Vasbyt
Basics, Border and Oudtshoorn - the whole nine months


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Vasbyt

Basics, Border and Oudtshoorn - the whole nine months. Footnote 1

Intro
Beating boredom
Border tour
Coinops training
Demolition & snakes
Conventional w/f training
Instructors
Survival course
Company Scrounger
7 days
IGP - beating the bats
Selection - BATS
Selection - RECCES
Farewell to comrades in arms
Roll Call




Intro

This may sound a trifle crazy but I enjoyed my basics and the subsequent training that followed, being fitter than most helped I think, I had been a cross country runner in highschool. That it was tough was an understatement but to have well trained troops you have to break them first. We were also to have a bunch of well trained n/s instructors as well as our PF's were the best being ex Infantry School. At that time Oudshoorn was the HQ of the Infantry School as well as 1SAI. The Recces were also being formed and we also saw some of the prototypes for the Ratel and Buffel being tested by the Infantry School. All in all a most informative period of my life.
Just one thing got me down, Sago Pudding, almost every Sunday this was served, it looked like a bowl full of frog's eggs. Having never tasted the stuff as a kid I did not take to Sgt. Major Kokie Kok's favourite. My fellow "roofies" had no such qualms and I was able to pass it on in exchange of other more edible items. The other thing I hated and regarded as pointless was the weekly inspections, being bivvied in tents did not help matters, as soon as ones rifle was cleaned it would collect dust again, I wonder how many fire buckes of water was wasted to dampen the campsite to keep dust down before inspections.
As far as abuse by instructors went I believe the blokes that got it deserved it due to their negative actions, one must remember where you were, being a infanryman is not a picnic and if you are not trained well you come home in a body bag. Some of the verbal abuse was amusing if not directed at you but being on the receiving end was not pleasant, fortunatley most of the pf officers kept a sharp eye out for extreme excesses.

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Beating boredom

The last few weeks we spent doing courses that we fancied, this was basicaly to beat boredom and to keep us occupied as we had no further training scheduled. I did the 60 mil. mortar and Vickers MG courses and had a very good time, we did a lot of running around but all was done in the spirit of things, not the same style as in basics but still the instructor did not take any nonsense from us. At 40 days we went on a route march to the rifle range, it was the exuse the Captain gave to treat us to a braai and some beers in the bush. After this the days were spent doing base maintenace and equipment returns. Before we knew it we were having our last pay parade and klaaring out.

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Border tour

Scarcely back in Oudtshoorn or we were back on the train, this time to Pretoria, Voortrekkerhoogte, da HQ of da TOP BRASS, from there out to Waterkloof and onto C130 Hercules "Flossie" next stop M'pacha, Caprivi Strip, from there 2 platoons and Coy. HQ proceeded to Katima Molilo on the Zambezi river. We were 2 companies that went from 1SAI, Alpha and Delta company. Alpha was assigned to Rundu in the Kavango area.
Arriving at Katima we noticed that everyone was walking about with rolled up sleeves, the weather was much warmer than back in the states. Our platoon was tasked to do a ambush/patroll that evening, we all prepared and decided to take the minimum as the night would be warm, or so we thought. That night was the longest in my military career and one of the coldest. We ended up huddled together, buddy with buddy just to keep warm, I think if any Terrs were in the vicinity they could have heard our teeth chattering miles away. The Bushbabies also gave us the heebiejeebies with their cries like that of a baby.
The rest of our tour was spent doing patrolls and ambushes for a week and then alternating with the other platoon doing guard duty. This went on for about 4 weeks when one of our troops got shot by friendly fire, he was always the "wise guy" of the company, pulling pranks and joking, he was busy joking one night at a guard post outside M'Patcha airfield, approaching the post from the outside of the perimiter after going for a leak, when challenged he did not give the password, after the fourth callenge one of his section opened fire mortally wounding him. The first National Serviceman to be killed on the border, and that due to his own stupidity. We were all shocked that this had happened but learnt a valuable lesson, dont fool around when on guard.
About a week before we were due to leave we had a braai (in 2 parts over 2 evenings) next to the Zambezi to bid the Caprivi farewell with a steak and beer.

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Coinops training

Here we leart to do "heart and mind" partolls and roadblocks, ambushes, bushcraft, bushlane shooting practice, all in all fairly intensive but interesting, this period was interspersed with a lot of rifle range work as well.

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Demolition & snakes

One particular course I enjoyed was a special explosives/demolition course the Recces gave us, it was not on the normal sylabus but as we were to be the first n/s troops to do active service we were prepped specialy. We were shown all about booby traps and also how to prepare demolition charges. We were also shown that a full jerrycan of petrol is safer than one that had some air in it. They blew 6 up just to impress us. I think this particular Recce had pyromaniac tendencies.
The other was the First Aid course, this was given by a Sgt. Maj. from the Infantry School, he had the raspiest voice I have ever heard, but he had a unique way of presenting the material, a few choice word's in the appropriate places to accent his lecture made it most unforgettable, and he gave it mainly in english! I can still remember what to do if a snake bites, and where to administer the antivenin!

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Conventional w/f training

After basics we started the conventional warfare phase of our trainig. This involved fire and movement training ouside the base in the veld which was covered in vygies (succulents) of various types, interspersed with grass and some thornscrub, some places had duwweltjies as wel, many an evening was spent digging out thorns from hands, fingers, elbows knees and legs. The fygies caused our overalls and uniforms to be soaked with their sap of course we sweated like pigs too, we seemed to be running about all day and washing clothes all night during this period.
The navigation training was also a favorite of mine, during one night exercise we realy had to use all we had been taught, our squad leader was walking lead when he just vanished from view, I followed and 2 others as well, we ended up in the bottom of a 8 foot donga, compass was knocked about and the heading setting was gone, no torches were allowed either, after a heated discussion we eventualy decided to use the Southern Cross as refrence, our original heading had been almost due south, after a few cliks walk we eventualy came to the railwayline wich had been one of our planned RV points, we turned left and 20 minutes later we got to our final RV, some other squads were not so lucky and had to wait til dawn to get back.
The debussing from a bedford was also quite fun, one had to judge the speed and jump off at just the right speed to match the truck, being rifleman 1 also helped as I and the LMG No1 normaly were last to debuss, this gave us enough room to run and match the speed, we both normally touched down without falling, the same cannot be said about the first 4 that debussed, with too little room their speed was too slow and they invariably ended up in a somersault or a heap on the road.Fortunatley no one was unjured badly during this training, the drivers were our mates and not instructors as happened in some bases.

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Instructors

Our Company commander was a shooting fanatic and we were given a great many tips by him, he even got some of us to go shooting on the range on our off hours! His motto was "Maak elke skoot tel, Make every shot count." A very patient man if you gave him any hint that you were interested in becoming a marksman, but if you did not put up a good score you got to know the rifle range very well.
Our company Sgt Major was Staff Sergeant Venter, a big man with huge arms, the only person I know of that could hit the bullseye at 100m firing a R1 like a pistol, one handed! We had a extra instructor during basics and he was the "infamous" sargeant "Killer" Smit, he loved chasing us over the obstical course before breakfast, after breakfast, after tea etc. But he was a excellent instructor and could make his lectures very interesting. I did his Vickers and 60mm mortar course later the year after our border tour and that was like basics all over but well worth the sweat.
Our 2IC was a nondescript Captain Muller, more of a office wallha than combat soldier, very good at admin and he managed to organise the dropping of a warm meal by chopper on many a border patroll in the Caprivi.
Our Adj. was a 2 pip loot (not sure of his name) he was the only PF that I can truly say was vindictive, he became our 2IC after our Major left to Command 2SAI in Grahamstown. He would do surprise inspections on his duty weekends, of course this usualy meant a few visits to the obstacles or rifle range.
Our platoon comander during Basics was Lt. Strydom, a short dapper man and a real "officer and a gentleman" and his seargeant/corporal was De Bruin, a bit rough but otherwise not to bad as corporals go. I was able to order him around later on in my army career, he was stil a 2 striper and I was the Sargeant. Who says the wheel does not turn, revenge is sweet.
We dit however get new loots and corporals a month before going to the border, but they were the same intake as us and did not regard us as "roofies". Our Loot during the Border tour was a real Pommy type, Lascombe was his surname as I recall.
We gave then a "welcome to tent town" reception by undoing the tent pegs early the morning after their arival, poor things were having an inspection as well. Despite the welcome we got on quite well after that.

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Survival course

Part of the Coinops training was a survival course in two parts both about week long. The first was a inland course where we were taught all the plants, insects and animals that could be used for food as well as how to produce water from plants, basic shelter building was also taught. This was a very hungry week, we could not find much to eat and had to "vasbyt" until the Thursday when we were given a braai.
The next week was spent at the coast in Tsitsikama forest reserve, we learnt what was edible and what was not, more time was spent on tracking as well, here we did not get so hungry exept the poor squamish who could not stomach seafood like cockles and octopus. We even caught a pufadder and kooked it over a smoky fire, tastes just like snoek but has very little flesh on it after being skinned and gutted.
We also finished the course with a braai and Rugby game, someone gave me a knee to my right eye and I was "casevaced" the next day, back to Oudtshoorn sick bay.

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Company Scrounger

My rugby scrimmage had given me a shiner and the base doctor was worried that I may have suffered a detached retina so I was put on light duty for 2 weeks. This is the time I learned to become a scrounger, all light duty's had to do work in the company hq or stores, because my eye was swollen shut all I was good for was to sweep and pack stores and supplies in our company storerooms. Here I came into contact with the typical army driver, they always had condensed milk and canned fruit, always looking for oportunities to go to town and check out the girls.
They also knew all the storemen and could scrouge anything we needed in our stores. Throughout the rest of my army career I would always go to the drivers if something could not be obtained through normal channels, or if something was needed urgently. "Never fear when a driver is near". At the end of the 2 weeks I was declared fit to return to training, I missed the store's condensed milk coffee for a long time after this.

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7 days

We had been informed that we would be leaving for the border sometime in June/July and before we knew it our company was dispatched home for 7 days leave. Being so far from Oudtshoorn the whole trip was 14 days in total 2 days by train to Bloemfontein 10 days at home and 2 days back by train. We had got the extra 3 days due to the SAR not running quite accorrding to army schedule. A most enjoyable 10 days it was too. We of couse were not able to tell our loved ones what we were about to embark upon next.

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IGP - beating the bats

This was the best 2 weeks in Oudtshoorn, about 3 weeks back from the border the selection for the Infantry battle tests or IGP were done, all platoons competed in various competiitions to determine wich platoon would go through and represent 1SAI in the competition. Our platoon ended 3rd as we had decided to win would mean another grueling week and we had had enough of this running around in the vygies doing fire and movement for one lifetime. We were quite satisfied settling for 3rd place thank you.
Those not competing were of course required to cheer our winning platoon all week long. All other infantry units sent their best platoons including the Parabats and at the end of the following week our A Coy. Platoon B were the Champions for 1972, sending a very chastised group of Bats back to Bloemfontein, most of them had started basics in Oudtshoorn with us.

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Selection - BATS

About 4 weeks into basics the Parachute Battalion sent a selection team to select 100 hopefuls to do Parabat training in Bloemfontein, I was one of then, hoping to get closer to home but also wanting to do the course. After a tough day of pt, obstical course, and running we were down to about 160 odd that had made the grade, then came the pick. We were lined up in alphabetical order, the Major from Bats then walked down the line behind us and when he stopped behind one of us he would touch the shoulder of the sucsessful troopie who would then step foreward. I was not selected and was in the dumps for a week, but we would have our revenge on these very guys that were selected at a later date in the year.

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Selection - RECCES

This was almost a repeat of the Bats selection during basics. We were about 50 odd that volunteered for selection as most troepies were thinking of klaaring out not many of us had volunteered, they needed 15, 24 qualified and it came down to drawing matches, those that had one without the head went to Durban. I got a whole match, no selection again. This time I was not so depressed as I had volunteered just for the hell of it to see if I would qualify, sort of ego thing I suppose. Of course these blokes underwent further selection at the Recces and I think eventualy 11 of the 15 were RTU'd. Recce elimination/selection was not childsplay by the sound of it.

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Farewell to comrades in arms

One thing I remember clearly is the night we boarded the train to return to civvy street, our "hard" instructors were all teary eyed and said we had been the best troops they had ever trained and we would be missed.
This realy touched me, they regarded us as fellow comrades in arms and I will always be grateful for their dedication and training, it would stand us all in good stead in the years to come. I have the utmost respect for my PF instructors who had taken a schoolboy and turned him into a well trained and proud soldier.

"Train a soldier to kill and not be killed" was their unofficial motto.

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New

New Story

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Roll Call

Roll Call - 1972 - 1SAI Delta Coy. Platoon 12 . (as far as I can recall, my notes were not in section order.)

Section 2.

G A Scheepers - section leader
R D Crouch (myself)
M van Niekerk
G S F v.d.Berg
S J F Stevens
M D Steyn
M C Wagenaar
C J A Wolfaard - 2ic
M J Bosch - LMG 1
J D Rosser - LMG 2


Some of the rest of the Platoon (sect. 1 & 3)

Beer
B J J Grobler - section leader Section #1
C S Scholtz
Tom Henderson - section leader Section #2 Footnote 2
J J Barnard - driver
J M Ferreira - 2ic Section #2
Robinson
T A T Louw (school classmate) 2ic Section #1
W J L Tolmay - driver

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Footnotes:
1. As this is all from memory, some events may not be in quite the correct sequence, please forgive ommisions as well. As I recall events I will add them. Please visit again in the future.
2. Later on we would both do Plattoon commander course in Bloemfontein together, he became Adjudant of Reg. Dan Penaar and I was the Battalion klerk, we both "retired" in 1984.

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