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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 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 Gert Hugo on 2015/08/23 06:00 PM
I wanted to talk about emotions and feelings for a while now. I'll try and cover emotions as I relate a very broad sequence of events.

The build-up to Op Savannah was exciting. A few cross border raids etc. made me believe, man o man this is the real thing. Then working with the refugees made me all the angrier towards the heathen enemy. (I did not have the knowledge then that I have now and gobbled up all the propaganda we were fed.)



The trip back to RSA with all its glitches. Taking Toon Slabbert’s unserviceable armoured cars back to Walvisbay from Ruacana. A mad dash overnight as we had to catch the troop train back. Having to beg for a lift from PW bloody de Jager to catch the troop train at Usakos. This after Toon Slabbert promised us that we will be looked after. De Jager is still not one of my favourites because of the way he treated us and made us wait. Bloody arsehole. 

The trip back...
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 Dino Estevao on 2015/08/13 08:26 PM
Many parents look at the sunset and hope that the quiet nights will bring news of their children. Over the years I have had people coming to ask if I had met so and so and with a heavy heart I will say no but deep down I hope so and so will come back to his village or at least the family will find I closure. The children of the war is dedicated to those children who have crossed my path while searching for a home.
By Dino Estevao on 2015/08/11 10:23 PM
December 1995. I arrived at O’shikango, the border of Angola and Namibia. To my disappointment I was not allowed to cross the border, to go beyond Santa clara. I wanted to go to chiede, I have traveled all the way from South Africa, just to be told, “that’s it, son. You cannot go further north.” My father said with a voice of authority and the rest of the men that were part of the first meeting agreed with him. Although I was happy to have met these men and to share some form of kinship, the years spend apart have robbed us of some vital connectivity. The sense of belonging “here” was so overwhelming but lacked the essentials, I was happy but also sad. The war has robbed me of my family, of my childhood and stolen the beauty and innocence in me. Now I was trying to regain some of it, going beyond Santa clara was my way of regaining what I have lost, what was snatched from me that fateful morning in 1980. For fifteen years I cherished, nourished the memories of the small town, the soccer field next to the school were we played before the war intensified. I also remember the trenches that were dug around the town giving it more of a warzone appearance. I remembered as people moved out of the countryside to build houses around the town, clustering and fend off intruders. ...
By Dino Estevao on 2015/08/11 10:17 PM
The first few month in early 1976, the withdrawal of the South African Defence Force(SADF) which left UNITA running for the proverbial hills. Chiede became a very quiet town, almost abandoned except for the herdsmen who brought their cattle for water at the water pump. Then slowly the system started functioning steadily, the communal administration, the school and the hospital followed by other infrastructures. MPLA knew how to mobilise and its propaganda mechanism was second to none. From an elderly man to a small child everyone fitted in the puzzle. There was ODEPE for the elderly and fragile man, OMA, JMPLA and pioneiro, the later was to be scratched of the operational plan as it violated the right of the child. Chiede became a hub of activity and many people especially from the north east started moving, clustering on the south eastern side, between the water pump and the trenches dug around the old town parameters. The new centralization soon became a disaster, a death trap. From the north eastern side...
By Johan Schoeman on 2014/07/22 01:43 AM
Dedicated to the officers and men of 82 SA Mechanised Brigade, who, on this day, lost three of their tanks... call signs 12A, 52 and 53...
By Johan Schoeman on 2011/11/18 11:52 AM
October, 1981 — Southern Angola

SWAPO had suffered heavy losses during Operation Carnation and Operation Protea which were executed in the western and southern theatres of Southern Angola. Because of this, the situation was as follows:

· The North-Eastern Front (NEF) was cut off from the rest of the SWAPO forces.

· The Northern Front (NF) Headquarters had dispersed and the guerrillas had fled in the direction of the command post.

· The morale of SWAPO was low due to the disruption and an acute shortage of food supplies.

· A battalion SWAPO guerrillas had arrived at the command post in order to lay ambushes towards the south as protection.

FAPLA forces had withdrawn towards the north to join units further north. They were busy with reconnaissance tasks in order to reoccupy towns in Southern Angola.

The on-going process of intelligence-gathering after Protea indicated to the South Africans that SWAPO had moved their command post to a position in thick bush northeast...
By Johan Schoeman on 2011/11/07 12:00 AM
It was Friday evening, 30 Oct 1981, at Omuthyia, the base of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group in Northern South-West Africa, the day before the start of Operation Daisy (D-6).

It started off as a quiet evening, with all the “Big Brass” gone for dinner in nearby Tsumeb for their last civilized meal for the next three weeks. Major Schoeman, an infantry officer (I was not sure what his appointment was at this time), the RSM, AO1 Barnard, and the junior officers were left in charge at the base – no one else was allowed to leave so close to the start of an operation …and the NCO’s and troops of Alpha Company and Bravo Company (all from 1 SA Infantry Battalion), Charlie Squadron (from 2 Special Service Battalion), Delta Company (H Coy from 1 Parachute Battalion), and Sierra Battery (from 43 Battery in Walvis Bay). All the training and final “staal parade” (inspections) had been completed and the troops settled in for a final day of rest before the movement out to the Assembly Areas on D-5.

Three...
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 Johan Schoeman on 2011/04/20 05:12 PM
Angola had strong Soviet and Cuban backing, and supported SWAPO/PLAN to the extend of providing assistance to the insurgents, co-locating Angolan troops in PLAN base camps in order to help protect them from South African aggression. The continued support to PLAN incursions prompted another strike by the SADF into southern Angola in 1980. This was Operation Sceptic, launched on 25 May, targeting the extensive 'Smokeshell' complex and several other base camps in Cunene province just north of the border. This is a small gallery of about 20 exclusive photos taken by Kobus Nortje during the operation.
By Jim Hooper on 2011/04/19 12:28 AM
This was my first article on UNITA, published in the INTERNATIONAL DEFENSE REVIEW 1/1989. The conditions and situation described are as it was in 1989...
By Jim Hooper on 2011/03/12 01:39 AM
Scouring the bush lands of South West Africa for SWAPO insurgents, the hunter-killer combat groups of Koevoet operate on the principle of maximum firepower

THE COLUMN of four Casspirs and one Blesbok had broken from the heavy bush into an open pan spotted with trees and drooping thickets, a water hole at the centre. Suddenly it came… Boesman's voice crack­led over the radio - 'Contact!' My eyes snapped to Du Rand, sitting across from me. There was one of those forever half-seconds before Jim spat 'Contact!' and grabbed for his weapon.

Following a week-long tour of the South West Africa/Namibia Operational Area, I stepped off the C-130 Hercules back at Ondangwa Air Force Base. The lieutenant meeting me looked as though he was attending a funeral. ‘Authorisation finally came through an hour ago,' he intoned, shaking his head. ‘You leave tomorrow for a...
By Johan Schoeman on 2011/02/26 02:22 AM
Members of this WarBlog will be able to view this collection of 99 EXCLUSIVE slides have been provided to War In Angola by Jaco van Zyl and comprises of snapshots taken during Operation Protea in August 1981, mostly of Combat Group 20 and their attack on Xangongo and Ongiva...
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 Tyrone Heyl on 2011/01/18 09:27 AM
Having just returned from a weekend pass, a little late, ok quite late, some of us had not unpacked our kit. We are suddenly asked to fall in as there was an urgent announcement, so with whispers of what could be going on we fell in.

We were told that they need a G5 gun crew to escourt a gun being taken to Rundu and were calling for volunteers. With promises of a long weekend pass upon our return in a weeks or two, my hand along with 7 others guys went up. As most of us had not unpacked as yet it was to did not take long to get ready.

We were allowed to make 2 phone calls before going to hospital (still not sure why). I called my mom and told her I was going tp the border again but only for a week or two.I called my dad and told him I had a feeling this trip would be longer than "advertised". After sorting out the logistical requirments we climbed into a Samil and left for Pretoria.

Once there we were put into a corner and told to wait, and wait we did till the sun had set and the airport was quite. At about 8pm we were called to go through and there was the familiar C130 with the staff from Lyttleton supervising the loading of a brand new G5. Once all the additonal cargo had been loaded we boarded and the flight took off for Rundu. Arriving at about midnight we helped unload the gun, parked it to one side and we were shown to accomodation for the rest of the night.

...
By Johan Schoeman on 2011/01/11 05:51 AM
I was deployed as an anchor observer (call sign 35A) with a 2nd Lt (Lt "Pikkie" Prinsloo) and a Lance-Bombardier acting as Technical Assistant, for the attack of 82nd Brigade on the Tumpo Triangle on 23 March 1988. My position on the Chambinga high ground directly east of Cuito Cuanavale gave me a panoramic view of the entire Tumpo Triangle as well as the Cuito and Cuanavale Rivers and the town of Cuito Cuanavale beyond. I also commanded a good view of the east slope of the Cuito high ground to the west of the Cuito River and my primary task was counter-bombardment of Fapla artillery batteries and rocket launchers deployed there. I was unable to see any of the actual defences of the Tumpo Triangle itself and therefore engaged very few targets of opportunity there. Only when I saw the occasional vehicles dart out between the dense bush did I attempt engagements of targets in the triangle. I could clearly see the high ground in the "Delta" north of the Cuito-Cuanavale confluence, where another anchor observer...
By Johan Schoeman on 2011/01/11 05:36 AM
I had a few 'Close Encounters of the MiG kind', as early as November 1981, during Operation Daisy. I was appointed Battery Captain ("BK") for the 120mm Mortar Battery accompanying 61 Mech into Angola and was responsible for the direct resupply of the battery from the "A Echelon". In the artillery we have an officer doing this job, unlike in other corps where the responsibility usually falls on the Company Sergeant-Major. I was only a young 19 year old "bicycle" (2nd Lieutenant) and I was leading the A Echelon vehicles (mosly Samil-100 10ton trucks - no mine-resistant Kwêvoëls available for us then). Most were loaded to capacity with 120mm mortar ammunition followed by some general supplies (like toilet paper - THE most required personal commodity in the echelon!).

So there I was, despite almost 2 years of gunnery training, stuck in the cab of a 10ton truck, hauling supplies - usually the lot of the youngest PF officer in the battery, although it was supposed to be a Captain's job, hence the title "Battery...
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
1980 camp in katimo
My last 3 month camp in Katimo in 1980 after doing stints all over swa was the best of all. Slept in a bunker next to the river spying on the pont that was crossing over the zambesi river.cathing tigers in the river .
Would love to return to that erea of the world.
By Gordon Rudman on: 16 October 2018
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
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Dankie Johan vir insiggewende artikel

Ek was daar saam RPS, moes die volgende oggend n' "tenk gaan recover", diesel refill...met my Samil 20 Lappiespomp. Daar aangekom was die track af aan die regterkant, n' paar jong UNITA "soldate" het daar rondgestaan, Nodeloos om te sê, moes maar omdraai en teruggaan na TB. Die sand was so dik die vooras van die Samil 20 het oppad terug gebuig en dit het my omternd die hele dag geneem om 13km terug te ry.
By Gerhard on: 21 December 2017