The South African Air Force Association (SAAFA) is an all-ranks Association formed to perpetuate a tradition of comradeship that has developed over the years among members of the South African Air Force, knowing no distinction of race, language, gender or creed.
SAAFA is democratic, non-sectarian and non-partisan in relation to party politics Colonel Rod Douglas, a veteran of the 1914-1918 Great War, started the Christmas Cheer Fund whilst serving as a senior staff officer at Air Force Headquarters. This fund ensured that all SAAF Squadrons and Units serving beyond the borders of South Africa would be treated to a sumptuous lunch or dinner on Christmas day. Generous donations to this cause were received from SAAF Units remaining in South Africa.
Colonel Douglas had experienced the aftermath of World War I with the plight of the widows, children and demobilised airmen. He wished to ensure that this did not happen again when World War II hostilities ceased. To this end, he gathered a group of like-minded airmen and set about creating the South African Air Force Association. Colonel Rod Douglas is considered the founder of the South African Air Force Association and he served as the first SAAFA National President, guiding the Association through its formative years.
An initial meeting was held in Johannesburg on 11 December 1944. Many distinguished airmen were present to be elected as committee members. A draft Constitution was discussed and approved. Principles, objectives and projects were tabled and discussed. The first SAAFA meeting was held at the Inanda Club on 26 January 1945, which date is recognised as the founding date of the Association.
The original concept, formulated in late 1944 was threefold;
To continue the spirit and camaraderie of the South African Air Force generated during World War II
To perpetuate the memory of all brave Air Force men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for their country
And in particular to assist with the welfare and support their widows and children
As had been anticipated, soon after the end of World War II the SAAF Association found itself involved in numerous support projects, many of which continue to this day, most notably that of Benevolence.
Many children of Air Force members who had made the supreme sacrifice had their schooling made possible with financial and other support of SAAFA. In addition to this, tertiary education bursaries were provided to many dependents. With the passage of time, the emphasis has shifted from education to provision of assistance and support to past members of the SAAF who suffer from chronic and debilitating health issues as well those who suffer severe financial hardship. SAAFA has an ongoing care of the aged project active nationwide.
Over the years, Branches were formed in cities and towns throughout South Africa, some of which have since closed due to employment, residential and retirement dynamics. At present, Branches exist in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East Rand, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Lower South Coast (Port Shepstone/Margate), Lowveld (Hoedspruit), Outeniqua (George), Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Soutpansberg (Makhado), Stilfontein, Whale Coast (Hermanus) and Weskus (Langebaan). In addition, there is a SAAFA satellite Branch in Dubai, UAE.
Welfare grants, food parcels and Christmas cheer have over the years been made to members and members dependents. Together with the South African Legion improvements in war pensions for ex-SAAF members and their dependents were negotiated. Successful applications for tax exemptions for special flying allowances were negotiated as were many other issues requiring the SAAF Association to lobby with Government, Provinces and various organisations.
The Air Force Fund was started during the War to provide funds to donate Spitfire aircraft to the Royal Air Force. At the cessation of hostilities remaining funds were distributed to SAAFA Branches and the RAF Benevolent Fund. The Association administered funds for 1939/45 SAAF Veterans in need on behalf of the Air Force Fund. Housing Memorials in the form of blocks of flats were built in Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Past members of the SAAF, and in instances their surviving spouses, occupy flats at sub-economic rentals. Two of these facilities, Pretoria and Johannesburg, continue to offer this service, Cape Town having sold their facility to the University of Cape Town.
Resulting from a proposal by the SAAF Association, the first Air Force Memorial was built at the entrance to the Waterkloof Air Force Station in 1957. The site subsequently proved unsuitable for a number of reasons and again the SAAF Association proposed that a national Air Force Memorial be built and agreed to cover half the overall costs. The magnificent Air Force Memorial as we know it today was completed in 1963 on Bays’ Hill, overlooking AFB Swartkop. Jointly hosted with the South African Air Force, Memorial Services are held at the Air Force Memorial in May every year.
Also at the suggestion of the SAAF Association to the SAAF, Citizen Force Squadrons were established at Cape Town, Durban, Germiston, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.
SAAFA has also provided ongoing and continuous support to the SAAF in peace and conflict as experienced during the Berlin Airlift, the 1947 Royal Visit and the Korean War. The support of and relationship with the South African Air Force remains today a high priority objective of SAAFA.
Close links are maintained with the South African Korean War Veterans Association, the Royal Air Forces Association, the Royal Air Force Officers’ Club, the Warsaw Flights Commemoration Organising Committee, the Alpine 44 Club and the Council of Military Veterans Organisations (CMVO).
Today, 76 years later, the South African Air Force Association continues the legacy of extraordinary camaraderie while supporting ex-SAAF aged and needy, perpetuating the memory of SAAF men and women killed in the line of duty and preserving our Air Force heritage while continuing dynamic SAAF/SAAFA interaction