Tucked away in the Bushveld, a tranquil gem of a hide-away called Diamond Creek Bush Lodge played host to the first-ever Para-Sapper Reunion held on 5 & 6 November 2021. A group of para-sappers, many of whom had not seen each other for decades, had to privilege of reconnecting and reminiscing on their mutual and shared (good and bad) army experiences around a traditional and welcome bushveld fire. Sentences started with recalling’s, such as “Do you remember ….?” Although time had passed in decades since their involvement in various operations, the deep heart connections of these band of brothers were genuine, touching and inspiring. “Manne, dis ‘n voorreg om ‘n hardekool te deel ….”
Nico Beneke read a heartfelt tribute written by Eeben Barlow to his fellow sappers. He honoured and acknowledged his fellow brothers in arms, leaving their mark in the sands of Angola, the old South West Africa and Rhodesia. These sappers worked in obscurity and without public credit, making a difference in the lives around them. Barlow’s tribute honoured their sacrifice, their countless kilometres walked to clear the roads of landmines, often under heavy enemy fire; their determination and fighting spirit at Cassinga and Chitado; their blood, sweat, tears and their fortitude. Nico called all to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, with bowed heads, calling out the names of those who had paid the ultimate price and had gone before … emotion strong in their hearts and voices as the memories surfaced.
The delicious meals were sponsored, and we tucked in with relish. The gents were surprised with gifts such as a bottle of red wine, aptly named Tribute. A beautiful cap with the new para-sapper badge was individualised for each – it truly is an impressive design. Throughout the weekend, we were regaled with humorous stories of old, especially those at the international Leapfest, involving barbed wire and a soft lion toy contributing lots of laughs…
Nico, Naomi and Johan Leech attended as Rooiplaas ambassadors. They became the custodians of, and were entrusted with a wealth of information and photographs on the Sappers. This will be uploaded onto the Rooiplaas website in due time. Our hearts were stirred as we were welcomed with open arms into a close-knit Para-Sapper brotherhood. We feel honoured to have been a part of this unforgettable weekend.
Nico & Naomi
 Afrikaans song, “Hardekool” song by Adam Tas, Ricus Nel, Refentse Morake, Bok van Blerk
Eeben Barlow's tribute to the para-sappers that was read at the reunion.