Meet the formidable Research Centre Team from the South African Air Force Museum comprising of Colonel Graham Du Toit, a former Permanent Force Chief Air Traffic Controller and now a member of the Reserve Force, appointed as the Senior Staff Officer SAAF Museum Research Centre and Research Officer at the Museum. Warrant Officer Class II Alan Taylor, a member of the Permanent Force and currently serving at the SAAF Museum as the Senior Aircraft Technician for the SAAF Museum Flight. To complete the team is Mr Ken Smy, a retired civilian draughtsman and avid aviation historian who was one of the original group of individuals involved in discussions for the formation of the SAAF Museum during the late 1960’s. Since the Museum’s inception, Ken Smy has continued to volunteer his services, free of charge, to the Museum and was heavily involved in the rebuilding of the Joint Air Training Scheme Avro Anson Mk I now seen on display in the Colonel Peter McGregor Hall at the SAAF Museum Zwartkop. Ken currently maintains the SAAF Museum Reference Library.
These three individuals have 160 years of accumulated military and historical knowledge between them, all gained since childhood days when they became interested in aviation as a hobby. As their hobbies and militaria collections progressed, so did the interest and quest for knowledge on particular items in their collections and other specific areas of interest. The passion for military and aviation history and the desire to improve and further knowledge on the various military and aviation subjects forms part of their daily lives and comes spontaneously. Experience and knowledge is not something that can be taught or found in a reference book in the local library. It has to be learned the hard way and is gained by many hours of dedicated reading and researching being carried out on particular subject or artifact. Colonel Du Toit started his research and militaria and medal collecting hobby when he was eight years old. Ken Smy developed the interest in aircraft and aviation as a six year old boy in Wartime England in the 1940’s. Alan Taylor started his aviation and militaria collecting hobby when he was ten years old.
All three individuals have an above average working knowledge of the SAAF and SAAF aircraft but their specialist knowledge and expertise in certain fields enables the Museum Research Centre to provide accurate and correct information to the public and other interested parties on a very much wider range of subjects than just aircraft and military aviation. Requests for information are received on a daily basis both locally and from overseas researchers, genealogists, family, aviation enthusiasts, museums, other military agencies and members of the general public via email, AVKOM and a variety of other aviation forums, Facebook, telephonically and by mail.
Ken Smy has expert and exceptionally detailed working knowledge of military and aviation related books as well as all the South African military aircraft ever used by the SAAF since its inception. Warrant Officer Alan Taylor on the other hand has exceptionally detailed working knowledge on all SAAF aircraft ever used by the SAAF as well as all SAAF Museum aircraft. He is also a specialist on early aviation in South Africa between 1918 and 1939 and is an expert on identification of SAAF and military badges. He renders assistance to the Research Centre over and above his normal daily duties. Colonel Du Toit is an expert and professional researcher of Individual Military Service Records of all South African servicemen and women from all the Service Arms that served in the Union Defence Force during World War One, Word War Two and the Korean War. He is also an expert on identification of SAAF badges and military Campaign and Service Decorations and Campaign medals. He works very closely with the S.A. Korean Veterans Organisation as well as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission South African Agency regarding information and corrections to existing information on South African and Commonwealth World War One and World War Two casualties. This information is then passed to their Head Office in London. Colonel Du Toit was responsible for correction and updating the Official SAAF Roll of Honour and currently posts the Border War Roll of Honour daily on the various Military Face Book Forums. As with Warrant Officer Taylor who, on a daily basis, answers the many military and SAAF queries on AVKOM and aviation related forums, Colonel Du Toit answers on a daily basis, the many military and SAAF queries received on the various Face Book military forums. Both Colonel Du Toit and Ken Smy have contributed specialist information to many local and international military aviation books, publications, periodicals and books ranging from aircraft, aviation, SAAF Word War Two air crews and casualties, grave locations through to Orders, Decorations and Campaign Medals. Colonel Du Toit also has an expert working knowledge regarding identification of SADF, SAAF and Soviet/East Bloc weapons and equipment used during the Border War 1966-1989. Using all this pooled knowledge, the Research Team is able to answer queries in a professional manner while at the same time, ensuring that all information sent is accurate and correct. Requests answered by the Research Centre so far have covered the period 1835 through to 2014 on a wide range of military and aviation matters across all the Service Arms.
One excellent example of how this team can function using pooled knowledge and expertise was when the current Chief of the South African Air Force recently requested the Officer Commanding SAAF Museum to develop a document that clearly showed the time line for every aircraft type ever operated in the South African Air Force from 1961 to present day. No such document has ever been produced before anywhere in the world and the Museum was allocated a period of two months to complete this project. Warrant Officer Taylor, using his vast and expert knowledge of SAAF aircraft, supported by inputs from both Ken Smy and Colonel Du Toit, put in many hours of voluntary overtime work to ensure that within a period of less than three weeks, the Officer Commanding SAAF Museum was able to deliver an extremely comprehensive and accurate document to CAF.