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"RAAF... RCAF... RNZAF... why SAAF? " Topic

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GreenLeader22 Feb 2017 2:39 a.m. PST

The South African Air Force proudly claims to be the 2nd oldest in the world, yet it didn't follow the same naming convention as the other Commonwealth Air Forces. Of course, South Africa became a republic in the 1960s, but one would have thought that the SAAF would have been known as the RSAAF until that time. Any ideas as to why the honour of 'Royal' was never bestowed upon it? Too much anti-British feeling still when it was established, perhaps?

Ewan Hoosami22 Feb 2017 2:59 a.m. PST

Australia went backwards, AFC to RAAF.

freerangeegg22 Feb 2017 3:37 a.m. PST

Because South Africa was an independent state from 1934, so no Royal affiliation for their forces

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 6:22 a.m. PST

So did Canada……now the RCAF

Vigilant22 Feb 2017 6:32 a.m. PST

RAF is the only "Royal" air force that doesn't include the country name in the title.

Ed von HesseFedora22 Feb 2017 6:59 a.m. PST

No, that's just an English-language case. For example, the "Royal Netherlands Air Force" is the English translation, but the Netherlands simply call it "Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)" with no "Netherlands" in their own language.

GreenLeader22 Feb 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

'South Africa was an independent state from 1934'?

Here is the timeline:

The Union of South Africa (as a British Dominion) was established in 1910

The SAAF was established in 1920

South Africa became independent from Great Britain in 1931, but the British King / Queen remained as Head of State (like in Canada, Australia, NZ etc)

South Africa became a republic in 1961

Therefore it would seem logical to me that the SAAF as established would have been the RSAAF.

inverugie Inactive Member22 Feb 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

The SAAF could only be the RSAAF if the monarch of the day approved it. When the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) became a separate arm of service from the Australian Army it was initially established as the Australian Air Force (on 31 Mar 21, thereby avoiding the RAF's April Fool's Day birthday), and was granted the prefix 'Royal' by King George V to become the RAAF effective 31 Aug 21). I guess the Saffas never asked due to national indifference or hostility, or were not in royal favour.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

The title 'Royal' is only granted after a history of service and the request to be granted it.

Most Commonwealth countries had airmen and corps that played quite a big part in the Great War. They asked and were granted it.

While the SAAF may have had people and possibly even formations take part, they never asked.

More importantly, South Africa as a nation is quite new. What 1901?

Many parts of the country had connection and tradition related to the UK and were ex-colonies.
However, many parts did not and the relationships between English and Boer were touchy to say the least.
Asking to adopt the title 'Royal' for a national air force was a bit too much for the entire population to accept.

In the ex-colonial parts of the country, where the British traditions were strong, this was not a problem. Hence you get army units such as the 'Royal Natal Carbineers' et cetera.

Actually probably a wise decision on a national unity level.

GreenLeader25 Feb 2017 3:07 a.m. PST


Everything you say makes perfect sense, though it is interesting to look at the case of India – a nation whose people had far less connection to the 'Motherland' than the average white South African of the period. The Indian Navy was known as the Royal Indian Navy from 1934 to 1950, and the Indian Air Force was renamed the Royal Indian Air Force in 1945 (a name which only lasted until 1950).
Perhaps less sensitivity was shown in this case, or perhaps it was felt that, compared to the average Afrikaner, the average Indian had a greater feeling of deference towards all things ‘royal'?

Technically, all the constituent parts of South Africa had been British colonies prior to the Union of 1910, though obviously the OFS and the Transvaal had not been so for very long (though the latter did have a large English-speaking white community – probably the majority of white residents, indeed). In contrast, the white population of the Cape Colony – though it had been British for a century prior to the Union – was majority Afrikaans.

Lion in the Stars26 Feb 2017 8:33 a.m. PST

the average Indian had a greater feeling of deference towards all things ‘royal'

This. India was essentially an empire of kings and princes running their own small fiefs.

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