Monday, 6 February 2012

They do not grow old, as we grow old.

In the course of my gravehunting I was always on the lookout for four specific graves. These are the final resting place of 4 young boys who died during their military service, and with whom I served during my two years. 

The first death I encountered was of a rifleman who was a member of E-Company in Jan Kemp Dorp.  His death was one of those that should never have happened, but it did, all because of the pig headedness of those who were supposed to lead us. I will not go into details, but he has been in my mind since 1980, and I have never found his grave. But, Sktr Van Der Kolf, I have never forgotten you and hope that one day I will find your resting place.

The next loss I experienced was that of a young rifleman, Lionel Van Rooyen. During a rehearsal for what would become Ops Protea, the platoon that he was in, as well as some of my friends, was involved in a live fire accident and 15 of them were wounded, Lionel never survived. He was a very popular guy and a Springbok figure skater. That accident devastated our company, and Lionel became yet another statistic. Many years after the incident I read a report about the investigation, and  a magistrate in Ondangwa found nobody to blame. Ask anybody that was in platoon 6 on 10 July 1981, and they will quite happily tell you who they think was to blame.

Image courtesy of Eleanor Susan Garvie

The next death that struck us very hard was that of Cpl  Johan Potgieter, who was killed during Ops Daisy on 04 November 1981. The events leading up to his death tell of his bravery and his sacrifice. It was not too long before the operation that I stood guard with him, and I remember us brewing coffee in the guard post. We had 44 days left of our national service when he died, and he never saw the day when he too could walk out of Tempe and return to civvy life. I was fortunate enough that I found this grave myself and was able to stand and say my goodbyes in person. It was a very emotional moment.

 
The final death was that of Rfn Peter Hall. I do not know the circumstances of his death too well, but if anything it was through "misadventure". However, it matters not. He lost his life on the 2nd of March 1981. We had been on the border just over 3 months by then,  and he too became a statistic. Finding his grave was always a problem because we did not know where he was buried. Now I know, and this image is courtesy of  Tanite Swart.


The platoon commander of the platoon where Peter Hall was in, said that this grave completes the circle, and while in my case that circle is not yet complete, I suspect that I have found the grave of my Sktr Van Der Kolf, but just need confirmation to close it.  

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn them,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


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