Sunday, April 18, 2010

More army Shit...

There were a few reasons I landed up in Aubrey Levin's "the infamous Ward 22".

One of them could probably be described as PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 6 Months previously I had spent about 4 months in Angola in what was called South Africa's Border War. Going up to the northern part of South West Africa (now Namibia) was pretty standard in your 2 years compulsory military service. But not that many actually crossed over into Angola where massive brigades of Angolan soldiers were based, trained by top Soviet Military Advisors and backed up by 1000s of cuban troops (up to 40 000 at one time it was said.)

Crossing the border into Angola

I was part of a platoon of drivers that had volunteered to go to the border halfway through our first year of training. That training camp was hell. If you want to talk about humans rights abuses you could talk about that training camp for the next 10 years. So when an opportunity arose to escape (albeit it to a war zone) me and a few mates seized the opportunity.

Most of the guys that were in that war don't talk about it much. And I'm convinced that one of the reasons is that there were always other guys that had it worse than you. I was fortunate in that I never experienced a conventional contact situation. On the one night we thought we saw the lights of an enemy convoy approaching our position and we opened up with everything we had for about 2 hours.We captured an enemy troop at one time too. I got there just after he had been shot. And another time in the bush there was some gunfire but I'm not sure if it was all ours or if there was other fire too. That was the nature of that war. It was in the bush. You never new what could be hiding around the next corner. 

So, no I didn't have shell-shock or direct battle trauma to deal with. But the whole place definitely worked on your nerves. There was a total recklessness about the whole thing. I slept in trenches for about 6 weeks. We lived on "ratpacks" - a cardboard box a day containing some biscuits, tinned meat and coffee. And I had the misfortune of living with some of the roughest, barbaric Afikaaners that you could ever imagine. Ex-convicts and stuff, chosen for their real battle experience in former operations.  And behind it all, in my mind, my hate for the Apartheid government in any event, which kind of gave the whole thing a schizophrenic backdrop.

This whole Aubrey Levin scandal has dug up a lot of old memories for me. There is so much of it. All bottled up. Yesterday I had a bad day - got stoned and drunk and spewed out about 6 hours of non-stop shit about the army to Mrs M. Think I need to talk to a therapist about it all one day...

Thats the funniest part of the whole thing. By the time I did land up in that psychiatric ward 6 months later, I spent hours and hours in interviews with psychiatrists about every aspect of my whole life. But strangely there was not one question, or even mention, of my time in Angola...

  this was my mate Barry, in Xangongo, Angola

This is me in Angola with my pet bushbaby which shared my trench for about 3 weeks.

1 comment:

  1. WillBeFine18 April, 2010

    I hope you find some resolution in your mind. I am never sure if the past finds us or we find the past. If you are low, depression needs company.


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