My periodic delving into history led me to re-read some books in general and about Operation Savannah in particular. Sufficient to say as background, that concurrent with the departure of the SADF from Angola beginning 1976, there was also an exodus of Portuguese/Angolan citizens.
Some sources estimate that as few as 50 000 from an original group of 350 000 to 400 000, remained in Angola. How many refugees were accommodated by the RSA is probably not recorded. A similar scene concerning Portuguese from Mozambique took place. These people were initially accommodated by the SADF and were supplied with tents, blankets, food, medical support etc.
It all brought back some memories:It came about that a certain young *Diensplig 1-liner had to report to a certain non-com and was instructed to get some **troepe to fill a ***Vasbyt Bedford with pillows, and then to deliver these to a place where they will be given to the “Porras”, as they all “fled with only their clothes on their back”. The youngster was also strictly admonished not to consort with the refugees and to be aware of the “Porra-meisies”. Descriptive adjectives of quite colourful and innovative nature accompanied said orders, leaving no misconception about the officer’s political and dogmatist persuasions.
One can certainly imagine the trip; ultra comfort, soft ride in the back of the Bedford (some 2-liner begging a ride and the driver, upfront), smoking, sleeping, stopping to buy Russian and Chips and a Green Milk, sleeping again and yes, dreaming of consorting with the Portuguese maidens of pleasure.
Well the pillows were delivered, packed in the stoor and we went looking for some food. But, hormones being a greater motivator than food in some circumstances, resulted in two of us sneaking away. Orders were after all made to be broken, and the non-com was very lurid in his explanations about the “Porra-meisies”.
We managed to actually meet some Portuguese refugees, but no cigar as far as the consorting thing was concerned. Instead we saw and heard firsthand what it is like to leave your adopted or country of birth, with only your clothes on your back.
Two days later we were at it again. A load of blankets and some pillows this time.
But somehow the ride was not so comfortable, the smoking and chow not so nice and the dreaming not so vivid this time.....
* Diensplig 1-liner –Conscript Lance Corporal** Troep/e –Soldier/s ***Vasbyt Bedford –Bedford truck with a bonnet Porra -Non PC slang for a Portuguese
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