Half a Century in Uniform~ a Book Review
The Life Story of Group Captain O. D Ossie) Penton OLM AFC Rhodesian AIr Force Volunteer Reserve - Retired. Ossie Penton spent more than 50 years in uniform of one kind or another.
Ossie's life story in a nutshell.
In 1890 the British South Africa Company entered Matabeleland to take up Concessions granted them by King Lobengula. Within ten years the area between the Zambezi River to the north and the Shashe/Limpopo River to the south became a Colony of Great Britain.
Rhodesians fought for the Empire in the First World War and served again in the second. In fact,in that latter war conscription had to be inaugurated not to gain extra personnel but to be able to put a cap on numbers of volunteers.
In South Africa in 1924 a baby was born. He was named Oswald Desmond and his father had served with the British during the Boer War and then again in 1914 to 1918.
At 7 years old young Ossie donned his first uniform - that of the Cub Scouts - the Movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell - Lord Baden-Powell - at the behest of his king.
From that moment on he wore one uniform or another for the next fifty plus years; donning the uniform of a naval cadet when war broke out; then signing up for the South African Airforce as a pilot. After the war he moved to Southern Rhodesia where he joined the Southern Rhodesian Auxiliary Air Force; joined the newly formed Southern Rhodesia Air Force; transferred to the Royal Rhodesian Air Force when it came into being at the advent of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland; stayed in the south with the Rhodesian Air Force and finally ended up with the Zimbabwe Air Force after the country was taken over by events and Rhodesia was no more.
Many Rhodesian Air Force Commanders were trained by Ossie for he was a that rare breed, a natural pilot and teacher. Always he devoted more time to flying than to administration and, at one time or another piloted all but one of the Air Forces various aircraft and headed up several squadrons as Commander.
This then is his story.
It begins in the Cape Province of South Africa, moves to the Highveld, and from there to North Africa where the squadron he was posted to formed a part of the Desert Air Force.
After flying over a hundred sorties over Italy and Albania against the Germans he retuned home to SOuth Africa when the war was over to a civilian job in Cape Town. He decided that the life was too tame and then moved to the north, to Salisbury. He left his employer and became an Air Traffic Controller. Then he got back into flying and donned the uniform of the Auxiliary Air Force.
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