Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Review Book - Modern African Wars (3) South West Africa

On the essential reading list for the SA Border War is the Osprey Modern African Wars (3) by Helmoed Romer Heitman a writer eminently qualified to pen the title.  The title contains a set of useful uniform colour plates covering a fairly wide range of SADF uniforms but with more limited coverage  of SWAPO/PLAN, UNITA and FAPLA uniform detail, additionally it contains a wealth of useful information that make it an ideal primer on the SA Border War this includes:
  • A broad timeline of the conflict which covers the main political and military events from the occupation of German South West Africa by South African forces in 1915 through to the end of the conflict. This names all the major South African external opperations together with commentary on the evolution of SWAPOs tactical doctrine and operational statistics for each year. 
  • A Review of the Organisational Structure andd equipment of the various different elements of the SADF including:
    • 32 Bn
    • 61 Mech Bn Group
    • 1 Para Bn
    • Marienes
    • SAAF
    • SWATF
    • SWASpes
    • Modular Bns
    • Kovete
    • SWA Protection Unit
  • A Short Overview on the principal Angolan Forces covering at a high level UNITA and FAPLA
  • A Short overview of SWAPO/PLAN,
  • A Review of the Major external operations adding brief descriptive detail to that provided in the timeline
  • A  description of the Colour plates which includes a look at both Unit and Rank insignia

This book provides in a very consumable fashion enough of an overview of the conflict to get you started on the period with limited effort. As might be expected this has a South African perspective and coverage of the SADF forms the bulk of the content. Despite this it is a good primer for use before engageing in further internet research or reading some of the more weighty tomes that cover the political and military history at a greater level of detail.  

The book was recently reprinted, prior to that copies were reaching prices of £60 - £90 now its back in easy reach with a second hand copy on Amazon currently commanding a sum of £4.50 at this price it really is a steal, particularly if you are new to the period and the conflict and want to get your teeth into it in a hurry.

Modern African Wars (3) South West Africa @ Amazon

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  1. Oh! Back-in-print, thanx! :) I love your book reviews, and this one is timely for me.

    1. Glad it was of use, useful book, its on kindle as well so hopefully will never disappear completely again

  2. I think there should be a health warning with this book, as with just about anything written about this conflict, regarding its political bias. It is certainly slanted towards the South African Apartheid regime - referring to SWAPO as 'terrorists' is but one example. That's not to say other books that cover this conflict from the perspective of the Angolan or Cuban regimes are any less biased, for example Richard Gott's commentary on the war in his history of Cuba. I do think the politiccal bias needs to be pointed out however.

    1. It is certainly written from the SA perspective, as you point out most books are written from one perspective or the other, truly balanced comment is difficult to find, which is true of many conflicts particularly the more recent ones where the bulk of the written work is by participants. This is a difficult conflict to write about and I have no particular political axe to grind. My interest is in the military rather than the political context and there is a lot of useful information in this book. You are absolutly right that people should always challenge the perspectives they are presented with and read with eyes wide open.

    2. Updated to reflect your comments, hopefuly with balance, thank you for providing a point of view. Its always good to get feedback

  3. Appreciated - I love your work by the way :-)

  4. I'm interested to see how you paint Cuban "grey lizard" cammo. I tried it with light grey base with German Cammo Beige and Russian green streaks but it looks too light. Perhaps a grey green base?

    1. I think I am interested to see how I paint Cuban grey lizard cammo :) my thoughts have yet to stretch past PLAN and FAPLA. although some of the FAPLA cam will also be fun

    2. I play this conflict in 15mm and frankly, I don't even attempt to paint 'grey lizard'! I figure that at the distance I'm looking at the troops (in scale) I'm not going to see the detail of the pattern. I rationalise variations in colour and shade as fading and/or differences in batches of material. As long as the overall look satisfies me I'm happy. 20mm miight require a different appproach I'll grant you. I do think we should relax a bit about the nuances of colour though - in the field there would be a wide range.

  5. I ask because apparently a lot of the FAPLA used the Cuban cammo schemes, including grey lizard. Like the guy with the beret in the middle of the cover picture. Painting Cammo in 15mm would be beyond my capabilities but my collection for this is in 20mm, all Liberation Miniatures.

    1. In 20mm I think its feasible, take a look at some of Ash's work on the guild his 32 Bn guys and his Rhodesians are a similar problem although the patternn for the Rhodesian is different. Johns point about fading is good and I must admit I would wonder if it was worthwhile in 15mm. For the Cold War Brits it was one of the major challenges getting the cam right. Once done and the colours and process were sorted consistency was not really an issue.