This patch, held in my collection, is an original shoulder patch used by the mercenaries of 10 Commando who were under the command of Colonel Jean Schramme in the 1960’s. This version is known as the 2nd pattern of the patch and is distinguished from the earlier type by only having the outline of Lake Tanganyika in blue, whilst the first version had the entire lake in blue silk. Both of the original patches were made using the precise, machine embroidered, silk-bevo style of construction as seen in this example.
Collectors should note that there are numerous fakes of this badge, many of which originate from the same fakers who make all the ARVN and US Vietnam war patches that can be found on ebay and at the War Surplus market at Dan Sinh. Some fakes include the map of Lake Tanganyika, whilst others do not (see below). If you are interested in the mercenary insignia used in the Congo during the 1960’s, I would recommend that you try to find a copy of the late Gerard Lagaune’s excellent privately published reference, Histoire et insignes des parachutistes et des commandos de Pays des Grand Lacs.
10 Commando formed part of the 5th Mechanised Brigade, which was raised on the 1st of November 1964. It was led by Belgian mercenary, Jean Schramme. “Black Jack” Schramme was a teenager when he went to the Congo to run the family plantation, located to the north-east of Stanleyville. According to Christopher Othen’s in his book Katanga 1960-63: Mercenaries, Spies and the African Nation That Waged War on the World, Schramme completed his compulsory military service with the Force Publique in the Congo. Photographs of Schramme often show him wearing the Belgian 2 Commando Battalion beret and badge, but I suspect that this may be an affectation, designed to impress. Photographic evidence of Congo mercenaries show several wearing the berets and insignia of units that they had never actually served with and the practice was not uncommon.
In the troubles that followed independence in 1961, Schramme fled to Uganda and then moved to Katanga where he took part in the fighting, forming a group recruited from local tribes near the Kansimba region which he referred to as the “Leopard Group”. After that period of fighting ended in 1963 he moved across the border into Angola before returning in 1964 with his now named 10 Commando which operated out of Fizi-Baraka to the East of the province of Maniema and not too far from a plantation that he had once controlled.
In 1967, 10 Commando was part of the revolt against the government of Colonel Mobuto Sese Seko who had become president two years previously. In early August, Schramme’s 10 Commando captured the border town of Bukavu, holding it for 7 weeks despite repeated attempts by the government ANC forces to recapture the town. On October 29, 1967 the ANC forces finally recaptured Bukavu and the soldiers of 10 Commando fled towards Rwanda crossing the border on the 13th of November 1967, where they were disarmed, ending the existence of this colourful mercenary unit.