THE SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE IN THE LATE 1950’S

The late 1950’s saw the delivery and retirement of many familiar aircraft types that served the SAAF.

The Spitfires were retired in 1954 and the Sunderlands in 1957. Two Herons were delivered in 1955, but like the Devons, did not prove entirely satisfactory and were withdrawn in 1962. Further batches of Austers were delivered in 1957. Despite trials with two Dornier Do 27’s from 1958 onwards, the Cessna 185 was adopted for Army co-operation duties to replace the Austers of 42 AOP Flight.

Helicopter operations were expanded with the addition of three larger Sikorsky S-55’s in 1956, to supplement the S-51’s already in use. These formed the basis of the newly reconstituted 17 Squadron from 1 December 1957.

Eight Avro Shackleton Mk3’s were delivered in 1957 for maritime patrol duties for 35 Squadron. The remaining Venturas from the maritime units were transferred to 35 Squadron before finally retired along with their VIP cousins at 28 Squadron in 1960.

28 Squadron still utilizing the Dakota; undertook regular flights to the United Kingdom conveying VIP’s and officers attending staff courses. In 1958 a specially equipped Viscount names Casteel was delivered for this and other tasks.

The new Sabre Mk6’s for 1 and 2 Squadrons arrived during 1956 and by 1957 each squadron had 16 Sabres, 12 Vampires and 12 Harvards on strength operating out of the newly revamped and upgraded Waterkloof.

On 21 September 1956 Captain J. Inglesby became the first pilot to break the sound barrier over South African soil when he rolled 1 Squadron Sabre no.352 into a supersonic dive over AFB Waterkloof.

Bases moved too at this time. The SAAF detachment left Stamford Hill Durban by December 1956 and moved to Louis Botha Airport, while 35 Squadron left Congella and moved to Cape Town in 1958. The base at Mtubatuba was handed over to the Dept of Forestry in September 1957 while Port Alfred was abandoned in March 1956. By the end of the 1950’s many of the SAAF’s ACF units had to be disbanded as part of an economy drive. A facilities upgrade and the laying of new tarred runways at Waterkloof was concluded by 1956 and re-established it as the SAAF’s premier base.

In terms of insignia, the Sprinbok Roundel was replaced by the Castle insignia from 1957 onwards.

The steady growth of the 1950’s was accelerated when South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961 and a host of new equipment was introduced during the next decade. This included the arrival of the Alouette II and III’s, Cessna 185’s, Mirage III’s, Lockheed C-130B Hercules’, Canberras, Buccaneers and the Westland Wasp amongst other.

SAAF ORDER OF BATTLE - 1958

Squadron, Base, Aircraft

  • 1, Waterkloof, 16 x Sabre, 12 x Vampire, 12 x Harvard
  • 2, Waterkloof, 16 x Sabre 12 x Vampire 12 x Harvard
  • 3, (ACF) Germiston, 8 x Harvard
  • 4, (ACF) Waterkloof, 8 x Harvard
  • 5, (ACF) Durban, 8 x Harvard
  • 6, (ACF) Port Elizabeth, 8 x Harvard
  • 7, (ACF) Ysterplaat, 8 x Harvard
  • 8, (ACF) Bloemspruit, 8 x Harvard
  • 17, Langebaanweg, 1 x Sikorsky S51 3 x Sikorsky S55
  • 22, Ysterplaat, 8 x Ventura PV1
  • 28, Waterkloof, 14 x Dakota 3 x Ventura (VIP) 1 x Viscount (VIP) 3 x Devon 2 x Heron
  • 35, Ysterplaat, 8 x Shackleton
  • 40, (ACF) Germiston, 8 x Harvard
  • 42, (Army) Potchefstroom, 9 x Auster
  • 44, (ACF) Waterkloof, 11 x Dakota
  • Test Flight Swartkop, 2 x Dornier DO27
  • CFS, Dunnottar, 60 x Harvard
  • Air Nav, School Ysterplaat, -
  • Air Ops, School Langebaanweg, 40 x Vampire

* Total aircraft in SAAF during 1958 approximately - 301