Wednesday, 22 May 2013
LZ Hot: Flying in South Africa's Border War - Nick Lithgow
Author: Nick Lithgow
Publisher: Helion Publishing, 2012
Nick Lithgow has written a book outlining his operational experience during the South African Border conflict during the 1970’s and 80’s. His intent has been to provide the reader with an informal rendition of those events that have most influenced/impacted his military and personal development. This is not a book exclusively about flying and flying operations; rather, it is more an oral history put to paper.
Commencing his career as a National Serviceman he outlines his recollections of basic training and the challenges that he faced and overcame. Following that, his effort towards becoming a pilot and his successes on the different airframes (Harvard, Impala, Allouette III and Puma) are rendered in a easily followed and casual manner. He enjoys passing on stories (both humerous and not) of personalities that he has come across and they read like a discussion over a pub beer.
As he moves forward into his operational flying recollections one is struck by the stress and variety of wartime flying. Regardless of the intensity of the conflict, the impact is similar upon ground and aircrew alike. One is also struck by the degree to which the SAAF (South African Air Force) flying experience is similar in many ways to any other western nation in terms of interagency rivalry and competitiveness. Much of Lithgow’s book is dedicated to the retelling of pranks and mess experiences.
By the title one would anticipate a significant amount of the book to be dedicated to flying ops in the border region. It is clear from reading it that this is not the case. Lithgow spends perhaps fifty percent of his time discussing his exposure to flying operations and the rest discussing basic training, personal relationships, flying training and pranks. I will give credit where credit is due and say that his recollection of National Service Operations does provide the reader with an appreciation of what the South African troopies/pongo’s (ground forces) go through and an additional respect for the authors breadth of experience. He discusses his field time as an infantryman as one would relate any distinctive period of one’s life; better for the experience but glad that it is over.
LZ Hot is casual and easy as far as it goes. It reads well, is engaging and, as long as one accepts and understands that this is simply the reminisces of Lithgow’s military career and the personal experiences he has had along the way, it is enjoyable. It is not really for the serious student of history. That is not to say that Mr Lithgow has not produced a book worth reading, far from it. Mr Lithgow served his country well and has passed on some interesting stories of his adventures. He obviously cares very deeply and is very proud of his service and the opportunities that it provided.His tales will make you laugh and pause for those left behind, so crack a beer and raise a toast to anyone that has ever been yelled at by a Cpl in basic training, slept on the floor to make sure a bed is fit for inspection, had a close call during an operation and lived or have lost a friend in the service of your country. This book is for you.