Portuguese man o' war: Daniel Roxo.
Born in Portugal, Staff Sergeant Francisco Daniel "Danny" Roxo (1933-1976) was a legendary Portuguese soldier in Mozambique, where he had immigrated to in 1951. What is now a southeast African nation was then still a Portuguese colony and it was seen as a tropical paradise packed with opportunity. For Roxo, the chance of adventure outweighed the material gains, and he started off his career working in the relatively mundane capacity of a civil servant while he found his feet. That didn't take long, and before long he had transformed into a big game hunter in the Niassa Province.
What is today known politically correctly as the Mozambican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the guerrilla forces of the Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique, or FRELIMO, and Portugal. The bush war started in September of 1964, and ended with a cease fire on September 8, 1974 which resulted in a negotiated independence from Portuguese rule in 1975.
When the inevitable terrorist conflict began, Daniel Roxo offered his services to the Portuguese army, and fought the FRELIMO insurgents in Niassa Province of northern Mozambique with great skill, cunning and success and was decorated by the Portuguese government for his actions, including the Honoris Crux for bravery during Operation Savannah for an action during the Battle of Bridge 14 during which he single-handedly killed twelve enemy soldiers.
The colonial wars had proved costly for Portugal. Even in Lisbon, the Armed Revolutionary Action branch of the Portuguese Communist Party, which was created in the late 1960s, and the Revolutionary Brigades, which were a leftwing pseudo-military organisation, worked to undermine the colonial wars. They had carried out attacks against the Taneos air base that destroyed several helicopters in March of 1971 and the attack on the NATO headquarters at Oeiras in October of the same year, among others. Portugal's colonial wars had absorbed forty-four percent of the overall Portuguese budget, which led to a necessary diversion of funds from infrastructural developments in Portugal itself It wasn't lost on Lisbon that the country's African overseas provinces contributed materially to Portugal's GDP growth, which was slowly climbing. But, primarily due to the colonial wars, the Carnation Revolution--a peaceful leftist military coup d'etat in Lisbon--ousted the Portuguese government of Marcelo Caetano in April of 1974. Thousands of Portuguese citizens fled Mozambique ahead of the new ruler General Antonio de Spinola's ceasefire. With the change of government in Lisbon, many soldiers refused to continue fighting, often remaining in their barracks instead of going on patrol. The Lusaka Accord was signed on September 7, 1974, transferring power to FRELIMO.
Followi ng a fai 1 ed coup attempt i n Lourenco Marques in September of 1974 Daniel moved to South Africa andjoined the South African Defence Force, and after completing the Special Forces selection course was attached to Bravo Group, the fore-runner of the legendary 32 Battalion.
Potugal wasn't doing any too well in Angola either, and after the 1975 victory of the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola, or MPLA in the Angolan civil war in 1975, the rival Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola or FNLA, fled to South West Africa, now Namibia. It was from these troops that Colonel Jan Breytenbach together with Commandant Sybie van der Spuy formed a unit that was initially known as Bravo Group but later renamed 32 Battalion. Today it remains a special forces legend, with many former 32 Battalion soldiers having more recently been in the news over Simon Mann's abortive coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.
32 Battalion was mainly deployed in southern Angola, and was also used to assist the anti-communist movement of UNITA. It is claimed that they caused more enemy casualties than any other SADF unit.
The manner of Daniel Roxo's death in the bush in 1976 typifies his exceptional character. During a patrol near the Okavango river, his armoured vehicle hit a landmine and overturned, killing one man and pinning Roxo beneath it. The rest of the crew tried to lift it free, but it was too heavy. Col Jan Breytenbach wrote, in They Live by the Sword:
"Danny Roxo, in keeping with his dauntless character, decided to make the best of things, lighting a cigarette and smoking it calmly until it was finished, then he died--still pinned beneath the Wolf He had not complained once, nor uttered a single groan or moan, although the pain must have been excruciating. Thus Sergeant Danny Roxo died, a man who had become a legend in the Portuguese Security Forces in Mozambique, and who had rapidly become another one in the South African Special Forces."
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|Title Annotation:||THE WAY IT WAS|
|Publication:||African Hunter Magazine|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2013|
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