6 May 1915 – South Africa joins the air war

Yesterday as part of the South African advance on German South-West Africa, General Botha Officer Commandering, successfully advanced and captured the capital Windhoek. The German forces have not surrendered however.

Following this, the South African Air Corps went into action when Captain K R van der Spuy flew a reconnaissance sortie at Walvis Bay to keep Gen Botha informed of the enemy’s movements and positions.

Captain K R van der Spuy

The SAAC itself had been established on 29 January 1915, staffed by pilots recalled from France to the country.

Henri Farman in Paris was building an aeroplane, constructed mainly of steel-tubing, which, fitted with the Canton Unne engine, seemed suitable for tropical flying, and the Admiralty ordered 12. There were delays in the production of the Henri Farmans. The first was delivered in January 1915, but only two more had been received by the end of March. On the 15th of March twenty-six mechanics, directly enlisted or transferred from the Naval Air Service, left, with transport and other material, for South Africa, and on the 3rd of April Captain G P Wallace, two other officers, and eight mechanics followed with the balance of the equipment. The available aircraft were the three all-steel Henri Farmans and two B.E.2C aeroplanes which had been handed over by the Admiralty.

The detachment reached Walvis Bay on 30 April. Unfortunately, due to heavy seas, and poor stowage of the aeroplanes on board, two of the Henri Farmans were seriously damaged on the voyage out.

Nevertheless the small force provided support to General Botha.

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