Original South African Army Hunter Group paratrooper flash
The Hunter Group was the first South African Special Forces unit.
Some of the member went on to serve in 2 Recce Commando.
Size: 52 mm
Richt Arm Flash
Colin Owen nr. C387
Information regarding the Hunter Group:
The Hunter Group are considered to be the “mother” of the South African Special Forces. Most of the information on this website comes from a very interesting book (2 volumes): Clear the way: the military heritage of the South African Irish 1880-1990 by Monick and Baker.
The 1960s saw a worldwide increase in insurgency, especially in Africa, conducted by armies or guerrilla bands using unconventional military methods. The Hunter Group grew out of the need to counter the threat posed by this new form of warfare. The Hunter Group, thought little known outside the SADF community, was the first counter-insurgency (COIN) unit formed by the SADF, officially in May 1968 at Doornkop, south of Johannesburg.
Plans for the Hunter Group were developed by amongst others Col Gil van Kerckhoven (CO of SA Irish Regiment ’65-’69) and martial arts specialist George (Joe) Grant-Grierson (1927-2007) and were quickly put into effect. Initial Hunter Group formation and selection procedures were established, and a cadre was formed from members of the Irish Regiment. Trainees participated in 240 hours of training over a twelve-month period at the Doornkop military base. The volunteer training was conducted at weekends and by night during the week, and covered such things as unarmed combat, bush craft, buddy aid, field navigation and survival, riot control, the laying of landmines and booby traps, tracking and the use of attack dogs, and defensive and offensive driving. They were also given instruction in propaganda; guerrilla tactics, theory and thought; and stress and shock training. The members were taught terrorist tactics and theory from experts who had seen fighting in Rhodesia, Angola or the Congo. The Hunter Group trained over 1800 volunteers in part time training including Permanent Force officers and instructors, and many members later assisted in the formation and/or training of various other specialized SADF units including the Reconnaissance Regiments, Special Service and parachute units, including 32 Battalion that came later. Following Col van Kerckhoven´s departure from the Irish regiment, the Hunter Group led an independent existence during the period 1970-1974; at which latter date it developed into 2 Reconnaissance Commando. In 1981, it was re designated as 2 Reconnaissance Regiment. As part of the process of rationalisation and the discontinuation of the Citizen Force concept in the South African military, 2 Reconnaissance Regiment was retired in 1992. The unit emblem of 2 Reconnaissance Regiment was the Hunter Group scorpion, within the wings of a bat, above the compass rose. Their motto didn’t change: “We dare – Ons Waag”.
After a while the men undergoing the Hunter training sought some kind of recognition and Col van Kerckhoven formally applied for a qualifying badge. They had, during the course of intense training, developed a patrol formation which van Kerckhoven likened to a scorpion. Two probing claws comprising two pairs of men each at a distance as far apart as the bush would allow for control; the intention being to ensure that one claw or other would outflank any ambush party and cause them to pull out. The patrol commander followed in the centre; with communications and a tail element covering and bringing up the rear, which could in the event of a contact be whipped forward to support either of the claws should contact be made. So much time was used in the training and instruction of the cycles of new volunteers that the patrol formation of the scorpion was not really tested by the hunters at the time. But it was the basis of the adoption of the scorpion symbol. The scorpion was also chosen for its unobtrusive deadliness, being quietly and efficiently able to deal with prey much larger than itself. The danger from a scorpion lies in the sting at the tip of its tail, not in the big pincers near its head where it is expected.
Lt Gen Willie Louw, then Chief of the Army, approved of the scorpion symbol to be worn as a sleeve roundel by those fulfilling many hours of voluntary extra training successfully. At the passing out parade of Course No 4 in June 1969 over 60 men, including a naval contingent from SAS Rand, became the first to wear the coveted and distinctive scorpion badge, signifying that they had completed a minimum of completely voluntary Hunter training, in addition to normal unit parade responsibilities. Official SADF recognition for the scorpion badge was granted in 1970. An official press release dated 17 august 1970 states:
“Brigadier H.R. Meintjes, SM, Officer Commanding Witwatersrand Command states that advanced individual training undertaken by Citizen Force and Commando volunteers, generally known as Hunter Training, has been officially recognized and the scorpion badge may be worn by men who qualify. The course includes advanced weapons handling, close combat, navigation patrols and first aid courses run by volunteer CF and CDO (Commando) instructors. The volunteer instructor cadre wear badges comprising a silver coloured scorpion with an Infantry green background; these men have completed more than 240 hours of voluntary extra training. Other men qualifying wear a red coloured scorpion on a saffron background on their left sleeve. They are required to complete a minimum of 42 hours extra training”.