Volume 1 of "The Black Beret" starts with the early history of South Africa and ends with the invasion of Madagascar by the South African Forces during WWII.
This volume covers topics such as how armour came to the battlefield, the use of horses vs armoured car in German South West Africa in 1915, the first steps to mechanisation, the birth of the Tank Corps, and the deployment into East Africa through Abyssinia to Addis Abba during the early years of WWII. We next experience the reverses and victories of the desert campaign with the 4th Armoured Car Company amongst others, fighting alongside the Desert Rats, Operation Crusader, the disaster at Tobruk, through the Gazala gallop and on to the victory at El Alamein. We meet the newly reconstituded SA Armoured Corps training at Khatadba in Egypt for deployment in the Italian campaign with the famous South African 6th Armoured Diivision, and we ride with the armour element that takes part in the invasion of Madagascar. The development of the various marks of South African armoured reconnaisance cars are touched upon but will be discussed in more detail in a later volume.
This is an important and overlooked story, one told by Willem Steenkamp in a rich and unique style, and drawing on a significant number of sources, ably supported by many photographs and maps.
Willem Steenkamp has been a journalist, soldier, writer of fact and fiction, military tattoo producer and specialist tour guide. A military reservist, he was called up for military service on various occasions from 1976 onwards and took part in four external operations, including an attachment to 61 Mech on its first real test of strength: 1980's 'Operation Sceptic'. After the end of the border conflict in 1989, he served on a presidential advisory council and as a security advisor during the 1994 election, as well as helping to write the seminal 1996 Defence Review. Subsequently, he was a consultant to the SA National Defence Force and Ministry of Defence on several occasions. He is the author of 18 factual books and novels, co-writer of a stage play and two television scripts, and has won three literary prizes.