“Gripping and gritty, this is first and foremost a soldier’s story, told without self-aggrandisement and just as the author experienced it. I can honestly say that this book is the best personal account of bush warfare as experienced by a soldier that I have read, since Granger Korff’s 19 With A Bullet. Author Justin Taylor has truly done for 32 Battalion what Granger Korff did for the Parabats, and this latest account by Taylor, at least in this reviewer’s opinion, is every bit as good as Korff’s memoir … An amazing read that will keep you turning pages long into the night. Absolutely outstanding!”
Peter Chapman, South Africa: Amazon.com, Editorial Review, 2014
Tears, days of deep thoughts and clearer understanding
This book touched me so intensely that I am still captured by it. Reliving the pictures in my mind detailing the contrast between the battle of Savate for instance and the slumbering bush. An honest picture from all sides. Tears flowing, appreciating the photo of Three-two’s last parade….
John Oosthuizen; Amazon customer, Reviewed in the United States 2017. Verified Purchase, 5 out of 5 stars
Falcons right-hand man.
Justin Taylor comes across as a real mensch. He lived thorugh the crucible of the Battle of Savate , and now, so many years later, his stark recollections took me back to Angola via the Caprivi. He draws the reader in with unpretentious anecdote of the battle for Savate, from early preparations (he was the Signals Officer for that operation), through the naked trench-by-trench advance with no air cover or artillery support, the the sombre loneliness of standing down after an op that has taken some of your best mates forever. If you’r after a technical overview with stategy and tactics, this book is not for you; if you want a himan story that lays its soul bare without self-pity, then a A Whisper in the Reeds should be at the top of your bucked list. Well done Justin.
Hilton Ratcliffe; Warbooks.co.za Editorial Review 2018
I have just finished reading your story. Thank you for an amazing dialog. The emotions it brought back to me were incredibly overwhelming. Some of us have managed this past by forgetting all the facts. This story changed that coping technique of mine. Again, thank you.
2nd Lt Peter Pletts; Platoon Commander, 101 Battalion, SA Army, 1983
I am humbled by you and your fellow HQ comrades. I was not aware of how involved the HQ element had become in the Savate battle. I am impressed by the courage and fortitude you all displayed in what was a very intense battle. My thanks to you for making your personal memoire available. It is an honest account of your experiences as a young soldier in a very demanding environment.
Sergeant Kevin (Fitz) Fitzgerald; 32 Battalion Recce Group, SA Army 1980’s
Humour, truth, reality, tragedy, loss, fear….. only a few words to describe the emotions I went through when I read a “A Whisper in the Reeds”. Having been in the same war, sans the combat, I not only re-lived the whole experience, but got a different insight into the covert nature of “our” war. Justin’s style of writing is such that not only did I immediately relate to it, but it completely and utterly engrossed me. I could not put the book down until I had finished it.
Lt Henri Meistre, SA Signal Corps – 1980’s
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to read ‘A Whisper in the Reeds’. I could literally not put it down.
Apart from your account being riveting and empathic, it also highlighted a few unanswered questions I had about people close to me who experienced this war. It is the first time I have read an account of such a nature and it led me to better understand some important people in my life and how this war affected them …. quiet a wake-up call after reading your book. There are no words to describe my appreciation, respect and gratitude to you and those like you.Thank you.
Wendy Dodd, South Africa
I have just finished slowly savoring an outstanding classic of South Africa`s Bush War “A Whisper in the Reeds” …. Congratulations! I was struck by the sensitive, balanced and absolutely honest way in which you depicted your experiences with 32 Battalion, not shying away from some rather personal feelings. The story has an easy, natural flowing style, and your economic use of necessary detail gives it authority while providing an historical perspective that even outsider “civvies” can appreciate. You told it as it was.Thank you.
Colonel Stefanus van der Walt; 32 Battalion platoon & company commander (as a Lt &Capt) 1980’s
Nearly through this book of Justin’s. It has been a great read because it really expresses the sensations (sounds, smells, visual impacts) of those experiences. No other book really does this as they are usually written by a journalist who has drawn information from interviews and the accounts from others of what actually happened.
Lt (Dr) Tim Matthews MMM; 61 Mechanised Brigade, Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola. 1987
I have a keen interest in military history and especially books about this era and have read many of them but this one stands out head and shoulders above the rest. It is excellently written and in an honest yet casual, down to earth style together with an abundance of information pertinent to the psyche of Three-two Battalion operations and personnel. Justin has mastered the ability to open up his inner thoughts and emotions about a war many feel was fruitless; and in doing so he shows that war is as much about what we put in and loose as it is about what we ultimately learn and take away from it
Sergeant Peter Williams; 32 Battalion Reconnaissance Group, 1980’s
Thank you for sending me the rough manuscript … I’m impressed. Its factual without getting bogged down in the detail. I also thought it was honest, sincere, and respectful. Respectful of the time, the place and the people involved o both sides. Well done.
Cpl Shaun Prior; 32 Battalion Signals, 1980
Justin Taylor has written about his adventures and experiences as the Signals Officer at 32 Btn from the end of 1979 to the end of 1980, in a refreshing style. He has taken pains to record much detail, along with the anguish and emotions he experienced during that time, but with a strong sense of wry humour that makes it easy to identify with him and makes the book hard to put down. A great read about a chapter in the border war that is all too often misunderstood. I think this book goes a long way to explaining what was actually happening on the ground and why we as young South Africans doing our National Service were there. Highly recommended.
Lt Jock Findlay; Signals Officer, South African Army 1980: Amazon.com, reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2014, Verified Purchase, 5 out of 5 stars
Brilliantly written, great balance of sensitivity and harsh reality. A difficult time for many young men called up. Were you fighting communism on the border or to uphold apartheid? Simple but complicated and I guess many are still looking for the answers. This is a must read for anyone interested in the border war history of South Africa.
Amazon.com; Verified Purchase, reviewed in the United States on July 25, 2016, 5 out of 5 stars
Best read I’ve found next to Operation Koevoet by Hooper I’ve found!
Very engaging read, it was hard to put down once I started! I felt the authors emotion and I connected!
M N Lew; Amazon.com, Verified Purchase, Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2017
Highly recommended !
What a great read! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Justin recounts his time in 32 battalion with a healthy dose of humour, a little sadness but above all total honesty – no bravado and no melodramatics. A really uncomplicated, interesting peek into a world that the rest of us will never get remotely close to experiencing.
Amazon.com; Verified Purchase,Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 11, 2016. 5.0 out of 5 stars
A good read.
Interesting and well told. RSM Ueckerman was our RSM during basics and we never new about his past. This book is definitely worth reading.
Amazon.com; Verified Purchase, Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 2, 2020, 5 out of 5 stars
Good reading. This and Battle on the Lomba, both written from the perspective of national servicemen make me proud of my country and the men who fought for it
B. Horton; Amazon.com, Verified Purchase, Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 10, 2017, 5 out of 5 stars
Completely Credible and Riveting
Justin Taylor’s descriptions are real and riveting. He takes you into his mind; his doubts, fears, sorrow and exhilaration together with the abject terror of combat. As one who has experienced a bush war in Southern Africa I found his book completely real. So sorry it ended when nit did, but that was his life.
Thank you Justin for a great read.
Amazon.com; Verified Purchase, Reviewed in Canada on August 15, 2018, 5 out of 5 stars
Apr 01, 2020 Cape Rust rated it as “really liked it”
A War you might have missed…
Taylor captures the feel of the African Bush Wars that dominated several decades. Taylor combines genuine thoughtful observations with humble descriptions of his role in the battles he was part of. This book reinforces the universality of the soldiers experience and should be read by students of South African history as well as military history.
Feb 11, 2015 Philip rated it as “it was amazing”
Without doubt the best book to emerge about the border war in Angola to date. An honest and insightful look at the bravery and sacrifice of the young men who left their homes and went to war.
Nov 25, 2018 Charles Withington rated it as “5 out of 5”
Excellently written …. What a bunch of determined and committed people South Africans are in general. These guys so so stepped up to the plate and gave it their all. The huge sadness is that at the end they were abandoned by politicians and military alike and had to carry their scars alone and with no one to help them to bury the ghosts. We salute him and his fellow soldiers… theirs not to reason why, theirs simply to do and die !
Apr 16, 2019 James Edward rated it as “it was amazing”
This is one of the most profound and we’ll written books on war in general. The author is funny and charismatic throughout the whole book while also giving you a fresh perspective of the war on the border of Angola. The insight into the infamous battalion is equally incredible. One of my favorite books to have read and lucky to have met the author. Can’t say enough good things about the book.
I can’t explain how your book put me in a trance for a long time. I would wake up at night thinking of the layout of different bases and the people there. The night of Savate I will never forget. I was in Rundu and was asked to see that wounded men were as well cared for as possible in the hospital. Choppers never stopped coming in and we knew things did not go well. Things were very different that night and the next day. Very, very sombre. So many memories I wish that I had made notes of events and names. Your book is a great read. Thank you.
Lt Frank Ferriera; Rundu Army Base, 1980