1 South African Infantry Battalion

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1 South African Infantry Battalion
1 SAI Insignia.jpg
SANDF 1 SAI emblem
Active 26 January 1951 to present
Country  South Africa
Allegiance  South Africa
Branch  South African Army
Type Infantry
Role Mechanised infantry
Size Battalion
Part of South African Infantry Formation
Garrison/HQ Tempe, Bloemfontein
Equipment Ratel
Lt Col Jan Wessels
Frank Bestbier
Company level Inisgnia SA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Mechanised Infantry beret bar circa 1992
SA 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 1954.

In 1953, the unit consisted of:

  • a headquarters,
  • A Coy, 1 SAI;
  • 12 Field Battery,
  • 4 Field Regiment (Artillery);
  • C Squadron,
  • 1 SSB (Armour);
  • C Troop,
  • 16 Field Squadron (Engineers);
  • A Troop,
  • 10 Armoured Brigade Signal Squadron;
  • 60 Field Workshop;, and
  • a supply & transport company, an attempt at all arms training.

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 embroided 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.


By 1978, 1 SAI took part in Operation Reindeer. 1 SAI was also later involved in operations Sceptic, Protea, Daisy, Askari and Moduler.

Lt JJ du Toit and LCpl AT Rutherford were awarded Honoris Crux decorations during Sceptic and Cpl AD Burgers received the same after Protea.

Mechanised leader training at 1 SAI commenced in 1979.[2]

SADF Operation Hooper participation bar

Post 1994[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]


Previous Dress Insignia[edit]

1 SAI beret badge 1983-2003 
1 SAI shoulder cloth badge 1967 
1 SAI shoulder flash 1970's 
1 SAI shoulder flash 1980s symbolising the honey badger or ratel in recogntion of 1 SAI being the first unit to receive the Ratel IFV. 
1 SAI Nutria shoulder flash with Chief of the Army Command Bar 1980s 
1 SAI Nutria shoulder flash with Free State Command Bar early 1990s 
1 SAI Stable belt version 1 
1 SAI Stable belt version 2 

Current Dress Insignia[edit]

SANDF Infantry wide cloth beret badge 
SANDF Infantry wide shoulder flash 



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, Casppir 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 Canon (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] Nine versions are contemplated of which three are earmarked for mechanized Infantry Battalions such as 1 SAI:[13] [14] [15]

  • 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
SANDF Badger IFV front view 
SANDF Badger IFV rear view 

1 SAI Mechanised Fleet early 90's[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 1SAI 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 bushfeld 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'.


From Honourary Colonel To
From Officer Commanding To
1975 Cmdt Len Meyer c. 1977
1977 Cmdt A.J.M. Joebert c. 1977
1977 Cmdt Frank Bestbier c. 1978
1996 Lt Col Jan Wessels c. 1999
From Regimental Sergeants Major To



  1. ^ "SADF.info". SADF.info. 1951-01-26. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  2. ^ "Fact file: 1 SA Infantry Battalion". DefenceWeb. 2010-03-01. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  3. ^ Peled, p.54
  4. ^ http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/tempe-killers-steps-retraced-13202
  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. ^ http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6708:fact-file-m26-fragmentation-hand-grenade&catid=79:fact-files&Itemid=159
  10. ^ http://defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10464:work-underway-on-rpg-replacement-&catid=50:Land&Itemid=105
  11. ^ http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1244&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=418
  12. ^ http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/land-systems-sa-secures-sights-contract-for-denels-badger-2014-07-09
  13. ^ http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/denel-patria-building-south-africas-next-ifv-03317/
  14. ^ http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=42526:badger-reaches-product-baseline-one-milestone&catid=50:Land&Itemid=105
  15. ^ http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44649:sandf-projects&catid=111:sa-defence&Itemid=242