Book Review: Dingo Firestorm – The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War


The fireforce concept of operations, used so successfully during the 1970s by the Rhodesian forces during the bush war, has been detailed by a number of books and articles over the years.

J. R. T. Wood’s Counter-strike from the Sky and Operation Dingo (Africa@War series), as well as Chris Cock’s Fireforce describe the concept and its application in some detail, while other works such as Peter Petter-Bowyer’s Winds of Destruction also include references to the fireforce concept and Operation Dingo itself. Any discerning reader would perhaps be excused then if he were to enquire as to what makes this publication different.

Dingo Firestorm is not just another book on Operation Dingo, nor is it a book about the fireforce concept. The reader is introduced to the rationale behind Operation Dingo by way of a very readable, if somewhat lengthy, overview of the sequence of political and military developments from the late 1950s, through the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the complicated relationship with the South African government, international efforts to resolve the Rhodesian ‘question’ to the increasingly invasive insurgency or bush war in the late 1970s. The necessity for and the planning, preparation and conduct of Operation Dingo – the attacks on the ZANLA headquarters 90 kilometres inside Mozambique at Chimoio and the ZANLA HQ area at Tembue on the Luia River 220 kilometres from the Rhodesian border in Mozambique’s Tete province – is then described in the following two detailed sections of the book.

The author has elected to place a particularly strong emphasis on the Rhodesian Air Force’s contribution to the planning, conduct and ultimate success of the attacks in his narrative. When evaluating this perspective, however, one becomes increasingly sympathetic to this viewpoint as one learns that almost every aircraft in the Rhodesian Air Force inventory, in addition to 10 ‘borrowed’ South African Air Force Alouette III (Polo) helicopters, was involved in the operation, that every soldier who participated in the two attacks in Mozambique was transported to and from the deployment areas by air and that helicopters played a major and indeed typical fireforce role in both raids deep inside enemy territory. The Rhodesian Air Force was indeed extended but delivered what was required and the sight of 22 Alouette III K-cars and G-cars in the helicopter administrative areas during the operation must have indeed been a something to see, not to mention the close air support, paratroop support, radio relay, fuel air drop and airborne command post tasks provided by a combination of all available Canberra bombers, Hawker Hunters, Vampires, Dakotas, Lynx aircraft as well as a DC-7 and a DC-8.

Key commanders who planned and commanded various forces – including the Rhodesian SAS and Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) forces as well as the Rhodesian Air Force contingent – during the operation were located and interviewed and the author has blended their personal, military and technical views and insights into the narrative in a skilful manner. The result is an authentic and balanced rendition of the unfolding events of Operation Dingo. The extensive coverage of the events leading up to Operation Dingo could, however, have been shortened somewhat in favour of the provision of additional information on the progress of the actual operation itself, particularly the attack on Tembue.

What makes this publication unique is the inclination towards narrating the sequence of events from an air force perspective while at the same time giving due recognition to the role played by the ground forces. In conclusion thus, there certainly is adequate room for Dingo Firestorm alongside similar publications covering Operation Dingo, the Rhodesian Air Force, the Rhodesian SAS and the RLI.

Finally, this review has been penned in the same week as the passing of Peter Petter-Bowyer, one of the Rhodesian Air Force’s most innovative pilots and the administration base commander during Operation Dingo. This review is dedicated to his memory.

Ian Pringle

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War
© Ian Pringle

ISBN 978 1 77022 428 5

Published in 2012 by Zebra Press, Cape Town