Little has been written about Britain in the Horn of Africa, Malaya or West Africa. This book recounts post-war unreported military and police operations in those theatres - through the story of one man. He had left school at fourteen with no qualifications but had become a founder of the SAS.
When 1st SAS disbands in October 1945, thirty-two year-old Captain ‘Gentleman Jim’ Almonds, MM and Bar, Croix de Guerre ‘L’ Detachment, 1st SAS, tries to return to an ordinary civilian job. But after helping found the SAS with David Stirling life as a bobby on the beat lacks a certain excitement. Twice a great escaper, he decides he will never settle for an ordinary job. Re-joining the army, he serves as a military advisor to Emperor Hailie Selassie in the British Military Mission to Ethiopia, before becoming Second-in-Command of the Eritrea Police Field Force – a British paramilitary organization. This unusual bandit-chasing outfit of soldiers and policeman faces a blood-stained race against time to catch terrorists (who feature in ‘Wanted’ posters with prices on their heads) in time for Britain to implement a UN Resolution federating Ethiopia and Eritrea under the Ethiopian Crown.
The highly dangerous active service requires all British combatants to be volunteers. Much of the man-hunting is on foot but Almonds also flies around in his private Auster aircraft. During the Malayan Emergency, volunteers again for active service again, re-joining the newly reformed SAS and parachuting into the jungle to clear it of terrorists. Britain’s success in clearing Communist terrorists out of Malaya (compared with US bungling in Viet Nam) remains largely unsung. In Singapore and Ghana, he designs and hand-builds boats (no power tools), sailing his 32-foot ketch, out into mid-Atlantic and back to England.
The story is set in the dog days of the British Empire, with snap-shot detail of the many countries in which Almonds served and the ports he visited during his three-month sea voyage. At a personal level, it reveals more of the enigma of this quiet-spoken Special Forces hero and the kind of family life experienced my brother, my sister and me, as we grew up in an SAS family.