Major Taff Williams

Taffy was born in Wales but later moved to South Africa before going to the Congo. Some people believe that Taffy Williams is thought to be the Mercenary that Frederick Forsyth based his character Carlo Channon on, in his now famous book “The Dogs of War”. Well worth a read if only for its detail in the setting up of the operation.

Noted for his bravery while under fire he served two tours of duty with the Biafran Army, rising to the rank of Major and was the last white mercenary to leave the country as Federal Troops closed in.

Williams found his Biafran troops to be completely different from those who he commanded in Katanga. "I've seen a lot of Africans at war" he was quoted as saying. "But there's nobody to touch these people. Give me 10,000 Biafrans for six months, and we'll build an army that would be invincible on this continent. I've seen men die in this war who would have won the Victoria Cross in another context".

Williams was assigned one hundred Biafran commandos in early 1968, and managed to keep two battalions of black mercenaries from Chad serving with the Federal Army at bay for twelve weeks using only the crudest of weapons. After Williams redeployed his forces in early April, the mercenaries crossed the Cross River at two locations, and captured Afikpo, a main town on the western side.

Finishing his first contract and following a brief stay in the UK, Williams returned to Biafra on July 7, 1968. He was assigned to the 4th Commando Brigade led by Lt. Col Rolf Steiner. Steiner had command of 3000 men, and was assigned to the area around the Enugu to Onitsha road. Williams, who liked to joke that he was "half-mad" would personally lead his troops into battle, sometimes standing in a hail of Federal gunfire, just to prove to his troops that he was indeed "bullet-proof". His resolve under fire would often unnerve the more superstitious of Federal troops and serve to rally his own.

On 24th August, 1968 Williams was drawn into a critical battle of the Nigerian Civil War. At this point he had 1000 soldiers under his command which threw themselves head first against two Federal Battalions which had crossed the Imo River Bridge along with Soviet advisers. For three days their light machine guns and repeater rifles did not stop. When Williams returned to Aba for additional ammunition to continue the fight, he was told that there was simply none to be had. The Nigerian Air Force had become quite successful in blocking supplies into the beleaguered state. Some of Williams' men had but two bullets left in their magazines and they were eventually forced to withdraw.

Following the arrest and deportation of Lt. Col Steiner and four others, Major Williams was the only European still left serving with the Biafran army. He would leave the country shortly before its collapse. He was the only white Mercenary to stand by Biafra for the full duration of the conflict and spent over twelve months in combat.

It is thought that Williams, who had met author Frederick Forsyth who was in Biafra as a war correspondent, served as the inspiration for the character of Carlo Shannon in Forsyth's The Dogs of War (novel), while others believe  it might have been Alexandra Gay.