Olaf very proudly receiving the Duncan Trophy for gunnery won by 93 Sqn the final occasion on which it was awarded - 1961.
Times Tuesday September 4, 2007
Further to your previous correspondence of August 30, Sept 1,
in 1969, one Wing Commander van den Berg told me of his experience of a friendly-fire attack in the Second World War.
In North Africa, at the time that the axis of advance was changing direction almost daily, he was returning from an uneventful dawn patrol when he spotted what he believed to be a camouflaged German airfield. As they were low on fuel, he ordered the squadron to make a single bombing pass. When he later landed, he was ordered to fly back to a desert airfield to tell the commander why he had attacked a British unit and destroyed a Hawker Hurricane.
He landed and was guided under the cam nets by a sergeant who, giving no indication of knowing the reason for his visit, pointed the way to the HQ. A wing commander then harangued him for what seemed an excessive length of time. Eventually, he was dismissed and returned to his plane to find out why his interview had lasted so long. A RAF roundel had been painted next to his proud row of swastikas.
Incidently, van den Berg later joined the Commonwealth Squadron, which fought in Korean War, becoming the only RAF pilot to be captured in that campaign.
BRIGADIER BILL BEWLEY
Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway
Web Master Mick Ryan comments as follows:
"I had the honour to serve under Olaf when he took command of 93 Sqn on 22Mar60. This story is typical of the tale he would tell against himself. He was an enormous "Yarpi" - excellent rugby player, all-round sportsman and one not to be taken on lightly at a drinking contest.
Olaf had been a Flight Commander on No 2 Squadron flying Swifts in the Fighter Reconnaissance role when he arrived with 2 Sqn on their move to Jever. He was notorious for giving us Hunter Jocks a hard time in the bar and on the sports field. He was very uncomplimentary in his clipped South African accent. We lost our CO on 93 Sqn when he ran out of fuel during a formation practice. Chris Stone, A Flight Commander and ex-DFCS founding staff member, therefore led us up to Sylt for the annual gunnery camp in February 1960. When we returned from Sylt and walked up to the 93 Squadron hangar, much to our surprise, there was Olaf waiting in the entrance to the Squadron. "Oh Dear!" we thought, "He's come to give us a hard time again!" As I got close I realised that he had an extra strip on his shoulder making him a Squadron Leader. When challenged about why he had come to harass us he announced "I'm your new Boss!"
So began a wonderful last 9 months before the Squadron was disbanded on 31Dec60. We also had two excellent Flight Commanders - Chris Stone who had come to us from the staff of the Day Fighter Combat School which he had helped to found. The other was Paddy Hine, fresh from 111 Sqn, and later to become an Air Chief Marshal. Olaf had been on 93 Sqn before during 1952, so it was rather appropriate.
Olaf was a giant of a man, and I, being the smallest pilot on the squadron, was promptly appointed as Olaf's Jockey for Dining In Night jousting. This involved two big men with the lightest officers on their shoulders as "jockeys", charging across the ante-room in opposite directions trying to pull the other jockey off the shoulders. Usually the other "Big Man" was "Black" Smith, the Station Commander, an equally big New Zealander. Unfortunately he usually chose my future Father-in-law to be his jockey as Karl Watson, BFES Primary school headmaster and a spirited Yorkshireman, was even smaller than me. On one occasion I grabbed Karl's braces as he passed and they stretched the whole length of the ante-room before snapping. I had to escort Karl home that night and explain to his wife Gladys, my future Mother-in-law, how poor Karl had just been minding his own business in the corner when some drunks fell upon him and broke his braces.
Stories of Olaf are legion. He was one of the few RAF pilots who was chosen to fly in the Commonwealth Squadron in Korea. The above letter is quite accurate as Olaf spent 18 months in the hands of the North Koreans who tried to break him. He spent most of his time up to his neck in freezing water in a pit. Olaf would always make light of this, although I believe he never fully recovered from the experience. He said that the North Koreans unusually sent him back before the end of the war as they couldn't put up with the hard time he was giving them! Typical Olaf and we could easily believe him - it was much better having him on our side as CO than as an opponent on 2 Sqn."
Sadly I thought his wife Iris, who threw so many parties for us and made us feel so welcome, died in my own home town, Sevenoaks, as recently as Feb 2008 and I did not know she was here. I believed that she had died some years ago. Graham Ferguson, Olaf's nephew wrote to me on 24Mar08: "My aunt Iris Bergh, who was the widow of Oelof,(Olaf was the way most people spelt his name), died on the 25th February this year not far from you in Sevenoaks. I have had, along with my sister and mother, the very sad job of sorting her possessions and have found Oelofs medals including the AFC and the Martin Baker club tie and gold caterpillar. This prompted me to do a Google search with his name and found your site which perhaps you would be kind enough to update with the date of his death which was the 15th May 1983, aged just 58. We were all very proud of Oelof for his achievements and his all round sporting abilities. My aunt would forever lecture me about driving too fast and then in the next breath she would tell me how Oelof and fellow airmen would get into their cars following a night in the mess and race whilst blindfolded and getting directions from other passengers by morse code... I wish you well with your site, it's an interesting read. Should you require any more information about Oelof, please don't hesitate to contact me at the above email address or my mother, Audrey Ferguson on 01689 854031."