Established as 1 SA Infantry Training Battalion1 at Oudtshoorn (hence the ostrich feathers on the unit insignia) on January 26, 19512, the unit became part of the infantry corps with its establishment in January 1954. The unit was reconstituted as 1 SA Infantry Battalion in November 1967 and moved to its current base at Tempe3, Bloemfontein, in November 1973.
The unit mechanised in 1976 and the first Ratel ICV course was presented by then Major Roland de Vries4. Training commenced the next year and in 1978 the unit took part in Operation Reindeer. The unit later had elements involved in operations Sceptic, Protea, Daisy, Askari and Moduler. LT JJ du Toit and LCPL AT Rutherford won Honoris Crux during Sceptic and CPL AD Burgers deserved the same after Protea. Mechanised leader training at 1 SAI commenced in 1979.
Current role: Mechanised infantry.
Current base: Tempe, Bloemfontein
Battle honours: none
Motto: Sevire Parati (Ready to serve).
1 Compiled from personal knowledge, various official publications and Major G Tylden’s The Armed Forces of South Africa, City of Johannesburg Africana Museum Frank Connock Publication No 2, Johannesburg, 1954. Note that there is many a dispute between sources and, in particular, the Reserve regiments, as to seniority. Artillery and air defence unit details also drawn from LTC CJ Nöthling (editor), Ultima Ratio Regum, Artillery History of South Africa, Military Information Bureau, Pretoria, 1987.
2 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. The organogram reflects a laudable attempt at all-arms training, in line with the slogan of “train and organise as you expect to fight. The approach was doubtless influenced by the experience of World War Two. The battalion became an infantry-only unit in July 1961, reflecting a change in priority from preparing for combat to one reflecting administrative convenience, always preferred by those who have not seen battle.
3 Tempe had been a British garrison during the 1899-1902 Anglo Boer War.
4 He retired in c2001 as deputy chief of the Army. In 1987 he published a book, Mobile Warfare, A Southern African perspective.