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ZION
 
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BORDER DUTY

23 August 2012, 11:39

GOING TO FIGHT THE TERRS

Somewhere during the late 1970’s I was called up for yet another month camp at Windhoek. This was the second one in a very short time indeed and was hardly in the mood for another one.      I packed my bags and  R1, kissed the wife and twins, said goodbye to the others and made my way to the military camp.     Was bunkered down in a bungalow with my brother and some of his pals. There was another young guy cleaning his rifle The rifle was the successor of the R1 and an ugly tinny looking thing but ideal for a bush war due to its length.     

Two days later I was summonsed by the workshop commander and told to pack my bags because I am to deliver a Gharry to Oshivelo which had been repaired in Windhoek.  Sounded interesting enough. Oshivelo, close to the Etosha Pans, was a specialist unit training motor cyclists, armed horsemen and other specialists.     

I was to go alone and that had me a bit worried about landmines and other nasties thrown at one during a time of war. I requested a pistol and ammunition. And was lucky to get them.  About and hour and a half outside Windhoek a black guy was hiking. I loaded him up and he told me he was on his way to Oshakati. His Afrikaans was good and we spoke mainly about the war. He was anti-Swapo and wanted little to do with them due to atrocities committed by them. He was well aquainted with arms and ammunition and was duly voted in as the onboard armed guard with the R1 rifle.     

Eventually we reached the turn-off to Oshivelo, I unloaded him and carried on the  headquarters. Later I stood in the line for grub but was told, by the Sergeant- Major to use the officers mess because officers do not eat with the riff-raff.. They were very grateful for the gharry but the return Gharry was not available. I spent a month at that camp doing very little indeed, now and again replacing a vehicle’s headlights or indicators just to do something. Most of the time was spent by the troepies under a make-do shower just to keep cool in the sweltering heat.    

One seemed and felt isolated from the rest of the world. It was if time had actually slowed down. Now and again one heard the motorcycles in the distance or the rapid fire of rifles on automatic or the thump of larger artillery destroying the countryside and of course the perpetual groan of heavy military vehicles grinding out channels in the swampy soil. The only real irritation was the troepies moaning about the days left before they went home.     

Eventually the replacement Gharry made its arrival, was serviced and I returned back to Windhoek. Nothing really changes: only the gun-cleaner shot half his finger off. leaving a bloodied hole in the tent roof. The following day I went home.    

Gharry was the term used for a short wheel base Land Rover.

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