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The Wild Geese (Panavision 1978)
There are a few things lift this film away from more run-of-the-mill stories of its kind, although one of the main selling-points for anyone looking at this site is the final destination of their escape. The film was based on an unpublished novel by Daniel Carney; the book then later being published following release of the film. The novel is thought to have been based on the rumours which followed the landing in Rhodesia in 1968 of an aeroplane said to have mercenaries and a dying Moise Tshombe (the Congolese political leader who was the figurehead of the Katanga secession) on board. Secession in Katanga was a subject that many in Rhodesia following UDI felt a certain affinity with. That much of the film was shot in Apartheid South Africa caused some controversy.

Richard Burton (Col. Allen Faulkner) Roger Moore (Lt Shawn Fynn) Richard Harris (Capt. Rafer Janders) Hardy Kruger (Lt Pieter Coetzee - try to spot the accent!) Stewart Granger (Sir Edward Matherson) Winston Ntshona (Julius Limbani)

Story Line
The tag line for the film - "The Dogs of War. The Best D*** Mercenaries in the Business!" The name of the movie was taken from the original Wild Geese, young men, who left Ireland to fight in Catholic armies, mostly in Europe. Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton), a British mercenary, is hired by merchant banker Sir Edward Matherson, to rescue Julius Limbani, the former leader of a central African country, due to be executed by the military dictator who overthrew him. Limbani is being held by the ferocious troops known as the "Simbas". Faulkner recruits 50 other mercenaries; a pilot, and Faulkner's old friend, Rafer Janders, who plans the mission.

Initially the mission appears to be running smoothly; the group successfully infiltrates the prison to rescue Limbani. However, when they have managed to get to the airfield where they are waiting for their pickup (having to fight off an enemy group in the airport bar) the double cross - an obvious sting in the tail - comes through. Sir Edward Matherson and his colleagues reach an agreement with the Zembalese government, and betray the mercenaries. As they are awaiting pickup, the aeroplane is recalled at the last minute - "Sorry. Orders." and the soldiers are left having to fight their way across country pursued by the Simbas. The group is strafed by a low-flying plane with many of the back-ground mercenaries killed in the attack, which separates them into two groups which try to make their way to Limbani's home village (where they intend to provoke a revolution). Faulkner is forced to kill his own men who are gravely injured as Coetzee observes, "can't leave them to the Simbas." However, Coetzee is then killed saving Limbani from an ambush. Arriving at the village, the mercenaries are informed of an escape option nearby - an aging Dakota transport plane.

With a large-scale attack coming upon them, in which many of the mercenaries are killed,  Fynn prepares to pilot the plane as Limbani is loaded aboard; the other mercenaries trying to board the plane as it taxis down the dirt runway. Fynn is shot in the leg through the fuselage but manages to keep the plane going. However, Janders, the last to board, is also shot in the leg and can only hobble as the plane gains speed. With the Simbas approaching, he implores Faulkner to shoot him. Initially, Faulkner cannot bring himself to shoot his friend, but with a tear-jerking finale, Janders cries out his son's name: "Emile! Emile!" and Faulkner pulls the trigger.

The plane is initially refused landing permission in Rhodesia, but after persuading them that Limbani is on the plane, they are given permission to land, but by the time they land Limbani is dead from a wound received while being loaded aboard.

Faulkner then returns with Fynn to exact revenge on Sir Edward Matherson - Matherson said to have been based on real-life British businessman Tiny Rowland, who continues to be a controversial figure in Zimbabwe today. As the then owner of the Observer, Rowland had attempted to rubbish Peter Godwin's accounts of the Fifth Brigade. This link will take you to more information about Rowland and his links with Mugabe's Zimbabwe.