The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
I approached my training at Bloekombos with trepidation. My oldest brother Douglas who had been in the army several years before me, spoke of Bloekombos and Modderfontein with frightened awe, instilling in me a respectful terror. To this day, the very name Bloekombos can send a chill running up my spine. Bloekombos was a square blue gum tree plantation, no bigger than an acre, that lay well off the road in the middle of Modderfontein military training grounds. Nothing grew beneath these stunted gum trees and not much in the vicinity but scruffy grass. The area was particularly barren, with the plain to the fore and rear of the plantation rising gradually to parallel ridges. The area had been used for aerial bombing and was dotted with craters and littered with exploded and live ordinance. I know this for one day during training one of the chaps while sheltering in one of these craters picked up a grenade from a ‘snotneus’ launcher that had failed to detonate and having tossed it in the conventional manner several metres away from himself, it exploded with an almighty bang. Luckily no one was hurt.
It was winter while I was at Bloekombos and the weather was frightfully cold. Freezing winds swept the plain and the ground was frosted each morning. The water in our fire buckets froze solid at night. (Above) is a page from a letter dated 9th of July 1984 that I sent back home to my dear Mother with a sketch of myself in a Bush Jacket while at Bloekombos. By this stage we were wearing our ‘Browns’ and our thin bush jackets provided very little warmth. My sleeping bag had been stolen and I slept under my two gray army blankets.
(above) A rough sketch in red ballpoint-pen in a letter back home of me standing to attention on the parade ground during Guard Parade. Even though we were doing vigorous training all day, we were still expected to ‘stand guard duty’ at night. We would be driven in Samel trucks to guard the Magazine or Testing Grounds. This placed us in perpetual exhaustion. (below)
Such was the vigour of the training that all I drew of this awful place was this puny sketch on a sheet of writing paper.
Tent, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, Potchefstroom, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF Military, 1984. We all slept in army tents that were assembled according to strict military rules. Tent pegs and guy ropes were obvious tripping hazards, especially at night – so stones were collected from the surrounding veldt, arranged to delineate the full reach of the tent pegs and then white-washed. Side flaps had to be lowered during the day and raised at night.
A photograph of our dry and desolate camp at Bloekombos, Modderfontein, Potchefstroom, showing a ‘pislelie’ (piss lily/ urinal) sticking out of the ground and a rather peculiar motivational sign that read ‘God Can’. For what I can remember of the Permanent Force trainers, their only motivational strategy was one of fear. In regards to the pislelies – our first duty on arriving at this God-forsaken spot was to erect tents in straight rows and then to dig deep holes, fill them with rocks and sink these plastic urinals into the holes before covering them up with sand. We also had to dig a large pit and fill it with rocks as a drain for waste water. Thus we stayed germ free and miserable. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984.
In the distance, under the tent were our ‘go-carts’, hard plastic privies so named for their resemblance to the same. Arranged in a circle and hiding deep holes lined with 3 metal drums welded together. In this ‘gesellige plek’ (convivial place) we sat and relieved ourselves while holding long conversations about everything from our Mother’s rolypoly pudding to shitting on our Permanent Force trainers. If one needed the facility at night, one would have to head out into the dark, climb through the barbed wire fence and find a seat, all the while being serenaded by the high pitched howling of black backed jackals on the hill above – spooky!
(above and below) – Digging the latrine.
Military Training, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, 1984.
A photograph of Glen Watson posing with his R4 Rifle at Bloekombos, after a shower of rain.
Shaun Weber, Eugene Potgieter and Van Der Merwe viewing an exploded ordinance, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984.
Glen Watson and Mark Williams, in zebral camouflage. This camo-creme (nicknamed ‘Black-is-Beautiful’ came in small olive-coloured plastic containers, like a woman’s powder compact. We all thoroughly hated the stuff because it was difficult to remove. It was also greasy and on a hot sweaty day made you feel extra hot and bothered. It also stank. Supposedly, the reason for using it was to break-up the outlines and details of our lovely white faces and hands. At the end of a shitty day training, our makeup had to be removed. This was no easy task, as it clogged our pores and smudged our clothes. If anyone failed to properly wash the creme from around the eyes, their appearance was as if they were wearing eyeliner. Some boys even looked pretty with their eye makeup.
We were also required to stuff out ‘bush hats’ and webbing with grass and branches. There was always the chap who got carried-away and looked like the bushveldt.
Trollip. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military.
Shaun Gustave Weber, Bloekombos, 1984.
(above and below) Preparing for ‘Inspection’. Andreas Di Castri, Bloekombos, Military. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military.
Shaun Weber and Christo Schwab, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984.
(above) Mark Williams and Eugene Potgieter awaiting ‘Inspection’.
(above) Chaps still in camo, playing a game of volley ball at Bloekombos,
(below) Glen Watson taking a much-needed break.