By Andre Venter
When Roy Anderson hatched a plan to invite a few people to assist with a clean-up at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History, formerly known as the South African National Museum of Military History, no one expected the fantastic turn out of willing and able “cleaners”.
Well over 50 volunteers from the Air Force Association, the Gunners, the Armour, the Paratroopers, the Moths, Navel Officers Association and Pretoria Boys High School assisted with the cleaning of all the outdoor exhibits (aircraft, guns, submarine and tanks.)
After a briefing and some refreshments supplied by the Building and Development Trust, it was time to get the cleaning underway. The volunteers were split up into groups and each group set off to their exhibits of interest. South African Air-force Association members and the keen young men from Pretoria Boys High School Aeronautical Association, led by the ever-enthusiastic John Illsley tackled all the aircraft that are dotted around this magnificent memorial to the fighting men of our country. Much to the delight of the museum curator Allan Sinclair.
Three of the museum's most prized and valuable exhibits, The Spitfire MK VIII, Focke Wulf 190 and Messerschmidt ME 262 Night Fighter were cleaned by the Aeroklin team using the RMX-Global Advanced Drywash aircraft product. The product used carriers both Boeing and Airbus Certification. Graham Harrison, the African distributorship holder for the RMX-Global Drywash product and Aeroklin Services is based at Lanseria and operates an aircraft cleaning service.
The average airliner will require approximately five thousand litres of water to clean it in the conventional method, where the dry wash process uses no water at all, perfect for a water-scarce country like ours. The process is very simple and extremely fast, just spray on the product leave for a few seconds the buff up with microfibre cloths. The product no only cleans but protects the aircraft by depositing a fine layer of polymer film on the surface.
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.
It is in these senses that the South African War Museum may be regarded as a memorial. It will remind us, I hope, not only of the part we played in the recent great struggle to save civilization, but also of the horrors, the loss of life and the devastation, and serve as a warning to us to create a world in which we shall never have to use again the weapons of mass destruction we see here today, or those dreadful weapons to follow them …”
He was referring to South Africa’s participation in the Second World War and had pinpointed the raison d’etre of the Museum’s existence. In 1975 the Museum’s name was changed to the South African National Museum of Military History and its scope was expanded to include the history of all military conflicts in which South Africans have played a part. The Museum also serves as a popular and unusual venue for conferences and other functions.
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 Museum 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 stakeholders.