Affiliation of the Royal Air Force Officers’ Club Johannesburg and the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.

By Karl Jensen

The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) and the Royal Air Force Officers' Club Johannesburg have become affiliated, providing GAPAN members worldwide with a friendly welcome in South Africa and fellow aviators in the country with a link to one of the world's leading aviation organisations.

The Guild, a livery company of the City of London was established in 1929, by a small group of commercial pilots ensuring that their successors enjoyed a professional status and to foster and improve that standing. It additionally has active Regional Committees in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and North America, all supporting the education and training of pilots and navigators from the initial training of the young pilot to the specialist training of the highest levels.

The Royal Air Force Officers' Club in South Africa was formed in Cape Town in 1947, by a group of Officers who had served in the Second World War and who wanted to perpetuate the camaraderie and spirit of the Forces in which they had served. The Royal Air Force Officers' Club, Johannesburg, was established in 1963 and is based in The Wanderers Club in the Johannesburg suburb of Illovo. In the nature and conduct of their functions, the Club maintains as much as possible of the atmosphere and traditions of an RAF Officers' Mess.

A private dinner to mark the Affiliation of RAFOC to the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) in South Africa, took place on the evening of Tuesday 8 May 2012 at the Smuts House Museum in Doornkloof, Irene, Pretoria.

Permission to hold this auspicious function at the “Big House”, General Jan Smuts' home for 40 years, and now preserved as a Museum, was kindly granted by the General Smuts Foundation. The significance of the venue is that General Smuts submitted a War Cabinet Report in 1917 which led to the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, and thereafter the South African Air Force in 1920. These are the two oldest independent Air Forces in the world.

The invited guests were given a talk on the historic background to the Smuts House in the authentically furnished lounge, below a portrait of the “Oubaas” (General Smuts), and who no doubt was present in spirit on this particular occasion. The house itself started life as a prefabricated British Officers' Mess in India, was brought to South Africa and erected in Middleburg during the Anglo-Boer War, and was bought by General Smuts as “war surplus”. It was transported from Middleburg to its present site by Ox wagon.

The Certificate of Affiliation signed by the Grand Master of GAPAN, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Air Marshal Cliff Spink RAF (Retd), Master of GAPAN, was presented to Wing Commander Bruce Harrison, Chairman of RAFOC, and the Articles of Affiliation signed by them at General Smuts' desk in his library, which is maintained just as it was in his lifetime.

The event was attended by members of GAPAN, RAFOC and the Smuts Foundation together with serving and retired Officers of the RAF, SAAF, and Fleet Air Arm. The dinner which followed was in the traditional format observed in an Officers' Mess, including the Loyal Toasts, toasts to, and responses from, each Air Force and Organisation represented.

More background on GAPAN, RAFOC and the Smuts Foundation can be accessed on their respective websites. ; ;

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