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This two-volume book covers the history of the Ratel from the requirement for an ICV for the SA Army in the late 1960s and early 1970s through to the development, production and deployment of Ratel and to its final major combat operation of the Border War in 1989.  

The book is about Ratel, not about the Border War; although, obviously, elements of that conflict feature in some detail in some chapters. The book is also about those who developed and produced Ratel, those who developed the tactics and battle-handling of mechanised infantry and mechanised operations generally and, especially, those who saw combat in and with this stalwart. It also serves as a tribute to those of the mechanised forces of the SADF who paid the supreme sacrifice for South Africa while operating in Ratel and with the SADF’s mechanised forces. The end of the Border War is deemed a fitting point at which to end this telling of the Ratel Story. 

This book is published as a set in two volumes: 

  • Volume 1: Origins (547 pages) 

The emergence of the requirement for an ICV for the SA Army, the evaluation of contenders and the development of the Ratel 20 ICV and each of its variants. It also addresses the origins of mechanisation (or mobility) in the South African Army.

  • Volume 2: Life with Ratel (467 pages)

The employment of Ratel from its inception through to the end of the Border War in 1989, including. It also covers the development and evolution of the mechanised infantry doctrine and of Ratel from a basic ICV to a fully-fledged combat system. It focuses on Ratel in combat and addresses operational and related matters. It eventually tackles the question “Did the Ratel ICV and the mechanised infantry doctrine work?”  

The two volumes of this book are complementary, each with its own approach and detail. In essence, Volume 1 is the heart of the Ratel Story; Volume 2 reflects its soul. 


Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews

Great book, never seen so much detail.
One thing, photos generally poor, i know this was a charity deal and that is great, but maybe next time less i better?
Bushwar, provided the best overseas service i have ever seen.

Dawid Lotter

Two Volumes Vol ISBN 978-0-620-83634-0 and 978-0-620-83636-4.
Irrespective of where readers might open the volumes, they will immediately get the feeling of having a great publication at hand.

In 2009 the team of seven people, whose lives had been linked to Ratel and to mechanised infantry over decades, commenced in-depth research in all earnest and, after almost eleven years, the book was published in 2020.

Researchers and other readers interested in technical specifications will find these and much more detail that has never been published before. The same applies for those interested in the tactical and operational history of Ratel. The story of “Ratel” captivates the reader from its development, production and deployment and most importantly, through to its major feats in battle.

The two volumes are best summarised by Genl. Constant Viljoen:” To a great degree Ratel epitomises more than just its role as an ICV, it also epitomises the South African can-do attitude and willingness to face up to and beat challenges.”

The first thing that draws the attention is the title of this two-volume work, which does not describe the Ratel as a subject, but just “Ratel”, as if the vehicle is a living being. The entire work gives the impression that it is Ratel writing its own autobiography,

This monumental work is a perfect tribute to the soldiers who saw combat in Ratel, a sentiment reinforced by the fact that the authors do not gain financially from this publication, with any profit from sales intended to assist South African war veterans.

The history of Ratel started during the late 1960s when the requirement for an ICV for the SA Army first surfaced. Although the two volumes can be read as separate entities, the reader will find more value by cross-referencing between both volumes, since the work, specifically in Volume II, does not always follow a rigid timeline. “In essence, Volume 1 is the heart of the Ratel Story while Volume 2 reflects its soul in the evolution of Ratel through the eyes of Ratel users.

The volumes are not a single narrative, but the authors succeed in the 44 chapters in weaving an interesting and captivating mesh, which facilitates a detailed understanding of the overall narrative. The bonding between the facts, reminiscences, tales, sketches, discussions and opinions facilitates both research and academic reference as well as providing an entertaining reading experience.

Volume 1 is the analysis and tracking of the genealogy of this warrior called Ratel. The authors provide a captivating reader experience by establishing a coherent environment in the development of Ratel and its variants, the operational and support environment, through to the most important component of the total system, the human component – soldiers of various positions, ranks, corps. This theme is maintained and supported throughout both volumes.

In comparison to the more technical nature of Volume I, the narrative style of Volume II makes for more relaxed reading. The author makes liberal use of authoritative literature from well-received books from the Border War which lends credibility to the narrative’s skilfully embroidered reminiscences of various users of Ratel.

Volume II follows two golden threads. Firstly the comparison between Ratel and its namesake in the animal world:” Ratel” - the Honey Badger, Secondly the author highlights eight watershed events on the pathway of Ratel and the significance of each of these on its development and application. Describing Ratel in these events rather than in individual battles provides the reader with an incremental frame of reference. The author did an excellent job on describing the shaping of the soul of Ratel from the initial development of the battle handling doctrine to its continuous evolution as the war escalated. The volume is rich in anecdotes on feats and contributions of commanders, junior leaders and rank and file soldiers.

The authors succeed in writing a monumental piece of history concerning Ratel, its users and its employment. Although some photos are low-resolution, this book was clearly never intended as a photo history.

The reviewer compared the volumes with similar works since World War I and could find no work in such minute detail as the Ratel Book. It is recommended for the future, though, that the authors compile a single page diagram of a timeline of some sort to make the story even more clear.

The reviewer highly recommends this work, which will fit equally well on the bookshelf of a researcher and of the enthusiastic military reader.

A Final Note: Reading RATEL – THE MAKING OF A LEGEND is an immense experience where one gets the feeling that Ratel is sentient. Ratel is able to perceive and feel things!!

Paul de Beer
Ratel: The making of a legend - Excellent!

I ordered and received the hardband personalised, signed copies of this magnificent book set!
This must surely rate as the most comprehensive and complete study of this legendary combat vehicle by far! It is well written and provides lots of new information on the thought process to create this IFV and how it came about that this was done in SA. It has in-depth and lots of not generally available history and interesting information and lots of photo's to support the written material.
I would however have liked more and better photo's and diagrams supporting the development process and the operational history, especially from a technical point of view. If considering the fact that this was not seen as a moneymaker (not for profit) book for its writers, then one can understand the lack of "glossiness" and grandeur this book actually deserved. Never the less, well done on an excellent book set!


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