Total Onslaught – War and Revolution in Southern Africa since 1945
Pen and Sword Military 2018
Reviewed by Dom Sore
Southern Africa has had as turbulent a history as any region since the end of World War 2. What makes the region different is it was dominated for much of that period by openly racist government that oppressed not just their own populace but those of neighbouring countries. In this tome Paul Moorcroft aims to provide a military history of the various conflicts that have devastated the area. This covers the independence and other wars of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Rhodesia amongst others within its 478 pages. An extensive index, many photographs and a number of maps spread throughout provide context.
Ostensibly Moorcraft purports to be presenting a military history. There are two things wrong with this, the conflicts are by their very nature more political than most and secondly he does not stick to military history. Early on his stall is set when he describes the Afrikaner Volk as indigenous to Africa; they were foreign invaders who settled under force of arms like nearly all colonists. This continues throughout the book; for example Afrikaners are “treacherously slaughtered” by Zulus, yet those same armed Afrikaners are invading a foreign country to set up their own racist state. Partly because they did not like the British allowing black servants to provide evidence in court! An aggressive, invading force being defeated by a defending force when they have no actual reason for going to war is not treacherous slaughter. At no point does the author directly condemn the racist Apartheid state including softening their attitudes by using the word racial where racists is more appropriate. It does a great disservice to all those who fought against such bigotry to lessen what the government did that rightly made them a pariah.
There is a good deal of excellent information within the book. The conflicts are described in some detail, if from a biased view point, without making martyrs out of any of the players. The maps provided help the reader visualise where the conflicts took place as much as anything in these kind of asymmetric conflicts with oft undefined lines can be. The battle for Angola during the late 80s is different and covered well, another round in the proxy wars fought between East and West. The knowledge shown by the author of what happened when is superb. Indirectly, and likely inadvertently, the author shows how much the South African state was hypocritical in its aim of oppressing anyone non-white in South Africa while being willing to support the same people in other countries to keep them under control or out of control as South Africa’s needs decided.
The book provides lots of ideas to the gamer. The Angola conflict has Russians, Cubans, Angolan and South African troops all fighting almost conventional battles with equipment ranging from World War 2 T-34’s to modern helicopter gunships and everything in between. Add in the Rhodesian Fire Force tactics and the other insurgent actions it will provide a reasonable overview of the actions. All while glossing over the excesses of the racist South African government.