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Swaland blitz

05 October 2012, 14:08

SWALAND  BLITZ     Swalandblitz was one of the final military manoeuvres’ carried out in the Namib desert,. near to the Rooikop military base and Walvis Bay.     

At the time the UN was crawling around the place applying pressure to the South African government to expedite the process of handing power over to the Swapo forces and hence government.    Swaland Blitz took place in 1973 but had little to do with military exercises:  It was in fact only a show of force and power aimed at the UN And any satellite observation that might be in place. SWA was still a mandated territory and South Africa was the “caretaker” of that mandate.     

The operation actually started in Windhoek and took a week to get it off the ground.  Much of the time the troepies were marching up and down or just laying on the ground:- waiting.      

The military convoy had about 600 vehicles in a single convoy. The troops and officers amounted to 7000. It was pure hell driving at 60km/h and having break-downs every few kilometres. When a breakdown occurred the entire convoy would stop while repairs were carried out. The vehicles were parked beside the road, bumper-to-bumper. When the repairs were finally carried out the vehicles in the front of the convoy would move off and create space for those further back. Due to this concertina effect the last vehicles would have to wait about 25 minutes before they could move. Overtaking was illegal. Most of the breakdowns was caused by the high ambient temperature on the road between Windhoek and Walvis Bay.The speed of the vehicles may not exceed  60km/h and the trip of 320 km took 11 hours to complete.     

The camp arrangement was rather primitive,  just after arrival the entire brigade received anti-tet injections. One of those injections that is excruciating painful but soldiers don’t cry.  We slept in truck, under trucks and anywhere else one could find place to sleep. There was always movement in the camp and sleeping was a luxury.      

About 50 toilets were parked in a line. These were the long-drop modelAnd stank to high heavens. We were issued with flammable capsules which were ignited then tossed into the bucket. It gave off an acrid white smoke which killed the flies.     

A week later the convoy was reformed and so we moved off into the desert. This trip was pure hell due to Bed fords having incompetent suspensions.  About 20km later the convoy stopped over for the night and a first meal in 24 hours. It was noticed that many troepies were on their knees scrabbling around  in the desert gravel.  Someone had discovered garnets.     

Two days later the convoy returned to the base camp only to find that the camp was overrun with the news media asking all and sundry questions as to where we were. Soldiers are not permitted to divulge any information whatsoever. This manoeuvre was proclaimed to be the largest concentration of a military force in Southern Africa.. A week later, after being paid,  the brigade was demobilised.
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