In memoriam: Dennis Croucamp

Dennis Croucamp was a combat veteran, author and adventurer who died at 2.30am on Saturday January 9.

Croucamp was a long-time sufferer of leukaemia and kidney disease, with his death was attributed to Covid-19.

Croucamp lived a very interesting life, and adventure seemed to be a main driving force. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) he served with the Rhodesian Light Infantry and Selous Scouts and was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia on October 23 1970 while serving with 3 Commando RLI.

His friend, Steve Hynds, related this memory on Facebook: “On March 18 1968, Lance-Corporal Croukamp was a section leader in 13 Troop, 3 Commando, when the troop, together with a platoon of The 1st Battalion, the Rhodesian African Rifles, was fiercely engaged by a gang of over 60 terrorists in the Zambezi Escarpment of North Mashonaland.

“The troop numbering only 12 men, was pinned down on exposed ground on the side of a hill feature which the terrorists had used to establish a strong defensive position. Despite the heavy automatic fire at close range, Croukamp twice crawled forward toward the terrorists’ base and engaged them with grenades,” Hynds continued.

“This action, taken on his own initiative and with complete disregard for his own safety, enabled the troop to redeploy into better positions. Again on his own initiative, Croucamp personally sited the troop light-mortar detachment in a good position, to prevent any terrorist escape along one flank of the area.

“Helicopter support was called for but because of the close cover, the pilot was unable to pinpoint the enemy. Lance-Corporal Croukamp was therefore ordered to indicate the terrorists’ position with smoke grenades. This entailed crawling forward across ground which was swept by heavy automatic fire to grenade-throwing distance.

“Throughout the action, which lasted nearly six hours, Croukamp displayed outstanding leadership for so junior a non-commissioned officer and conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire. His courage, determination and personal example were an inspiration to the whole troop. His prompt action in the initial stages of the engagement undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.”

Croucamp related his exploits in the Rhodesian War in his book entitled, Only My Friends Call Me “Crouks” / The Bush War In Rhodesia.

Locally, Croucamp was known as a diver who started Kowie Dive, now Outdoor Focus, and in the 1980s discovered the wreck of The Briseis that sank in 1859 at Fountain Rocks just short of the Kowie River estuary. The ship sank while returning from India with a cargo of coir, sperm oil, cotton and ivory. The wreck was lying at a depth of 12m and the wreckage is scattered over approximately 150m, and tons of chain, her four anchors and lots of other odds and ends are still to be seen. She was reputed to carry gold and silver but, to date, none has been found.

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