32 Bn, The bushwar and me: A sleg troep's (useless soldier) perspective.
I was sixteen when the call to arms arrived. Up to then I was blissfully unaware of the politics in my country. Facts are that I probably didn't really worry about it at all as I had started working a few weeks before and was more concerned with getting my Bike working than worrying about anything else.
I was at the time working under the supervision of George for the Dutchman in Eastleigh as an apprentice. The receipt of these documents changed many things for me.
I wasn't overly concerned, but my cousin Punchy had been killed the previous year and I had no intention of joining him. I checked out the options and my choices were join the Police, not for me, go to Jail, definitely not for me or report for duty. The other option was cowardice and leaving everything I knew for a different country.
This was a year that saw me getting fired for the first time. George resigned and the new bloke was Afrikaans and had no idea that an appy could have a brain, I had stripped a lathe before he arrived and he was busy trying to put it together and I kept telling how it came together, his attitude being that he would no better and he had me sacked for being cheeky.
I then joined the Railways as an apprentice and failed to file a block perfectly square, still don't understand the need for that particular exercise as most filing I have ever done since then was to remove a burr or two. Anyway as I failed at this seemingly simple task along with about 40% of the others I ended up driving an overhead crane at Elandsfontein until the December before I had to catch the train.
The first skills I learned besides a little electrical and some mechanical stuff was how to use slings and hook a load to a crane.
It was January 1983, I was 17, 4 ft 8 and 48kg when I arrived at Park Station and we embarked on the adventure. Until we arrived at Kimberley station everything was calm, not rushed, At Kimberley station we were subject to the first of the abuse we were to endure for the next 4 months or so. There were a whole lot of children running around like headless chickens. being screamed at by a little runt of a man with a very loud voice.
We were loaded onto the transport, These vehicles reminiscent of cattle trucks with seats then transported us to the base. This trip was known as the scab ride. The driver didn't miss anything that could bounce us about. He drove over side walks, speed bumps and anything else he could find. By the time we got to base there were bruises, a few custs and scrapes and even a blood nose or two.
Upon bailing out at the base we were given a welcome speech that went something like this. You no longer have a mother or father, you are now property of the South African defence force and your ass is mine, only it went on for a lot longer. In the middle of this welcome speech the RSM spotted me in the crowd and said, What the hell are you doing here son, Did you get lost when your mommy sent you to get some smokes.
There we were lost in silence staring at each other, with fear and trepidation in some and a few heroes bragging that they were going to go the border and kill some terrs. There were a few odd balls, There was the bloke that they couldn't find boots for with his size 13's, Lady Di was a glam queen with the hairstyle of Lady Dianna Spencer.
A few things that we wre told is that the chain we had brought with us and the padlocks were essential because you needed to protect your stuff. The chain was to loop through your clothes when you did your laundry. The next four months were spent marching, running, carrying poles and fetching the wrong damned leaf from the tree on the other side of the base.
I quickly sussed if something shitty was going to happen I could vist the medics and get light duty for a day or two. The corporal however twigged and would really punish me after. Light duty was fun, you got to wear a white doiby (plastic hat) and march around pretending to be an ambulance. It beat the opfoks by a mile. Opfok is the term coined to describe activities destined to destroy all stamina, self reliance and thought, Whe puking and kannie meer nie korporaal was heard it would only last an hour or two more.
After dodging a bullet, jumping off moving trucks...(Did I mention my cousin Punchy and me not wanting to join him underground?) by visiting the medics and being give light duty for as few days, The Korporaal promised me I was in for a private opfok the minute my light duty expired.
This opfok consisted of me doing sit ups on and angled bench till I was puking and crying. The snot and trane flowed freely at about 7540 million push-ups, OK I can't remember how many I stopped counting at about 200 and concentrated on breathing and staying alive.
I learned a lot about myself during this phase of my life. I have never run a 2.4 again, i refuse to move logs without a forklift or a crane and I certainly have no desire to do another sit up in my life ever. I learned that I could overcome almost anything physical if I had to. I carried a full pack just like any of the other blokes with the requisite bricks and crap thrown in. My pack weighed more than half my body weight and when I thought I couldn't take another step my fett wouyld just keep going without any input from me.
The day basics ended I broke down and cried with relief, but I had picked up 8 kgs and grown a foot in that 4 months. Suddenly there wer other blokes the same size as me. I had survived the torture, the hell and the endless terror.
This account will jump around as I remember things that I want to write about. The stories will not be in sequence but every tale I tell is based on a real experience.
The fact is that the majority of the time I spent in the Army was a waste of time. I spent more time hurrying up and waiting than anywhere else. This is my story, Some of it will make you cry, some will make you scream with laughter, some will have you shaking your head, I will change names to protect the innocent and even the not so innocent.
I will try an write at least one episode a week. for the next year, sometimes I will write more. If you think you would like to see the complete works in book form tell me.
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