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If you would like to join this exclusive community and have your own WarBlog where you can post your personal stories about your experiences in the War In Angola, also known as the Border War, please go to the host site (www.warinangola.com) and register as a user.

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By Johan Du Preez on 2017/08/03 10:02 AM
This memoir deals with a specific time in my life when I stepped on a landmine in Angola in 1975, losing my right leg lower down below the knee. This happened when I was part of Operation Savannah, at the time a secret operation of the South African Defence Force. The landmine incident itself is not the story. It merely serves to tie together some of my experiences before the incident in a country (Angola) at war with itself and some of my experiences afterwards as we, the casualties of this war together with those who took care of us, coped at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria. In doing so, my aim was to recount a part of the Operation Savannah history that not many know about – the battle of the casualties of this war. At the same time I wanted to give recognition to those silent and unsung heroes of Operation Savannah, the medics. Johan du Preez, July 2017 _________________________
By host on 2017/02/06 06:11 PM
VETERANE Ons, die Veterane van die Bosoorlog, raak nou ouer En met die ouderdom vergeet ons baie dinge Nog erger: elke dag is daar minder van ons oor Om ons stories aan die mensdom te kan bring. Hoe dan gemaak om ons verhale te bewaar?

Ons kinders (en hulle kinders) verdien om te weet Wat het ons, hul vaders, dan regtig gewaag. Toe ons self maar jonger as hulle was! Nie alleen net om hulle helde te wees, Maar meer dat hulle net kan verstaan Die groot opoffering deur ons gemaak!

Erkenning and aanvaarding is al wat ons vra Van diegene wat ons harte op hulle hande dra. Medaljes is slegs vir vertoon, Net so ons balkies, vermeldings en eredrag Waarmee ons graag hulde bring aan die manne Wat ons nie saam terug kon bring...

Kom ons eer die...
By Johan Du Preez on 2015/09/05 02:10 PM
I was the engineer troop commander when we advanced into Angola by road – destination Cela – in November ‘75. It was a mix of all sorts. All of us in green uniform. None of us were South Africans (of course!). No SA Army dog tags (only dog tags with our blood group on them). All markings referring to South Africa even scratched off our toothpaste tubes. And our Bibles. Do you remember the Bibles we received in Grootfontein (in Afrikaans, nogal) with those first pages where one normally reads where it had been printed, totally blank?
By Bobby Thomson on 2015/08/22 01:09 AM
The run-up to the attack was as follows: After the successful operation Reindeer and the battle at Cassinga or (Moscow and Vietnam) bases, SWAPO had to do something to save face and they came up with Ops Revenge. The strategy was to attack and annihilate Katima Mulilo, Wenela, Golf and Mpacha. A force of SWAPO and Zambian military personnel and equipment was gathered on the other side of the river and longer range weapons were positioned along the riverbank between Sesheke and their border post "Katima Mulilo" which was situated just across the newly scraped no-mans land from Wenela Base, which in turn was situated at the point where the Zambezi River turns into Zambia and the so-called Kaplyn started.



[View from the guardpost on the wall at Wenela looking towards the Zambian border post (their Katima Mulilo, meaning place where the fire dies). In the foreground is the beginnings...
By Tony Savides on 2015/06/24 08:58 AM
FROM THE OTHER SIDE: PART 2/6Please remember that, as stated in Part 1 and throughout this series, the views and comments herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person or organisation.Lest anyone think that the foregoing (or anything that follows) is a plea for sympathy for the “plight” of the PFs; perish the thought - we all knew what we were letting ourselves into! We were merely getting what we had proverbially wished for.Of course, with the advent of increased national service, greater numbers of officers and instructors were required and the Junior Leader training regime kicked in. I am of the firm opinion that the finest junior leaders produced anywhere in the world at the time were those produced by the SA Army’s JL programmes in the 1970s and 1980s. These young lads, most of whom had just left school, progressed from boys to leaders of men in the short space of less than a year – from schoolboy to leading a platoon, troop, section or squad into battle under the most trying...
By Tony Savides on 2015/06/23 03:45 PM

Looking at National Service from a PF point of view...


By Anthony Turton on 2014/08/06 03:16 AM
The assault moves in under cover of darkness. My troop is to the left of the axis of advance, careful to avoid the wetland that we know exists at the far end of the runway which is our designated primary target. We navigate off the burning tower, so as to keep the radio net clear for more urgent traffic. The driver knows what to do as he synchronises his actions with the crew commander and gunner.

“Alpha Group move now, out!” comes the command over the network.

That is us, so we move, careful not to advance faster than the vehicles on each side of us, the driver navigating through his periscopes off the burning tower visible in the clear night air. As we move, the Bravo Group is stationary alongside, laying down covering fire of both 90 HE and Browning.

“Bravo Group move now, out”, comes the order from the squadron commander. Silently the well trained crew stops in position, the driver looking for cover as appropriate to present the lowest possible profile for an RPG counter-attack, the gunner...
By Phillip Vietri on 2013/05/11 08:51 PM
The terms opfok and rondfok were fundamental concepts in the SADF. In the classic definition, an opfok was simply a session of punishment exercise, whereas in a rondfok the emphasis was on the psychological effect. Sometimes it was very hard to tell the difference, sometimes there wasn’t that much difference, and sometimes the two were concurrent. Both were part of a strategy to toughen us up. And it worked; let there be no doubt about that. One of the remarkable aspects of SADF soldiers was their ability to function under high levels of stress, of how relatively few actually cracked up, modern discussions on the topic of PTSD notwithstanding.The PT we received during opfoks and rondfoks was, with retrospect, just part of our Basic training programme. But given in the form of “punishment”, it had all kinds of extra psychological advantages for our instructors, such as promoting vasbyt and samewerking. We didn’t realise this at the time, of course. Opfoks were pretty effective in getting us to put pressure on fellow...
By Phillip Vietri on 2013/05/11 08:14 PM
On our first Saturday morning at 5SAI Ladysmith, after the “disaster” of First Inspection the night before, there is no pack-out inspection, but the bungalow is expected to be tidy and clean, our beds perfectly made, uniforms perfectly ironed, boots perfectly polished, shaves as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Somehow, miraculously, we get through this simple inspection without incident. Perhaps an oppie is not on the cards for this morning.Then we line up outside the QM store, where we are at last to be issued with our rifles. This is a moment of tremendous excitement for us. We have already been told all about the R1: the SADF’s first modern infantry rifle, a piece of precision equipment, the power of its 7,62 calibre and so on. Everything about the R1 is superlative. They have seen to it that we 18-year-olds have become thoroughly worked up about it. We can hardly wait to take into our hands the weapon that will be our constant companion during our diensplig and beyond, without which we can scarcely even call ourselves...
By Phillip Vietri on 2013/04/07 04:55 PM
The shooting range was such an ordinary part of an SADF soldier’s life that few fellows, if any, bother to discuss it in their books. Even at the height of the Bush War, the great majority of soldiers never got to shoot at the enemy. The only time they shot was on the shooting range. Since this is not a Border War blog, where much more exciting things occur, I may as well describe the shooting range in more detail here. The information given here will focus on the procedure and terminology on the range. I have described Boshoek in Ladysmith in another place, so I will focus on Schurweberg, just outside Voortrekkerhoogte, here. Bar the transport arrangements, the actual shooting procedure was very much the same, wherever you were in the SADF.Shooting was usually a whole day affair. It included the usual quota of PT and opfoks, of course. After breakfast, you stood kit inspection in browns with staaldak, webbing en geweer, though in fact you took your bush hat with and wore it on the range. The tiffies checked your...
By Phillip Vietri on 2013/04/07 04:25 PM
Few guys have much to say about guard duty, because it didn’t vary that much from place to place in the SADF. As with shooting, everybody had to do it, though unlike shooting nobody enjoyed doing it, especially in winter. It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing – just something that has to be done in any army.Whether you were G1 or G4, if you were not exempt from shooting, you stood guard duty at the Depot, though G4s received priority as hekwag (opening and closing the gate for vehicles and pedestrians), lucky sods! Across the road from Tekbasis, inside the perimeter of the Military Medical Institute (MMI), was a small building housing the Army’s mainframe computer. G4s who were exempt from shooting did guard duty there, two at a time, behind a thick glass window. All they had to do was check the IDs of incoming personnel against a list of about fifteen authorized officers from 2nd Lt to Colonel. These were then buzzed in through the heavy security gate, their comings and goings being logged in the Diensboek....
By Phillip Vietri on 2013/02/19 08:56 PM
I can’t say that many guys were particularly committed to the political lectures we received at 5SAI during the early 70s. Propaganda eventually palls, and if the person delivering it is not convincing, it often has no effect at all. There were a few real gems, such as our Captain’s description of us as noble soldiers, not "members of the grey, bespeckled civilian mass.” Unfortunately for him, that is exactly what most of us wanted to be! We were doing our National Service, and a substantial percentage of us were quite willing to be there doing it. We wanted have the experience of being soldiers, and we wanted to serve our country. But few of us saw it as our future...
By Arthur Smith on 2011/04/28 08:33 PM
Angola / SWA April 1982 to July 1982

 

Greetings all

 

Can anyone out there help me with this? 7SAI was meant to deploy to Eenhana in early 1982 but while we were in the air as it were, we were directed to Grootfontein and then did a long road haul down to Kamanjab (South of Etosha) to help chase down a group of terrorists led by a guy with the name of Kilimanjaro. After about a month or so, this exercise was successful along with the help of some artillery regiment that pounded the local mountains to flush these guys out.

 

At the time that there were some very explicit propaganda pamphlets that were air-dropped every time that a kill was recorded. As far as I can remember, it was the most south that a terrorist group had even infiltrated in SWA.  I can’t remember the name of the Operation, but doing some research, I came up with Operation Yahoo?

 

http://www.61mech.org.za/operations/9-operation-yahoo

...
By Phillip Vietri on 2011/01/22 11:55 PM
The exact terminology of the Seventies I no longer remember, but the Infantry Basics was effectively about three months long. The first six weeks of this I have described in Part One. The next six weeks passed relatively quickly and uneventfully, except for the time my wax ear-plug popped just as I fired. I ascribe the tinnitus from which I suffer today to that single shot. Ironic, isn’t it; they wanted to G5 me because of the right eye, and yet it was with a damaged right ear that I came away, my vision intact. The hardest for me during this second period was Buddy PT, especially skaapdra, which isn’t really saying much for most guys. But it all did come to an end.                 I had survived the G1 training. Just. But I had survived. I was fitter and healthier than I had ever been, feeling really good. And my Afrikaans was already beautifully fluent. It was clear that I would never be great infanteris, that my left-eyed shooting was probably more of a danger to the SADF than it would ever be to the enemy....
By Phillip Vietri on 2011/01/18 01:59 AM
This is a blog, not a scholarly paper. I hope that its title is not too misleading. I have written a narrative, rather than a “balanced” article of pros and cons leading to an academic conclusion. But as an Italian South African who grew to maturity between the mid-fifties and the mid-Seventies, my experience of the English-Afrikaans thing has been so markedly different from that of many others that I feel compelled to offer mine as a corrective view. I haven’t a drop of either’s blood in my veins, and therefore no prior allegiance to either group. What I have done, is simply to tell the story of my relationship with both.

But first, I must declare an interest. I regard myself today as an Afrikaans-speaking South African. I made the transition during the course of my army days, as a direct consequence of my personal experiences. I was once told that I am “very pro-Afrikaans”, as though there is something wrong with this. The underlying presumption is that to be “pro-English” is to be objective, whereas...
By Phillip Vietri on 2011/01/18 01:27 AM
Why am I writing this in the first place?

I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this blog. Many of those who have real Angola War experiences to share were involved, right at the Border, during those tumultuous years. My little story is comparatively tame and uninteresting. Operation Savannah happened in the month in which I cleared out, and I did no camps, so that my experience remains in something of a time-warp. My story is full of stops and starts, embarrassing narratives and generally nothing much. What I can tell you is what it was like for a physical weakling to do the full G1K1 SADF training; how even a militarily useless individual can achieve something, somewhere in the army; what SADF life was like during the mid-70s. In short, I can perhaps tell you something about those early years, before our first unofficial official crossing of the Border; and perhaps add to the human legacy of those years. Savannah didn’t happen in a vacuum, and this story will fill in something of what led up to it, and...
Recent Blog Entries
IN SEARCH FOR A HOME
Posted on: 31 May 2017
"Saturday Night Live"
Posted on: 30 May 2017
BUSH WAR VETERANS!
Posted on: 06 February 2017
The Road to Botswana
Posted on: 13 May 2016
Supper in Sá da Bandeira
Posted on: 05 September 2015
The red cross
Posted on: 28 August 2015
Operation Savannah
Posted on: 23 August 2015
 

 

Recent Blog Comments
Re: The outbreak for the border war
This is a great information about the history you put in here. thank you go to website
By Chris on: 14 September 2018
Re: BUSH WAR VETERANS!
I used to be able to log in but can’t do so any more.
Johan can you assist.
Thank you
By Rocky Marsicano on: 08 September 2018
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
Very interesting read. I was also a Durban 1973 intake ( may 1973 to 4 SAI ) My experience of the whole 'boertjie - soutie ' thing was a little different. Right in the beginning there was a bit of " Wat kyk jy jou blerrie Engelsman" / " What's your problem clutchplate / dutchman" but I would say that by halfway through basic that had gone almost completely. The platoon I was in after basic was probably 70 % English 30 % Afrikaans but in reality there was no distinction at all among us. Our platoon had an Afrikaans lieutenant , the other two platoons in the company had English speaking lieutenants . There was not a man in either of those two platoons who would not have jumped at the chance to join our platoon. It sounds like a stupid war cliche but we really would have followed that man into hell and back. We loved that man and would have done anything he asked. He never shouted at us to do anything . Only ever asked and it was done. Just before we went to the border we lost him. He had to go home on compassionate leave and he never rejoined us. We all felt like we had lost a father. And here is the thing. He was also just a DP like us who started off the year before us and naturally being degreed was older than most of us. Anyway that was my experience. One other little thing. You mentioned that they were not allowed to hit you ?. No-one told the PTI's or PF instructors that at 4 SAL lol . I had the shit kicked out of me on the shooting range so hard I fell beneath the 'skietpunt'. When I clambered back the staff sgt inquired in a faux concerned way ' Het meneer seer gekry ?. Will meneer n klagte afle ?. Moet ek vir meneer n vormpie gaan haal. ??. I just managed to stammer 'Nee staff' to all three questions. I had stood up and turned around after getting a stoppage and got the man's point. Anyway this is your blog not mine. Thanks for your blog.
By john jones on: 06 August 2018
Re: Operation Savannah - The battle of the casualties of the war
Duncan, I remember you well!

Unfortunately I do not know about Maj Kruger. I've made enquiries in the past but wasn't successful.

Take care!
By Johan du Preez on: 17 May 2018
Re: Operation Savannah - The battle of the casualties of the war
Hi Johan
You mentioned 1 Mil in your story. I was there 15th Nov 1975 spent 9 mths-also very secretive. Lost both my arms. You mention a Major Kruger -Social Welfare. She was a wonderful person. Would you by any chance know if she is still alive and if so, how to contact her. I last met her in 1980 at 1 Mil.
Great site
Regards
Duncan
By Duncan Mattushek on: 16 May 2018
Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça
Sorry to reply very late Lukas, but the story of the statue is a sad one. In short the money to make the statue was either stolen... There is lots of infighting in the provincial government.
By Dino Estevao on: 30 April 2018
Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça
I must say i'm so happy to see my great grandfathers name being mentioned in the books of history. i grew up hearing of his names in stories (folk tails), know i have discovered myself his name and his contribution to the world history and the shaping of the Namibian and Angolan borders of today
By Thomas Mweneni Thomas on: 29 April 2018
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Hi Johan
I drove 72C in smokeshell, Kobus Nortje who has put up a number of Photos was in 72A
As you know from Hilton's email above I have written a book that Hilton is editing and I'm looking for good photos. How do I contact Kobus to ask him for permission to use the pictures?
Thanks Brian
By Brian Davey on: 02 April 2018
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Hilton, I could not find the exact reference in my notes, but I suspect it was Lt Paul Louw as I do remember reading about that report. As soon as I pint it down i will get back to you again...As to the photographs, none of them belong to me. Many come from the 61 Mech site and you may be able to obtain high res ones directly from them.There has been too many holdups and issues re the publication (mostly from my side) so I would have to re-approach the publisher to do it "my way" as previously they wanted me to reduce a 200-page manuscript to 64 pages to fit to the standard format of the publisher's series. It was not exactly what I had in mind, so I put it on ice...
By Johan Schoeman on: 16 March 2018
Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell)
Hi Johan,
Thank you for the wonderful service you provide for Bush War vets.

1. Can you tell me which officer said during the attack on Smokeshell, "My troops are bleeding!" It might have been Maj Fouche.

2. An old friend of mine, Brian Davey, is writing his memoir of National Service, including Smokeshell. He was driver of Ratel Seven-one Charlie. I am doing the editing, and would greatly appreciate permission to use some of the photographs you have here.

3. When do you think your book will be published?

Thanks again
By Hilton Ratcliffe on: 06 March 2018
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
I was 10 years old and went to skool in Katima Mulilo, I will never forget that knight, siting in the bom shelter. Our house was against the Zambezi river next to the gest house.
By Jan Cronje on: 23 January 2018
Re: Operation Savannah - The battle of the casualties of the war
Thank you for the interesting information, Sandy.
By Johan du Preez on: 03 January 2018
Re: Operation Savannah - The battle of the casualties of the war
It seems we never accomplished anything in Angola you with your foot taken in a slippery place....I was part of 16 maintenance unit ...a soldier escorting convoys all the way to Silver Porto from Grootfontein on many occasions between Dec 1975 and Jan/Feb 1976 . Everytime a truck a truck broke down we were expected to run and take cover in a bush we did not know waiting to be blown away whilst the tiffy's tried to fix the trucks on route ,,,lastly we then had to ride shotgun on a diesel/petrol train up from Lobito on the Benguela train line ,,,up the steep escarpment at a snails pace waiting to be blown away which never happened .We then after two weeks having to guard it whilst daily pumping to trucks was done to fill the underground tanks kept at the monastery abandon the train as is whilst we had to hitch a ride back to the states. A high light was being a barman at one of Jamie Ys's movies beautiful people at Grootfontein. People do not know what a civil war can do and the comfort they have or had living in in SA..For some reason I never was called to do any camps or had made contact with the 9 others who were part of that "escort defence unit" a real mix breed of English/Afrikaners .Unfortunately I but did almost lose my leg from the knee playing soccer up in Jhb lying all tied up for over 2.5 months as they battled to save it in the Mill Park hospital in around 1983.This eventually effecting my whole body.I guess it keeps one humble and the glory be to the One and only God ...regards
By Sandy Carter on: 02 January 2018