A farewell tribute to General Gotze Légion d’Honneur

I had written about him on Lest We Forget in 2012.

Someone else wrote this in 2018.

https://wp.me/p6Ms3W-6xy

This is one of the post I had written about him.


About…

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http://saafww2pilots.yolasite.com/albie-götze.php

About the creator of the Website…

I am an engineer and worked for 14 years in the SA arms industry mainly designing rocket motors and aircraft parts. For the past 17 years I have been in the private sector working in the flour milling industry.

My interest in WW2 SAAF history was inspired by conversations I had with WW2 pilots back in 2010. Since then I have traced and visited many ex-WW2 SAAF pilots and aircrew, recording their stories. This fascinates me and it always strike me how incredible humble these people are regarding their war service. Through the internet I have been contacted by many family members who’s ancestors served and want information on their whereabouts. It thrills me if I discover something that is of importance to these families.

In my opinion the history of our South African forces’ participation in the second world war has been badly neglected over the years since 1948, when a new government came to power that opposed SA’s involvement to the war. Unlike other Allied Commonwealth countries where their WW2 military achievements and sacrifice are cherished and honoured through school syllabus, media and commemoration events, this is not happening in South Africa with the same level of importance. Our war hero’s with the likes of Sailor Malan, Thomas Pattle, etc., never featured in any school history books and remained unknown to the public. Same with the 330 000+ South African volunteers that served in the war. They never got their deserved and rightful place of honour in our rich South African history.

The situation has further deteriorated when a new government came to power in 1994. This government understandably has absolute no interest in this part of the South African history and now even the three SAAF museums are under threat due to budget and resource allocation cuts.

My goal with the WW2 SAAF heritage work is to promote this aspect of our history and make it accessible to public via the internet as token of homage, appreciation and respect to our WW2 servicemen. I try to locate and video interview veterans and copy their precious photograph albums and log books. I also strive to get hold of family members of those who served in an effort to copy historical memorabilia and make it available on the internet for the public in appreciation for what they did.

For me as an enthusiast I do all of this as a hobby with no commercial intent.

Tinus le Roux
January 2014

One thought on “A farewell tribute to General Gotze Légion d’Honneur

  1. Transcript of the eulogy…

    Farewell to General Gotze

    I first met Albie in my role of Chairman of the South African Legion of Military Veterans in the United Kingdom. Along with Tinus Le Roux we obtained a mobi-chair for him from the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund – it was the start of a friendship and a bond that is central and very specific to all military veterans.

    I have a personal pledge to any veteran I meet who fought in World War 2 – I buy them a beer – it’s a simple gesture and a fellow warrior’s thanks to another who has sacrificed so much in what was the greatest bloodletting war mankind has ever seen – before or since.

    Like Albie, I am also a pilot and we connected with our joint love of flying. I had borrowed a very powerful 745 BMW from my buddy ‘Aussie Matt’ – you guessed, he’s Australian, I figured I would take Albie to the Gecko Bar for his beer on me in Matt’s beamer. Driving there I realised Albie, as a pilot would still harbour in him that basic truth to all pilots – THE NEED – THE NEED FOR SPEED.

    On the backroads, with Albie’s permission and a very tempting massive engine we decided to give the BMW a full whellie and put the boot to it – I opened up the BMW’s 4.5 Lt engine to full throttle, maximum torque, pushed back in the seats I noticed Albie’s right hand push an imaginary aircraft throttle to full tilt, and instead of scaring the heck out him all I saw was a massive smile on his face and sheer joy – in Albie’s mind he was back in one of the most powerful single engine war-birds ever built.

    There’s a lot to be said for a person like Albie, but in his heart was an extremely courageous man, completely unafraid of danger – a fighter pilot – the bravest of the brave, and even in his twilight years a man still built of stronger stuff than most mortals would ever aspire to.

    We got talking over that beer, and one story stands out – it’s one which demonstrates just what a man he was and his wry sense of ‘dark humour’ – a humour military veterans share as it comes from extreme adversary.

    During the Second World War, Alibe had transferred from flying Spitfires during D-Day – the liberation of France, to flying the extremely fearful all rocket firing fire breathing Typhoon – in his quest to liberate Belgium and Holland as part of Operation Market Garden.

    Both the Typhoon and Operation Market Garden were BEASTS in the extreme, the Typhoon was unforgiving on pilots, its massive engine, body frame and incredible amounts of power and torque took special pilots, and the Typhoon on its own claimed some of them. But the biggest claim on Typhoon pilots was Operation Market Garden, it was one of the most bloodiest encounters of the war, the toll on Typhoon pilots was extreme. Albie would later say that the fact he did not die he put down to a basic human dichotomy experienced by all men who have seen war;

    … I survived because of sheer luck alone … with God’s grace.

    During Operation Market Garden Albie served with RAF 137 Squadron and almost always operated at low altitude (“on the deck”) mainly employed to attack targets such as armour, anti-aircraft installations, specific buildings, transports and enemy personnel. For this reason alone, flying in the Typhoon squadron was dangerous and high risk.

    Please excuse the language in the house of God, but this comes from a warrior fighting a war in the  extreme speaking to military truisms. According to Albie, flying the Typhoon at this time was regarded by Allied officers as – and I quote;

    “the most dangerous job that these buggers could ever have volunteered for”.

    The losses and dangers were extreme. To illustrate just how dangerous this was, Albie said

    “we lost a 151 pilots flying this thing (Typhoons), on Operation Market Garden alone, in just one single day we lost 21 pilots on Typhoons”.

    Combat was brutal in its simplicity, according to Albie it was as simple as;

    “That guys gotta be shot down (the enemy), not me!”

    The Typhoon missions, although very dangerous were also very formidable. Albie describes that aside from the rocket firing capability it could also deliver a wall of lead, consider his own words

    “Can you imagine yourself flying over there, in Typhoons you have two 20mm guns, each one has 4 bloody spouts .. now, the 20mm shoots 600 shots a minute, can you imagine 600, 4 of them, that’s 2400, and there’s not just that one, there’s another Typhoon behind him (the wingman), that is 4800 bullets you have coming at the enemy”

    Albie’s aircraft was hit on many occasions and he made a few crash landings with damaged aircraft. He recalled on such incident as if they were yesterday, this is a very brave account of combat flying, honest, harrowing and even a little funny (in the darkest manner of ‘military humour’).

    “I got shot one day, as a matter of fact I was watching this guy shooting at me, with a 88 mm, he shot at me and I looked and I said to myself ‘this bastard is going to kill me’ … he shot me at the back of the fuselage, but, the 88mm did not explode for some unknown reason, God must have said ‘I not gonna put this fuse on’, But it did cut my trim-wire to my rudder and all it does is that your aircraft just rolls over and you go strait in, but fortunately I was able to ‘catch it’ (arrest the aircraft roll with opposite ailerons);

    … but I could only fly at an angle a friend radioed and said ‘Albie are you in trouble?’, I said to him ‘yes’, I can’t see out, at this time as I got down into the cockpit and grabbed hold of the rudder bar in order to keep on flying, otherwise I would go down. He said “I will fly on top of you”, been down there you can’t see out of the cockpit, all I could see was up, he brought me home like that, him flying on top (as a visual marker), me underneath. When I did the crash landing, that scoop on ‘the typhoon’ is full of oil and it sparked and catches fire quickly, I was so scared, before the plane came to a stop, I was out of the cockpit and I ran so fast that the ambulance could not catch me”.

    Wow, there’s everything in that story, drama, bravery, camaraderie, action and comedy … and this was one of many many simiar stories Albie could relate, not just from WW2, but the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War and the Angolan Border War … this was a man who had truly seen life and death, he had endured some of the greatest blows in history and survived. His testimony is the testimony of true Christian soldier, one of God’s most fearsome and most benevolent of men.

    Albie was one of the last of the ‘few’ as Winston Churchill called the brave pilots who saved Britain and liberated Europe and the world of Nazi tyranny, he was also one of a small number of South Africans to take part in D-Day and he’s one of only three South Africans to receive France’s highest award – the Legion de Honour in recognition and grateful thanks from the entire country of France for the freedom they enjoy today. This was a very special man and as a Legionnaire I was extremely proud to be involved in the granting of the Legion de Honour to him.

    It is always appropriate when a pilot passes on, for a fellow pilot to recite a poem written by a Royal Air Force pilot – John Gillespie during World War 2 It’s called High Flight and he penned just before he was tragically killed in combat over France in his Spitfire … and I am honoured to read it for Albie today;

    “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth 
    of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things 
    You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung 
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, 
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung 
    My eager craft through footless halls of air….

    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

    You would have witnessed today military people saluting Albie – but what is the salute? The British style of salute – long way up and short way down with open palm has an ancient medieval root – it was used to signify to another warrior that you do not have your sword in your right hand, its empty – you honour a fellow warrior by recognising him, you mean no harm to him and you come in peace. You are a friend.

    Brigadier General Albie Gotze Legion de Honour . May you Rest In Peace, your memory will not be forgotten as long as the bond of brotherhood and friendship exists between military personnel. It is in this peace – and with this honour mind, that I as a fellow officer wish you well in your final flight to touch the face of God …. And I salute you.

    Peter Dickens

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