Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek Pass

I asked Leanne Hilkovitz Williamson about Poccolan / Robinson’s Bush and this brought a flood of memories:

She takes up the story:

I was born on the farm De Nook which belonged to my grandfather Elias Hilkovitz and was inherited by my father Leo Hilkovitz after the 2nd World War probably round about 1945, two years before I was born.

Dad built Little Switzerland Hotel on the farm and we made pathways through the forest called Robinson’s Bush for guests to hike to various spots: The Wishing Well, Protea Plateau, etc. I named most of the spots, and one that meandered in and out of the forest edge I named Hilky’s Way after my grandfather who was affectionately known as Hilky.

We sold the hotel when I was in my early twenties but the various owners over the years have kept the use of the forest and the guests continue to enjoy its wonderful beauty – it is wonderfully exhilarating to either clamber down Breakneck Pass from the Wishing Well or climb up to it from the road below. The path twists and turns in amongst indigenous trees, true and mock yellowwoods, and lianas and ferns along the side of a stream full of huge beautiful boulders in all shades of grey & lichen & dappled shade. So one experiences the mountain air, the refreshing sound of the steam  and always the melodious bird song. I particularly loved calling up the Mocking Chats and Natal Robins that mimic other birds and have a whole repartee of calls, copying them and they’d call back. A wonderful game that Dad taught me.

According to my father, Robinson’s Bush is the biggest natural forest in the Drakensberg. I wouldn’t take that as gospel. I’ve come to be a bit circumspect about those sorts of claims that locals all over the world tend to lay claim to!

Robinson’s Bush abuts on De Nook and we treated it as part of our farm. Dad looked after it although it is part of government nature conservation; at one stage in my late teenage years there were  two nature conservation officers who lived in a hut on the edge of the forest and tended it but that did not last.

I was there for my 70th birthday in 2017 with my two sons and their families and we climbed up Breakneck Pass through the forest and I showed it to my granddaughters and taught them the things my Dad had taught me.

Some of my earliest memories are of picnics in the forest on the side of the stream with our neighbours Udo and Margo Zunkle of Cathkin Hotel fame when they lived on Windmill farm. Udo would put small pieces of raw steak on the river rocks and we’d be fascinated by the crabs that came from all sides to feast on it.

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Leanne again later:

Hi Again

I put together a Power Point family history together for the family and we had an evening when I showed it to them. It started with the great grandparents on both sides and their cars and the farm in the very early days and the beginnings of the hotel and its growth as I grew up & went to HS Volkschool & then boarding school, varsity, etc. and then our children growing up and then finally the grandchildren from babies to present. I can never leave the farm & the berg for long & return there often – even if it is just up and down in a day – and I climb a mountain, drink in the soul food and return home refreshed, invigorated and together. The families also love it and visit but we have never all been there together at the same time & so  took advantage of my 70th to ask this favour. So we stayed in the timeshare from 24-28 Dec & had a wonderful Christmas & my birthday on 27th. We had a wonderful time and I was able to share some of my favourite places & stories with them just this once as you know how short attention spans are when kids are having fun. Didn’t want to bore them!

Pic of me on my birthday in my most favourite place in all the world.

Hilkovitz Leanne Little Switzerland


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Famous shenanigans: South Africa’s most notorious bank robber, Trust Bank robber Derek Whitehead, was arrested at Little Switzerland in 1971 at 3am on Friday morning the 14th of May. They had arrived at 4.30pm the previous day. A team of CID detectives from Johannesburg, the Orange Free State and Natal were involved in the swoop. After the arrest, the Whiteheads were taken to Bloemfontein for questioning

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Drunken shenanigans: Omigoodness; You don’t want to know . .

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Genealogy:

Our Bruno the doberman was a Hilkovitz! A Little Switzerland doberman puppy! Dad Pieter Swanepoel told me Leo came to town one day, called in at the Caltex garage and said ‘Come and look!’  On the back of his bakkie he had a bunch of little black pups in a box. Dobermans.

Dad chose one – he says he gave Leo a pocket of potatoes! – and we grew up with ‘Bruno’ – I only now know he was a citizen of Little Switzerland! He grew up to be a handsome lad!

1955 Barbs Birdhaven tyre Dad

Harrismith’s Gold Cup

Harrismith had a Gold Cup winner!

First run in 1921 – or in 1926 ? – over 3200m for a stake of 2000 pounds, the Gold Cup is Africa’s premier marathon for long-distance runners. It boasts a proud history and captures the public imagination. The race starts at the 400m mark in the short Greyville straight; there’s much jockeying for position as the runners pass the winning post for the first time before turning sharply right and heading towards the Drill Hall; normally many runners are under pressure before they turn into the home straight; the race is known to suffer no fools when it comes to fitness and stamina, and it takes a special type of horse and jockey to win the event.

And away they go!

Usually the final big race meeting of the South African racing season, the Gold Cup is often decisive in determining the Equus Award winners for the season. Initially a Grade 1 race, the Gold Cup was downgraded to Grade 2 in 2016 and to Grade 3 in 2017. Nevertheless, it is still the most important horse-racing marathon in the country.

1985 - Occult
1985 – Occult

The distance and unforgiving conditions that prevail as the field go past the Greyville winning post twice, are great levelers and a look at the list of champions beaten in the Gold Cup is a long one, with less-fancied runners carrying less weight often winning.

Sun Lad won the first running in 1926. He raced in the silks of leading owner-breeder Sir Abe Bailey. The Gold Cup was one of just two wins for Sun Lad during the season. He is frankly unlikely to be regarded as one of the race’s better winners.

The first horse to win the Gold Cup on two occasions was Humidor, who was victorious in 1933 and 1935.

Harrismith’s winner was the horse Rinmaher (pronounced ‘Rinmahar’) owned by the George Shannons of Glen Gariff (or Kindrochart?). What year? Probably 1932 or 1934?

Mom and Dad both tell the story of raucous parties on the Shannon farm where at a suitably ‘sensible’ stage the Gold Cup would be taken off the mantelpiece, filled with champagne or whatever hooch was going and passed around to the ritual comments from the more sober of “Here we go! We’re drinking moths and mosquitoes again!” At least had lovely handles to give an imbiber a good grip!

That Grog n Mozzie Cup

Here’s a nephew (son?) of the winning owner on a slower horse:

Jack Shannon on his Shetland pony ‘Suzanne’ on Kindrochart

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Later: Sheila rousted Colleen Walker, granddaughter of George Shannon, who straightened me out on some Gold Cup details. She even had an earlier pic of Jack and Suzanne. Is that Kindrochart? Is that George?

Mom tells me that after I had me tonsils out at about age two or three, she took me to Kindrochart for recovery for the poor little tender chap. I clung to her skirts and wouldn’t go to anyone, but once when lovely friendly Betty Stephens – a huge fan of us kids – offered to carry me up a hill after I’d run out of poof I condescended. Also that I told on Ma Shannon! She had appeared on the stoep in her nightie and I hastened to tell Mom that she’d ‘None clothes on!’

On the way back to the big smoke Mom was telling Betty about a book she’d read about some nuns. I had the book in my hands on the back seat and was disappointed in it. I said ‘Well, it’s got nun pictures.’

Comrade Skim

Six foot four inch Pete Stoute was running the Comrades Marathon, that foolish 89km exercise in torture held annually in KwaZuluNatal, when suddenly he heard a shout from around knee-level: “Yiss, Stoute, hoezit?”

He looked around, nothing. He looked down: There was Skim, short and round as a beachball, choofing alongside. Skim du Preez, kranige scrumhalf of the great Optometry rugby team of 1975.

Skim! What the hell are YOU doing here! he exclaimed. No, I thought I must do this thing, seeing I’m a boykie from Dundee, said Skim. – Dundee pronounced “DinDear” the Afrikaans way; it means ‘steenkool.’

They chatted a few minutes and then Skim said, Oh Well, Be Seeing You and ran off into the distance!! Left the long-legged Stoute in his dust!

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As often, one of my dodgy history lessons: Dundee, pronounced DinDear, is the famous site where British army troops, tired of being shot through their red coats and their white helmets, finally wore khaki uniforms for the first time in battle. I wonder if their commander Major-General Sir William Penn Symons KCB still wore his red coat that day, though? He got shot in the stomach and died three days later as a prisoner of war in Dundee. These Boers would know: The caption says they were ‘watching the fight’ that day! Like a movie!

The British claimed a ‘tactical victory’ in the battle. Here’s the actual scorecard – a lesson whenever you read battle reports:

British casualties and losses – 41 killed, 185 wounded, 220 captured or missing;

Boer casualties and losses – 23 killed, 66 wounded, 20 missing.

And so the dispatch goes back to Mrs Queen in Blighty (perhaps sent by war correspondent Winston Churchill?): “We won.” Maybe he added “Um, send reinforcements” – ?

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stoute – the Afrikaans pronunciation “stotah” as in kabouter; it means ‘naughty.’

kabouter – Snow White and the seven kabouters

choofing – running like a gazelle

kranige – capable; brave; gallant; dashing

scrumhalf – not only a scrumhalf – see the comments

No – yes

DinDear – Dundee; coal-mining village; not in Scotland

steenkool – coal; or stone coal; but you can’t say just ‘kool’ cos that would mean cabbage

Film ‘ZULU and the Zulus’

The film Zulu
Released in 1964, ‘Zulu’ has become one of most iconic British films ever – directed by Cy Endfield, and starring Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and Michael Caine. I joked here that we had held the World Premiere of this famous film in our lounge in Harrismith!

Now, fifty five years later, a new film, ‘Zulu and the Zulus’ is planned. Scheduled to be a ninety minute feature length documentary to be shot in England and in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa, the film will tell about the making of the classic war film ‘Zulu’, and also tell the stories of the Zulu people involved in the making of that famous film.

Here’s a trailer of the planned movie:

‘Zulu and the Zulus’ promo trailer

Director Henry Coleman is sole owner of the only print of the making of ‘Zulu’. Shot in Natal in 1963, it contains 26 minutes of unique black & white behind-the-scenes footage showing cast and crew at work and play while making one of the most iconic and loved war films of all time.

Coleman and Producer Mark Tinkler, will take this Behind the Scenes footage back to KwaZulu Natal, screen it for the Zulu people and talk to them about this historic and well-loved film – Zulus who appeared in the original film as extras. Many rural Zulu people have no access to cinemas, and no electricity in their villages, and so would have not seen the film. The production team will travel out to the remote parts of KwaZulu and screen the film either in huts or on a portable screen outdoors using a generator, DVD player and screen, film the audience watching the film, interview them and draw out their stories on the making of the film in 1963. Some of them saw the film and rushes at special screenings organised by star & Producer Stanley Baker – as seen in this rare still of film extras watching themselves in the rushes:

But many of them have never seen it since, or indeed ever. ‘Zulu and the Zulus’ will examine the making of film to the Zulus, visiting the locations in Natal where the film was shot, a Then and Now sequence. They will also visit the original battle site at Rorkes Drift. It will be a fascinating journey.

It will be a very visual experience, with Zulu warriors watching themselves and their parents playing their ancestors. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who became a minister in the first legitimate government of South Africa upon liberation in 1994, appeared in ‘Zulu’ as his Great Grandfather, King Cetshwayo ka Mpande. He has agreed to participate in this project and has given us his full support.
At the heart of ‘Zulu and the Zulus’ is 26 minutes of never-seen-before ‘making of’ footage. This original 16mm silent footage has been painstakingly restored in a top post-production house in London, and this unique footage not only features the film’s ‘famous’ cast and crew on set, it also includes the building of key sets in KwaZuluNatal as well as costume design, creation and fitting, stunt work, battle scenes and much more. But more importantly, it is an historical record detailing the extent of contribution from the local community in bringing the famous film ‘Zulu’ to life.

We have also found, and gained exclusive access to, another 40 minutes of colour home movie footage shot on set, giving us a unique insight into the production of Zulu.

Seven minutes of these forty minutes of ‘home movie’ footage were taken by Dad with his new Eumig 8mm cine camera when he and Mom went to the set in the Royal Natal National Park back in 1963. Sister Sheila had the film digitised, but I won’t be showing it here as Henry Coleman has asked to use it for his movie. Hopefully some of it will make it onto the big screen!

More from Henry: ‘Zulu and the Zulus’ will tell the behind the scenes story of the classic British Movie ‘ZULU’. We will be interviewing European cast and crew and for the first time, hear the tribal ZULU actors, stuntmen & crew stories from behind the scenes. We hear tales of the making of the film, what it meant to the Zulus, then and now, and the film’s legacy to Zulus today. Everyone knows the film, it’s iconic set pieces, and the lead European actors… but no-one has ever spoken to the hundreds of Zulu warriors who took part in the film, the Zulus of the title. This is a unique opportunity to get the Zulu peoples’ point of view on a classic film named after them, but whose voices we’ve never heard before – there will be stories we’ve never even imagined, illustrated, intercut with the rare footage of the making of Zulu.

An illustration of props, equipment and ‘stuff’ used on the remote location of the set of Zulu in 1963 (from Henry Coleman’s Zulu and the Zulus twitter feed), giving an indication of the challenging logistics:

Scotland the Brave 2

Scottish doctors. A delightful lot. The female of the species that is; I prefer them female. The guys with their kilts, beards and medical sporrans full of scalpels and aspirins, not so much. I mean, how do they scrub up with all those areas to disinfect? No thank you, give me the ladies. A few years before I had fallen deeply in love with a Scottish doctor and now I was told as I got onto the Pilatus ‘flying doctor’ aircraft something like the one above to fly to Charles Johnson Hospital in rural Nquthu that a Scottish doctor – actually medical student, same as the topless surfing ‘doctor’ in Durbs – would be shadowing me to learn about eyes. I was the volunteer optometrist on this ‘flying doctor’ type trip.

Before we landed we flew low over a small ragged-looking airstrip with an old Dakota parked near a big double-story homestead. Our pilot told of a famous inyanga or sangoma who got so well known and in such demand that he had to travel all over. Like house calls. Eventually road travel was no longer feasible, so he got a Dakota and a pilot to extend his reach. I’ve searched for him now, but can’t find anything about him on the ‘net! I’ll keep searching, his sounds like a fascinating story. Meantime, I’ll fantasize:

As I was settling in and unpacking my equipment in the Charles Johnson hospital outpatients department . . .

. . a whirlwind blew in! My Scottish doctor student! She was six foot tall, her smile was six foot wide and she demanded in a broad Scottish accent: “Teach me about eyes!” She was like this:

What a lovely day. We tested plenty eyes, talked non-stop, had lunch together and once again I fell in love with a Scottish doctor! Sadly she decreed dreadlocks would not suit me. To this day I think she was mistaken. They could have provided much-needed cover-up.

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  • The pic is not my second Scottish doc, just as the numbis in the last post weren’t that Scottish doc’s. It’s of a Scottish student who reminds me of my doc who, like her, was born in Edinburgh of Nigerian parents.

sangoma – a practitioner of ngoma, a philosophy based on a belief in the amadlozi – the ancestral spirits;

inyanga – concerned mainly with medicines made from plants and animals;

numbis – breasts

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While I search for ‘my’ sangoma, read about this one that Hugh Raw reminded me about; from the fascinating village of Lusikisiki, home of the Shy Stallion:

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So pleased to confirm again that I ain’t imagining this shit! My mind is strong. My mate Hugh Bland, photographic historian and fifth cousin tells me thus: Your info on the Nyanga at Nqutu is correct, but I can’t add any more info than you have. His house or mansion is on the right about two kms outside Nqutu coming from Dundee.

Charles Johnson?

Charles F. Marquart Johnson was a transport rider who became a teacher who became a priest who became a bush dentist. Opportunist, perhaps? After the the Anglo-Zulu wars he decided to stay on in Zululand, having apparently been asked by one of the chieftains, Hlubi, to be a teacher. He became a priest, then archdeacon of the area. With the nearest medical facility being at Dundee, a difficult 52 km journey away, he also involved his mission station at Masotsheni in helping the local people with their medical problems. He was, by Anthony & Margaret Barker‘s account – they ran the hospital for years – a formidable holy tooth puller.

Anthony & Margaret Barker

Anthony Barker had a lovely isiZulu nickname: ‘Umhlekehlatini’ -‘He laughs in the forest’ – referencing his frequent laughter and his bushy beard.

The Barker’s mobile clinic 1960

Scotland the Brave

Two delightful Scottish medical students arrived at Addington hospital. They were here to “do their elective” they said. We didn’t mind what they were doing, we were just happy they were in Darkest Africa and drank beer. Always a better chance if a lady will drink alcohol.

One of them asked me if I surf, which is a terribly unfair question to ask a Free Stater by the sea. It puts great pressure on us and reveals our secret fear of that-big-dam-that-you-cannot-see-the-other-side-of. Ask us when there’s no sea within miles and we can tell a good story, but the sea is right on Addington’s doorstep. “Even better” I said casually, leaning against the bar in The Cock and Bottle on the first floor of Addington doctors’ quarters, “I paddle-ski.”

Ooh, will you show me? she asked, which put great pressure on me. “Come to my flat in Wakefield Court after work” I ordered and she meekly nodded. Wakefield was part of doctors’ quarters, over the road from the hospital. After work I hared off to Stephen Charles Reed and borrowed his Fat Boy paddle ski, threw it in my green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon OHS 5678 and hared back to Prince Street in time to casually say “Hop in” as she arrived. Addington beach was right there and I proceeded to give lessons in the surf. Little did she know it was like the drowning leading the drowned. I’d help her on, hold her steady, time the waves and say “Now! Paddle!” and she’d tumble over like a Scottish person in the warm Indian Ocean, time and again. One wave was better than the rest, nicely obliging and masculine, and it did something like this:

Marvelously, she didn’t notice for a while until I blurted out “God you’re gorgeous!”. Following my grinning gaze, she giggled and hoicked her boob tube top up over her boobs from where it was sitting around her waist. *Sigh* I cherish wonderful mammaries of that day . .

Memories Military

A bunch of unlikely and involuntary ‘soldiers’ reminisce . .

One fine day in October 2018 I walked into work and my practice manager Raksha said, ‘A lady wants you to phone her. She says she thinks you were in the army with her brother Derek Downey.’ That must be Avril!, I said.

Well, that brought back a flood of memories and led to this garbled line of correspondence from a whole bunch of ancient friends who I’m very worried about. I think they’re all going senile. Seems I’m about the last sane one amongst us!

I wrote:

Do you guys remember the Durban boys on the offisiers kursus back in ’79? – Derek Downey, Rheinie Fritsch and Paul (‘no KIDDING!?‘) Goupille? They all begged to be sent to Durban-On-Sea after the officers course, citing important sport events, tragic family happenings, weeping needy girlfriends, Springbok surfing training, etc. I, on the other hand, asked to go to the Angolan border in South West Africa. ‘Die Grens’.

Well, all three of them were sent to Die Grens and I went to Durbs. To Natal Command, the famous ‘Hotel Command’ headquarters right on the beach on Marine Parade with the waves of the warm blue Indian Ocean lapping gently at the feet of the soldier on guard at the front gate. Who saluted me when I arrived!

Inside, I was shown to my quarters and told to put my shoes outside the door – of my own private room! No more bunking with you smelly lot.

I thought the shoes thing must be some sort of ritual or tradition, or maybe a hygiene thing; But the next morning the blerrie things were brightly polished! ‘Twas like a miracle! I had a batman!

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I also reported to this motley crew of kakhuis offisiers that our friend private* Graham Lewis – he who belonged to the wrong company at Loopspruit and then joined us – promotion – and promptly proceeded to fuck up our pristine floor in a misguided effort with dribrite polish and a rotary floor polisher – was alive and irrepressible.

I brought them up to speed on the Private’s Progress:

He’s done some amazing things post-war that you will not believe and you will think I’m talking kak but I’m TELLING YOU. Our Private Graham Lewis:

– got married; Can you believe that? But more: To a lovely and very good-looking lady! Who tolerates his foibles. It’s astonishing!

– got rich; Swear! And not from smousing spectacles. He became a landlord after being skopped out of a shopping centre; it’s a wonderful tale of success and couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. When I phone there now I ask for the Wicked Landlord and they put me straight through to him;

– started running; his mates used to run the 89km Comrades Marathon while he drank beer and they made the mistake of mocking him, so he pulled on an old pair of tennis tackies and entered the Comrades unbeknown to them and beat the lot of them!

– did the 120km Dusi Canoe Marathon; He got into a canoe and fell out; then got in again and fell out again, then entered a race and didn’t finish. So I said to him, come, Lewis! Lemme show you. I took him on a race on the Tugela near Colenso. We finished last, but we finished; Then he entered Dusi and finished and he did it quite a few times after that.

– decided running on KwaZulu Natal hills was too easy so he ran from the bottom of the Drakensberg to the top of Mt aux Sources up the chain ladder and then down the Gulley on a rugged track for about 55km on a balmy day; And the next year he did it again. He’s gone a bit mashugana I’m afraid.

And other stuff. Like this and this near-death experience.

* private? were we privates or riflemen? I can’t remember. If riflemen, can we become cannons one day, like dominees can?

Lunch Corporal (equal to a Texas General) Dhavid Cooper wrote:

Luitenant – I’ve been meaning to reply for a while.

Firstly, luitenant Swaneveer – you’re a damn good writer and your blogs are hilarious. Why have you been hiding your talents under a bosvark?

Secondly, Makeerdiepas Les kept us smiling and “always looking on the bright side of life” with his voluminous aka “audible” mirth. **

Thirdly, I was most impressed with KO Lewis’ resurrection as a first rate floor officer to an even finer specimen of an officer in the running, so to speak. We should all be so lucky.

Fourthly, royalties, meagre as they were, were all blown in one night of wine, women and song – at least I think they were. Maybe the ‘women’ part is just wishful thinking. Memories at 63 are not what they used to be.

However – I do remember one conversation with you KO Swaneveer that still makes me pack up laughing when I think about it . . it related to “a few polite thrusts” . .

I do remember the Durban boys – Les Chrich was filling me in on the ballesbak time you and he had fighting for the homeland at Hotel Command.

Fascinating times – good memories.

** Les’ laugh led to a corporal once telling him “Hey, jy moet uit, uit, uit lag, nie in, in, in!”

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I wrote again:

That really cracked me up, Lunch Corporal Cooper! Whattasummary!!

Talent? My real talent lay in talking about hiding under bushels rather than diving under same. Most ladies would watch wide-eyed as I deteriorated until eventually I’d be on the floor, last drink on my chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a touch incomprehensible.

Ah well, it was a good contraceptive, I changed my first nappy at age 43. And even then I had to contract out the actual pomping.

You’re quite wrong about Hotel Command. It was rugged. We suffered. I was told to report for duty as adjutant at the medics HQ in the 25-story Metal Industries House, two blocks back from the beachfront. Tenth floor.

The first day was taken up in making sure I had a parking spot for my sleek grey and grey 1965 Opel Concord OHS 5678 and that my office was suitable, window overlooking a park, now the Durban City Lodge. Couldn’t even see the sea.

The next day I checked my desk, covered in brown manila files. One said Lt X was to leave Osindisweni Hospital and report to Christ the King Hospital the next day! I phoned him to tell him. “Wow! Thanks!” he said, “Usually we don’t get any notice at all!”. The next said Lt Y was moving in a week, he was bowled over that someone had told him so far in advance. The files had been on the desk for ages; they were covered in stof. The previous adjutant was a PF – a career soldier – and he was damned if he going to spoil those blerrie civvie doctors, who did they think they were!? He was a funny oke dressed in white with a strange title, it’ll come to me now . . Scallan! Petty Officer Scallan. Petty Officer! What a weird name compared to me: LUITENANT! You could salute a luitenant. Who’d salute a petty officer? OK, OK, I was a 2nd Lt. Only one pip.

Our OC – that’s Officer Commanding – was a dapper 5ft tall Captain dressed all in white, complete with white cap and white shoes. Hilarious! What koptoe soldier would dream of wearing white shoes at Loopspruit in Potchefstroom!? Captain Mervyn Jordan. Naval Captain, mind you, which – if you’d read your notes on offisiers kursus – was equal to two Commandants in a brown uniform.

Once I cleared my desk, Captain Jordan – a helluva cool oke, by the way – suggested I commandeer a jeep and reconnoitre the hospitals under my command (none of which words he used, I’m just feeling uncharacteristically military here). My battlefield / sphere of influence lay between the blue Indian Ocean in the east and the high Drakensberg and Lesotho in the west; and from the Mocambique border in the north to the old Transkei in the south, which was also another country, remember? Three foreign states and a deep ocean surrounded me. Besides Christ the King and Osindisweni my other hospitals were called Appelsbosch, Emmaus, Hlabisa, Madadeni, Manguzi, Mosvold, St Appolonaris, ens ens.

Luckily I’d read my notes on offisiers kursus unlike you lot, so I filled in a DD99 form for the Jeep and a DD45 form for petrol and a DD78 form for accommodation, and – who’m I kidding? I knew DDbuggerall. Some PF pen-pusher did it all for me.

But then disaster struck!

Before I could leave on my grand tour, driving my OWN Landrover all over Natal, peering over the border into three foreign countries including Transkei, an order came through on a DD69 assigning 2nd Lieutenant me and 2nd Lieutenant Les Chrich to Addington Hospital as resident oogkundiges. Instead of driving around visiting the odd nun and some okes in uniform at Zululand hospitals, I was ordered to move into Addington DQ – doctors quarters – across the road from the nurses res.

Did you catch that? Are you paying attention? We soldiers were ordered to live next door to a NURSES RESIDENCE. In which six hundred – that’s 600 – nurses in white skirts, silly little white hats and pantihose waited for us to come and service them. Their eyes. What could we do? Orders are orders.

It was much like Alfred, Lord Tennyson had predicted:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into The smoke-filled Cock and Bottle

Rode the six hundred.

We were each given our own flat. Not a room, an apartment. Bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall. High ceilings; Hot and cold running blondes.

It was hell; We served. We suffered. We were barracked right next door to the DQ Pub, The Cock and Bottle. Mecca. Every one of the superb six hundred – that’s 600 – knew The Cock and Bottle. Sure, some knew to avoid it, but others said Meet You There!

Our first big bash was arranged by a New Zealand couple, two of the twenty-some houseman – practicing doctors in the true sense of ‘practicing’ – in residence. Their Kiwi surname was actually Houseman, funnily enough, lovely folk; they organised a raucous Priests and Prostitutes night.

The fishnet stockings! The see-through tops! The high heels! The micro skirts! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! I wore a white dog collar and a blue houndstooth holy Irish jacket made by a tailor in Dublin which slayed the ladies. Much later that night I was on the floor, last drink on my chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a touch incomprehensible.

But there was a big difference now: Nurses! Kind, nurturing souls moved to take up a caring profession. They didn’t step over you and walk out on you like a Jo’burg or Kimberley or Rustenburg chick at the New Devonshire Hotel or the New Doornfontein Hotel might. No! They would pick you up and sling your one arm over their shoulder and take you to bed, tuck you in saying tut tut. Or “Shine up, Chicken Legs” if their name was Peppy. This is true! They were angels. Better than angels, as they had a devilish streak.

The weermag had actually posted us to heaven. Probably by mistake, but we were not complaining. Hey! you can ask 2nd Lt. Chrich; I shit you not, I’m not exaggerating!

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Meantime a reunion took place in the Fairest Cape attended by old soldiers Stedall, Chrich, Miller and Cooper.

I wrote:

Great, Rod! So at your reunion, were there a few tales of how we won the war? You, Cooper, Chrich and Miller must have told a few lies about what a terribly hard time we had? I was a normal person before that 1979 weermag year. Also, what’s the name of that song we sang so well, and why didn’t it go platinum?

Rodney Stedall wrote:

I think it was Piano Man

I wrote:

That’s right, it was. How could I forget!? Here’s one version. not anything like as good as ours:

Which brings us to the second question, why are we not earning royalties from sales of our version? Do you think that cunning corporal Cooper filched the funds? Corruption is rampant and I think we should investigate.

Was there another song? Shouldn’t there be more royalties?

Also, what happened to that young female luitenant in her tight browns that Cooper and I used to eye? The only female on the base under half a ton? Do you think she’s wearing browns a few sizes larger these days? These are important questions . .

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Dhavid Cooper wrote:

Howzit Luitenant Swanefeer homse geweer! Would have been such a hoot to have you with us in the Cape!!

Regarding corruption (see The Early Years – my new upcoming book on corruption by Snyman and Verster) – money had to be made when it could – and the stage had to be set for the future of the country . . apparently we did too good a job . .

However, the most memorable event – besides the shapely looty you alluded to – was the well serenaded, fine looking lass who stole our hearts that one summer beer-filled night . . . Irene!! Do you remember . .?

We sang “Irene, Goodnight, Irene Goodnight, Goodnight Irene . . . I’ll see you in my dreams” — and that’s exactly what happened . . we never saw her again except in our dreams!

Hope you’re well pal… be lovely to catch up again sometime….Rod, maybe a weermag reunion sometime.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Les Miller wrote:

Pete – Thank you so much for this. I killed myself laughing while reading it. Brings back forgotten memories. Good ones!

MaakkeerdiePAS! Lick-yak, lick-yak, omkeeeeeer!

——-ooo000ooo——-

I wrote:

Hey Les – What a good laugh! Carefree days. Give some testosterone-fueled youths guns, bullets and beers and what could possibly go wrong, huh?

——-ooo000ooo——-

offisiers kursus – learning how to gippo exams; or, officers course

Die Grens – the border; usually the border between Angola and South West Africa, where we shouldn’t have been in the first place; In Natal my borders were Mocambican, Transkeian, Lesotho-an – oh, and also Swazi-like, plus there was the boerewors curtain keeping us safe from the Transvaal;

border not as in ‘south of the border’ as sung by Cooper which was a a panty-line border;

kakhuis offisier – candidate officer; KO or CO; aspirational;

smousing – peddling; which is better, one or two? I’ll take the tortoise shell one;

skopped – kicked out;

mashugana – batty; barmy;

dominees – canons, preachers, priests, imams, rabbis, gurus, archbishops, dob-dobs, pontiffs, cardinal sin, swami, ayatollah, blah blah; liars;

lunch corporal – half a corporal; one stripe;

pomping – the brief, active part of conception preceding the long slow hatching part; seldom immaculate;

koptoe – delusional;

luitenant – lieutenant; some of us became one-pip lieutenants, a massive promotion from KO;

bosvark – bushel; bush piggle?

makeerdiepas – mark time; march aimlessly in one spot, going nowhere; mind you, all marching is aimless;

ballasbak – literally, sunbaking your balls; leaning back comfortably with your groin aimed at the sun and your legs spread; a frequent activity between brief sessions of ‘hurry up and wait’;

oogkundiges – uniformed personnel skilled in the gentle art of gazing deep into nurses’ eyes;

weermag – war machine;