cry of the fish eagle

This is a novel set between England and colonial Rhodesia.  It begins during the second world war, with Rupert Pengelly who promises to look after the daughter of his friend Rigby Savage, a fellow pilot, who did not make the war alive.  His friend’s daughter, Sasa, is living in the Rhodesian bush, with her grandfather, and Rupert sets out to find her.  There is plenty of adventure, romance,  betrayal and the story spans the decades until just after Zimbabwean independence.  The story accurately reflects the history of Rhodesia  and how white Rhodesians felt about the land they settled on.  I was born after the Rhodesian UDI (the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965), and although I do know the history of it, it was interesting reading more about it in this story.  I thought there were probably too many secondary characters, and it was a long read, but eventually they all tied in together.  I’m not adverse to a long read, and as long as a  long read keeps my attention, I won’t have a problem finishing it, and this book, despite the many characters, managed to keep me going.   If you are up for a saga spanning forty or so decades, this is a pretty good read.

Earlier on this year I read Viscount Down, based on true events, another Rhodesian book.

viscountdown

On the 3rd September 1978, a Vickers Viscount aircraft travelling to Salisbury via Karbia, carrying 52 passengers, was shot down by a Russian made surface to air missile.   Of the 52 passengers and four crew, 38 souls died in the crash. Insurgents (terrorists) then approached the wreckage, rounded up the 10 survivors they could see and massacred them with automatic gunfire. Three passengers survived by hiding in the surrounding bush, while a further five lived because they had gone to look for water before the guerrillas arrived.  When the SAS parachuted into the crash site the next morning, a grizzly scene awaited them. Nearby the wreckage lay the bodies of  women, children and a baby who survived the crash landing, only to be bayoneted, and shot to death.

Many Rhodesians felt let down by the British and other western countries, as there appeared to be little condemnation for those acts of sheer brutality.  I found it interesting that Desmond Tutu, at the time a Bishop, sent a message to the Memorial Service – “No condemnation could be strong enough for such a heartless act of slaying defenseless and helpless people, and heartfelt sympathy go to their relatives and friends”

Extracts of the sermon, at the Memorial Service for those 38 souls, by a Reverend John da Costa –

‘I will not allow politics to be preached in this Cathedral and yet times come when it is necessary to speak out ……“Nobody who holds sacred the dignity of human life can be anything but sickened at the events attending the crash of the Viscount Hunyani. Survivors have the greatest call on the sympathy and assistance of every other human being. The horror of the crash was bad enough, but that this should have been compounded by the murder of the most savage and treacherous sort leaves us stunned with disbelief and brings revulsion in the minds of anyone deserving the name “human”. This bestiality, worse than anything in recent history, stinks in the nostrils of heaven. But are we deafened by the voice of protest from nations which call themselves “civilised”? We are not. Like men in the story of the good Samaritan. They ‘pass by on the other side’. One listens for condemnation by Dr David Owen, himself a medical doctor, trained to help all in need. One listens, and the silence is deafening. One listens for loud condemnation by the President of the United States, himself a man from the Bible-Baptist belt , and once again the silence is deafening. One listens for condemnation by the Pope, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, by all who love the name of God. Again the silence is deafening. I do not believe in white supremacy. I do not believe in black supremacy either……The ghastliness of this ill-fated flight from Kariba will be burned upon our memories for years to come. For others far from our borders, it is an intellectual matter, not one which affects them deeply.”

This is an interesting book that makes for compelling reading, and it is also about the aftermath of the crash and how the Rhodesian government went after the insurgents responsible, in their need for retribution.

When the Air Malaysia plane was shot down over the Ukraine earlier on this year, it brought home memories for many (ex) Rhodesians.  It is widely believed that the Russians shot the plane down, thinking it was a military aircraft, and the similarity of the Rhodesian Viscount crash, is that Joshua Nkomo who claimed responsibility for the attack, claimed that the Viscount was used for Rhodesian military purposes – and many (ex) Rhodesians  of course see the common thread between these two crashes as the Russians, as the Russians were known to be arming the insurgents in Rhodesia.

Yes, the native Zimbabweans wanted their freedom, and quite rightly so.  They went to war to gain their freedom.  However, sadly it is the innocents who are often caught up in the crossfire, and one cannot deny that atrocities were committed by both sides.  Furthermore, can anyone justify the killing of innocent women and a baby, even in the name of a war for freedom?  Personally, I believe there is no justification at all.  As it was, Ian Smith and Joshua Nkomo were engaged in apparently promising negotiations to bring about an end to the war, so what point was there in the shooting down of that plane?

Advertisements