I read this with great interest as I was in the armoured cars in question at the recce incident towards the bridge, and in fact was in the Charlie car of the Pappa troop who was the first to cross Bridge 14 when the eventual attack started some days later.
I agree wholeheartedly that Danny was an amazing soldier, but I respectfully disagree with some facts around the particular contact as repeated through third hand accounts that were not at the actual scene of the contact.
In mitigation to the armoured car crews involved, allow me to explain what actually expired as experienced by us.
Some confusion and different perceptions apply here as recounted by various parties over time.
Firstly one has to understand the composition of the combat groups at the time. Principally the UNITA and FNLA forces in the southern part of Angola then consisted out of a nucleas core group of European SADF officers and senior NCOs? to lead the untrained and ill equipped UNITA/FNLA infantry rabble, and who also operated the jeep mounted 106 recoilless guns and 60/81mm mortars, along with two troops of 90mm Eland armoured cars. The artillery and other support assets only joined just before the battle of Ebo and later preceding Bridge 14. Up to that stage it was a very fluid and mobile war very much dictated by the military prowess of the local combat group commander. Up to that point one became used that especially the UNITA troops decamped at the first sign of serious opposition, leaving the SADF command element to face the music.
Secondly allow me to correct the statement that Foxbat had routed the MPLA forces that fled over the Bridge. In fact, itself was badly routed on the 23rd of November (and not on the 25th as stated on some official accounts) by the Cuban MMCA troops under Diaz Arguellas. These were the Cuban equivalent of Speznatz also under command of the Cuban Dept of Interior Affairs as was the Soviet model. The Cubans unknown to us at that stage had precious few troops in the field against us and through sheer audacity and genius on the side of Diaz, who one has to admire as a soldier, checkmated both the Bravo and Foxbat Combat groups first north of Novo Rodondo, and later at Ebo with limited military assets to his disposal. At that stage the forces where viewing each other over the Nhia river with some trepidation and it was only then that the Cuban forces were heavily reinforced with substantial troops and artillery, including BM21's and 120m mortar batteries and they even had some Sagger anti tank missiles which thankfully were never deployed against our armoured forces. Although they went under the flag of MPLA, it consisted principally out of the MMCA troops with some supporting MPLA troops very much like or own combat groups. It was surmised that Diaz died in the Bridge 14 battle, but we were very much ignorant of all that at that stage. But I am digressing, back to the particular tactical movement involving Danny Roxo on that eventful evening.
It was not the first time that we approached the bridge, as we approached the bridge area only a couple of days prior and were then subjected to heavy "red eye" missile fire. In fact the bridge over the Nhia river were blown by Diaz?s troops in the face of Foxbat?s initial advance, and the general advance axis focus shifted to the Bravo Combat Group under Cmdt. Breytenbach then at Novo Rodondo where they themselves were checked by Diaz?s troops at some bridge north of Novo Rodondo, and it was realized that the focus had to shift back to Foxbat who then tried the Ebo route and later the Bridge 14 route. (Just imagine the tactical opportunity to our forces if they realized that they were being checked on both advance routes by the same small enemy contingent?)
We were actually under the command of Cmdt. Kruis who just took over from Cmdt. Webb as commander of the Foxbat Combat Group. Cmdt. Breytenbach who commanded the Bravo Combat Group and who only joined us on the day of the battle of Ebo on the 23rd of Nov, apparently ordered a full troop to accompany the infantry soldiers to recce the blown bridge. We were surprised that we were called upon to do so not being in the Bravo Combat Group, and as we just returned from a day long mission and were busy servicing our cars. As only 2 cars was immediately available, our troop leader 2ndLT Grib ordered the Alpha and Charlie cars to accompany the troops, and might I add, with little briefing as to the mission or who the infantry were.
One has to remember that up to that time the SA troops grew used to the fact that the UNITA troops decamped at the first sign of trouble and had no faith in their military capability at all.
The troops that accompanied us were seemingly a bunch of ill disciplined UNITA troops and at no stage did we even know that Danny accompanied them.
It was already dusk when we moved forward, and the cars took up a herringbone position 30m in front of the blown bridge on a slightly raised narrow tar road. The river turned sharply to the right after the bridge roughly flowing SS-E, exposing any friendly forces to close enemy fire.
The UNITA troops scattered in a seemingly unmilitary deployment, and we were left pondering the sensibility of exposing the real offensive military assets available to Foxbat in our 19 year old minds. At no stage were we aware that Danny in fact crossed the river and were on the opposite bank in enemy territory.
Suddenly we came under heavy RPG 7 fire (not mortars as claimed) and as per normal the UNITA troops decamped at the first shot. (As a fast "tactical withdrawal" to put it mildly) That left us seriously exposed with no support against anti tank infantry attack. That as any military tactician would confirm, was a total untenable position. I clearly saw the launchers being fired from very close on our right from behind trees in the river line. We started laying down a covering fire with our co-ax Browning machine guns as we couldn?t use our main weapon as the 90mm shells would have detonated against the close trees. I have a photograph of one of our cars where a RPG glanced of the side leaving a nasty gash. By that stage there was no sign of any friendly infantry troops, and we had no reason to linger any longer than was absolute necessary, we turned the cars around on the tar road with great difficulty, as one would promptly become mired should one allow even a wheel to leave the tar road, and withdrew ourselves back to our base position, the whole time attracting RPG fire from very close proximity.
Back at our base position Cmdt. Breytenbach briefly spoke to the Alpha car crew commander and we were none the wiser on the subsequent proceedings. The gist of the full story only became apparent much later and in hind sight.
I have delivered many talks on various aspects of Ops Savannah over the years and as founding Chairman of CAPE SAAACA and SAHA (South African Historian Association) promote the establishment of the true history instead of sanitised politicised versions. It is imperative that the factual history be documented as it often is reflected in "adapted form" by opportunistic raconteurs and eventually becomes accepted as the truth.