Stephen sent a terrible picture of a recovering drunk back in the old days. Around 1980. He found this poor soul asleep on the covered veranda of his top floor flat in 10th Avenue off Clarence Road in Windermere, Durban.
Later he accompanied the poor soul to the cafe on the corner for something to slake our Sunday morning cotton mouth thirst. En route we came across the Salvation Army on the pavement, gearing up their instruments, getting ready to go and blast a dose of Christian ‘look sharp’ into some poor sinners’ ears.
We were convinced they’d marked us as just exactly the right type of sinners they needed. Neatly – if severely – dressed in their fierce outfits, sensible shoes and soldier-looking hoeds they glared at us, fiddling threateningly with their instruments.
I could feel their accusing stares boring through the back of my head as I minced delicately past them, taking a wide – but not too wide – berth by stepping down into the gutter – where I belonged? – trying not to upset them in any way. Had they sounded the horn and hit the drum we would have capitulated and joined immediately. Thankfully a baleful stare was all we got and we made it past them. We eyed them out from a distance from the cafe door and returned to Stefaans’ flat once they’d parum-pum’d off a goodly distance down the road.
They were like this menacing-looking mob, except there were more tannies with sensible shoes:
Chris Greeff is one of the most connected people I know. He mentioned that John Lee is a parabat. I said: My two schoolmates did parabats in 1971 (Pierre du Plessis) and around 1975 I’d guess (Tuffy Joubert). He asked: Tuffy Joubert – that became a Recce – and raced Rubber Ducks with Maddies?
I said Yep. He’s a Harrismith boykie. So Chris sent me a pdf file: Read page 10, he said.
Interview – Major Peter Schofield by Mike Cadman 21 August 2007
Reconnaissance Regiment – Project Missing Voices
Schofield on arrival at Recce base on the Bluff in Durban:
Then I had lunch and went looking for the climbing course. Now, it wasn’t a very long walk but I walked along the length of the camp where there was a helicopter hovering at about a hundred feet. And I stopped on the edge of the hockey field where this was taking place and watched this, and out came a couple of ropes and a couple of guys came whizzing down in sort of abseil fashion. And a couple more came whizzing down sort of abseil fashion. And a couple more.
Then one came out, and came into free fall. And he literally, he got hold of the rope a little bit, but he just fell a hundred feet flat on his back wearing a rucksack and a rifle. And I didn’t even bother to walk over to him, I thought, He’s Dead. He can’t fall that far and not be.
And obviously the ropes were cast off and the chopper landed. They whipped him into the chopper and flew away. I didn’t know where to, but it was in fact to Addington Hospital, which is about three minutes flight away. And, I thought well this must be quite something of a unit, because basically they carried on with the rest of the course as though nothing had happened.
I thought, Well, I better introduce myself to the senior people here and see what’s going on. So I walked over and met the senior members of the course, and it was being run by a bunch of senior NCOs and I was impressed by the lack of concern that anybody showed for the fact that the guy had just fallen a hundred feet from a helicopter. A guy called (Tuffie?) Joubert. And Tuffie is still alive and kicking and serving in Baghdad right now.
And I said, What the hell are you doing? How did he fall over there? They said, Well nobody’s ever done it before. I said, OK, show me what you’re doing. And they were actually tying the abseil ropes direct to the gearbox of the rotor box in the roof, I think it was, in the Puma. Which gets to about a thousand degrees in no time flat. So if they had gone on long enough, they’d have broken at least one if not all four of the ropes with people on them. I said, Well let’s change that. And anyway you’re not abseiling properly so let’s send the helicopter away and let’s do some theory on abseiling and then we’ll go and do it off a building or something that stands still for a while before we progress to helicopters.
Then I went back to report to the commanding officer, John Moore, that I wasn’t really terribly satisfied with the way things were proceeding on this climbing course. He said, Oh well, have you done it before? I said Yes, I’ve done a hell of a lot of it, I was a rock climbing instructor apart from anything else. And he said, OK, well take over, run the climbing course. So I did just that. And again I was so impressed with the fairly laid back attitude of everything.
I told Tuffy and he replied in his laid-back Recce way:
Good morning Koos,
Trust to find you well; This side of the coast we are all well and we think we have everything under control.
Maj Peter Schofield was a Brit, he was part of the Red Devils if I recall correctly; came to South Africa and joined the Recces. His first day at work on the Bluff he had to take over the Mountaineering Course that included abseiling. As he walked out to see what was going on, “Yes, I fell out of the helicopter”. He was not impressed.
He lived in Harrismith for a few years after retiring, Pierre knew him. He passed away a few years ago here in Cape Town.
No I have not heard or seen his talk.
Lekker dag verder, enjoy and go for gold – Groetnis – Tuffy.
Tuffy has hit the bright lights. School friend and class mate Mariette van Wyk edits a lovely magazine Atlantic Gull down in the Dryest Fairest Cape.
She got the fascinating life story (well actually, snippets of it!) of Irené John Joubert out of him recently.
Fascinating thing is, Tuffy DID this stuff, Chuck Norris acts it out. Here’s an eyewitness account of his famous plummet from a chopper.
Here he is in those far-off days when you could see his chin and not his forehead:
me & Tuffy Joubert in his Durban recce days
Tuffy’s older brother Etienne remembers him getting his nickname like this: In the very English environment of the Methodist church some soutie made the mistake of calling the French masculine name Irené the English feminine name ‘Irene’ in Sunday school and promptly got dondered right then and there by said Irené. And hence the nickname Tuffy was born.
I see Tuffy says he has no trouble in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo as “with my honest face, people just love me”. What I want to know is: How do they see his face?
Well, now that his cover is bust, his anonymity lost, learn more about Tuffy being a domkrag and then tackling an unsuspecting ox here
In 1980 the army relieved me of my post as adjutant for the Natal Medical Corps and sent me to work for the provincial ophthalmology department in Durban run by the Nelson R Mandela school of medicine based at King Edward Hospital. This meant I worked at the three racially-segregated hospitals.
King Edward VIII in Umbilo (for the healthily pigmented):
RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth (medium pigmentally blessed):
Addington on the beachfront (pale, pigmentally deficient):
At KE VIII we had our own building, at RK Khan and Addington we shared. Addington OPDB (Out Patients Department B) was for legs and eyes. My mate Bob Ilsley in orthopaedics would say “I’ll get them to walk straight, you get them to see straight”.
Resident ophthalmologist Pat Bean was a character. Surfer dude at heart. And heart of gold. “You got cat tracks, mummy”, he’d say at RK Khan. “Cat tracks. Terrible things those cat tracks. Must give you ‘PRATION. Not sore ‘pration. Over one time, you go home next day no pain see nicely” he would reassure.
(‘cataracts’ – ‘operation’)
The nurse in charge of the clinic most days at KE VIII was Staff Nurse Anita Lekalakala, another character of note. One day she picked up a card for me, glanced at the name, grinned and called out loudly to the packed waiting room:
Miss Grace Kelly! Calling Princess Grace Kelly!
And in shuffled old Mrs Grace Cele, leaning on her walking stick.
(36yrs later Anita still comes to me for her glasses)
“Kom, kom, kom! Vyf Rand elk. Brings your money! Five Rands. I’m going to town. E’ gat do’p toe”. Town being Ellisras or Thabazimbi. The civilian staff sergeant from the Cape was shouting in that well-known accent – or eccent, ek sê. He was organising a whip-around to augment the army rations he had been issued as mess sergeant on our Commando camp out in the bush near Pretoria.
He returned a few hours later with a big sack of onions, cooking oil and a vark of cheap white wine – a 25l plastic spug-spug. So instead of plain bully beef and spuds we had a varkpan full of fried bully-beef-spuds-n-onions and a fire-bucket filled with over half a litre of semi-soetes for our supper. Much better.
Not the one on the left:
One of the civvies on camp was Rod Mackenzie, trainee-ophthalmologist from Durban who I would soon meet again and work with for years later, first in hospitals and then in private practice. That was after the weermag in their wisdom sent me to Durbs as adjutant to the medics in the various KwaZulu hospitals.
varkpan – metal army-issue eating and cooking pan
fire bucket – metal army-issue drinking container 500ml
Bouncing around on the back of a Bedford we would roar to a halt in the veld. Well, really the mixed thornveld woodland somewhere near Pretoria, which should properly be called Tshwane, ancestral home of the Tshwanepoels to which we have land claim rights. But that’s another (important) story.
Seeking the shelter of trees so as not to be too visible to the enemy, we would leap eagerly to the ground, pitch our big tents and carry in the stretchers, placing them in neat rows one left and one right. Then up would go the drip stands, each with a drip hanging down. Sundry balsaks and trommels would be lined up and unpacked and in no time we’d be ready to receive the wounded who had been drilled by the kommuniste nearby, us being an advance field hospital. We were much like this:
Well. In theory.
In reality the only thing that happened with any sense of urgency was the roaring to a halt by the Bedfords in a cloud of dust. After that there would be consultation and various opinions about whether to line the tents up like this (maybe east-west) or like this (maybe west-east). And how could we put it here? Look at this big stump in the ground here. The neat rows would be more haphazard and boiling water for tea would be accomplished before any drip stands were placed. It was like a military operation.
Which is not like this:
It’s way more like this:
The most organised of the troops was Rhynie. From Durban, natch. As the lorry stopped he would step off with his blanket over his shoulder and his paperback in his hand and immediately stroll off till just out of sight but still well within earshot for a ballasbak. As the Bedfords started up again after we had struck camp and packed up he would reappear in time to clamber on, miffed that us workers hadn’t kept him any tea. Everyone loved ole Rhynie so you couldn’t resent and only admired his gippo‘ing.
ballasbak – ball-baking; lying back in the sun, basking with your crotch exposed to the warm rays. The sunglass fella is doing it well. In the barracks you’d usually be leaning against a wall, hidden from the corporal’s sight. On a camp the corporal might be next to you, doing it better than you;
gippo‘ing – wisely dodging what you were meant to be doing. The opposite of volunteering; Probably slang from the Egypt campaign in WW2?
I suffered severe stress in the army in 1979. Once.
My 2-tone 1965 Opel Rekord 4-door column-shift sedan (in sophisticated shades of grey: dark grey body, pale grey roof, grey upholstery) got indisposed while parked under the bluegum trees outside the camp at Medics, Roberts Heights (then Voortrekkerhoogte, now Thaba Tshwane). She wouldn’t start.
This was serious! We had a weekend pass and there was a party on in the City of Sin & Laughter, aka the metropolis of Harrismith.
Not a problem, said KO (surname). We were all KO’s: candidate officers. He kindly offered to tow me to Harrismith behind his V6 Cortina bakkie. A short piece of nylon rope was found and we set off. I immediately thought Uh Oh!! as we hared off, accelerating furiously. Soon we reached what felt like 100 miles an hour. Slow down! I screamed silently. We hadn’t arranged any signals or communication, so I simply gripped the steering wheel and concentrated. If cellphones had been invented I’d have sms’d him: WTF RU MAD? Then I’d have worried about him reading his sms while driving at that speed.
I sat tensely, staring at the rear of the bakkie a mere 6ft from my bonnet. I couldn’t even see the towrope as we roared along. We’re going East so fast we hasten the setting of the sun.
Then it started to rain! Then twilight fell. Then it got dark, with the rain falling ever harder as my wipers feebly swished back, and then later on, forth. With the motor not turning the battery got flatter and flatter and the wipers got slower and slower. Blowing the hooter and flashing my lights just made things worse – the wipers stopped if anything else was switched on. Upfront in the bakkie the music was so loud and the chit-chat so intense they didn’t even notice us. Or pretended not to?
There was nothing for it but to hang in there for hours. Worst journey of my life. My chin got closer and closer to the windscreen and my knuckles got whiter. Still the KO kept the bakkie floored! He had to get to Durbs where a girlfriend was waiting. My neck was tense and I don’t think I blinked once, staring at the top edge of the bakkie tailgate. My right thigh ached as it poised ready to brake – delicately! – at any moment.
An eternity later we pulled up in Harrismith, unhitched the towrope and off he went, on to Durban. ‘Hey, thanks!’ I said. ‘Appreciate it!’
Fu-u-uck-uck-uck!!! I have never felt such relief. The beer soon relieved the stress though.