‘No excuses, I wanted war’

2011-08-03 00:00

MOST men will identify with this ­personal account of a war, but not for the usual reasons of God, country and glory.

As young man, the author Arn ­Durand, aka “Jim”, was an ex-gangster from a rough part of Durban, who never fell for any of that. He describes his 20-year-old convictions when applying to join Koevoet: “Not that I wanted to fight for God and country — f**k all that. Some adventure and a bit of action was all I was looking for.” The lad then literally became “a killing machine in the heat of battle”, often driving his Casspir over the enemy. He had 127 contacts and survived three anti-tank mine explosions.

Now a white-haired tourist guide, Durand’s account of “the madness, mayhem, and complexity of war”, does not attempt to explain or glorify any of it. And readers looking for an emotive killer’s confession will have to make do with his: “to all those I’ve killed, I am sorry you died, but f**k you all and damn the rest.”

His adventures are thin on detail, but between the lines, Durand does emerge as an officer and a gentleman. He fought dirty, but was never a bully. He respected his ­opponents and was appalled by “the gruesome sight of Koevoet coming back to town with dead bodies hanging over their Casspirs.” He also described as “barbaric” the tradition in some Koevoet sticks to mutilate their victims.

Later in his life, Durand could not talk for tears when his three-year-old girl discovered his war photos, and asked about all the people so “black and blue”. Durand had kept this macabre evidence of torture to remind him of humanity’s “deep and dark desire to kill and destroy in order to survive”.

While now not proud of what he did in Koevoet, Durand is “not ashamed either”, which is something most men will envy. For Durand chose to live hard and fast when opportunity allowed, and now offers no excuses for his testosterone-fuelled excesses as a youngster. Read his book if only to pay homage to such honesty.

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