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Aimed squarely at the militaria collector and military historian, especially those with a particular interest in the many Commando units that operated within the former South African Defence Force, this latest publication by Marc Norman is set to become the standard reference on this too long neglected subject. A comprehensive and detailed investigation of the insignia that the Commandos as a whole, and each individual unit, used throughout their existence, the book is a treasure trove of information whose value cannot be overstated.

Beginning with a lengthy list of the contents, which includes a list of unit name changes, the first part of the book is a summary of the Commandos formation and employment, with subsequent sections covering everything from Cap and Collar Badges, to The Commando Stable Belt, Regimental Colours and Corps Flag and even Blazer Badges. Each section contains extensive and easy to understand notes by the author, as well as, in some cases, original SADF and Commando letters and documents relevant to the subject under discussion, as well as some excellent colour examples of each, making the whole much easier to understand, even without any prior knowledge of the subject.

From here, the book moves to the main part, which is an attempt to cover each and every unit individually, be they large and well-known like 11 Commando, based in Kimberely, or tiny and relatively unknown, like Okahandja Commando, in the former South West Africa (now Namibia). Again, the coverage given by the author to each unit is dependent on the available resources he has uncovered, which include many obtained from the SANDF Documentation Centre, among others. Each Commando's notes begin with a summary, showing when they were created, their SADF Unit Number, and name changes that occurred after their formation, the primary language used within that Commando, what type they were (urban or rural), their location, who they reported to, their magisterial district of responsibility and finally their motto. This summary alone is a valuable resource for any researcher covering a specific district's operations. To give just two examples of one unit richly covered and another sparsely so, Oribi Commando, created in 1979, has three pages of notes and illustrations, including colour illustrations and photographs of a variety of their insignia, both shoulder and cap, as well as copies of official letters and documents relating to the latter.

Each illustration is neatly captioned by the author, making it easier to follow the unit's progression as their insignia was adapted or changed over time. On the other side of the coin, we have the aforementioned Okahandja Commando which, although formed in 1967, has just a single image of their metal pocket flash, and the summary already mentioned, all of which takes up less than a quarter of one page. The author is at pains to point out that these discrepancies in coverage are due to a lack of available information rather than effort, and that is something this reviewer can well believe.

The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography, listing for those interested in pursuing the subject further some valuable resources. An outstanding, well-researched and well written work, I cannot praise this reference book highly enough. It is an essential addition to the bookshelves of both academic institutions and individuals who have any history or interest in the Commandos. Very highly recommended.

Softcover, A4 size, 344 pages. First edition.


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