Episode 110 - Cuban MiG-23s bomb Calueque Dam and 11 SADF troops pay the price
When we left off last episode, the Cubans and Angolans were gearing up to face another invasion by 61 Mech and 4SAI, Operation Excite as it was to become known. But for once, the Cubans had decided that they’d seize the initiative and were about to launch a two pronged assault towards the South Africans from Xangongo.
Just a quick recap, 61 Mech had arrived in the eastern theatre with a tank squadron, four more motorised infantry companies from 32 Battalion, including their anti-tank troop in four Ratel 90s and four more ZT3s, 3 motorised companies from 101 Battalion in Casspirs, one motorised company each from 1 parachute, 202 and 701 Battalions who were in Buffels.
The SADF artillery support was also significant, a battery each of G-5s, G-2s, Valkiri rocket launchers and 120mm mortars. This was task force Zulu under command of Colonel Michael Delport.
The South Africans had built an approach ramp up to Calueque Dam which allowed the Olifants and the Ratels to cross over for the invasion. Ostensibly the plan was to flush out the SAM-6 missile stations which were based around Techipa then hit them with artillery, but also to push the Cubans back from the dam which provided water and power to Ovamboland.
It was a key point in the war.
On the 23 June 1988, reconnaissance units reported a heavy Cuban artillery bombardment ahead of the dust cloud, it appeared an attack force was heading south and was eventually spotted on the 24th by members of 32 Battalion. Reccies also spotted Cuban columns moving southwards from Techipa towards Calueque, with this stop-start advance the technique preferred by the Russians. Bombard, move, dig in, bombard, move, dig in. There appeared to be a two-pronged assault under way.
It was to be a furious battle, one which ended when MiG-23s bombed Calueque Dam, killing 11 8SAI soldiers - the worst single incident for the SADF in the entire 23 year war.
Suggestions - ideas - new series
Listeners are suggesting looking at the Rhodesian Bush War, or taking a stab at the Zulu War of 1879, although both are covered really well in various YouTube projects by fantastic presenters.
I am in a few minds here. Some of the Stalingrad audience wanted a closer inspection of the battle for Sebastopol during Barbarossa, so important now as Russia invades Ukraine.
Others have asked for an attempt at telling the story of the wars between the Americans and the First People's and having travelled around Ohio, Indiana and Illinois recently, that's beginning to resonate. It is a story that is remarkable really, a vast sprawling saga.
However, it's way out of my comfort zone and research capacity. Still, it's beginning to resonate with some listeners as an idea.
What do you think I should do? Any suggestions are welcome.
Email me here firstname.lastname@example.org
History of South Africa podcast
ECR, or East Coast Radio based in Durban, have added my History of South Africa podcast to their podcasting platform.
Thanks to Diane and DW who've beavered away behind the scenes setting this up.
The Anglo-Boer War podcast
The Boers had about 33,000 soldiers, and decisively outnumbered the British, who could move only 13,000 troops to the front line at the start of the war. The Boers army operated as companies of independent commandos.
The British mobilised 180 000 men by 1900 making this the largest ever sent overseas.
This war is split in two phases. The first was dominated by a highly mobile Boer army which was roughly the same size as the British army.
The second phase saw the British bring in tens of thousands more troops while the Boer numbers went into decline for a number of reasons.
Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth.
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, London
You have to remember that although Gandhi and Churchill only met physically once, their paths crossed again and crossed again all over the globe, from London and South Africa and India and back to London. In fact, I discovered that during the Boer War in 1899 they literally passed yards from each other on the battlefield.
— Arthur L. Herman, NY