34 Battalion was commonly known as the “Kavangoland Battalion” and it was established in 1975 as 1 Kavango Battalion to serve as a ceremonial guard of honour. It was then renamed 34 Battalion and again renamed 202 Battalion in 1980.
As part of Sector 20, their main area of responsibility was from Rundu West as far as Sector 10 and East up to the Bagani Bridge and they were credited with completely suppressing all insurgency activities in the Kavango area of the South West Africa region by 1987. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/34_Battalion. The unit was disbanded in 1990/1991
In 1987, Cmdt JR Liebenberg tasked the RSM, WO1 FJS Scheepers to erect a Memorial to the Fallen of 202 battalion and to create a museum at the base in Rundu in what was then South West Africa. It was inaugurated by Major General WC Meyer and OC Sector 20 Col. PM Muller on 8 November 1987
When South West Africa gained it’s independence the memorial, like many memorials in the operational area was moved to safety, but unfortunately it went “missing” and was eventually traced to the Army College in Pretoria but it had been destroyed at some point.
The Roll of Honour falling victim at the same time.
It is hoped that one day a new memorial will be erected to remember those members of 202 Battalion who paid the ultimate price.
I found this absolute gem of an account of Church Parade while trawling the net. And I reproduce it with the permission of its author, J. Francois Barnard. The link with 1SAI was a bonus and I do know that this account does portray that institution called “Kerk Parade” very accurately. I know I underwent a similar sort of thing on my first church parade at 3SAI. My thanks must go to Francois for giving me permission to reproduce this account.
Die Goddelose Troep
Ek het sopas in die Bloemfonteinse Weermag gearriveer, en dit was my eesrste kerkparade. Ek had geen ideë hoe hierdie tipe ding werk nie, en voer toe maar net bevele uit.
Bevele het gekom vanaf die groot, vet oom wat ons “Sammajoor” genoem het. Hy kon nie praat nie, net skree. Alles aanmekaar. Niemand het hom van leestekens geleer nie. Hy het die duisend of so van ons aangetree en begin blaf.
“NG- KERK – TREE – AAN – ROER – JOU – GAT – TROEP – EK – WAG – NIE – OP – ‘N – SONDAG- VIR – JOU – NIE!”
Met ‘n allemintige geskarrel het omtrent die helfte van 1SAI Bataljon aangetree. Peletons van so veertig elk het weggemarsjeer kerk toe. Ek het nog gewag. Is mos nie in die NG – kerk nie.
“HERVORMDE- KERK!” bulder hy voort, “TREE – DAAR – BY – KORPORAAL – DA – SUZA – AAN!” Stilte. “NIE- DA – SUZA – NIE – DIE – DONNER – IS – ‘N – KATOLIEK – WAAR – IS – ‘N – HERVORMDE- KORPORAAL!”
Nog ‘n groot klomp marsjeer daar weg.
“GEREFORMEERDES – MOENIE – LAAT – EK – VIR – JOU – WAG – NIE – JOU – DANCE – PARTY – IS- VERBY – DIS – TYD – VIR – KERK!”
Die volgende drie het hy altyd bymekaar gehou.
“NUWE- APOSTELS – BY – KORPORAAL – KOSTER – OU – APOSTELS – BY – KORPORAAL – SMIT -EN – AGS – BY – SMIT – SE – MAATJIE – TREE – AAN!”
Wanneer hulle so wegmarsjeer voeg hy by: “HOOP – DIE – DAM – IS – NIE – TE – DIEP – VANDAG- NIE!”“KATOLIEKE- MARIA – WAG – VIR – JOU – MAAR – EK – WAG – NIE – VIR – JOU – NIE – ROER – JOU – TROEP – ROER – JOU!”
Daarna volg ‘n hele klomp kerke waarvan ek nog nooit gehoor het nie. Ek was ‘n Baptis nadat die NG-kerk ons gevra het om te bedank. Iets met ‘n dopery te doene. Ons kerk het toe later die Baptiste-Unie verlaat en saam met ‘n ander
paar kerke die IFCC begin. Ek was seker Sammajoor sou my nie glo as ek vir hom sê ek behoort aan IFCC nie. Ek besluit toe maar om ‘n Baptis te bly.
Naderhand was daar net drie van ons oor. ‘n Vaal Cortina het langs die paradegrond gestop. Die troep langs my het die bestuurder herken. Sammajoor ken hom klaarblyklik ook.
“NOU – JA – JULLE – MORMONE – DAAR – IS – JULLE – GROOT – HORMOON – NOU!”
Hy wou net omdraai en loop toe hy sien dat ek nie in die Mormoon-motor klim nie.
“JOU – GODDELOSE – TROEP!!!!” Skielik had hy nie woorde nie. Hy kon nie sy oë glo nie. Ek lyk dan so christelik-nasionaal. “IS- JY – IN – DIE – RONDE – KERK – WAAR – DIE – DUIWEL – JOU – NIE – IN – DIE -HOEK – KAN – VASKEER – NIE!!!”
Hy staar my aan en besef dat net ek en hy oor is op die paradegrond. Skielik is sy bravade oor en word hy weer ‘n mens. “In watter kerk is jy?” vra hy.
“Baptiste Kerk, Sammajoor” lieg ek ter wille van ‘n lang verduideliking.
“Nou waar gaan hulle nou weer heen?” wonder hy hardop.
Toe laai hy my in sy motor en sit die peletons agterna. By elkeen stop hy en vra die korporaal waarheen die Baptiste moet gaan. Die Katolieke weet toe en antwoord: “Free Churches, Seageant-Major! The Baptists, Methodists and Prebyterians are together as the Free Churches!”
“Vrye Kerke!” haal sy geheue hom weer in. “Vrye Kerke…; nou wat op aarde dóén julle daar?”
Ons kon hulle toe op die ou end nie opspoor nie, en Sammajoor het my toe maar vir ‘n koffie by die Wimpy ge-stick. Eintlik ‘n nice oom, dié Sammajoor!
The military is a breeding ground for cartoons, there is just so much that can be done with the average soldiers trials and tribulations. These cartoons were drawn by Moth Brian Porter and are reproduced with his permission. Special thanks to Joe Borain for passing these gems onto me.
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 (see Bokkop). 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.
There was also a “W” classification but I have not found a definition for it.
The reality of the medical classification was that it really depended on where you were initially assessed and who did the assessing. Certainly we were “examined” shortly after we arrived for national service, and that included testing our eyesight, hearing, dental fitness and heat sensitivity (I suspect the W classification may have been heat sensitivity). The doctor who examined me in Potch walked away half way through the examination (probably to get a beer), and returned awhile later and classified me as a “G2K2”. A W3 was added to that a bit later. At the time I had no idea what it was all about. but found out a bit later. The information below is as it pertained to me way back in 1980! Not all camps applied the criteria equally and you ended up with all manner of people with bad eyes or ears or asthma or rheumatic fever dumped into the G1K1 category. The military was in for numbers, they rejected the minimum that they could get away with, and padded the G1K1/G2K1 category with as many as they could. For some strange reason guys with “flat feet” in Potch got a G5/GP. During training it did not matter whether you were a G1 or a G2, it all went for a burton.
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).
The Memorial was unveiled on 31 May 1979, and the casualty names are arranged in order of year and rank on plaques surrounding the central statue.
There are many more names on the Wall of Remembrance at the Voortrekker Monument, and that may be part of the problem. This Memorial does not incorporate all the members of the SADF that lost their lives, whereas the VTM wall does.
Fort Klapperkop was one of four forts constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 18 January 1898. It was surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army. The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council.
The Memorial may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates -25.779524°, 28.210037°
Following the non recognition of members of the SADF by the so called “freedom park”, it was decided that a fitting tribute be made to the members of the SADF that lost their lives in service. The South African Defence Force Wall of Remembrance was offically unveiled at the Voortrekker Monument on the 25th of October 2009.
The Wall was erected to pay tribute to the members of the SADF who lost their lives in service of their country over the period 31 May 1961 (the coming of the Republic) and 27 April 1994 (the birth of the SANDF). It was made possible through private donations and contributions in kind and no state funds were used to this end.
The area by the Wall has also become home to the 32 Battalion Tree of Honour which commemorates those soldiers of 32 Battalion who lost their lives during the border war, as well as the newly found 31/201 Battalion Memorial. Recently a niche wall was erected for those members of the SADF who would like to have their ashes at the memorial.
The commemoration service is held on the Sunday closest to the 31st of May, and I have attended a number of these since the opening of the wall. I have seen the service grow in size and the interest being shown is heart warming.
As each year passes so the list of casualties becomes more complete, and the supplementary list becomes longer, and each year more people acknowledge this memorial for the sacrifices it represents.
There is also a Memorial to the Unknown Soldier at the Wall,and a wreath always gets laid at this silent sentinel.
Recently the wall dedicated to the Honoris Crux, Van Riebeeck Medal, and Louw Wepener Decoration was also added, and a number of holders of these decorations were present.
A plaque relating to the Mapai Incident is also at the wall, and there are niches for the “Ebo Four”
I have too many images to show them all on this page, so am adding in these random images of a special place that has become a home for ex-soldiers, and a source of comfort and recognition for the many families who lost their loved ones in the defence of the country. The Wall may be found at S25°46.546, E28°10.460.
The small town of Bethlehem in the Free State is known as the home of the field engineers, and this memorial stands outside the main gate of 2 Field Engineer Regiment in Bethlehem. Unfortunately it has been fenced off and was not accessible when I was there so the images are taken through the fence.
“Mobilitate Vincere” – Destruction of the enemy through mobility.
When 61 Mechanised Battalion Group was disbanded in November 2005, amongst its regalia was the Memorial Needle where the unit remembered those who had died in battle. This memorial had been with the unit since Omuthiya, where it had been originally erected in 1984. When the unit re-located it was moved to Walvis Bay for storage. During 1992 it was moved once again to the Army Battle School at Lohathla and re-erected. With the disbanding of the unit the memorial was left without a home until the formation of the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group Veterans Association. High on the list of priorities was moving the regalia of the unit to somewhere safe, the most logical place being the South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
I had first become aware of the memorial through John Dovey who posted photographs of it on the Armytalk webgroup. My own connection to the unit had ended in December 1981, but I still consider it to me my “Home Unit”. The image below, found in a “Paratus” of Feb 1985, shows the Memorial as it was at Omuthiya.
I was a member of Bravo Company that served with the unit from Dec 1980-Dec 1981, and have 3 friends listed on that memorial. I really hoped that one day I would be fortunate enough to see it up close and personal.
The move to the museum was set in motion, and on 25 May 2010 it was re-erected at the Diphong Museum of Military History in Saxonwold (aka National Museum of Military History), and the unveiling of the memorial was set to coincide with the Anniversary of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) as well as the Annual General Meeting of the 61 Mech Battalion Group Veterans Association.
Like many such memorials it is visually striking, replete with the original 61 insignia on the needle. The name plates had been fixed around the base and the white stones provided a contrast with the gry granite from Karabib in what was then South West Africa. The grounds of the museum provide an interesting contrast with weapons from both World Wars and those who attended on this day were veterans of the Border War, and most were proud members of the unit, having served with it over the years.
We were blessed with perfect weather on 12 June 2010, and we all gathered at the National Museum of Military History. The functionary was Maj Gen (retired) J.M Dippenaar SD, SM, MMM SA ST K (ARMY) Who is also the patron of the 61 Mech Military Veterans Association. The parade commander was Lt (Veteran) Ariel Hugo, who served with 61 Mech during 1980/81. The parade Warrant Officer was Chief Warrant Officer J.J Kemp, PMM, MMM, of 43 Brigade HQ and ex RSM of 61 Mech from Dec 1986 to Dec 1992.
The unit existed for 27 years, and participated in 37 large scale operations and actions. Earning itself a fierce-some reputation and was considered to be one of the finest fighting units in the history of South African military operations.
Originally founded as Battle Group Juliet for an operation against the Chetequera base in Angola, it was renamed 61 Mechanised Battalion Group in January 1979, and took its place in the regular order of battle as the first ever constituted multi-arm fighting unit, later becoming the armys’ rapid response unit. Comprising a semi permanent force of Infantry, artillery and armour, it was equipped with Ratels, Eland and G5 artillery pieces, these being upgraded as newer weapons came available as a result of experience gained in the border war. It’s main base was in Omuthiya in Owamboland (Google Earth co-ordinates: -18.491546°, 17.061755°) where the memorial was first erected. The unit was based at Walvis Bay for a period before relocating to the Army Battle School at Lohathla where it remained until it was disbanded.
Sadly, like so many other units, it bore a number of casualties, and the names of these are inscribed on plaques around the base of the memorial; each major operation being covered by a plaque. The full Roll of Honour may be found at the appropriate webpage of the veterans group.
Finally disbanded on 18 November 2005, the battalion group became part of history, and a much feared unit that was respected by friend and foe and one that carried the fight deep into enemy territory.
The Hind Memorial forms part of the legacy and traditions of 61 Mech.
The brass bell, engraved “Ano De Santo 1950” was liberated from the battlefields by members of 61, although the origin of where it came from is not known as it was in the hands of FAPLA at the time. It was taken to Omuthiya where it was placed adjacent to the 61 Memorial. It is named after 2nd Lt Adrian Hodgson Hind who was killed on 3 October 1987 during the attack on 47 Brigade.
Today the memory of the unit lives on in it’s veterans and the association that has helped to maintain the legacy of the unit. Active participation by members of its leader group has ensured that the legacy carries forwards into tomorrow. The memorial and exhibition space dedicated to the unit at the museum will ensure that others will come to know the history behind the memorial that they encounter as they enter the museum. Ironically the museum does not have an example of a Ratel IFV in the collection, although it did have at one point. (This has since been rectified I believe)
There is a special exhibition room in the museum dedicated to 61 Mech and it is worthwhile stopping to relive some of the memories inside the space.
Bravo Company of 1981 trained at 1SAI in Bloemfontein in 1980, before being sent to the border in December 1980. I joined the company shortly before it started doing evaluation in De Brug before it went to Omuthiya. It was the resident infantry company and was based there for the whole of 1981 except for a short period when it participated in a battlegroup at Lohathla that was really a rehearsal for Ops Protea. The company was in action during Ops Carrot, Ops Protea, and Ops Daisy and suffered 3 losses while it was with 61 Mech. Those names are now inscribed on the memorial. (P Hall, L Van Rooyen, JL Potgieter)
The names are in the order that the brass plaques are placed on the Tree of Honour. The limitations of this page have meant that I am using an image of the original post of the ROH I had on my website. (Image opens in a new window)
The 32 Battalion Tree of Honour was originally unveiled on 26 May 1985 by Maj Genl. GL Meiring, commander of SWATF. Originally from Buffalo in the Caprivi, it was subsequently moved to Pomfret and then to Zeerust, finally being planted at the Voortrekker Monument on 10 October 2009.
The photograph above was taken at the unveiling of The South African Defence Force Wall of Remembrance at the Voortrekker Monument on 25 October 2009.
The Tree of Honour holds the names of members of 32 Battalion who were killed in action 1976-1991, each emblazoned on a small brass plate.
When I last saw it the Tree of Honour in 2012 it had been moved from its original spot, to a different area close the Wall of Remembrance. It had also been trimmed and work had been done on it to preserve if for future generations.
The Tree may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates -25.775545°, 28.174480°