61 Mechanised Battalion Group
|61 Mechanised Battalion Group|
61 Mechanised Battalion emblem
|Active||1978 – 2005|
|Branch||South African Army|
|Type||Mechanised Battle Group|
|Part of||South African Infantry Corps|
|Garrison||Otavi, Tsumeb, Omuthiya|
|Engagements||South African Border War|
61 Mechanised Battalion Group was a unit of the South African Infantry Corps; although it was classed as mechanized infantry, it was a combined arms force consisting of infantry, armour and artillery.
- 1 History
- 2 Organisation
- 3 Equipment
- 4 Insignia
- 5 Leadership
- 6 Honoris Crux recipients
- 7 Further developments
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Other sources
- 12 External links
Combat Group Juliet
General Constand Viljoen, Chief of the Army, formulated a plan in 1978 to introduce a mechanized combat group to Ovamboland in the then South West Africa, to conduct operations against SWAPO. Combat Group Juliet was then formed under the command of Commandant Frank Bestbier.
The Battle Group first saw action in Operation Reindeer in early May 1978, launching an attack on SWAPO’s Western Front headquarters and logistics base, at Chetequera, 15 km north of the South West African border, with a mechanized assault force.:76 This attack formed part of Operation Reindeer during which paratroopers attacked a separate target at Cassinga, some 300 km into Angola. After Operation Reindeer it was decided to establish a permanent conventional mechanized combat unit in the operational area and Commandant Johann Dippenaar was appointed to set up this unit.
By January 1979, the Battle Group was renamed 61 Mechanised Battalion and became part of the regular order of battle. 61 Mech served for over a decade in the territory fighting both a guerrilla war against the South-West Africa People's Organisation, as well as taking part in conventional operations against Cuban and Angolan forces.
South West Africa Headquarters of 61 Mech
A tactical headquarters for 61 Mech was initially established at Otavi but during April 1979 this was moved to Tsumeb. 61 Mech was eventually resettled at Omuthiya, with a base headquarters in Tsumeb.
61 Mech was primarily involved in these operations.
- Operation Carrot (1979)
- Operation Sceptic (1980)
- Operation Protea (1981)
- Operation Daisy (1981)
- Operation Meebos (1982)
- Operation Yahoo (1982)
- Operation Dolfyn (1983)
- Operation Askari (1983)
- Operation Vasvat (1984)
- Operation Nekomdraai (1984)
- Operation Pronkertjie (1985)
- Operation Viper (1985)
- Operation Benzine
- Operation Moduler
- Operation Hooper
- Operation Packer
- Operation Excite (1988)
- Operation Linger
- Operation Merlyn (1989)
- Operation Arson I
- Operation Arson II
- Operation Light Foot
- Operation Ventic
- Operation Pikadel
- Operation Reward
- Operation Displace
- Operation Jamba
- Operation Hulti (1988)
- Operation Prone (1988)
- Operation Makro (1981)
Relocation to South Africa and Lohatla Army Battle School
The start of 1992 saw 61 Mech resettled at the Army Battle School in Lohatla, South Africa. 61 Mech remained part of C Army’s Reserve, under operational command of 60 Brigade HQ and administratively supported by the Army Battle School. During this time, C Army amended the organisation of the Battle School to execute two functions concurrently:
- first, continuing to administer the facility as a large training institution for reserves and full-time forces as it had been in the past;
- second, to provide the headquarters for a virtual Rapid Deployment Force (including 61 Mech), as part of its permanent order of battle.
Operations after relocation
61 Mech was primarily involved in these operations.
By 2005, 61 Mech was disbanded and its infantry elements merged into 8 South African Infantry Battalion at Upington after moving from Lohatla. The Armour and Artillery components were merged into other existing regular units of their respective corps.
61 Mech was organised along the following lines:
- two infantry companies, which were equipped with the Ratel-20 Infantry Fighting Vehicle,
- if necessary, a third infantry company was attached. On many occasions this was a company from 1 Parachute Battalion who were attached as a motorised company in Buffels
- an armoured car squadron initially equipped with Eland Armoured Cars. During 1980 the Elands were replaced by the Ratel-90 and later the Rooikat Armoured Fighting Vehicle,
- a support company consisting of an anti-tank platoon in Ratel-90s,
- an 81mm mortar platoon in Ratel-81s,
- an anti-aircraft troop and
- an artillery battery equipped with the G5 howitzer. Firepower was further augmented by the addition of the self-propelled version (G6 Rhino).
- In 1988 61 Mech also received the first combat-deployed squadron of Olifant MBTs, to counter the ever-escalating FAPLA tank threat
61 Mech was primarily tasked as the Army's Immediate Response Unit, due to its versatility.
- Eland 60
- Eland 90
- Olifant MBT
Armoured Personnel Carrier
- FN Mag
- 60mm patrol mortar
- Ratel 20
- Ratel 60
- Ratel 81
- Ratel 90
- Ratel Command
- Ratel ZT3
- Samil 20
- Samil 50
- Samil 100
- Rinkhals ambulance
61 Mech awarded a small badge called the Operational Badge for those in or attached to the unit who deployed with the unit on operational duties.:14 The badge had a yellow backing and was awarded initially only for cross border operations into Angola.:14 A subsequent version with a green backing was suggested which was to be for internal duties. This version was never authorised and the yellow badge was awarded for all operational deployments. The badge consisted of a dagger with three diagonal lightning bolts in red across it. A subdued version was produced for wear on nutria (brown's) uniforms. With the introduction of camouflage, a new version was produced on green thatching.
This knife point always faced the heart of the wearer.
Each company or element in the Battalion (group) had its own flag and identifying badge.
|1978||Cmdt Frank Bestbier[a]||1978|
|1981||Cmdt Johan Dippenaar||1982|
|1981||Cmdt Roland de Vries SD SM MMM[b]||1982|
|1983||Cmdt Gert van Zyl||1983|
|1984||Cmdt Ep van Lill||1985|
|1985||Cmdt Kobus Smit||1987|
|1988||Cmdt Mike Muller||1990|
|1991||Cmdt Gerhard Louw||1993|
|1994||Cmdt Hannes van der Merwe||1995|
|1995||Cmdt Danie Laas||1996|
|1996||Cmdt Jaap Steyn||1999|
|1999||Lt Col Ettienne Visagie||2005|
|From||Regimental Sergeants Major||To|
|1979||WO1 M.C. Barnard||1981|
|1981||WO1 H.G. Smit||1985|
|1985||WO1 Tjaart van der Walt||1986|
|1986||WO1 Kobus Kemp||1992|
|1993||WO1 J.A.B. van Zyl||1993|
|1994||WO1 G.P. Barnard||1995|
|1996||WO1 A.H. du Toit||1999|
|1999||WO1 H.A. van Zyl||2005|
|2005||WO1 D.D. Lewis||2005|
|1978||Ds Landman Vogel[c][d][e]||1979|
|1980||Ds Braam le Roux[c]||1980|
|1981||Ds Koos Rossouw[c]||1982|
|1983||No permanent Appointment||1983|
|1984||Ds Johan van Niekerk[c]||1986|
|1986||Ds Schalk Pienaar||1986|
|1987||Ds Johan van Niekerk[c]||1987|
|1987||Ds Marius Cornelissen||1987|
|1988||Ds Anton Kemp||1990|
|1990||Ds Stoffel Helmut||1990|
|1991||Ds Fanus Hansen||1996|
|1997||Pastor Pieter Bezuidenhout||2005|
Honoris Crux recipients
- du Toit, J.J. Lt, 1980, Operation Sceptic
- Rutherford, G.T. LCPL, 1980, Operation Sceptic
- van der Westhizen, D.R. 2nd Lt, 1981, Operation Carrot
- Anderson, L.A. Maj, 1981, Operation Daisy
- Steyn, S.S. 2nd Lt, 1982, Operation Daisy
- le Roux, H.C. 2nd Lt, 1983, Operation Phoenix (South Africa)
- Macaskill, A. 2nd Lt, 1984, Operation Askari
- Kooij, J. 2nd Lt, 1987, Operation Moduler
- Bremer, H.M. 2nd Lt, 1987, Operation Moduler
- Green, G.W. Rfn, 1987, Operation Moduler
- Veggroup (Battle Group) Juliet
- Later Major General
- Rest in Peace
- Gereformeerde Kerk, Tsumeb
- For 1978 and 1979 the appointment was not permanent
- Steenkamp, Willem; Heitman, Helmoed-Romer (2016). Mobility Conquers. The Story of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group 1978-2005. Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1-911096-52-8.
- de Vries, Roland (2015-11-13). "THE INFLUENCE OF THE RATEL INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLE ON MOBILE WARFARE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA". Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies. 43 (2). doi:10.5787/43-2-1129. ISSN 2224-0020. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- Wall, Dudley, Col (2007). "Starting Out" Collecting South African Militaria (3rd ed.). Just Done Productions Publishing (published 15 October 2007). ISBN 978-1-9201-6970-1. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Steenkamp, Willem; Heitman, Helmoed Roemer (2016). Mobility Conquers: The Story Of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group 1978-2005 plate iii (Hardcover). Helion & Company (published 1 September 2016). ISBN 978-1-911096-52-8. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- de Vries, Roland (2015-11-13). "THE INFLUENCE OF THE RATEL INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLE ON MOBILE WARFARE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA". Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies. 43 (2). doi:10.5787/43-2-1129. ISSN 2224-0020. Retrieved 22 September 2016.(pp174–186)
- Steenkamp, Willem; Heitman, Helmoed Roemer (2016). Mobility Conquers: The Story Of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group 1978-2005 (Hardcover). Helion & Company (published 1 September 2016). ISBN 978-1-911096-52-8. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Scholtz, Leopold (2013). The SADF in the Border War 1966-1989 (Paperback). Cape Town: Tafelberg. p. 544. ISBN 9780624054108. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- OOSTHUIZEN, Gerhard J.J. (November 2014). "THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEFENCE FORCE AND OPERATION HOOPER, SOUTHEAST ANGOLA, DECEMBER 1987 TO MARCH 1988". Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies. 42 (2). doi:10.5787/42-2-1095. ISSN 2224-0020. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- Davies, R. Mark. South African Forces in the Border War (Angola and South West Africa) 1980 to 1989 (pdf). Retrieved 21 September 2016.