Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man

SADF – Military Service – through the eyes of an 18 year old – 6. Bloekombos, Modderfontein

 

My Eye, Graham Leslie McCallum

Trying to stay warm, (July 1984) Bloekombos, Modderfontein, Potchefstroom 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military

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.

On Parade, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984Capture

(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)

Taking a much needed break, SADF, Military, 1984

 

Bloekombos, Modderfontein Training Grounds, Potchefstroom, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake SADF, Military, 1984

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

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.

Photograph of  camp at Bloekombos, Modderfontein, Potchefstroom, showing a pislelie and a motivational sign, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984

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.

Bloekombos, SADF, 3 SAI Modderfontein Training Grounds, looking towards gocarts

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!

Mortar Platoon, Digging a latrine, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, Military

(above and below) – Digging the latrine.

Mortar Platoon, Digging the circular latrine pit, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, Potchefstroom, 1984, Military

Military Training, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, 1984

Military Training, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, 1984.

Glen Watson, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, military

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

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, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, Military

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.

Mortar Platoon, in camouflage, training at Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, military

Mark Williams and Glen Watson, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, Military

Trollip. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military

Trollip. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military.

Shuan Gustav Weber, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military

Shaun Gustave Weber, Bloekombos, 1984.

A. Di Castri, Bloekombos, Military. 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military

(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.

Shaun Weber and Christo Schwab, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military, 1984

Tent Inspection, Williams and Eugene Potgieter, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, military

(above) Mark Williams and Eugene Potgieter awaiting ‘Inspection’.

Mortar Platton, Playing Volleyball, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, military

(above) Chaps still in camo, playing a game of volley ball at Bloekombos,

(below) Glen Watson taking a much-needed break.

Glen Watson and Trollope, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 1984, military

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5 comments on “SADF – Military Service – through the eyes of an 18 year old – 6. Bloekombos, Modderfontein

  1. Dylan caine
    November 22, 2014

    I was there as well in 1984 with 3sai c-comp. It was a bad place and veary cold the fire backet out side the tents were iced up

  2. oldsqueaky
    April 25, 2015

    I did basics with 3SAI in 1980, and shudder when I hear the word Bloekombos too. 3SAI was a miserable place and I hated it and those miserable pfs that thought they were such main manne. Still, there are lots of odd memories floating around.

  3. Eric Lewis
    August 2, 2015

    I was also there in 1984. Myself, Zane Newlands and Craig Houston were on a Mortar.
    Never forget the 2.4km runs every morning.

  4. Dupie
    August 27, 2015

    Interesting and brings back memories. I was at 3SAI a bit before your time – in 1972! It was a shit of a place then and I hated it. I had never been so cold in all my life. The “groot jas” we were given was totally inadequate for the place.
    There were some lunatics in the PF. I remember Staff Jack Pearce. There was a rumor at one stage that that he had gone bezerk with live ammo and was receiving psychological treatment. When guys fainted on parade he would march up to them, kick them in the ribs and yell “what do you think you are doing masturbating on my parade ground?”! He did, however, have a more gentle side, we discovered later. We were once ordered to dig up some plants and load them and some huge heavy boulders from the Modderfontein area onto the back of a Bedford. We had to be careful not to knock off the colourful lichens and mosses growing on the boulders. After receiving the obligatory yells for doing it wrong, were were ordered to drive them to an address down the far end of Potchefstroom. There we unloaded them into his front garden where we had to build a rockery for him!
    There was a tiny sergeant in B or C company who the guys called “Mighty Mouse” and by all accounts was a total little shit. I once heard some guys half seriously plotting how they were going to shoot him so as not get caught.
    I was in the mortars with Kaptein Ulsig and Staff Lamprecht. Lamprecht was actually not too bad a guy – for PF! I wonder what became of all those PF guys?. I imagine the changes in SA would not have gone down well with most of them. If any of them are still around they must be pretty ancient by now.
    Towards the end of my time we spent a few weeks shooting smoke rounds for airforce target recognition. It was easy and good for “ballas bak” time. I remember clumps of “bloekomboome” were the targets on several occasions. In those days there were no camps in the Modderfontein training area.
    I hated the place and my time there. I did not take kindly to being used as an object on which the PF and others of rank could exercise their massive egos. It did, however, do one very good thing for me. It convinced me that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in South Africa. I left as soon as I was able, and never looked back or ever regretted that decision.

  5. Shaun Broughill- Dowling
    September 2, 2016

    1982 basic training in the worst condition known to man trying to stay warm and sleep was a massive challenge. Great memories though of a bunch of guys stuck together through thick and thin.

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