Episode 91 – Russians on the Lomba and the Olifant Battle Tank
Operation Modular had led to a mauling - and the Angolans began withdrawing northwards.
The South Africans had been victorious despite being hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, the Ratels had somehow defeated the T54s and T55s. The cabinet was delighted back in Pretoria - but now faced a serious question that had not been fully addressed before the Lomba bloodletting.
FAPLA was withdrawing but they weren’t defeated. Furthermore, FAPLA’s logistic centre at Cuito Cuanavale was untouched and operating. The bridge the Recces had destroyed was up and running once more.
IT was almost immediately that folks like the chief of the SADF Jannie Geldenhuys knew consolidation of the gains was crucial, along with preventing the enemy from regrouping.
By now, the political leadership had decided that they’d throw everything they could at this invasion into Angola - they’d gone too far to pull back. They’d grabbed a Tiger by the tail, and couldn’t let go.
For the Angolans, it was a bitter defeat, and the end of FAPLAs Operation Saludando a Octobre, Salute to October, their grand offensive of four main Brigades which were supposed to seize Mavinga from UNITA then push on to UNITAS HQ at Jamba - and destroy the rebel movement once and for all.
Not this time.
Russian advisors who were part of the FAPLA Brigades on the Lomba, and based in Cuito, confirmed just how badly the Angolan army had been mauled. Igor Anatoliyevich Zhdarkin was on the ground in Cuito when the battered 21st and 47th Brigades staggered back into the town.
“There on the Lomba, misfortune had befallen them…” he wrote in his journal “…They had been battered with shells from the rapid firing guns of the South Africans.”
On the ground, 20 SA Brigade was joined by 4 SAI Battalion, a fully mechanised unit with extra G-5 batteries, four self propelled G6 guns - although one broke down and most important, a squadron of 13 Olifant tanks.
Because these were to play such a significant role in the upcoming battles, I’ll spend a few minutes talking about their production.