Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

"They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them..... "

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Letter that took my breath away...

Dear Riana,

I don't normally comment on Facebook pages, but after reading your
story and the story related about how your father died in a SWAPO
ambush, I feel I should share something with you. Back in early 1979 I
was commanding a company of paratroopers from 1 Para Bn. B-Company had
been doing operations almost continuously since early 1978, and in
March 1979 we were flown up from Bloemfontein to take over the Fire
Force at Ondangwa. My soldiers were weary after more than a year of
repeated deployments and we had been back in Tempe for less than a
week since our previous deployment in the Rundu area. They had just
been presented with their Pro Patria medals when we were sent back to
SWA, but they were as anxious as ever to get to grips with the enemy
again. When we landed, we realised that we were at Grootfontein, not
Ondangwa! We had been diverted. I was immediately sent up to the HQ
and briefed by Brig Bosman and Col Eddie Webb from SWA Command in
Windhoek. There had been a big infiltration by SWAPO and they had
penetrated into the so-called "White Farmlands" south of the old Red
Line. It was the start of Operation CARROT, which was to continue for
several years. There were elements of SWAPO known to be in the
mountains within a triangle formed by Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Otavi.
The Ghaub Mission Station in the mountains was suspected of providing
them with support. My company was tasked with searching for these
elements and flushing them out of the mountains. I had to find a way
to enter the mountains unobserved with my company, and settled for a
plan whereby we were infiltrated in the cattle-trucks of local
farmers, who would drop off sections at various points at night,
without stopping, so that they could climb different peaks and
establish temporary bases from which to operate. The plan was
presented to the big shots and they approved it. All went well and the
next day all nine sections of the company were in place and the Coy HQ
was hidden near the top of one of the highest peaks, where we hoped to
establish good radio communications. It was a very demanding time that
we spent in those mountains, and the stories of what happened before
the terrs were finally driven out of their hiding places and we were
able to continue the hunt in the flat farmlands do not belong here.
Suffice to say we had blisteringly hot days to contend with in the
mountains, freezing nights, howling winds, mopani flies and a severe
shortage of water. But our biggest problem throughout was to maintain
radio communications!

The terrain and the atmospheric conditions played havoc with our
signals, and we struggled to keep in touch with our sections on VHF,
but lost all contact with our higher HQ on HF. Then 91 came on the
air! It was like a ray of light to us! This woman with the most
beautiful voice who seemed to be able to make contact with us at all
times! She was in contact with our higher HQ and she was able to relay
messages for us. We made contact with her at scheduled times and were
able to send our SITREPS and to receive fresh instructions. We could
hear her talking to our higher HQ, but could not hear them, and she
always relayed every message meticulously accurately. But she did far
more than that. During the extended period that we operated in those
dry, bush-covered, densely forested and rocky mountains we needed
resupply, and she arranged that for us, with surreptitious deliveries
at predetermined spots at night by local farmers from the Commando. I
made a note in the Company Diary at the time: "There is a woman
signaller on one of the relay stations who really is good! She grasps
situations rapidly and relays messages accurately - in sharp contrast
to many of the men manning sets!!" The barren rocks that the troops
had to clamber across were razor sharp and cut their boots to ribbons.
We had to request new boots and the Quartermaster at Grootfontein was
reluctant to comply to our request. But he had not bargained on Tannie
Pompie! We heard her sort him out on the radio in no uncertain terms
and we rolled around laughing at the way she put him in his place and
reminded him that we were the ones doing the fighting while he sat in
his comfortable, air-conditioned store! She spoke to our senior
officers about "My seuns daar bo in die berge", told them she would
not allow them to neglect us and she adopted a motherly ownership of
us. My paratroopers adored her and thought she was the greatest! A
real angel from heaven with their interests at heart. If you had asked
any one of them over that period who was the best chick in the world,
there is no doubt that 91 would have carried away the prize. Sadly,
none of those soldiers ever met her, as we went from the mountains
straight into the hunt on the plains and those brave men cleared out
of the Army at the end of their National Service in June of that year.
It was only in 1982 that I was able to meet Tannie Pompie - your
wonderful mother. Unfortunately, it was a sad time, as it was during
Operation YAHOO and your father had just been killed in that terrible
ambush. At the time I was commanding E-Company, 1 Parachute Battalion
and we were attached to 61 Mechanised Battalion Group. My own Company
2IC, Captain Leon van Wyk, was also killed in a contact with SWAPO
during that operation. Your dear mother will not remember me, as she
was understandably very emotional when I spoke to her, but I want you
to know what a wonderful job she did and how deeply she crept into the
hearts of the paratroopers she helped so very long ago.

God bless you.

McGill Alexander