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Dec 5

Written by: Dino Estevao
2013/12/05 10:19 PM  RssIcon

 

Omauni was my first stop from Oshakati military hospital. The Buffel, a military vehicle rolled out of the hospital yard, stopping briefly at the gate for a routine check by the guards, then opening the gate and the vehicle drove away. Leaving the comfort and safe haven that the hospital offer me during my stay. The drive was slow and each passenger kept to himself, praying and hoping that the vehicle did not drive over a landmine or came under attack.(that was the state of being then)
    Our arrival at Omauni brought a sigh of relief and breathing to normal. The buffel came to stop and everyone reached for their military gear and climbed off to parade or a quick gathering and administration. Being the only none military personnel I took my bag and stood aside, waiting for Tito Appolinario. He knew his way around the place, after the gathering we marched to a far end part to a tent where he was received in a warm comradely reception. Here I was issued with a sleeping bag and couple of boxes of ration packs(rat pack) that made me chewing sweets throughout the night. I was to understand later that this is the place near the Angolan border, used as a springboard to attacks Angola. Perhaps this is the closest that I have come to my home town. However for few days this was to become a home, the home that I was later to hear and read about atrocities and cruel tales not only to those across the border but also to its own. “To re enforce and strengthen the myth and legends of a fierce warrior you have to slaughter, even your own. To be ruthless is to command and to be merciless, cruel will make you stronger and invincible…” when this statement is translated literally as history of the men and wars has showed us, the result is execution of man by their own, especially for those soldiering in the grey area.
I was the only child and did not come across any child during my stay at Omauni. Most of the time I kept to myself and seems that every second soldier that I met gave me a pair of dark blue shorts and light blue t/shirt which was the school uniform in Angola that they brought from that part of the world. Although the gesture was most welcome, ek was al gat met die klere. Soldiers come and soldiers went on regularly. Those that came was to resupply and break. (Come to think of it, now. the all set up looks like a scene from the series of ‘sending Vietnam’ with the red sand and without American accent.)
   After few days at Omauni we were told to prepare that our transport will arrive any time. I rolled the sleeping bag and handed back to the owner and thanked everyone for letting me stay with them. The soldiers also wished me a save journey and hope to meet again when they returned to Buffalo.
The transport arrived in a form of helicopter, it hardly landed on sand ground like hill when the passengers started jumping out like bats. Soon the passengers that were to board started running towards the helicopter. I heard Tito Apolinario shouting over the sound of the Omadakadaka, “corre, Dino!” as everyone charged towards the helicopter. I struggled to keep up and soon I was few meters behind, until I could only see shadows like silhouette moving through the dust into monster with the rotors like blades hovering over their heads. Almost decapitating them, but nonetheless I was behind. As I came nearer the wind and sand generated by the revolving rotors started pushing me backward until I could no longer move forward and the giant blade missed my head again and again. I ran back to a safer distance and turn to the helicopter. I stared hard through the dust and then charged again towards the target but I was met with the same resistance, frustrated and in tears I with drew to a safer distance again. This time I could see everyone in the helicopter looking at me and the helicopter like a monster with tentacles revolving faster every time creating a strong wind like cyclone that was chancing me away. That’s it, I told myself. The only two persons that I knew and were given instruction to ensure that I arrive safely to my new home were now on the other side, inside the belly of the helicopter… between us was the hovering rotors that viciously threaten to decapitate me should I attempt to follow them. It was challenging me, this time I sized up the beast. Like a young bull, I charged with all the strength that I could muster, harder and desperate, crying I ran and ran and ran harder. But halfway I felt a strong hand lifting me and advanced in a rapidity of those who board helicopters for breakfast and threw me into the belly of the helicopter. I got your back, son… as the soldier who came to my rescue ran back to join his comrades. Immediately, I took up my seat and dusted off the tears and sand from my face, putting up a brave face while cursing that they have not make this “children friendly”. The helicopter took off and so my journey in search for a home continues. Next stop… Grootfontein!   
  
Grootfontein was a contrast to Oumani. Here there helicopter landed and the engine died, bringing its rotors like decapitating blades to a complete stop, before we could disembark on a dark grey asphalt. I have been at Grootfontein before, three times but every time I was in a stretcher. All three surgeries to restore my legs and mobility have been done at Grootfontein. Everytime driving in ambulance through the rough road between Oshakiti and Ondangwa, then flying from Ondangwa to Grootfontein and back after each surgery. But now i planted my two feet on the soil of Oshivanda (Grootfontein) but did not have a cooking clue where the hospital was.
My two companions and I were driven to a building where we were to wait for the next transport. Tito Apolinario and I were housed in a bungalow neatly layout with beds, later an elderly soldier came and led us into a neat dining hall and the meal was served in most civil and respectful course. The other men that joined us for diner were of advanced age and carried themselves in courteous and orderly as they acknowledged each other around the table. I was to learn much later, that we were dined by senior non commissioned officers and such a reception is reserved to few. The dining hall was reserved for sergeant majors and staff sergeants. Tito Apolinario was a mere lance corporal and my other companion was whisked away on our arrival, to the officer’s bungalow because he was a lieutenant. After diner we were entertained with refreshment and retired to our beds.
My journey in search for a home continues...

 

 


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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