Viscount Down by Keith Nell
This is a top book and I loved it. It is a very personal view of a very particular part of the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1970s. For those not familiar with the era or the region, this war was between the incumbent (and politically isolated) Rhodesian government and Robert Mugabe’s and Joshua Nkomo’s forces.
Keith Nell’s book deals with the shooting down of two Air Rhodesia Viscount airliners in 1978 and his involvement in subsequent operations against the SAM-armed insurgents. The loss of the two airliners did not create any noticeable response from other nations’ governments and are, arguably, the most shocking killings of the war. This is due to the fact that ten of the eighteen survivors of the first shoot down were massacred shortly after the crash by members of Joshua Nkomo’s ZIPRA forces (there were no survivors from the second crash). The Rhodesian response to these events was vigorous to say the least and involved numerous cross-border raids against terrorist camps and a number of in-country operations.
The author has told an excellent story. The opening chapters describe the first crash, at times in quite painful detail, and the immediate rescue of survivors. Subsequent chapters cover Nell’s experiences on Rhodesian SAS selection (pretty impressive at the age of 37) and those of a turned insurgent and how they came to work together in a unit composed of turned terrorists. This unit is then used against the SAM-armed group to destroy them. It makes for a gripping read!
The book is granular in its approach and is based very much on first-hand experiences. The references at the back contain a lot of technical and contextual detail which add a lot to the story. That said, the sub title that it is ‘The complete story of the Rhodesian Viscount disasters…’ is a slight exaggeration as a lot of the international, continental and Rhodesian response to the attacks is not covered in any great detail but this is, arguably, a pedantic comment. Additionally, the book could have been better edited and the references better organised. These are minor gripes for what is a good book. I have no doubt that those who are anti-Rhodesian or pro-Zimbabwean will think Nell is biased in his approach and, given that he fought with the RSAS, they may well be right, but this takes nothing away from his book.
The accompanying DVD which can also be bought is a powerful and, at times, difficult to watch documentary. It tells the story of the two crashes through interviews with survivors and rescuers and is unsparing in its footage or detail and is well worth the money. There is some overly-loud background music and some rather stilted graphics; that said, it’s well worth watching.
I recommend the book and the DVD to all. They can be bought from Viscount Down
(they’re not yet on Amazon) and are well worth it. Buy them; they’re riveting stuff!
Four and a half out of five
untallguy Viscount Down
by Keith Nell self publsihed. Click here to go to website