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?
Apart from Unimogs and other paraphernalia , our convoy included armoured cars and, very import, those big artillery guns that the South African forces already in Angola were eagerly waiting for.
We drove without stopping, exchanging drivers often while on a roll. Time was of the essence.
Breakfast, lunch and supper – all the time ration packs! (Did you also get the impression that those early rat-packs could have been left-overs from WW2?) How we longed for something fresh to eat!
It felt like having been on the road for weeks when we arrived at Sá da Bandeira. We slept at the airport, or what was left of it, that night.
Commandant Dolf Carstens (if I remember correctly) who was in charge held an order group upon arrival. He had good news for us. A local Portuguese butcher who was still in Angola was so overjoyed by our arrival, that he fetched us a couple of beef rear quarter, enough for everyone in the convoy.
“Fresh meat!” Our spontaneous reaction sounded like a well-rehearsed chorus.
But the commandant also had bad news. The meat was solidly frozen.
“Does anybody perhaps have a saw?” he asked. A hand went up and someone actually brought a saw along for the expedition!
But alas, the little hand saw didn’t even make a mark on the rock-hard meat.
Entered the Sappers!
I instructed a few of my guys to fetch the chain saws that were part of our engineering equipment from our Unimogs. We put the meat on the low wooden airport benches, adorned ourselves with some plastic sheets that were lying around to keep blood, bone and meat off our clothes, and started to cut stakes the size of tea trays (and just as hard as it was still frozen) with the chain saws.
That night we feasted on tough steaks without salt, thought flavoured lightly to heavily with chain saw oil, depending at what stage of the cutting process one collected one’s meat.
… and the Sappers were the heroes!
(Pictures: Michael Llewellyn Wild)
1 comment(s) so far...
By Johan Schoeman on
2015/09/11 05:10 PM
Re: Supper in Sá da Bandeira
Thank you for that steak story, Johan! I remember when we started withdrawing from Angola in 1988, one of the Senior NCO's of the battery (no names! LOL), brought in a massive Rooiwildebees strapped across the front of the Ratel. Incredibly, it just "appeared and jumped in front of the moving Ratel", with the obvious result that the entire artillery battery's ratpack diet was about to be supplemented by some really fresh meat! No one seemd to notice the small bullethole behind the animal's ear, though! Be that as it may, the "poachers" of the battery were soon revealed as the animal was skinned and cut up in record time. We were thus able to issue every member of the battery with a huge chunk of steak, which, without salt and proper preparations, and with the animal not having been allowed to bleed out first, turned out to be rather tough and not at all as tender as we would have expected. However, it was a steak, and thoroughly enjoyed as it was, after been grilled over open fires in our shovels using every spice and soup/cooldrink powder pack from our ratpacks. It was the first fresh meat most of us had seen for almost three months! While we were demobilising at Rundu, we, the officers of the regiment, went to the Rundu Hotel with the CO for some real, well-prepared steak, of which we could not eat a quarter because our stomachs had shrunk so much!