Battle of Ebo (Angola) Return of comrades appeal.

Discussion in 'Multinational HQ' started by Tarkwa, Mar 17, 2007.

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  1. Greetings from Saffer. ( Password: Callup )
    This is a special appeal which hopefully is consistent with ARRSE "fair use" principles.
    In Nov 1975, South African forces were in action against Cuban and other forces in Angola. During these actions a number of SADF members were killed in action. For various reasons, their remains were never "brought home". A number of Saffers led by a retired Snr RSM, R Medlin, have been engaged in a process to return these fallen colleagues. This is in the absence of much in the way of official interest.
    Rowley has done a mighty job to investigate the matter, initiate arrangements for their return and bring a dignified closure to this sad affair. He has recently released a Sitrep (Sitrap in Saffer terms) and I believe this needs a wider airing. There may be some readers of this who may be able to help in some manner. This Sitrep is included below (with some details e.g. bank account, removed). Rowley Medlin may be contacted via his email below.


    My Greeting to one and all, this is what Army language calls a SITRAP, a situation Report on where we stand at the moment as far as having the remains of:
    a. Captain DJ (Tallies) Taljaard SAIC 7 SAI Bn.
    b. 2nd Lieutenant KA Williamson 11 Squadron SAAF
    c. 2nd Lieutenant EB Thompson 11 Squadron SAAF
    d. Trooper N Lombard SAAC 2 SSB
    Going through me address lists I have addressed this to those that I remember showed an interest in the proceeding during last year and the latter part of the year before. Some of you heralded to my appeal on behalf of the families for donations. I thank you very much. In rand and cents we have been able to accumulate a considerable amount but once converted to US $ it is still very little. Currently I have about $5000.
    Thus the essence of this Sitrap is also to make another appeal to everyone for financial help.
    We located the graves July 11th last year. Since then I have been trying to get the necessary authorizations, certificates and documentation ready so that we (a family member of each family and myself could go up there and supervise the exhuming of the graves and then bring the remains back to South Africa. Easier said than done and before I realised it here was a much bigger task or mission than previously expected.
    At that stage, August/September we were looking at three scenarios:
    a. To fly to SAA Luanda and to hire two 4x4 vehicles and travel by road down to Waku Kunga (Santa Comba) where my contact lives and where the closest hotel to the gravesite is situated. Stay in the hotel there and travel the 200 km per day to the gravesites and, by using local labour, exhume the remains. Once we had the remains, return to Luanda and fly back home with the remains.
    b. To charter a private aircraft and after landing at Oshakati/Ondongwa for custom clearance, continue to the airfield at Cela. From here we would try and “borrow” vehicles to go to the gravesites.
    c. To go by road from Johannesburg to Waku Kunga and on to Ebo and the gravesites. Return again by road.

    With all of these finance was the overriding factor. An air ticket return to Luanda is R6000. The hire of vehicles from $120.00 per day (it is advisable to take one of the hire firm’s drivers. An extra $20.00 to $40.00 per day. (Plus fuel) Hotel: B&B $80.00 per day. Payment of labour, handouts and "facilitatation" must also be considered. I was lucky enough to get first hand information from a person who has just returned from a similar mission and he was able to give me valuable tips and information of what to expect and help me with an estimate costing. The worst-case scenario is that we must look at $20 000. But as thing are turning out, we can almost discard the worse case scenario. We still are however very short of finance.
    The position as of today (March 15th) is that through my contacts there is a strong possibility that if we have all the paperwork completed by April 14th, some of us (hopefully all five) will be able to fly to Huambe via a United Nations flight (at no cost) and return with them on the 17th. This will mean that we will have to hire two vehicles in Huambe and go by road from Huambe to Waku Kunga and on to Ebo. Complete our mission of exhuming the remains and return to Huambe by the 17th.
    Financially, here we are looking at hire of vehicles with drivers, fuel, handout, labour costs and accommodation,
    Gentlemen and there are a few ladies included in the mailing list, I on behalf of the Taljaard family, the Williamson family that does no longer exist, the Thompson family and the Lombard family appeal as a hopefully last time for you to consider what the surviving two mothers have been through the last thirty-one years waiting for news of their sons, I appeal to you and ask you to think of the brothers and sisters who would like to bring this horrible episode in their parent’s lives to a closure. Please consider a donation.
    (Bank details removed)
    We, the family representatives and myself are going to bring our comrades and brothers home. At this stage we do not have enough money but we trust that somehow, what we have and what might still come in, will cover our costs.
    Once again I thank those of you that have donated, some have not given a reference and I have been unable to write a thank you note, but thank you.


    Rowland C Medlin
  2. I'm sorry to say it but internet appeals for money are always suspect. It truly is sad that the SANDF has no interest in retrieving the remains of these SADF men but I most certainly know why they don't care. I never give money over the internet but I wish you luck in accomplishing your goals.
  3. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

    I think it would be a better idea to have the graves declared as official war graves - the idea that one can simply stroll into a country, dig up human remains then return across an international frontier is implausible to say the least.

    Btw I served in the SADF, 61 Mech, 1981, Ops Daisy and Protea.
  4. Greetings,
    I’ve noted the comments to my posting below and have a couple of observations to make. From a general perspective (i.e. not just this Ebo case) there may be some important issues to discuss. Firstly, I’ll make a couple of points in brief. They are:
     This is no scam.
     This is a legitimate exercise.
     This is a feasible and plausible project, preceded by massive preparation, research and legwork (and the assistance of Angolan authorities).
     This should be endorsed (if not actually supported) by any soldier who has been on active service.
     There is no “War Graves Commission” to maintain these graves as “official wargraves”, and no official agency will to do anything about the situation.
     There are grieving families involved – and they deserve closure. If not by official efforts, then at least by former colleagues.
     The guys driving this project (with minimal resources) should be commended for their efforts.

    In the first instance (least this was some way implied, and I don’t think it was) my posting of this email is no elaborate 419 type scam. Anyone knowing the guy behind the project (which includes the entire RSM / WO cadre of the SANDF and SADF, the Savannah Assoc and the Infantry Assoc, as well as thousands of Ops Medics) will vouch for his integrity. I coordinate the exercise which supports the Ebo project (along with a number of others). Anyone visiting this amateur but extensive site will concede that it is a heck of an elaborate way of going about setting up a scam.
    My posting of Rowley’s note was a personal decision in the hope that an airing of the matter may bring this project to a wider audience where it may strike a chord.

    So, just to conclude: “Leave no man behind” is a tenet that should be engraved on the heart of any true soldier. This project is focussed on “doing something” (there is nothing to be achieved by analysing who should have done or should be doing something.). Considerable personal and private efforts have brought the case to near closure. A wee bit more effort can conclude this matter.

    With that out of the way, let’s address the practice of the repatriation of remains (and the alternative suggestion of declaring the site an “official war grave”).
    Important debate, this!!
    For those wanting to engage with the topic, read on to my reasoning.

    Firstly, to consider British practice. Visit this page to give background on the development of this debate.
    “Silent Cities” traces the development of the CWGC and I include two quotes from this excellent resource.
    “On 21st May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission came into being, to oversee the care of the graves of all members of the Imperial Forces who "died from wounds inflicted, accident occurring or disease contracted, while on active service whether sea or land." By January 1918 the Commission was declaring that there would be no repatriation, since all soldiers, whatever their rank should "lie together in their last resting place, facing the line they gave their lives to maintain." It would also, because of the huge numbers involved been a ruinously expensive operation.”
    “In May 1920 there was a debate in the House of Commons about the headstone design, and on the question of repatriation. Many of those MPs taking part in the debate had been serving officers, or had lost sons themselves during the war. It is hard not to feel sympathy with one member, Mr Turton, who said: "There are many of us who would have given all we possess if we had been allowed to bring our boys back to England and to put their bodies in the churchyard, where eventually we shall be laid ourselves, and where Sunday after Sunday we could see the grave." In the end, though, it was agreed that the Commission's way of dealing with the problem was, despite its shortcomings, the only realistic way of coping with the sheer numbers of graves, and commemorating the heroism and sacrifice of all those who had died.”

    OK, so from this, may we conclude that COST and the numbers involved dictated Govt policy, more so than noble sentiments of corners of foreign fields remaining “forever England”? Note too, that there are thousands of Saffers buried in France and Belgium.

    Current policy: For this we may examine the Anglican Church current guidelines, see link:
    And I quote again
    “The Army has been pursuing a policy of repatriation of remains to the UK for some years, and it is expected that, on repatriation, normal funeral arrangements will be put in place. In certain circumstances, emergency war burial may be authorised and bodies will not be returned to the UK during the period of conflict. Pastorally, this will mean a situation in which there is a death in the parish but no body. A funeral service is inappropriate, as there will be funeral arrangements to be dealt with after the war is over. Clergy are asked to consider offering families a service of prayer and remembrance in Church. Evidence indicates that people need some form of liturgical recognition of grief (one of the functions of a funeral service). Long term pastoral support will also be needed until (and probably after) a proper funeral service can be held which could be several months after hostilities have ceased.”
    This is a hugely emotive issue and it may be of interest to consider this BBC report on the subject:
    “Relatives are being offered a burial with full military honours, which the MoD says is a break with the past when British troops killed abroad were usually buried where they fell.”
    And I may note that one of the Marines mentioned in this report was a Saffer, and that 29 Commando Rgt. (also mentioned) has lost two young Saffer members this year.
    But what about other countries?
    The Aussies maintain an Office of Australian Wargraves to maintain Australian Wargraves in foreign countries. Currently they repatriate all casualties. See:
    The Americans have ongoing efforts (at considerable expense) to recover current and historical casualties. See here for details of Operation Glory which systematically repatriated the remains of US servicemen from Korea: Interesting paper this. Take note of the scale and duration of the exercise, 14,074 men disinterred, returned and, where possible, identified, and above all, respected!
    Visit this powerful advocacy website for ongoing US efforts (official and unofficial) to recover MIA’s.:
    See this paper for a report on how DNA is used in the States to help with the ID of repatriated remains… going back as far as the Great War. Note too how the labs are identifying some 100 guys per year, going back over 50 years, and also how efforts to repatriate guys from over 65 years ago are continuing. See this quote “It's an odd crowd, one that hopes for news of old bones. Vincent Krepps, who shipped out to Korea with his twin brother in August 1950, told officials at the conference that he would be happy to have even a part of his brother's skeleton returned. He spoke emotionally about waiting over 50 years for the repatriation of his brother's remains. The 75-year-old Army veteran spoke for many when he said, "We would love that person to come home in our lifetime."