When units are closed down or squadrons disbanded, their memorabilia often ends up in a remote and forgotten store-room. In other cases it even becomes the "property" of its former members, decorating the pub at home. The South African Museum has specifically been established to preserve and display the heritage of the South African Air Force through all these years and this is where such items need to go.
Air Defence Artillery Group (ADAG) which comprised 120, 121, 122 Squadrons operating CACTUS, HILDA, ZU-23 systems in the ground to air defence role was one such unit. The unit was established in 1973, but relatively unknown throughout the Air Force, operating from the remote Pienaarsrivier ("Die Plaas") location, today known as Ditholo.
On 1 April 1993 Air Defence Artillery Group was disbanded. From the group, only 120 Squadron (CACTUS) remained to become part of the newly formed Air Space Control Unit (ASCU) at AFB Swartkop (Snake Valley).
The last remnant of ADAG, 120 Squadron was eventually disbanded in 2004.
So what happened to all those items that previously proudly graced the offices and trophy cases at ADAG and 120 Squadron? After the unit closed down all the memorabilia were kept aside and safely locked away into a container. This was mainly through the efforts of the last Officer Commanding of 120 Squadron, Lt Col André Robinson, and the then squadron sergeant major, WO1 J.D. van Rensburg. The container was left in the care of WO1 Glen Westerdale at Mobile Deployment Wing.
Years went by, but when the SAAF Museum initiated the restoration and display of the CACTUS and HILDA systems during 2007, the Research Officer; made the worthwhile discovery of "the container" at MDW. Discussions between Lt Col Robinson and the other safe keepers eventually led to the transfer of the entire container to the Air Force Museum at Swartkop in 2008.
All the various items inside the container were removed and placed on inventory. Those items that could not be used for display purposes were placed in storage. The most important task commenced when the weathered and rusted container were paint stripped and repainted in a cammo colour- scheme. The memorabilia that include a fully dressed CACTUS operator and sectioned HILDA missile were placed inside the container. Cammo-net were added and fixed to the top of the container to fit in with the rest of the ADAG weaponry on display. Air Defence Artillery Group now has a place in history.
The Air Force Museum is the custodian of your history. Next time, THINK about history and heritage before you just throw away. Items of historical value tell the story of our Air Force and its people and need to be preserved and displayed.
Please contact the Research Officer, at 012 351 2282 or 2290 if you have any memorabilia to donate to the museum or for any further information on the display.