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The War In Angola Remembered - This Month, 31 Years Ago...
 
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This month, 24 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

 

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LAST month, 31 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

Wednesday, 1 June 1988: A Company, 201 Bn deployed
Once the vehicles have caught up with them at the FAA, A Company of 201 Battalion ran through a quick refresher training programme and then moved up to deploy between the Dala source and the Chambinga River to carry out area operations. ...

Thursday, 2 June 1988: A Company, 201 Bn tasks
From 2 June on, Alpha Company's primary task was to keep Fapla reconnaissance patrols either out of the area or on the run. Other tasks were to establish several observation and listening posts and to carry out shallow reconnaissance in the direction of Tumpo. They were to cooperate with Unita's 3rd Regular Battalion, which was also patrolling the area. They were also to detach a platoon to protect the engineers laying the minefield. This platoon would also provide two five-man teams to protect the two forward observation officers....

Friday, 3 June 1988: C Company, 911 Bn deployment and tasks
Charlie Company of 911 Battalion detached twenty men to the anti-tank squadron for close protection. The company itself deployed with one platoon between the Chambinga and the Mianei, to carry out area operations from 2 June. The headquarters and other elements deployed at Viposto. Like A Company, they were to dominate the area and keep Fapla patrols either out or on the move. They were also to patrol the Cuito to monitor movement and activity on the west bank and to find and monitor possible crossing sites....

Saturday, 4 June 1988: Problem for the guns
A new problem for the G-5 guns was that the vegetation was now so dry that their muzzle blast blew most off the leaves off the surrounding trees. That meant frequent changes of position as they blew away their own cover....

Sunday, 5 June 1988: Anti-tank squadron tasks
The anti-tank squadron remained deployed on '61-koppie' covering the engineers. The 'Mongol' anti-tank missile vehicles remained in their positions throughout. The two Ratel-90 troops, however, also carried out mobile patrols of the area between the rivers from 5 to 15 June. This movement was promptly reported by Fapla outposts as preparations for a new attack....

Monday, 6 June 1988: C Company mortars support G-5s
On 6 June Charlie Company of 911 Battalion were to fire with their 81 mm mortars on the 66 Brigade headquarters on the west back, in conjunction with the G-5 battery....

Tuesday, 7 June 1988: Another roving gun deployed
Cassie van der Merwe sent out another roving G-5 gun, this one to south of the Chambinga....

Wednesday, 8 June 1988: A Company, 201 Bn redeployed
A Company of 201 Battalion deployed west of the former 59 Brigade positions, from where they would run their patrol programme. These veterans of the bush war against Swapo did not deign to dig in at first. After they had been shelled for a time by four M-46s, they soon dug some very deep foxholes....

Thursday, 9 June 1988: Minefields discovered
Several of the 201 Battalion patrols encountered anti-personnel mines - some by the sound of a detonator exploding under them, the mine itself having become wet and failing....

Friday, 10 June 1988: Extensive minefields discovered
Inspection of the area then showed that 59 Brigade had laid extensive minefields, which 4 SAI had by sheer luck missed entirely during its attack. Their initial navigational error and its correction had taken them through the gaps in the minefield....

Saturday, 11 June 1988: 600 TM-57 anti-tank mines recovered
A company set about lifting the mines with the aid of engineers, and finally recovered 600 TM-57 anti-tank mines, which were used in the field being laid....

Sunday, 12 June 1988: Intact T-55 found
Another find in the 59 Brigade positions was a T-55 that seemed to be relatively intact. Hannes Nortmann's second-in-command, Captain Johan Jonker, managed to get this tank started, and it was driven about for a while before it broke down again. Its brief activity, however, caused Fapla outposts to report that the South Africans were preparing to attack with tanks....

Monday, 13 June 1988: Elements withdrawn to be deployed against the Cubans
On 13 June, C Company of 911 Battalion and Hannes Nortmann with his 'Mongol' troop were withdrawn from the area to prepare for deployment in the west opposite the Cuban build-up. Captain Fred von Solms's Company of 203 Battalion relieved C Company and took over their responsibilities....

Tuesday, 14 June 1988: Unita actions
Unita also scaled down their presence, being engaged in shifting the emphasis in their operations to central Angola. The 3rd Regular Battalion was relieved by the 275th Semi-Regular Battalion....

Wednesday, 15 June 1988: Unita unable to deploy captured tanks
Unita were supposed to deploy eleven of the captured tanks about the middle of May. Technical personnel of the South African Armoured Corps had restored them to a useable state, and instructors had trained Unita crews and platoon commanders. They never did arrive at the front, although four were taken north and used in the Unita attack on Munhango....

Thursday, 16 June 1988: Build-up of Cuban forces in the West
The Cuban force in south-western Angola included: Six rifle regiments of between 1 500 and 2 000 men each; One tank regiment with T-62s and T-55s; One artillery regiment with 122 mm D-30 guns and 122 mm BM-21 and 240 mm BM-24 multiple rocket launchers; One composite air-defence regiment with SA-2, SA-3, SA-6, SA-8 and SA-13 SAM and ZSU-23-4 AAA systems; Supporting radars included Spoon Rest early warning, the Barlock GC1, and Flat Face target-acquisition systems, in addition to the original elements; Three composite Cuban and Swapo battalions with joint Cuban and Swapo command elements, each with about 200 Cuban and 250 Swapo personnel....

Friday, 17 June 1988: Deception measures intensified
The scaling down of South African forces at the Cuito Cuanavale front meant that Commandant Nel had to intensify his deception measures. Among the steps he now took, were a simulated crossing of the Cuito on 17 June and a probing attack against Tumpo by the Ratel-90s supported by artillery and mortar fire....

Saturday, 18 June 1988: South African reaction to the Cuban threat in the west
The first South African move was to fly in three companies of 32 Battalion to be deployed as a screen. They would also delay any Cuban advance. Two companies were deployed south of Techipa, where they set up an observation post line and began armed reconnaissance patrols. The two infantry companies were deployed on foot. They had two 81 mm mortars, a 106 mm recoilless gun and a 14.5 mm machine gun in support, all carried on Unimogs. The third company was deployed south of the Henda-Rotunda area, astride the eastern approach to Calueque. It had two 81 mm mortars and two 106 mm recoilless guns in support, also carried on Unimogs, and mines to lay on likely enemy routes....

Sunday, 19 June 1988: A low profile
All three companies of 32 Battalion were ordered to keep a low profile, but were to round up any stray elements they might encounter; Swapo reconnaissance patrols, for example. There were several minor skirmishes with Swapo elements over the next few days....

Monday, 20 June 1988: Combat team of 61 Mech brought up
Shortly after the 32 Battalion companies had deployed, a combat team of 61 Mech was brought up to deploy south of Calueque as a mobile reserve. It was not to cross the Cunene unless needed to support one of the screening companies....

Tuesday, 21 June 1988: Intentions of the Cuban force still unclear
The South Africans were still not clear about the intentions of the Cuban force opposite them. They decided to harass them to draw a reaction that would allow the intelligence picture to be improved....

Wednesday, 22 June 1988: E Company 32 Bn encountered strong opposition
E Company of 32 Battalion, commanded by Captain Maurice Devenish, was ordered to raid the south-western Cuban outpost discovered by the reconnaissance teams. The fight had hardly begun when they heard vehicles starting up near by. Three minutes later four BRDM-2s burst out of the bush. They could also hear several tanks start up nearby. Caught in the open, Devenish had little choice but to withdraw as quickly as possible. With the tanks also coming nearer, the vehicles were abandoned and the infantry bombshelled. The planned ambush had turned into a fiasco, but their thorough training had seen the men through. E Company escaped without any casualties at all....

Thursday, 23 June 1988: Task force to cover the installations at Calueque
Colonel Migo Delport, commander of 32 Battalion, flew in to take command of the task force organised to cover the installations at Calueque. His most powerful element was 61 Mech, which had by now arrived in full strength, including its tank squadron. Other forces at his disposal included four infantry companies and the support company of 32 Battalion, several of its reconnaissance teams and one company each each of 202 and 701 Battalions. His artillery comprised of one battery each of G-5s, 127 mm multiple rocket launchers and 120 mm mortars and a SWATF battery of 140 mm G-2s (5,5 inch guns)....

Friday, 24 June 1988: Cuban and Fapla force moved to reoccupy Cuamato
On 24 June, meanwhile, a combined Cuban and Fapla force moved out of Xangongo to reoccupy Cuamato. They clashed with a South African screening force north of Cuamato. This force, a company of 201 Battalion reinforced with a platoon from 8SAI, two troops of Ratel-90s and an 81 mm mortar section, was no match for tanks and soon broke contact and withdrew, not before losing two Buffels. Their brief resistance served its purpose, however, and the Cuban/Fapla force did not continue to Cuamato. ...

Saturday, 25 June 1988: Forward observation officers inserted and infiltrated to control artillery fire
Reorganised, the 201 Battalion force deployed at Cuamato on 25 June to guard against reoccupation by Fapla. 32 Battalion organised platoon-strength and smaller protection forces for the forward observation officers who would control the artillery fire. They were then inserted and infiltrated to the selected observation posts. Major Pierre Franken moved with Team 2 to a position near Techipa, from where he could bring fire on the Cuban headquarters....

Sunday, 26 June 1988: Hannes Nortmann deployed with his 'Mongols'
Major Hannes Nortmann had been called back from the Dala River with his missile-armed Ratel-ZT3s ('Mongols'). He took command of a combat team comprising his four missile Ratels, eight Ratel-90s of the 61 Mech anti-tank platoon and twelve Ratel-81s and deployed his force on the right side of the road to Techipa, while the tank squadron and a mechanised infantry company deployed on the left of the road. They were in position by 18h00....

Monday, 27 June 1988: The Last Battle
Major Hannes Nortmann and the tank squadron clashed with one of three columns that had moved out from Techipa. The force seemed to have been a mixed Cuban and Fapla motorised infantry regiment, with 35 tanks and some 600 infantry mounted in APCs and trucks. The column that clashed with the 61 Mech force lost 302 men killed and two T-55s, two BTR-60s and eight trucks destroyed. The South Africans started to withdraw across the Cunene into South West Africa. For a complete account of this last battle, see the Historical Accounts Section....

Tuesday, 28 June 1988: The fighting ends
The fighting of 26 and 27 June effectively marked the end of the South African involvement in the Angola conflict, for the time being at least....

Wednesday, 29 June 1988: Cubans active north of the Cunene
The Cubans increased their MiG sorties along and over the border, and their ground forces moved about north of the Cunene, but they were careful not to provoke the South Africans too much. They kept well away from Calueque, where the South African force remained deployed until the end....

Thursday, 30 June 1988: SADF remain active on the Cuito front
A Company of 201 Battalion prepared to move out, to be relieved by A Company of 7 SAI. C Company of 203 Battalion moved up from south of the Chambinga on 30 June, to join up with the anti-tank squadron east of the Chambinga source, as its close protection element....

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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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