Battle On The Lomba 1987: A Crew Commander's Account   -   David Mannall
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The climactic death-throes of Soviet Communism during the 1980's included a last-gasp attempt at strategic franchise expansion in Southern Africa. Channelled through Castro's Cuba, oil-rich Angolan armed forces (FAPLA) received billions of dollars of advanced weaponry including MiG 23 and Sukhoi fighter jets, SAM 8 missile systems and thousands of armoured vehicles. Their   intent - to eradicate the US-backed Angolan opposition (UNITA), then push southwards into South Africa's protectorate SWA/Namibia, ostensibly as liberators.

1985 saw the first large-scale mechanized offensive in Southern African history. Russian Generals planned and oversaw the offensive but without properly accounting for the tenacity of UNITA (supported by the South African Defence Forces - SADF) or the treacherous terrain typical in the rainy season. The '85 offensive floundered in the mud and FAPLA returned to their capital Luanda. The South Africans stood down, confident their 'covert' support for UNITA had demonstrated the folly of prosecuting war so far from home against Africa's military Superpower.

The South Africans were mistaken. Fidel and FAPLA immediately redoubled their efforts, strengthening fifteen battalions with even more Soviet hardware while Russian and Cuban specialists oversaw troop training. As Cuban and Angola fighter pilots honed their skills over the skies of Northern Angola, David Mannall, a normal 17-year old kid completing High School, was preparing for two years of compulsory military service before beginning Tertiary education. Through a series of fateful twists he found himself leading soldiers in a number of full-scale armoured clashes including the largest and most decisive battle on African soil since World War II.

This is the David and Goliath story that, due to seismic political changes in the region, has never been truthfully told. The author lifts the hatch on his story of how Charlie Squadron, comprising just twelve 90mm AFVs crewed by 36 national servicemen, as part of the elite 61 Mechanised Battalion, engaged and effectively annihilated the giant FAPLA 47th Armoured Brigade in one day - 3 October 1987. Their 90mm cannons were never designed as tank-killers but any assurances that it would never be used against heavy armour were left in the classroom during the three-month operation and never more starkly than the decisive 'Battle on The Lomba River'. The Communist-backed offensive died that day along with hundreds of opposition fighters. 47th Brigade survivors abandoned their remaining equipment, fleeing north across the Lomba, eventually joining the 59th Brigade in what became a full-scale retreat of over ten thousand soldiers to Cuito Cuanavale.

The myth perpetuated by post-apartheid politicians goes something like this "The SADF force that destroyed 47th Brigade on 3 October numbered 6,000 men and that all the hard yards were run by the long suffering UNITA!"

The inconvenient truth is that there were just 36 South African boys on the front-line that day, but it is also true to say they would never have achieved such a stunning victory without the support of many more. This is their story.

Paperback, 284 pages
First Published October 2014, Second Revised Edition May 2015 


Customer Reviews

Based on 9 reviews
A troepie's ratel-eye view of Lomba

Dave Mannall gives a historic, personal account of battles near Cuito Cuanavale near the end of the Bush War. There is so much hype, propaganda, and misinformation about the last major SADF action of the war, that Dave's book comes like a cold shower, rebooting all the bull and putting an intensely human perspective on South Africa's war effort. His description of battle are amongst the most vivid, moving, and evocative I've ever read. Arguably one of the top four Bush War books I have in my library, along with Fred Bridgeland's Cuito Cuanavale, Justin taylor's A Whisper in the Reeds, and Douw Steyn's Iron Fist from the Sea. Thank you, Dave Mannall, well done.

Enjoyed the a

Enjoyed the a totally new perspective on armour ops.

Excellent the truth out of

Excellent the truth out of the mouth of the person that was there! Detail only heard of very vague previously

Great account from the other side of the Lomba River

Excellent read - to fill in the gaps of what happened on the other side of the Lomba, while some of us were knee deep in crocodiles and Cubans...
You have to give it to the Mech 'okes - They did a sterling job of softening up the Russians.
An excellent account and I highly recommend it to anyone that was in any way involved with those last years of the conflicts of the so called South African Bush war and served in the South African Defense Force. I can only say I am proud to have served my country, in the greatest fighting force since the Spartans lost their 300, even if it did not seem so great at the time. I salute those that paid the ultimate price in that conflict.

Amazon - November 17, 2015

A Great Read, Historically Accurate, And The Author Lived It !

Just a great read from start to finish. A little slow at first but it quickly picks up speed and maintains it till the end. Mannal tells the story of his South African Defense Forces Armor Unit (SADF) in one of the last, and decisive, battles of the Angolan War. I am familiar with the area having spent time in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the 70's, (but that's another story) The fight against communist aggression was everywhere in central & southern Africa between the early 70's and late 80's, and Mannal tells the story well of his armor units defeat of a substantial better equipped Cuban/Russian/Chinese armed, and advised offensive. I recommend this book as it is well written, historically accurate, and told from first hand experience. .Welgedaan my broer !

Amazon - November 22, 2015


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