This is an interesting article written by Dudley Basson for the RAF Centenary celebration in November last year. It covers aspects of the history of the RAF and, in particular, General Smuts' role in its establishment. Many of the aircraft types used used during both World Wars are discussed, with links supplied to other articles and videos for additional interest.
Smuts drew up a 7-page report on the formation of the Royal Air Force. He also proposed the coercing of British industry into the production of aircraft. With Smuts in the chair, the Aerial Operations Committee was enlarged to become the War Priorities Committee, charged with bringing together all of the country’s industrial resources to bear on the war effort. The Royal Air Force was established on 1 April 1918. For this huge achievement, Smuts has become known as ‘The father of the RAF.’
New Smuts Statue Unveiled
A life-sized statue of former South African Prime Minister, Jan Christiaan Smuts, has been unveiled at Rustenburg in the North West. The unveiling forms part of this month's heritage celebrations. The sculpture depicts Smuts on his horse Charlie. Click on the image below to view the 2 minute SABC News video.
General Smuts and his Secretary Henry Cooper
by Hayley Hynd.
Henry Cooper was the last of Smuts’ private secretaries. Hayley Hynd (née Cooper),his great-niece, inherited a quantity of Smuts memorabilia that had previously been archived and forgotten about. Her pursuit of a suitable home for for these treasures led her to the Smuts Foundation to which she kindly donated several items, including Smuts' travel grooming bag, his passport and various other travel documents shown below.
Hayley writes about her life with the Legacy of Jan Smuts as follows:
Ever since I can remember, Jan Christiaan Smuts has been a prominent figure in my life. I knew his name before I even knew some of my family’s names. His bust was prominent in our lounge, and there were trunks filled to the brim with memorabilia, photos, letters and exciting treasures.
At first this was not overtly interesting to me, but as time wore on, I started asking questions as to who this man was, and why we had so much stuff about him, and of his. And the answer was quite simple, and yet still quite mystifying. My Great-Uncle, my dad’s uncle, was Jan Smuts’ last private secretary before he lost the elections and ultimately passed away. Henry Cooper was an amazing man by all accounts and somebody that my dad and my mom spoke very kindly about. He passed before I was born. He wrote a book while with Smuts, about all the walks they went on together, and spoke so fondly of the man behind the politician. The super intelligent brain, his need for strict exercise regimens, and his appetite for ever increasing mountain peaks to be conquered in his daily regimen.
When Smuts was ousted, he moved his offices into my Grandparents, Cissie and Willie Cooper’s, offices. Willie was Henry’s brother, and they had been fervent supports of Smuts during office, and were now not about to leave him in his hour of need.
Smuts was also my Dad’s Godfather and on his passing, Henry was left with much of Smuts belongings, including some of his shaving kits. These were, of course, out of bounds to me for most of my childhood. When I hit high school, we actually started learning about him. I begged and pleaded and was allowed to take the one shaving kit to school. Nobody believed it was actually something that had belonged to this great man. But I know the truth. My Uncle Henry was at the inaugural United Nations meet. He got to meet the most incredible international figures, including the Queen, of both Greece and England. What I wouldn’t give for a bounce on his knee and some late night story-telling.
My dad fell ill, about 4 years ago and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was given the trunks of treasures, and needed to find a home for them. Or at the very least put them into some sort of order. I have since discovered that Olive Schreiner was also my relative, as was Austin Roberts. To most South Africans of my age, these names do not mean much, but over the past few years I have made it my mission to learn just who they were to us as South Africans and what legacy they left. My Granny and Grandpa wrote many well-loved South African songs, including ‘Jy is my liefling’ and ‘Die Donkie’. My great great grandfather was an Advocate in the Cape Colony, and wrote under the pseudonym of Samuel Zwartman.
In my pursuit for answers, I went to watch my Father’s Coat earlier this year, and was amazed at the story-telling and the tale itself. I asked Michael if he could assist me in my pursuit to find proper homes for the items. And he referred me to Brenthurst, and to Smuts house. And a rather joyful meeting a few weeks ago, led to me finally placing some of the missing artefacts in the hands where they had belonged the whole time.
And now I find myself wondering, what will my legacy be? Here is hoping I live up to my DNA!
Trailer of forthcoming Smuts documentary.
Chapter on Ouma Smuts extracted from the book "Women South Africa Remembers" author: Fay Jaff (1975).
Talk on Deneys Reitz presented by NICK COWLEY at the Friends of Smuts July 2018 supper evening.
'Genius' statesman Smuts's life recalled
As reported in the PRETORIA NEWS on 22 MAY 2018, 07:11AM by VIRGILATTE GWANGWA
A wreath being laid during the annual memorial for General Jan Christiaan Smuts on Sunday. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
PIONEER, remarkable, genius and peacemaker were among words used to describe General Jan Christiaan Smuts during his memorial service at Smuts House Museum in Irene on Sunday. The memorial service is held annually and close to his birthday, which is on May 24.
Smuts died aged 80 on September 11, 1950, after he suffered a coronary thrombosis. He died of a subsequent heart attack at his family farm in Doornkloof. Men and women from far and near in military uniform gathered in honour of the late military leader and philosopher.
Chaplain Marius van Rooyen said many were breaking all that Smuts had worked hard to build, and said it was time that everyone reconciled.
“General Smuts understood the wisdom of unity and reconciliation and that's what he stood for; unity. Many of our lives are testimonials of unity and that is what we are celebrating here today.”
The Welsh Male Voice Choir of SA had the audience in awe with melodious voices, while the SANDF held a mini-parade.Smuts’s great-grandson Philip Weyers said it was sentimental for him and the family to see his great-grandfather remembered and honoured in such a dignified manner.
“Even though I'm too young to have known my great-grandfather, for me to have my South African people recognise and celebrate him like this means a lot. In as much as I have spoken about him all over the world, I have also heard a lot about him and I can tell you that this man was a complete genius,” he said.
The memorial included a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Smuts.
Smuts served as prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924, as well as from 1939 to 1948. He is the only man to have signed both of peace treaties which ended World War I and II. Although Smuts had originally advocated racial segregation and opposed the enfranchisement of black Africans, his views changed. He then backed the Fagan Commission's findings that complete segregation was impossible.
He continued to work for reconciliation and emphasised the British Commonwealth's positive role until his death in 1950. He led a Boer Commando in the second war for Transvaal and the South African armies against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa and commanding the British Army in East Africa.
Two years after his death, the international airport in Kempton Park was founded and given his name. It is now known as OR Tambo International Airport.
Article about Smuts House in The Pretoria News, 19 April 2018
Smuts and Churchill's Narrow Escape
Extracted from “The Southern African History Musings of Ross Dix-Peek” http://peek-01.livejournal.com/100528.html
Copyright IWM (B5364)
Prime Minister Winston Churchill looking at enemy and British aircraft engaged overhead with Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, General Sir Bernard Montgomery and others in Normandy, 12 June 1944.
It was D-Day + 10 when South African statesman, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, accompanying the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, crossed over to Normandy to observe the action first-hand. Smuts was rather lucky to survive this visit, as both he and Churchill could very well have been killed while visiting Monty’s headquarters at Cruelly. The author Nicholas Rankin, in his book “Churchill’s Wizards, British Genius for Deception 1914-1945” relates that while visiting the headquarters and as “senior officers stood outside with the Prime Minister [Churchill], South African Field Marshal Smuts sniffed the air and said, ‘There are some Germans near us now…I can always tell!’” And lo and behold, just two days later, “two fully armed German paratroopers emerged from a nearby Rhododendron bush, where they had been hiding all along. Had they used their guns and grenades on Churchill [and Smuts], everything would have changed.”
It is also really amazing when one considers that Smuts, an erstwhile enemy of the British empire, was not only to reconcile himself to his former enemy over the succeeding years, but was also to be greatly respected by two British prime ministers: Lloyd George appointing him head of the war council that was ultimately to bring about the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS and the subsequent founding of the Royal Air Force during the closing stages of WWI, while he was also earmarked to have been Churchill’s successor should the British prime minister succumb for whatever reason during the war.
Royal Air Force Celebrates 100th Aniversary
One of the founders of the Royal Air Force in 1918 was General Jan Smuts. Watch this lecture delivered by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier at the Royal Aeronautical Society's 100th Aniversary lecture in which Smuts is acknowledged as playing a leading role in the RAF's establishment on 1 April 1918.
A Kibbutz called Jan Smuts
Did you know that Jan Smuts has a kibbutz named after him because of his support in founding the state of Israel, and that this kibbutz was at the centre of the 1948 Arab Israeli War (or sometimes known as the Israeli War of Independence)?
South Africa's Exceptional History
The feared bloodbath in the transition to majority rule did not occur. As a proportion of the population, political deaths are among the lowest of all the major ethnic or racial conflicts since 1945. As General Jan Smuts famously said in 1949: “The worst, like the best, never happens [in South Africa].”
From Magersfontein to Westminster
South Africa’s Deny’s Reitz wrote ‘Commando’ while in exile in Madagascar after the Boer War, long before Lawrence wrote his version on what is guerrilla warfare. If it was not for the remarkable intervention of Isie Smuts (wife of Jan Smuts) the book would probably have probably died in Madagascar with Reitz. But Isie persisted and Reitz was returned to SA and went on to achieve much.
Fallen heroes remembered
SAXONWOLD – Military museum remembers heroes that fell a century ago. The museum, previously known as the South African National War Museum, was opened by Prime Minister Jan Smuts in 1947. In his speech, Jan Smuts said he hoped that the memorial would remind people of the horrors, the loss of life and the devastation of war and that it served as a warning to all people to create a world in which weapons of mass destruction would never be used again.