What do a fort, a ‘skouerskuur’, a shell hole, and a canopy have in common? ROOIPLAAS successfully established its newest Canopy on Saturday, 29 January 2022. Veterans from the Parachute Battalion, 61 Meg, Dogs-of-War, 32 Battalion, and local various MOTH clubs joined and supported us at the Maritime Club in Port Elizabeth. Most of whom were operational during the ’70s and ’80s, these brothers-in-arms celebrated their collective brotherhood, shared similar experiences, and swopped war stories starting with, “Do you remember”?
We showcased some typical paratrooper paraphernalia in the form of an exhibition. The green “pampoen” and camo net were hung from the top windowsill and covered part of a wall. Other items included packed parachutes (main and emergency), a pair of jumper boots, webbing, HALO equipment including the oxygen bottles, helmet and mask, staaldak, etc. Many non-paratrooper veterans were intrigued by the infamous and notorious marble and “tested” their strength, much to others’ laughter.
Derrick welcomed the 60+ attendees, and opened the proceedings, requesting all to stand honouring a paratrooper tradition, that of the reading of the paratrooper’s prayer. A special word of welcome was extended to one of the legends of 1 Parachute Battalion, RSM Kitching, with over 530 static line jumps – the most ever. He further acknowledged and thanked those men in the “less glamorous” jobs such as drivers, mechanics, pilots, chefs, etc. The success of the paratroopers depended on these gentlemen.
Nico gave a superb overview of the history of 1 Parachute Battalion and 44 Parachute Brigade, and the symbolism and significance behind the eagles on the 1Bin and 44’s flags that were exhibited. Furthermore, he explained Rooiplaas’ focus and mission, what we offer, and what we stand for. Our holistic vision is not to have an organization for paratrooper veterans only, but other military veteran groups and their families can join as associate members. Much humour was around as Nico referred to a surprise contact with FAPLA in 1978 where 61-MEG were supposed to provide safety cover as they withdrew from Angola, but they had left before the time.
A few special moments and people were celebrated:
- Samajoor Kitching (Kitcha) received a special Rooiplaas member certificate for his service to the paratrooper fraternity.
- Samajoor Chris Schutte paid us a surprise visit. He was given a particular word of welcome by Nico, reminiscing about the old times and run-ins with Fapla and PLAN.
- Johan (Mick) de Jager, a veteran of Alpha Company in 1979, currently wheelchair-bound was fetched and we made him part of this big day. #LeaveNoBrotherBehind!
- Mark Hume (61MEG) played an important role in bringing everyone together. He was given a framed Associate certificate honouring him for his commitment to the paratrooper brotherhood.
Derrick van Zyl, Lee van Schalkwyk, and George Cronje are the current Rooiplaas representatives for the Port Elizabeth Canopy.
Nico and Samajoor Kitcha successfully dispatched the paratroopers from a “C-130”. Their memories weren’t that rusty, and the gents completed their “stand-up and hook-up” procedures and successfully exited the aircraft, much to their laughter. Some even did a successful “roll “on the grass as they came in for a “landing”. After that Nico gave a brief training session to the non-paratrooper veterans on the workings of a parachute. He explained where to push, when to pull and when to pray when nothing works! They were shown to ‘stand-up & hook-up’ and shuffle-step to the ‘door’ and were successfully dispatched with big grins abounding. At the end of a toast, the veterans were requested to shout their unit’s motto … a special moment indeed.
A special word of thanks to Pierre and Gordon from the Maritime Club for their hospitality and “behind the scenes” hard work, contributing to a successful Rooiplaas Canopy launch. New friendships were formed, and old friendships were strengthened around the fire. We are looking forward to taking hands with our fellow paratrooper veterans and those who served in other units, building on a lasting legacy of respect, honor, and brotherhood.
Ex Alto Vincimus
For Rooiplaas, Nico & Naomi