Stories about Teddy
Obviously, there are many stories to be told about Teddy and his long and happy relationship with the Recces.
One night, one of the Operators was tasked to give Teddy some food, as he was occasionally fed while at Fort Doppies. This particular Operator did not appreciate being tasked to do this job in his free time and was quite annoyed. Taking the meat for Teddy, he went to look for him and found him not far outside the front gate of Fort Doppies.
It appeared to the Operator that Teddy was in an uncharacteristically bad mood, as he growled at the Operator and made striking movements with his front paws. Teddy also didn’t look in good shape. The Operator was also not in a good mood at having been tasked to feed Teddy and this unusual and annoying behaviour towards him by the lion further annoyed him.
The Operator therefore unceremoniously threw the meat towards Teddy instead of taking it right up to him and stood there shouting at the lion for a few minutes. He then went back into Fort Doppies and walked into the pub – where he saw Teddy sitting at the feet of the other Operators.
The Operator had found, fed and shouted at a wild lion.
In later times, Teddy used to like walking into the Operators sleeping quarters during the night or early hours of the morning and would jump on top of them in their beds and try to go to sleep there – while crushing them. Teddy’s sudden appearance would also terrify the few visitors who occasionally entered Fort Doppies. As a result of this, some anti-Teddy barriers were erected around the housing during period when visitors were going to visit, or when the Operators needed a good night’s sleep. Visitors coming to Fort Doppies who had not been there before were also informed about Teddy when they arrived.
At one stage, a group of cabinet ministers arrived for a visit to Fort Doppies. This visit was not looked forward to by the Operators due to their apolitical mentality and the fact that some of the statements that had previously been made by one of these cabinet ministers in South Africa did not conform with the Operators view of human relations in our country.
Therefore, when the group arrived, it was neglected to inform them of the existence of Teddy and it was also neglected to inform them that the toilets at Fort Doppies were situated well outside the anti-Teddy barriers. To this day, no-one can figure out how we actually forgot to tell them, or how we forgot to task anyone to tell them.
Consequently, and possibly through a stroke of grace, the very person who had made the unwelcome statements decided to go to the toilet first, which he did. Having completed what he went to do, he opened the door of his toilet cubicle to leave and found himself face-to-face with a huge male lion, sitting on its haunches right outside his toilet cubicle, looking him right in the eyes.
Although some of the Operators in retrospect thought that they heard the screams as they started, this just happened to coincidentally coincide with the volume of the radio in the lounge being turned up substantially so that nothing more could be heard. It was not until several hours later that the person’s disappearance was noted and a search action was launched – which strangely enough started searching on the opposite side of the base to the toilets and arrived only much later at the last point of search – the toilets – where a very peaceful Teddy had fallen asleep outside the only closed and bolted cubicle.
Fort Doppies was never visited by these people again.
Teddy enjoyed staying with the operators in the "Survival Camp", to much pleasure and aggravation too, depending on whether you were at the short end of his antics or not! He used to regularly sleep in the "bivvie" (a small bush shelter) of one of the operators, forcing him to sleep outside, only to have Teddy virtually destroy the shelter when he started playing around with blades of grass or items that drew his attention.
One of the operators recalls this years later:
"Early during 1980 our 5 RR selection group moved to the base camp at Fort Doppies after completing our Tracking and Survival course and were allocated to our different bungalows for the first time in our recce career.
We were aware of the existence and presence of Teddy the Lion, but had not seen him at all during the day of our arrival at the camp.
The late Basie Riekert was slept together with me in the same bungalow and at some point during the middle of the night I was woken by a blood curling scream from the direction of Basie's bed where he was sleeping. I instinctively went into action as I thought we were being attacked and to my consternation I witnessed an incredible sight in the half darkness of the low moonlight that was shining through the open side of the bungalow.
What I saw was a huge lion on top of Basie's bed, licking him in the face and his full weight pinning Basie down. It was a terrifying sight and momentarily I hesitated as to what to do till it dawned on me that it had to be Teddy the lion who had decided to lie down a bit with Basie. At that point everyone in the camp was awake and roars of laughter emanated from the direction of some of the permanent staff's bungalows in the camp.
It took Basie and the rest of us “new looks” a while to settle down and to get Teddy off Basie's bed and out of the bungalow and to barricade the entrance to prevent Teddy from returning.
We learned later on that one of our instructors, namely Capt Jakes (Jakkerbos) Jakobs had a pathological fear of Teddy and did not trust this tame Lion as far as he could see him. With this valuable knowledge in mind, us “new looks “ decided to pull a prank on Jakkerbos and late one night opened the entrance to the bungalow where Jakkie was sleeping so that Teddy could do a repeat performance on him, as he did on Basie. Miraculously it worked like clockwork and again at some ungodly hour of the night we were woken by screams and shouts and the most obscene swear words from the direction of Jakkie's bungalow. We knew that Teddy had revenged some of the hammerings that Jakkie had dished out to us on Survival Course.
Teddy was a great source of
amusement to visitors and residents of Fort Doppies alike. During early 1981 a
selection course had just finished their selection and was moved to Fort
Doppies camp where they were going to progress to their Minor Tactics course.
Amongst these students were the infamous, or later to become famous, Civvie
Burger, a former Pretoria Municipality bus driver with a reputation of driving
skills never heard of before. Amongst his many talents was gymnastics, the trampoline being his favourite.
As tradition would have it, all the facilities at Fort Doppies were thrown wide open for the successful candidates and the free beer was flowing till every aspiring Recce had more than his fill and Dewaldt De Beer declared the pub closed and maneuvered the prospective Recces out of the pub. Civvie Burger, who was in very high spirits at that stage, strolled past the trampoline outside the mess with his hands in his trouser pockets, a sigarette dangling from his lips and a cap fitted backwards on his head followed by his aspiring partners. This was when one of his fellow students cried out : “ Civvie please give us a demo on the trampoline man, we all know you can do it. ” Civvie, never a man to miss a challenge, bounced effortlessly onto the trampoline without taking off his cap, removing his sigarette, or taking his hands out of his pockets. He commenced doing front salto's, back salto's, double forward and backward salto's, twists and other mind boggling maneuvers. Unnecessary to say the audience was standing agape. Never before in their entire lives had they seen an inebriated man carrying out feats like Civvie.
As fate had would have it, Teddy the Lion decided to stroll past the trampoline and Civvie immediately noticed him and bounced from the trampoline and grabbed Teddy by his tail with one hand and his testicles with the other and started twisting. The result was even more stunning than Civvie's trampoline acrobatics. Teddy let out a thundering roar and took off at full speed through the low bush with Civvie hanging on for dear life. Needless to say, a better or more spectacular introduction to fort Doppies could never be asked for by this aspiring group."
Honorary Operator Status
by the South African Special Forces'
Teddy the Lion >