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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 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…
 
This is episode 24, the Foundation of the Xhosa Kingdom, the heroes Tshawe and Phalo. I’ve made use of a number of books and documents in the series so far, but Jeff Perez’s House of Phalo is probably my favourite source material mainly because he lectured me at Rhodes University in the mid-1980s. His book on the Xhosa is still the go-to research d…
 
This is episode 23 and we’re dealing with flying boat accidents. You may be surprised to hear but one accident in particular involving an Imperial Airways flying boat in 1939 set in motion the use of specialised carb heaters for all aircraft. The safety inspector also recommended that all passengers should be instructed in the fastening of lifebelt…
 
This is episode 21 – the Battle for Bridge 14 Part II – and the trials and tribulations of a new outfit called Battle Group Orange. When we left off last episode Commandant Kruys’ men of Foxbat had succeeded in driving Fapla and their Cuban allies back from the important Bridge over the Nhia river south of Catofe. What happened now was a debate abo…
 
This is episode 23 and its time to shift our attention away from the Dutch in the Cape to the amaXhosa. At the turn of the 18th Century there were signs of increased conflict in the region as the Khoekhoe began to feel the pressures of the expanding Dutch settlements which spread out from the southern Cape. The boundaries of the territory occupied …
 
This is episode 20, the Battle at Bridge 14. Operation Savannah was supposed to be winding down but two of the most important clashes were to take place at the tail end of this op. I explained last week how the Bridge over the Nhia River near the town of Catofe was seen by both the MPLA and the SADF as a key position. It lay 250 kilometers away on …
 
This is episode 22 and we’re dealing with a number of things. First is the arrival in the Cape of an influential Muslim Cleric called Sheik Yusufs al-Taj al-Khwalwari al-Maqasari who was to have a major impact on the colony. We’ll also hear about what was going on across southern Africa in the first two decades of the 18th Century – a time of major…
 
This is episode 19 and we’re dealing with the fallout after the Battle of Ebo, and the preamble to the next battle for Bridge 14. As the battle of Ebo ended, terrible news emerged about the shooting down of one of the crucial spotter planes. Remember last episode I mentioned Captain Williamson who helped locate the missing 5 South Africans mechanis…
 
This is episode 21 and we’re probing the growth of Nguni societies – as well as the terrible smallpox epidemic of 1713. First a note about historical records. As I’ve mentioned the use of archaeological surveys and oral history along with specific tools used such as pottery and metal artifacts provides quite a bit of detail about the history of the…
 
This is episode 18 and folks back home were in for a bit of a shock. The invasion of Angola by the SADF during Operation Savannah had been an exercise in support of both Unita and the FNLA – but the government had said that the South Africans were merely technical support.The reality was hundreds of SADF troops were directly involved in the fightin…
 
This is episode 20 and the expansion of settlers from the Cape is gaining pace. At the same time, the Xhosa to the north are experiencing political upheavals, while further north, the Nguni speaking farmers have spread into the Free State and Transvaal highlands – now known as Gauteng. The decline of the Khoekhoe chiefs and the increasingly coerciv…
 
This is episode 17 and we’re approaching the end of Operation Savannah which had started out so well but was rapidly turning into a strategic nightmare for the South Africans. One of the fastest mechanised invasions since World War Two had resulted in the SADF now deep into Angola – and in the case of Brigadier Roos who was a liaison officer based …
 
This is episode 19 and we’re looking at the years between 1679 and 1700 and developments in both the Cape and the interior of the sub-continent. Last episode we heard how new Governor Simon van der Stel who arrived in 1679 began a rapid expansionist policy in the Cape, including building two new towns – Stellenbosch and Drakenstein. The last two de…
 
This is episode 16 and we’re covering Operation Savannah which took place between October and December 1975. That was the invasion of southern Angola by the South African Defence Force in response to the outbreak of a civil war in the country involving the three main independence movements that had fought against Portuguese colonial rule. These wer…
 
This is episode 18 and we’re focusing on the 1670s through to the 1680s where a whole lot was going on in the south of Africa. Let me first start with race relations. South Africans probably have no idea that the man who launched the most aggressive drive to expand into Africa was not born in Europe – he was born in Mauritius of Dutch and Indian st…
 
On the 7th November 1975 Zulu’s Battle Group Alpha were on the road to the South African’s next goal, Lobito. It’s a bay just north of Benguela which had just been seized by the SADF and handed over to UNITA forces after a crucial fight for the airport. The MPLA military arm FAPLA had decided that Lobito would be too difficult to defend against a t…
 
This is episode 17 and we’re dealing with the second Khoe-Dutch war of 1673 which dealt the Peninsular tribe known as the Cochoqua a terminal blow. The growing population at the Cape meant both the colonisers and the passing fleets needed to be well fed with fresh produce. The colonial programme was created to foster farming to supply the station’s…
 
This is episode 22 and we’re going to hear more about an accident in the skies over India that was the final push in the drive to deploy traffic collision avoidance systems known as TCAS. Initially we need to go back to the days days of commercial aviation in 1922. Unfortunately the first collision between aircraft took place almost immediately as …
 
This is episode 14 – the assault on the port city of Benguela its airport which was not going to be easy as you’ll hear.As the South African Task Force Zulu approached the city they continued mopping up towns as they went. Near Caimbado a group of Portuguese police appeared who were part of the interim government. They warned Commandant Jan Breyten…
 
This is episode 16 and its about de Kaap and the Peninsular in the 1660s.As we’ve heard, the trading with the Khoe at the Cape is not going as well as the Dutch hoped and Jan Van Riebeeck the fort commander had decided to lay out his formal frontier albeit a tiny start to what would become a major immigration. And it would start with a tree called …
 
This is episode 13 and its October 1975. Two SADF Task Forces are busy in Angola, Foxbat is in the south East, the other - Zulu has just taken the port of Namibe and will now head north aiming at Benguela and Lobito after initially swinging back eastwards to the main road.We begin this episode with an update about what had developed with Eddie Webb…
 
This is episode 15 and we’re looking at the first Khoe-Dutch war of 1659-1660. Up to now the relationship between the Dutch and the various Khoe tribes on the Cape Flats has been rife and filled with chaos. Things as you’ll hear, are not going to improve or settle down.By January 1659, Doman one of the Khoe translators we heard about last week had …
 
This is episode 12 and we’re covering the first weeks of Operation Savannah which began in October 1975. Battle Group Zulu had entered Angola and then turned east first, then west and finally southwards to attack the major town of Ongiva from the north. After taking Ongiva, Zulu would turn back north westerly towards Xangongo and then head onwards …
 
This is episode 14 and the first settlers are about to make their way out of the Dutch fort at the Cape after being allocated land to plant their gardens. This action which Jan Van Riebeeck took in 1657 was to have reverberations which are still being felt across the southern African region – and beyond. It must be remembered that the VOC did not e…
 
We heard last episode how Battle Group Foxbat had been heading towards Norton de Matos or Balombo as its now know, en route to the port of Lobito in support of Unita and opposing the MPLA as well as its army FAPLA. That battle group had only just been formed up on 2nd October 1975 before it was thrust into the conflict, rushing towards at least one…
 
This is episode 13 and we’re covering the period between 1652 and 1657. These five years saw the establishment of the Dutch’s refreshment station at the Cape and the increasing frustration of Jan van Riebeeck who commanded the small group of sailors and soldiers who were trying to build a garden to feed the passing VOC fleets. Last episode I explai…
 
We ended last week with the growing signs of an Angolan civil war becoming a major problem for South West Africa and the South African Defence Force. The number of incidents involving SWAPO had risen through early 1975 – but there was also UNITA which continued to attack Portuguese-developed infrastructure in southern Angola. FJ Du toit Spies write…
 
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