Welcoming the new General of the Gunners with a Bang!

On Saturday 27 May 2017, the Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes & Drums under Pipe Major Tony Reis provided the musical backdrop to an important official event held at the Cape Field Artillery Gun Park, located on Fort Ikapa military base, just off the N1 highway.

During a Change of Office Ceremony, Major General Roy Cecil Andersen as outgoing General of the Gunners (GoG) handed over the Tokens of Office to his successor, Major General Jabulani Sydney Mbuli.

Also attending the event were Brigadier General Khaya Makina, GOC SA Army Artillery Formation, Brigadier General Sandile Hlongwa, GOC Air Defence Artillery Formation, Maj Gen Nontobeko Mpaxa, Chief Director Force Preparation, on behalf of the Chief of the SA Army, and Mr Carl Kies, CEO of Reutech Radar Systems. The commanding officers of Cape Garrison Artillery (Lt Col J.J. Visser) and Cape Field Artillery (Maj J. Nel) and Lt Col Johan Conradie of the Defence Reserve Provincial Office of the Western Cape were joined by veterans, members of the Gunners’ Association, officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers.

Gun Display at Cape Field Artillery, Fort Ikapa, under a stormy sky

When I arrived at the Base in the morning, I was stopped by stern-looking guards of the Cape Field Artillery, who were on gate duty.

Luckily, Warrant Officer 2 Andrew Imrie (who was ticking off arrivals on a guest list) recognised my red Golf – and me, and waved me through with a cheerful smile. Thank you, Andrew! He is the Director of Music of the Cape Field Artillery Pipes & Drums, having handed over his title of Pipe Major to fellow piper Grant Scheffel about a year ago. Andrew is also the fire control officer of the Cape Field Artillery Saluting Troop, whenever they perform the 1812 Overture at the Tattoo, or when they fire the ceremonial guns at important events. This means that he’s usually the chap checking his watch to get the timing perfect – and yelling ‘Fire!’ BANG!!

Meet and greet

I made my way across to the gun park of Cape Field Artillery, who have their HQ on the northern side of the base near the N1 highway. I found a nice parking spot at the end of the road. From afar, I could hear the pipers and drummers of CGA tuning their pipes and warming up for their performance.

Action-shot of Gillian, focusing on the details

“Reggie! Hi!”

It was Gillian, affectionately known as Gilly-Bean!

Gillian is the feisty, fearless and super-creative writer/photographer/editor who, every few months, pulls a rabbit out of the hat by creating the Cape Garrison Artillery’s newsletter, with the inspired title of “The Smoking Gun”. I had recently submitted an article to the newsletter about the “Celtic Rhythm” concert that was held at Springfield Convent in Wynberg on 13 May 2017, presented by the CGA Pipes & Drums, which was published in Issue No. 1 of 2017 (which you can download here). I hadn’t properly met Gillian before, except by email, but knew immediately who she was.

I pointed to the pair of bright red earmuffs that Gilly-Bean was clutching in one hand – “I see you’ve come prepared? Are they doing a Bang?” I asked.

“Yes! They are!” She was positively bouncing up and down with excitement. “I’m really looking forward to photographing it.”

“Oh, bummer, I should’ve brought my earmuffs too…,” I sighed, regretfully.

How silly of me to forget that, when Gunners gather for special events like this, they like to fire a gun or two. And I’m not talking about little hand-guns the police wear as sidearms. No, they fire big hulking guns that make the ground shake and that set off car alarms around the city.

Gillian introduces me to Lt Col Bob Visser, OC of Cape Garrison Artillery

Thankfully, Gillian leapt to my rescue. She quickly introduced me to her friend, Bombardier Dewald le Roux, who graciously loaned me a very professional looking set of earmuffs: they even had a switch that you could flip so you could still hear the commands, but not the deafening BANG of the guns. I gratefully accepted them.

We walked over to the venue where the Change of Office ceremony would take place. Gilly-Bean introduced me to Lieutenant Colonel Bob Visser, the Commanding Officer of Cape Garrison Artillery.

display of the big guns

I wandered off to explore with my camera. A range of Big Guns was on display. (Thank you to Gilly-Bean and Dewald for identifying these for me.)

This is an Oerlikon 35mm twin cannon anti-aircraft gun, which is deployed with its camouflage netting in a static role; it is towed by a large gun tractor. It has often been on display at the Cape Town Military Tattoo.

Oerlikon 35mm twin cannon anti-aircraft gun

Powerful SAMIL 100 6×6 Gun Tractor

This is the Vickers-Armstrong 3.7″ Mk3 anti-aircraft gun. It dates from World War II, and was reconditioned in 1989.

Dewald explained to me afterwards, that artillery regiments use guns instead of flags or pennants as their standards or colours. Infantry regiments usually have a flag with their badge and their battle honours on it.

Vickers-Armstrong 3.7″ Mk3 anti-aircraft gun

This extract from an article on CGA’s blog perfectly encapsulates the importance of The Gun to the Gunner:

“The gun symbolises battle. It makes a loud noise, spews out flames and kills men by the score. As a sculpture in metal, it strikes the eye with a sinister impact. All bodies of fighting men rally same object – an eagle, a banner or the colours – what gradually comes to possess magical and totemistic characteristics. To carry the colours or to die in their defence was honour, and to lose them was a disgrace. Gunners of all nations invest their pride and trust in the gun itself, upon which they rally and which, as a point of honour, must be prevented at all costs from falling intact into the hands of the enemy.

The guns are the standards or colours of the artillery and other arms are to treat them in the same manner as infantry colours. Troops on guard duty should present arms whenever a troop of manned and dressed guns is towed passed them.

The gun is thus treated with veneration and respect. It is cleaned, polished, oiled and looked after with care. No effort is to be spared in the duty of maintaining the gun. Even in the heat of battle, the gunner will maintain it and keep it clean, for to him the gun is the symbol of his superiority to all other corps in the combat service.” (http://capegarrisonartillery.blogspot.co.za/)

Russian 23mm twin-barrelled anti-aircraft gun – can you see the red star?

Next to it stood another gun, which had an unusual green colour and a red star painted on it. From Dewald, I learned that this was a Russian 23mm twin-barrelled anti-aircraft gun.

He added the following information:

“These guns were captured in Angola during the Bush War and were refurbished by Armscor for use in the then SADF. This one is still in its Eastern Bloc (Warsaw Pact) colours and is used both as an ornament, and to train the CGA Gun Run Team. If I remember correctly, this specific gun came from Czechoslovakia. The serviceable guns are currently in storage. They are only used for the annual Gun Run.”

This vehicle below, with the aerials sticking out of it, is a command centre on a SAMIL 100; the container on the back can be off-loaded.

Command Centre on the back of a SAMIL 100

The entrance to the hangar, where the function was going to take place, was flanked by four ceremonial 25-pounder GV1 guns. These are regularly fired by Cape Field Artillery Saluting Troop at military tattoos and parades, Remembrance Day services, the Opening of Parliament and other important events.

The ceremonial 25-pounder GV1 guns of Cape Field Artillery

After taking a few photos, I wandered over to the other hangar, where I met Kevin Ashton of the Gunners’ Association, who introduced me to Maj Jaco Nel, OC of Cape Field Artillery.

Maj Jaco Nel, OC of Cape Field Artillery is flanked by Kevin Ashton of the Gunners’ Association and a fellow gunner

I also managed to snap a quick group photo of Brigadier General Sandile Hlongwa, GOC Air Defence Artillery Formation, Major General Nontobeko Mpaxa, Chief Director Force Preparation, attending the ceremony on behalf of the Chief of the SA Army, and Major General Roy Cecil Andersen, Chief Defence Reserves and outgoing General of the Gunners.

Brig Gen S.G. Hlongwa, Maj Gen N. Mpaxa, and Maj Gen R.C. Andersen

I had a quick cup of tea to warm up – it was a chilly day, with clouds scudding across a partially overcast sky. No rain, alas.

glorious pipe music

I had just finished my tea, when I heard the rattle of snare drums and the humming of the pipes – their performance was about to start!

Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes & Drums performing at the Gunners’ Change of Office Ceremony

Pipe Major Tony Reis and his Band marched down the road and formed up in the midst of all the big guns. I counted five pipers and five snare drummers, as well as one tenor and one bass drummer. On 25 April this year, the Band’s long-time drum major and bass drummer Sergeant Philip John Marwick had sadly passed away, his absence leaving a big gap. I remembered seeing Philip at the Cape Town Military Tattoos and other events. Today was the first time that their new bass drummer – Wandesile – was performing in public with the band; as he didn’t have a kilt yet, one had been lent to him, hence the slight difference in tartan. Wandesile – and his fellow Band members – did a sterling job!

I always enjoy watching the military bands and the pipes and drums perform at military parades and ceremonial occasions.

I guess it’s the combination of synchronised marching and complex movement, the neatness of the uniforms, the colours of the kilts and tunics, the details of the badges, berets and glengarries… and of course the powerful music!

Such music stirs the emotions, softens the heart, lightens the mood, and makes one’s feet tap in unison with the beat. It brings memories to the surface, and it awakens feelings of loyalty and patriotism; it often does all this quite subconsciously, on a subliminal level.

Quite apart from that, it is great fun to photograph such events!

Change of Office Ceremony

After the band had marched off, everyone moved into the hangar, where tables and chairs had been set up for lunch after the ceremony. Along the way, I ran into fellow photographer Dean Wingrin, whose articles and photographs are frequently published on the Defenceweb website and on the SA Airforce Forum, among others. He usually covers parades and events involving the SA Airforce and the SA Navy, and it was great to see him here too. You can read his write-up of this event here: New Patron for the Gunners. Unlike me, he actually remembered to jot down quotes of what people said in their speeches!

Program Director Colonel P.S. Mokgosi was the first to take the microphone, warmly welcoming everyone and, as is customary at military events, reading the Code of Conduct for uniformed members, while everyone stood at attention.

Chaplain M Smit conducted the scripture reading and prayer.

Then it was time for the speeches by Brigadier General Sandile G Hlongwa – GOC Air Defence Artillery Formation, and Major General Nontobeko Mpaxa – Chief Director, Force Preparation, who was attending the event on behalf of the Chief of the SA Army.

The honorary title of General of the Gunners (GoG) has been in use for more than 30 years. Originally known as ‘Master Gunner’ (1982 to 1990), and then as ‘Generals of the Artillery’ (1990 to 1993), the title was changed to ‘General of the Gunners’ in July 1993. Not only was Maj Gen Andersen the first Reserve Force officer to be appointed as GoG, but he has also been the longest serving one, holding the title from 1 December 2005 until 12 May 2015 (and unofficially about 2 years longer).

The GoG’s duties are primarily ceremonial in nature: he looks after the interests of both former and current gunners in the SA Army, attends memorial parades, medal parades, changes of command, and similar events, and promotes the traditions of SA Army Gunners (which include both Field Gunners and Air Defence Artillery).

Maj Gen R.C. Andersen as outgoing GoG handed back the Tokens of Office to Maj Gen N. Mpaxa, who then handed them formally to his successor, Maj Gen J.S. Mbuli.

Handing over the Tokens of Office

outgoing and incoming generals of the gunners

Maj Gen R.C. Anderson has served in the armed forces for more than 50 years, having started his national service at 4 Field Regiment in 1966. He steadily rose up through the officer ranks, and saw active service in the SWA/Angola Border War. He became Senior Staff Officer Artillery and then Senior Staff Officer Operations of 7 Infantry Division in 1984. He was promoted to his current rank of Major General on 1 October 2003, in the post of Chief Defence Reserves at Defence Headquarters, a position he still holds (he should have handed over his responsibilities to his successor at the end of May 2016, but was asked to remain in charge a little longer).

Maj Gen Roy Andersen, outgoing General of the Gunners, gives his farewell speech

In addition to his illustrious military career, Maj Gen Andersen has also had a significant civilian career in business, since becoming a Chartered Accountant in 1972, holding high-ranking positions in companies like Ernst & Young, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Liberty Life, SA Breweries, Standard Bank, Aspen Pharmacare, Nampak, Sanlam, Murray & Roberts, Sasfin and Virgin Active South Africa.

His successor, Maj Gen J.S. Mbuli had been inducted as GoG after his appointment by Chief of the SA Army on 10 February 2017, although the official ceremony only took place on Saturday 27 May 2017 at Fort Ikapa military base.

Maj Gen Jabu Mbuli, the new General of the Gunners

Maj Gen Mbuli began his military career by joining Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1981, soon specialising in anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft guns. He saw extensive active service in Angola, particularly along the Eastern front, fighting against UNITA under Jonas Savimbi. After receiving Special Force Training, he was deployed as an operative in several Southern African countries, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana, conducting military operations as instructed by Special Operations Machinery. In mid-1991, he was recalled back to Lusaka, Zambia, where he furthered his academic studies, completing certificates and diplomas in accounts and business studies, data processing management, and computer programming.

On his return to South Africa in mid-1995, he integrated into the SANDF, being appointed to the rank of Captain. He steadily rose up through the ranks, completing numerous courses along the way. In January 2015, he was promoted to the rank of Major General as Chief Director Defence Acquisition Management in the Defence Material Division under the Secretary of Defence. Lastly, in 2017, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General as Chief of Logistics of the SANDF, with effect from 1 July 2017.

Fire & Smoke

After both of them had delivered their respective speeches, everyone went outside, to watch General Andersen and General Mbuli each firing one shot with one of the GV1 guns that had been set up on an open piece of ground.

A huge thank you to Dewald for so kindly lending me his protective earmuffs, to Dean Wingrin for suggesting a good camera setting, and to Gilly-Bean for the moral support! It’s thanks to you guys that I got these nice shots!

First up – Maj Gen Andersen:

Next – Maj Gen Mbuli:

A group photo of the outgoing and incoming Generals of the Gunners and the gun crew:

The Pipes & Drums return

As everyone milled around after the firing of the gun, before lunch was served in the decorated hangar, Pipe Major Tony Reis and his Band treated us to another excellent and polished musical performance.

As I made my way back to my car afterwards, I got to chatting with Tony.

The CGA Band has really grown in recent years – not only in the number of band members, but also in their repertoire of pieces, and their marching skills. They have attracted a number of young learners, aged 12 to 19 years, who come from the townships, such as Crossroads and Khayelitsha.

Tony spoke proudly about how the youngsters had matured in the last two-three years. Being part of the band had improved their discipline and self-confidence, and they had learned to work with each other as a team, to support and motivate each other, and to find strength in the group. Being surrounded by positive male role models was having a significant impact on them.

On the weekend of 30 April 2016, the Band competed in the first ever Champion of Champions competition held in Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu Natal at the South Coast Gathering – with eight new learners playing and competing in the band for the first time, and seven of them wearing their new uniforms for the first time! And – incredibly – they were placed second overall, out of seven bands! At the Pretoria Boys Gathering in 2016, they came third; at the Benoni Boys Gathering, also in 2016, they came second, and at the Wynberg Boys Celtic Festival Competition in September, they came first, beating the more experienced Cape Town Highlanders and Cape Field Artillery pipe bands.

As Tony pointed out, getting funding for the band is always challenging, though; instruments, uniforms and kit are all expensive items. The Band is entirely self-supported, and does not receive any funding from the Defence Force, so they rely heavily on donations (you can find more info in the Smoking Gun 1 of 2016 and the Smoking Gun 3 of 2016). If you can support the band in any way, please do so!

Meanwhile, a hearty well done to the Band!

2 thoughts on “Welcoming the new General of the Gunners with a Bang!

  1. Johan Conradie says:

    As always Reggie has done it again! What a pleasure to read your articles. It is written with so much passion that even if a person did not attend the event, you can experience the bagpipes, feel the pressure on your ears when the guns fire and smell the gun powder…. Well done Reggie and thank you for sharing!! God bless!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.