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The Day a South African Armoured Battalion Shattered Angola’s Last Mechanized Offensive – a Crew Commander’s Account

 

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The author lifts the hatch on his story of how Charlie Squadron, comprising just twelve 90mm AFVs crewed by 36 national servicemen, as part of the elite 61 Mechanised Battalion, engaged and effectively annihilated the giant FAPLA 47th Armoured Brigade in one day – 3 October 1987.

 

Their 90mm cannons were never designed as tank-killers but any assurances that it would never be used against heavy armour were left in the classroom during the three-month operation and never more starkly than the decisive ‘Battle on The Lomba River’.

Clive Wilsworth was called up for national service in 1969 to the School of Artillery, Potchefstroom, and then posted to 4th Field Regiment as an assistant OP officer. After a six-year stint with the Natal Field Artillery and as a territorial captain with the Regiment Port Natal, he signed on as a regular with 14th Field Regiment, South African Artillery. From 1978 to 1988, as a battery commander and Intelligence Staff Officer, he saw action in several major operations during the Border War. He was involved in the development of new weapon systems, leading the first 127mm multiple-rocket launcher and G6 courses. His last posting was to Army HQ, Pretoria as Project Of ficer for the development of the Artillery Target Engagement System—the digitization of the artillery. He retired in 1994 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Clive is now a business consultant living in Johannesburg. This work documents the experience of South African gunners in the 1975-1988 Angolan border war. It relates early operations when a young second lieutenant was seconded to train UNITA troops in Angola, on US 4.2-inch mortars, through to Operation Savannah and final actions against the Cuban 80th Division in June 1988. During this period, South African artillery forces grew from an under-strength troop of 17 men and two medium guns to an artillery brigade supporting a mechanized division. It is a story of heroism, of fear, of well-planned, successful operations and of losses to own forces by ill-timed and inaccurate fire. It tells the story of the 8,500 South African gunners. Personal accounts are merged with historical fact, which organized in chronological order, highlight the shortage of modern equipment and the efforts to combat a well-equipped, numerically superior enemy through innovation and skill of arms. Source: 30DegreesSouth.co.uk

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