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The Elite: The
story of the Rhodesian Special Air Service
by Barbara Cole
3 Knights Publishing
Size 194x130mm, 461 pages, 56 b/w photographs, maps. Softback
ISBN 0 620 08517 7
The Rhodesian Special Air Service, one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world, operated almost exclusively across the Rhodesian border during the long bitter bush war undertaking deep-penetration missions against insurgents being harboured inside neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia.
There were missions into Botswana too and at one stage. They were operating without benefit of passport in all three neighbouring black territories at the same time.
Long before the war escalated and the whole region became their battlefield, secret clandestine missions across the border were undertaken by Special Air Service operators, Later, when the situation intensified, they were responsible for some of the most audacious and highly sensitive missions of the war.
Yet little is known of this highly-professional Special Force unit which had its beginnings in the days of the Malayan Emergency and like its parent unit. the British SAS. boasted the coveted and very apt motto. Who Dares Wins.
Even before the men of the elite, carefully-selected Special Air Service mounted their most daring tasks far from home the then Minister of Defence MrJack Howman said: "My only regret is that the exploits of the SAS cannot yet be disclosed to the public so that they can share my pride in full.".
Fought against the magic and madness of a changing Africa, against almost insuperable odds, against two terrorist armies who were aided and abetted by the armies of their host nations and backed by Russia and China, two of the world's superpowers, the role of the Special Air Service was unique. The Commander of Combined Operations, Lieutenant-General Peter Walls, while reluctant to single out any one unit, was to acknowledge this after the war.
It is this unique story that the writer set out to discover, and this book - the First ever released to fully detail the secret exploits of the elite Regiment - has been based on rare interviews with the very people involved in the SAS's many and varied operations, the heroes of an era. Some of their exploits may seem far-fetched, even impossible, but then truth is often stranger than Fiction.
It is a history of high-adventure and daring, courage and humanism, be it driving through the streets of a neighbouring city. walking bold as brass down those of another, knocking out trains, bridges and vital installations or swooping out of the morning skies, then with the ability to hit hard and fast, attacking and taking their leave, the devastation complete, the mission accomplished. Nowhere was out of reach or safe from SAS attack and no target too big.
The writer takes the reader from the early days in the Western Desert to the formation of the Rhodesian SAS for service in Malaya, then back to Africa where the action spans the days of the Federation . .. the UDI era ... and finally the decolonisation of Rhodesia by the British in 1980.
The SAS was not in the habit of giving out medals for what was no more than expected from its operators. Outstanding deeds of gallantry were honoured however, and one SAS operator and one former officer, were the only two soldiers in the security forces to have been awarded the country's highest military honour, the Grand Cross of Valour, equivalent to the Victoria Cross and the American Congressional Medal of Honour. Both held the Silver Cross of Rhodesia and one also had the Bronze Cross, making him the only holder of the "hat-trick" and thus the most decorated member of the security forces.
Paying tribute to the Rhodesian Special Air Service. Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid-Daly. the legendary and extraordinary founding commander of the Selous Scouts - and himself a former SAS man - had this to say: "It was a thoroughly professional unit, which, in my opinion, more than lived up to the standards set by the British SAS."
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