Our stalwart consumer reporter’s well written and expert article on Bully Beef, together with some glasses of fermented and then subsequently well rested grape juice; have me thinking back about eating dog biscuits.
I am not referring here to the bone shaped stuff that elderly, misguided owners feed to their canine companions to enhance the smell of their farts, thus enabling them to find said companions without wearing glasses, and in the dark to boot.
No, I am talking about those pieces of unidentified ceramic which, instead of fulfilling their purpose as body armour, were given to the army to be dispensed to troops, disguised as food.
Rigorous research by the scientific fraternity only identified two types of dog biscuits ever. The first is the new soft type, which one only had to hit once with the butt end of an R1, and the wuzz would break. Now to show one’s age, one should of course mention here, that I am talking about the R1 with the wooden butt, not the plastic-made-in-china stuff. Those plastics we used later, and none of this R4 or R5 small calibre popgun crap.
No sir, for us the real McCoy -7.62. They also became heavier as many years went by.
(The SM’s also became meaner and the heat in Oudtshoorn rivalled that of the Atacama and the cold in Bethlehem that of the Antarctic)
Anyway, the second type dog biscuits were of a much more advanced type of hardness. To break one of them one had to drive a Bedford over it; several times. The newer 1st type, fed to the troepe post +/-1970 -1980 were manufactured between WWI and WWII, and are of a distinctive different nature than those that saw combat earlier in the SADF's history.
One could use those as a defence structure, or wrapped in a sock, for hand to hand combat to bash the enemy’s skull open. Or in extreme situations the same could be done to a Bully Beef tin.
Which reminds me that there were two types of Bedfords. The Vasbyt Bedford and the all new and improved Stompneus Bedford. (It was a well kept state secret whether with or sans added vitamins and enzymes) The old Vasbyt Bedford could backfire better than the newer one. (Old phart logic and prejudice) Both were good for breaking Type 1 dog biscuits -if one were patient.
Now it came to be that a certain nasty bit of horseplay was committed by some kids mid ’76 in a place not far from the army camp. Not content with warming their hands and seeing the sparks of a roof falling in, they also decided that the camp could be a nice playground. This lead to the camp’s complement ordered to patrol the perimeter.
Very paraat, with 18 gevegsrondtes per magazine, we marched, then walked, then strolled, then slowly shuffled up and down the fence equivalent to a patrol from Jozini to Kunene mouth, but prepared to meet the Enemy we were.
Between this, standing inspections before and after patrols, verklaaring that all ammunition was returned and little sleep, the bunch of cooks were doing the best to poison us.
(They were not on the side of the Enemy, they were just naturally inclined that way. Something to do with their genes apparently)
We were convinced that their motto was: “Ut eos si non hostis, nos.” Google translate would have told us what that meant, but those days only USA generals were allowed to use the internet. We did get the message however, even though ole Piet Wapen did not allow USA generals to walk patrol with us.
So one morning very early we came back from patrol, verklaared etc and then it became a game changer.
The enemy was within. Within our stomachs and the name of the enemy was hunger. Using a bayonet, dire threats of castration, very grievous bodily harm and various other techniques that would have made Pol Pot jealous, we obtained a bag of dog biscuits, some tinned condensed milk, Bully Beef and dried veggies.
The dried veggies were not identifiable as such, but we were told by a very scared individual that they would get bigger and more of a familiar shape once subjected to boiling water and a dash of salt. All this while he was swearing on a Bible, a James Hadley Chase, the Treaty of Versailles and his future mother in law’s purity.
The vehicle park was verboten and guarded, so no Bedford could be employed, but a hungry troep will make a plan at 04h00 while the Transvaal winter was skulking with impunity. A small fire, some fire buckets to boil water, while the veggies were soaking allowed a dog biscuit to be steamed until soft. (One should understand that I use the word soft as opposed to hard here, as a very relative term, such as describing the difference between basalt lava and pure granite)
Anyway, a slice of Bully on top of a dog biscuit, doused with condensed milk together with a swallow or so of the water/veggie mix and a meal fit for a king dished up. (well maybe a deported one, but what the hell)
And a Gunston for dessert.
Oh we were soldiers once and young.......
Dog Biscuits –Nutrients for soldiers cleverly disguised as biscuits of various levels of solidification
R1, R4 and R5 –Old style SA currency used to describe rifles
Bedford Vasbyt –Bedford truck with a nose and bonnet (not snout and hat)Bedford Stompneus –Bedford truck without nose and bonnet (cut to spite the Vasbyt)
Paraat –State of readiness of troops. Named after a famous magazine; Paratus.
Gevegsrondtes –Rounds of ammunition, fighting, for the use of.Verklaar –Swearing under oath while stealing ammunition as keepsakes.Piet Wapen –Minister, Defence, for the use of.
James Hadley Chase –Author and person to date old pharts better than the carbon dating process can.
Transvaal –Former provincial rugby team before the advent of quotas.Fire Bucket –Metal container to drink tea, coffee, cool drink, Kommando brannewyn out of.
Gunston –Old fashioned paper tube containing carcinogenic substances.
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