Advance Notice – Books

Courtesy of Chris Bennett



To avoid having a percentage linked increase in the current subscriptions (R0?), we have to accept the odd commercial opportunity and thus advise all readers of the imminent release in South Africa of two naval/maritime linked non-fiction publications that may well be suitable ‘Christmas’ or whatever helps empty a bonus filled wallet in December, gifts.



South African Naval and Maritime Badges and Insignia


Many years of research by Alex Rice, a leading collector of insignia and Merchant Marine Engineer, has resulted in his unique book with over 1 300 illustrations. Published privately and with only 200 books produced, this unique publication will be a great reference for anyone interested in maritime heraldry and history. Availability and cost are still to be confirmed but should be available from the writer in Durban or in Cape Town at a discounted price or through selected book sellers (to their profit). Further details will be published but interest can be registered by return email which will be forwarded.


Iron Fist from the Sea

Five years of research and interviews have finally paid off and this history of the 47 Top Secret clandestine Maritime Operations conducted by Special Force, most with the SA Navy, during the so-called Border War, was released in the UK last week. It is due in SA this week with over 200 of the 300 available already ordered. Distributed by Peter Hyde & Associates for Helion Books, It can be ordered from most big book shops. Due to import duties and shipping costs, it is, however, fairly costly. These operations included the sinking of seven vessels in ‘enemy’ ports and includes the full story of most major operations with input from Russian advisers and, in the case of ARGON when Wynand du Toit was captured, the story from the Angolan side. Further details available by ‘googling’ the title and publisher.





Iron Fist from the Sea -South Africa’s Seaborne Raiders: 1978-1988


By Douw Steyn and Arnè Söderlund



450 pages, 208 000 words, This seminal work documents the clandestine seaborne operations undertaken by South Africa’s 4 Reconnaissance Commando Regiment. It breathtakingly reveals the versatility and effectiveness of this elite unit which worked with a range of other South African and Rhodesian forces, including the Rhodesian SAS, to engage in a range of raiding and war fighting activities.


These operations saw the clandestine reconnaissance of harbours, the sinking of enemy shipping and the destruction of shore installations in Angola and Mozambique. Just some of the tasks undertaken by this extraordinary maritime capability which totalled no more than 45 operators, both black and white!


With unparalleled access to previously secret material, the authors, both of whom worked to develop 4 Recce’s operating capabilities, trace the origins of the Regiment back to the 1970’s when the South Africans determined the need for a maritime force projection capability. They relate how maritime doctrine was developed within South Africa’s wider Special Forces capability and how joint operational approaches were configured with the South African Navy.


This saw the development of a range of swimmer, reconnaissance, diving and boat operator training courses, along with the design of specialist raiding craft and amphibious assault platforms, which were originated to operate from the Navy’s existing shipping and submarines. All of which demonstrated the immense potential of this newly emergent force and the resourcefulness of its individual operators.


Required to successfully complete a gruelling selection process, the operators of 4 Recce were relentlessly tested to prove their physical and mental mettle, not to mention their leadership skills and initiative. Steyn and Söderlund’s chronological analysis of the operations undertaken by 4 Recce and the South African Navy is stunning to behold. They impartially detail the secret and specialised actions which saw both success and failure.


From Cabinda on the West Coast to Tanzania on the East, 4 Recce, and whose existence and capability was largely kept secret even within the South African Defence Force, conducted numerous clandestine raids. They attacked shipping and strategic targets such as oil facilities, transport infrastructure and even ANC offices. And sometimes the raids did go wrong, spectacularly so in one instance when two operators were killed and Captain Wynand Du Toit was captured. He was later paraded in front of the world’s media, much to the embarrassment of the South African government.


This is a fascinating work and one that will enthral anyone with an interest in Special Forces operations.

For further information browse the website of the Naval Heritage Trust.