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The Fighting Becs Part 8 – The Tiger Tank Busters

Jeff Ramsay

We left off in on the 9th of September 1943 with the success of Operation Avalanche, the landing of the multinational, American led, US 5th Army at Salerno beach in Italy, an operation spearheaded at the centre by the British 10th Corps including veteran Batswana gunners of the 1976 APC Company. Following their transfer from the British 8th to the US 5th Army the Company had been reorganized as three batteries (278, 279, and 280) as part of the 87th HAA Royal Artillery Regiment.

With the active collaboration of now allied Italian units the landings had originally been expected to be virtually unopposed. But, from the very beginning, fierce resistance was encountered. A combination of luck, intelligence and intuition had resulted in the bulk of the German 10th Army, including such elite units as the Herman Goering Panzer Division, being concentrated near the UN forces’ landings allowing for their rapid deployment in the hills above the Salerno beachhead.

The anticipated advantage of overwhelming naval support had also been compromised during the landings by the German deployment of the world’s first operational guided missile, the Fritz X, as well as conventional aerial bombing.

As the armies came together, the resulting Battle of Salerno, which lasted from the 9th through the 18th of September 1943, proved to be one of the decisive military events of the Second World War. A German victory there as well as in the ongoing and to some extent interrelated fighting between German and Soviet forces in the central sector of the Eastern Front might have given the Third Reich time to mobilize its defences in order to stave off its pending defeat.

We know that such at least was Hitler’s ambition. The collapse of Italy and the Soviet push across the plains of Ukraine and Belarus following their great victory at Stalingrad had by then made ultimate German defeat appear ever more likely in the eyes of senior German officers as well as Nazi leadership.

For his part, the evil dictator hoped to buy time by securing the flanks of his “Fortress Europe” with a defensive “Eastern Wall” against the Soviets and “Mediterranean Moat” against the Anglo-American led southern front.  The later however required a decisive victory in Italy.

If the UN advance could thus be stemmed, Hitler and his cohorts reasoned Germany could regain the advantage through the deployment of a new generation of super weapons then being readied for battle, which included the ME 262 Jet, the revolutionary Type XXI Submarine and the V1 and V2 Rockets (with the massive intercontinental V3 on the drawing boards), as well as the already deployed but in short supply Fritz X Missiles and a new generation of mobile armour platforms, epitomized by the Tiger Tank.

Fortunately, we now know that progress on the one super weapon that might have actually tipped the balance, the German “Uranverein” (Uranium Club) project to develop a nuclear weapon, had in 1941 been de-prioritised in preference for investment in jet propulsion and rocket and missile development. In contrast to the briefings received by the US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, the theoretical potential of nuclear technology had to a great extent been hidden from Hitler.

By the 13th of September 1943 securing the Mediterranean perimeter at least seemed to be within the German’s grasp with the Fifth Army finding itself divided and pinned down by the enemy. Besides the advantage of holding the high ground with superior armour, the 10th Army was both better led and more experienced (many of the 5th Army’s American troops were facing hostile fire for the first time).

Defeat at Salerno was ultimately averted by a gun line of artillery that notably included the Batswana batteries of the 87th HAA Regiment. After their success at Syracuse the Batswana had been brought ashore with the expectation that their 3.7 Guns would provide air cover against high altitude bombers. But their role was quickly altered by the desperate situation on the beaches.

The 3.7 barrels were instead depressed for field firing against German armoured units and artillery in the hills above Salerno. The effectiveness of the HAA’s in disabling the heavily armoured Tiger Tanks in particular.

The German’s responded by raking the gun line with their .88 flak guns. When this failed to silence the Batswana and their colleagues, the gunners were attacked from the air. With Fritz X’s playing havoc on U.N. naval units, Luftwaffe fighters were able fly in low over Salerno Bay to attack the gun line from the rear.

With their barrels targeted at the hills, the Batswana were completely vulnerable to aerial strafing. Fortunately other, light anti-aircraft batteries were rushed into their sector to provide much needed support. On the morning of the 13th it appeared that the gun line would be overrun, but by the evening of the 14th the Germans were finally forced to pull back.

On the 18th of September, the 5th Army was able to link up with the 8th Army, which by now included over 3,000 additional Batswana troops. The immediate prospect of defeat had been averted but the battle was not over.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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