I suppose when one settles into an autobiography in which many of those named are known to you, one acquires a sense of comfort. For Rhodesians who did any time in the military or associated services, the surroundings are familiar, you have been there before and you have stepped in the footsteps of the author. Three Sips of Gin goes a little further though, outlining a unique adventurer’s story of professional soldiering in Africa.
Born in Tanzania and raised partly in East Africa and Canada, Bax ends up on the receiving end of a vicious insurgency in the heart of Africa. The author was weaned on danger and yearned much for the adventure of Africa, receiving his fair share of it. He suffered serious wounds during conflict with terrorist gangs mostly on foreign soil.
Bax introduces you to the rugged life of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, as a miserable, non entity recruit, and then, following an abrupt metamorphosis, his status as a proud and highly respected trooper in an elite commando unit at which he apparently excelled. Tim soon finds himself on officer selection and on the hallowed parade grounds of the Rhodesian School of Infantry.
The book presents the reader with more than just ‘war stories’ and Bax blends in many light hearted and humorous anecdotes of his life in the services, in which he pokes fun at military establishment, the espirit de corp and merriment of the Officers Mess, not to mention himself, if not in a slightly self-deprecating way. There is no conformity here and this rather explains Bax’s penchant for the unconventional and, perhaps, why he eventually lands up on selection for a place in the highly esteemed Selous Scouts Regiment.
Readers will follow Tim Bax into the shadowy, top secret world of the pseudo-terrorist operations and thoroughly unconventional warfare. The Selous Scouts blends soldiers and captured nationalist terrorists into small effective units, trained to survive in an uncompromising and abrasive African bush, while delivering subterfuge, death and destruction to their foes in war.
This book is a pleasant and easy read. It will bring particularly more delight to those who were there, but will provide an interesting perspective for those who were not. This is not some boring personal history, it is a well narrated, captivating, all absorbing read, and a must have for anyone interested in Rhodesia’s explosive counter-insurgency history. Bax should be complimented for adding to the ever expanding military book genre on southern Africa, particularly Rhodesia, about which much of the truth is fogged.
14 December 2011
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