Bronkhorstspruit Reunion 30 July 2022

All paratrooper- and military veterans and their families are welcome at the Rooiplaas Reunion.

When: Saturday, 30 July 2022

Place: Faan se Plaas, Bronkhorstspruit

Time: 10h00 till late

Cost: R50 per person for day visitors.

Cash bar, beverages, and food for sale.

Parachutists to jump in at 14h00 with a parade and speeches thereafter. More information to follow.

Accommodation: Accommodation is available in the form of bungalows, caravan stands, and tents with minimal costs. R100 pp/pd for camping without electricity; R130 pp/pd for camping with electricity. Ensuite bedrooms R300 pp/pd sharing; (single R450). Bookings for two nights or more R100 discount on the second night. For any accommodation reservations contact Jan at 082 466 8077.

Programme: Seven parachutists from Skydive The Ranch Delmas Club, supported by owner Mr Johan Greyling, and Lt Col Japie Keet with a tandem display will perform at 14h00. Following this is a flag-hoisting parade, the General Salute will taken by Eeben Barlow, wreath laying and followed by a speech by RSM (ret) Koos Moorcroft, Recce Operator #3 and legend extraordinaire! Other activities to follow such as displays by The Ranch Skydiving Club, Rooiplaas, the Recce’s, and paratrooper memorabilia for sale.

44th Anniversary of Cassinga day 04 May 1978

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.

Cassinga veterans

Narrow escape for a paratrooper at Nelspruit airport as told by Johann Pieterse, Course 41V, 1967

Two South African Airforce Dakotas crashed on the same day at the same airshow, Nelspruit 1967

On an ice-cold Free State winter morning, we departed Bloemfontein for Nelspruit in a Dakota (DC3), with serial number 6878. We were twenty-one paratroopers tasked to do a demonstration jump at an airshow in Nelspruit, celebrating the formal opening of the new airport on 29 July 1967[1]. Staff Sergeant G. Van Aswegen and Pep (Pepe) van Zyl were the two instructors accompanying us.

After a leisurely flight in the Para-Dak, we unbuckled as we came in for the landing and expected to come to a routine stop. But to our shock,  a few seconds later, the onboard mechanic shouted, “Brace Brace!. The Para-Dak landed downhill as the runway was sloped. The Para-Dak overshot the runway, nosediving into a banana plantation. The two instructors were standing at the back of the aircraft. Staff Pep Van Zyl was thrown the length of the cabin, hitting the cockpit partition. Pep van Zyl’s boot hit me on the head as he flew by. Luckily I was not seriously injured, apart from one hell of a headache. I remember his bloodied ear after hitting the partition. The DC3 came to a halt with its tail up at a 45° degree angle. Eight paratroopers were slightly injured. We were immediately instructed to evacuate through the back door due to the possibility of fire. The aircraft tipped back and sustained structural damage as we moved to the back door. The nose had a big dent, and the props were bent.

Afterwards, fellow bat Rfn. J.M. Potgieter and I were standing with the crowd, watching another Dakota (VIP-DAK, serial nr 6849) coming in to land from the opposite direction. Onboard were dignitaries and high-ranking air force personnel, including Gen H.J. Martin, Chief of Air Staff. Between 2000 and 3000 spectators came to watch the airshow. 

The plane had a very tricky approach due to the terrain. Upon landing, the right wheel struck a mound of sand at the edge of the runway. The landing gear on the right collapsed, the wing hitting the ground, and the right prop stopped abruptly. The left propeller still had a lot of rpm’s in it and quickly swung the plane toward the crowd with the buried wing acting like an anchor[2]. The continuing rotation of the propeller upended chairs and umbrellas, flinging them into the air. Several cars were damaged. Potgieter frantically shouted, “My parents are sitting there!”  Shocked, we ran to the scene. Mr Brian Lee, resident of White River, sitting in a deck chair, was instantly killed, his wife seriously injured, and their child sustained minor injuries. Another lady, Mrs F.J. Knowlans, was severely injured as she tried to escape from the car she was sitting in, having her leg severed by the propeller. Several other people were slightly injured.  

The air show was subsequently cancelled, and we were tasked to return to Bloemfontein. The air force refused to send another Dakota[3] to Nelspruit. Us parabats were loaded into the back of police vans and taken to Baberton, where Capt. Daantjie Lombard was waiting with another Dakota. We first went to Pretoria and then with another Dakota to Bloemfontein. By the time we returned to camp, we were dead tired and very hungry, but we were received like heroes and rewarded with a meal reserved for kings.

[1] Currently known as the Old Nelspruit airport

[2] SAAF DC3 Crash at Nelspruit Early 1960s – with acknowledgement to members Goga & Playchest on the Avcom forum for the insights and contributions

[3] A wing from the Para-Dak was put onto the Vip-Dak and it was flown out.  The Para-Dak went back by road.

Fighting Men of Rhodesia ep71 | SA Parabats in Rhodesia | Part 2

Interviewed by Hannes Wessels. Posted by John van Zyl – – In late 1979 the South African government were worried that the Rhodesian war would spill over their Northern border into South Africa. They decided it was time to put SA boots on the ground to secure that vulnerable border area and deployed the 1st Parachute Battalion (The Parabats). This is their story…

Please visit John’s YouTube Channel for additional links.

Fighting Men of Rhodesia ep69 | SA Parabats in Rhodesia | Part 1

Interviewed by Hannes Wessels. Posted by John van Zyl – – In late 1979 the South African government were worried that the Rhodesian war would spill over their Northern border into South Africa. They decided it was time to put SA boots on the ground to secure that vulnerable border area and deployed the 1st Parachute Battalion (The Parabats). This is their story…

Please visit John’s YouTube Channel for additional links.

One Thousand Men are Walking – Joshua Dyer

Joshua Dyer (aged 14) was tasked at school to write a poem for Remembrance Day. An hour later (without any help) he produced this.

One thousand men are walking
Walking side by side
Singing songs from home
The spirit as their guide
they walk toward the light milord
they walk towards the sun
they smoke and laugh and smile together
no foes to outrun
these men live on forever
in the hearts of those they saved
a nation truly grateful
for the path of peace they paved
they march as friends and comrades
but they do not march for war
step closer to salvation
a tranquil steady corps
the meadows lit with golden beams
a beacon for the brave
the emerald grass untrampled
a reward for what they gave
they dream of those they left behind
and know they dream of them
forever in those poppy fields
there walks one thousand men
Joshua Dyer 2019 (aged 14)

Lest we forget

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