Author(s): Hannes Wessels
During the West's great transition into the post-Colonial age, the country of Rhodesia refused to succumb quietly, and throughout the 1980s fought back almost alone against Communist-supported elements that it did not believe would deliver proper governance. During this long war many heroes emerged, but none more skillful and courageous than Captain Darrell Watt of the Rhodesian SAS, who placed himself at the tip of the spear in the deadly battle to resist the forces of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. It is difficult to find another soldier's story to equal Watt's in terms of time spent on the field of battle and challenges faced. Even by the lofty standards of the SAS and Special Forces, one has to look far to find anyone who can match his record of resilience and valor in the face of such daunting odds and with resources so paltry. In the fight he showed himself to be a military maestro. A bush-lore genius, blessed with uncanny instincts and an unbridled determination to close with the enemy, he had no peers as a combat-tracker (and there was plenty of competition). But the Rhodesian theatre was a fluid and volatile one in which he performed in almost every imaginable fighting role; as an airborne shock-trooper leading camp attacks, long range reconnaissance operator, covert urban operator, sniper, saboteur, seek-and-strike expert, and in the final stages as a key figure in mobilizing an allied army in neighboring Mozambique. After 12 years in the cauldron of war his cause slipped from beneath him, however, and Rhodesia gave way to Zimbabwe. When the guns went quiet Watt had won all his battles but lost the war. In this fascinating biography we learn that in his twilight years he is now concerned with saving wildlife on a continent where they are in continued danger, devoting himself to both the fauna and African people he has cared so deeply about.
Hannes Wessels was born in 1956 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) but grew up in Umtali on the Mozambican border. As a boy, holidays were spent with Game Department rangers; time on safari in Mozambique with the late Wally Johnson was a big influence on him. Wessels also grew to know Robert Ruark whose love of Africa, its people, politics and the written word left a lasting impression. He saw action in the Rhodesian bush war before acquiring a law degree which he chose not to use. He has hunted big game in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania in a 20-year career. In 1994 he was severely gored by a wounded buffalo which almost cost him his life. While no longer directly involved in hunting, he is part-owner of a lodge and game ranch in Zambia on the Zambezi and remains keenly interested in all matters relating to African wildlife and conservation. He has published Strange Tales from Africa in the USA, a collection of anecdotes from his hunting days. He is also a syndicated writer for Outdoor Life in the United States and is currently writing a history on the Rhodesian SAS. He is married to Mandy and has two daughters, Hope and Jana, and lives in Darling in the Western Cape of South Africa.