The Terrible Ones

The Complete History of 32 Battalion

Piet Nortje

The soldiers of 32 Battalion were so feared by their enemies that they were called "Os Terriveis' - "The Terrible Ones'. Founded in utmost secrecy from the vanquished remnants of an Angolan rebel movement, they were forged into an effective fighting machine that took on guerrilla forces and conventional armies alike. Undefeated in 12 years of front
Date Published :
September 2014
Publisher :
Penguin Random House South Africa
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781770223974

In stock


The soldiers of 32 Battalion were so feared by their enemies that they were called ‘the terrible ones’. This comprehensive two-volume work covers in detail the unit’s 117 documented military operations from 1976 to 1993. Nortje explains how the operations were planned and executed, what went wrong, what went right, and what the outcomes were. It also goes back to the early 1960s, covering events in Angola that would eventually result in the formation of 32 Battalion, and it ends in 2005, when the soldiers of the unit unknowingly betrayed themselves.

This work builds a more complete picture than Nortje’s first book 32 Battalion, published in 2003. It is based on over 10,000 pages of documents in the Department of Defence Documentation Centre, which have only recently been declassified. Because of his security clearance, Nortje had access to these documents before their declassification, and was able to use them to write this book. Complementing the documentary evidence are 233 personal recollections: interviews that Nortje conducted with 32 Battalion members, as well as Portuguese, SWAPO, Cuban and Russian soldiers. These give the perspective of the men on the ground, an element often missing from military history.

Based on rich documentary evidence which has never been available to the public before: military documents that were classified until recently, it gives the perspective of the men in the trenches.

About The Author

Piet Nortje joined the SADF Permanent Force in 1978 and rose rapidly through the ranks in 32 Battalion. In 1985 he was appointed as the unit’s Regimental Sergeant Major, the youngest RSM ever in the SADF. Although his involvement with 32 Battalion came to an end in 1988, he continued to serve in the SANDF until his resignation in 2005. He is now a major in the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. He is the author of 32 Battalion, The Terrible Ones and The Battle of Savate.


An amazing and impressive body of informed original research and informative scholarship, "The Terrible Ones: The Complete History of 32 Battalion" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to academic library Military History collections. It should be noted that this two volume compendium comes in a sturdy case, making it an ideal gift for anyone with a interest in military history in general, or the 32nd Battalion in particular.

- Midwest Book Review