The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes – A Book Review
Book Review – The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1991.
This thought provoking biography details Middle Eastern beliefs, regarding revenge killings. Middle Eastern culture is dominated by tribal clans and their belief “an eye for an eye” is very much ingrained in their way of life. This is one of those mind blowing books, impossible to put down, that you come across from time to time. Reading this book will change your whole understanding of the nature of war, conflict and its ramifications.
This superbly written and often disturbing retelling of actual events highlights the activities of three assassins, hired by Sheikh Amr bin Issa, to track down and kill each soldier responsible for the deaths of his four sons. The only stipulation is that each death ‘must look like an accident’ so that no responsibility will be traced back to the Sheikh. There is also no time limit on each ‘accident’. As a consequence of this, the murders took place over 17 years. The Sheikh himself died during this time and the final payment was honoured by the Sheik’s surviving son.
The meticulous planning and execution of each murder have been explored in detail, and noticeably, the patience shown by the assassins on each occasion has been nothing short of exemplary. The three men, De Villiers, Meier and Davies (known as ‘the Clinic’) were contacted through a firm called ‘Tadnams’ of Earls Court, London. Fortunately, a group of retired military men called ‘the Feather Men’, became suspicious of these so called ‘accidents’ happening to their officers who had all fought in Oman and had since left the forces and returned to civilian life. If it had not been for the tenacity and vigilance of the Feather Men, and their undercover surveillance of the Clinic’s suspected quarry, more deaths would have resulted. In fact, the author, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, was himself a target.
Underpinning these events is the disturbing realisation that this is not fiction. This book portrays cold blooded murders that were carried out, not by a group of Middle Eastern fanatics, but by three Westerners, hired to do a job. Undoubtedly, we should ask, ‘how safe are our men and women in the armed forces, who have served in the Middle East?’ Westerners involved in conflict with the Middle East, do so at their own peril, because of these long standing tribal beliefs and customs, of ‘saving face’ within their clans, and avenging the deaths of their sons. Retirement from active duty cannot guarantee that our soldiers are safe from further attack by people who harbour a long term desire for revenge against those soldiers who undertook actions on behalf of their Governments.