Army Life in the 70's
Chapter 1: Recce schooling
Having done my Para course at Tempe I had met many SADF guys and we became good friends. In fact RSM K was the one that helped me put my first folding stock together.
About a year after our meat bomb course we were based at a wonderful resort type bush airstrip called Mabalahoota ... Now this was a place that was definitely hidden from the AA guide – basically because there was stuff all there ... The Ellies in that part of the world were the most aggressive and dangerous to be found – they had been shot at, had feet blown off by AP mines and were really grumpy...
From this world renowned place we deployed into Mozambique and had great fun causing mayhem and despair for the poor Freds and Gooks ... Anyway back to the theme of the story – I don't know if you guys realize but the kit we wore in the RLI was mostly hand made – we had a brilliant Taylor and Cobbler back in camp that would make anything to spec – I think in fact that the first jacket webbing was designed and made by Taffy Liverick. We all had our own design of kit that was sewn together to suit personal preferences so that as a group going out on patrol we must have looked like a bunch of Hobo's. Because of the climate most of the guys wore shorts and T shirts with vellies. Some even lost the T shirt.
We were briefed on an upcoming OP and the senior NCO's were taken to one side and told of the arrival of some guest troops to see how we did it ... Now this was going to be a scream a minute I could see it coming ... After lunch we heard a Dak approach and watched it land with interest as it was not one of ours. The doors opened and out stepped my old friend RSM K and Major XXX. The guys watching just about pissed them selves laughing as we were treated to one of the smartest parades of men ever seen. Shit these guys were immaculate ... I asked the RSM if they were just stopping off for lunch before going on to a main parade some where else – he gave me a dirty look and then burst out laughing at me when it dawned on him as to who I was ... To give you an idea, I was in shorts, T shirt, Sandals and cammo cream with a cut down folding stock FN in one hand ... We had a long meet and greet and I introduced the guys to our OC and we sat and chatted about their expectations. The poor SADF guys were gobsmacked with the food, dress and attitude of the camp – it was definitely a culture shock for them. The Captain I was allocated was shocked when he learnt that he had to wear shorts ... Please let me explain – I know a person moves one hell of a lot quieter through the bush in shorts as you can feel branches, grass & thorns etc. In Long combat fatigues I found most guys just blunder on – a good way to get compromised. Another thing was footwear – Footwear was what the local population wore ... that was bare foot or Namantalas – what's that you may ask – specially designed sandals constructed from old Dunlop SP49 tyres – the best sandals ever made ... The other option was to get your Vellies retreaded by the camp Tailor using Michelin!!!!
So the guys relieved an education and went on to work with the SAS and found that was more to their liking as they could wear jump boots again...