Book Review - Iron Fist from the Sea

stars Iron Fist from the Sea
South Africa's Seaborne Raiders 1978-1988


- Col Douw Steyn, 4RR (Ret.)
- R.Adml Arnè Söderlund (Ret.)


This review is long overdue. I have read this book cover to cover, and found myself referring to it on multiple occasions since. It is a unique window into the secret history of one of the world’s most elite and accomplished ‘naval’ (they are Army!) Special Forces units. There is no other book to compare as far as 4 Reconnaissance Regiment (4RR) goes.

Part of the famous ‘Recce Commando’ tradition, the 4th Reconnaissance Commando (later Reconnaissance Regiment) was formed in South Africa in the 1970s to conduct covert operations in southern Africa. The unit was almost immediately employed in clandestine actions. And during the Border War with Angola they deployed from submarines and fast boats to conduct reconnaissance, cross-beach, and commando raids. But their greatest claim (at least in my eyes) was the multiple ship attacks, sinking Soviet/Eastern Bloc supply ships supporting the Communist backed Angolan forces. Since WW2 it has been highly unusual for Special Forces to be called upon to attack ships in harbor, so this is a particularly rare story.

Iron Fist from the Sea is excellent for describing the intricate preparations and tactics employed in ‘seaward’ special operations. A single mission might involve a submarine, Strike Craft (missile boats), rigid hulled fast transports, inflatable boats, support ships and combat swimmers.

The book is impressive for its thoroughness, and even covers the abortive and less successful missions as well as the outstanding successes.