The main theme of this year’s tattoo is ‘Come Home to Africa’, with the sub-theme being ‘A Tribute to the Unsung Heroes’. This is an acknowledgement of all the men and women of the military support services, who provide combat support.
In order to illustrate this, a team of soldiers and medics from 3 Medical Battalion Group, based in Cape Town, performed a historical stretcher drill dating back to the 1911 Handbook, under the direction of Major NA Hanekom, stretcher platoon commander Capt LL Swart and medical task team commander Lt SM Madyongolo. The purpose of these stretcher exercises was to drill the bearers consistently and thoroughly on the careful handling of wounded soldiers, until they were proficient and completely confident that they would be able to do these under battlefield conditions.
The “wounded” soldiers were then transported off the battlefield by an ambulance wagon, drawn by two massive white Percheron draft horses. (Just by the way, if you do happen to feel the need to stand next to them to give them a friendly hello-pat, like, do be careful not to get your feet under their hooves… these are seriously heavy horses.)
The ambulance wagon is in fact an original, having been manufactured between 1899 and 1911. It was used during the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War, and has clearly been looked after lovingly for the last 100 years! The current owner is Mrs J van der Merwe, and the wagon was provided and sponsored by De Poort Heritage Village in Paarl.
3 Medical Battalion Group, established in 1889, is a reserve unit in the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS), and its headquarters are in Cape Town. The volunteers who make up this unit are trained to give medical suport to the SANDF.
“Since its inception the unit has achieved battle honours in Bechuanaland and South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, South West African during the First World War and East Africa during the Second World War. King Edward XII rewarded the unit with the King’s Colours “for service in the South Africa War 1899-1900”. It was the first (and only) non-combat unit to be honoured in this way in the history of the South African Military Health Service.
The unit rendered service in several spheres of conflict in the troubled times after the Second World War but stayed true to its calling to render medical support to anybody who was in need. As such the unit established a hospital at Pereira de Eca [in southern Angola] and ambulance posts at Ruacana, Oshikango and Oshivello [in northern Namibia] where medical support was given to wounded on both sides of the conflict as well as to a great number of refugees.
The battalion received the Freedom of Entry of Parow and unit colours in 1986, followed by national colours in 1989.
Post 1994 saw the unit provide medical support to former President Nelson Mandela and VIP guests during his inauguration. Elements of the unit were also deployed in the public health sector during the national strike of public servants in 2007 and 2010, ensuring the public had access to medical care. The unit also deploys members abroad in support of international peace missions.
The unit’s service, as recorded over more than a century of medical support, was recognized by the City of Cape Town by bestowing the freedom of Entry to the City to the battalion on 23 October 2010.” (Program notes)