Login |  
..:: Home ::..
You must be logged in and have permission to create or edit a blog.






Search the Blogs







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.

Only Registered Users of War In Angola that have subscribed to the PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP will have access to their own WarBlogs. For more information on the Premium Membership, click here...




View the selected Blog
May 11

Written by: The Ancient Armourer
2013/05/11 08:14 PM  RssIcon

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 soldiers.
We file past the issues counter. Each one of us receives his coveted weapon. Our rifle number is noted down on a list (I will see many such lists later in my army career) against our magsnommer. We are instructed to memorise that number without delay – and we will be tested repeatedly on this, with consequences for the guy who forgets, or gets it wrong! During my 2 years I will shoot with two different R1s, one in Ladysmith, another in 81TSD. I loved both of them. Sadly, though I can still remember my magsnommer, I cannot remember either rifle number. Pretty bad show, what?
We are formed up outside the QM store in our squads. Our Corporal shows us how to carry the rifle, though we will not be shooting with it for the time being. We learn to take out the moving parts and magazine and store these in our trommels, separate from the main part of the weapon, which is broken so that it can fit into the left-hand hanging space of our kas. God help the troep who leaves either of these unlocked from now on – he will be in gróót kak! On the moving parts, the breech-block assembly, there is a long, straight “tail” that forms part of the recoil mechanism – the whole assembly looks like, and is called, a “mouse”. This amuses us. Once we actually begin rifle PT, however, we will no longer find much to do with our R1s quite so entertaining.
Again, the memory is vague, but I do remember being lectured on our calling as soldiers and the respect we must show towards our rifles. Your rifle is your “wife.” The full import of this tongue-in-cheek “doctrine” will only hit home in the weeks to come.
That first week or so of Basics, your R1 is no more than an object that sits in your staalkas and has constantly to be cleaned. You’re struggling enough to keep up with the onslaught of PT, inspections, parade-ground drill, political lectures, tables of ranks, saluting, strekking, etc. There isn’t much time to think of the rifle waiting for you in your staalkas. After all, isn’t it just something you’re going to shoot with? Of course, no roof thinks of what it means to carry the awkward bulk of a rifle for days and kilometres through the bush. You’ve got a sling for that, haven’t you?
Then, in your second week, you start to carry it around. No slings during Basics. You carry it. Suddenly, it’s not such a small piece of equipment after all. Its heaviness makes your arm and shoulder muscles ache, gives you cramp in your elbow. Your fingers are stiff from curling around the hand-grip, painful to straighten out. The kolf may under no circumstances rest on the ground, only on the tip of your right boot, and your toes throb from its weight. You carry it with you to the Mess and to lectures, where it sits between your knees. It even goes with you to the lavatory. Your rifle is either in your hands, resting on your boot or locked in your staalkas (at night). As I remember, leopard crawl, everyone’s favourite military exercise, also began about this time; and leopard-crawling with a rifle is one of the less pleasant exercises the SADF throws at you.
The doctrine that your rifle is your “wife” now starts to hit home. Your relationship with it (her) is strictly monogamous. And like a faithful wife, it (she) is with you wherever you go. When she does PT with you, you can no longer wear shorts, vest and tekkies; it’s T-shirt, browns trousers and boots. She doesn’t like gentlemen who don’t dress properly. And if the two of you go for a 2,4 Km run, she doesn’t like being hooked into the front of your web-belt. Not gentlemanly. Strange that she doesn’t mind sharing your lavatory. If you drop your rifle on the ground during drill it is “Val langs hom, troep” or “Lêhouding…af!” and you fall – perpendicular, without breaking your fall (she didn’t), trying to avoid getting bruises or roasties on your face. They want you to live alongside your rifle under all kinds of conditions, until it becomes an extension of your body – and they succeed. [1]
The opportunities for opfoks and rondfoks with a rifle are legion. The bland term “rifle-PT” does not even begin to express the reality – or the agony – of this particular activity. Who could believe how much pain and suffering can be inflicted using a rifle, without ever a shot being fired? Running on the spot – “Tel daai knieë op!” – arms stretched above your head, rifle held horizontally in both hands. Holding it by the barrel with your arm stretched out parallel to the ground – or both arms outstretched, rifle across the backs of your hands – and heaven help you if your arm(s) start to sak. Leg-lifts with your rifle across your ankles. Rifle sit-ups. And many others.
Once, Pottie ran into the bungalow to fetch some smokes. When our Korporaal arrived unexpectedly we all, holding our own rifles, sprang to attention and tried to obscure his unattended one, which he had left leaning against the wall. We were not successful. Pottie emerged, followed the Korporaal’s eyes to his weapon, and paled. It did not help to argue that we were guarding his weapon. Leaving your rifle unattended was the Original Sin in infantry. François looked at Pottie, who shook his head. This was going to be a really bad one, and Pottie didn’t want anyone to have to suffer it with him. So we were forced to watch while he went through the agony of a long rifle-PT opfok.
When it was over, we took him with us into the bungalow and sat tightly around him. He cried softly for a while. Not because he had cracked. It was just from sheer pain and, I think, the realisation of how negligence had turned a happy, carefree moment into suffering and sadness. His arms were unbearably stiff for some days afterward. Fortunately, our G4 friend at Siekeboeg managed to procure some strong pain-killers for him. But it didn’t even occur to any of us, Pottie included, that the Korporaal was wrong to take such extreme action; Pottie’s nalatigheid could have cost lives in the operational area, as we understood things then. It was a lesson none of us would ever forget.
Shooting at Boshoek range starts at about this time. A couple of days before our first exercise, we are called to see a demonstration of the R1’s power. Even the CBs, with their red mosdoppe, are there. One of our Sergeants fires a few rounds into some metal, 5 litre petrol canisters filled with water. We are quite taken aback by the size of the exit hole. As we contemplate those wrecked canisters, reality hits us for the first time: a realisation both the of massive damage that an R1 is capable of inflicting on a human body and that the same R1 which each of us holds in his hands is a weapon with which we are to be trained to kill others. I think we are all pretty glad to be on the delivery rather than the receiving end of that kind of firepower! This particular Sergeant, by the way, is another hard bastard. He loves mocking us troepies about what he claims is our standard purchase at the SAWI shop – “’n paai en ’n kouk!” He isn’t a sadist, though – just a hard bastard. Weren’t they all?
Shooting really did not come naturally to me. With my 50% right eye, I had to aim with the left. The R1 is not designed for a left-eyed shooter. I was on the wrong side of the kolf, the ejected leë doppe flying past my right eye a constant distraction.
G1s and G2s marched, later ran, to and from the shooting range – I think it was a distance of about 8 Km. G3s and G4s who were not exempt from shooting, rode in the Bedfords. The first time we went shooting at Boshoek, we were each given five rounds and told to shoot at a small, white target 100m in front of us. I misunderstood, and fired all my rounds directly into the sandbank. Naturally, with no hits at all, my reputation as a kak shot was firmly established from the start; not a good one to have in infantry. It wouldn’t have helped to make excuses. The reality of a full 50-round shift did nothing to remedy that reputation. It was more than a year later, somewhere else, that another left-eyed shottist would help me to achieve my 175/250 – I shot 182, actually – and finally to obtain my orange badge.
Once, they sent the Bedfords out to the range. Thinking we were about to ride home, we cheered. Then the tailgates were dropped, and – out came the poles! Fokken hel! By the time we had marched back, carrying poles, webbing, rifle and all, our feet were blistered to blazes, our shoulders rubbed raw. As we staggered to a halt, my fellow pole-carrier – 5SAI then used the shorter, 2-man pole – flung his end to the ground. “Fok!” he uttered with intense passion. Luckily I had anticipated something like this, and dropped my end just as quickly. But I shared his sentiment utterly.
As an experienced ou man you know, of course, that our day was far from over. Shower, chow, inspection followed by an opfok because our bungalow was vieslik fokken vuil – but that’s just a commonplace in the SADF. We actually laughed about the opfok – by the standards of the rest of day’s activities, it was hardly even worthy of comment. And then, as we’re finally getting into shorts and T-shirts to relax – “Aandag!” and in comes our Lieuty with a breezy “Naand, manne. En hoe was julle dag?” Sarcastic bastard! Ja, ja, fyn, Luitenant, dis mos die fokken army, dié!
[1] Conscientious objector Richard Steele had the following to say: "One of the things that happens in basic training, that some of the guys in detention barracks told me, is that you are told to refer to your rifle as your wife! That is just straight perversion. It is quite frightening to me just to think of the correlation they're making, in terms of sexuality and violence." (quoted in Julie Frederikse, South Africa. A different kind of war, 1980). But never having experienced the military, he misunderstood completely the gruff, vulgar humour of soldiers. No SADF troep ever thought of his rifle in sexual terms. Perish the thought – the real thing was waiting for you out there on pass week-ends! It was merely a humorous analogy emphasising the fact that a combat soldier must care for his weapon so that it is always in a state of readiness, that he can never be separated from it, not even when he sleeps at night. The nearest anyone ever came to a link between rifle and sex is the famous (and probably apocryphal) story of the troep on field exercises who, masturbating in the dark, inadvertently ejaculated all over his rifle, and received the humiliating uitkak of his army career at appel the following morning.
Had we come to hear of Steele’s opinion back then, we would all have had a jolly good guffaw about it. He had clearly never heard of the old US Marine action rhyme so beloved of SADF troepe: “This is my rifle (shake rifle), this is my gun (point to flies); this is for fighting (shake rifle), this is for fun (point to flies).” No doubt about the distinction there! No SADF ex-combatant I have ever known got a sexual thrill out of killing – though he may have suffered PTSD nightmares about it in later years. Fortunately for him, Richard was spared such harrowing experiences. Perhaps he had watched too many James Bond opening sequences!

Your name:
Gravatar Preview
Your email:
(Optional) Email used only to show Gravatar.
Your website:
Security Code
Enter the code shown above in the box below
Add Comment   Cancel 
Recent Blog Entries
"Fok net voort maar hou net Noord...!"
Posted on: Saturday, July 25, 2020
Posted on: Monday, April 30, 2018
Posted on: Wednesday, May 31, 2017
"Saturday Night Live"
Posted on: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Posted on: Monday, February 06, 2017
The Road to Botswana
Posted on: Friday, May 13, 2016
Supper in Sá da Bandeira
Posted on: Saturday, September 05, 2015
The red cross
Posted on: Friday, August 28, 2015
Fighting for the heart and soul of Chiede
Posted on: Friday, August 28, 2015


Recent Blog Comments
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Remember that night and still hear the Red Eyes flying.
By Coenie (Sdpikes) Groenewald0 on: Sunday, November 22, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Hi Alistair, I have set up a Facebook page titled '3 SA Infantry B Company 1977 - 1978'. Feel free to check it out and join up. This applies to anyone else that may be interested. Thanks.
By Hugh L Hudson on: Saturday, October 31, 2020
Re: Exclusive Photo Gallery of Operation Protea added
I was at Ladysmith 5 SAI from July 1980 and was a rifleman in OPS Protea went through Ondjiva Xangongo and Pupu And was hoping to get some photos I could recognise I was in Charlie company i
By Steve Emond on: Monday, October 19, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 asking for more info and pictures of the incident
We want to do a short film about Katima and would like to have more information about the town of Katima and also your thoughts on what you think shaped the region
By frank Tapira on: Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
I was in the mortar platoon of B Company 3 SAI based in Wenela. We, along with all others, returned fire across the cutline at Katima Zambia. I will always remember this day, like any veteran remembers as one filled with noise, but you did your job. I don't have nightmares, I remember and honour those we lost.
By Alistair Jameson on: Monday, August 24, 2020
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Die beste is maar om vir my die fotos en jou stories per epos aan te stuur na johan@warinangola.com. Die WarBlogs is 'n heeltemal aparte portaal van die www.warinangola.com een, maar as jy daar geregistreer is kan ek altyd hier ook 'n rekening met dieselfde besonderhere skep... Laat my maar net weet. Ek kom net so eenmaal 'n maand hier om gou op te vang, terwyl ek elke dag op die War In Angola portaal is.
By SuperUser Account on: Friday, October 25, 2019
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Hi johan ek het probeer regestreer.Kan nie inkom nie was ook daar saam vegroep 3 ons bev was j Jacobs het ook n paar fotos wat ek graag sal wil opsit het ook n foto van ons bev. laat weet wat ek moet doen is nie rekenaar vaardig nie kan my sel net net help. groete
By A H Du Plessis on: Monday, September 30, 2019
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
41years later. Remember Lorry Lesch my driver, Erasmus Alpa gunner. Scary and prepare us for more later.
By Danie Rousseau on: Friday, August 23, 2019
Re: Operation Savannah
Will there be another reunion .?
By Jack on: Thursday, April 04, 2019
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Was a gunner in that attack . Was in 1SSB and slept in the isle on that night, in the bungalow .Ran out of the bungalow after first red eye was shot
Slept in a bunker after that attack.Still have nightmares about that attack.
By Barry Callaghan on: Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
hi to all
just wandering if any of you served with my dad , Derick Anthony Beard on the Angola border in the 70s .
he was in the Kaffrarian rifles unit according to my mom
My Dad passed away in 2016 August and would like to find out more about his amry days
By Bruce Berad on: Thursday, January 10, 2019
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: Sunday, December 16, 2018
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: Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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: Saturday, September 08, 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: Monday, August 06, 2018