Michael Graham, On Operations with C Squadron SAS (Pen & Sword, 2020)
In this, the third book on Michael Graham’s exploits in the SAS, the author takes us into the African bush to fight communist terrorists during the late 1960s and 1970s. His stories are sometimes hair-raising, sometimes amusing, but always interesting and worth reading.
The book opens by profiling the men we are about to meet and share their experiences, from General Peter George Walls down through the ranks. Next comes some maps and a brief history of the unit and its reorganisation into an effective fighting force. Then we are off and running, literally, on an account of an evasion training exercise. Active missions followed: recovering evidence, training Portuguese troops in Angola, assaulting an MPLA base, and hunting terrorists in Mozambique. In 1980, after 12 years of almost constant fighting and with defeat looming in Rhodesia, the unit disbanded with many going on to serve with the South African army. Graham also describes South African efforts to destabilize Zimbabwe and the possible assassination of guerrilla leader Samora Michel, though Graham was not involved in the latter. Graham concludes with a brief family and personal biography, culminating in his facing the reality that at the time of writing he had lung cancer and not long to live.
Graham is a terrific storyteller, writing in a journalistic style. His tales of combat are those of an authentic cold warrior fighting on the front lines of a proxy war. His perspective is personal and focused on his work, though he detours into an extended opinion of how the British let down Rhodesia after Margaret Thatcher was asked to help and refused. Fighting communists was Graham’s life for twelve years, so it is unsurprising how much he hates them, but he shows little understanding of the conflict beyond the stark realities of war. For those interested in small unit combat operations in Africa, this is a very good read.