The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 3 - December 1968

Tribute to late Brigadier C. E. Borain, DSO, MC, VD, ED,
Donors' Representative on the Board of Trustees of the S. A. National War Museum

First photo

Brigadier C. E. Borain.

South Africa lost one of her most distinguished soldiers when Brig Clifford Ernest Borain, DSO, MC, VD, ED, died at Potchefstroom on 21st July, ten days after having a leg amputated - the result of being blown up in a minefield at Bardia in January, 1942.

Brig. Borain who was born at Durban on 3 January, 1892, commenced his military career at the age of sixteen, as a trumpeter in the Natal Mounted Rifles, Active Citizen Force. In 1913 he transferred to the Durban Light Infantry as a private. He was commissioned in 1914 and served in the German South West African Campaign. At the conclusion of this Campaign he volunteered for overseas service and served with the 6th S.A. Infantry Battalion in East Africa where he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross, when he assumed command of his Company at Wami River (his Company Commander having been killed) and with great skill fearlessly pushed forward to within 200 yds of the enemy's entrenched position and maintained his ground. The citation reads "At all times an able and fearless young officer imperturbable under fire, and sets an example to all". He was then promoted Captain and left for Britain where he joined the King's Royal Rifles with whom he served in France until the conclusion of hostilities. On his return to Durban he resumed control of the engineering firm of J. E. Brown & Sons. (later James Brown Structural & General Engineers, Durban). He also rejoined the Durban Light Infantry first as Adjutant, then Company Commander in 1921, Second-in-Command in 1928 and Commanding Officer, with the rank of Lt-Col., in 1930. On relinquishing command of the Durban Light Infantry he was appointed Brigade Commander, 7th Infantry Brigade (ACF). From 1936 to 1940 he was Hon. ADC to the Governor-General.

At the outbreak of World War II he was transferred to the Staff Corps and appointed Assistant Director Infantry Training, in addition to his duties as Commander 7th Infantry Brigade. In 1940 he was appointed Brigade Commander, 3rd Infantry Brigade. He commanded his brigade, as part of 2 S.A. Division with great distinction during the hectic days after the battle of Sidi Rezegh and especially in the two main attacks on Bardia, the second of which was launched on 31 December 1941 and resulted in the surrender of that fortress.

For his distinguished service he was mentioned in despatches, awarded the Distinguished Service Order and twice awarded the King's Commendation.

In January 1942 whilst doing a reconnaissance near Bardia he was blown up in a minefield. He was found unconscious and badly wounded about the head and back with both his legs badly smashed. That the medical personnel were able to save his life was remarkable - that they were able to save his legs was nothing short of a miracle. One leg caused him endless suffering and numerous operations right up to the time of his death.

After the war he was posted to the Demobilisation Directorate where he served as Chairman of the General Executive Committee under Lt-Gen. Geo. E. Brink, CB, CBE, DSO.

He was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the S.A. National War Museum in 1951 and continued to play an important role in the affairs of the Museum until his death.

South Africa has indeed lost a distinguished soldier with the passing of Cliff Borain.

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