This is an excellent and well-written book which tells the story of the Rhodesian Special Air Service - one of the best fighting forces in the world. The author documents the history of the Rhodesian SAS, from the early days in the Western Desert during WWII to the foundation of the Rhodesian SAS in Malaya, then back to Africa, where the SAS saw action through Federation and the UDI (Unilateral Decalaration of Independance).
While many books have been written about the Rhodesian bush war, this book stands out as exceptionally well-written and informative. To put this book into it's context, Rhodesians fought one of the most determined and tactically brilliant counter-insurgency wars of modern times for seven years, against huge odds. They were in an impossible strategtic situation with long and exposed borders, diplomatically isolated, the subject of economic sanctions, using obsolete military equipment and had severe manpower restrictions.
White Rhodesian casualties were proportionally ten times those suffered by the Americans in Vietnam, while the bush war itself was the most bitter struggle that has been fought in sub-Saharan Africa. While the insurgents were not winning, the Rhodesian military always conceded that a military victory was an impossibility and that the conflict could only be finally resolved by political means.
That Rhodesia fought on for so long against such huge odds and despite the many obstacles and lack of support from the west and the lack of vision and forsight of many of her politicians serves to illustrate the skill and bravery of her citizen-soldiers. The men of the Rhodesian SAS, among many others, epitomised this skill and bravery and this book tells their story.
Before this book, very little was publicly known about this highly-professional special forces unit, which traced its ancestry back to the Western Desert and the Malayan Emergency. This rather unique book tells the story of the exploits of this elite force, based on interviews with many of those involved together with records and documents which left Rhodesia as the bush war ended.
"The Elite" is one of those books which reads like an adventure novel but is factual from start to finish (truth IS stranger than fiction), relating the stories of operations detailing not only the political and miltary motivations but the stories of the men who carried out some amazing missions (and anyone with any military background will realise just how courageous many of these missions were). The Rhodesian SAS operated mostly across the borders, carrying out audacious deep-penetration missions inside neighbouring Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. The soldiers of the Rhodesian SAS rarely lost a battle, but in the end this was of little or no consequence as the political pressures on this small country became overwhelming.
To conclude, if you're interested in the history of the Rhodesian bush war or special forces in general, this is a fascinating and well-written book which will keep you engrossed from start to finish. It's written from the Rhodesian point of view so don't expect too much in the way of "political correctness" or sympathy for the terrorist leaders`Nkomo and Mugabe. What this book does do, and it does it well, is preserve the memory and tell the story of one of the finest fighting forces the world has known.
After reading this book from cover to cover, the final thoughts that came to my mind were of all those Rhodesians who died fighting for their country - and while the quote is from another time, another place and another country, the sentiments remain the same.
"They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them."
("The ANZAC Dedication", for those who are unfamiliar with this elegy to the memory of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in two World Wars)