Proelio Procusi … Forged in Battle
Legio Patria Nostra … The Legion is our Country
32 Battalion is one of the most remarkable army units in post-World War II military history.
When the Portuguese colonial government withdrew from Angola in 1975, the country descended into civil war. Of the various factions, the Soviet backed MPLA emerged victorious, UNITA melted into the vast Angolan bush to begin a guerrilla war against the MPLA, and the FNLA was abandoned by its leader Holden Roberto. Having clandestinely supported UNITA and the FNLA, the South African army withdrew from Angola back into South West Africa (Namibia).
Colonel Jan Breytenbach of the South African army realised the potential of the remnants of the FNLA’s black, Portuguese speaking guerrilla fighters and continued to operate with them in southern Angolaas Bravo Group. In 1976 he brought them back across the border into South West Africa with their families to settle in the Caprivi Strip at what became known as Buffalo Base. This group of ragtag, ill-disciplined group of guerrilla fighters who had fought a protracted guerrilla war for ten years against Portuguese colonial rule was to become the legendary 32 Battalion with the fitting motto Proelio Procusi … Forged in Battle.
Initially lead by white South African officers and NCO’s, this ‘motley mob’ became what was one of the best anti-guerrilla army units in the world. They had a dual role of countering the SWAPO guerrillas infiltrating South West Africa (Namibia) as well as conducting clandestine operations against the Angolan army under the guise of the UNITA guerrillas. By the wars end in the late 1980’s, 32 Battalion had transformed itself again into a highly effective, conventional, mechanised battalion with armoured Ratel infantry fighting vehicles, G5 & G6 artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns & missiles and Valkerie multiple rocket launchers. In this configuration, ‘Three-Two’ played a key role in stopping the massive conventional offensive into south eastern Angola by the Angolan army backed by the Cubans and Soviets in the late 1980’s. Together with South Africa’s 61 Mechanised Battalion and the UNITA forces, ‘Three-Two’ stopped the massive offensive dead in its tracks.
With the independence of South West Africa in 1990, the country became known as Namibia and 32 Battalion was relocated to Pomfret in South Africa. From here the unit was initially used to patrol the country’s borders before being deployed into the urban townships to counter the unrest in the lead up to the first democratic elections in 1994 and with it the dismantling of the Apartheid policy of racial segregation. Shortly before this, 32 Battalion was disbanded with its troops either choosing to join regular army units or to take early retirement.
What made Three Two so unique is that it was a multiracial battalion that operated within the South African army at the height of the countries racially segregating policy of Apartheid. With Colonel Jan Breytenbach’s philosophy of Legio Patria Nostra ‘The Legion is our Country’, the men’s loyalty lay first and foremost with the unit, laying the foundation for the battalions culture of embracing racial and cultural diversity and the mutual trust and respect amongst the officers, NCO’s and troops. This was the cornerstone from which the unit was able to overcome insurmountable odds on the battlefield and resulted in the battalion being recognised as the best combat unit in the South African Army since World War II. “When the shooting starts, it’s not about the colour of a man’s skin that counts, it’s what he is capable of”.
This is perhaps 32 Battalions most enduring legacy in a world still bedevilled with racial tensions.
- 32 Battalion Veterans (private group)
- 32 Battalion (private group)
- Omauni (private group)
SADF Border War
32 Battalion of the old SADF. Originally created by Fish Clint
32 Battalion – South African Defense Force : Outline of South African 32 Battalion : Chris Scholz
Thames TV – TV Eye : “Mercenaries” 1981
Into Angola (32 Battalion); Al J Venter
Watch Footage of the South African Defense Force in Namibia
The South African Border War: Bushwar Episode 9 – 32 Battalion , MadeleinCombrinck
32 Battalion’s Buffalo Base and the cemetery in the Caprivi – 2009.
South Africa Army The SADF 32 Battalion The Terrible Ones. OnsVirJouSuid Afrika. Darren Lennox
Brothers in Blood – The men of 32 Battalion
Tributoaos Bravos Guerreiros_ SADF-Batalhão 32 Bufalo-by Dj distressed.wmv
South Africa- The Buffalo Soldiers; Journeyman Pictures
32 Battalion Battle of Savate 1980 ; Piet Nortje
The Incredible Story Of Apartheid’s Black Shock Troops
Betrayed – L J Bothma
32 Battalion Demobilisation 1993
32 Battalion Demobilisation 1993
32 Battalion Lest We Forget ; Piet Nortje 2013
Making of 32 Battalion Savate 2016 Commemorative “Buffalo Bow” Heartwood Bows