War Diaries of Andre Dennison

by J.R.T. Wood, Ashanti 1989, hardback, 400pp, 142 photographs
RAR troopers on patrol

The War Diaries of Andre Dennison recount the activities of 'A' Company of 2RAR during the bush war in Rhodesia, in the form of the diaries kept by its OC in the period 1976 to 1979. The diaries were brought to the attention of Dr. Wood during his research for a history of Rhodesia. He edited the diaries for publication, interspersing the entries with his own accounts of the main events in Rhodesia during the corresponding period. The book provides a well-balanced narrative, with the inclusion of actual 'sitreps' to clarify and add flavour to the diary entries. An interesting appendix by Lt.Col. Reid-Daly, former commander of the Selous Scouts, on the use of 'Fireforce' is included.

 Andre Dennison was a seasoned veteran long before he joined the Rhodesian Army. He had been a paratrooper, member of the British SAS, and had seen action in Suez, Cyprus, Indonesia and Northern Ireland.

 His diaries are mainly an account of the contacts in which he and his men found themselves involved, but a number of humorous events are also related which give an insight into the personality of one of Rhodesia's best fighting men. One of these stories relates how Dennison was wounded and transported to Salisbury by Dakota. He and a few others managed to smuggle a bottle of whisky aboard the plane, which the patients duly emptied. Dennison threw the bottle out of the plane to dispose of the evidence, but swore later that he had only done so because he had seen a group of 'terrs' on the ground below! He thereafter claimed to be the only member of the security forces to have bombed ZANLA with a bottle! At the hospital in Salisbury Dennison was supplied with a new bottle of whisky by sympathisers and surreptitiously poured some into his 'specimen bottle'. When the duty nurse appeared to collect it, Dennison drank the contents before her eyes and sent her fleeing in horror...

 Elsewhere in the book Johan Meiring relates the story of Dennison's jump at the Salisbury Parachute Club in the company of three visiting Frenchmen. Only three parachutes were seen to open, the fourth disappearing from view behind some towering gum trees in the distance. Dennison was presumed dead, but minutes later he appeared through the trees, grinning hugely. The club officials were furious but Dennison merely said that he was damned if he was going to open his parachute before the three Frenchmen!
He had been playing a deadly version of 'chicken'.

 The book is well illustrated throughout with photographs taken by Al Venter and Sarah Barrell, an American journalist who accompanied the RAR and later fell in love with Dennison. Shortly after Dennison's death in an accidental shooting in 1979, the 30-year old Sarah committed suicide in their flat in Salisbury.

 Dennison's respect for the fighting abilities of his men is apparent throughout the book, but he makes no attempt to avoid relating the occasional blunders and mishaps he and his men were involved in. His record, however, speaks for itself - he won 3 awards for bravery and saw action in almost 100 contacts - and the book confirms that Dennison earned his reputation as a man of action. Brigadier Peter Hoskings wrote of Dennison in his foreword to the book:

There have been many a soldier's story over the years but few can compare with this unique account of events in the life of an exceptional leader such as Andre, who inspired his men by example, professionalism and dedication to defending the hard-pressed people of all race groups, in Rhodesia - their country. The years have passed, but memories will prevail.
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