What did you do in the Covid War Grandpa?

By Steve de Witt

Where’s our Victory over Covid party?

No dancing in the streets, kissing nurses, bonfires for masks, victory parades and presenting doctors with medals?

The war is won… but Cyril has ended it with a whimper not a bang. He should be gathering us for one final TV chat, stagger up the podium pissed wearing a party hat, pop champagne and have tinsel showers and fireworks go off behind him.

Instead we get someone called Joe Phaahla quietly posting in the gov gazette “No more musks” and, pfffffff, just like that, Covid fizzles out into history…

Why aren’t we having a party, Cyril?

What are we going to tell our grandchildren one day?

“Aye, it was quite something, lad. The world stopped for two years. No busses, trains, aeroplanes, nothing… They locked us up in our homes, withheld booze and smokes, patrolled the streets with guns and arrested the surfers.”

“You can’t be serious, Grandpa. How did you earn money to buy food?”

“We grew vegetables, me boy! It was the darkest of days, I tell you. People were dying left right and centre. Undertakers patrolled the streets everyday shouting, “Bring out your dead!” Me myself, I survived with a flesh wound, a rash on me testicles from the jabs they stabbed us with.”

“How did the war end, Grandpa?”

“Very quietly, son… the health minister stole all the money and got fired. Some guy called Joe replaced him and wrote in the newspaper that we’ve won… We’re still waiting to party.”

“We’re you a hero in the war, Grandpa?”

“We all were, son. Killed more germs with alcohol spray than you’ll ever know. Thank God for people like us…”

“Is it true that I’ve got 14 fingers because of the war?”

“Aye lad, it’s true… sorry ‘bout that. The jab wasn’t tested enough. But consider yerself lucky – you’ve got two penises!”

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Editor’s comment

Steve de Witt, a friend and contributor to The Observation Post wrote on COVID, it resonated with me as a survivor, having been hospitalised with Covid for an extended period, it also plays right up to my ‘dark’ military sense of humour and put a smile on my dial, Cyril Ramaphosa where is our VE Day indeed. Thanks again Steve – Peter Dickens.

Thanks also to Frans Bedford-Visser for the VE Day colourised images

Empire Slayer … Jan Smuts

So often whenever Smuts is mentioned someone invariably accuses Smuts of selling out to the British Empire and furthermore accuses him of being a ‘puppet’ for the British monarch doing the deeds of Empire.  So, here’s a fun proposition, Smuts was by no means a puppet of Empire in fact he destroyed the British Empire! ‘What the heck are you on’ comes the universal chorus, bold statement I know but here’s the reasoning, bear with me. 

Like we bonked the concentration camp and Smuts issue on the head with a tree, I’m going to bonk this issue on the head with a small book.

A Century of Wrong

That Smuts was no fan of the British Empire is obvious to anyone studying Smuts, obvious because his sentiment and dislike of the British ‘Empire’ is found in a simple little book he wrote called ‘A Century of Wrong’, here’s my photo of it at the Smuts House museum in Irene.

A Century of Wrong was co-written by Jan Smuts and J. de Villiers Roos in Dutch. Smuts’ wife Isie, no academic slouch herself assisted in its translation to English and it was issued by the ZAR State Secretary, Francis William Reitz .. and it’s an outright critique of Britain, her ambitions as an Empire Builder worldwide and her ambitions and policies in Southern Africa.  It was written and published before the South African War (1899-1902) to plead the Boer Republics case and to expose British Empire policy making as nothing more than a “spirit of jingoism” as Smuts put it.  Smuts pulled no punches in exposing Britain’s empire policy, it’s a scathing criticism which denounces the British policy of empire building in Southern Africa. It shows British policy to be nothing more than jingoistic advancement with the aims of securing more mineral wealth for the empire builders.

Some researchers allude to a ‘Century of Wrong’ as being a bit of an embarrassment for Jan Smuts in his later dealings with the British and the British Monarchy whilst both a Minister and Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.  But I don’t believe Jan Smuts was embarrassed at all, his sentiments and critique on Empire were never really changed and it’s seen in Smuts’ next move on the matter, which happens after the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910.

Imperial Mission

During World War 1 in 1917, whilst Hertzog and the Nationalists called Smuts a ‘Afrikaner traitor’ and a ‘Reincarnation of Rhodes’, Smuts was invited to join the Imperial War Cabinet and attend the Imperial War Conference. With Smuts was his agenda to change the edicts of empire and on departure to Great Britain he said, “through our own efforts and sacrifice (the South West Africa and East African campaigns) we have secured a voice in the ultimate disposal of this sub-continent (Southern Africa).”  

At the conference, the British made it known that they were not only concerned with how the war would be run, but also concerned with expanding their influence over the Empire. Smuts’ former Boer War enemy, Alfred Milner, now a MP was set on consolidating the Empire as a ‘federal imperium’ run centrally by the British Parliament and a singular Executive.

Group photograph of the IWC members in 1917 In the front row is Lord Milner – second left and on the bench opposite on the far end is Jan Smuts

Smuts put forward an alternative to Milner’s proposal, he moved on a resolution which would recognise the Dominions as “autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth” self-governing and in control of their own laws.  He argued that any changes to this be dealt with at a separate congress after the war ended.  

Smuts was set on independence and transforming British Imperialism ‘from the inside’ and looked to a post WW1 new order.  Whilst Smuts accepted the Empire’s roots as always been British, he argued on the principles which appealed to the highest aspirations of mankind, the principles of “freedom and equality”.

In a later address to both houses of the British Parliament, Smuts argued that “the Empire was not a state but a community of states and nations” and he went on to say “if we are not an Empire, why call ourselves one? Let us rather take the name of Commonwealth”.

Smuts’ argument won the day, he had come up with replacement to Empire and went on to say “the British Commonwealth of Nations does not stand for standardisation and denationalisation, but for a fuller, richer more varied life of all the nations which are composed of it” and his argument paved the way to the 1926 Imperial Conference, which secured the independent status of the Dominions and the establishment of ‘The British Commonwealth of Nations” to replace Empire. 

1926 Imperial Conference

The outcome of the Imperial Conference was the 1926 Balfour Declaration which read Britain and its Dominions as “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. The term Commonwealth was officially adopted to describe the community.

In a rather thick irony, as Prime Minister it would be Smuts’ chief detractor in WW1, none other than J.B.M. Hertzog who would replace Smuts and be the representative at the 1926 Imperial Conference along with King George V. Hertzog would ultimately turn pro ‘Commonwealth’ and it would split his National party over the issue of remaining a Dominion or whether to take Dr D.F. Malan and his breakaways position on South Africa, which was to become a Republic and then leave the Commonwealth.

King George V and Dominion Prime Ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Hertzog is standing at the back, second from the right

During the Second World War, Smuts was again Prime Minister of South Africa having ousted Hertzog and the National Party. Smuts was paired with Winston Churchill as his confidant and advisor. Churchill was gleefully happy when he wrote to Smuts they were once again “together on Commando”, however whilst Churchill was busy giving speeches about the British Empire lasting a thousand years, Smuts was busy bending the new King’s ear, King George VI, on ‘The Commonwealth of Nations’ and the establishment of ‘The United Nations’. Both institutions concerned with a new world order based on human rights and equality of both individuals and nation states, and on 1 May 1944, Smuts was again in the pound seats and part of the very first ‘Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference’ alongside his ‘sidekick’ this time .. Winston Churchill.

If at this stage you may still think that Smuts, having been born under the banner of ‘Empire’ and knowing no different merely went with the flow of historic events, think again. Smuts in applying the concepts of Commonwealth and that of a United Nations is applying his personal philosophy, conceived many years ago whilst walking in the veldt as a young man, and it’s his philosophy of holism. Holism refers to an interdependency of things in a ‘whole’ and Smuts viewed nation states as no different, states are independent but dependent on one another to function as a whole – the Commonwealth of Nations is a whole, so too is The United Nations.

The prime ministers of five members at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (L-R) Mackenzie King (Canada), Jan Smuts (South Africa), Winston Churchill (United Kingdom), Peter Frazer (New Zealand) and John Curtin (Australia) 

In Conclusion

The 1926 Imperial Conference in turn resulted in the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which spelled the end of Empire and its replacement by an independent community of states called ‘the Commonwealth’, free to be associated with Great Britain and free to go.

This statute is the beginning of the end of British Colonialism in almost every sense of it. So, back to the emotive headline and my bold statement, proof positive … Jan Smuts, whilst working the problem from the ‘inside’, ultimately ended the British Empire, and in a sense, rather than been a ‘puppet’ of the British, Smuts proved himself to be the ultimate ‘puppet master’.

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Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

References include – A Century of Wrong – Jan Smuts. Jan Smuts – Unafraid of Greatness – by Richard Steyn and Wikipedia.

Hobhouse, Smuts and a … tree

It’s almost inevitable, whenever I blog about Smuts, somebody comes out the woodwork and immediately holds up Smuts as somehow accountable for the British concentration camps of the South African War (1899-1902) and by creating Union between the Boer Sates and British Colonies Smuts has the blood of 28,000 Boer woman and children on his hands. It’s a wild bit of logic and completely unfounded. So I’m going to challenge it, not with long boring historic missives, this logic is so stupid I’m going to bonk it on the head with a tree … yup  .. a tree!

My weaponised choice of tree … a Magnolia Grandiflora – part of the Rubber Tree family, and this particular one is planted right outside the entrance to Jan Smuts’ house in Irene – now a museum. Here’s my photo of it.

How did it get there? It was given to Jan Smuts by none other than Emily Hobhouse, the same person held up in South Africa as a sort of modern saint. Hobhouse was to become the champion of Afrikaner women and children in the concentration camps.  Hated by the British establishment, this “bloody woman” as they often referred her, continued a crusade to expose British maladministration of the camps back in the United Kingdom.  At her insistence commissions were put in place to look into the problem and stop the unusually high death rates and she went on a fund raising mission in the UK to help Boer woman and children. Her retort to her criticism “I’m not pro Boer, I’m British and this not our way”. 

What was Smuts doing at this time? Well, he was a ‘bittereinder’ – he was engaging guerrilla tactics, and very effectively at that. He was fighting to the bitter end – proving that actions whist governing and fighting in the field could actually work. As to concentration camps he was adding to the problem and he knew it, he needed to stop it quick so he did something about it.  Whist Kitchener was seeing successes as his scorched earth policy drove other Kommandos into submission, Smuts’ Kommando was having none of that, his Kommando is one of the few Boer success stories during this phase of the war.  

Smuts had taken his Kommando into the Cape Colony and right towards the end of the war he very successfully captured the copper mining town of Okiep and its surrounding towns – he did this as a last ditch effort to force the British to re-negotiate peace, and Smuts was again at that peace table to get a better deal for the Boers, he even drafted part of the Treaty of Vereeniging – the bits guaranteeing future self-governance. Instead of the political emancipation of Blacks, which the British wanted as peace term, Smuts was able to steer the peace agreement to put this thorny issue to a future independent South African parliament instead. By doing this Smuts guaranteed the survival of Boer culture, governance and identity, an inconvenient truth often glanced over by his modern day detractors. 

Did Smuts and his family escape the horrors of the concentration camps? No they did not, Isie Smuts, his wife, found herself under house arrest but insisted on being taken to a concentration camp. Other members of the Smuts family were not so lucky and landed up in the camps good and proper only to suffer the ravages of the system.  Smuts in suing for peace said “Comrades, we decided to stand to the bitter end. Let us now, like men, admit that that end has come for us, come in a more bitter shape than we ever thought.” One man in his Kommando shouted out ‘veraaier’ (traitor), the rest got Smuts’ point.

After the war, of all the Boer leaders it was Smuts and Emily Hobhouse and who became the strongest of friends. Hobhouse had previously been out to South Africa as part of the contingent to open the Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein. Here she called on the Boers and their leaders to ‘forgive’ the British in the Old Testament manner of forgiveness ‘because they could’, to some this resonated, to many it did not. However of all the Boer leaders it was in Smuts that she found her biggest fan, and if it was not for Smuts, Hobhouse would be all but forgotten – bold statement I know, but here’s why.

General Smuts, General Beyers and Emily Hobhouse at a garden party in Pretoria

Emily Hobhouse was a tireless ‘liberal’, by today’s standards she would be considered a radical ‘libtard’, her protests and activities did not stop at the Boer War – she was a tireless campaigner of causes and an endless critic of British governance.  During WW1, Hobhouse was an ardent pacifist. She organised the writing, signing and publishing in January 1915 of the ‘Open Christmas Letter’ addressed ‘To the Women of Germany and Austria’. In an attempt to initiate a peace process, she also secretly met with the German foreign minister Gottlieb von Jagow in Berlin, for which many in Britain branded her a traitor. 

Her popularity in her own country very damaged, but it was in Smuts that she found a confidant. So, back to the tree – She sent the seeds to Smuts and wrote to him:

“It is the Magnolia Grandiflora – my favourite of them – and I feel sure it would do well in Pretoria and if you give it a warm place it should also grow at Doornkloof, I think. Raised from seed the trees would be strong and hardy – do try it – do. You know the flowers, I suppose, large and white and powerfully sweet, if you touch them anywhere they turn brown. The leaf is also very handsome.”

Not just a pen pal, in all the correspondence Smuts found a kindred spirit in Hobhouse, Hobhouse would even advise Smuts on how to deal with things like the Maritz revolt and sometimes the relationship would even get to a very personal level, to the point that one could even raise a eyebrow or two. Smuts would call her the true warrior and he just a simple man that if left alone would just enjoy his surroundings. Hobhouse would lament that it was Smuts’ curse to be a warrior leader when he was really just a philosopher and botanist.  Hence the tree, she really got Smuts and understood him.

So back to the world of Emily Hobhouse, she had become generally despised by the British pubic and, not altogether surprising, by the governing elite, but she was also rejected by her own family. She died in London on the 8th June 1926 at the age of 66, alone and penniless. There were no mourners at her cremation, no clergymen even. 

It was merely the undertaker who placed her mortal remains in a casket. The casket was later shipped to South Africa and four months after her death thousands gathered to pay tribute to this tireless campaigner for human rights.  And who was there to bury her? – None other than Jan Smuts. 

At her funeral at the Vrouemonument (Women’s Monument) in Bloemfontein, Smuts stood up and gave her obituary and in his tiny, high pitched voice said to the thousands who had gathered “We stood alone in the world, friendless among the people, the smallest nation ranged against the mightiest empire on the earth. Then one small hand, the hand of a woman was stretched out to us. At that darkest hour when our race almost seemed doomed to destruction she appeared, as an angel, as a heaven sent messenger, and strangest of all she was an Englishwoman.”

In conclusion

Did Smuts contribute to the concentration camp crises, as a ‘Bittereinder’ alongside all the Boer generals taking the government and fight ‘to the veldt’ it would be hard to say he did not. Is he responsible for a ‘holocaust’ by ‘selling out to the British’ for creating the Union of South Africa – I’m afraid that’s pure hogwash.

So, back to the point, we just have to look at a simple tree to know that Smuts was no big fan of the British policy of ’empire’ in South Africa and he certainly was not a fan of their concentration camp system. The proof stands at Jan Smuts’ house, healthy to this day, over 100 years later and it is pure testament to that fact.

Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

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References: The Jan Smuts House Museum – Irene. Documentary by DSTV ‘Scorched Earth’. The Story of Emily Hobhouse, Pacifism and Hope Joshua Krook – New Intrigue. On Smuts’ role in the Treaty of Vereeniging reference: Meredith, Martin Diamonds, Gold and War. The Making of South Africa. London, Great Britain: Simon & Schuster.

Ja Oom … The Torch!

My last blog covered The Broederbond, and unsurprisingly out came the OBB waving vocal few to tell me it was a vicious attack on Afrikandrdom, my urge to them to look at Afrikaans heroes like Field Marshal Jan Smuts and Colonel Ernst Maherbe conveniently (and predictively) glossed over. So here’s a fun fact … the white supremacist history sprouted by Dr D.F. Malan and his supporters is a bastardisation of Afrikaans history … there, I said it!

Not only are the proven sinister aims of the Broderbond’s purposeful bastardisation of this education and history plain to see in the public domain now, but there is also nothing that better represents this fact than this man – Kommandant Dolf de la Rey.

By 1950, two years into National Party rule, Dr Malan was beginning to flex his party’s electoral promise, and implementing Apartheid. Two predominant Afrikaners would have none of it, both of them very respected military veterans, for different reasons and in different wars. One Afrikaner was an old grizzly South African War 1899 – 1902 (Boer War) veteran, a Commando Commandant, the other one was a handsome Battle of Britain fighter ace, world famous after World War 2 (1939-1945), Group Captain Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan.

Two proud Afrikaners on their way to lead a Torch Commando rally against the Nationalists in Cape Town in what was called a ‘steel commando’. Here’s the AP clip:

No small initiative either, The Torch Commando would become South Africa’s very first mass protest movement against Apartheid (the ANC’s Defiance campaign was to come a couple of years after the Torch). By ‘mass’ it was also by no means small – 250,000 members at its zenith, unparalleled at its time. The inconvenient truth to the modern ANC narrative – it was made up of mainly of ‘white’ returning service personnel.

Of the Steel Commando trip to Cape Town, wrote one newspaper correspondent: “Cape Town staged a fantastic welcome” for Kmdt de la Rey and Group Captain Malan, he related the enthusiasm of the crowd to the same that liberation armies received in Europe. The Johannesburg Star said: “The Commando formed the most democratic contingent ever to march together in the Union. Civil servants found themselves alongside the colored men who swept the streets they were marching so proudly upon.”

“In the front jeep rode Oom Dolf de la Rey, a white-haired old Boer of seventy-four, who looked so startlingly like the late General Jan Smuts that people looked twice at him and then cheered wildly. Oom (Uncle Dolf) was the man who, as a young burgher on commando fifty years before, had captured Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent with the Imperial forces in South Africa.In the second jeep stood a younger man with tousled brown hair, his hazel eyes cold and angry, the man who had been the most famed fighter pilot in all the RAF — Adolph Gysbert Malan, known all over the world as Sailor. He was the real hero of the hour. The people tried to mob him. Men and women, white as well as brown, crowded round his jeep and stretched out their hands to touch him”.

Sailor Malan had even gone as far as warning the National Party and its Apartheid policy that they would meet the same ignominious end as Mussolini and Hitler, and warned that their intention was to implement a facist state and create ‘race hate’ as he put it. In hindsight his warning and prediction would prove right. During that rally in Cape Town, Dolf de la Rey took the microphone and laid into the National Party, as a respected Boer War vet he pulled no punches. Also, this is a inconvenient truth, Dolf de la Rey headed up an entire contingent of Boer War Afrikaner veterans who did not feel that removing Cape based black and ‘coloured’ votes from the voters roll and relegating them to secondary citizenship was a good idea, nor was it reflective of them as Afrikaners, and nor was it the ideals of freedom for they had fought for in the Boer War.

So, what did the Afrikaner ‘Pure’ National Party make of these two Afrikaners? They quickly sprung into gear positioning the Torch as a national threat attempting a violent overthrow. Quickly regarded as nothing but shameful rhetoric by the National Party’s official opposition – the United Party. So the Nats went further and started at the personalities of Malan and de la Rey, Malan was easy, he was the product of a Afrikaans father and English mother – he quickly became “the King’s poodle” and “an Afrikaner of a different kind” – not welcome in the Afrikaner laager. But, problem with ‘Oom Dolf’, here was a Afrikaner Boer War hero pure and applied, beyond the National Party’s criticism and reproach, so what did they do? .. They played on his ‘Oom’ status, dismissing him as a senile old man, paying nothing but lip service to him, positioning him as somehow irrelevant, a patronising .. Ja Oom!

Kmdt Dolf de la Rey welcoming fellow Boer War veterans to The Torch Commando rally

The National Party would go onto banning the Torch Commando in effect using legislation in the form of the anti-Communist act to gag it and force all the senior officers and judges in it to resign. They would wipe out the legacy for the Torch from all things public, when Sailor Malan died they refused to allow any service personnel to attend his funeral in uniform, they even forbade the SAAF from laying a wreath – all official obituaries were changed to remove anything to do with The Torch. As for Kmdt de la Rey, simply cast away into obscurity, nothing in his obituary – nothing at all, nobody would be researching him and writing him into the folklore and history of the ‘2nd war of independence’ as they phrased it, nor has anyone written him into the anti-Nationalist narrative – that was reserved for ‘the King’s sell-outs’. The capture of Winston Churchill would be attributed to many others, Oom Dolf would be forgotten.

In conclusion

The National Party made it very clear, they did not want young impressionable Afrikaners making heroes of these two Afrikaners. They did everything to discredit Afrikaners who stood against them and even engaged The Broederbond and its influence over the Church and Schools to blind an entire nation on historic ideals which were at best shaky. It would all ultimately drag good liberated Afrikaners, real heroes into the dark morass called ‘Apartheid’.

It is now our job to start highlighting these men and correcting the narrative when it comes to the rich tapestry of Afrikaners against Apartheid, people like Dolf de la Rey, and you’ll find them in the most amazing and unexpected places, and let’s face it – this is that what makes history interesting. Not the OBB and Vierkleur flag waving few still believing in the raft of Afrikaner nationalism fed to them by the Broederbond, still trying to call out anyone not agreeing with their views as been some sort of Anti-Afrikaner.

Written and researched by Peter Dickens

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Reference: Sailor Malan fights his greatest Battle: Albert Flick 1952. Sailor Malan – Oliver Walker 1953. Associated Press – video footage of The Torch Commando.

Education Whiteout! The Broederbond

So often, when posting anything on Jan Smuts we get a tirade of slander, often masked as some sort of ‘truth’, certainly to the belligerent group who find themselves in a vortex of anger whenever Smuts is mentioned, or for that matter the same belligerence occurs whenever there is a move to strike at the old National Party and call them out for what they where .. Nazis.

So where does this all stem from? I’ve interviewed people who recall the onset of all this Afrikaner Nationalist inspired history in the past decades under Apartheid. The general opinion .. whose making this stuff up? .. what the heck! Ideas like an empty hinterland rich for the Boer nations taking a legitimate claim to it, migrating black tribes from the north meeting a white tribe migrating from the south in the middle having never met before, small clans of brave Voortrekkers beating back entire armies of treasonous blacks with a holy bible and powder shot, a British inspired Nazi styled extermination camp system in South Africa, an evil traitorous Jan Smuts arranging the British firing squad for Jopie Fourie – where did all this rubbish come from?

In case someone thinks I’m being insensitive at this stage, I’m not, I’m not saying the concentration camp system as was outlined in the South African War 1899 to 1902 did not exist, nor am I saying that it was not painful and tragic – it did exist and its a very painful past, what I am saying is that the education that lies behind it has been shrouded in a very false and flawed package of Nationalist thinking. Here’s why – here’s ‘the smoking gun’:

The Broederbond

The 1st executive council of the Afrikaner Broederbond in 1918.

The culprit for all of this is the Broederbond. There I said it, and I’m not trying to be some conspiracy theory nut job pointing towards a secret society for the world’s problems. No, this is a truth, based on a fact and a real life secret organisation with sinister goals. Here’s how the Broederbond ‘pulled the wool’ over everyones eyes in South Africa and manipulated the entire South African education system to their vicarious objectives, and in the long run successfully implemented ‘National Christian Education’ as the go-to framework for millions of South Africans, of all colours, then and to come in the future.

During Jan Smuts’ time as Prime Minister and the United Party in the pound seats, Smuts proposed the ‘dual medium’ education system – simple really in its idea, he wanted to bring Afrikaans speaking and English speaking coming together, sharing a common humanity and understanding each others cultures. The idea would be that certain subjects for English kids would be taught and written in Afrikaans and certain subjects for Afrikaans kids would be taught in English and examined in English. The classes and education would remain ‘separate’ but the playground would be a common area. The idea was that a natural cultural assimilation would eventually take root. The idea found favour in the thousands of Afrikaner and English service personnel during the war years with a 80% plus approval rating. At that stage in South Africa even in the old British ‘Regiments’ of the Union Defence Force it was becoming ‘good form’ for officers to be commanding and conversing in Afrikaans. Things were generally on the ‘up’.

Then, all of a sudden, the South African Military Intelligence Services started to pick up chatter, kids were returning home from school with concocted slander on Jan Smuts and the ruling party, false senses of national identity and incorrect historical interpretations, sheer hatred of all things British and extreme pro views on Nazism and the nobility of the German war effort, added to this were worrying views on Jewish capital and the Jewish exploitation in South Africa of ‘poor white Afrikaners’. It started up almost everywhere at once and it was ‘taught to them’.

Military intelligence swung into action in an attempt to find the root of all of this, this potentially posed a danger to South Africa’s war efforts. Early in the morning on the 13th December 1943 a small group of military intelligence officers infiltrated the Afrikaner Teachers Training College in Bloemfontein. They placed microphones and eavesdropped on an Afrikaner educationalists congress taking place in Bloemfontein – intelligence revealed it was a front for a Broederbond meeting intent on mapping South Africa’s future in the world of education. They traced vehicle registrations of many in attendance to known Broederbond members and highlighted Albert Hertzog, Nico Diederichs, Hendrick Verwoerd and Henning Klopper as the ringleaders (a line up of some significant heavy-weight National Party leaders).

Field Marshal Jan Smuts

What they took down whilst surveilling the meeting was nothing short of mind blowing, there was an intensive focus by the Broederbond on the country’s educators to dispel with Smuts’ policy and build both educators and the education system along Nationalist lines, to hit Smuts’ policy at the very basic and very weakest link – the children .. anti-Smuts and nationalist ideals would begin at a early developmental stage, such that the ‘education’ in National Christian dogma was ingrained by adulthood, an undeniable ‘fact’ would be fostered – people would simply know no better.

The investigation, led by the head of intelligence Colonel E.G. Malherbe, opened up more evidence over the years, a massive reservoir of intelligence, papers, transcripts, photographs began to grow – showing especially the Broederbond’s grip on the education systems and the reformed dutch churches. Netted in all this intelligence was also all the secret discussions, transcripts and alliances with Nazi Germany and the use of Nazi dogma in National Christian ideology.

Colonel Ernst G. Malherbe

They intercepted Broederbond correspondence calling for the infiltration on the Union Defence Force with aligned brothers from the Dutch Reformed Church to bolster the number of chaplains and start to undermine the war effort at the vulnerable point of dealing with soldiers religious frameworks

It was all presented to General Smuts by Colonel Malherbe with the recommendation to stamp out the Broederbond with immediate effect, cut it away before it really took root. Smuts , as was his nature, took a cautionary route when dealing with this Afrikaner faction. Malherbe asked Smuts to ‘name and shame’ publicly all the members of the Broederbond, warn the public on the influenced education their kids were receiving – issue a public notice in the press. Smuts decided instead to try and round up the ring-leaders and ring-fence them in Koffiefontein, he did not want all the reputable Dominees of the Afrikaans churches named and shamed as well as honourable men in the education and school board systems unduly battered in the media. He felt, much to Maherbe’s disillusionment with him, that a negotiated and moral influence on the matter would be best. He would however ‘ban’ any Brother working in a government job if he did not resign from the Broederbond – many did, and a handful stood firm. He had after all, what Malherbe would later say was “a soft spot for the church”.

The Broederbond in an unprecedented first came out in public and immediately started with the smoke and mirrors, the then Chair of the Bond Professor J.C. van Rooy declared in selected media that Smuts’ attack on the Broederbond as an unjust, unsubstantiated, unGodly attack on honest people in a simple ‘cultural society’ – nothing more. We now all know the aims of this ‘cultural society’ and it was State Capture .. on an epic level, it made the ANC’s attempt in recent years look like a child’s play .. why, the Nats got away with it, the ANC is yet to.

Broederbond Chairman – Prof J.C van Rooy

And if you think this program of Nationalist influence on our education small, think again. From the on-set of the historical discourse of the Afrikaner in Africa is a bias – at the very root of the Nationalist mythology, the simple fact that on the curriculum was the ‘discovery’ of a largely empty land and settlement of the Cape by the Dutch, a kind of ‘first rights’ to the country with Jan van Riebeeck nobly leading it. It begins with the famous painting of a benevolent bunch of Dutch settles carrying a Dutch Prinsenvlag (Prince Flag) coming in peace and trade – with a stoic religion and a civilising mind. Now, the fact is the British colonised the Cape BEFORE the Dutch, in fact 30 odd years before – huh! You Lie! Comes the chorus. So here’s some rather inconvenient truth.

The first flag to fly over the Cape was NOT the Prinsenvlag, the first flag was King James the 1st of England and Scotland – the Union Jack (known then as the British Flag without the Ireland inclusion). The flag was planted on Signal Hill in 1620 – long before the Dutch did it in 1652. That’s how insanely biased the National party narrative has become. If you think I’m telling ‘Porkies’, look it up for yourself, 27 March 1620 – The Unitie one of three British ships arrives in Table Bay from England, a small settlement had already existed there to furnish passing Spanish, British, Portuguese and Dutch traders. Two of the Commanders of these ships, Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert and Captain Andrew Shilling hoist the Union Jack on the slopes of Signal Hill calling it King James Mount and take possession of the entire countryside in the name of the British Monarch. Here they planned a plantation similar to that established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown. The settlement would have provided a revitalising stop on the way to the East but nothing came of the plan .. so what happens next? As historians we don’t really know, there is a conflicting account, we do however know it’s been ‘written out’ of the narrative – I can assure you there are now some serious historians ‘on the case’ now.

But the long and short is that the Cape was obviously left to the Dutch to also settle on the 6th April 1652, and even that is nothing but a footnote, it was neither the Dutch or the British that settled the Cape, it was the Khoi and San and as inconvenience goes there is proof of their farming and permanent settlements here which date back 2000 years … to the time of Christ – the Colonial period is but a ‘blip’ in the original peoples account of things. Bottom line, our understanding of our conjoint history of South Africa – white, black, Afrikaans, Coloured, Indian etc etc was off to a very bad start – the absolute beginning chapter 1 is so flawed you can drive a truck through it – the funny bit, this nationalist folklore made it onto our banknotes, into monuments, into textbooks and net net into our shared psyche as South Africans .. and its all not worth the paper its written on.

Left to their devises with their hatreds, bias and convoluted history, the Broerderbond carried on with influencing key institutions moving ‘brothers’ into key positions and pivots and pockets of power. Their activities given a massive boost in 1948 when the Nationalists unexpectedly won a General Election. Snapping up the opportunity to cover all their tracks, and distance the new government and many of its elected officials from their nazi ideologies and alignments during the war – they sprung into immediate action.

In July 1948, mere months after the National Party won the election, Colonel Malherbe’s successor Colonel Charles Powell (Colonel Malherbe was by the time the Vice Chancellor of the University of Natal), was sitting in the National Intelligence archive and in came none other than the National Party’s new head of Defence – F.C. Erasmus – who promptly dismissed Colonel Powell on the spot with a 24 hours notice. He then proceeded to remove “two lorries” worth of Broederbond documentation from the archive – never to be seen again. Formal complaints to the new Minister of Justice to reinstate the military intelligence archive were just ignored. Luckily and I mean luckily for us much of this was recorded in Malherbe’s book ‘Education in South Africa’.

Later, to the continued amazement of all, whenever there was a press conference and B.J Vorster taken to task on any of his Nazi or Broederbond past he would often smugly turn around to any young whippersnapper trying to set a record straight and simply say “prove it”.

Conclusion

Nothing like the art of deniability and the art of deception, the tragedy now is a ever growing and ever more deceived Afrikaner sub-culture, forever set to grind an imaginary sword against an imaginary injustice, and to forever come out and yell ‘veraaier’ and ‘Kings puppet’ at arguably the best of the Afrikaner nation – from Jan Smuts to Sailor Malan. Tragic, because its in these men, Smuts et al that the salvation of modern white Afrikaners lie, in the pro-democratic forward thinking Afrikaner ‘liberals’, the ones that fought Apartheid with every bone in their bodies – not their detractors, this little band of radical right wing nationalists and their ‘point of view’ on history needs to be left in the dust – or there is no moving on and all that white Afrikaners hold dear to their culture, language and heritage will ultimately be decimated in the march of time and the symbolism of Apartheid becomes intrinsically transfixed to Afrikaaners and Afrikanerdom as a whole.

Written and researched by Peter Dickens

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References

Malherbe, Earnest G ‘Education in South Africa’ 1977 and ‘The Bilingual School’ 1945. The ‘White tribe of Africa’ David Harrison 1987. Day to Day history of the South African Navy – Chris Bennett.

A South African Korean War hero … killed in the Vietnam War

What! South Africa never took part in the Vietnam War, true – but some South Africans did, and two of them lost their lives.  Of the two South Africans sacrificed in this rather misunderstood, baffling and brutal war, it is this one – Everitt Murray Lance (called ‘Lofty’ because of his height) who really stands out for two reasons – he served as a pilot in the South African Air Force prior to fighting in the Vietnam War and he served with the South African Air Force’s 2 Squadron with distinction in the Korean War (yes, for those who did not know, South Africa did take part in the Korean War).

So, who is Lofty Lance and how the heck did he land up in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War?  Let’s have a look at him as his story is an absolutely fascinating one and we hope to do him a little justice in this article.

SAAF and the Korean War

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Lofty Lance, SAAF in Korea

Lofty Lance was born in the Western Cape, South Africa on 29th April 1928.  After his schooling he his career followed a rather convoluted route, the adventurous life loomed large and he initially joined the Navy and trained on the S.A.T.S General Botha (Cadet 1305) joining the ranks of many ‘Botha Boys’ who would later advance prestigious careers in the military, he then joined his ‘first’ Air Force – The South African Air Force as a fighter pilot.

By 1950 Lofty found himself in his ‘first’ war serving with the SAAF.  War broke out in Korea on 25 June 1950 and on 4 August 1950 the South African government announced its intention to place an all-volunteer squadron at the disposal of the United Nations to fight in Korea.

On 25 September 1950, SAAF 2 Squadron (including Lofty), known as the Flying Cheetahs, sailed for Japan. On arrival at Yokohama the squadron proceeded to Johnson Air Base near Tokyo where they completed their conversions on F-51D Mustangs supplied by the United States Air Force (USAF). SAAF 2 Squadron served as one of the four squadrons under the command of the USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing and flew their first mission in Korea on 19 November 1950 from K-9 and K-24, Pyong Yang.

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F-51 Mustangs from No. 2 Squadron, South African Air Force (SAAF) conducting run-ups in Korea in 1951. Photo courtesy Mike Pretorius

The SAAF flew with the distinctive Springbok in the centre of the roundel, introduced when 2 Squadron, was sent to Korea. Their role was interdiction against the enemy’s logistic and communication lines, providing protective cover for rescue operations, reconnaissance flights and interception of enemy aircraft.

saaf2sqcheetchjktptchkwobv_540x544However, the main the SAAF mustangs took part in ‘close air support’ operations in support of ground troops, often sarcastically referred to them as “mud moving” missions, they were highly dangerous as the aircraft has to get right into the battle at very low altitude and speed.  It was a ‘baptism of fire’ for the SAAF.

Before moving onto jet propelled Sabre aircraft, the propeller driven Mustang phase of the war saw SAAF pilots on these sorties coming in ‘low and slow’ into the range of enemy ground based anti-aircraft fire which proved highly dangerous and in operations of this kind using the Mustangs, the SAAF lost 74 of its 95 aircraft – nearly the entire squadron’s allocation.

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SAAF Mustangs in Korea – the different colour spinners denoted formation rank

Epitomising the attitude of the SAAF pilots at this time was Lofty Lance who maintained that for all the Mustang’s downsides on the upside it was an excellent aircraft to have a crash in.  He would know, during the war he wrote off, not one, but three Mustangs.

Fellow pilot Al Rae recalled Lofty Lance returning his Mustang to base after it was shot up during a sortie.  When Lofty selected ‘undercarriage down’ only one wheel, the one on the starboard wing, locked into place.  Landing on one wheel he kept the aircraft level as long as possible bleeding off as much speed as possible before the wing dropped, and the aircraft went into the much-expected ground-loop.  As the fire engine arrived to pull the pilot out, foam down the aircraft and as the dust settled, the firefighters were surprised to find Lofty as a spectator standing with them.  He had long since exited the aircraft whilst it was moving and jumped clear.

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Lofty Lance’s SAAF Mustang after one his crash landings during the Korean War

On another one-wheel landing, Lofty Lance’s mustang spun off the runway and ripped through a nearby armoury (which luckily did not explode), tearing off both wings and the rear fuselage.  Continuing to slide on for some time was the armoured cocoon containing the cockpit and Loft, once it finally came to a rest and he climbed out completely unscathed.

2nd Lieutenant E.M ‘Lofty’ Lance, for his actions in Korea became the 23rd South African to earn the American DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) in Korea (out of a total of 55 South African pilots to receive it) and the American Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters – a brave man indeed.

RCAF, RAF and RAAF

At the end of the Korean War on 27th July 1953, Lofty Lance decided to advance his career in his ‘second’ Air Force – The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).  Wanting to be a fighter pilot he had to start at the beginning and initially landed up flying RCAF Canadair CP-107 Argus (CL-28) maritime reconnaissance aircraft. After a few years of flying the Argus his aspiration to become a fighter pilot led him to become RCAF instructor as a next step.  His wanderlust overcame him and he then joined his ‘third’ Air Force – the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1962.

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RCAF Canadair CP-107 Argus (CL-28)

As with the Royal Canadian Air Force, when arriving the United Kingdom and joining the RAF Lofty had to advance his career using the same routine, flying instructor first, and he landed up as a flight instructor at RAF Leeming flying RAF Jet Provost trainers.  His attitude however remained that of a combat pilot and he was often heard to say, “sod the briefing, let’s fly”.

He eventually got a break to become a fighter pilot in the RAF and was posted onto the super-sonic and extremely quick RAF EE Lightings (capable of Mach 2) on which he did two very successful tours. Along the way he married Margaret and had three children.  Margaret was an Australian and Lofty and his family took the decision to move to Australia.

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A Royal Air Force English Electric Lightning circa 1962

In Australia he joined his ‘fourth’ and final Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and starting from the bottom again on his quest for a fighter pilot role he found himself instructing and flying RAAF helicopters.  So how did our hero Lofty find himself in the Vietnam War?

Vietnam War and Australia

Here’s a little-known fact – the Australian Armed Forces also took part in the Vietnam War!  Yup, alongside the Americans – which given all the iconography and cultural conditioning surrounding the Vietnam War would come as a complete surprise to many South Africans.

Here’s a little background on how Australian armed forces personnel found themselves fighting in mud, guts and blood which was to epitomise the Vietnam War and all its political and military misgivings.

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Members of 5 Platoon, B Company, 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR), near  Dat Do awaiting extraction from United States Army ‘Huey’ helicopters

The Vietnam War for the Vietnamese has two really distinctive phases – the ‘French’ phase and the ‘American’ phase. Prior to World War 2 (WW2) Vietnam (North and South) was a French Colony. During WW2 Japanese Imperial Forces occupied Vietnam. After WW2, the French moved to re-take control of their old Colony – at the displeasure of the Vietnamese people who were expecting and had in fact declared independence.  Independence had been driven by communist guerrillas (ironically supported by the American OSS – the precursor to the CIA) who had initially been in the fight against Imperial Japan led by Ho Chi Min.

As the Indo-Chinese subcontinent was reshaping itself post WW2 in the early 1950’s Vietnam found itself in a similar position to Korea on the chess board which was to become the ‘Cold War’ – with a Communist insurgency starting in the North supported by ‘International Communism’ – in both cases the USSR and Communist China.

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French troops in their Vietnam War show the kind of deja vu of what would eventually await American troops

America found itself embroiled in the Korean War alongside a United Nations (UN) coalition (involving Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and even countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Greece and South Africa).  ‘Peace’ (actually a cease-fire) was attained when the country found itself literally split in half with a DMZ (de-militarised zone) along a latitude – in this case the 38th Parallel.  Communists – North, ‘Democrats’ – South.

Independently of a coalition and more or less at the same time France found itself embroiled in a war in Vietnam with Ho Chi Min’s northern based communist ‘Viet Minh’ army to take back control of all of Vietnam.  After slogging it out in the mud, jungles and rain for 7 long years with fierce fighting and atrocities been committed by both sides the French Armed Forces dug in for an all-out toe to toe at Dien Bein Phu in the Vietnamese highlands.

The battle of Dien Bein Phu ended o7 May 1954 as a North Vietnamese victory – it was a shattering defeat for the French and forced the implementation of Geneva Accords in 1954 to split Vietnam in half with a DMZ (de-militarised zone) along a latitude – in this case the 17th Parallel.  Communists – North, ‘Democrats’ – South.

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General Navarre, General Cogny and General Gilles inspect troops and defences near Diên Biên Phu prior to their embarrassing defeat in May 1954

The French promptly left Vietnam and America found itself in a dilemma, simply put they felt obligated to support the newly formed ‘South Vietnamese Republic’ so as to prevent another ‘Korea’ and defeat of the Indo-Chinese sub-continent to International Communism.

As the inevitable war in the South Vietnam escalated again, America found itself gradually drawn into the war with a slow ‘mission creep’. Wanting another Korean War styled coalition and not wanting to be seen as going it alone, the Johnson administration pressured other countries to join the USA in the Vietnam War (much as President George W Bush would later form a “coalition of the willing to fight the Iraq War).

Initially they turned to their NATO allies and (no real surprise) they found that France had no interest in joining them, for the French the Vietnam war had become known as ‘la sale guerre’ (the dirty war) and domestic support had all but evaporated. Also, the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and USA proved a non-starter and the British withdrew any official support for a war in Vietnam.  They also found no appetite for a coalition in the UN.

However, they were able to cobble together a weak coalition of sorts comprising the ‘South Vietnam Republic’ (no surprise there either), South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.

It was no small sacrifice in terms of actual boots on the ground for this coalition with the USA – in the end South Korea proved the American’s main supporter in Vietnam, providing over 300,000 troops and suffering some 5,000 deaths. Almost 60,000 Australian military personnel eventually served in Vietnam, 521 of whom died, about 3000 New Zealanders served, 37 of whom died.

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A squad leader of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) Tiger Division keeps in contact with his men during an operation in the Vietnamese Central Highlands

Not many people know about the sacrifice of countries like New Zealand, South Korea and Australia in the Vietnam War and they should. The same iconography of war and cultural upheaval that took place in the United States surrounding their involvement in the war also took place in Australia and New Zealand, and, like Americans, many Australians to this day struggle to reconcile with the Vietnam War and the values which underpinned it.

No. 9 Squadron RAAF

Australia did not hold back or diminish its support for the USA in the Vietnam War either, it went in all out and sent personnel to Vietnam from literally every arm of service, along with everything from bombers to tanks to artillery – and especially helicopters. As a ‘helicopter’ war the Royal Australian Air Force helicopter (RAAF) squadrons and their pilots were all in supporting both American and Australian ground force operations.  By this time Flight Lieutenant ‘Lofty Lance’ was serving as a pilot with No. 9 Squadron RAAF – a helicopter squadron.

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Flight Lieutenant (Lofty) Everitt Murray Lance as part of 9 Squadron RAAF standing next to his Bushranger Huey in Vietnam

9 Squadron RAAF started their involvement in Vietnam on the 6th June 1966 sending eight Iroquois helicopters Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), landing at the Vung Tau airbase, Vietnam. The Bell UH-1B Iroquois or “Huey” is almost synonymous with the Vietnam War and for the next five and a half years 9 Squadron’s Hueys supported the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF).

The squadron carried out a number of different types of missions: inserting and extracting Special Air Service patrols, evacuating wounded troops, spraying herbicides and pesticides (now very controversial), dropping leaflets, and flying “olfactory reconnaissance” or “people sniffer” missions (a sophisticated ‘smell’ detector was fitted to the helicopters). The squadron supported every major operation conducted by the Australians, eventually flying 237,424 missions.

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Soldiers from the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment unloading supplies from a No. 9 Squadron RAAF helicopter during the Vietnam War in 1967

In 1968 the squadron’s size was increased to 16 ‘Huey’ helicopters. Four of the squadron’s Iroquois were subsequently modified into gunships, which carried twin-fixed forward-firing 7.62-millimetre mini-guns and two seven-tube 2.75 inch rocket launchers, in addition to the two door-mounted M60 machine-guns. Known as a ‘Bushranger’ gunship it was able to cover troop-carrying helicopters approaching ‘hot’ landing zones and provide fire support.

Rather painfully, as just a few months prior to 9 Squadron’s last mission in Vietnam on the 19th November 1971, Flight Lieutenant ‘Lofty’ Lance would lose his life – 7th June 1971.

‘Lofty’ Lance’s final flight

9 SQN Vietnam PatchNow aged 40 years old, Lofty was back in the thick of things flying close support missions again in his RAAF Bushranger Huey. On the 7th June 1971 whilst flying RAAF Iroquois Bushranger’ number A2-723, Lofty Lance was providing gunship, ammunition resupply and casualty evacuation support for Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and Centurion tanks of the 1st Armoured Regiment, who were involved in an attack on a Vietnamese enemy bunker system in Long Khanh province as part of Operation Overlord.

During an ammunition resupply, Lofty Lance’s helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed into trees killing both him and his gunner, David John Dubber.  Lofty’s co-pilot and one other crew member survived with minor injuries.  An initial Casevac was attempted but had to be aborted due to intense enemy fire.

Under continuous fire from Bushrangers and US Army Gunships, Bravo Company was resupplied with ammunition and the aircrew casualties were eventually evacuated.

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Sappers from 2 Field Troop, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE), inspect the wreckage of the Bell UH-1 Bushranger flown by Flight Lieutenant Everitt Murray Lance The sappers later used C4 explosive to destroy the wreckage to prevent any part of it from falling into enemy hands.

As was the case in many instances experienced during the Vietnam War, the Australians won the day clearing the enemy bunkers and were eventually able to review the crash site and take photos of it, only to have to leave it eventually for the Communists to re-take it – and more so by the early 70’s, the withdrawal of American and Australian troops and support from Vietnam would see Saigon (the South Vietnamese capital) eventually fall on the 30thApril 1975 to the Communist backed statutory North Vietnam forces and guerrilla South Vietnamese ‘Viet Cong’ forces.

Final Rest and legacy

37435488_1478466253The mortal remains of Flight Lieutenant ‘Lofty’ Everitt Murray Lance were sent back to Australia and he was buried with ‘Full Air Force honours’ a week after his death on the 16th June 1971 in the Woden Cemetery, Canberra, Australia.

But what of his legacy?

1970 was a watershed year politically speaking, both in the USA and in Australia, the year saw their respective domestic anti-war movements peak, and it was not a minority of ‘Liberal’ snowflakes, the peak saw significant parts of the voter base from all parts of society stand up against their governments. ‘The Peace Moratorium’ campaign in Australia drew over 200,000 Australians protested across the country and approximately 100,000 citizens participated in epicentre march in Melbourne.  In the USA – over 2 million American civilians joined their ‘Peace Moratorium’ marches.  The writing was on the wall and by August 1971, the Australian Prime Minister, William McMahon, officially announced he would lead a campaign to withdraw all troops from Vietnam.

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Vietnam War Peace Moratorium march in Melbourne, Australia 1970

In Australia, like America, retuning Vietnam War veterans found themselves disillusioned with their country’s commitment to send them to try and win an unwinnable war. In Australia in particular Vietnam War veterans in some instances were even shunned and excluded in their local RSL branches by the old WW2 veterans as not having fought a ‘real war’. The political landscape at home had been changed considerably by the war and continued to change over many years, sadly all this left many Vietnam War veterans and their legacy behind.

The brutality of the war and the deep social divisions created by it left many with very deep psychological wounds and many refused to talk about – and not just the ‘Free West’ veterans from France, America and Australia, many of the Vietnamese veterans, North and South also found themselves in the same boat – it was all just too painful, better to just forget.

As in America, Australia – under its ANZAC values – has in recent times been able to reconcile with its Vietnam War past, especially in understanding the long-term mental effects of the war on its veterans and reinstalling honour to both the veterans and the military personnel who sacrificed their lives when their country called them to duty.

Lofty Lance now occupies a special place of honour on the Australian honour roll, remembered annually on ANZAC day.  He is not really remembered on honour rolls in South Africa, he does however occupy a special place on the S.A.T.S General Botha remembrance roll (the South African Training Ship’s base that he initially cut his military career on) and a plaque has been dedicated to him by the ‘Botha Boys’ in recognition of his sacrifice along with that of Albert Frisby a fellow pilot killed in Korea. The plaque was dedicated in an official ceremony to the S.A.T.S General Botha cenotaph and full respect to the Botha Boys for doing the excellent work that they do.

However, nationally he is not really acknowleged as a son of our land lost in one the most tumultuous wars experienced after WW2, in fact it’s very likely that this article will be an eye-opener for many South Africans.

South Africa is a different matter, South Africans in trying to bury their past have simply buried this kind of history with it, and many would struggle to understand why it was necessary to fight Communists and their drive for liberation of their people from ‘Imperialism’ and ‘Colonialism’ after all, in their minds at least, Communist trained and backed guerrillas freed them from Apartheid. It’s a simple and highly misaligned logic – the fact that the advent and advance of Communism as an ideology proved both dangerous and deadly to millions of people around the planet is conveniently ignored.

Conclusion

South African military veterans and wars fought prior to 1994 need to be viewed in their historical context, and this includes Lofty Lance.  The ‘Cold War’ was a very real one and the jousting between Communism and ‘The Free West’ was a highly deadly one. As the dominoes fell to Communist backed insurgencies in 1966 on the Indo-China sub-continent, so too did dominos fall on the African sub-continent.  The same call to arms which brought American and Australian young men into conflict against Communism was used in South Africa to call men to arms, and many did – not to fight ‘for Apartheid’ but to fight against ‘Communism’.  Yes, it’s all rather ‘grey’ now and the values which drove these men to fight are not clear to many as history has also shown that this call to action was also overplayed by governments trying to attain futile political goals in a sea of social dissonance and domestic resistance to their policies.

The Vietnam War would ultimately prove a pivot in the history of ‘western democracy’ – it literally forced the USA to re-embrace the values of ‘freedom’ on which its founders shaped the American nation, changed American culture at its very core and steered the country into its modern identity – from its music to its civil rights.

What is also clear is that serving personnel in the military serve their country against any adversary and the honour to do this is theirs. Men like Lofty Lance made a career of the military, and like many in this career he moved around within his country’s Allies respective armed forces to advance it. Remember that when Lofty served in the SAAF, South Africa was a ‘Union’ and a ‘Dominion’ – Canada, the UK and Australia were all military Allies with South Africa as they were also part of the Commonwealth and all of them took part as partners in WW2 fighting the onset of Fascism and subsequently in the Korean War fighting the onset of International Communism – literally fighting side by side.  Given shortages and secondments it was not at all unusual to find South African airmen in Allied Air Forces.

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Commonwealth aircraft identification roundels for each air force in Lofty Lance served (L-R) SAAF, RCAF, RAF, RAAF

In doing so, the ‘Allies’ and the ‘Commonwealth’ military coalitions would eventually reshape European democracy and turn the efforts of ‘International Communism’ around. They forged the modern democracies we now find ourselves in with all the modern liberties we now enjoy.

Lance’s service was one of honour and one so dangerous that few men are drawn to it. It is with the same honour that we should remember one very brave South African – Flight Lieutenant (Lofty) Everitt Murray Lance, may you Rest in Peace, your duty done.


Written and researched by Peter Dickens

Further reading

To read more about other South Africans who served in the Vietnam War, please follow this link: Remembering a South African killed in the Vietnam War

References

Fifty Years of Flying Fun: From the Hunter to the Spitfire and back again by Rod Dean chapter titled Lofty Lance.

Which Countries Were Involved in the Vietnam War? By Jesse Greenspan

South Africa’s Flying Cheetahs in Korea (South Africans at War) by Dermot Moore and Peter Bagshaw

The Australian War Memorial on-line

A South African, Mordor and a Hobbit

Let’s establish two things up-front about J.R.R. Tolkien the creator of ‘The Hobbit’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, firstly he was a South African and secondly, he was a soldier.  His formative years and war experience are the backdrop to the creative mind that produced the legendary sentence “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” a mind that unleashed the worlds of Middle Earth, Mordor, Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Gandalf the Grey, Dragons, Mining Dwarves and not forgetting our ‘precious’ Gollum on us.

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A ‘South African’

It’s seldom acknowledged, even in the country of his birth, that Tolkien was born in South Africa (technically however, he was born in the Orange Free State Republic).  Tolkien was born John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien in Bloemfontein on the 3 January 1892. His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien was a bank manager, his parents left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of a British bank called The Bank of Africa which involved itself primarily in financing diamond and gold mining.

The reason for the move to the ‘colonies’ with The Bank of Africa was that it enabled Arthur to marry Mabel Suffield and support a family.  So, before he was born, J.R.R Tolkein’s Mum and Dad were married in the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Cape Town in the Cape Colony on 16 April 1891 and then moved on to the Orange Free State Republic.

The couple eventually reached the capital of the Free State – Bloemfontein, after a 32-hour train journey, Mabel was not impressed by the place. “Owlin Wilderness!… Horrid Waste!” she wrote of Bloemfontein.  The independent Boer Republic capital at the time had a population of 3500, it was windy, dusty and treeless – however on the up-side the nearby veld still contained abundant game.

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A picture of Church Street (currently known as Oliver Tambo Road) Bloemfontein, circa 1900

John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien was born at Bank House in Bloemfontein, he was later baptised in the Anglican Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael, one of the oldest churches in Bloemfontein. His third name ‘Reuel’ sounded so unusual that the vicar misspelt it in the baptismal register.  One of his godparents was George Edward Jelf, the Assistant Master at Bloemfontein’s now legendary boys school – St Andrew’s College.

Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien, who was also born in Bloemfontein on 17 February 1894.

Generally, the harsh African climate did not sit well with Mabel and the scorching Bloemfontein summer followed by freezing winter did not appeal to her at all.  She took the boys on a short holiday to the seaside in the Cape Colony in 1894 – a holiday which Tolkien himself remembered vividly and had very strong impressions of the landscape.

Shortly afterward the sea-side trip Mabel took the boys on another holiday to England.  Tolkien’s father was heavily engaged in work and was to join the family in England for the holiday later.  The separation had a huge influence and Tolkien would later recall powerful separation anxiety; he recalled his father painting ‘A.R. Tolkien’ on their cabin trunk. Tolkien retained the trunk as a treasured in memory of his father.

They waited for their father to join them in Birmingham, but he never arrived.  He had developed Rheumatic Fever in Bloemfontein and died from complications brought on by the illness.  He was buried near the old Cathedral in Bloemfontein in what is now the President Brand Cemetery.  For many years his grave was lost and was unmarked until in 1992 the Tolkien family was able to trace the grave and consecrate a new headstone.

With little to come back to Mabel decided not to return to South Africa and the young family settled in the hamlet of Sarehole near Birmingham

An African Influence

1892-christmas-card-with-a-coloured-photo-of-the-tolkien-family-in-bloemfontein-sent-to-relatives-in-birmingham-england-492x640So how could South Africa possibly have influenced the wonderful mind of such a young J.R.R Tolkien having only spent 3 years there?  People who study Tolkien (yup, there is a fraternity of Tolkienists who dedicate study to him and his books), point to a number of interesting instances which happened to him in South Africa which influenced his formative mind.

Firstly, he was kidnapped. Now that’s not common knowledge. An African male domestic helper in the Tolkien family employ named Isaak kidnapped baby Tolkien for a day to show him off to nearby villagers, Isaak had a great affinity to Tolkien and was immensely proud of the young lad – the family forgave him and funnily Isaak went on to name his first son Isaak Mister Tolkien Victor.

Secondly, he was bitten by a poisonous spider.  Some sources point to a baboon spider and others point to a tarantula as the culprit who bit him on the foot when he was a toddler learning to walk, either way, very luckily, a quick-witted family nurse sucked the poison out.

Tolkien himself later said he had no real fear of spiders, however Tolkienist researchers claimed that this experience prompted Tolkien’s evil spirits in the form of huge venomous arachnids. In the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings we read of battles with the horrifying giant Spiders, Shelob and Ungoliant. When asked to comment on this theory, Tokien himself didn’t confirm or deny it, saying only that the researchers were “welcome to the notion”.

Thirdly, and this is the most significant influence South Africa made on Tolkien is his future love of languages – a love which led him to imagine entirely new invented languages – there is hardly a hard core Hobbit fan out there who is not swept away with the Elvin language.  Of this influence there is no denial and the language which did it – Afrikaans.  Yup, believe it.

Tolkien’s father learned to speak a little ‘Dutch’ in his local dealings and Mabel interacted with local Bloemfontein residents – English and Afrikaners alike.  She even performed in amateur plays staged by the Fischers and the Fichardts, two of the most prominent Free State families.

In one of the earliest photographs of J.R.R. Tolkien he can be seen with in the arms of his Afrikaner nurse.  He was also surrounded by servants all of whom spoke Afrikaans. His nurse taught him some of her language and phases and Tolkien would later say of himself – “My cradle-tongue was English with a dashing of Afrikaans”.

Tolkien family

Photograph of the Tolkien family in Bloemfontein, November, 1892 with J.R.R in the hands of his nurse

Tolkien would develop his love for new languages and later studied Latin and Greek. He went on to get his first-class degree at Exeter College, specialising in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic languages and classic literature.

82815858_2600604280168554_2750227388246786048_oIn The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, he invented an entirely new language for his elves, Quenya – also known as Qenya or High-Elven, with its grammar rooted in Germanic languages, Greek and Latin. Tolkien compiled the “Qenya Lexicon”, his first list of Elvish words, in 1915 at the age of 23, and continued to refine the language throughout his life.

Ah, but he was just ‘too young’ for South Africa to have any influence whatsoever would be the chorus of the sceptical readers of this article, he was only 3 years old when he left – not so, we are dealing with a brilliant mind and consider this, by the time he was 4 years old Tolkien could read and he could write fluently very soon afterwards.

Back in England tragedy was to strike the Tolkin boys again, when their mother Mabel also died in 1904, and the Tolkien brothers were sent to live with a relative and in boarding homes, with a Catholic priest assuming guardianship in Birmingham.

Tolkien had a highly imaginative upbringing in England and by October 1911 he began studying at Exeter Collage at Oxford University.  He initially started with classics but switched to Languages and Literature, graduating in 1915 with first-class honours.

World War 1

tolkien-as-a-second-lieutenant-in-the-lancashire-fusiliers-in-1916-aged-24Being a soldier is one of Tolkien’s biggest influences and of that there is little doubt, war awoke in Tolkien a taste for a fairy story which reflected the extremes of light and darkness, good and evil which he saw around him, especially when you consider the battles he took part in and witnessed.

World War 1 broke out whilst Tolkien was at university.  He elected not to join until he finished his degree.  Upon graduating Tolkien immediately found himself in the British Army in July 1915, volunteering to join up.  Aged 22 ,he joined the 11th Lancashire Fusilliers and studied signalling, emerging as a 2nd Lieutenant, he married whilst in the Army in March 1916 and in short time, by June was ordered to go to France to take part in the Battle of the Somme, at the time he said of the order “It was like a death,”

The Battle of Somme in 1916 was singularly the biggest bloodletting of World War 1 as one million men (get your head around that) on both sides were either killed or wounded as the British advanced a front along the Somme river for only 7 miles.  The Battle of the Somme is no doubt the background to Tolkien’s future Middle Earth – Mordor (the Black Land and Quenya Land of Shadow) and the realm and base of the arch-villain Sauron.

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Battle of Albert. Roll call of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in a communications trench. IWM image copyright

Fortunately for Tolkien he was spared from the first Somme assault (unlike many of his university educated officer class friends and colleagues who were mowed down), the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers were held in Reserve.  When sent ‘over the top’ the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers helped capture the German stronghold at Ovillers two weeks later.

Tolkien was appointed the battalion signalling officer and spent the next three months in and out of trenches.  The biggest inspiration for Tolkien’s future The Lord of Rings lies in his respect for the ordinary British infantryman under such intense adversary, these infantrymen would later be the bedrock for Tolkien’s loyal, brave and resilient hobbit – Samwise Gamgee.

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Wiring party of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers going up to the trenches. Beaumont Hamel, July 1916. IWM copyright

In late October, after seizing a key German trench, the Fusiliers were sent on to Ypres. But Tolkien was ‘lucky’ to be spared the slaughter in Belgium, a tiny louse bite gave him trench fever, so he landed up in a Birmingham hospital and here he started writing about mechanistic dragons, inspired by the invention of the military tank in warfare and formulating Mordor in his mind instead.

Tolkien spent the rest of the war in and out of hospital and training troops in Staffordshire and Yorkshire. Here in 1917, whilst walking in the woods with his wife he was inspired to write the love story of the fugitive warrior Beren and the elven-fair Lúthien.

In all Tolkien summed up war in the trenches as “animal horror” and he was not far wrong.

More South African twists and turns

After the war ended in November 1918 the lure of South Africa endured and Tolkien in 1920 applied for a professorship of English Literature at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and was to be sponsored by De Beers Mining consortium,  His application was approved, but, in the end, he had to decline the offer for family reasons and retained his post as reader at the University of Leeds and was later appointed professor at Oxford.

Tolkien settled in to write the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, however war (and South Africa) was never to really leave him.  When World War 2 came about, his youngest son Christopher joined the Royal Air Force and, in 1944 he was dispatched to South Africa to train in Kroonstad (also in the Orange Free State) to train as a fighter pilot and he was later moved to Standerton.

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Christopher Tolkien (marked with X) training in South Africa 1944

J.R.R. Tolkien resumed his work on The Lord of the Rings and sent chapters from the future book to his son in South Africa, in a letter he told Christopher that he wished he could travel to South Africa – the country of his birth. He wrote of his curiosity in Africa and wrote to Christopher of the “curious sense of reminiscence about any stories of Africa, which always moves me deeply. Strange that you, my dearest, should have gone back there…’

To say that Christopher or his experiences did not have any influence on The Lord of the Rings, consider that after the war in 1950 he become a freelance tutor completing a B.Litt and worked very closely with his father through the creation of The Lord of the Rings and later works, and he was given the task of creating the original maps for the first edition of The Lord of the Rings.

The truth is, South Africa never really left J.R.R. Tolkien, he was native to it, intrinsically linked to his land of birth, ever wanting to return to it and it continued to have a deep influence on him all his life.

Legacy in South Africa

So where are we with remembering one of South Africa’s most successful authors of all time?  The reading is grim I’m afraid.  Apart from the generally Hobbit crazy Hogsback village and nature park in the Eastern Cape there is little else.  Hogsback has used the Tolkien/South Africa link to an insane level naming just about everything in the nature park after something to do with The Lord of the Rings, but it’s an indirect link – there is no evidence that Tolkien never visited Hogsback.  The biggest disappointment however is Bloemfontein where there is a direct link – he is after all one of their most famous ‘sons’ – and a very big tourist opportunity for the city.

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Hogsback – Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the Amathole Mountains?

However, in Bloemfontein the Tolkien Society is now defunct, the municipality on Tolkien’s birth centenary mooted a Tolkien walk (to see places he grew up in etc) but that never really materialised.  There is a plaque at the Church in which he was baptised, but that’s about it.  Travel guides list Tolkien’s father’s grave as ‘too dangerous’ to visit.  The brass plaque on commemorating his birthplace was stolen and never replaced.

In Conclusion

This general apathy to Tolkien in South Africa is best summed up UK journalists from the Mail and Guardian who made their way to Bloemfontein when Peter Jackson launched his epic movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings – they expected to get a scoop on South Africans embracing what is arguably one of their most famous authors, if not the most famous.  Instead they were surprised to learn that the average modern South Africa did not know Tolkien was South African born and here is the key part – when interviewed they felt that The Lord of the Rings was ‘European’ mythology and had nothing to do with African culture, so they deduce that was simply not a real African.

Therein lies the essence, South African educators today simply dismiss anything with a ‘colonial’ heritage, including what is arguably one of the best-selling authors the entire world has ever seen.  The truth is Tolkien was South African, his biggest influence was that of the World War 1, a war that South Africa also took part in, and in the Battle of the Somme his original ‘countrymen’ – South Africans were defending Deville Wood a little way down the Somme salient shoulder to shoulder with him.

The lack of adoption of a South African of British heritage like Tolkien in his country of birth is a travesty to understanding history correctly, South Africa is made up of many cultural parts and all its history needs to be preserved, not just one or the other.

I for one hope this missive goes a little way to re-education, and as a fellow South African and military veteran I salute you John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.


Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

References: Tolkien’s War: Mordor Was Born in WW1 by Mark Shiffer, Tolkien Gateway on-line, J.R.R. Tolkien Biography by Biography.com Editors, South African History on-line. A plaque, a Hobbit hotel and a JRR Tolkien trail that’s petered out … David Smith, ‘Africa… always moves me deeply’: Tolkien in Bloemfontein by Boris Gorelik. Bloemfontein: On the trail of Tolkien by David Tabb.

With thanks to Norman Sander for assistance on the edit.

Cassinga talk sold out .. additional night now available – book now for Thursday 25th

Due to the high interest in this subject, my talk on the assault on Cassinga scheduled for Wed 24th is now fully booked, Quentin’s at Oakhurst asked me to include an additional night as a double billing, and I’m very happy to oblige.  So, tickets are now available for an additional dinner talk on the following night – Thursday 25th July 2019.  Book now to avoid disappointment.

I am also privileged and honoured to announce that Colonel Lewis Gerber, OC 3 Para Bn, SO1 Ops at 44 Para Bdeand SSO Airborne at CArmy (Retired) will be joining me for both evenings – 24th and 25th July.  Lewis was an officer on the ground during the assault on Cassinga, closer to the truisms surrounding Cassinga you will not find.

So, do join us for a frank talk on The Battle of Cassinga at Quentin at Oakhurst in Hout Bay on the 25th July. Booking direct with Oakhurst Barn it includes a sit down three course dinner. We really looking forward to exchanging views on this poignant and far-reaching battle.

Veterans of this battle specifically and the Border War in general are most welcome, their story needs to be told.

The details again:

Where? ‘Quentin at Oakhurst Barn Restaurant’, 3 Dorman Way, Oakhurst Farm Park – Hout Bay, South Africa, 7806

When? Thursday 25th July 2019

What Time? 19:00

How much? R 295 pp – includes a three course dinner

Booking e-mail: accounts@oakhurstbarn.com


 

Cassinga! – a talk with Peter Dickens

Join me for a frank talk on The Battle of Cassinga at Quentin at Oakhurst in Hout Bay on the 24th July. Booking direct with Oakhurst Barn it includes a sit down three course dinner. I’m really looking forward to exchanging views on this poignant and far-reaching battle.

Veterans of this battle specifically and the Border War in general are most welcome, their story needs to be told.

The details again:

Where? ‘Quentin at Oakhurst Barn Restaurant’, 3 Dorman Way, Oakhurst Farm Park – Hout Bay, South Africa, 7806

When? Wednesday 24th July 2019

What Time? 19:00

How much? R 295 pp – includes a three course dinner

Booking e-mail: accounts@oakhurstbarn.com


 

I got him! I got him! I got him!

This is a very rare audio clip of a SADF crew in a Ratel ZT3 Infantry Fighting Vehicle converted into a anti-tank role taking out Cuban/FAPLA coalition soviet T55 tanks during the Battle on the Lomba River in Angola – Operation Modular in 1987.

Please excuse a little of the “blue” language but this is a ratel crew at the height of combat, listen out for the sounds of the Ratel’s missiles been fired and finding their targets and for the crew members yelps of jubilation and frustrations, also listen to the Ratel manoeuvre itself in an out of danger as it takes up firing positions – and the co-ordination and teamwork of crew members to do so. Also listen out for the intense sounds of explosions in and around the Ratel as they engage the FAPLA/Cuban tanks (click play on the link below).

This is combat at its fiercest in what was arguably one of the most decisive mechanised battles fought on African soil since the Second World War and one which turned the fortunes of the “Cold War” coalition of Cuban and Soviet interests in Southern Africa for the worse.

These men – fighting in inferiorly armoured Infantry fighting vehicles against heavily armoured tanks knew that victory would boil down to strategy, innovation, decisiveness, leadership, teamwork, discipline and training – and not superior equipment or numbers, all of this becomes very apparent in this audio clip.

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Burning FAPLA armour as seen from the South African position on the Lomba

The backdrop to this battle was the Cuban/FAPLA advance on Mavinga – a UNITA stronghold, in what was to become a manoeuvre called the ‘Battle of the Lomba’ the SADF 61 Mechanised Battalion Group, supported by other formations and SAAF fighter aircraft literally destroyed the entire FAPLA/Cuban 47 Armoured Brigade and stopped the advance in its tracks.

SADF_61_Mech_flash_badgeThe Operation was Modular, the battle ground was the Lomba River in Angola and Commandant Kobus Smit was the Operational Commander in charge of the SADF’s 61 Mechanised Battle Group. Three combat groups – Alpha under the Command of Cmdt Kobus Smit himself, Bravo under the command of Cmdt Robbie Hartslief, Charlie, under command of Maj Dawid Lotter. All supported by 20 Artillery Regiment (Cmdt Jan van der Westhuizen) – Papa battery from 32 Battalion, Quebec battery from 4 SAI and Sierra battery from 61 Mech Battalion Group.

Fapla crosses the Lomba River

On the 9 September 1987, Fapla’s 21 Brigade began to cross the Lomba River about twelve kilometres east of its confluence with the Cunzumbia.  They were engaged by the South African mechanised armour of Combat Group Bravo with 101 Battalion of the South West African territorial force, destroying a FALPA BTR-60, but they were forced back by a FAPLA artillery counter-attack.

A detached unit of Combat Group Bravo returned on 10 September to the fording site on the Lomba River and again attacked elements of 21 Brigade, but the Angolans’ counter-attacked sending in three tanks. The SADF Ratel-90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles failed to stop the tanks’ advance, so the South Africans brought in their new Ratel ZT3s into the battle.

The ZT3 and it’s launch system was developed under the codename ‘Project Raleigh’ in the 1980s as a “long-range indigenous antitank guided missile”. Essentially a highly manoeuvrable Ratel (honey badger) IFV with anti-tank capabilities, these were untested pre-production models which mounted a triple launcher on top of the Ratel IFV – at the time they were considered state of the art in anti-tank warfare, and their first combat engagement delivered battlefield success to a staggering effect.

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Concealed ZT3 during Ops Modular

The ZT3’s firing seven missiles in total at 21 Brigades armour with four successful strikes on the tanks. Soviet built MiG aircraft then arrived over the battle site and forced the South African units to withdraw but, it was game over for the Cuban/Fapla coalition – they had stopped 21 Brigade’s advances, it would be downhill for the Cubans and Angolans from that point out.

Major Hannes Nortman and 12A

SADF_32_Battalion_SSIMajor Hannes Nortman from 32 Battalion arrived on the battle scene at the Lomba on the morning of 10 September, the ZT3 Ratel, code 1-2, one of 32 Battalion’s ZT3’s had taken up position under the initial command of Lt Ian Robertson,  Lt Robertson was injured when he jumping out of the ratel to give fire guidance to the 90mm Ratel next to his ZT3 Ratel. Unfortunately, he landed at the same spot as one of the incoming mortars and took a large piece of shrapnel in his head. The crew of the ZT3 were busy with the casevac of their injured commander, when three T55 Soviet made, heavily armoured enemy tanks rolled up.  Major Hannes Nortman came running up, taking charge of the ZT3 Ratel 1-2 and the attack.

The newly developed Ratel ZT3 had a ‘black box’ which recorded crew actions when the missile system was selected – and this stunning bit of history of South African servicemen in action was forever recorded.

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Ratel combat during the Battle of the Lomba

The SADF’s ZT3”s were positioned in a tree-line just short of the Lomba River’s adjacent ‘shona’. The first two missiles fired by 1-2 where fired by a young and very over excited gunner, Darryn Richard Nelson – whose commentary is heard throughout the recording.  The first missiles pulled up vertically at around 200 meters. The third did not fire.

The gunner now fired his fourth missile which hit the lead tank in its tracks, stopping it dead. A fifth missile finally destroyed Tank 1 and the gunner his jubilant “I got him! I got him! I got him! Now very excited the young gunner focussed on the second tank, which was retreating back towards the river, his first shot at tank 2 missed as the missile hit the ground just in front of the tank.

Here’s where Major Nortman demonstrated years of senior military experience in combat, he quickly brought the excitement into focus in a time-honoured way – by giving the young gunner a sharp crack to the back of his head. This calmed him down and the sixth missile hit the tank on the rear plate blowing the turret about 25 meters away. Maj Nortman ordered the ZT3 to withdraw and reload, he then maneuverer into a new firing position to fire at the last tank which was still advancing. the Ratel hit tank 3 with two missiles.

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The destroyed Soviet FAPLA T55 Tanks – from left to right Tank 1, Tank 2 and Tank 3

With that the crew of 1-2 march into history, a South African ‘light’ armoured fighting vehicle made by Sandock Austral (now Denel), taking out heavy armour T55 Soviet made ‘heavy’ battle tanks.  The only Ratel IFV to ever achieve his – before or since.

The action of this motley crew of English and Afrikaner, senior and junior, permanent force and conscripts, all in a single Ratel, had now played a decisive role in the outcome of the entire battle to come.

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Major Nortman and the crew, Johan Jacobs, Neels Claasen, Darren Nelson, 32 Battalion September 1987

The Battle heats up

According to Cmdt Smit, “21 Brigade utilized all forces at its disposal and its T54 tanks and D 30 used several tons of ammunition to support its forces in crossing the river initially, and later in the day to cover the withdrawal of its forces to the northern side of the river.”

“21 Brigade was forced to abandon its efforts to cross the river and was in need of re-supply before another attempt could be made to cross the river.”

47 Brigade re-deployed it’s tactical group to attack a nearby UNITA base, this was met by the SADF’s Combat Group Bravo on the 13th September 1987, however the terrain was  crisscrossed with the UNITA bases’ trenches making manoeuvrability difficult Combat Group Bravo and Cmdt Hartslief withdrew his forces for replenishment and repair, Col Ferreira ordered combat group Charlie to move forward and prevent further movement of 47 Brigade’s 1 Tactical Group to the east.

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Missiles been loaded onto a ZT3 during Operation Modular

Major Dawid Lotter moved to the west and hit contact with FAPLA forces the same evening, destroying a number of FAPLA vehicles, contact was broken the next day.

Combat group Alpha was deployed to making contact with 47 Brigade on the 16 September. At the same time Charlie squadron made contact with FAPLA infantry and tanks, even as close as 50 meters.  After a fierce firefight the SADF withdrew to consolidate, leaving UNITA to hold the positions.

47 Brigade was now under threat from two flanks and all The FAPLA brigades were ordered back to consolidate their positions on the northern banks of the Lomba.

47 Brigade was ordered to advance over the Lomba River again and established a bridgehead.  The South African 61 Mechanised Battle Group assembled to attack them again on the 3rd October, this time Charlie Squadron took the lead commanded by Major Philip van Wyk.  Making contact later the same day with 47 Brigade.  A tank battle ensued; the largest tank battle ever fought on southern African soil.

The FAPLA infantry soldiers were observed fleeing the battlefield and to keep momentum 61 Mechanised ordered in the reserve squadrons and combat groups, with fresh forces FAPLA’s resistance finally crumbled and the remaining forces fled the battlefield.  The South African’s had won the day with the loss of only 3 SADF personnel and a further 6 wounded, one Ratel was lost.

47 Brigade destroyed

47 Brigade was decimated with the majority of its equipment either captured or destroyed, amongst which were 18 x T55 and T54 tanks, 22 x BTR60 and 85 trucks. 47 Brigade for all practical purposes had ceased to exist.  The remaining Cuban and FAPLA forces withdrew to their initial positions and The South African objective for Operation Modular – to halt the FAPLA advance and prevent the capture of Mavinga –  was decisively achieved.

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Ratel 1-2, now marked 12A taken after Operation Modular – note the ‘kill’ markings on the turret.

History made

The remarkable efforts of Major Nortman and the crew of ZT3 Ratel 1-2 are now to be seen at the South African Museum of Military History in Johannesburg (later marked 23), the ratel on display is updated composite of various demobilised ratels when upgrades were made, however a part of it comes from Ratel 1-2, therefore the tank ‘kill’ markings were retained on this version and are clearly painted on the side of its missile system.

3 kills


Researched by Peter Dickens and published with much thanks to Johannes “Hannes” Noortman and the crew of this Ratel – and to the 61 Mechanised Veterans Fraternity, with special thanks again to Dawid Lotter and Kobus Smit