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South West African Territory Force - SWATF

The SWATF was established on 1 August 1980 to form the basis for the defence force of an independent South-West Africa, using the existing SA Army units in SWA as its core.

The SWATF was expanded over its nine years of existence until it provided more than 70% of the ground forces deployed against the Swapo insurgency. Its primary standing element comprises seven regionally-recruited light infantry battalions, which formed the bulk of the Army forces deployed in the operational Area.

The SWATF remained under SADF operational control until the end of the conflict, the GOC SWATF doubling as the SWA Secretary for Defence and GOC SWA Command, the latter the SADF post exercising command over South African forces and the counter-insurgency operations in northern SWA. Budgetary control fell to the SWA authorities and administration, national service matters, training and purchasing were SWATF matters. National service for all males was proclaimed but was only applied selectively, both to avoid potential political problems arising out of the insurgency situation and also to avoid overloading the limited training facilities.

By 1981, SWATF's total strength numbered some 10,100 men, organised into both tribal-based battalions (including separate units for Ovambo, Herero, and Coloured ethnic groups) and multiethnic units partially manned by at least 10,000[6] white South-West African personnel.

Operationally, the SWATF was divided into a permanent force infantry component, logistic/administrative divisions, a training wing, and a citizen force, which included at least three motorised infantry battalions. The 'permanent force' comprised mostly volunteer auxiliaries and national servicemen, who formed eight battalions. A militia system was also developed for local security, including over twenty 'area protection units'.

By 1987, SWATF had an estimated establishment of 22,000 troops, including additional units of engineers, signals personnel, mounted troops, a parachute battalion, and a commando squadron.

The core of a conventional force existed in the form of 91 Brigade, which was a Citizen Force formation comprising of 91 Armoured Car Regiment, 912 Battalion and 913 Battalion (both infantry battalions), 91 Composite Field Regiment (an artillery regiment), and the normal supporting elements. Another standing infantry battalion, 911 Battalion, was a 'swing force' optímised for counter-insurgency operations but capable of operations as a part of the brigade. Other mobile elements included a special forces regiment and a specialised tracking/mounted infantry unit, the SWA Specialist Unit.

These mobile forces were complemented by a regional COIN force similar to the SA Army's commandos. This Area Force consisted of 26 Area Force Units varying in their strength and composition to suit their particular responsibilities. They fell under four Sector headquarters for command and administratíve purposes.

SWATF Commanders

  • 1980 – 9 November 1983 – Major-general Charles Lloyd
  • 9 November 1983 – 23 January 1987[9] – Major-general Georg Meiring SSA SD SM MMM
  • 23 January 1987 – 1989 – Major-general Willie Meyer

Operational Sectors in South West Africa
South West African Operational Sectors

Three Frontline Sectors were used for the massing of forces in preparation for external operations into Angola, acting as a buffer with the rest of the territory and reaction to immediate threats.

Sector 10

(Kaokoland and Owambo) - HQ Oshakati

Consisted of four modular battalions:

Modular Battalions main function was internal operations. Sub units were attached according to the requirements of a specific situation, i.e the "modular nature". Their main responsibility was to secure their assigned area in which they conducted cordon and search operations, patrols, checkpoints, mine sweeping and the protection of roads and water systems.

Additional units in this Sector included:

Sector 20

(Kavango and Western Caprivi) - HQ Rundu

Sector 70

(Eastern Caprivi) - HQ Mpacha

SWATF Reaction Forces

These Frontline Sectors also had immediate reaction forces (Special Service Companies) to deal with any attack and were primarily infantry company strength and fully motorised.

  • 905 SSC was based at Nepara in Sector 20 and deployed on Buffels.
  • 906 SSC was based at Omahoni in Sector 20 and deployed on Buffels. Local Kwanyama troops made up the bulk of the personnel.
  • 907 SSC was base at Madimbo in Sector 70 and deployed on Buffels but converted to Cassspirs later.

Apart from the Frontline Sectors, four additional Sectors covered the rest of the country in which 26 Area Force Units, in structure similar to the South African commando units were established in these Sectors which were less vulnerable.

Sector 30

HQ Otjiwarongo (Citadel).

  • 301 Bn (SWATF) at Otjiwarongo.
  • Otjiwarongo Area Force Unit,
  • Outjo Area Force Unit,
  • Grootfontein Area Force Unit,
  • Tsumeb Area Force Unit,
  • Herreroland Area Force Unit,
  • Ethosa Area Force Unit,
  • Otavi Area Force Unit,
  • Damaraland Area Force Unit and
  • UIS Platoon.

Its area of responsibility was likewise the Grootfontein, Tsumeb, Otavi, Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Hereroland and Damaraland regions.

Sector 40

HQ Windhoek.

  • 911 Battalion (SWATF).
  • 1 SWA Provost Unit (SWATF).
  • Alte Feste Area Force Unit,
  • Khomas Area Force Unit,
  • Hochl Area Force Unit,
  • Okahandja Area Force Unit,
  • Omaruru Area Force Unit,
  • Swakopmund Area Force Unit,
  • Rehoboth Area Force Unit,
  • Katatura Area Force Unit and
  • Khomasdal Area Force Unit.

Sector 50

HQ Gobabis.

  • Aranos Area Force Unit,
  • Auob Area Force Unit,
  • Bo-Nossob Area Force Unit,
  • Aminius Platoon,
  • Gobabis Area Force Unit,
  • Rietfont Area Force Unit,
  • Mariental Area Force Unit and
  • Maltahohe Area Force Unit.

Sector 60

HQ Keetmanshoop.

  • Karasburg Area Force Unit,
  • Keetmanshop Area Force Unit,
  • Hoop Area Force Unit,
  • Bethanien Area Force Unit,
  • Oranjemund Area Force Unit,
  • Luderitz Area Force Unit and
  • Namaland Area Force Unit.

SWATF Aircrews

While the SWATF relied heavily on the South African Air Force for combat and heavy Logistics transportation, it did have its own Air wing, which consisted mainly of civilian aircraft

SWATF Medical Command

Oher than the Medical Command Headquerters in Windhoek, the Medical Service had a surgical hospital at Ondangwa, and regional headquarters at Rundu, Mpacha, and Katima Mulilo.

Some SWATF Units
Members of the South West African Territory Force on the Roll of Honour
YearForce NumberRankNameDate Of DeathUnit
198079877221SNRfnFredericks J.1980/08/28911 Battalion, previously known as 41 Battalion
198079876256SCRfnVan Rensburg J.1980/08/28911 Battalion, previously known as 41 Battalion
198079851549HKRfnKarupu G.1980/11/08202 Battalion
198078930682HKRfnNyundu F.1980/12/05202 Battalion
1980.RfnShipago I.1980/12/23101 Battalion
198079860433HVRfnElifas P.1980/12/27101 Battalion
1980.RfnFhilipus E.1980/12/27101 Battalion
198179881207SWHRfnKavari L.1981/02/06102 Battalion
1981 CmdtGouws P.S.1981/02/211 SWA Commando Squadron
198181951193HKRfnKatanga P.1981/03/09202 Battalion
198169324135PEMajBriers C.A.1981/03/21101 Battalion
1981 PteElefante .1981/05/15201 Battalion
1981.RfnJohannes A.1981/06/10101 Battalion
198180880347SWHRfnTjakuva T.1981/07/08102 Battalion
198176285311PE Sgt Havenga M. 1981/07/08201 Battalion
198178976149SWHRfnRuhuzo G.1981/07/16102 Battalion
198173578437KV Lt Fourie J.J. 1981/08/13Gobabis Area Force Unit
198108430522PRColTheron J.C.1981/08/13Sector 50 Headquarters
1981. Pte Chamba M. 1981/08/15201 Battalion
1981.RfnJacob B.1981/08/16101 Battalion
1981.CplDiribi C.1981/08/23201 Battalion
198180670391CKPteHikab F.1981/09/25Sector 30 Headquarters
198176397959BGCOVan Zyl J.1981/09/29201 Battalion
198173321002BTLtEdeling F.T1981/10/17102 Battalion
1981 RfnDala A.1981/11/04201 Battalion
198177157410HKRfnMukoya R.1981/11/23202 Battalion
198281956807HKRfnMushanambango F.1982/01/15202 Battalion
198281961831XYRfnMeulemo N.K.1982/02/06101 Battalion
198281961641HVRfnVilho H.1982/02/06101 Battalion
198280875530SCRfnCloete D.1982/02/16911 Battalion
198276905355SPRfnFrancesco L.1982/03/02201 Battalion
198276915222SPRfnRodriques M.1982/03/04201 Battalion
198277531093BGRfnVerwey L.1982/03/04201 Battalion
1982.RfnKatibelo D.1982/03/20201 Battalion
198279820684SPRfnDimbo J.1982/03/23201 Battalion
1982 MajKessler H.A.1982/04/101 SWA Commando Squadron
198279648515SPRfnKouswab J.1982/04/15Etosha Area Force Unit
198267302257BGRfnPotgieter J.H.1982/04/1561 Mechanised Battalion Group; Etosha Area Force Unit
198274846544PE2 LtVan der Westhuizen D.R.1982/04/1561 Mechanised Battalion Group; Etosha Area Force Unit
198280862147HVRfnAndreas R.1982/04/24101 Battalion
198280566458BGCplHarris-Dewey M.A.1982/04/28701 Battalion
198280871239SCCplOlyn D.S.1982/05/11911 Battalion
198281953747HORfnMaxwell L.Z.1982/05/18701 Battalion
198279841939SPRfnPaulus S.1982/05/18701 Battalion
198278460490PFCplPeterson B.G.1982/05/20701 Battalion
198278932084HKRfnKudumo L.1982/05/25202 Battalion
198282901869SWKRfnMuronga G.1982/05/25202 Battalion
198282911686SWKRfnKudumo A.H..1982/05/25202 Battalion
1982.RfnComoxoxo K.1982/06/10201 Battalion
198276909449SPRfnBango K.1982/07/06201 Battalion
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Who is Who in the SWATF
Lloyd, Major-General Charles
General Officer Commanding the South-West African Territory Force (SWATF) from 1980 to 9 Nov 1983
Meiring, Major-General Georg Lodewyk SSA SD SM MMM
General Officer Commanding South-West African Territory Force from 9 Nov 1983 to 23 Jan 1987
Meyer, Major-General W.C. (Willie)
Commanding General of the South-West African Territory Force from 23 Jan 1987 to 1989
Nel, E.J., Warrant Officer 1st Class
Command Regimental Sergeant Major of the South-West African Territory Force (SWATF) in 1983 through 1985
Hattingh, A.J.J. PMD PMM, Warrant Officer 1st Class
Sergeant Major of the South-West African Territory Force (SWATF) in the 1980s

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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