Royal Air Force Centenary

Dudley Basson


The Royal Air Force was founded on 1 April 1918 incorporating the Royal Flying Corps and the air service of the Navy becoming the world’s first military air division.

Smuts at the time of WW1

South Africa’s General Smuts arrived in Britain in 1917 as head of the SA delegation to the Imperial War Conference. He was warmly received by David Lloyd George (the Welsh Prime Minister of Britain who had been vehemently opposed to the Anglo-Boer War) who offered him a place in the War Cabinet. Churchill greeted Smuts as ‘a new and altogether extraordinary man from the outer marches of the Empire’. He also became a Privy Councillor. Lloyd George described Smuts as ‘one of the most brilliant generals in this war’.

Smuts’ first assignment on behalf of Lloyd George was to visit France and the Western Front to discuss the war’s progress with the Belgian king, the French president and Allied generals.

In July 1917 London came under attack by a squadron of German aircraft (Gotha raids). London had previously been attacked by zeppelins. The war cabinet deputed the Prime Minister and Smuts to examine the state of Britain’s air defences and the lack of co-ordination between the air services of the Army and Navy. Smuts took immediate action and within three months had devised air-defence plans for London and other cities.

Smuts drew up a 7-page report on the formation of the Royal Air Force. Smuts also proposed the coercing of British industry into the production of aircraft. With Smuts in the chair, the Aerial Operations Committee was enlarged to become the War Priorities Committee, charged with bringing together all of the country’s industrial resources to bear on the war effort. The Royal Air Force was established on 1 April 1918. For this huge achievement, Smuts has become known as ‘The father of the RAF.’

This mantle is sometimes also applied to Viscount Hugh Trenchard who was appointed as Air Marshall.

A rank structure was formed for the air force which differs from those of the army and navy.

In 1941 Smuts was promoted to the rank of Field-Marshal.

South Africa, of course, also needed an air force. Following a report from Brig Gen C.F. Beyers in 1912, Smuts initiated an arrangement with private fliers in the Cape and established a flying school at Alexandersfontein near Kimberley to train pilots. Students who excelled were sent to the Central Flying School at Upavon in Britain. The first South African military pilot qualified in 1914. As many as 3000 South Africans travelled to the UK to enlist with the Royal Flying Corps, suffering some 260 active duty fatalities. Forty six pilots became fighter aces.
General Sir Hesperus Andria van Ryneveld (1891-1972), known as Pierre van Ryneveld, was a South African military commander. He began his military career in WW1 where he served in the Royal Flying Corps and distinguished himself as a flying ace. He was called back to South Africa by Smuts to establish the South African Air Force. He flew back home in a Vickers Vimy – a pioneering feat for which he and his co-pilot Lt Quintin Brand were knighted.
Lt Col van Ryneveld established the SAAF in 1920 which he directed until 1933.
On the conclusion of WW1 the British Government donated surplus aircraft, spares and sufficient equipment, to provide the nucleus of a fledgling air force, to each of its dominions. South Africa received a total of 113 aircraft.

The South African Airways (SAA) was formed on 1 February 1934 following the acquisition of Union Airways by the South African Government. The aircraft acquired were: one de Havilland DH.60 Gypsy Moth; one de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth; three Junkers F.13s; a leased Junkers F13 and a Junkers A50. The passenger carrying capacity of these aircraft was very limited. British Airways (BA) was formed in 1974 by the fusion of BOAC (1939), BEA (1946) and two smaller regional airways. BA was privatized in 1987.

By the close of WW1 the choice of military aircraft was limited to wood framed, fabric covered Sopwith, Avro and Bristol biplanes. The Germans did however introduce their single wing “Fokker eindecker” in 1915. The two renowned German fighter pilots of the time were Jagdfliegern Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann.
Max Immelmann scored his first victory in an E.13/15 Fokker on 1 August 1915.
"Like a hawk, I dived... and fired my machine gun. For a moment, I believed I would fly right into him. I had fired about 60 shots when my gun jammed. That was awkward, for to clear the jam I needed both hands - I had to fly completely without hands... "
Lieutenant William Reid fought back valiantly, flying with his left hand and firing a pistol with his right. Nonetheless, the 450 bullets fired at him took their effect; Reid suffered four wounds in his left arm, and his engine stalled, causing a crash landing. The unarmed Immelmann landed nearby, and approached Reid; they shook hands and Immelmann said to the British pilot "You are my prisoner" and pulled Reid out of the wreckage and rendered first aid.
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, known as the "Red Baron", a fighter pilot with the German Air Force, is considered the German ace-of-aces of the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories. Pilots who achieve five or more victories are considered to be aces. The list all combatant aces numbers in the thousands.
Highest scoring British pilots were: Maj E Mannock (73), Lt Col W A Bishop (72), Lt Col R Collishaw (60), Maj J T M McCudden (57), Cap A W Beauchamp-Proctor (54), Maj D R MacLaren (54), Maj W G Barker (53), Cap R A Little(47)…

In 1914 the Royal Flying Corps numbered just 1,500 people. By 1918, when the Royal Air Force was created, this had grown to more than 205,000. The full strategic value of air power had become all too evident - both on the battlefield and on the Home Front.

A significant contribution to aircraft design was made by Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith (1888-1989). There were eleven models in the Sopwith series which included a flying boat and a triplane. Engines were by: Gnôme; Gnôme Monosoupape; Clerget; Hispano Suiza; Austro-Daimler; Bentley and La Rhône.

For the 1984 Sopwith documentary see:

The Sopwith planes were the most successful fighter planes available towards the end of the war. The Sopwith Camel was a remarkable aircraft for its time. Of these over 5400 were built.
The Camel had a wooden, fabric covered frame with dihedral lower wings, flat upper wings and a single 9 cylinder Bentley rotary engine with aluminium fairing. The rotary engine, with its very short length, was ideally suited to this aircraft. The radial cylinders rotated about a fixed stub crankshaft which removed the need of a flywheel. There was no need for an oil sump, the lubricating oil being blown through with the exhaust gases as with two-stroke engines.
The engine had excellent air-cooling even when not in flight. Rotary engines have an odd number of cylinders for smoother running and two revolutions for four-stroke ignition. Every second cylinder would receive ignition as it passed the fixed ignition point. The pronounced gyroscopic effect of the rotary engine when turning took some getting used to. Two machine guns were mounted above the engine and synchronised to avoid shooting the propeller blades. The Camel had a top speed of 185 km/h.

Sopwith Camel Frame (Replica)

The Bentley BR.1 nine cylinder rotary engine had aluminium cylinders with cast iron liners and aluminium pistons. Vital figures are:
bore 120 mm; stroke 170 mm; displacement 17,3 litres; output 110 kW; fuel consumption 50 litres/hour; oil consumption 6,8 litres/hour.
The rotating cylinder configuration was advantageous with regard to the dynamics and balancing requirements of the engine. The rotary engine, developed in 1908, remained in use until the end of the war. The engine speed of direct propeller driven aircraft is much lower than that of road vehicles.
The radial engine superseded the rotary engine – this looks similar but has a rotating crankshaft and the cylinders fixed in place. The Wankel rotary engine used in automobiles is completely different, having a triangular rotor instead of pistons.

An important advance in propeller driven aircraft design came with the introduction of variable pitch propellers, which allowed the engines to operate at optimum speed in various take-off and flying conditions. An early pneumatic design used an inflatable bladder working against a spring. The angle had to be set to fine-pitch before take-off and the bladder inflated by means of a bicycle pump. This had to be done by the Gonfleurs d'hélices (prop inflator boy), a name for ground mechanics still in use in France. Several other greatly improved designs have subsequently been developed.


Bombing was at first a simple matter of tossing grenades and bundles of fléchettes overboard on targets below. Fléchettes were steel darts of about 10 mm diameter and 15 cm long. These haphazard weapons were intended for attacking personnel and draught animals but were not particularly effective. Aircraft weaponry developed quickly, and by the end of the war, bombs of up to 1525 kg were in use.
The Handley Page bomber introduced in 1916 was at the time one of the largest in the world and the only aircraft capable of carrying a 1525 kg bomb.
The two main variants were the type O/100 with two Rolls Royce Eagle II 190 kW engines, and type O/400 with two 270 kW Rolls Royce Eagle VIII engines. It was initially thought that the two engines of an aircraft should be contra-rotating, but engines with the same rotation were found to give better results. The crew of two had the comfort of an enclosed glazed cockpit but the only defensive armament was a rifle held by the observer. Some 550 of these aircraft were built, which remained in service until 1921.

The start of World War One, also known as the ‘Great War’ is associated with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, by a Bosnian revolutionary; but to this day it remains in dispute as to how, why and by whom the war was fomented.

The Armistice signed on 11 November 1918, also known as the Armistice of Compiègne, ended hostilities between the Allies and Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The armistice had to be prolonged three times until the Treaty of Versailles came into effect.
The signing took place aboard the private train of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, parked in a railway siding in the forest of Compiègne.

Smuts and Prime Minister Louis Botha took part in the negotiations at the Versailles Peace Treaty in June 1919, five years after the start of the war. Smuts was opposed to the harsh penalties that the treaty would impose on Germany, saying that these would hinder the progress to a peaceful Europe. When the treaty was signed Smuts saw problems ahead saying: 

“This treaty is not peace; it is the last echo of the war. It closes the war and armistice stage. The real peace must still come and must be made by the peoples.”
These were prophetic words – peace would remain elusive for two decades until Europe would again erupt into the Second World War.

Lloyd George said ominously to Sir William Wiseman:
“The Treaty was all a great pity. We shall have to do the same thing all over again in 25 years at three times the cost.”

WW1 Victory Parade London photos

Victory Parade – Paris Pathé movie

The League of Nations was formed in January 1920 with the purpose of preventing the occurrence of any future wars. Smuts took part in drawing up the covenant. Tragically, the League proved unequal to achieving its objectives.
The centenary of the start of WW1 on 28 July 1914, was commemorated in 2014 by an astonishing display of 888 246 bright red ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, seeming to flow as a river from one of the towers into the moat. Each poppy was meant to represent a British life lost in the war. In all, the war claimed 17 million lives.

The First World War was a turning point in human history and a cataclysm for the people who fought in it. The sheer scale of its horror and carnage transformed social, political, artistic and religious attitudes throughout the civilised world. A new genre of ‘trench warfare poetry’ as well as graphic art and cartoons emerged.
There were several alliances established between the European countries which caused them to be drawn into the conflict. Bertrand Russell commented:
“It is the universal reign of Fear that has caused the system of alliances, believed to be a guarantee of peace, but now proved to be the cause of world-wide disaster … and this universal Fear has at last produced a cataclysm far greater than any of those which it was hoped to avert.”

A few lines from war poet Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et decorum est”:

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (Translation: It is a sweet honour to die for your country)

Wilfred Owen was killed in action a week before the armistice.

The period between the wars was a time of significant changes worldwide. This was a time of large scale rebuilding and development as well as rearmament. The Roaring Twenties was a 

time of economic growth and prosperity in America. In 1923 the Germany economy experienced hyperinflation. The cost of a postage stamp became more than that of an up-market house a few years before. The US $ was worth 2,41 trillion German Marks. In 1922 in South Africa, a fall in the gold price and rising costs resulted in a miner’s strike. This worsened to an armed revolt known as the Rand Rebellion which forced Smuts to declare Martial Law. In 1920 Smuts called Hendrik van der Bijl to return to South Africa to establish the electrical utility ESCOM and in 1928 to establish a large scale steelworks, ISCOR. In 1924 Smuts invited Gutehoffnungshütte of Oberhausen to investigate the feasibility of a large scale steelworks in Pretoria. In 1928 America experienced the Great Depression, an unprecedented economic downturn which damaged many of the world’s largest economies. With the start of WWII Smuts appointed van der Bijl as Director General of War Supplies which made a huge contribution to the war effort.

As the war clouds were gathering, Edward VIII ascended the British Throne in 1936. Alarmingly, the King had Nazi sympathies and was on friendly terms with Hitler. The world was saved from calamity by scandal and abdication.
The inter war period was also sufficient time to breed a new generation of soldiers.
As war seemed inevitable the great powers stepped up rearmament. The ungainly battle tanks of WW1 became huge armoured monsters with devastating fire power. Huge advances were made with all forms of weaponry including aircraft, shipping, artillery, and munitions.

The invasion by Germany of Poland on 1 September 1939 is regarded as the start of WW2.
Following the fall of France, and the Franco-German Armistice in June 1940, it seemed that an assault on the British mainland was imminent.
Churchill wrote: ‘Our fate now depended upon victory in the air. The German leaders had recognised that all their plans for the invasion of Britain depended on winning air supremacy above the Channel and the chosen landing-places on our south-coast…’
On 18 June 1940, Churchill, in Parliament, made his famous “This was their Finest Hour” speech.

The “We shall fight on the beaches …” speech can be seen at:

The Nazi plan for the invasion of Britain, ‘Operation Sea Lion’ was set in motion on 16 July 1940. The Luftwaffe had some 2500 fighters and bombers stationed in Belgium and France with which to pave the way for ground forces to cross the Channel. At this time the RAF had only 650 Hurricanes and Spitfires with which to face overwhelming odds. There were skirmishes in the skies over southern England in July but by August the battle became much more intense. By late August the bombing of airfields in southern England began causing huge damage and heavy casualties. The use of the newly developed Radar was of vital importance at this time. South Africa can take pride in its pioneering work on Radar. Following huge losses inflicted on the Luftwaffe by the RAF, they decided on 7 September to switch to bombing London and other cities.
Although this resulted in huge devastation and casualties in London and manufacturing cities such as Coventry, pressure on air bases and radar facilities was eased, ensuring the survival of the RAF. By 15 September the Nazis realised that control of the skies could not be won and postponed their ‘Operation Sea Lion.’ In Parliament, Churchill repeated his famous “…so much owed by so many to so few” comment.

For the Battle of Britain’s vital 13 hours see:

The Spitfire, designed by R.J. Mitchell came into service in 1938. A total of 20 351 were built by Supermarine. These had a top speed of 584 km/h. There were a few different combinations of wing armaments. Some of these carried only a few hundred rounds with a time of continuous fire of less than half a minute. The weapons were fired in bursts of about two seconds to avoid overheating and to conserve the limited quantity of ammunition. The other highly prominent fighter plane was the Hawker Hurricane with a top speed of 574 km/h. Some 14 583 were built

Supermarine Spitfire

I can remember seeing, many years ago, a Spitfire wreck in the grounds of a children’s hospital at Meerhof near the Hartbeespoort Dam, not far from Pretoria. This wreck was later painstakingly restored to full flying order by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft was named Evelyn and had a remarkable new lease of life until she ended up at a museum in Brazil.

“Sailor” Malan, a renowned South African pilot in the Battle of Britain offered this advice to those he trained:

1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of 1 to 2 seconds and only when your sights are definitely 'ON'.
2. Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of the body, have both hands on the stick, concentrate on your ring sight.
3. Always keep a sharp lookout. "Keep your finger out!"
4. Height gives You the initiative.
5. Always turn and face the attack.
6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.
7. Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.
8. When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as top guard.
9. INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE, and TEAM WORK are the words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.
10. Go in quickly - Punch hard - Get out!

Douglas Bader (1920-1982) was a prominent RAF flying ace during WW2. His was a story of astonishing determination and courage despite adversity. He was credited with 22 aerial victories as well as several other strikes against enemy aircraft. He crashed in 1931 while attempting daredevil aerobatics too close to the ground. His near fatal injuries required the amputation of both legs. He retook flight training and passed his check flights but was retired against his will on medical grounds. After the outbreak of war in 1939 he returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot and scored his first victories flying a Hurricane in 1940 over Dunkirk during the Battle of France, and went on to take part in the Battle of Britain with spectacular success. He became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his "Big Wing” experiments. On 18 March 1941, Bader was promoted to acting Wing Commander and became one of the first "wing leaders". During 1941 his wing was re-equipped with Spitfire VBs, which had two Hispano 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. Bader flew a Mk VA with eight .303 machine guns which he insisted were more effective against fighter opposition. In August 1941 he bailed out over German occupied France and was captured. He befriended a prominent German fighter ace, Adolf Galland. Fighter ace opponents treated each other with respect despite being mortal enemies. After making some attempts to escape he was sent to the POW camp at Colditz Castle where he remained until April 1945. His highly eventful life was chronicled in 1950 in the book and movie “Reach for the Sky.” A brief documentary on Douglas Bader can be seen at:

A new 2018 movie, ‘Hurricane’, tells the story of the Polish pilots of 303 Squadron - and highlights the brilliance of an often-overlooked Czech flying ace, Josef Frantisek - who flew with a fury that none of the others could match – and would break away from the squadron (to the squadron leader’s consternation) to chase enemy planes on his own. He has been credited with shooting down 17 enemy aircraft in one month at the height of the Battle of Britain. Have a look at:

Many pilots who managed to bail out from shot down aircraft suffered horrific burns resulting in grotesque disfigurements. This resulted in the development of a new branch of medical treatment which would become known as ‘Plastic surgery’.

 Battle of Britain Monument on Victoria Embankment

The RAF Roll of Honour recognises 2353 British pilots as well as 574 pilots from other countries, engraved on the Battle of Britain Monument, unveiled on 18 Sep 2005. Pilots from other countries include: Poland (145), New Zealand (135), Canada (112), Czechoslovakia (88), Belgium (30), Australia (32), South Africa (25) and several others. Irish pilot Brendan "Paddy" Finucane, became an ace who would claim a total of 32 enemy aircraft.

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, also known as the “Mossie”, was a remarkable multi-role aircraft manufactured from 1940 to 1950. Also known as the wooden wonder, it was constructed almost entirely from wood. The monocoque fuselage was constructed as plywood in moulds in two halves which were then joined together. The all-wood wing pairs comprised a single structural unit throughout the wingspan, with no central longitudinal joint, the spars running from wingtip to wingtip. The wooden structure was made of carefully selected woods of spruce, birch and balsa, much like in the manufacture of a fine musical instrument.

De Havilland Mosquito

A number of variants were produced which could be used as fighters, bombers, strike fighter-bombers, night fighters, photo-reconnaissance aircraft, torpedo bombers and trainers. The Mosquito also became known as the “submarine buster.” Some 7781 of these aircraft were manufactured at several locations.
The DH.98 was powered by twin engines. Those in use were: Rolls Royce Merlin or Griffon – 950 kW; Bristol Hercules 14 cylinder radial and Napier Sabre 24 cylinder – 1640 or 2600 kW.
It was armed with four 20 mm Hispano cannon, four .303 machine guns, and could carry a bomb load of 1800 kg. It had a range of 2400 km at 7600 m altitude.
The Mosquito flew, in addition to the RAF, in several other air forces. The RAF replaced the Mosquito with the jet-powered Canberra in the 1950s. Other bombers in service at the time were: Vickers Wellington, Armstrong-Whitworth and Bristol Blenheim.

The Mosquito was first announced publicly in September 1942 and squadrons subsequently completed many successful raids, including: Oslo - Victoria Terrasse building - the headquarters of the Gestapo , Operation Oyster - against the Philips Works at Eindhoven and the Berlin broadcasting station – while Luftwaffe Commander in Chief, Reichsmarschall Herman Göring was speaking, putting his speech off the air. A second sortie in the afternoon inconvenienced another speech, this time by Goebbels, lecturing a group of German aircraft manufacturers. A furious (possibly joking) Göring said:
“In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set – then at least I'll own something that has always worked.”

The Germans did actually develop advanced jet propelled Messerschmitt fighter and bomber aircraft but these appeared too late to be put to effective use. There was even a frightening rocket propelled plane.
Operation Jericho took place on 18 February 1944. This was a low-level bombing raid on Amiens prison in German occupied France. Many of the 717 prisoners were members of the French Resistance who were likely to be shot. This was a high precision Mosquito raid to breach the walls and buildings of the prison and to destroy the guards’ barracks (at lunchtime). Many of the prisoners were killed in the raid and many of those that escaped were recaptured.
More than 20 000 wartime Mosquito engineering drawings and diagrams were recently found in the corner of a wartime factory just days before bulldozers were due to flatten it.

For a close up view of a Mosquito rebuild see:

The “Dambuster” raids on the Ruhr were possibly the most sensational aircraft raids of WW2. These took place on 16-17 May 1943 in an attack against the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams, with the objective of causing catastrophic flooding to disrupt German wartime industry and power supply. Nineteen Lancaster bombers, each with a crew of seven, were deployed to attack the dams using an innovative bouncing bomb which would skim over the protective torpedo nets and sink to detonate at the base of the dam wall. The Möhne and Eder dams were breached causing disastrous flooding and damage. Eight Lancasters and 53 men were lost.

See the following one hour video clip of the Dambuster raids narrated by Martin Shaw who is also well known for his role in a TV series as ‘Inspector George Gently.’

Dambuster Lancaster launching bouncing bomb

The Avro Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick as a four-engined heavy bomber contemporary to the Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling. The Lancaster was built by manufacturers: A. V. Roe; Armstrong Whitworth; Austin Motors; Metropolitan-Vickers; Vickers Armstrong and Victory Aircraft. In all, some 7377 were built. The Lancaster had its origins in the twin-engine Avro Manchester which had been developed during the late 1930s.

Avro Lancaster Bomber

This was a huge aircraft with a wingspan of 31 metres. The ten metre unobstructed bomb bay could carry the largest bombs including the 1800 kg, 3600 kg and 5400 kg blockbuster bombs, as well as smaller bombs and incendiaries. It was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. At the time, the Merlin V-12 27 litre engines produced 1300 kW and cost £2000 plus £350 for the propeller. A total of 149 659 engines were built.
The Lancaster became one of the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. Many bombs and other ordinance from both world wars remain unexploded and undiscovered in Europe, the UK and elsewhere, posing a serious latent hazard.

Fairey Swordfish armed with torpedo

The Fairey Swordfish may seem a relic from WW1, but this aircraft was introduced in 1936 and remained in service until 1945. Of these 2391 were built. It was powered by a Bristol Pegasus radial engine with 28 litres displacement and had a top speed of 224 km/h. The Swordfish received international renown on 27 May 1941 when a squadron was sent from HMS carrier Ark Royal to attack the German battleship Bismarck. The torpedoes had little effect against the ship’s armour but one managed to damage one of the rudders sealing the ship’s fate. None of the aircraft were lost in the attack.

The sister ship of the Bismarck, the Tirpitz, was destroyed in Norway’s Tromso Fjord on 12 November 1944 by a squadron of 30 RAF Lancasters, several armed with 5462 kg “Tall boy” bombs.
All wars bring out both the finest and worst qualities of human nature. The heroic gallantry and courage of the fighter pilots is counterpoised by an indelible association with the names of four cities – London, Coventry, Berlin and Dresden.

The war which started on 1 September 1939 ended on 2 September 1945 with the capitulation of Japan aboard the USS Missouri. The German forces had surrendered unconditionally on 8 May 1945.

See the news of the German surrender at:

The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been fully ratified. Smuts originally wrote the opening lines of the Preamble as:
“The High Contracting Parties, determined to prevent a recurrence of the fratricidal strife which twice in our generation has brought untold sorrow and loss upon mankind …”

The World War II Peace Treaty was signed at the Paris Peace Conference on 10 February 1947. Smuts was the only statesman to be present at the signing of the peace treaties of both World Wars.

The 1946 Victory Parade in London can be seen at the following Movietone link:

A splendid view of the Royal Air Force 100th Anniversary Parade at Buckingham Palace:

For a brief symphony of WW2 aircraft history see:

Repurposed RAF Bases

Some great British aircraft

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill died on 24 January 1965 at Kensington, London.
For the Churchill funeral see:

A major international crisis arose following the fall of Germany. The Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Berlin airlift was organised which ran from 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949. The Royal Air Force, the United States Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the New Zealand Air Force and the South African Air Force flew 200 000 sorties to deliver 8893 tons of necessities each day. This crisis was one of many that could possibly have sparked another war. The worst crisis to come was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which could easily have caused a WWIII.

The World War 2 Victory Bell, cast in Birmingham, using aluminium salvaged from destroyed German warplanes. Aluminium is not considered to be a suitable bell material, but the dull sound was thought appropriate to the tragic circumstances of its manufacture. The bell depicts in low relief, images of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin.

British Spitfires and Lancasters which survived the war were mostly cut up for scrap metal. The few that remain have been eagerly acquired as treasured exhibits by museums around the world. At present there are worldwide only 35 Spitfires and two Lancasters remaining in flying order.

After WWII, development of military aircraft has continued at a frenetic pace. Use of helicopters and other vertical take-off aircraft has become commonplace. Huge advances in electronics and computer science have made avionics a significant part of the cost of an aircraft. The development of missiles has made this the dominant form of military weaponry.

Since its inception, more than 300 different aircraft have been in regular service with the RAF.



The Johannesburg Royal Air Force Officers Club commemorated the victory of the Royal Air Force over the German Luftwaffe in 1940, (the first battle ever fought entirely in the air), with a luncheon in September 2018, to which the Friends of Smuts House and other dignitaries were invited.The Speaker was Wing Commander Mike “Napes” Napier RAF (Retd) who together with Wing Commander “Cookie” Cookson RAF (Mike’s former WSO on Tornados) flew in especially for the occasion and a reunion family holiday.
Mike also presented his latest book for signing: “The Royal Air Force - A Centenary of Operations.” Lunch was followed by a fly-past of the “Flying Lions.”

The Centenary of the Royal Air Force can be experienced in spectacular style at the museums at Colindale in North London, and Cosford in Shropshire.
The compelling story of the First World War in the Air is revealed in an award-winning exhibition in the Claude Grahame-White Hangar, which is open to the public.

It will also be possible for visitors to have a ‘Spitfire experience’ by sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire MK 16.

Please visit our Facebook pages for lots more informatiom and images

Smuts House Museum

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Ouma Isie's Tea Garden

MUSEUM: Visiting hours

The Museum is open to visitors daily from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 16:00. Special tours are possible on any day, including Mondays, by prior arrangement - please enquire via: 
We have kept our prices as low as possible in the foregoing years but need to align ourselves with other Heritage Sites. Bear in mind the entire homestead is private property and we benefit from no grants or subsidies. Many thanks for your support. Kndly note that there is a R10 parking fee over weekends for security purposes.

For any further information regarding the Smuts family or Smuts House and its history, please email us and we will assist where possible:


For any direct queries regarding the Museum, facilities, functions and activites at Smuts House please contact:
Reception:+27(0)12 670 9017
Liaison Officer:  +27(0)79 393 3282

Ouma Isie's Tea Garden under new management.

Ouma Isie`s Tea Garden is now under new management. Thinus Olivier and his team have done a marvelous job in revamping the facility and bringing it up to a very pleasant restaurant standard. 

Ouma Isie's is now the perfect place to visit ... out in the open air with proper social distancing and some peace and tranquility to refresh your body and soul. The Restaurant offers a variety of daily menu items and also caters for Functions, Children`s Parties, Kitchen Tea`s, Weddings, Conferences, Year-end Functions or any other special event or celebration. Please visit our Facebook page for more information:

Come visit us at the Smuts House Museum in Irene. We do breakfasts and lunches and you can even bring your dog along. And we have a roofed area for when it's raining.

For bookings:
Tel: 076 716 6845
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Friends of Smuts House: upcoming events

Supper Talks

Should you wish to attend please make your payment by EFT as shown below and send proof of payment to Valerie Webley at or to cell: 083 325 1039.

Banking details:- 

Bank: Nedbank, Centurion
Account Name: Friends of Smuts House
Branch Code: 162145
Account No: 1621173909
Reference: SURNAME August Talk

For more details and bookings please click on UPCOMING EVENTS

Thank you

The FRIENDS OF SMUTS HOUSE would like to thank all those people who kindly donated money as a result of our appeal via the Jan Smuts Facebook group during the Covid lockdown period. Personal notes of thanks were sent to individual donors, except those who didn't supply contact details, and to whom we now extend our sincere gratitude.

If you have donated (and didn't supply your email address), or if you still intend to do so, please fill out the form on the DONATE tab so that we can send our personal thanks.

Despite the response to our appeal during the Covid pandemic, which raised some R60 000, The Foundation remains in dire need of additional financial support so that any further donations will be most gratefully received.


Click HERE for map to Smuts House


Museum Reception Catering Contractor  Executive Liaison Officer
Tel: +27(0)12 670 9017 Tel: +27(0)76 716 6845 Cell: +27(0)79 393 3282


Kindly note: the Museum operating times are Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00 to 16:00. Special visits on other days may be made by prior arrangement with the Liaison Officer. There is a R10 parking fee over weekends for security reasons.

Ouma Isie's Tea Garden and Restaurant is open every day except Mondays (apart from Public Holidays falling on a Monday).