Wilbur Smith inspires book about secret SAS missions in Africa

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SECRET SAS MISSIONS IN AFRICA

By Michael Graham 

 

Published by Pen & Sword UK; distributed in New Zealand by South Pacific Books for release on 13 August 2018, RRP: $34.99

If not for a chance meeting with bestselling author Wilbur Smith in Air New Zealand’s Koru Club Lounge, Michael Graham might never have written Secret SAS Missions in Africa.

Sitting together on the flight from Auckland to Wellington, Graham regaled Smith with colourful and audacious stories about his time in the SAS. Before going their separate ways, Smith said to Graham, “Mike, you should write a book. It was an extraordinary time in Africa and the world should know what part the SAS played in shaping history. It will be a great story.”

Graham heeded Smith’s words and in the tradition of Bravo Two Zero wrote Secret SAS Missions in Africa; a thrilling, first-hand account of covert operations during Cold War period 1968-1980. Based in fact and reading like a thriller, Graham’s book reveals the inside story of C Squadron, an elite but little-known branch of the SAS, charged with engaging in Africa’s counter-terrorism activities.

‘We flew fast and low over the woodland canopy, heading north-west towards the massive escarpments that formed the border with Malawi. The country was devoid of human habitation. We caught a glimpse of a leopard as it ducked into cover on one of the bare granite outcrops, and later large kudu antelopes with massive, spiralling horns galloped away in panic as the aircraft roared over them.’  

Secret SAS Missions in Africa is the first book to cover C Squadron’s secret operations. It chronicles a time of political uncertainty, when British colonial rule was coming to an end and dissident political and tribal factions backed by Russia and China (with their eyes on Africa’s vast mineral wealth) were gaining in strength. These factions posed a constant, deadly threat to Africa’s existing regimes and C Squadron was never short of action in Mozambique and Zambia. There, they made significant gains in helping to subvert Communist inspired uprisings.

Highly trained, the ten SAS men of C Squadron – with nicknames like ‘Horse’, ‘Karate’ and ‘Pig Dog’ – had highly developed effective bush warfare skills, which proved devastatingly effective against their enemies. They achieved results through stealth and cunning; out of all proportion to their small number. Often their foes believed that they were facing rival factions and turned on each other – a deliberate ploy by C Squadron.

Michael Graham was called up for National Service in the Rhodesian Army. After being commissioned as an officer he transferred to the Regular Army and joined the Rhodesian SAS (C Squadron), rising to Second-in-Command. Leading a small group of SAS men from all over the world, including Corporal Verne Conchie (aka Pig Dog from Riverton in Southland), Graham paints a graphic and intriguing account of their covert operations, including blowing up bridges and the Russian ship Vladivostok in the Port of Beira, parachuting in to enemy territory and rescuing school children from the hands of terrorists.

Played out against the backdrop of Africa’s spectacular landscape, teeming with wildlife, Secret SAS Missions in Africa is the remarkable story of how C Squadron helped to shape Africa’s history at the height of the Cold War.

Michael Graham was born in Lancashire and raised in Rhodesia. Educated at the University of Natal in South Africa, Michael studied Zoology and Botany with a dream of becoming a game ranger. Instead, he was called up for national service and joined the army. After many years as a troop commander Michael was promoted to captain and posted to the position of intelligence officer at an operational brigade headquarters, where he was decorated for his contribution. Michael left the Army as a Major and emigrated to New Zealand in 1980. He now works in private security and lives in West Auckland with his wife Sharen. Michael is a keen bird watcher and along with Sharen, enjoys tramping and travelling the world.

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