Africa @ War 27:



Portuguese Commandos

Feared Insurgent Hunters 1961 - 1974 by John P. Cann


Continuing the ‘Africa @ War’ series, this latest book from Helion concentrates on the activities of Portuguese Commandos in Portuguese African territory between 1961 and 1974. Only 1% of the 800,000 members of the Portuguese Armed Forces during this period were commandos, although these elite soldiers were unfortunately credited with 11.5% of the total casualties. This high loss rate is a reflection of the counterinsurgency work that the Commandoes effectively carried out and the fact that they ‘eliminated’ more insurgents and captured more weapons than any other Portuguese unit.   

For those not familiar with the lie of the land, the book begins with a very useful map of Africa which highlights three of the four main chapter headings as Angola, Guiné (Guinea-Bissau) and Mozambique. Prior to Chapter 1 a very useful list of abbreviations also helps the reader to understand which groups are which. Some of the big players are ELNA (Army of National Liberation of Angola), FARP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People), FNLA (Front for the Liberation of Angola), FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique), GRAE (Government for the Republic of Angola in Exile), MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guiné and Cape Verde) and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) to name a few – you get the idea (especially fans of the Life of Brian!).

The opening chapter, simply called ‘Beginning’ helps no end to explain the political situation in all three countries, the introduction of Portuguese Special Forces and the early deployment of those forces. Training facilities, command structure and the actual criteria for ‘volunteers’ are covered in detail all supported by 90 black and white photographs, ten tables and 15 maps.

I found this book to be quite an education, others will already be aware of the activities of the Portuguese Commandoes during this period; either way this book adds flesh to the bone of an obscure, yet interesting subject.

Thanks to Tom Bonnington at Casemate for our review copy which is available from


ISBN: 978-1-911096-32-0

Price: £16.95

Pages: 64

Format: softback – 297mm x 210mm

Publisher: Helion and Company