Saturday, December 30, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Im Riana, the youngest daughter or Oom Daan and Tannie Pompie. He was 2nd Lt. D.R. van der Westhuizen and she was Sgt. C.C. van der Westhuizen.
But to many boys on the border they were known only as oom Daan and tannie Pompie. He was a man with a good humor and was accomplished at bushman tracking techniques. My mother was the radio operator guru known as 91.They were farmer’s, great parents and wonderful human beings and then came the army.
We are 4 children, my oldest sister Retha is now 52, married to Dup Venter and mother of 2 sons and a daughter and the grandmother of the light of her life, a 3 yr old girl.
My second sister Oliva, is 49 and she is the widow of J.H. Potgieter (Hendrik) who died with my dad on 15 April '82.She got married again to Izak Visser who
My brother Danie who was in the army at the time of my dads death is now 44 and has 4 kids and he is now married to Retha...(not my sister, another one) LOL
Im Riana, the last and unplanned child, im 36 yrs old. no hubby, no kids.
The story I’m about to tell u started many years ago and its not about any of the kids. Its about my parents.
When it was decided to start the Etosha commando's my parents not hesitate for one moment. They signed up and they inspired others to do the same. They felt they had to do their duty towards their country and could not expect the kids from all over the country to fight while they sit back and nothing. At that time, South West Africa was under South African Rule and South West Africans were loyal to
My dad was an natural leader with the most an incredible sense of humor. I have no doubt that he could make even the worst danger look like a walk in the park. He was just that kind of person. Nothing was ever too difficult to do and the glass was always half full and never half empty. He would never expect anything of anybody unless he was repaired to do it himself.
My mum was not the quiet wife type, she loved my dad and her family to bits but she found her other big passion in the army. Radio's were her passion. She had a knack for them and I believe she could do magic with those big green monsters. Give her a radio and she will have it working in no time and hear distances and people that only she could hear. She even designed her own Antennae, reversed V with which she was able to hear as distances far into
Mum just smiled and hid her sketches of her reverse V antennae.
In the mid 70's terrorist was big word for a 6 yr old and I became very confused with terrorist and tourist. I struggled with pronunciations and I called myself Hanna because it was just too difficult to say the R in Riana. It took me a while to sort of, know the difference between the two, probably never got my head around the tourist part even though I got to learn that they fighting terrorists and I knew for certain that there was danger in the air.
We had a high fence around the house by now and all bushes on the other side had been taken out and we had to paint a number on the roof of our house and dad and Hendrik went to "chase terrs" now and then. When this happened Olivia and her kids would come and stay with us. I wasn’t allowed to play outside the fence and before dark I had to be inside. But as a child I still did not realise the full impact of what was going on.
Mum was in front of the radio, I was told to shhhhht and be quiet, she had to listen. She started with one small radio and she had to tape record conversations of troops on frequencies only she could hear and she did that with a small cassette tape deck, like I got for my 12th birthday years later. But that meant there had to be absolute silence and she was sitting hunched over the radio's listening and turning knobs. To me it was pure craziness! So the kitchen became radio room and the green monsters got more and bigger. Mum became callsign 91 and the radio guru with the private telephone number directly to “oom Jannie Geldenhuys” (General Jannie Geldenhuis)
In the Meantime dad got a few bushman trackers together and
The army provided them with food, which we went to fetch on Grootfontien every Friday. A long drive in a garry (what we called the landy the army gave dad) The Bushmen got the same food as any member of the SADF but before long they started to complain, "Luitlant, dis food make us lazy and don’t give us energy, we want mieliepap." They were not impressed with the cheese and polony and tinned food and boxes of the best food the SADF came up with to feed them, no sir, they wanted meiliepap, that’s what they know, that’s what their bodies were used to and what gave them sustenance that made them feel energetic so that’s what they got.
They learned to shoot...to march...to do the things a soldier in the army would do and they were my dad's pride and joy. He was extremely proud of them and they swore that he could walk on water.
In the meantime the farming had to go on and so it did. Dad and Hendrik weren’t only family and comrades but they were also best buddies and would chat for hours on end. They were both farmers and good farmers at that, spending many hours looking at the clouds and working hard, and getting up 4 in the morning. When I was not in school I would wake up with him and follow him around like a shadow. He didn’t have to receive the Honoris Crux to be my hero. He was my hero because of the love he showered me with.
He taught me the phonetic alphabet which I remember till this day. He taught me his army nr, which I still remember off the top of my head. These are the little memories of him I treasure till this day.
I only had him for 11 yrs and 11 months, but he gave me enough love to last me a lifetime...
Monday, December 18, 2006
A couple of weeks ago I came across Riana on the internet and we exchanged the usual questions starting with ASL (age, sex, location). She told me she is from Namibia and I suspect because of my age (44), she asked, whether I had been to Namibia before, whereby I replied that I had been there, courtesy of the South African Defense Force during 1982 to 1984.
She went on to ask me whether, I had been on or known of, operation Yahoo and I replied, no. In fact I had never heard of it or could not remember ever hearing of it and was sure that she was either mistaken or having me on. I all too often come across people who claim to have been amidst the goings on of the brutal terrorist war that was being fought, in the northern regions of what is now Namibia, thinking that they can somehow convince people into believing their stories of glory. They fool some of the people some of the time but they cant fool all of the people all of the time, especially those who have actually been there.
Riana began telling me a story and I soon came to the somewhat shocking realization that she was real and the story she was telling was the real. I sat on the edge of my chair till 3 in the morning taken back to a world that I had almost forgotten and in a way, so desperately wanted to forget.
After eventually going to bed, I could not sleep and could not stop thinking of that period of my life and what it was like to be there but, I could not help having doubts about the finer details of what she had told me.
Even though the sincerity in which she had conveyed the story, had me convinced that there surely must be some truth in it and I was convinced that an event of such magnitude must surely, be documented somewhere on the internet.
It was!! However, what I find so extremely saddening is that the details of our heroes are so sparsely documented that, they are forgotten by the vast majority and the fading memories of those who still do remember, will soon dissappear under the sands of time leaving the rest with nothing.This is the exact purpose of this Blog. To remind you, NEVER to forget!
In Remenberence of 2nd Lt D.R. van der Westhuizen and Rfn. J.H Potgieter who were attached to 61 Mechanised Battalion Group, Omuthiya in the Tsumeb district. “Etoshagebiedsmag”. Veni Vidi Vici!! Lest we forget.
In short, this is the story Riana van der Westhuizen’s conveyed to me. The details of which may be blurred by myself. She is the daughter of late 2nd Lt D.R van der Westhuizen and sister in law of late Rifleman J.H Potgieter. This is her Blog and I merely set it up for her together with this prologue, for her to continue with. The details are up to Riana and the men of 61 Mech, who hopefully come across this page, to keep it alive together with the memories of our heroes and our past. Go for it guys!
As mentioned above 2nd Lt D.R van der Westhuizen was attached to 61 Mech and who was an accomplished tracker. Between 6 and 18 April 1981 there were numerous infiltrations, which led to four events where fire was exchanged with Swapo infiltrators and which lead to the death or capture of eight of the enemy. Lt D.R. van der Westhuizen was involved in all four events.
On the 14th April 1981 two of his comrades, without substantial cover, were pinned down by Swapo insurgents, whereby 2nd Lt van der Westhuizen, “without hesitation”, as quoted by military documentation regarding the incident, stood upright in a military vehicle known a “Buffel” while ordering the driver to position the vehicle in which he was standing upright, between the Swapo and the solders pinned down by hostile fire, thereby redirecting the fire to himself, giving the soldiers opportunity to take cover. The Swapo insurgents were subsequently killed. For this act of bravery, 2nd Lt van der Westhuizen was awarded the Honoris Crux.
For those who don’t know the enormity of being bestowed the Honoris Crux. It is awarded only to those who "without thought of own safety and through personal courage and determination performed a gallant act or deed against the enemy in the field". It has only been awarded 187 times since its inception in 1952 to 1991.
One year and one day later on 15th April 1982, while on patrol in a Ratel, Lt van der Westhuizen was following a couple of a tracks that one of his trackers had picked up. The Ratel was hit by no less than five RPG-7 rockets in an ambush just after 10am. By the time backup went to their aid, the majority of the occupants of the Ratel had been killed including Lt van der Westhuizen’s son in law Rfn. J.H Potgieter. Riana was only 11 years old at the time.
Lest we forget.
Rfn. B.J Wolfaardt
Rfn. M Peterson
Rfn. JH Potgieter.
Rfn. JDC du Toit
Rfn. GPC Hattingh
2nd Lt. DR van der Westhuizen
L/Cpl. JJ van der Berg
Kpl. MJ van Jaarsveld
Riana would like to hear from anybody who was involved with 61 Mech Battalion. Her address is at the top of this page.
Neville van Jaarsveld.