The Nelson Mandela Bay will be the battleground for one of SA’s largest mini-mock wars.
Warships, fighter jets, army tanks and thousands of troops have begun descending on Nelson Mandela Bay for Armed Forces Week which will be held from Wednesday, 17 February – Sunday, 21 February. An estimated 5,000 troops will arrive in the Bay to take part in the largest mock mini-war held in South Africa, as well as the Armed Forces Parade on Sunday, 21 February.
The public will be able to watch as Special Forces troops are lowered from helicopters for mock hostage rescues at a beachfront building. Another attraction will be the Fan Park, including tanks and helicopters, at King’s Beach car park. The event will culminate with the finale: a war simulation called Armed Forces Day, on Sunday, 21 February.
Armed Forces Week is held in commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi, which was ferrying SA Native Labour Corps troops to France from England. It sank after being rammed by the SS Darro off the Isle of Wight in 1917 and 616 men died.
SA National Defence Force commander-in-chief President Jacob Zuma and various ministers are expected to attend.
SA Navy spokesperson Commander Greyling van den Berg says there will be a night-shooting exercise on Thursday with mortar bombs fired from King’s Beach into the bay, cannons fired from the warships, helicopters firing machine guns and fighter jets dropping flares.
Seven warships will dock in Port Elizabeth harbour and the public will be allowed aboard between 10am and 2pm today and tomorrow. The massive King’s Beach Fan Park will display armoured vehicles, boats and helicopters.
“Each day we will bus in about 3,000 high school pupils to view the equipment and Fan Park,” Van den Berg says. All the events will be free to attend and have been described as a real eye-opener as to the combat readiness of the SANDF.
Experience it for yourself:
SANDF Armed Forces Day 2016
012 355 6388
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.