SA Army Air Defence Artillery Formation launches History Book – Alta Pete.

On 14 December 2021 the South African Air Defence Artillery Corps history book was launched by the SA Army Air Defence Artillery Formation.

Cover of Alta Pete.

The General Officer Commanding SA Army Air Defence Artillery Formation Brig Gen L.A. Puckree hosted the book launch.

The senior dignitaries that attended the launch were:

Lt Gen J.M. Mbuli – C Log and General Of The Gunners.

Maj Gen R.C. Andersen (Rtd) – National President of the Gunners’ Association of South Africa.

Col H.J. Baird acted as the Master of Ceremony for the event and gave the following address.

Address

Today marks an historic event in the history of the South African Air Defence Artillery Corps!During 2014 Maj Gen Roy Andersen, the then General of the Gunners, approached the South African Artillery and Air Defence Artillery Formations to enquire as to what he could do to further contribute towards the Formations before his tenure would end? I expressed the need for capturing the Air Defence Artillery Corps history.

Although individual Air Defence Artillery units have kept their own history and some have published their history, the Corps history had, to date, not been formally documented.A constitution was adopted on 24 October 2014 to establish the Air Defence Artillery History Steering Group under the chairmanship of the then General Officer Commanding Air Defence Artillery Formation (now Lt Gen J.S. Mbuli) and Maj Gen Roy Andersen provided guidance and assisted in soliciting the services of the late Col (Ret) Lionel Arthur Crook as the proposed author.

Formal contracting of Lionel as author of the proposed book though a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 05 September 2014 and what was conceived as a two year project escalated into an intensive four year research study.  After a year of editing and another two year delay due to the COVID pandemic the vision has finally been achieved with the book launch today.This work strives to capture more than 100 years of South African Anti-Aircraft and Air Defence Artillery Corps history since its ancestral inception in 1914 and the establishment of the first Anti-Aircraft unit in 1939. Although this work represents a comprehensive effort, the history of the South African Air Defence Artillery Corps is still being carved today.It is not feasible to capture all detail and the book thus only highlights important aspects, it strives to place events in historical context with situations of higher order structures or external environments that prevailed at the time.

This glimpse into the proud history of the South African Air Defence Artillery Corps serves as a basis for lessons learned, further expansion and future additions in order to leave a legacy for the future generations of Air Defence Artillery Gunners. Air Defence Artillery Gunners can reminisce over their past contributions and the public can gain insight into a hard fought proud history. In the author’s own words (and I quote):“When asked to produce this history I accepted readily, but was later dismayed to discover the lack of references to Anti-Aircraft gunners in any published South African Regimental history; particularly those that fought in the Western Desert of North Africa. The air threat in that campaign was at its worst and Infantry, Field Artillery and other units of the two South African Infantry Divisions were almost totally dependant on the Bofors 40 mm guns of 1 and 2 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments for protection from the Luftwaffe.

Reference to the Anti-Aircraft gunner in the Border Wars of the 1980’s is just as meagre.But, reading the laconic entries in the War Diaries of the two units that represented the Anti-Aircraft effort as part of the South African Artillery in both East and North Africa, the true story of the bravery and dedication of the Anti-Aircraft gunner emerged and the tremendous effort they made in these campaigns is told. I hope this point is fully covered in the pages that follow and emerges sufficiently enough to inspire the Anti-Aircraft gunner of today.Aircraft of World War One flew at about 100 mph at the beginning of the war but even with continued development of aircraft, speed was not much more than 200 mph by 1918. During the war of 1939-1945, aircraft could reach speeds of up to 450 mph. Today a maximum speed of 900 mph or more is attained. The reaction time of those who man guns with which to down aircraft is no longer measured as a minute or two – it is measured in a second or part thereof. The old early warning sound locator has long since disappeared and radar can now track an incoming aircraft from as much as 120 km away; and seconds are necessary to open fire with gun or missile. It has also surprised me how reticent are those who served as Anti-Aircraft gunners.

Appeals for stories and information have elicited little response. Fortunately there were those who did help: Major Generals H. Roux; Louis Coetzee; Colonels Jakes Jacobs, Major Horstmanshof and MWO E. Brits are among them; but Colonel Jacques Baird, formerly Chief of Staff at Air Defence Artillery Formation and chairman of the History Committee, was a tower of strength in providing information and answers and in answering queries. There are others who have helped put these pages together who are not mentioned, to whom I am equally grateful. My long-standing relationship with the Documentation Centre once again proved its worth and I am grateful for the assistance given me so readily by Ms Louise Jooste, Gerald Prinsloo and others on the staff of the Reading Room and Library. And grateful thanks go to Ms Claerwen Howie, daughter-in-law to the late Lieutenant Colonel Charles Howie whose flight to Italy, after his escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp, and after eluding the Gestapo in Hungary, has now – for perhaps the first time – been correctly recorded. Thanks and appreciation is also expressed towards Colonel H.J. Baird, Lieutenant Colonel A. de Villiers and Maj B. Risien who assisted in editing the book.” (Unquote)

The Air Defence Artillery Corps has had an unusual and eventful history beginning as it did in 1939 as a unit of the Coast Artillery Brigade but nevertheless in the Corps of South African Artillery. Anti-Aircraft units fell under command of the South African Air Force from January 1944, transferring in February 1949 back to the South African Artillery before a transfer to the South African Corps of Marines in July 1951. On 1 October 1955 the few Anti-Aircraft units then in existence were transferred back to the South African Artillery. They remained in that Corps for thirty three years before gaining independence as an entirely new Corps from 1 November 1984.

It seemed to signal a rebirth for Anti-Aircraft gunners and they have not looked back since then.Other important information captured in the book includes SA ADA Gunner traditions, description of all prime mission equipment used, listings of Generals Of The Gunners’, General Officer Commanding and Unit Commanders as well as our most prized possession the Air Defence Artillery Roll of Honour.

Documenting from the first South African Anti-Aircraft QF BLC 15-pdr converted gun known as Skinny Liz – deployed to South West Africa (Walvis Bay) on Christmas Day, 1914 till 2016 with the modernisation of South Africa’s Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS) and the introduction of the Skyshield gun fire control system upgrade including AHEAD ammunition, the book is deemed an irreplaceable official document and legacy for future generations.

The author sadly passed away prior to publishing.

He will be sorely missed among the Guns, but will be fondly remembered for many generations through his dedicated work on this book.

The late Col (Ret) Lionel Athur Crook † 12 November 1930 – 04 November 2018

The first issue of this book is available in hard copy from the Air Defence Artillery Formation.

Printed and ebook copies can also be ordered through the publisher (Sigma Logistics), contact detail is: info@sigmalog.co.za.

The printed book cost is R700.00 excluding shipping.

I Thank You

VOTE OF THANKS

Apart from those already mentioned, there are several sponsors who have connections to the Air Defence Artillery Corps and who more fully deserve a very special vote of thanks and appreciation for their support. They are:

Maj Gen Roy Andersen (Rtd)[gvi

Mr Frikkie Naude of Intertechnic Contracting

Mr Carl Kies of Reutech Radar Systems

Mr Ricky Adair of THALES UK

We would also like to express thanks and appreciation to Col J. Keating for all efforts in contracting the publisher as well as the publisher, Sigma Logistics Solutions.

Sigma Logistics Solutions and Army Foundation for the contributions towards this event.

Last but not least: Thank you to the GOC SA Army ADA Fmn Brig Gen Puckree for making this book launch possible through organising planning and conducting the book launch.

Link to the electronic copy:

Alta Pete