Life-saving; sky-diving; Reserve Pilot extraordinaire Ian Pringle recounts the greatest battle of the Rhodesian Bush War – Operation Dingo – in his stunning new work Dingo Firestorm. We caught up with the Cape Town, S.A. resident -a retired BP and Castrol Business Executive – on the eve of the UK publication of his work.
Tell us about your military service.
I was a Reserve Pilot serving in the Police Reserve Air Wing during the hostilities both in an armed and unarmed capacity.
A personal highlight was when I received a special commendation for landing on a rural tar road near midnight in a fixed wind aircraft with only a Land Rover’s lights to guide me down. I picked up a severely injured train driver (the train had been rocketed by guerrillas) and flew him to hospital, which saved his life.
Besides flying my main hobby was skydiving. I attained the all-Africa record by completing 71 jumps in one day for fundraising. I think I still hold the record!
When did you begin work on ‘Dingo Firestorm’ and complete it and how did it come to be commissioned?
I began ‘Dingo Firestorm’ in 2009 and in 2011 I sent my manuscript to Random House Struik (RHS) in Cape Town and to Helion (via 30 Degrees South).
I was blessed that both agreed to publish the book. It was published in South Africa by Zebra Press (part of RHS) in June 2012 and the agreement was that Helion would have the rights for publication in Europe and the USA, which is where we are now.
What can readers expect from your book and what did the research process involve?
The book essentially describes the biggest battle of the Rhodesian Bush War – a risky air and ground assault on Robert Mugabe’s headquarters and another base deep inside hostile territory (Mozambique) using virtually the entire Rhodesian Air Force in a huge roll of the dice as Rhodesia was fighting desperately for survival.
I interviewed the key people who organised, authorised and participated in the operation – including three exclusive interviews with senior commanders (one of whom was the Supreme Military Commander) and who all, coincidentally, died just weeks after I interviewed them.
Battle logs, Special Branch films and two years of research supplement this work. Also, my own experience of flying helicopters and jets, in particular the Hawker Hunter, is an especially personal ingredient I’ve thrown into the mix.
The early chapters set the political and military backdrop and why this risky operation was undertaken – as well as painting a picture of the key personalities involved.
What have you learned and what do you think others will learn from your work? What do you think is your book’s relevancy today against the backdrop of other conflicts unfolding internationally?
Operation Dingo is a classic example of a small force using tightly coordinated air and ground strikes to lethal effect against a much larger force . 184 paratroops and heli-troops took on a force of many thousands. Its success was largely down to bold thinking, meticulous planning and the element of surprise. Also, only the best troops were deployed on Operation Dingo. It could have gone so badly wrong all too easily and nearly did, which would have left Rhodesian soldiers trapped deep inside enemy territory. Every aircraft attacking the target was hit by ground fire, but only one jet was lost.
The book is relevant today in that it describes how a small force changed the counter-insurgency pattern of defensive warfare into an offensive campaign that hit the enemy hard and in his own domain.
How do you plan to celebrate the launch of your book and do you have any plans to write a follow-up title or other books for Helion?
I had a celebration when the book was launched here last year.
In regards to follow-up titles for Helion, I am working on my latest project right now. Duncan has indicated he would be keen to publish it in a similar fashion with RHS.
‘Dingo Firestorm. The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War’ by Ian Pringle is available to buy from Helion and Company Ltd (£25.00).
Praise for ‘Dingo Firestorm’
“Once I started reading it I did not want to put it down … As I read the build up to the attack I could feel the tension in me rising and by the time of Rich Brand’s opening cannon fire it was almost as if I was there again.”
Sergeant Kevin Milligan – parachute jump instructor RhAF, who participated in the raids recounted in the book