DID YOU KNOW
The use of aircraft in warfare came of age in the Great War, the intrepid flyers of both the Allies and the Germans becoming instant media and public heroes with many individuals receiving the highest gallantry decorations available.
When war in German SWA began, the Germans had three aircraft. Bruna Buchner’s Pfalz biplane had arrived in May 1914, while the other two used in German SWA were an Aviatik P-14 and a LFG-Roland, piloted by Lt Freiherr von Scheele and Lt R Fiedler respectively. It is believed that Lt Fiedler overflew South Africa on occasion, making his the first hostile aircraft in friendly airspace.
Despite aviation pioneer John Weston requesting from the South African government permission to start a military aviation school in Bloemfontein in 1913 to train pilots in aerial defence, when war began there was no aviation corps in South Africa. However, Weston was in the Royal Naval Air Services as a Lieutenant and was appointed to the South African Aviation Corps on 6 February 1915 with the same rank.
The first pilots of the fledgling South African Aviation Corps were KR van der Spuy, GS Creed, BH Turner and GP Wallace, while the first six trained pilots to undertake training overseas as pilots in the SA Defence Force were van der Spuy (qualified 2 June 1914), EC Emmett (9 June 1914), with Creed, Turner and Wallace qualifying two weeks later. The sixth was MS Williams. All had been with the Compton Paterson flying school at Alexandersfontein, Kimberley in 1913. Many more South Africans would follow during the war, and indeed, become aces with the Royal Flying Corps and its successor the Royal Air Force.
Two of the better known aviators of World War I were Kimberley’s Andrew Cameron Kiddie DFC and the Beaconsfield born and educated Christopher Joseph Quentin-Brand KBE DSO DFC MC. Yet another with Kimberley links – his mother was sister to Ellis Wynne Weatherby – was the all-time most highly decorated South African Andrew Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor VC.
Pictured are AC Kiddie and Sir Christopher Brand.
From By Steve Lunderstedt