a SADF 140mm (5.5 inch) gun in a camouflaged position, and 2 SADF members. Note the non-SADF uniforms and hand weapons. Even the gun was painted in non SADF colours to disguise the South African presence in the conflict. The men has long hair and selfmade modifications to the uniforms such as cutting off of sleeves, which was typical from the SADF forces once delpoyed for extended periods in the bush.
Another SADF 140mm gun position during Operation Savannah. Initially artillery was not deployed during the campaign, but as it escalated the guns joined in. The SADF artillery of WWII vintage, was outranged by the more modern eastern Bloc 122mm D30's. Operation Savannah prompted the SADF to modernise its forces, and it lead to the development of the world renowned G5 and G6 systems. In the picture above the gun crew is wearing Cuban helmets. In the early stages of the campaign, till the SADF presence became known to the world, the SADF troops and equipment carried no SADF markings, such as the non-standard camouflage scheme on the gun.
a SADF encampment with a 20mm AA gun emplacement in the foreground, and a 5.5 inch gun in the background. The terrain in most of Angola lends it self to concealment, and whenever forces halted, all kit was camouflaged.
Typical of SADF equipment of the time, this painting illustrates a 2-ton Unimog stuck in a ditch, with a 6x6 Magirus Deutz gun tractor in the background. At the time of Ops Savannah the SADF standard vehicle colour was still an olive drab green. As said before, the SADF went in covertly, so a special paint scheme was used to disguise the SADF presence. The SADF often marked its vehicles as UNITA or FNLA vehicles, with slogans such as "Viva Unita" Apart from the Eland armoured cars, most SADF vehicles were softskinned Bedford trucks, Landrovers, Unimogs, and Jeeps.
Ammo captured by the SADF at Sa da Bandeira.
A MPLA ammunition convoy blown up by SADF artillery. Note the unexploded ordinance lying around - a dangerous place to walk around!
A group of SADF soldiers posing for a photo in front of a camouflages Eland armoured car. The non-SADF green uniforms are evident again. Only later in the campaign more SADF soldiers in normal "browns" entered the campaign. The picture was taken during the summer of 1775-76, hence the lush vegetation.
SADF "high brass" during Ops Savannah. Can anybody identify them. Is it Col B on the right?
A UNITA soldier walking in front of the Cela airport building. The SADF intervened in Angola in support of UNITA. On the airport apron a SAAF C160 Transall and and Cessna spotter plane can be seen. The Cessna has a white "T" painted on its top surfaces to enable spotting the plane should it be shot down. A Cessna operting from Cela was shot down by the MPLA/CUBAN forces while on a recce flight. The SADF never announced the loss of the plane, nor recovered the bodies. A private initiative in 2008/9 located the makeshift graves where the locals buried the dead crew, and the plan is to return the remains to Sa for a proper burial by the families.
Damaged FNLA building. The MPLA managed to, with armed force;chase the opposing FNLA and UNITA out of the capital Luanda by election day on 11 November 1975. It won the election, but then commenced the bloddy Angolan civil war between UNITA and MPLA. peace came only in 2002, 27 years later.
Another destroyed FNLA building, most likely in Luanda/Luso?||FNLA fighters at Serpa Pinto being kitted out by the SADF with new uniforms, tekkies and R1 rifles. The FNLA seized to be a significant factor in the conflict after its defeat by the MPLA on 10 November 1975. Later a group of ex FNLA fighters form the nucleus of for the formation of the famed 32 battalion. Some of the soldiers in the above picture, could most likely be part of those.|Image of war, another damaged building in Ops Savannah, this time a raided Bank building
Mirage fighters of the SAAF at the ready at AFB Ondangwa during Ops Savannah. The SAAF fighters played a minimal role during the campaign, while the helicopters, spotter planes and transport planes were kept very busy.
|A dead FAPLA? soldier amongst broken ammo cases and a disposable M72 66mm LAW rocket launcher in the background.The weapon is most likely part of the ordinance supplied covertly by the CIA to the FNLA and UNITA.|
A knocked out BRDM2 of the FAPLA forces.
Another FAPLA BRDM2 brewing during Ops Savannah
Remains of an FAPLA Gaz truck of Soviet origin, blown up during the campaign.
A selection of small arms captured by the SADF. From top to bottom the following can be identified: 4 PPsh drum magazine sub-machine guns; an RDP LMG, an FN assault rifle, RPG-2 rocket, a H+K (HK21) MG, and an RPG-2 rocket launcher. Although somewhat dated, these weapons were robust and ideally suited for guerrilla warfare.
A 82mm B-10 AT recoilless gun used by FAPLA and SWAPO as an AT weapon or stand-off bombardment weapon when firing HE rounds. Lightweight, it could be pulled by a single or persons on the handles at the barrel end.
A fully loaded BM-21 MRL system of Soviet origin captured by the SADF during Ops Savannah. SADF solders gave the weapon the nickname of "Rooi Oog" (Red Eye) due to the red glare of the rockets when firing. The weapon was not very accurate, and its light-metal shrapnel was not very effective. The screaming sound of the rockets in the air however has a significant psychological effect until the troops got used to it. The SADF had nothing to match, but used captured examples to develop its own MRL system, the "Furrow" as it was initially called. Later it was named the 127mm Valkiri system or by the Nickname of the "Vorster Organ" after Prime minister Vorster of the time. The BM 21 was also known as the "Stalin Organ".
Same as previous picture. Note the bullet holes in the fuel tank. The aiming sights are mounted on the extendable arm to the left of the tubes.
A Walid armoured car of Egyptian origin, and used by the liberation movements in Angola, stuck in a ditch. A 12.7mm MG is mounted on top. The logo on the side of the vehicle is not clear. The Walid was built on a Unimog chassis. These are most likely UNITA or FNLA soldiers as the photo is if SADF origin.
Pro-UNITA war graffiti on a building in Angola during Ops Savannah
A selection of small arms captured by the SADF during Ops Savannah. In the foreground is an assortment of rifles and MG's, with a pile of mines behind it, and an 82mm B10 - recoil-less gun behind it. Through the broken windows a SADF Bedford truck and some SADF soldiers can be seen going through what appears to be battle loot including cases of ammunition.
Now and Then: Cela hospital as it looks now (left), and back in 1975 during Ops Savannah. Cela was a staging post for the SADF during the campaign for battles such as EBO and Bridge 14. It is here where the wounded were treated after the defeat of the SADF at EBO. In the town was also an important airstrip used by the SADF, and from which the SAAF Cessna 172 flew when it was shot down on a recce mission. A barefoot SADF soldier can be seen walking in front of the graffiti covered building in the picture on the right.
The monastery in Cela, where it is said the SAAF aircrew made themselves at home. This is a recent picture (2006)
GE aerial photo showing the whereabouts of the hospital and monastery in the previous pictures.
Photograph of an Alouette helicopter taken during Operation
Savannah. This photograph was taken on Lu Pupa Farm. The
concrete wall you see is a regular feature on farms in the area and was built to
level a piece of land. On some the surface was covered with a concrete slab. The airport in Cela is
just over 11 km north east as the crow flies.
Lu Pupa Mountain is very
prominent and is the source of the water supply to the town. Two pipelines were
built in the 1950’s by the Portuguese. One was damaged in the war and the other
one carries water for a distance of over 20 km to the town till this day.
| LIEBRECHT FICK'S PHOTOS:|
film were put into my shoe polish to pass the military police on returning and
that is why it is of such bad quality.
were part of the Orange battle group and entered Angola from Rundu ,
Caiundo to Silva Porto where our base was .At that stage Unita was also
based on Silva Porto and Savimbi were a regular visitor to the airport for
fuel. He was driving a Ford Capri V6 at the time.
these photos were taken in the period Dec 1975 - Mar 1976.
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taken from the control tower of Serpa Pinto (Now Menongue ).
Liebrecht Fick in the gunner position of his Eland 90 armoured car. He is wearing a Unita hat and was only 18 years old at the time
Liebrecht Fick's Eland 90 somewhere in Angola during Operation Savannah. The 2-tone camouflage scheme was particular to Ops Savannah in an effort to cover up the SADF presence.
A SADF columns returning to the "States" (SA) after Ops Savannah, stopping at a FNLA unit replenishing it with ammunition after the unit ran out of ammunition.|| |
SADF Eland 90 armoured columns somewhere in Angola during Ops Savannah. The Eland 90 formed the mainstay of the SADF armour as no tanks were deployed by the SADF. Lightly armoured but small and mobile the Elands often faced T34 and PT76 tanks and other armmour. Apart from the disaster at Ebo, the Elands performed well.
An abandoned plane at Serpa Pinto (Menongue) airport during the war. The blue and comfortable seats ended up in the SADF Unimogs!
FNLA or UNITA soldiers at Serpa Pinto airport
|Serpa Pinto airfield during Ops Savannah|
Unita Soldiers in the foreground and a SADF fuel truck in the background.
FNLA soldiers in Caiundu in Angola. Note the Eland 90mm rounds near the shelter on the left.
Serpa Pinto airfield with SADF landrovers. Note the FNLA graffiti.
|Liebrecht Fick at their shelter in Caiundu, Angola. He is holding a pistol and in the foreground some food is being cooked in a dixie on an army issue esbit stove. Eland 90 mm rounds are standing in front of the shelter.|
The former Portuguese School of Artillery at Mossondo, halfway between Serpa Pinto (Menongue) and Caiundu. This was a SADF base for a while while the SADF was pulling out of Angola after Operation Savannah.
Google Earth image of the former Portuguese School of Artillery at Mossondo,
halfway between Serpa Pinto (Menongue) and Caiundu. This was a SADF base
for a while while the SADF was pulling out of Angola after Operation
Savannah. This is a much later image (2008), showing the trenches, military vehicles and military structures of the latter years of the 23-year Angolan civil war.
Liebrecht Fick wrote: "I
can remember when we left Serpa Pinto Airfield a D8 Caterpillar was ripping up
the runway making crosses on the runway . The damage is still visible on this Googel earth image. The bulldozer parked right in front of the
control tower and I put a 90mm Heat projectile from my Eland 90 right through its engine . You can still see
where it stopped: (14 Deg 39 Min 29.75 Sec S and 10 Deg 42 Min 57.02 Sec
heaps of soil around the rubber petrol bags are also still visible."
|BOOKS ON |
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|PICTURES BY LAURIE SHOCHAT (Below)|
Background by Laurie Shochat on his involvement in Ops Savannah (click below)
Chronology of Laurie Shochat's Operation Savannah involvement. (Click below).
Press Article on Robbie Ribeiro (Click Below)
Three war Heroes: Frank Bestbier, Col. Breytenbach and S.Srgt. Robbie Ribeiro typifying the SADF of the time of Ops Savannah. Cmdt Bestbier later became OC of 61 Mech Inf Bn, one of the SADF's most battle hardened conventional warfare units. Col Jan Breytenbach became the SADF's most decorated soldier, creator of elite units such as 1 Recce Commando, 32Bn and 44 Para Brigade. He is also a prolific writer of Border War Books. In this photo, all three sports AK-47's with twin reverse taped magazinez and non-SADF uniforms.Their "army tans" are also clearly visible - deeply tanned arms and V-necks. A dark tan gave Col Breytenbach the nickname of the "Brown Man".Robbie was another brave soldier. On this page is a story on Robbie Ribeiro.
Cela airport 24 November 1975: Laurie and some members of Aparicio's ex-Portuguese mercenaries who remained behind to fight the MPLA after the Portuguese withdrawal. They fought alongside the SADF in Operation Savannah.
Cela airport 24 November 1975. Unita troops fighting alongside the SADF, looking at a SAAF C130 and the fateful SAAF Cessna that crashed the next day in enemy territory on a reconnesance flight. The SADF never reached the crash site, nor recovered the bodies. Locals buried the crew near the wreck. More than 30 years after the event, a private initiative managed to find the crash site, and recover the remains for expatriation to SA. A book has been written about this effort.
|Laurie with some more mercenaries form Aparicio's ELP. Cela airport, November 1075.|
Laurie and Frank Bestbier with a .30 Browning MG mounted on a Toyota Landcruiser bakkie. The radio is rigged behind the 2 for better reception and ease of access. The onlookers appears to be Aparicio's mercenaries or UNITA soldiers.
|A SAAF Cessna 172 as was used during Ops Savannah for aerial reconnaissance and liaison.|
Angola - A picture indicating the poor road conditions the SADF had to deal with during the rainy season of 1975
Col. Koos van Heerden right-back with the beard and green FNLA uniform, at an order group at Catengue, Task Force Zulu's most important victory.
Task Force Zulu's swift sweep through Angola in October-November 1975. It covered over 3000km in 33 days.
|Bridges played an important role in Task Force Zulu;s campaign, Here, Cmdt. D P Lambrecht hands over the first bridge of the campaign at Caiundu to Maj. Jose Bandua of UNITA.|
|The end of Ops Savannah. The minister of defense, PW Botha and UNITA? delegates takes the salute of the troops crossing the river back into SWA. The SADF's tactical withdrawal followed a political decision to withdraw as the Angolan civil war escalated and the USA decided to withdraw its covert support.|
A typical battle hardened but poorly trained and equipped bunch of UNITA fighters. They fought alongside the SADF columns against the MPLA and Cubans.
A SAAF C130 landing at Luso airport on 11 December 1975, just after the capture of the town by the SADF/UNITA forces.
A depiction of SADF Col van Heerden carefully approaching a bridge during the SADF advance. Angola, being a country with several large east-west rivers, the bridges crossing these were posing either an obstacle or a target for both forces. many battles were fought over or near bridges (Battles of Bridge 14, Ebo, Bengo, etc). Today, most of Angola's bridges are still destroyed as a result of the 27 year civil war.
SADF troops make use of a disused building for headquarter purposes during the campaign.
Members of 2 SAI Bn examines the MPLA building in Fort Rocadas military base, after it was taken in an attack from Humbe.
A Soviet manufactured jeep taken by the SADF.
UNITA troops fighting with the SADF
An FNLA guide points towards enemy positions with a SADF Eland 90 armoured car in the background
SADF Eland 60 armoured cars north of the namibian/Angolan border on their way to join Task Force Zulu
SADF 140mm G2 gunners in action against the MPLA/Cuban forces.
A MPLA command landrover shot to pieces by Cmdt Lindfords force north of Catengue.
A BM 21 MRL captured by the SADF. Initially the SADF feared this weapon and it did not have a similar weapon in its arsenal, but it soon learned that its aluminum shrapnel was not very effective. Note the bullet hole in the fuel tank.
A 4-barreled AA MG captured by the SADF
A SADF armoured column passing through a Angolan town.
A variety of photos from a SADF perspective, taken during Operation Savannah.
A SADF Landrover rigged with a single tube 122mm rocket launcher captured from the enemy. A rocket is about to be inserted into the tube, with a rocket case visible in the background.
A SADF vehicle in a road accident, with a Landrover ambulance attending to the injured. The unusual 2-tone camouflage pattern is clearly visible on these vehicles. During Ops Savannah, the SADF operated the following soft skin vehicles: Bedford 5-ton trucks, Landrovers, Willy's Jeeps, Jeep Gladiators, and Unimogs. Apart from the Unimogs, the other vehicles proofed not very reliable in the African Bush. Logistical support for the SADF Battle Groups was very scant, and along the way, the SADF commandeered many civilian vehicles it found while advancing through Angola. These included cattle trucks and sedan cars.
Another SADF vehicle accident!, this time a Bedford truck lying on its side being pulled upright by a MAN transport truck
A SADF Unimog with captured FAPLA 76mm guns and 120mm mortars of Soviet origin. The SADF repatriated many captured weapons back to the Republic for evaluation, and handed over the surplus of the captured goods to UNITA, its ally against the MPLA and Cubans.
A SADF column somewhere in Angola. A captured Landrover is part of the column. The photo was taken away from the combat zone, as the troops are not carrying guns and kit
|SADF troops cleaning their R1 7.62mm rifles. They are seated at folding steal tables - typical SADF issue even today. Care for personal weapons was a very important matter in the SADF and regular rifle inspections were held. This was to prevent stoppages caused by dirt. Culprits were normally heavily punished with Physical Training (PT)..|
True to South African tradition, the SADF would not miss the opportunity to from time to time grab the opportunity for a braai (barbecue) with fresh meat. Here a goat has fallen victim. Taking livestock from locals was strictly forbidden, but it is known that this rule was broken in some occasions. Note the leather wrist watch strap covering the shiny watch as part of camouflage. This was copied from the IDF.
This is where the goat in the previous picture ended up!
A SADF Landrover is about to cross the xxx? pontoon ferry. Note the typical dense summer vegetation and full river.
SADF landrovers in front of XXXX during Ops Savannah.
Photo taken on the pontoon ferry in the prevoius picture.
A SADF Unimog during Ops Savannah. prior to the days of armoured mine protected vehicles, very limited protection against landmines was achieved by removing all roofs above troops (to prevent injury), remove doors, and place a layer of sandbags on the floor of the vehicle, which is then covered with thick rubber conveyor belt strips.
Unita or FNLA troops fighting with the SADF. They are using captured civilian vehicles.
SADF troops relaxing in the evening somewhere during Ops Savannah.
SADF troops relaxing in the evening somewhere during Ops Savannah.
A painting depicting a typical scene during Operation Savannah.
FNLA graffiti somewhere in Angola.
MPLA propaganda posters photographed somewhere during Ops Savannah.
A stuck ENGESA 6x6 UNITA truck is being pulled out by a farm tractor. The SADF entered Angola to help UNITA win the first elections after the Portuguese departure, and while the SADF offered the fire power in the form of Eland Armoured cars and artillery, UNITA provided most of the infantry. FAPLA used some Brazilian ENGESA 6x6 trucks such as this one captured by the SADF/UNITA.
A typical SADF motorised columns on the move in Angola. The photo was most likely taken early in the campaign, as the trucks still have their canvas covers, unlike the ones prepared for rudimentary mine protection explained in an earlier photo.
Another reason to believe the photo was taken early in the campaign is the fact that all the troops are wearing civilian tekkies (sneakers) and non SADF hats.
A group of SADF soldiers enjoying beers, and sporting an array of non SADF uniforms. The SADF battle groups purposely disguised itself as non-SADF to keep South African involvement secret.
A SADF infantry squad in their tented camp. The soldiers are wearing "full kit" and "browns", and are armed with the trusted FN 7.62 assault rifle, called the R1 in the SADF.
|SADF soldiers in the bush. It can be seen that they have been in the bush for a while, hence the long hair, lack of neatness and cutomised uniforms. They are wearing speacial "greens" issued by the SADF to disguise them as non South African. The SA government kept SA involvement in internal Angolan Affairs secret until their cover was blown by the British news reporter Fred Bridgeland. The photo is clearly taken in the summer of 1975/6 hence the dense green vegetation.|| SADF troops busy camouflaging a Bedford truck in the Angolan bush. Dense summer vegetation assisted both forces with concealment, but summer rain made the already poor roads even worse. This seriously affected mobility, such as in the case during the battle of Ebo, when the SADF lost 6-7 Eland armoured cars, partly attributed to poor mobility.|
Unita troops on their transport - a civilian truck, The SADF went into Angola in support of the pro-West UNITA liberation movement.
|A SADF troop posing in front of a civilian vehicle, most likely confiscated for army transport. Behind it is a Eland 90mm armoured car. The terrain is typical central Angolan.|| A SADF column, with the same civilian bakkie as in the previous picture used as transport. The soldier sitting next to the trailer is wearing a ex-Portuguese bush hat.|
SADF soldier posing in front of a 4x4 vehilce and landrover of unknown origin (UN?). The background depicts what appears to be a SADF camp in some Angolan town. During the 3300km dash of the SADF into Angola, the scattered towns were often stopover places for the advancing columns.
Two SADF soldiers taking a coffee break
Same guy as in previous picture - different pose in the Angolan Bush.
Eland 90mm armoured car sporting the special camouflaged scheme applied for Ops Savannah. The Eland 90 is an upgraded version of the French Panhard armoured car, and provided the backbone of the SADF armour during the operation.
The white bakkie in the previous pictures heavily camouflaged during the summer of 1975/6.
a Blown up single barrel 122mm rocket launcher with some SADF troops on a runway, some where in Angola.
A hole shot through the load body of one of the civilian trucks commandeered by the SADF.
SADF troops with a blown up single tube 122mm rocket launcher. In the background is a SADF Bedford truck. The photo is taken on a tarred runway somewhere in Angola.
A civilian truck with bullet holes through the windscreen and body; Ops Savannah, Angola 1975/6.
A SADF soldier at a damaged building in Angola - Operation Savannah 1975/6. Note the FN 7.62mm rifle on the right, which was the standard SADF assault rifle at the time. The SADF started wearing its normal "browns" uniform as shown here, after its covert presence in Angola became known to the world.
This appears to be a UNITA soldier in conversation with SADF troops just visible on the left. A camouflaged Landrover can be seen in the background. Photo taken in the summer of 1075/6 as evident by the green foliage.
SADF soldiers, Eland 60 armoured cars, Unimog vehicle and Landrover in front of what appears to be an ex-Portuguese Army Base in Angola - Operation Savannah. Photo taken early in the spring of 1975.
A SADF troop train in what appears to be Angolan landscape, The train is loaded with Bedford Trucks and further in the background with what appears to be Unimogs. Does anyone knows if the SADF used trains in Angola, or was this picture taken in SA or SWA on the way to Angola?
Same as previous picture. Same as previous picture
SADF troops boarding unmarked C130 cargo planes of the SADF or SAFAIR during Operation Savannah at Grootfontein AFB, northern namibia. It is most likely SAFAIR planes, a freight company under SA Government control that did a lot of SADF contract work.
Same as previous picture. Here the troops in their typical "browns", are loading "balsakke" (kitbags) onto a C130.
SADF POW's captured during Ops Savannah are being paraded in front of the world media. The 4 POW's were the only ones captured during Ops Savannah when heir truck drove passed the SADF front-line and into enemy territory. The cover of the still secret SADF involvement in Angola was blown by this incident and the journalist Fred Bridgeland announcing SADF involvement in the war.
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Video grab of SADF troops crossing over from Angola into SWA (Namibia) at the end of Operation Savannah.
Minister of Defense PW Botha salutes the returning troops (prior and following picture) as they cross the Angolan/SWA (Namibian) border at the end of Operation Savannah. Returning SADF troops at the end of Ops Savannah. Here a 25pdr gun (G1) towed by a Bedford Truck enters SWA from Angola. |Brig. Blackie Swart who partook in Operation Savannah, talking about the Operation in a subsequent TV program.|| |
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