Sandstone Heritage Trust - News

HTN 91 - It goes around Earphones and Helmets.

22nd May 2006

Anybody who was in the Armoured Corps at that time, knows that wearing earphones (for both the radio and the Armoured Car's intercom) at the same time as a steel helmet, consisting of a plastic liner 'mosdop', and the steel outer 'staaldak', will tell you that it's somewhere between very uncomfortable, and impossible.

Parade ground photos of men in tanks and armoured cars, wearing black berets and shiny silver badges, with earphones on top, look very smart. But these photos were taken under operational conditions on the Northern border of South West Africa, now Namibia, where wearing a helmet was an unpleasant necessity! The earphones had to be squeezed in under the headband of the helmet, with the strap which was supposed to be over the top of your head, hanging down behind your ears, which in turn were being pushed downwards by the rubber mouldings of the earpieces!

Our Sergeant hit on the idea of 'borrowing' aircraft type helmets from the lads in light blue, and supported his suggestion to the top brass with these photographs.

These were taken in the days before these locally made Armoured Cars were called Elands. This was called a VA Mk3 / 60, equipped with a 60mm Breech Loading Mortar as main armament. Crew Commander (Cpl Selfe) sits in the turret on the left, his Gunner (Trooper Bezuidenhout) on his right, and Driver (Trooper Kleynhans) in the hull.
Looking much more comfortable and professional are Cpl Pretorius's crew in a VA Mk3 / 90. This is the same model as the one in the Sandstone Heritage collection, with the 90mm DEFA gun.

Just to show Armoured Cars run in the blood, attached is a photograph of my father, also as Crew Commander (below, in the middle) in May 1942, outside Gazala in the Western Desert. They are sitting on a Marmon Harrington Mark 4, one of 5 746 which were also made in South Africa.

Andy Selfe

BTW, do you know how the School of Armour / 1 Special Service Battalion works, or used to? School of Armour is the place where Officer and NCO 'material' was sent, like an Army Gymnasium, a few months prior to a normal intake into 1SSB. The unsuccessful candidates were 'Returned ot Unit' to us in 1SSB. Those who 'made it' came down to us as our officers and NCOs. Some of us who showed promise, were promoted 'out of the ranks' from 1SSB itself.

1SSB had mostly Armoured Car squadrons, and less Tank Squadrons. Much rivalry existed!