Stories of Remembrance

Army, Namibia (UNTAG) (1989-1990)Sergeant Mark Horner,Australian Army

We were the pathfinders. We were the guys who went over there with the funny blue helmets on. In today’s standards we were like Dad’s Army in terms of equipment, protection, weapons, and things like that. I went over with a rifle that didn’t work. We had very little feedback as to what the country was like.
Mark Horner

Mark Horner signed up for an army apprenticeship in 1980 as a sixteen year-old. In 1989 he was deployed to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia.

The Namibian War of Independence began in 1966 between the Namibians and South Africa. A ceasefire was finally agreed to in 1988 and UNTAG was deployed to assist the transition process towards peaceful elections, which were successfully held in November 1989, and to help build infrastructure for the new nation.

100,000 - 300,000 Namibians were expected to return from Angola and Zimbabwe into the north of the country along the Okavango River where Mark was stationed with the 17 Construction Squadron and a small contingent of British troops. In March 1989, a ‘nine day war’ erupted within 24 hours of the UN peacekeepers’ arrival in which 300 people were killed. But after this, the transition was mostly peaceful. More UN peacekeepers arrived from other nations and UNTAG was a success.

 Generally it was pretty peaceful, the most we had to worry about were the landmines… There was always this threat. In the back of our minds was the volatility of the region with this border war lasting 23 years and an aggressive South African Defence Force with tanks and personnel carriers always present and the UN force wedged in between on a thin blue line.

Mark and the other engineers designed and constructed water reticulation systems, built fences and concrete slabs for tents; essentially building a displaced persons camp. They regraded roads and a school, water and power were provided for the local people. The engineers also provided a ready reactionary force as well as a landmine and UXO (unexploded ordinance) demolition assistance where required.

Mark returned to his wife and children in Sydney. He was promoted to Corporal then Sergeant a year later. Retiring from the Australian Defence Force in 2000, Mark became a teacher at TAFE.

Mark's story was featured in the exhibition Peace held at the Shrine of Remembrance.
 

This Story of Remembrance was compiled through the research of the Exhibitions and Collections team at the Shrine of Remembrance.

  • Name Mark Patrick Horner
  • Service Number 322757
  • Date of Birth 17 November 1963
  • Place of Birth Caulfield
  • Date of Enlistment 17 March 1980
  • Date of Discharge 30 June 1994

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