Connect with us

The Fighting Becs Part 6 – From Tunisia to Sicily

Jeff Ramsay


We left off with veteran APC companies 1971-76 having mastered the complex but deadly 3.7 inch Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) batteries. With their new skills in March 1943 they became part of British 8th Army of General Montgomery in time for its final advance against the Axis, German and Italian, forces in Tunisia.

Besides Montgomery’s men the allied forces in the region by then included the British 1st Army and American and Free French units, who collectively forced the final surrender of the Axis forces in North Africa on the 13th of May 1943.

It was in the context of the North African victory that in June 1943 Batswana gunners were among those honoured to receive a visit from King George VI as well as be given the frontline responsibility of providing high altitude air-cover over the Libyan capital Tripoli during the British monarch’s stay.

While some Batswana became gunners other veteran units specialized in the use of smoke screen machines. Most of the time these “smokers” were expected to blind enemy aircraft from their potential targets. But, smokescreens were also used in ground fighting to conceal attacking formations.

This was an especially dangerous operation requiring units to position themselves between their own and the enemy’s lines. Batswana units carried out both missions with distinction.

Twenty years ago, in 1995, various district museums around the country marked the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War by holding special days for the surviving African Pioneer Corps veterans.

This author attended, and fondly recalls, the gathering that was held at the Kgosi Sechele I Museum in Molepolole, where about 40 APC veterans, many wearing their medals along with remnants of their uniforms, joined diplomats, VIPs and ordinary members of the public in a ceremony that also opened the Museum’s tribute exhibition entitled “On the Frontline, Batswana participation in World Wars I and II”.

Most of the crowd of several hundred, who included many young people, were at the time seemingly stunned to hear some of their grandfathers relate their wartime experiences. It seems that a whole generation had grown up not realizing that Batswana had indeed served as combatants in the conflict.

Among those who especially captivated the audience was former APC Sergeant Otlule Seboni, who produced a map in which he had coloured Italy red. He explained to the audience that the red stood for the blood of fallen comrades, describing Italy as a place in which shells used to “rain down like hailstones”.

He went on to describe lives still haunted by deadly air attacks and the lethal fire of German 88 Flak Guns.

It was in Italy that the “10,000 men from Bechuanaland” truly became hardened by the rigors of continuous combat.

Their baptism of fire began on the 10th of July 1943, when the Batswana and Basotho Pioneers of the British 8th Army became the only Africans to take part the allied invasion of the Italian island of Sicily, codenamed “Operation Husky”.

The first Batswana ashore were the Bakwena and Bangwato of 1972 Company of the B troop 209 H.A.A. Battery, who joined other elements of the 8th Army’s 73rd Regiment in taking the ancient port city of Syracuse.

On the same morning they were followed into battle by the Bangwato of 1977 Smoke Company.

Once off the beach the Bakwena and Bangwato began deploying their smoke screens and 3.7 H.A.A. guns as well as a battery of captured Italian Ansaldo artillery they had also been assigned to.

The landing, itself, had been virtually unopposed as the Italians, who were now beginning to revolt against their Fascist regime, generally decided not to resist.

Unfortunately, part of the German 10th Army was also garrisoned on the island. The German counterpunch gathered force on the 14th of July with the belated arrival of Luftwaffe (German Air Force) heavy bombers.

The primary target of the German aircraft was the shipping and docking facilities at Syracuse, which was then the primary supply line for the allied forces on the island, which also included the American 5th Army under Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley.

Over the next two weeks the men of 1972 Company distinguished themselves by shooting down 11 enemy planes, about half of the total downed over Syracuse. As the 8th Army pushed northward towards Messina the H.A.A. units, for apparently the first time, began to also successfully use their 3.7 guns in field firing against German ground forces around Cantina.

By mid July additional Batswana Companies had also landed, namely 1967 (Bangwato), 1968 (Bangwato), 1969 (Bakwena), 1970 (Bangwaketse), 1979 (Bangwato), 1983 (Bangwaketse) and 1990 (Bangwato).

On the 11th of August, the 1967 Company came under concentrated aerial attack at Lentini airfield. Heretofore the Batswana had miraculously suffered only two wounded during the entire invasion.

But at Lentini 5 were killed and 26 wounded when a formation of 30 enemy planes swept down with anti-personnel bombs.

The Lentini raid was the worst single attack suffered by Batswana during the war. Five Batswana Pioneers were subsequently commended for their unfailing courage during the raid. Their names (as recorded) were: Sergeants Otukile and Petoro, Corporals Phatsimo and Ditogile and Private Ntshonyalo. The last was among those who had fallen.

Continue Reading


Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!


Continue Reading


Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!


Continue Reading



23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!