Sid Ahmed,





INT: What did you think about Callan?

DT: At the time... he was a very charismatic person. I was considerably older than Callan when I met him, and I was amazed that I could ... I had a grudging respect for Callan's,... balls, (Laughs) to put it no milder than that. He wanted to achieve something, without the real ability to manage it. He had no equipment. Had he had the equipment, he probably wouldn't have been able to handle the situation tactically correct, because he lacked that type of.. background, albeit that he was a good soldier. People have branded him psychopathic. Probably true, to a more or less degree. But his intentions were right; he just didn't have the capacity to do it, nor was there anybody around him that was strong enough at that particular time to challenge him, albeit that he wasn't alone. He removed some of the more threatening elements, as he might have viewed them early, to San Antonio do Zaire, so he was left with a group of people who he could control very easily, and he had Portuguese support with him. And whilst numerous times we voiced the "Put one in the back of this bastard's head"... I mean, and I traveled with Callan daily in his Land Rover; for some unknown reason, he took a liking to me... and I used to think that "I could shoot you now"... But.. it didn't really occur to me to do it, and I was just really going along for the ride, to see where it was going to lead us. But... yeah, he was a character.

INT: Yeah. He didn't commit crimes just against the Africans in Angola - I mean, there were several...

DT: (Overlap) The executions At Maquela... Yes, there are various viewpoints on that subject. Callan had our own troops executed for desertion, and in any theatre of war, what they were executed for would have been justified, albeit there was not even a kangaroo court martial at the time: it was very arbitrary. The method of their being killed was what was questionable. Yes, they were... murdered, if you like, executed, murdered, a few of the deserters who literally abandoned the troops that were fighting, or prepared to fight, taking their supplies, because they happened to be in the trucks as well, and basically their only means of survival, to save their own skins. There had been... there was some injustice in.. relation to who got shot, but that's another story, because some who escaped the shooting perhaps deserved to die more than others who were shot. But, yes, he was ruthless.

INT: Did you know who is actually paying you, did you know from where your money...?

DT: We assumed it was the CIA, and in fact I had been told it was American money by one of the recruiters who came to the United Kingdom, and I spent an evening drinking with him in Belgium, that there was an American involvement, and I guessed because of the Cold War at the time that it was Central Intelligence money. But that's speculative on my part, only based on what I have been told. I did meet any... or knowingly met any CIA guys there, albeit that I understand there was, because several of our group did have contact with Americans, and whilst they didn't necessarily advertise the fact that they were, the discussions that they had in terms of resupply or equipping in the future would lead one to believe that they were from Central Intell, yes.

INT: Did you know about Holden Roberto's connections with the Americans?

DT: At that time, no. I mean... I guess, until I arrived in Angola, 36 hours perhaps after... or 48, if we expand... let's say 48 hours after I'd heard the word "Angola"... you know, it was put to me, "Do you want to go to Angola?" and I said "Yes." He could have said "Mars" and I would have said "Yes." Within 48 hours, I had a gun in my hand and I was in Angola. The characters involved in Angola, all the politics of Angola, were totally alien to me at that time.

INT: So why did you say yes so quickly?

DT: First of all, I was broke. Secondly, it sounded like a good idea at the time.

INT: Why?

DT: I had... been an adventurous type prior to that. I was a burglar, a professional thief, so apart from the monetary aspect, there was some need for adrenaline, if you like, and it just seemed a good idea at the time. I had about 56 pence to my name; I had a bunch of money waved at me, by one of the UK recruiters who I knew very well, and I said, basically, "Well, I'm yours for the night" - like a whore (Laughs) - "till I find out what the score is." In the next 24 hours, of course, I did, and I thought "This is an opportunity not to be missed." (End roll)

INT: Dave, could you just repeat the story of the church accident?

DT: The church incident?

INT: Yes.

DT: We were on one of our numerous patrols towards Damba from the town of Maquela, and if you can... say one town here, one town here, and a straight road between, that one's got the enemy and we are in the other, both sides probing. Halfway, [in] a place we dubbed "Banana Junction", there was a house - I mean, a proper, brick-built house - no town or village, but a brick-built house, by this crossroads. Presumably some former governor or local landlord owned it. We billeted in here one night, and adjacent to it was a small chapel, a building that had been used as a chapel. We were sleeping on the floors and wherever. And the troops... some of the troops billeted in the chapel, the old, disused chapel. And really this is to explain the irrational behavior that was happening at the time. In the early hours of the morning, dawn, we were woken up, alarmingly, to gunfire, which of course we all went into sort of defensive mode and... you know, "What the hell's happening?" Everybody's got a rifle, running around like chickens with our heads off, trying to find the source of this gunfire, which is now gone from the back of us, where the chapel area is, to this dusty road, where we finally find Costas Georgiou, or Callan, shooting up the road to departing soldiers of our side, black troops, firing an AK at them. (Coughs) And it transpires that... on further investigation, that he was very suspicious of his own people. He had gone around... woken up early, had gone into the chapel... Desertion, I must say... interject here... desertion was a big problem with our troops - not the white troops, because they had nowhere to go; I'm sure they would have done if there was a way home, but certainly from the black troops. He'd, whilst they were sleeping, looked in their rucksacks or whatever they had, or underneath their uniforms, and found civilian clothes. He had decided that at a crucial point in time, that these were obviously planning on... the first bit of action we came into, were going to shed their clothes and become civilians again. So he shot most of them while they slept. Those that managed to burst out the doors and windows, he was chasing up the road. So we were becoming less by the day, and that's the sort of irrational situation that was happening.

INT: What did you think of Holden Roberto?

DT: I found him a very charming man, sophisticated, and this with...

INT: Can you start that answer again? Can you just say "Holden Roberto was very charming"... presumably?

DT: Yes. Holden Roberto I found to be a very charming man, right from the very beginning. He was quiet, and quietly spoken, very pleasant, a pleasant man to look at. I traveled with him on one occasion as well. He had a great amount of compassion, and I think that was his downfall: he was not a ruthless enough man to achieve what he was trying to achieve. And... yes, I liked him very much, but he did not have the qualities required to be an African leader.

INT: And the last question. What's your overall assessment of the war that you participated in...?

DT: A complete and utter waste of time and life.


INT: What's your overall assessment of...

DT: Of our contribution to the war effort? A complete and utter waste of time. Too little, too late. And the wrong people, anyway.

INT: Could you have spotted a communist at 100 yards?

DT: No.

INT: Do you want to just say that for me?

DT: Yes. We would not have been able to spot a communist at 100 yards, unless they'd had a red star on and a Russian uniform.

(Thank you. End.)