Border war experiences in context

2009-03-18 00:00

AS white South African men increasingly find the courage to explore their SADF experiences, we now have this book by David Williams.

It follows in the tradition of 2006’s already classic bestseller An Unpopular War, in which J. H. Thompson presented troepies’ memories unadulterated and uncensored. Williams also includes lots of such memories, but his editorial voice is far stronger. What he does is put the remembrances into their historical context.

This is fascinating reading for any former apartheid soldier — for, when you’re just a cog in a war, you have little idea of the wider, strategic background of your personal experiences. Williams provides this.

It lacks the sheer emotional impact of An Unpopular War, however.

What is now required is for a genuine, gifted historian to build on the groundwork provided by Thompson and Williams. He or she needs to write a true, over-arching, objective account of that ignominious conflict — an account that will truly answer all the deep and dark questions that anyone who fought in it, no matter on which side, inevitably has to ask.

And the primary question is: “Was it really just a complete waste of time and my youth?”

Robin Crouch

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