What Really Happened: In Our Time Line (OTL), South Africa achieved independence from the United Kingdom and instituted half a century of de facto oligarchic racist rule by the Afrikaner minority. This was opposed by the majority of the Black and Coloured population and a sizeable segment of the British population but was aided and abetted by some British and some African leaders. In OTL, South Africa continued as a Republic but in This Time Line (TTL) I take a look at what might have happened had they opted to reinforce what the white supremacists considered their Dutch roots by importing a monarch. Unfortunately for them, this backfiredÖ
In 1954, South Africa
declared independence from the United Kingdom. In a controversial move
engineered by the Afrikaner-dominated parliament, Princess Irene of the
Netherlands was invited to reign as head of state of the newly-declared
Koninklijke Unie van Zuid-Afrika. However, this would prove to be the start of
even more turmoil.
Faced with the prospect of ratifying apartheid laws which the Nationalist Party wished to be enshrined in the Constitution, Queen Irene faced a crisis of conscience which, upon her refusal to ratify the Constitution, spiralled into a constitutional crisis as South Africa shook itself apart. Eager to cling on to their philosophy of apartheid even at the cost of civil war, the Nationalist Party declared the establishment of the Verenigde Provincies van Zuidafrika (VPZ) on the 16th of December 1956 in Pretoria. They claimed sovereignty over all the Northern provinces of South Africa. In a speech to the Staaten-Generale (Parliament) Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom, leader of the Nationalist Party and now President of the VPZ declared that: "Afrikaners have had their fill of the liberal English-dominated State. We will seek to build here in the heartland of Africa a home for all God-fearing Afrikaners where the Bantu, the Asiatic and the Coloured will be guided by the White as is God's will."
Meanwhile in the Southern provinces, a makeshift legislature was cobbled together in Cape Town, the majority consisting of white English but with substantial representation of Indian, Black and Coloured political figures (including one Nelson Mandela). The first act of this Emergency Parliament was to declare the establishment of the Dominion of South Africa, a Commonwealth State. Apartheid laws were struck from the Constitution. With assistance from the United Kingdom and other countries including, surprisingly, India, the fledgling government turned to its first priority, the endless columns of refugees who came streaming out of the North.
Now, thirty years later, the Indian Ocean littoral is a very different place.
In Africa, the VPZ is still going strong, occupying Namibia and doing well on the rich mineral resources that it exports. As a fervent ally in the struggle against Communism, America has taken little action against the Boers. After all, they even sent troops to Vietnam. And they strongly undermine any communist activities in the region.
Life in the VPZ is excellent, comparable to life in Canada or Australia, for Whites. For Blacks and Coloureds who cooperate with the government, life is better than in many other places in Africa. The vast majority of the population lives a life of endless toil and drudgery.
The Dominion, also endowed with mineral wealth has developed into a mildly prosperous social democracy- albeit one which maintains a relatively strong military, though one far smaller than the mighty military machine of the VPZ.
The Dominion's most valuable partner is India- in this TL stepping up to the role in the 1960's and 70's that China did in OTL '90's- workshop to the world. India, with its powerful economy is big brother to the Association of Non-Aligned Nations, a power bloc consisting of countries mainly around the Indian Ocean: the Dominion, Botswana, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand. These same countries, with the exception of New Zealand are also members of IOTO, the Indian Ocean Treaty Organization, a mutual defence organisation organised along the lines of NATO- although only India is really capable of power projection with her powerful naval and marine forces, equipped with Dominion-designed, Indian-built weaponry. In this TL, the Indian Navy is reckoned to be the third most powerful in the world; behind the US and USSR and on par with the French and British.
The VPZ, on the other hand has been concerned about the flagging support from the US, less interested in its services in fighting Communism now that the Russians are getting tied up in Afghanistan. Besides the US, its only major international allies are Israel, Pakistan, Indonesia and Rhodesia (OTL Zambia + Zimbabwe). The Rhodesian government was aloof at first to the Afrikaners but after a series of black rebellions throughout the '60's realised that the only thing propping their state up was Afrikaner military power.
While the greater Cold War has polarised the Northern Hemisphere since the Second World War, here in Southern Africa and across the Indian Ocean, a smaller Cold War has been going on between IOTO and the VPZ and its Allies.
In the Autumn of 1982, this would change.
Part I- Prelude to War
Nov 1981, Pretoria, VPZ
Many of my friends say that Pretoria seems a bit too cold,
even in summer. I suppose compared to Bombay, it is. I'm used to the cold
though- working as a correspondent for the Indian Ocean Telegram you get
around quite a bit- New York midwinters don't bother me and nothing in Southern
Africa gets quite that cold.
Except their attitude towards me, that is.
As I walk down the street, my hands constantly wander to the tag I must display prominently on my jacket- it marks me out as a foreigner and therefore an honorary white. The Afrikaners don't much like admitting "Asiatics" to their restaurants and hotels but they put up with it in the interests of avoiding too many international incidents. A chap I knew who worked for the Straits Times out of Singapore once lost his tag- it came off as he was brushing through a crowd. He was picked up by a passing policeman, taken to a station and beaten- although the official story was that he had "resisted arrest". My hands shake slightly as I light my cigarette- I know the tag protects me but an Indian in Pretoria can never be quite at ease.
But that's what life is like here in the VPZ. When they see me walking down their streets they flinch and sometimes turn, as if to seek a policeman, before they notice the tag. Then they pass me by in silence giving me a wide berth.
Doubly wide because my tag is orange, a Press tag, unlike the ordinary yellow non-white foreigner tags. The godless, liberal Press as they call us here.
Pretoria isn't my usual station- I've been in Cape Town for the past year. The Telegram, like many Indian papers doesn't keep a permanent correspondent in the VPZ or Rhodesia- we rely on picking up stories from other news agencies. If something important is in the offing, someone gets sent up from the Cape to look into it.
There were talks currently going on between Rhodesia and the VPZ, the usual stuff. The Rhodesians were getting bogged down in another of the long parade of rebellions that occurred almost every year in the North of the country and like every year, the VPZ was going to reaffirm its contribution of aid to the embattled government of its vassal.
Rumour had it, though, that something more would be going on this year. It was being whispered that this year, the Boers might actually send in troops. Officially, that is. Afrikaner special forces units and officers had always unofficially been assisting the Rhodesian government but the VPZ had never before sent in armed units in force. If so, this would be the first international deployment of Boer troops since they had helped the Americans in Vietnam.
Nobody in Pretoria really liked to talk about Vietnam though.
In any case, the teams from each nation had been negotiating throughout the weekend and no news had been leaked. That made for a long, boring weekend. Not even any bars open- the VPZ is dry on the Sabbath. Another reason to dislike it.
The announcement would be tomorrow morning, so they said.
I couldn't wait. I'd hear them out, get on the first flight out of this hell hole and head back to the welcoming arms of the Cape to file my story.
Just one more day.
Dec 1, 1981
The Avro-554 jet levelled out in its cruising altitude
fifteen minutes out of Andries Pretorius International Airport. There are only
two flights a week between Pretoria and Cape Town all operated by British
Airways- no IOTO carrier flies to any VPZ airport.
It would be good to get back to Cape Town- the news conference had been interesting but not momentous enough that the Telegram needed to send me up North. I'd still be interested to see the reactions back in our newsroom though.
Piet deVriees, the VPZ Minister of Defence and Joseph Stanley, a representative of the Rhodesian Foreign Office had taken the stand, wide grins on their faces to announce the ratification of a treaty of mutual aid between the two nations.
Basically, what that meant was that the VPZ would now be welcome to openly send troops into Rhodesian territory. It was just one more sign that the Rhodesians were effectively a vassal state of the VPZ. Twenty years ago relations had been chilly at best with the white Rhodesians suspicious of the Afrikaners. Now that they couldn't keep their own Blacks down, they needed Afrikaner help to do so. It was quite telling- nowadays, white and coloured Rhodesian children learned Afrikaans as a second language in their schools.
"Would you like a drink, sir?" the stewardess asked.
"Gin and tonic please."
That felt good- it's pretty hard to get service as an Indian in Pretoria. I tossed back my drink and made myself as comfortable as I could- it would be another hour to Cape Town.
"The shit's really hit the fan, now, Mohan," said Julius Mfeketo to me. My editor was an excitable little man and he had jumped right at me the moment I had got back to the office.
"Julius, please," I said, "I just got off the plane half an hour ago- I'm tired and hungry and I want to have lunch before all of you start quizzing me about Pretoria."
"You mean, you haven't heard?" he said
"It's all over the news wires- apparently a few hours ago VPZ fighters launched an air raid on Blantyre. The BBC had a team there which got some footage and sent it out."
Blantyre was the largest city of Nyasaland*, a Rhodesian province that was almost totally in rebel hands. In this case, the rebels were the Malawi Liberation Front, a group which wanted independence for Nyasaland. They had managed to seize popular support in Nyasaland and for five years they had been gaining territory.
"Damn- I didn't realise that the VPZ would take such quick action- they like the Rhodesians to be tied up with their rebels. It keeps Rhodesia under their thumb."
"Well, maybe they decided that the rebels were getting too powerful. Who knows what they're up to in Pretoria?" Julius replied.
"Well it'll just be more bloodshed and pain."
A group of reporters walked past, gesturing to us.
"Come on Mohan, Julius," said one of them, "There's a new Japanese place that opened up down the street- we're going to try it out."
I sighed deeply and turned to follow them.
I had a bad feeling about the whole situation.
Dec 18, 1981- excerpt from the Economist
Cape Town- Princess Irene of Oranje-Nassau, Governor-General
of the Dominion of South Africa led the celebrations for the 24th Anniversary
of the South African Holiday known as Emancipation Day. It was on the 18th of
December, 1956, two days after the Verenigde Provincies van Zuidafrika declared
their independence from the Koninklijke Unie van Zuid-Afrika, that the
Emergency Parliament that assembled in Cape Town to declare the re-establishment
of the Dominion of South Africa. With Princess Irene- then still Queen Irene-
championing their cause, they sought readmission to the commonwealth as a free
state built upon the ideals of Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy.
Wildly popular among the coloured, Indian and Black population for her steadfast stand against the apartheid laws of the National Party, her appointment as Governor-General was almost a foregone conclusion although it resulted in a strange situation- a Dutch Princess of Oranje-Nassau ruling on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.
For twenty-four years, Princess Irene has served as Head of State for a country that has grown by leaps and bounds to become one of the richest in the world. South Africa has spearheaded the opening of the Indian economy and those of South-East Asia, providing the capital and expertise that allowed India to leap into the position of workshop to the world in the late sixties and early seventies.
Together with India, the Dominion serves as the leading member of the Association of Non-Aligned Nations, a bloc of African and Asian countries dedicated to neutrality in the Cold War. For the most part the members of ANAN are relatively stable democracies but in recent years, their latest member caused ripples on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
With the admission of Vietnam to ANAN last year, the bloc has accepted its first Communist member. Optimists say that this may be a sign of ANAN's ability to set up a dialogue between East and West.
Cynics however say that the admission of Vietnam is simply a manoeuvre by India to extend its influence into Indo-China and a ploy by the Dominion to rankle its traditional foe, the VPZ.
It's been seven years since the last VPZ troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the memory of that war is just as sour for the Afrikaners as it is for America.
All the same, indications are that the VPZ is once again ready to tackle the idea of major involvement in a foreign conflict, even if it is only next door in Rhodesia.
Celebrations are going on all across the Dominion, but as always, a watchful eye is ever turned to the North. The Economist, like the South Africans, thinks it's a good precaution.
BBC World Service Transcript, 26/12/81
Broadcaster: In our top story today, reports are coming in
from Blantyre, the capital of Nyasaland, currently claimed by Rhodesia. We have
received a transmission from our team in Blantyre, headed by James Parker. It
appears that most of the World Service Team were injured in an assault upon
Blantyre by Rhodesian and VPZ forces. They have been evacuated to Mozambique by
Malawi Liberation Front forces. Viewers are advised that the following clip may
contain images that some may find disturbing. Parents are advised to ask young
children to leave the room.
A Reporter, Parker, stands in front of a burning building. Behind him, many people, most in civilian clothes, some in a semblance of uniform rush to and fro carrying guns and buckets of water. Some are firing wildly into the air. In the background, viewers can hear gunfire and a dull roar, fading away
Parker (shouting into camera): This is James Parker for the BBC World Service in Blantyre! For most of the past month, Blantyre has been under daily air raids from aircraft bearing VPZ forces. At the same time, armoured columns of the VPZ have been pushing deep into Nyasaland in a drive toward the Malawi Liberation Front capital, here in Blantyre. Two days ago, the provisional Malawi Government set up by the MLF to govern liberated Nyasaland was forced to evacuate the city as it has come under increasingly heavy attack.
For the past five days we have been under heavy artillery bombardment and bombing but it is only today, Christmas Morning that their final assault has begun. I am told that they are already in the outer streets of the city and that an armoured column has been sighted coming down the main boulevard which ends here, outside the makeshift Malawi Parliament House which lies in ruins, destroyed by an air raid earlier today.
All accounts state that VPZ forces are firing indiscriminately on civilians and soldier alike and that-
An explosion nearby knocks the reporter and the cameraman off their feet. The picture dissolves into static
Broadcaster: That was James Parker, currently undergoing hospitalisation in Mozambique. With that report and other evidence, it seems that the liberation movement in Nyasaland has been effectively crushed for the moment.
In other news, ANAN governments have joined the United Kingdom, Canada, and many European countries to formally lodge a protest against VPZ and Rhodesian aggression...
The New Year's Party at Julius' house is going at full
swing. I've probably had a bit too much to drink but thatís true of everyone
else. Its good being in the Southern Hemisphere for New Year's- a braai*
in Cape Town is far more salubrious than a midwinter New Year's party in
This New Year, everyone at Julius' party is a bit more subdued than normal. Almost everyone here is in the press or connected to it is some way. We all know in our bones that war is coming. Nothing definite- just that the old journos among us can smell it and the younger ones are picking up on our fear.
Besides that, I know it for sure.
I called Shanti yesterday, you see. I've hardly seen her since the divorce but I do call her from time to time. She enjoys Bombay- why not? After all they're calling it the LA of Asia. She has time to shop and visit with her friends now instead of following a journalist all across the planet. She liked it when I was in London, New York, Singapore- Cairo shook her confidence, it was the Moscow posting that made her mind up.
We're still quite friendly though and Shanti's father is the mighty Admiral Shaji Menon that pillar of the Indian Navy. And Admiral Menon has just been despatched to the Indian naval base on Mauritius. Thatís quite unusual- the Indian navy doesn't really send a full Admiral out to its forward early deployment base for the Southern Indian Ocean on a whim. If they were sending him there it meant that a significant proportion of the strength of the Indian Navy was expected to be deployed to the region.
What did the governments know that we didn't?
I wobbled back to the bar to get another gin and tonic. Behind me came a splash and cheers as someone fell into the pool. Probably Julius- he tended to do the same thing at every New Year's Party.
Damn all governments and their wars. I reported from Saigon and I know how bad a war can be.
For the moment, I forgot about wars and rumours of war. It was midsummer on the Cape and I wanted to enjoy it while I could.
Excerpt from the memoirs of Commodore BN Chandran (Retd.)
"The decision to deploy the Second Fleet to Mauritius
was a controversial one. At the time, I was the Commanding Officer of INS Vijaya,
the flagship of Second Fleet and though I was not privy to the discussions of
my superiors, the conflicting instructions that came down from above certainly
gave me an indication of what was going on. For about a week after Christmas,
we were being given notice to set to sea and then having those orders put on
Finally, on the 5th of January, it was announced that Admiral Menon would be moving his Headquarters to Mauritius- with that we knew that Second Fleet wouldn't be far behind.
We already had tenders and submarine assets in the area- the tenders are based on Mauritius and the subs do regular patrols off the South African Coast. However, moving the heart of Second Fleet, the Vijaya's carrier group was not an easy task.
To this day I'm not too sure if our Intelligence-wallahs had an idea of what the Afrikaners might really be up to, although they certainly claimed that they did after the fact. In any case a decision was taken that I found vaguely disturbing.
New ordinance was loaded in the dead of night and stored securely under a guard of marines in one of the bomb lockers. I had received orders to supervise this personally so I knew what we were carrying.
Nuclear weapons may be a normal (though at the time top secret) part of First Fleet's inventory- after all they patrol the Arabian Sea and you never know what those Pakis might get up to- but Second Fleet patrols the Indian Ocean. None of us realised that there might be need for such firepower down there.
In the event, it was fortunate that someone at a desk somewhere had issued the order..."
- Southern Cross: The memoirs of a Carrier Commander in the Third Boer War, Commodore (Retd.) BN Chandran, (Bombay: 2001)
Hall of the Voortrekkers, Pretoria
Piet van DeVeer, one of the most senior members of the Broederbond
climbed heavily up the steps of the Hall of the Voortrekkers. He nodded to the
young Vrijkorps guards. Most government buildings were guarded by
Coloured of Black troops under white officers but this, the Hall of the
Voortrekkers, the spiritual heart of the Afrikaner Volk was guarded only
by Vrijkorps officer cadets.
They did not return his nod but remained ramrod straight, staring out across the great square at the heart of Pretoria, as was their duty.
Fine specimens the old man thought to himself. The Vrijkorps had been his idea- an army within the army admitting not coloured or black troops but only Afrikaner males. Every Afrikaner man served three years with the Vrijkorps. Some chose to sign on with the regular army as officers after their three years but the majority returned to civilian life, providing the ruling caste of the VPZ.
At the lift lobby, he displayed his card to another guard. The young man nodded and waved him into the waiting left. This particular lift was off limits and accessed an isolated section of one floor- the home of the Broederbond.
They were not a secret society, no, everyone knew about the Broederbond, the "Band of Brothers", their glittering clubhouse on the outskirts of Pretoria and the branches established in each major town of the VPZ, much like Masonic Lodges. If you were a man of any importance in Afrikaner society you would be invited to join once you reached your late thirties. But if you were a man of importance within the Broederbond, you were invited to the monthly meetings at the Hall of the Voortrekkers.
The lift opened onto a large room, blue with cigar smoke. Thirty or so men sat around a great oak table with the crest of the VPZ etched into its surface.
"Welcome, Brother Piet," said one, "Will you have a drink?"
"Just some soda water, thank you," he replied taking a seat at the head of the table. Van de Veer was a conservative Calvinist, even by Afrikaner standards, and seldom drank alcohol. One of the junior members- a man in his early fifties- rose to fetch him a glass of soda water. Normally there was no way this man would have ever served anyone, even himself. But this was the High Council of the Broederbond and within the Council Chamber no servants were allowed- not even white ones.
"Shall we get down to business, brothers?" asked Piet, after a brief opening prayer.
"Time is of the essence. Will you start, Brother Marthinus?"
This last was directed to a Brother in an Army uniform who wore the four stylised stars of a VPZ Generaal.
"Thank you Brother," he said, rising, "As you have no doubt heard we've done in one month what these whining Rhodesians couldn't manage in a year- drive the main rebel forces from Nyasaland. Our forces are already redeploying to the West as are the main Rhodesian forces. The remaining rebels in Nyasaland will be taken care of by Rhodesian police units.
"No doubt by this time next year it'll be in the same mess but thatís none of our business. All that matters is that their regular army is in a position to support us in Operation JOSHUA."
"Why did we even need the Rhodesians?" broke in another junior member. "Bloody Englishmen. They may not be as bad as the damned kaffir-loving English down in the Cape and Natal but they're still weak, whining and a drain on our resources- they can't handle their own blacks, for Heaven's sake!"
"Brother Johannes," said Piet with a steely undertone, "Please do not waste our time with these same arguments. You had your chance to present them when we discussed JOSHUA before. Please carry on Brother Marthinus"
"As I was saying, our forces will soon be in place in Western Rhodesia and they are already in place here in our home territory. The troops allocated to Operation VANGUARD are also nearly ready. If all goes well, we should be able to commence operations in March."
"Thank you, Brother Marthinus, now, Brother Wilhelm, is there any new information about the Asiatics?"
"Yes, Brother Piet," said a tall, relatively young man, this one dressed in a normal business suit.
"Our Pakistani allies have indicated that the Indian Second Fleet is redeploying to Mauritius. It's probably a move just designed to make the Kaffir-lovers feel better. There is no indication that any IOTO agency has got wind of JOSHUA."
"Excellent. Now, on to more domestic affairs- I believe Brother David had something to tell us about the diamond mines?"
The most powerful men in the VPZ sat back to listen to the lesser business, satisfied that all was going to plan.
February 23rd, 1982, BBC News Transcript
Newscaster: Our top story for today concerns the meeting
yesterday between American President Robert Kennedy and United Provinces
vice-president, Theodore duPre. Mr. duPre, visiting the United States on a
trip, ostensibly to meet with industrial interests in that nation, was granted
a controversial audience with the President, known for his anti-apartheid
views. Crowds of black protestors gathered outside the White House holding
<voiceover on shots of demonstrators>
and shouting anti-apartheid and anti-VPZ slogans. In a press conference this morning, President Kennedy made the following statement.
<clip of press conference>
Kennedy: America has let the United Provinces know that Americans find apartheid unacceptable. However, we too must remember that in our own nation, not fifteen years ago, Black Americans had to endure similar conditions. This government is confident that the government of the United Provinces is gradually moving towards a situation where they can rectify these matters.
In the meantime, the United Provinces have proved a strong and steady ally against Communism in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere throughout the world. I am confident that in time, the United Provinces will take their place alongside the United states as a bulwark of democracy and freedom.
Newscaster: That was President Robert Kennedy.
In other news, unrest seems to be sweeping the streets of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Botswanan officials have denied that there is an effective state of anarchy in many of the urban areas of the mineral-rich nation. However, sources from the VPZ have stated that rebel forces from Botswana have crossed the border and attacked VPZ patrols. There has been no response to this statement from the Botswanan government as yet.
March 1st 1982, Ladysmith, Natal, HQ Royal Natal Hussars
A clean-cut young officer stepped into the office and
extended a welcoming hand to me.
"Pleased to meet you, sir," he said, "I'm Lieutenant Jacob Mathabane- I understand that you're the reporter from the Telegram who's going to be embedded with our unit?"
"Yes, Lieutenant," I replied, "But please don't call me 'sir', I'm Mohan Vergis. Just call me Mohan."
"Well, then Mohan- you must call me Jacob," he said, grinning, "You're not Dominion-born are you?"
"Me? No- Bombay born and bred! I've got permanent residency here though."
"Bombay must be interesting- all the movie stars and industrialists. I hear there are fortunes to be made there if you know how to work a computer."
"Unfortunately I don't- I can type a report up on them and send an E-Gram* but that's about all."
"Well, they're integrating that technology into the Army so I suppose I'll have to learn at some point. Anyway, what do you know about the Paladin tank?"
"I know that it's the primary Main Battle Tank of the Dominion, Indian and some of the other IOTO armies."
"She's the best protected tank in the world- designed for crew survivability, extra armour plating, engine in the front, doors in the back, NBC-protection and air-conditioning. Top speed of around 55 klicks per hour off road- officially that is. She's got a 120-mm rifled gun and carries fifty rounds of ammo- High-Explosive Squash Head, Armour Piercing or smoke..."
He trailed off, seeing my bemusement.
"But I'll explain all that to you when we're out on the exercise. You'll be with us for what? A month?"
"Yes- my editor wants me here on the off chance the Afrikaners try something."
Jacob spat into the dust as I mentioned the Afrikaners.
"They're up to something but none of us know what. All we can do is be ready. I hear that our friends in India have sent the Second Fleet to Mauritius. I'd feel a lot happier if their Marine regiments or some of their Army troops were unloading in Durban right now."
Shanti had told me that she had heard that some Army regiments were supposed to be shipping out for South Africa. Obviously the Bombay rumour mill worked faster than official channels.
"I think that they might be on the way," I said to him, "But you're right. I'd feel better if they were here now."
March 5th, 1982
"We are pleased to welcome our honoured guest, Minister
van deVeer," the earnest young squadron commander said to his pilots. They
rose to applaud the old man. Every man and woman in the VPZ could recognise van
deVeer, the so-called 'father of the VPZ Armed Forces'.
"Gentlemen," he said, waving them to silence, "You are among the finest officers serving our United Provinces. Your squadron was the first to be issued the new fighter planes, these Atlas Cheetahs. Just a few months ago, you distinguished yourselves in the police action where we helped our Rhodesian allies with their kaffir problem.
"But I am sure you will agree that that was no war for a true Afrikaner- bombing primitives armed with nothing heavier than grenade launchers."
A ripple of agreement ran through the room. These were indeed the finest that the VPZ had to offer- every Afrikaner boy dreamed of being selected as a fighter pilot during his Vrijkorps training and a very few were admitted to the gruelling programme. The "police action" in Nyasaland had left a bad taste in their mouths- mopping up ragtag rebels was not a fitting job for skilled warriors.
"Now, perhaps, you will have a chance to show your true mettle.
"Before, I continue, I must warn you that after you hear this briefing, none of you will be allowed to leave the base. I realise that you were forewarned of this condition but I reiterate its importance. No sneaking out to see your girlfriends or wives."
They shifted in their seats impatiently. All of them had heard the rumours but now it looked like they would actually receive something solid.
"In one week's time, your squadron will be among the first VPZ units to strike at Dominion military bases in Natal-"
The room erupted in cheers, pilots shaking their hands in the air, some so excited that they were literally jumping for joy. Again, van deVeer waved for silence.
"You will provide fighter cover for other squadrons tasked to bomb Dominion bases. Without a doubt the kaffir-lovers will scramble their fighters and you will meet them in the air. Remember the spirit of our forefathers- like them you will ride on kommando against the English and their lackeys. You will be briefed further by your commanding officers but know this, sons of the voortrekkers, the people of the United Provinces put their full trust in you. With God on your side, you shall prevail!"
Part II- Onslaught
March 12, 1982
I jumped and dropped my cup of tea as sirens burst out all
over the base. Beside me, Lieutenant Mathabane froze, seemingly in disbelief
before grabbing me by the shoulder and dragging me outside.
"Air raid? This far behind the lines? If the damned Boers have got this far, heads'll roll on the Air Force staff."
"Where are we going?"
"To the air raid shelter, of course. You want to stay in the mess building and get blown to smithereens if a bomb hits?"
Above us came the low roar of jet engines. Mathabane squinted upwards into the bright winter sky.
"Avro Arrows- our planes. Heading north I see. I guess the sirens were just a precaution- the Boers probably hit targets nearer the border. Still, we'd better get to the air raid shelter just in case."
translated from the evening edition of Die Afrikaner the largest newspaper in the VPZ
This morning, VPZ troops have acted in concert with our Rhodesian allies to end the troubles in Botswana. For months now, rebel groups have been turning the streets of Gaborone and other Botswanan cities into war zones. VPZ and Rhodesian troops have crossed the border. The city of Gaborone is said to be in VPZ hands already and order is being restored there. Other cities in southern and Eastern Botswana will soon be occupied by our peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, the corrupt Botswanan government has fled to the North of the country, denying the right of the VPZ to act to preserve its own interests and that of the population of Botswana. In the South, our forces have struck against military targets in the Dominion. This is meant as a deterrent and nothing more. Should the Dominion attempt to prop up its puppet regime in Botswana, the conflict will no doubt escalate. For hints and tips of ways in which you, as a reader, can help our nation's war effort just turn to our lifestyle section where...
Transcript of a speech made by Her Highness, Princess Irene van Oranje-Nassau, Governor-General of the Dominion of South Africa
"It is my sad duty to inform the peoples of South Africa and the nations of the world that at 10am, this morning, March the 12th, elements of the VPZ Air Force launched air raids on targets in Natal Province. Our intelligence assets have also shown that VPZ armoured units have started advancing across the border through the passes of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Already, forward elements of the Dominion Armed Forces have engaged in combat with the enemy in the air as well as in the passes.
Faced with a situation like this, as well as the unconscionable invasion of our Botswanan allies by the VPZ along with Rhodesia, the Dominion of Africa has had no choice but to declare a state of war against those two nations. In accordance with the Indian Ocean Treaty, India and other treat members have joined us in this declaration.
The time ahead will be trying for all of us but, rest assured, freedom and democracy shall prevail..."
March 13 1982, Charlestown, Natal Province
Estelle heard the soldier's boots as they crunched up the
"They're here, then," her husband said, "I'm sure they'll be reasonable..."
His voice trailed off. Dr. Haresh Rajgopal was no fool. He knew that the Boers wouldn't approve of an Indian who had married a white woman. He had always known that this situation might present itself- but he had never really believed that it would.
It had been something you joked about with your old University friends when you saw them at the reunions down in Durban.
All settled down now, eh, Haresh? Wife, kid, all that? Where're you practicing?
Charlestown...that's up on Laing's Nek* isn't it? You like to live on the wild side- first on the list when the Boers come across the Drakensberg!
It had been funny there in that Durban ballroom- now, with VPZ troops coming up his drive, it was much less so.
When the news of the invasion had been broadcast, the town of Charlestown had already known that something was amiss. In the night they had heard the roar of aircraft flying overhead. Perhaps people in towns further down the Nek had had time to get into their cars and escape. In Charlestown, last major town before the border, VPZ tanks had come rumbling through hardly half an hour later. Throughout that long day, the people had mostly stayed huddled in their homes as the long lines of armour moved through their town and down along the Nek. VPZ military police had patrolled the neighbourhoods, arresting all government officials and setting up shop in the city hall. Now, they appeared to be doing a more thorough sweep.
The soldiers outside rapped on the door.
"Open up, Military Police!" shouted one in Afrikaans and then in English.
Estelle rushed to open the door. Outside stood two burly black VPZ troopers led by a somewhat jittery-looking white corporal.
"Do you speak Afrikaans, ma'am?" he asked, looking relieved when she nodded.
"You are Mrs. Estelle Raj...Rajgopal?" he said, reading from a file in his hand, fumbling the unfamiliar name. Again she nodded.
"Your husband is Asiatic? And your child is Coloured?"
Haresh stepped forward.
"Yes, Corporal, I suppose you'd call us that."
The corporal ignored him, still speaking to Estelle.
"Ma'am, your marriage is unlawful under VPZ law and as such, we will have to take this man into custody. He will be housed in a non-white area which has been designated by VPZ officers. He has five minutes to pack two sets of clothes and any personal items. Daniel will accompany him."
One of the black MPs stepped forward and placed a hand on Haresh's shoulder.
"I must protest this, corporal," snapped Haresh, "I wish to speak to your superior!"
Daniel's hand clamped down on his shoulder making him grimace in pain.
"Lieutenant Ferf doesn't talk to Asiatics, boy," growled the corporal, "now move along, chop-chop, or you'll end up in camp with nothing but the clothes on your back."
He turned back to Estelle.
"Regarding your child, ma'am, I must inform you that she will be housed in an orphanage for coloured children when such a facility can be set up. For now, however, she will be allowed to remain with you, even though this district has been designated a whites-only zone."
Estelle watched in numbed disbelief as they dragged her husband out of the house and loaded him onto a large civilian truck with nothing more than a small case and his medical bag. Across the road she heard more shouts and she looked up in her numbed amazement to see her neighbour, Harold Zwane, a successful Charlestown lawyer being thrown to the ground by a VPZ officer as his wife was marched out of her door by a military policeman, clutching at her crying children.
"Don't try and give me your fancy liberal lawyer talk, boy" roared the officer, "These damned English let you get above your station- letting you raise your whole brood of kaffirs in this neighbourhood. Now get up and get onto the bloody truck!"
Estele dropped to her knees and burst into tears as around her, her comfortable suburban world fell apart.
March 16, 1982
I suppose that as a good reporter I should have stayed with
the unit I was assigned to but Lieutenant Mathabane insisted that I'd only get
in the way- he hurried me over to a large military truck and told me that if I
still wanted to follow the regiment I'd have to do it from their logistics
I was still pretty confused- it appeared that the regiment was well-drilled for this sort of action. however no one had bothered to tell me much about what exactly was happening- I knew we were supposed to be advancing to Laing's Nek but nothing much had been said about the situation there.
The driver of the truck nodded to me in a friendly manner, listening to the news.
"The BBC gives good information," he said, "They don't tell us drivers nothin' so we've got to find out for ourselves. See- just like I told you-those Brits've got a team up at Newcastle already."
Announcer: This is the BBC World Service and we're receiving a live transmission from Gary Peterson heading our team in Newcastle, South Africa.
Peterson: This is Gary Peterson for the BBC World Service. I'm standing on the outskirts of the town of Newcastle in South Africa's Natal Province and behind me units of the Royal South African Army are heading North to Laing's Nek, a major pass through the Drakensberg.
It appears that VPZ units have seized most of the mountain towns and are now advancing towards Newcastle itself. The RSAA is now responding, hoping to halt this Afrikaner advance in what some are already calling the Third Boer War.
We have little information about what's going on in the towns but one refugee who managed to get out of Charlestown after the VPZ troops had taken the town has said that the population was being segregated by military police. We do not, as yet, have confirmation of this report.
It appears that the border troops were swept aside by a massive onrush of VPZ armoured units, while military bases down here beyond Laing's Nek were attacked from the air-
Abruptly, the driver turned off the radio.
"Heads're gonna roll down in Cape Town," he said, not without satisfaction, "These bastards got the drop on us. Anyway, we better damn well hope we can beat them here. Here, at least, we've got a chance of beating them and marching on Pretoria. If they come across the Great Karoo driving straight for the Cape we're going to have a job holding them."
"Well the Indians are already on their way," I said, "I hear that some of their fighter squadrons have already reached Natal."
"Planes are useful," said the driver, "But no air force on earth is going to hold back the Boers if they break through the Drakensberg."
"Well, Indian troops are on their way."
"They'd better hurry," he replied dryly, lighting a cigarette.
March 17, 1982, Hall of the Voortrekkers, Pretoria
"It has been five days since JOSHUA and VANGUARD
commenced, Brother Marthinus," said Piet van DeVeer, "Perhaps you
would brief us on the situation?"
General Marthinus nodded and typed a command on the portable computer he had hooked up to a projector.
"If one of you would dim the lights?" he asked. A junior member hopped up, wheezing and puffing- he was a fifty-five year old banker- to do as the General asked.
"Each of you will receive a detailed file when you return to your various offices so I will just go over the main achievements of our Forces and the major issues that we will have to confront in the near future.
"JOSHUA has been an unqualified success- as of yesterday; the main routes leading into the mineral rich regions of Botswana have come under our control. Our forces and those of our Rhodesian allies have successfully occupied the major urban areas of Southern and Eastern Botswana."
"What about the Kaffir government?" asked a Brother.
"Fled to the city of Maun in the North of the country," replied the General, "They're frothing at the mouth but we're going to leave them alone for now. We already control the important regions of the country- the large cities and the routes to the mining fields. Let them babble about their 'sovereign rights'."
"Casualties?" asked Piet.
"Thirty boys from the vrijkorps," said Marthinus, "And around two hundred of our Bantu and Coloured troops. Those Botswanan kaffirs mostly ran or surrendered at the sight of our forces. Of course we were paying off a number of their commanders, which helped."
"So then," sighed Piet, "JERICHO goes well- the Lord has delivered them into our hands. What about VANGUARD?"
"As you all know," Piet continued, "VANGUARD is meant only to frighten the English. If we wanted to, we could drive straight for the Cape. but there is no reason for us to do so- it would only mean taking all those damned Kaffir-lovers and Asiatics into the bosom of our nation like a cancer"
"Indeed, Brother," replied Marthinus, "We have secured Laing's Nek- there hasnít' been much fighting on the ground as of yet besides some artillery duels.
"They seem to be forming their line at Ladysmith and we reckon they'll advance on us by tomorrow at the latest. We know that we won't try for an all-out push on Durban but they won't know that. And while they're tied up trying to push us back through the Drakensberg, we'll let the Rhodesians secure Botswana and hammer them. Their army will die in the Drakensberg and they'll be willing to sign any treaty which keeps us out of Natal."
"And what if they succeed in pushing us back?" said another Brother, "What if we find English and Asiatics advancing on Bethlehem*?"
"We have planned for that, Brother," growled Piet, "The President has given authorisation for Project MACCABEE to be used if enemy troops break through the Drakensberg."
A murmur ran around the room.
"Nuclear bombs? How will the world take that?" said the same Brother
"They will take it as an act of self defence by a free nation. They need our resources too much to complain. Their left wings will howl, no doubt, but the people in power know that we're too good an ally against the Godless Soviets.
"We will use MACCABEE if the Kaffirs break through the Drakensberg. As it was with the Children of Israel- a pillar of fire shall guide us by night and a pillar of cloud by day. And the Lord shall look upon our enemies through the pillar of fire and of the cloud and they will wither before Him."
March 17, 1982, Ladysmith, Natal Province
Someone shook me roughly. Immediately I sat up, rigid and
alert. It had been years since the last time I had covered a war- Vietnam- but
once you've worked with a combat unit, the habits don't leave you.
For instance, I still wake up in a cold sweat sometimes when I remember what I saw at that village in the Vietnamese highlands.
It was Parker, the driver whom I had been travelling with as the regiment joined up with other units at Ladysmith.
"Good news, Mohan," he said, "You Indians came through for us alright!"
"What happened?" I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
"Some of your people raided Pretoria!" he said, "It's all over the news!"
God bless the BBC I thought. Although Britain was officially remaining neutral it appeared that the BBC had come down firmly on our side.
"Come on," he said- they've been repeating the report on all the radio channels.
he dragged me to the cab of his truck where his transistor radio blared out what appeared to be a constantly repeating message.
"What channel is this?"
"Radio Free Africa- it's a pirate channel. They've been broadcasting this report over and over again."
He fiddled with the dial of the radio bringing the voice into clearer focus.
"-strike on the very heart of the United Provinces. We can assume that although this assault failed to perpetrate any major damage, so far as we can see, it proves that India stands firmly by its African allies.
"I repeat, just an hour ago, fighter aircraft, by all accounts bearing Indian Air force insignia buzzed Pretoria and launched missiles against VPZ fighter aircraft in a skirmish in the skies above the capital of the United Provinces...."
From an interview with Cmdr BN Chandran (Retd.)
The first raid on Pretoria? Yes, I remember it well- those fighters launched from Vijaya. We were cruising off the coast of Madagascar, en route to Durban when the orders came through to attempt a strike on Pretoria itself. Indian Air force jets had already crossed the Indian Ocean and were staging out of Durban but for some reason they wanted our Navy boys to go for it.
It was a pretty straightforward plan. They were to launch from Vijaya, cross Madagascar, get refuelled over Natal Province and strike over the Drakensberg for Pretoria. And, as the Gods would have it, it went off without a hitch. I don't think they seriously expected us to try anything behind the lines when they were driving straight on Ladysmith. I guess they expected all our resources to be tied up in flying air-to-ground missions..."
From an interview with Cmdr BN Chandran (Retd.)
Getting Indian troops to South Africa?
Not as hard as you might think.
I know that transporting the units earmarked for the Indian Army's Plan CHARIOT- yes, CHARIOT, that was what we called the South African war plan- where was I? Yes...transporting those units sounds like a logistic nightmare.
And I suppose it was, to a certain extent. But everyone forgets two things.
Firstly, we had warehouses sitting outside Durban filled with war materiel for just such an eventuality. That's the advantage of the Dominion and us having so many standardised weapons systems. So in many cases, we just needed to fly the men over, at least where the initial strike force was concerned. Others could follow across the Indian Ocean. So that gave a few regiments on the ground along with the marines that had been deployed from our Second Fleet.
Secondly, we already had troops on the ground. At Cape Town. It's common knowledge now but back then it was classified information so it was less well known. At any time, the Indian Army had a regiment on manoeuvres in the Karoo.
So as you can see, we could get some troops to the Dominion post-haste. A relatively small force, true, but still one to reckon with, to bolster the ranks of our Dominion allies.
March 20th, Charlestown, Natalese Military Operational Area
Haresh dragged himself out of bed as the alarm bell rang. He had been in the prison barracks- previously a school for delinquents- for a week but he still hadn't got used to it. His mind told him that he was supposed to get dressed and head down to the clinic to see the first patient of the day. That was a reflex from his previous life, though. He had always half believed in reincarnation but this was a terrible, darker rebirth.
"Get up, get up!" howled an MP corporal at the door. Haresh noticed that it was the same one who had arrested him.
"Come on lawyer-boy!" the corporal bellowed at Harold Zwane. Harold had lived across the street from Haresh in that previous life where they had been successful professionals in an affluent suburb of Charlestown.
Harold and Haresh were both in relatively good condition- they were being forced to do jobs like cleaning the latrines of the white VPZ troops but that, while undignified was no major hardship, though the kicks and curses from vrijkorps troops were inconvenient. But they were part of the job.
The two men boarded the truck that would take them to their first job of the day. Cleaning the latrines of the VPZ troops quartered in town. The Afrikaners hadn't segregated their Asian, Coloured and Black prisoners- Corporal Bakker, in a rare moment of friendliness, had told them that they would be separated in time but at the moment, no plans had been formulated.
"It could be worse, Harry," murmured Haresh to his neighbour. Though, to be fair, it was worse for Harold that it was for him. At least they didn't take Katrina and Estelle away- Harold had no idea what sort of conditions his wife and children were facing.
Haresh's wife and daughter were, to the best of his knowledge, still at home where he had left them. Harold's children had been taken with his wife to a separate makeshift internment facility- a city of tents that had risen on the outskirts of Charlestown. Harold would have been sent off with them but, like Haresh, he was a criminal. Haresh had committed miscegeny and Harry had resisted segregation. His bruises had hardly faded. Haresh had patched up the nastier of Harold's wounds but Captain Klaas, the prison barracks commander had taken his medical bag away from him. Haresh had tried to protest but a stinging blow across the face had kept him quiet. He hadn't tried to complain since.
March 21, South of Newcastle, Natal Province
In the darkness of the early morning, bursts of fire from
assault rifles echoed across the rolling hills interspersed with the roar of
artillery. Although a Dominion armoured spearhead was massing to force Laing's
Nek, their military doctrine called for an initial assault by infantry backed
up by artillery. Dominion tanks never fought without an infantry screen.
In the broken terrain of the Drakensberg foothills, men began to die- and I was heading straight to the heart of it. This was all my own fault, of course- the truck I had been travelling with had been detached to an infantry battalion and I had gone along with it- after all, I had been half asleep when Parker, the driver had told me that we were leaving the armoured units behind. I was rudely woken half an hour later by a platoon of infantrymen loading up and squashing me into the corner of the truck's cargo bed.
"So- a journalist, eh?" shouted their commander, Lieutenant Fraser from his seat next to the driver, a painfully young looking platoon commander, "Well we'll put on quite a show for you, won't we boys?" he called to his platoon. They answered cheerfully but dutifully. The flicker of a cigarette lighter beside me showed the visage of a grizzled platoon sergeant chucking to himself.
"Lieutenant Fraser is a good lad," he murmured, "But a tad overenthusiastic, you understand?"
"Any idea what the mission is?" I asked.
He looked me over sceptically.
"You sure you want to come along with us? No offence Mr...?"
"I'm Arnaud Latrobe...no offence but maybe you don't understand what it's going to be like?"
"I was in Saigon during the Vietnam War!" I snapped, "I went along with some American missions too. Damn near got myself shot!"
The sergeant looked me over with a bit more respect.
"Those Vietnamese are damned good fighters...I was there just two years ago. When they joined up with ANAN* they let themselves in for some trouble with the Chinese. Of course the Chinese weren't too happy that the Viets had gone and overthrown their pet Cambodian Dictator so they went and invaded. There were some of our units and Indian units in Hanoi as advisors- we were there to train Vietnamese Army units in the use of our weapons- and we heard amazing reports. Those little Viets managed to give China a bloody nose!"
"Yes- I saw them from the other side of the battle lines," I replied, "It wasn't pretty what they did to American troops."
"Well, it wasn't a pretty war- those Afrikaners did pretty well in it though. They got all nice and cosy with the Americans and now they're throwing their weight around here."
"So- as a soldier, what's your opinion? Can we stop them?"
He took a meditative drag on his cigarette
"We can bloody well try. I've got a wife and kids down in Pietermaritzburg. We're not going to bow and scrape just because some Boer tells me that I'm Coloured. So yes- we're bloody well going to try and we damned well will stop 'em."
"Can I quote you on that?" I said, scribbling furiously in my notebook.
"Go ahead," he replied, with a grin, "Go on and write something to scare those bloody Nazis."
March 22, Cape Town
Excerpt from a speech by Her Highness, Princess Irene van
Oranje-Nassau, Governor-General of the Dominion of South Africa
Here, on the high veldt of South Africa, a battle is being fought, one which is arguably more significant than the myriad proxy wars of the two superpowers. On the one hand, the Royal South African Armed Forces, one of the two leading powers of the Non-Aligned Nations. On the other, the troops of the VPZ, arguably the most reactionary ally of the United States. Here, indeed is an embarrassment. For almost a quarter century, the US, that beacon of freedom and democracy has been flying in the face of its own ideals by supporting the Apartheid-based regime. No one cared that Black, Indian and Coloured people were being oppressed, not so long as Afrikaner metals and minerals flowed westward to the armouries of NATO, not so long as Afrikaner troops stood behind the American adventure in Vietnam.
Perhaps America will recognise these words: ďWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
We are a nation built upon these truths of the Enlightement, just as the United states was. And now the VPZ has lashed out, not against a nation adhering to Communism but against one which has done itís best to preserve these ideals!
†In 1956, White,
Black, Coloured and Asian rallied to stand against oppression. But only a
partial victory was achieved- the spectre of oppression was banished North. For
twenty-five years, the genie has slept in the bottle- now it has arisen and has
struck with fury across the Drakensberg. But I assure the people of South
Africa and our friends throughout the world that we will stand firm! Even now,
our regiments are engaged in a struggle for Newcastle and Ladysmith- and we
will press on to defend our stolen land!
A century ago, the names of these selfsame places caught the attention of the world- Ladysmith, Spion Kop, Laing's Nek- they will shine again in the annals of the Commonwealth, now not in a war of oppression but in one of liberation. I am pleased to announce that the Afrikaner assault on Ladysmith has been halted by Indian troops and that further North, our own Royal South Africans are contesting the Afrikaner lines at Newcastle. The deeds of the VPZ will not go unpunished!
Part III- Turning the Tide
March 22, Suburbs of Ladysmith, Natal Province
A volley of shots rang out from the battered buildings
across the street.
Kaptein deBrugh swiftly dived for the entrance of his company's makeshift headquarters, cursing the Dominion, the Indians and even his own superiors.
"Looks like we've run into one of their strongpoints, sir," growled his CSM, Vlugsersant Gerrad, "Some of the platoons have commsed in- they're starting to run low on ammo."
"Where the hell is Luitenant Breed? He should be calling back to Battalion HQ to get us more!"
"Took a bullet two minutes ago, sir. The word came in while you were outside. Doesn't matter, though- Battalion HQ commsed in- Brigade's told us to hold for now- they'll send us ammo when they can figure out how much they can spare."
"Hold? If we push now we might be able to make it into the city centre..."
deBrugh's voice trailed off as he considered the implications of what the CSM had just told him.
"The damned English have gone and cut our supply lines."
He cursed softly.
"Who the hell planned this damn-fool operation anyway?"
It had sounded daring and gallant at first, fully in the spirit of the legendary Boer kommandos who had swept down through the English lines a century before to wreak havoc in the enemy's rear...but war didn't work that way anymore.
True, the Afrikaners were crushing the assaults on their front at Laing's Nek- but the Third Division had been sent South, outflanking the enemy and striking at Ladysmith. Apparently the fools up at Laing's Nek hadn't bothered to secure the supply lines.
A steady rumble broke in on his reverie. Beside him, Gerrad was looking up at the ceiling, the quizzical look on his face melting into horror. A shout came from outside, a terrified vrijkorps private losing his nerve.
"Get down, sir," shouted Gerrad, dragging his Captain to the floor as the world exploded around them.
That distinctive rumble was the sound of the Avro Garuda, a ground attack plane. They were slow and ungainly and with VPZ fighters in the air they would have died swiftly. But to an infantry battalion they were airborne death. The row of abandoned building where deBrugh's company had holed up was ripped apart by the heavy autocannon.
deBrugh, shook blood out of his eyes and dazedly pushed at the weight that pinned him down. It rolled heavily to one side like a sack of potatoes. He noticed dispassionately that it was Gerrad's body. The CSM's head seemed to be missing.
The Kaptein tried to sit up but a shout from his right froze him in place.
Heavily accented English...he couldn't quite place it...
Hands grasped at him, pulling him up.
Dark skin? Kaffirs laying hands on an Afrikaner?
He tried to push them away but there seemed to be no strength in his hands. Numbed from loss of blood, he slipped into unconsciousness as the Indian troopers hauled him towards an ambulance.
From an interview with Cmdr BN Chandran (Retd.)
Well I think you're asking the wrong person. I was a carrier group commander- had nothing to do with it. You have to understand that anything I can tell you about the Battle of Ladysmith carries about as much validity as the views of an Army officer on the ASW campaign that the Royal South African Navy was fighting off the Cape...actually at the time I was following reports of that with great interest...it never gets any press though.
Captain Willi deBrugh (Retd.), quoted in footage from a Dutch documentary series about the Third Boer War
I know they needed a sacrifice- they needed to send at least some of us out on kommando....
I just wish I hadn't been one of them.
18th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division was a Vrijkorps unit. I don't know how much you fellows from the Netherlands know about the Vrijkorps?
The interviewer shakes her head, inviting him to carry on. He continues, seemingly animated by a manic energy
Well every White male goes into a Vrijkorps unit for three years- in those units most junior officer and enlisted positions are held by vrijkorps enlistees, senior officers and senior noncoms are regulars.
Anyway, they sent the 18th Brigade into Ladysmith while the other units fanned out to intercept enemy units outside the town. We weren't really expecting that much resistance- and we certainly weren't expecting Indian troops to be fighting us.
The English had managed to evacuate the suburbs pretty effectively- and by God it was like a small version of Stalingrad in there. They lured the Brigade in and then hit us, first with bombers- that was where I was taken out of action. Hardly injured though, God knows why. There were three survivors in my Company...we were the ones to get hit first and hardest, the rest of the Brigade did somewhat.
In any case, the rest I learned in the field hospital. There were some fellow there who weren't from 3rd Div- they'd been captured up on the front at Laing's Nek and had been sent down. At that point, the Nek was still holding against everything the kaffir-lovers were throwing at it. That news couldn't cheer us up much though- the hospital was filling up with boys from the 18th Brigade and 3rd Div. It was the men of the 18th who were worst off.
It seems an Indian Tank Battalion had made an assault on 3rd div units outside the town...that pretty much cut off the 18th's line of retreat. Then they had the choice of trying to retreat into massed armour or staying in the suburbs and getting blown to hell and gone...I still can't believe that the Englishers had the nerve to bombard a part of their own town. They did though and those bombers of theirs kept making strafing passes too.
I hear someone managed to knock one out of the sky with an RPG...damn good luck that boy must have had but one down couldn't save our men.
The energy seems to leave him and he seems to shrink
I can't talk about it anymore.
He curses softly in Afrikaans
March 23rd, Hall of the Voortrekkers, Pretoria
"Why has the High Command thrown our sons away?
The speaker was a tall Brother dressed in the subdued but excellently tailored suits that most of the Broederbond wore.
"I understand your concern, Brother," replied Generaal Marthinus, "My eldest is a Captain in the 3rd Division...I haven't heard from him since the lines were cut although we've sent armoured units down from the Nek to try to reestablish contact."
"But why were Vrijkorps units sent in?" asked another member, "Regular troops, yes, they volunteered to stay on with the army. Kaffir units, yes, we can expend them...but why the Vrijkorps? We-"
A crash echoed through the room, cutting off the speaker and the undertone of murmurs. Every Brother in the room turned to the head of the table where Piet van deVeer had heaved himself to his feet.
His old frame quivered and his face was pale white with rage.
"Enough!" he said, softly, menacingly.
"You thought that this would be easy? You thought that there would be a few skirmishes and then we could get down to parcelling out the estates in Botswana? Did you? Did you?
van deVeer lowered himself back into his seat, aided by the men on either side of him.
"We have scorned the English for being soft with their kaffirs. We made jokes about the Indians, how their tanks would fall to pieces if one of their troopers farted.
"We said these things for so long that we began to believe them- read your history texts. Remember the Second War of Independence? How the fathers of our people defied an Empire. Yes, we are proud of that, yes, we have all heard the tales of the men who rode out on kommando bravely tearing through the enemy...and we have all heard of how many fine young Afrikaners died in the saddle, on the barbed wire, cut down, not by honourable bullets but by the cold steel of the English lancers. Do you think their fathers held them back?
"And do you remember how the English broke our nation? They took our daughters and wives and caged them like animals. I was born in one of those camps. My mother told me tales of it...but even then we fought on 'til we could bear it no more. It was our war of Independence but they called it ĎThe Second Boer Warí, leaving us with no honour, almost ignoring us like the barbarians they defeated and absorbed- the Zulu War, the Sikh War, the† Boer War!
"And now I am sickened. I have lived to see the day where we can fight the kaffir-lovers on an equal footing- and I see all of you snivelling and whimpering.
"Make no mistake- we will fight this war no matter what the cost. In the past we could count on the Americans to back us up. But they too have become infested with this moral decay, this liberalism which leaves the White in subjugation against the will of God.
"No matter what the cost, we will prevail. And if you tell me that you cannot sacrifice for the good of the Volk...then damn you all to Hell!"
van deVeer glared around the silent room. None of the Brothers could meet his burning eyes.
"Good," he said, "Now get out. We'll meet again tomorrow."
Mr. Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia in a speech to
the United Nations General Assembly
Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. You have heard many remarks in the global liberal media on reports of the so-called VPZ-Rhodesian Alliance aggression in Southern Africa.
Today, I am here to present our side of the story.
The Indian, Botswanan and Dominion representatives and delegates from the other Non-Aligned Nations rise to leave. The Canadian, Australian, Turkish, Dutch and British delegates follow
For years, in the great Cold War that has gripped the globe, countries have been forced to take sides and choose where they should stand. For better or worse, our two nations have always stood as staunch allies of the West. We have stewarded the resources of Southern Africa, keeping them free of the petty civil wars and ideological struggles that have wracked much of the rest of our troubled continent.
Over the past five years, the situation in Botswana has grown from bad to worse. Elements of the Botswanan people, unable to bear the dictates of their Dominion-sponsored puppet government have repeatedly wreaked havoc in Gaborone and the other major cities of the country.
We, in the VPZ and Rhodesia have acted, it is true, in our own interests, but also in the interests of the Free World.
The Soviet delegate and the various Warsaw Pact delegates rise and walk out
Our intervention in Botswana serves merely to reestablish order in that nation and to reestablish a stable and working government- an aim which continued association with the rogue Non-Aligned Nations cannot achieve.
For decades the so-called Association of Non-Aligned Nations has been establishing a power bloc of its own, wooing allies from both East and West. Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand- these are all nations which have fallen under the dominion of that Asiatic threat, the so-called Republic of India. The self-proclaimed "world's largest democracy" has a stranglehold upon the entire Indian Ocean threatening the interests of states like Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Australia and, yes, Rhodesia and the VPZ.
Our actions in Botswana are intended merely to prevent another tragic civil war but our so-called aggression towards the Dominion of South Africa is an act of self-preservation, ladies and gentlemen. For the facts are clear- the Association of Non-Aligned Nations does not concede the simple right to exist of the Rhodesian and Afrikaner nations!
Our culture and traditions may be different from the liberal democracies of the West, or the Socialist states of the East- but then again so is the culture of Israel and the Arab States and the Peoples Republic of China. In this polarised world, nations, states and cultures such as ours must stand strong against the tide and assert our right to survive.
More delegates begin to leave the hall- Egypt, Japan, West Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark
I ask you, the representatives of the world to ask yourselves this question- will you deny us the right to survive?
Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
He sits down in silence
From the memoirs of Cmdr BN Chandran (Retd.)
Now, of course, the war was moving into what I like to call
its second phase.
It must be understood that although, on paper, the VPZ outweighed the Dominion in almost every military aspect they had one failing: They could not hope to prevent reinforcements from reaching the VPZ.
The first phase was easy, of course. They could swiftly strike down Laing's Nek, establishing a beachhead on the far side of the Drakensberg and, quite reasonably, could expect to hold it against everything the Dominion could throw against it.
In fact, if they had wanted to strike southwards through the Karoo they might well have been able to threaten the Cape itself but, presumably for political reasons, they felt that the war should be confined to a clearly defined theatre of operations. After all, as we can surmise, their objective was not to sweep the Englishmen of the Dominion into the sea as their propaganda had so often claimed, but rather to establish dominance over Botswana and thus over all of the Southern African interior.
Many of us in the military knew this- and to be fair we were not really convinced of the viability of an operation designed to retake Botswana. We knew that to get to Gaborone we would have to fight out way straight through the Afrikaner heartland.
I can safely say that none of us really thought it possible. Political considerations, however, ruled our masters and when Parliaments give the word to march, soldiers can do nothing more than obey.
So- the first phase was over. The VPZ advance had been halted around Laing's Nek, it's incursion towards Ladysmith was being isolated and eliminated and the actual front lines had stabilised around Newcastle.
In the second phase of the war, our Indian units began to come into play- not just the regiments training in South Africa but Third Army, the units earmarked and waiting in South India to be sent over. Some were airlifted, the majority were coming by sea but the fact was that the steadily bleeding lines at Newcastle were about to face an onrush of fresh, trained troops...
April 4th, Charlestown, Occupied Natal
It was surprising how normal the town seemed, considering
the circumstances. People moved to and from their places of business- doctors
offices, supermarkets and other such hallmarks of ordinary small-town life were
open for business as usual.
The white-owned ones, anyway.
True, they were sometimes understaffed. Many non-white workers were still going through the laborious process of getting their permits assigned and besides the few who had been processed by the military police, most of the faces Estelle Rajgopal saw on the street were white.
She had grown up in Charlestown and the only time she had ever lived outside the town was in the four years she had spent at the University in Durban. And in Charlestown, mere kilometres from the border, the Boers were the big boogeymen.
They had all expected something more overtly tyrannical- jackbooted brownshirts on every street corner, stealing, raping, murdering. But it was calm and quiet- on the surface.
On the surface, the military presence was only slightly more obtrusive than normal police presence in peacetime- patrols of MPs moving along the major roads at regular intervals, checkpoints staffed with MPs at various locations, nothing more than that. It was a low worse in the non-White areas, Estelle supposed, choking down her fear for her husband, Haresh. The political detainees- those nonwhites who had had the termity to argue with the occupiers or marry a white were being held somewhere in the prison barracks.
Passing MPs glanced oddly at the child she wheeled through the carpark in a stroller. Katrina with her dark hair and olive skin might have passed as being from Levantine or Southern European stock but Estelle herself was as blonde as an Afrikaner poster child. They might have suspected that the child was coloured but they didn't bother- little inconsistencies like that would be sorted out soon enough.
In the supermarket, the mood was strangely subdued- the people who shopped here were from the same affluent suburb as Estelle and seeing some of their neighbours dragged away and imprisoned had shaken them all to the core.
As she walked into the dairy aisle, she saw a tall, thin Coloured man mopping the floor. He glanced up at Estelle. with a faint shock, she realised it was Mark Tarrant who had been principal of the district high school since she had studied there. He gave her a thin smile and almost imperceptibly beckoned her over. She wheeled the stroller over to the aisle he was mopping and pretended to become absorbed in the nutritional information on a jar of pickled gherkins.
"Better leave, Estelle," he whispered, mopping away at the square foot of floor to her right.
"Just do your shopping somewhere else...please..."
A shout in Afrikaans came from the back of the store.
"You're dawdling, you filthy kaffir!"
"That'll be Sergeant Wyman- he's one of the worst," whispered Tarrant, "Estelle, please go."
A crash came from the back of the store and at the end of the aisle, Estelle saw Harold Zwane, her neighbour from across the road sprawled on the floor, his arms up to defend his head.
An Afrikaner MP was standing over him cursing him fluently and pungently.
Then, Estelle saw Haresh, her husband, rushing to Harold's side to help him up.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" roared the MP and Estelle saw the MP backhand her husband. Haresh Rajgopal was a rather small man and he went flying into a rack of dairy products.
As he slid to the floor, milk bottles smashed around him.
"Don't try to intervene," hissed Tarrant.
"As it is now they'll just get a bit roughed up. If you try anything they might arrest you too. And what's going to become of her?" the old principal said, nodding towards the baby.
"Just take your shopping and go."
Estelle wandered over to the till in a daze and paid for her merchandise.
In the car park, she threw up. An MP from the checkpoint next to the supermarket rushed up to her.
"Are you alright, ma'am?" he asked in Afrikaans and then in English.
She looked at him with dull, hateful eyes.
"Do you need a doctor?"
"I'm going home- my husband's a doctor."
She turned, somewhat shakily, on her heel and pushed the stroller off towards the lot where her car was parked.
April 8th 1982, South of Newcastle, Natal Province
"Want a sandwich?"
I looked up from my Slate* where I was writing my latest despatch from the front lines. Arnaud LaTrobe, the sergeant in command of the infantry platoon I had attached myself to was holding out half of a tuna sandwich.
"No thanks," I replied, "Maybe after I get this done."
"How's it going?" he asked.
"I really don't have that much material to work with."
"Well, cheer up," he said with a grin, "I also came to tell you that tonight, we're finally moving out."
Well, that was news, though I wouldn't be able to put it in today's despatch. We had been sitting in a hastily built camp for a week now- Arnaud's unit, the Fourth Battalion of the Royal Natal Borderers had been involved in the first massive attack on the Afrikaner lines at Newcastle but had then been pulled back. For the past fortnight, a rotation of units had been trying to break through those lines but for now the Boers were still holding. The assault on Ladysmith had basically bogged down into an artillery duel, punctuated by Dominion armoured assaults.
"What's the dirt, Arnaud?"
"Oh, you're supposed to get all the info from the Captain, Mohan."
"Come on, Latrobe- he'll give me pretty phrases- what do you think's going on?"
"Reconnaissance in force, my friend," he replied, seating himself on the bench next to me.
"And what does that mean?"
"It means that the entire battalion is going to move into enemy territory until we hit something. Then we'll try to get a toehold on their line while other battalions move in to support us."
"It will be. I just hope we don't run into a dug-in armoured regiment. Still, looking at the big picture, it's a good sign.
"The brass wouldn't be trying something like this unless they wanted to lay the foundations for something really big?"
"What do you think that might be?" I asked, playing along. Sergeant Arnaud Latrobe knew what was going on- if not definite news, at least he had a good idea of the situation.
"Now, I'm only a sergeant, but here's what I'd do if I was General Eccleston and I had, say, a whole bunch of Indian armour moving up to the front from the docks in Natal.
"I'd try to throw their lines into disarray by using my infantry to hit them, and hit them hard. Then. while they were moving support to that sector I'd punch through another flank with all that armour.
"But what do I know? I'm only an infantry sergeant."
He grinned again and sauntered off.
BBC News Transcript, April 17, 1982
A BBC reporter
stands in front of a busy intersection. In the background, tanks and trucks
rumble to and fro. Clouds of smoke obscure the sky and in the distance, we can
hear muffled thumps.
After a month-long VPZ occupation, the city of Newcastle is now firmly back in Dominion hands. Many political and military commentators have already started proclaiming this the turning point of the "Third Boer War".
While it is true that Newcastle does command the lower reaches of Laing's Nek, one must remember that it took almost of week of heavy fighting to seize the city, leaving it somewhat battered. I am told that some of the Northern sectors of the city are still under fire from Afrikaner artillery.
Cut to clips of dazed refugees lining up to receive rations of food and water
While it is unclear just how many civilians were killed in the assault on Newcastle, the numbers are thought to be significant. Hundreds are now homeless, being sheltered in a makeshift tent city set up by the Royal South African Army.
Cut back to the reporter.
For now, the city is relatively safe but as the heavy fighting to the North attests, the United Provinces are sparing no effort. Back to you, Amandeep
Cut to BBC World Service presenter
Thank you Sam- That was Samuel Cowley, BBC World Service correspondent in Natal.
In related news, the Government released a statement earlier despatching aid teams from the Royal Army Medical Corps to Natal. In a speech to Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Sir Keith Joseph emphasised that while the United Kingdom is remaining neutral, humanitarian need must override other concerns. The Soviet Union has also offered humanitarian assistance in Natal and also to Tanzania where Rhodesian units have also moved across the border, occupying some towns.
She pauses, ruffling her papers.
Updates will follow after the weather.
BBC News Transcript, April 18th 1982
Good evening, I'm Amandeep Singh and you're watching the BBC World Service.
The latest news from South Africa: India has despatched Field Marshal Jagit Singh Aurora to South Africa. Marshal Aurora arrived in Durban yesterday where units of the 3rd Strike Corps are marshalling. He gave a speech, this morning, to the officers and men of India's 5th Armoured Regiment, known by their traditional name, Probyn's Horse. In attendance were Her Highness, Princess Irene and numerous representatives of foreign governments.
A clip from the speech
I assure you, Ladies and Gentlemen, India will not back down from her defence of our closest ally. The venomous racist rhetoric of the Afrikaner tyranny makes it imperative that they must be stopped now in the Drakensberg, for if not, we may face the awful prospect of stopping them at the gates of Durban.
Field Marshal Aurora is famous in military circles as the commander of the Indian forces that, in 1971, invaded the then East Pakistan in order to assist the native Bangladeshi insurgents against the Pakistani army.
He has officially been appointed Commander-in-Chief of IOTO Forces in South Africa.
She turns to her left and the camera pulls back to show an old military man
With me today is General Sir Roland Gibbs, former Chief of the General staff and currently a consultant to the Ministry of Defence. Sir Roland, what is your opinion of this latest development and of the Indian involvement in South Africa as a whole?
Well, it's a definite sign that India is seeking to drive the Afrikaner troops from Laing's Nek with as much haste as is possible. Indian Strike Crops are built around the doctrine of dealing heavy crushing blows to an enemy pinned in place by holding units.
In the light of the situation around the southern end of Laing's Nek, it seems clear that Aurora is planning to deal a crushing blow to the VPZ units massed there and to free the Nek itself.
And what do you make of India's decision to send out Marshal Aurora rather than, perhaps, a younger man?
It's an extremely symbolic decision... first of all Marshal Aurora was tapped as the next appointee as the Indian Chief of the General Staff. By sending such an important member of their armed forces to South Africa, India is sending the message that it is prepared to put everything it's got into this war. Also, Aurora has a reputation as a liberator- the Bangladeshis certainly see him that way. It was his crippling assault on Pakistani forces in 1971 that saved many more of their people's lives- and it's significant that with Marshal Aurora's appointment as Commander in Chief, Bangladesh has announced that it, too, will be contributing military units to the defence of the Dominion.
Thank you, Sir Roland
She turns to face the camera
That was Sir Roland Gibbs, former Chief of the General Staff and you're watching the BBC World Service.
April 30th 1982, VPZ Regional Command Post, Laing's Nek
Generaal Rooi van Valck scanned the map frantically as the
reports from his front-line regiments poured in.
It had to come sooner or later he though to himself.
He had known it was coming what with all the hoopla the BBC had made about that kaffir Marshal being flown in.
He had tried to prepare his troops, rotating units through the lines to make up for combat fatigue, laying in stocks of every conceivable supply, resisting the urge to smash back hard at the harrying strikes of the Dominion infantry, even bolstering his reserves with fresh Vrijkorps armoured units brought over the Drakensberg.
We cannot stop them here came the cowardly thought.
No. Realistic. Operation VANGUARD was never meant to do anything but keep the kaffir-lovers off guard while we consolidated our hold on Botswana.
It had done that, alright. Botswana was, by all reports, now firmly under the thumb of the United Provinces. To relieve it, even if they wanted to launch a campaign across the open Karoo, the Non-Aligned Nations would have to fight their way through the heartland of the United Provinces to get there- and the High Command had insurance against that awful prospect.
These facts might have comforted a more cold-blooded man but Generaal van Valck cared for his troops. Even though a large number of them were Coloured or Black, he still cared for them- were they not following God's plan and serving faithfully under the Whites as they were meant to be?
And they are being smashed
It wasn't through lack of courage, no, the VPZ troops had stood against the foe for a week, driven back inch by bloody inch by the sheer weight of an Indian Strike Corps. The Indians were experienced fighters, yes but the Afrikaners had given as good as they got. More so in some cases.
It had been one of these cases that had made up the Generaal's mind for him.
19th Armoured Brigade- a battalion each of vrijkorps armour and armoured infantry, stiffened by a regular armoured battalion had garrisoned a sorry height known to the locals as Aard Kop, the Pig's Head, useful only in that it dominated a valuable route through the foothills of the Drakensberg on the approaches to the Nek.
The garrison of the Kop had faced an assault of at least twice their numbers in Indian troops- but they had held. These troops, teenage conscripts had held through a dreadful, glorious day of blood and fire until, battered by artillery and air strikes, their ammunition almost exhausted, their vehicles low on fuel and their supply lines cut, they had been forced to surrender.
They held, by God how they held.
And near half of them died doing it.
He could not let that happen to the rest of his force.
van Valck turned to his aide-de-camp.
"Issue Battle Order #142, Captain. Initiate Plan RHINE."
And all along the Laing's Nek Front, Afrikaner units began to fall back in a planned withdrawal. They withdrew, a few fresh units thrown into battle, de facto sacrifices to hold the enemy for a precious few hours until the greater part of the Afrikaner force could withdraw into the Nek.
Swarming up from the plains, the 3rd Strike Corps followed, rumbling past the twisted shells of vehicles and men. Step by step, marching towards Pretoria.
May 8-12, 1982. Various locations, Southern Africa
May 8, Laing's Nek, A few miles South of Charlestown,
For the second time in it's history, Laing's Nek echoed to the thunder of gunfire.
History has a way of repeating itself Generaal van Valck thought wryly.
He had withdrawn into the Nek and for a week had held, inflicting dreadful casualties on the Indians. The Afrikaners, too, were taking heavy losses but at least this was a fair fight- not out in the foothills where Indian armour could swarm around his men, forcing them into useless last stands like Aardkop.
Maybe the luck of the old Kommandos is with us...
He doubted it though- no matter what the enemy losses, they were still coming on, pushing into the pass with dreadful tenacity.
No, he knew that Operation VANGUARD had done all it could. The Afrikaners had no hope of advancing into Natal again but they could hold the pass indefinitely- assuming that they could withstand the casualties. And the great truth of war anywhere within the sphere of the Non-Aligned Nations was that if it boiled down to a numbers game, India would always win.
Time to resubmit my recommendation to Pretoria
By all accounts, deBrugh had managed to shame the cowards who complained about VANGUARD's losses. van Valck had no doubt that the old man could cow those fools who had lost sight of it's true goal.
May 9, Hall of the Voortrekkers, Pretoria
"Surprised that they did not protest, Marthinus?"
deBrugh and Generaal Marthinus were descending the steps of the Hall after a meeting with the elite of the Broederbond.
"No, Sir," the General replied, "Even those among them who think that VANGUARD was a waste of time understand that we must gamble everything on this one throw. It is this, or let the Kaffirs flood across the Drakensberg. The latest reports say that armoured divisions have been sighted unloading at Cape Town. If we don't act soon, they'll be heading towards us across the Karoo."
"It is a gamble, but a necessary one. We have shed enough blood- MACCABEE will end this war."
May 12, Charlestown, Occupied Pretoria
Estelle rocked her daughter, trying to coax the child back to sleep. The late evening sun was shining, staining the heights to the East a delicate orange and both she and Katrina needed some sleep. She flinched as the dull rumble from the hills rose a notch.
She thought so. Over the past few days much of the town had learnt to identify the distant sounds of war.
The political prisoners were no longer sent around town to do menial chores in establishments catering to the Afrikaner officers- they had been securely locked up about a week ago and a few days after that, white citizens had been notified to remain in their neighbourhoods. Vrijkorps lorries had driven around, issuing what they informed the suburbanites was a week's rations- potatoes, tinned food and powdered milk mostly. At the same time, the night patrols had become more frequent. Johnny McAndrews, the son of one of Estelle's neighbours had been hauled back to his home after being caught necking on a back road with his girlfriend. The MPs had told him that they was lucky not to have been shot.
The war must be going badly for the bastards- they don't want any of us slipping out of town, trying to get information to our troops!
Sometime during the week, though, hope had turned to anxiety. What would Charlestown look like if the two armies fought a battle through the streets? The town rumour mill had said that the Afrikaners had brought a huge artillery piece through the town a day or two ago, under escort, not just by military police, but a veritable horde of tanks, troops and even helicopters overhead. Estelle had noticed the helicopters flying over the town but had thought them simply another sign of tightened patrols.
For now, she rocked her daughter and tried to focus on other things.
Something made her flinch and then, she saw her silhouette, jet black on the glaringly white wall of her living room.
That can't be right...
And the sound of thunder filled the room, a few of the window panes shattering as if a brick had been thrown at them.
Estelle turned, deafened, unable to hear her daughter howling and saw a mushroom cloud beginning to rise malignantly over the heights. She was a child of the Cold War and had seen enough pictures of clouds like that to know what it meant. She stood there numbed until, half-remembering a fallout drill, she took Katrina and went down to the basement.
May 12, Laing's Nek, a few miles South of Charlestown, Occupied Natal
I survived by bare chance. We all did.
The battalion wasn't on orders to move into the line of battle- we were merely proceeding towards our next bivouac site. Sergeant Latrobe's platoon had been riding in a lorry that had chosen to break down in the middle of a particularly narrow track, rising up a particularly steep slope. I remember that slope and those orders well- I thank the gods for them every day. If it had been gentler, maybe the lorry wouldn't have died on us. If we were urgently needed, the platoon might have been ordered to crest that rise on foot.
I remember talking to LaTrobe as he lit a cigarette, cursing good-naturedly at driver as the poor man worked under the lorry.
Then the world went white. The drivers and anyone riding in the cabs of the lorries on the other side of the ridge would have been blinded. The canopies of the flatbeds would have protected most of the troopers inside from being blinded but not from the shockwave.
We were knocked off our feet- our driver died, crushed as the lorry shifted off it's jacks and rolled over him. Some or the men in our platoon had been looking North, into the explosion, unlucky bastards. They were screaming, clutching at their eyes- the rest of us were just dazed. On the road a few hundred meters below us, we saw a company of armour- it, too, had been headed for bivouac, we found out later but the commanders had halted, as amazed as we were though with far fewer casualties- mostly tank commanders who had happened to be looking in the wrong direction.
Those of use who were able half-carried, half-dragged the injured down the slope to the tanks, piling them onto the great machines.
"What in hell do you think you're doing?" an officer shouted in Hindi.
"What do you want to do?" I yelled back at him in the same language.
"Head straight into a nuclear zone? We all need to get the hell out of here as fast as we can- get us to a field hospital!"
He looked confused, as dazed as we were, but nodded and waved for his men to let us get on.
"Was it us or them?" LaTrobe asked, dreamily. The glowing cigarette was still in his mouth.
"Does it matter?" the tank officer replied, "Whoever did it, it's the poor bastards over that ridge that got the short end of the stick."
From an interview with Field Marshal Sir Jagit Singh
Aurora, KSC*, PVC**, Retd. in the Indian Ocean Telegraph
How would you describe the situation on the ground once the news of the VPZ nuclear assault had reached the general staff?
I think that everyone's first reaction was shock. We simply couldn't believe it and from all accounts, our advance up the Nek ground to a halt. Not that I can blame the commanders on the ground- their orders certainly didn't cover advancing into another possible tactical nuclear bombardment. Casualties from the actual strike were not as high as they could have been, thankfully. The terrain shielded most of our units and only those units in the valley that was targeted were destroyed. Mainly troops of the second line, preparing to make camp for the night- in fact if the Afrikaner strike had targeted our front-lines units, mostly buttoned up in their tanks and still advancing, the casualties might have been somewhat lighter- it was the men unprotected by armour who suffered the worst effects of the blast.
There was one thing for certain though. By using nuclear weapons, the Afrikaners had effectively won. We could retaliate- and we did- but they knew as well as we did that it was an empty gesture. Some war hawks may criticise what they see as a lack of fighting spirit but our South African allies could not countenance their land becoming the scene of a progressively escalating nuclear conflict.
And what are your thoughts on the current situation in occupied Botswana, Sir Jagjit?
I wish to God every day that there was some way that we could have freed them. But we really had no choice...
May 14th, 1982, off the coast of Natal
Commander BN Chandran stood at the bridge railing of Viraat his shivering only partly an effect of the cold breeze off the Indian Ocean. On the missile launcher mounted on the side of the carrier's island, men were busy at work. The orders had come through from Field Marshal Aurora himself, giving clear instructions and a precise target. Chandran had called his fleet captains together to confirm the orders and had then proceeded to the special weapons locker, opening it with the code issued to him by the Marshal.
The crew had been drilled on how to handle the weapons inside- practice drills carried out routinely, no-one ever really thinking that they would have to carry out the real thing.
"Sir," a Sub-Lieutenant said, "VAYU is ready for launch."
"Very good. Stand ready for now," said Chandran, "Communications- link me to Marshal Aurora. Use authorisation FRUITBAT."
"Aye-aye, sir," said the communications officer, patching the call through himself.
A minute or so later.
"Marshal Aurora, sir."
Chandran lifted his receiver to his ear.
"VAYU is ready for launch, sir. I request confirmation.
"Thank you sir. VAYU will launch momentarily."
He put down the receiver.
"Sub-lieutenant- you may fire when ready."
May 14th, 1982, Camp Andries Pretorius, the Transvaal
"Get over that wall, you kaffir-loving scum? Think you're ready to go on kommando? I'd send my grandmother to the front before any of you sorry lot!"
The drill sergeants were putting their newly recruited vrijkorps company through their paces. This lot were soft, thought the CSM- they'd need to be toughened up fast. It looked like the kaffir-lovers were still reeling from the latest display of VPZ power and were unlikely to attack. Still- Botswana needed to be properly pacified. And knowing the Rhodesians, they'd need to be rescued from their own kaffirs again before the year was out.
Odd- what was that sound? Planes didn't usually fly that low...maybe some hotshot fighter pilot buzzing his old basic training camp.
The sergeant turned around.
Dear God in Heaven, what in hell is-
He was vaporised before he could finish the thought.
Conclusion- Here be Dragons
An editorial by Mohan Vergis, Indian Ocean Telegraph, 1985
Mohan Vergis, Chief of our South African Bureau passed
away due to cancer-related complications. Doctors speculate that these may have
been brought on by his exposure to the May 12th nuclear assault upon Indian
Army troops with whom Mr. Vergis was embedded. The Telegraph prints here
his final editorial, written a month before his untimely death
I once said that I found Pretoria a bit cold, even in summer.
You can't get much colder than throwing away thousands of lives on a mere diversionary campaign- but what do I know? We can't really understand the Afrikaners and their twisted version of Christianity.
The Drakensberg is a small range by geographical standards but the barrier between the polities on either side is higher than the Himalayas themselves.
Not much news gets out of Botswana these days- there's still a resistance movement based in the North of the country but with Angola in chaos and it's government effectively propped up by Pretorian money and arms getting weapons to the Resistance is a tricky business. Pretoria rules with a heavy hand.
The indignation over the nuclear attack on Indian forces died down surprisingly quickly in the West- not among the people, the last May 12th rally in London drew hundreds of thousand anti-apartheid and anti-nuclear demonstrators, but many governments don't care. The United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands maintain their embargoes on the United Provinces but with Soviet armies camped in East Germany, the West is willing to accept strange bedfellows. Copper and Gold and Uranium are more important to Washington than justice- even with Kennedy in office.
I went back to Laing's Nek last month- it's changed beyond recognition. In the armistice negotiations, the Afrikaners withdrew their forces to the border, leaving behind strangely changed communities.
Dr Haresh Rajgopal and his wife, Estelle Rajgopal, formerly of Charlestown, were separated by VPZ military police during the brief occupation. Most of the population of the town of Charlestown decided to accept the government's offer to relocate due to the feared effects of living next to a blast zone and the Rajgopals now live in Pietsmaritzburg, Natal.
Since his imprisonment by the Afrikaner military, Dr. Rajgopal has become a key leader in the anti-apartheid movement and has spoken at many conferences and rallies around the world. When asked if he bore the Afrikaners any ill-will for his mistreatment, he told the Telegraph that "it was not the fault of those men- it was the fault of the system that created them".
1985 has been a landmark year for free South Africa- with a referendum where the populace elected to give up Dominion status, the former Dominion of South Africa has become the Principality of South Africa. The economy has improved too what with the income generated by the standing force of the Indian Army of South Africa now permanently deployed alongside the Royal South African Army in bases throughout the Principality and in Tanzania to deter any further Afrikaner aggression.
But I can safely say that the majority of South Africans would gladly give up their material gains if the threat from the North were to disappear. That prosperity is bought only at the cost of Botswanan enslavement and the constant threat of nuclear destruction.
If you would cross the Drakensberg I can only tell you what the Rennaissance cartographers said about the dark places of the Earth.
'Here be Dragons'.