Memories of Army gyppo tactics on the ‘Border’

A reply to an army anecdote published by a close friend . . .

Yeah, Mario old friend . . . what does one say when the only ones who understand are the dead and the wounded?

I sometimes wonder, from my experiences “Up North” how many of the ous who went off like flash bangs were really “bossies”. How many were having the rest of us on for a bunch of cunts. We were the stand-up guys who just stayed on and bit the bullet because someone had to stay? We were all shit-scared. So why should some gyppo their way back home and leave the rest of us to “face the Rooi Gevaar*” on our own?

I know one guy from my CF – Citizen Force – unit, who must remain nameless, who bragged about his “Plan” to hoodwink the brass into sending him home as a MedEvac ⱡ. That’s all we heard about on that interminable train ride to Grootfontein. Day after day of bullshit that I never for a moment thought he’d get away with. He started the shit shortly after we set up in our new digs at Camp Buffalo, home of the famed 32 Battalion, on “the river” in Caprivi.

He would wander about naked and stop and stare at people without speaking. I was convinced that he was acting but it looked so genuine that he got escorted to Runduβ and then onwards from there. When he left he came to say goodbye and to shake my hand. I can’t remember what I felt at that time. Perhaps I’m blocking it out. Whatever, I said nothing to him and I ignored his proffered right hand. I was so disgusted and jealous that I couldn’t bring myself to even meet his eye. I saw him again in civvy street but just avoided any contact. What lives with me the most about this is the shame that I feel for being jealous of his departure for home. It makes me a coward by complicity and I have a problem with living with that. We must talk about these things lest they drive us even madder than we already are. We are all casualties of war with hidden wounds. The mentally fucked-up trying to get through life with what one soldier described as “a secret burden” which we carry out of sight but never out of mind . . .

I’ve never related this story before. I try not to think of those times and the horror and fear and guilt of being a “survivor”. No-one wants to hear these stories of what happened and how it fucked us up. All we need and want is an nonjudgmental ear and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. But hey . . . we’re a bunch of rejects so we get told to shut up, suck it up and get over it. Yeah right, like those arseholes with their two cents worth know what we went through. And how many of our buddies died in that white desert hellhole fighting an ideological war for a bunch of twisted pricks who didn’t even notice us when we needed help. Fuck that and fuck them!

I wish I’d also gyppoed my way out of that shit and gone overseas. Even Bulgaria would have been a better option, I’m sure. But the past is passed and there’s no going back in this life. So, on with my “game face” and on with the race that is life. C’est la vie!


*Afrikaans for Red Danger, the supposed “Total Onslaught” of communism on our borders as espoused by the Nationalist government of the day.

ⱡ Medical Evacuation other than as a casualty of war which is a CasEvac; Casualty Evacuation.

β Place in Namibia with a huge military base,  airfield etc. A Forward Ops Centre in the Angolan War.

Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 22 April 2017


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