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5 Recce tank-hunting teams attempt to ambush 59 Bde's tanks

16 August 1987 - 59 Brigade had deployed just north of the Mianei. 5 Recce had already planned an ambush of this brigade with its tank-hunting teams, and this was now to be reinforced. But on 17 August, before any ambush could be sprung, Fapla took a hand in the course of events when all four of the Fapla forward brigades began to move during the day, with 47 and 59 Brigades both moving south towards the Lomba River

On 11 December 2010, members of the Peninsula Wargames Group played this What-If scenario - in reality this ambush never materialized! But the nice thing about wargames is that we are able to refight the “What-Ifs” and expect a relatively realistic outcome.

Unfortunately, due to the other players' reluctance to play Fapla (everyone wants to always be a Recce!), the Fapla force was left in the hands of the organiser of the game, Johan Schoeman, who were only too aware of what the South Africans and Unita had in mind...

Having had to deploy his entire force first, the Fapla player decided to go for a small deception plan in trying to mislead the enemy into believing that the tanks would spearhead an attack over a newly laid TMM bridge - even though the company of tanks were spread out over the area to the north of the fordable river. The Fapla attack would then follow in five phases:

  1. The Reconnaissance platoon will cross the river to the south of the TMM bridge at point 1, using its amphibious capability and thrust directly up to the high ground, with an infantry company in support, towards objective A.
  2. The main body of infantry, comprising of a reinforced battalion will cross the river on foot and drive towards objective B, establishing a clear bridgehead on the south side of the river.
  3. In the mean time, another infantry company will secure the force's right flank by driving away any Unita forces encountered on the western bank of the river, driving towards objective C.
  4. Then, with the enemy thoroughly occupied, another infantry company will rush across the bridge at point 2, and establish a secure bridgehead and a buffer for the tanks, which has all by them moved towards the bridge, pushing towards objective D.
  5. Finally, with a secure bridgehead and a buffer zone of infantry established, the tanks will cross by means of the bridge in force and attack and take objective D, whereafter the remaning elements of the brigade will cross.

Then the SADF and Unita players were allowed to position their forces without having to reveal actual types. This was arranged like this in order to keep the Fapla player in the dark about the exact position of the tank-hunting teams until his forces were in a position to actually spot them. In essence the SADF/Unita force deployed as follows:

  1. A Unita company on the western side of the river,
  2. Another Unita company on the high ground to the east of the river.
  3. Two Unita companies on the high ground facing the bridge
  4. The four AT teams of 5 recce were split up into two main positions, each containing two teams: one facing the confluence of the two rivers where the TMM bridge was spotted; and the other to the south of the bridge crossing
  5. A MRL battery and a 120mm mortar battery were available for direct support with OPO's deployed in dominant positionsoverlooking all potential crossing points.

 

 
Gallery: 5 Recce tank-hunting teams
Opening moves
Strike one for the MILANs
A slow crossing
Unita in the bush line!
Strike two for the MILANs
And at the Bridge...
Dominating the Bridge
Main Fapla infantry crosses
Testimony to the MILANs
The AT team revealed!
Both 106s miss their target!
Strike one for Fapla
Strike two for Fapla
Strike three for Unita!
Tanks across the Bridge!
What lies in waiting...

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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All images below are from the “Grensoorlog“ Series, which was  produced by Linda de Jager, and are now available as a 2 volume set of  DVDs.
PLEASE NOTE: Some images on this page are Copyright 2008 Electronic Media Network (PTY) LTD. - (MNET). All rights reserved!

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