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Apr 20

Written by: Johan Schoeman
2011/04/20 05:12 PM  RssIcon

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.
  • If you are not a member of this WarBlog, you can view a SAMPLE of 5 photos of the operation here...
  • To become a member of this Warblog, you will need to Register at www.warinangola.com and SUBSCRIBE to the PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP
  • If you are a member of this WarBlog, you will have to log in to view ALL the photos of the operation here...


7 comment(s) so far...


Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

good post!

By runescape gold on   2011/09/05 04:55 AM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

Graag sou ek graag van die foto's wil sien.My Boetie GJ Kemp in 61 mech Dink is Ratel 21 is oorlede in die Show.

By Marietha Kemp on   2012/07/13 03:14 PM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

Marietha, gaan na www.warinangola.com en Registreer (dit is gratis) en dan na die Gallery... kies 'Photos of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell), 1980' en dan behoort jy almal te kan sien. Laai ook sommer die laaste ten of so Uitgawes van die Nuusbrief af (ook gratis). Dit bevat 'n redelike gedetaileerde beskrywing van die Operasie...Uittreksels uit die boek waarmee ek besig is.

By Johan Schoeman on   2012/07/14 04:03 AM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

Would love to see and hear from people who were in operation smokeshell

By Rose Sheard (nee Kruger) on   2013/06/20 07:09 PM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

I have loaded information, maps and stories about Operation Sceptic and the attack on Smokeshell on the War In Angola Portal at http://www.warinangola.com/Default.aspx?tabid=1644

By Johan Schoeman on   2013/06/21 05:31 PM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

Was in Smokeshell

By Ockert Coertze on   2013/07/16 11:09 AM

Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added

Ockert, Please send me some of your experiences (and photos) of the operation if you have. I would like to consider it for inclusion in a book on the operation... You can email it to johan@warinangola.com

By Johan Schoeman on   2013/07/17 09:14 PM

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Recent Blog Comments
Re: Various opfoks and rondfoks during Basics
One last serious article before Christmas. Russia seems to be now in the position South Africa was, when the whole world was against it. The world must not forget - when the going was tough, that is when South Africa really grew beyond itself. That can also be the case of Russia.


Very interesting to be in Europa. Met a Russian the other day during a course, a year younger than me. Many years ago he was a Mig (21 &23) pilot (but not in Angola), left the army in 1984, to study as an engineer. We chatted a bit about the past, as time allows it. I showed him pictures of how the SADF veterans now visit the Russian Angola veterans. Old adversaries that have become friends. Strange how the world has changed.
By German volunteer on: Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. .

By rachelle on: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Re: Various opfoks and rondfoks during Basics

you see, I read this:


But then I know that diplomacy is not necessary what is playing off behind the scenes.

Just for interest sake, some history of my remote connection to Russia. My grandfather on my fathers side was a german engineer in Moscow (under the leasehold system by Catherina, who wanted to attract skills in order to modernize Russia), my grandmother won the first prize at the Moscow conservatorium for the piano. Then came 1917, the Russian revolution, and they had to flee for their lives to Latvia, then again fled under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact into Eastern-Prussia, then under the collapsing Eastern Front after Stalingrad had to flee again before the end of the war to Germany. My mother (she can still talk some phrases in Russian, had to learn it in school) escaped out of Eastern Germany, which suffered terrible from hunger after the war. Parents emigrated to South Africa when I was a little one. That is how I landed as a national serviceman in South Africa, defending against communism, for we were always on the receiving side of that system, just like your late Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. And now I fled again. What is my true fatherland, where do I belong to...when will it ever end, Destiny landing us between the millstones of higher international politics...
By German volunteer on: Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Re: Various opfoks and rondfoks during Basics

don't know if you are still reading this. Perhaps it is a naive request, I don't know, perhaps I am misreading the situation.

The Angolan War is over, Boer and Russians, once combatants, are today shaking hands, like in an earlier era, where Russians sided with the Boers in the Anglo-Boer War. We are sort of on the same side now. History moves on. In a strange sort of way, the western leadership (not the people) are becoming more and more liberal and leftist, while Russia is returning to its pre revolution values.

The other day I saw a TV program of the old Romanov famliy, how Yelstsin rehabilitated them. Some surving members of that family stay in the UK. President Putin is an incomprehensible figure for me, I don't know enough what is happening in Russia, other than reading. I do not understand who stands behind him, for a president is not like a king in the middle ages, he is just a figurehead. From the face value his actions are admirable, one cannot help to have some sympathies for him, hopefully this is not a wrong analysis.

I am certain you Russian veterans have noticed that South Africa as a country has got into troubled times. The white minority is standing with its back against the wall. The blacks are suffering under the current government, but they do not have enough insight into what is happening to them, they are not that advanced. Now Rosatom wants to sell nuclear power stations to South Africa, but under the current incompetent government with its affirmative action policy, the chances are good these power stations will Tjernobyl into our faces sooner or later, because of incompetent management. Ou national power supplier, Eskom, is already crumbling to pieces due to incompetence.

Do you Russian veterans have any influence with Putin, to show him what is happening over here? Will he be able to influence events in South Africa in a positive way, or does one overestimate the powers he actually has?

Russia has sanctions against her, she sits with the Ukraine problem, and the USA (to be more precise, certain insiders in the USA, that do whatever they want without asking the American people), it is a very difficult situation, so perhaps Russia does not have so much space to manouver. I understand the USA is trying to encircle Russia, so as to force her into a "world republic" envisioned by the money powers.

How do you Angola veterans assess this situation (helping South Africa)? Or is it a topic that should rather be discussed offline?
By German volunteer on: Saturday, November 29, 2014
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
Tor, ek was 'n 56 Kg sissie toe ek ingeklaar het, en vir my was julle ouens monsters! Vir die eerste ses weke, in elk geval. "my" PTI was 'n regte Blikskottel, maar te danke aan hom, soos jy gelees het, het ek man geword. Julle ouens moes maar julle jop doen - sooselkeen van ons. Deel 2 en heelwat ander artikels in op hierdie webwerf - 9 inskrywings, as ek reg onthou. Ek was maar 'n doodgewone troep, en my 2 jaar was heeltemal onmerkwaardig, daarom skryf ek maar oor die SAW se alledaags. Laat weet wat dink jy van die res. Dankie, man.
By The Ancient Armourer on: Thursday, November 20, 2014
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
For sure an incredible read,where do I get part 2,3 and more? . I was a PTI in the army 1975-1976 bet you would not call a PTI a monster in those years!!!(In elk geval nie as hy jou kon hoor nie) 'n Klomp van hulle was maar dose,miskien ek ook,ons moes maar almal ons werk doen,ou PW en John Vorster het so gese.Goeie tye wat 'n ou nie wil oor he nie,mis na al die jare nog van my ou army pelle.SAK VIR 10!!
By Tor Lombard on: Thursday, November 20, 2014
Re: Guard Duty at 81TSD
Somebody essentially assist to make significantly posts I might state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular post incredible. Magnificent job!
By UGG Boots on: Saturday, October 11, 2014
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Thanks Cornie. I do also have that a squadron of tanks comprises of eleven tanks, but I did read somewhere that there were 28 in total (not sure where, though). I suppose that this included the three ARVs as well as the two command tanks of the regiment's CO and the 2IC, which brings the total to 27. Maybe there was another held in reserve? Be it as it may, there could have have been no more than 24 fighting armoured vehicles directly involved in the attack.
By Johan Schoeman on: Monday, August 25, 2014
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Thank you Johan. Well from all accounts I have read, most were involved in some small part and only now get to share with others how they fitted into the big picture. Information is mostly memories and speculation so we will never really know what intelligence was provided by whom and for what reason. I'm really beginning to doubt what is put forward af fact. Just think about what you have seen, after Quito we were constantly reminded how outmatched and outnumbered we are and that piece is the only way. That there is an army on the SWA border ready to invade and we will have to retreat to Grootfontein as an optimistic estimation. I just don't see that, I can only find accounts of people facing SWAPO over the river. The logistics of moving and supplying an army is huge and it leaves clear traces. You can see those traces from Luanda to Quito. What you don't see is any trace of an army moved through the DMZ. There was no civilian infrastructure for several kilos into Angola and to supply from the air would have meant constant transport planes which would have been a turkey shoot. Im trying to contain my imagination but keeping the airforce out of the fight, pulling back to Rundu, hasty moving to Oshakati. And until now I did not realise that the commanders was young. In my opinion, someone was trying very hard to take us out of the fight and spread fear before we became unstoppable (dream a little). I just cannot see, realistically, how we can all echo that we were on a path to defeat due to technical or resource constraints. If you doubt that, just look at what executive outcomes did with precious little, and we had a lot.
By Hein on: Sunday, August 24, 2014
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Hi Johan. A SA tank squadron consist of only 11 tanks. 3 x troops with 3 tanks each and then the commander and 2 in command tanks.
As on readiness we had more than enough just Pres Steyn had 35 ready and well maintained at 7 Div Mob centre and I believe the other tank regiments would have had the same amount. Tactical it did not matter whether is was Mk1 or Mk1A, we never really used the new features of the 1A.
By Cornie van Schoor on: Sunday, August 24, 2014
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Hi Hein... Just a view points: the most tanks used in a single operation were 28, which were the 26-odd tanks from the two squadrons of Regiment President Steyn plus two command tanks (and/or 1 Command Ratel) used by the command element from the School of Armour. Most of these tanks had been in action in the previous operations and have simply been taken over by the RPS tanks, which only brought in a single squadron of replacement tanks. This explains the confusion that arose due to the call signs displayed on the tanks, e.g. Bravo Squadron using the tanks previously deployed as Echo Squadron, and therefore labelled with the 50 series of call signs and not the 20 series Another squadron was already on its way home, which, in theory, would bring the total number of tanks in the operation area to around 40. There had been previous rotations in December as well (at least two), but there had never been more than the two squadron, ad-hoc regiment of tanks deployed. I don't think there were any intention to create an appearance of having more tanks deployed than was actually the case as a deception measure, in fact, I would lean towards the other side, that in fact, the field commanders would have preferred the enemy to think there were only one squadron present. Deception measures that had been taken did include the simulated sound of tank engines to confuse the enemy, but that was more intended towards creating uncertainty as to which direction the tanks would actually be attacking from. Tanks do provide a demoralising effect on dug-in enemy troops and it is always good to let them know that they are going to be attacked by tanks. No surprises there... as I saw from my vantage point in the tree, when the tanks approached the objectives, there could be NO DOUBT at all as to where they were and where they were going to! The noise and dust could be heard and seen from tens of kilometres away! Given the extend of the defences and preparation allowed the enemy, and the limited artillery preparatory bombardment on known positions, I can only surmise that the attack was never intended to actually succeed, but merely to keep the military pressure on the enemy during negotiations. It was NOT the usual way of doing things in the SADF and we did notice it on the ground. While we were still supremely confident in our abilities, I think the writing was pretty much on the wall, especially after TWO direct frontal attacks had already failed previously! We were a new lot and were obviously ill prepared for what we were to face, but I think the field commanders were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs by the politicians, and were silently hoping that maybe the enemy resolve would crack and they would simply run away again.As to the combat-readiness of the Olifant tanks, while not really equipped to any technical level when it comes to the tanks, I don't think there were too many of the 250-odd actually ready as only a few of them had actually being upgraded to Mark 1A status... most of the others were Mark 1s although the regiments would have been maintaining them to a high standard in the way I knew the old SADF. The problem was that most of these regiments were Citizen Force units and were not exactly on a ready footing.Our Tiffies (Technical Service Corps) did a magnificent job of maintaining, fixing, and recovering our vehicles, including the tanks. Most of the tanks that had been attributed as losses by the enemy had been recovered and reintroduced in the field within days of their recovery. No tanks were actually shot out or destroyed by enemy fire but most had suffered from damaged tracks and bogeys, mostly caused by mines. This is what makes the events of 23 March 1987 so sad... that we had to abandon three slightly damaged tanks in the battlefield because we had been told that we would recover them later... except that we were prevented to do so by the political events which had overtaken the decisions in the field!.
Unfortunately I cannot comment on the intelligence picture as that was simply not my expertise, but, as you say, very interesting coincidences did occur and does give one the idea that things had been engineered.As to whether we ourselves would have been able to hold out in the field at Cuito Cuanavale until the Soviet collapse, I doubt it very much, judging from the level of deterioration that our equipment had gone through and the obvious economic strain the war was placing on the SA government. While I think it is safe to say that we had actively contributed to the Soviets collapse, it is probably safe to also say that they directly contributed to the demise of Apartheid by tying us up for so long in Angola! As it turned out, Namibia became an independent nation, which was the long term goal of all the parties concerned anyway, including the SA government.
By Johan Schoeman on: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Re: "Trying to destroy the Olifants"
Hi All. I know this thread is old but I find the best way to collect history is to talk to those who were there. I am fascinated by war, not because I'm a psycho, I just try to see what drives people to the point of breaking the 6th commandment. I have spoken to many a war damaged veteran soldier that had their lives changed in combat.
I would like to share some of my findings and hear your views. Please keep in mind, I was not there, a lot of the official accounts is not true and were politically motivated. So don't jump on me if you disagree, lets just discuss what we know and try draw informed conclusions.
Its difficult to build a sequence of events but ill attempt it anyway. SA paranoid about another communistic neighbor and desperate for favor on the international scene eagerly invaded Angola in 74 after the CIA intervention failed. Seen as the aggressor the UN pressured SA to withdraw and the Cubans were a formidable dug in force so it was better to leave than to get kicked out. To prevent SWAPO from positioning itself right on SWA border an DMZ was formed and financial and military assistance was provided to UNITA in the south east. SA kept the war alive and used it in my opinion to stay on the international scene albeit under sanctions. Arming up was done with a lot of covert help in contravention of the UN arms embargo. Cuba did something similar but with a motivation to stay in Soviet favor as an enemy of the west. Castro was looking for a fight to keep the revolutionaries from turning on him and to keep the Russian supply lines open. Early 80s for SA was a time of trouble, economic sanctions was beginning to take its toll and the cost of conventional war would sink SA. On the other hand the Cubans were continuously supplying Angola constantly urging the Soviets to help prevent a victory for the west in the wake of Vietnam. The conflict was kept small enough to prevent any direct super power involvement. But in the greater scheme of things the USSR was falling into financial troubles of its own. Afghanistan was taking its toll and an imbalanced flow of resources was making them poorer. Coupled with Gorbachev policies to reintegrate the USSR, was bringing their conflict involvements to an end.
From what I could gather so far, It looks like Pik Botha was either recruited by the CIA while in NY or he offered to be a backline for what he saw as the solution. Either way it looks like it was know that the Soviets were making a last ditch effort before withdrawing from Angola. Intelligence came to light that the Russians were sending their own advisers and what looks like about 1 Billion Dollars worth of equipment to Angola. The Cubans knew they were going to be left high and dry so they advised against attacking UNITA in the south east where moving military equipment was difficult and the SADF would intervene on UNITAs behalf. The Russians most likely had no plan to escalate the conflict as they did not put in place any measures the resupply a fighting force. All parties most likely knew this if you inspect the actions in hind site.
The SADF plan, as I see it, was not to go into a full out fight. 6 or 7 G5 155 Howitzers developed with help from dr Bull, were placed outside Quito about 45 kilometers from the runway which was just outside the range of Russian guns. MIG 23s from Menonge were supposed to find and destroy these but could not fly low due to UNITA being armed with stingers. The Recce teams would call out Victor Victor when a MIG 23 took off and that gave about 15 Minutes to stop firing and cover up. The SADF learned early on that a tank was really ineffective in Angola and that wheeled vehicles with better range could out maneuver a tank and shoot it from behind through its radiator with a much smaller gun. The Ratel 60 and 90 performed well against a tank and could be chained together for river crossings. Never the less to invoke a tank battle you need tanks. So the tanks were taken around to the north east and send down to the confluence as this would look like a move to capture the bridge and cross. This slow paced advance through a known mine field would give the enemy ample opportunity to send all armor across as a stopping force while the tanks simply turn around and leave with the enemy exposed to artillery on the eastern side of the river with very little chance to retreat back to Quito. The missions were called modular, hooper and packer, stop, push back and cross. We all know packer was deemed a failure. But was it? was it ever the plan? If you look at the ordinance supplied it does not look like there was ever an intention to cross the river, just to draw out and destroy enough equipment to justify an end of hostilities and withdraw. So Pik Botha and Magnus Malan goes to Egypt for piece talks and the agreement was that SADF leaves Angola immediately, Cuba withdraws over 2 years and leaves as Victors to keep piece at home and UN gets to start the handover process of SWA.
I am troubled by the pictures of the Olifants from 61 Mechanized (Ill stand corrected on the division number) as they were moved to the engagement aria, 1 tank would tow 3 tanks followed by a fuel truck. The 3 being towed would have their backsides in the air as if they were a little light were the engines supposed to be. As part of the upgrade programs on the Olifants, engines were changed to petrol and then back to diesel. And then there is the magic 8 tanks that kept on being upgraded. Is it possible that a lot of the 250 odd tanks were not even combat ready? That they were just towed in to create the numerical response needed?
Something else to ponder about. Sweden made its intentions agains SA clear and had their President killed or assassinated, but his friend Bernt Carlsson was the socialist who did most of the damage behind the scenes. He claimed he was the target of SA intelligence agencies while living in London. He was in Egypt for the piece talks and he was supposed to fly with Pik Botha and Magnus Malan to NY to sign the piece deal. The story goes that Pik Botha and Magnus Malan took an earlier flight, of course Bernt Carlsson never made it as he died on Pan Am Flight 103.
The rest is history as played out by FW de Klerk with some very questionable motives.
So if we did not play along, if we decided to stay in Angola, what would have happened 3 years after Quito in 91 with the fall of communism?
By Hein de Kock on: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Just want to express my heartfelt gratitude and say thank you for spending some time to publish this article I have found lots of information.

By ramyun on: Monday, August 18, 2014
Re: Exclusive Photo Gallery of Operation Protea added
Die fotos kan nou deur geregistreerde lede van War In Angola besigtig word by http://www.warinangola.com/Default.aspx?tabid=1285
By Johan Schoeman on: Saturday, August 09, 2014
Re: Exclusive Photo Gallery of Operation Protea added
was ook betokke 61 Meg. Sal graag fotos wil sien ou Herineringe
Was Ratel DRYWER
By Jan VISSER on: Wednesday, August 06, 2014