Gallantry Award - Veteran Johannes Antonie (Toni) Venter HCS (1 Parachute Battalion)
Venter, Lance Corporal Johannes Antonie (44 BDE, SAI, HCS)
Lance-Corporal Venter was a member of the Pathfinder wing of 1 Para Bn., which was deployed together with a team from Military Intelligence in support of Operation Modular.
On 5 September 1987, information was received that an enemy infantry force of about 300 men, had crossed the Lomba River with orders to seek and destroy artillery positions.
On 6 September the team was deployed in support of an observation party from 32 Bn. to locate the enemy force and bombard it with artillery before it could find the artillery positions.
The operation led to an unexpected encounter between a South African force of about 40 men and an enemy force of about 300.
During this action, which was accompanied by severe fire from enemy AK-47, RPG-7, B-10 and AGS-17 weapons, Lance Corporal Venter was carrying out fire-and-movement tactics when Lance-Corporal Coetzee, on Venter's right flank, called for help, as he was wounded.
Under heavy fire, Venter dragged his wounded companion about 40 meters to safety, while Lance Corporal Luus provided supporting fire. Venter found that Coetzee had been wounded in the right shoulder.
Luus then called for Venter's help. Once again Venter moved forward under a hail of bullets to Luus, and found Lance Corporal Melvin Benecke, who had been wounded in the head.
Venter and Luus then carried Benecke under heavy fire to a Casspir vehicle, where they could apply further treatment in relative safety.
At this point in the contact our forces were starting their retreat. The Casspir was still taking on heavy fire and had the left rear wheel was shot out, but it could still drive and was picking up men along the way while exiting the area.
Seven members were wounded in the contact and one of them, Lance Corporal Benecke died of his wounds during the withdrawal. He was the first South African to die in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The enemy casualties are unknown, but their attack on the artillery positions was effectively checked and they retired northwards across the Lomba River.