7 SAI7th South African Infantry Battalion
MEMORIES OF MY SADF EXPERIENCES
By D. Kirkman, Section 1, Platoon 3, Alpha Company, 7 SAI.
Due to a question that was recently raised by a friend, I feel compelled to explain the difference between an Infantry Sharpshooter and a Sniper, so there are no misconceptions. There is no real comparison between the two. A sharpshooter was a person who attended basically what could be called a `Advanced Shooting course' not the "One Shot, One Kill' scenario portrayed in the movies and common with the worlds other armies, sneaking behind enemy lines, taking out a particular target etc. The SADF, like most professional armies, did have these types, equipped with State of the Art Rifles and accessories. (I would really have enjoyed that), this was the responsibility of the Special Forces, not the Army. A Sharpshooter's job was basically the same as every other member of his section/platoon. The prerequisite was that one could using his Standard issue R4, shoot a group under a inch using 5 rounds, at 100m and put 4 of 5 rounds into the head of his target at 500m. From there he was issued a R1, both with and if the situation demanded it a 4 x scope, the same criterion applied except at 800 m. After 7 months of Bush Training we did not need to learn how to make use of available cover or leopard crawl to a suitable position. It was only on certain assignments that we were employed in the conventional `Sniper Role' and our limitations were quite strict, far more so than the MAGGER's or other Special Weapons Gunners. We were either under direct control of our Platoon CO, or were only to shoot should weapons or a reasonable threat present itself. We used standard issue equipment, R1's or our R4's. Our job was simple, to accurately take out any immediate threat, posed to our vehicles or personnel i.e. LMG groups, RPG gunners etc. Secondly, to try to take out any or all Rank of the enemy, thereby depriving them of their leadership, while the rest of the section etc, shot every bush, tree, rock or any possible place that might conceal an enemy. We did both that while trying to identify the main threats to ourselves and neutralize them with accurate fire. During vehicle attacks, our job was similar; take out immediate threats, then Tank Commanders, Rank etc. There was nothing glamorous about it. It was just a normal job, as everybody in the section had theirs, as you will see in the photo's most of the R1's used did not have scopes, because they would get knocked around while Bundu bashing. The R1 was mostly used only because it had a more powerful bullet and longer range, which was why I was so keen to get a Dragunov SVD. The only sniping we did was done by ourselves, was during lulls in the war situation, and from a long range (They had Heavy machine Guns and Mortars) so it was a matter of finding a target anything from a Helmet, Keppie or a hole used for observation and taking a couple of shots at it and then buggering off before you got blasted and to be truthful, due to the large bunkers etc, it was probably more of an annoyance than anything else, unless someone was stupid enough to show themselves, we could not even be sure of a hit or not.
When I went to Sturrock Park to "Klaar in" on July 6 1987, my mother, brother and sister came with. Before we even got there, I was tense and nervous, so not much was said, all good-bye's were rather formal and stiff. It was not so much that I did not agree to conscription or doing my duty to my country, it was more apprehension that I was not ready for this myself but now I had run out of options. I could have studied more even though I had been at Technical College since I was 16, and I had changed courses 4 times already. There was also tension between myself and my father that was growing worse.
My family has quite a long history of warfare, my mother's father was a Major in the Springbok's during WW2. He was an Engineer. My other Grandfather and his before him were in the Royal Highlanders. My father fought in Kenya and again in Rhodesia. He never spoke about it so I have no idea which units etc. I was 19 when I went. I will never forget the feeling of loneliness and abandonment I felt that day. The time had come even though I knew it, I still was not very happy to be leaving my comfy Zone. While we were waiting on the grass, at least 3 Police vans arrived, dropping off some of my soon to be comrades in arms, one of them Desmond or "Irishman" as he became known, was dropped off at the police station by some of his buddies after a going away celebration, he could not even remember his name. I don't know what the others did, but judging from later actions, it could have been anything. After that our kit was searched for drugs, weapons (not very well I might add ) etc. and we got aboard the trains. We spent most of the +- 12 hrs on the trains, trying to make friends, etc. My hair was very long at that time 43 cm to be exact, despite warnings, I did not cut it before I went. One of the guy's, Dick, from Natal, had longer hair than myself, but cut it on the train up, leaving me with the longest hair there.
When we arrived at Phalaborwa, the shouting started, whistles blowing, we were ordered into waiting Samil 50's, Sardine Deluxe style, everything seemed kind of spacy, as if in a dream. This I believe is normally known as `The Roofie Ride', very uncomfortable to say the least. When we arrived at 7 SAI, we unloaded onto the parade ground, where the RSM and the Colonel Swanepoel, OC of 7 SAI welcomed us, if you could call it that. During his speech he asked a bloody stupid question "Is there anybody here, that thinks they shouldn't be?". I was sitting toward the middle of the Parade Ground, when a woman's voice, shrieked from the back, "Colonel, Colonel, Ek hoort nie hier te wees nie" (Colonel, I shouldn't be here), and this guy/Girl with long curly locks of hair, make-up and nails even the Sandton Koegels would have died for, came prancing/mincing through the ranks of seated guy's. His/her name was Frazer, queer as could be, yet quite a character, the Col. turned a bright Red, and told him to sit down, this I believe was not normal Army policy, as Homo's were generally discharged, yet we had a fair number of open Homo's, they were all G3K3, and delegated to Platoon 4. These Homo's later became `The Girls' in the Medic Ward, while as typical in any Army worldwide, the gay's were regularly attacked, Frazer wasn't for some odd reason, even the worst homophobes let him be, maybe because of his slim build and delicate features, they realized that he should/was a girl, at least in mind and attitude. Even the Rank let him be, but the others were fair game. We were then roughly divided up in platoons and marched off to our bungalows. All in all there were about 3000 recruits, 1 Motarist Company, 4 Fighting Companies and a HQ company.
And so began our new life, the fighting companies were Alpha, Bravo (Mine), Echo and Fox-Trot. Echo and Fox-Trot were the Jails boytjies, (JL's = junior leadership, would-be officers & NCO's) Our JL's were definitely wanna-be's, and even though the Section Leaders got their two stripes, it was only later, about 3 months before Uit-Klaar. Oscar Company were the Mortarists, Charlie Company were our "Ou Manne" currently in Sector 10, Oshakati. I had always regarded myself as been just normal, not gifted or clever. One of my first revelations was that in fact I had been protected most of my life. It was said that once you deferred your service more than 4 times you were sent to 7 SAI as punishment, (It might not be a fact, but it certainly was with us that deferred, My first 3 were to Kimberly, 1SSB and somewhere else, after that 7 SAI, 7 SAI, 7 SAI.) or if you were unlucky enough to have been born somewhere where lack of education was the norm, I think only 3-5% of the entire intake had a matric, most had a Standard 8, with a fair number below that, two notable's spring to mind, one our later Section 1st in Command (1 IB) Cpl. Rosseau and his cousin Cpl Lombard,"Roomys" (ice cream) (This was derived from a joke, indicating his `enormous' mental ability), our 2 IB, the Section leader had a Standard 6, his cousin a Standard 5. All Section Rank were supposed to have at least a Standard 8. Our first Lt. was Lt. Opperman and Platoon SGT, CPL Roos.
The Camp itself was actually rather nice with a duck pond, RSM's fruit orchard, nice barracks, all in neat rows, the Kruger Park on one side, bush on the other. It was only in a day or two that I discovered why it was so pleasant to look at. I shall never forget the faces of those who had arrived before us, as we marched off in our civvies, to our Barracks, we passed a group of Roofies in Brown overalls sweeping the paths, doing the gardens etc. What got to others and myself was the totally blank, almost brain-dead look they had on their faces. They had been doing onderhoud for about a week. That, more than anything, made me want to run away. We were the reason that the bloody Camp looked so good. We had to keep it that way; "Onderhoud" Base Maintenance, it became our nightmare. Every morning after the morning "OpFok", it was onderhoud, clean the reeds out of the fucking duck pond, clean out the Rooikats cages, it was something that never went away, even during operational duties in SA & SWA, we would have to do base maintenance. During our off periods, as one prick of a PF Lieutenant said, "You are paid ( R5-19 / day) to work from 5am - 8pm, so even if I have to make up work, you will work!"
We were run down to collect our kit and Rifles (R4's), Kit consisted of Balsac, 2 x overalls, 2 x Nutria uniforms (Browns), 4 pairs socks and underpants, 2 x Boots, Tracksuit and Takkies (sneakers), black shorts and brown T-shirts, Canvass Webbing and Steel Helmet (Old Gear), we were issued with the new Nylon Webbing, Battle Jackets, chest webbing, Grootsak (A Frame) and Nylon/Kevlar Helmet and cover after basics only, 1 x cleaning kit (incomplete), 5 x 35 round Magazines, 1 x 50 round, (This was later changed). We were initially issued with the older steel mags, later we got more and of the new Nylon type, 2x blankets, 1 x sleeping bag + inner and the inevitable trommel. Loaded up we then had to run back to the barracks, about 1,5 km along the road, I must add in here, that this was a standard SADF action called "Hurry up and wait", it was also an early preview of what was to become the norm. We ran everywhere, unless drilling, even though during most drilling we ended up running around any suitable object, for each mistake or for bad timing etc.
The following day, we were roused at 5 a.m., to whistles being blown, shouting and beds with slow wakers being over turned, we had had to pack all Civvie clothes, Bags etc. away the night before in the storage locker, and into our overalls with webbelts and boots, we went, our standard clothing for the next 8 months, ugly as hell, but extremely practical, buttons instead of zips, made it easy to take a piss in but a bummer to take a shit. It saved our browns from the rigors of training and made us feel what we were, cheep Government labour. We were then sent off to get our hair cut, army style No 2, our Cpl. Roos, took enormous pleasure in cutting a piece of my hair off (the longest piece he could find). If you ever get a chance to visit 7 SAI's barber shop, there is a board on the wall with the five longest pieces of hair for that year, a tradition. You will find my good Scottish locks, hanging 3 from the end under 1987 intake, it is the longest piece there. Hair became a major symbol to us of Unity, in the Company, we risked major shite during 2nd phase, by all shaving our heads. I have to admit that it made us look quite mean, in comparison to the others. It was against Army rules, we new that, but maybe as a show of rebellious Unity, we all did it, before the RSM or others could say anything about it during a Parade, we were joined by our Staff B, complete with shaven head. That silenced all uit-kak. We still had to iron our browns for each inspection (supposed to), as with all other kit, we just tended to leave them hanging there, and only used one of each item, saving us from having to redo our inspections every night, not that it mattered much, it was always wrong. And Opfok was the punishment, so to be honest out of all the Camp's in SA, we probably had the worst inspections (By that I mean worst, not hardest), not once did we shave our beds or use shaving cream to get perfect corners, nor did we bother to remove the hollow in the middle of the beds, many a time we had to get into our "boats" and row. It was not rebellion or lack of discipline, It was more that we realized very early on, that no much how hard you worked on a inspection, or how polished the floor was, we would still get a Opfok, so why in all honesty should we bother, as long as we were clean, as with the toilets, the Opfoks were just the usual, every day, run, run, leopard crawl, star-jumps, push-up etc. We basically learned in a month what it took normal camp's troops up to 6 months. In the beginning we used to push ourselves, instead of acting as a team, this just lead to puking, and more Opfok, we then learned to act as a team, running slowly, doing the Oppie, to conserve us much energy as possible.
We only had to do push-ups and stuff for our post once or twice, unlike some other Camps, the Corporals started doing this to us in the beginning, until our S/M caught them at it, to him this was totally unacceptable, Run Rank Run, Loots (Lieutenants) and all, he did it constantly and nobody complained that they theoretically outranked him, the Rank structure seemed to work like this NSM Rank, just above troops, Senior Rank PF, Kings, Princes etc, Kak-huis offisiere (Training offices, literally translated, `shit house officers') were below troops, even to the extent that we were allowed to tell them off, about their drill etc. To this day I wonder what made S/M Pretorius, a Soldier of his skill and caliber want to train a bunch of rebellious morons like us. The many times daily Opfoks (Impromptu PT sessions, given at the whim of the nearest Rank), differed in context from fetching leaves (always the wrong bloody leaf), at the gallop, to Trommel PT, which meant one of two things, either push-ups with your feet on the Trommel or carrying your trommel, again at the gallop, round and round the bungalow.
This may seem like fun to those who haven't tried it, but considering it was a large steel box filled with most of your Kit, it wasn't fun at all, however I'm sure we looked funny. The other favorite was holding your rifle (4,3 kg) by the barrel of one hand at shoulder height until that shoulder fell off, then you would change hands or if we were lucky, we got to use two hands, one on the butt other the barrel, shoulder height until both shoulders fell off simultaneously, this was called rifle PT, and if they had added steroids to our diet, Arnie wouldn't have stood a chance. A common chant will running around the barracks with our rifles was "This is our rifle, this is our gun (grab groin), this is for shooting and this is for fun." I believe this is used in most Armies around the World, to explain to Troops what a rifle is, Integrated Armies must have a problem with this, I think. Later on I make a dedication to Staff Eugene Badenhorst, who became of acting S/M for most of our operational and training experience. I must also make one to Sergeant Major Pretorius, not just for sharing with us his vast and incredible knowledge of warfare especially identification of enemy Vehicles, Tanks and ways to take them out, but also because he was the most human S/M a bunch of roof's could have. When we used to tree ann in the morning for breakfast, still in the dark, feeling very sorry for ourselves, we would hear his voice from behind us "More Manne" (Good morning Men), and our spirits would lift. He had the uncanny ability to cheer you up, and whether it was true or not, he was our rock, when we most needed one, to be genuinely concerned about a bunch of miscreants is not a easy task, yet without being soft. (That he certainly wasn't.) He was a genuine Human being and I mean that as a compliment to a great man. So great was his charisma and knowledge, that we were in awe of him or where at the same time really scared of (pissing Him off) as someone else said about another great man, he did not need his rank or reputation to lead or make him stand out from the others like a Beacon.
We had to carry our rifles everywhere except mess and church, when we were allowed to lock them up in our lockers. In the beginning it seemed rather stupid, but later it dawned that it was to accustom us to the weight, after a while you didn't notice it at all, it became a part of you, thus no doubt increasing our handling skills with our weapons. As mentioned in other accounts of 7 SAI training, the Run, Fall and Crawl, tactic was also very common while do lectures in the Bush outside Camp, the problem was, every thing was thorny, stony and hard, the bloody elbows, knees and faces were not the bad part, it was the little fine bristle thorns that really bugged, as they made you itch like hell, often it looked like we all had crabs or some other VD, with all the scratching going on, and this Ladies and Gents was considered fun, at least by those who dished the punishment out. The average age was about 18, so we did not really have a problem, with 18 year old Lt.'s and Cpl.'s bossing us around, the main problem was the type of person who was called up to 7 SAI, most could be classed as "Poor White Trash", many with very difficult home lives, and the resentment I think stemmed from the age old "Haves and Have nots", It was difficult to listen to someone, who you knew you could beat the shit out of, their only protection being a little piece of marked cloth, be they pips or stripes. Also mentioned in a 7 SAI Op's Medic account, was a certain Neanderthal person, we had a similar person, quite surprisingly named `CaveMan', even though he was extremely strong, he was not at all aggressive, he used to walk bent slightly forward, had long arms which he could not seem to straighten with palms facing backwards and a sloping forehead, it was common to joke that his knuckles used to scrape the ground, even though this was not true, it was almost, he would drive our Drill Instructor mad, due to his inability to straighten his arms or point his thumb forward, lying on top as normal, needless to say both Caveman and Whirt (who had a hunchback), among others were both G1K1, which tells you a lot about the so called medical exam we had when we klaared in. Finally old Caveman was given a G5K5, near the end of Basics, not for health reasons or that he was obviously not all together there, but because during our Col.'s Inspection (First and Last), the Col. found several empty polish tins under his bed, he was collecting them, the Col. flipped his lid, Caveman was Klaared-out and our Platoon had to go ahead to unload ammo at the range and get the obligatory `Bosbaraad' (Big Opfok), then set up the tents for the rest of the Company. I was light-Duty for a week, due to shin-splints (hair-line cracks that develop along your shins), and had two day's left, I still had the Opfok, as aside from our new Lt Volshenk, who had a extreme dislike for "Rooi-Nekke"(English speakers), especially Redpath (who he called "Englesman" (Englishman), who did point out that he was in fact Scottish, not English, which entitled him to even worse treatment, as for this Lt. all I can say about him is in Staff B's words is "AAARSEHOOOLE" (arsehole, spread out for about 5 secs, with a slight Afrikaans Tint to it) or the equally common "kont" (Cunt), but without Staff's little smile, but as mentioned later the Lt. was a huge `one' at that, and for 2 days we were his and his alone, no other Rank or Medics, to curtail him, as the range is well detailed in another's account. All I shall say is it was about 1.5km long, last shooting point at 1000m, where the tents were assembled and about 250-300m wide, a very long way to run circuits with ammo cases.
7SAI had two Lynx's that used to go on Parade with us every time we flew the "Colours. We (our Company) won two `Battle Honours' for 7 SAI during our Op.'s Duties, making 5 in total, once just before a pass, we had to do a Parade through Palabowa, as well as a funeral March for 3 Guy's who made it not. The Rooikat was 7 SAI's Emblem, a Silver Lynx Head, mounted on a gold Burgers Cross. There was a lot of history behind the Burgers Cross and the Lynx's, and the Senior Rank was extremely proud of this. We were not allowed to wear the Colours, Belt Buckle or Balkie until we had graduated to `troops', not just `Roofies'. I later went out with the daughter of one of President Burger's descendants, who also happened to be the Jeweler who made the 30 Originals, out of 9ct Gold (Part of the original Nugget found by President Burger, at Pilgrims Rest) and Stirling Silver. I thought that we were the only SAI camp to have our own "Balkie" instead of the standard Bokkop of the other Units, though I have been informed that 2 others had different variations of the Bokkop and perhaps others. This did make us look at ourselves as something different, better. That, and the fact 7 SAI was both reputed to be (and in my opinion), the toughest SAI camp in the RSA. At the time though we did not really realise how the camp came by its reputation. It was only after Basics that we understood why. If during this text I tend to gloss over the so called "Hardships of Basics", it is not to say that they were easy, but if we had known what was coming after, I would have done anything in my limited power, including shooting myself in the foot etc, not to have found out. Later on I mention the one suicide during basics and the few bad attempts and how we were successfully put off, but I did not mention that it was a common thought during Bush Phase and often was the time when you would find someone (sometimes yourself), with your R4 in your mouth, contemplating; "Was it worth it?" Fortunately none did, as somehow our Rank allowed us to focus those aggressive/beyond caring tendencies on others or ourselves, this Semi-Cartblance I think played an important role that defined our later operational actions. It is a normal human action that when one is hurting, one tends to make others hurt in order to make oneself feel better. There were a few definite No No's, like Rape, that I've heard of cases in other units, our training and brainwashing (which happened a lot), made this possibly the worst crime that anybody could commit and if anybody had tried, I believe that their Section would have killed them, perhaps even with the tacit approval of our Rank. Our Dress uniforms were just Browns (Nutria), with the Black, yellow, green Colours of Belt and Balkie, Boots with white Putties, green Beret's of Infantry with the 7SAI badge on both Beret and Silver belt buckle, with a 7 SAI flash on the right arm, and Company flash on the Left arm. It did look smart when we did a Parade, even though at that time we drilled by the book. This was rather stiff and the count was quite quick. Later at Rundu, we practiced drilling with 901 Bushman Bn, whose count is much slower and very precise. It was done by our choice, our Rank at the time asked us if we would like to learn to drill like that, we agreed, it was fun, and afterwards we were pretty good, the movements more natural and those boots made a very impressive, single thump.See picture on page at `Table of Contents' of Derek's photo pages.
Life In Camp.
Life in camp during basics was OK, it was far easier than I expected but then I had been doing various Martial Arts since I was seven and for the last five years I had doing Kung-Fu, with a very hard physical training routine. During our first fitness Test I did 248 push-ups in the allotted time, the only thing I battled with was the 2,4's. I was used to running shorter distances at a faster speed without any kit, but by the end of basics our entire Company had to do the 2,4km with the old canvass webbing and R4's, in under 8 minutes, or we had to do it again. We all made it, luckily! Our Section MAGGER 1, Andrew Dunn, during the try-out for Parabats, ran it in 5.54 min., not bad for a guy who had never trained in his life. The `Bats' accepted him but he changed his mind and said he wanted to stay. He kind of liked it where he was, he had made some buddies and in all honesty he just did the test for fun. During basics we thought that this Army stuff wasn't so bad, nobody really bothered with inspections, as we always got an "opfok" anyway. The food was good, especially considering what I had heard about other camps. We were allowed to wear our bushhats, instead of our steel helmets and dollies after one guy got Meningitis, and it was very hot in Phalabowa. Basically our day consisted of wake up at 5am (Our Sgt. M, told us if he caught us up earlier, he would kill us), Sgt. Major Pretorius, was a really cool dude, in comparison with some of the others. I believe he was one of the founding members of 32Bn.We especially enjoyed S/M's Hour every Wednesday, we would bitch about our Platoon Sergeants, and then they would be the ones with the poles, running to the fence and back, of course we would then do it straight afterward.
After wake up call we assembled with our Dixie's and pikstels, and were run to the Mess. After eating and washing up, we had 30 min. We were back in the Barracks waiting for inspection, +- 10 min worth then outside for 30 min. "OpFok". Our Corporal was a guy called Roos often mistaken for Doos, he used the standard inspection tricks, running a finger behind a kas, trommel etc, and finding dust, sometimes imaginary but more often than not real, occasionally we would provide him with a real reason, apples in boots, dirty rifles, "Jy het 'n Samil hier binne" (You've got a Samil Truck in here), I once, only once, asked who dared park a 10 ton truck in my barrel, this was neither a wise nor considered course of action, I got `special treatment' that day, lucky me. After our oppie we had 30 min onderhoud around the Barracks, spitting edges of gardens, Chicken Parade, etc. Then "tree-aan" for drill, with the usual run to the fence, tree, other object, whichever was further, then drill, ad-nauseum. After that run off to the bush, carrying rifles, blackboards, benches, etc for lectures. Funny how most of our lectures were the practical application of leopard crawl, over all the thorn bushes and every bush, tree, blade of grass had thorns on them. One moment I'll always remember, we had been sent around and around this little Hak-en-Steek tree to fetch a leaf each time (to wake us up), after about the 15th or so round ("Jy maak it nie, roof. Nie die blaar nie, die ander een," etc.), Dunn and Redpath came back with the whole tree. That ended the opfok, at least the Capt. had a sense of humor!
Most of our lectures were done by senior Rank, even Platoon weapons, whoever had the most experience in that field did the lecture, considering that we tended to be far better at the weapons than our platoon Rank, it's probably why, I'm sure they did the conventional drills, but we did both, so their experience was a bit limited, they also had to attend and take notes.
After morning lectures we would run back to camp, benches , et al, have lunch and run back for more lectures, mostly on Infantry Support Weapons (RPG-7's, 60mm Mortars, 40mm Grenade Launchers, LMG's, R4's, rifle grenades, AP-65's and RG-791's and conventional grenades, M-26, Stun with fragmentation sheath, two-star instant light etc), COIN, conventional and semi-conventional warfare, Enemy weapons, Tanks, Patrols, Vehicle and foot, ambushes etc. Occasionally we would do things like .30 (7.62mm) or .50 (12.7mm) Cal Brownings, 106mm recoilless Rifles, 81 & 120mm Mortars, learn the drills etc, first aid, stripping and cleaning of the weapons we used and then the inevitable tests. All in all basics was what they said it would be, orientation phase not much else, even though at the time we felt great when we had finished Basics. We were under the impression that the worst was over and that now we were "soldiers." Ha ha.
There was Platoon 4 Bravo Company, "The Moffie (Queer) Platoon" it consisted of all the G3's that weren't transferred out, we were basically given leave to beat up on these people. All of them joined HQ Company after Basic's as Storemen, Bn Drivers, tiffies, Bn cooks or Bn Medics who `insisted' on being called the `girls'. If you landed up in the Hospital, and I think most of us did a stint at the Medic's Parlour, for one injury or another, if you did not greet them in the Morning as `Hi Girls', they refused to feed you, or let you watch TV. One quite funny event happened while is was there; The 2 IB of 7 SAI came in for something, and `one of girls' pinched his arse on the way past. He didn't say a thing, but his face turned a really ugly shade of purple. 7 SAI was basically, a Christian, Aryan, Battalion. There were no Jewish people, Vegetarian's, Pacifists etc. Even though we did not realise it, it was designed that way, the indoctrination in retrospect was hate filled, we were taught to Hate all those that were not the same as us. It was very well done, video's showing various atrocities committed by the "Commies" and their comrades, Russia's great plan to take over SA, using the various Terror Groups, the need for us to destroy this plan, thus explaining the intervention into Angola and holding SWA as a buffer zone, even though I was reasonably well read, this combined with the physical and mental abuse during training had an enormous effect on ones psychological perspective. To put it more simply; if they just behaved themselves we would not be there, going through this shit. I must congratulate them on their methods, I suppose a couple of copies of `Mein Kampf' were used as preparation for this type of training.
We had had only one suicide, shot himself through the bottom of his jaw in the toilet after getting CB drill for going AWOL because of a Dear John Letter. (CB drill at 7 SAI was a bit different than the usual 120 paces a minute, the RSM used to chase the `Red Doilies' in his van around HIS parade ground.) When I say his it was, during a drilling session just before Basics Parade he chased the Col off the parade ground for interferring, and the Col left with out a word, when the shooting suicide blew a hole the size of my fist in the back of his head, we had to carry him out to the ambulance (He was still twitching both body and eyes), while the Rank stood there laughing, asking who was next? We also had to clean the toilet. I could not believe the amount of blood that there was, literally 2-3 cm deep, which kind of put us off the thought for then. Two guys "tried" to cut their wrists, but as they did it wrong, we thought they just wanted sick leave, but they didn't get it.One a guy called Willmot (Who was not much liked) was made to clean up his blood, before the medics were allowed to treat him, he was also given a lot of advice to exactly how to cut properly.
Inter-Bungalow fights were officially out but privately encouraged, until someone put his iron in his pillow case and dented another guy's head. After that it wasn't allowed at all, at least not officially. We were never punished for fighting, just before one pass in 2nd phase, we had iron our browns and were cleaning up, when one of my section Paul Ghoulson and myself, over a rather trivial matter (Who's Pikstel was whose), landed up in a brawl due to the tension that had been created my the Rank, threats about canceling pass etc, during the line up to check our appearance, our Lt. looked at Ghoulsons face, which was rather bruised, and had an Army Boot heal mark alongside the side of his head, (I had a fair amount of chance to practice using my Kung-Fu training on fellow members) our Lt. asked what had happened, when I explained, all he said was "Good kick." This kind of attitude encouraged us to use force to sort out problems when tensions got a little high.
We then got a 7 Day Pass, after our Parade, to which all our folks were invited. I never thought I would be so happy to see Joburg again. (I was blamed by Rfn. P. Ghoulson, as being the reason that he never got laid during that pass, which we all thought was rather funny.)
TRAINING SECOND PHASE
We returned from our Pass, GV's all of us, we knew that now we would begin learning our job's for the rest of our time in the Army. It could not be that difficult could it? After all we had all passed Basic's, the hard part, hadn't we? Little did we know, Basic's was only to adjust us to Army Life and discipline and teach us the Basic's of soldiery, nothing more. The "Holiday" had just ended. We were all assigned new Rank, all from Infantry School with a chip on their shoulders that resembled Mount Fuji. We found out later that they had had one of the toughest courses ever recorded and quite naturally they wanted to pass this vengeance on. Throughout my Army stint, they were the biggest Bastards I ever came across and to this day I swear that if I see any of them, with 2 exceptions, I will shoot them on sight, the exceptions are our Lieutenant and Corporal, reasons being, I doubt that my 9mm and 16 rounds will even slightly wound our ex-Luit, and our Corporal, while a bastard, was a decent one, fair and even handed, we could respect that. The Luit's name was Lt. Volkshenk and I believe that he is currently working in Potch. As for our Corporal, his name escapes me for now, but he was missing 2 fingers on his left hand. Our Lieutenant often used to take off his Rank and invite us to have it out with him, while tempting at some stages, we were not stupid enough to think that just his removing of his pip would vindicate us and besides, he was an enormous bugger. (During riots we caught a group of 5 `school kids' youngest was 19, oldest 28, who had raped a 12 year old black girl. We kind of lost it a bit, and rifle butts were used during the interrogation, our Lt. then arrived, on being up-dated, he slapped the ring-leader on the side of his head, this 28 year old `School boy' did an almost complete 360 degree somersault, we could not really do anything else as it was regarded as Police Business, we did however transport them to the Gazankulu Police station, while we stood on their heads, needless to say in the matter with our Lt.) Prudence prevailed, though I will say that the offer was not made when we had Live Rounds, they (The Senior Rank/Planners) were wise to give us new Rank for all our op.'s. Anger control was not one of our strong points.
Our wonderful, colourful, funny S/M Pretorius left us and "OH MY GOD", we got Staff Badenhorst, his career as I know it was first a Mech Trooper with 4 SAI, then a Recce Tracker, who's entire Section got ambushed, Mortars, the works, despite suffering Phosphorus burns to his face, neck, back and damage to his eyes (He always wore Dark Glasses afterwards) and being the only surviving member, he still managed to get back to the Cutline at SWA/Angola border +- 200km. He was the only member of 7 SAI, besides our beloved S/M who had more Medals than our Colonel. Our only knowledge of him at that time was this view of a face with sunglasses coming out the window of BRAVO Companies HQ and this voice that gave us nightmares, shouting out for someone. Later we found out that he liked doing this to scare everyone in Camp, because that was how far "that voice" traveled, it kind of chilled you to the bone. His idea of waking us up was to ride his motorbike through the bungalow at 5 a.m., pulling wheelie's down the isles, shouting/screaming at the same time. Let me tell you it was the worst alarm clock in the world!
Equipped with our new "Marquis De Sade" rank we were trucked off to Gravelott, a SADF Bush Training Farm. We were deposited in the middle of the bush, told to dig trenches and make a Camp. This included putting up tents for the Rank, building them a Lapa (A Lapa is basically a stick enclosure, much like an African village stick wall, it had a entrance with the fire in the middle.), collecting firewood and making paths to the various Platoons and sections, who were in a large circle around the tents. We also had to make a parking lot for the vehicles, all paths had to be marked by stones or branches. Then came the Trucks, Kwevoels, 4 of them, loaded to the top with ammo, R4, R1, FN-MAG, 60mm Mortars, RPG-7's, 40mm, Rifle Grenades, Grenades and a few boxes and crates of 107mm rockets, 106mm recoilless rifle rounds, 1000 ft flares, etc.
Unloading worked like this; grab a box, run around the selected tree, put it down, get another and repeat until the trucks were empty, then grab a box, around the tree and stack in selected spot, which moved 3 times. During one of these unloading episodes we were battling along, Ammo cases, are really difficult to carry, due to there shape and the fact that they weigh 38kg, when we saw Redpath running along as if he did not have a care in the world, positively springing, only aftter an hour or so of this stupid exercise, did we realise why we were nearly dead and he was like a spring-chicken in a hen-house, the bugger had somehow managed to get a case of Ballistite/Blank Rounds, used for firing rifle grenades, with weighed only 7.1 kg's. So ended day one, with one funny exclusion, Grant went off on his own to get stick for the Lapa, (Basically a stick enclosure/kraal). When we heard him screaming, we ran to the sound and found a very large boy, up a thorn tree, surrounded by about 7 angry-to-be-disturbed Warthogs. It took us quite a while to stop laughing before we could help him.
During the beginning of 2nd Phase a Two pip Lt. Told us that we were part of a experimental training program, while he never went into too much detail, we used to compare notes with other Infantry Bn's, as far as we could work out, this new method of training was designed to turn us into Fighting Robots, following orders without question, responding to various situations we found ourselves in with incredible aggressiveness and violence, not to care about anything but the job at hand, if ambushed, attack as fast as possible using extremely excessive firepower to keep any heads down or off, that was a tactic that we used to great effect as most of the rather untrained enemy used to drop guns and "Pak uit hulle Takkies" (Put on their running shoes), a single section would put about 6000 rounds of ammo plus 30-40 40mm Grenades, 4 Rifle grenades and either 3-4 RPG rockets or 15-20 mortar bombs into a 100 m patch of bush in under 4 minutes. That was it, always attack, irrespective of enemy numbers, superior firepower, fast movement using all cover available, helped confuse and befuddle the enemy, causing all but the best trained enemy troops to "do the SWAPO run" which is running away firing their rifles backwards over their shoulders, then dropping them when empty. Also considering the average SWAPO Ambush was in a L-shape, LMG's across the path, AK's and RPG spread along the side.
When we attacked forward into the LMG's and corner of the L, they would also be shooting at their Buddies, never stand/lie in one place, which is where the two FN MAG's on each wing of the standard V formation came in handy, as they closed with the centre line, both would scythe down everything in their way, trees were common fatalities. The experiment was only partly successful, as most of it involved constantly repeating each type of response with an opfok following, straight after for whatever reason.
This brought about a lack of fear for punishment thus our discipline when off duty was rather bad, resulting in even more immunity to Opfoks and the like.
A couple of day's later, we realized how we had scored (got lucky), a realization that continued increasingly as time went on, with our frightful Staff, Dunn, Redpath and myself when on wood duty, we walked as far away as we could, sat down behind an anthill, lit smokes and relaxed figuring this should be good for a hour or so. About halfway through my second smoke, a shadow glided past, it was Staff B, all we heard as he glided past like a leopard, was "Ja Ouens?" (Yes, guys?) That was it! I guess we forgot he was a highly qualified Tracker, after that we realized that what he did was for our own good, the amount of times he defended us from senior rank for various wrong doings, was quite phenomenal. He also enjoyed those who didn't quite conform and toe the line, when ordered to do so. "Kak Bakers" (shit stirrers) was his name for us, particularly our section, and he took a particular liking to Dunn, Redpath, Trevor and myself, the first two because they attracted shit like fly's and because Trefor and myself could shoot better than most. One occasion when we were taking apart a RPG rocket, to see how it worked (Definitely against the rules, to play with live ammo and explosives), when who should walk past, all that was said was "Nee, julle doos'e, dis hoe" (No you cunt's, this is how) and he had it apart in a couple of seconds, even the fuse was out. I wonder what he did for fun? What we used to do for fun, bordered on both the cruel and dangerous, besides collecting the various dangerous Creepy Crawlies, spiders, scorpions, earwigs. Etc and holding fight, between them, we used to use gunpowder, ladings, and various explosives, to blow up snake and scorpion holes.
His version of discipline and punishment certainly wasn't in the rule book, it was always severe, but only when we left him with no choice, except for the punishments for severe wrongdoing, his Opfok's were a bonding thing, he would sit in a deck chair or some other comfortable perch, drinking beer, rum & coke etc, while we ran, leopard crawled past him, while he would talk to us, giving us hints on survival, ask about homelife, family, or tell us stories or jokes. He knew we were dangerous when left to ourselves so he did it to keep both us & himself occupied, even though he was our acting S/M, and we had various instructors, some of the best, I'm told. We learnt more for our Staff, than the rest put together. He went out of his way to teach us to track, the best and most effective way to use both ours and the enemies weapons. Unconventional he might have been, but we quite literally felt like his kids sometimes.
`One' of our tools were two dowel sticks (soek steek stokke), which were used to search for mines. Bloody stupid if you ask me, The Black Widow Anti - personnel mine had a four-degree tilt on it, if you jammed it with your sticks, bye, bye face and all. When a mine was spotted, they were almost always booby-trapped. It was far better to shoot the fucking thing, or even throw rocks at it until they exploded. They taught us how to defuse and lift these buggers, but we never did. 5 Recce showed us how to get rid of them from a distance, or we would just leave them for the Storm Pioneers (Field Engineers, or `Sappers') to do.
When we were doing the sharpshooters course, he came along and casually gave me a Dragunov SVD, and simply said; "Wys my." (show me.)" His way worked properly; the only one that we respected, when he said jump there was no "lack of houding" there, we jumped. He knew us better than anybody else, maybe because he tried and I think cared whatever his nonchalant attitude said to the contrary. To the rest we were shite, nothing but "Opfok Material" and I think in a way we made him proud of us too, it was him that said "You're the finest fighting company I ever seen, but you have Fokall (Fuck-all) disipline." And if we were good and if we survived we have mostly him to thank, with his odd mixture of English and Afrikaans, slang etc. When we performed well in front of others, he would smack you on your head, call you a doos or something worse, but with a little smirk that told us he was proud.
This may sound like a memorial to Staff E Badenhorst and in a way it is, he kept us alive to the best of his ability, and while the SADF had a lot of very good soldiers, of those I met, he was the best soldier I knew. He was not just Rank, having done the courses, expecting respect, he earned it with us, so I feel I must make this a Dedication & Tribute to a Soldier, who did both us and his Country proud. Like many others we did not respect rank just because of what they wore on their arms and shoulders. Everybody had to earn respect, it wasn't just given. He deserved the respect.
We learnt all the proper drills on the various Weapons, including those SA was not supposed to have (Milan A/T TOW Missile launcher). Both Staff B and S/M Pretorius were renouned for nicking stuff out of the Armory to show us, eg. 3.5 "Rocket Launcher, while we never used it, we were taught the drill and allowed to handle it, Limpet Mines, Land Mines, (Ours and theirs), F1 Grenades, pom-Z's and a variety of AK's and other assault Rifles, LMG's and HMG's. After learning the book drills, we were then shown the incorrect but most effective way of using them e.g. AP-65 Rifle Grenade should be fired using the plastic clip on sights, from one of 2 positions, kneeling, standing with rifle butt by hip, left hand inverted. We were told to throw away the sights and fire from the shoulder, with practice it was far quicker and more accurate, though it tended to leave blood blisters on the shoulder, everybody was trained on all the weapons available, the best were then chosen to carry these arms, the MAG was always fired from the hip or shoulder, only in ambushes were the MAGGER's allowed to fire lying down. Initially we used the M79A1 40mm Grenade launcher (Snotneus), later we were given the new Y2, 6 shot revolving launcher.
Our daily training schedule was as follows: Wake up at 4 a.m., camouflage ("Black is beautiful", tiger stripes, grass put in bushhat, wet, sweaty stinky overalls, web-belt, battle jacket, clean rifle, all kit in battle jacket could not make a sound when shook (that included dogtags we used the rubber bands, from the AP-65s to wrap around the tags), 4:30 a.m. inspection, still dark normally done with a torch, Opfok, because cammo, rifle not right/clean, kit makes noise or just because... 5:15 a.m. coffee and rusk, down 2L of water to prevent dehydration, 5:30 a.m. loaded on vehicle, normally Samil 50, 5:45 at one of the 7 "Baans" ranges, 6:00 a.m. re-cammoed, ready for training. Lecture till 6:30-6:45 a.m., about strategies, use of range, daily tasks etc, load magazines/weapons, form up for section/platoon attack, do attack Fire & Movement +- 5-10 min. Something was wrong with attack, missed sniper/bunker/enemy behind cover etc, run back to start, Opfok, reload weapons, form up, F & M, Opfok, till 11:30 am. Brunch, 1/4 `Fire-bucket' of juice, very little food, between a handful and a bit more if we were lucky, about 250-350g of food, Re-Cammo, back to the range or rarely if we were lucky, another lecture and discussion of what we were doing wrong.
As I said, there were seven different ranges, all supposed to teach us different things but it all boiled down to Fire and Movement, whether Section/Platoon/Vehicle/Company attacks, even though 7 SAI was supposed to be MOT (Motorized) Infantry, we trained with both Buffels & Ratel IFV's, though there was precious little Vehicle Training as it was. Most of it was walking Patrols, so called surprise attacks on enemy bases, complete with trenches, bunkers, and stuffed overalls as the enemy. I will say this the Instructors went out of their way to make it as realistic as possible, old cars acted as tanks, the positions of the enemies were always different, new bunkers added, etc, also the angle of attacks changed, as well as the type of F & M, MAGGER, RPG positions changed in our formation, V- Formation, straight line, 3 sided Square, direction changes during the attack, outflanking a enemy in the face of superior fire power, evading Ambushes, etc.
During a demo for some other Unit Rank, Staff B built a bunker, complete with sandbags, logs etc, he them placed a vehicle tire on top to designate the target for the RPG Gunner Rfn. Leech, who happened to be both the funniest, weirdest person I have ever known, a guy who spent almost every pass in jail, for something or other, a dope-head extraordinaire, him and his friend Peanuts (I actually think it was his real name), just before our bush pass he got a letter from his sister about some guy who had been bothering her, he used to wonder around saying "I'm going to lem (stab) this ou" true as fate he did, and spent that pass in jail as well, anyway back to Staff's bunker and Parat Rank, Leech was called forward to demo the RPG, Staff said "Leech, skiet that tire" (Shoot the tire). Leech in his Carltonville drawl said "jaa Staff" and stuck that rocket straight through the tire, the stabilizers knocking it over, Grinning all over his face, happily smacking Leech on the head, Staff B said "Leech jou doos, skiet die fokken bunker." with another "Jaa Staff" the bunker disappeared. A similar event happened when we were been given a Demo on 81 mm Mortars by Oscar Company, the target was a wreaked car about 800 m away, their spotter, a Loot sneaked forward, gave radio co-ordinates, asked for smoke, it missed by about 30 m, called through new co-ordinates, again a miss by 20 odd meters, Staff B from his little deck chair, said "Brock" meaning one of our 60mm mortar guys, using the Portuguese Mortar (Just a static pipe, with a marked sling, much lighter than the Patmor), with out using the sling, Brock put 2 HE's smack on the car, and one in the tree above it.
During our 3rd Shoot at the Shooting Range, the first and second had been during basics, the third was the most important one, there was a 2 and a half one for Riots (or 4), We went to the range, same range used by 5 Recce, maximum range 1000 m. Some of found out that when shooting "Fal platte" (Steal Plates), if you smack a forward one in the corner, it would spin taking down one or two others, leaving you with extra ammo. Trefor and myself then took it upon ourselves to help out the other guys by shooting their plates, while doing this a voice from Hell, Staff B with a loud speaker standing on top of a Uni-mog watching us said, "Kirkman, waar die fok dink jy skiet jy?" (Kirkman, where the fuck do you think you are shooting?)
I looked up and saw that I was nearly at a 50-60 degree angle to the rest, shooting at the end guys plates, oops "Jammer Staf" (Sorry Staff) and I changed angles, Trefor was next, there were about 3 plates still left, when `Blam, Blam, Blam from the Uni-mog, Staff with his .44 Mag Ruger SuperBlack hawk, all three down. I said `Staff, waar skiet jy?' my reply from himwas "Kont" (Cunt) with a grin. When we were shooting at the targets, the guys in the Skiet gat (Shooting Hole), used to point with red metal Tri-angles on a pole to where your last shot was going, at 200 m Trefor was shooting with Staff watching, and that bloody little Tri-angle kept on popping up, when you know where you are shooting it is very irritating, Staff tossed him 2 rounds and said "Skiet die fokken ding!" (Shoot the fucking thing!) Tref's first shot went through the Tri-angle and the second through the pole, must have hurt the guys hands, because the pole never came up again. It was during this shoot that the sharpshooters were selected, your score had to be above 138 of 140 total, both Trefor and myself got full marks, Cpl. Robertson (deceased) got 139, even though he had the Jippo's, 2 others got 138 each.
At the bush-shooting range (baan) you had to walk along a trail, targets would pop up from behind bushes, Staff walked right behind you timing you, and checking on our accuracy, this was the best, most fun of all the ranges as Staff B, was in control, and he really went to town, targets behind trees, trip wires, running targets, you name it, during one shoot Trevor spied a hidden target far up the range through the trees, naturally he sent a double tap, in its direction, resulting in a smacked head, because that was not the current target, yet when they got there, their we two little holes smack in the targets head, he then got another smack for being so accurate, he also got full marks It was here that Staff did a lot of teaching, both the common sense things like when doing a follow up, stay off their spoor, don't step over logs, and hold a light stick balancing in your hand, to detect trip wires etc. POM-Z's where always a problem, luckily SWAPO, FAPLA, equipment was often very old and misfired or did not break up properly on detonation, a bummer if you got hit with half a grenade, but most of your buddies would be ok, the Black widows however where a problem, as if they were laid properly, they were difficult to detect, which was why we would stay off their spoor and track from a couple of meters away, well spread out, just in case, we were also taught to look out for pitfalls, with Punji spikes in them, they were not common but a few Chinese trained Terrs, had been known to use them, part of his impromptu training, involved making our own trip wired grenades, with a tin, fishing line and a standard frag. grenade, also traps, deadfalls, etc. for catching food. Another favorite of Staff's was to show us how to make improvised explosives, i.e. Use petrol with small flakes of sunlight soap, heat slowly, and then you had Napalm, fill a 2lt Water Bottle, attach to a grenade or Claymore, and detonate, amazing to watch, not so cool if it hits you.
We did this sort of training non-stop all day, every day (except Sundays), with of course the constant Opfokkies, but to say this at least when we did well, depending on the instructor, we were also occasionally rewarded, as one of the two forward Scouts (My position) I, one day hit a well Cammoed sniper out of a tree with a rifle grenade, the Instructor (normally a real Bastard) Capt. Coetzee gave me a six-pack of beer. Of course once shared with your buddies, I only got to have one, but the gesture was appreciated. Talking of that certain Capt., he had a pair of "Houding" browns that I've never seen the like, they were almost white, they were so faded, they say "what goes around, comes around" and he was a Bastard and a bit, he had a habit of running after troops during F & M, and smacking them with a little swagger stick, supposedly to keep them running in a straight line, his motto was, "If there is something in your way (i.e. a bush, anthill, rock, tree etc) you don't go round it, over it, but through it!" You try to run through a tree and see how far you get!! Anyway quite by "accident" I'm sure one of the Scouts from another Section, happened to (I'm sure) get turned around in the thick bush and lobbed a AP-65 rifle Grenade, behind the line, it was quite unfortunate that the dear Capt. was standing (in his "Houding" browns) right about 6 m from where the mistakenly fired grenade landed, he was lucky, unfortunately his browns weren't, the last we saw was him running after Rfn. Whirt (The firer), slapping him about the head with his stick, tattered browns and blood streaming down his legs. We all then got a Oppie for laughing and again the next day when we saw him in a brand new pair of nutria.
After that our Section got to experience first hand, what the dear Capt. had, ironically by the same scout and his buddy, Lotta. It happened during a Platoon Attack, 3 Sided Square, our section was in front, section 2 to our right and our good buddy's section on the left, as we drew fire, we returned it, while Sec 2 fell behind us to Guard our rear and HQ Section, while Sec 3 was supposed to come up along side us, so we could do F & M, once again our two intrepid Scouts lost their direction in the bush, moving too much at a angle past us, both lobbed their grenades in front of them as normal, they happened to land in front of us, all 8 in our section with the exclusion of our Section Leader was hit by shrapnel, luckily none too serious, the distance was too great, about 15 m away, and we were mostly in cover. I got hit in the knee, shin and right shoulder, but the penetration was not deep, though I still have the piece in my knee. Grant was worst hit, taking a piece in the corner of his eye, no problem for our medics, they plucked it out with tweezers and gave him a swab, though he did get the rest of the day off, lucky bugger. As for the rest of us we had to carry on.
Aside from our own Company members, we also had to look out for snakes, scorpions and spiders, Scorpions being the biggest problem. I think that at least 1/2 of our Company got stung at least once, by these big black jobs, not poisonous, just sore and gave you a headache. We all worked in twos and my buddy sat on one, got stung on the arse, jumped up putting his hand on it and got stung again. I've got to admit it was funny, though he didn't seem to see that.
We all got to know that it was the ones (scorpions) with the small pincers that were the really nasty ones, I found a lovely little translucent green one, I put it in my water bottle, for that night, We at that time had a Section Leader, who was an incredible dick-head called Delange, who went out of his way to make life as difficult as possible, he later became a MP in HQ Company, why is not that difficult to imagine, anyway the scorpion was for him, I'm sure it had his name on it. Unfortunately it died from the heat, so we quickly had to find another, we found two of the big black bastards, and slipped them into `his' sleeping bag that night, and then lay awake until we heard him returning with our 2 IB, after shouting at the guards, he retired, we waited and waited, suddenly there was a scream "Aagh, iets het my gebyt!" (Aagh, something bit me!), followed by a least two more screams and a plea "Help my!" We couldn't because we were laughing two much, Stokkies, my buddy, was nearly eating his sleeping bag to stop laughing out loud, the screams continued with a lot of panic in the voice "Kry 'n flits" (get a torch), we had got the wrong guy it was old Lombard "Roomys" (ice-cream) the 2 IB who's sleeping bag was occupied by two angry scorpions, not that it mattered that we had got the wrong one, the feeling was pretty anti him also, even though he was rather harmless, he was a arse-creeper, he got stung eight times that night and though they believed we had something to do with it, no one could prove it, our lack of help and the odd half-laughing shout to keep quite, with the occasional uncontrollable giggle, didn't help allay those suspicions The next day however Staff B told us which were poisonous scorpions and which ones weren't. A Hint maybe?
During a early morning patrol, eyes carefully scanning the bush for ambushes and the ground for trip wires (easy to see in the early morning, due to the dew forming droplets on the wire), when the grass started running toward us at a hell of a rate (It was about waist high), bypassing me and Stokkies (My Buddy, fellow scout and 40mm Gunner), we turned around rifle and 40mm ready aiming at the rest of the section, only to see and hear our section leader in the middle of the V formation give a yell and a forward somersault, nasty things, run-away Warthogs, especially when everybody's trained reactions, we to shoot first, we nearly had a section gang-bang, before we realised what it was, this was during bush training and we only used live ammo, the most frightening part was seeing two LMG's swinging around from the wing of the V, past us because our two MAGGER's decided they wanted some Pork, for a change reason prevailed, probably because of Corporal Rosseau's amazing somersault, had us in tears of laughter, so nobody could see well enough to shoot, why he couldn't see the funny side I just don't know.
After training officially ended at 4 p.m., we had to unload. They were scared somebody would take a pot at them. Then we filled up our water bottles, 2 x 2L, and then carrying all our weapons, would have to run back to base (11 km) for supper, see brunch. Then at 6 p.m. we went back to the range to do Night Attacks or we did Night Patrols and Ambushes. Ambushes were on the whole quite cool, you got to lie down for 12 hours, even though they always managed to disturb our rest, by setting off the trip wires. Then we got to go Ape-shit on full auto (The only time we really used full auto), for a while, unfortunately we would then have to move out to a different location. After 3 months of this we were worn out mentally and physically, I actually somehow managed to fall asleep during a night march, I only woke up when I walked into the guy in front of me. If we were to stay at camp, we normally got back at around 10 p.m. It also normally rained during the night, but we 8 in our section, Section leaders were excluded from guard duty, had to then stand guard in twos until 4 am, needless to say we were exhausted, worn out, and just tried to make it from sleep to sleep, we had to clean our rifles before the morning, oil, clean the piston group, etc, and after approximately 4000 rounds a day, they were dirty, during the one fire & movement, we had to stop to put out a bush fire started by a mortar. I put my rifle down with the others, only to come back and find that the canvass sling, where it joined the barrel, had burnt through due to the barrel temperature, we often used the barrel of the MAG, to light a smoke after a F & M, according to the Rules, one had to keep at least 1/3 of your ammo after an attack. We used to run out, so instead of telling us to cut our fire-rate our Staff had us issued with extra Mag's. All in all we had 8 x 35 round mags, 2 x 50 round mags, plus what ever extra ammo needed to be carried for the mortar, 40mm, rifle grenades, MAG's and RPG's, the two MAGGER's as both MAG 1 & 2, each had a LMG, instead of one, each carried 1200 rounds, 6 x 200 round belts, they and the 40mm gunner were the only ones who didn't have to carry both 2 L water bottles, only one, as they used the side pouches of the battle jackets for ammo and the 40mm Gunner had special webbing with 48 rounds in pouches, + 6 in the Y2, plus his rifle and full compliment of ammo, the same for the Motarist only he had 24 bombs + rifle. Our Platoon Mortar boy, managed to get 24 bombs into the air before the first hit the ground, I seem to remember that the rate of fire was supposed to be 4-8/min, it once happened that the pipe got so hot, that while firing, the additional charges (ladings) ignited before the mortar fired, causing us all to hit the deck and pray (luckily it didn't explode). Dodging white phosphorous is not my idea of fun at all. Talking about dodging, Stokkies, my Buddy and 40mm gunner fired a 40mm round from the Y2, aiming between the branches of a tree just in front of us, as the 40mm round only activates after 14 m, he struck he tree almost dead center, the round arced back striking him a glancing shot to the head, knocking him flat on his arse, the crunched up round lying next to him, he was OK, but we had a little PT session after that, of course.
It was about this time that all the rest of the Company joined us, Ops Medics, Intelligence Clerks and Signals. The good thing was they all were from 7 SAI to start with. They had left us to go do their various courses and then rejoined us, a few months later.
All our support guys and such were with us for basics even the cooks and were part of the unit from the beginning and all were required to do as we did, even the medics and Section Leaders, bar one Medic (on a rotation basis), had to do the Oppies with us.
It was on their first day back that we realized for the first time, that Charles Martin (Intel.) had false teeth, how we discovered this was during our usual run back to base, he puked, teeth and all, it was funny for us, watching him trying to stuff puky, sandy teeth back in his mouth, before we could all see, didn't work he heaved again and out they came.
It was around this time that the training got harder and the treatment worse. It ended up with 128 people in 1 Mil Hospital, from Alpha and Bravo Companies, this caused quite a stink in Pretoria, all of a sudden we had SAMS Brigadiers, Generals, etc descending on us, to find out why, needless to say, after a heart to heart with a Top SAMS Brig., he promised that we would have our vengeance, only it would take about 3 years before the guilty were punished. A bit of a joke, but at least he was genuinely concerned about what was going on there. For us however life carried on much the same, besides the two in 1 MIL with permanent brain damage (For the life of me, I can't remember their names, though they must be on record somewhere, one was a Lance-Corporal, who dehydrated during a Opfok, thus prompting the downing of 2L of water every morning.) and a few who were hurt in genuine accidents (one was hurt quite badly, when burning us ammo boxes and rifle grenade case, one of which contained a live grenade, he suffered quite serious shrapnel wounds to his legs and groin area) we later found out that Staff B used to go visit him every weekend in Hospital, which only increased our respect for him) or through stupidity, there was a general breakdown in mental stability in both fighting Companies A & B. The food situation got a lot worse and one had to rely on ones wits in order to get by, they made the mistake of getting some of our section to help unload the canteen truck on night, I'll never forget me and Stokkies running through the bush with the Lt. in pursuit, each of us with a box of 48 Chocolates on our shoulders, we lost him quite easily in the dark and man were we popular, to this day I can't look at a box of TV bars without wanting to heave, we ate so many.
One of the guy's there who was an innocent/protected little boy before joining up was driven a bit mad, during a firing exercise his R4 jammed, the instructor a S/M found that his rifle bolt was rusted almost solid, they took his rifle away and gave him a log instead, wherever we ran he would have to run around the squad, when we rested for brunch, he got two MAG's and ran backward and foreword all the time, he also had to clean the entire Platoons weapon's at night. (They were in a worse condition than when he started). He used to get private opfoks for having rust on his log during weapons inspections, and even though we stank, 1 x 45 second shower every 2 weeks, when he ran around us, we used to tell him to run further away as the stench was appalling even to us, he both looked and smelt as if he was dead and judging by the look or lack there of in his eyes, he was dead! After about a month and a half of this he beat a Corporal almost to death with his log, he was transferred out, I believe to 114 Bn as a Storeman. (The guy's name was Pugin (Surname) and later we asked a tracker from 114 Bn if he knew him, all he said was "Eh, Pugin, Ai-kona" shaking his head, waving his finger round and round his temple area. Guess he knew him!)
Even though the training got worse (more intense physically & mentally), it also got more interesting, we started a training OP's with 5 Recce, where we learnt to use all the Eastern-Bloc weapons, I'll never forget during a demo of the Russian RPK Medium Machine Gun, Staff B called "Rasta" (I don't know if anybody knew his real name), and said "Wys Hulle", Rasta had a natural build of a Hercules and along with Dunn was properly the best MAGGER in the Unit, he picked up the RPK, put it to his shoulder and started firing single shots with a weapon that is only Full Auto, his control was quite amazing, even the Recce Major's eyes went big, but then we are talking about a guy who could lift a MAG with one hand to shoulder height and fire an inaccurate but reasonable burst. We could all do that with our R4's, but that's only 4,3 kg while the MAG is 12 kg excluding the belt. Staff B let us use up the excess Ammo on the range, by allowing us to fire our R4's like pistols, we got quite good at it, on a good day most could put 4 out of 5 rounds into a man sized target at 100 m, after that things would go a bit wobbly, Full Auto, I wouldn't recommend.
During training just before we were sent up, we went on a practical Ops with 5 Recce, They were the terrs we were the fireforce and reaction Unit, we had to track them down and capture them (Both sides used live ammo aimed high, RPG's etc (I never got to fire a blank round in my whole service). We caught them all in one day and had to let them go again so the op's could continue, they did however manage to sneak in and plant a practice Mine under one of our supply vehicles, but I have to say, In all honesty that they were the best troops we had ever seen, it was actually quite frightening.
During an actual OP's with us against them, even though we performed excellently against them and caught them all by the second day, and much to their Major's amusement had to let them go, so we could carry on with the Ops, during which they aptly demonstrated why they are one of the Elite Units in the world. The only reason we did so well was because we were using tried and tested SADF strategies, with Armor and helicopters and superior numbers, while they were acting as Terr's, in small groups, on foot, had it been for real we would have suffered a large amount of casualties and without our Staff's training it could quite easily been worse, but even their Sarge (that's what everybody called him) admitted that we surprised them, which we took as a great compliment and moral booster.
During this time our Platoon was the fire-force in the Puma, when we caught the Sarge, the Puma pilot refused to drop below tree level. One was supposed to jump out first the right, then the left, so the Pilot could compensate. During this exercise, Rfn. Rosseau (not the Cpl, but a MAGGER ), was waiting to jump and Cpl. De Lange, got his right and left mixed up, so he pushed Rosseau out of the door, causing the helicopter to swing a bit. Rosseau (a Huge Lad) landed flat face down on the ground, on top of his MAG and cracked 2 ribs. He was quite angry when he stood up, so as Cpl. De Lange landed he seemed to hit something very hard with his face (Rosseau's fist). So, one Section Leader down, we continued chasing the "Terrs". The Sarge was running right in front of us through the bush, when he just disappeared. If Rfn. Ori hadn't run on top of him, we would have all (3) been shot in the back. It was quite amazing. He had hid himself in a couple of seconds, under some grass. When we arrested him, face down, hands on head, Ori put his R4 in his back. Like a snake, he turned grabbed the rifle and could have blasted Ori to Kingdom Come. All he said was "Never put your rifle up against someone, because then they know where it is."; a lesson we took to heart.
The training in Eastern-Bloc weapons was very interesting, we all the AK's, RPG, RPK, RPD Range, 14.5mm ZU-1 AA, 23mm ZU-2 AA Guns, 75 mm Recoilless Rifles, 120mm Mortars and 12.7 mm, 14.5mm vehicle mounted weapons and though we never got to use them. We learned how to use their heavy Weapons/Howitzers and Stalin Organ Rocket 122mm launchers, which they used on us instead. Not very effective they pinned one of our platoons down for over an hour, during a foot patrol, all the troops did was lie in the tire ruts of the road, it was all very thick sand, over 60 missiles were launched and except for large bangs and sand no one was hit or injured. As with mortars you were generally safe if you could hear the descent, when you couldn't that meant it was coming down on top of you. One thing the Sarge taught us was that with the 75mm Recoilless Rifle, the monkeys, tended to lose/break the sights. The 75mm doesn't have a sighting rifle, like the 106mm, so to overcome this, open the Breach, take 2 pieces of grass, form a cross-hair on the target, load and let rip. In Op's I never saw one with a sight attached (UNITA or FAPLA), only in 7 SAI's armoury.
Anyway except for a short 4 Day pass roughly 3 months into 2nd phase, we spent 7 months in the bush, living in trenches and under bivvies. Our education was rather different from the other SAI Units I talked to, it was more intense, we did things like tracking, de-mining, avoiding ambushes etc in far more depth than they did, also due to the amount of firing we did each day, our standard of accuracy was above most, but due to the loss of a large amount +- 300 troops for various reasons, transfers, injuries, etc Alpha & Bravo company were combined into one Company, Alpha Company. We kept our Staff, but got a new Capt., a Capt. Butler, at first we were not partial to him, but later we changed our opinion. He was a brave man and if sometimes harsh, it was his concern for us, more than for himself or for his position. We were an ill-disciplined Company when bored and made a lot of trouble, whenever we could, mostly because we did not care. We had already learned the most vital lesson of any troops in the Army; do not disobey a direct order. You could be lethargic about fulfilling it and nobody could do anything to you. Do not volunteer, just do as your are told, never refuse, but if you took a long time to do it, you could not be delegated to another chore, Opfoks did not work anymore, we had had too many to bother about it, and what is the difference between running from tree to tree or filling 300 sandbags? Life was lived day to day, no more no less, letters from home were both nice and depressing, while you wanted them, you couldn't really afford them, they broke the mental barrier down, it was sad but one needed to distance oneself from others, especially those you left behind, they just did not understand and how could you explain?
Our Mental State: Was not what would be considered healthy in a normal environment, we were all very aggressive, prone to outbursts of temper, though it was limited to fists, not weapons in-spite of the availability of ammo, this behavior was different from basics. It was now more between sections and individuals than Platoons, we were basically now with the people we would spend the rest of our service with, so looking after each other, had taken over from Platoon or Company competition.
We returned to Base after bush phase for 2 weeks of riot training. We did standard training building searches, storming buildings, Riot Control, 35mm (Zot Guns, so called because of the noise they make when they hit someone) rubber bullet guns, (we were also informed that a large Battery A type, fitted in quite well, and caused more of a surprise to the victim), 12G Smith and Wesson pump action shotguns were also used plus tear gas, fire bombs, as sharpshooter my job was simple sit in a elevated position, and wait for our Lieutenant to say "Man in Red shirt, back row" etc. Pow! Game over.
Basic instruction also included Batons and Basic self-defense should someone try to take your rifle away. We were only issued with Batons once in Sector 10, but that's another story. We did once remove the tape from a tear gas canister and put the powder into Botha's gas mask behind the filter, which produced some very funny antics on his side, every time he used it. Nobody ever tried to take our rifles away, even though once somebody did try to grab at one, a bit stupid, as the butt caused quite a large bump on the `poor souls' head. However when we were chasing some `Youths' and couldn't catch them. (They run Bloody fast!) Wizard threw his rifle at one, bowling him over, thus we did get one.
After the 2 weeks they deployed us to various places, University of the North, BushBuck Ridge, and some to Alex and Madimbu in the Kruger Park. Our deployment was for just over a month, before we were withdrawn because of certain problems, we were a fighting Company, and winning Hearts and Minds was not on our agenda. After one of our troops beat a guy to death with his rifle in Alex and a few other incidents, we were sent back to the Bush. We had a great time at Riots, while it lasted, alcohol (which was the cause of the worst Opfok we had, it also resulted in the entire Platoon being charged, but the charge sheets disappeared, where to I don't know, it wasn't us), freedom to a degree, did a lot of sight seeing while on patrols, raided houses, villages. We also had our first experience with Military Intelligence; we were told a bunch of ANC cadre's we holed up in a particular shack, our section was allocated the task of removing them, a night assault was planned, with a stealthy approach, quick entry etc. We approached covering all angles, sidled up to the door, a Two-Star instant light Grenade was thrown through the window as well as a stun grenade as we kicked in the door simultaneously, we went in low and fast and low and behold! it was empty, in the meanwhile, the Two-Star had set all carpets, curtains etc, alight, we sat outside laughing like crazy people, as the shack burnt down. Extremely effective operation that. Another abortion of an op's was when we were supposed to guard a school against vandals, the Plan was: we were to drive past as if on a regular patrol, jump out the back of the moving Samil 20 then sneak into the school and take up positions, when jumping out Stokkies landed straight legged and did a bit of a flip, we were laughing so much, that the whole exercise was a bit pointless. But it was not meant to last, back to the bush for further training, the troop involved in the beating was Court Marshaled, went to DB for 2 months, then rejoined us on the Border.
One memorable occasion for platoon 2, was after doing a demo at Pietersburg, using R1's with blank attachments and blanks, mortars were simulated by dropping Thunder flashes into the pipes, plus 5 Recce doing a Para-drop, opening up just before the ground, then doing a quick reaction F & M, much to the delight of the crowd, on the way back Rfn Leech (Quite a character) still had a mag full of blanks, while going down the road near Hoedspruit AFB, a new Cheetah fighter was doing maneuvers past them, when Leech opened fire on the plane with his blanks, the plane disappeared over the horizon, everybody laughing, when suddenly they heard jets and saw the said Cheetah, coming straight up their rear about 10 m (properly about 50 m) above the road, he went super-sonic over them, leaving a darker shade of nutria in his wake. Rather them than me I'd say.
At Madimbu which is in fact a operational Base for the SADF, mainly to contain/patrol the Kruger Park from illegals and Poachers, it is in the nortern most section of the Park, in a area that was known as Crooks Corner, bordering on Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It is generally patrolled by 114Bn and 113Bn, we were sent there I think mainly to practice our Bush training in Op's conditions as well as to get us out of the Townships, due to several incidents ranging from the beating to death of a `Youth', theft, numerous assault charges, firing at vehicles that skipped road-blocks, resulting in 2 deaths and a wounding and substance abuse to shooting dogs and cattle and occasionally at people.
Two 114Bn trackers died, during our stint in Madimbu, one was got by a Croc as we crossed a river and one was shot during a confrontation with armed illegals. We suffered no casualties, except those of our own causing, accidents etc. During a routine patrol, which involved walking the entire day up and down mountains, we were nearly wiped out by a SAAF Alloette III, all I can remember is the engine noise, then the chopper rising up into view and beginning to bank to the left, bringing the 20mm G1A1 auto-cannon, into line of fire, then I became an Ostrich, wishing I was a mole, I remember someone (our section leader) screaming, on the radio, I think, "Moenie skiet nie! Moenie skiet nie!" (Don't shoot, don't shoot!) It was neither the first or the last time I was glad we wore brown (Nutria) pants.
BACK TO GRAVELLOTTE
After much of the same training, a bit more intense, we concentrated on Vehicle's in COIN type scenarios, but more so in Bush Warfare, semi and Full conventional, maneuvers when encountering Tanks or heavy Ground attack, we also did a lot more Company attack's, especially at night as the first one was a bit of an abortion, due to the odd view that verlighting mortars (Illumination Mortars) cast many on the left flank got a bit rigting-befok (Direction Fucked up) and us in the centre found ourselves treading air as tracers went between our legs, how nobody was hit is a wonder, when the flares fire, the trick is to close you're right eye (shooting eye), so that when you open it you can still see straight, this we did over and over, involving vehicles, Ratels, Buffels, and back Fire-support, from the 81 & 120 mm Mortars, which fired in front of us as we did fire and movement, moving more forward as we did, we would get back at about 11 p.m. – 12 p.m. every night. It was quite punishing on us, but we were obviously being prepared for something on a larger scale, than just conventional SWAPO type Ops. Another occasion that comes to mind was when during a platoon F & M, I ran forward, took cover behind a tree, kneeling and firing away, as normal, when suddenly I started getting hit in the left side of my face, by something sharp and quite painful, looking back I saw Rfn. Ghoulson firing away at my tree, which was spitting splinters at me, suddenly Staff Van der Meech, with plastic arm, appeared behind Ghoulson smacking him on the head with his false hook, while holding on to his collar with his other hand, it was quite funny Ghoulson trying to run away, with Staff holding on, slamming him on the head. Another time on the same day I used a live round to fire of a Rifle Grenade, Man, the recoil stuck me on my arse, luckily the designers had put in a metal insert with a angled hole in the grenade tube, to stop people like me shooting the Gren. Bulb and killing themselves. During a section attack, following orders "If something is in you're way, don't go round it, go through it" Brock ran through a small tree, catching his barrel in the fork of the tree, stopping him dead in his tracks, and bending the barrel at a angle, much to the weapon tiffies disgust, another event involving Brock was as he was running over a tree he stepped on a branch, which had more spring than he thought, causing him to become a rock in a Roman Catapult, very funny to watch a rather large guy trying to be both Superman and a cat at the same time. During one of Staff's famous weapon inspections, we had the previous night stripped Trefors; R4 down to it's 104 pieces, during the refitting we lost the Bi-pod Pin, which holds it in place, Staff used to sit in his chair, call us one by one, inspect our weapons, make a funny comment, to our detriment, then call the next one, when Trefor went foreward, stamped in his foot presented arms, and watched his bi-pod fall to the ground, His comment: "Brock, jou Doos, fok off" That was Staff B! We got a 4-day pass after about 2 months of this.
On our return, we were told we were to be deployed to the Border, no further Info was given, we boarded a C-130 Hercules at Phalabowa, thinking we were going to Grootfontein for more training. When we landed it was at Rundu, we were loaded into trucks, Kwevoels, and driven along to our next stop, next thing we saw was a river about 150-200 m wide, clear as I've ever seen a river before, with a pontoon bridge, it was the Kavango river as we found out, a couple of k's past it we stopped at a tent Camp. We were assembled, sat down and our Capt. announced "Welcome to Angola". Eyes went to the surrounding bush, hands grabbed weapons. So that's where we were!
Most of us had brought civvies and all our kit along with us, including blankets, tracksuits and a variety of other stuff, like food, Dixie's spare browns (Nutria). We were issued with new browns because most of our old pairs had faded rather nicely. We were told that ironing had destroyed the Anti-Infrared dye in the old Browns, not that we used the new ones, at that stage I had 3 Balsac's full of stuff (Spares), stealing, scoring, organizing or liberating, was a common phenomenon, both from ourselves and especially from other Units, GrootJasse (Great coats), Parabat Bunny Jackets, spare Mags and basically anything we could get our hands on. Extra rats were also disappearing quite quickly, they even posted guards to guard the stack of rat packs. After 4 days in which we demo'ed a few live Attacks for the UNITA forces, we were then trucked back to Rundu, where we were flown out with a couple of liberated bottles of Scotch & Rum.
To the Front-line
After a rather heart-stopping night flight, we landed at Mavinga, a UNITA Base in the middle of fucking nowhere. A dirt landing strip, with a couple of corrugated buildings around, We unloaded all our kit onto Kwevoels, boarded the waiting vehicles, Ratel 90's, 20's and a mixture of Kwe's and buffels, and then we were off again. Most of us couldn't sleep, we had been briefed, we were going to the (Western Front), Cuito Cuanavale. Part of that briefing entailed what to do, if we were captured alive, basically Name Rank, Force Number etc, we were then told by certain rank, that we may as well not be heroes, just tell them everything, because as it was put, "You know fuck-all anyway".
Nerves were tense expecting ambushes behind every turn in the dirt road, even though it was nighttime, the clarity was amazing. One had at least 100 m vision and so many stars I had never seen in my life before. Our journey lasted through the night with a brief stop at the Inland Medics Depot, the country itself was amazing, pure white sand on the surface, dark and rich with oil underneath, huge forested area's, ice cold rivers and swamps, and then the inevitable Shonas (Glens), huge open area's with +- 6 cm grass, surrounded by huge trees and forests, in retrospect it was a lovely place.
It was during one of the breaks we were in a forest about 100km from the front-line, that Staff B walked passed us. We were in the middle of a huge hidden and deserted bunker complex, exploring was not allowed as booby-traps were common place, so while we were exploring our Staff strolled past without his stripes on. I must say that our Rank was now PF Corporals and Roofie Lieutenants. One of the Lt.s sitting safely on the Ratel said "And now Staff?", indicating his lack of rank, Staff's retort, as he disappeared into a bunker, was; "I don't want to be shot by a fucking sniper!" After a bit of consternation all rank, stripes, stars and pikstele (Capt. Rank crossed swords), disappeared like magic. We found this very funny and a good way to get revenge if we thought we had been wronged, all we would do is run up to the Rank in question, stamp our foot hard, salute or stand to attention while asking a question. This produced a mixture of shouting, while trying to bob, duck and weave to the nearest cover. There was a general attitude change, after this, a kind of truce been drawn on both sides, they ASKED us to do things, we then did them, creating a bond of sorts, out of necessity. Probably for the first time we actually formed a complete Unit, based on mutual respect; they needed us to fight and we needed them for focus and direction.
During a relaxing period Stokkies and myself were taking a walk about, when we saw a few guys, Rasta and Co, hunched up around something, we walked up to see what was happening, to our horror they were trying to dismantle a unexploded 1000 Pounder bomb, we walked away to a clump of trees about 200 m from this and sat down to watch and see, we were shortly joined by Staff B, while we waited for the explosion, we had a smoke or two, but I still can't believe it that they managed to dismantle the entire thing using a Swiss Army knife and a Pikstel, they came back to show Staff all the bits and pieces, cogs etc. Mad everybody was just Mad.
When we arrived at the front, we were placed just back of the rivers, not quite on the front-line. We set up a large round camp of bunkers and trenches (Lager), text book style, HQ and Comms in the middle, all Platoons and sections, stationed around in a circle, our bunkers had to be covered with grass, branches etc.
With two inverted V shaped trenches in front of them, the sand was pretty easy to dig, yet no matter where we dug we always seemed to find bones, skulls, etc. This was the fly problem I'm sure, there were bodies strewn all over the place, no matter were, some old, most new, still in uniform or parts of it. This Base was also to prove to be temporary, it was from here that we conducted our various tasks and deployment, and was located about 5km from the front. We still got revved a few times, mainly by MIG's and a few times by 122mm Rockets and occasionally by artillery, even though I'm sure these where just overshoots, as we had a joint UNITA/SADF base on the river bank, between us and them. After the first couple of times, we kind of lost respect for the FAPLA, Cuban gunners, even the MIG's were no more than bothersome as one had to hide every time a "Victor Victor" (Enemy Aircraft Call), came through. Throughout the campaigns there were always Recce's or 32 Bn Scouts watching the airfields at Longa and Menongue, warning us the minute the planes took off. We, however, had no air-support, whatsoever. We were specifically told that if we got shot, we would have to wait until nighttime, before we could be casavaced; the SADF could not risk their helicopters during the day, so if you got hit in the morning, tough shit, buddy!
Even though we observed most of the rules about camp, don't move around too much, don't use the same route twice (which makes paths that are visible from the air), keep noise levels down etc. After a while it must have been obvious to the overflying MIG's that there was a camp there. During one strike they dropped a 1000 Pounder, about 70 m from our bunker. All it basically did was make us a bit hard of hearing for a while and blow a hole in the ground that you could have put a tent in with only the top sticking out. One quite impressive sight was a piece of shrapnel about 30 cm x 50 cm that flew over our heads it sliced straight through a tree in front of our bunker, felling it better than any Lumberjack could have done. In that Camp we came under small-arms fire only once. We were relaxing in the early morning, making Coffee, a vital necessity, when we first heard the whirr whirr of mortars, then LMG's, RPD's, and AK's fired at us. I don't know what their plan or even their point was. Maybe they thought we were a small group or were testing us. I don't know but I don't think they expected the response they got. 2 Platoons, returning direct fire, the others firing over us, with mortars and 40 mm's (Against the Rules). Imagine +- 8000 rounds, 5.56, 6000 rounds 7.62 plus approx. 50x40 mm, 30x60 mm and about 15-20 RPG 7 rockets concentrated on about 200 m of bush, followed up by a fast F & M, some guy's in boots (always wore your Boots) and underpants (non-Army issue a particular pair sticks in my mind, white with sail-boats, belonging to Dunn), shooting everything that moved or shooting it till it moved.
The 18 fatalities were not a pretty sight, oh, I forgot to mention at least 12 rounds of .44 Magnum, from our Staff's Ruger SuperBlack Hawk, his right hips constant companion, he was more accurate than a lot of Troops at 100 m with that big Bastard. It was difficult to tell UNITA from FAPLA troops, they often wore the same Cammo, carried the same weapons, etc. So we never really knew, in the confusion exactly who we were firing at. This however did not seem to bother UNITA at all, they knew we were there to help them out of the shit and win their stupid war for them, so I don't think they really cared if we made the occasional mistake and toasted them instead.
I know that quite accidentally one day when we were bored we decided to rev a Island on the other side of the swamp, just to keep our eye in, after we had finished plastering it, and were then relaxing a jeep drove up with some UNITA Rank in, asking us if we please don't shoot at them anymore, OOPS!
During a foot patrol just North of our Camp, about 3 km, we walked past a shot out T-34, as we walked past the turret started moving, gun toward us, we were not expecting armour in this part, so were a bit unprepared, so decided to leg it out of there, all of us except Leech, the RPG Gunner, he unslung the weapon knelt down saying "Ach ja Bru's, I'm going to fuck him up", taking aim, the hatch leapt up and out popped Cpl. Vorster yelling "Nee Leech, Nee dis ek" (No Leech, Its Me), Leech just mumbled "Ach Jaa" continuing aiming at the Tank, I think that day he had a fight inside not to do it, it was close, very close, but watching the squealing Cpl. was really amusing. He knew how close he had come to being toast, for better or for worse Leech didn't let rip, even though we really thought he was going to. Cpl. Vorster was a changed man afterward. I guess Life is like that sometimes!
Another incident involving the same Cpl. and a troop called Langeman, was while on patrol, way back +-20 Km from the front, in a Buffel coming from the Water Point, the Cpl. was sitting on the bin at the back, while crossing a shona, the other vehicles were already in forest cover, by a river, with Langeman in the water, washing, when without warning as usual the sound of the Mig Jets could be heard, the driver of the Buffel, put foot, causing Cpl. Vorster to backflip off the bin, the driver refusing to stop headed for the trees, Cpl. Vorster running behind, after they had parked and cammoéd the Buffel, Cpl. Vorster was still running toward them, with his section yelling at him to "Fuck off", a couple of shots were fired around his feet, but this only caused him to run faster, and he made cover in time, meantime Langeman, heard the Mig's and he ducked, under the water, I never realised someone could hold their breath that long, after the Migs had past, he surfaced, his face blue. He probably hasn't bathed since.
Mental Status: Really had reached the stage beyond anger, caring etc, Common saying "Ek voel Fokal" (I feel nothing) there was this total sense of detachment, like as if not much was real, yet everything was very clear, focused, on your survival, nobody talked about home, some days the depression was almost tangible, most times there was a devil-may-care attitude, stalking the Camp. This was made worse by the fact that mail, cigarettes and cooldrinks, were only available once every 2-3 weeks, each section got 2 packets of smokes, 1 Coke (Flat) and one chocolate, it was then that we took to robbing corpses.
DELEGATING THE COMPANY
By this time most of the unnecessary equipment e.g. Blankets, clothes, Dixie's, tracksuits had all gone underground and stayed there. All one had was the basics, Weapons, Mags, ammo, fire-bucket, spoon, battle-jacket, cleaning kit (1 per section), sleeping bag and a 2L water bottle and rations, heavy stuff like tins, etc were swapped for coffee and energy bars and porridge, to make way for ammo. We carried on average about 45kg of stuff, sometimes more depending on where or what you were to do. We were then delegated out to give protection to the G5's, we were seconded to 32 Bn to fill in as troops for the Ratel 90's, as most of their own troops, needed a well deserved rest, some had been there over a year, also their Infantry guy's were doing sneaky op's behind the enemy lines, sneaking in revving their bases with MRL's, and ground assaults before pulling back and hitting somewhere else, also some had been delegated to Task group A, in preparation for a mass attack on FAPLA's 16th Brigade. The G5's were also doing heavy damage, every day, using ground burst shells on their bunker complexes, collapsing the bunkers, followed by airbursts for those that got out alive. Their artillery was basically useless, lacking range and effectiveness, when they opened up they would have to leg it, or the G5's would flatten them, The MIG's would look every day for the G5's, never found them. We on the other hand would mostly drive around looking for somebody to shoot at, one FAPLA Brigade was pinned down with only 300-400 men left, and 1 working Tank, the other two Brigades in the area would constantly try to rescue them, they would go to great efforts to build underwater bridges across the river, while we sat and waited for them to complete it, they would then launch a massive attack on the UNITA base opposite them, T-55's, T-34's, various APC's (BMP-1's mostly), we would wait until they had about a third across, then G5 the bridge, with a 3 pronged attack, UNITA taking the brunt of it, us on the flanks, the thickness of the bush made it difficult to know what was going on, with 4 SAI & 61 Mech hitting them hard from the left, we would outflank the survivors and ambush them from behind, the poor bastards were fucked right from the beginning, they had nowhere to go, no bridge, our 15km mine field on one side, 4 SAI, 61 Mech and 1SSB Tanks, all 3 of them, UNITA somewhere in the middle, and their flank cut off by us, their Tanks couldn't maneuver well in forest, turret couldn't turn with all the tree's, the Ratels were great, drive behind, 2 x 90mm HEAT's up the arse, no more Tank. The BMP's were not very effective either though UNITA took a few casualties from them, either they would eventually sort them out with RPG's or a friendly Ratel 20 or 90 would help them out.
The aftermath was always the worst, the scene always reminded me of a picture I saw of Delville Wood in WW2, smoke drifting through the shattered remains of trees, corpses all over, there were burning Vehicles, Tanks, etc., while we were cleaning up. We went through a T-55 only to find the crew, chained to their places, except the torso-less commander, also going through one of their bunkers, we found a boot about the size of my hand, foot still inside. They were using children to fight their fucking war for them. I think out of it all that got to us/me more than anything. We had heard about them chaining their Tank Crews so they wouldn't run away, but 9 or 10 year old kids was a bit much even though later I heard that UNITA was also recruiting kids, and that they made good soldiers as they were not scared to die. They thought it was a game.
I didn't see any myself, though there was a rumor that a 14 year old UNITA soldier shot down a MIG with his AK-47, some said he was promoted to Lt. after that, this was before we got there, it was never confirmed, most of the time we just did patrols, sat around waiting for something to happen. During this time our forward scouts (32 Bn) picked up some approaching Armour (T-55's) coming right round the east, we assembled and when out to make contact, we had 12 Ratels, 10 90's, 1 Command Ratel and 1 Ratel 20, also there were 5 Buffels, with 10 troops in each and a Kwevoel with a 106 mm Recoilless Rifle and Ammo. The Ratel 90's only carried 6 of us (Troopies), plus 48 HEAT rounds, we had mounted spare MAG's on the tail mounts, just in case of ground troops, it seemed strange that only 4 T-55's would be trying something, with out any Infantry Support, following us in the rear of the formation was a Ratel Recovery, driven and manned by the Engineers/Genie/Tiffies in case something should go wrong, it did but not in the way we expected, while we were moving through reasonably think bush/forest, in a strung out line, knowing that they were just ahead somewhere, the Ratel Recovery, complete with mattresses on the back, and tiffies (Normally high on something), in shorts on the back came racing through the attack line like a `bat out of hell', laughing their heads off, pulling "Brown-eyes" at the Colonel. He started screaming at them, but they were gone, out of sight, at full speed, then silence returned except for the Colonel shouting over the radio, suddenly the high whine of a Ratel could be heard, in reverse at full tilt (Lovely thing about the Ratel, it goes as fast forward as it does backward), straight back through or line. They had run face to face into the T-55's, the Tanks stopped dead, probably as surprised as the Tiffies, the Ratel driver, a quick thinking Coloured driver, went into reverse, straight back, two of the Tiffies perching in front turned their `Brown-eyes', to face the tanks, while they got the fuck out of there. The T-55's didn't even fire a single round at them, I suppose the surprise was too great, at the bare-faced cheek of the new SADF tactic. We later speculated that they were lost and didn't know where they were. All we saw was a Ratel, and some bare-arsed tiffies, come shooting through our attack formation, screaming "Tanks, Tanks" and pointing behind them. We then maneuvered around them (The T-55's) and caught them from behind. There was no infantry with them, so it was pretty quickly done with, and no casualties on our side, we got to take quite a bit of stuff off one Tank, the HEAT round, had blown the turret off, with relatively little damage to the inside, except to the bodies, we ripped out their petrol gauges, speedo's and got some undamaged weapons and stuff from their kit.
What I didn't understand was that FAPLA and Castro's 50th Division insisted that we wanted to take Cuito, while our Commander's said we were just there to stop them advancing over the river. Why anybody would want that stupid little town is beyond me. It was a shattered ruin, couldn't be defended and certainly had no military advantage. We could have taken it quite easily, but I doubt UNITA could have held it for a week, cut of from the South as it was, and I suppose my strongest point is why if we wanted to take the dumb town, would we have bothered to lay a 15km stretch of landmines, to cut of our retreat if it became necessary? But then I suppose propaganda was necessary to boost moral, because from what we could hear from the Observation Post, they really needed it.
MENTAL STATUS: This had deteriorated somewhat. Taking rats from the Cuban's and FAPLA troops was common place. They had tins of sardines, mussels and various other quite good food. We were always warned that they might have poisoned it, but not the stuff we took. We also pinched a lot of Quansas (Kwansas?), the new currency they were using, mainly as memento's as it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Watches and especially sunglasses were a great find. UNITA seemed to use them as Rank. It was easy to trade for just about anything. By this time most of the other troops had homemade Cammo, virtually nothing was original, except the Cubans gear, but it was rare to find Cammo that wasn't shot to shit and full of blood. Most of our vehicles had skulls decked out over them, one encountering one of our patrols, there was always nervous laughter and pointing to our new mascots.
CUITO: STAUS QUO
After FAPLA's attempted assault on UNITA/SADF troops over the river (TEMPO), I think, to rescue the remains of their Brigade 21st, I think? I remember 21st, 23rd and 25 Brigades, but then UNITA also used Numbered Brigades. There was also Castro's 50th Division, supposed to be his best, maybe in conventional trench warfare or suppressing peasants, but in the bush they were not very good at all. Their idea of advancing was to walk a Battalion across Shonas in full kit with rifles slung, sometimes singing (can you believe it?). Their armour and artillery stayed way behind this advance force. The various SADF forces, depending on who picked them up first (There was always a bit of a fight about who was to get them). Most attacks were conducted by Task Group A (TG A), 4 SAI, 1 SSB, 61 Mech plus their respective artillery group, as they were better equipped to deal with heavy Armour and had about 2000 plus guy's under them. We Task Group B (TG B), 32Bn, Us, and a few Artillery pieces, MRL's.
I believe that the Recce's also fell under our banner, but nobody saw them or was in any way connected to them, I think they worked alone and were always behind lines, plying their deadly trade, not that any FAPLA or Cuban would admit that they were getting hammered up in their own turf. TG Ahad a few of the new Top Secret, Ratel ZT-3's with them 3 or 4, they had Anti-Tank Missiles on top instead of a Gun, we only saw the results of their actions once and By GOD! I don't want to be in Tank or Vehicle when one of those buggers hit, all that remained of a T-55 was the bottom Chassis and wheels, pieces of track and other pieces of both Tank and it's occupants were spread out over about 100 m, a bit of a bummer for us, as there was nothing left to take.
The ambushing of the advancing Cubans fell to TG A with us on the flank, all of us hidden among the surrounding forest, the ensuing `Battle' if you can call it that. It was more of a slaughter, than anything else with no quarter given or asked. (We didn't hear any asked!) I've been led to believe that this was a common practice of the Cuban Ground forces. In Sector 10, our 101 Bn Tracker, described to us how, in the West they had lain up, in the tree line, and ambushed about 500 Cuban's walking through an open space. Eventually their commander had ordered them to drive over the fleeing enemy, to stop wasting ammo. The Tracker then raised his hands up and asked "What does this mean?" We replied that it means `I surrender!' He said that the Cuban Survivors were doing that when they ran them over. This particular Tracker got shot while with us on a ambush when he turned over a "dead" terr, who was luckily clutching a tokarov not a grenade to his chest. The Tracker was hit through the left wrist and shoulder. He responded by sitting on the terr and stabbing him with a knife he always wore. His silly mistake could have cost us as well as him. We had always been trained to shoot all bodies, with a double tap to the head. That way, if they were pretending, while holding a grenade or other weapon, the spasm should make them release their hold. I think that this was also a protective mechanism, as each body tended to have about 5-10 holes in it, so it was very rare to know that it was you who shot somebody. This method was quicker and better than the grapple hook method taught in Basics.
At the `Western Front' things had reached a Status Quo, they sat there, we sat on our side. It gave us a lot of time to get into trouble, while doing patrols etc. We used to come under fire quite regularly, mostly from small arms in little clashes, occasionally by BM21's 122mm Rockets, one funny sight we saw was a 122mm (Redeye) rocket, that had gone about half way through a tree without detonating, it looked rather funny, sticking there at an angle, through this tree, for a change nobody tried to remove it as a souvenir.
Our main bother was the flies, flies were everywhere in their thousands, during the day one had no piece, it took us a while to work out that `Chicken Breyani' rats tins, didn't contain raisins, nor did `Chili con carne', we used the UNITA ratpacks. The flies were so bad, that when doing nothing (Most of the time), we would use scarves, to cover our faces, both ours and FAPLA scarves were a kind of material with lots of small holes in it, the flies would try to worm their way through these to get at you, it was quite incredible. The worst however was when you had to take a dump. If you sat in one place, they would try to crawl up your arse, the worst feeling in the world, so we would normally dump, hop dump, hop, wipe and back off. Dunn used to get so pissed off he would use his MAG on them, only made things worse, more shit, more flies. We also used to use explosives, gunpowder etc, to try to wipe out as many as possible with varying degrees of success. What made it worse was that there was no toilet paper, we used what we could, leaves, grass, papers from Ratpacks, letters from home etc, Sorry Mom & others! We would also make a lot of "walks", flies with wings pulled off, we then started on " Slugs", both wings and legs removed, another trick was to stick a sharp piece of grass into their abdomen and stick the other end into the ground, until we had a forest of dancing, gyrating flies. Revenge was at hand!
During one patrol in Buffels, we stopped to call in our position, our Lt. radioed in, we all heard the loud response from our Capt.; "Jy is in 'n fokken Myn veld' (`You are in a fucking minefield!) Oh Shit! U-turn and follow the Lt. out in his tracks, hoping like hell, that it wasn't `our' Mine Field. They used No 8's AT mines in ours. They could tear a Buffel in two, but it wasn't, luckily for us.
During a stint at the Water Point, we got the idea of removing heads and powder from R4 rounds and putting wads of energy bars in instead, kind of like a big potato gun. We would then run round shooting each other. It stung like hell, it was great fun, until Botha stuck a bit of P4 in instead. We landed up ducking a flying flash hider. His rifle was not that well after that. He did manage to find another one somewhere.
Another clinical use for explosives, usually removed from Claymore's or M8 A/T mines, was to sniff it. It gave you quite a high, and a large headache, but just for a while you actually felt good. All the narcotics in the Medics Bags had long since disappeared. Also at the Water Point Dunn, Redpath & co, decided to make a brew. Redpath had yeast and Brown Sugar (Don't ask), add in water, dried fruit, energy bars and Alcohol swabs, mix well in a 2L waterbottle, leave in the sun until bottle is round, release gas, repeat. Then 2 days later find somebody to test said brew. Our Section Leader was always a good candidate, quite amazing stuff, 1/2 a fire bucket and he can't walk anymore, mumbles and drools then goes to sleep in the sun for 6 hrs. We tossed the rest; we were dumb, but not that dumb. Went swimming instead, for the first time in 3 months we could wash and brush teeth, even though the water was like ice and not much dirt came off, we felt a little more human. We also got to go to the FHQ (forward HQ) or Fach as it was known, we bought a couple of cases of beer, traded a watch with the Canteen Guy, as we had no money, also got some smokes, very short supply, at the front. Got pretty wreaked on the way back to the front. Lots of guy's got Dronkverdried (Crying Drunk), quite depressing actually. Moral was very low at that point. We had nothing to do really. Things were settling down. The Politicians back home we talking deals, and most of the fighting had ceased. The G5's were still banging away every day, the MIG's were out looking for someone to rev. There were the odd points of excitement /amusement, mostly self-made, normally at somebody expense. Our Staff one night played poker with 2 of our storemen, they all got pretty wasted, meaning he had a headache when he woke up, meaning that they (The cause) got to run with Grootsak's full of sand until they puked, the result, making him feel better. Poker can be a dangerous game.
We occupied our time exploring old Bunker Compounds, stealing rats from other units, food was in short supply, no more was coming up from SWA, replacing kit lost, stolen or never issued to us or hunting for food, not that there was much left, we only heard a Lion once, never saw an Elephant or anything much bigger than a Steenbok or Duiker, this from an area that was teeming with Game less than 3 years ago,
We used to hear UNITA hunting at night with spotlights, occasionally we would shoot back, to liven things up.
By this time we were the forward element on the front over looking the river. Their trenches could be seen after a short walk to the bank of the river. They where less than 200 m from the opposite bank. I got to use my Dragunov quite a bit here. We were located next to a UNITA base, which was off limits, even though nobody really took any notice. Their officers were often in our base and we used to steal them blind in theirs. Tension was there because they knew that the BigWigs in the South were talking about compromise, but there were no real incidents. They stayed in their base mostly, while we continued to do patrols around the area. They also made a hell of a noise at night and during the day, which was probably why they got revved so often, while us next door didn't. From our forward OP post we could hear the FAPLA Troops talking at night. It was quite a weird feeling to be 400 m away from the enemy, listening to them talking about women, wine and BS orders that they had been given, it was really eerie. One event which did occur was the OP picked up a transmission that the MIG's were to do a bombing run on UNITA Base, thus us too, their Artillery was to fire red smoke on our positions to mark the area for the planes, when the MIG's took off our G5's fired red smoke on their forward Brigades Base, the result was they got hit quite badly by their own planes, this happened before, and the gooks on the ground shot down one of their own MIG 21's, about 7 months earlier.The war was effectively over for us at least, now it was just protection and holding ground if an attack (which there wasn't) came.
WITHDRAWAL FROM ANGOLA
Even when the order to withdraw came through, it was still a bit of a shock. We had being listening to VOICE OF AMERICA, and sort of knew what was going on, but we were very disillusioned none the less. We knew that with out us UNITA would get it the next time, the main question was "What the fuck was this all about?" Here we were 800 km into Angola, in the middle of a war, which we could have won, had SA Government made even a slightly greater commitment of troops and equipment. As far as we were concerned we could do it without the SAAF, as up until then we had no air support at all. It would have helped to make things easier, but was not necessary. We knew they had more forces to the North, but even a quarter of the SADF's current military power, would have wiped them off the face of the earth. In fact we could have done it back in `78, but the backing was not there. Talk about bitter, what a fucking waste.
We pulled out in a fairly long convoy, TG A had gone on before us, we were to follow 2 weeks later.
We were supposed to be the last out, guarding the G5's. Just for history's sake, I'll add that overnight our 32Bn element had suddenly shrunk by over half and they did not join up with us on the way back. Neither was there any sight or mention of the Recce's in the area, nor did either group pass through the disembarkment camp before Rundu. Aside from being almost on the point of starvation, which we managed to rectify as we passed though the Forward Store Depot, we took a Buffel and stopped by a pile of rats, that was level with the Buffel, and piled it full, including the Store Staff's private supply of Toppers.
He came running out shouting and screaming, but far too late to do anything about it. But even that does not last a starving company long. Our Capt. had already given us his stock of food from home, and even though he had been suffering from a severe case of piles for a couple of weeks, he insisted that he ride out with us, he stood in the lead vehicle all the way (753km, according to our driver) back to Rundu. Those of us in the Ratels had a far better trip down than the others, in Buffels. On leaving we would wave at the UNITA reinforcements being brought in, to replace us, waving and smiling and saying in English "Goodbye Boys, now you are really fucked!" They would wave and smile back. The trip back was uneventful, with the exception of a Kwevoel that hit a mine, otherwise nothing much to say except eating dust in a convoy is not fun. I think it took us just over a week to get to the disembarkment camp, located just on the Angolan side of the Border with SWA. Once we arrived we were delegated tents, and told to shave and get clean. What a fucking joke! No hot water, 5 months of ingrained oily dirt in our skin and clothes, beards, socks that stood up by themselves. Typical Army! We were waiting for the TV crews, CNN, BBC and others, to film SA's departure from Angola, 1 SSB, 4 SAI and 61 Mech had already crossed, I guess to keep the show down and the `TOP SECRET' stuff off the TV's.
As Rightful Tribute 32Bn was the last to cross, befitting the major role they played in the conflict. Also, unlike us NSM with our skulls and slogans, they crossed as they dignified professionals that they were, their only adornments were their cammo'ed Ratel 90's and trimmed hair, so that they could wear their distinctive cammo berets. They made a dignified statement that day for the SADF, they were victorious Troops returning after doing their job. We however made our feelings known by tossing ratpack tins at the heads of the begging Pickinins at the side of the road. The SADF rank there, top nobs, all of them just turned away, while the Camera guys had a field day. For the record we dropped three before the order was given to pull out.
SWA: The final tour
After our withdrawal from Angola, we were stationed at Rundu, not at 201Bn Base as expected, but outside, in the bush bordering the Camp, along with us there was 32Bn and Potch Artillery with the G5s, as well as certain other elements that were returning from Angola. First, much to our dismay, we were banned from the Base at 201 Bn. We had not seen hot water for over 5 months, much less slept in a bed, second to put the cap on it, we were banned from the Sawi store (Army run Store), not just us but all of us; 32 Bn included. This action was from the Commander of 20, who was worried about what we would do to his Camp and Kavango soldiers. This action was most ill-advised, we had been deprived from luxuries for a bit long. Our Camp consisted solely of scrub bush and sand. We had to clear the bush according to our Units designated position, pitch our bivvies (Later to be replaced with tents), in the bush, dig holes for the long drops (toilets) and piss-nellies (urinals), clear an area to be used as an impromptu parade ground and one for the water bunkers. During the first day there, Dunn & Redpath went to the Sawi and bought a liter of White Horse whiskey and 750ml of rum. They were caught and as punishment. Staff B made them down it during inspection the next day. Dunn did not drink or smoke normally. Redpath was a bit more experienced being an ex-skinhead covered with tattoos from Johannesburg. He sipped the rum pretending to down it, while Dunn made no such pretense, finishing the whiskey in a few minutes. Needless to say he was totally wasted, laughing, stumbling and swearing like a sailor, calling all the rank "Poese" (pussy's) and various other things. Two of our PF Cpl.'s tried to restrain him, one got a kick in the nuts, and the other was decked, flat on his arse. An Artillery Major then had a go, he got decked too. We eventually managed to get him to his bivvie, where he passed out. Redpath puked quickly to get it out, so was OK, if a bit merry. Dunn lay there for almost 7 hours, before our Medic insisted that he be taken to Hospital, as he was going blue round the lips and puking everywhere, totally out of it. An ambulance was called from 20. The hospital Staff said he was lucky to be alive. He had severe alcohol poisoning. The Commander of 20 klaared the staff and Capt aan. They paid a R250 fine. Two days later Dunn escaped from the hospital (He was still pissed), still dressed in those stupid gowns they wear and hid out with us until they came to fetch him again. Four days later he was back and sort of normal. Our Capt. had returned to `the States' (South Africa) because of the piles, and the Commandant 2 IB of 7 SAI arrived to take his place. He hated us on sight and the feeling was mutual. Before he arrived, one of our guards was attacked by others while in 32Bn's lines. Not knowing who was the culprits we (The Entire Company, including our Staff) went to 32Bn and asked if they were responsible. They knew nothing about it, which left Potch Artillery. Accompanied by the 32 guys we went at them (I suppose we were spoiling for a fight, after the way we had been treated). Aside from a general punch-up, which we (The attackers) certainly enjoyed as everyone Rank included were legit targets, it only ended when one of our guy's fired a 1000ft flare at them, which hit a Ratel 60 and then went amok through the fighting group. We all ducked or vacated the area quite quickly. We then found out it was some MP's from Sector 20 that had beat up our guy, so peace was made. I believe that 32Bn later found the culprits and gave them our regards. The commandant of 7 SAI went berserk from the moment he got there till he left 4 days later after a Claymore Mine was discovered outside his tent. (We had no clicker's or batteries in stock.) One or the other was required to set the Mine off, AA batteries were tried, but the charge was not strong enough, with due respect, the mine was positioned and then cammo'ed in such a way so as none of the other Rank would have died in the blast, a Claymore has 3600 ball bearings imbedded into its convex surface, with a 30 degree arc on either side and a built in Tri-pod. Two wires run from the Claymore's det to the Clicker, a handheld device, one must click 3 times to detonate the mine, it was mostly used in ambushes and TB protection, it's small +- 30 cm x 17 cm and easily portable, as well as been very devastating at close range.
Our next arrival was Major Coetzee, who immediately gave the order that once we had done our Prayer Parade and our chores, we were off, and could buy as many beers as we liked. We liked this guy! It was very hot so at about 10 a.m. when the canteen opened, one guy from each tent, would run across the boiling sand normally barefoot in shorts, and come running back with a couple of cases of beer. We had to build an amphitheater out of ammo boxes filled with sand, so that we could watch video's in the evening. Our cooking had so far been done by they Cooks at 20, then we all got dysentery, really bad. Once Dunn dropped his rods and squirted further than I could piss. It was quite funny watching video's at night when someone would get up, casually walk out from under the cammo netting, then start running for the bush. Suddenly he would stop and walk to the water bunker, like John Wayne. It is also funny in retrospect that sometimes at night you would hear someone frantically struggling to get out his sleeping bag only to go `aah' and lie still, at least you were warm. Eventually the cooks at 20 were replaced by our own and it stopped the shit(s).
During this time we were never debriefed. We still had all our liberated weapons and ammo. I think that we were kept there till the politicians back home had decided that the Cubans were sticking to their end of the deal. In the meantime we were sent out on patrol, even though the area had been quite for the past 4 years. In fact it was our current Major Coetzee who had shot the last terr in the area 4 years previously, as he (the terr) tried to sneak out the back off a kraal. This was a great time for us, the patrols were a holiday. We used to find a good spot on the Kavango River and stay there for a couple of weeks at a time, swimming in the river, picking up the fresh water mussels, buying cheap whiskey and cooldrinks from the local PB's who were very friendly. We used to help them out with medical treatment, grinding their grain etc. They were great, most of the time we were frot (drunk), on either whiskey or Kaspembe (Steel Water) a local brew, very potent. We spent our time fishing, hunting and basically lazing around. When swimming someone would always watch out for crocs as there were a few in the area. If seen we would chuck a grenade in the water, to chase them away. The locals used dugouts (log canoe's) to cross the bank to Angola. UNITA still controlled the south side. We would often see them and wave at each other. It was during this time that one of the other sections were racing with a Buffel and managed to flip it. As nobody was strapped in, most were flung free but two were killed, both by the roll bar. One had it land on his stomach (It almost cut him in two), the other had the bar land on his head. It was really weird as if his head was rolled flat like a empty toothpaste tube and his brain, squished out almost whole. The driver survived and was not very popular after that.
When not on Patrol we used to practice drilling with a Bushman Company from 901Bn. Their pace is slower and more natural. We were quite proud of our Drill after a couple of sessions with them, a bit unorthodox for white troops but it looked really cool.
Gen. Magnus Malan came up for a day. We did a bit of a Parade, then had a braai with, wow! 2 free beers! He also got asked a lot of awkward questions by the Troops there, Like why the fuck were we there etc. I think he was pleased to go, even though he handled himself quite well. We were a bit pissed off and not all that polite, even though he insisted on shaking hands with everybody. He also promised us that we would not have to do camps for the next 2 years after our NSM duty was over. The one thing I remember most about 201Bn was the Peacocks, they would scream like tortured babies at 4:30am every morning, pissed us off a bit at first, but was actually quite nice when you got used to it.
After that we got a 21-day pass, not that most could remember much of it. We were all heavy drinkers by that time. Ever try Whisky and Pinenut? Its really putrid, but hey! It did the trick. We were sent to Grootfontein first, where even though we had a letter from the Colonel at 20 allowing us to take our booty back with us, they searched us and took most of our liberated weapons away. They nearly had a riot when they tried to take Cammo and Bayonets etc, so they let us keep those. We were pretty pissed at that. We landed at Waterkloof AFB in Pretoria, where we finally got to go home. It was really weird seeing all these civvies and colours, other than Brown and green all the time.
Most of that pass I spent drinking with my friends. People tried to talk to me, but I really had nothing to say to them. What do you say? We were living in two different worlds.
On our return to 7 SAI our feet had barely touched ground when we were flown to Grootfontein again, then by road to Oshakati.
Our first impression of Oshakati was not that great; white sand, thorn bushes and a couple of date palms. Also it was bloody hot. We were mostly on the back of Kwevoels, sitting on our kit, most having being replaced with a few extras by sneaky liberation, I hope the guys who provided us with the stuff, didn't get into too much shit, when their time was up. We still had Major Pretorius with us, our beloved Staff B had left us before we went up, their were many a tearful eye when he Tree'd-us-aan, to tell us, even He had to stop speaking for a while, lump in the thought I think, we had a new Staff, an ex-storeman from 7 SAI, can't remember his name, just that his arms were too short to go into his pockets and we called him `Piggy.'
We were detailed to 52 Bn in Oshakati. There was the OC, a Colonel, and the RSM called `Stompie' due to the fact he hated seeing stompies (Cig Butts) and used to freak about it often. Our PF Cpl.'s had also left us, with ours CPL Van Aswegen saying to us he "wouldn't want to go to the Border with anybody else as he wouldn't trust them", we had new roofie Cpl.s who had just finished training our new roof's for basics, at first we couldn't believe that they actually wanted us to strek (stand to attention) when talking to them and we couldn't put our hands in our pockets either, Grant told ours to "Fuck off" when he started shouting at him, Staff B was there and gave both a talking to, not a great start. When we reached 52 Bn, we were allocated real tents, with beds in them. This was great. Our new Cpl.'s with Piggy as backup, decided to teach us some discipline. We were called to the Parade Ground, and we went as is, Piggy freaked, some guys had pink shits/shorts as well as other colours. Trefor had a Army T-shirt on, that we had used for target practice, when bored, even Piggy couldn't say much about that, but screamed in a high pitched voice about wearing Black shorts, Army shirts, socks pulled up and proper takkies (sneakers), we had lost those long ago and wore a mixture of canvass ankle high takkies, UNITA boots and SAP Boots (Similar but higher) and no socks, much more comfy, AND no hands in pockets, I guess he was jealous `cos he couldn't.
Our Major and Lt.'s, who knew us quite well by that stage, were conspicuously absent. He then went on about discipline and duties, then ragged our Drivers quite badly. After this verbal abuse, he went into the little hut that was our HQ.
Over the next 4 days, Piggy had two accidents on his brand new yellow 500 motor bike, his breaks failed causing him to crash into a vehicle (a Buffel, I think), then his breaks locked while turning around the large earth walls surrounding each base, causing him to land in the mud, Oshakati had really thick, deep mud, where the vehicles traveled, covering him almost completely and trapping him under his bike, we had a good vantage point from the walls, not to mention a good laugh, until some driver from another unit, helped him out, man Piggy could really swear, had some good phrases we took note of. The last incident was when Jones, our driver, accidentally drove over his bike (he wasn't on it), in a Buffel, scrunched the back real good. We think that our Major recommended his transfer, we still had a lot of work to do with our new Cpl.'s as well as establishing a pecking order around the base, with all the other units. We were back up to around 258 troops, 2 RTU's from the SAP for taking bribes, plus a couple of others from other places. There was the Cape Coloured Corp., who manned the Guard Towers, 2SSB, 3 SAI was there for a while (2 months) guarding the Main gates and later on the Parabats came, 4 SAI were also there for a short while. This pecking order was established quite quickly, it started during brunch on the 3rd day, the `Bushies' (Cape Coloureds) were dishing up, those in front of the line got to get white bread, the rest got brown. So we pushed in, 1 guy would stand in front the rest of the company would then go in front of him, etc. This pissed off the people at the back of the line, but as this was their first tour nobody did anything except mumble and bitch, except the Bushies, who were quite vocal about this intrusion. They had been there the longest, therefore they were King of the roost. During the serving up of the food, Rasta, the Herculean MAGGER, held out his plate and said `skep meer' (Give me more), the bushie server went off at him as only they can, when he reached "Jou Ma se Poes" (you're mothers cunt), a size 15 hand hit his head with a huge slap, almost causing him to do a complete a 360 degree somersault. One of his colleagues came bravely to his rescue with a aluminum tent pole, Rasta covered his head with his arms as he swung, the pole landing squarely across his ribs, bending into a partial U shape, Rasta's face went red (a very bad sign), he leaned over the table, grabbed the rescuer by the shirt and neck area and tossed him over both mess tables into the side flaps of the Mess tent, a good 5m along and 1.7m high toss, after which Rasta muttered "Eina!" (Ouch), he then proceeded to help himself and go eat his food, the rest of us then did the same. Still the matter wasn't completely settled.
A night or two later, we were still carrying all our weapons as issued, not just R4's, we went to the canteen a half-brick, half chicken wire construction with a tin roof, to watch movies on one small TV, there were also 2 pool tables there, chairs were laid out in front of the TV and the movie started, the Bushies had got off first so were sitting in the front 3 rows of chairs, us and the others were behind or standing, some were playing pool, including Rasta's buddy Lotts. I forget the movie but it was probably some war one, during certain intervals one of the bushies in the front would jump on his chair dancing and shouting/swearing then sit down, this carried on for quite a while with the people in the back getting pissed off and telling him to sit down and shut-up, to which he would swear and carry on. He had been warned, one of our patrols arrived, standing at the back watching, we Jack-in-the-box jumped up again, Lotts busy playing pool was closest, two steps and round went the cue, smack in the side of his head, quickest dismount I ever did see, immediately the canteen was lit up by 3 rows of bushies with their little flick-knives, our response was also instinctive, R4's, MAG's and RPG's were immediately leveled and cocked, faster than they came out, the knives disappeared, hands were raised and the canteen emptied. Leech & co. didn't help by saying "Lets waste the fuckers, come on, lets!" That settled it, we sat in front, we ate first, Status Quo again. It's amazing what a RPG a meter from your head could do! God only knows what would have happened if it had been fired, probably nothing more than one missing head as it has a 14 or 20 m arming distance. Matters were now in hand except for our Cpl.'s, who having witnessed this were already changing a bit.
Our Base was opposite Koevoet's HQ with a large dam/shona in between. We had four Twin 35mm Oerlikon AA Guns around the Base, One in each corner, the best was sitting on the bank watching them fire into the sky, every 7th round a tracer, the rest burst at 2000 m in the air, it was amazing, the tracers started out green for about 50m then turned red, while a few seconds after each burst, the air-burst rounds exploded, beats fire crackers any day, the AA guys from Youngsfield, used to let us have a go quite often, you fire the two cannons with a foot pedal and can rotate either electrically or with hand controls. Our new Staff arrived, he was a friend of Staff B's and never shouted once (Hence his nickname "Death Wish"), our section was to go out on our first week walking patrol, so off we went, shorts, takkies and a collection of T-shirts, cammo, nutria or none. We had to dump most of our week's rats, so we could take enough water and ammo, basically most of the tins went. Too heavy and bulky. No toothpaste, soap, chewing gum or deodorant was allowed 12 hours before patrols, the Zots have good noses. The first night was rather uneventful, set up an ambush along a trail used by the PB's, and slept.
The next day we came to a cucca shop, with a woman behind the counter and a very malnourished child, we had no money, so swapped ratpack tins, that we had and some energy bars for beer, a fair trade we thought.
That night we found some trees and had a booze up, great. The next morning we were roused by a screaming Colonel asking us for our position, we met them at the closest road, man they were freaking, we had held up the cucca shop and stolen Beers, what had happened was that the women and child had eaten all the rats, then told her husband that the Army stole the beer, he then lodged a complaint with the CO, refused to listen to our side of the story and made some little Lt. In a Buffel follow us as we ran back to base, about 25-30 km. We ran for about 10 km, then decided, fuck it and started walking, the Lt. Started with threats (he was new), then ended up pleading that he would be in shite if we weren't back in time, so we compromised and caught a ride in the Buffel till just before the camp, then ran the last km. Our new Staff was then to give us a major Opfok. We ran to the runway next door and started the Oppie, after about an hour of run, pushups, run etc, Grant whispered " I'm going to drop" Ok, he fell like a log, we picked him up and carried him back to Staff, who walked over and kicked him in the ribs and said "Grant, get up", and the dick jumped up and said "Ja, Staff". 10 min later he did it again, this time he didn't move, so the Medics took him away to their tent and stuck him on a drip. Redpath was next, then Dunn. Staff gave up and called one of the roofie Cpl.'s to carry on and he went away. This poor Cpl, had it bad. He tried everything they had taught him in Infantry School, we would just walk and wiggle your arse, so it looks like you're running, and would chat to each other about Girls and other stuff. Poor guy was begging "Please! Staff is watching me! Do something!" So we cut a deal; 20 pushups then a 5 min smoke break. It then took him 10 mins to get us out of the shade, to carry on, and so it continued. The Medic tent was right next to us, by this time it had been dragging on for close to 2 and 1/2 hours, excluding the 'run', a lot of medic personnel, Docs etc, had come and were getting worried, while we were done a half-hearted set of push-ups, Dunn sat up in the Tent, waved at us, giving us the Thumbs up, with a big grin, when a doctor looked at him he quickly lay down. After 3 hrs the Doctor in charge stopped the Oppie and we got the day off. What a laugh. We were then banned from patrols for 3 months (only lasted just under 1 month), when we used to tree-aan for our daily duties, it went like this. Staff would say "Platoon 1, rake die walatjies, Platoon 2 do chicken parade, Platoon 3 clean canteen or tent area, Drink-Span (His name for our section), gaan slaap (go to sleep). It was great.
We had a good time there, there were few contacts in Ovamboland, and we were not involved, it was mainly FWB's (Koevoet: Fuck-ups with beards) and 101Bn who had most of them, we did a lot of patrols (When we were allowed out), and sometimes did Main Gate guard duty, 8hrs on, 3hrs off. After a month of this we were only too pleased to go on Patrol. During one Patrol we came to a grove of trees (Quite rare to find lots of trees together like that), and guess what we found in the middle? A whole Dagga (cannabis) plantation, We looked very funny afterwards walking along with all these green leaves drying on our Battle-Jackets, first time we had cammo'ed ourselves with `Grass' since 2nd Phase. We would always stay out as long as possible, it was far better than the camp hum-drum, we got our Lt. to drop off rations every week to 10 days, eat all the tins straight away (Less to carry, besides we had no space left), fill up with water, by far better than well water, then move out again. It used to rain most nights, and our rifles used to rust a bit, blast off half a mag or so on full auto and it was clean again, at least rust free.
One night outside a school somewhere in the middle of fuck-all land, we took cover under the tin awning of a nearby cucca shop, as we were already being blamed for anything that happened, we didn't kick in the door and sleep inside, as we might have done. A couple of days earlier a group of Ratels from some other Unit accidentally drove though a village, they were driving without lights, so probably thought it was a clump of small trees, one of our Sections was in the area on foot patrol, so we (They) were blamed for destroying the village. They had to chopper out a Intel Capt. To finally determine that we were not responsible, the fact that tire tracks, straight through a house, probably did it. Even though I'm sure the Colonel checked their boots to see if the tracks fitted. So there we were in the pissing rain under the roof, tensions at that time were very high, when our Cpl. Rosseau, started an argument with me about the revolver Hawk used in the TV series, I told him, it was a Colt Python .357 Mag "Silver Snake." He said it was a .44 Mag, we argued and then some more, until I went for him, the others thought this was hilarious, Rosseau dodging around a pole, with me trying to get him. Only when I grabbed my Rifle did they stop me. I suppose it was quite funny, but at the time tempers were running a bit wild.
The next day, a Sunday I think, as there were no children at the school, we bought this time, some whiskey from the shop and proceeded to get wasted. Dunn, our MAGGER started blowing away the tops of anthills, kneeling down, firing from the hip as usual, he had gone through about 100 rounds or so, when either due to lack of oil (most likely prognosis) or a bad round, the top of the just fired cartridge, got pulled off from the rest of the case, leaving behind half in the chamber. The FN MAG is effectively an open bolt action with a fixed firing pin and a plate at the bottom were the empties fall out, when firing the plate opens, thus the next round in the half blocked chamber detonated when only half in, resulting in an out of breech explosion, part of the shell casing when into Dunns leg, dropping him, Oh boy, not more shit! It was normal during Section foot patrols to go without a Ops medic, so we decided that we would have to operate, someone had a Swiss Army Knife and I was elected the Doctor, a bit of whiskey for a swab and to anesthetize, Dunn had some as well! I tried to dig it out, using the small blade, it was just a little hole, blue round the edges, until I started digging, then it got bigger with more blood, Dunn took the whiskey away from me, and had a good quarter bottle before I rescued it. I needed some too. I then switched to the large blade and dug pretty deep with no luck. Shit! He was then bleeding quite badly, so we called a casavac, and he was choppered away to hospital. He came back 5 days later, the story was, that he ran into a broken branch, the Doctor (the real one) dropped the bit of casing into his hand and said "Nasty Stick that", it had been stuck in the bone. He came back to us, and limped a bit for a while, but no harm done.
The rains then started in earnest, as this was traditional SWAPO time to attack, a couple of Civvie Bakkies and trucks, started hitting mines, we would do escort/clean up duty. The worst one we saw was on "Oom Willie se Pad" the main road in the area, they were obviously going for a military vehicle, as they had stacked 3 `Cheese mines' on top of each other, the two PB's that got hit were kind of mushy. We were picking uparms/legs and assorted pieces in a 30 m radius. Really cool job! We should have asked for `gross-out' pay on top of the `danger' pay.
CHRISTMAS IN HELL
We spent Christmas Day on patrol. We were called back for Christmas Lunch, during which Redpath and myself had an altercation over a fork. We were not happy little campers. We missed home; Christmas Diner with the folks and friends. We got cold meats, ham and chicken, 1 hr to eat, then were sent back out on patrol. Moral was very low. We kept to ourselves mostly on that patrol and this time we went back for New Year, which was even worse. No party. We were assigned to patrol Oshakati. The depression was enormous. All we could think of was our buddies back in the States having a good New Year Jol (Party). All was relatively quiet, we had to go and subdue the Cape Coloured Corp, because they were really having a party, and things were getting a bit out of control. At 12pm the heaven's erupted, everybody had been storing all the Tracers, Flares, Illum Mortars and Grenades. The 35mm's and Aardvarks (Buffels with a 20mm AA Cannon on board) all let her rip, LMG's, Flares, and Illum Mortars lighted up the sky, along with streams of tracers from virtually every type of weapon in the Base. We just sat on the wall in silence and watched. We couldn't stop it even if we wanted to. The only event to spoil this display was when a RPG was fired at the observation Tower, about 100 m up. It missed luckily, we caught the culprit, a Medic Lt. who was very pissed. We would have let him go, but it was our guys in the tower, so we took the RPG and gave him a couple of good `Klappe' (Smacks to the head), which put him out and left it at that. When we came off duty at about 2 p.m., we just went to sleep, depressed as hell.
After that it was business as usual. During the next evening Koevoet, next door over the `pond' fired a 1000 ft flare into our camp, setting one of the tents on fire. We hit the walls and shot back at theirs, with a couple of 60mm mortars and R4 fire. They then retaliated by driving their Casspirs up their walls and opening up with .50 Brownings and MAG's. They reversed quickly when a RPG rocket just missed one of their Casspirs and we turned the 35mm onto their walls. More Shit, but we didn't start it.
After that tension between us grew, one of our guards arrested one of their Capt's who tried to enter the Base with no ID, this involved the Cpl. pointing his rifle at the stroppy Capt. and promising to waste him if he moved, until he was authorized. More tension, they stole 3 rifles from us at the Main Gate and tried to charge the Guards.
A group also opened fire with pistols at one of our Guard points. Fire was returned and a Capt. was wounded. Hence our dislike for them and theirs for us, it was mutual hatred. Our OC tried to keep us out of their way and them out of ours, which worked for a while at least. Our dislike with Koevoet was not solely confined to our Unit about 8 months previously 4 SAI, also had a run in with them, they ambushed a Koevoet Patrol, resulting in 14 dead, at or by Ondangwa, I think, it was quite common for animosity between the Army and SAP to boil over, We as the Army were aware of our capabilities, in regards to `Real War' not COIN, and I suppose there was a bit of jealousy over Koevoets Kills, they were very good when it came to COIN ops, even though I think that 101Bn was the better of the two, they had more kills that year and less casualties, I believe Koevoet had a bit of a problem with the Recce's on a few occasions, once during a follow up ops, the Recce 9 man team, told koevoet that it was their spoor and to bugger off, which was ignored, resulting in a Recce ambush of Koevoet, with a number of casualties, after which Koevoet was banned from any area that the Recce's were working, even though most of the feelings put them down as "Murdering Bastards" we didn't find this to be the case, most if not all was anti-Koevoet propaganda by SWAPO and other Anti Groups. Our problem was with their attitude, which could be dangerous, but then we were not taking shit either and were better armed than most. In all the clashes they started them, it was only when their Brigadier Dreyer on something like that came and told us about them and explained what was what, did we relax on our side, he was quite a cool dude, so there were no more fire-fights or serious incidents for quite a while. Both sides backed off, after the Caspir incident we had deployed Ratel 90's along the wall and the twin 35 mm's were carefully positioned, but it was in nobodies interest to have a war, inside Oshakati.
We were then assigned a 101Bn tracker to help with patrols. He was pretty good. He really knew his stuff.
We often spent our nights laying up in ambushes. (We wanted to get one particular bastard. He had evaded one of our other sections ambushes, and due to the way he did it, MI said that this particular bugger, had managed to evade 13 ambushes before. He used to walk behind the others or right in front, knowing we'd wait till the majority had entered the kill area, before opening fire, thus he also avoided the Claymores. His trick was to duck down and simply walk away, at night most people tend to fire high.) We never got him. I believe 101Bn wounded and then caught him later on, after a follow up operation. We really wanted that guy, but that's life.
Our first and only contact until the 1 of April SWAPO incursion, is barely worth mentioning. We picked up some Spoor (at least our tracker did) at about 2 p.m. about a month after Christmas. We followed it back, as they (SWAPO) were headed south, we were about 20 km from the cut-line (Border between Angola, a dirt road), our tracker said that SWAPO used to cut the tracks off their boots, to make tracking more difficult. We followed at a light run for about 2 hrs, when we saw a grove of trees in front of us about 500 m away, with the tracks going straight there, we were spread out in a long V formation, with the tracker leading in front by about 15-20 m, when he drew some quite heavy Ak fire. He dropped down to ground, and we just let rip in a quick F & M. I really feel sorry about the trees as they did nothing wrong, but got badly hammered. We then did a quick "opreiming" (clean up) of the area, two were spotted down, several double taps, just to make sure, while our tracker skirted the area, he saw another, looking dead. He went over to check and strip, when the cunt rolled over with a Tokarov pistol and shot him through the left wrist through to his shoulder. Our tracker sat on him and stabbed him with his knife he always carried. What I don't get is why didn't he shoot him first, then check. We had always been taught that. What if it had been a F1 or other grenade and why didn't he signal us over first? He was lucky. We bandaged him up with Bom-Verbande (Bomb bandages), and called a casavac. He was fine. We visited him in hospital the next day, he was discharged a day later, with 2 weeks light duty. I'll say this much, he didn't make a sound when we bandaged him up. He was a tough soldier.
One of the funny things we came across, being white and serving with black troops both of 32 Bn and 101Bn, they used the word `kaffir' more than we did. We refrained out of respect for them, but they had no problem in calling other blacks `kaffirs'. When we asked why, the answer was the same; "I am a Soldier, these others (normally with a broad sweep of the hand) are just stupid kaffirs." It was funny, but we could respect that. They were all volunteers, not conscripts like us. They firmly believed in the SADF and its credo, while we often just wanted to get it over with and go home. It makes one wonder who morally was the better soldier?
We had inter-unit problems, yet it was not with the black troops or units. It was mainly with other White Units and of course Koevoet, who, while mainly Black, were SAP not Army. It was not a racial thing at all.
UNTAG: The End of SWA
The UN arrived to implement free and fair elections ha, ha. Since they only recognized SWAPO, at that point we were confined to Base, The Army that is, Koevoet conveniently renamed SWAPOLTIN were still out in force which I might add made us feel a bit better about the situation, also certain SA Units ( SF's) and SWATF Bns were still around, in the wilds. We were stuck in base, The UNTAG forces, Australians (Good Guy's), British communication Unit (With an incredibly beautiful Lt, who was very friendly in a professional way, though I think all of us wished otherwise), Malaysians and Pakkie Troops were sent up to Oshakati, the Kenyans also came, to liberate their fellow blacks from the racist South African's, we had a few problems with them, so they had to go elsewhere, I believe that the "Nuwe Rooi-nekke" (New Red-necks) as the Norwegians were called also had a problem with them. I guess we weren't the only racists then. We got on very well with the "Diggers" Aussie's, and the Malaysians, they took a shine to our Unit, despite the language barrier, and the Pakkies were Pakkies. The Malaysians and us were both full of shit, we would swap SADF equipment that we had `found' lying around, they would give us Sarongs, and parts of their kit. The Aussies had load of Hustlers, Playboys etc with them, which we would take to the Malaysians, it against their law to have porno stuff, so we scored big over that one. I really wanted a `Digger Hat' but they would not swap them for love or money, I even offered them a R4 and they turned me down, They only got issued with one and they could not replace them, if lost/stolen etc. The entire UN force was woefully unequipped to fight, they didn't have any mine-protected vehicles, they bought some Buffels and painted them white, all of which we found rather amusing, when we pointed out that they will properly become targets for SWAPO, one Aussie said "Shit, we're paid to keep peace not to fight", this was even more amusing to us. Most of our Heavy Weapons and Ratels were sent down in convoy before they arrived, so all we had was 12 Buffels, 10 Eland 90, one had a plastic 60mm mortar turret, and about 2000 troops in Oshakati, that's it. We were again allocated to Main Gate Guards, and various other shitty jobs. We stood guard with a Pakkie Capt, who kept on telling us how powerful an Army Pakistan had, and how the fought with India, one day a Koevoet group came in with a dead Terr on the bumper, the poor Capt. didn't know what to do with himself. The K-Car commander winked at us and said to the Capt. "Weet jy dat jy is 'n fokken dom Kont" (Did you know that you are a fucking dumb cunt), smiling as he said it, the poor Pakkie smiled back and waved saying "Hello, hello." I really tried to keep a straight face, the others went into the guard house, and we could hear them laughing, everybody was, even the Capt. Later he asked what he had said. We replied in rather strangled voices that he was just giving him `the traditional Afrikaans greeting' which made the Capt. very pleased.
That was basically the routine until the 1 of April, when we were all listening to the radio, and suddenly `Kontact, Kontact, Wag uit' with the sound of a 20 mm firing full ball, explosions, etc. Koevoet had made first contact with a group of about 15 SWAPO terrs. I still remember the following conversation, translated into English for this note:
"Colonel, large group, they're running, 4 down."
Colonel: "Alright, put the dead ones into body bags and bring them back."
Commander: " Sorry, can't do that only with 3."
Colonel: "Why the fuck not?"
Commander: "The one fucker had a mine on his back and I hit him with the 20 mm, there's fuck-all left."
Colonel: "Ok, try find his fingers (for finger printing) and come back."
That was the beginning of SWAPO's April fools day joke. Later on in the day Koevoet and 101Bn had 4 more contacts, Koevoet lost a Caspir to a 75 mm Recoilless Rifle and had another shot out by a AT Rifle Grenade, all the groups of SWAPO were large in comparison to normal, 20 - 40 each and well armed with RPG's, AT Rifle Grenades, and 75 mm's plus the usual mines, AK's etc. During one fire-fight Koevoet called for Air support, the UN secretary said no air support allowed, The Alloette Gunner, a Sergeant, said back over the radio "Fuck you" and let rip. I personally think he should have got a medal for that.
The number of contacts increased the next day, the bushmen running the cut-line, found huge amounts of tracks, plus tracks of up to 14 or more donkeys, heavily laden with weapons, all in all between 1400 and 2000 SWAPO insurgents crossed over, knowing we were in Base, hoping to get in and set up bases from which the could then control the elections. It was amusing that on the 1st of April, The UN did their first real, unescorted patrols. We said Goodbye to the Aussies who went out in a couple of Land Rovers, each of the six soldiers had a FN FAL in semi-auto with two mags, and their LMG gunner had a FN MAG with a 50 round belt, we gave them the usual friendly send off, with me asking that when one of them was killed, could I please have his hat. They were out for about 3 hrs when the contacts started happening, next thing we see is two white Land Rover clocking at least 70 km/hr drive into Base, guess they were expecting to be welcomed as saviors. We couldn't help laughing. It was really funny. All the convoys had turned around and started arriving, 200 Ratels at a time, the poor Pakkie Capt, just couldn't believe that the SADF wasn't a Mickey Mouse Army he thought it was, the G5's and G6's, Ratels and a few Olifant Tanks on transporters just kept on arriving. We gratefully handed over gate duty to the Parabats, and went to go get ready, on the 3rd of April we were let out, Groups of up to 100 SWAPO's were out there.
For the first time since our Angola raids on their bases did they feel the Iron Fist of the SADF again, and while well armed, they were not expecting that response, as one Australian Soldier put it later "You guy's might look like kids in uniform, but you make us look like fucking boy scouts," a comment which we graciously took as a compliment from the weathered 35 year old, professional soldier.
The number of SWAPO differs depending on who you asked at the time, as far as I could figure, taking their death Toll of 1270+- plus about at least 600 who made it back to Angola, and there are always those who buried their weapons and returned to their Kraals. I make the Number over 2000, but I can't be sure, what I am sure about is that old Sammy boy had made a bad mistake, which cost him a large amount of his terr buddies, and weakened his position quite badly with the rest of the world.
As far as we were concerned, this was what we needed, after being cooped up in Base, doing guard duty, and other shit, our time had come. We meaning the whole SADF and SWATF hit them solidly for the next 14 days, we had a ball, it was like a picnic for us, running wild over SWA, in virtually constant combat or follow-ups, We took no casualties during those 14 days, but 4 SAI got tangled up with a large group of about 200 insurgents, one of their Ratels, a ZT3 got shot out with a 75 mm Recoilless Rifle totally wasting the 5 crew members, it blew a huge hole, about a meter squared in the side, crisping the entire crew, was not a pleasant sight. They took it back to Oshakati covered in a tent, as it was still a secret weapon at that stage, 61 Mech also lost a Ratel, which hit a mine, don't know what type, and was then hit with several "Heatstrims" AK-47, Anti-Tank rifle grenades. Both Koevoet and 101Bn lost a few Caspirs and Wolf-Turbo's in the fighting, which was the largest single assault SWAPO had ever launched, the brunt of the fighting was done initially by Koevoet and 101Bn, this role was soon eclipsed by 61 & 64 Mech and the inevitably effective 32Bn, we had our fair share of contacts with reasonably sized groups, where instead of full frontal Mech assaults, like in Angola, we would dismount and take them on the ground, with the Ratel 90's and Valkiri 5's 107mm (small towed versions of the Valkiri 127mm), giving long range supportive fire, the Terrs had come equipped to take out armour at least to pose a threat to them, so hitting them on the ground made more sense, Buffels were used purely as a means to get a large number of troops safely to a area, where the troops would then conduct ground attacks, backed by Impala's, artillery and armour's ranged weapons. During that time period nothing was sacred, we went everywhere like StormTroopers, through schools, kraals, villages, shops etc, SWAPO was running for the border which had been effectively sealed, so they were trying to hide anywhere they could, without much success. That 14 day's were more intensive than anything we had experienced in Angola, to the degree that it contained smaller groups, who ran, fought, ran again, where in Angola all battles effectively lasted no longer than a day in-spite of the greater numbers opposing us there. When we were recalled on the 20th April, the threat was dead, but now we were allowed to continue patrolling. UNTAG set up posts along the Cut-line between Angola and SWA, so those surviving SWAPO terrs, could give themselves up and hand in their weapons.
We were allocated to point 14, which was monitored by Pakistani Peacekeepers, our Platoon and 4 Koevoet K-Cars. Opposite us was a FAPLA Armoured Battalion, 12 Tanks (T-55's), plus about 500 men, very well armed.
Some of us had Starlight Scopes fitted to our rifles, and during a night-Watch, I was scanning the FAPLA line, and was targeting a FAPLA Lt, who was scanning our lines with night-vision Binoculars. He spotted me looking at him, and Man, I've never seen a Dude duck so fast, it was only afterwards that I realized that what he saw, was a SADF troop with a night-vision scope and a R1 barrel pointed at him, he obviously thought I was trying to nail him. After that we had a bit of difficulty locating them, their discipline was good, occasionally we would spot one behind a tree or bush, once while I was scouting for them, one of the buggers lit a smoke, with a match, shit, my right eye was almost blind, as I wasn't using the filter. I switched eyes to carry on watching and saw this FAPLA troopie get the "Uit-Kaking" (Shitting out) of his life, by one of his Rank. It was good to watch as my eye fucking hurt. I hope they shot him for disobeying orders.
After the 3 day/night the Koevoet doos's got pissed, and one of the white K-Car commanders climbed into his Casspir and opened fire with Dual Brownings at the FAPLA Camp. He thought this was hilarious, for about 10 seconds until our Staff's fist knocked him out of the Casspir. Nobody made anything of it. I think that they all realized, should the FAPLA group have decided to retaliate, we all would have been in Deep shit. Yeah, we had 20 Ratels parked about 1Km Back, just in case, but we would have been toast before they could get there, 80 against 500, 15 tanks against 4 K-Cars and 4 Ratels (3 x 90's and 1x 20), and they were very well armed for a change, also these ones were a lot better disciplined than the others. It would have been a bitch of a fight, one I don't think we would have won, at least not Platoon 3 and Koevoet, It took us nearly an hour to calm the Pakkies down after that, they had shat themselves, not that it was unusual for them, as they used to shit/piss in their tent corner at night, because they were to scared to go out into wild Africa, so full of snakes and big spiders. If I must be honest, both them and their tent stank, this coming from us who hadn't seen warm water for about 6 months, and that was on pass, Oshakati's 52 Bn Base only had cold showers, so we also stank, but they were a lot worse, nothing worse than the smell of a collection of human shit except rotting corpses. Personally I find even burning human flesh is better, than fresh human shit enclosed in a tent corner. I won't mention what our black Owambo trackers or the black Koevoet Constables said about them, all I'll say is that they were damn right. We were relieved (boy were we relieved) after a week, by another of our Platoons, we did warn them about the tent though, we then spent our time in a variety of ways, standing road blocks, foot patrols, fire-force teams, and escort duty for UNTAG, it seems that SWAPO had lodged a complaint about us (SADF & SWATF Security Forces), that some of their "members" had given themselves up to us, and we then "Executed Them", which was a total Bull-shit story, If it had happened we would have heard about it, besides it was not SADF policy to kill people who had potential information to give. So we ended up escorting the UNTAG group to the mass graves of the insurgents killed, at the first and only site visited, about 15km from Ondangwa. The Task Team uncovered the first grave site on their map, it was a grave of about 70 odd bodies, buried with a grader, we sat and watched. Have you ever seen a group of Senior UNTAG Officers puke, that kind of off-set the smell, plus the distance we had wisely put between ourselves and our charges.
To give them their due, they did have a good look at the bodies, even though on that Day, we were all white, irrespective of Nationality, even the racist Kenyans were white. The outcome was that these were not subject to the Racist SADF's executions, but had been killed in battle. We suggested going to the next site, and were told that it was enough for today. Our Intel Capt. insisted that we had plenty of time to see at least 3 more sites, he couldn't hide his smile/smirk as he was politely asked to see them to Base.
At this time SWAPO's political wing SWAPO-D, had been organizing speeches/rallies all over, there was to be one in one of the nearby areas to Oshakati, so it was up to us to do Road-Blocks, typically bus-loads of supporters would be bused in to make each rally look big etc. During our roadblock stint the Key-Speaker a Big Wig, pulled up in two cars, one full of supporters, the other with him and some other Big Shots, we went through all the typical motions, as do all troops who were bored with all this shit of standing roadblock for 5 days, first check the cars, remove the occupants, check inside, etc. Mr Big Wig had a pistol, a Makarov on him, with a licence, we took it away to check with HQ, some Senior Intel officer asked who it was, we told him, we could hear him grinning over the radio, he said to us that he needed to check the license and would we mind keeping the "suspect" there until he had done so, also could we please search all parts of the vehicles for explosives/mines etc, while he checked for us. Mr Big Wig, got very snotty when we told him he had to wait he kept on saying "Do you know who I am?" Then he made the fatal mistake of pushing Grant, an action which got him a real thick ear, and a R4 shoved in his face and told to sit under a little tree. First we made everybody take off their SWAPO T-Shirts, men and women, then we made the men strip the cars, off with the wheels, remove seats etc, put them on/in, and then repeat, Dunn made them do an "Opfok", push-ups, run to the tree and back. 8 Hours later, the Intel Officer called to say it was legit, and to thank us for keeping Him occupied, also to thank Mr Big Wig for his patience, which we duly did, even though we kept the T-Shirts. To say he was hopping mad is an understatement. We saw him off back the way he'd come, then were recalled to Base, where we got a brief Uit-Kak for UNTAG's sake, and were given a case of beer with compliments from Intel. Just before Mr Big Wig's arrival at our post, a group of German Tourist's came through, as I said we were bored, so I walked up to the drivers window and asked in a stern Army tone "What is your favorite colour?" (A line I picked up from a friend, doing roadblocks in Alex), after stuttering a bit the man said; "Blue". To which I said; "Very well, you can go," then started laughing at their confused faces, to which they soon joined in, as they realized the joke. This proved beneficial as they gave us 12 ice-cold Heineken beers and some biltong, while they kept on repeating the joke, great people.
A week or so later SWAPO-D called for a rally outside Oshakati Base. We were issued with full Riot-Gear, for the first time in my Army Career, I got to wear a Bullet Proof Vest and a Riot Helmet. I didn't even realize the Army had any. We were also issued with Tonfun's (Rubber Batons with a vertical hand-piece).
We were front row outside the Main Gates, with the ParaBats on both flanks, again they (The Planners) made a mistake; it should have been the other way around. We were just not cut out for this peace-keeping shit, and 1000 Parabats would have made a formidable deterrent to the 6000 odd SWAPO supporters. Anyway things started out well enough. They had Bakkies there giving away T-shirts and mirror Sun-glasses, while they Toyi-toyed in front of us. Eventually tempers rose somewhere along the line, and we started getting confronted by a mob, to give us our due we held our line, just pushing them back, until one Wide-arse, sorry wise-arse, tried for a R4, the poor victim of this attempted robbery of his weapon was Rfn. Leech, and our CO shouted "Leech, slaan hom", mistake No. 2, I was a bit down the line, but as far as I could see Leech managed to hit him at least 15 times with the baton, before the guys next to him could stop him. Mistake No. 3 they then let Leech go once the thief had been dragged away, Leech single handedly did the "Charge of the Light Brigade", hitting all in his way, after that things got confused so we all charged, laying in with our new batons. We were joined by the Bats, who slammed into the crowd from each side, together we cleared that whole area in 10 minutes, except those that couldn't run and the abandoned Bakkies. All I can remember afterward was a large group of Koevoet, supposedly spectators cheering us on. We collected a lot of booty (T-shirts, Sun-glasses and other stuff left behind) that day, we also got Kak'd out by Rank types we had never even seen before or thought existed, except on Rank charts back in basics. Despite this we got a lot of support from our new Aussie & Malaysian friends, as well as most of the Bn Rank in ours and other units.
During the following 2 months or so there was not much to do, SWAPO had learnt their lesson and were not about to try the same stunt again, we continued doing routine patrols through Oshakati Township and the normal foot and vehicle patrols in the surrounding bush, once again we were working with 101Bn's `Romeo Mike' teams and trackers, SWAPO-D did try once again to demonstrate outside Oshakati Base, this was broken up this time by 4 32 Bn Ratels, who just started excelerating down from the Main road (Oom Willie se Pad), straight through to the gates, who's booms were quickly opened. Needless to say a case of "Run Jack, Run" overcame the demonstrators, though this time they got away with their bakkies and no injuries. I guess we were not to be trusted with crowd control anymore, why escapes me. Too soft I guess. One incident did happen in our last week, again involving our section, while on Foot patrol, though the Township, we stopped at a Shebeen for a drink or 10. To say that at that time we were not completely right upstairs, would be an understatement! First we were `Min Dae' troopies, with about 2 months to go, second off we were pretty pissed at the Government, for giving away all we had been fighting for, twice now. So we didn't really give a `flying Duck' for anything anymore. While we all got a bit pissed Dunn, Redpath and mainly Driver Jones got really toasted bad. They had Jones flat on his back, lights out with an Ovambo maid, squatting on him, of which we took photo's, some failed to come out though some can be found towards the end of the`Dronk Patrollie' link, for the next month and a bit we convinced Jones that he had been bonked by this maid, but before this really happened, Koevoet arrived in 4 heavily armed Casspirs, after one look they dismounted to arrest us. Dunn went for his MAG, though we got to him first. 40 odd Koevoet, plus at least 4-6 .50 Brownings and LMG's were not to be taken lightly. We were escorted to 52Bn HQ, where Dunn, Redpath, Jones and Little Botha were locked in the HOK, a leopard cage, used for captured terrs, there they spent the last week, rain and shine, until they were escorted to the Flossie to take us back to 7 SAI. We were sent back early, I guess that 52 Bn Rank had finally had it with us. The Company and my fellow Convicts, were flown out from Ondangwa, never to return.
On our arrival at 7 SAI, we were informed that we were not allowed into the camp, but had to go to Gravelotte, until we Klaared-out, as we were never searched at Ondangwa prior to leaving, we still had most of our Ammo etc, so when we objected to this treatment, as "Ou Manne" who hadn't had a hot shower for nearly 7 months, nor slept under a roof etc, Need I say that tempers were lost and rifles were found, this order was cancelled and we went into our "Home."
BARRY'S COMMENT: Here I'm racing ahead a bit with some anecdotes the author has provided in email, but hasn't yet reached in the narrative:
Later on during Ops in Angola, we were sent out in Ratel 90's to do some Tank Busting with 32 Bn, we could hear their engines up ahead, when a group of Storm Pioneers, acting a recovery tiffie's, came shooting through our Attack Line, in a Ratel Recovery, fully equipped with mattress's on the roof, in shorts and FAPLA keppies (Caps), pulling brown-eyes at our Colonel, as they raced past, the Colonel was shouting over the radio at them (After all this was supposed to be a surprise for FAPLA), and the whine of the Ratel at top speed is quite distinctive, we watched the disappear into the woods, then silence, without warning we saw a Ratel Recovery, with screaming tiffie's, come shooting back at about 65 -70km per hour, in reverse (The Ratels strong point, as fast backward as it goes forward) straight through our line. They had run into a Squadron of T-55's, 4 of them. It had to one of the funniest sight I've ever witnessed, at least 2 of them had the presence of mind to turn their bare asses to the Tanks, during their dash for cover (us). I don't know who was more surprised ours or theirs, but I think FAPLA was, as no shots were fired, and they actually stopped, I think the Commander's Jaw hit the Turrent top, with the shear "Bare Faced (or should I say arsed) Cheek" of this confrontation. Needless to say, under enormous amount of laughter (Except The Colonel), we had to make a tactical retreat and go around them, to succeed in our objective. The Engineer, Tiffie, storm pioneers, were notorious for their lack of any sort of discipline, Even the Colonel, couldn't change that.
I remember once when we came under sniper fire one night, he (Staff E Badenhorst) called Dunn and myself, and ran dragging his hand along the ground in the pitch dark, tracking the sniper, just by feel, we were hard put to keep up with him. We never caught the bastard but we got pretty close at one stage, as I mentioned Staff carried a .44 Mag Revolver, and he got off a few shots before we finally lost him. The bugger dropped his AK and ran like hell, by the time it was light he was way to far to catch. This was only one of his many talents, and like I said he understood us, he also dispensed his own form of justice/punishment when we were in the wrong, usually with his fist, but that was understood and certainly better than punishing the whole or getting "Klaared-on".
BARRY AGAIN: There's something very gratifying when someone who was there on the ground confirms and clarifies what I heard and documented. The author has this to say about the material in my chapter of `Pro Patria' on the Psychology Debriefing Team that I was part of:
I downloaded the stuff on your site, to read at leisure, as well as give to some of my Buddies who might be reminded of some of the stuff in them, In part 7(I Think) the part about the flies, the guy who used to shoot his shit & the guy waking up the flies at night was one of ours, I was there when he did it, so I don't know if it was the same story repeated or a different incident, His name was Andrew Dunn, our section "Magger", and he didn't shake the tree he started hitting them with a trenching spade shouting out "You C***t's keep me awake, I keep you f*****g awake" , he also used his MAG on his shit (It only made things worse), more shit, more flies. We then resorted to using P4, taken from claymores. This didn't help either.
The interesting weapon the young troopie was carrying sounds like a Y2 (Standard Issue 6 shot 40mm Grenade Launcher), and it was effective, depending on who, where, etc. It was especially good for bunker busting, each of our sections had one and our Y2 gunner could use up his 48 HE rounds in 1 min at full speed, wasn't recommended though.
Just reading through the posted chapters, while very interesting, it does bring back a lot of not so cool memories. A saying we had to describe the command of the war up there was "disorganised chaos", the was a lot of it.
As part of Combat Group Bravo, we often had to score our own rat's. During on of our briefings we were told that there would be no more "White Casualties", funny order to issue in the middle of a war, don't you think, even though we didn't quite live up to that, we only lost 6 guys up there in total, but then modesty aside we were good.
Anyway we always used to let UNITA take the heat, send them in front, while we drove round and attacked the flanks, Hard to tell who was who, they all looked the same, so I think most of UNITA's casualties were caused by us, nobody really gave a shit about that though, even UNITA it seemed, as long as they won, there were a few Mig's and a couple of Hinds shot down.
That's all I have so far, but the author has promised that he is working on more, so I will post it when I receive it. Please post comments and related material to the open forum of Army-Talk where at all possible.
Published: 1 July 2000.
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