Compiled and Edited by John Dovey
|John Dovey did his National Service in the SADF in 1985-1986. He has served since then in three Citizen Force Regiments, and is still serving. This compilation of poems is his attempt to preserve some of the thoughts and feelings of the soldiers who were in the SADF during the “Border War” period. The poems in this compilation are mostly from that period. There are a few poems from Cubans and one from a British soldier, that fit into the theme of the compilation. The poems are all heart-felt ones that reflect the mood and emotion of the times. There are a surprising number that deal with loneliness and fear, which two things any soldier will know are constant companions. This book is above all about the commonality of experience that all soldiers share, and about the human face of the individuals of which an “army” is comprised.|
|From the Introduction:|
This book of poems was an idea that I had on my 39th birthday which coincided with the 20th Anniversary of my first year in the Army (National Service). My birthday is on the 13th of November, so it often overlaps Remembrance Day which is held on the closest Sunday to the 11th of November. As it happens, I have memories of two birthdays during National Service, the first we were in the Townships outside Port Elizabeth and the second on the “Border” i.e. South West Africa/Namibia.
When I started remembering, I got quite emotional, and I know that a lot of my family and friends did not (and do not) understand why, and it made me realise that I should do something to ensure that the memories don’t die. I thought that an anthology of poems was a good idea as it was possible to reflect the good and the bad, the sentimental and the irreverent without getting too bogged down... and when I told Willem Steenkamp about what I was thinking, he offered me some of his poems and so the ball started rolling. After that, the contributions started rolling in, and once I mentioned the project on ArmyTalk, I was surprised by the positive reaction, and by the poems that were sent to me.
Some of the poems here are in Afrikaans, some in English and some in a strange mixture of the two. This reflects the reality of the military experience in South Africa (especially in those years). Where appropriate, there are foot-notes to explain terms and words that have been used, but in the main, if you don’t understand, then it doesn’t matter… as these are mostly words from those who were there. If you really need an explanation, turn to your husband, father, brother or son who was there… I am sure they will be able to explain, and who knows, you might learn something about their experiences.
There are some poems included from two Cuban contributors. I tried to get hold of poetry from “the other side”, but the closest I could come was from Larry and Santiago.
There are a lot of ghosts who walk with me every day, and as a young man, I wrote poems in an attempt to express my feelings and emotions about the intense situations that I was confronted with. Some of the poems are about feelings of love or loneliness, and it is my belief that soldiers are mostly incredibly lonely, in spite of the fact that they are surrounded at all times by their comrades. Every soldier that I have ever known has expressed a sense of incredible longing for home and loved ones. Expressed beautifully in the Afrikaans song that I was taught by some SAKK soldiers on a wet morning once…
“Moenie huil nie Meisiekind,
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