Skip to main content
We met one hot, dusty afternoon jumping off a Unimog at “the Horseshoe”survival campsite about five clicks south of Fort Doppies in the Caprivi Strip. The day was the 29th of March 1979. We were together to start our Bushcraft Tracking and Survival Course REC 7911. Basically, as we were amongst the few “Engelsmanne” on the course, Sergeant Major Dewald De Beer decided we should be a buddy pair. It all started with us digging our slit trenches, building the basha before night fell and the start of a long friendship.
The course itself was full of new and “interesting” experiences for all of us, learning to adapt and attempt to live off the bush, whilst becoming part of it to be able to live and work effectively as an “Operator”. Each day started with a cup of heavily sugared black coffee, a variety of theoretical and practical training apart from which you were expected to trap game, fish or find suitable edible plants to sustain you. There were both quiet evenings after learning bird and animal calls around the campfire to a few exciting moments like the night Lt Mario Lamprecht woke up in an adjacent trench with his head in a lion’s mouth. He discovered he didn’t like the smell. The tooth marks on his face left interesting scars and the story lived on his nickname.
I did not really get the need to know the Latin names for fauna and flora but hey ho you do what you have to do sometimes to get through things. Glenn proved to be a far better natural tracker than myself. I used tactics of confirmation rather than strict tracking to get through that. It did not endear me to the instructors but it worked for me.
Whenever someone was heard complaining about our lot, after being reminded we were all volunteers, we were reminded that we were paid the vast sum of £4 per day extra bush pay for the privilege for this “safari experience of a lifetime” whilst tourist paid hundreds of USD per day further down the rive to enjoy the bush. Our counter was that they probably got fed? Our friendship flourished in the trench under the “Witgat” tree, the root of which we discovered makes great coffee!
After the course, we had our tracking skills really tested in an impromptu operation tracking an individual from the Caprivi up into southern Angola. Glenn with Sakkie Seegers actually finally caught up with the target in an omoramba but were forced to abandon when they came under fire from a significant MPLA contingent. Such is life!
The years roll on with Glenn moving back to 1 Recce Alpha Group where we again shared some interesting moments. You never forgot the sound of the calm gravelly voice who would say things like “Mr Davidson, I think we have a problem. There are just too many moments to recall that included our spell a bit later on in 1979 in the old 1 Military Hospital in Vootrekkerhoogte when he had jaundice and I had been clobbered in my right leg and another time giving me first aid in that embarrassing incident where a fish bit me or needed patching/stitching up for dings.
A classic was the evening we were working with a Minor Tactics Course working on their patrolling movement between RV’s (rendezvous points). Now whatever their previous experience, this is some experience for those not used to be alone in the Caprivi at night dealing with navigation by compass and pacing, keeping position and maintaining hand signals and anti-tracking, easing your aching shoulders while carrying heavy. Never mind distractions like Tsetse flies by day and “mossies” by night and the game in the area. At the time of this course the area was literally overrun with elephant due to poaching in neighbouring areas and the protection afforded by our training areas, patrolled regularly by 31 Battalion Bushmen. We had parked up our Buffel mine protected Unimog) a ta point to check on progress and Glenn who was driving, switched off to save fuel. A while later more and more elephant with young in tow were starting to crowd us until a young bull decided to start mock charging. This got closer and closer. Guess what, just like in a corny movie our “mog” would not start? I loaded an AP round into the M79mm grenade launcher as my AK was not going to do anything other than annoy the elephant. Glenn kept trying the starter while commenting “This is getting interesting”. The engine suddenly decided to fired and we pulled away before I had to do anything that would have meant serious paperwork!! Needless to say we never switched off until we got back and got the truck sorted out. Cables and wear and tear had come close to giving us a “bush adventure” we preferred not to have.
Another “funny one”, depending personal point of view of course happened a year or so later. We were training Pathfinders for Parachute Brigade with a “mini” Minor Tactics course. We had sent them on a night mine laying exercise with anti-tank mines. When we tried to find the patrol we found they had got lost during the night. We literally tracked them down following their spoor through the bush from their last RV with a Unimog. When debriefing the sorry lot, we discovered that they had laid their mines in a dirt track but not sure which road it was and the mines were armed? Hmm not very smart? For some or other reason Glenn and I ended up with two others having to drive back by road to Doppies whilst others backtracked with the Pathfinders to locate the mines. For some reason I can no longer remember, no one was bothered or thought that this was not a good idea?
The day had started out looking like another hot day but clouds were rapidly developing and it was obvious rain was coming which would make backtracking even more fun? As we bounced slowly up the dirt track in the typical dust cloud with everyone bar the driver hanging on we passed under an old dead Camelthorn tree. Just then there was an almighty bang and shock. Afterwards when comparing “notes” we had all thought something along the lines of “ I think we found the mines!” It was actually lightening striking the tree were passing under that was there cause of the excitement. Another forgotten moment shared with comrades that left you that much closer for the shared experience. The mines were found and lifted safely later by the backtracking party and the Pathfinders got to run back to Doppies with big packs to teach them to be more diligent. Never plant a mine if you are not absolutely sure where you are. Remember there were no GPS’s in those days and no detailed survey maps, only air photos of pretty featureless terrain.
Glenn was always there for anyone and everyone. It was never too much trouble to make time to help others, however big or small the task. He would always juggle his life and priorities for others. We enjoyed a few weeks at Anti Aircraft School at Youngsfield near Cape Town at some stage learning aircraft recognition, small arms anti-aircraft and 20mm at some stage to acquire these skills for use in our own unit. Again memorable moments of work and play spring to mind. Many a daily run was used to “set the world to rights”.
One evening sometime in 1980, Glenn and I were standing guard on the eve of a planned raid to take out the bridge at Xangongo. We were in a moonlike landscape at the northern side of the Etosha Pan. A cool quite night with not a breath of wind and sky filled with bright stars from the Southern Cross and the blazing Milky Way as you only get when there is absolutely no background light in the African bush. Turning to me he makes a dramatic announcement in his normal fashion, “Mr Davidson, if we get back from this one, I’m going to marry Heidi.”
At face value, the whole “job” looked at best a bit tricky from an Operator’s point of view. However, Glenn certainly had a shorter straw than I had. For my part, I would be commanding the 81 mortar line at a relatively safe distance from the target with the job of neutralising the 23 mm gun emplacements. There would be SW Kruger and others using B10 recoilless rifles closer to the action. Glenn on the other hand, was to drive one of the IFA trucks packed with several tonne of explosive coming from the North (the enemy expected us to come from the South). The trucks would be parking on the bridge, hopefully still not drawing fire as being led by a captured BRDM all the vehicles were Russian and should have been recognised as friendly? Glenn would along with the other drivers, set the fuse and then be picked up by the beach buggy coming form the back. Most of us had decided that over and above the steel helmets and flak jackets with steel plates we had never used on Ops before, running shoes would probably be more useful than boots for this job! Typical Glenn, he got on with what he had to do with only a wry smile and jokes. As history tells us, the op was cancelled the following day. It later took a battle group to take the bridge. We had a last little excitement while driving back to our base Fort Rev at Ondongwa after dark when we had a close call when detected by a spotter plane who called in an air strike as no one outside our unit were aware that a column of “foreign vehicles” was inside South West. A bit close for comfort as we scattered under the stark light of illuminating parachute flares dropped by the spotter plan. Fortunately the jets got stopped before the strikes went in. The story goes that our CO was actually in the Pilots pub when the sirens for scramble went off. On asking what the flap was about he was told there was an enemy column that had been detected south of Ondongwa. Apparently it took a little persuasion to calm things down and explain that they were “ours”.
As usual Glenn was true to his word and sometime thereafter, Carol and I and nany Bronwyn attended their wedding in Pietermaritzburg.
Glenn left the unit some time later and took up a technical maintenance career, starting with Otis Elevators. By now, the family had two additions, Dane and Warwick. The years roll on with sporadic contact but it was always as though spoke only yesterday. By the 1990’s we were all living in the Pretoria area with Glenn taking up more senior positions. We were now seeing quite a lot more of each other on a regular basis. Glenn, Heidi and the boys were at our house in Valhalla for our going away party when we emigrated to the UK in 1992. Strange to say we had not anticipated that they too would be given an opportunity to build a new life and career in the UK some time later. One day we got a call. “ Mr Davidson .. I think we are coming to the UK”.
Glenn had but a “short stay” in the UK. It is truly amazing to realise how many lives he touched for the better in this short period. The family almost immediately became totally involved in all aspects of their new community life, through school, church and work. When I saw him at the hospice, struck down by cancer on that final Saturday I remember two things. The first being his bedsocks which were somewhat bright and then him squeezing my hand and saying in that Glenn voice “Mr Davidson – you have a problem (or something to that effect)… of our old team you are the last man standing so look after our legacy!” For those who ask why this challenge, this may give you an answer. Needless to say Macmillan gave the family great help and comfort through this difficult time.
Final thoughts: When I salute Glenn goodbye in our traditional manner it is really a “Thank You for being an inspirational and true friend” and a recognition of what he meant to each of us in our own way.
If you have any questions about the Just Right Project, please contact us.
If you have any questions about Macmillan Cancer Support please click here| .
© Angus Davidson and Macmillan Cancer Support 2009
what are these?|
Sitefinity ASP.NET CMS