The 44th anniversary of Cassinga took place on 8 May 2022 at the SA Museum of Military in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, organised by LAARSA (Legion of Associated Airborne of South Africa).
Although the day was overcast and the wind bitterly cold, the threat of rain could not damper the spirit of the Paratrooper veterans that attended, who looked rather handsome and dapper in their blazers and berets! Approximately 90 people (veterans and families) attended, with Rooiplaas members well represented.
Standing proud … the paratrooper veterans looking handsome!
We were seated in front of the impressive black granite airborne memorial wall, inscribed with “IN MEMORY OF THE SOLDIERS WHO SOARED LIKE EAGLES AND FOUGHT LIKE LIONS”. Engraved in three coloms are the names of the paratroopers who was either killed in battle, died in active service or died post service. The names are engraved by Manie Grove whose life mission is to honour the fallen paratroopers.
Brandon Morris, chairman of LAARSA welcomed everyone as the banner sergeants carried various airborne flags and planted them on opposite sides of the memorial wall. The paratrooper veterans stood in unison as the Paratrooper’s Prayer was read by Tommy Lamprecht. As we stood with our heads bowed for a minute of silence, Mr Rees Davies masterfully played the Last Post and the Reveille on a trumpet, and I dare say, many thoughts were remembering those who had gone before. A solemn, sacred moment indeed. Wreaths were laid by various individuals and paratrooper organisations remembering their loved ones. A special moment was when a message from Col Jan Breytenbach’s wife was read on his behalf, honouring the paratrooper’s heroism and commitment during the battle of Cassinga and the everlasting brotherhood between them.
Wreaths were laid by veterans and family members
We walked around the Museum grounds afterwards, with an excellent display of aircraft, such as the Mirage, Dakota, helicopters, tanks etc.
According to the Museum’s website, The South African National War Museum was officially opened on 29 August 1947 by the then Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal J.C. Smuts PC, CM, OM, DTD, KC. At the opening ceremony, Smuts stated the following: “… We are gathered here today to open what may not unfairly be looked upon as a memorial to the greatest united effort our country has been called upon to produce. Memorials, of course, have more than one use. They serve to remind us of what is past, of great deeds of heroism and sacrifice; they also serve as a pointer, and sometimes as a warning to the future. In 1999, following the restructuring process of national museums, the Museum was amalgamated together with the Transvaal Museum of Natural History and the National Cultural History Museum into the Northern Flagship Institution. This institution was renamed DITSONG: Museums of South Africa in 2009, and the Museum is now called the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History. The mission of the Museum is To be a memorial for all South Africans who have died in or as a result of military actions and to preserve our nation’s military history for future generations. The Museum of Military History is also regarded as the spiritual and symbolic home for all soldiers and veterans in South Africa. As a result, a number of veterans’ organisations use the Museum as their headquarters. The South African Military History Society, the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association, the South African Arms and Armour Society, the Gold Reef Scale Modelers and the Warsaw Flights Commemoration Committee use the Museum for monthly and annual meetings and are considered to be part of the 20 organisations that are stakeholders1. The paratrooper brotherhood is honoured to be part of the veterans organisations that use the Museum as their headquarters and for the memorial wall where we can honour our fallen brothers.
We are grateful to LAARSA, who organises the annual Paratrooper Remembrance Day Parade and Service at the Museum of Military History.