As Cuban and Angola fighter pilots honed their skills over the skies of Northern Angola, David Mannall, a rmal 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. The climactic death-throes of Soviet Communism during the 1980s 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 and intended to eradicate the US-backed Angolan opposition (UNITA), then push southwards into South Africa's protectorate SWA/Namibia, ostensibly as liberators. 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 canns 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 rth across the Lomba, eventually joining the 59th Brigade in what became a full-scale retreat of over ten thousand soldiers to Cuito Cuanevale. 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 frontline 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.
Born in Dorset, England in 1968, the author's family emigrated to South Africa later that same year. The sub-tropical climate of KwaZulu Natal ensured a childhood spent mostly outdoors building forts in nearby pine-forests or swimming in the Indian Ocean. Like most conscripts, David joined the army because he was required to do so by law, the alternative, four years in the Police Force or in a jail for conscientious objectors, held little appeal. The two year draft could've been delayed by tertiary study but, without any clear direction, he joined thousands of boys in 1986 to 'do his bit' for the good of the country. Selected for Armoured Corps Officer training he excelled in most areas of military life, except perhaps discipline. Demoted for going off-base during training he attracted the ire of commanders who despatched him to the remote border outpost at Omuthiya for 13 months. His experiences with 61 Mechanised Battalion shaped his view on the world and on the true potential of humanity, for good and evil alike. Following his wartime experiences David embarked on a destructive journey of 'self-discovery', constantly questioning the status-quo, re-examining life and societal norms through the eyes of a government-trained and 'legally' sanctioned killer. 25 years after the guns fell silent he finally began to confront the experiences by recounting his memories of National Service and Operation Modular. David and his wife Andrea live in London, England and have two children, Jessica and Luke.