By 1978 the Rhodesian Bush War had gone hot with ZIPRA and ZANLA communist terrorists flooding across the borders of Mozambique, Zambia, and Botswana.  Despite the war, life had to go on for the civilians who chose to stand their ground in their homeland.

Lake Kariba was a popular resort location and vacation spot for native Rhodesians, so it was a light atmosphere that existed on flight RH 825 that flew the vacationers back to Salisbury.  When the Viscount airplane was struck with a SA-7 missile the pilot somehow managed to keep the aircraft under control and attempted a belly landing.  Striking a trench in an otherwise open field, the Viscount came apart, spilling three tons of jet fuel in the process.

The following morning a small team of Rhodesian Special Air Service soldiers parachuted into the remote crash site to secure the area and search for survivors.  What they found shook the combat hardened soldiers to their core.  The plane had been torn to pieces, body parts were everywhere.  The survivors of the crash had been executed by a gang of terrorists who happened across the scene.  They had been shot and bayoneted to death.  A baby that had miraculously survived the crash had been killed by a terrorist thrusting a bayonet through it’s head.

“Even as a hardened 20-year old SAS soldier, my stomach turned as the nausea hit my throat.  What I saw will be with me forever,” writes Sergeant Johan Bezuidenhout of the scene he saw on the ground that day.  56 civilians were killed during the RH 825 disaster.

“Viscount Down” by Keith Nell starts by documenting the details of the disaster above before telling two stories in parallel.  One is Keith’s story as the SAS operator charged with tracking down and killing the group of terrorists responsible, the SA-7 gang.  The second story belongs to Martin, a black Rhodesian whose village, or Kraal, is terrorized by communist inspired terrorists who press ganged him into service with them.

Keith begins by telling us about his upbringing in South Africa and how he found his way to Rhodesia.  He starts off in the regular forces and signs up for SAS selection to see some action and kill some “gooks”, as the insurgents were called.

The details of Rhodesian SAS selection, some say the hardest SAS selection course by comparison to that of Britain and Australia, are amazing.  We’ve had very little written about this unit and I learned a lot from Keith’s account, which is hilarious at times.  Keith shoots from the hip and tells it like it is and Keith, if you’re reading, now I know what you did on the SAS selection course.  You’re a lying, cheating, scoundrel!  No wonder why you did so well as a SAS operator!  Keith not only graduated, but did so at the age of 37, an amazing feat considering that the selection course was designed for men half his age.

Martin’s story is a painful one.  The experience he goes through with communist forces infiltrating Rhodesia is not unlike what the Montagnard and other South Vietnamese faced during the 1960’s and 70’s.  ZIPRA forced their way into his Krall, raped his sisters, and terrorized the villagers.  From that moment on, he vows to get his revenge, but at the moment he is forced to fight with the terrorists, even participate in horrible atrocities himself.  Eventually he is captured by security forces and turned over to a camp of “tame” terrorists being trained to fight their former comrades by the Selous Scouts.