Thursday, 1 March 2012

Firefight at Folgares

Task Force Zulu was halted at Chibia. Although the casualties were relatively light in military terms, the political impact was such that Pretoria was unwilling to press on and risk further losses.

A debate ensued amongst the South Africans. The majority of military officers advocated allocating 'full blooded' support to TF Zulu by the SAAF and the deployment of airborne forces to quickly secure Lubango and its airfield. A minority view held that whilst FAPLA and its Cuban advisors had held the line at Chibia they couldn't do this everywhere and, instead of reinforcing failure, the SADF should make Task Force Foxbat's the priority axis of advance.

By 25 October Foxbat's leading FNLA battalion had reached Folgares where it had paused to regroup and resupply. The battalion's South African cadre of advisors, together with the bulk of the transport element, were some 5km south of the unit's main postion in the township itself. Two understrength infantry companies and the support company were deployed in the township. As evening approached these units were attacked in their rear by a full battalion of FAPLA regulars that had been completely missed by aerial reconnaissance.

FNLA Command Elements deployed in township
The ensuing firefight was confused and noisy. The FAPLA advance proceeded in fits and starts. One company entered the township but was fought to a standstill by FNLA troops that had dug in amongst the buildings in the town centre. Mortar and recoiless rifle fire, though largely inaccurate, seemed to intimidate the FAPLA troops and forestalled a close assault. To the west of Folgares FAPLA troops advanced cautiously and seemed reluctant to probe possible FNLA postions in dense bush. The arrival of an SADF armoured car platoon caused consternation amongst FAPLA's supporting mobile detachment of technicals until a lucky burst from a jeep mounted .50 cal machine gun disabled an Eland armoured car.

As dusk fell the fighting petered out. The FNLA held Folgares and had suffered no fatal casualties, although a dozen men were wounded. An Eland armoured car was written off and two more disabled, and there were several casualties amongst their South African crews, one of which was fatal. Three FNLA technicals had also been destroyed by very accurate fire from the FAPLA HQ platoon, composed mainly of Cuban advisors, For its part FAPLA had lost six dead and ten wounded with another three missing. Half a dozen Soviet built GAZ jeeps had either been destroyed or disabled by fire from the SADF armoured cars.

The FAPLA commander was dismayed, His men had not managed to press home their attack. The FNLA commander, Captain Mouriniho, was equally concerned. Although he had held the town, he never imagined that FAPLA were present in such strength in this area, nor that they had the wherewithall to mount an attack in such strength. 

In the small hours of 26th October Foxbat reported to Pretoria that their line of supply was insecure.

At the same time Cuban headquarters in Luanda received a report from their most senior officer in southern Angola that unless reinforcments were forthcoming he could got guarantee the security of Benguela and the coast road all the way to the capital.

Both sides believed their respective postions were hopeless...

1 comment:

  1. Clearly some heavy South African armour is needed, along with an increase in air support. These communist insurgents can be beaten.