OTD: Soweto Riots Begin

On this day in 1976 Soweto literally exploded as school children and police clashed in what has become known as the “Soweto Riots” or “Soweto Uprising”. An estimated 20 000 students from local Sowetan schools took to the streets of the township to protest the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. It was really the beginning of the end of the “Apartheid Regime”, but it would still take almost 20 years before a government elected by the majority of the people actually stepped into power. Between then and now there have been many changes in South Africa, although the ugly head of racism still rears itself and fingers will get pointed and arguments will get thrown about. 

Unfortunately amongst the many casualties of 1976 was truth and justice. Both would be sorely tried when the dust settled, or when the blood dried.  The figure mentioned in the Wikipedia page about the uprising  reads: 176 deaths (with some estimates ranging up to 700) and 4000 injured,  We will never know either because the government knew that they had used excessive force and had a serious problem on their hands, and they claimed that only 23 students had been killed.

The name most associated with the students is that of  Hector Pieterson (also spelt Pietersen) who was gunned down by the South African police and carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo to a local clinic and declared dead on arrival.  How many people still remember that name? I am sure it is ingrained in the psyche of many Black South Africans from that generation, and unwittingly led to Hector becoming somewhat of an icon. 


As a white South African schoolboy my experience of the events then is very different to that of Black school children so I can never really know the horror of what the riots were like as they ebbed and flowed throughout the country. I am sure that the police who faced those mobs were equally frightened of what may happen to them if they were overrun by a mob. You can be assured that mob justice would prevail, and in later years that could also entail “necklacing” which became yet another form of protest and execution. The Nationalist government was never able to justify their reactions to the riots, relying on propaganda, censorship and oppression of media. The concept of “fake news” would be very familiar to them, because they used it all the time.

Was it worth it? there are those who would argue that it achieved nothing, yet today the national party is gone, and so is grand apartheid, although it has been replaced by grand corruption and cadre deployment by the ruling party. Apartheid is still practised under the title “black economic empowerment (later BBBEE)” banner and things have not really changed in the lives of the very poor;  schools are still without proper toilets or running water, shacks still abound in the poorer parts of the cities, and the poor people still battle to eke out a living while the corrupt line their pockets.  What would Hector Pieterson have to say if he saw what South Africa has become? 

In Soweto you can visit the June  16th student uprising-memorial in Avalon Cemetery or alternatively the Hector Pieterson Monument And Museum is worth the visit.  I know that many would question the neutrality and objectivity  of the museum, but I know I came away with a different vision of the events of that fateful day. My visits happened in 2011/2012, so things may be slightly different now.

South Africa has never been the same since 16 June 1976, and we must respect the fact that children died for a cause they believed in. 


Rest in peace all of those who never went home on that day.

DRW © 2020. Created 15/06/2020.


Remember the War

“Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict.

They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad.

They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations.

They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe.

“We should and will remember them.”


DRW © 2020 Created 09/05/2020. Excerpt from The Queen’s VE Day speech 2020. 


Visiting the VC10 at Brooklands.

Tonight while pondering the lack of interesting things around this time of year I ended up looking at my huge folder list and found that my Brooklands folder was dated 22/01/2015, so I looked through the pics and realised that I did not post as many of my VC10 pics as I would have liked; and this was a perfect opportunity to play catch up. I rate Brooklands. the Birthplace of British Motorsport & Aviation very high on my list of favourite museums because it had such a wide variety of exhibits that meant something to me. That included a Concorde, VC10, and of course a Wellington Bomber. 

There is one complete VC10 and one intact fuselage at the museum,

Vickers 1103 VC10 (G-ASIX “Sultan of Oman”) was built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd and first flown from Brooklands on 17/10/64 with delivery to British United Airways at Gatwick, she was transferred to British Caledonian in November 1970 and then sold to the Omani Government in 1974. Refurbished at BAC Hurn; she operated as ‘A40-AB’ by The Sultan of Oman’s Royal Flight at Muscat, and was the last civilian operated VC10 in service.


Her final flight was from Muscat to Brooklands via Heathrow on 6/7/87, crewed by Officers of the Omani Royal Flight and with His Excellency Hussein Bin Mohammed Bin Ali (Omani Ambassador) and Sir Peter Masefield (Chairman of Trustees of the Museum) as passengers. I did not photograph all of the interior, but you can see from the pics below that this was not your run of the mill long haul airliner. (https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/explore/our-collection/aircraft/sultan-oman-vc10)

The VC10 is an aircraft from my past, even though I had never travelled on one or even been near to one until my Brooklands visit. It was an icon of aviation and very distinctive with the high tail and set back wings and 4 engines mounted at the rear. That tail was a very popular image used in advertising too.

The real thing is even more impressive.

SAA did not operate any of them, but BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) certainly did, and I believe they were regular callers at what was then Jan Smuts Airport (Now OR Tambo). In fact the VC10 was well suited to operate out of “Hot and High” airports (OR Tambo in Johannesburg is classed as a hot and high airport). The rear-mounted engines gave a more efficient wing and made them less vulnerable to runway debris. The resulting high fuel consumption compared to the contemporary Boeing 707 made the VC10 somewhat of a failure though, as major airlines dismissed the VC10 as it cost too much to operate. 

The other VC10 fuselage at Brooklands (G-ARVM “Victor Mike”): 

G-ARVM was the last Standard VC10 built, and built at Brooklands in 1963-64 with it’s maiden on 9 July 1964. She was was the 12th VC10 for BOAC and operated  BOAC and British Airways until she was retired in October 1979. (https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/explore/our-collection/aircraft/vc10-vm)

If my memory serves me correctly the interior seating was not her original seating but from when the RAF used to aircraft in a transport role.

The VC10 was in service with the  RAF for 47 years, and was very successful in air-to-air refuelling operations. It accomplished its final aviation milestone on 20 September 2013.

The VC10 is an iconic aircraft and one which we will never see the likes of again. Today the airliner is fast, efficient and has longer range and capacity. But, they all look pretty similar and very few stand out amongst the horde. I am glad that I was at least able to have a closer look at these because they are a part of aviation history.

DRW © 2020. Created 22/01/2020.