The unit was established at Upington in the Northern Cape in October 1973 and received its first batch of national service trainees the next January. They could, however, not cope with the Gordonia heat and the unit afterwards received trainees in July.
8 SAI contributed troops to operations Savannah (1975), Reindeer (1978), Sceptic (1980), Protea (1981), Askari (1983), Moduler (1987) and Hooper (1988). During some of these operations 8SAI’s contingent was known as 63 Mechanised Battalion.
The battalion merged with 61 Mechanised (61 Mech) Battalion in 2006. The latter was established at Ondangwa in northern Namibia as “Combat Group Juliet” in January 1978 to guard against a conventional attack from Angola. In May that year, it took part in the attack on the so-called Vietnam base of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia in southern Angola as part of Operation Reindeer. Afterwards it was decided to establish a permanent conventionally-equipped mechanised infantry force in Ovamboland. 61 Mech was based at Tsumeb in January 1979 with a forward base at Omuthiya.
Between 1979 and 1989 68 soldiers with the unit would die in combat. The unit participated in operations Reindeer (1979), Carrot (1980), Sceptic (1980), Protea (1981), Daisy (1981), Yahoo (1982), Meebos (1982), Phoenix (1983), Dolfyn (1983), Askari (1983/4), Pronkertjie (1985), Viper (1985), Benzine (1986), Moduler (1987), Hooper (1988), Excite (1988), Linger (1988) and Merlyn (1989). 61 Mech was part of the last contingent of South African troops to withdraw from Namibia at independence in 1990 (Operation Agree).
During this time 61 Mech fell under the command of 60 Brigade, which also had 62 and 63 Mech Bns under command. During this time, the unit generally included two mechanised infantry companies (A&B Coys), a tank squadron (C Sqn), a G5 battery (S Battery), an armoured car squadron (E Sqn), an air defence troop (F Sqn), an engineer troop and a support company including mortar, antitank and assault pioneer platoons. From 1990 the unit deployed internally in South Africa and formed part of the annual brigade-level Army Battle School exercise. In June 1994 the unit received its colours, the first presented to a unit in the new SA National Defence Force.
Current role: Mechanised infantry
Current base: Upington, Northern Cape
- Southwest/Angola 1979-1989
- Mavinga II
- Mavinga III
- Cuito Cuanavale
Motto: Perservate et Superate (Conquer through perseverance).