Jewish Wedding Traditions

One week before the wedding

One week before the wedding

Torah Honor to the Groom: It is customary to honor the bridegroom in synagogue by calling him up to the Torah on the Sabbath before the wedding. The rejoicing over the coming marriage formally begins then, with a reception (Kiddush) after services, hosted by his family. Torah Honor to the Bride: The bride may be honored at a Sabbath afternoon women’s gathering, following the oyruf, which is known as the bride’s Sabbath. The guests honor her with stories about their friendship and thoughts about her upcoming marriage.

The Groom’s Visit to the Mikveh (Ritual Bath): To prepare themselves for one of the most important moments in their lives, some men go to the Mekvah and afterwards attend a male only party with friends.

The Bride’s Visit to the Mikveh (Ritual Bath): The brides and converts go to the Mikveh for the first time just before the wedding for ceremonial immersion and purification. A small party for the women in the family usually follows the bride’s visit to the Mikveh.

Seclusion of the Bride: After she has visited the Mikveh, a traditional bride will not see or speak to her fiancée until the actual wedding ceremony, which can be up to a week. This custom has helped many Jewish brides avoid the pre-wedding friction that can occur with their grooms and is also believed to bring good luck to the marriage.

The Stage

The Wedding Canopy: The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah (wedding canopy). The chuppah is usually made of velvet with embroidery and fringes. The chuppah is supported by four poles, which is optionally held during the ceremony by friends or relatives and symbolizes the new home that will be created by the couple. Under the chuppah is a table with two glasses and a bottle of kiddush wine. The Jewish tradition is that both sets of parents are bringing their children to be consecrated to each other under the chuppah.

By custom, all of the immediate relatives are part of the wedding party. The bride and groom are escorted down the aisle by their parents. To lead their children to the chuppah is considered a parent’s highest joy. Their fathers and mothers escort both bride and groom. If there are grandparents, they are given a special place in the procession. Under the chuppah the bride stands to the right of the groom. Under Orthodox custom, the bride may circle the groom seven times (representing the seven wedding blessings) before taking her place at his right. The number seven represents the idea of the seven heavens, the seven wedding blessings and the seven days of Creation. Symbolically, the bride is thought to be entering the seven spheres of her beloved’s soul. The circle created by the bride is regarded as the space the couple will now share, separate from parents.

The seven Jewish wedding blessings praise God for:

Creating the fruit of the vine: the blessing over the wine, or kiddush
Creating the earth and all that is in it
Creating humanity
Creating man and woman in God’s image
The miracle of birth
Bringing the bride and groom together to rejoice and live in harmony as did the first couple, Adam and Eve.

The joy of the bride and groom and the hope for a world that will one day be filled with the joy of lovers and the laughter of children.

The rabbi begins the ceremony by reading the invocation. Then, the rabbi recites the betrothal benediction over a glass of wine, a symbol of sanctification in which the praise to the one God is voiced. The prayer is: We praise you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. The bride and groom sip the wine. During most wedding ceremonies, the groom lifts the bride’s veil after he has tasted the wine.

After the introduction by the rabbi, the groom recites his wedding vow and gives the ring to the bride. The wedding vow he recites in Hebrew is: Thou art consecrated unto me with this ring as my wife, according to the law of Moses and Israel.

Traditionally the ring for the bride is a simple gold band without any engravings. This type of ring is used because it shows the true value and purity of the ring. At the ceremony the ring is placed on the bride’s right index finger because it is the finger that points at the words when reading the Torah. Modern brides that follow this custom will sometimes switch the ring to the left hand after the ceremony.

Next the ketubbah is read aloud. This is followed by a reading of the seven wedding benedictions by various guests. During this reading the bride and groom sip their wine. The seven benedictions are as follows:

1. Blessed art Thou, O lord our God, King of the Universe who hast created the fruit of the vine.
2. Blessed art Thou, O lord our God, King of the Universe who has created all things for His glory.
3. Blessed art Thou, O lord our God, King of the universe, creator of man.
4. Blessed art Thou, O lord our God, King of the Universe who hast made man in his image, after his likeness, and hast prepared for him out of his very self, a perpetual fabric. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, creator of man.
5. May she who was barren be exceedingly glad and rejoice when her children are united in her midst in joy. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who makes Zion joyful through her children.
6. O Lord, make these beloved companions greatly rejoice even as Thou didst rejoice at Thy creation in the Garden of Eden as of old. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who makest bridegroom and bride to rejoice.
7. Blessed art Thou, O lord our God, King of the Universe, who has created joy and gladness, bridegroom and bride, mirth and exultation, pleasure and delight, love, brotherhood, peace and fellowship. Soon may there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the jubilant voice of the bridegrooms from the canopies, and of youths from their feasts of song. Blessed art Thou, O Lord who makest the bridegroom to rejoice with the bride.

When the reading is done, the groom smashes a glass with his foot. The breaking of the glass symbolizes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem centuries ago. When the wedding ceremony has ended, the guests wish the couple mazel tov, meaning good luck.

 

Since Jews have moved to and from so many countries and have liberal to orthodox views, wedding customs differ. Though many traditional philosophies, prayers and viewpoints remain the same.

The purposes Jewish marriages are procreation, companionship, and the maintenance of family life. Traditionally the Jewish wedding starts with three methods of establishing the marriage. The first is a public signing of a legal marriage contract called ketubah. The ketubah is a document that sanctifies the rights and obligations of the bride and groom. It is signed by the groom and then given to the bride for safekeeping. In modern weddings the bride also signs the contract. The couple at the beginning or end of the ceremony can sign it. The document is often framed and displayed in the newlyweds’ home.

The second method of establishing the Jewish marriage is for the groom to present the bride-to-be with an article of known value (the ring) which she accepts (kinyan). And the last tradition is for the two to spend ten or fifteen minutes together in seclusion or union (yihud).

The Celebration

The wedding party then proceeds down the aisle, led by the bride and groom. At this point, the couple sometimes perform a traditional ritual known as yihud (union). This requires the two going to a private room where they will briefly eat some food (typically a broth) together. They will then go to the reception area for the festivities. A typical celebration includes circle dancing where the bride and groom may be lifted above the circle. In Orthodox communities, where dancing with the opposite sex is prohibited, a special dance may be done where the dance partners will hold opposite ends of a scarf. If either the bride or groom is the last child of the family to be married, another special dance may be performed for the parents to celebrate their success in marrying off all of their children.

 

Interfaith

More than 50% of Jewish men and women are marrying non-Jewish, mostly Christian partners today.

According to Jewish Law, a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew is not considered valid.

According to Catholic Law, priests are directed to help with interfaith wedding ceremonies regardless of their personal beliefs.

If you are unable to find a rabbi to conduct your ceremony, contact the Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling in Westfield, NJ at (908) 223-0419.

The average length of a Jewish ceremony is twenty minutes and the average length of a Catholic ceremony, when it is part of mass, runs about an hour.

 

Interfaith Ceremony

Most follow this general outline combining aspects of both Jewish and Christian ceremonies although some interfaith ceremonies can vary – co-officiated by a Rabbi and a Priest – lasts about 45 minutes

Opening Remarks

Explanation of the Chuppah Led by the Rabbi

Acknowledging Loved Ones Who Have Died Led by the Rabbi

Acknowledging Your Two Traditions Led by the Priest

General Opening Marriage Blessings and Prayers Led by the Priest

Sign of Peace Led by the Priest

Readings (biblical and/or secular) by different people

The Blessing over the Wine Led by the Rabbi

Affirmation of the Families and of the Guests

Exchange of Vows (including Declaration of Intent and Consent, when applicable) Led by the Priest

Exchange of Rings Led by the Rabbi

Lighting of the Unity Candle Led by the Priest

The Jewish Seven Wedding Blessings Led by the Rabbi (see Jewish section for more)

The Pronouncement Led by the Rabbi

Kiss

Closing Prayers by the Rabbi and Priest

Breaking of the Glass Led by the Rabbi

Common Conflicts and Solutions to Interfaith Weddings

Day of the Week:

Most interfaith marriages are scheduled for either a Saturday evening or a Sunday since the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) ends at sundown on Saturday and most Christians prefer to have their weddings on Saturdays.

Day of the Year:

Christian weddings may be held on any day of the year, Jewish weddings cannot.

The Jewish religion: Does not permit weddings to be held on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Passover.

Location of Ceremony:

Most interfaith marriage ceremonies are held in neutral settings, such as nondenominational chapels, historical sites, public gardens, hotels, and private homes in order to appease both sides of the family.

To See or Not to See Each Other Before the Ceremony:

Many brides do not want to see their groom before the processional begins because they believe this would bring them bad luck. If you want to sign an interfaith ketubah before the ceremony, you can have the rabbi or officiate sign your ketubah separately before the music begins. Signing the ketubah after the ceremony is discouraged because you will want to sign it thoughtfully and calmly. After the ceremony, you will be anxious to take pictures and to see your family and friends, so the signing is often rushed.

The Processional:

In the Jewish tradition the bride stands on the right side of the groom and it is the reverse in the Christian tradition. In the Jewish tradition, the groom walks down the aisle with both of his parents and the bride walks down with both of her parents. In the Christian tradition, the groom’s parents and the bride’s mother are escorted to their seats before the formal processional begins, and the bride’s father escorts her down the aisle. In the Jewish tradition, the parents stand near the bride and groom for the entire ceremony. In Christian tradition, the parents are seated for the service. The bride and groom must compromise with both sets of parents beforehand which situation would best suit their ceremony. Unfortunately there is no fast rule to this as families often have different perceptions of how the processional should be carried out.

Do Guests Stand or Sit as the Bride Enters?:

In American Christian weddings it is tradition for the guests to rise as the bride enters and it is a Jewish custom for everyone to remain seated throughout the processional and ceremony. If you do not tell your guests whether to stand or sit, some will stand and others will remain seated as the bride makes her appearance. To avoid confusion, inform your officiate what you would like your guests to do.

 

Millitary Wedding Traditions

Some Preliminaries Couples Must Do Before a Military Wedding:

A one-day pre-course at your local archdiocese. To find your local archdiocese visit: http://www.catholic-forum.com/diocese_homes.html

Completion of a pre-marital inventory examination.

4-6 sessions with the priest or deacon.

Completion of pre-marital documentation to include:
Pre-Nuptial Investigation Form”
Submission of baptism certificates issued within 60 days of the proposed marriage date.
If you were baptized on a military base,
you can obtain a copy of your baptism certificate by writing to
the Archdiocese for the Military Services,
USA, PO Box 4469,
Washington DC 20017.

Please provide your full name, date of birth, father’s first and last name, and your mother’s maiden name. If you were baptized in a civilian parish, contact them and provide them with the same information. Baptized non-Catholics should provide a photo copy of their baptismal certificate or, at a minimum, name and location of the church where they were baptized and the date of baptism.

Permission from the bishop if a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic.

Completion of an “Affidavit of Free Status” by the parent of the bride and groom.

If neither party to the marriage is active duty military, the bride’s civilian pastor must give written permission for the wedding to take place in the chapel.

 

A military wedding may be officiated by a Christian minister in a church or Jewish rabbi in a synagogue. The military wedding may also be held at a chapel on the base site. Those who marry at a military chapel are military academy graduates, a child of the graduate, a staff member or a faculty member. When the groom’s residence is at a military post, officers and their spouses, as well as civilians are invited to the wedding and reception. The American flag is displayed at the wedding.

Arch of Swords

The outstanding feature of a military wedding that differs from other ceremonies is the arch of swords through which the bride and groom pass at the end of the ceremony. Only commissioned officers are allowed this honor. As soon as the service is over, the ushers (usually 6 or 8) line up at the foot of the chancel steps. Friends and relatives leave the chapel prior to this so that they can watch. At the head usher’s command, “Draw swords”, they hold up their swords (blades up) to form an arch. (Navy ceremonies use an arch of swords and Army ceremonies incorporate sabers.) The couple passes through, the head usher says, “Return swords”, and the men put them back in their sheaths. They then turn and escort the bridesmaids down the aisle. The tradition of the bride and groom walking through the arch of swords is meant to ensure the couple’s safe passage into their new life together.

Alternatively, the arch may be formed outside the church entrance. The ushers leave by a side door, hurry to the front of the church, and are waiting, swords raised, when the couple emerges. The bridesmaids walk out two by two but do not pass through the arch.

Any civilian ushers in the party line up beside the others and stand at attention as the bride and groom pass by. Therefore, unless the ushers are all officers, it is wiser to omit this ceremony since it would not achieve the same impact.

 

Renaissance Wedding Traditions

Weddings during the Middle Ages were considered family and community affairs. The only thing needed to create a marriage was for both partners to state their consent to take one another as spouses. Witnesses were not always necessary, nor was the presence of the clergy. The role of the clergy at a medieval wedding was to bless the couple. It wasn’t official church policy until the council of Trent in the 15th century ruled that a third party [c.f. a priest], as opposed to the couple themselves, was responsible for performing the wedding.

In the later medieval period, the wedding ceremony moved from the house of the bride to the church. It began with a procession to the church from the bride’s house. Vows were exchanged outside the church (the priest gave away the bride, not the father) and then everyone moved inside for Mass. After Mass, the procession went back to the bride’s house for a feast.

Weddings of the Renaissance and medieval period were not all that much different in content from weddings today. The structure is customarily similar to traditional religious ceremonies with medieval décor and dress. The challenge in having a modern Renaissance wedding comes in creating a 14th century atmosphere.

There are many historical reenactment groups such as the SCA that you can join to help you plan the look and feel of your ceremony. Many of the members have experience constructing Renaissance weddings and are willing to help others to plan theirs. The SCA or other local guilds will be able to assist you with your costuming, decoration, catering and will probably even volunteer to entertain.

Origins and Traditions

The Origin of the Bachelor Dinner
This appears to have had its source in Sparta. A Spartan groom always invited his close friends to a supper on the eve of his wedding. The custom is very old and many believe it originated in many different lands.

The Origin of the Trousseau
The trousseau can be traced back to the barter-price, purchase-price and dowry systems. It was customary for a bride to come to her husband with a dowry, so that the man might be compensated for his expenses in caring for the children of his wife’s lineage.

The Origin of Members of the Bridal Party
During the ‘marriage by capture’ era, the loyal tribesmen and close friends of the groom within the tribe aided him to invade the enemy territory to capture his bride. While he dashed off with her, his friends stayed behind to fend off or fight the brides outraged relatives. Such were the first ushers and best man. The maid of honor and the bridesmaids, as they are known today, can also be traced back through the centuries to Saxon England. The senior among them would attend the bride for several days before the wedding. She was especially responsible for the making of the bridal wreath, the decorations for the wedding feast, and for dressing the bride.

Origin of the Processional
In Medieval times, the processional was especially colorful. Gaily dressed minstrels sang and piped at the head of the procession. Next came a young man bearing the bride-cup, which was a chalice or vase of silver or silver-gilt, decorated with gilt, rosemary and ribbons. Then the bride walked, attended by two bachelors, and a dozen or so knights and pages. Next came maidens carrying bride cake, followed by girls with garlands of wheat. The bridegroom then appeared, led by two maidens, and walked in the midst of his close friends, including his “best man”. The relatives walked after him, and these were followed by less intimate friends.

The Tradition of Wedding Gowns
In early Saxon days and through the 18th century, it was the poorer bride who came to her wedding dressed in a plain white robe. This was in the nature of a public statement that she brought nothing with her to her marriage and that therefore her husband was not responsible for her debts.

The Origin of the Veil
The introduction of the veil into Europe came through returning crusades. In early wedding tradition in Europe the bride was bargained for through her father. She was swathed in a bridal veil, and revealed to her mate after the ceremony. In Anglo-Saxon times, the bride wore her hair hanging loose as part of the wedding ritual.

The Tradition of Flowers
The wearing of a wreath of orange blossoms as a crown on the bridal veil was a Saracen custom introduced by returning Crusaders. Orange blossoms were so expensive that only the wealthy could afford them and poorer brides resorted to artificial ones. Flowers also carried special meanings.

The Origin and Tradition of the Wedding Cake
Although it is difficult to tell the specific region that the wedding cake originated in, the early Romans broke a cake made of salted meal over the bride’s head as a symbol of abundance. Various cultures customarily dropped wheat flour or cake upon the bride’s head, then ate these offerings for good luck. The early Britons baked large baskets of small dry crackers for weddings and every guest took one home. This later became known as the tradition of taking the wedding cake home to “dream on”. The tradition of a decorated cake in the shape of an animal, a castle, or basket dates back to the Middle Ages and was called a subtlety. Often coins or silver charms were baked into the cake as prizes for the guests.

The Origin of the Honeymoon
In Northern Europe in the earlier centuries, a newly married couple drank wine made of mead and honey, known as, metheglen, for a month after their marriage. A month was then a “moon”, and therefore the month during which the wine was drunk became known as the honeymoon.

The Origin of Throwing Rice and Old Shoes
The throwing of rice or grain historically symbolized good luck and fertility, or abundance. Among ancient Asyrians and Jews, when a bargain was made, a man gave his sandal as an indication of good faith. A show was the symbol of authority. When the Anglo-Saxon hurled a shoe, it indicated that authority had been transferred.

The Origin and Tradition of the Garter Toss
The garter toss is one of the oldest surviving wedding traditions. It was said that a man who gave his love the garter of a bride would be guaranteed faithfulness. Back in medieval times, it was customary for friends, relatives, guests to accompany the bridal couple to the marriage bed. As time went on, this became rowdier and rowdier to the point that some guests were all too eager to help the bride out of her wedding clothes. To forestall such impropriety, the garters were quickly removed and thrown to the mob as a distraction. As time went on, it has evolved into the tradition we now know.

The Ceremony

Renaissance weddings generally are held outdoors, in a garden park, or modern halls. Traditional churches and cathedrals are also appropriate if properly decorated with banners, heavy wooden chairs and candlelight. Churches or halls are often decorated with grapevine wreaths on the doors, English Ivy, Medieval banners, votive candles set in gold holders, and white flowers as well.

In the early Renaissance Period, the Baron convened the court and the Herald called upon the bride and groom-to-be to present themselves along with their family and supporters. The Herald then read the terms of the dowry and bride price. The Baron then inquired whether they were satisfied with the terms and if each of the couples parents granted permission for the ceremony. Once the permissions were granted, the Baron pronounced the couple to be married and signed the wedding certificate along with the guests present.

The ceremony today is a personal preference and usually a blend of the couple’s religious background with medieval and renaissance customs mixed in. A Catholic Mass could be performed in Latin with the actual vows in English. Though conducting a ceremony in another language often alienates the majority of the attendees. Many couples use the Anglican wedding vows, since they have changed very little over the last four hundred years. The key is to find a minister who can orchestrate a wedding with a renaissance feeling.

Some Ceremony Ideas

Use a parchment scroll that guests can sign in on with a quill pen
Have the music played on a pipe organ, or instrumental Celtic music played with a Dulcimer, Celtic harp, lute, flute etc.
Have the wedding party dress in 14th/15th century costumes.
When the people arrive at the church door, have the men sit on the right side and the women on the left.

Some General Ideas

Have castle or a knight with a horse as a cake top or on the invitations
A catchy invitation phrase:” Medieval attire admired, but not required.”
Since white is not a traditional color for gowns in Renaissance weddings, an example of the type of gown she could wear is a full-length ivory brocade cotehardie which laces up in the back and can be accented with garnets and pearls.
The groom can wear a colored houppelande with a brocade or dress as a medieval huntsman wearing velvet britches, knee-length leather moccasins, a white shirt and a leather tunic.
Use a horse-drawn carriage to escort you to the reception.
Cut the wedding cake with two long swords and toast each other with long-stemmed pewter goblets.
Decorate the buffet table with ivory.

Jan van Wyk, 82, and Basie Venter, 65, penises mutilated, then killed on Viljoenskroon farms for ‘traditional medicine’

A self-confessed sangoma from Lesotho has been arrested for this muti-murder. The penises were found buried in a ‘ritual ceremony’ on one of the farms.

A self-confessed sangoma from Lesotho has been arrested for this muti-murder. The penises were found buried in a ‘ritual ceremony’ on one of the farms. The sangoma’s trial is pending. It’s not certain whether he’ll be granted bail as yet.

 

http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/2009/08/alphabetic-name-list-murders-attacks-on_26.html

Ingrid Jonker (1933 – 1965)

 

Vandag is die verjaarsdag van die bekende Afrikaanse digteres, Ingrid Jonker. Sy was ook bekend as die "Bitterbessie- Dagbreek-Vrou"

Vandag is die verjaarsdag van die bekende Afrikaanse digteres, Ingrid Jonker. Sy was ook bekend as die “Bitterbessie- Dagbreek-Vrou”

Sy het in julie 1965 selfmoord gepleeg deur haarsef in die see naby Seepunt te verdrink.

In haar gedig, “Ontvlugting” het sy haar eie dood voorspel:

“My lyk lê uitgespoel in wier en gras

op al die plekke waar ons eenmaal was”

Hierdie is net ‘n kort opsomming van haar lewe. Haar volledige skryersprofiel kan op Litnet se biografies aanlynensiklopedie gelees word.

Ingrid Jonker is op 19 September 1933 op Douglas in die Noord-Kaap gebore, die jongste dogter van haar ouers, Abraham Jonker en Beatrice Cilliers.

Ingrid dig al van haar vyfde, sesde jaar af vir skool- en kinderblaaie. In Herinnering se wei skryf Ingrid dat sy as agtjarige dogtertjie vir haar ouma gesê het dat sy nou haar gedigte moet begin verkoop aan tydskrifte soos Die Jongspan.

Op sestienjarige ouderdom lê Ingrid haar eerste digbundel, Na die somer­, vir publikasie voor, maar dit word afgekeur. Dit was dan ook DJ Opperman wat hierdie eerste bundel reël vir reël gekritiseer het en vir haar raad gegee het. Toe die bundel deur die uitgewers afgekeur is, was sy kommentaar: “Die digteres is besig om haar lier te stem.”

Ingrid matrikuleer in 1951 aan die Wynberg Girls’ High School in die Kaapse Skiereiland met ’n onderskeiding in Afrikaans.

In 1956 trou Ingrid met Pieter Venter, ’n verkoopsbestuurder by ’n Kaapstadse motorsaak wat safari’s reël. Pieter het ook gedig en was heelwat ouer as Ingrid.

Haar eerste digbundel, Ontvlugting, word nou gepubliseer. Die bundel is aan haar pa opgedra en nadat sy ’n eksemplaar van die bundel aan haar pa oorhandig het, was sy reaksie: “My kind, ek hoop nie dit is net ’n buiteblad nie, ek hoop daar is iets tussenin ook. Ek sal vanaand kyk hoe jy my in die skande gesteek het.” Op ’n vraag van watter gedig in die bundel sy die meeste hou, antwoord sy: “Ontvlugting”. Dit is die eerste gedig in die bundel, skryf Dot van der Merwe, en is teen die einde van 1955 geskryf.

In Desember 1957 word Ingrid en Pieter se eersteling, Simone, gebore.

In Julie 1961 word Ingrid vir die eerste keer in ’n psigiatriese inrigting opgeneem. Hier skryf sy die vers “Korreltjie sand”.

In April 1963 ontmoet Ingrid vir André P Brink die eerste keer aan huis van Jan Rabie in Groenpunt.

In Parys was daar wonderlike oomblikke, maar ook “uitbarstings van verwyte en woede”. In Spanje het dinge van kwaad na erger gegaan. Ingrid kon of wou nie verstaan wanneer André afsprake met uitgewers moes nakom nie – hy was op ’n amptelike reis wat deur Human & Rousseau geborg is. Saam het hulle besluit dat dit beter sou wees as Ingrid na Parys terugkeer. En na sy weg is, kon André sy toer deur Spanje voortsit wat later tot die reisboek Olé sou lei.

In Parys het Ingrid se gemoedstoestand sodanig versleg dat Breyten Breytenbach moes reël dat sy in Sainte-Anne, ’n inrigting daar, opgeneem word. Daarna is sy terug Kaapstad toe, waar Cope weier om iets met haar te doen te hê. Johann de Lange skryf in Beeld dat Ingrid na haar terugkeer aan ’n vriendin gesê het dat sy uitgeskryf is ná Rook en oker. “Maar,” skryf De Lange, “die gedigte wat sy geskryf het in die periode tussen haar terugkeer en haar dood ’n jaar later, is ongetwyfeld van haar beste ooit, gedigte wat getuig van ’n buitengewone aanvoeling en tegniese vaardigheid, ’n metaforiese rypheid met min gelyke in Afrikaans.”

In Desember 1964 is André en Ingrid weer saam, maar kort daarna weer uitmekaar en dit was hoe hulle verhouding verloop het totdat André in April 1965 vir Ingrid vertel het dat hy gaan skei, maar nie om met haar te trou nie. Hy het iemand anders ontmoet. Elretha Louw skryf: “Dit is 29 April 1965. In haar dagboek teken Ingrid aan: ‘Hier begin die einde,

In die laaste weke van haar lewe was Ingrid totaal afgetakel. Sy het sedert haar egskeiding enkele aborsies gehad (oor hoeveel is daar nie eenstemmigheid nie) en dit het aan haar gevat. In die laaste maande van haar lewe moes haar vriende haar ook van selfmoord red.

 

 

THE RECCES

‘It’s a dangerous thing we’re going to do now, Jock.’

Sergeant-Major Deval De Beer, Caprivi Strip, 1977

Written by unkown soldier.

‘It’s a dangerous thing we’re going to do now, Jock.’

Sergeant-Major Deval De Beer, Caprivi Strip, 1977

I landed in Pretoria on 6 May 1977 and was taken to a hotel and told that an interview with the South African Defence Force had been scheduled for the next day. I made my way to Army Headquarters bright and early, only to find that nobody knew anything about me. I spent several frustrating hours trying to convince a sceptical desk sergeant that I had only just arrived from England. Finally, and I never found out exactly why, I was taken to a separate building and introduced to a major in military intelligence. I retold my story, then he asked me extensive questions about my military background and my reasons for coming to South Africa. Finally he said: ‘Have you ever heard of a unit called the Reconnaissance Commando?’ I admitted that I had not. He informed me that they were his country’s equivalent of the SAS. Would I consider undergoing Selection?

 

I tried not to appear too keen when I said yes.

 

There were three phases, the major explained. First, a series of, mental and physical tests (the same as SADF pilots undertook). Second, Selection itself. Finally, continuation training, where we would learn the necessary skills to carry out operations.

It was now late afternoon. The major told me a car would pick me up at 9 o’clock the next morning, shook my hand and wished me luck.

The car arrived promptly and took me to an army medical facility where, for the next two hours, every piece of my anatomy was inspected, prodded and explored. At the final examination [74] the doctor told me I was in excellent physical shape. As I was pedalling an exercise bike as fast as I could, my body festooned with wires and suction caps, and breathing into an oxygen mask, this came as quite a relief. I was even more pleased when I learnt later that one in every three applicants were rejected at this stage. I celebrated with a lunch in the canteen.

In the afternoon I was taken to a separate facility where I sat a series of mental and psychological tests which ended with a series of face-to-face interviews with three psychiatrists. The last two give me pleasure to this day. The first was conducted by an extremely attractive blonde, about whom I had several erotic fantasies during our interview. As her questions drew to a close she asked me: ‘Have you ever shot anyone?’

 

‘Yes,’ I answered.

 

‘Afterwards, what was the first thought that went through your mind?’

 

‘What a good shot I am,’ I said.

 

She noted my reply and then looked at me over her large spectacles. ‘Did you see the person you had shot close up?’

 

‘Yes,’ I replied.

 

She fixed me with what she no doubt thought was an intimidating stare. She looked enchanting. ‘What went through your mind then?’

I gazed into her lovely blue eyes. ‘I thought to myself,’ I replied softly, ‘what a bloody good shot I am.’ For just the briefest of seconds I got a smile and then she rose and walked out of my life forever.

The final interview was with the senior doctor, a very distinguished man in his late forties. He hammered on at me about my reasons for being there, then dropped what he must have thought was his most testing question: ‘Would you die for South Africa?’

‘I don’t intend to die for anybody,’ I replied immediately, ‘but I’m quite willing to risk my life for South Africa.’

 

Again I got a brief smile.

 

The interviews completed, I rejoined my driver. As he drove me back to my hotel he informed me I had another interview the following day with the head of Special Forces. The medical and psychological test results would be sent through in the morning, [75] and I would be told if I was a suitable candidate for Selection, would be picked up at 1.30.

That night I hardly slept. I had risked everything coming to South Africa and my fate was in the hands of people who had only a few brief hours to get my measure.

As the driver picked me up outside the hotel I was acutely aware that my future was in the balance. I knew my own physical capabilities but was totally unsure what these guys would make f me psychologically.

I was met again by the intelligence major who had conducted my initial interview. He greeted me with a smile and an extended hand. I took this as a good sign. I was, he said, going to meet the general.

I was taken along a corridor past a uniformed and armed guard, to a nondescript and unmarked door and ushered in without ceremony. Seated behind a desk was a man in his middle-to-late sixties with snow-white hair. When he looked up I was struck by the strength and character in his face. His grey-blue eyes seemed to stare right through me. This was General Loots, officially a retired officer in the SADF; unofficially head of all Special Forces operations.

Without prompting I came smartly to attention. He smiled and stood. He was roughly the same height as me, but slightly stooped so that he gave the appearance of being shorter. I extended my right hand as he extended his left. I realized his right arm was hanging useless by his side. I grasped his left hand awkwardly with my right. He nodded as if I had passed some kind of test. I was invited to sit facing the two officers. The major began the interview.

‘You will be pleased to know that you have been assessed as being excellent Special Forces material,’ he said. I tried not to let the relief show on my face. ‘We now have to decide on what kind of offer we will make to you.’

The major looked at the general and continued: ‘You are slightly older than most of the recruits for Special Forces and more experienced. Your psychological profile and test results are excellent, but I don’t wish to give you a rank that would make it difficult for you to be accepted in the unit. We would like to make you full corporal. You could expect to make sergeant within two years.’ [76]

‘That’s fine with me,’ I replied, trying to appear nonchalant. I had expected to start again as a private.

`Good. Now about Selection. You have two options: one starts on the 17th of this month and the next is four months after that.

Which is it to be?’

 

‘The 17th,’ I replied.

The general beamed at the major.

 

‘As I anticipated. Good. Now, it normally takes a man two weeks to go through the process of enlisting. You will do it in two days.’ The major handed me a sheet of paper, typed in Afrikaans, with his personal signature and stamp on it. The young lance-corporal who had been my companion was called into the room and given an extended briefing, also in Afrikaans.

The next two days were heady stuff. My driver, in General Loots’ staff car complete with two stars, raced from one location to another in the Pretoria military establishment. Faced with line after line of national servicemen waiting to be issued with equipment, we would walk to the front, produce the general’s note and be issued with whatever was required. Only once did we run into difficulty, getting my identity documents. An overweight staff sergeant angrily announced that there was no way I could get them immediately. The lance-corporal argued with him while I looked on with some concern, then he asked to use the phone. After speaking into it for a couple of seconds he handed the receiver to the staff sergeant. The lance-corporal tried, with little success, to suppress a smile as the general gave the sergeant the appropriate instructions.

I had a full set of ID in two hours. As we walked to the car the lance-corporal answered my unspoken question by saying: ‘The general asked the chief clerk what rank he presently held, then told him that if he did not want to be a private by the end of the day he had better make sure that you had your documents.’

Finally, on 12 May 1977, I was sworn in as a fully-fledged member of the SADE The next day I was on a train bound for Durban, where the Special Forces were based. There, Pat, my twin boys, Harry and Christopher, and I were met by an army jeep and taken to an hotel. I was told that on the 17th a jeep would pick me up at 7 a.m. sharp and take me to the base. I barely had time to settle them in and get my equipment into some [77] kind of order. As arranged, I was picked up and driven to the HQ of the Reconnaissance Commando, at the Bluff, Durban. As I was driven past the armed guards at the gate, it struck me that in a little over two weeks I had gone from being a patrol commander on the streets of Belfast in one army to being a non-commissioned officer starting Selection for the Special Forces in another.

The camp was swarming with people. In all 410, mostly national servicemen, were trying for Selection. My lack of Afrikaans proved to be a major stumbling block in making the instructors understand who I was and where I had come from, but eventually everything was sorted. I was informed that that day was the only administration day on the course and that at about midnight we would set off for the selection area in Zululand.

Everyone on the course had a pretty awful breakfast in the national servicemen’s dining hall, then we spent the morning having our names and service numbers taken before being divided in squads. In the afternoon we were issued with our equipment: backpack, webbing, rifle and two 60mm mortar-bomb cases painted red and filled with concrete. These were to be carried with us at all times; failure to produce them meant being instantly thrown off the course. Together they weighed about 20lb. With full equipment I estimated each of us was carrying roughly 50lb, less food and water. All of us had R4 rifles, the South African adaptation of the Belgian FN rifle. Failure to keep this clean or within arm’s length also meant being expelled from the course.

By 5 o’clock I had the unusual webbing and backpack in reasonable order and adjourned to the canteen for supper. I did not realize this would be my last substantial meal for a month. I met two other members of my squad, Dave Price and Andre Klopper, both of whom had served with the Rhodesian SAS. They were very likeable rogues and instantly I struck up a friendship with them. They kept all of us amused with their wild tales. Like the time the Rhodesian SAS had launched a raid deep into Mozambique. Sixty battle-hardened airborne warriors trudging down a dried river-bed towards a camp were suddenly confronted by a little mongrel, barking incessantly. Various methods were tried to silence the howling animal, including bribery, but to no avail. The barking roused the enemy camp and the SAS strike force had to withdraw. One of the toughest military [78] units in the world, forced into inglorious retreat, by the smallest of enemies.

Another time they were given two prisoners to interrogate. They took both men up in a helicopter, bound hand and foot, and at an appropriate height they threw one out. The second terrorist nearly fainted with fear, looking from one to the other as if his head was on a swivel.

 

‘Are you going to talk?’ Andre demanded.

‘Yes,’ replied the terrorist, nodding vigorously.

‘OK,’ Days put in. ‘Who is your commanding officer?’

 

The terrorist looked from one man to the other, then at the helicopter’s open doorway. ‘You’ve just thrown him out of the helicopter.’

Shortly before midnight we were loaded into trucks for the long overnight drive to Zululand.

Like all Special Forces units, Recce Commando based Selection on their own operational experience. The unit had been formed in 1970 by Komandant Bradanbaght, a legendary figure in the South African Army, whose brother was a known ANC supporter.

Bradanbaght had selected one officer and five sergeants from the South African Parachute Battalion and set about training them, first putting them through Rhodesian SAS Selection, then taking them down to Mozambique to work operationally. Gradually the unit expanded. They were deployed mainly in Angola and Zambia against SWAPO terrorists, which required long periods in the bush, with little or no air support, pitted against an aggressive, wellarmed and well-disciplined enemy. Such operations demanded men who were physically fit, able to carry heavy weights over long distances, who could survive in the bush on very little food and water and could operate in a small group without causing friction.

In addition, the unit’s experience in the Angolan war had shown that if a small group of men, operating behind enemy lines, made contact with a larger force and acted aggressively with maximum firepower, it could often achieve results far out of proportion to its numbers. Aggression, therefore, was a trait much prized in the ranks of Recce Commando.

Phase one of Selection was basically a week of hell, designed to break those who weren’t physically and mentally up to the job. [79]

Phase two, lasting two weeks, tested endurance and team ability, to track, carry out specific tasks and navigate over long distances, while working in a six-man unit. Phase three was individual week. Survivors were transported to the Caprivi Strip in South West Africa, the operational base of Recce Commando, for a true test of one’s ability to work, navigate and motivate oneself in solitude.

At daylight on 18 May 1977 we tumbled out of the back of our trucks and were told to leave anything we could not carry and form up in three ranks. Phase one was about to begin.

The instructors, about twenty in all, walked up and down, checking each man had his rifle, his pack and, of course, his two concrete-filled mortar-bomb cases for ballast. Satisfied each of us had everything in order, they dispatched the trucks. We were on a wide, hard, dirt road. Major Blauw, a senior operational officer, addressed us from the top of a Landrover with a loudspeaker. He pointed west. ‘Walk,’ he said, ‘until we tell you to stop.’He climbed back into his vehicle and, accompanied by his staff, left us alone on the road.

I turned and began to walk west. I noted the reaction of my fellow Selection hopefuls with interest. They were all very young: some twenty, many just eighteen. The vast majority were national servicemen, used to being closely supervised. Many, robbed of this supervision, sat down to make a brew; some decided to rearrange their equipment. Perhaps three dozen actually began to walk.

At first the walk was extremely pleasant. The air was cool and I dropped into a familiar Para shuffle that covered the maximum amount of ground with the minimum effort. I was soon in front. As the morning wore on the heat increased. It sapped the energy from my legs and forced a slackening of pace. I kept plodding along. Occasionally a jeep full of ‘Recces’ would pass and some remark would be thrown at me in Afrikaans. I’d smile, nod and keep walking.

At midday I stopped at the top of a high hill for a break, made a brew and some ‘Airborne’ stew. I looked behind me along the road. Men were strung out for miles, most walking in groups of two or three, stretching back as far as the eye could see. After twenty minutes I repacked my kit and started to walk again. I was now starting to feel the effects of the heat very badly. I’d already drunk [80] the contents of two of my three water bottles, and dehydration, followed by heat exhaustion, was a serious danger, I realized. So I rationed my remaining water to two sips every hour.

By later afternoon there was still no sign of the end. There were no checkpoints, no guides, just a seemingly endless road ahead of me. But at least the heat had abated. I was down to a quarter of a bottle of water and I still didn’t know how far I had to go. At 6 o’clock I took another break. My feet were swelling uncomfortably in my new boots; the pack I was carrying had dug deep grooves into my shoulders; and I had friction burns on the inside of both my thighs. But most worrying was the fact that my water was all but gone. I made myself another meal: stew again, and took a final sip of water. I did not have enough for a brew. Shouldering my pack, I started to walk again. It was starting to get dark.

Before long I was stumbling along the road in total darkness, sometimes humming songs to myself. One in particular kept coming into my head: ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’. By 9 p.m. I had been walking for fourteen hours, almost three hours without water. The terrain was mostly flat, with occasional high hills. I was, as the Paras say, ‘on my chin straps’. I ached in every bone of my body and my thighs burned so badly from the friction rubs I had to walk with my legs apart. My mouth felt like a Comanche’s left moccasin. I decided I’d walk one more hour. Then, if I didn’t find a checkpoint, I’d get some sleep.

just after 10 o’clock, I began to hear the sound of the sea. For some reason this gave me hope. I rounded a corner and walked smack into a giant of a man in a Recce Commando T-shirt and shorts, standing in the middle of the road. He spoke to me in Afrikaans; I replied in English, telling him my name and rank. He looked at me closely then pointed along a small track leading off the main road. I followed it and found myself in a large, open space, bordered by two long tents. A magnificent figure of a man, about six foot tall, with a huge red beard and the shoulders and arms of a giant, came out to greet me. Once we had established that I could not speak or understand Afrikaans, I was told to fill one water bottle from the bowser at the edge of the clearing, and then to sit and wait for the rest of them. I did as ordered, stealing two huge gulps of water as I filled my bottle. [81]

I sat for about five minutes before another instructor came over and asked: ‘Have you any serious medical problems?’

I stood up and showed him the friction burns. He winced and called over several other instructors, who began an excited debate in Afrikaans. (I learnt later they were taking bets on how long I would last with my injuries.) The first instructor strapped up my thighs with medical adhesive tape and I found, much to my relief, that I could walk fairly normally again.

The long walk had taken its toll on me. I’d covered sixty miles in just over fifteen hours. Left alone, I fell into an exhausted sleep. I was awakened three hours later by a boot in the ribs. The clearing was full of trainees, some of whom had only just arrived. About a hundred of us were formed up into three ranks and berated as the worst, the absolute worst, bunch of candidates that had ever applied for Special Forces. After ten minutes’ abuse, we were given forty minutes of rifle PT. We were then divided into teams of eight.

Major Blauw informed us that we really weren’t up to the job we had applied for. Did anybody want to quit? Immediately twenty or so men said they did, and they were ordered aside. We were reformed again into eight-man te ams and marched to the edge of the clearing. Stacked neatly there were about fifty logs, each the size of a telegraph pole. Each team was given one, then we followed the instructors back along the road at a fast trot. After about four hundred yards we stopped. In the darkness we could see a very large hill.

‘Take the logs over the hill, turn left at the beach and you will get back into camp.’ With these comforting words our guardians departed.

We turned and started to climb. The going was tough. It wasn’t that the hill was steep, though it was, or that we were tired, though we were, or even that we were hampered by our packs and rifles, that made things so hard. It was the bush. The hill was covered with dense undergrowth. After an hour we were not even halfway up the bloody monster. Tempers were fraying; some teams just gave up. Then we had a stroke of luck. In the darkness we stumbled on to a small, but serviceable, path. Followed by the rest of the men, we were on the other side in just over an hour. We hit the beach and were back in camp by 4 a.m. We were given another forty minutes [82] of rifle PT and told to get some sleep. I was so tired I barely had the energy to unwrap my sleeping bag, and the hard edges of my webbing felt like the softest pillow.

The shouts of the instructors woke us at eight. I had to check my watch twice. I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that I had only just got my head down. We were formed up in three ranks and asked who wanted to continue; another twenty or so departed. I estimated that there were about two hundred of us left, and we had only been going forty-eight hours. Over a hundred who had just not walked fast enough had been returned to their units. We were then told to get some breakfast and be ready at nine for PT, dressed in T-shirts, trousers, boots and webbing.

We were taken down to the beach and introduced to sandbag PT. Each of us filled a bag and for the next two hours ran them up and down the beach, in and out of the sea. At last we were told to stack the wretched things above the water-line, which led me to believe that I had not seen the last of them. We ran back to camp and the luxury of a forty-minute break.

We formed up again in T-shirts, boots and denims and were divided into groups of twenty or so. We set out on a run, which, after the horrors of sandbag PT, was a walk in the park. We soon relaxed into a loping stride and ran for about thirty minutes or so. The track wound way into the interior, the bush around us gradually getting thicker. Eventually we found ourselves by a large lake. Across one corner of it, spanning a distance of about a hundred yards or so, was a rope. I looked closely at the water. There were creatures in there, creatures with teeth. Crocodiles. On the list of things I most fear in the world, crocodiles are right up there at the top.

The instructors lined up on the bank and let fly with a variety of weapons. They didn’t aim to hit anything, just scare away the local wildlife. Satisfied the water was clear, they set up armed sentries at both ends of the rope. We were told to strip to our shorts. The exercise was simple: you entered the water at point A and either swam or pulled yourself along the rope to point B, where You would find a track that brought you back to the start point. We were to continue this until told to stop.

Entering the water the first time was bad, although I was reassured by the presence of the armed guards. We continued [83] the exercise for about an hour, then ran back to camp. When I got back to my equipment I found that it had been searched and all the food it contained removed. We were told that from now on the instructors would provide all we needed to eat. Looking at the smiles on their faces didn’t convince me I’d be getting three square meals a day.

Lunch was a local version of sausages and mash. The afternoon was split between rifle PT and sandbag PT. After the evening meal we were given a lecture on snake bites by Sergeant Marius Fullun, the giant with the red beard, in English for my benefit. We were told that there were three kinds of snakes in the area: adders and vipers, whose venom attacked the blood and tissue; cobras and mambas, whose venom attacked the central nervous system; and tree snakes (boomslang in Afrikaans), whose venom prevented blood from clotting. So toxic was a tree snake’s bite that a hospital in Johannesburg would fly the antidote to any part of Africa within hours of a confirmed strike. The tree snake’s venom, although highly toxic, could only be delivered in small doses, giving a good chance of recovery if treated. A mamba bite, however, was almost always fatal. ‘And the black mamba,’ the sergeant told us drily, ‘is a very aggressive snake.’ Later I was to see for myself just how aggressive.

We had the luxury of a couple of hours off. I spent them trying to repair some of the damage to my body. My feet were pretty raw from running in wet boots, and my shoulders and chest were covered in sandbag- or rifle-inflicted bruises. Overall, after two days of almost constant physical torment, I was in reasonable shape. The friction rubs between my legs were giving me little trouble, thanks to the strapping.

As darkness fell we were told to be ready with full kit for a night march. I wondered what horrors awaited me in the hours ahead. If I’d known I might not have left the camp.

We formed into groups of ten. Each group was given a log to carry, as we’ .I as our packs, mortar-bomb cases and rifles. We then set out, accompanied by the instructors, on a cross-country march. After ten minutes there was not a muscle in my body that was not screaming in agony. Each minute stretched to eternity as we stumbled through the night. Every twenty minutes or so we would stop, put down our rifles and do log exercises: throwing the 109 [84] above our heads from one shoulder to the other. Then it was pick up your rifle, log on shoulder, and off we would stumble, going God knows where.

I was unaware of exactly where we were when we stopped, except that I was in the centre of a world of pain. As I heaved huge gulps of air into my lungs I came slowly to the conclusion that we were back at the lake, the lake with creatures in it. The night was black. We were told to strip to our undershorts. The instructors opened up with their weapons again and posted sentries. I was terrified of what was to come. ‘What the hell’s the point of this?’ I found myself saying aloud.

In we went. I was one of the first. I tried not to think of what might be in the water. I didn’t even try to swim, but just grabbed the rope and pulled for dear life. I don’t think I’ve ever covered a hundred yards of water faster. I was shaking when I got out and jogged back to the rest of the party. Thankfully we only had to do the exercise once. We put on our packs, shouldered our logs and jogged to the main camp.

On arrival I discovered that more than twenty candidates had refused to go into the water. I was about to go to my sleeping bag when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I found myself confronted by an instructor, a huge, good-looking man with raven-black hair.

‘You wanted to know why we make you swim the lake in darkness?’

 

I started to protest that I had not intended any criticism.

 

He raised his hand. ‘It’s a natural question from a professional soldier, Corporal. During the Angolan war we were being chased by a large group of Cubans and MPLA regulars. We were trying to get back to our own lines. Our way was blocked by a river. There were ten of us. Two flatly refused to get into the darkened river and swim to the other side. We were lucky: a scout found a narrow stretch we could ford and we managed to get the two of them across there. But it was all very near to being a disaster. That’s why we let you see the crocs in daylight and make you swim at night.’

I nodded. ‘Thanks for taking the time to explain things to me, Staff.’

He gave me a smile of genuine warmth. ‘Anytime. Now go get some sleep.’ [85]

We were woken at roughly three-hourly intervals throughout the night for spells of rifle and sandbag PT. Once, when we were standing in three lines after a particularly strenuous session, I found myself resting my head on the shoulder of the man on my right. In seconds I was asleep.

I was shaken awake by one of the instructors. ‘Do you want to carry on?’

 

‘Yes,’ I replied.

 

His eyes twinkled in the dark and his face broke into a wide grin. ‘You’ll probably make this course. You know when to sleep.’

The rest of ‘hell week’ was more of the same: rifle PT, sandbag PT, log PT, night runs. At the end of the week our numbers were down to about a hundred. It was time to begin phase two.

We were split into six-man teams, the normal operational unit of Recce Commando. We had to operate fully blacked, face and hands covered in camouflage cream. We were given co-ordinates of the first of a series of checkpoints, sixty kilometres away, and told to get there as fast as possible. Those who arrived before it closed would receive rations; those who didn’t wouldn’t. Over the next week we’d be given just enough food to allow us to keep going and no more.

Although I can’t say I enjoyed any part of Selection, phase two was the closest I came. My group was a mixed bag of pirates and ruffians, Dave Price and Andre Klopper (the two ex-Rhodesian SAS men); Major Peter Schofield, a forty-year-old ex-British Army Parachute Regiment major, who was doing this part of Selection before running the Recce Commando free-fall training; and Janni Smit and Danny Villiers, two members of the South African Paras. Each of us had talents and strengths that would prove useful to the group. Major Schofield was a natural leader and excellent navigator. Dave and Andre knew the bush and were terrific scroungers, often conjuring up food from nowhere. Janni was a great cook, making meals out of practically anything. Danny was a natural athlete; he’d run ahead to checkpoints, in the hope of arriving there before they closed. I could judge distance, a skill I had developed years ago in the wilds of the Welsh mountains and on Salisbury Plain. By a combination of pacing and judgement I could tell how far we’d travelled on a single day, an essential skill in featureless country. I could also wake at any time I chose, so it [86] was left to me to get everyone up in the morning – sometimes no easy task given how tired we were.

We’d be up just after dawn. If we had any food we’d cat, but more often than not we’d make do with a communal brew. Then we’d walk. Our walks had no set pattern. We’d walk until one of us needed a rest, take a break, then continue. At midday we’d have another brew, and at night whenever possible, a meal. We never tried to walk in the dark; navigation was impossible. We’d collect huge amounts of wood and make a big fire, sit round it and swap stories. The major told us of his exploits in the Radfan Campaign in Aden, I talked about Ulster, and Dave and Andre, natural raconteurs, provided the most enjoyment with their swashbuckling tales of Rhodesia and elsewhere.

We once almost lost Andre in mid-anecdote. As he leant across to shift a log on the fire, Janni shouted ‘stop’ and switched on his torch. Sitting on the log, inches from Andre’s hand, was the biggest scorpion I had ever seen. How Janni saw it in the dark I will never know.

When phase two finished, we were down to about sixty men. We had lost Dave and Andre, who had apparently left the Rhodesian SAS without permission. It seems they had been on leave in South Africa when a major operation had been launched in Angola, and, fearing their country was about to become embroiled in another major war, they had approached South Africa’s Special Forces and offered their services.

They had made no secret of the fact that they were on leave and the Army, desperate for experienced soldiers, had accepted them. Unfortunately this had resulted in a major rift with the Rhodesian SAS, who immediately classed them as deserters and threatened to arrest them if they ever re-entered Rhodesia. They were told that they would have to return to Rhodesia and obtain a formal discharge before they could undertake Selection again. As far as I know, neither man did. The major too went his own way. Ahead of me was perhaps the most difficult part of Selection.

For phase three, the individual stage, we were transported by aircraft to the Caprivi Strip in South West Africa, the operational base of Recce Commando. There was one major river in the area; the rest of the country was semi-desert bush, and the heat was oppressive. For the first time we were given deadlines. If you were [87] not at the checkpoint on time you were off the course, no excuses. Water was a critical factor. Once away from the river, if you ran out of water you couldn’t hope to make your checkpoint.

There was also a terrorist threat from SWAPO terrorists based in Zambia. We all carried four magazines for our R4 rifles. (Shortly after our Selection ended, four members of the South African Airforce were ambushed and killed just south of where we were training.)

We were forced to move in the heat of the day. I was often close to collapse, and my dehydration was made worse by chronic gippo guts from drinking unpurified water. I staggered from one checkpoint to the next, just making the timings but getting ever more tired. Sometimes I risked moving after dark on a compass bearing. One night, as I approached the river, I heard the sound of a large animal. Out of the dark loomed a huge hippo; we stared at each other for several seconds, then, rather contemptuously I thought, he turned and shuffled off. I had never faced such hazards fighting the Phantasians on Salisbury Plain.

On my sixth day alone, I found myself at a checkpoint by the river. I was near total exhaustion. Even the weight of my water bottles, on which I depended so much, seemed to me to be too great. I decided I could make it to the next checkpoint and back on one. As I stood to leave I found my instructor beside me. ‘If I was you,’ he said conversationally, ‘I would fill both my water bottles.’

I didn’t need to be warned twice. I reached the next checkpoint by mid-afternoon. Instead of being sent back towards the river I was sent deeper into the desert. I went nowhere near the river for the rest of the day.

I had to be at base by dawn the following morning. I staggered through the night, more asleep than awake. I made the checkpoint just before first light.

I was met with a ferocious assault from the three instructors. I was without doubt the very worst example of a soldier they’d ever seen. I was subjected to a ten-minute bout of rifle PT before being given my next checkpoint, a kilometre away. I was told I might very well be thrown off the course when I got there. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the river to refill my water bottles. Didn’t I want to give up now? [88]

I turned and started to plod up the hill. That kilometre was the hardest and longest I’ve ever walked. The hill seemed like a mountain; my pack bore down on me like the weight of the world. If I could have cried, I would have.

Gradually the trees got bigger and I found myself in shade. As I shuffled along I saw the outlines of buildings on my left and right. A shout went up: ‘Here’s one!’ Men poured out of the buildings, mostly wearing the Recce Commando beret and black T-shirt. They formed two lines. As I walked through them they began to clap and cheer. At the end of the line stood Major Blauw, magnificent in full uniform. He offered me his hand. As I shook it he said: ‘Congratulations, Corporal McCallion, you have passed Recce Commando Selection.’ He handed me my maroon beret. I still have it to this day.

The assembled Recces gave a cheer. Never before had I felt so proud. A beer was pushed into my hand; as I was led away the major shouted after me: ‘Your next RV is the bar.’

Of the 410 hopefuls who had started Selection, thirty-nine completed phase three. I’d lost 20lb and made friends that would last me a lifetime. After I’d showered and shaved off my four-week growth of beard, I had a huge steak dinner, which I constantly interrupted to go and greet another member of Selection as he staggered in. That night we assembled in the unit’s bar, a beautiful oasis in the desert, where we all got drunk. For those of us who’d been through Selection that took about two beers.

We had a few days off before we began our Special Forces training. This started with two weeks’ weapons training; we had to familiarize ourselves with a huge variety of small arms. The Recces worked almost exclusively outside South Africa. In the main, we dressed and carried the weapons of the opposition in the country in which we operated. In the basic Recce Commando team of six men, five would carry AK47 assault rifles (the finest close-combat rifle I’ve ever used), one RPD light machine-gun, one RPM 7 rocket launcher and 60mm Portuguese commando mortar. If the job was a ‘straight’ raid many of the commandos preferred to carry the Para version of the R4, which had a folding butt, because of its harder hitting power.

Next we did a two-week demolition course concentrating on [89] the use of claymore mines (the Rhodesian mini-claymore was the favoured weapon) and sabotage techniques.

Each Recce carried Soviet-type chest webbing for the AK47 magazines. This consisted of five long pouches. Instead of a magazine in the middle pouch each man carried a mini-claymore, with twelve inches of safety fuse and a detonator and friction striker. In an emergency, if your team wanted to break a contact, you’d plant your mine, hit the striker and then run. Roughly thirty seconds later the claymore would explode. The enemy had been known to run through the first, and then the second line of claymores. Nobody had ever run through a third.

Bushcraft, tracking and survival were next, back in the Caprivi Strip. The course leader was a legend in the South African Defence Force, Sergeant-Major Deval De Beer. He had once spent six months living with the Bushmen of the South West African Veldt, with only a rifle and a bag of salt, surviving on only what he caught and found to cat. He was one of the very few whites ever to have mastered the complex language of the Bushmen and they looked on him as something of a god. Reputed to be the best tracker in Africa, he was the only person who ever got a Grade A on the Selous Scouts tracking course.

He had once tracked a SWAPO incursion party that had murdered a family in South West Africa, from the front of a fast-moving Landrover. The Recces had caught up with the terrorists and eliminated them. For a man who was in every sense a living legend, he was unexpectedly small, one of the very few men in the unit smaller than me. Yet his awesome knowledge of the bush, coupled with a physical stamina that enabled him to outrun or outmarch any man in the unit, demanded the respect of everybody who met him. Before we went to the bush camp he introduced himself to each man personally. He observed me coolly. I returned his gaze unflinchingly. His weather-hardened features were creased white at the corners of his eyes and mouth. This was a man who liked to smile and laugh a lot.

 

‘What’s your name, Corporal?’

‘McCallion, Sergeant-Major.’

 

‘Ah, the paratrooper from England. What’s an Englishman doing coming to fight for the Boer?’

 

‘I’m Scots,’ I replied, a little indignantly. [90]

 

‘Scots are good fighters, I hear. Play good rugby. Do you play?’

 

‘Yes. Hooker.’

‘Good, good. What do your friends call you?’

‘Jock.’

 

‘Then I’ll call you Jock too.’ He slapped me hard on the shoulder, nearly bowling me over.

On our first night in the bush, as the sun began to set, a mournful cry drifted across the still river to our camp. Every man stopped what he was doing to listen. The cry went on, hauntingly beautiful and infinitely sad. I looked questioningly at De Beer.

 

‘It’s a fish eagle, Jock.’

‘It sounds so sad.’

 

He nodded. ‘It is. They mate for life and if their mate dies they never take another. That’s the -sound they make when they’ve lost their mate.’

It was something I will never forget. Even now, years later, when I watch the sun go down, I still hear it, an echo from my past.

For the first three weeks we were given no food, apart from a cup of coffee in the morning and at night. We survived on what we caught ourselves. There were lions in the area. Whatever we did, De Beer said, we were not, repeat not, to go near one after

a kill. The R4 rifles we carried were probably not enough to stop a charging lion.

After about five days, two stalwarts stumbled out of the bush and almost tripped over a lion which was busy consuming a large kudu. They screamed and jumped back, expecting the big cat to charge them. Instead, it took off as fast as it could in the opposite direction. Thinking themselves lucky to be alive, and not wanting to look a gift kudu in the mouth, they hoisted their prize and made their way back to camp. As they told their story our mouths watered at the prospect of an unexpected meal. Deval De Beer was sceptical. They had been lucky, he warned them, but allowed them to prepare the kudu for the pot.

Four days later they chased a second lion from its kill. On this occasion the sergeant-major was not so charitable. We were refused permission to cook it and warned any such future adventures would result in dismissal.

An ex-Green Beret Special Force soldier and Vietnam veteran [91] had joined the course as a fully-fledged Recce. He’d already been on an operation. He’d missed the survival stage of his training, due to some administrative problem concerning his Selection, so knew where the survival camp would be based. He, and another candidate, took advantage of the fact to dig in a cache of food. How either of them expected to get away with it was hard to imagine, for in addition to the redoubtable Deval De Beer, the entire area was patrolled by a half platoon of Bushmen – probably the finest trackers in the world. Once they had seen your footprints they could recognize your track, even if you swapped shoes. In a dramatic fireside confrontation De Beer banished the two men from the course.

The rest of us continued training and it was exhilarating stuff, culminating in a night hare hunt. Powerful searchlights were mounted on the Mercedes Unimog all-terrain vehicles and we travelled at breakneck speed through the darkened bush until a hare was picked up in the beam. The hare, mesmerized by the light, would either freeze or run in circles pursued by those on toot. Over thirty hares were brought back and skinned, our first real meal for three weeks.

The next phase was the tracking course itself. Having spent most of my life in a city, I hadn’t the faintest grasp of these skills. It was at this stage that I first came to be impressed by and then to marvel at the wisdom of Deval De Beer and his Bushmen assistants. The ground for them was a story-book – each little indentation or crushed blade of grass providing an endless source of information.

I would often sit down at a track junction and listen engrossed as Deval, or one of the Bushmen, would reveal in great detail the men and animals that had passed over that patch of ground over the past few days. Driving out of the camp one day Deval suddenly yelled, ‘Stop’, and leapt from his vehicle. He landed in the bush and grabbed a handful of twigs and a long, thin stick. Telling everyone not to move, he walked slowly around his vehicle and stopped barely ten feet from us. Watching from the back of the truck, I saw him shake the loose bundle of twigs. Suddenly a snake struck the bundle with lightning speed. Deval let it continue striking until it grew tired, then trapped its tail with the stick, which he slowly slid up its body to its head. He then [92]

grabbed the eight-foot monster by the back of the head and held it up for us to see.

‘This,’ he informed us, ‘is a black mamba. If this snake was to bite you, you would be taken back to camp but be dead long before you got there.’

As the camp was only five minutes’ drive away this concentrated the mind wonderfully.

‘Look at it,’ he continued, ‘and remember it. If you’re walking in the bush and you get in its way it will kill you.’

I studied the snake with the fascination that most humans feel for reptiles. Its body was more grey than black, quite thick in the middle but tapering to a long, sleek head. Deval threw it from him. As he did so the five Bushmen who were with us screamed and ran behind our truck. Deval immediately brought his rifle up to his shoulder. The snake landed and reared up at least five feet from the ground, so fast it was hard to follow. It dropped down again to the bush floor and actually advanced on Deval, who was staring at it fixedly over his gunsight. Man and snake watched one another from a distance of less than ten feet before the snake retired to the safety of the bush, rearing up every so often to make sure we were not following.

Later Deval stopped at a water-hole. It was the dry season and the muddy edges were covered with animal tracks. Deval called me forward and pointed to one particular set. ‘What made those, Jock?’

 

‘Kudu,’ I offered, with more hope than conviction.

‘Good. Male or female?’

 

I hadn’t a clue. Seeing my distress, he continued: ‘It’s female. See here, it urinated, you can tell by the way it spread its feet.’

 

I nodded.

 

‘Now follow them, see how the stride pattern suddenly lengthens, something scared it, it started to run.’ He followed the antelope’s footprints, then stopped.

 

‘It almost made it, but was too slow. See?’

 

Running from the opposite end of the water-hole were a set of deep pug marks. I looked up at Deval.

 

‘Lion?’

‘Yes, Jock. Male or female?’

‘Female. A male’s would be much heavier.’ [93]

 

‘You’re right, even a small male would leave a bigger imprint. They have wider paws than the female.’

There were signs of a disturbance at the edge of the dried-up mud bank that surrounded the hole. Even my untrained eye could tell that the two animals had collided and rolled over.

 

‘Is this where the lioness made its kill? There’s no blood.’

 

‘Yes, they don’t usually tear their prey – mostly they suffocate it by putting their jaws over its mouth and nose. See?’ He pointed to the ground. ‘You can make out where she lifted it up after it was dead and dragged it away.’

It was all there, if you could read it, all the drama of the African bush, just waiting to be unlocked. Deval nudged me in the ribs.

 

‘We’ll make a tracker out of you yet.’

 

Despite Deval’s confidence I just picked up the rudiments and only managed to pass the tracking stage with a little assistance from a Bushman sergeant who seemed to have taken a shine to me. When following my allotted trail I completely lost the track and was searching vainly for any sign. I had forgotten the first lesson in tracking: don’t look at the ground, but for possible routes the quarry might have taken, and only glance. occasionally down for confirmation of the trail. I happened to notice that my Bushman commander’s eyes kept flicking behind me. I did a 180-degree turn and was able to pick up the track again and complete my assignment. Whether Deval and his instructors noticed my extra help I have no way of knowing. Nothing was ever said, though when Deval congratulated me on passing the course he said he would never trust me to track anything at any time.

This was the most enjoyable three weeks of my stay in Africa. The nights were spent round a large fire after a hearty meal, drinking coffee and listening to Deval as he told story after story about the African bush and the Bushmen he so dearly loved. He told of the blood feud between the Bushmen and our present opponents in Angola and South West Africa, SWAPO. Bushmen had always been hunted and oppressed by their black neighbours, who coveted their women with their exquisite, slightly oriental features and diminutive size. To the lasting shame of the white man the oppression of the Bushman had continued right up until the twentieth century. As late as the early thirties there were still organized Bushman hunts. Nevertheless, with the advent of the war [94] in South West Africa the Army was not slow to capitalize on their tracking and fighting skills. They were used first as trackers, then later organized into a fighting force, 31 Battalion, which performed heroically in the Angolan war.

As Deval told it, in the early stages of the confrontation with SWAPO a Bushman patrol had found an ambush position. They reported it to a white officer, who checked the position and decided it was an old one. Two days later a Bushman patrol was sent out to have a look at this ‘old’ position. Seven men were ambushed and annihilated. For a race of only two to three thousand this loss of seven young males was a catastrophe. The various bands of Bushmen formed together, sent their women into hiding and headed en masse for the border to exact revenge. They were prevented from crossing the border by the South African Army and police. After negotiations during which some of the old chiefs were taken into custody and their rifles confiscated, they eventually gave an oath not to cross the border unless ordered to do so, but they swore eternal vengeance on any member of SWAPO who fell into their clutches.

Towards the end of the course, as we sat round our camp-fire, we were told that two buffalo had to be killed to feed the Bushmen. Traditionally a member of the Selection course shot one. I was chosen. Deval said: ‘Here you see a great white hunter, all the way from Scotland. Tomorrow he is going to hunt the most dangerous animal in Africa armed with the weapon least suitable for the job! I want you all to wish him well.’

My companions gave a round of applause. I grinned from ear to ear and felt elation and anticipation well up inside me.

At daybreak Deval gave us a lecture on the African bull buffalo and how to hunt it with an FN 7.62 rifle. ‘A bull weighs well over a ton. It can, and will, charge at speeds of up to forty-five miles an hour. If you don’t stop this beast it will kill you. Its skull is solid bone, nearly an inch thick; its horns are over four inches in diameter. When it charges it cannot be killed with a head shot with an Express .50-calibre elephant gun, let alone an FN 7.62. Your only hope is to shoot it in the spine. When it’s coming straight at you, your target area is two inches wide by about a foot long.’

My comrades, who had been rather envious on the previous night, were showing distinct signs of relief that it was me and [95] not them who had been chosen for the hunt. Deval could see my unease. His face broke into a broad smile. ‘Don’t worry, Jock, you’re going to shoot your buffalo from the back of one of our Unimogs, not on foot. Hunting on foot is a job for professional hunters, who are fresh and have the correct weapons and a back-up, not for a tired recruit with only an FN.’ He paused. ‘This is, of course, if you get a clean kill. It it’s only wounded you’ll have to track it and kill it on foot.’ Deval’s grey-blue eyes bored into mine. His voice, normally cheerful, had become ice-cold and emotionless. ‘The most dangerous animal in the world is a wounded bull buffalo. It will dog-leg into thick bush, where we can’t take the vehicles, and wait. Its eyesight is poor, so it normally charges at about fifty metres. You only have four to five seconds at the most before it kills you. If it comes to that, remember, aim for the spine. Nothing else will stop it.’

There was total silence. All eyes were on me. My mouth was dry, and anyway I couldn’t trust myself to speak, so I simply nodded. Then Deval gave a great laugh and slapped me hard on the shoulder. ‘But I’m sure you’ll get him first shot, Jock.’ Everyone laughed.

We mounted two Unimogs and set off. I was on the back of the first vehicle, just behind Deval. Our driver was Fabes, a sandy-haired, swashbuckling Afrikaner with a physique most body-builders would give a year’s supply of steroids to possess. The morning was beautiful, the air so dry and clean it made you feel you’d live for ever. Barely fifteen minutes from the camp we sighted the herd, two to three hundred strong. A hundred yards or so from them, Deval called us to a halt.

‘Remember, Jock, only a bull, and aim for the spine. Are you ready?’

I checked my FN; it was cocked and had a full mag. Deval looked at Fabes. ‘Let’s go.’

In seconds we were among the stampeding herd. Out of the melee, a magnificent bull came straight at us. Fabes swerved as its lowered horns grazed the front offside of the Unimog. Then it was beside us.

Above the thunder of hoofs Deval shouted: ‘Shoot, Jock, shoot!’

I raised the FN. The barrel was shaking terribly. I couldn’t get [96] a sight on the animal’s back. For a split second I had one, and my finger caressed the trigger. As I fired the Unimog hit a bump. I knew instinctively I’d missed my target and almost in desperation I fired twice more. The huge beast veered off. We came to an abrupt stop. I raised my rifle again but Deval’s hand came up.

 

‘Don’t! You can’t get a killing shot from this angle.’

 

He dropped lightly to the ground. Fabes stood up, nervously scanning the bush. Deval walked several yards behind us then dropped to his knee. He touched the bush floor with his hand, then his nose. Looking at me, he said: ‘You’ve hit him, Jock. Bad, but not bad enough. You’d better get down.’

 

I walked slowly over to Deval, whose face was chalk white.

‘It’s a dangerous thing we’re going to do now, Jock.’

 

Years later I was to read how the son of the great wartime commando leader, Lord Lovat, was killed doing exactly what I was about to do and remembered Deval’s words.

He pointed to a patch of bush some seventy yards away. ‘I think it’s in there. We’re going to walk slowly towards it. Never take your eyes off it. When it charges . .

 

‘I know, the spine.’

 

The bush was thick – small trees and clumps of dense scrub and thorn-bushes. I kept my eyes fixed on where Deval had indicated but for the life of me I couldn’t see anything. How could something as large as a buffalo just disappear? We were thirty yards into the bush when I heard a noise like a low, gruff cough. We froze. It was hard to tell where the sound came from, but it sounded awfully close. I was about to step forward again when Deval’s left hand grasped my shoulder. He pointed slightly to the left of the bush we were heading towards. I saw a greyish-brown shape. I was raising my rifle when there was a thunderous bellow: a mixture of pain, anger and defiance. The bull emerged, head down, charging us at full speed.

It seemed to fill my entire world, like an express train coming out of a tunnel. I sighted along the barrel and fired. A puff of dust erupted from the creature’s horns. Too low. I fired again. This time the shot was high on its left shoulder. For just a second panic threatened to overwhelm me. Was it stoppable? I gritted my teeth, my eyes fixed on the target. (`The spine, Jock, the spine.’) In a microsecond the first lesson on marksmanship I ever learnt in the [97] Paras came back to me: don’t jerk the trigger, squeeze it. Slowly, I did. The bull suddenly did a forward somersault and lay, with its left leg, twitching. I later measured the distance from where it fell to our position. It was exactly fourteen metres.

 

Deval had his rifle resting nonchalantly on his shoulder.

‘You didn’t fire?’

 

He shook his head. ‘No, it’s your kill. Besides’ – he turned and smiled – ‘I always knew you could stop it.’

Those words meant a lot to me. I walked over to the buffalo. Its back was broken but it still tried to get to its feet. Suddenly I felt like crying. It had a heart as big as Africa. Even though it was mortally wounded, it wanted to fight me with its dying breath. I turned away, unable to watch as Deval gave it the coup de grace. I was aware of him standing beside me, a sad, ironic look on his face.

‘I know what you’re feeling, Jock. It was the same with my first buffalo. But always remember, we shot it not for sport but to feed others. That’s the way of Africa.’

One of the instructors shot a second buffalo from the back of the Unimog, showing us how it should have been done. We loaded both carcasses and drove to the Bushmen’s camp some five miles away. There were very few men there; most were employed by or actually serving with the SADF. We unloaded the two buffalo and the women set about butchering them immediately, showing a skill many a high-street butcher would have envied. I noticed our own Bushmen mixing with old friends and talking excitedly in their high-pitched, clicking tongue. ‘They’re telling of your hunt,’ Deval said. ‘They say you’re a great hunter from across a great river, who risked his life to bring them food. You’re part of their history now, Jock. The Bushmen don’t have a written language, they keep their history alive by storytelling. As long as this band lives the story of your hunt will live.’

That night the instructors gave us a superb meal and afterwards I moved to sit beside the slowly winding river. It was pleasantly warm, the sky still lit by the sinking sun. The wind was filled with the calls of late hunting birds, grunting hippos and the occasional snorting of a cat. It was a timeless moment of awe-inspiring beauty. I wished I could sit there for ever. My reverie was interrupted by a loud shout. Deval emerged out of the darkness, a radio in one [98] hand, a bottle of brandy in the other, followed by Fabes and two instructors.

‘Jock, do you know which is the best rugby team in South Africa?’

 

I shook my head, smiling.

‘Northern Transvaal. Do you know where I’m from?’

‘Northern Transvaal?’ I ventured.

 

‘That’s right.’ He poked a finger playfully in my chest. ‘Now do you know which team has won the Inter-Provincial Championship?’

 

‘Northern Transvaal?’

 

‘Right again. Now, Jock, you’re going to have a drink with us to celebrate.’

A mug filled with a generous measure of brandy was pressed into my hand. We raised our improvised glasses in a toast and knocked back a slug. I nearly gagged. I hadn’t eaten properly in six weeks and my stomach threatened to rebel against this sudden assault by alcohol. Fabes slapped me on the back and refilled my mug. For two hours we sat toasting Northern Transvaal and swapping stories, mine about Ulster, theirs about the Angolan war, and we all became gloriously drunk.

Suddenly Deval ordered us to be quiet. At first I heard nothing, then in the distance the sound of a small outboard motor.

‘Do you know what that is?’ He didn’t wait for an answer. ,Poachers coming across from Botswana to shoot hippo. Bastards. I hate poachers.’ Without warning he jumped up, lifted his rifle and fired in the direction of the river. In seconds the instructors were on their feet firing bursts with AK47s and FNs. Every now and again they would pause and we could hear quite clearly the sound of the boat circling. Then they would open fire again. Eventually the boat took off at high speed towards Botswana. Highly satisfied, we adjourned to bed.

I woke at first light with a monumental hangover and staggered to the main camp-site. No sooner had I arrived than a patrol from the South African Border Police turned up. Deval, looking much the worse for wear, went to greet them.

 

‘Two fishermen from Botswana were fired on during the night.’

 

‘You mean poachers,’ Deval said. [99]

The burly police officer shrugged and smiled. Both men had been hit, one in the leg, the other in the arm.

 

‘Were you firing last night?’

 

‘Yes, indeed we were,’ Deval said. ‘We had a live firing exercise.’

The police officer looked at Deval, then at us, shrugged again, said he would have to report to his superiors, and left. We heard no more about it.

After packing up we drove back to Fort Doppies to clean up and have an end-of-course party. The bar in the operational camp was colourfully decorated with captured weapons and trophies. Everything had a story behind it, even the solid oak bar. Marius Fallun, the giant with the red beard, had wandered into the South African Border Police local for a drink, during the course of which the police had boasted that their bar was the heaviest in South West Africa. Even four Recces couldn’t carry it outside. If they could, they could have it. Marius surveyed the bar. He couldn’t carry it outside on his own, but if he could pick it up could he have it? Certainly, his hosts had replied. To their astonishment he did so. It weighed over three hundred pounds. The next day Marius arrived with a truck and four other Recces. The bar was in Fort Doppies that night.

Fabes told me the story. As we drank more I felt I should repay him and decided to teach him the Irish drinking song ‘I’ve Been a Wild Rover’. Fabes loved the song, making me repeat it over and over again until he could remember every word. Its story, of an unreformed drinker, fighter and wanderer, exactly mirrored his own life. From then on he would break into song at the earliest opportunity, banging out the chorus on the bar with his big fists. As Fabes was to singing what Adolf Hitler was to race relations, not everybody was happy I taught him.

By midnight I was merrily drunk, leaning against the bar and soaking up the stories of all the other trophies. People began to drift away from me. I turned to find out why. Behind me was the former Green Beret who had been caught stashing food on the course. He ordered a drink and after a little preamble began a tirade about how badly he had been treated. I let him ramble on. Then he started to insult Deval De Beer. I told him, in quite colourful language, that he was not fit to mention the man’s name. [100]

He threw a drink over me. I suggested we step outside. He was over six foot tall and muscular and stood in a classic karate pose: feet well spread, left fist forward, right turned upwards to strike. I thought, Harry, you might have bitten off more than you can chew. The American launched a beautiful roundhouse kick to my head. It missed by a mile.

I began to walk round him, smiling, my eyes never leaving his hands. I never look at a man’s eyes, always his hands. Nobody ever hit me with their eyes. I spoke to my adversary, keeping my voice low and calm.

‘I don’t know any karate, but let me show you how we fight in Glasgow.’ Leaping up, I head-butted him, breaking his nose, and as his head came forward on the rebound I bit off the top of his ear. All thoughts of karate deserted him as he scratched my face like a demented woman. We fell to the floor and by the time we were pulled apart he was in a terrible mess.

Very little was said about the fight. Deval gave us a talking-to then sent the American off to get stitched up. I went back to the party. On his return to Durban, the American was put on admin duties and then invited to leave the unit. The only real flak I got was from one of his friends. As the party started to disperse he came up to me and pointed his rifle at my head.

 

‘I don’t like the way you fight,’ he muttered drunkenly.

 

He was ushered away by his friends. Funnily enough, and quite by accident, I shot him twice in the leg during some live contact drills six weeks later. After that I never saw him again.

We returned to Durban for a well-earned break and on my first day back I was involved in my second and last fist-fight in South Africa. The most popular programme on children’s TV there was a puppet show featuring a gigantic dragon called the Cry Monster who was continually trying to cat the other puppets. In the unit we had a man nicknamed the Cry Monster. He was a Boer to his bootstraps; brought up to believe that everything English was the work of the Devil and that the English had tried to exterminate the Boer women in concentration camps by feeding them broken glass.

All this was unknown to me, I walked into the unit’s bar for a quick beer before going home and became aware of a large head turning to observe me. [101]

‘Hey, Englishman, where have you come from?’ said a guttural, drunken voice.

Even sitting the Cry Monster looked huge. I gave him the benefit of a cold stare. ‘I’m not English, I’m a Scot.’

He stood up. it was like watching a volcano getting ready to erupt. He lumbered slowly towards me and bent down so that his face was close to mine. A finger like a large sausage poked me in the chest. ‘If I say you’re an Englishman, you’re an Englishman.’

 

I poked him back. ‘No I’m not.’

 

He hit me; a short, vicious jab just below the heart. I felt as if my chest had caved in. Desperately, I stabbed out with my right thumb, driving it into the big man’s eye. He roared with anger, throwing his head back. I punched him in the throat with my left fist. Another hammer blow hit me in my right side. I distinctly heard a rib break. My back was against the wall. A titanic blow, that would surely have removed my head, thundered into the wooden panelling, leaving a vast hole. More blows hit me as I began to slide towards the floor, punching furiously at my adversary. His body was like iron; I might as well have thrown snowballs at him. From beyond my vision I heard a shout. Everything stopped. The unit RSM stepped into sight; he was a man nobody argued with. He spoke in a low voice, first in Afrikaans. The Cry Monster stood to attention.

Then, in English, the RSM said: ‘You’re a disgrace to the unit, fighting in the NCOs’ bar. Be in my office in five minutes.’

With great difficulty, I stood to attention. We had the most intense tongue-lashing, I’ve ever had, in two languages. The fight cost me a week’s pay, and two broken ribs. Eight months later, after returning from operations, I walked into the same bar. There sat the Cry Monster. I stood beside him. From across the room a Recce asked: ‘Hey, Englishman, are you just back?’

The Cry Monster threw a huge arm round my shoulder. ‘He’s not an Englishman, he’s a Scot.’ He looked across at me. Sitting down made us almost the same height. ‘What will you drink, Jock?’

After a five-day break, we went back to the Caprivi Strip to finish our training with an eight-week tactics course. Rising at first light and finishing at 2200 we learnt and practised every skill we would need to operate in the unit. We fired thousands of rounds of live ammunition. Three members of the course were [102] shot during live firing exercises – about par for the course. The officer in charge was Lieutenant Kocky de Toit, a tall man with a lean, teak-hard body. His swarthy features were dominated by a hooked nose that gave him the appearance of a bird of prey. His opening talk showed his devotion to his chosen profession.

‘This next course will decide which of you will go forward on to operations. Soldiering is not a part-time profession. I am never off duty. When I drive my car I observe the countryside around me and think how I would cross it if there was an enemy patrolling it. When I’m walking and see a hill, I wonder how I would attack it if it was an enemy position. Within a few short weeks, those who pass this course will be in combat. After that you will come to realize that you can never let your mind become dulled. Not if you want to live and not if you want to be a Recce.’

One afternoon I was given the task of clearing out the unit’s armoury. It was a gun freak’s heaven. Explosives, ammunition and weapons of every shape and design were scattered about. I found a small pack of Australian detonators, half the size of normal ones. I kept these; I had a use for them.

The course finished with stiff written and practical examinations. We were also ‘buddy-rated’. Each man gave his fellow students a rating of between ten and zero, for as we’d lived, worked and sweated together for nearly six months it was an excellent way for the instructors to find out just what we thought of each other. I came third. One of my final tests was a TEWT, Tactical Exercise Without Troops, with Kocky de Toit. He sat in the shade of a low tree, clipboard in hand, and fired questions at me. What patrol formation would I use to cross that stream? Where would I lay an ambush on the river? What are the unit’s ambush drills? What method of initiation would I use to set off the ambush? The questions came thick and fast. Suddenly Kocky stopped and observed me over the top of his clipboard.

 

‘Why are you here, Jock?’

 

The question took me completely by surprise. I said the first thing that came into my mind. ‘I’m trying to pass this tactics course.’

Kocky smiled. ‘That’s not what I meant. Why are you in South Africa? Why are you trying to get into the Recces?’

I started to give him what had become my standard reply to such questions: South Africa was the last bastion of democracy [103] against communist aggression in Africa and I thought it was my duty to help defend it etc. Kocky listened patiently then sighed.

‘Don’t try to bullshit me, Jock. I’m going to be leading you in action very soon. What’s your real reason for being here?’

I looked him squarely in the eyes. ‘I want to fight. The British Army has spent a fortune training me, only to send me to Ulster against an enemy they won’t allow me to fight. I want to find out if I can do it for real.’

‘I thought so. It’s as good a reason as any. For me, of course, it’s different, I’m a Boer. Do you know what that means?’

 

‘Farmer.’

 

‘It means more than that. To us it means the land itself and the freedom to rule ourselves, to be our own people. Even the blacks call us the white tribe of Africa. To me that’s something worth fighting for.’

 

‘What about the blacks? Don’t they have the same rights?’

 

He grimaced. ‘Of course, Jock, only a madman could resist change for ever. But now is not the time, not with the communists pulling the ANC’s strings. If the rest of the world will just give us time we will find our own solution, an African solution.’ He paused for a second to collect his thoughts before continuing: ‘Now, Jock, you have twenty men, two 60mm mortars and three light machine-guns. Tell me how you would deploy them to attack a three-man enemy observation post on that hill . . .’

Our training was nearly finished. Of the 410 men who started only twelve remained. We were allowed the luxury of a drinking party, secure in the knowledge that there would be no training the next day. It was a marathon session where we started on beer but ended up drinking vast quantities of rum. At some time in the early hours of the morning I was called upon to partner Kocky in a game of darts. I was very drunk.

 

‘Here’s the darts, Jock.’

‘Right, boss. Where’s the throwing line?’

 

Kocky guided me to a chalked mark on the wooden floor. ‘Cot it, boss. Now where’s the board?’

‘Underneath that light, Jock.’ He pointed an outstretched arm. Seeing a dim light in the distance, I took careful aim and threw. My dart punctured the light.

The next morning we all took time to surface. When I woke [104] my head was pounding and my mouth felt like the inside of Gandhi’s left flip-flop. When we’d recovered sufficiently Kocky called us into the briefing room. He looked around our twelve bleary-eyed faces.

‘It is normal at the end of training for the Selection Course to undertake an operation.’

 

All thoughts of my hangover disappeared.

Kocky surveyed us and smiled.

‘We have one for you.’ [105]

 

 

 

 

4

OPERATIONS

 

‘Gentlemen, we are going to change history.’

 

Commandant K, from the briefing for Operation Milk Float

Our first operation, code-named First Blood, was to destroy a temporary base in Zambia belonging to SWAPO, the guerrilla group fighting for the independence of South West Africa (now Namibia). The base was a small transit camp, situated less than ten kilometres over the border. It had been recced by Lieutenant de Toit and the support group, who knew the ground well and estimated there were no more than thirty terrorists there. Like all good military operations the plan was simple. We would be lifted by helicopter to within five kilometres of our target and walk the rest of the way. South African helicopters had been deliberately flying over the area for several weeks, so their distant sound would not unduly worry the camp’s inhabitants.

Once in the area, we would split into an assault group, led by Kocky de Toit, and a fire-support group, under the command of a senior sergeant who had flown up from Durban. The assault group would be divided into two teams of six. I had command of one. Kocky would be in the centre with his radio operator. The fire-support team would lay a string of claymore mines along the side of the enemy camp, then proceed to a flanking position. They would be armed with three RPD light machine-guns, two commando mortars and an RPG rocket launcher. At H hour Kocky would fire a green flare, the mines would be detonated and the camp raked with fire for exactly thirty seconds, then switched to a secondary arc of fire on the camp’s perimeter. Anybody breaking [106] over this line would be shot. Kocky would then fire a red flare and we would advance into the killing zone, killing any enemy we encountered and driving others into the path of the waiting support machine-guns.

After months of Selection and training we were going to see action. Despite the fact that this time we were doing it for real, nothing seemed different. We rehearsed everything in minute detail: boarding the helicopter, the patrol formation to the target area, the setting up of the assault and finally the assault itself. Two hours Were given to prepare kit and test weapons for an inspection at 5 p.m. Then supper followed by an enforced rest until 10 o’clock, when a final inspection would be made. I always found sleep difficult before an operation but the idea of an enforced rest is a good one, giving each man the opportunity to relax his body, if not his mind. The three companions who shared my room spent most of the time reading the Bible. The Afrikaner soldier is a deeply religious man. They are fond of saying they fight all wars with a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other. I didn’t believe in organized religion, but on the assumption that I could be wrong, I always tried to make peace with God before a battle. I would simply ask Him to look on the good things I had done and if I had forgotten Him, to please not forget me.

At 10 a.m. the next morning we paraded. I was armed with an AK47 with a double magazine, two thirty-round mags welded together, with five thirty-round mags in my chest webbing. In addition, I carried a Beretta 9mm pistol with a fifteen-round mag, two fragmentation grenades, a white-phosphorus grenade and two red smoke grenades, food and water to last me twenty-four hours, a map, compass and kit, the fighting battle order of a combat Recce soldier. We had a final inspection; weapons were checked, each soldier jumped up and down to check for any excess noise, then we moved off on foot in single file to RV with the helicopters in open ground to the west of the camp.

Thirty minutes later the helicopters landed at our own LZ and we embarked. We flew in a circular route to the drop-off point, in case any SWAPO patrols or agents had detected our departure. Then we were out of the helicopters and in enemy territory. We fanned out into our patrol formation, in single file with two lead scouts and a flanking scout on each side. Not for the first time did [107] I marvel at the silence with which my fellow Recces moved. Most had been born and raised on farms and had been hunting since they were big enough to hold a rifle. They glided through the bush like ghosts.

We took our time reaching the target area, stopping frequently to listen. Every forty minutes we would have a five-minute stop and change our scouts. Hardly a whisper was exchanged. Two and a half hours later we reached the outskirts of the enemy camp. Even the poor tracker could begin to see the tell-tale signs of footprints in the soft sand of the surrounding bush. The countryside was mostly sparse with occasional large clumps of low trees. The enemy’s camp was in one such clump which surrounded a small water-hole.

Lieutenant de Toit deployed the assault force, making sure each man knew where the enemy was. Kocky was so cool and professional you’d have thought he was out for a stroll in the park. The fire-support group moved off. It would take them most of the night to lay their long line of claymores and if they were discovered we would have to do an immediate assault in darkness. I checked my watch: 0100, about four and a half hours until dawn. We were lying within arm’s length of each other and one man would rest for thirty minutes while his buddy kept watch. The night passed slowly. I felt a gentle shake on my shoulder. I must have dozed off. I checked my watch: 0530. The sun was just beginning to rise; a bird began to sing. I looked to my left to see Kocky getting to his feet. It was H hour.

Kocky lifted his pencil flare gun and fired a green flare. Almost immediately there was the deafening concussion of the claymores being fired. I don’t know what it did to the enemy but it shook me. For a second, I felt as if all the air had been sucked out of my lungs. Then the machine-guns opened up, and the air was filled with hundreds of speeding red bees – boy, did they sting! Smaller explosions erupted in the camp as the RPGs and mortars found their mark. it seemed to be going on for ever. Above the din I heard Kocky shouting in Afrikaaris for us to get to our feet. We stood in our assault line, all of us straining like sprinters waiting for the starter’s gun for the word to advance.

Then there was silence. It was so sudden it caught me by surprise. I heard a drawn-out, coughing whine. Although I didn’t realize what it was then, the noise was to become all too familiar to [108] me. It was the sound a dying man gives as the air escapes from his body.

 

‘Advance!’

 

I was so keen I tan forward two or three paces.

 

‘Steady there, Jock,’ Kocky shouted. I fell back into the assault line and we advanced into the killing zone.

What amazed me most was that no fire was directed at us. We simply walked in. I was aware of several running uniformed figures. I pointed my weapon at one and hesitated. After all those tours in Ulster I thought I should be giving a warning. Then the man on my right opened fire and the figure collapsed. I saw a second figure, naked to the waist, an AKS assault rifle in his hand. I fired, and cursed. I’d meant to fire two well-aimed shots but my AK was on auto. I’d hit him with about five rounds. As I went to step over him he groaned and moved. I fired again, this time a single, well-aimed shot. His face dissolved. I moved on now, firing at the fleeting targets around me. I saw a movement in a bush slightly to my right and a splash of red where no red should be. I fired two shots and a terrorist reared up, an AK47 in his hands. He was close enough for me to see the terror in his eyes. I fired twice more and he flipped over backwards and disappeared.

The sound of machine-gun fire halted me. We were at our limit of exploitation. Kocky held up his hand and we did an about-turn, moving back through the killing zone. There was the occasional shot as a wounded terrorist was dispatched. Recces seldom took prisoners unless specifically ordered to do so. Our second sweep completed, we thoroughly searched the bodies and collected all weapons and documents. Twenty-nine were accounted for in the camp and another five outside. Thirty-four, so our intelligence had been almost perfect. We booby-trapped several of the bodies with white-phosphorus grenades in the hope of catching some of the rescue party.

We did a quick head count. Everybody was there, none of us had a scratch. Kocky surveyed the carnage around us with grim satisfaction. I was so excited I could hardly breathe. He smiled down at me from his great height.

 

‘Reminds me of my first op, Jock.’

‘Really?’

 

‘Yes, there we were, four against four hundred.’ [109]

My jaw dropped open; I was hanging on his every word. Then suddenly his darkened face broke into a broad grin.

 

‘Toughest four we ever fought.’

He gave me a playful punch in the chest.

‘Got you.’

 

I burst out laughing: it was just what was needed to bring us all back to reality. After gathering all the enemy weapons that were serviceable and laying a few anti-personnel mines under the ones that were not, we moved off quickly in our patrol formation, travelling faster now it was daylight. We covered the return distance in less than half the time and treated ourselves to a quick brew before the helicopters arrived. In less than three hours after the attack began we were back in Fort Doppies.

‘Well done. You are all now members of the best special forces unit in the world and don’t ever forget that,’ Kocky roared. We gave a mighty cheer. ‘Now go get a shower. The next RV is the bar.’

This custom was to characterize all future operations I undertook. After the action, good or bad, we would adjourn to the bar and everybody would have his say over a drink. The patrol commander would write up his report and circulate a copy among the men. Anyone was then free to voice his views to the commander or go direct to the CO. To some this might seem like anarchy but it had its roots in the first Boer Commandos and generally ensured that there were no hidden grievances that could destroy the cohesion of a small fighting unit. Our first operation had been an almost textbook success. We were on a high, and it was a very merry bunch of Recces that got drunk that night. I suppose I should have realized that it couldn’t last.

For some time rumours had been circulating in the unit that a major strike was planned against SWAPO in Angola. Instead of going back to Durban after ‘First Blood’, we joined the preparations for what was to be the largest operation ever carried out by Recce Commando. The target was the main SWAPO supply base in Angola, code-named ‘Camp Moscow’. It was just ten kilometres across the South West African border. They called it Operation Yeti.

The plan was simple. Two Hercules C130 transport planes would take just about every operational member of the unit, 120 [110] in all, just to the north of the target. We would drop at night, walk the short distance to the camp and deploy and assault at first light. The camp was built in the shape of a huge vee, facing south. By attacking from the north we hoped to avoid the heavy 14.5mm and 12.5mrn anti-aircraft guns dug in for ground defence. These were formidable weapons, capable of piercing armour. Behind them it was estimated there would be about 500 terrorists. But with surprise on our side, we didn’t anticipate too many problems.

We practised for two weeks. The assault force, over a hundred strong, was to be divided into two wings. Fire support came from ten commando mortars. It was decided that they would fire the heavier South African Army sixty-millimetre mortar round instead of the Portuguese round it was designed for. This was to have disastrous consequences. After the attack 32 Battalion, a mercenary Battalion comprised mainly of ex-Portuguese commandos and paratroopers, would be flown in to cover our retreat.

As H hour drew near we made our final preparations. Each man was carrying very heavy personal ammunition and extra mortar and machine-gun rounds. As we expected to be in and out in less than six hours most of us carried only two water bottles.

After embarking at the main air base in South West Africa, the Assault Group flew north. Almost immediately things started to go wrong. Flying time should have been about an hour but two hours later we were still airborne. The pilot was hopelessly lost, in the flat, almost featureless terrain of southern Angola. Eventually, ninety minutes behind schedule, we parachuted into the night and made our RV. There had been no casualties during the drop. We set off, south.

Daylight found us still walking. We stopped to try and find our bearings but this proved impossible. It was decided to ask for a spotter plane to fly us out. Two hours later it found us and relayed our position to us. It was not good news: we were not only seventeen kilometres from the target, but on the south side, the most heavily defended quarter. Nevertheless our commander, Major B, decided to continue.

We began to walk northwards. Our meagre supply of water was no match for the oppressive heat, and stops were frequent in the face of increasing dehydration. By mid-afternoon we were beginning to detect signs of enemy activity; vehicle noises quite [111] man told his wife, and every single man his girlfriends, and forty-eight hours later half of Durban knew. We were to leave on the 17th and spend two weeks in build-up training. This was very gentle compared with what had gone before: mostly shooting, mine laying and ambush drills.

On the final day of training we had a gigantic party. We would spend the following day with our families and leave at noon the day after. At 0200 most of our group had sought the sanctuary of their sleeping bags. I found myself alone in the bar with Kocky. He suddenly looked round and asked: ‘Where have they all gone, Jock?’

 

I shrugged.

 

‘They shouldn’t have done that, Jock. Do you know why> Because, Jock, we’re not all coming back from this job.’

I laughed. ‘Well, just as long as both of us do.’ We toasted each other.

On 17 January we paraded at 0800. There was an excited buzz around the camp. We were told to draw our special kit at 0900. At the unit’s stores we were each given a three-foot oblong box. Opening it, I found four sets of uniforms: two dark green and two in Rhodesian camouflage. I turned to the man next to me and said: ‘Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to Angola.’

 

With heightened expectation we headed for the briefing room.

 

The CO surveyed our assembled ranks. ‘Men, you are going to do the job you want to do. You are going to Rhodesia to help our brothers-in-arms, the Rhodesian SAS. Never forget who you are and where you came from. You go with our hopes and blessings and take the honour of the unit with you.’ It was a stirring speech, and looking at my fellow Recces I knew it had the desired effect. On their faces I read determination, commitment and anticipation.

Our intelligence officer (we would get a detailed brief once in the country) gave us the overall picture. It was not exactly rosy. In simple terms, the Rhodesians were losing their war. No matter how fast they destroyed guerrilla groups, new ones sprang up to take their place. The Rhodesian Special Forces were strained almost to the limit and had been for some time. Our job would be to relieve them in a key area – the Gaza province of Mozambique – and disrupt the main infiltration route for Robert Mugabe’s ZANU guerrillas. The area was heavily patrolled by regular [114] FRELIMO troops (the Mozambique Liberation Front, founded in 1962 and victorious in their war against the Portuguese) who were well armed and trained by the North Koreans. The Rhodesian Army had a nickname for the area we were to work in: the ‘Russian Front’.

Flown out by Dakota (the South African Airforce would not risk a Hercules), we landed in Rhodesia some three hours later and were driven in convoy to our new home at Buffalo Range, in the Triangle Region. Our neighbours were the famed Selous Scouts, commanded by the legendary Lieutenant -Colonel Ron Read Daly. We took over our tented encampment from the departing members of the unit and had time to swap a few stories before they departed. The first news was not encouraging. Three members of the Rhodesian SAS had been killed in an accidental explosion the previous night while laying a mine. We were using the same type.

At first we laid simple pressure-detonated mines, with an anti-lift switch. The enemy countered by sweeping for these with Russian-designed, Korean-supplied mine-detectors. These gave off a high-pitched signal, similar to a sonar beep, when a mine was located. Our scientists countered this by designing a device which worked like a tuning fork. When the detector ‘beeped’ this device vibrated, setting off the mine and killing the operator. One up for US. it took a long time to train a mine-clearance operator. The FRELIMO reverted to the tried-and-tested method of prodding for the mines with long, thin metal rods. We lost several mines to the opposition in this manner. An equalizer for FRELIMO. We countered by encasing our mines with three thin sheets of polystyrene, between which were two sheets of metal wire. When the rods pierced the two sets of wire, forming a circuit, the mine exploded. The opposition lost several men before they realized what was happening. Two-one to us. No matter how well a mine was dug in, after a time there was always some sand subsidence, and FRELIMO would walk along tracks looking for these slight depressions. They became quite adept at spotting them, clearing away the sand, and if there was a mine, detonating, it. Another one for FRELIMO. To prevent them doing this we incorporated a light-sensitive electronic switch on the top of the mine which detonated it when exposed to sunlight. If things carried on like [115] this the mines would eventually jump up and chase the clearance parties.

For the present we settled in and were briefed on the area by our Rhodesian SAS colleagues. We would be working about 150-200 kilometres over the border in Gaza. This was an exceptionally arid area, and water was the main problem for extended patrolling. As ours would last for over three weeks, we were advised that each man should carry at least seven litres of water. Along with food, ammunition, spare mortar ammunition, mines, grenades, radios, cooking utensils and so on, this meant that each man was carrying in excess of eighty pounds.

Our main target, the ZANU terrorists, were held in little regard by our Rhodesian allies, but the FRELIMO regulars, especially the Z Force troops, trained in counter-insurgency by the North Koreans, were a very different matter. They would counter-attack in large numbers. These troops had killed two Recces just before Christmas 1977.

The FRELIMO X Companies operated in strengths of up to a hundred, using heavy mortar support and usually the Soviet 82mm mortar, which they man-packed. Once they were on your trail, they were difficult to shake, their main aim being to stay in loose contact and thus prevent completion of the mission: laying mines and ambushing ZANU guerrillas. If pursued, we had two alternatives: either be picked up by helicopter and redeploy or move east into a range of low hills which was excellent ambush country and FRELIMO had never followed a patrol there. If things became really bad we could count on immediate fire support from two Rhodesian Airforce Hawker Hunter jet fighters.

Casualty evacuation was a problem. The only helicopter then available to the Rhodesians was the South African-supplied, French-built Alouette. It didn’t have the range to reach our operating area without refuelling in the bush from a fuel drop made by a Dakota midway between us and the border. The Alouette would land in the bush, refuel, fly on to us, pick up the casualty, fly back ; refuel again and then return to Rhodesia. It was difficult, time-consuming and dangerous but the only way we could get our casualties out. We knew that if we took a casualty we would have to hold the position for at least two hours. Our briefings completed, we prepared for our [116] first deployment on 26 January 1978. It was my twenty-fifth birthday.

We would he in two twenty-three-man groups comprising three six-man teams and a five-man HQ element operating roughly ten kilometres apart. I was under the command of Lieutenant D. Lieutenant Kocky de Toit commanded the second group. Much to my surprise I was given command of a six-man team. This was my first combat command and I felt honoured.

The day before our insertion, I prepared my own surprise for our enemy. I’d always been fascinated by booby-traps and on my junior Infantry Course in Brecon several years before, a major who had served in the war in Oman had told me of an interesting device. I wanted to see if it worked. I took one of the Australian booby-trap detonators I had found while arranging the ammunition store back at Fort Doppies in the Caprivi Strip. I emptied a 7.62mm AK47 round and inserted the detonator into it, then tamped round it with a small amount of plastic explosive and resealed the round. The theory was simple: when the round was inserted into a rifle and fired, its .22 percussion cap would explode the detonator, which in turn would ignite the plastic explosives. I had been assured that this would have disastrous results for whoever fired the rifle.

In the early morning of the 26th, we gathered at the airfield, a short drive from our tented camp. Quite unexpectedly, a crate of beer was produced and my comrades all toasted my birthday. Then we enplaned on to a darkened Dakota and within seconds were airborne. The plane flew a zigzag pattern towards our drop zone and carried out dummy drops both before and after we jumped. At 0350 we stood up and hooked up. At 0400 precisely, we dropped into a darkened Mozambique night from a height of four hundred feet.

I was the last to jump and a sudden gust of wind separated me from my comrades. On the ground I rolled up my chute, threw my pack on my back and, carrying my chute, set off to find them. Being alone in hostile territory at night is a very unpleasant experience. Every few minutes, I would stop and listen, then give a short, low whistle, hoping my comrades would hear it and terrified that someone else might. Eventually, much to my relief, I found them. We greeted each other like we hadn’t seen each other for years instead of twenty minutes. The drop had been a complete success [117] with no casualties. We centralized and camouflaged the chutes, moved off a short distance and laid up for the remainder of the night. At first light we stood-to for ten minutes, had breakfast and began to patrol towards the Beira railway line.

Our days rapidly fell into a well-organized routine. One hour before last light we would dog-leg so that we would lie facing our tracks, able to ambush any terrorist group that followed them. Then we would set up camp, have our evening meal and settle in for the night. Movement at night was impossible as a large body of men made too much noise and the risk of ambush was too great. In the morning, after standing-to, we would move off for about half an hour and then have breakfast. We’d then patrol until 1300, when the heat made any movement almost unendurable. We would dog-leg again and lie up until it was cool enough to continue to patrol, usually about 1700, then move off again until just before last light.

Three days after our drop we hit the railway line. It was a single track with a hard sand road on either side. A steep embankment, about three feet high, bordered the bush on either side of the track. We crossed, stepping on sleeping bags so that footprints wouldn’t betray our presence. We reorganized into our fighting formation on the other side. Lieutenant D decided to go on a short recce. Dropping his pack, he took his binoculars and made his way up the embankment for a quick sweep up and down the track. He was back in seconds.

‘There’s a civvy coming down the track. We’ll grab him and ask whether there are any terrs in the area.’

Immediately Fabes volunteered for the job. He stripped off his equipment and produced a wicked-looking fighting knife. Corporal Taffy P (Taffy was a nickname given to blasters in South African gold mines) went with him, armed with an AK47 to provide close cover. The rest of us waited in the bush. In the few seconds before our victim appeared, we crouched like schoolchildren playing a prank. All around me I could see eager, grinning faces and I felt an almost overwhelming desire to burst out laughing.

Down the track came a man in dark-green uniform, a longbarrelled AK47 resting on his shoulder. Behind him was a second uniformed figure with an RPG rocket launcher. The smiles vanished from our faces. In one movement twenty-one weapons came [118] to bear on the two men. In front of us Fabes, unaware of his danger, gathered himself to spring. He raised himself, saw his quarry was armed, and threw himself flat. The men swung towards the movement. Taffy engaged both of them at close quarters. In a rush the rest of the group swarmed on to the embankment to support our friends. We’d been lucky there were only two. Taffy had shot both to doll rags, but if they had been scouts for a larger group we might very well have taken casualties. We had learnt a valuable lesson.

The RPG, a much-prized weapon, had been holed and was therefore useless. We booby-trapped it by digging a small hole in the ground and inserting a phosphorus grenade. We then laid the damaged RPG on top of the grenade and pulled the pin. The weight of the rocket launcher held the ignition lever down and we camouflaged the area with twigs and leaves. This booby-trap killed a FRELIMO engineer who foolishly picked up the damaged launcher. The AK47 was still serviceable, so we seized it. Its magazine had been holed by two of Taffy’s rounds. Before we withdrew I inserted my booby-trapped 7.62 round into the damaged magazine and discarded it. I hoped the FRELIMO clearance team would find it. They were always short of ammunition and I hoped they would empty the damaged magazine of its ammunition and insert it into another weapon. Late that evening we made comms with our base and told of our first contact.

Kocky’s group had also had a contact. They had been doglegging into their morning LUP when a FRELIMO patrol had bumped into them. In the battle eight FRELIMO soldiers had been killed and they lost a member of their patrol, Corporal Manny Ganou, an ex-Portuguese Commando and my next-door neighbour in Durban. He had been one of my instructors during Selection and had shown me many kindnesses since. His loss had a quieting effect on us all.

For the next three weeks we rampaged over our little patch of Mozambique, laying mines and ambushes, and on one occasion we drew our enemy into our killing zone by detonating a small explosive device. Some ten minutes later several locals drove a herd of cattle along the railway line across our front. Suspicious about the explosion, the enemy wanted to use them as bait for an ambush. We held our fire and waited. To my right I heard voices. [119]

Several armed men appeared and checked the building into which we had thrown the device. Still we waited, wanting to draw as many as possible into the killing area.

Then I heard a sound I had never heard before: a high-pitched squeaking. Slowly along the track came a hand-propelled trolley, just like the ones in Westerns, with two men pumping its double handle. Seated on top of a pile of mealy bags was a FRELIMO officer and walking along behind him was a line of armed men. I raised my AK47. just as the ambush was to be initiated the officer turned and looked directly into my eyes. He knew he was about to die. Fear, surprise and horror registered on his face as I opened fire. The group opened up with everything we had. There were no survivors. The man I shot was a local FRELIMO paymaster carrying a satchel stuffed with 30,000 Mozambique escudos. We were rich. We talked about how we would spend our windfall. The discussions proved purely academic. We were met at the airfield on our return by an officer from Rhodesian Intelligence who’d heard through radio intercepts that we had killed the paymaster.

‘I believe you were lucky enough to have intercepted a paymaster.’ His voice was upper-class English. ‘Would you be so good as to hand it over? I have the necessary written orders from your OC.’ He handed us a typed sheet of paper and we surrendered the money.

‘This will help to pay some of our informers inside Mozambique. Thank you very much.’

C’est la guerre, I thought, and found out later that 30,000 Mozambique escudos were worth a little under £500. Tax exile would have to wait. We were debriefed by Major B, who listened intently as we described our first operation and then stood to address us.

‘Well done. On your first mission, both the enemy and I have been impressed.’

 

‘The enemy?’ Lieutenant D enquired.

 

‘From our radio intercepts we have discovered that FRELIMO are aware that some new formation is working in Gaza province. They intend to counter with the best they have.’

 

‘X Companies?’

 

‘Exactly. This is going to get a lot tougher in the coming months. Don’t get complacent.’ [120]

We had two days to rest up, then were reinserted, this time by helicopter, to lay another ambush on the Beira line. Waiting in an ambush is a nerve-racking time for any soldier. Unable to move, you are afraid your very breathing will be heard by the enemy. When they do arrive your heart beats so loud and fast, you wonder why they can’t hear it. You never stare at the enemy, fearing that to do so may draw his eyes to yours. Then, mayhem. The terror on the enemy faces before they die. In seconds it’s over. You search their bodies, destroy their weapons and booby-trap the area. It becomes almost routine. After the initial elation, a wave of bone-deep weariness floods over you as the adrenalin eats up your reserves of energy. The overwhelming emotion that lingers in my memory of that time is tiredness – tiredness and fear. Fear is a good emotion to cultivate; it keeps you alert. Without it few survive.

We did not have long to wait in our ambush position, less than an hour, then a party of ZANU terrorists walked into it. We could hear them coming a mile off, laughing and joking with each other as if they were on a Sunday afternoon stroll. We killed seven of them in the opening burst and two others who ran into one of our cut-offs. As we were clearing the ambush site we came under long-range mortar fire and withdrew for a pick-up.

Insertions became almost routine and our successes mounted. There was only one worrying development. We had been followed twice by FRELIMO Regulars. In one case, we had been lying in the blistering heat of the afternoon. I had just made a brew and was reaching for it when I quite clearly heard the sound of a mortar bomb being slid down a tube and fired. I froze, staring directly into the eyes of the man opposite me. The enemy was very, very close. The bomb was in the air and we didn’t know if it would come down on top of us. Those few brief seconds, as we waited for it to land and explode, seemed to stretch into hours. I became aware of the minutest detail: a drop of sweat on the lip of the man opposite me; his dark-brown eyes wide with fear and anticipation; the slow, lazy curl of the steam from my tea; my own heart banging against my chest. The bomb exploded harmlessly in the bush at least fifty metres from us. In seconds, we had packed up and slipped quietly away.

 

It seemed only a matter of time before we hit a major contact [121] with these well-trained soldiers, especially as we were planning for an extended period in the field. The group was to be split into three groups, two of ten men and a larger one of twenty-four. The smaller groups were to lay mines over a large system of tracks that ZANU and FRELIMO were using instead of the road which ran alongside the Beira line. The twenty-four-man group, under Kocky, was to carry out aggressive ambushes and patrol to our south, hopefully drawing all the FRELIMO attention and giving us a relatively free hand to lay our mines.

 

The mine-laying parties were commanded by two senior sergeants, Danny V and Louis K. Danny, who was in charge of my group, was a thickset, dour man who’d been a professional soldier since he was eighteen. If you got more than three words out of him in a day, you thought he was making a speech. Louis was exactly the opposite. He was as thin as a rake, with an amazingly long, drooping moustache. He could have played Dickens’s Fagin to a tee, but his looks were deceptive. He was exceptionally aggressive and a natural killer.

We were again inserted by two helicopters, the pilots undertaking various dummy landings in the hope of confusing both the locals and FRELIMO. We moved to a safe distance from our landing site and began laying mines that night. The next afternoon we heard the sound of heavy firing about a kilometre to our south in Louis’ patrol area. We set up our radio and made comms with base, telling them that we thought our other mine-laying group had hit a contact. They tried to contact them; all they got was silence. We feared the worst, then I heard a faint crackle on the radio net and tuned in.

 

‘Hello, Alpha 2, this is Alpha 1, can you receive me? Over.

 

There was a distorted, garbled reply that I could hardly understand and almost immediately the signaller at base tried to cut in.

 

‘Alpha 2, this is Base, come in. Over. . .’

 

‘Base, this is Alpha 1. Don’t interrupt, Alpha 2 has a damaged set. I’m going to try and relay . . .’

‘Alpha 2, don’t try and speak, just depress your switch – one for yes, twice for no. Understand?’ I waited breathlessly for the reply.

 

‘Click.’

 

Relief flooded through me. ‘Good, I roger your yes. Have you hit a contact?’ [122]

 

‘Click.’

‘Roger your yes. Have you casualties?’

‘Click.’

‘Roger your yes. Is your set damaged?’

‘Click.’

‘Roger that. Are you still in contact with the enemy?’

‘Click, click.’

 

‘Roger your no.’ I thought quickly back to our briefing. After the drop-off Louis was to move north, laying mines as he went. We’d moved nearly ten kilometres during the time we had been inserted.

 

‘Alpha 2, have you moved north from your drop-off point?’

‘Click.’

‘Roger that, Alpha 2. Have you moved more than ten Ks?’

‘Click, click.’

 

‘Roger your no, Alpha 2. I’m going to arrange a pick-up, wait out to you. Hello, Base, this is Alpha 1. Alpha 2 has had a contact, has casualties and requires immediate extraction. He’s less than ten Ks north of his original pick-up.’

‘Roger, Alpha 1, we’re already on our way. Tell Alpha 2 to throw red smoke when he hears the ‘copter. Over.’

‘Roger, Base, out to you. Alpha 2 from Base, throw red smoke when you hear the ‘copter. Over.’

 

‘Click.’

 

‘Roger your yes, Alpha 2. We’ll stay on listening watch until you’re picked up. Out.’

I put down the handset with a sigh. I looked across at Danny V, who’d been listening intently. His mouth pursed and then he nodded.

 

‘That was very well done, Jock.’ A speech indeed.

 

Louis’ group was picked up four hours later. We later found that a FRELIMO group had followed them up. Louis had detonated the defence claymores and opened fire, killing at least five of the attackers. His group had then come under sustained machine-gun fire, the first burst hitting the radio operator and damaging his radio. Louis had extracted his force under heavy fire and inflicted more casualties, finally laying down several banks of claymores to discourage any follow-up. His radio handset had been badly damaged, forcing him to make comms by holding two pieces of [123] wire together. Louis was later awarded the Honour Cross in silver for his bravery during this action.

Our mission was now of even more importance and for the next three weeks we laid mines with renewed intensity, getting resupplied by airdrop when necessary. To our south, Kocky’s group was hitting contact after contact, drawing FRELIMO to them like iron filings to a magnet. On our twenty-second night in the bush we heard the worst possible news. I was making comms at last light when I received a flash message to stand by for a signal in code. I got the code book out and recorded the letters and figures but as I deciphered it tears started to well up in my eyes. It read simply: ‘Sunray call sign one is dead.’ Our sister group had been lying up at midday when an X Company of some 100 FRELIMO Regulars had followed them. The sentry had spotted their lead scouts and detonated the defence claymores. Kocky marshalled his forces for a sweep through the contact area. An undetected, wounded man shot and killed him as he led his men forward. The group had then come under sustained close-range fire but had fought their way out using mini-claymores to give themselves some breathing space.

The loss of Kocky was a hammer blow. He was liked and respected; his humour; and love of life had touched each of us. He was the best officer I’d served with in any army.

We were told to await a second message. A few minutes later it came: at first light move deep into the bush and await pick-up helicopter. We assumed that because of the loss of Kocky they were taking us out for a rest, to rebuild our morale. We were wrong.

After landing back at Buffalo Range we were given an hour to wash and change before being called into the main briefing tent. We received a rundown on the other patrol’s activities. Whereas we’d been in and out of the field regularly, they’d spent two long periods in the field with a large break between them. They’d lost Manny Ganou on the first insertion and on their second they’d been harried continually by a strong and persistent X Company before Kocky was nailed too. This much we knew or had guessed. When the helicopter had come in to retrieve Kocky’s body, three members of my Selection had got on to it and, despite pleas from the group’s second in command, resigned in the field. The redoubtable Major B told us that we were all volunteers and could resign when we liked, [124] but there was a time and place for everything. If any of us had the slightest doubt that we could continue to serve as Special Forces soldiers, now was the chance to say something. Nobody moved or spoke. Major B nodded, and carried on with our debrief.

We were back in action within days. For the next four months we harried the ZANU guerrillas mercilessly. We all collected trophies of one kind or another. I still have a plain silver arm band from the first man I killed in Mozambique. Others took more personal trophies. One, Jan, cut the ear off his first kill and kept it in a leather pouch round his neck. On a break from operations he joined me at the breakfast table. He was sandy-haired, and with clear, baby-blue eyes and the sort of boyish good looks that drew many an admiring glance from passing females in Durban.

 

‘Morning, Jan.’

 

‘Morning, Jock.’ He began to write furiously on a typed sheet of paper.

 

‘What’s that, Jan?’

He looked up. ‘My resignation.’

 

I was taken aback. Jan was a well-respected member of the unit.

 

‘Why are you leaving?’

 

‘I’m thinking of getting married. This is no life for a married man.’

I had to agree. I’d hardly seen my wife since my arrival and my kids were calling me Uncle Daddy.

 

‘What are you going to do in civilian life?’

‘Become a preacher.’

 

That really shocked me. I looked at the leather bag. ‘What are you going to do with the ear?’

 

He looked down. ‘Oh, I’m going to keep that.’

 

True to his word, he left the unit after the tour to become a preacher. I wondered what his congregation would say if they knew what he kept in the leather pouch around his neck.

My booby-trapped round proved a success: radio intercepts confirmed a ZANU terrorist dead in the area from an exploding rifle. I used the same trick three times in all. The ZANU terrorists were as bad as the Rhodesians had told us. Often when in a contact they would throw their weapons over their shoulder and fire backwards as they were running away. One Recce wit [125] remarked that it wasn’t the bullet with his name on he was scared of, but the one addressed ‘to whom it may concern’.

Losing Kocky de Toit made us a little mad. We’d always booby-trapped the bodies of our kills. The opposition had become very adept at finding the grenades and anti-personnel mines we left for them. After one ambush in which we killed six ZANU guerrillas, we decided on a new ploy. We cut off the head of one of the dead and planted it in the soft sand. It looked like the man had been buried alive. Next we wrote messages in the sand: ‘Death Commandos, Strike!’ and so on. We booby-trapped the remaining bodies as usual, with one added refinement: we buried a vehicle mine under the corpse of the beheaded terrorist. The trick worked to perfection. The FRELIMO engineers, clearing the ambush site, found all the anti-personnel booby-traps, but completely missed the vehicle mine until they loaded the dead terrorists on to a truck and drove straight over it.

Towards the end of the tour we hit a contact on the railway line, just south of Mapai. Having stumbled across six armed terrorists we downed four very quickly; the other two ran for their lives. I suppose we were getting a little overconfident; we chased them and ran straight into a larger group. I exchanged shots with a shadowy figure some thirty metres in front of me and failed to see a nearer man. He fired from less than three metres. As he did so I spotted him and hit him twice in the chest. He rolled on to his back screaming. I tried to move and found I couldn’t. Looking down, I saw blood seeping from my thigh. My first reaction was blind anger. Putting my AK47 on auto, I emptied half a mag into the man responsible and then hopped to a nearby thorn tree. Using it for support, I began to move my leg backwards and forwards. I had been lucky, the bullet just went through the muscle. It was painful and messy but it would still hold my weight.

I ran to the officer in charge of us, a newly arrived captain from Durban. ‘I’ve been hit, boss, I’ve been hit.’

He looked more scared than me. ‘Fuck off, Jock, don’t be stupid.’

I pointed down at my thigh, now oozing thick, dark-red blood. ‘I’m not kidding.’

‘Get across the railway line. We’ll cover you.’ He raised his voice. ‘Jock’s been hit. Give him cover.’ [126]

The firing around me intensified as I hobbled to the relative safety of the opposite side of the track. I was given some very quick first aid, but we were still in contact so had to move out fast. I spent the next two days running with a hole in my thigh, unable to get a casevac because of the constant attention of an X Company. Finally two Hunters were brought in with an air strike to cover my escape. As the helicopter took off with me aboard I saw mortar bombs raining on my friends below. I felt like a deserter.

I was out of action for three weeks and returned in time for what was supposed to have been our grand finale. Operation Hammer was an assault on a concentration of guerrillas just south of the main Mozambique town of Mapai. We would provide a stopping group for an assault force from the crack Rhodesian 2nd Commando Light Infantry.

We went in using Alouette helicopters, behind two Hawker Hunter jets carrying 1000lb bombs. In front of these was a Canberra bomber carrying 500lb bombs. The Canberra dropped its load, the six explosions throwing a wave of destruction in front of us, then the two Hawker Hunters loosed theirs. Our small helicopters bucked and reared. As the dust began to settle, we landed and a Dakota flew overhead dropping 2 Commando.

War sometimes has a compelling, if awful, beauty. At such moments the sheer joy of being part of all of this was almost overwhelming.

Our main priority was to act as stopper groups for 2 Commando, who would flush the enemy in the camp into our killing embrace. My group was commanded by a particularly aggressive Afrikaner sergeant, Davie K. We were no sooner on the ground than he spotted movement to our front.

 

‘Terrs, Jock. Follow me.’

 

I raced after him, along the small path we had to prevent the enemy from using. We left our machine-gunner and his number two behind to cover us. The bush was almost clear up to the edge of the enemy camp. Suddenly, in the tree line, I saw movement. Davie saw it too. His R4 rifle came up in a fluid, sweeping movement and he opened fire. I dropped to one knee and fired twice at the black figure outlined against the trees’ lighter green. It fell, and almost immediately I saw a shock of blond hair. [127] jumping up I pulled Davie’s arm down as he was about to deliver a killing burst.

 

‘Don’t. I think he’s one of ours.’

 

A burst of heavy automatic fire split the earth next to me. We both dived for cover. In front of us we could hear English voices calling to each other. I rolled over and made contact with a helicopter flying overhead and with his aid I managed to make comms with the group in front of us. Warily we approached each other. They were Rhodesian engineers who’d been set down right smack in the middle of the camp by mistake. The man I’d shot was an American, tall and lean, his blackened face contorted with pain. Both my shots had hit him, one through the side, the other through his elbow. He held his ruined arm as the helicopter landed to casevac him. I felt awful.

 

‘I’m sorry.’ Even to me it didn’t sound adequate.

 

The American’s pained features broke into a grin. ‘It wasn’t your fault, buddy. We were in the wrong place.’

His arm might never be the same again. ‘That’s a heavy price to pay for being dropped in the wrong place.’

He patted my shoulder with his good hand. ‘Fortunes of war, buddy. Fortunes of war.’ He stepped on to the helicopter and threw us all a final thumbs up before being taken away. We resumed our cut-off position. Although 2 Commando were in the centre of the camp, we could hear only sporadic single shots, not the full-scale battle we’d expected.

In fact, although technically superb, Operation Hammer had been a fiasco. The hundreds of guerrillas who were in the location just two days before had moved on. In all, only ten were killed, leading some to describe it as the ‘Six Million Dollar Cock-Up’.

Our tour had come to an end. In five months we had totally disrupted the enemy supply routes into southern Rhodesia and in doing so saved many settlers’ lives. Although we had lost two valuable members of the unit, we had killed 154 enemy by body count, with another twenty-five confirmed by radio intercept. This in what was regarded by all as the most difficult theatre of operations in Africa. We had faced the Russian Front and come out of it intact. We were replaced by 5 Recce Commando. Our Rhodesian SAS comrades, among the finest soldiers I ever saw, showed us their gratitude; they couldn’t give us medals but each [128] of us was presented with an official Rhodesian SAS plaque. Mine still hangs above my head as I write.

Back in Durban we received a hero’s welcome from the unit’s senior officers and three weeks’ leave, during which I had an unexpected visit from a major in the unit. A new commando was being formed, specializing in seaborne operations. They needed junior NCOs. Was I interested? My initial reaction was guarded, for I was not a strong swimmer. The major played his trump card. There were some spectacular operations being planned, larger and more important than anything yet attempted by Recce Commando. He would not be drawn further, but I was intrigued enough to agree to join the new commando.

4 Recce Commando were to be based at Saldanha Bay, just outside Fredenburg, in Cape Province. In order to join the unit, I was chosen to crew the unit yacht, the Compass Rose, from Durban to our new base in the Cape. We sailed out of Durban on a calm, warm night. It did not last long: barely eight hours out of Durban we were hit from our stern by a force eight gale. The waves around us became a heaving mass, gigantic foaming monsters that seemed intent on smashing us to pieces.

There is something infinitely terrifying about being in a small boat at night in a storm. Looking astern you saw each angry wave as it thundered towards you, and wondered how your tiny craft would survive its impact. One second you would be in a deep trough, looking up at a wall of water, the next high up on its crest, being tossed like some hidden giant’s plaything. To make things infinitely worse, I was suffering badly from seasickness. Of this there are two stages: when you are scared you are going to die, and when you are scared you are not going to. Sleep was impossible off watch and even rest had its perils. Stumbling into a narrow bunk, wet through to the skin, I tried to turn on to my side, my turning coincided with a particularly violent lurch of the boat that threw me halfway across the small rest room. On watch I always tied myself to the boat, terrified that I would be thrown into the sea, as I knew that to fall overboard in such circumstances would almost certainly prove fatal.

As we neared East London the weather suddenly changed; the sea became as flat and tranquil as an English village pond. Approaching the harbour, we enjoyed the company of a school [129] of dolphins. With a full moon reflecting off the water and phosphorescence cascading from their bodies, they seemed encased in sheets of silver. For a time these beautiful creatures played chicken with the bow of the yacht, whistling to us all the while. It was one of those moments that are forever etched in the mind.

Saldanha Bay, an old abandoned whaling station situated on an island, was an excellent base for a seaborne commando. We had security and privacy to train and prepare for our forthcoming operations. All new members took a diving course, then small-boat training. Finally the entire commando set about finalizing the unit’s drills, from landing raiding parties to contacts both on shore and at sea. Within four months we were a tightly knit fighting unit which owed much to the charismatic leadership of Commandant K, the unit’s CO. He was well over six foot, thin and slightly stooping, with ginger hair and a magnificent full beard. He’d served on attachment with the Israeli Seaborne Commandos, and the development of 4 Recce owed much to that experience. He combined good leadership with a dry, caustic humour. His driving ambition was to create a seaborne commando to rival any in the world, and in pursuit of that ambition he was entirely ruthless.

As in all small units rumours about impending jobs were almost constant. We had all noted the attachment to the unit of a certain English-born lieutenant from the South African Navy, who spoke English with no trace of an accent. He was frequently absent for periods of two to three weeks, and it was obvious he was engaged in reconnaissance but where and against whom we didn’t know.

As 1978 drew to a close, I was one of fifteen members of 4 Recce called into the unit’s briefing room. On the large blackboard was written the legend ‘Operation Milk Float’. Commandant K glanced around at our expectant faces and announced: ‘Gentlemen, we are going to change history.’

The government in Pretoria were extremely worried that Robert Mugabe’s ZANU guerrillas would seize power, installing a black, hostile, Marxist state on its western border. This would give the ANC, at that time perceived as a tool of Moscow, a safe base from which to train and launch attacks against South Africa itself.

Pretoria’s options were limited. Direct military intervention was out of the question: it would alienate the few friends the government still had in the world, most notable of whom was [130] Britain, who had steadfastly resisted the international call for sanctions. Covert support by our own Recce Commando had helped, but increasing casualties had resulted in our unit being withdrawn towards the end of 1978.

On the ground in Rhodesia the military situation was bleak. Magnificent though it was, the army was tired and overstretched. There seemed no way to stem the flood of ZANU guerrillas infiltrating the country. Whites were leaving in a steadily increasing flow, further draining both resources and morale. It was against this backdrop that Operation Milk Float was conceived: a strike at the very heart of the black opposition. There were to be three stages. First, the assassination of Robert Mugabe, who was living in exile in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Second, the assassination of Joshua Nkomo, the leader of ZIPRA, the smaller Matabele tribe of Rhodesia. Nkomo was a hated figure following the downing of a Rhodesian civilian aircraft and the machine-gunning of the survivors by his terrorists. Third, the destruction of the Mozambique oil terminal at Beira, thereby crippling the economy of the poverty-stricken front-line state. If everything went to plan, there could eventually be all-race elections, in which a moderate black government could be installed.

The operation was breathtaking in its scope and audacity. To undertake phase one, 4 Recce Commando would insert an eight-man raiding force of Rhodesian SAS inside the harbour at Maputo. This was the deepest infiltration ever attempted in the Rhodesian war. Recce Commando would have the responsibility for transport in and out of the harbour, and the assassination would be carried out by the Rhodesians. Even so, we risked the real chance of capture as the South African Navy had orders to abandon us rather than risk a confrontation with Mozambican forces. Our cover story, in case of capture, would be that we were attempting to kill Mugabe for a $250,000 bounty deposited in a South African bank as the operation was officially ‘deniable’. The cover story was a half-hearted affair to which none of us paid that much attention. if we were caught the very least we could hope for was a life sentence in a Mozambican jail but more likely execution. We all decided that come what may, we were not going to be captured.

 

Despite the deniable status of the operation, we were told that [131] it had been sanctioned at the very highest level. Any resources we thought necessary would be put at our disposal. We were to begin preparations for a deployment in six weeks, early January 1979.

 

Getting to the mouth of Maputo harbour was not a problem as we had the South African Navy at our disposal. To deploy the large raiding force from a mother ship in neutral waters on to a hostile shore, our first thoughts were to use a submarine, but getting from sub to shore was something else. The largest inflatable boat we had at that time was the French-built Mark 11 Zodiac, which could carry a maximum of five. In addition, we wanted some kind of protection in case we ran into a patrol boat. Within four days we had been supplied with the much larger Mark IV Zodiac, capable of transporting twelve, to which we fitted twin fifty-horsepower Sea Horse outboard motors linked to a simple console by which the coxswain could control the speed with two throttles and steer with a small wheel. Next to him sat the navigator and commander armed with an RPG rocket launcher. In the front an RPD light machine-gun was mounted on a bolted swivel mount, to give immediate fire support. The raiding party sat, back to back, facing outwards, on a low double seat running fore and aft. It took less than six weeks from conception to get the boats in the water.

The raiding party of Rhodesian SAS came down to practise with us in late January. We believed that only one Zodiac would be needed, but our first attempt, made from a submarine, was a fiasco: in heavy seas the Zodiac’s floor buckled under the weight of troops and their equipment, after moving only a few hundred metres from the mother boat. With red faces, we paddled our way back, unable to use the engines in case we were swamped.

We rethought our initial plan. A submarine’s deck was too cramped for us to assemble more than one Zodiac and we realized we would need at least one other boat. We decided to use one of the navy’s fast patrol boats. These provided an excellent platform to work from and were extremely fast and well armed. The major drawback was that we would have to deploy farther out to sea, to ensure we were not spotted from the shore. Our first trial was highly successful.

In the meantime the Rhodesian SAS raiding party had had second thoughts about their strength. They wanted to increase [132] it to twelve men, which meant using three boats. We tried to assemble three Zodiacs on the patrol boat but in the limited space available and with the time restrictions imposed we would have only an hour in which to assemble and launch. We soon found it could not be done from a single boat and decided to use two: one third of the entire South African Navy’s combat strength.

Our group would be under the command of Commandant K. Lieutenant Taffy P commanded our boat. He was not the Taffy P I’d served with earlier, but a roguish Recce officer who had risen rapidly through the ranks. He was about five foot ten inches tall, with a stocky, muscular frame, and his craggy features were hidden behind an unkempt full beard. Taffy’s sense of humour was renowned. He loved a joke even if it was at his own expense. At the very first briefing he spoke earnestly to me.

‘Timing is going to be all-important, Jock. I’ve even bought a new watch.’

 

He thrust a chunky, shiny watch in my face.

‘It’s a Rolex, best timekeeping watch in the world.’

 

I nodded seriously. ‘Friend of mine had one of those – dustproof, shockproof and waterproof.’

 

‘Yes, they’re great watches.’

I nodded and smiled. ‘Not really. His caught fire.’

 

Taffy paused, got the joke, burst into a bout of uncontrollable laughter and ran off to tell it to someone else before I had a chance to.

The raiding party was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Graham W of the Rhodesian SAS. The most highly decorated soldier in the Rhodesian Army, he was one of only two awarded the Rhodesian Grand Cross of Valour. He looked more like a schoolteacher – tall, slim and slightly bent over, and never without his dark-rimmed spectacles – than one of the finest fighting men Africa ever produced.

By mid-February we were ready to go. We were told the Rhodesian CIA had infiltrated several agents into the Maputo area. They would contact us directly by radio to inform us if the target was in. There was an added twist: we would be taking a TT, a turned terrorist. He believed his job was to act as a front man in case the raiding party encountered any patrols or civilians. In reality the Rhodesians intended to kill him and dump his body [133] at the scene. On it would be incriminating documents, implicating in his assassination Mugabe’s military chief of staff, the legendary guerrilla fighter Tongerrera. Commandant K briefed us on this new twist.

‘It’s important that the TT at no time realizes that he is expendable, for obvious reasons. The Rhodesian who is to kill him has instructions never to let him out of his sight. Are there any questions?’

‘I don’t like the idea of this man being armed. If he realizes what’s in store for him, he may try to take some of us out,’ I said.

‘The Rhodesians have thought of that. The AK he’s carrying has been specially doctored so it can’t be fired. It will be swapped when the body’s left for another untraceable weapon.’

‘Canned goods,’ I murmured, more to myself than to anybody in particular.

 

‘What’s that, Jock?’

 

‘Canned goods, sir. That’s what the Nazis called dead Poles they dumped over the German border to give them an excuse to invade Poland. It started the Second World War.’

Commandant K scratched his head. ‘Yes. I remember the story. This is a little different as he’s a convicted terrorist. Don’t think of him as canned goods, more as a disposable item.’

Because of the sensitivity of the operation the Rhodesians were under strict instructions that, no matter what the outcome of the job, the TT was not to return. When he stepped on to the fast patrol boat he was a dead man. He had been captured after a raid in which a white family had been massacred. He should, and would have been, sentenced to death. He thought that by agreeing to accompany the Rhodesians he would win a reprieve. All he had was a stay of execution.

On a bright, sunny afternoon two days later we embarked on the fast patrol boats from Saldanha Bay. It would take us a day to get to our destination. A large, fair-haired Rhodesian called Jake, designated to kill the TT, never left his side and often laughed and joked with him throughout our journey. Most of the time he would sit, an arm cradled around the unfortunate man’s shoulder, the other hand always within easy reach of a specially adapted AK47 with an extended silencer: the chosen instrument of the man’s death. Once, while his charge went to the toilet and he [134] was briefly alone with the rest of us, he glanced around and gave a broad smile. I want him to trust me, he explained. There is something perverse about watching a man cat, rest and laugh when you know he is going to die. Yet I could feel no real pity. He had chosen to play a big boys’ game, first taking up arms and then turning on his own kind. Big boys’ games are played by big boys’ rules.

In the late evening of the following day we rode at anchor just over the horizon from Maputo, waiting for the radio message from the Rhodesian agents on shore. Taffy P gave us our final briefing. ‘When the raiding party come back they’ll probably have half the Mozambique Army chasing them, firing everything that can kill. There is a good chance we will have to go ashore under fire to evacuate the raiding party. We run the risk of losing men, and maybe even a boat, but I know each of you, and I know that I can depend on you.’ At 1800 precisely we heard our target was at home.

As night fell the patrol boats took us as close inshore as they dared, about five kilometres from the Maputo harbour beach. Working with the precision that spoke of long hours of practice we began to assemble our raiding boats. Thankfully the sea was quite calm and within forty-five minutes, a new record for us, we had the inflatables ready. Then we launched. The sea was as flat as a pool table, the sky as black as a widow’s shawl. Our muffled engines hardly disturbed the silence as we sped towards the coastline. My boat was in the lead, and behind me and slightly to my right and left were the two other boats in a loose arrowhead formation, their camouflaged sides almost impossible to see in the darkness. Only the occasional splash of white, as water cascaded over their bows, betrayed their presence.

The mysterious, English-speaking lieutenant who had been attached to the unit had recced the harbour by joining a legitimate cargo ship as its first officer. From him we learnt that both machine-guns and cannon emplacements were at the harbour mouth and that the harbour itself was patrolled by thirty-foot armoured launches with .50-calibre machine-guns. Their standard of alertness was assessed as ‘poor’, but we were going to have an interesting time if we ran into one of them. Alert or not, a .50-calibre machine-gun would chew one of our boats to bits [135] just before 2100 we slid to a halt about a hundred metres from the beach.

Maputo was well lit but strangely quiet for a capital city. We checked the beach with our starlight night ‘scopes. It looked like Brighton on a warm summer’s night. Satisfied there was no immediate danger, we paddled to the shore. As we neared the beach the sound of the waves softly breaking on the sand was mixed with the sound of faint music; someone was playing a radio not far away. There was a soft bump as the Zodiac’s hull g rated on to the sand. I swung the RDP light machine-gun round in an arc, searching the night for any danger. Behind me I heard a soft rustling, then, like phantoms, the raiding party slipped ashore. We waited until they were out of sight, ready to give fire support should they hit a contact, then, satisfied they were safely on their way, we paddled back out a hundred metres to wait for them.

This was the most dangerous time for us, for we had to stay reasonably close to the shore in case our comrades needed to make a fighting retreat after the assassination. Our three light machine-guns and RPG rocket launchers could provide vital close-range support. But we were vulnerable. A single, well-placed round would put a boat out of action. Sitting in the quiet darkness, I steeled myself for the action that must surely come.

As well as the evacuation, there was also the danger from the Mozambican Navy. If a patrol boat caught us with our backs to the well-lit beach and blocked our escape to the open sea, it would be good night Irene for all of us. Our only hope lay in remaining undetected.

The minutes slipped slowly by. The night was warm and pleasant, and you had to keep reminding yourself that you were on a dangerous mission. Voices. Along the beach, in extended line, clearly etched against the harbour lights, an army patrol appeared. I counted them as I covered them with the RPD: five, six, seven, eight. I could see their faces clearly and noted their weapons: six AK47s, one RPG and a light machine-gun. They stopped just in front of our position, and the sound of their laughter floated across the sea to us. Sweat rolled down the back of my neck. One man, probably the commander, was talking into a radio in Portuguese. Was this just a routine patrol or had somebody seen something and reported it to the local militia? For what seemed like eternity, [136] they stood in a loose group in front of us. Surely one of them must spot us? Then, with agonizing slowness, they moved off. I realized I had been holding my breath and let out a sigh of relief.

Staff Sergeant B, my boat commander, moved down the length of the Zodiac to join me.

‘Do you think they saw anything, Jock?’ he breathed into my ear.

 

I shook my head.

 

‘Keep alert. I think somebody may have seen the raiding party get ashore. We may get a patrol boat next. Remember, don’t fire unless you’re absolutely sure you’ve been spotted.’

I nodded again, and checked my watch. It was 2200. The raiding party should be on their target by now. At any moment, I expected to hear the sound of firing as they attacked. If there was a patrol boat out there, it might very well come closer inshore to investigate the noise. Suddenly my heart lurched inside my chest. From behind and to my left I heard the low cough of a boat’s engine.

I swung my machine-gun round. About two hundred metres out to sea we could see the silhouette of the patrol boat, its searchlight sweeping the sea as it chugged past. If the light caught one of our boats, or the raiding party attacked now, we were in a deadly killing zone. Around me I was aware of my fellow Recces making ready. Every weapon on the Zodiac was pointed towards the launch. My lips peeled back across my teeth in a silent snarl of defiance. If that bundle of rusted nuts and bolts came this way it was in for a shock. It didn’t alter course. The sound of its engines gradually became fainter and then died away completely. The danger had passed. I swung the gun round to cover the beach again.

Time dragged on; 2300 came and went, then midnight. By midnight time was becoming critical. We had only three hours of complete darkness left. If the raiding party didn’t come soon, we faced the prospect of being caught in daylight at the harbour entrance. Suddenly, on the shore, three green lights blinked, followed by three red, then three green. It was the pick-up signal. As we beached I saw several men coming towards me. In the lead was the TT, and behind him was Jake. I saw Jake lift the silenced AK47 he was carrying. I leant to one side as two dull cracks rang out and the TT slumped across the bow of my boat. Jake picked [137] up the fallen man’s legs and dumped him unceremoniously in the bottom of the vessel.

We paddled out a hundred metres, started our engines and raced towards the open sea at top speed. 1 glanced at the night sky. Already the faint horizon was tinged with grey as the first fingers of morning reached into the night sky. It was going to be tight. At the harbour mouth Staff Sergeant B brought us to a halt.

 

‘Get rid of the body,’ he ordered.

 

Jake and another man began to weight the body swiftly with AK47 magazines. I scanned the nearby coastline. 1 could clearly see the outlines of buildings. If I could see them, they could see me. There was a soft splash as the TT was dropped into the water. The body went down several feet then reappeared. Jake cursed, leant over the boat and grabbed it. From the top of his boot he produced a double-edged fighting knife and plunged it into the corpse, slashing the stomach wide open. The body sank without a trace.

Jake glanced at me. ‘Too much air in the body,’ he said simply.

 

It was obvious he’d done this sort of thing before.

 

It was now broad daylight. We were clear of the harbour, but still visible from the shore. Commandant K, risking all, brought one of the fast patrol boats closer inshore, and we disembarked the raiding party. He handed me a paper on which was written a compass bearing.

 

‘Tell your skipper to keep on that bearing until he finds us.’

 

The fast patrol boat disappeared. Freed from the weight of the raiding party we could make better time but had only gone a short distance before Lieutenant Taffy P’s boat came to a grinding halt. Its planks had buckled. We were still clearly visible from the shore, a bare three kilometres away. Taffy stood up in the boat and called me over. As we closed 1 could see that beneath a thick coat of black camouflage cream, his face was strained. ‘I’ll have to sink the blasted thing. Remove the guns,’ he shouted to his crew and watched as they jumped on to our boat. He pulled a double-edged diving knife from the top of his boot and holding it in two hands, plunged it into the side of the Zodiac. There was an immediate explosion as the compressed air erupted through the puncture. Its violence surprised us all, especially Taffy. Bowled over by [138]the force of the blast, he sat in the bottom of the sinking boat, his hair and beard standing rigid. Despite the danger we were in, we all collapsed in laughter. Taffy looked like a character from a Bugs Bunny cartoon who’d had a bomb go off in his hands. With difficulty we controlled ourselves and helped the still stunned commander on to our boat. He watched as his vessel slowly sank.

‘I hope the commandant understands. Each one of those engines cost 5000 rand,’ he said in a dull voice. I burst out laughing again. At any moment the entire Mozambican Navy could appear and the lieutenant was worried about a couple of engines.

‘Don’t worry, boss. If worst comes to worst we’ll have a whip-round for you,’ I offered. He looked dully at me, then broke into a grin. Shaking off the effects of the exploding inflatable, he ordered us to proceed on our bearing. Two hours later, over the horizon, we RVd again with our mother ships and disembarked. Twenty-four hours later we were back in Saldanha Bay.

At the debrief Lieutenant Colonel W explained that his force had got right up to Mugabe’s house, where they had quickly established no one was home. They had staked out the place for several hours, pushing their luck to the limit, but their target had not appeared.

Some four weeks later the Rhodesian SAS had a crack at phase two of Operation Milk Float. In broad- daylight twenty men attacked the home of Joshua Nkomo in Zambia. He was warned (the rumour was by British M16) only minutes before the attack began and escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Three weeks after the attempt on Nkomo, our commando landed a force of twenty Rhodesian SAS next to the oil refinery in Beira. They destroyed it with rocket-propelled grenades, causing a fire so severe that it burned for several days. Eventually it was put out by fire engines sent, ironically, from South Africa. And thus ended Operation Milk Float. History would not be changed.

My contract with the SADF expired shortly after the Beira raid, but I had time for one last operation: reconnaissance of an oil refinery in Angola. On a moonless night, three Mark 11 Zodiacs, under the command of Staff Sergeant B, were launched from a submarine off the Angolan coast. Our intention was to recce the refinery for a sabotage mission. As we approached the shore, in a loose [139] arrowhead formation, Staff Sergeant B in the front boat suddenly raised his hand and all three boats glided to a halt. He picked up an IWS night viewing aid and surveyed the shore. As I was sitting slightly behind him I saw him stiffen. He handed me the viewing aid, and as I looked through it my stomach turned over. The beach was swarming with troops, and more were arriving every minute from trucks drawn up on the hill above. Cubans. And armed with heavy weapons. They’d installed a new radar detection station in the area and had picked us up leaving the submarine. We made the best possible speed back to the sub and dived. We didn’t even take the time to dismantle the boats. We sank them and only just in time: our own radar was picking up boats speeding towards us. It was a nerve-racking two hours before we were back in international waters. The operation had a tragic conclusion, for just under two years later it was attempted again and this time the raiding party was surprised on shore. Two Recces were killed and their officer taken prisoner.

I desperately wanted to stay for another year because of the talk of similar seaborne operations against targets in Angola, but as a foreign national that would have meant committing myself to a three-year contract. Of course I could have resigned from the Recces but would still have been with the SADF. With great sadness, I decided to return to the United Kingdom. Africa had changed me physically. I was a lot stronger, my endurance and stamina having been tested under the most extreme conditions. Mentally too I had undergone a metamorphosis. Although still in my early twenties I felt much older and more confident, able to face whatever the world could throw at me. My comrades arranged a big farewell party for me, and Recces came from as far away as Durban to bid me goodbye. Recce Commando was an outstanding fighting unit. In the two years I had been operational they had lost seventeen men in action but had destroyed over 2000 enemy. Their bravery in action was awesome, and their friendship and loyalty to me, a stranger in their land, matched it.

No traffic is useless traffic

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes while reading blogs I find people saying that certain traffic is useless. For instance I have read many people saying entrecard and stumbleupon traffic is useless. Also people sometimes claim that traffic from digg.com is useless. I used to agree until I actually learned that no traffic is useless. Its what you make of the traffic that you have that counts.

 

What is useful traffic?

Any traffic

What is useless traffic?

Actually I dont know, according to me its what you make of the traffic that you get that depends if you see it as useless traffic. But I see a lot of people blogging about it. So I will try and give my reasons why I believe no traffic is useless.

Visits = rank

Many places where you can register, like blogging services etc determines your rank by how many hits your site gets, therefore every visitor your site gets pushes your rank up on that certain blogging service. A example of this is: When I was a member of Amatomu ( a south african blogger site) which uses every visit to your site to determine how you rank, I used traffic from entrecard to push me into the top 100. And when you get in the top 100 your site gets more traffic and subscribers. Because entrecard pushed up my rank I got more visitors from Amatomu and since I got more visitors from Amatomu I got more stumbles which in turn gave me more traffic and so it went till I got kicked from Amatomu for having to many blogs. Not only did then Amatomu and Entrecard help me there but that pushed up my Alexa rating which gave me more advertisers and even more traffic. So we see how we can use blog traffic and even big bounce rates to increase the value of your blog by using one thing to gain at another

Alexa

Every visitor you get that uses Alexa toolbar pushes your Alexa rating up a bit more thus resulting in a lower Alexa rank which could make you more money from advertisers since people still use Alexa to determine if they would like to advertise on your site. I have seen a lot of people say that installing the alexa widget on your site will also help your rating with Alexa but to be honest I dont know if that makes a difference, Maybe someone can share in the comments if it really does work. But I do know any traffic with Alexa toolbar is traffic worth getting.

Stumbleupon

I dont believe any stumbleupon traffic is useless, as I said its what you make of it. I actually like stumbleupon traffic more than Google traffic. Even though Google traffic brings clicks to ads. Stumbleupon people are those that already know how the web works and you dont need to beg them to subscribe or comment because if your content is good enough they will join your rss feed and subscribe. They will also comment. Many people say stumble users dont subscribe but I have gained many subscribers that liked something I have blogged about. Stumbleupon users most likely also have the Alexa toolbar or Firefox plugins installed since most of them have their own blogs as well. That is great because as I said earlier it pushes up your Alexa rating (or actually down which is how Alexa works). If they like your site they will also bookmark it on sites like Reddit or Digg since most people are loyal users on other communities apart from stumbleupon, they would want to submit great content to those sites that have not been found by other users on those certain sites. So having a Digg, Reddit or Sphinn button will also increase the chances of turning Stumbleupon traffic into even greater traffic than it already is.

Trust me, no traffic is useless. People browsing your site is not useless traffic but that is why we blog for people to read it and to have a impact on them.

Another thing about Stumbleupon is when someone reviews your site and for everyone else that reviews your site you get a link back from their profile page to your blog.

Technorati

Adding a small technorati "add me" button will help you. You might not think it would but people do click it. Even those stumblers that’s on a rush to get to the next site. If they enjoyed your post they will click it.

Pay per impression

There are advertisers that pay per impression. Now that does not sound to bad does it. For every single visitor to your site you get paid a small amount. Although the pay per impression affiliate companies are not everywhere, in fact I dont have one at the moment that I use but there are lots of people using these and the do work for certain blogs.

Audio ads

If you want to kill your blog use Audio ads. But if you have a blog that gets traffic where readers are not important as passers by then by all means go for it. I dont know who would have such a blog where you dont really need the readers but have the traffic but I would advise you to use audio ads only at cases where you have no other options. The point is that you can make money from any traffic using these kind of ads.

Get them hooked

Another way to go by is to type the best content on the internet and get them hooked on your blog. This is everyone’s goal but do you really do your readers justice by writing a paragraph a day? To get your readers hooked you need outstanding content which is getting harder now days because everyone has a blog and produces great content. So to get people hooked on your blog you can use "series" of posts. You just better make sure that part 1 is very good. There are probably more ways to get people hooked on your content but this is just the one I can think of now.

Comments

No matter what traffic you call useless, most of the time someone will stop and comment on your blog, then its always good to have the " notify me of future comments" . When people comment they usually want to know what they guy after them says, maybe he tells the guy how wrong his comment is. And people know that. So whenever they leave a comment and that option is there, most people take it. Displaying recent comments or top commentators will encourage people to comment even more when they quickly pass by your site. Why is this? Because the top commentator plugin and the recent comments plugin both contain their Blog or website’s url. Not just that but there is something about these two plugins that I will share in a later post that will make you smile. So dont forget to subscribe.

Competition

People want to win, whether its a link or another prize, they want to win. Lets say you have entrecard on your site, why not write directly under that, that you have a competition. People known as chain droppers wont all pass by. Entrecarders love competitions as I have come to know. Attracting so called "useless" traffic with competitions will not only increase your comments and readers but it will also increase your backlinks if that is part of your competition resulting in even more traffic. So it might not be "useless" after all.

Link bait

We all know what link bait is. But having linkbait on that certain page you see people enter your site will also increase the chances of them going further into your site instead bouncing.

Design

I have stumbled through many sites and sometimes it’s nothing but the brilliant design of a site that makes me look further. I mean I dont even see the content. I just see theme. I might be a sucker for site designs but if I go further into a site because of the design and layout I bet you there must be more people that will check out a site and not just bounce because of how the site looks. Having a great theme or design will increase your chances of turning that bounce rate into history.

Email and Rss subscribe

The more visible these buttons are for those who only come to your site for one article or a stumble the greater your chances are of getting some subscribers. Once again I would use myself as a example. If I stumble and I read a great article I usually join the rss feed for more great content

Where they came from

Even if there is a high bounce rate you can still see where the users came from. That is a indication that the content you have might be of interest and if you keep on in that direction you can even increase your traffic more by analyzing where users come from.
Where they are going to

Using mybloglog and similar places or tools you can see where users went from your site, what they clicked on. That is a indication of their interest. Knowing the interest of your readers gives you the opportunity to write better content.

People, mybloglog, blogcatalog

Having a bunch of faces on your site might be annoying to regular users but for someone who just bounce your site that might get their attention. As I wrote here on a short post

Tell a secret

Saying something like "10 secrets to more traffic" is always a good idea and placing it where you know the bouncers would see it would also decrease your bounce rate. I guess this is the same as link bait.

Give something away

Offering free wordpress themes around the places people usually bounce from for instance getting Entrecard chain droppers to go further into your site you can put links under your card that says something like "theme of the day" which will attract people to click on it. It works for me. Whenever I visit a site and I seem to be stumbling through or when I used to chain drop while checking out how things work on Entrecard and I see something like that I would click. Free stuff attracts people and especially free wordpress themes. I dont need themes, I cant even design wordpress themes but I still like browsing through them.

Sooo. I hope you found "No traffic is useless traffic" useful and interesting. Please subscribe or be so friendly and Digg or stumble this post.

Leave some comments and tell me if I missed something.


Most Do follow is No follow on Do follow blogs.

What I mean with the title is that after WordPress 2.3.2 most Do follow plugins on WordPress have stopped working. That means if you advertise that your blog follows comments and someone sees in fact that they are not they might get a bad impression from your blog. How exactly and what exactly happens when you upgrade I have no idea but the fact is you should double check if you have a do follow blog. I installed some plugins on Firefox that shows where no follow is and I was really surprised to see on most Dofollow blogs actually have nofollow.

Not using Ubuntu yet? Well I bet you cant do this.

Since dumping Windows I have learned a lot about Linux and Linux productivity. Ubuntu to be specific. You should really try it if you are still using Windows. There must be 100’s of apps I might be missing here which is great. i just wanted to point out these that I really like and did not have in windows as standard or as updates. Except the updates of course which in Windows make you shut down your pc while they waste your time.

Now I am in no way saying other linux distributions cant do this. I am using Ubuntu and that is what I am blogging about.
Window managers

Windows comes with windows. I know that sounds stupid but Ubuntu comes with Gnome and Kde and with the click of a few buttons you can have almost any window manager that suits you. From Kde’s windows look to Gnome’s contrast look. Sure with Windows you can install some stuff that contain the usual spyware, adware and viruses but in Ubuntu you can have all the above window managers each with 100’s of themes. And guess what, this is all free and just takes a click of a few buttons. Anybody can install it if they can read.

Updates

ref18.png

Unlike Windows you can update your version of Ubuntu while working on your computer, No upgrades to buy nothing like that. No just a few clicks and you have the brand new version.

Server

Can you install Windows or Mac and within 1/2 run your own server with WordPress installed? Maybe you can download Xampp but its just not the same as Ubuntu where you can just click a few buttons and all is running.

System tray

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I bet you cant shut up your Windows system tray, and all those apps that just start when they want to. Its ridiculous. When I first installed Ubuntu and Pclinuxos I was amazed at it. The computer would just start and then its ready. No closing hundreds of questions, kill the antivirus that i dont want anyway, start all the firewalls. No Ubuntu just starts. That’s it. The only time when I have noticed anything bug me in the system tray was when there was updates which I dont mind installing since there is no 100 questions about how legal my OS is. I can just click and go on with my browsing.

Kget

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I dont know about Windows Vista since I am quite satisfied with my Os at the moment but I know when I used to work with Windows Xp I had constant issues of finding that download program that I was satsified with. And what do you know? When I installed Ubuntu I found Kget.

Sound and Video

Can you say choice? There are so many good video players in Ubuntu and especially in the repositories. You can pick and choose for days. If you dont prefer to go through them you can always use Mplayer and Amarok which by the way Xp is far from. Amarok is the music player everyone should use. I wont even start to explain, maybe I will do a post on Amarok later.

Terminal

ref21.png

Just one thing. I was a windows user and this is just so great. Maybe all the serious linux users wont think much of this because it might be all old news and stuff but imagine how easy things would of been if you could just load dos and type firefox. That’s it. No c:////windows/crap Just type firefox and it opens. Well that is what terminal is. Just type the name of the program and it opens. No hassle. No need for 100 icons on your desk either. Just a quick launch, type and go.

Etherape

ref23.png

window size was small that’s why the text is crossing. I had to take a screenshot that fits.

Etherape is a network checker or whatever you call it. It shows you where your computer is connected to. Sometimes it shows you even where people on your network connection is connected. Dont ask me about the technical stuff I just know I can see where my computer is connected to and it rocks. Especially when uploading something to cpanel, one can see when it gets stuck. I have a really slow connection so having a look can tell me what is biting the speed.

Elinks

ref22.png

As I said I have a relatively slow connection and sometimes I just want to read something and I want to do it fast. Elinks is a text browser but you can see your desktop background which gives it a different feeling than the usual notepad look and feel.

Snapshot

ref17.png

Yes yes, I know you get screenshot apps in windows as well but they are not installed with one or two clicks and neither are they as cool as snapshot. Snapshot is by far my favourite screenshot app.

Thank you for reading please leave some comments. Tell what’s your favorite apps Ubuntu or linux.

The truth about Uhuru, the night of the long knives / Die nag van die lang messe

Please stop your stupid useless, good for nothing, no content competitions and write some content

Every week I read about some useless competition. Just another useless competition of someone to damn lazy to write a article. If you dont want a damn blog go to stupid bloody myspace and join the circus over there.

Every week I read about some useless competition. Just another useless competition of someone to damn lazy to write a article. If you dont want a damn blog go to stupid bloody myspace and join the circus over there.

But when I see another stupid contest or competition on my rss reader I think I will blow up my screen. Seriously if you start writing content, no let me rephrase that.

IF you start writing any content you wont need to give away your house and your balls just for some low budget visitors. Start writing content. If I see one more stupid contest I will unsubscribe your 1 month old soon to be another useless parked domain.

Please grow up and blog something!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Simple things you must know about blogging but you might not know it.

torpedo.jpg

torpedo.jpg

If you want friends be friendly

If you cant be friendly at least some times dont expect any great results for your blog. The first thing about blogging is communicating with your readers. That is one of the most important aspects you need to learn about blogging. If you cant be friendly to anyone, you cant make a living out of blogging. See your readers as your customers or even better, see them as your partners. You just have to be friendly to be a successful blogger.

What do I mean with being friendly?

Well if someone links to you, thank them, if someone tells you that you have a nice post, thank them. If someone asks for help, try and help them as far as you can. If you see another blogger making big mistakes and they might get banned from certain affiliates warn them. You might not just gain readers for your blog but you might gain friends as well.

I dont think I need to explain what being friendly is, except that it can take you far in your blogging career and in life.

If you want comments comment

When I started blogging I never knew I had to do so much work for a blog to get comments. My idea was put the blog up and the comments will start flowing in. Well it was not like that until I decided to make friends online and go read other people’s blogs and comment on their blogs and support them. Then only did I start to get comments. You also need to comment on your own blog, if someone comments, comment back to show them that they’re speaking to a person behind the comment system and not just to someone that is far to unavailable to read their comments. People want to know that there is someone on the other side before they can feel part of a person’s community. So communicate back to your readers

Quality is better than quantity.

People find quantity but they come back for quality. SEO and pagerank can not keep your visitors on your blog only good content can. And quality focused content is what makes visitors stay. Hard work in blogging gets visitors. When I was on Amatomu (a south african blogging service) I used to post as much as I can to keep ahead of the others but this was not the right thing to do, it made the quality of my posts to suck. I got visitors but no comments and no real communication from users. But when I started to really give some good information and offer my readers quality or nothing, that is when my blog started to grow. If you dont have something worthwhile to write about, rather write nothing or ask someone to do a guest post for you.

Blogging full time means blogging full time

Some people might want to blog full time but blogging full time is exactly what it means. No holiday and long hours of work. To become a full time blogger you have to put at least 16 hours a day into your blogging career and your blog for the first three to six months or maybe as long as it takes to get going.

Your blog is your brand

Your blog is your brand, advertising and having one logo or colour scheme for all your blogs will help your blogs or brand tremendously. Focus on keeping your avatars the same all the same on all social networks, maybe with your blog’s logo on it. Later on people will start to be familiar with your logo and blog’s brand and will come visit your blog easier. The more you see a brand in front of you the more you trust it. Like most big companies their name is printed on everything. Sometimes the brand is the product. Make your blog the same and print that logo everywhere you can. Submit your logo to as many places as possible where you are a user and can add a profile pic. Use it till you see it on every site you visit. Brand your blog and turn it into a name everyone knows.

No one can kick you from the internet

I have recently been kicked unfairly from a blogging service. The fact is sometimes people will just not like you and they will remove you from their sites/services or whatever it is that you are part of. The best way to handle this is just to go on with your blog. Its not the end of your blogging career. They might be able to kick you from their site but they cant kick you from the internet. Just check, if you can access your site, anyone with a internet connection can. Never let rejection get you down when blogging. Not even trolls in the comments. You can make it if you dont worry about the criticism of others. Anyway criticism can sometimes be a good thing, take what you can learn and what is true and apply it, ignore that which is just there for the sake of trolling.

Spending more time on other blogs makes your blog grow even faster

This is a weird thing but the more you invest time in other people’s blogs the more time they will invest in spending time on your blog. As I said blogging is a two way thing. Spend more time writing quality comments and actually reading other blogs and you will see the results coming straight back to your blog in the form of either the author of the blog or those that read your great and helpful comments.

Good blogging is not determined by how much money you make

You will always find people hanging around those who makes the most on the internet. That does not mean they write the best articles and that does not mean you cant learn from other people. Money only means they have been blogging for some time and they know what they are doing. Although most people that make money online blogging for a living do write great articles but now and then you will find someone with no content of help claiming to make thousands which they might but its not to say their content is as great as the money they make or even better than your blog because you make less.

Traffic comes with blogging but traffic stays with brilliant blogging

One mistake I have made in the past was to find something that people were looking for and just post random crap about it. The content was not outstanding and it just lowered the quality of my blog. Although visitors came for those articles, they vanished from my site just as fast. Typing brilliant blog posts might take longer but it’s worth it. Rather focus on great blogging than traffic and keyword targeting with no real quality behind it. Traffic will come if you concentrate on what you are typing and love what you are doing. That is what makes the difference from someone coming back to your blog or not seeing that person or traffic again.

Your next post is determined by your previous post

This is not exactly a fact but rather a tip. Look at your previous post and make your next blog post better. Always try to keep improving whether it’s by search engine optimization or by using better grammar. (Unlike my grammar)

Building a community takes more than a week

When I first started to blog I though I would have thousands of readers and friends leaving comments and being part of my community but the truth is far from that. Building relationships takes time and sometimes it takes a long time. You have to be part of someone else’s community before expecting them to be part of yours. You have to give input into the lives and blogs of other before you can expect the same. Building a community does not mean you have a bunch of fans that just want your signature. If that is your reason for blogging go do something else, become a actor. Blogging is being part of a community. Without investing time in other people, you cant expect them to invest time in you.

Make money online is much different than making a living online

Anyone can make money online but not everyone can make a living online. The difference is huge. If you want to make money online get Google Adsense and put it on your blog, its as simple as that but to make a living online you have to work full time, and when I mean full time its like no camping etc. Making a living online is harder than having a day job. Sometimes I think I should go back to normal working but then the perks of blogging full time win as usual.

Blogging is a two way thing

There are two sides of blogging. Output and input. If you cant handle people giving input rather go play games. When someone adds something to your post that they see might add value, that does not mean it’s incomplete, it means they are giving input. Exactly what you are supposed to expect from the output of blogging. ( if I can call it that)

Social bookmarking sites are there for a reason

Social bookmarking sites exist for you to find brilliant articles of interest. You might have typed one and no one found it yet. So why not take it one step further and submit it yourself. If no one likes it, it wont go far but the chances are that someone would like your blog post and someone with similar interests will be looking for something similar as you have typed. Social bookmarking sites goes along with search engine optimization. They should be seen as equally important as each other.

SEO does not mean be a dictionary

Dont over do search engine optimization in your typing and writing. It looks stupid if over use certain keywords. You dont have to use words like “search engine optimization” to much. Usually 4 times a article is enough to get some Google traffic.

Your blog can only go as far as you’re willing to take it.

As I wrote here

Advertise

Advertising makes some people feel like they are not winning with their blogs and traffic but infact it should be the other way around. The richest bloggers in the blogosphere also advertised some time in their life and most still do. Advertising is not about not having enough traffic but its about getting your brand out there and getting noticed by people who you would not otherwise get their attention. Advertising is a positive thing for your blog whether you get no traffic or 1000’s of hits a day. You might have great content but people’s not finding it. Advertising can be a great solution to get your blog going.

Title is as important as content

On most social bookmarking sites the title is the only thing people get to see. Mostly people will come if the title is good. A good title can even make your content look better as long as your content resembles your little. Your title is therefore your most important sentence on your entire post and should be more focused on before posting your content. I used to just give a word as a title until I realized the importance of a title and the effect it has on those who read it. A title is like the voice of your post or the ring to your phone, if its not hard enough you dont pick it up.

Make three months

Trust me on this one, I have had many blogs and they dont all make three months. I start niche blogs to make a bit more cash and sometimes I just choose the wrong topic. In blogging there is a three months mark, which if you get past that your blog has been made or rather made it. Surviving three months is enough to call yourself a blogger. There is more than 120 million blogs online since last time I checked technorati and if you go through some of them the authors just abandoned them after about one or two months.

The only way I can explain is like this:

Imagine going in a rocket to space, the ozone barrier or whatever you call it is the hardest part to get through ( not sure what it’s called) Anyway blogging is like that, the three months mark is like trying to get to that part and break through it. Afterwards you are in space or in the blogosphere. Go on make jokes I know this is a funny way to explain it but I dont have another way to put it.

Be yourself

This is important. One can only act like someone he is not for a certain amount of time. I always wanted my blogs to be written in a certain style that was just not me. Being yourself opens the door for some personality in your blog instead of making it look like you’re reading some book in a library. It shows that someone is behind all these words. A real person.

Take your time and Dont fear

Sometimes you see people that started with you but their blogs is already in the top 5000 on technorati but your’s dont even have a pagerank. Sometimes people blog for 6 months with no results and sometimes it just does not look like your blog will ever be anything big if you look around. The fact is the internet is big and with millions of people online you just have to change your stragedy and double check that you can be found. Crap content will get better with time. Your writing skills and knowledge about your niche or area of blogging will increase.

My point is you have nothing to fear when it comes to blogging. Your blog will make it if you just keep on blogging.

Another thing bloggers fear is that someone will post the article that they are busy with before they post it. You might get a really great idea for a post but you rush it because you are afraid someone else might come up with the post before you. I write this out of experience and I am sure you can relate somehow. This is no way to do it though. Take your time, there is enough place for two people to write about the same thing on the internet. The best is not to but if you’re post accidentally matches that of a top blogger and makes you look like a copy cat when you thought of the post yourself. So what. At least you know you came up with the idea.

Dont go with the flow

One thing that will make your blog stand out from the others and one thing that you need to do early in your blogging is dont go with the flow. When everyone writes about a certain topic it comes like a avalanche, one top blogger blogs it and the rest follow. Writing something and being original separates your from the norm. Make your blog stand out and get your own blogging ideas, even if it seams weird or stupid. You might get some unexpected visitors and amounts of traffic.

Well this is the basic stuff I have learned so far. Or rather some of it. I hope it added value to your blogging and blogging knowledge

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave some comments or whatever you would like to add to this post. And feel free to join my rss feed.

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Does your blog annoy people?

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I tried to make a list of things that annoy people when visiting a blog. Most of these have personally annoyed me and some I have simply seen people ranting about.

1. Comments

 

People get really annoyed with blogs that dont accept comments. Especially comments from outside people. For instance if you have a blogger.com account and it’s set that you can only receive comments from those who also use blogspot.

 

Register to comment is also one of the things that annoy people. Why do you have to register on someone else’s blog to just make a comment. Most people just move along when they see that they have to register to leave a comment and that just leaves the person who’s blog it is with a empty blog. Except if you have one massive user base.

 

2. To personal

 

No need to share all your information, we dont want to know what you dog had for breakfast. There is a exception if your blog is about you and its your personal diary but otherwise just skip the fine details you would not phone someone for. If you wont phone someone and tell them ie something personal its pretty much not worth blogging about it. As I said if you have a personal blog its fine.

 

3. Flash and popups

 

Wow back in the day when the internet just discovered flash. Well that’s over now. Keep it clean. And those popups, No one reads them. In fact the only thing someone will remember from a site with a popup is the popup. They wont remember your great content or any of that. People seem to remember things better that they dont like than what they do like. Having a popup clearly tells your visitors that your are just blogging for the money and not really for the great content which you want to share.

 

4. Memes

 

What? Some people just over do memes.

 

5. Widgets

 

Have you ever waited for a site to load and when finished you realize you’ve waited for a widget bazaar? Some widgets are nice, actually you get a lot of nice widgets but when you display all of them at once the wall of widgets does not impress your readers no matter how nice all 100 of them are.

 

6. Pride

 

Yes Pride. Sometimes you get to a blog and the guy just thinks to much of himself. Sometimes these "bloggers" have a entire fan club but the one thing that is lacking is useful content. I can think of a few that brag about their blogs but there is nothing you really can learn from or it or actually nothing except for how much money they made and not showing you how to get there yourself.

 

7. Rude Author

 

Some bloggers are just rude. When someone comments on your blog, they have taken time out of their day to actually read your content, so even if they troll on your blog, just keep in mind that they actually visit your blog and try not to be rude to them. You can always gain troll readers by being friendly. Not just that sometimes they might have a point. Being rude to commenters is no way to build a better blog. If you have nothing good to say rather keep it for yourself. There is nothing wrong in disagreeing but do it in a friendly way.

 

8. Poor design and layout

 

Sometimes you just gotta go sidebar hunting when you arive at a blog. Sometimes you might think the sidebar is the content. If you cant design a working blog theme just use a free template. There’s hundreds of great ones out there and you can use a GPL theme and just customize it a bit instead of having your blog look like whale hunters in Japan. Users know the content usually is in the middle somewhere but having 40 sidebars will most probably confuse them as well. Try and keep the most sidebars to 3, maybe 4 if you are desperate. As I said earlier, people will remember the bad stuff on your blog more than the good stuff. Keep it clean and tidy.

 

9. Videos

 

Do not load a video when your blog starts, I dont think I need to explain this. People know where the little play sign is, if they want to play a video let them have the choice. That is what makes the internet so great, choice. If you want to keep your readers give them this option when trying to shove videos on your page and force them to play it.

 

10. Blogs that blog against certain bloggers

 

I dont like certain bloggers. Actually I really dont like certain bloggers. But never blog saying how much you hate or dislike other bloggers, it might just backfire on you. I guess you have the right not to like certain bloggers but keep it for yourself. Its the safer way to go.

 

11. Insulting blogs

Want to gain readers? Some people get offended easy and adding anti- someone pictures might get you some hate mail. Insulting blogs do annoy some people. Some people simply just get intimidated when being on someone’s blog who’s really insulting.

 

12. Updates and old blogs

 

I really dont like getting to a old blog where the newest posts date back to when the internet first started. Those posts should really not be on a blog but it should be on history.com or somewhere where we can preserve them for future generations.

 

13. Rant only blogs

 

Stop complaining. You might get a visitor once or twice but after about the third time they come back and see that you are still complaining, they will just vanish on the world wide web.

 

14. Slow loading

 

People hate slow loading blogs but sometimes they just need a faster connection. Some blogs really are slow but some people just cant help it or the dont know how to make it faster. If you can try and keep your blog loading times as quick as possible. There are tools out there that will help you and show you why your page takes that long to load. I dont have any now but if you look you can find some great ones.

 

15. To much embedded crap

I know I said widgets but often I see to many other stuff like small gif’s or everywhere where your blog is part of and some of those small images can make it look like your page is loading quite long, showing the hour glass and waiting for some small gif that’s not planning on loading anyway. I really get annoyed with that sometimes. You just gotta hit the stop button. I guess my blog does this sometimes, well it used to I try keeping everything at a minimum now.

 

16. Only sponsored posts

Its good making money online blogging but keep it down a bit if you want to keep your users. Especially those casino blogs or sponsored posts that has absolutely nothing to do with your blog. To many sponsored posts show your greediness for money and lack of attention to your readers.

 

17. Text that blink or fonts that are to tiny

Dont do it. Never make text blink.

 

18. To many pictures loading

Use flickr, not everyone has 2mb connections and you can rather embed small thumbnails than the enter picture. Well one would be fine actually but some people embed 100’s of pictures when the site or post really is not a photo blog. I have a excuse there, this blog is part photoblog.

 

19. To many ads

As I said we all have to make money but having ads everywhere puts the greediness in front of your readers once again. At least let them know where the content is. Make a arrow saying "the actual content of the site" pointing to what you have written to guide them the way through the 100’s of ads if you have that.

 

20. Content thief

Dont even start with this. Small bloggers write brilliant posts and then some bigger bloggers come and steal the idea. When everyone has read the big bloggers post they see the small blogger and think he is a fake copy but infact big bloggers if I can call it that do it often. Just because everyone’s blogs is not in the top 500 on technorati does not mean you can steal their content. Dont steal someone else’s content. Just give them the credit and gain friends instead of enemies.

I guess I am going a bit overboard with this now and I guess there must be more reasons your blog might annoy people. I have just written these here I thought I would like to share with you.

Thanks for reading, please leave some comments.

Make money online with blogspot?

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Having a blogspot might work for personal blogs or even any kind of non professional blog. But lately almost every second blogspot blog is a make money blog.

Here is what I see wrong with that.

1. Branding

If you plan to make money online one of the first things you need is your own brand in the form of a blog with its own domain. You cant build a brand with a non existant domain. You might get far with blogging on blogspot but not as far as you would with your own domain. You can build your own empire with your own domain but with blogspot you cant even sell the blog. There might be people that will buy a blogspot blog but its not the same as having something you can call your own that will sell as it should.

2. Why should people believe you if you claim to make money online but you have a blogspot blog?

Face it. Most people fake it until they make it but does it really have to be that obvious? If you claim to really make money online why not get your own domain with some of that money which would be the first thing any bright money making person would do in the first place?

3. Its unprofessional and cheap

Lets say you give your business card out. Would you put your blogspot blog on there? I dont think so. You know its unprofessional. It’s unprofessional if you want to be a professional blogger for you to have a blogspot blog.

So if you use blogspot and you want to blog about money, the least and most professional thing you can do for your blogging career is to get your own domain as soon as possible.

4. People are lazy

Just think how long you have to type to get to something like makemoneyblogging.blogspot.com? that is way to long. The chances are that someone would remember it and do all the hassle to go back to your blog is not likely. Except if you maybe have brilliant content. Which if you have you would of had yourself your own domain by now.

5. Time

You spend so much time writing for your blogspot blog, dont you think you deserve a great domain name of your own for the content your work so hard on? Getting a domain of your own will give you a sense of satisfaction, maybe you get that with your blog on blogspot but I wouldnt. Having your own domain from the start also saves your time and hassle, when your blog is fully grown on blogspot it can sometimes be a drag to get your stuff in wordpress, although the new wordpress does it for you it’s still better just to do it from the start. You can save your readers time as well, not just that changing your domain later will cause problems as people have to learn a new name for something they are used to.

So do yourself a favour this year and get your own domain. You wont look back, in fact your will be glad you did. You owe it to yourself.

Feel free to troll, comment or join my feed. Thank you for reading.

History bits: Somerset West

Somerset West was initially bought from local tribes and a cattle post was established here by Dutch soldiers in 1672.

Somerset West was initially bought from local tribes and a cattle post was established here by Dutch soldiers in 1672.

A town developed around the Lourens River (originally “Tweederivier”) and the farm of Vergelegen (Dutch: “remotely situated”), an 18th century farmhouse built in the historic Cape Dutch style by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, governor of the Cape and son of Simon van der Stel, who gave his name to the nearby town of Stellenbosch. Willem Adriaan was later sent back to Holland after being charged with corruption and cruelty towards local farmers. The farm is now owned by a subsidiary of the large mining company Anglo American, who have restored the farmhouse to its original magnificence and continue to produce some of South Africa’s best wines there. The farm is open to tourists.

The town was named Somerset after an English governor of the Cape Colony during the 1800s, Lord Charles Henry Somerset, with the suffix ‘West’ being added after 1825 to differentiate it from Somerset East, another South African town in the Eastern Cape. In the 1830s, Sir Lowry’s Pass, named after later governor Sir Lowry Cole, was constructed to link the town with outposts further east over the Hottentots-Holland mountains.

In the 1960s, the AECI factory between Somerset West and Strand was the second largest dynamite factory in the world. Today the town boasts the largest concentration of millionaire residents in the country

War with blogging, Akismet made me spam.

First of all, Akismet has marked my comments as spam. I have left some great comments on blogs and they never appear.

First of all, Akismet has marked my comments as spam. I have left some great comments on blogs and they never appear. So if you have Akismet installed I will only try once to comment on your blog unfortunately I wont be going back to a blog where i cant communicate. Except of course if you show my comments like Blogosis( has a great competition) who actually takes the time to find comments that are not spam. Akismet really sucks with this. I have not read up about them or anything but if they block me( I honestly do not spam) I wonder how many other people they are blocking that’s posting great comments.

I have emailed them but I am still waiting for a reply. I refuse to use other details.

On the other hand I got to lazy to blog and started posting a bit of everything on my blog. If you have been blogging for some time now you will notice that it does happen to anyone. You blog and blog and then one day you get tired of all the blogging and you just want to have fun. I guess half my readers are gone by now but it does not matter, I will blog for those who stick around then.

I have about 200 affiliates that I want to blog about , places that you can register and make money from or with your blog. My search engine optimization techniques are slowly starting to work as well, getting more traffic from search engines now than ever before but I guess that might just be because I obviously have more content now.

I also found another great South African blogger Clement Nyirenda

He has been leaving some great comments on my blog recently and I just want to thank him.

Also, my pagerank has vanished but that does not matter because as I said i get more traffic now than ever from search engines.

Tip of the day: Increase those tags. Trust me.

Do you leave your blogging friends behind?

As you go on your journey to grow your blog you sometimes make friends.

As you go on your journey to grow your blog you sometimes make friends. You and your blogging friends help each other’s blogs grow, you link to each other until your blog finally lifts off and goes way past the level of your other blogger friends. Do you just leave them and go make friends with bigger and better bloggers?

Obviously the answer is no, yet you still find people that leave those behind who helped grow their blogs. They leave their blogging friends behind that spend so much time on their blogs and made it to be what it is.

I know me blogging about “blogging friends” seems a bit corny but the fact is, you should never leave anyone behind if you can help it. People invest time in your blog by commenting and reading your posts, time that they wont get back. That time is gone forever and if they spend it on your blog you really should consider doing everything you can to make it worth their while.

If you have reached a new level in blogging and your blog has grown past the level of your blogging friends you really should know that without those friends you would not have made it. After all it is your blogging friends that most of the time stumble your posts and bookmark it because they know that, its those things that bring the traffic in the first place.

My point is dont leave people behind that contribute to your blog. Dont leave your “blogging friends” behind. That is the worst thing you can ever do to your blog.

The end of Internet Explorer?

Today Microsoft announced that they will no longer have support for Internet Explorer and that they only started IE to beat Netscape to the game but now Netscape is no more and Microsoft has claimed v

Today Microsoft announced that they will no longer have support for Internet Explorer and that they only started IE to beat Netscape to the game but now Netscape is no more and Microsoft has claimed victory in the browser war. But Firefox has the final word on that.

“We made Internet Explorer with the sole purpose of destroying Netscape. That job is done. It was a long and hard-fought battle, but the better browser won,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “What point is there now to having a browser product? We won! WOOHOO!”

What???? Did I just read that correctly?

How to use subdomains to get the keywords you really want.

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What?

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What?

You dont really need a niche blog to do keyword sniping and get all the keywords you want on search engines. Meaning keywords that people type in search engines to find your site. You can have one blog and all the keywords you want leading to your blog. This is done by niche blogging on subdomains and a few tricks.

My story

A few weeks ago I wanted my blog to be found for certain keywords but I did not want a niche blog. So I had to make my mind up. Niche blog or my normal blog which I have had for some time now. Because as its known you cant have a blog about random things and get the highest ranking on search engine for certain high traffic keywords, or take over a niche market with random things in your blog. But I found a solution.

The tricks

By starting random subdomains on your domain you can get all the keywords you want by niche blogging on your subdomain and doing a few things afterwards. Here is how it works in order: I will use the keyword "surfing" 1. Start a subdomain with the keywords you want for instance "surfing.fromtheold.com" Start a niche blog about surfing on there, dont focus on getting visitors because you are not going to use that blog. Focus on doing Search engine optizmization. Get links to your niche blog and add your rss feed to rss sites. 3. Link to your site from your main blog. 4. Start blogging and use keywords you want your main blog to be found for, dont use more than 4 times on one page excluding title. 5. Type really great articles and bookmark them yourself or just let other people do it for you. You cant skip the content part because that is how a blog functions. (No kidding) How desperate do you want people to find your site through search engines with the keyword you are blogging about for example: surfing". Well the next step depends how successful your keyword sniping attempt will be. 6. Type as many articles as important this keyword is for you, I would suggest 100. But typing for at least three or four weeks before going on to the next step will increase the chances of you being found for the keyword you are sniping.

Time to kill your subdomain.

With all the hard work done by now you can just run through the next steps. Technically you dont kill your subdomain, you just leave it. Here is what you do: 7. Export all your posts from your subdomain, move the images to your main blog from your subdomain in your content/uploads directory and merge it with your main blog’s pictures. 8. Now take the export file and import it in your main blog, remember when starting your sudomain blog to keep the same url format as in /postname /date or whatever you chose for the url. Let’s say I used "surfing.fromtheold.com/boards" as a post in my subdomain, that should now be "fromtheold.com/boards" exactly the same way. Dont worry about your comments they will come with, WordPress has greatly increased the usefulness of the exporting function in the new WordPress 2.3 9. Now go to your index.php file in your subdomain and remove everything in the wordpress index.php file and replace it with this: <? Header( "HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently" ); Header( "Location: http://www.fromtheold.com" ); ?> But obviously use your domain instead of mine. This is a permanent redirection and will tell google to move the rating for the keyword and the ranking to the site you have moved your new site to. So now search for "surfing will still give your subdomain until google reindexed it and next up will be your main site that will shoot through the rankings and that way you get to have one blog with many niches.

Dont stop there, you should keep on blogging with that niche to maintain the ranking your earned on your subdomain.

That is how I do it. Works for me, should work for you as well. Just remember there are other issues that also come with this. For example getting advertisers might be harder. But I just wanted to share with you how to actually get the keywords. Tell me if it works for you as it works for me.

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