Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SWA - Angola campaign

Artist's impression of my "heroics" during the South West Africa/Angola campaign (1966-1989)


The "real" story was captured in this illustration...I never want anyone to think that all I did on the "border" was consuming gallons of Castle Lager at 30 cents a tin...or..daily bribing the cook-on-duty to slip kilograms++ of prime T-bone out of the mess, straight to our braai.
I served my time with Air Force OPS/INT at Ondangwa and Oshakati(1980/81) where much was expected from us...Call it the "brain" of the campaign. While the sun was shining, the "brain" functioned reasonably well - BUT...As the big orange globe faded over the western horizon of Ovamboland...Our troop of highly trained national servicemen sprung into action.
I don't want people to think that we gobbled down many, many bottles of Bailey's Irish cream liquer because we enjoyed it...Au contraire...We were bravely fighting-the-fight to keep vast quantities of contraband reaching the Republic.
At the time it was illegal to import Bailey's Liquer into South Africa ..... something to do with the then laws regulating the alcohol content of liquers - Somehow our beloved Bailey's didn't "qualify".
We lost that particular battle...Soon after, Bailey's was available in all liquor stores !!

The following picture was taken in 1981 at OSHAKATI outside the Air Force Intelligence room. We often worked in civilian clothing, particularly at OSHAKATI which was
predominantly an Army Base.

Mike Spilkin & me - With the Pretoria "snor".

Schalk Vorster - Somewhere on the Border 1980/81

Next pic taken at Oshakati in 1981.


A letter sent to my family back home in 1980 bearing the cachet of 95 TACTICAL AIRFIELD UNIT at ONDANGWA, S.W.A.

And the CENSOR cachet on the reverse.

Home for a break during 1980.
With my father at our house in Arcadia, Pretoria.

After my tour of duty I thought that I might not see this part of the world again. The official way of returning home from the border was via air with the "Flossy" (C-130 Hercules or C160 Transall). I was desperately looking for an alternative means of transport.
Three of us grabbed an opportunity to purchase a pale-blue mid-70's model Audi A80 from an Air Force Major based at Oshakati. We decided to pool the purchase price of R1600 and the arrangement was that upon our arrival in Pretoria, whoever then choose to keep the car would buy the other "partners" out. Hence the start of a 2 600 km N/S journey through South West Africa !
We were warned not to take a camera with. (We were stopped & our car searched 3 times between Oshakati and the exit of Ovamboland at Oshivelo !!). I however had one of those small format cameras (Kodak 110 Instamatic) with me and we anyway took a few pics of our trip.
I also remember picking up a small tortoise from next to the road neat Otavi in northern SWA and bringing it all the way back to Arcadia, Pretoria with me. He/she was subsequently named "Otavi" and lived in our garden for many years afterwards.
Jumbo & I refuelling out of a can somewhere in the middle of SWA. (Namibia)

The water tower at Oshakati

Road out of Oshakati

Ondangwa coming up on the left
with one of the large 75mm AA
guns mounted on a tower.

The aircraft revetments visible at Ondangwa Air Force Base.

One of many military road blocks en route (Near Oshivelo)

Still in Ovamboland near Oshivelo

I was born in Oudtshoorn and hence had to take a pic of this memorial plaque.  J.S. Cook who drowned in this lake 54 years earlier was also from Oudtshoorn.

"In loving memory of our beloved son Johannes Stephanus Cook b.16 Dec. 1903 at De Rust, Oudtshoorn Drowned in Lake Otjikotto on 16 Oct, 1927
while swimming with his friends. His body was never found"

Ribbon colours of the PRO PATRIA Campaign Medal.

My girlfriend Marlise Basson also left me during my time on the border. Fortunately the SADF recognised my sacrifices and awarded me with this Pro Patria campaign medal. I don't think many were awarded - My brother in law has one, I also know my friend Mark in London received one of these medals. I reckon no more than a dozen or so were issued !
A preciously rare medal ! ;-)


  1. Schalk - most excellent - your recallection certainly has not faded with the passing of the years! I can confirm the integrity of everything you say ;-)

    Ondangwa and Oshakati(1980/81) - I was based at 53Bn at Ondangwa from April 1980, and know Oshakati AFB and sick bay very well. Incredible how our lives have overlapped across the years, isn't it?

    Found this: http://wikimapia.org/5433003/Old-53-Bn-Base-in-Ondangwa-c1983

  2. Schalk, sorry to burst your bubble but the Pro Patria Medal is the most issued medal in the SADF. It was classed as a campaign medal and thousands were awarded.