Every year, the Warrant Officers’ Association of the Western Province organises an annual fundraising dinner in memory of Operation Savannah. This was a covert operation by the South African Defence Force in 1975-1976, during the Angolan Civil War.
The funds that are raised by means of a raffle, an auction and the cost of a table, are handed over to Robertson House in Sanddrift, Milnerton. Founded in 1979 by a trust, and officially opened in 1990, this is a home for disabled servicemen who were injured during their military service. They are currently able to accommodate 16 residents, and offer 3 meals a day, a laundry service, 24-hour care services, transport and plenty of social interaction (see their blog).
This year, the Savannah Dinner was hosted at 30 Field Workshop, whose headquarters are at Fort iKapa in Goodwood. Fort iKapa is a military base that has become the home of (almost) all the Defence Reserve units in the Western Cape. In July last year, I published an article on my blog about my very first visit to this interesting place, which you can read about here. Historically, this place was an airfield, and there are thus numerous hangars dotted around, large enough to house small aeroplanes – so it was ideal for transformation into a military base.
The approach to the large white hangar that is the HQ of 30 Field Workshop was lined with imposing military vehicles to create an appropriate atmosphere. They included: a SAMIL 20 personnel carrier, a gun tractor from Cape Field Artillery, the Eland Mk7 (aka the Noddy – a highly mobile 4×4 light armoured car, which was used extensively during the Angolan/South West African border war in the 1980s), the Rooikat (a truly intimidating and powerful armoured vehicle, custom-built in South Africa, designed for combat reconnaissance and for search-and-destroy missions, as well as to give combat support), an armoured personnel carrier known as the the Mamba Mk3, a SAMIL 20 LAD (light general repair) vehicle, and a military version of a tow truck used for vehicle recovery (that I think was a SAMIL 50 MK1 Recovery vehicle (Springbok).
All the guests looked very smart indeed in blazer and tie, proudly wearing their medals and some interesting pins of the various regiments and associations. Their easy-going cameraderie was clearly visible, as they greeted each other cheerfully, shaking hands with new acquaintances, old friends and comrades-in-arms. Many of the individuals who attended this event had served in Operation Savannah.
By 19h45, everyone had found their correct tables, and MWO K Minnie, the Vice-Chairman of the WOAWP, formally welcomed the assembled guests to the Savannah Dinner 2011. He briefly explained what would be happening in the course of the evening, and encouraged everyone to be generous in buying tickets for the raffle to be held later on, as the funds would go directly to a very worthy cause.
When it was time for dinner to be served, one group after another took their place in the queue.
Once everyone had eaten and the dishes had been cleared away, WO1 L Robertson thanked the chefs and their assistants for the good food and their professional and friendly service.
Thereafter, he introduced the guest speaker – R Adm (JG) AG Soderlund, SM, PS, MMM SA Navy Reserves.
Everyone listened closely to his fascinating talk about various operations in which South Africa had been involved in the 20th century, and specifically the role of the SA Defence Force in the Border War, and in Operation Savannah. His speech was greeted with appreciative applause all around.
And then it was time for the raffle. While WO1 Robertson went around the room, giving someone at each table an opportunity to draw a number from the hat (or rather, the tin), MWO Minnie called out the numbers of the various winners. One by one, they received their prizes from WO2 A Wort.
Once all the items had been allocated, a rather unusual item, designed and created by MWO Minnie, was auctioned – an armour shell that had been refashioned for a very different use, as a drinks dispenser optic that is sure to be the talking point of any bar.
And finally, to conclude the formal part of the evening, a group photo was taken of all the individuals who had participated in Operation Savannah:
The photographs taken during the evening have been uploaded to the following Picasa album – click on this link. If you would like larger versions of any photographs, please contact either myself via this blog (you can leave a comment on this post, and I shall reply to you), or please contact WO1 Leon Robertson.