In its early days, 2 SAI, established on January 1, 1962 at Walvis Bay, with its “temporary accommodation” that stood nearly three decades before a permanent base was built at Rooikop, was the terror of national servicemen (NSM).
Basic training in the desert was no laughing matter – not with the infamous “Dune 7”, the highest in southern Africa, nearby. The first staff arrived in February 1962 with the first ballotees following in April. The initial base was constructed from October 1961 and consisted of 200 tents for sleeping quarters and 44-gallon drums filled with sand for ablutions and a mess hall, quickly dubbed the Drommedaris (a pun on the Afrikaans for drum and the name of one of the ships of the Dutch colonists of 1652. Prefabricated buildings on poles (as the site was below sea level) followed.
The founding officer commanding was a Major GN Mcloughlin and the first RSM was WO1 JAJ Steenkamp. The unit was organised as a battalion group and an armoured car subunit, D Squadron, and an artillery battery, 43 Field Battery, was added. This accounts for the unit insignia including at the top the number “2” in infantry colours, with the St Barbara’s lighting flash representing the artillery in the middle and the armour’s old heraldic colours at the bottom. These elements and the Transport Park and quartermaster were based at Rooikop, a distance inland because of the rust at the coast. The town was awarded its colours by the local municipality in 1969, and adopted the town’s motto and flamingo emblem as a consequence.
2SAI was deployed to the South West Africa/Namibia-Angolan border for the first time in 1968. It was the first NSM unit involved in Operation Savannah in 1975. The end of the Namibian war saw the unit demobilised.
The current 2SAI is in fact the remnant of 32 Battalion, sometimes described as “apartheid South Africa’s foreign legion.” Politics aside, these Angolan émigrés ranked among the best of the world’s light infantry during the 1980s. The “Buffalo soldiers” with their distinctive camouflage berets spent the late 1970s and most of the 1980s in continuous action, mostly deep in Angola. 2SAI was reactivated at Pomfret in the Northern Cape on July 1, 1993. The unit moved to Zeerust in 1998 after the town was condemned as unhealthy as a result of asbestos contamination.
Current role: Motorised infantry.
Current base: Zeerust, North West Province
- Angola 1975
Motto: In Utrumque Paratus (Prepared for all situations)