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Fact file: The SA Armoured Corps

The tank was invented, more or less simultaneously, in Britain and France in 1915, to support the infantry in crossing the machine gun-beaten “no man’s land” of World War One’s Western Front in Flanders and Northern France.







Pic: The Olifant Mk2 main battle tank seen at the SA Army Combat Training Centre at Lohatlha. The Olifant, an updated Centurion, is the armoured fist of the armoured corps.  

 

  • Mission: The Armour provides the Army with “battle winning shock action and firepower.”1 To provide combat-ready armour forces to CSANDF.”2

 

  • Corps colours: Blue and orange

 

  • Beret colour: Black

 

  • Motto: Pectore Sicut Ferro (With a chest of steel)

 

  • Origin: The tank was invented, more or less simultaneously, in Britain and France in 1915, to support the infantry in crossing the machine gun-beaten “no man’s land” of World War One’s Western Front in Flanders and Northern France. Armed with cannon and machine guns and acting as mobile armoured pillboxes, they were meant to escort the infantry through enemy barbed wire and past machine gun nests. Between World Wars One and Two (1919-1939) thinkers in Russia and Germany saw a more operational role for armour, introducing the modern understanding of armoured warfare and the tank as mobile, protected firepower.

 

  • Brief history in SA: South Africa employed armoured cars as early as 1915 during its invasion of the then-German South West Africa (now Namibia). After the end of the First World War a single Whippet light tank was purchased for the UDF and was operationally employed during the 1922 Rand revolt. The tank in question is now on display at the Army College at Thaba Tshwane. The formation of an armoured corps was proposed in 1924.3 An armoured car section was formed the next year when two Vickers machine gun-armed Crosleys and two medium tanks were imported from Britain. The corps’ first engagement “was less than triumphant”, Stander recalls. In 1932, an armoured car was deployed to South West Africa to deal with a minor tribal rising in Ovamboland. “It was buzzkrieg rather than blitzkrieg. A swarm of bees forced the crew of the armoured car to make a strategic and very rapid withdrawal from the field.”4

 

 

Structure

 

All armour is assigned to the SA Army Armour Formation under the charge of a General Officer Commanding (GOC).

 

Brigadier General Chris Gildenhuys answers directly to SA Army chief Lt Gen Solly Shoke. Assisting him is a

  • Chief of Staff

  • Chaplain

  • Formation Warrant Officer

  • Personal Staff

 

The formation is structured as follows:

  • SA Army Armour School,5 Bloemfontein

  • Armour (Olifant MBT)

    • 1 SA Tank Regiment, Bloemfontein

    • Natal Mounted Rifles, Durban

    • Regiment President Steyn, Bloemfontein

    • Pretoria Regiment, Pretoria

  • Armoured Cars (Rooikat)

    • 1 Special Service Battalion, Bloemfontein

    • Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Durban

    • Regiment Oranjerivier, Cape Town

    • Regiment Mooirivier, Potchefstroom

  • Reconnaissance

    • Light Horse Regiment, Johannesburg

 

 

 

1 Charles Heyman, The British Army, A Pocket Guide, 2000-2001, Leo Cooper, 2000.

2 BG Chris Gildenhuys, personal correspondence, December 2006.

3 Siegfried Stander, Like the Wind, The Story of the SA Army, Saayman & Weber, Cape Town, 1985.

4 ditto

5 Units marked in BLUE are regular fulltime service and those in RED are Reserve Force


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