One of my favourite memorials has to be the South African Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill in Pretoria. It is a magnificent structure that epitomises “those who mount up with wings as eagles”.
I recall going there as a toddler with my parents and an uncle. In those days the Book of Remembrance used to be in a recessed holder, and it was in there that we looked for the name of my uncle that died in Egypt during World War 2. The memorial was opened on 1 September 1963 by President CR Swart. Other additions have been the Garden of Remembrance and the Walls of Remembrance.
The futuristic and angular design of the building is unique and it does not have the heavy often morbid feel of a memorial, if anything it is light and airy, reminiscent of flight.
The interior houses a small chapel as well as spaces for the Rolls of Honour and guest books, while not a large space still retains a aircraftlike feel with its angular windows.
A small chapel was incorporated in the design of the memorial.
On the day of our visit the national flag was at half mast, probably to honour Chief Justice Arthur Chaskelson who had died that week. However, little did we realise at the time that the Air Force would loose an aircraft and its crew and passengers on the next day. Those names will be added to the thousands already inscribed on the Roll of Honour.
The Potchefstroom Air Force Base Memorial may also be found at Bays Hill, 103 Squadron was based at Potchefstroom from 1963 until the air base was officially deactivated in September 1992 and the memorial was relocated to Bays Hill. The dedication plaque informs that the memorial was unveiled by Genl Maj WH Thackwray on 17 May 1992.
Bays Hill is an amazing place to visit, and unlike many memorials it is a very open and friendly space, although the Wall of Remembrance always feels one feeling humble. And while you are there you may just hear the sound of an aircraft flying overhead and you will know that it is a kindred spirit of those who are remembered here.
© DRW 2012-2021. Images recreated 26/03/2016, more images added 25/12/2020