Major Theunis Johannes Coetzee HC - South African Artillery Corps
SAMVOZA Western Cape - Veteran Theuns Coetzee HC MMM
During the night of 14 September 1985, at about 23h00, two South African vehicles were caught in an enemy ambush in Southern Angola. It happened during Operation Magnet, when the vehicles were travelling north on a dirt road.
Major Theunis Coetzee was driving the second vehicle with Lieutenant Leon Phillipson beside him and a medical orderly, Cpl Bruce Fidler, was on the back. Fidler was a medic who had Special Forces training where all Operational Medics and Operational Doctors were fully trained and equipped to accompany and support Airborne and Special Forces during operations. The battalion was based at Lyttleton, Centurion, near Pretoria.
An enemy ambush of about 40 men opened fire on both vehicles from a distance of about 50 meters. In the first volley, Major Coetzee was wounded in the left thigh and Lieutenant Phillipson in the right foot. They were all also wounded by fragments.
Coetzee attempted to get the vehicle out of range, but because of his wound he could not work the clutch, so stalled under the fire of the enemy.
Despite the heavy fire, Coetzee left the vehicle and tried to drag the badly wounded Cpl Fiddler off the back to safety. In his attempt, he was shot through the left shoulder, so he left the vehicle to seek cover. Phillipson then left the passenger side of the vehicle and helped the Major to reach cover, about 300 meters away. At first light Phillipson went in search of help, which he found.
Both men were awarded Honoris Crux medals. Presented by the then Deputy Minister of Defence Adriaan Vlok on the 5th July, 1986.