Woesterfees – Institute for the Blind – 19/20 April 2013

Living History

 

On the 19/20th of April the Cape Town Chapter of the Heritage Group was tasked to assist in a fund raising campaign for the Institute of the Blind based in Worcester, Western Cape. The campaign was focused specifically on the Pioneer School and the Langerug Campus which caters for blind people. The campaign was marketed and branded as the Woesterfees in the town of Worcester.

 

Due to the Heritage Group’s unique displays and appearance within modern times; it tends to always draw a lot of attention from public side. The Heritage Group has distinguished itself as a platform not only to honour the fallen of the WWII; but also to bring back memories and to awake some emotions with our senior comrades which have made huge sacrifices during that period of history. We therefore have become a very important entity of attraction to the general public and tend to draw a lot of feet to events and shows.

'Groenjan'

‘Groenjan’

On late afternoon of Friday 19 April 2013 the Heritage Group left Bellville, Cape Town enroute the N1 North via the landmark Du Toitskloof Tunnel near Paarl. Apart from our logistical vehicle, our beloved Chev truck Groenjan, being stopped by traffic officers and channeled over a weigh bridge, the voyage went without any hiccups. Some of the Allies made the comment that the smooth virtually uneventful voyage was due to the lack of German vehicles in the convoy! This comment I would say for the sake of camaraderie should not be repeated! (Too late! – Editor)

 

Late that afternoon the convoy of 9 vehicles, including trailers together with its force of 14 soldiers entered the gates of the Kleinplasie Showgrounds in Worcester. All activity came to a standstill when the convoy entered the grounds; most people were dumbstruck and could not believe what they saw. It is not every day that a convoy of 1940’s WWII vehicles will go past you in this modern period of time. Equipment was unloaded quickly, tents were pitched and the most important piece of equipment, the Barbeque Trolley (Braaivleis Drum) was positioned at the right location and fired up. Frosties appeared, everybody settled down around the Braaivleis fire and complimented themselves for successfully executing the first phase of the operation and that is to arrive in time and safely at our destination. A few minutes later we were joined by another two of our members from George, Eastern Cape Chapter which arrive by private light aircraft. After dinner we all went to the Entertainment marquee tent where a German band was performing and joined in on all festivities. Needless to say close to midnight the band was only performing for the Heritage Group; one of our members joined the band on stage, but with mixed results; the band nearly fled the scene!

kareoke

 

The next morning, Saturday the 20th April, everybody was at their post at their different displays within full uniform, fresh and fired up and ready to embrace the public. Quite a few displays were presented: Vehicles, Weapons & Ammunition, Swords, Insignia, Uniforms and general Militaria. Camo nets were used to finish the background of the displays. Impressions focused on German Wehrmacht, SA Union Defence Force and US Army Military Police and Airborne. The display looked very impressive and well presented with regards to Allied vs. Axis forces. It soon became evident that it would be a beautiful, clear, hot and sunny day. Everybody was excited, in good spirit and the whole festive mood was complemented with our Ghetto Blaster which was playing WWII music. We soon became the center of attraction which lasted for the whole day – Many many eyes staring at us from a distance, then building some confidence to come closer and flooding you with questions. Old timers coming and sharing their WWII experiences and emotions, kids boiling over of excitement seeing all the vehicles and equipment etc.

 

Later the afternoon, three jeeps were loaded up with soldiers and traveled a couple of times down Worcester Main Street to create some awareness for the Festival(Fees). To be honest; it was more about a bunch of grown up kids racing each other down the main street with Jeeps than awareness! The whole center of town was forced to a standstill, thank goodness the traffic police were also in a festive mood it seemed! The Awareness exercise was finished off at McDonalds Drive Thru with ice – cream and burgers. Our CO insisted on a kiddies ice-cream!!! Back to the showgrounds at high speed to face the hordes again.

 

Late afternoon as the stream of visitors started to die down the Braaivleis fire was awaken again, frosties came out to wash down the dust and tiredness. The mood was more relaxed and reserved; it was a long day and most felt a bit drained, but everybody felt good and pleased, we had accomplished our mission. It was a job well done. We made a lot of new friends, we have added value to a very worthy cause, we have received more invitations to take part in upcoming shows & events and we have seen and enjoyed each other in our Group. After dinner the day was discussed and analyzed around the fire and then everybody retired to bed; we had to be ready for the road to Cape Town the next morning.

 

The next day, Sunday morning 21 April everybody was up early, camp was broken down quickly and vehicles loaded. It was like ants running around collecting stuff. Then came the good bye session – a lot of hugs and kisses, here and there a hidden tear. Some chaps still a bit hesitant towards the UK tradition of kissing on the cheeks, but everybody is learning fast! At precisely 10:00 engines were started up, the go ahead sign given and the wheels started to crunch down the gravel towards the gate. Another very much successful Einsatz (Display) behind us and quite a few very exciting ones awaiting us in the near future. The last few waves of the hand and then onto the N1 highway south back to Cape Town.

 

Many many thanks to everybody which participated, who sacrificed their time to assist people which are not so privileged as us. Congratulations to our new chairman, Col. Leon Rosser with his first Einsatz; it was an absolute joy, it was a great success and it was extremely well organized. Thank you very much for your leadership.

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