Fact file: The SA Armoured Corps
Written by Leon Engelbrecht, Tuesday, 09 February 2010
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.
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
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
Formation Warrant Officer
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
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.
5 Units marked in BLUE are regular fulltime service and those in RED are Reserve Force
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