Mad Dog Killers –
The Story of a Congo Mercenary
By Ivan Smith
Helion & Company – £16.95
To describe this book as both brave and balanced might be considered something of an understatement, especially given the terribly fraught subject matter alluded to very early on in the book’s Introduction: ‘’The events of that summer of 1964 still haunt my waking dreams […]. In the crowded, electronic modern world the events described will seem abnormal, not everyday happenings and certainly not in the general experience of ordinary men today […]. Today, war, when it occurs, is short lived and is fought by a minute section of the population and normal citizens have only a slight idea of the reality of war. Killing other men is no longer in the ambit of normal, civilized life.’’
With regards the final sentence, it could be argued that much depends on what one deems, or at least considers ‘as ’normal, civilized life.’’ As today unfortunately, there are certain areas of southeast London and inner city Manchester, where the killing of other men is indeed ‘’in the ambit or normal, civilized life.’’
Although these killings aren’t undertaken by trained soldiers, but rather, vile, uneducated, pond-life.
That said, I do understand what Ivan Smith, author of Mad Dog Killers – The Story of a Congo Mercenary is getting at. And it is this societal cleavage – that the twain ought not to fundamentally meet – which accounts for this book being all the more powerful, if not at times, disturbinging, than it may at first seem.
After answering an ad in the paper (‘’Fit young men wanted for exciting and dangerous work. High rewards for men with military training’’) with the promise of £300 a month plus £75.00 a day ‘’danger money,’’ Smith embarked on a six month contract as a mercenary volunteer in the Armee Nationale Congolais. But despite the promise of financial reward that lured countless desperate men to go and fight/kill countless desperate people they had absolutely no argument with – none was forthcoming: ‘’What was urgently required from the new commanding officer of 51 Commando was information of the status of our pay. Some men had letters from home delivered to the Kamina barracks and no one had seen any pay […]. The missing pay had all been stolen, as usual, by replacement paymasters but also by the men sent to watch that it did not happen.’’
That the few at the top glean all the rewards, while the many at the bottom get truly shafted, is nothing new. In fact, the only difference here is: instead of current day bankers in charge without a conscience, it’s yesterday’s wankers in spurious uniform without a conscience. As Smith goes on to sardonically substantiate: ‘’more men were put in the pay office watching the men watching the paymaster.’’
Money doesn’t talk, it invariably swears.
As mentioned at the outset, Mad Dog Killers is a brave and honest book (albeit a tad repetitive in parts). So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised if its author has one or two ghosts to lay to rest, as some of the events that take place amid these 159 pages are clearly traumatic.
In all, an interesting insight into an extraordinary life that all but a few would even contemplate thinking about.
Perhaps it will be in the writing and the reflection of, that will eventually enable Smith to understand and perhaps come to terms with some of the barbaric duties he and his (psychopathic) colleagues were asked to perform. Duties which were, nevertheless, undertaken to try and help a deeply disturbed country that trusted no one and had no one in charge.