THE FIRST FLIGHT - On the 30th of April 1958, the very first Blackburn Aviation Buccaneer - prototype XK486 - took to the skies. This aeroplane, also to become known as the Banana Bomber, amongst others played an active role in the first gulf war during the early years of the 1990's, before it was finally withdrawn from active RN and RAF service. For readers of this website with a particular interest in these aircraft, a detailed history is available on,
www.blackburn-buccaneer.co.uk. Three of these trusted machines, so loved by their aircrews, XW986, XW987 and XW988 were sold to South Africa, and currently fly out of Thunder City at the Cape Town International Airport.
THE BUCCANEER & THE SAAF - By the early 1960’s, South Africa had recognised the need for a maritime strike aircraft capable of carrying anti-ship weapons at low level and high speed to counter the threat of the modern blue-water fleets being introduced by navies around the globe. With the ‘Simonstown Agreement’ still in place, whereby the Royal Navy was granted access to Simonstown naval facilities in exchange for assistance with weapons and technology, it was natural the Republic should look to Britain’s arms industries for a solution. The solution was a Blackburn design known as the Buccaneer Mk 2, a large and extremely robust aircraft. The aircraft was adapted for South African conditions through the addition of twin Bristol Siddeley BS 605 rocket engines for assisting take-off from the hot and high airfields in South Africa and the increase of wing ferry tanks capacity to 430 gallons. The variant eventually received by the SA Air Force was designated the Buccaneer S Mk 50.
During May 1965, it became known that the new aircraft would be operated by 24 Squadron SA Air Force, reformed on 1 July 1964, under the command of Commandant R.H.D. (Bob) Rogers, with the first aircrew and the technicians undergoing simultaneous training with the first ground personnel. On 25 May 1965, Cmdt Rogers flew Buccaneer 413 from the Blackburn test field to Lossiemouth in Scotland in a time of fifty minutes, thus signalling the arrival of 24 Squadron’s first aircraft.
Delivery to South Africa was to be under taken by two flights of four, departing Lossiemouth on 27 October 1965. On 30 October, the eight aircraft departed the Cape Verdes and set course for Ascension Island. One of the Buccaneers in the second flight crashed into the sea but luckily the crew managed to eject to safety. The remaining Buccaneers eventually landed at AFS Waterkloof on 3 November 1965.
Although the conflict in Angola and problem of insurgency into Northern South West Africa were escalating at a steady pace, it was to be several years before the Buccaneers were committed to battle. On 4 May 1978, combined elements of the SAAF and Army attacked insurgent training bases near Cassinga and Cheteguera in Southern Angola. This operation dubbed Reindeer marked the Buccaneer’s introduction to the conflict. This attack was the first of 26 operations in which Buccaneers were involved.
Following South Africa’s withdrawal from South West Africa and the latter’s independence in 1990, it was announced that 24 Squadron would cease to operate in March 1991. On 28 March the type flew their last official sortie on squadron service, followed by the disbanding on the unit on 30 June 1991. The nature of their role and unfortunate avoidable accidents had taken their toll on the Buccaneer numbers. When the type was retired from service after twenty six years only five of the original sixteen remained on strength. In a unique tribute to the Buccaneer’s service with 24 Squadron all five survivors were preserved. No’s 414 and 421 were presented to the SAAF Museum at Swartkop, 416 was delivered to the SAAF Museum at Ysterplaat, 412 was unveiled as the Gate Guard at Waterkloof and 422 has found a deserving home at the SA National Museum of Military History, Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
Tribute must also be made to the fact that the Buccaneer Squadron provided three Chiefs of the Air Force; Lt Gen R.H.D. (Bob) Rogers, Lt Gen A.M. (Mike) Muller and Lt Gen J.P.B. (Jan) van Loggerenberg.
REUNION - To commemorate 50 years of the first flight of XK486, a special reunion and anniversary event was planned by the Buccaneer Aircrew Association (BAA) for the weekend of 7 - 9 November 2008 at the Swartkop Air Force Base and the SAAF Memorial at Bays Hill, in Pretoria, South Africa. The South African Air Force Association was the co-host. Attendance was restricted to members of the BAA only.
TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS - Cape AgriTours (represented by Eugene Booysen) and Guytnet (represented by Jan Guyt), were commissioned by the BAA to plan, arrange and conduct all the reunion related tours, accommodation and other tourism requirements, such as the airport-hotel-airport shuttle services, car hire and day tours.The reunion was preceded by a Safari Tour to the world famous Kruger National Park (KNP)(2 groups) and concluded similarly after the reunion (2 groups). Optional tours (both pre & post reunion) went to the Western Cape - which featured the Winelands of the Cape, the exquisite Cape Peninsula and some fantastic whale watching at Hermanus!