The Incredible Story of Uncle Bob

Nicole Van Zyl

Copyright 2015 by Nicole Van Zyl

 

Image from the dust cover of his biography "Bob Rogers - his personal story as told by Roger Williams"


      This is a biography of My late grandmothers cousin.I never met him but I remember my grandmother telling me about him.

     One story I remember my grandmother telling me was during WW2, (I don't remember which battle) he was in a plane flying and they spotted the enemy on the ground beneath them.They wanted to drop a bomb to finish them off but Bob stopped them saying "these men are exhausted and wounded.They have had enough.Let's leave them alone." With that they flew away.Every single one of Uncle Bob's medals were earned.

     For outstanding service in World War 2,in the Korean War in the 1950's and in the years that followed,he was decorated by the governments of seven countries-Britain,Poland,the USA,South Korea,Chile,Paraguay and South Africa.

     He is also remembered for the way he restored morale and brought new and effective life to a flagging South African Air force,in the 1970's-and for his constructive role in the civic,Parliamentary and environmental fields in which he engaged himself after his retirement.

     This is the most decorated South African to date. If you want to meet another South African military legend whose medals alone speak volumes - this is Lieutenant-General Robert Harry Doherty Rogers SSA SM MMM DSO DFC & bar (1921-2000). Read on for his story and his incredible rack of medals.

     He was born in Warden in the Orange Free State,South Africa , on 7 November 1921. He won his Springbok (i.e. national) colours  for shooting, and later joined the SA Air Force (SAAF), commencinghis flying training in January 1941. 

     He matriculated from Maritzburg College in 1938, upon which heenrolled as a medical student at the University of the Witwatersrand until mid-1940, before joining the South African Air Force as a volunteer for active service in World War 2, first qualifying as an air gunner. When he volunteered to train as a pilot, he went to Southern Rhodesia for training.

     “Bob Rogers” was a Chief of the South African Air Force. He joined the South African Air Force (SAAF) in1940, and served in World War II, the Korean War and the Angolan/SWA Border War.By October 1941, Rogers was assigned to 208 Squadron (RAF) in Egypt, where he flew Hurricanes and Spitfires in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria. He was shot down near Benghazi in 1942, but managed to escape capture. In August 1942, despite having a finger shot off, he fought off four Luftwaffe ME 109s.

     By December 1943, he had been promoted to lieutenant-colonel and placed in command of 225 Squadron, RAF. For his services he was awarded a DSO and DFC and Bar. Even his father, who was a captain in the army, had to salute him – much to the delight of both men.

     Towards the end of WWII, General Rogers was put in charge of his old squadron, 40 Squadron SAAF.

     After the war, Rogers accepted a permanent commission in the SAAF with the rank of captain, and served in various posts, including as a flight instructor and as Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the Governor-General of the Union. 

     Major Rogers (as he then was) served in the Korean War in 1951 and 1953 as a fighter bomber pilot, flying Mustangs and Sabres. He earned the American DFC, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Korean Chungmu Decoration.

     He went on to hold various command and staff posts,including OC of 12 Squadron SAAF and 24 Squadron SAAF, and at the end of 1974 he was appointed Acting Chief of the Air Force. He was appointed Lieutenant-General in March 1975 when he was confirmed as Chief of the Air Force, the post he held until his retirement in 1979. He settled in Knysna and in 1989 he became the Democratic Party MP for Walmer, Port Elizabeth.

His decorations and medal list:
Star of South Africa (SSA) (South Africa)
Southern Cross Medal (SM) (South Africa)
Military Merit Medal (MMM) (South Africa)
Korea Medal (South Africa)
Pro Patria Medal (South Africa)
Good Service Medal, Gold (30 Years - South Africa)
Good Service Medal, Silver (20 Years - South Africa)
Union Medal (South Africa)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (WW2)
Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar (DFC and Bar) (WW2)
1939–45 Star (WW2)
Africa Star (WW2)
Italy Star (WW2)
War Medal 1939–1945 - Mentioned in Dispatches (WW2)
Africa Service Medal (WW2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (USA)*
Air Medal Bronze with Oak Leaf Cluster (USA)*
Order of Military Merit (Korea) (Chungmu cordon) with Gold Star
United Nations Service Medal for Korea
Korean War Service Medal
Grand Star of Military Merit (Chile)
Army PUC Presidential Unit Citation (USA)*
* American awards issued to 2 SAAF Squadron members under their command in the Korean War.

     Anyone with a military background will know that this list of decorations and medals is the sign of a truly exceptional human being.

   Uncle Bob Rogers passed away at the age of 78 on 3 June 2000 after a long illness.
Reference, wikipedia, image from the dust cover of his biography "Bob Rogers - his personal story as told by Roger Williams"


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