THE HISTORIC EVENTS – 25 YEARS AGO (PART 2)
JUNE – JULY 1994
June-July 1994: The SAS Drakensberg (Capt Preston Barnard) continued its three month “friendship cruise” to Europe and West Africa. Ports of call included Lisbon, Rosyth, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Rouen, London, Cadiz, Sao Tomé, Principe and Libreville. Highlights of the cruise included the participation in ‘Infante Armada’ (Prince Harry the navigator 600th birthday) in Lisbon, Portugal and participation in the Joint Maritime Course exercise out of Rosyth, Scotland. The visit also coincided with South Africa’s return to the Commonwealth of Nations and the ship’s company participated in the ceremony in London to welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth on 20 July, while a wreath-laying ceremony was held in the English Channel on 23 July to commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi.
11 July 1994: While on a routine two-day North Coast fisheries patrol the Durban-based strike craft SAS Oswald Pirow (Cdr Colin Sharwood) was ordered to take up the search for the stricken yacht Mabili. With swells of at least 6 – 9 meters and wind gusting to 40 knots, the yacht was eventually located 59 nautical miles east of Punta Do Ora in Mozambique waters. OPW remained in the area to search for a missing person who was swept overboard earlier in the day. The next morning (12 July) the yacht was boarded by the crew of OPW and taken in tow, with crew remaining on board the yacht to assist the survivor Mrs Muriel Border. Proceeding at a slow speed OPW and Mabili arrived off Richards Bay at 14:30 on 13 July. In the meantime, the yacht’s engine was repaired and yacht could proceed under its own power to the safety of the harbour. The Navy Sword of Peace was subsequently awarded to the SAS Oswald Pirow, while the Navy Cross decoration were awarded to S Lt Lance Wooding and PO Charlie Tancrel.
14 July 1994: An International Military Education and Training Agreement was signed by the South African and United States of America Governments. Lt Cdr Digby Thomson made history, becoming the first South African Naval officer to attend a course at the United States Naval Staff College, while the first to attend the US Naval Warfare College was Commander ‘Rusty’ Higgs when he commenced his course on 3 August 1994.
18-22 July 1994: The SA Navy was called upon by the Department of Sea Fisheries to assist in the clean-up of Dassen Island following an oil spill disaster. Thirty-six members of the Navy participated to remove a total of 957 bags of oil from Dassen Island.
25-29 July 1994: The first group of 95 former Umkonto We Sizwe (MK) trainees arrived at SAS Saldanha to commence basic training in the South African Navy. This group was joined by a further 129 recruits (including 9 females). These trainees were joined by 152 members, recruited from the private sector.
25-29 July 1994: A group of 11 former Umkonto We Sizwe (MK) officers arrived at the SA Naval College, Gordon’s Bay to commence their orientation training until December. The officers were Cdr R.E. Allingham, Cdr P.T. Duze, Lt Cdr M. Ganca, Lt Cdr M.S. Hlongwane, Lt Cdr R.S. Ndabambi, Lt S.S. Duma, Lt E.M. Khesa, Lt M. Lobese, Lt K.N. Maneli and Lt D.A. Zwane.
– SAS Drakensberg, Rouen France, July 1994
– The SA Navy Sword of Peace, awarded to SAS Oswald Pirow in 1994
– The first group of former Umkonto We Sizwe officers at the SA Naval College, Gordon’s Bay. Lt Cdr M.S. Hlongwane (encircled) would continue to become Chief of the Navy in 2014.