Top 5 African Military History books for Christmas

From books on the Lomba to Angola; the Selous Scouts to the Rhodesian Light Infantry, here Duncan Rogers, our Publisher, shares his top five recommendations for African military history enthusiasts.

‘Battle on the Lomba 1987: The Day a South African Armoured Battalion Shattered Angola’s Last Mechanized Offensive – A Crew Commander’s Account’ by D. Mannall

Battle on the LombaDuncan says: “A visceral account of service in the Border War by a young South African soldier.”

Written – primarily – from David Mannall’s own perspective as Troop Sergeant and Ratel 90 Crew Commander tells about the day a South African Armoured Battalion shattered Angola’s last mechanised offensive. Whilst there are significant contacts, skirmishes and some amusing anecdotes throughout our three-month tour in Angola, the story hinges on a single action; a momentous day-long battle that turned a 25,000-strong Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola (FAPLA) offensive on its head, causing ‘the enemy to retreat in disarray’.

‘Bush War Operator. Memoirs of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scouts and Beyond’ by A. Baalam

Duncan says: Chris Cocks, author of the classic Fireforce, has said of this book: “The Bush War Operatorfinest account I’ve read on the Selous Scouts.”

From the searing heat of the Zambezi Valley to the freezing cold of the Chimanimani Mountains in Rhodesia; from the bars in Port St Johns in the Transkei to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa – this is the story of one man’s fight against terror… and his conscience.

Twice decorated – with the Member of the Legion of Merit (MLM) and the Military Forces’ Commendation (MFC) – Andrew Balaam was a member of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and later the Selous Scouts for a period spanning 12 years. This is his honest and insightful account of his time as a pseudo operator; a story that is brutally truthful, frightening, sometimes humorous and often sad.

South Africa’s Border War 1966-89’ by Willem Steenkamp & A.J. Venter (photographer)

South Africa's Border WarDuncan says: “A great single volume pictorial.”

Of all the books about South Africa’s 21-year ‘Border War’ – fought on both sides of Angola’s frontier with present-day Namibia – ‘South Africa’s Border War 1966-89’ has always been rated as among the best. A significant, full-colour volume, it originally sold 31,000 copies in South Africa alone and has been out of print for decades.

This version is the first re-issue of the original. Almost all the photos were taken by Al J. Venter who covered that conflict intermittently for almost two decades.

Both Steenkamp and Venter have gone on to produce other works on that bitter conflict, but neither they nor anybody else has been able to match this beautiful coffee-table volume. Both agree that the book should be regarded as a tribute to a generation of fighting men, where sons often followed in the footsteps of their fathers, serving in the same units a generation apart.

Iron Fist from the Sea: South Africa’s Seaborne Raiders 1978-1988’ by

Duncan says: “Contains a host of photographs and material not previously seen in Iron Fistpublic.”

Documenting the clandestine seaborne operations undertaken by South Africa’s 4 Reconnaissance Commando Regiment, this seminal work reveals the versatility and effectiveness of this elite unit, which worked with a range of other South African and Rhodesian forces – including the Rhodesian SAS – to engage in a range of raiding and war fighting activities.

Profusely illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs, ‘Iron Fist from the Sea’ stands as a testament to the author’s endeavours as, respectively, the former Operations Commander of 4 Recce and the former Commander Task Group of the SA Navy – as well as the incredible operators of 4 Recce.

Explosive and compulsive, it takes you right to the raging surf; to the adrenalin and fear that is seaborne raiding…

Watershed Africa Angola and Mozambique: The Portuguese Collapse in Africa 1974-75, A Photo History’ by W. Nussey

Duncan says: “Incredible photographs from a long time war correspondent.”Watershed

In the first quarter of 1974 the advance of African independence that began in Ghana in 1956 had ground to a halt in southern Africa. It had come up against a seemingly impenetrable wall of white and colonial rule; the Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique, the UDI regime in Rhodesia, South African rule in South West Africa (Namibia), and the apartheid government in South Africa itself. And then, on April 25, 1974, the wall cracked. A coup d’état overthrew Portugal’s dictatorship. Portuguese defence against the guerrilla movements in their colonies collapsed. In the next 19 months Angola and Mozambique fell into bloody anarchy from which emerged tottering new regimes struggling to survive their own civil wars.

Rhodesia was suddenly naked to attack through Mozambique and South West Africa from Angola. Abruptly southern Africa became a Cold War hot zone involving South African and Cuban forces. But the future was clear; this was the beginning of the end for white rule. It came five years later in Rhodesia and 15 in Namibia and South Africa. The trigger – the transition of the Portuguese colonies to self-rule – was captured in extraordinary detail by photographers of the Argus Africa News Service – a small, highly professional South African agency. These have been compiled here by its then editor, Wilf Nussey, who wrote the accompanying text.

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