Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 September 2019
On Christmas Eve, 1979, five young Australians shaved in the sea on a beach in Mauritius, in the calm dawn after a cyclone had trashed the island. They were members of the 150-strong Australian contingent on its way to Southern Rhodesia as part of the Commonwealth Monitoring Force (CMF). In Rhodesia they were to monitor a ceasefire at the end of a long and often brutal civil war, in preparation for elections that would lead to genuine majority rule for the first time in the country’s history. Nobody knew what awaited them in Rhodesia. They arrived at Mauritius, their last stopover en route, to find much of the area devastated and hotels rendered uninhabitable. Resourcefully they found other accommodation, washed in creeks and shaved in the ocean before flying on. It was all an adventure, but it could have seemed like an ill-omened prelude to a mission full of uncertainty.