By Rob Russell
Thursday 07th November marked a special day in the proud history of AFB Langebaanweg – the presentation of its Colours.
The “Presentation of Colours” is a military ceremony that marks an anniversary or significant event in the history of a particular regiment or similar military unit. This involves the presentation of the regimental colours to a regiment or equivalent formation in their respective armed forces service branch. This is a traditional ceremony that was pioneered by the British Armed Forces and is today used in most Commonwealth countries.
Despite all the negativity around the SA Air Force, and sometimes harsh and unwarranted criticism of it, the Base did itself proud. A rather windy day threatened to put a damper on the parade, but it died down sufficiently and the slightly cooler temperatures were a welcome relief for those on parade, after the sweltering heat of the previous few days. The parade area had been spruced up and was smart and tidy. It was also good to see 6 Hawks on the flight line, albeit in the background.
With 10 minutes to go and despite numerous requests for those attending the parade to be seated, it looked like the parade might start a bit late, however, in true tradition, the parade commander led the parade onto the grounds at exactly 10 am, the scheduled time of the parade.
After forming up, the main functionary, Major General M Matanda took the general salute, as a formation of 3 Hawks and 2 Astras flew overhead. It was good to see the Hawks flying – they were busy with a weapons camp. The flypast was exactly on time and in very close formation – the pilots can be proud of their efforts in that wind.
The parade then continued with the traditional Piling of the Drums and the marching on, and covering of them, with the colours flag.
The Piling of the drums is an old British Army tradition. It stems from when an army took their drums on the campaign. They were piled in this way and draped with cloth to act as an altar. It also served as a place for the Regiment to gather.
The scripture reading and prayers were then taken from this altar, as is traditionally done during such a service.
In his speech, General Matanda gave a short introduction to the meaning of colours, the history around them and when and why they were presented. He went on to mention that this base, was one of the few that does not have its colours.
He then went on the praise the many members of the SAAF – and one has to agree with him – some devoted members deliver outstanding service, despite the limited resources given to them. He then spoke about forthcoming taskings for the SAAF in 2024. Amongst their duties to assist the country in times of need, planning is taking place to assist in the General election next year and the SAAF is expected to help the IEC in its work.
He spoke briefly about the recent strategic work session, and the upcoming presentation of this session, by the Chief of the SAAF. Whilst not revealing too much, he did mention that the work session adopted the vision of “projecting effective air and space power through innovation in the theatre of our operations”, with the mission being one of “through consistent innovation, we provide deployable multi-role air and space capabilities for the SANDF in the service of our country”. The expectation is one of innovation. One wonders how they will develop space power and it will be interesting to watch this happen.
After thanking the parade for the efforts, he wished everyone a safe Festive season and safe travels, to those going on leave.
After his speech, the flag was unveiled and marched passed the General and the parade. It was a poignant moment for General Matanda, as during his career in the SAAF, he was Officer Commanding of the Base. Thereafter, the parade marched passed the General, who took the salute.
After the final general salute, the parade marched off.
Whilst not quite the pomp and ceremony one is often used to at such special occasions, the Base did themselves, the SAAF and those present proud. The parade ran smoothly, timeously and without any hitches. Those on parade looked neat and proud when they marched passed the General. It was good to see that traditions relating to parades are still kept in place.
Given all the criticism directed towards the SAAF – and much of it should not be directed at them, but rather our corrupt Government and its ministers – but that is a story for another day – it was good to see the SAAF performing so well and with much pride and professionalism.
After the parade had ended, VIPs and invited guests were treated to lunch at the Officer’s Mess. The catering staff did themselves proud – it was a lunch to which one has been accustomed at a SAAF Officers Mess – the lamb was outstanding and the chocolate brownies – well they were right up there when it comes to the best of the best!!