Mzingwane Dam Part 2…….Combat Engineer Practical Training Phase

September 24, 2010

It has taken me ages to get back into the blog and my deepest apologies to my loyal followers.  I have decided that today I need to clear the training bollocks away and get into the parts of the journey we are on together that will give you a better idea of what it was like to be a Sapper in the Rhodesian and South African Engineer Corps as a fully-fledged Combat Engineer.

Umzingwane Dam…..still Octoberish 1974

During the practical phase of our training there are two incidents and activities that really stand out well and for the purpose of this blog those are the only ones I will recall here…..mainly because I cannot think of any others right now.

The picture below shows an aerial view of Umzingwane Dam…….I have added this to illustrate the first recollection I have of the Dam Phase.

Mzingwane Dam
Mzingwane Dam

Our training camp was situated on the Western side of the dam.  The dam wall was on the Eastern side.  I have labelled these positions for a good reason.  They were to cause me much pain.  Note also the Swimming Start Position and read on.

We were of course almost finished with our training at this time and we tended to get a little bit out of hand with the instructors…..taking the piss and forgetting who we were and who they were.  There was still the them and us……we were after all National Servicemen and only been in the Army a few months.  But the line was becoming fuzzy…….

Anyway this particular evening someone had really pissed Little Hitler off and he was going to have his revenge on us.  As it got to darkness he and the other instructors doubled us down to the position marked as Swimming Start Point (they drove down in a Land- Rover).  Now I must mention here that doubling in the dark over sharp rocks in those horrible brown rubber “sports” shoes they gave us is no easy task and there was more than one of us who took a tumble which resulted in mumbled curses and more insults being thrown at certain peoples mothers and sisters.  At this time we did not twig what the plan was but when we got to the waters edge I started to get a bit of an idea.  I was not far out.  The instructors parked the Land-Rover so that the headlights shone right across the dam towards the wall (on high beam of course)……all Little Hitler said in a cold voice was “swim until you get to the end of the beams and then swim back”.  Jock Pollock…..a Scots instructor said he “wanted to see our burning arseholes in the water“….and we were off.  It looked fucking miles…..and it was.  They got in one of our Zodiacs we had moored up and followed us shouting abuse and mock encouragement at us all the way.  I am a strong swimmer and it shagged me completely……I almost got to the wall that night before the instructors called us all back.  I was pissed off because I really wanted to get there.  I think they were a little worried in case someone drowned.  If I remember rightly we all got pissed when we got back to camp…..really late it was.

Another incident worth mentioning was something that could have turned out bad but didn’t.  We had been given an opportunity to visit one of the hotels close to the dam as a course completion treat.  Needless to say we all got trashed, including the instructors.  Luckily Little Hitlers father in law owned the hotel…..I jest not with you.  He really looked after us.  Anyway on the way back the normal bullshit started in the back of the vehicle…we were all in the back of a Bedford RL.  One of the blokes…..and I remember him well……Trevor Robinson was his name (wore glasses), decided he wanted a piss and climbed out the back of the RL and up onto the top canvas…..there were bad results from this and he was severely injured when a thick thorn branch overhanging the road smacked him clean off the top of the vehicle with his dick still in his hand.  Needless to say no one in the back saw this until we were quite some way from the incident……we never heard a thing.  I  cannot remember how we realised he was missing.  When we got back to him he was a mess, blood and snot everywhere the poor bugger…..but smiling even with his broken glasses which he wore with an elastic  round his neck.  He recovered fully but I still don’t know if he got his piss that night.  Lucky, lucky.  Trevor and I were to become good friends as time wore on.

There was something else but I cannot remember it now so I think this is enough.

Our training was over at last.  A long hard pull from June till now but we had our Oxford Blue berets…..that’s all that counted.

We returned to Brady Barracks, and were given a weeks Rock and Roll.  On our return we would be part of the National Service Field Troop of 1 Squadron Rhodesian Corps of Engineers (1 RhE).

We were also to learn where each of us was going for their first operational posting.

But I’m saving that for next time…….I undertake not to keep you all waiting so long this time.

This is where the fun starts………………………..

5 Responses to “Mzingwane Dam Part 2…….Combat Engineer Practical Training Phase”

  1. Jennifer Upton said

    Ja…..don’t keep us waiting too long…:-)

  2. Eeben Barlow said

    Good to have you back,Old Man!



    PS: Pse don’t publish my email address!!

    • Mark Craig said

      Good to hear from you too. I will keep your details to myself.

      Been a bit hectic over here the last few months and had a hard time getting to the blog. I am currently still in Jordan and should be here until the end of the year and then taking over a new project for BP in Iraq. So lots on the go and good to keep busy.

      I often look at your blog and find it very interesting.

      Thanks a lot for dripping in and I have made a commitment to add something every week from here on so lets see.

      Cheers and take care,


  3. David Clarke SPR. 98538 said

    Hi Mark I was in intake 140, you must know Ronny Oates ( Duiker Legs ) in your intake at Brady

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