Carry on Padre
This enthralling book of 192 pages is all about the admirable Pierre van Blommestein and those people he was exposed to and what he experienced in an extraordinary country called South Africa. He was a devoted citizen-son-soldier-chaplain-husband-father-friendwho lived in a land enduring continued political strife and war.
The title of Pierre van Blommestein’s book, “Carry on Padre - Memoirs of an Army Chaplain in Apartheid South Africa”, says it all.The author shares his experiences of the South African Border War and township duties with his reader. During his time, an undeclared war raged in Angola and South West Africa (now called Namibia) that involved a generation of White men. The young Pierre van Blommestein was part of the more than 600,000 men called up by the South African Defence Force for compulsory military service, of whom over half served in the “operational area”. Almost every White male served in uniform in some way or other - in the Permanent Force, as a ballotee prior to 1964, as a National Service conscript later on and eventually as a member of the active citizen force.Much of what they did remains secret. Our author dares to lift part of the veil.
But the book is also about ordinary life in Apartheid South Africa. The writer shares his personal views concerning Apartheid South Africa and how he felt about the political-economic-social inconsistencies in existence then.It is very honestly done by a man who had grown up as part of an ‘enlightened’ Presbyterian family.
What is wonderful about this book is that the reader can share titbits of information about the life of a man who lived in South Africa during those tumultuous political times, and can associate with the dramatic transformation the country underwent from war to peace in April 1994. It must have been interesting for a man with liberated political viewsto have served in the military during operations in South West Africa/Namibia and southern Angola, and to be part of this radical change.
Pierre van Blommestein’s book “Carry on Padre” brings another important truth to the reader –that the war in southern Africa was not for nothing. Struggle over time brought peoples,soldiers and politicians to their senses about the realities of the situation. Hopefully those in power today will remember this important lesson, lest history repeat itself!
Thank you, Pierre van Blommestein, for supporting us through those stormy times, when our anchors held strong and did not waver, and for sharing with us your unforgettable experience of military service in South Africa.I still find myself under the impact of this book. It is exalting, gripping and truthful!
At South Africa’s call, you and your family and many of your fellow soldiers and friends did not falter. It was both an honour and privilege to write this review.
Major General Roland de Vries, former Deputy Chief of the South African Army, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, 5 October 2014.