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As The Crow Flies: My Bushman Experience with 31 Battalion - Delville Linford with Al J. Venter

As a relatively recent military campaign, Operation Savannah entered the annals of South African military tradition four decades ago. Though there have been several books published about this ‘bare bones’ strike force that marched almost unimpeded a quarter the way across the African continent, few are aware of the significant role played during the course of these hostilities by a fragmented Bushman unit led by one of the most enigmatic personalities to emerge in uniform since the end of World War II.

Until now, Colonel Delville Linford has had very little to say about his role as commander of Combat Group Alpha, or of that played by his Bushmen soldiers. In this volume he allows us a peek under the covers, not only how this tiny combat force operated, but also many ‘behind the screens’ machinations which explain how the unit was formed.

Following the independence of Angola from Portugal, a significant segment of that country’s Bushman community crossed the border into what was then still South West Africa – Namibia today – and sought refuge with the South Africans. He goes on to tell us a lot about the Bushman people themselves: the nature of their society, tribal traditions, bush-craft, customs that have become ingrained with time, historical fears, life in the wild, tracking ‒ as well as much else about a historical culture that goes back millennia. Together with many of Colonel Linford’s empathetic observations of these often- intriguing ‘little’ people, all go towards making for a rather fascinating read.

A hallmark volume with an introduction by General Constand Viljoen, Colonel Linford offers us – for the first time ‒ his own ‘warts and all’ report, not only of the legendary 31 Battalion but also of his career in the South African Army. 


Cmdt Delville Linford was the South African Army’s last liaison officer at Serpa Pinto from April 1973 to July 1974. Because of his knowledge of Angola and its people, he was tasked by Brigadier Constand Viljoen to establish a base in the western Caprivi to accommodate, equip and train these Bushman soldiers so that they could help to protect the South West African border against Swapo. With the help of six national servicemen and 39 black troops, Linford established Camp Alpha. Combat Group Alpha participated in Operation Savannah from October 1975 to January 1976 after which the company was named 31 Battalion and operated in south-east Angola and Zambia.


AL J. VENTER, now living in the UK, has written over 40 war books, including Allah’s Bomb, Iran’s Nuclear Option, and Iraqi War Debrief, War Dog: Fighting Other People’s Wars, Barrel of a Gun: A War Correspondent’s Misspent Moments in Combat, War Stories by Al J. Venter and Friends, Gunship Ace – The Wars of Neall Ellis, Helicopter Pilot and Mercenary and African Stories by Al J. Venter and Friends.

Softcover, 336 pages with b/w photos.

Digital Painting: © Ziggy Hentze 

Customer Reviews

Based on 7 reviews
Dirk Wessels

Well written with lots of details pertaining to the unit.

Johann Aucamp
Very apt name

great book

Mike Von Dresselt
My Bushman Experience with 31 Battalion

An excellent book regarding the life of Col. Delville Linford (RIP) and his part in OPS Savanna, well written and researched.

As Kleynhans
Story of a Great Soldier

Delville's story is not only that of a soldier doing his job in a professional way. Delville landed in a situation for which he was not trained or prepared when he inherited a crowd of Bushman soldiers and their families fleeing from Angola. The human side of this man and this story proved to be the main building block in the establishment and superior performance of 31 BN.

Albert Botha

It was great to read it, brought back a lot of memories, because as a “Pantser boytjie” during Savannah I was part of the “Ops” from mid August to mid December in Angola as Zulu force rolled north.


Customer Reviews

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