National Service (1979-1980)

Written by F van Zyl

11 Commando, Keikanachab, 1 Reconnaissance Commando and Military Intelligence

Before Reporting

After I had finished matric, I went to study at the University of the Free State but by the time when I finishing my degree, patriotism got the better of me and I went off to do my stint of two years of National Service. In some way I looked forward to be doing it. Some of my friends in university had already done it and from their conversations I realized that they had experienced something that changed them in many ways. Political events in Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia as well as a thick dose of propaganda on the SABC television played a role in getting me charged up to do my bit for the Fatherland although it later turned out it was more likely for the National Party and the scheming Broederbond.

I had enjoyed my years in university to the proverbial brim of the glass and ended up in a poor physical shape, absolutely in no prime condition for serving the state. My brown call-up envelope with an enormous ominous looking `Official' stamped on it, contained instructions on how to get myself in a physical fit condition. I tried it a few times but I simply could not believe the army could be serious about me having to run a 2,4 km under 11 minutes. In the first week of basics I found out that they were dead serious and intended to proof it. I consequently suffered a lot.


In the early 70's when the first large scale call-ups started, everybody was still making a big fuss about the troop trains. Sometimes the town mayor would make a speech at the local station before the train pulled out. However by the time when I started my National Service, troop trains were no longer as important and the only official that I saw on Bethlehem station was the railway policeman keeping an eye on us to make sure we did not steal anything marked `SAR and Harbours'. Everybody was pretty quiet on the train, collectively we must have realized that the much feared basics had become a reality for us. The only humorous incident happened at Welkom station where a guy stood with a French Foreign legion kepi on his head and a six-pack of beers in his hand. When the corporal told him nicely (there were still parents and girlfriends around) that the beers would not be allowed on the train, he downed five of the beers on the platform, staggered onto the train and passed out.

That night when the train stopped Kimberley all hell broke loose. A mob of instructors started to yell at us and it dawned on us that the rumours of the army were not only true but also understatements. A new recruit passed out from fear, he just keeled over, not that it really helped him for long. We were bundled into Bedford trucks and driven to 11 Commando. The traditional `roofie' ride was not much of a success with the engine of the Bedford missing all the time (like all Bedford engines), and it could not really pick up any hair raising speed. The driver must have been intelligent for a driver, he then resorted to cutting corners so that the wheels would bump over the sidewalks and throw us around in the back.


On the same night of our arrival we received most of our kit and many of us ended up with uniforms that did not fit. I had to go through basics with a pair of overalls with the crotch part hanging down between my knees. It would have been a rapper dream to have such an overall, but it was hell for me. To be able to march on one place with the knees lifted high, I had to hold the crotch part of my overalls up with my right hand. To an outsider I must have looked like some pervert groping himself like Eminem. We were also issued with R1 rifles with the newer plastic stocks, no longer the wooden FN models. I liked the R1 and shot better groupings with it than with the R4's that I used during later years.

After breakfast the next morning we were marched off for our medical examinations. This took a whole day and most of us ended up G1K1. It seemed that you should have vital limbs missing to be classified for administrative duties. Blood samples were taken to determine our blood types and the vials were placed on a trolley. As the line of troops slowly moved past the trolley one of them stared at the vials of blood and promptly passed out. He fell right across the trolley with hundreds of samples. It was chaos with broken glass and blood all over the floor. Many of us whose samples were smashed, had to fall in the line again. Luckily for the recruit who had passed out, it was in the days before anyone worried about blood infected with AIDS. The few female nurses who were working in the sick bay were far from attractive and they treated us like cattle but later during basics, just a fleeting glimpse of them was enough to turn us into drooling idiots.

During our first parade the commanding officer, made a welcoming speech in which he was very proud of the fact that 11 Commando was the unit with the highest number of casualties of our own troops in operational duties along the border. I was stunned by this, as I stared at the national flag behind him, I did not catch the humour or logic in his boasting about our deaths, I thought the main idea was to kill SWAPO and not our own troops.

We slept in enormous hangers that could accommodate up to three platoons under one roof. Dust and the occasional sparrow feather were always settling down on us and this made inspections rather difficult. About 200 m from the hanger was a white concrete slab fence. This was the `White Wall': a name that filled us with horror and loathing. We were forever running between some place on the base and that hated white wall.

The commanding officer was not often seen but his second-in-command (Major Bat Nel), was often riding around on his army issue, olive green, balloon tire bicycle, looking for idle troops to be scolded. The Regimental Sergeant Major was AO1 Blignaut, and although he was the scourge of the NCOs, the troops respected him. He was fair and professional and one of the few permanent staff members that appeared to be interested in our well being. In one incidence he had overturned food containers in the mess hall and ordered the cooks to produce better food for the troops.

The most brutish of all the instructors in the base was our platoon sergeant, Corporal Bosman. Nearly just as bad was his sidekick, Lance Corporal Botes, who might have had an inferiority complex for being an RTU (return to unit) from Oudtshoorn. He was a Bosman wannabe who shouting at us with a voice that sounded like a cheap squeaky toy. Bosman was later replaced by Corporal Warden, who was well trained in the Bosman methods and acted like one of his clones, consequently things did not improve for us. What amazed me most about training was that we were constantly being degraded by instructors who acted as if we were the enemy. Patriotism and morale building were virtually non-existent, we swore and hated everything that resembled our own army. Our frustrations sometimes led to fights that resulted in a few bayonet wounds. Luckily the R1 bayonet was a blunt thing and not very practical to use as a knife for sticking into fellow recruits when you hated the instructors. Our most venomous remarks were aimed at the silly posters that proclaimed things like `Sweat spilt now means less blood later'. Where did they find morons who could dream that up?

About a month before the end of basics, we received a new platoon sergeant, Corporal Keulder. He had come back after a long spell on the border and he possessed a rare knowledge and method of instruction that inspired trust and motivation. He did not say much but when he spoke it was well worth listening to. We learned a lot from him and our platoon won the evaluation at the end of basics.

Church parade was an eye-opener for me. On the first Sunday I went to the Dutch Reformed (NG) church where the new intake had to sit in the front part of the church. Due to lack of sleep during training, as well as the pro-Nationalist Party propaganda, we all had one hell of a time trying to stay awake. This lack of attention to his sermon totally infuriated the chaplain. He yelled like some old-testament judge at us to stand up. He then ordered our instructors to keep us awakeand their solution was to walk up and down in the church while the chaplain droned on. Any recruit who dared to fall asleep got his ears clipped. Meanwhile the permanent force members and their families were sitting in the back of the church tittering at the unfortunate recruits. The name "House of God" just did not seem right to me in that church. After that Sunday I went to church parades of the other groups like Anglican, Hervormd, Gereformeerd, Catholic, or whatever church but never again to the Dutch Reformed.

It might have been due to the RSM's daily mess hall inspection that the food was not bad, but we never had time to enjoy it. While we were waiting for the cooks to dish out our meals, the corporals were already outside shouting for us to form up in our platoons. Due to lack of space in the mess hall we had to sit tightly pressed against one another, except if you were anywhere near Boertjie. He never really talked to us but only grinned at us and the instructors. He could not really eat without wasting half of it due to his spastic movements. Sitting near him meant that your clothes would be covered with pumpkin or rice. Most of the recruits always tried to help him wherever they could. I think it was our way of showing ourselves that we were still human and had not fallen to the level of gang of instructors. After a month he was sent home as not trainable, we were all happy for him and wishing him well for escaping from the hell hole but the amazing thing was he really looked sad to be leaving the platoon. Makes one wonder about the value of the medical exam on the day before basics started.

The shooting range was about 20 km away and called Blyvooruitsig [Happy outlook]. It never was a happy occasion for us as we had to do a forced march to get there and then it turned out to be 80% punishment drill and 20% actual shooting. An amusing thing that happened there was that while we were on the shooting point, Lance Corporal Botes fired a shot from somewhere behind the shooting point, over the people in front. RSM Blignaut descended on him like a fury and for the rest of the day we could hear him do ammo box punishment drill. During this outing to the shooting range I nearly had my head blown off by a friend of mine. Our group had just finished shooting and were standing somewhere to the rear when he turned to me and started to say "This R1 is......." At that moment he had the rifle pointed at me with the muzzle about 1 m from my face, when a shot went off. The muzzle blast was in my face and for years afterwards my left ear distorted like some cheap loudspeaker when I listened to loud sounds. Luckily for my friend, who had fired the shot, the troops on the shooting point were going full out with a rapid volley and the instructors did not hear his shot, not that I could hear them myself.

Right next to 11 Commando was a Maintenance Unit of Blue Berets who did not seem to have such a bad time. When it was too hot for training, a flag was normally hoisted to show that all training had to be halted to prevent troops getting heat stroke. We often saw the flag up in the camp of the Blue Berets but ours never appeared. Could it really have been warmer in their camp than in ours or did 11 Commando believe they could write off fatalities as part of training?

By the end of Basic Instruction it was time for Phase 2. Recruiters came from other units looking for gung ho troops who wanted to go to the Parachute battalion, Dog Squad, Junior Leaders etc. Being one of only four graduates in the whole intake in 11 Commando I was originally earmarked for Oudtshoorn but I was having trouble with an injured knee and I made the mistake of asking the recruiting officer if I could go somewhere else. He cracked up at my audacity to question his wisdom and I was sent out of the room without an answer but with vague threats that he would make "notes" in my file about my negative attitude. I finished Phase 2 in 11 Commando and was afterwards sent to Pretoria to work for Director Special Operations in the Zanza building.


On arriving in Pretoria I was taken to the living quarters at Defence Headquarters (DHQ) but two hours later I was told to pack again and ended up at Personnel Service Corps (PSC) to do a course. Right across the street from Personnel Service Corps was the Army College. We sometimes stared at the permanent force officers doing courses there and wondered how low a person had to be, to end up there. What I never realized at that time, was that I would also be a PF doing Officers Course at Army College one day. Most national servicemen viewed a permanent force member as the lowest of life forms, something similar to the primordial slime.

Training at PSC was nothing if compared with what we did at 11 Commando. However something totally new to me, was the permanent boning (excessive polishing) of boots by recruits who spent all evening with pieces of cotton wool and polish to get a glass like layer on their boots. Months of running through the thorns and rocks on the mine dumps around Kimberley had permanently ruined my boots, even my corporal agreed that it was impossible to bone my boots. Most of the PT consisted of running around in the streets of Voortrekkerhoogte, something that was much more interesting than the veld around Kimberley. During one of these runs the last guy in a platoon was struck and killed by lightning. A week later one of the instructors was so insensitive as to suggest that he was killed as divine punishment for not keeping up with the platoon.

After a month I was back at DHQ and was told to report at the Director Special Operations. I was taken to the commanding officer who told me that he had not asked for a new National Serviceman, that he did not have a job for me and that I did not have the necessary secret security classification to work there. He told me to go to the tearoom of the national servicemen and to wait there while he would try to find out why I had been sent to his unit. For two weeks I went to the unit each morning and had to sit all day in the tearoom waiting for news about where I had to go. My boredom ended when I received a telephone call from DHQ informing me that I was going to South West Africa.

South West Africa

A platoon of us were flown in a C130 from Waterkloof to Windhoek. The flight was long and noisy and by the time we landed it was already late afternoon. We were loaded onto Bedford trucks and driven off into the night. We stopped at a German café in the outskirts of Windhoek and were told that it was the last chance to buy food for the road. I ended up with something that resembled a large polony but turned up to be raw liver set in a spicy jelly and a white bread. After our stop we were driven south to Keikanachab, about 20 km south west of Mariental. We were totally isolated from civilians and the only thing that reminded us of civilian life were the distant lights of vehicles on the highway that we could see at night time and the occasional visit to us by someone from Mariental Commando who brought our supplies. We had no connection with the outside world except for the occasional letter that we received or wrote. This was a prisoner of war camp for captured SWAPO terrorists. The camp consisted of a double barbed wire fence of about 3 m high around tents for the prisoners and guard towers on the corners. There were shallow trenches outside the wire for `klaarstaan'. It formed a square with each side about 100 m long. The camp was supposed to be a secret place and we were not allowed to mention it in our letters. The prisoners were treated well and always appeared friendly. I never saw any mistreatment of any kind and when we did not do guard duty, we spend most days playing soccer matches against the prisoners or tanning in the sun listening to Esme's radio requests for the troops.

During that time the old NASA space station, Skylab tumbled back to Earth. It was calculated that it would most probably come down over either South West Africa or the South Atlantic. Where we were normally wearing bush hats, we were told to wear steel helmets for that day. I could never decide whether that was army humour or plain stupidity.

The peace and quiet was shattered one night when a burst of automatic fire woke everybody up. We rushed to the trenches to repel the `attack' but nothing came of it. In the end it turned out that one of our own guards had played with the safety catch of a WWII vintage Bren that was fixed on a tripod on top of a guard tower and it had fired a full magazine through the roof of one of our tents. One of the sleeping troops could not find his R1 in the dark during the rush and he was later found standing in a foxhole, totally naked and only armed with the cleaning kit pull-through in his hand. He might not have killed a SWAPO attacker with it, but certainly could have cleaned his AK47 for him.

Some time later the security police came to inform us that they had captured a terrorist in the area and it turned out that SWAPO knew about the camp. This meant there was the possibility that SWAPO might try to set the prisoners free and from that time onwards we had to start walking patrols to look for tracks in the area. We only once found suspected tracks nearby which we followed for a day but the police took over from us and we returned to camp. During one of these foot patrols I discovered beautiful Iceland spar calcite crystals of an exceptional clear quality and as large as a man's fist. There was no attempted escape during my time at the camp.

After three months we were told that we were to be replaced by another platoon. The camp was considered to be an operational service and a commandant would arrive on our last day to hand out Pro Patria medals We did not get any, it turned out that when he arrived, he decided our hair was too long for his liking and he got in his Landrover and drove off with our Pro Patrias. I received mine later in the mail.

4 SAI Middelburg

On arriving back at Director Special Operations, the OC called me into his office and finally told I had to go to 4 SAI (Middelburg) to help a person who was doing a research project on leadership in the Reconnaissance Commando Units. At 4 SAI, I moved into a bungalow with HQ Company and I worked in the town with the person who did the research project. She was Mrs van Nieuwenhuizen, the wife of a local Dutch Reformed minister. He was an amazing person and the first to explain to me how the Broederbond manipulated politics in the country. Mrs Van Nieuwenhuizen's research consisted mostly of literature research. I had to read through stacks of literature on anything that concerned leadership. Most of this was boring stuff but there were also interesting works by military authors like Von Clausewitz or about leaders like Rommel, Patton etc. I did not stay very long at 4 SAI and was glad to leave, it was a depressing place with lots of cannabis smokers, awols and only cold showers although it was a freezing winter time on the Transvaal Highveld. The only memorable person was the RSM who was rumoured to be the real Killer Smith who according to an army urban legend, had killed his brother's son during punishment drill. The RSM had wrists as thick as my knees.

1 Reconnaissance Commando

Mrs Van Nieuwenhuizen's husband became the chaplain for 1 Reconnaissance Commando and they moved to Durban and into a house next to the lighthouse on the Bluff. She was still busy with her research and I had to work in an office in the administration building of 1 Reconnaissance Commando. Her research did not appeal to most of the Reconnaissance Operators. They knew what was important in a leader and what worked for them and did not like a civilian asking silly questions about leadership issues. There were about thirty other national servicemen (NSMs) in the unit, mostly parachute packers, store men or clerks.

The CO was Commandant Swart and the adjutant was Major Dippenaar. The adjutant was blind and missing fingers from a detonator explosion but he had an amazing memory. He was helped by his clerk, Cpl Coetzer who was typical Personnel Service Corps, he boned his boots and wore chains in the inside of the bottom of his pants to keep them straight, it also might have helped Maj Dippenaar to hear him moving around. The RSM was AO1 Pep van Zyl who looked quite fierce with an enormous moustache, a typical sergeant major belly and a booming voice. The NDP's respected him and we knew that as long as we did your work properly and looked smart, he would be fair and amiable. The scourge of the NSMs was the Base Sergeant Major, AO1 Kruger. His pet hate in life appeared to be National Servicemen. Once he had his sadistic eyes fixed on you, you knew you were in for a very bad time.

The permanent force members of the unit and the national servicemen did not really socialize, both groups kept to their own. We were not allowed to wear their maroon coloured berets but retained our own from the units where we came from. During one incident a small group of NSMs went to a bar where they got beaten up by the civilians. When the permanent force members heard about this incident, they claimed that it was their privilege to "bliksem" the civvies and said that the NSMs had brought shame on the unit. One good thing that came out of this incident of the fight with the civilians was that the worst troublemaker of the NSMs (Private Meyer) ended up in hospital with a knife wound in the neck. When he came out of hospital he was forever a changed person, as meek as a lamb. It might have been due to some brain damage or he might even have seen the bright shining light in a near death experience.

There was a rumour that the civilian base handyman was a relative of Tessa of the photo storybooks fame. A girl vaguely resembling her sometimes visited him and although she was not as tall as in the books, wore a thick plastering of makeup on her face and wore normal clothes and not her habitual bikini, our two years in the army made her look like some Nordic goddess.

On Friday afternoons nearly the whole unit had to participate in the Commandant's Run, which consisted of running a circular route around the Bluff. It was about 8 km long and consisted of a winding road on top of the ridge of the Bluff where we had a glorious view over Durban's Bay area. When we reached the lighthouse near the end of the bluff we turned right and went down a steep hill past a sewage plant with an ghastly smell. You had to close your mouth when running pass that part if you did not want to swallow the flies that were attracted to the sewage plant. At the bottom of the hill, next to the beach was a road that passed an old whaling station, then up against the side of the Bluff and back to the unit along a road.

A group of us did a lot of snorkeling in the ocean next to the old disused whaling station. The sea floor was littered with lead sinkers from the fishermen who had fished there before the area was taken over by the army. We collected these lead sinkers and traded it with the parachute packers who then made us articles like sleeping bags inners from old parachutes. One day the commandant warned us that the Air Force had phoned him and said that when they flew their daily patrols, they not only saw us swimming around in the sea but also enormous sharks on the other side of the breakers. It did not keep us out for long but we tended to keep to the shallow parts after that.

After office hours we often had to do guard duty at the gate that separated the bluff from the civilian residential area next to us. There was a small guard hut but nobody dared to stand inside it. Someone had committed suicide inside it and the ceiling was still spattered with what looked like dried blood. Apparently the BSM decided that it should stay that way to teach us some lesson of a kind. One midnight a completely naked women ran past the guards, down Marine Drive. This totally confused them because she was not covered by stars like the Scope girls. After about 20 seconds a equally naked Portuguese man ran up to the gate and asked in heavily accented English: "Where did she go?"

Cpl Wayne Clarke the military policeman in the unit and Cpl Pierre Halle the PTI and myself were once taken by Landrover to an old steel railway bridge near St Lucia where we had to pretend to guard the bridge for a week. This formed part of a training course on camouflage and demolition for new reconnaissance operators. It turned out to be a real treat for us and we ended up drunk for a week on Ijuba, (the Zulu beer that were sold in liter size cartons). We dived from the bridge, tried to catch fish although our lines were always snapped by something big. Our water sports suddenly came to a stop when a police patrol stopped there and warned us about the large number of sharks and crocodiles in that part of the river. At the end of the week we received a message to move back to a bridge at the North Coast Highway where we would be picked up. We sat there all day long without our promised lift and by night we had finished the last of the Ijuba. We also had many plastic glow-sticks left. Corporal Halle activated about five, cut them open and smeared himself from head to toes with the glowing liquid. With his body shining a bright green light he then went to the highway where he tried to get a lift. Needlessly to say nobody stopped for this green human glow-worm. We tried to sleep but the light shining from him kept us awake for a while. I never saw him after national service again and for all I know he might have developed a third eyeball from the chemicals of the glow-stick. Although we never saw the reconnaissance operators during that week at the bridge, they later showed us photos that they have taken of us, some were from as close as 2 metres. They were either brilliant with their camouflage and movements or Ijuba had left us blind and deaf..


During my second year, many Rhodesians who had left their country, arrived in Durban and some of them joined 1 Recce Commando. They were a friendly lot and did not have the general animosity against national servicemen that our own permanent force members showed. It was nice talking to them and from their conversations I realized how tough things had been in their country. The Rhodesians were later formed into 6 Reconnaissance Commando but they shared the base with us during that time. When they prepared for their first big operation somewhere, they loaded trucks for days with anything that they could get onto them. It looked more like some safari with a "Dr Livingstone I presume" atmosphere to it.

Checking out

Just before my two years of service came to an end, AO1 Kruger decided that the national servicemen had to be taught a lesson for old time's sake. At our 40 days party someone had kicked a toilet to pieces and the culprit did not come out in the open about this. Every morning since that party, except for Sundays, we had to report at the beach at 6:00 where we did PT for an hour with anything as unyielding as Unimog tyres to railway ties (sleepers). We had to do this until our very last day in the unit but he never found the culprit. This was some of the worst PT that I have experienced in my army days and we ended up bruised and swearing at the objects that we had to lug around in the loose beach sand.

On our last day we had all our documents signed, said goodbye to our friends and were given a farewell message by Commandant Swart. We then received a message that AO1 Kruger wanted the national servicemen to report for a final drill parade but we jumped in our vehicles and drove off. At the gate the pioneer (an old soldier, who seemed as if he still suffered from shell shock after Tobruk), told us that he received a message from Kruger not to let us through. In the end we convinced him and by the time when Kruger arrived at the gate, we were already gone and free at last.

Camps, Permanent Force and SANDF

Two years later I did my first camp with a Citizen Force Unit (Regiment Louw Wepener), at a field base of the 2 Field Engineers (Bethlehem). It was called called called Piet-se-gat, in the mountains between Bethlehem and Clarens. This was the coldest three weeks of my army career. I have been a teacher for four years in the far Northern parts of Canada but even these temperatures (which can go down to - 40 degC ), are not as bad, due to the use of heated buildings and protective clothes and gear. The SADF browns, sleeping bags and bungalows were never designed to protect against extreme cold. The temperatures during those nights in the Eastern Free state went down to -10 deg C but we did not have great coats, only a bush jacket and a stretched army jersey. At night when we slept shivering, our exhaled breath formed condensation in the freezing temperatures.

During another one of these freezing camps in the Eastern Free State, I ran into AO1 Kruger again. It was during another freezing cold camp at Ladybrand that I was awoken by by his shouts one morning. He was dubbed "Rooimoer" [Red Rage] by the Citizen Force troops but it seemed as if he had lost some of his old vigour. He did not recognize me and I stayed as far as possible away from him.

I did a few courses at Smidtsdrift and Danie Theron Battle School in Kimberley and I saw that 11 Commando no longer existed. It was replaced by Army Intelligence School. The old bungalows were still standing but the hated white prefabricated wall had gone. They should have sold parts of it to ex-members of 11 Commando.

After teaching in Pretoria for a few years I decided that I needed more excitement than looking after misbehaving teenagers and I joined Military Intelligence in 1987. As a permanent force member I did my officer's course at the Army College, across the road of the Personnel Service Corps where I had stood a few years before, hating permanent force members. I worked most of the time in the Liberty Life building and did courses at SAMIC and Wallmansthal. Military Intelligence was an amazing place to work at and I met wonderful people who were working there or who did courses with me. However after Namibia became independent, things started to wind down on the military side and I went back to teaching again.

By the time that the SADF had became the SANDF, I was teaching in Bethlehem and worked for Bethlehem Commando as the Intelligence Officer. Although we had good times camping and doing patrols along the Lesotho border, it was also the time when we experienced the horrors of brutal farm attacks in that area. By 2001, I became convinced that FW de Klerk's total surrender of power had left us with no control over our political future and I emigrated with my family to Canada.

And Now?

Most of us did not have any fantasy about going home after National Service to a hero's welcome by a grateful nation. We were after all brought up in a society where National Service was made out to be a plight, and things like the showing of emotions were frowned upon. Arriving home we discovered that when talking to outsiders about rat-packs, bivvies or inspections, they did not fully understand these concepts or realized why we wanted to talk about it in the first place. Talking to much about your army days also led to you being tagged us `army-bedonnerd'.. Many of us heard within the first week of being home, `When are you going to look for a job?' So much for appreciation.

Many years have passed since my involvement in the SADF but I often think back to the days in `browns' my wonderful friends and hilarious situations that we had shared. I no longer hate the sadistic types that I have described, they were the minority and the rest of us have proofed in the end that we had more human decency in us. National Service also taught us much more than just how to be a soldier, it gave us life skills that still distinguish us, even after all these years, from others. National Service was also the melting pot that taught Afrikaans and English speakers that we were not that different after all. We made friends, depended upon and placed our trust in each other. National Service also took us out of our sheltered worlds and we ended up in a platoon that was a kaleidescope of different people and it was up to you to get along with anyone, in the end most of us did.


I was one of the lucky ones, I came back whole from National Service, both mentally and physically, without wounds or nightmares. Many others did not come back. Looking at the long list of casualties and reading the dedications to them, forces one to reflect that there was also a very sad and tragic side of National Service. There is also an even longer list of those who were damaged, both physically and mentally by what they had experienced as young 19 year olds, thrown into an vicious African war with images more real than what Hollywood can dream up.

Published: 18 November 2003.

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