Sunday, 18 March 2012

An Airfield Too Far?

'Sunbeam, this is Harrier, the wicket is good over'

'This is Sunbeam, copy you Harrier, over and out'

'Time to move boys, those paras are waiting!'

1 PARA covers the airfield perimeter road

0600 25 October 1975: Bravo Company, 1 PARA, has seized Menongue airfield. Task Force Orange's spearhead has just been signalled to cross its start line and drive on Menongue to link up with the paras.

Major Christian van Fleet commands Battlegroup Sunbeam, a SADF motorised column and the spearhead of TF Orange.

Leiutenant Alberto Contador, Cuban Special Forces, has assembled three 'alarm' companies from the half trained FAPLA garrison of Menongue. His men have no heavy weapons and little hope of stopping the South Africans. The attack on the airfield came as a complete surprise, there had been no indication from either the FAPLA  command or his own superiors that the South Africans were prepared to use airborne troops .

Contador doesn't know the paratroopers' stength but he knows an enemy motorised column is operating in the area. He expects an attack from the south as the main South African force tries to link up with the airborne troops. He resolves to communicate news of the enemy advance to headquarters and to fight a delaying action in the town for as long as he can.

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