I notice there is a tendency to articles relating to the SA border war.
While still doing my apprenticeship in Windhoek in 1970 I received call-up papers and had to present myself to the officer in command in Windhoek. In a case like this the rookey receives military pay and pay from his employee but with the military pay of R15 deducted from the employee. I spent two days writing out signing-on forms so the pay could be paid every month to a banking account. I had to return to Walvis Bay to do the administration work
Eventually the great day arrived and we troepies were herded like a bunch of trolls to the train and shown our compartment. We were about 6 per compartment and as soon as the first roll-call was made on the station we boarded the train and away we went to Pretoria.
Other than counting the beer bottles and settling the endless fights induced by dagga, and wiping the blood off the floor, the train eventually stopped over in Windhoek where we could buy warm beer and bandages. At one stage the station looked like an impromptu battle field. The problem was really just a replay of the Anglo Boer War. And a case where the intoxicated must just be quiet. Parents usually pack a “Kosblik” for their soon to be soldier sons. But somehow when needed most were found to be emptied earlier. Twelve hours later it was discovered that the troops had not eaten for almost 24 hours yet the train had a “dining car” attached. By the third round of mumbling and grumbling to the escort officers food appeared miraculously before us. The rest of the trip was uneventfull and we reached Voortrekker Hoogte in the early hours of the morning. We went through the usual documentation amid orders and more orders and eventually we became somewhat deaf.
Some were sent home again amidst much cheering and goo-baais. And always that bit of resentment that it was not you. This was the tiffy camp and much was still tents with a few bungalows here and there. The Electrical gang, myself too, was shuttled into a tent and had to make up the bed. One feels rather irked to travel the country from north to South to just make up a bed. There was about 16 of us in the tent and at midnight we had a piss-parade. That deserves little elaboration other than korporaaaal se skoen is gepiss. Our stint in boot camp was only for 3 months then we would be sent to outside camps to carry on with our respective trades. I had the onerous job of being an auto-electrician without spares. During that period there had never been any incidents other than the usual squabbling about who goes where. It was our duty to do guard duty and late one night we heard a shot and the person on duty reported in by radio that he had just shot a person. The investigation indicated that the person had approached the guard who ordered him to retire and the order was refused. The guard threatened to fire but the person approached him. He was shot and died instantly. What was most remarkable about the army was the ability of strangers to become friends without reference to backgrounds or who was what in Civvy street. If you had a Lexington and your mate had nothing then he was given one too without ado: just a part of the culture. If you had a problem you always had someone to back you up just as a friend would.
Just before the termination of my 3 months I was ordered to pay a visit to the Sergeant Major : Now these people are always busy, in fact they are so busy that they forget what is happening around them. The SM told me that I was being sent back to Walvis Bay because they had a shortage of electrical staff and the unit was satisfied with my work and I was promoted to a one-liner.
So on the train back to Walvis Bay camp and without the camaraderie. I spent the last 6 month in a workshop 14 miles out in the desert.
My nine month intake was the last of its kind because the “year” guys had taken over. My parents lived in Walvis bay and when the truck passed the house it stopped further up the road and I got off for a visit and returned to camp in style.
The stay in Walvis bay was uneventful
The military agreement at the time stated that every ACF would do 10 camps before they were no longer a part of the military staff. The duration of the camps were 21 days to a month. I was sent to Windhoek on several occasions and from there to the border. ACF = Active Citizen Force. Life on the border was rather laid back and few would bother you: at the time I was a one-liner and had very few problems with the troops. It must be seen in context: I was called up when I was 20yrs old and on the done all the camps with some at 2 a year to get them done. (The army liked that) Eventually I received a discharge in the early “80’s” When I was there, there was not too much military activity and even until today I can communicate easily with those persons who were doing the fighting. I have always considered my military training as nothing more than a part of my past. At the time, remember, it was the hippy period and nothing was taken seriously anyway. I have no regrets and found the army a place where one can live and be part of the camaraderie. There is always the unspoken words: When you go I go too.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.