On Wings of Eagles
Author: Dave Becker
ISBN: 0 947478 47 7
Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin
Much has been written on the SAAF, although either it deals with a short period in the history of the SAAF, such as during World War Two, or it tries to cover the entire history of the SAAF within a few short pages. This book, although not a complete definitive history, does attempt to sketch the outline of over seventy years of military aviation in South Africa in one book.
Dave Becker was the Senior Historical Officer at the SAAF Museum before his retirement in 2000. As such he had tremendous access to the historical records of the SAAF in adittion to his own extensive collection. Ever a stickler for detail (being a historical researcher and modeller), this book is no cursary overview of the SAAF.
As the author states in his introduction, the book 'does not pretend to be an exhaustive history of the SAAf, but hopefully it will be a slightly more balanced history, giving details of non-flying units and Air Sea Rescue units. However, the Air Force is primarily a flying organization thus the emphasis is unashamedly centered on the aircraft.' To this he succeeds admirably.
The story starts in 1871 when the first was made in South Africa by Goodman Household, a Natalian, in a rudimentary glider. The story then covers World War One, the formation of the SAAF, the inter-war years, World War II in detail, the post war SAAF, the Korean War, the fifties, sixties and into the Bush War. The cutbacks following the end of the Bush War are also discussed. The book is profusly illustrated, woth photographs from both the authors collection, other private collections and official archives. Considerble effort appears to have been made to obtain photographs not previously published. Hence, some gems such as the following can be found: photogrpahs of the construction was Zwartkop Air Station, colour photos taken during WWII of, inter alia, Hurricanes, Spitfires and Mosquitoes, photographs of aircraft being disposed of and of camouflaged Harvards used during the early days of the Bush War! Other photos of interest include the gun camera film of an Angolan MiG 21 being shot down, Angolan Mi 8s and 25s, and even air-to-air shots of Dakota 6855 after being hit by an SA-7.
Neither the modeller nor the researcher will be disappointed with this book. The only downside is the cold commercial reality of publishing. In order to get the book into print, just about every other page contains an advert. But don't let that put you off.
300x210mm, 290pp, 160 f/c, 187 b/w