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In 1987–1988 the dusty Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale was the backdrop for the final battles of the Border War. Ever since the war ended, the fighting around Cuito has been the subject of a fierce public debate over who actually won the war.
While the leadership of the former South African Defence Force (SADF) claims it was never defeated, the supporters of the Angolan MPLA government, Cuba and SWAPO insist that the SADF was vanquished on the battlefield. They contend that the SADF wanted to overrun Cuito Cuanavale and use it as a springboard for an advance on Luanda.
But was Cuito Cuanavale ever really an objective of the SADF? Leopold Scholtz tackles this question by examining recently declassified documents in the SANDF archives, exploring the strategic and tactical decisions that shaped the six main battles, from the SADF’s stunning tactical success on the Lomba River to the grinding struggle for the Tumpo Triangle.
His incisive analysis untangles what happens when war, politics and propaganda become entwined.
What was it like to be a freedom fighter in the 1980s? Eighteen members of the ANC’s military underground tell their stories, describing their backgrounds, their roles in the armed struggle and their lives since the fall of apartheid.
In 1987, the apartheid minister of law and order boasted that the security forces had crushed Umkhonto we Sizwe in the Western Cape. He could not have been more wrong. The Ashley Kriel Detachment, named after one of their slain comrades, conducted over thirty operations between late 1987 and early 1990, playing a crucial role in the defeat of an unjust system. In Voices from the Underground, eighteen members of the AKD give accounts of their involvement in the armed struggle. The book traces their varying journeys into MK, via student activism, trade unions, religious organisations and UDF politics. It details their training in Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Cuba and South Africa, and their experiences of detention and interrogation. Members recall the stresses of couriering arms and explosives across police roadblocks, hiding in safe houses and evading capture. They talk about the operations they executed, the measures they took to avoid civilian casualties, and their responses to security breaches and the deaths of comrades in the line of duty.
Above all, this is a book about people, showing the effects of apartheid on their lives, their reasons for joining the armed struggle, the challenges of surviving in the underground while raising children, and their experiences of returning to civilian life or, in some cases, integrating into the SANDF.
Voices from the Underground gives a human face to ordinary people who took up arms to fight a violent state for the freedom of all South Africans.
In this riveting new book, John Laband, pre-eminent historian of the Zulu Kingdom, tackles some of the questions that swirl around the assassination in 1828 of King Shaka, the celebrated founder of the Zulu Kingdom and war leader of legendary brilliance: Why did prominent members of the royal house conspire to kill him? Just how significant a part did the white hunter-traders settled at Port Natal play in their royal patron's downfall? Why were Shaka's relations with the British Cape Colony key to his survival? And why did the powerful army he had created acquiesce so tamely in the usurpation of the throne by Dingane, his half-brother and assassin?
In his search for answers Laband turns to the Zulu voice heard through recorded oral testimony and praise-poems, and to the written accounts and reminiscences of the Port Natal trader-hunters and the despatches of Cape officials. In the course of probing and assessing this evidence the author vividly brings the early Zulu kingdom and its inhabitants to life. He throws light on this elusive character of and his own unpredictable intentions, while illuminating the fears and ambitions of those attempting to prosper and survive in his hazardous kingdom: a kingdom that nevertheless endured in all its essential characteristics, particularly militarily, until its destruction fifty one years later in 1879 by the British; and whose fate, legend has it, Shaka predicted with his dying breath.
Steve Joubert had always wanted to be a pilot and the only way he could afford to do so, was to join the South African Air Force in the late 1970s.
As an adventurous young man with a wicked sense of humour, he tells of the many amusing escapades he had as a trainee pilot. But soon he is sent to fight in the Border War in northern Namibia (then South West Africa) where he is exposed to the carnage of war. The pilots of the Alouette helicopters were witness to some of the worst scenes of the Border War. Often, they were the first to arrive after a deadly landmine accident.
In the fiercest battles their gunships regularly supplied life-saving air cover to troops on the ground.
Charlie Squadron – the iron fist of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group (61 Mech) – led the way on 3 October 1987 during the climactic battle between the South African Defence Force and the Angolan forces on the Lomba River in southern Angola. Ratels On The Lomba places the reader in the midst of the squadron of young conscripts who were taken off to the Border War to fight in this battle.
Not only were they up against a vastly superior Angolan force in terms of numbers and weaponry, but they also had to deal with terrain so dense that their sight was severely impaired and their movement restricted. Also, even though SADF tactical doctrine clearly stated that tanks had to be countered by tanks, these conscripts had to take on the Angolan tanks in armoured cars with inferior low-velocity guns and thin armour, designed to keep out nothing more than small-arms fire. Yet, during the battle on the Lomba the 47 Brigade of the Angolan forces was nearly wiped out.
Scholtz’z blow-by-blow account of a David vs. Goliath battle takes the reader to the heart of the action. It is honestly told and vividly described, thanks to interviews with veterans and diary entries that help to recreate the drama of the battle. It is an intensely human story of how individuals react in the face of death and how the war never left them, even when they returned home.
The Last Hurrah describes in vivid detail a pivotal moment not just in the history of South Africa, that far-flung imperial outpost, but of the British Empire itself. The year 1947 marked the high-water mark of the British Empire in Africa, but also the very moment at which it began to unravel, ahead of the Afrikaner Nationalist victory in South Africa in 1948, which led inexorably to the Republic of South Africa in 1961 and its departure from the Commonwealth.
Graham Viney's book not only superbly captures a moment in the life of a fractious, recently formed 'nation', before its descent into nearly five decades of darkness, but also gives us an intimate and revealing portrait of the royal family - King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret - hard at work in support of the national interest. It seems clear that the present Queen Elizabeth must have learned a great deal from her father, but perhaps particularly her mother, about duty and statecraft in the course of this three-month tour, during which the then princess celebrated her twenty-first birthday.
Viney evocatively details the background to the 1947 royal tour of southern Africa, which took in not just the length and breadth of what was then the Union of South Africa, but its neighbours, too: Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Swaziland (very recently renamed the Kingdom of eSwatini), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). The royal family travelled ceaselessly, from February to April that year, on a specially commissioned, white-painted train, meeting thousands of people at every stop along the way.
The tour was a show of imperial solidarity and a recognition of South Africa's contribution to the Allied cause during the Second World War, specifically that of South African prime minister Jan Smuts, who, though once an adversary in the Boer War and Churchill's jailer, had served in both British war cabinets and been nicknamed 'the handyman of Empire'. Despite concerns and ongoing controversy, wherever the tour took the Royal Family, South Africans of all kinds turned out in their thousands to cheer and welcome them. But India was to gain independence later that same year and just one year later, Smuts had been ousted from power and South Africa set on the path to becoming a republic.
The Last Hurrah draws skilfully on many diverse sources, including the Royal Archive at Windsor, to explore not just the troubled politics of the time, but also local society and the royal visitors in richly textured, telling detail. The book includes many photographs of the royal family on tour not previously published, including stills from film footage unearthed in the South African Railway Museum archives.
A riveting, action-filled account that sheds light on the realities of working in a war-torn country, this is the first book on the war in Iraq by a South African.
Johan Raath and a security team were escorting American engineers to a power plant south of Baghdad when they were ambushed. He had first arrived in Iraq only two weeks before. This was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years while he worked there as a private military contractor (PMC). His mission? Not to wage war but to protect lives. Raath acted as a bodyguard for VIPs and, more often, engineers who were involved in construction projects to rebuild the country after the 2003 war. His physical and mental endurance was tested to the limit in his efforts to safeguard construction sites that were regularly subjected to mortar and suicide attacks. Key to his survival was his training as a Special Forces operator, or Recce.
Working in places called the Triangle of Death and driving on the ‘Hell Run’, Raath had numerous hair-raising experiences. As a trained combat medic he also helped to save people’s lives after two suicide bomb attacks on sites he then worked at.
In A Man Apart Richard Steyn once again brings to life a South African icon. Louis Botha was the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, a union he did much to create in the decade after the devastation of the Anglo-Boer War. During the war Botha was a brilliant young Boer general who through his battlefield strategy won significant victories over the British in the early stages of the war. When the weight of British arms overhelmed the Boers, Botha along with Smuts did much to encourage peace between English and Afrikaner and led the country to Union in 1910 and dominion status.
Botha was a big-hearted and generous man who showed magnanimity in his dealings with all, including former enemies. He led the South African troops to victory and the capture of German South West Africa – prior to this he had to put down a revolt of pro-German Afrikaners. At the Peace of Versailles, representing South Africa, he pleaded unsuccessfully for magnanimity towards the Germans. Botha was a globally respected figure – he and Smuts effectively operated as a double act in South Africa and on the international stage before Botha’s untimely death in August 1919 at only 57. In A Man Apart this tragically short life is illuminated in full.
In 1987–1988 was die stowwerige Angolese dorpie Cuito Cuanavale die toneel van die laaste gevegte van die Grensoorlog. Sedertdien is dit die fokuspunt van ’n openbare debat oor wie eintlik hierdie oorlog gewen het.
Die leierskorps van die Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag (SAW) hou vol hulle is nooit verslaan nie, terwyl die alliansie van die Angolese MPLA-regering, Kuba en Swapo beweer hulle het die SAW uit Angola en Suidwes-Afrika verdryf. Hulle glo voorts die SAW wou Cuito Cuanavale beset en as afspringplek gebruik om Luanda in te neem.
Maar was Cuito Cuanavale ooit regtig ’n doelwit vir die Suid-Afrikaners? Dit is die vraag wat Leopold Scholtz vra wanneer hy onlangs gedeklassi-fiseerde dokumente in die weermagargief bestudeer en die taktiese en strategiese besluite ondersoek wat ’n bepalende rol in die ses groot veldslae van dié veldtog gespeel het.
Sy kritiese ontleding wys hoe maklik propaganda en politiek in die pad van feite kan staan.
A companion volume to the highly successful Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa, this features the pivotal sieges that characterised the Cape Frontier, Anglo-Zulu, Basotho and Anglo-Boer wars in one volume.
Accounts of 17 sieges over the last two centuries explore in detail the historical context in which they occurred, the day-to-day military actions that sustained the investments and the conditions both soldiers and civilians faced while defending their territory against a hostile force. The siege descriptions are animated by maps and a variety of information boxes and human-interest stories, gleaned from diaries, letters and eye-witness accounts, while longer features focus on the practical aspects of siege warfare, such as artillery, medicine, food, and the psychological effects of besiegement. The book also provides practical information for visitors who wish to explore these historical sites.
A fascinating read that will appeal to anyone interested in the volatile history of the country – armchair historians and travellers alike.
The remarkable, and often touching, friendship between Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts is a rich study in contrasts.
In youth they occupied very different worlds: Churchill, the rambunctious and thrusting young aristocrat; Smuts, the ascetic, philosophical Cape farm boy who would go on to Cambridge. Brought together first as enemies in the Anglo-Boer War, and later as allies in the First World War, the men forged a friendship which spanned the first half of the twentieth century and endured until Smuts’s death in 1950. Richard Steyn, author of Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness, examines this close friendship through two world wars and the intervening years, drawing on a maze of archival and secondary sources including letters, telegrams and the voluminous books written about both men.
This is a fascinating account of two remarkable men in war and peace: one the leader of the Empire, the other the leader of a small fractious member of that Empire who nevertheless rose to global prominence.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is rightly celebrated across the globe for his many extraordinary achievements in polar exploration. What many do not know is prior to undertaking a career surviving whatever the elements can throw at him, his life and the drive within him to succeed, was influenced and shaped by the military.
His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Scot’s Greys and killed during the Second World War leading his unit into action in Italy. The memory of his heroic dead father drove Ran’s desire to prove himself and thus led him to serve in his father’s own regiment, before migrating to the SAS, where he would serve with distinction. Over the subsequent years of adventurous exploration, risking his life on multiple occasions, Fiennes has developed a respect and admiration for all elite military units – the type of people who serve in them, the training they undertake, and the weapons they use. He has been fascinated by this area all of his life, and his new book The Elite perfectly encapsulates what he believes to be the evolution of the elite soldier over the centuries.
The Elite will have anecdotes of the connection Ran had with the memory of his war-hero father – before taking the reader through the history and evolution of how elite formations of troops have been created, why they were needed, and how the concept has evolved in terms of personnel selected, weapons used, and tactic implemented. As warfare has changed over the centuries, so has the need for elite forces grown. The Elite will chart this for the reader, with Ran personally selecting units from across the globe that made their mark – whether they be ancient Spartans, Swiss mercenaries from the Thirty Years War, or British commandos from the Second World War – who evolved warfare to the next stage.
For anyone interested in the books of Max Hastings, Antony Beevor, orBen McIntyre – this is a definite purchase for Christmas time. Containing stunning illustrations, as well as line drawings, the chapter structure allows the reader to dip into their favourite periods of history and read a whole essay on their favourite units.
Daar is nie ’n grondpad te sinkplaat, plaasdraad te hoog of aanwysings te gebrekkig om Jackie Grobler te keer nie. As hy eers ’n monument in sy visier het, sal hy dit vind.
In hierdie boek reis hy oor berge en dale van Lichtenburg in Noordwes tot die heuwels van Tabankulu in die Oos-Kaap. Grobler reis onder meer op die spoor van Voortrekker Carel Trichardt deur Mpumalanga en in KwaZulu-Natal gaan hy na die slagvelde van die Anglo-Zoeloeoorlog. In Gauteng vind hy monumente ter ere van twee van Suid-Afrika se grootste leiers: Nelson Mandela en Jan Smuts. In die Vrystaat soek hy na oorblyfsels van twee konsentrasiekampe en in Limpopo kom hy af op monumente aan ’n Anglo-Boereoorlogkanon (die Long Tom). Sy reise na die Oos-Kaap neem hom na gedenkplekke vir Steve Biko en in die Wes-Kaap gaan hy op die spoor van die Portugese ontdekkingsreisigers.
Elke provinsie sal ’n kaart hê wat die monumente aandui.
A young Namibian goes into exile to join SWAPO’s military wing, PLAN, in the late 1970s. After dedicating his life to the movement, a series of purges within the organisation lead to him being wrongfully branded an apartheid spy and traitor. So begins Oiva Angula’s terrifying story of betrayal and torture by his comrades, which culminates in imprisonment in the omalambo – the hidden pits in Lubango, Angola, into which he, along with many others, is cast and left to die.
SWAPO Captive threads together personal narrative and national history, including childhood impressions that hint at a racially segregated existence, the rising tensions sparked by the apartheid regime’s rule over South West Africa, his father’s role in early liberation movements, and Angula’s own politicisation and decision to join the struggle.
SWAPO Captive reveals little-known narratives from ‘the other side’ of the Border War: life in a PLAN training camp, political education in the Eastern Bloc, and a foot soldier’s role in the war for independence.
Angula also addresses the ‘wall of silence’ imposed after independence in Namibia with respect to possible war crimes committed by SWAPO, condemning the party that claimed to fight for freedom for all.
From the secret SAS archives, and acclaimed author Ben Macintyre: the first ever authorized history of the SAS.
In the summer of 1941, at the height of the war in the Western Desert, a bored and eccentric young officer, David Stirling, came up with a plan that was radical and entirely against the rules: a small undercover unit that would inflict chaos and mayhem behind enemy lines. Despite intense opposition, Winston Churchill personally gave Stirling permission to recruit the toughest, brightest and most ruthless soldiers he could find. So began the most celebrated and mysterious military organisation in the world: the SAS. Now, 75 years later, the SAS has finally decided to tell its astonishing story. It has opened its secret archives for the first time, granting historian Ben Macintyre full access to a treasure trove of unseen reports, memos, diaries, letters, maps and photographs, as well as free rein to interview surviving Originals and those who knew them.
The result is an exhilarating tale of fearlessness and heroism, recklessness and tragedy; of extraordinary men who were willing to take monumental risks. It is a story about the meaning of courage.
The first definitive history of the Mossad, Shin Bet, and the IDF’s targeted killing programs, hailed by The New York Times as “an exceptional work, a humane book about an incendiary subject.”
The Talmud says: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA. From the very beginning of its statehood in 1948, protecting the nation from harm has been the responsibility of its intelligence community and armed services, and there is one weapon in their vast arsenal that they have relied upon to thwart the most serious threats: Targeted assassinations have been used countless times, on enemies large and small, sometimes in response to attacks against the Israeli people and sometimes preemptively.
In this page-turning, eye-opening book, journalist and military analyst Ronen Bergman—praised by David Remnick as “arguably [Israel’s] best investigative reporter”—offers a riveting inside account of the targeted killing programs: their successes, their failures, and the moral and political price exacted on the men and women who approved and carried out the missions.
Bergman has gained the exceedingly rare cooperation of many current and former members of the Israeli government, including Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as high-level figures in the country’s military and intelligence services: the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), the Mossad (the world’s most feared intelligence agency), Caesarea (a “Mossad within the Mossad” that carries out attacks on the highest-value targets), and the Shin Bet (an internal security service that implemented the largest targeted assassination campaign ever, in order to stop what had once appeared to be unstoppable: suicide terrorism).
Including never-before-reported, behind-the-curtain accounts of key operations, and based on hundreds of on-the-record interviews and thousands of files to which Bergman has gotten exclusive access over his decades of reporting, Rise and Kill First brings us deep into the heart of Israel’s most secret activities. Bergman traces, from statehood to the present, the gripping events and thorny ethical questions underlying Israel’s targeted killing campaign, which has shaped the Israeli nation, the Middle East, and the entire world.
A fresh, nuanced look at an extraordinary woman and her lifelong fight for justice. Defying the constraints of her gender and class, Emily Hobhouse travelled across continents and spoke out against oppression. A passionate pacifist and a feminist, she opposed both the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War and World War One, leading to accusations of treason. Elsabe Brits travelled in her footsteps to bring to life a colourful story of war, heroism and passion, spanning three continents.
As kampvegter vir vrouestemreg en in haar uitgesproke teenkanting teen onreg is Emily Hobhouse ’n ikoon wat vandag nog inspireer. Ontdek die onbekende sy van ’n verbasend moderne vrou in hierdie volkleur pragboek propvol foto’s, interessante dagboekinskrywings en briewe. So gee sy ’n genuanseerde, vars blik op ’n buitengewone vrou wat voortdurend in die spervuur was. Van kleintyd het Emily haar verset teen haar lot. Vir vroue was daar min geleenthede en sy moes boonop haar siek pa oppas. Tog raak sy wereldwyd betrokke by die stryd teen onreg en oorlog. In twee oorloe het sy duisende lewens gered, en tog is sy – ’n ware patriot – in haar eie land onbekend en alleen dood.
This account of the decade that preceded the Soweto uprising of June 1976 not only transforms our understanding of this crucial flashpoint of South Africa’s history, but also creates a longer, more evolutionary, historical narrative for the overthrow of apartheid.
It argues that the suppression of opposition movements after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 did not lead to a period of ‘quiescence’, as many writers maintain, in which activists retreated into private acts of dissent and the opposition went underground, followed, a decade later, by a sudden eruption of the townships, first in Soweto, and then across the country. Rather, these years were marked by experiments in resistance and attempts to develop new forms of politics which prepared the ground for the uprising in Soweto, introducing new modes of organisation, new models of protest, and new ideas of resistance, identity, and political ideology to a generation of activists.
This book begins by showing how students at South Africa’s segregated white and black universities began to re-organise themselves as a political force; how new ideas about race reinvigorated political thought; and how debates around confrontation shaped the development of new forms of protest. The author then builds upon this narrative to show how protest began to move off university campuses and onto the streets: through the independent actions of workers in Durban, and then through attempts by students to link their struggles with a more public political agenda.
These actions made protest public once again, and helped establish the patterns of popular action and state response that would come to shape the events in Soweto on 16 June 1976.
A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world, by General Jim Mattis—the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time—and Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine.
Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis’s storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas—and short-sighted thinking—now facing our nation. He makes it clear why America must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles but fighting inconclusive wars.
Mattis divides his book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. In the first part, Mattis recalls his early experiences leading Marines into battle, when he knew his troops as well as his own brothers. In the second part, he explores what it means to command thousands of troops and how to adapt your leadership style to ensure your intent is understood by your most junior troops so that they can own their mission. In the third part, Mattis describes the challenges and techniques of leadership at the strategic level, where military leaders reconcile war’s grim realities with political leaders’ human aspirations, where complexity reigns and the consequences of imprudence are severe, even catastrophic.
Call Sign Chaos is a memoir of a life of warfighting and lifelong learning, following along as Mattis rises from Marine recruit to four-star general. It is a journey about learning to lead and a story about how he, through constant study and action, developed a unique leadership philosophy, one relevant to us all.
Night after night, he guided the U.S. Navy SEALs through Iraq's most dangerous regions. A translator operating under the code name "Johnny Walker," he risked his life on more than a thousand missions and became a legend in the U.S. special-ops community. But in the eyes of Iraq's terrorists and insurgents, he and his family were marked for death because he worked with the Americans. Fearing for Johnny's safety, the SEALs heroically took it upon themselves to bring him and his family to the United States. With inside details on SEAL operations and a deeply personal understanding of the tragic price paid by ordinary Iraqis, Code Name: Johnny Walker is a gripping and unforgettable true story that reveals a side of the war that has never been told before. Includes a new afterword on the rise of ISIS
The armed struggle waged by the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), was the longest sustained insurgency in South African history. This book offers the first full account of the rebellion in its entirety, from its early days in the 1950s to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South African president in 1994.
Vast in scope, this story traverses every corner of South Africa and extends throughout southern Africa, where MK’s largest campaigns and heaviest engagements occurred, as well as to the solidarity networks that the rebellion mobilised around the world. Drawing principally from previously unpublished writings and testimonies by the men and women who fought the armed struggle, this book recreates the drama, heroism and tragedy of their experiences. It tells the story of leaders like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani, whose reputations were forged in the crucible of the armed struggle, but it is also a tale of martyrs such as Looksmart Ngudle, Ashley Kriel and Phila Ndwandwe, as well as of MK cadres such as Leonard Nkosi and Glory Sedibe, who would ultimately turn against the ANC and collaborate with the state in hunting down their former comrades.
Written in a fresh, immediate style, Umkhonto we Sizwe is an honest account of the armed struggle and a fascinating chronicle of events that changed South African history.
Now a major motion picture directed by Clint Eastwood.
From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. His fellow American warriors, whom he protected with deadly precision from rooftops and stealth positions during the Iraq War, called him "The Legend"; meanwhile, the enemy feared him so much they named him al-Shaitan ("the devil") and placed a bounty on his head.
Kyle, who was tragically killed in 2013, writes honestly about the pain of war—including the deaths of two close SEAL teammates—and in moving first-person passages throughout, his wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their family, as well as on Chris. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle's masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.
Includes new material by Taya Kyle about the making of the American Sniper film.
Historian Karen Horn painstakingly tracked down a number of former POWs in which their interviews reveal rich narratives of hardship, endurance, humour, longing and self-discovery. Instead of fighting, these men adapted to another war, one which was fought on the inside of many prison camps.
In their interviews, all the POWs expressed surprise at being asked to share their experiences of almost 70 years earlier.They returned home in 1945 to a country which soon afterwards tried its utmost to promote national amnesia with regard to the country’s participation in the war.
With great insight and empathy, Karen Horn shines a light on a neglected corner of South African history. Karen Horn is a lecturer at Stellenbosch University.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Southern Africa was a jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. Into this frontier world came the Reitz family, Afrikaner gentry from the Cape, who settled in Bloemfontein and played a key role in the building of the Orange Free State.
Frank Reitz, successively chief justice and modernising president of the young republic, went on to serve as State Secretary of the Transvaal Republic. In 1899, he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Paul Kruger to resist Britain’s war of conquest in Southern Africa. At the heart of this tale is the extraordinary life of Deneys Reitz, third son of Frank Reitz and Bianca Thesen. The young Reitz’s account of his adventures in the field during the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), published as Commando, became a classic of irregular warfare. After a period of exile in Madagascar, he went on become one of South Africa’s most distinguished lawyers, statesmen and soldiers. Martin Meredith interweaves Reitz’s experiences, taken from his unpublished notebooks, with the wider story of Britain’s brutal suppression of Boer resistance.
Concise and readable, Afrikaner Odyssey is a wide-ranging portrait of an aristocratic Afrikaner family whose achievements run like fine thread through these turbulent times, and whose presence is still marked on the South African landscape.
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