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Subject 32 Battalion ("Os Terriveis")
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Posted:12/21/2009 5:53:42 PM
Discussions and your comments regarding the organisation, structure, composition, equipment, ability, affiliations, reputations, etc. of the SADF's 32 Light Infantry Battalion. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING PROFANITY, HATE SPEECH AND RACISM!

Posted:12/21/2009 8:13:14 PM

I am reposting this question here, where it is probably more applicable:

 Far as I know 32nd Battalion (“Buffalo” Bn – Os Terrivis) was (well at least that was in early 80s) the only Portuguese-speaking unit in SADF – I even read that it was the official language of the unit. Of course, all the officers in Buffalo Bn were whites and till the early 80s at least half of them were Souties :-) (and I believe Afrikaans-speaking) – but NCOs and privates were blacks,  and predominantly Portuguese-speaking. So, maybe do you know, how they cope with Afrikaans and Portuguese?

Posted:12/21/2009 8:19:28 PM

This was posted on the Russian Veteran's English guestbook by Andrew in response to your question:

I must mention that I remain intrigued by this "Os Teriveis" thing - I've seen it in literature, but if I ever came across it during my service I never took note, I'd love to know the background. Re the language situation,If I am not mistaken, Portuguese was the Unit lingua franca, RSA members transferring in were "assisted" in acquiring the basics - sort of yes, no and advance, and sing a couple of marching songs. As far as Queen Lillybet's English and the Taal of Totius is concerned, it was the usual SADF scenario. Remember we the junior leadergroup were all expected to be billingual ( one might argue that that means be able to speak Afrikaans only ). I spoke Portuguese and Afrikaans almost exclusively to the extent that my English was no doubt traumatised. In terms of comunicating, you just got the message across as best you could - it was not a question of abiding by "Die Amptelike Taalbeleid van die SAW", keeping statistics for weekly analysis or whatever.Amongst the RSA members with at least one notable exception, it sort of became cool to be able to say as much as possible in Portuguese, sort of identified you as a "heavy" from Buffalo, know what I mean, nudge, nudge etc . Even today around the braaifires the lingua gets bandied about, talking of which, my meat is burning..........

Thanks Andrew (with your

Posted:5/3/2010 6:05:19 AM
I was involved in the Angolan war from 1978 till 1986.  All the years with 32 Battalion

Posted:5/4/2010 6:18:14 AM
Good day, Johan

I only had a brief look at the 32 Bn organisation. It is not completely correct as it is. 32 was a Motorised Battalion, with Buffels and Kwêvoëls with the companies, correctly given as A - G Coy. The Support Coy comprised of the following: Mortar Pl on Unimogs and Buffels for the HQ; AT Pl with 106mm recoilles rifles and Milans on Unimogs and Buffels for the HQ; MG Pl with 14.5mm (this was not known as the AA pl even though it had AA weapons) with Buffels for the HQ; and the Assault Pioneers Pl on Buffels and Kwê.

The Support Group were permanently with 32 Bn and not attached and comprised of:

AA Tp with 20mm Ystervark and SA-7, Buffels en Ystervarks. In 1988 the cmd vehicle became a Ratel cmd; P Bty MRLs and Buffels and also used Ratel Cmd from 1987. AT Sqn with Ratel-90, Ratel-ZT3 and Ratel Cmd, no Ratel-20s.

Callsigns were standard Inf Bn callsigns. The same for the Support Gp.

I stay and work overseas and time is a factor - therefore the criptic reply.



Posted:5/5/2010 6:37:18 AM

Thanks Piet! You helped much more than you probably realise... I believe in confirming things from the ground up. The training manuals are often too theoretical and far removed from the reality!


Posted:12/31/2010 2:08:01 AM

I was there in 1987- 1989 and it was a plesure to fight shoulder to shoulder with a unit like 32.

32 Was the best unit at its time in the world and we will always remember them.

If you wanna cry....go to the old Buffalo camp and all the rest. There's just nothing but long grass and good memories.

I felt so empty inside when i went there for a visit,i felt like just sit there and cry. And i did at one stage.

We do not know the future,but the past will be always in our minds.

For those left behind : "We will never forget you"

Posted:5/30/2011 5:31:35 AM
Hi I would like to ad to your comment on 32BN. I served with them in the AT Squadron as a crew commander on a ratel 90. My call sign was 1.3C and I enjoyed every moment serving with them.My troop did a 2week trip to Oshakati 10 Armour div to assist with an Ops witch never happened and there we realized how different the units was. At Oshikati we were as if back in SA and a number more than anything else. In 32BN we were treated with respect from troop to higher rank. I was a Cpl and rank was respected but never abused in my time at Buffalo Base. Only respect for good soldiers. Maj. Hannes Nortman was strickt but fair and on the ground with his men and the same for S/Sgt Roelofse(Oogies) as we knew him. This unit became part of my life and will for ever be part as it made me the man I am today and I am proud of that. What did you do in the unit? I am planning to visit the base in the near future and would like to here from ex members that might want to do the same. Regards Wayne      

Posted:6/2/2011 6:48:44 PM
Hi, Wayne (32Vet)
I was never in 32 Battalion, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, being a gunner!) But I did know some friends that served with them and I had the pleasure to do some courses with some of the 32 Bn officers. I also never had the honour of serving WITH them, although I was aware that they were around me in 1988 on the Chambinga high ground at Cuito Cuanavale. I always only saw UNITA's, not a single Buffalo!
You should join the 32 Bn vets of the 32 Battalion Veterans Association (see

Posted:6/2/2011 9:00:27 PM
Hi Wayne - Confirm your surname is Rossouw, if not please correct me. If you ar interisted to join the 32 Bn Veterans Organisation please let me know and I can put you in touch. Nowadays it is good to belong to some sort of VA especially because of the negotiations regarding the Veterans act. Also just to keep in touch. My e mail
Piet Nortje, former RSM 32 Bn. (In the time you served)

Posted:9/21/2011 1:09:45 PM
Language : Regarding the language policy in the unit :
Almost all of the white leaders, especially on platoon level, were required to reach a fluency level, in about the first 6weeks with the unit. That would mean the ability to give orders, under ny circumstance, and also to be able to understand what wa happening around you, as well as "admin" tasks - assisting with paperwork, and any other administrative tasks, such as any platoon commander or sargeant would have to complete on any given day.

Some of us were "blessed" with a natural ear for languages, and to those it came quicker. The rest had to work at it. But pressure, stress and danger is a great and precise teacher...

The official language policy, for communication with the troops, was English - if it was unit Orders and such, that was paper based. Any reports from platoon and company level upward in the chain of command, was usually subject to general SADF policies, i.e. English and Afrikaans, alternating.

Most of the soldiers could understand English and / or Afrikaans to some extent, some better than others. But as to gaining their respect, the "language of command" was one of the avenues, ableit lesser than your ability as a soldier and leader.

The soldiers had, in general the following as a language background :

Soldier X, may have had a father who was Gangela, and his mother may have been Chokwe. His wife could have been from Luchazi/Kwanyama descent. This means, that the mother would teach her children her preferred language, and the father would teach his (some paternal bias would be common, as token of respect in the home, and to the elders).

To assist the children in communicating with the rest of the neighbourhood, they would learn Portuguese in school, and also from the rest of the society, in which they grew up. Thus, Portuguese was the main link between all the different tribal languages and dialects. And there were language/dialects spoken in the unit, than the number that South Africa has as its' official languages.

Some soldiers spoke mainly French or Spanish, and only became proficient in Portuguese, after joining the unit. Today, many of those soldiers have added languages, i.e., Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, or whichever they came in contact with, living inside RSA.

The parents, who most were growing up in the midst of civil war, had mostly elementary shool education, although some highly learned and qualified persons were from that era. Some were teachers, others were tending to the needs of the soul.
But none ever, were unwilling to teach, and share their language, knowledge and experience.

This, and the solid training foundations, laid by the general levels of proficiency (as was expected of any junior leader in the Infantry), in my opinion, helped the unit in cementing the generally great relationships that were formed between the lower rank and file - from Rifleman to Lieutenant, to Colonel and Warrant Officer.

Any former member who wishes to share / add or suggest : you are welcome. Regards. Nico
Até amanha...

James Gibson
Posted:6/14/2013 6:06:22 PM
Hi Johan

I was watching TV on Kyknet News channel at 19h00 about three weeks ago. I happened to see on the News there were 5 ex 32 Battalion Soldiers that was living on a piece of land and the existing Army want to put them off the land. I contacted Kyknet to find out more about these ex Troops, I got a reply back from Conrad Stols 0824478198, that do have contacts with them. I don't know if there is someone interested to try and find these Troops and welcome them to join the old 32 Battalion Veteran association.

Posted:6/21/2013 12:41:24 AM
James, I will bring this under the attention of the 32 Veterans...on Facebook. They will know what to do! Thanks for being so vigilant!

Posted:6/21/2013 5:09:12 PM
Feedback from Pieter Nortje:
The 32 Bn VA is aware of the troops and families staying there and do have regular contact with them


Posted:2/10/2017 11:43:04 AM
Was 32 Battalion also known as the 'Buffalo Soldiers?

Posted:2/10/2017 2:38:17 PM
I think the term "Buffalo Soldiers" originally refer to the unit of black soldiers in the US Cavalry back in the 1860s.

32 Battalion, or "Os Terriveis" (The Terrible Ones) was also known as the "Buffalo Battalion", but I am sure you would find references to them as being "Buffalo Soldiers" for the simple reason that the unit comprised almost completely of black Angolans (with a mostly white leadership element).

It is, of course, also related to their main emblem, which is the head of a buffalo...

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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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