I’ll not go into the absolute where and why this story happened but let’s just say, it actually did happen somewhere in Africa in the ’80s. A duty platoon of soldiers went on an O.P. (observation post) to an area referred to as the “Cutline” a cleared stretch of no man’s land between two countries.
Every hour on the hour, a radio message, a sit-rep, (situation report) is relayed between those on O.P. and the “Sparks”, (base, radio-operator). All went well until the 3 am. that morning call which didn’t take place!
Two things never happen in an African combat zone, helicopters don’t take off and land between sunset and sunrise and the other thing is that regardless of a missed sit-rep or not, no one moves beyond the bunkers or trenches before sunrise and after sunset.
That morning I was the recovery Sargeant, of a “stick”, (a six-man team). The “stick” comprises an N.C.O. , me and 4 soldiers and one “tracker”
( indigenous Koi-San” sign specialist”).
We left our camp after sunrise and were about two miles away from the O.P. when the Tracker suddenly started beating on the roof of our Ford F100 4X4 truck, this was how they communicated information to the driver.
We had been traveling at about 40 mph. in the loose desert sand yet, the speed was no match for our tracker who communicated the following information to me: “There are 6 adult lions, two males and four females, heading in the direction of our O.P. peers! They are hungry, judging by the length of their stride.
I was stunned by this news because this threat is in many ways more deadly than guerilla night attack. I ordered them to mount up. As we approached the O.P.site, (a Baobab tree) no one could be spotted under the tree and dread descended on me, Just then our tracker pointed to a spot in the foliage of the same tree, 3 meters above the ground!
To the unfamiliar, a Baobab is pictured in the banner image above this article, as can be clearly seen, the trunk is devoid of low-hanging branches.
Sure enough, there they were all six of them, every man-jack was up there! Even our camp mascot, a broad framed man of 250 pounds, nicknamed “Stumbo” who was sitting in the nook of a thick branch, a meter above the rest.
The extent of their situation only became obvious when we realized that they were unable to climb down the three meters above the ground and we had to position our truck beneath the tree for them to get down.
They were unable to give a sit-rep because during their frenzied dash up the branchless tree-trunk the radio and guns were left below at the base of the tree.
Several hilarious accounts were shared with us, One of which was told by a person who had walked over to a “tree stump” to answer the call of nature. within seconds of staring the process, a deep growl came from the “tree stump” at which time there was a break in the heavy cloud base, allowing the half-moon to reveal the yellow glint in the eyes of a lioness. His backward lunge covered about two meters. Another bloke, who grew up in that part of Africa, smelled the nearby musty smell of an African predator and thinking it be coming from a Hyena, he shouted “Scoot” which would be sufficient to send it running off with its tail tucked between its legs.
This one was stubborn and didn’t even flinch! Leaning forward there was no mistaking the silhouetted mane of a male lion. Shouting aloud profanity and the word Leeu! (Lion!) in Afrikaans, which was instantly met with a volley of 7.62 F.N. browning assault rifle shots coming from the other side of the gigantic tree, instantly followed by the sound of rolling thunder as the pride of lions rapidly fled the scene.
The fact that these animals ran off was pure divine providence and no one was more surprised by this than our tracker…