This book, one of the earliest attempts to tell the human side of South Africaâ€™s Border War of 1966-1989, contains a series of recollections by men who performed operational duty in the South African Defence Force from the 1960s to the late 1980s, during which the SADF were actively engaged in a war in South West Africa (now Namibia) and southern Angola. What makes it almost unique perhaps is that, with one notable exception, all of the recollections are by men who served in non-combatant roles.
Having personally served in the SADF as a non-combatant from 1978 to 1980, and having spent just over a year in South West Africa during that time, I found this book to be an excellent read, with many of the contributorsâ€™ experiences mirroring my own. Each gives his impressions and thoughts on subjects ranging from the SADF itself to his training, requirement to do (military) national service and experiences whilst doing so, both at home and on operational deployment.
Some were also exposed to danger and subject to enemy attacks on their bases, proving that no soldier is safe in a war zone, even if his role is one of support. The stories are of men who did their duty, mostly without complaint, under circumstances and in surroundings that varied from the luxuriant to the primitive.
The recollections of the one combatant included in the book, a paratrooper and a member of that elite band who carried out the airborne attack on Cassinga in May 1978, are equally fascinating. Anyone wanting to know the real story of what happened there need only read his account, which not only gives credit to SWAPO tenacity in defeat, but clearly shows the myth about the so-called refugee camp at Cassinga to be just that â€“ a barely credible lie which denigrates the SWAPO insurgents who fought and died there that day.
This is an excellent first hand account of the Border War 1966-1989, as seen by the ordinary soldiers who served and fought in it. It held my interest throughout and I have no hesitation in recommending the book to anyone interested in the old SADF and the experiences of the men who served in it.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
Reviewed by Peter Chapman