About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Every military unit and every nation has its own heroes who stand steadfast even when the chips were down.
These are men who, faced with possible death, refuse to acknowledge its presence. In times of exhaustion, extreme danger, hunger, and great anxiety, they are able to control their fear and harness it to rally or save their colleagues, and in some instances, even save their countries. Yet, despite their exploits of immense personal courage, dedication and fortitude, these heroes inevitably find themselves abandoned and betrayed by their politicians and generals.
A Handful of Hard Men by Hannes Wessels must rank as one of the most riveting books on contemporary African military history that I have read. It is also a book that lays bare the many misconceptions about Rhodesia’s war for survival and exposes some of the great betrayals these soldiers have been forced to live with. Yet, even when they realised they were being sold out by the very politicians who sent them to war, these men continued to fight on and carry out their orders, not for the politicians or even their generals, but for one another and the unit they held dearly.
The Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) produced men of such exceptional calibre.
Hannes Wessels has captured the essence of true combat by this handful of very hard men—the Rhodesian SAS—who, despite adversity and hardship, still found time to treasure small things most civilians take for granted.

Soldiers who, on a daily basis, live a stone’s throw from death, develop their own sense of humour—a sense of humour those who have never been under fire find difficult to grasp. Oftentimes, they speak a language others do not understand but it is a language they have learned through circumstance, hardship, and the ever present spectre of death. These hard men of the Rhodesian SAS were no different.
A Handful of Hard Men looks into the soul of soldiers who, many years ago, were fighting a forgotten war in southern Africa—not as some would like to claim between the black and white people of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)—but between two very different ideologies. Ultimately, these soldiers were to face the betrayal of the West, the very civilisation they believed they were defending from an encroaching ideology based on communism and state collapse. In their defence of ‘western civilisation’, they deployed and fought wherever they could find their enemy. Meanwhile, ensconced in their ivory towers, the politicians of the West were plotting the demise of Rhodesia.
Through his pen, the author weaves a narrative that focusses on one man in particular—Darrell Watt—and the brave men who, under his leadership, stood beside him, regardless. The support they received from an ill-equipped air force (due to international sanctions) is worthy of a book on its own.
A Handful of Hard Men spans several years of Darrell Watt’s life—from recruitment, to training, to reconnaissance, to operational and tactical deception, to deep penetration raids and operations, and the ultimate standing down of the Rhodesian SAS. The operations these few men conducted were intense, breath-taking in magnitude, and vividly described, and yet even under the ever-present threat of death, humour presented itself.
Interwoven in the narrative is the developing political situation and the behind-the-doors negotiations and political duplicity to collapse one ideology and replace it with another.
After reading of the operations the Rhodesian SAS conducted, I was left breathless and it was as though I could smell the cordite and taste the blood in my mouth.  
I would highly recommend this magnificent book at any serious student of contemporary African warfare and history.
For ordering information, as well as other news and stories on Africa, visit Hannes’s blog www.africaunauthorised.com


Huntingdog said...

Hi Eeben

I am sure this will be an interesting read. How many of these books, and as per your description would also fit in the South African context.

This sentence of yours is also so true for SA - just replace Rhodesia with SA
"Meanwhile, ensconced in their ivory towers, the politicians of the West were plotting the demise of Rhodesia."

Huntingdog said...

Hi Eeben,

I am sure this will be an interesting read. A hundred more books can be written about the betrayal of the west in this context, including what happened in South Africa.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know Huntingdog.
Sadly though, such books will simply be ignored. It seems the West approached Africa with the idea of creating and exploiting political and racial divisions and then watching and helping the continent explode.
Perhaps we can now watch as their chickens are now coming home to roost?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Some of them are still sitting in their ivory towers Huntingdog, oblivious that the world they mislead have finally started realizing the deception. Hopefully their towers will soon start to crumble.

Absalon L16 said...

Just finished "A HANDFUL OF HARD MEN". Purchased the book based on your recommendation. Was an excellent read with a balance of the frontline actions by the Rhodesian SAS and the political intrigue going on surrounding the negotiations on the future of Rhodesia (utltimately Zimbabwe). Darrel Watt was an amazing character in the book. US military could have learned so much from him. I wondered what became of him after the war.

Also recently finished Saaf's Border War by Peter Baxter. Was also a very interesting read.

Started my next book Counter-Strike from the Sky by J.R.T. Wood. Gaining an appreciation for the innovation and creativity demonstrated by the Rhodesian.

Absalon L16 said...


Just finished a A Handful of Hard Men. I purchased it based on your recommendation. Was an excellent read - both fascinating and extremely frustrating when considering the innovation and creativity of the Rhodesian military in the facing of the political forces and intrigue allied against their country.

Just started Counter-Strike From the Sky by J.R. T. Wood.

Interested to see the lessons learned from the Fire Force operations - and their suitability to current operations around the world.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your feedback Absalon L16. I am happy to learn that you enjoyed the book. I thought it well-written and informative.
Yes, the Rhodesians certainly pioneered a lot of stuff that stood them in good stead. Sadly the Rhodesian Army became a political casualty - as did the SADF.