Kimberley is regarded as the cradle of aviation in South Africa and in 1913, South Africa’s first fling school opened here.
Pilots of the South African Aviation Corps, later to become the South African Air Force, were trained in Kimberley. The museum can be found on the site of the original flying school and houses a life-size replica of the Compton-Paterson bi-plane as used for the training of pilots who included the nucleus of the future South African Air Force. The first female on the African continent to receive her pilot’s license, Ann Maria Bocciarelli, was trained at this facility.
The National Monument on the site of the first flying school in South Africa, comprises a memorial, a reconstructed hangar and a replica of the Compton Paterson biplane used in flight training. It commemorates the role played by early aviators in establishing the South African Air Force.
Aviation in Kimberley dates back to 6 June 1911, when John Weston made the first flight in the city. Compton Paterson established his own flying school, the first in South Africa, at Alexandersfontein in July 1913. He negotiated with the Union government to train military pilots at his flying school and on 10 September General Jan Christian Smuts signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Paterson whereby ten pupils were to be trained as pilots. The training was comprehensive and tough. Five of these men eventually became the first pilots of the newly formed South African Aviation Corps, which went into action on 6 May 1915, when Kenneth van der Spuy flew a reconnaissance sortie at Walvis Bay.
Private students also attended the flying school, one of the most famous being Maria Bocciarelli, who was the first woman in South Africa to train as a pilot.
The flying school at Alexandersfontein was abandoned in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War 1 and Paterson’s return to England.
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