This glossary is really about terminology peculiar to the former SADF, many of the terms here are in Afrikaans and often were used as is, the English was very rarely used and occasionally there just was no suitable English equivalent (or I have no idea what it is). I have used the meanings as they applied when I was in the military and my spelling of the Afrikaans terminology may not always be correct. Oddly enough there are 2 iterations of this glossary, one being a post and the other a page (this particular one is a post. Special thanks to everybody that has provided me with some of those great phrases which I had forgotten, especially Richard Meyer who really stirred some memories, and Hanlie Sonnekus for yet another truly South African colour description, and Ronnie Lovemore for the image of the Buffel in PE.
Aangekla/kla-ed aan (Afr): Put on a charge.
Afgekeur (Afr): Turned down, rejected.
Afkakkamp (Afr): Literally a camp where you shit yourself. Generally a camp known for its abuse and death toll under training. 8 SAI in Upington and 2 SAI Walvis Bay had lost quite a few national servicemen to abuse and heat exhaustion and they had reputations as afkakkampe.
Afkak parade/Chasie (Afr): Shitting off parade, usually a punishment or fucking around session, sometimes on a company or platoon level.
Air Pollution: Paratroopers.
AK: The AK47 assault rifle used by the Warsaw Pact countries and exported in huge quantities to wherever there was conflict. Famous for its reliability, it was found in many variations and calibres, including the 7.62×39 version which was extensively used in the Border War.
Akedis Dorp (Afr): Lizard City. The name given to the transit camp at 1SAI.
AWOL: Absent Without Official Leave.
Ballas (Afr): Balls. All goats on the border seemed to be named Ballas.
Balsak (Afr): The long sausagelike kitbag where the bulk of our kit was stored when we moved around.
B & O (Afr): Bestuur en Onderhoud (Afr) Driving and Maintenance course. Aka “Bal Bak en Ontspan”.
Ballas Bak (Afr): “Ball baking” or laying around doing nothing, taking it easy.
Bos Bussie (Afr): “Bush bus” this was not a form of transportation, rather it was an opfok in the bush behind a vehicle.
Basics: Basic training, usually lasting about 10 weeks and supposedly the worst part of your army career.
Bedford: The large truck was the workhorse of the SADF when I was there, often known as a “Vasbyt Bedford” (and a Bullnose Bedford in the UK). Many of these vehicles were very old, dating possibly from the 1950’s. They were gradually replaced by the Samil.
Beskadiging van Weermag Eindom. (Afr): Damaging military property. This was considered a very serious offence and could encompass almost anything but did include breaking a leg or not taking malaria pills.
“Black is Beautiful”: A black camoflague paste which came in a green plastic holder and which was like boot polish.
Bluestone: Legend had it that “bluestone” (Copper Sulphate) was put in the coffee to suppress libido’s. In my 2 years in the army I never saw any proof of this and army chefs deny that it happened, although it does not explain the undrinkable coffee in 3SAI Potchefstroom.
Bokkop (Afr): Infantryman. The insignia of the infantry was a springbok. A rifleman was called a bokkop (buckhead)
Bombadier (Eng): The artillery equivalent of a corporal.
Boompie Toer! (Afr): Run to the tree.
Boshoed (Afr): The nutria bushhat so beloved of all ex soldiers.
Bossies/Bom Befok (Afr): Crazy, mad. Usually suffering from shell shock/PTSD.
Bom Verband (Afr): Literally a bomb bandage. This was a packaged bandage which we all carried in a pocket on the right hand side of our pants. It was our first line of defence if we were wounded and each soldier on the border had to carry one.
Brake Shoes: Provita Biscuits.
Bren: The BrNo 7,62mm machine gun which was used as a platoon weapon. Most were of WW2 vintage and very temperamental. They had been rechambered to use the same 7.62 round and 20 round magazine that the R1 did.
Brunch: Combination of breakfast and lunch. Usually served at 10h00.
Buffel (Afr): Buffalo. A mineproof troop carrier used by the army. Could carry 10 men and a driver, and was built on a Unimog chassis.
Burger Sake (Afr): Civic Action. An attempt to win over the local population. Similar to a “Hearts and minds” campaign.
Buddy/Chommie/Maatjie: Friend, fellow platoon member, mate.
Budgie Club: South African Air Force.
Budgie: The cap badge of the Air Force.
Bicycle: a Second Lieutenant – any officer could “trap” him. (being the lowest commissioned officer)
Casevac: Casualty Evacuation
Casspir (Afr): A mine proof vehicle used by the police in anti-terrorist and anti-riot ops.
CB: Confined to barracks.
CF: Citizen Force. The CF consisted of mostly civilians who were called up to do camps. The norm (at my time) was that after you had served 2 years national service, you were liable to 10-12 camps over the next 10 years, theoretically the camps were supposed to alternate between a 1 month camp and then a 3 month camp depending on what corps or regiment you were a member of
Chicken Parade: Picking up litter and stompies (cigarette butts) in an area. Aka “policing the area”.
Commcen: The communications centre.
CSM: Company Sergeant Major.
Dankie Tannie Organisations: The Southern Cross Fund and similar organisations. An organisation founded to provide support for families of those on the border as well as provide comforts etc for the troops.
Dankie Tannie Pakkie (Afr): a parcel distributed by the Southern Cross Fund Whenever we went up to the border we got a “Dankie Tannie” package with writing pads, envelopes, a pocket knife/nail clipper, Chesterfield cigarettes, sweets, a letter from Mrs Botha, a pen, all in an embossed fake leather folder.
Daraclor: A brand of anti-malaria pills which we had to drink every week while on the border. Legend had it that these would make you turn yellow and that you wouldn’t be able to tan.
DB: Detention barracks
Dixie: 2 Square aluminium “plates” which were kept in your webbing and which were used to eat out of. They fitted inside each other and with the firebucket and pikstel formed your eating kit when in the bush or border.
Dog Tags: The two metal plates worn on a chain around your neck which indicated your name, army number, blood group and religion.
Drol (Afr): Turd. Usually describing somebody eg. “Hy is ‘n drol!”.
Doppies (Afr): The cartridge cases left over from shooting.
Eenvormig (Afr): Everything had to be uniform and the same.
Engine Mountings: Braised Steak.
Evaluasie/evaluation: Here they evaluated if a platoon or company was up to standard. Company evaluation would entail all sorts of things from drilling to inspection and fitness.
Firebucket: The metal water bottle holder which was in the water bottle pouch. It had a folding handle and doubled as a cup/pot/shaving dish. It held about half a litre and was often blackened with soot from being put over a fire.
Flossie: The C130 Hercules aircraft which took us to the border. In our case these were operated by SAFAIR.
Flying Meatballs: Derogatory term for the parabats.
“Geen skerp punt ammunisie, doppies of dele daarvan in my besit nie” (Afr): No ball ammunition, cartridge cases or parts thereof in my possession.
Go carts: Fibreglass toilet shells which were placed over a hole dug in the ground.
Grootsak (Afr): The big knapsack which was worn on your shoulders.
Gunner (Kanonier (Afr)): A private in the artillery.
Gyppo: Avoiding duty. Any idle time or sitting around was considered gyppoing.
Gyppo guts: The runs…. an upset stomache, sometimes known as the squibling shits. Diarrhoea
G3: An older 7,62mm assault rifle which was used in the Air Force, South West Africa Territory Force (SWATF), interpreters, and in some citizen force units. It was originally made by Heckler and Koch and also known as the R2.
Hardegat (Afr): Hardassed, stubborn, non conformist.
Hindernis Oorsteking (Afr): Obstacle crossing.
Houding (Afr): Not really a quantifiable thing. It was more about bearing and attitude and how smart and “militarylike” you were. You either had it or you didn’t. It was very rare to see a sergeant major without houding.
Honey Sucker: A large tank with a pump which was towed around emptying sewers and manholes, renown for its vile smell.
Infantry School: in Oudtshoorn was where they trained instructors and officers for the Infantry Branch.
January intake: There were 2 intakes each year, one in January and one in July.
Jav: A green camoflague liquid which came in a plastic bottle and which was used to camouflage webbing etc.
JL’s: Junior Leadership. The course for rank.
Kapoen (Afr): Kapoen was the beret colour of one of the PSC (Personnel Service Corps) and is best described as a clay shit brown. It was called kapoen because it was “tussen kak en pampoen” (a mixture of shit and pumpkin).
Klaarstaan (Afr): The period just before and after sunrise and sunset. Also known as “Stand To”
KO (Afr): Kandidaat Offisier aka Kakhuis Offisier (Afr). Candidate Officer (CO) (Eng). Somebody that was doing an officers course but had yet to achieve rank. They usually wore white tabs on their shoulders. Army lore has it that the Captain moans at the Lieutenant who then moans at the CSM who moans at the CPL who fucks up the troop who kicks the dog who then bites the CO.
Koevoet (Afr): The South African Police anti-terrorist unit used in South West Africa.
Kort Diens (Afr): Short service. These were guys who had signed on for 3 years in the army as opposed to the usual 2, they ended up doing less camps and were often hated as much as the PF’s were.
“Kry all daardie civvy kak uit” (Afr): Get rid of all that civvy shit. A very popular term used just after returning from a weekend pass, often just before heading off to the shooting range.
LMG (Afr & Eng): Ligte Masjien Geweer/Light Machine Gun. Lang Maar Gat (Afr): tall thin person
Loopas Mars (Afr): Double time/on the double
Loot: A loot was a lieutenant, usually a platoon commander. In some units these were pronounced Lootenant as opposed to Lefttenant. A 2 pip loot was a first lieutenant and a 1 pip loot was a 2nd lieutenant.
LWT (Afr): The transport park. Nobody seemed to know what LWT stood for though. I have since heard it stands for “Ligte Werksplaas Troep”.
MAG: A 7,62mm belt fed machine gun used as a platoon weapon on the border.
MBV (Afr): Myn Bestande Voertuig (Mine proof vehicle).
Min Dae (Afr): Only a few days left.
Muis en Sluitstuk (Afr): The breech block and slide of an R1 rifle.
Noddy car: Eland armoured car. There were two primary versions. A 90 which sported a 90mm gun, and a 60 which sported a 60mm breech loading morter
NAAFI: No Ambition, And Fuck-all Interest.
Naai the beat: Stand guard.
NDP (Afr) NSM (Eng): Nationale Dienspligtige. National Serviceman. Somebody who was doing their 2 years national service.
NG Kerk (Afr): The Dutch Reformed Church, the official religion of the SADF.
Nommer Asseblief (Afr): The name of a popular local TV series, it was a favourite at the shooting range. The instructors would choose a number and the company would have to run up the skietwal and around the corresponding number on the wall behind the shooting range.
Om die kakhuis gaan!!! (Afr): Go run around the shithouse! (Boompie gaan – same as “Om die kakhuis gaan”)
OH Drills (Onmiddelikke Handlings drills) (Afr): Immediate action drill, something which was not thought about but just carried out.
Oshivello: A training base inside the operational area. Used for Tein Ops and refresher training.
Ou Manne (Afr): Old Men. Anybody who had at least 6 months to go was an ou man. Theoretically anybody who had been 6 months in the army was an ou man too.
Owambo piele (Afr): Vienna sausages.
Patrollie Sakkie (Afr): Patrol bag, a smallish knapsack which was worn slung around the body or clipped onto the knapsack.
PB (Afr): Plaaslike Bevolking. Local population.
Peleton Piel (Afr)/Bungalow Bill: One troep who was nominally in charge of a platoon or a bungalow. usually he was responsible for locking the bungalow and calling them to attention and made sure everything was done for inspection. A truly thankless task
Permanent Force (PF’s): PF’s were the career soldiers and the most hated of all. When used as instructors they treated everybody like scum and generally were a miserable lot.
Puma: A general purpose helicopter used by the air force, it was the workhorse of the airforce, It was used in a variety of roles eg: Casevac, search and rescue, VIP transportation, etc. Now replaced by the Oryx
Pikstel (Afr): Literally a shovel and pick set. This was a fork and spoon which slid into the handle of the knife.
Piss lilly: A fibreglass funnel which was planted into the ground and which served as a urinal
Pinprick: The bakelite or plastic light fitting which was attached to the electrical cable which ran between tents or temporary installations. It had 2 sharp contacts which pierced the insulation of the cable.
Poes Boekies (Afr): Photo picture libraries.
Pronutro: Pro Patria Medal (1974) — For service in preventing or suppressing terrorism or, from 1977, in defence of South Africa, during the Border War between 26 August 1966 and 21 March 1990. Qualifying service was 55 (originally 60) days in an operational area, or being involved in combat or a skirmish, or being wounded or killed in action. (‘Terrorism’ meant the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia’s campaign to end South African rule in South West Africa, and ‘defence of South Africa’ meant operations in neighbouring states, e.g. Angola.) Insignia: A gold-coloured octagonal bronze medal, displaying a golden aloe flower on a blue roundel (obverse). A clasp inscribed ‘Cunene’ was issued for the 1975-76 Angola campaign.
Porra: Portuguese person, somebody from Portugal. Could be used in a derogatory or complimentary way.
PORG: Person of Restricted Growth. A short person.
Puddle Pirates: South African Navy.
PTI: Physical Training Instructor (indicated by crossed swords worn on the sleeve or the shoulder)
PT Majoor (Afr): (PT Major) Major General (insignia was a castle with crossed swords)
Raak die draad (Afr): Touch the wire. This entailed running up to the fence and touching it, and then running back again.
Ratel 20 (Afr): A locally produced armoured personnel carrier which was armed with a 20mm cannon, 3 X 7,62mm Browning machine guns and 4 smoke launchers. It could carry 8 infantrymen or a section. A Ratel 90 mounted a 90mm turret mounted anti-tank gun, while a Ratel 60 had a turret mounted breech loading 60mmm mortar. They were very fast and very agile. The crew consisted of a driver, with a gunner and commander in a manually operated turret. Ratel is the Afrikaans name for a honey badger.
Rat pack: Ration Pack, also Regimental Police.
Ride Safe Sign: Many troops hitch hiked home when they went on pass and many guys were killed standing in the middle of nowhere waiting for a lift. It was decided to create a road sign which showed the silhouette of a soldier and these were placed at strategic points along the main roads where troops could hitch hike from. The hitch hikers were also issued with a dayglo sash to wear when hitching.
Rockspider/Dutchman: A derogatory term for an Afrikaner.
Rondfok (Afr): Fuck around.
Rondom verdediging (Afr): All around protection. Encircling an object with troops for protection.
Roofie Ride (Afr/Eng): A very bumpy and often fast ride on the back of a vehicle. Your initiation into military transportation was usually on the back of a bedford along a bumpy road.
Rowers/roof (Afr): Rowers or Roofs (Afr) were newbies… anybody who still had at least 18 months to go was a rower or roofie.
RP: Regimental Police, aka “Rat Packs” or “Roomys Polisie”.
RSM: Regimental Sergeant Major.
RTU/Return to unit: Sent back to the unit that you came from.
R1. The 7,62mm assault rifle which was used by the SADF. It was basically a South African made FN Rifle.
R4: The 5,56mm calibre assault rifle which replaced the R1. It was based on the Israeli Galil. The civilian version of this rifle is known as the LM4. Early versions of the rifle had wooden handgrips.
R5: The “parabat” (short barrel) version of the R4.
SADF: The South African Defence Force.
SAI: There were 8 Infantry Regiments that were lumped under the “SAI” banner that were used for training. Some were worse than others and 8 SAI and 2 SAI had the worst reputation. I was unfortunate enough to experience 1 SAI and 3 SAI during my time as an NSM. Infantry School in Oudtshoorn was where they trained instructors and officers for the Infantry Branch.
SAM: Sergeant Major.
Samewerking/saamwerk (Afr): Co-operation, teamwork.
SAMIL (South African MILilitary) trucks replaced the venerable Bedford and are the standard logistical transport vehicles of the SADF/SANDF. They came in 3 different versions:- Samil 20, Samil 50 and Samil 100, as well as mineproof variants of these. They are based on the Magirus Deutz diesel truck.
SANDF, The South African National Defence Force. The new name of the SADF.
Santa Maria’s: Army issue underpants.
Sapper: A private in the Engineering Corps (Genie (Afr) ).
Sak vir tien/vyvfig (Afr): Drop for 10/50 pushups.
Shosaloza (Zulu): An African working song which was very popular in the army and which was “rediscovered” during 1995 for the rugby world cup.
Seven Single: A very large and misformed beret.
Shaki: A colour described as being between Shit and Khaki (see Kapoen).
Shrapnel: Mixed Vegetables.
Sien jy daardie boom? Is jy al terug?? (Afr): Do you see that tree??? are you back yet? Military sarcasm which usually meant we had to go run around the thing!
Skeleton Webbing: A webbing that omitted the kidney pouches of the proper webbing, it was usually made up of a webbelt witha yoke and 4 waterbottles and 4-5 ammunition pouches.
Skietgat (Afr): The area of the shooting range behind and underneath the targets.
Skiet Piet (Afr): The beret badge of the commando’s.
Skietwal (Afr): The high earthen wall behind the shooting range which would trap the bullets. They usually had large numbers mounted on metal boards on top of the wall corresponding to a lane of the shooting range. These numbers were favourites with the instructors (see “Nommer Asseblief”).
Skrapnel hoender (Afr): Shredded chicken.
Skutter (Afr): Rifleman. A member of the infantry.
Snotneus (Afr): The American M79 grenade launcher used on the border.
Soek Steek Stok (Afr): A stick with a wedge shaped tip used to probe for mines.
Soutpiel/Rooinek (Afr): A derogatory term for an Englishman.
Spick and Span: Luncheon meat.
Staan by jou bed! (Afr): Come to attention at your bed.
Slap and Paraat (Afr): A person who was “slap” was lazy or untidy or dirty, whereas “paraat” was the exact opposite, they had lots of “houding”.
Staaldak (Afr): The heavy steel helmet which the SADF used. It had a liner called a “morsdop” or “doiby”. The helmet felt like it weighed at least 5 tons
Staaldak, webbing en geweer (Afr): helmet, webbing and rifle
Staan op-sit-rook-maak dood! (Afr): Often when having a smoke/waterbreak the Cpl’s would tell us to “stand up-sit-smoke-extinguish”
Staan Op Troep! (Afr): Literally Stand up soldier! Usually used when entering a bungalow of sleeping troops or when entering a room. Always bellowed at the top of the voice.
Stig ‘n TB (Afr): Form a TB (Tydelikke Basis or Temporary base).
Suurstof dief (Afr): Literally an oxygen thief, one who is so sick they are seen as stealing air from the healthy.
SWA: South West African, the name formerly given to Namibia.
SWAPO: South West African Peoples Organisation. Future rulers of Namibia.
SWAPO Airforce: Any flying beetle or insects.
Swart Bed (Afr), Black Bed (Eng): A bed made up with only a blanket. Usually made on laundry day or when going on pass.
Swerf Wag (Afr): Roving sentry
Tampax Tiffie: Slang term for a medic.
Taxi’s: Cloths or strips of blankets which we wrapped around our boots so as not to dirty the bungalow floor.
Tein Ops (Afr) Coin Ops (Eng): Teen Insurgensie Operasies. Counter Insurgency Operations.
The “Kas” (Afr): The cells in the camp.
Tiffie: A member of the TSC/TDK (Tegniese Diens Korps/Technical Service Corps). The Tiffies of 61 Mech were probably the best in the operational area.
TJ Numberplate: The old Johannesburg number plates were TJ.
Tree Aan! (Afr): Form a squad.
Tokkel Tou (Afr): A length of rope with an eye in one end and toggle in the other. It was worn as part of your webbing.
Trommel (Afr): A heavy lockable steel trunk which lived at the bottom of your bed.
Uit klaar, Klaar-uit (Afr): Clear out. Leaving a camp or finishing your national service.
Uitpak inspeksie (Afr): Inspection where your kit is laid out on your bed.
Uittree (Afr): Dismiss. Opposite of “Aan tree, Tree aan”
Vasbyt 5 (Afr): Bite Fast. A Vasbyt 5 was a torturous 5 day route march with full kit and minimal rations etc. Anybody who dropped out would be RTU’ed.
Varkpan (Afr): A stainless steel tray with divisions where your food gets dished into.
Varkpiel (Afr): Portable immersion heater usually plugged into any convenient light socket in a tent or bungalow to make hot water with.
Verberging en Vermoming (Afr): Camoflague and disguise.
Virgin: Vertical seam on your bushhat which always had to be at the back of your head.
“Vir Inspeksie, hou geweer!” (Afr): Literally “present your rifle for inspection”. usually used when declaring that there were no rounds in the rifle or when having the rifle inspected when on parade. The rifle was cocked but the breech block was held back and the barrel was pointed towards the eye of the inspector.
Volume Control: The castle above a sergeant’s stripes that indicated that they were a staff sergeant.
Voorste Posisie Af! (Afr): This is supposed to be “Voorsteun Posisie Af!” as in “Front Support Position.” This was flat on the ground in preparation for doing pushups.
Voorwarts Mars (Afr): Forward march!
Vorm D (Afr): The “D Formation”. Used for anti riot operations.
Water breek (Afr): Smoking was officially frowned upon so we were given a water break instead, this was just another name for a smoke break.
Webbelt: The general purpose greenish belt which was worn with your browns. It had press studs on it and the buckle lip had to always point in the same direction. It also formed the basis of a stripped down webbing.
Webbing: The smallest component of your kit that was used for training and on operations. It had a pair of kidney pouches, a water bottle, groundsheet, and 4 ammunition pouches, all supported by a yoke that went over the shoulders. It could be very heavy when loaded with ammunition and water and tended to rest between where your kidneys were or low down on your back depending on how it was adjusted and how heavy it was. The whole shebang had to be square for inspection. See also Skeleton Webbing.
Weerman (Afr): Private. Usually applied to tiffies, clerks, cooks, also members of the Air Force.
1IB (Afr) 1IC (Eng): Eerste in Bevel, First in Command
2IB (Afr) 2IC (Eng): Tweede in Bevel, Second in Command
2,4: “Two comma four” The standard 2,4 kilometre army fitness test.
40 days: Based on the popular song by Cliff Richard, it refferred to the long awaited time when you had 40 days left before you kla-ed out.
50 Browning: Pronounced “five oh”. The .50 Cal Browning heavy machine gun.
There were three medical classification indicators, G, K and W. The official definitions are as follows:
G refers to the “ground duty factor”
G1/G2: indicates total fitness for ground duties
G3: Physical activities are limited and these are clearly defined by relevant restriction codes
G4: Member is only fit for admin duties
K refers to the “geographic and environmental factors”
K1: Member is suitable for service in all geographical areas
K2: Unfit for active operations in the field and unfit for foreign deployment, may render service in temporary unit base areas and may do routine border patrols
K3: Unfit for active operations in the field and unfit for foreign deployment, may only render service in units permanent base areas
K4: Member is only fit for restricted service in base area where specialised and general medical service is available.
The reality was a totally different thing.
G1K1: Healthy, perfect canon fodder, no missing limbs, has own teeth.
G2K1: Healthy but wearing glasses, dentures, hearing aid or had bad eyes, physically OK, perfect canon fodder too.
G2K2: As above.
G3K3: Usually asthma sufferers were G3.
G4K4: These were troops with serious medical problems. “Suurstof diewe”. Usually ended up as clerks or storemen.
GT: Temporary deferment due to medical grounds.
G5/GP: The army considered you dead, you were of no use to them at all. Medically discharged. (The ideal classification to have).
© DRW 1999-2017. Updated 2008, 06/10/2009. Moved to blog 22/03/2014