SAS Action in Africa Terrorists Poachers and Civil War C Squadron operations 1968 - 80

SAS Action in Africa Terrorists Poachers and Civil War C Squadron operations 1968 - 80

Michael Graham
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
An interesting, very readable book, of some 199 pages detailing some of the activities of Sierra 17 of C Squadron of the Rhodesian SAS, during the intense war there and in Mozambique before black majority rule under ZANU PF in what is now Zimbabwe. The author was the officer commanding Sierra 17 during this period. The Rhodesian SAS were originally formed from history as C Squadron 22 SAS and have at the time this book relates too, kept the historical link with their founding Regiment.

This is his second book relating this history. He relates that his team were multifaceted in that they had like most Special Forces a very wide diversity of creeds cultures and backgrounds, including his own. Graham himself was a native born Lancashire man from Burnley who was brought up in Rhodesia. He tells of a time in history when there were many groups trying to overthrow the white minority government in Salisbury (Harare) and the ways they were dealt with, sometimes with most brutal efficiency.

The author in the first two chapters details the difficulties in working in the African hinterlands where at times the local animal life was just as much if not more of a hazard as the terrorists they were hunting. The use of the authors bird watching skills are shown in that bird life could be potentenial combat indicators but not just bird life but the movement of large animals such as elephants. They were truly at one with their environment. The communication between the civil administration through the police and game department is noted and Sierra 17 were called on to deal with police officers who were undertaking poaching of ivory. The terrorists also undertook poaching to maintain income and Sierra 17 being at one with nature worked hard to eliminate the poachers/terrorists. One does wonder who Graham and his team disliked more, poachers or terrorists but as most were one and the same the point is generally moot.

Following the shooting down of two Viscount passenger aircraft by hand held surface to air missiles, provided and people trained by the East German Army. Sierra 17 was tasked with dealing with the terrorists who undertook the shoot downs. Their methods of dealing with them would today be looked up as a potential legal minefield in particular the elimination of the missile operator. There was co-operation with the South African armed forces on occasion as both sides had the same agenda in dealing with security issues in particular the use of airpower for a strategic and tactical advantage.

Later he came to the issue of so called ‘pseudo gangs’ using turned terrorists to fight back against their erstwhile comrades, Graham is not particularly fond of this tactic but it did led to the setting up of the Selous Scouts under Colonel Ron Reid-Daly. A personal acquaintance of mine from many years ago who was in the Selous Scouts, said they never totally trusted anybody who came over to the Rhodesian forces. Conversely many served with great courage and distinction.

They did for a long time operate in Mozambique helping friendly forces through a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign against terrorist insurgents providing security food, medical care and using small transistor radios to listen to a radio station broadcasting from Rhodesia. They formed groups of soldiers from the Renamo organisation to take the fight to Frelimo government who were very active in terrorist operations along with ZANU. Graham and his team planned widely separated actions to keep Frelimo off balance and not knowing where attacks may take place. There during this time widespread use of air dropped supplies as well as ammunition and military supplies things like agricultural tools, seeds and fertiliser were also included in the resupply mission allowing the local supportive populace a measure of self sufficiency. Eventually they even attacked the capital of Mozambique This war went on for many years even after the SAS pulled out in 1980, handing the campaign over to the South Africans until both protagonists fought themselves to a standstill when the mortality rate rose so high and eventually democratic elections were held.

This was a war fought on foot with very little in the way of transport to help them except to their ingress and egress points. Working in a very austere environment Sierra 17 had a large measure of resilience and more importantly freedom of action in dealing with their designated tasks. C Squadron was disbanded in 1980 and the author Michael Graham ending up in New Zealand, he does not relate what happened to his colleagues in their retirement.

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