“Three Sips of Gin” is many things. Not simply a collection of war stories or the usual memoir, Tim Bax’s recounting of his own personal history reminded me more of James Corbett’s “Man Eaters of the Kumaon” or to some extent even Henning-Haslund Christensen’s “In Secret Mongolia“. This book was a pleasant surprise that, although taking place in contemporary times, reminded me of some of my favorite yarns written by the gentlemen adventurers of the past. Perhaps that is because of Tim’s unique background, his dry humor, or maybe it is his sense of the absurd.
Born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1949, Tim Bax was born into a life of adventure in many ways. In the opening chapters he recounts an early affinity for Africa and doesn’t spare much detail recounting the decadence of the British colonists of the time. One thing you will notice is that Tim is rarely sober during many of his adventures, if you hadn’t guessed from the title of the book. Failing horribly at formal schooling, his mother eventually finds him a job as a lumberjack while living in Canada. Being a lumberjack seems to give Tim some sense of purpose but he knows that his future lays else where, yearning to return to Africa.
After initially traveling to find a job in South Africa, it is only quite my mistake and happenstance that Tim is recruited into the Rhodesian Light Infantry. The RLI was something of a killing machine in it’s heyday, culling terrorists from surrounding nations, sometimes conducting four call outs a night. Combat parachute jumps were a regular occurrence. Although it seems as something of a mystery to the author, he is selected to attend the Officer Candidate Course and is soon commissioned as a lieutenant.
Posted back to the RLI, Tim leads his troops in cross-border operations before being asked by Colonel Ron-Reid Daly to attended the Selous Scouts selection course. The Scouts were a military unit completely unique to Rhodesia. Trojan horse type attacks have been practiced throughout history but no army professionalized or implemented the concept of pseudo-operations as well as the Selous Scouts did. During this time we begin to learn where the three sips of gin comes into play. Tim is viciously wounded during numerous contacts with terrorist forces, each time utilizing the medicinal qualities to be found in copious amounts of gin.