Gert Van der Westhuizen


Books by ex-conscripts detailing their experiences were few and far between
in the era of the Border War while more than 500 000 white males were called up
for what was described as “national service”. While books like these are not exactly
flooding the shelves of bookstores, they roll of the presses more regularly now.
These works mostly deal with ex-conscript's that actively experienced the war in
Namibia and Angola.
Stand at ease is different: there is no "cordite and conflict".
Green describes himself as a reluctant conscript (one wonders how many of
the erstwhile national servicemen were of the same view). He was a product of one
of the country's first multi-racial schools - in this case a school that did not subscribe
to the former government's apartheid policies.
Hence, his period of national service was seen as a necessary evil, something
that had to be done - to get it behind one. But he and a few friends were determined
to have as easy a time as possible. Their most important aim was to avoid the
"dreaded" call-up to the Border. Green was helped in this endeavour when he was
medically classified as G3K3. He was called up to 5 South African Infantry
Battalion in Ladysmith where he spent a few days before going to Kimberley. He
did guard duty at 93 Ammunition Depot in Jan Kempdorp in the Northern Cape
before being deployed to the Army Battle School in Lohatla where he spent the rest
of his days as a national serviceman.
He says his time in the military "could hardly be described as constructive or
enjoyable", but it was also "a period of unprecedented personal growth and selfdiscovery”.
“There is little doubt that during the two years of my conscription, I
stopped being a boy and at some point became a man." Green unfortunately does not
elaborate too much on this rite of passage.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Gert Van der Westhuizen

ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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