Brief History

On 10 February 1967, after nearly two years of negotiation, an order was placed with the French Government to provide three Daphne class submarines plus training and infrastructure to run and maintain them.

The first of these submarines, SAS Maria van Riebeeck S97 was launched on 18 March 1969 - the date accepted as the birth of the SAN Submarine Service. The second boat was SAS Emily Hobhouse S98 and the last of the class was SAS Johanna van der Merwe.

In 1999 the three boats were renamed Spear, Umkhonto and Assegaai respectively. In 2003 SAS Spear was cut up and scrapped, followed by SAS Umkhonto in 2008. On decommissioning in 2003, SAS Assegaai was retained by the Navy for preservation as a museum boat and technology exhibit.

Sound Clip

Listen to the SA Navy band perform "Duikbote van ons Vloot" -Afrikaans for: "Submarines of our Navy".

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SAS Johanna van der Merwe / Assegaai

Laid down at Dubigeon-Normandy shipyard in Nanteson 24 April 1969, she was launched on 21 July 1970. Commissioned under command of Lt Cdr Theo Honiball on 21 August 1971, she completed her workup training in the Mediterranean, operating out of Toulon, before sailing for home on 4 May 1972. During the long passage she was escorted by the frigate SAS President Steyn and called at Cadiz (Spain), Sao Vicente (Cape Verde Island), Luanda (Angola) and Walvis Bay in then South West Africa (now Namibia) before arriving in Simon's Town on 19 June 1972.

Arrival of the SAS Johanna van der Merwe

Her arrival home marked the successful culmination of five years of construction, trails and training to establish a submarine capability- a remarkable achievement. It was not long before the boats were involved in operations and in 1975, just preceding operation SAVANNAH, SAS Johanna van der Merwe was deployed into Angolan waters under Operation YSKAS to prepare for evacuation of personnel. During the so-called Border War, she took part in some ten clandestine special operations.

During her career, she underwent four refits, which included additional fuel tanks and the fitting of a locally developed based RAKA combat suite in the 80s, which replaced the cumbersome plotting table. In the late 90s she received the South African developed NICKLES fully integrated software based combat suite and two state of the art rebuilt periscopes.

With the acquisition of the new Type 209 submarines for the SA Navy, SAS Assegaai  was finally paid off on 23 November 2003.

Media Release


SAS Assegaai Patrol Patches




Officers Commanding 1971 - 2003

  1. Lt Cdr T.J. Honiball - Aug 1971 to Dec 1973

  2. Cdr P. Fougstedt - Dec 1973 to Apr 1976

  3. Cdr A. Dommisse - Oct 1977 to Mar 1978

  4. Cdr E.P. Groenewald - Mar 1978 to Feb 1979

  5. Cdr R. Auer - Feb 1979 to Aug 1979

  6. Cdr E.P. Groenewald - Aug 1979 to Mar 1980

  7. Cdr A.F. Steyn - Mar 1980 to April 1981

  8. Cdr S.K. Stead - June 1983 to Nov 1985

  9. Cdr J.B. Rabe - Nov 1985 to Aug 1987

  10. Cdr D.B. van Rensberg -

  11. Cdr R.W. Higgs - Dec 1990 to Nov 1992

  12. Cdr C.A. Knott - Nov 1992 to Dec 1993

  13. Cdr D.T.S Thomson - May 1999 to Oct 2001

  14. Cdr M.J. Farre - Oct 2001 - April 2003

  15. Cdr G.B. Kretchmer - April 2003

Updated with information provided by: David R. Harrison


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