A COOK'S TOUR OF DUTY
The Experiences of a
South African Army Service Corps
July 1978 to June 1980
With An Account of Citizen Force Service in the South African Irish Regiment
January 1981 to August 1986
©Peter Chapman 2006
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, by any method and for any purpose, without the written consent of the author.
35A Flanshaw Road, Te Atatu South, Auckland 0610
For my three sons
Brett, Garrick and Kirk
May you always know peace.
Corporal G.J. "Rhian" Rix
Section Leader, Section 1, Platoon 3
11th Kimberley Commando
Killed in action on 13 April 1979 near Okatope, south of Ondangwa, on the last patrol before he was due to go home. One of 99 South African soldiers killed in action or who died that year.
I did not know him, but he was the same age as me. May he rest in peace.
It's hard to describe why I have written my memoirs of my time in the South African Army, as a young National Serviceman. I suppose that part of it is to keep these memories alive for my children, as I won't always be here to relate them myself. Also, my son Garrick has a strong interest in things military, and at the time of writing, he is contemplating a career in the New Zealand Army.
But it is also true that I have always kept these memories alive myself over the years, which is strange as I hated the idea of going to the Army, especially as a conscript who had no freedom of choice. Not once can I honestly say I felt I was enjoying myself, and I complained frequently in letters home to my parents and fianceé. Yet there were many humorous times and incidents when I look back twenty five years, when I was there and living the experience.
This is not a tale of daring deeds, or desperate times in combat against a dangerous foe. If you wish to read about these things, then this is not the book for you.
I served fulltime in the South African Army from 5 July 1978 to 27 June 1980, and although I was posted on operational duty to South West Africa, it was as a chef, or cook, in the Army Service Corps. We were fighting a war up there, but I was never personally involved in any combat, nor did I have to shoot anyone, for which I am eternally grateful. I had friends who did, and none of them enjoyed the experience. These were the true heroes, whose lives were forever changed by their experiences, in a war that was not of their making.
I did see something of the war, and had some interesting experiences, and these I have tried to recall as best as I can after the passage of so many years. Mainly though, this is my personal account of service in the South African Army, at a time when they were becoming increasingly embroiled in a conflict that would claim the lives of so many young men from my generation, for reasons that are still uncertain to many of us who served in South West Africa, myself included.
Many people need to be thanked for their patience, indulgence and goodwill over the years, as I am sure I have bored them all to tears a thousand times over with my army recollections. First and foremost among these is my lovely wife Sharon, then my fianceé. She has stood by me and been my constant companion through it all. Without her love and encouragement, I do not think I could have survived. My mother too deserves special praise, for always being there to support me when I was at my most nervous and fearful, and for saving the all too infrequent letters I wrote to her. The latter have helped tremendously to jog my memory and contributed much towards this book.
Peter Chapman - Auckland, New Zealand. June 2006
Published at Sentinel: 24th July 2006.
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