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18 Light Regiment
Active January 1977 to Present
Country  South Africa
Allegiance 70px 70px
Type Airborne Artillery
Role Airborne Artillery within 44 Parachute Brigade
Size Regiment
Motto(s) "Primus Inter Pares" (First Among Equals)
Equipment 120mm Mortars

18 Light Regiment is claimed to be "The only Airborne Artillery Regiment in Africa".

History[edit | edit source]

18 Light Regiment in contrast to most South African Artillery units is one of the more "modern" artillery regiments created to cope with modern warfare requirements.[1]

This Light Artillery Regiment was created for the purposes of supporting paratroopers during air assault operations. Although the need was identified in the early 1970s, the regiment was only officially established in January 1977. Located with its headquarters in Randburg, Transvaal it was then still part of 1 SA Corps. Its name was allocated by General N. van den Berg.

Leadership Group: 1977[edit | edit source]

On 15 November 1977, Cmdt G.C. Olivier from 7 Medium Regiment was appointed as the first Commanding Officer. With 1 SA Corps disbanding in 1978 the Regiment was transferred to 8 Panzer Division.

In March 1978 the convening of the first order group took place at which Cmdt Oliver, Lieutenant Geoff O’Connel, 2nd Lieutenant L Louw and Candidate Officer K J Eaton set about prioritizing the Creation of a Leader Group and Training Program for Officers and NCOs.

First Call up (Camp): 1978[edit | edit source]

The first call up of the Regiment took place from 13 November to 8 December 1978 at the Army Battle School at Lohatla. At the time of the call up the unit consisted of one Battery and a Regimental Headquarters. The Regiments initial intake consisted of the Ops Savannah veterans of 141 Battery of 14 Field Regiment and 41 Battery of 4 Field Regiment. None of the troops allocated to the unit were parachute qualified. The Leadership group appointed on this call up was Lieutenant Geoff O’Connel (Battery Commander) and Lieutenant Loekie Louw and Candidate Officer Ken Eaton as Mortar Post Officers. Sergeant Basie Botma performed the duty of acting Regimental Sergeant Major during this camp. Bombardier Eugene Greyling performed the duty of Battery Sergeant Major.[2]

Gearing up for future Camps: 1979[edit | edit source]

During 1979 the Regiment secured the recruitment of a Signals Officer namely Candidate Officer Carl Ferreira. Sergeant Major 2nd Class Tinus Delport was also transferred to the Regiment and appointed as official Regimental Sergeant Major.

The Regiment was better positioned for its second training camp ‘Exercise Blinkspies 2’ (Shining Spear 2) which was held from 25 October 1979 to 24 November 1979. The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Constant Viljoen honors the unit with a personal visit on during the Exercise.

Expansion of the Regiment: 1980[edit | edit source]

1980 saw much activity taking place within the Regiment including the take on of new members from the Training Units. The regiment at this stage consisted of 181 Battery and 1 Troop (Half a Battery – equivalent of 4 mortars) from 182 Battery.

9 new Candidate Officers emerge from the efforts of Training Programmes initiated in 1978 and as a result leadership shortages are addressed. Regimental Sergeant Major Delport steps down and Staff Sergeant Basie Botma is appointed as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major. Capt Geoff O`Connel completes his Active Citizen Force commitments and Lieutenant Loekie Louw is appointed as Battery Commander of 181 Bty. 2nd Lieutenant Rob Ferguson is appointed as Battery Commander for 182 Bty.

The first batch of parachute qualified Gunners under the leadership of Lieutenant Pierre Jacobsz, is also transferred to the Regiment in December 1980.

Airborne Role and incorporation into 44 Parachute Brigade: 1981–1982[edit | edit source]

Cmdt. Gerrie Olivier retires 7 May 1981, Maj Johan Cloete was transferred to 18 Light Regiment as acting Commanding Officer. Lieutenant Loekie Louw is promoted to Captain and Adjutant of the Regiment.

On the 25th of May 1981 Colonel Jan Breytenbach, the Officer Commanding of 44 Parachute Brigade, visits the Regiment and the future Airborne strategy and role of 18 Light Regiment is spelled out as support to the newly formed 44 Parachute Brigade with Artillery Firepower during Airborne Operations, or any other Operations of the Brigade.

In June 1982 the Regiment was incorporated into the newly formed 44 Parachute Brigade and its new base, Murray Hill. Attempts were made at the time by the Brigade to change the Regiments name to 44 Light Regiment, but this idea did not meet the approval of the then Chief of Army.

18 Light Regiment was structured slightly different from the other conventional medium artillery regiments. The Regiment consisted of a small RHQ element and 3 Batteries, namely 181,182 and 183 Battery. Each battery consisted of two troops, each with four 120mm mortars. Each mortar detachment consisted of five Gunners.

The 120mm mortars of the Regiment gave it an ideal airborne capacity and ability to be deployed as a true light artillery regiment. Colonel Frank Bestbier the successor of Col Breytenbach wasted no time in integrating the Gunners into their new airborne role. The Colonel was known to refer to the Regiment as "my Gunners".

In order to fulfill its airborne objective the Regiment would only consist of Gunners that qualified as paratroopers. The existing Officers and men of the unit who were not yet qualified took this as a challenge and in March 1982 the leader element was sent to 1 Parachute Regiment in Bloemfontein for parachute training.

The Regiments traditional blue artillery barrettes were now exchanged for the maroon paratroopers barrettes with new airborn terminology becoming part of the Gunners new lingo.

Exercises[edit | edit source]

Exercises “Ubique”: 1982[edit | edit source]

In November 1982, 181 Battery made its first airborne deployment at the General Piet Joubert Training Area. The jump included a 120mm mortars drop with full ammunition and equipment. Battery Commander during this drop was Captain Loekie Louw with Lieutenant Clive Wedderburn and Lieutenant Paul Theron as Troop Commanders. WO2 Basie Botma as BSM with S Sgt Vic Victor and Sgt Shaun Hubach the two Troop Sergeant Majors.

On 11 December 1984 the regiment deployed all 3 Batteries in a single airborne drop as a part of Exercise “Ubique”. The Mortars, equipment and ammunition were carried and dropped by three C130’s and a total of 200 Gunners, NCO’s and Officers followed in three C160 troop carriers. The three Battery Commanders on this drop were Captain Loekie Louw (181 Battery) Lieutenant Clive Wedderburn (182 Battery) and Lieutenant Paul Theron (183 Battery).

It was recorded by the Military Media at the time that the drop was recorded between 800 and 950 feet, took approximately 50 seconds for all equipment and men to be on the ground. With Chutes stored the men deployed to their firing position within minutes and commenced fire on a target that was successfully and completely destroyed. These 3 Batteries were also airlifted and deployed later by helicopter as a part of the same exercise.

The vision of the 1970s to have an Airborne Artillery Regiment was attained and now the Regiment could truly claim to be the only Airborne Artillery Regiment in Africa.

Exercise Iron Eagle 1: 1987[edit | edit source]

On 25 May 1987 the Regiment participated along with rest of the Brigade in one of the largest peacetime drop of paratroopers at the time.

This exercise was of great importance to the Regiment as it saw the debut of the Regiments answer to its transportation problem. Once on the ground the batteries were hampered by a lack of mobility. The moving of tons of ammunition and equipment became a major logistical concern. To solve this problem 44 Parachute Brigade developed the "Jakkals" (A small “jeep like” vehicle) with mountable 50 Browning or 7.65mm MAG and trailer that could be dropped by parachute.

Exercise “Strandloper” (Beachcomber): 1988[edit | edit source]

From July to September 1988, 181 Battery participated as part of the then 14 Parachute Battalion Group in an amphibian exercise held in Walvis Bay, SWA with Major Loekie Louw in Command of the Battery and Captain Craig Weyer acting as Observation Post.

The exercise consisted of SAS Tafelberg, a replenishment ship from the South African Navy, and six other naval attack crafts. As a part of the training leading up to the exercise Paratroopers received amphibian orientation with the Navy and Marines.

Amongst others the objective of the exercise was to establish a beach head from where an attack could be launched and Captain Craig Weyer of 181 Battery directed naval gun fire (NGF) on a target area. 181 Battery also delivered accurate firepower on a target at H-Hour.

Operations[edit | edit source]

Operational Duties: 1988–1989[edit | edit source]

In March 1988, 182 Battery under the Command of Captain Johan Borret participated in the 3rd attack on Quito Cuanavale during Operation Hooper and Operation Packer. Deployed in a primary role as Artillery and tasked with engaging targets on the West Bank of the Tumbo River it came under return fire by FAPLA within the first hour and on and off during the remainder of the attack. During this operation 2 Gunners were wounded.

During 1989, 183 Bty exchanged their maroon paratroopers’ berets for the light blue berets of the UN peace keeping force. The battery, commanded by Captain Andre Pelser formed part of the Joint Military Monitoring Group (J.M.M.C) to assist in the overseeing of the withdrawal of the SADF from Namibia and the Cubans from Angola.

1989 also saw the last Citizen Force camp of 60 days and the deployment of 182 Battery in direct formation with 3 Parachute Battalion. 182 Battery was tasked with Border Patrol duties along the Limpopo River. (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana) Based at Almond Base in the Weipe District this battery was commanded by Sean Andrews.

A number of Gunners from 182 Battery elected to be assigned to 3 Parachute Battalion in Sector 10, SWA in December 1989 and January 1990. Here they served in an Infantry capacity patrolling the area of Northern SWA and on Fireforce Standby. This all just before the withdrawal of the SADF from Angola and South West Africa in early 1990.

Urban and Rural COINOPS: 1984–1991[edit | edit source]

As with the rest of the Brigade each individual unit were also deployed for internal unrest operations. 181 Battery were deployed under the command of Captain Clive Wedderburn at Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape. It served a dual stabilization role as well as efforts to improve the conditions of the local community. For it’s efforts 181 Battery was awarded with the Chief of Army Merit Certificate for Exceptional Duty.

In September 1985 Captain Loekie Louw commanded 181 Battery for border patrol duties at Madimbo on the Zimbabwe Border. Standard border duties were followed including improvements to the base and with the skills base having been improved there was ready access to skilled artisans and technicians for the purpose of maintaining equipment and infrastructure. The Battery was divided into 3 rotations where 2 rotations were patrolling in the bush and along the fenced border areas the 3rd rotation was deployed with the upkeep of the base. No incidents of insurgency were recorded however the occasional attempt at illegal border crossings was prevented.

During 1987 the entire regiment was called up to maintain law and order at Mamelodi, East of Pretoria, Mthombo in Port Elizabeth and Kwaggafontein which is East of Mafeking. 181 Battery under the command of Captain Pierre Jacobsz deployed at Mthombo. 182 Battery under the command of Captain Johan Borret deployed at Mamelodi and 183 Battery under the command of Lieutenant Marcus van Heerden deployed at Kwaggafontein.

Scaling-Down and its impacts on 18 Light Regiment[edit | edit source]

1991 was a year of many changes for 18 Light Regiment, with the movement of 44 Parachute Brigade Headquarters to Bloemfontein its own Headquarters moved from Murray Hill to the Paulshof Building in Pretoria. Due to other commitments the leadership group at the time also underwent changes and with the creation of the SANDF in 1994 the Brigade was scheduled for a planned downscale to that of a Regiment. With this 18 Light Regiment was transferred soon thereafter to the Artillery Formation in Pretoria and was located at Magazine Hill, with TSA as its neighbour.

Regimental Coat of Arms[edit | edit source]

The Regimental coat of arms was designed by George Gravette and with the motto "Primus Inter Pares" (First Amongst Equals) is an emblem to be proud of. The Regimental Coat of Arms depicts the well known Griffon of 44 Parachute Brigade with adaption’s to distinguish Artillery from Infantry and other members of 44 Parachute Brigade. All Shoulder Flashes of 44 Parachute Brigade have the same Griffon, however 18 Light Regiment has the Artillery ‘Lightning Bolt’ which runs horizontally just above the Griffon.

As with all in 44 Parachute Brigade, 18 Light Regiment Paratroopers also wore the Coveted Maroon Paratrooper Beret with an Iron spread-eagled Griffon and the Artillery Beret Bar (Balkie) below the Metal Griffon which also had a ‘Lightning Bolt’.

18 Light Regiments emblem was proudly placed on the top left of the 44 Parachute Brigade formation ensemble. This symbolizes both the unique airborne and artillery characteristic of the regiment.

Command Structure[edit | edit source]

Commanding Officer[edit | edit source]

Honorary Colonel Period
Colonel G. C. Olivier December 1984 – Present
Commander Period
Cmdt G. C. Oliver 15-Nov-1977 – 7-May-1981
Cmdt Johan Cloete 7-May-1981 – 31-Jan-1990
Cmdt Bernie Pols 1990–1991
Capt. G J Jarman 1991–1994
Maj R Nell 1994–1996
Maj Eddie Hanekom 1996–2002
Maj Jimmy Weir-Smith 2002 – Information Outstanding
Maj Jaques Viljoen 2003 -2004

Maj S Clark 2005–Present

Regimental Sergeant Major[edit | edit source]

RSM Period
WO2 Tinus Delport 1979–1980
WO1 Basie Botma 1980–1990
WO1 Vic Victor 1990–1991
WO1 Klasie Langenhoven 1991 – Information outstanding
WO1 Giep Hill 2006–Present

Battery Commanders[edit | edit source]

181 Battery Commander[edit | edit source]

Commander Period
Major Loekie Louw 1980–1984
Capt Clive Wedderburne 1985
Major Loekie Louw 1986
Capt Piere Jacobsz 1987
Major Loekie Louw 1988

182 Battery Commander[edit | edit source]

Commander Period
Capt Clive Wedderburne 1984
Capt Johan Borret 1987
Capt Johan Borret 1988

183 Battery Commander[edit | edit source]

Commander Period
Capt Paul Theron 1984
Capt Marcus van Heerden 1987
Capt Andre Pelser 1989

References[edit | edit source]

  1. History of 18 Light Regiment — Lt Giel Joubert, Maj Loekie Louw and M C Lowes
  2. http://www.rfdiv.mil.za/docs/18%20LIGHT%20REGIMENT.pdf

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