Book review: Operation Dingo


Co-issued with a British publisher, “Operation Dingo” is the first of the “Africa@War” series of which four titles have now been released: three relate to operations – “Operation Dingo”, “France in Centrafrique”, and “Battle for Cassinga”; and, one focussing on a high-profile unit, the “Selous Scouts”.

This suggests the series does not yet have focus – looking either at operations or at units – but then there is no real requirement for such focus. Maybe well the opposite. The publishers say this will be a “ground-breaking series” studying Africa’s post-1945 conflicts and military players in an informative and entertaining manner, examining some of the lesser known campaigns and shedding new light on some of the better known operations.”
to the matter at hand then: Operation Dingo was – even to its proponents – an almost suicidal air-ground attack on two insurgent bases deep in Mozambique in 1977. Just 184 Rhodesian Special Air Service and Rhodesian Light Infantry commandos, with such aircraft and helicopter support that was available, would attack 10 000 guerillas at their base at “New Farm” at Chimoio, some 90km into Mozambique. The attack was set for November 23, the plan being a series of of air attacks followed by a parachute and helicopter assault heavily supported by air assets. The troops would move through the base, taking documents, some prisoners and arms and destroying the rest. They would be extracted by helicopter (including ten South African Air Force-crewed Alouette III’s) before sunset and return to Rhodesia to reset for another attack the next day – eyebrow-raising in itself. As it was, resistance and the the size of the base forced the commandos to stay overnight and withdraw the next day. The attack on Tembué followed on the 25th. Intelligence credited the base, some 200km inside Mozambique, with some 4000 inmates.

Wood, a master on the subject of the Rhodesian “Bush War”, notes that estimates of the losses inflicted vary wildly, but a “figure exceeding 6000 casualties is realistic.” The Rhodesians by contrast suffered two dead, eight wounded and lost one aircraft (its pilot being one fatality). Wood says in a short epilogue Dingo was “an extraordinary joint services’ operation. I have found, when lecturing on it to professional military audiences, utter disbelief tat such a double blow could be struck so far into hostile territory by less than 200 troops and a collection of aircraft that, by 1977, should have been gracing someone’s museum.”
“Operation Dingo” – and the rest of the series too – is concise, concrete, educational and gripping. Read it.
(Dr) JRT Wood

Africa@War Volume 1

Operation Dingo – Rhodesian raid on Chimoio and Tembué, 1977
30o South Publishers

64 pages

Illustrated, maps and diagrams

No index

No bibliography