Herman van Niekerk is a Retired South African Special Forces Colonel with a Masters degree in Business Administration. He left the military in 1999 after 27 years service and started his own company which specialized in security related training and development in South Africa and various other countries in Africa. In November 2010 he joined MARITIME RISK SOLUTIONS as Director of Operations and major shareholder, a company which protects vessels at sea against attacks from pirates and other criminals.
THANK YOU. MY HUSBAND REALLY ENJOY HIS PRESENT
Excellent research, details and portrayal!
In his foreword Herman wrote “I tell it as it happened and have my peace with it all” and that is how I found his book; no pulling of punches but also refreshing and frank. At times a Herman Charles Bosman or Ben Trovato ’s way of telling a story surfaced and at other times I asked ‘so what’ ? The latter merely because I was more interested in his military career than his upbringing however by including it Herman set the scene for later events in his life. This might appeal to readers who want the whole story and it truly starts from the beginning; from where he could have had a fighter pilot as a dad but who was shot down and killed (“now isn’t that a fucked-up way for me to start off ?”). Some of the experiences, events or Herman’s perception or questioning thereof will not sit well with some readers as it will force them to re-evaluate certain values and beliefs, personal or historical, they have. I certainly do not agree with all that Herman wrote but that is what makes this book an exception as there are many writers who sugarcoat or tone things down to fit into the current narrative. Not Herman; he dared and had the guts to be different.
As mentioned I was more interested in Herman’s military career and although he mentioned that it was not so much the exact detail of operations, which most of are discussed, or attempted to be, in other military books, new detail came to light.
Herman’s book is like Monthy Python; You’ll either like it or hate it but do not be influenced by how others experienced the book before you cast a verdict. Read it for yourself. I did and overall I enjoyed the book.
An enjoyable and easy read, ‘Born to Storm’ relates Herman’s heritage, his childhood, his schooling, and, like all young white boys at that time, his entry into the SADF to do his National Service. During his initial Parachute Battalion selection, as an Air Force Private, he encountered some men from Special Forces (SF).
As an NCO in 1 Para Bn, Herman decided to make the SADF his career. He became an officer, trained for his first real combat operation ‘Operation Savannah’.
During Operation Savannah, he realised the value of life, and what it meant to be a soldier, along with some dangerous personal traits he started developing, especially when it comes to what is right, and what is wrong. He also rebelled against ‘the system’, a character trait he would later be associated with.
He was wounded in Angola and evacuated to I Military Hospital in Pretoria for treatment. After the well-known battle of ‘Bridge 14’ took place, he returned to Angola and again saw action at the front.
During the final engagements with the Cubans in Angola, his views on politics were solidified. Nor does he hide his disdain for poor planning and clearly expresses his thoughts about things that went wrong during the operation.
After his free-fall parachute course, he joined Special Forces as they ‘did stuff’ he wanted to do. Prior to leaving the artillery, he was awarded the Honoris Crux for bravery in action in Angola.
Following a deployment in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he passed selection for Special Forces. He relates numerous SF operations in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia, all with brutal honesty - and humour at times.
The book doesn’t focus on the detail of the operations he partook in but rather on the peripherals where he highlights what he experienced as good and bad behaviours. He tells it as it happened.
‘Born to Storm’ does not focus on the ‘We were the best!’ It is an honest account of one man’s journey through the SADF, and the good and bad he experienced.