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Table of Names and Dates

The following table lists the various names of the Air Force since it's inception and the date of applicability.

Unit Name


1st Battalion Rhodesia Regiment - Air Section

November 1935

Air Section Southern Rhodesia Defence Force

17th July 1936

Southern Rhodesia Air Unit (SRAU)

1st April 1938

No1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Air Force

6th September 1939

No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Royal Air Force

1st April 1940

Southern Rhodesian Staff Corps, Communications Squadron

15th September 1947

Southern Rhodesian Air Force

28th November 1947

Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF)

15th October 1954

Rhodesian Air Force

8th April 1970

Zimbabwe Air Force


A Brief History of the Rhodesian Air Force

It would be almost impossible to write the entire history of the Rhodesian Air Force and publish it on this web site. Therefore this is a brief outline of the history. If you require more detail then your should read extensively as it is unlikely that you will find all the detail under one cover.

In November 1935 the air section of the territorial force was established and flying training began at Belvedere Airport, near Salisbury, under the command of the 1st Battalion Rhodesia Regiment. The aircraft used were De Havilland Tiger Moths. Scott Robertson was the first instructor and John Holderness was one or the first six pupil pilots.

In March 1936 a Royal Air Force, Group Captain arrived from London to give advise on the development of the air unit. He was Arthur Harris, later to become the Commander of Bomber Command.

The Government Gazette of 17th July 1936, announced the formation of the Air Section Southern Rhodesia Defence Force.

In November 1937 the second course of pilots were commissioned. This course included E.("Ted") W. S. Jacklin who was later to become the first Chief of Air Staff and founder of Rhodesia’s post war Air Force.

By December 1937 the new Cranborne aerodrome boasted two runways, hangars, workshops and offices and was ready for the official inspection by Colonel J. S. Morris, Officer Commanding the Southern Rhodesian Forces. Two Hawker Harts (“SR 1 and SR 2”) were ready to fly.

Officers Mess Cranborne
Officers Mess Cranborne

On the 21st February 1938 the air unit received it’s first De Havilland Tiger Moth. This aircraft was equipped for instrument flying.

The 1st April 1938 saw the separation of the air unit from the territorial forces when it took on the title of Southern Rhodesia Air Unit (SRAU). The Commanding Officer was Flt Lt. Jimmy Powell and the staff officer Air Services was Major Dirk Cloete.

The flying badge was similar to that of the Royal Air Force but the RAF was replaced with a miniature coat of arms of Southern Rhodesia. This later became the badge of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force except that the King’s crown was replaced by a Queens Crown.

On Tuesday 11th June 1938 was the first time the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit was referred to in the newspaper (Rhodesia Herald) as the Rhodesian Air Force.

In March 1939 a party of pilots and engineers flew in a Rhodesian government Rapide to Cairo to collect four Hawker Audax aircraft .These were flown to Southern Rhodesia.

On the 13th May 1939 the members of No 2 Pilots course received their wings. Included in this group were Ted Jacklin, Eric Spence, Tickey Tyas, Hugh Peyton, R. J. D. Christie and A.T.R. Hutchinson.

In June 1939 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Warburton Meredith AFC was appointed the new director of civil aviation and officer commanding the air section. He made it known that the thrust would be towards the establishment of an autonomous Air Force.

In late August 1939 the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit was dispatched to Nairobi as part of the mobilization for war with Germany. Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939.

On the 6th September 1939 the name of the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit was changed to No1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Air Force.

No 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron was reformed in October 1939. It was originally equipped with Fairy Battles and later with Spitfires. This squadron saw service in one of the fiercest phases of the war during the night raids on London, Birmingham and Coventry.

1st April 1940 brought the unpopular name change of No.1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Air Force to No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron Royal Air Force.

From June 1940 to November 1941 No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron was engaged in the East African Campaign. Here they saw service in Kenya, Sudan and Eritrea.

On the 1st August 1941 106 female recruits attested into the Southern Rhodesia Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force. Their functions were clerical duties, fabric working, parachute packing, elementary mechanics and motor transport driving.

On the 15th August 1941 the Rhodesian Air Askari Corps was formed. Their duties included the provision of armed guards and non-armed labour for airfields. Members of this unit were all volunteers and provided a valuable service guarding and protecting airfields.

No 44 bomber squadron was another squadron to bear the name Rhodesia. They flew raids on Calais, Augsburg, Cologne, Kiel, Kassess, Rostock, Le Harvre and the Tirpitz among many others. The squadron was initially equipped with Hawker Hinds (from March 1937 to December 1939) then with Hampdens (1939 – 1942) and later in 1942 with Avro Lancaster Bombers.

In 1947 the Empire Air Training Scheme was formed to train 350 pilots and navigators a year for the Royal Air Force and provision would be made within the scheme to train Rhodesian pilots.

A Communications Squadron was formed using a Leopard moth SR22 and was based at Cranborne. This was later joined by and Avro Anson SR21.

7th April 1947 saw the visit by the British Royal family. Air Vice Marshall Charles Meredith was knighted.

On the 15th September 1947 the Communications Squadron, Cranborne became known as the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps, Communications Squadron (this was later to become No. 3 Squadron). At this time a Dakota purchased from the South African government was added to the squadron (SR 25). 12 Harvard Mark 11B aircraft were also purchased.

The staff establishment of pilots was 4 but the strength was only 3. the three were Warrant Officer Harold Hawkins (ex Sqn Ldr RAF), Sergeant Doug White (ex Flt Lt RAVR), Sergeant Tony Chisnall (ex Warrant Officer RAFVR). The forth post was advertised and was filled by Archie Wilson.

On the 28th November 1947 the Southern Rhodesian Air Force was officially reestablished by proclamation in the Government Gazette.

Colonel Garlake, General Officer Commanding Central Africa Command (later Major General) was responsible for the air force until 1956, by which time the Air Force had acquired a squadron of De Havilland Vampire FB9 aircraft.

The first commander of the air unit was Captain Keith Taute who was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel E.W.S. Jacklin (later Air Vice Marshall). “Ted” Jacklin was a dynamic leader and the driving force behind the rebuilding of the force.

On the 12th June 1948 the Communications Squadron received 3 Avro Anson Aircraft as part of an agreed compensation package from the British Government. These aircraft were allocated the number SR 29, SR 30 and SR 31.

In 1948 Russia had instituted the Berlin blockade. This resulted in Rhodesian men and being called up for service. Woman were also being recruited into the Southern Rhodesia Woman’s Military and Air Service.

In May 1949 the first two Harvards purchased from the South African government arrived.

On the 1st March 1949 Lieutenant Colonel “Ted” Jacklin was appointed Commanding Officer of the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps.

On the 18th June 1949 the government announced plans to build a new national airport on Kentucky Farm south of the city. This site was later to become the main air force base named New Sarum

During July 1949 the flying training of territorial volunteers began and No 1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Auxiliary Air Force was formed.

The Photographic section came into being in 1950. This largely unnoticed section of the force would unbeknown to them at the time, play a large part in the planning of operations in the future.
In December 1950 it was announced that the name of the regular military air service would be the Southern Rhodesia Air Force.

22nd March 1951 saw the arrival at Cranborne of 10 out of the 11 Spitfire aircraft. The 11th arrived in the 7th April 1951.

The first Short Service course for pilots started on the 1sr September 1951.

27th September 1951 was the day on which No 1 Course, Southern Rhodesia Auxiliary Air Force received their wings. This course included the first air observer pilot for the Southern Rhodesia Artillery.

On the 18th December 1951, nine Spitfires out of eleven landed at Salisbury after the second ferry from England. One was destroyed and the pilot killed (Sergeant Owen Love) after having become disoriented in cloud over France and another had been extensively damaged on landing at Entebe, in Uganda.

By February 1952 the air force had a number of aircraft based at Kentucky. The second runway was in use and the sixth hangar was in the process of being built.

1st March 1952 saw the start of the second short service pilot training course.

On the 1st April 1952 the Southern Rhodesia Air Force officially moved to Kentucky (New Sarum).

The passing our parade for No1 Short Service Course was held at Kentucky on the 21st August 1952 there were 11 graduates. The parade commander was Captain A.O.G. Wilson (later to become Commander of the Air Force).

In October 1952 Southern Rhodesia Air Force headquarters moved out to New Sarum (Kentucky). The name of the air base was suggested by Keith Taute, Sarum was the Roman Name for Salisbury in Wiltshire, England.

The transport squadron, (No 1 Squadron) moved to New Sarum from Cranborne shortly afterwards and was re-designated No 3 Transport Squadron. No 1 Squadron became a Spitfire squadron.

The 14th December 1952 saw the first fatal accident since the war within the colony, when an Auster aircraft hit power cables and crashed into the Hunyani river. Lieutenant Corruthers an artillery observer pilot was killed.

On the 23rd November 1953 the first four, twin engine, Percival Pembroke aircraft arrived at Salisbury airport.

12th December 1953 saw the first four Vampire FB9 aircraft arrive in Southern Rhodesia.

On the 6th August 1953 the Royal Air Force ensign was lowered for the last time at Thornhill marking the final graduation parade for the Royal Air Force Training Group. Royal Air Force training in Southern Rhodesia had come to an end.

On the 20th May 1954 four Vampire FB9s and one Vampire T11 trainer arrived in Southern Rhodesia from RAF Benson in the UK.

10th August 1954 saw the arrival of a further 6 Vampires

On the 15th October 1954 the name of the air force was changed to “Royal Rhodesian Air Force” and adopted the Royal Air Force rank structure.

In late October 1954 the Royal Rhodesian Air Force took delivery of it’s second Dakota aircraft which was ferried out from England using the West African route.

Four Percival Provost aircraft arrived on 4th November 1954.

18th December 1954 saw the last flight of the Spitfire (SR64) in service with the RRAF.

On the 10th March 1955 a flight of five Vampire T11 aircraft arrived from England

Another flight of Vampire arrived from England on the 1st November 1955.
On the 25th December 1955 another eight Provost T52 aircraft arrived.

These last two ferries brought the number of Vampire aircraft to 16 FB9s and 16 T11s, Provosts to 16, Dakotas to seven and Pembrokes to 2.

January 1956 saw a major change in the RRAF when the number of squadrons was changed from three to four.

No.1 Squadron was formed at New Sarum with Vampire FB9 and T11 aircraft. It’s major task to train Pilot Attack Instructors (PAIs).

No.2 Squadron was formed at New Sarum with Vampire FB9 and T11 aircraft. It was responsible for the Advanced Flying Training of Short Service Unit pupil pilots.

No. 3 Squadron the transport squadron was formed at New Sarum.

No. 4 Squadron which came into being on 3rd January 1956 was based at New Sarum and equipped with Provost aircraft. Its role was both internal security and pilot training.

On 5th March 1956 the move of No 4 Squadron to Thornhill Air Base in Gwelo was started. The move was completed on the 30th May 1956.

In August 1956 the Royal Rhodesian Air Force became autonomous from the control of the army.

On the 11th December 1957 the first Vampire landed on the new runway at Thornhill the pilot was RAF Bentley (later Air Vice Marshall). The purpose was to test the newly completed runway.

January 1858 saw the first detachment to Aden in the Middle East. 5Dakotas and 19 Vampires flew off to the Middle East.

On 15th March 1958 No 1 Squadron moved from New Sarum to Thornhill.

In July 1958 No. 1 Squadron was detached to Aden to support the British forces following a coup in Iraq. 3 aircraft of No. 3 Squadron were in support.

On the 25th September 1958 No. 2 Squadron was reformed at Thornhill.

By the end of 1958 the installation the Ground Approach Radar at Thornhill was complete.

In 1959 the Nyasaland emergency broke out and elements of No. 3 and No 4 Squadron were detached to Chileka airfield in support of the Federal Army.

During late March 1959 the first four English Electric Canberra aircraft arrived from England. From then on Canberra's arrived at the rate of two per month for four months.
In early June a further four Canberra aircraft arrived bringing the total to 15, These aircraft were to make up No. 5 and No. 6 Squadron.

In December 1959 No 3 Squadron received 2 Canadair DC-4M-2 aircraft.

On 11th March 1960 the first parachute drop was carried out by No. 3 Squadron with 9 African Askari's and four Europeans, at New Sarum.

During March 1960 No 6 Squadron was disbanded and its members amalgamated with No. 5 Squadron.

No 2 Squadron was reformed to train flying instructors and ground attack.

In April 1960, 3 Air Supply Platoon was formed.

June 1960 No. 3 Squadron received the initial award of the Jacklin Trophy.

July 1960 saw the RRAF engaged in the Congo crisis.

In 1961 pilot raining was restarted and No. 2 Squadron was responsible for this task.

On the 14th January 1961 the RRAF Volunteer Reserve was officially established.

In March 1961 the long awaited Canberra T4 training aircraft arrived.

March 1961 saw No 4 Squadron carrying out rain making experiments by releasing a mixture of salt and sand into clouds.

On the 14th April 1961 the General Service Unit (GSU) was formed under the command of Flying Officer Basil Lederboer.

30th June 1961 Air Vice Marshall E. W .S. Jacklin retired from the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.

5th October 1961 the Royal Rhodesian Air Force Parachute Training School was formed.

January 1962 the Rolls-Royce Trophy was presented to the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.

No 7 Squadron was formed on the 28th February 1962.

No 6 Squadron was re-formed on 1st June 1962. It became operational on 14th September 1962.

20th December 1962 the first four Hawker Hunter aircraft arrived to replace the Vampire of No 1 Squadron.

1962 No 6 Squadron was disbanded and the personnel of Nos 5 and 6 Squadrons were combined on No 5 Squadron.

31st December 1963 saw the break up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

No 3 Squadron was reduced to an aircraft strength to four Canadairs and Four Dakotas

The Federation was officially dissolved on the 3rd December 1963. but the Royal prefix remained until March 1970 when Rhodesia became a Republic.

In 1964 the name of the air force remained the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.

In October 1964 No 4 Squadron moved to Thornhill.

1964 No 5 Sqn moved to New Sarum.

1964 the aircraft silver paint scheme changed to two tone green camouflage.

During March 1964 the weekly shuttle New Sarum – Thornhill – Kumalo (Bulowayo) was inaugurated by No 3 Sqn.

April 1964 Winston Field resigned as prime minister and was replaced by Ian Smith.

4th July 1964 Mr Petrus Johannes Andries Oberholzer murdered by terrorists.

9th November 1965 all squadrons placed on stand-by.

11th November 1965 Rhodesia declared unilateral independence (UDI)

March 1966 No.105 (VR) Squadron was formed in the Lomogundi area.

17th May 1966 saw the murder of a farmer and his wife (the Viljoen's) an their farm “Nevada” in the Hartley area by terrorists

12th June 1966 first static line parachute jumps conducted by RLI.

November 1966 No 3 Squadron received a Beech Baron B55 from a South African organization.


31st March 1967 first free fall parachute jump carried out from 15,000ft by Flt Lt Frank Hales of the Parachute Training School.

1967 saw the formation of No. 107 (VR) Squadron in the Lowveld (Chiredzi).

July 1967 saw the introduction of 130 lb concrete practice bomb invented by Flt Lt Alan Cockle.

1967 saw the arrival of the first Lockheed Aeromachi AL60 B “Trojan” aircraft. Assembly began on 1st August 1967 and the 9th aircraft was completed on the 24th August.the final aircraft was completed on the 6th September.

1st August 1967 No 6 Squadron was reformed and took on the training role and was allocate seven Provost T52s.

During the latter part of 1967 No 4 Squadron converted to Trojan aircraft but retained some Provost T52s.

July 1967 saw the onset of Operation Nickel

1967 No.7 Sqn was awarded the Jacklin Trophy

At the beginning of September 1967 and air show was held at New Sarum. Thousands of civilians attend the show to see the Hawker Hunters, Vampires and Canberras make a series of low runs before engaging in a mock dogfight. A mass parachute drop by the SAS initiated a demonstration of anti-terrorist warfare in which the Allouette III helicopters participated.

By the end of 1967 No 7 Squadron was committed to maintain helicopters on a semi-perminent basis at both Wankie (FAF 1) and Kariba (FAF2)


July 1968 saw the start of Operations Griffin, Mansion, Excess and Gravel.

11th November 1968 the new Rhodesian flag was raised.and a new roundel on the aircraft was introduced.

7th January 1969 a South African Police Cessna 185 aircraft crashed at Kutanga Range, killing the South African pilot, Lieutenant Johan van Heerden and fatally injuring a Royal Rhodesian Air Force Armaments Officer Fight Lieutenant Don Annandale. The pilot was attempting to carry out a barrel roll after take off. Lieutenant van Heerden was killed outright and Don Annandale was severely burned.The fire vehicle taking Don to the hospital in Que Que was involved in an accident and overturned. A passing motorist then took Don to the hospital where he died several days later from his injuries.

June 1969. No. 4 Squadron was awarded the Jacklin Trophy for 1968.

23rd July 1969 Flight Lieutenant Bob Brakewell was severely injured when a frantan on a Provost aircraft hung up and exploded during the de-arming.

1969 the Rhodesian Air Force carried out trials on its own version of a napalm bomb.

2nd March 1970 Rhodesia became a republic and the flag, Air Force Ensign and roundel were changed. Two junior air force officer ranks changed. The rank of Pilot Officer was changed to Air Sub Lieutenant and Flying Officer to Air Lieutenant. The red, white and blue Royal Air Force roundel with a single silver and gold assegai remained the official marking of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force despite the change in national colours to green and white.

The roundel was changed to incorporate a white centre and a gold lion and tusk, outlined in black with a green outer circle. A new Ensign was also designed.

5th March 1970 saw the start of Operation Pluto

On the 8th April 1970 the Air Force name changed to Rhodesian Air Force.(RhAF) Chief of Air Staff was changed to Commander of the Air Force. the new Commander held the rank of Air Marshall.

President Clifford Dupont presents the
Rhodesian Air Force Colours to Air Lieutenant Michael Mulligan

10th April 1970 Operation Granite started.

In 1970 the name of the Air Force Police was changed to the Air Force Security Branch and members became known as security provosts. Their initial training was carried out a No 1 GTS, New Sarum.

6th May 1970 the Parachute Training School logged it’s 10,000th jump.

1st July 1970 an Allouette III helicopter crashed at New Sarum killing Flight Lieutenant Mike Hill and Squadron Leader Gordon Nettleton

On the 8th August 1970 the name of the Air Force was officially changed to Rhodesian Air Force The title of Chief of the Air Staff was changed to Commander of the Air Force. The title was foreshortened to RhAF and was thence forth referred to as RHODAF. The rank of the Commanders of the army and air force were elevated to Lieutenant General and Air Marshall

14th September 1970 Air Lieutenant Trevor Baynham carried out a night forced landing in a Trojan aircraft during the casevac of Game Ranger Paul Coetzee from the lake Kariba area to Salisbury.

29th September 1970 saw the start of Operation Apollo (Mozambique).

23rd October 1970 the first Rhodesian Honours were awarded. Prior to this Rhodesians had bee eligible for the full range of British Honours and Awards.

On 11th November 1970 seven formations took of for the Independence Day fly-past

During 1971 as a security precaution all roundel and aircraft numbers were removed from the visible parts of the aircraft. Serial numbers were still carried but much reduced in size.

26th March 12971 Sergeant Harry Young died of his injuries following an accidental fire at the New Sarum bomb dump.

25th May 1971 the Rhodesian Air Force received the Freedom of the City of Salisbury. Airmen marched through the city streets with bayonets fixed and aircraft flew over the parade

March 1972 Group Captain Ossie Penton was appointed Officer Commanding the Air Force Volunteer Reserves.

6th June 1972 - Wankie Disaster – Methane Gas Explosion in the coal mine trapped many miners. No 3 Squadron played a major role in transporting men and equipment to the scene.

4th August 1972 - Crash of Vampire at Thornhill killing Air Sub Lieutenant Dave Brown.

September October 1972 Start of Operation Sable (Mozambique)

On the 8th October 1972 the Rhodesian Air Force staged its first major Air Show at Thornhill Between 8,000 and 10,000 people attended the spectacle.

On the 28th November the Air Force celebrated its 25th Anniversary. That is using the date of November 1947 as that when the Air Force was reformed after World War II. To celebrate 300 men marched through the streets of the City Of Salisbury. With bayonets fixed and colours flying, a right they had received when they were granted the freedom of the city in 1971. Before the parade the President Mr. Clifford Dupont presented the Air Force with its colours at Government House.

During 1972, 20,000 hours had been flown by the Air Force and the Defence of the country had cost $24,000,000 (Rhodesian), 2.1% of the GDP.

On the 15th May1973 Air Marshall Archie Wilson retired from the Air Force after a career spanning 32 years. He was succeeded by Air Marshall Michael John (Mick) McLaren

15th May 1973 civilians visitors to Victoria Falls were attacked by members of the Zambian army at Victoria Falls. One woman was killed.

29th June 1973 saw the presentation of the first Defence Forces Meritorious Medals to Squadron Leader Peter Barnett, Squadron Leader James Boyd, Squadron Leader Ken Gipson, Mater Technician Bill Gaitens, and Warrant Officer Spike Owens.

Towards the end of 1973 with the increasing terrorist activity a Joint Operations Centre which had been established at Centenary (FAF3). Was upgraded with higher ranking officers and moved to Bindura. The senior army officer on the JOC was a Brigadier and the senior air force officer Wing Commander and later a Group Captain.

Centenary (FAF3 and Mount Darwin (FAF4) became sub JOCs with Lieutenant Colonel and Squadron Leader in command. JOC Bindura was not a tactical base and therefore not allocated any aircraft.

The Allouettes were grouped at Centenary and Mt. Darwin with two regular battalions, 1RAR and 1RLI respectively, together with members of the BSAP.

At first the helicopters ferried whatever troops were available at the time but it became increasingly obvious that that both men and machines must be o0n stand-by to provide fast reaction when an incident or sighting was reported. These reaction groups became known a “fire force” and the helicopters as “G-Cars”

27th August 1973 Air Marshall M. J. McLaren, Commander of the Rhodesian Air force presented the Jacklin Trophy to No.5 Squadron (The Squadrons 3rd Award)

21st September 1973 No.1 Squadron was presented with its Standard by Air Marshall A. O. G. Wilson (immediate past Commander of the Rhodesian Air Force).


March 1974 saw the first night free fall parachute jump carried out by instructors of the Parachute Training School at New Sarum.

17th May 1974 No.1 Squadron received the Jacklin Trophy.

31st May 1974 Flight Lieutenant George Walker-Smith who had been serving as a pilot on No.3 Squadron qualified as aircraft Captain. He was the first Rhodesian Air Force Volunteer Reservist to be made an aircraft Captain on No.3 Squadron.

11th September 1974 saw the government of Mozambique pass into the hands of FRELIMO.

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