“Thousands of young white South African men did compulsory military service in the SADF before 1994” – most of them often only seventeen, eighteen or nineteen year old, were called on to do compulsory military service in the South African Defence Force before 1994.
Others joined the military and became professional soldiers.These men were told that they were fighting for the security of their country in the name of civilization and Christianity against the evil forces of communism. The dust has now long settled on the clashes in Namibia and Angola between the soldiers of 61 Mech and SWAPO, MPLA, Unita, the Soviet Union and the Cubans. In those days the soldiers on both sides fought for a system they believed in, but those days are past now.” quote from the website of SADF-veterans of the 61st Mechanised Battallion:
Remains of four SADF personnel killed in Operation Savanna in Nov 1975 located in Ebo, Angola: scheduled for reburial in South Africa
SADF 61st mechanised-battallion conscript Niel Lombard, SAAF officers Capt Daniël Taljaard, 2-lt Keith Williamson and 2-lt Eric Thompson lost their lives during Operation Savanna in Angola in November 1975. Their graves were finally found after a long research project by SADF-veterans, in the village of Ebo, Angola in February. A team of four forensic anthropologists had written permission from the Angolan president and the governor of the province to exhume the bones for reburial in South Africa in May 2012. What went wrong?
Afrikaner forensic-anthropology team chased out of Ebo, Angola like dogs
MAY 20 2012 – A shocked, deeply-traumatised team of Afrikaner anthrolopologists and two relatives of four fallen SADF members has arrived back in South Africa after they were chased from Angola like dogs earlier this month. The the team of experts and two relatives tried, armed with all the legal documentation, to legally exhume the bones to bring them for reburial in South Africa. These negotiations had been going on for since September 2009. And SADF-veterans have spent years on annual field-trips to Angola to retrace the footprint of the high-speed 61st Mechanised Battallion during Operation Savanna in November 1975 — and locate the remains of comrades who went missing in action.
Roll of Honour, SADF 61st Mechanised Battallion and Battle Group Juliet
The three SA Air Force officers were killed when their reconnaissance plane was shot down on 25 november 1975 near Ebo by the Cuban military ‘s field artillery (similar to the captured Russian 76MM piece in foreground below left). 61st Mechanised Battallion conscript Niel Lombard was killed when his Ratel armoured vehicle was blasted by Cuban field-artillery on 23 November 1975 near Ebo. A Ratel can be seen in below in the right foreground, in front of captured Russian Ural military trucks.
Graves located in Ebo in January
The graves of these four SADF-men were located in the village of Ebo in February. Months of carefully-documented negotiations with Angolan government officials followed, and written approval obtained from Mr Serafim du Prado, the governor of Kwanza-Sul province to remove the four bodies of the fallen South African men.
A team of eight Afrikaners, headed by retired SADF General-Major Gert Opperman, arrived in Angola to start exhumations on May 5. Opperman shortly before, also had reconfirmed their arrival with Do Prado by telephone and also, once again in writing.
So the team, comprised of forensic anthropologists Prof Maryna Blignaut-Steyn, Prof Willem Boshoff and Coen Nienaber, left for Nebo confident that they would be safe to proceed: they carried with them all the permits and written proof giving them permission for the exhumation-project to take place from May 5 to May 15. A written, detailed schedule was also submitted to Du Prado well in advance.
The team was also accompanied by two relatives of the SADF-men who were going to be brought back home.: Opperman said that when the team arrived in the village of Ebo on the first day of their visit, they first spoke to its deputy-administrator – who raised the issue of ‘certain traditional matters’ which had to be undertaken before the exhumations could begin, apparently also involving a cash payment of $750 (about R6,200). They duly handed over the cash.
“After two hours of digging at the first grave-site we found the remains of the three Air Force Officers”
“We paid the amount and after two hours of exhumation at the first grave-site, we found the remains of the three air-force officers who had been shot down.’ Lombard’s gravesite was also identified – but while the team was preparing to collect the bones for return to South Africa, a group of armed police officers pointed their guns at the unarmed team of forensic anthropologists – and demanded that the Afrikaners had to stop all their activities.
Opperman said they still tried to negotiate to find an ameniable solution acceptable to all sides – but they were brusquely ordered to leave Angola. Thus far the Ebo-project has cost the group R250,000 – all raised with private donations from SADF-veterans and their families. The team was so traumatised by the highly aggressive event that Opperman had to arrange trauma-counselling for them upon their return.
The three Air Force officers were scheduled for reburial at the Memorial Wall at the Voortrekker Monument on June 3: the 61st Mechanised Battallion soldier s remains ‘was scheduled for reburial at his family-gravesite on their farm near Riebeeck-Kasteel.
Above: The waiting, empty coffins for four fallen SADF-comrades who died in November 1975 during Operation Savanna in Ebo, Angola. Their gravesites were identified in February of SADF 61st mechanised-battallion conscript Niel Lombard,SA Air Force officers Capt Daniël Taljaard, 2-lt Keith Williamson en 2-lt Eric Thompson. The four military men’s informal graves were traced to Nebo village after years of research during annual field trips by SADF veterans. Three SA Air Force officers were scheduled for re-burial at the SADF War Memorial at the Voortrekker Monument on June 3 2012. (Picture: Leon Lombard. Rapport. ) In September 2009, Pres Jacob Zuma had also confirmed that his government supported these arrangements, and obtained the permission to proceed from Angolan president Dos Santos – http://www.61mech.org.za/articles/44-die-ebo-projek
From 2009, members of the 61st Mechanised Battallion group organise trips to Angola to trace and document the route taken by the SADF’s 61st mechanised battallion in November 1975 during Operation Savanna. On 3 June 2012, they will hold the SADF veterans’ annual memorial commemoration service at the SADF Memorial Wall for Fallen Comrades.
Roll of Honour, SADF 61st Mechanised Battallion and Battle Group Juliet: