AL J Venter
A former South African Air Force pilot who received a Honoris Crux during the Border War and later became a private military contractor, Neall Ellis is one of South Africa’s best-known combat aviators. He participated in several major Border War operations, including Operation Protea, Super and Meebos.
Apart from flying Alouette helicopter gunships in Angola, he has fought in the Balkan War (for Islamic forces) and tried to resuscitate Mobutu Sese Seko’s ailing air force during his final days ruling the Congo. In war-torn Sierra Leone Ellis played a major role in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the fight against the rebel forces of Foday Sankoh. Twice he single-handedly turned the enemy back from the gates of Freetown, effectively preventing the rebels from overrunning the capital.
Ellis was also the first private military contractor to work hand-in-glove with British ground and air assets in a modern guerrilla war and used his helicopter numerous times to fly elite Special Air Service (SAS) personnel on low-level reconnaissance missions into the interior of the diamond-rich country, for the simple reason that no other pilot knew the country – and the enemy – better than he did.
Later in Afghanistan, Ellis flew helicopter support missions for three years where he had more close shaves than in his entire previous four decades put together. The author recounts these hair-raising missions, some of which he accompanied Ellis on as a war correspondent.
AL J Venter is a well-known military writer who has had 50 books published, including War Stories and War Dog. Venter was involved with Jane’s Information Group for more than 30 years and was a stringer for BBC, NBC News, as well as London’s Daily Express and Sunday Express. He also intermittently covered South Africa’s Border War in the 1970s and 1980s and has co-written the topselling South Africa’s Border War with Willem Steenkamp. He lives in the United Kingdom, but still regularly visits South Africa.
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