1 South African Infantry Battalion

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1 South African Infantry Battalion
SADF era 1 SAI insignia ver 3.jpg
1 SAI emblem
Founded26 January 1951; 68 years ago (1951-01-26)
Country South Africa
Branch South African Army
RoleMechanised infantry
Part ofSouth African Infantry Formation
Garrison/HQTempe, Bloemfontein
Motto(s)Sevire parati
Company level InsigniaSA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Mechanised Infantry beret bar circa 1992SA mechanised infantry beret bar circa 1992

1 South African Infantry Battalion is a mechanized infantry unit of the South African Army.


Oudtshoorn origin[edit]

Established as 1 SA Infantry Training Battalion at Oudtshoorn, (hence the ostrich feathers on the unit insignia) on 26 January 1951, the unit became part of the infantry corps with its establishment in January 1951.

In 1953, the unit consisted of:

  • a headquarters with companies at:


    • a supply & transport company, an attempt at all arms training.
UDF era 1 SAI companies circa 1950s

The unit was reconstituted as 1 SA Infantry Battalion in November 1967 and moved to its current base at Tempe near Bloemfontein, in November 1973.[1]

1 SAI in the development of modern mechanised infantry[edit]

By 1976 infantry operations transformed drastically when the Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) was introduced for the first time and in November the first Ratel course was presented at 1 SAI by then Major Roland de Vries.

In 1977, 1 SAI received its first consignment of 42 Ratel IFVs. The shoulder flash of 1 SAI was redesigned depicting a rampant honey badger, while the first mechanised infantry junior leadership training courses started.

From 1977 to 1981, mechanised infantry leadership students shared the same lines as 1 SAIs conventional companies, but were required to wear a nutria brassard on the right arm with a green and yellow embroidered honey badger insignia in order to stand out and ensure Espirit de Corps. The training wing became identified as the T&D Wing and all students attended the same course until the Section Leaders Phase had been completed. Section Leaders were then awarded their Lance Corporal stripes and then placed with regular rifle companies. The rest of the future NCOs also received their stripes and future Officers received their white Candidate Officer's tabs. These students were then evaluated and split into the Mechanised Platoon Commanders Course and Specialist Instructors Course. These platoon commanders were destined to either become future leaders of 1 SAIs rifle companies or instructors at the Training Wing, while the Specialist Instructors would become Officers and NCO's responsible for training of Ratel gunners and drivers.

  • All students qualifying as Section Leaders were authorised to wear one parallel green bar above their two Corporal stripes.
  • Students that qualified as Platoon NCOs were authorised to wear two parallel green bars. The Platoon NCOs were responsible for the support of the vehicles, platoon weapons and signal equipment of a specific platoon.
  • Students that completed either the Platoon Commanders or Specialist Instructors Course were permitted to wear three parallel green bars above their stripes, signifying their platoon sergeant status. Platoon sergeants were responsible for the training and discipline of an allocated platoon.
SADF era 1 SAI Mechanised Leader Brassards 1980s

By January 1981, the training wing was renamed the Mechanised Leadership Wing and moved to the Akkedisdorp premises outside the lines of 1 SAI and next to 1 SSB. The wearing of the distinctive honey badger student brassard was discontinued during this period.

The mechanised techniques developed at 1 SAI was transferred to two additional mechanised infantry battalions under development at that time, namely 4 SAI and 8 SAI.

Battalion Pioneer Platoon[edit]

1 SAI also had an assault pioneer capability in the 1980s, usually designated Oscar Company. Assault pioneers were the integral combat engineering component of the battalion. Assault pioneers were trained in tasks such as:

  • Field defences and obstacles
  • Mine detection and removal
  • Primary demolitions
  • Non standard bridging
  • Anchorages and suspension traverses

The Pioneer Platoon provided small tasks and close support capabilities to the battalion ensuring immediacy of response and decreasing the workload of the engineer squadrons. By the 1990s this function was retired to the Engineering Corps however.



By 1978, 1 SAI took part in Operation Reindeer. 1 SAI was also later involved in:

Honouris Crux recipients[edit]

The following 1 SAI members were awarded the Honoris Crux decoration

Operation Sceptic;

  • Lt. J.J. du Toit
  • LCpl A.T. Rutherford

Operation Protea;

  • Cpl A.D. Burgers

Relationship with 61 Mech[edit]

1 SAI was also the main feeder unit for mechanised infantry companies for 61 Mechanised Battalion Group during this period.[2]

SADF Operation Hooper participation bar
1 SAI commemorative coin Ops Vleuel

Post 1994[edit]

Assimilation of 151 Battalion[edit]

Peled writes that after January 1993, 151 Battalion, formed from the Southern Sothos in the Orange Free area, was assimilated into 1 SAI.[3]

SADF 151 Battalion, this unit amalgamated with 1 SAI post 1994
Murder at 1 SAI[edit]

In Sept 1999, a disgruntled junior officer from 1 SAI went on a shooting spree through the unit. Lt. S. Madubela killed seven personnel and injured five. He was stopped and killed by his colleagues.[4]

Freedom of Entry[edit]

1 SAI received the freedom of entry to Bloemfontein in 1981.


Previous Dress Insignia[edit]

SADF era 1 SAI insignia

Current Dress Insignia[edit]

SANDF era Infantry Formation insignia



Vehicle mounted weapons[edit]

1 SAI is equipped with Ratel 20 Infantry Fighting Vehicles,[5] Ratel 60 mm (2.4 in) Mortar Platform Vehicles, Ratel Command Vehicles with mounted 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns, Kwevoel 100 Armoured Trucks for IFV Recovery, field maintenance, fuel bunkers and water provision,[6] Samil 50 and 100 logistics trucks, Samil 20 trucks for its organic field workshops, Casspir APCs for its forward artillery observation party,[citation needed] and Rinkhals Field Ambulance.[7] 1 SAI has also used Buffel IFVs and Mambas at certain stages in its history. Ratel mounted weapons include the Denel Land Systems GI-2 20 mm (0.79 in) Quick Firing Cannon (QFC) (Ratel mounted), 60 mm (2.4 in) breech-loading mortar (Ratel mounted), Browning M1919 [8] Machine gun and the Browning M2 12.75 mm (0.502 in) Machine gun.[8]

Badger IFV earmarked for replacement of the Ratel Fleet 2016 onwards
Ratel 20 IFV typical fighting section layout
SA Mechanised Infantry Ordnance

Lighter and personal weapons[edit]

1 SAI is equipped with the Vektor SS77 Squad Automatic Machine gun, Fabrique Nationale 7.62 mm (0.300 in) Light Machine gun, Vektor R4 5.56 mm (0.219 in) assault rifle, 40 mm (1.6 in) Multiple Grenade Launcher (MGL), Rocket Propelled grenade launcher (RPG-7),[citation needed] M26 Fragmentation grenade,[9] M4 60 mm (2.4 in) patrol mortar (PATMOR), and the Denel 99 mm (3.9 in) FT5 rocket launcher.[10]


Under Project Hoefyster, the SANDF will eventually replace the Ratel family of vehicles with the Badger system.[11][12][13] Nine versions are contemplated of which three are earmarked for mechanized Infantry Battalions such as 1 SAI:[14][15][16]

  • Command (mech infantry)
  • Mortar (turreted 60mm breech loading long-range mortar) ( mech infantry)
  • Missile (turreted Denel ZT3 Ingwe)
  • Section (turreted 30mm cannon) (mech infantry)
  • Fire Support (turreted 30mm cannon, but with more ammunition than the section vehicle)
  • Signal variant
  • Ambulance variant
  • Artillery variant
Badger IFV front and rear views

1 SAI Mechanised Fleet early 1990s[edit]

Fighting Echelon Vehicles[edit]

SA Infantry Alpha attack vehicles

1 Ratel 20 per section, 3 sections per platoon, 1 Ratel 60 per platoon, 3 platoons per company. 2 Ratel 12,7 per company.

A Echelon Vehicles[edit]

SA Infantry Charlie Support Vehicles

Unit Song[edit]

In 1 SAI wil ek bly,
dis die eenheid net vir my,
slaggereed en kommer vry,
met ons ratels veg ons ver,
onder die al en suider ster 1 SAI Bataljon,
1 SAI! Servire, servire, servire parati is ons lese as jy vra, 1 SAI Bataljon, 1 SAI!

From the shores of Cape Agulhas,
to the Northern bushveld trees,
We will fight our countries battles,
in the air, land and sea,
We will fight for right and freedom,
we will keep our honesty,
We are proud to claim the title of the 'Mechanised Infantry'.


Training Battalion[edit]

From Honorary Colonel To
From Officer Commanding To
1967 Cmdt H.N.H. Norton c. 1968
1969 Cmdt B.P.U. Strydom c. 1971
1975 Cmdt Len Meyer c. 1977
1977 Cmdt A.J.M. Joebert c. 1977
1977 Cmdt Frank Bestbier c. 1978
1981 Col A. Savides[17] c. 1983
1983 Col G.A. van Zyl c. 1987
1990 Col Cassie Schoeman c. 1993
1993 Col A. Bornman c. 1995
1995 Col C.J. van der Merwe c. 1996
1996 Lt Col Jan Wessels c. 1999
2004 Lt Col Mokhosi c. 2008
2013 Col T. Mashalaba c. 2016
2016 Lt Col T.S.A. Tseki c. 2018
From Regimental Sergeants Major To
1969 WO1 R.H. Uekermann 1972
1973 WO1 A.A. Calmeyer 1976
1976 WO1 L.B. Calitz 1980
1980 WO1 J.R. Stone 1986
1987 WO1 E.H. Heimann 1988
1988 WO1 W.P. Wiese 1993
1993 WO1 T.J. Visagie 1996
1996 WO1 H.C.A Smit 1997
2015 WO1 R. Koekemoer Nd

Mechanised Leadership Wing[edit]

From Officer Commanding To
1978 Maj E. van Lill c. nd
1982 Cmdt Cassie Schoeman c. 1985
1995 Lt Col. K. Schmidt c. nd



  1. ^ "SADF.info". SADF.info. 26 January 1951. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Fact file: 1 SA Infantry Battalion". DefenceWeb. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  3. ^ Peled, p.54
  4. ^ "Tempe killer's steps retraced - IOL News". iol.co.za. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  5. ^ IDRC; Cock, Jacklyn; Mckenzie, Penny (1998). From defence to development : redirecting military resources in South Africa (PDF). Cape Town, South Africa & Ottawa, Canada: David Philip, International Development Research Centre. ISBN 0-88936-853-8. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Samil 100 Kwevoel Armoured Truck". Tips Transport.
  7. ^ "Vehicles:Denel Mechem". Denel.
  8. ^ a b "Ratel". GlobalSecurity.org.
  9. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon. "Fact file: M26 fragmentation hand grenade - defenceWeb". www.defenceweb.co.za. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  10. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon. "Work underway on RPG replacement - defenceWeb". defenceweb.co.za.
  11. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon. "SA Army horse shod by December? - defenceWeb". www.defenceweb.co.za. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  12. ^ Natalie Greve. "Land Systems SA secures sights contract for Denel's Badger". Engineeringnews.co.za. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Badger ICV - Tanks Encyclopedia". www.tanks-encyclopedia.com.
  14. ^ "South Africas Next IFV: Honey Badger Doesn't Care". defenseindustrydaily.com. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  15. ^ Helfrich, Kim. "Badger reaches Product Baseline One milestone - defenceWeb". www.defenceweb.co.za. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  16. ^ "SANDF projects". defenceWeb. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  17. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon. "Tony Savides retires - defenceWeb". www.defenceweb.co.za.