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From Tailhooker to Mudmover

An aviation career in the RN FAA, USN and SAAF

Author: Dick Lord

ISBN: 0 620 30762 5

Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin

Way back in 1991, I remember reading an article by (then) Col. Dick Lord in Nyala, the SAAF aviation safety magazine, recounting his experience of ejecting from an A-4 Skyhawk while on secondment, from the Royal Navy, to the US Navy. I also remember thinking that with an aviation career such as this, the author must have many more interesting stories to tell. Over a decade later and subsequently having had the pleasure of meeting Lord, his latest book, an autobiography, has certainly not disappointed. Previous books by the author include Fire, Flood and Ice - SAAF rescue missions and Vlamgat - the Mirage F1 in SAAF service.

Although born in Johannesburg, Dick initially flew Sea Venoms and Sea Vixens aboard RN aircraft carriers and, for two years, A-4 Skyhawks and F-4 Phantoms while on a two-year exchange tour with the US Navy. After 12 years with the RN, Lord returned to South Africa, joined the SAAF (almost by accident) and flew Impalas, Sabres and the Mirage III before commanding 1 Squadron (Mirage F1AZ) during the Bush War. Lord was commander of the Air Force Command Post during the successful rescue of all 581 people from the ill-fated liner Oceanos before retiring as a Brigadier (now called Brigadier General).

Given the three distinctive periods in the authors life, covering nearly four decades, the book is divided into three sections: RN Fleet Air Arm, US Navy and SAAF, each with its own foreward by a personal friend who served in that arm. Lord covers, in amusing detail, enlisting in the Royal Navy, the life of a carrier pilot aboard the carriers Centaur, Victorious, Hermes and the Ark Royal, the US Navy way of training Phantom pilots during the war in Vietnam, flying combat missions and directing operations during the Border War. Subsequently, the author commanded the Air Force Command Post (AFCP) in Pretoria. It was from the AFCP that Lord directed rescue efforts during the Oceanos saga that provided so much positive publicity for the SAAF.

Military aviation has certainly changed since the 1960's, '70's and '80's. The cold war was being fought by proxy, in the Middle East, in the Far East and in Africa. What an opportunity for a military pilot! Lord has a lovely sense of humour, making this book an easy read while at the same time providing a fascinating insight into the life of a military pilot.

Whether you're interested in military aviation in general or just the SAAF, this book is highly recommended.

220x150mm, 360pp, 81 b/w photos

This book may be purchased online at The Airforce Shop.

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