2nd Lt Adrian Hodgson Hind who was killed on 3 October 1987 during the attack on 47 Brigade.
Today the memory of the unit lives on in it’s veterans and the association that has helped to maintain the legacy of the unit. Active participation by members of its leader group has ensured that the legacy carries forwards into tomorrow. The memorial and exhibition space dedicated to the unit at the museum will ensure that others will come to know the history behind the memorial that they encounter as they enter the museum. Ironically the museum does not have an example of a Ratel IFV in the collection, although it did have at one point. (This has since been rectified I believe)
The original Ratel that used to be at the war museum (2004?)
There is a special exhibition room in the museum dedicated to 61 Mech and it is worthwhile stopping to relive some of the memories inside the space.
Mockup Ratel 90 in the exhibition space

Bravo Company. 61 Mech Bn Grp. Omuthiya, SWA.


Bravo Company of 1981 trained at 1SAI in Bloemfontein in 1980, before being sent to the border in December 1980.  I joined the company shortly before it started doing evaluation in De Brug before it went to Omuthiya. It was the resident infantry company and was based there for the whole of 1981 except for a short period when it participated in a battlegroup at Lohathla that was really a rehearsal for Ops Protea. The company was in action during Ops Carrot, Ops Protea,  and Ops Daisy and suffered 3 losses while it was with 61 Mech. Those names are now inscribed on the memorial. (P Hall, L Van Rooyen, JL Potgieter)

© DRW 2006 – 2018. Memorial and ceremony information courtesy of Jan Malan, special thanks to Ariel Hugo, Gert Minaar and the 61 Mech Battalion Group Veterans Association. Updated 16 June 2010. Moved to blog 01/01/2014, edited images and text 21/05/2015, added plaque images 15/04/201, edited 14/03/2019