Pathfinder Company

44 Parachute Brigade—'The Philistines'

Graham Gillmore

Colonel Jan Breytenbach writes in the foreword: "On Ascension Day, 1978, a composite South African parachute battalion jumped onto the tactical HQ of SWAPO's PLAN army, based at Cassinga, 250 kilometres north of the Angolan border to destroy the facility and to wipe out a strong concentration of SWAPO guerrillas.
Publication date:
January 2010
Publisher :
30 Degrees South Publishers
Language:
English
Illustration :
200 colour & b/w photos, maps
Format Available     Quantity Price
Paperback
ISBN : 9781920143480
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£24.95
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Overview
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• The founding and deployment of an elite unit, unsurpassed by any other South African Defence Force

Colonel Jan Breytenbach writes in the foreword: "On Ascension Day, 1978, a composite South African parachute battalion jumped onto the tactical HQ of SWAPO's PLAN army, based at Cassinga, 250 kilometres north of the Angolan border to destroy the facility and to wipe out a strong concentration of SWAPO guerrillas. The airborne assault, part of Operation Reindeer, was an unqualified success; the whole base was destroyed. 608 PLAN fighters were killed, with many more wounded, which pushed the final SWAPO death toll to well over a thousand. We lost only four paratroopers killed in action plus a dozen or so wounded. According to airborne experts in Britain and Australia, this was the most audacious parachute assault since the Second World War; the mounting airfield was well over 1,000 nautical miles away. I was the commander of that airborne assault, which although successful above all expectations, also highlighted many shortcomings, some of which nearly led to a disastrous outcome.”

44 Parachute Brigade was formed later that year, with the need for a specialist Pathfinder Company patently clear. Into the ranks came professional veterans from the UK, USA, Australasia, Rhodesia and elsewhere, from such Special Forces units as the SAS, Selous Scouts and the RLI. As Graham Gillmore describes it;"this is their book, a collection of stories about the founding and deployment of a unit of ‘Foreign Legionnaires', from different parts of the world who became welded together into a remarkable combat unit, unsurpassed by any other South African Defence Force unit in their positive and aggressive approach to battle. For me it was an honour to have faced incoming lead together with them.”

Author Graham Gillmore left the British Army in 1977 to join the Rhodesian Light Infantry in their war to prevent communist guerrillas overthrowing the country.

REVIEWS

Formed in 1980, it was disbanded in 1982 yet the book shows how it existed in a period of turmoil during that same period.
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