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Much has been written about the South African Border war which is also known as the Namibian War of Independence. While the fighting was ostensibly about Namibia, most of the significant battles were fought inside Namibia’s northern neighbour, Angola. South Africa’s 23 year border war has been almost forgotten as the Cold War ebbed away and bygones were swept under the political carpet. South African politicians, particularly the ANC and the National Party, decided during negotiations to end ...
 
I'm a pilot obsessed with flying and all things aviation. This podcast series covers more than a century of commercial aviation and how its shaped the world. Aviation is now safer than its ever been, but it took one hundred years of learning and often through accidents and incidents to reduce the risk of flying.
 
The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 saw the British Empire at the height of its power facing a small band of highly mobile Boers in South Africa. The war introduced the world to the concentration camp and is regarded as the first war of the modern era where magazine rifles, trenches and machine guns were deployed extensively. British losses topped 28 000 in a conflict that was supposed to take a few weeks but lasted three years.
 
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This is episode 49 and Khoe and Oorlam Afrikaaner uprising of 1799. Keep in mind at this point in South African history, Afrikaaners are the mixed race band of former Khoe, mixed race, slaves and Namaqua living in the northern Hantam and at times, raiding Namaqualand.When we left off last episode things were sliding towards war as the settlers of t…
 
This is episode 42 – it’s 1979 and all hell is breaking loose as the Rhodesian Bush war reaches it apogee and SWAPO increases its incursions into OVamboland and into the Death triangle further south. In this episode we’ll meet an extraordinary woman called Tannie Pompie, real name Pompie van der Westhuizen. She has been lauded and memorialised by r…
 
This is episode 48 and we’re following the sagas of the Visagies and others in the Hantam, that rough and ready part of the northern Cape.This chaotic land had spawned another by the name of Petrus Pienaar of the Afrikaaners. Regarded as one of the most influential men of the frontier, Pienaar emerged as the spokesman of the Hantammers. He was clos…
 
This is episode 41 and we’re dealing with events in 1979. One of these as you’re about to hear involve a Rhodesian Airlines Vickers Viscount that was shot down – and the SAAF was involved in the response. That was to target a ZIPRA base in eastern Angola. While the new year of 1979 began relatively peacefully, that changed in February when 250 SWAP…
 
This is episode 47 and we are concentrating on a mysterious and contradicted part of southern Africa, the Hantam. We’re also going to meet a German sailor who’d deserted and ran away to the Orange River in the 1780s by the name of Jan Bloem. He worked as an overseer, a Knecht, at Sandfontein farm owned by Petrus Pienaar. Groups of white hunters wer…
 
This is episode 25 – and I’m going to take a closer look at the Pakistan international Airlines Crash in Katmandu in 1992 along with a Thai Airlines accident there a few week earlier. The Pakistan crash comes via a suggestion by a listener called Herman. Thanks for the chat the other evening and also a big thank you for your great suggestion Herman…
 
This is episode 46 and it’s about Namaqualand, the Oorlam Afrikaaners and the GriquasBut first a note about the British occupation. We know that they arrived in 1795, defeated the Dutch forces and then attempted to take control of events on the frontiers. As the Dutch had found, this was not an easy undertaking. The new Governor Sir George Yonge ha…
 
This is episode 40 and it’s a special edition focusing on one of the most successful military organisations in African military history. That’s the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group which first saw action during Operation Reindeer as Battle Group Juliet which was targeting SWAPOs western front at Chetequera. As you know from previous episodes, one of t…
 
This is episode 45 and it’s time to turn our attention to Namaqualand. This is an area which is not spoken of very often, the wild northern frontier where bandits rode oxen and escaped slaves, white ex-soldiers and black clans joined forces – or fought each other. The brigands and Badlands here are exotic to say the least as you’re going to hear. F…
 
This is episode 39 and SWAPO has just mortared Katimo Mulilo as revenge for the airborne assault on Cassinga. Ten SADF troops died in the bombardment as you’ve heard – a single Redeye rocket accounted for the deaths as the men huddled in a prefabricated building in the early hours of 23rd August 1978. Combat Team Bravo had set off about an hour aft…
 
This is episode 44 and we continue to travel about the Zuurveld and beyond with Englishman John Barrow. Remember he’d arrived in Graaff-Reinet with landdrost FR Bressler and their entry into the mud and daub village marked the restoration of Cape control after an interval of two and a half years. That was late 1797.Because they were accompanied by …
 
This is episode 43 and we’re dealing with the arrival of the English at the Cape. As you know, the Peninsular had become more important in the eyes of the English as they fought a lengthy war against France at the end of the 18th Century – a war that was to continue through until Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815. The British would occupy t…
 
This is episode 38 and its time to scrutinise the fall-out from Operation Reindeer, particularly the attack on Cassinga – during 1978. As you heard last episode, the SADF regarded the invasion of Angola as a success – however as we know, war is politics by other means and in this – the South African state had failed. It would also lead to SWAPO’s O…
 
This is episode 42 and the English have just seized the Cape. Remember at the time they were in a world war with the French and revolutionary fervour had swept the world with its populist refrain, its’ berets of southern France and Liberte Equalite Fraternite narrative. This had swept the globe – all the way to Graaff-Reinet in the upper Zuurveld o…
 
This is episode 37 and we’re dealing with a Cuban counter-attack targeting the South African paratroopers still being airlifted out of Cassinga. It was the afternoon of 4th May 1978 and more than half the paratroopers had still not been evacuated from the landing Zone to the east of the shattered town. Jan Breytenbach had requested urgent close air…
 
This is episode 41 and we’re dealing with two main things – firstly the shift in power amongst the Xhosa at the end of the 18th Century, then the arrival of the English in South Africa. Remember we’ve been focusing on the Zuurveld as the trekboers and the amaXhosa both expanded their interest in the region. The fate of these contending parties woul…
 
This is episode 40 and we’re dealing with the Second Frontier War. The Zuurveld Boers were indignant at the reluctance of the distant government of the Cape to come to their aid as the amaGqunukhwebe swept onto their farms. Remember Xhosa king Ndlambe was trying to bring them to heel and had ordered the amaGqunukhwebe and Langa’s amaMbalu to move w…
 
This is episode 36 and we’re at the tail end of Operation Reindeer – and we kick off this episode by viewing the SADF attack on Cassinga alongside Captain Joseph Kobo of the ANCs armed wing, Mkhonto we sizwe – the spear of the nation. On May 4th 1978 - the day of the airborne assault on Cassinga 250 kilometers into Angola, Captain Kobo was travelli…
 
This is episode 39 and we’re going to meet one of the country’s most incredible characters who’s activities on the frontier in the late 1700s were to be forgotten. Coenraad de Buys was probably one of the most African of all trekboers as you’re going to hear and the saga of his life was written out of text books long before apartheid. That was beca…
 
This is episode 35 and we swing further north to pick up the story in Cassinga. Last episode I ended with the Battle Group Julient attacks on Chetequera to the south which was an overland assault using Ratels, Buffel troops carriers and Eland-90s. In Cassinga, the South African paratroopers had been dropped in by air and were on their way to finish…
 
This is episode 38 and we’re focusing on the first war between the isiXhosa and the settlers which took place in 1781. Rharhabe had proposed an alliance between himself and the Colony – in return for Boer assistance against the imiDange clan who he had represented as rebels. Rharhabe framed the conversation as offering “friendship and peace upon a …
 
This is episode 37 and we’re continuing the saga of late 18th Century Xhosa kingdoms. By late in the 18th Century, the Zuurveld was home to small groups of San, some khoekhoe chieftans, several Xhosa chiefdoms and the trekboers. They were mixing up together in a fairly confined territory and jostled each other increasingly angrily to secure the sum…
 
This is episode 34 and the SADF are inside Angola – it’s the 4th May 1978 and Operation Reindeer is under way – it’s the joint attacks on Cassing and Chetequera.As we heard last episode, both assaults are not going according to plan. We ended episode 33 alongside Battle Group Juliet as it began to move into Chetequera, one of SWAPOs main base netwo…
 
This is episode 36 and its time to return to Xhosaland. Before we do that, let’s step back a little and consider the effect of action beyond Africa that was having an influence on the continent, particularly the southern reaches. Adam Smith may have been somewhat bemused, as American historian Noel Mostert writes in his book frontiers, to find that…
 
This is episode 33 and we’re inside Cassinga on the 4th May 1978 with the SADF paratroopers and SWAPO who are going toe-to-toe.Episode 32 outlined the detail of the jump – now we’re going to follow the action inside the town which was SWAPOs HQ in southern Angola. We’ll also hear about the mobilisation of the SADF mechanised battalions far to the s…
 
This is episode 35 and we’re going to focus on the forerunners of the Zulu – the Mthethwa and Ndwandwe, the Qwabe and how they emerged in the region between the Tugela and Pongola rivers in northern KwaZulu Natal or what became known as Zululand. By the first few centuries AD the migrations of farmers moving into the area between the Drakensburg, t…
 
This is episode 32 and we’re joining with the SADF paratroopers aboard 9 planes flying towards Cassinga for the start of Operation Reindeer.Its just before 8am on the 4th May 1978. Three hundred and 43 parachutists from 1,2 and 3 parachute battalions are about to jump from these planes in an airborne assault on SWAPOs HQ in southern Angola. The maj…
 
This is episode 34 and we’re going to take a close look at what was going on in the region bounded by the Orange River, the Kalahari Desert and the Indian Ocean. This is where the Zulu emerged but the story is not the simple tale most of us know about Shaka. As with other areas we’ve investigated, the popular narrative over time is not always an ac…
 
This is episode 31 and it’s the start of Operation Reindeer – the twin assaults on Cassinga and Chetequera in Angola on May 4th 1978. Colonel Jan Breytenbach was the most important of these leading fighting forces on the ground at Cassinga code-named Alpha assisted by Commandant Deon Ferreira. SWAPOs code name for Cassinga was Moscow by the way so …
 
This is episode 33 and we’re focusing on the Cape after spending last episode partly in Xhosaland. By 1771 the inn on the sea – the town in Table Bay – was being referred to as Cape Town for the first time by travellers. It appears there was not even a formal process, just the town at the foot of the mountain emerged over the preceding 120 years an…
 
This is episode 24 and comes courtesy of a suggestion by one of my listeners called Russell – surname withheld as he’s an operating commercial pilot. Don’t want to upset the corporation you know. First of all, a big thank you to Russell for the research documents and information provided. This has helped a great deal preparing for this episode.We’r…
 
This is episode 30 and it’s the start of Operation Reindeer, one of the most important ops conducted by the SADF during the Border War. It involved two different attacks – one by air on Cassinga and the second a ground assault by a mechanised battle group targeting Chetequera and its satellite bases further south. Cassinga was 250 kilometers across…
 
This is episode 32 and we’re swinging back to the Cape frontier through the last few decades of the 18th Century. I am going to thoroughly probe this period because so many crucial things were unfolding across southern Africa such as the development of new centralized powerful kingdoms in the East, the acceleration of land occupation by the trekboe…
 
This is episode 29 and we’re covering the period up to the start of Operation Reindeer which was to take place in early May 1978.First the planning phases – of which there were many. By early that year intelligence had convincingly proven that there were a number of SWAPO bases that were critical to the organisation’s operations in southern Angola …
 
This is episode 31 and we’ll now take a broader look at what was going on across southern Africa after a few episodes peering closely at the northern Cape. We’ll also take a closer look at how the Cape government was expanding. Sleeping giants were to awaken by the last quarter of the 18th Century, with the emergence and expansion of a number of in…
 
This is episode 28 dealing with events in early 1978 – mainly operation Reindeer and the attack on Cassinga. As with Savannah, I’m going to spend some time and a few episodes drilling down into Ops Reindeer because it has left a legacy of recrimination and bitterness particularly between SWAPO and former SADF commanders. While most combatants have …
 
This is episode 30 and we’re covering the mid-18th Century, including tales of shipwrecked sailors, the art of making amasi and dealing with the amatakati or witches. We’ve heard much about the developments in the north of the Cape, the bokkeveld and the Roodezand up to 1740. Now we’ll swing our gaze to observe what was going on at the same time in…
 
This is episode 27 and we’re focusing on the end of 1977 through to early 1978. Later that year Operation Reindeer would once again shake southern African political leadership and cause more ripples in the global pond – and also leave a legacy which SWAPO continues to commemorate to this day. Just as an aside – this week I had a chance to discuss v…
 
This is episode 29 and we’re dealing with the pacification of the Khoisan in 1739. The Bushman War of that year had broken out as we’ve heard over repeated incursions into Khoi territory by settlers who’d abused the hospitality of Captain Gal of the Great Namaqua – then shot him and eight of his family for good measure before driving off most of hi…
 
This is episode 26 and we’re covering events in 1977. The incursions into Ovamboland increased suddenly in early 1977 and the SADF was also concerned about reports that the four frontline states of Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola had agreed to support the new wave of insurgency. From early December 1976 SWAPOs armed wing PLAN had set its si…
 
This is episode 28, the Bushman War of 1739. Last episode we heard about the growing number of clashes reported in the run up to this full-scale war that did not last long – but extended in a great arc from the Piketberg in the north-west to the valley of the Langeberg in the south-east. It was the most extensive war between the settlers and the Kh…
 
This is episode 25 and we’re focusing on the second half of 1976. Last episode we heard about the Cold War machinations which had led to Cuba and Russian coming to the assistance of the MPLA in Angola. We also heard about the deployment of black troops inside the SADF for the first time and how South Africa was rearming itself as its defence equipm…
 
This is episode 27 and we’re dealing with the period in the first half of 1700 – give or take a decade. Last episode we heard how the TrekBoer economy had developed and a new farmer had emerged on the landscape called the Boer. The descendents of Dutch and French immigrants were beginning to expand their footprint across southern Africa and of cour…
 
This is episode 24 and we’ll hear how Swapo insurgency into Ovamboland began increasing rapidly after the end of Operation Savannah in early 1976. The Angolan war was just getting going and its future would be determined to a large extent by Cold War politics. Despite strong competition, the Soviet Union managed to reassert it’s power and its decis…
 
As we heard last episode, the direction of trekker expansion was largely a function of the nature of the terrain, along with the availability of water and the quality of pasture. What was to take place through the 18th century was a steady growth of loan farms that extended northwards along rivers and eastwards between mountain ranges, or following…
 
This is episode 23 and we’re dealing with the fallout from Operation Savannah which began in October 1975 and ended in March 1976. What started as the deepest and fastest invasion of any country by a mobile army since World War Two turned into a strategic blunder for the South Africans. The South African Defence Force battle groups had fought well …
 
This is episode 25 and we’re following the early history of the Xhosa. They were about to come into direct contact with the Dutch expanding from the Cape Peninsular. Remember last episode we heard about the growing bizarre behaviour by Gcaleka who was one of Phalo’s sons – and his propensity to believe himself a diviner. That was after he escaped d…
 
This is episode 22 and we’re looking at the end of Operation Savannah which was winding down by early January 1976. We have dealt with various Battle Groups setup by the South Africans as they sought to secure southern Angola – including Foxbat and last week, Orange which had experienced a major battle south of Quibala. A fourth battle group called…
 
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