Tuesday, 19 March 2013

'At Home' Souvenir Programme (8th October 1972)

 'At Home' Souvenir Programme

The Display Area

1 Control Point
2 Creche/Lost and Found
3 First Aid Point
xxxx Toilets

4 Hunter
5 Canberra
6 Vampire
7 Provost
8 Helicopter
9 Trojan
10 Dakota
11 Vampire FB9
12 Harvard
13 Tiger Moth
14 Bar
15 Bar
16 Radio Section
17 Mobile Medical Unit
18 Instrument & Electrical Sections
19 Safety Equipment & Armoury Sections
20 Photographic Section
21 Engine Section
22 Hobbies Section
23 Recruiting, Regular
24 Ops Room/VR Recruiting
25 Ops Room/VR Recruiting

26 Terrorist Weapons Display
27 Aircrew Room
28 Air Scouts

Members of the general public are reminded that aircraft in motion or with engines running are extremely  dangerous. For their own protection visitors should stay within the enclosure boundary and use extreme  caution when returning to the Car Parks. Any instructions from Air Force Police personnel in this regard  should be obeyed.

by the Station Commander

The year 1972 is a special one for the Rhodesian Air Force, for it is 25 years ago this year that the Force  was established as a regular formation. Over the past twenty five years we have grown from an "Air Unit" of  about a dozen aircraft to a well equipped viable and balanced Force.

In the static display we have tried to depict for you the full spectrum of our growth from 1947. You will  see, for example, some of our earlier aircraft, the Tiger Moth, the Harvard and the Vampire single-seater,  all resplendent in their original livery.

Security precludes your visiting the Technical Units on the station so we have erected a "Tent City" to give  you an in- sight into what backup services are required to get an aircraft into the air, whether it be on a  training flight or on an operational mission.

As a conclusion to today s activities members of our General Service Unit will give you a short display of  silent drill, followed by a Retreat Ceremony.

The net proceeds from our gate and bar takings will go towards the Rhodesian Air Force Welfare Fund.  This fund is designed to assist those Airmen in need of financial assistance and to provide sports and recreational facilities on our stations and Forward Airfields.

I would like to record my appreciation to all those people who have worked so hard to make the Air Force  'At Home' to you today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I welcome you to Thornhill to the Rhodesian Air Force 'At Home'. I  hope you will enjoy yourselves and that your visit will be a memorable one.

(K. A. S. Edwards)
Group Captain
Officer Commanding

The Programme of Events

1200 hrs Static Display opens.
1400 hrs Display by Rhodesian Air Force Dog Section.
1545 hrs Aircraft take-off for main display.

Tarmac runway:
2 Canberras
4 Hunters
1 Vampire

Grass runway: 2 Trojans.

1550 hrs Free-fall parachute drop.
1555 hrs Supply Drop by two Trojans.
1558 hrs Tail Chase sequence by four Provosts.
1603 hrs Aerobatics by single Provost.
1609 hrs Formation display by four Hunters.
1615 hrs Helicopter display, including hoisting, cargo sling demonstration and casualty evacuation, by two Alouettes.
1623 hrs One Hunter and six Vampires take-off.
1625 hrs Aerobatics by single Vampire.
1632 hrs Formation display by six Vampires.
1640 hrs Demonstration sequence by one Canberra.
1645 hrs Aerobatic sequence by one Hunter.
1652 hrs Parachute drop.
1656 hrs Interception sequence. Four Canberras carry out a simulated bombing run on the airfield at 750  feet. Whilst they are running in, four Hunters descend from 40 000 feet to carry out a low-level  interception over the field. The Radar Controller's commentary and the radio transmissions of the aircraft  will be broadcast to the public.

1700 hrs Aircraft land in the following sequence:—
Six Vampires break and land,
Four Hunters break and land,
Four Canberras break and land,
Two Dakotas land,
One Trojan lands
4 Provosts

During this landing sequence, which will last until 1715 hrs, the Eastern taxi-way alongside the Umvuma  Road will be closed to the general public. Please keep well clear of moving aircraft.

The Flying Display will be followed by a Retreat Ceremony immediately in front of the main enclosure.  Members of the public are invited to show appropriate respect as the National Flag is lowered during this  ceremony.


The aircrew officers who are flying this afternoon's individual aircraft demonstrations are:—

Squadron Leader M. J. Grier
Flight Lieutenant W. G. Cronshaw

Pilot: Flight Lieutenant G. F. G. Dakyns
Navigator: Air Lieutenant H. W. H. Stevens

Flight Lieutenant R. I. Culpan

Air Lieutenant E. O. Lunt

Air Lieutenant C. J. Wentworth


The Officers on duty this afternoon are:—

Station Commander Group Captain
K. A. S. Edwards, MLM

'At Home' Adjutant
Flight Lieutenant T. C. Emsley

Squadron Leader C. G. Tutbs
Flight Lieutenant E. C. H. Phillips


The Dog Display included in this afternoon's programme is designed to show you the scope of the routine  training undertaken by the Air Force Dog Section.

Basically, of course, the over-riding responsibility of the dogs and their handlers is the defence of this  Station. In order to achieve the required degree of efficiency, a surprisingly wide field of training activity  must be undertaken. It is not sufficient merely to detect and apprehend an intruder; the dog must be  trained to deal with all facets of counter-sabotage operations.

The Air Force Dog Section, which is composed of both European and African handlers and instructors,  trains its charges from relative infancy with a high degree of success. We must emphasise that all training  activities are serious, and all have a definite purpose; as you will see from the display, the dogs do not  indulge in "party tricks". The perfect understanding between dog and handler, which is the end result of  this rigorous, yet patient, training, provides a strong line in our defences, and therefore plays a part in the  defence of our country.

The Aircraft

The Alouette

The Alouette III is built by the French firm, Sud-Aviation. It is a development of the Alouette II, the  prototype of which first flew in March, 1955. The Alouette II set up five international helicopter records in  June, 1958, achieving a height record of 36 037 nfeet. The Alouette III, which also has an excellent high-  altitude performance, is powered by one 870 s.h.p. Turbomeca Artouste II B shaft-turbine derated to 450  -500 s.h.p. It was supplied to the Force in February, 1962.

Performance: Maximum speed 124 m.p.h. at sea level. Service ceiling 13 100 feet. Maximum range 342  miles at sea-level.

Capability: The aircraft can carry six troops or passengers, or two stretchers and two passengers.

The Canberra

The Canberra is built by the English Electric Company, the first Mark flying in May, 1949. The Force was  equipped with B.Mk.2s in 1958. This aircraft is powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 101 engines each  developing 6 500 lb. static thrust at sea-level. The Canberra is still in great demand by the Air Forces of  the world.

 Performance: Maximum speed 518 m.p.h. at sea-level, 580 m.p.h. at 40 000 feet. Maximum range 2 656  miles.

 Armament: The following stores may be carried:— (1) six 1 000-lb. M.C. bombs; or (2) six 250-lb. M.C.  bombs and a variety of other armament stores.

 The aircraft may also be fitted with aerial cameras for photographic survey duties.

The Dakota

The DC-3C is a civil conversion of the wartime C-47A transport, differing from the original commercial DC 3A in having more powerful engines and strengthened airframe and undercarriage. A total of 1900 commercial DC-3s were requisitioned by the U.S.A.F. in 1942. More than 1 500 of these are currently in airline service. The Force was originally equipped with the Dakota in November 1947. This "Workhorse of the Air" has a short take-off and landing capability which can still compete with many aircraft being designed today. The Dakota is powered by two 1 200 h.p. Pratt and Whitney R-1830-92 radial engines.

Performance: Maximum speed 215 m.p.h. Maximum range 1 200 miles.

Capability: The following payloads are amongst those which can be carried by the Dakota:—

(1) twenty paratroops; or (2) twenty-seven infantrymen; or (3) fifteen stretchers; or (4) one Land-Rover and
trailer; or (5) four Steyr Puch vehicles; or (6) 6 000 lb. of freight.

The Hunter

The Hunter is manufactured by the Hawker Siddeley Group Limited, the F.Mk.l first flying in May, 1951. This prototype of the F(GA) Mk.9 with which the Force re-equipped in December, 1962, first flew in July, 1959. The aircraft is powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon 207 turbo-jet producing 10 150 lb. of static thrust at sea-level. The aircraft can exceed the speed of sound in a shallow dive. Like the Canberra, the Hunter is still in great demand by the Air Forces of the world.

Performance: Maximum level speed 715 m.p.h. at sea-level, 627 m.p.h. at 36 000 feet. Maximum range 1 854 miles.

Armament: The Hunter is armed with four 30-mm Aden guns. In addition, the following stores may be
(1) eight 3-inch rocket projectiles; plus (2) two 250-lb. M.C. bombs; or (3) eight 20 lb. fragmentation
The Provost

The Provost is built by Hunting Aircraft Limited. The first Cheetah engined prototype flew in February, 1950. After extensive trials, the Alvis Leonides-engined Provost was selected as a standard two-seat basic trainer under the designation T.Mk.l. The armed version is the T.Mk.52, as supplied to the Force in September, 1954. It is powered by the 550 h.p. Alvis Leonides radial piston engine and is used in the light ground attack role.

Performance: Maximum speed 200 m.p.h. at 2 300 feet. Maximum endurance 4 hours. Maximum range 400 miles.

Armament: The Provost is armed with two .303 Browning machine guns. In addition, the following stores may be carried:—
(1) two 250-lb. M.C. bombs; or (2) eight 20-lb. fragmentation bombs; or (3) six 3-inch rocket projectiles.

The Trojan

The Trojan is a light transport, support and reconnaissance aircraft which performs with great versatility in a variety of important roles. It is particularly suitable for bush operations and can cope with short, rough airstrips. It is a most useful complement to the transport capability of Rhodesia's Air Force, and has more than paid for itself since it was first acquired in 1967.

Performance: Max. speed 125 m.p.h. Maximum range 600 miles.

Capability: The aircraft can carry four persons or 550 lbs. of freight, and can be flown with doors off for supply dropping.

The Vampire

The Vampire is manufactured by the De Havilland Aircraft Company, the first Mark flying in December,  1943. The Vampire FB.9 was introduced into service with the Force in 1954. The aircraft is powered by the  Goblin Mk.35 turbo-jet, producing 3 350 lb. of static thrust at sea-level.

Performance: Maximum speed 520 m.p.h. at 30 000 feet. Maximum range 1 220 miles.

Armament: The Vampire is armed with four 20-mm Hispano cannons. In addition, the stores following  may be carried in variety of configurations:—
(1) eight 3-inch rocket projectiles; and (2) two 1 000-lb. M.C. bombs; or (3) two 250-lb. M.C. bombs; or (4)  eight 20-lb. fragmentation bombs.

Cradle of Aviation for 30 years

"By His Excellency the Governor of His Majesty's Colony of Southern Rhodesia ... I do hereby grant unto SAMUEL JEWELL, hereinafter called the Proprietor, a piece of land containing 453 Morgen and 537  square roods, being the farm THORNHILL..."

These are the opening words of a document, dated in 1939, which marked the culmination of thirteen years of unremitting toil for Mr. Jewell. He came to this country in 1926, and worked until he was able topurchase his land from the Government at a price of 25 shillings per acre. In choosing the name "Thornhill", Mr. Jewell was reviving boyhood memories as the son of the tenant farmer of Thorn Launcells in North Cornwall.

At about the same time, a committee was set up by the Government to locate and survey three sites in the Gwelo district suitable for the establishment of airfields for the Rhodesia Air Training Group. The provision of such bases for this Group was Rhodesia's main domestic effort towards the defence of the Empire during the War years. The area ultimately selected for the Royal Air Force Station, Thornhill, by Flt Lt Roxburgh-Smith DFC, the RAF representative appointed to the committee, comprised a large portion ofthe farm "Thornhill" together with a part of the farm "Glengarry", the latter being owned at that time by Mr. Tom MacDonald. This land was commandeered from the farmers and a nominal rental was paid to them during the war years. Outright purchase of the area did not occur until after the war, when Mr. Jewell received the princely sum of eight pounds per acre for prime arable land! Soon after Thornhill and Glengarry had been commandeered in 1940, building was commenced and the base was ready for occupation early in 1941.

So begins the story of Thornhill. It was on the morning of the 24th March 1941, that the first two trainloads of young men arrived at Thornhill. They could not have realised that they were but the first few in a continuous flood which was to endure for four and a half years. For these men Rhodesia was a quiet back-water, far away from the harsh privations of the European war. One of the major problems to be  overcome by the first Station Commander, Gp Capt J. S. Chick, was that of the maintenance of morale in a situation far removed from the glamour and excitement of the front lines. In this he was supported by the warm hospitality extended by the people of the Gwelo district. A notable exception was the indomitable figure of Mrs. Jeannie Bogie who soon fired the first shots in her life-long war against the progress of military aviation. And yet the reason for her antagonism was not as simple as one might imagine; she became an opponent of aviation after witnessing a Harvard crash on her farm.The result of low flying, it caused the death of a very young pupil pilot. The event affected her deeply and she resolved to do all in her power to deter low flying in her vicinity. She used the fairly standard complaint in that her farm was situated immediately below the approach to the runway, and it would seem that her chickens could never synchronise their egg production with the intermittent roar of low- flying aircraft.

As the years rolled on, the enmity between Mrs. Bogie and the Air Force became legendary both in scope and frequency. Because of her reputed ferocity, no figure in uniform would dream of approaching her homestead. However, towards the end of her life, in the early 1960's, the CMC of the Airmen's Mess, Cpl Antel, took courage and invited her to a Mess dance. Her answer was to protest that she had mislaid her false teeth. Cpl Antel promptly removed his own false teeth, slipped them into his pocket and promised to escort her in that condition. To this she happily agreed and it appeared that she thoroughly enjoyed the evening. However, back in 1941 Mrs. Bogie protested alone; very few of the local people had cause for complaint. Thornhill provided some 1 500 additional consumers to the local market and the wide-spread beneficial effects on both commerce and industry continue to this day.

Many well-respected figures of present day Rhodesian life had their introduction to this country as members of the Rhodesian Air Training Group (RATG) at Thornhill. At this time the Womens' Auxiliary Air Service was formed, largely of local girls, and amongst the first recruits was Sgt (Mrs.) Coleman, who to this day lives opposite the Station entrance. The "Waasies" undertook tasks in almost every field of ground support, ranging from the clerical to the mechanical, and often including those of a surprisingly masculine nature. In addition, they did a lot to brighten the social scene throughout the spectrum of Station activities. These included the complete range of sports plus numerous hobbies, including a thriving amateur theatrical society complete with full-scale theatre. In its day the theatre occupied half of the hangar which is now used by No. 2 Sqn, whilst the other half was used as a roller-skating rink. The people of Gwelo naturally integrated with Station life in these activities and likewise many RAF memberstook an active part with such local groups as the Green Room Club. The bustle and activity, humour and tragedies of Thorn- hill life were recorded in a remarkably well-produced station magazine named"Slipstream", which was produced with- out fail, every week between 1942 and 1945.

During the war years Thornhill physically occupied a far greater part of Gwelo than it does today, and the married quarters were scattered about in an area which ranged from the Kopje to Riverside and Clonsilla. This accounts for the many stree tnames which originate from the famous aircraft of this era, such as the Spitfire and Hurricane.

Throughout the duration of the war, the production of trained pilots continued at a constantly high flow. Batches of some thirty LAC pilots graduated at fortnightly intervals. By the conclusion of hostilities, 1 810 pilots had received their wings at this Station, having recorded about 314 000 flying hours. These figuresspeak for themselves in terms of effort by both the ground and air crews. It is inevitable that, through the years, Thornhill has become associated with numerous tales of tragedy and human anguish. From the time that the Station was re-occupied by our own Air Force, stories have circulated, telling of eerie  footsteps, doors slamming and sensations of cold clammy oppression to various individuals. It is known  that at least two men committed suicide by hanging in Mess buildings, but perhaps the most  substantiated tales emanate from the Station Sick Quarters. The happenings here occur only when there  are no patients in residence and the 'medic' is enduring his turn of duty in solitude. It is recorded that on  one such occasion the incumbent of the duty room was accompanied by his Alsatian dog. When the usual  phenomena started, the dog responded by leaping out through the window, taking the glass and the  shattered window frame with it. Attempts at exorcism have been made by both the Anglican and the  Roman Catholic clergy, but with no apparent success.

The Post War Years

In September 1945, the Station fell into disuse for some months until it re-opened as No. 3 Air  Navigational School the following year. Amongst the people associated with the Station at this time are  some who are still serving with the Rhodesian Air Force and whose associations with Thornhill stretch  back almost thirty years. These include the present Chief of Air Staff, who was instructing at Thornhill at the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Harvey Quail, Sqn Ldr Tubbs, Wg Cdr Brenchley and Fit Lt Basil  Miles. For the next seven years, Thornhill was just an- other of the many overseas postings available to an  RAF airman, and there was a correspondingly high turnover of personnel. But the decision was again  taken to close down the station in 1953 — and also to hold a closing-down sale. Housewives flocked in  from miles around to snap up vast quantities of linen and cutlery at absurdly low prices, whilst many  highly complex pieces of technical equipment were simply sold to the highest bidder. Amongst the  legends of Thornhill is the one concerning the reputed burial of a large cache of valuable tool kits at the  time of this closure, but the location has never been established. Shortly afterwards, Thornhill was divided  amongst the Ministries of Agriculture and Education, the Public Works Department and Gwelo Municipality. The building which was originally erected as the Officers' Mess shortly before the departure of the RAF was established as Glengarry School. In a similar fashion, Thornhill High School was founded as a boys' boarding school, and inhabited the former domestic area of the station, whilst the hangars were utilised by the Grain Marketing Board for the bulk storage of mealies. The married quarters, which were also built in the early 1950's, were now occupied by the families of government and municipal workers and the surrounding area gradually reverted to a state of primeval bushveld.

During these early post-war years, the Rhodesian Air Force was being reestablished as a separate fighting force, its primary task being Imperial Defence. As it expanded, it became apparent that Salisbury's  "Kentucky" Air Force Base (now known as New Sarum) would be unsuitable for flying training with the advent of the civil air terminal, and again the decision to re-open Thornhill was announced.

Easter, 1956, saw the arrival of a detachment of some forty men, with Sqn Ldr Doug Whyte in command.  Of these men, Warrant Officer "Spike" Owens and Master Sergeant "Taff" Lewis have served continuously  on the Station since that time, in apparent blissful ignorance of the postings procedure! The sole task of the new unit was the initial training of pilots on the recently-acquired Provost aircraft. The pupils then returned to Salisbury to complete their advanced flying training on Vampire jets. The first to be trained under this new scheme were the cadets of Number 9 Course who were subsequently presented with their  wings by H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in 1957.

Following major reconstruction of the airfield and dispersal area Thornhill was reopened as a Full Station  by the then Wg Cdr Wilson in 1957 and the following year the Vampires moved in. During this year, the  process of restoring all the buildings on loan to other departments was completed and the base was  expanded to its present dimensions. The only exception to this exodus of lodgers was Glengarry School  which continues to occupy the quarters originally designated as the Officers' Mess. The first detachment  of aircraft and men actively to take part in Imperial Defence operations left Thornhill during 1958, bound  for Aden which was then a British Protectorate. Subsequently, several squadron detachments were made  to Aden and Cyprus as annual training exercises, and these continued until 1963. Visits were made to the Station during these years by the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force and by a number of other friendly Air Forces.

At the break-up of Federation, the era of close co-operation with the Imperial Defence scheme ended, and the need for a sharper focus on internal security arose. It was not long before air-strikes were made against infiltrating terrorists in the Western Matabeleland area. A number of similar air-support operations were carried out by Thornhill-based aircraft in the early days of terrorist infiltration, and theresident Squadrons remain poised to meet any threat.

If one of the original airmen of 1941 were to wander into the precincts of Thornhill today, he would find little changed geographically. The purpose to which some buildings have been put may have changed over the years. Some have disappeared entirely, whilst those which have proved inadequate for present-day conditions have been demolished to make way for those of contemporary design. However, the utilitystructures of corrugated iron and fibre board, originally designed to have a useful life of five years, still form three-quarters of the accommodation of the Station. The essential corporate spirit of Air Force life our visitor would find unchanged, save that it may be expressed in a less demonstrative fashion than was the custom during the wartime years. The neat rows of standard-issue headstones in the Gwelo Cemetery bear silent testimony for those who would reflect on the cost in terms of human effort in the making and the preservation of peace during Thornhill's history.

Notes for Visitor. 

The name of Jeannie Boggie comes up fairly often in this article. Yes, Mrs. Boggie took on the Air Force but I would like to suggest you to please read the story of the Boggie family, they certainly played their part in the development of Gwelo and Rhodesia, Read their story by visiting the link below.

There is mention of the On Station Magazine "Slipstream."
ORAFs is currently extracting a copy of Slipstream and it should be loaded shortly

To whet you appetite, why not take a look at the magazine "Fledgling" dated September 11, 1942 printed at the Hillside RAF station in Bulawayo.

Back Cover

Source: Made available by Bill Sykes and Bruce Harrison.
Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on "Our Rhodesian Heritage" blog.

Thanks to the author, the photographer, the publishers for the use of their material.
Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

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