The conclusion to, what can only be described as an extremely successful, Armed Forces Week took place at Table View Beach on Thursday 21 February. A parade down Marina Drive had locals hanging out their ocean front apartment blocks to catch a glimpse of their Defence Force in full ceremonial mode.
The day’s proceedings were kicked off with host of flypasts by the South African Airforce, leading the flypast was a flight of three SAAF helicopters, an Oryx carrying the national flag, a Super Lynx also flying the national flag and an Agusta A109 flying the SANDF Flag. They were closely followed by a Hercules C-130BZ accompanied by the Silver Falcons in tight formation, they were followed by a formation of Pilatus PC-7 Astra’s in their familiar red and white livery. A Casa 212 was leading a three-ship formation flanked by two King Air utility aircraft. The flypast was concluded by a flight of four Saab JAS 39 Gripens followed closely by four BAE Hawks.
The President of the Republic of South Africa and the Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the large crowd and welcomed everyone to this auspicious occasion. President Ramaphosa then thanked all the men and woman in uniform for their service to the Nation “It is the day on which we acknowledge the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the service of this country. You have answered the most noble calling – to defend the Republic, to protect her sovereignty and guard her territorial integrity. You have sworn to serve South Africa and its people in accordance with the Constitution, and to uphold its values.”
The president then shed light on the significance of this historic day, “The 21st of February holds deep significance for us as South Africans. It marks the day of the sinking of the troop carrier vessel the SS Mendi. On that fateful day in 1917, 805 souls perished in the English Channel on their way to the Western Front during the First World War. The soldiers aboard the SS Mendi were volunteers in the then South African Native Labour Corps. They were among 25,000 others who joined the corps during a war that began in Europe but soon became a global conflict affecting people on nearly every continent.”
Armed Forces Day is not only to commemorate the lives lost on the SS Mendi but is a day of commemoration for all fallen soldiers that died in service of the Republic of South Africa. “Ons gedenk vandag alle gevalle soldate wat in opdrag en belang van ons land gesterf het. It does not matter how or where they fell – they paid the ultimate price. Ons sal hul opoffering vir altyd onthou en vereer.” President Ramaphosa stated.
Ramaphosa shed light on many of the military successes over the years and reinforced the important function that each branch is called on to deliver on a daily basis.
The address was closed of by once again thanking the members of the SANDF for their unwavering service, “It is of you that the great Homer speaks in The Illiad:
‘Without a sign his sword the brave man draws and asks no omen but his country’s cause.’”
After delivering his speech and a twenty-one Gun Salute, Ramaphosa officiated over a military parade, led by the “Colours Squadrons” of each branch of the South African military machine. The SANDF then displayed military vehicles and equipment that were deployed from across the country for armed forces week in a long procession down Marina drive.
While the Parade was ongoing it was hard to ignore the Navy’s movements in Table Bay, Two War-Ships, SAS Speionkop and SAS Drakensberg were joined by many other Navy assets including one of three Type 209 Submarines
These assets were positioned as part of the Capability Demonstration that was to play out after the parade.
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actively deployed by the Navy. These assets were positioned as part of the Capability Demonstration that was to play out after the parade.