View Full Version : Africa's Commandos - new book on the RLI

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07-04-2010, 11:03 AM

Amidst your post was:
Of concern to us was the fact that at one point operational intel was being passed on. For example on one camp attack into Zambia when we were going through the paperwork in their ops room we found a fresh signal they had received that morning saying "You will be attacked at 12h00 today".

I learnt when in Zimbabwe in 1985 that operational security lapses had caused immense concern and aside from the "usual suspects" some thought was given to the regular arrival of external supporters before each major external operation. Supporters who provided the funding and more - they were not identified, but the finger of suspicion pointed northwards to Arabia. Their arrival in executive jets invariably was to Salisbury and could have been monitored.

After 1980 the Rhodesians discovered that some of the lapses could be attributed to the weather station at Salisbury airport, which was all-African and from their position could monitor the build-up of aircraft. Maybe even requests for weather reports? IIRC the Rhodesian Air Force main operating base, New Sarum shared the civil Salisbury airfield.

Security did work and I was told that ZANLA had never worked out where the ammunition was stored for the AML armoured cars; it had been in the squash courts and had been unseen.

06-11-2012, 02:24 PM
There is a popular, long-running thread 'Rhodesian COIN' and this thread will be merged in due course.

Coming out in the summer is a privately published book 'Africa's Commandos', edited by a SWC member (JMA) and Chris Cocks; the publishers are the RLI Regimental association (RLIRA) and the main beneficiary is a linked charity.

From the pre-publication circular:
...this book is a compilation of over 80 short stories, each told in the specific writer’s own style, in their own words and with their own emphasis. Whilst the nature and approach ranges from the sophisticated to raw, the sincerity and reflection of the writers is both honest and appealing. By taking personal stories and aligning them with well-chosen photographs, many of which have resided in personal collections, the editors have managed to capture the values, spirit, concerns, apprehensions, and emotional aftermath of people’s lives in the RLI. Through these stories, the reader gains a full understanding of the meaning of being an RLI commando.

The book is 50 per cent pictorial, giving it a rich visual appeal. We have selected photographs not only to complement the stories but also to provide the emotional context of the moments.....with time we will all appreciate that there were not too many armies in the world where 30 years ago, or even today, you could spend the day out in Fire Force action returning in the afternoon for a hot shower and a plate of steak, egg and chips washed down by a few cold beers.

The circular also has three short stories, on Fire Force, a Contact and Foreign Recruits; all worth reading.

Details of ordering, price and delivery are provided. The print-run will be for 2k and the book can only be ordered direct.

How much is the book?

For Hard Cover South African Rand 459 (US$ 54.68, UK Pound 35.21) and Soft Cover R399 (US$47.50 and UK Pound 30.60).


06-11-2012, 02:48 PM

06-13-2012, 04:50 PM
The duty of the Padre in armies where they are required to inform the NOK (next of kin) in the event of KIA (killed in action) is the worst duty in the world. Personally I had on occasion to inform an 18 year old troopie that both his mother and father had been killed in an attack on their farm homestead. He collapsed. Over the years I have role played those moments over and over in my mind to try to figure out how I could have broken that tragic news to him in such a way so as to soften the blow. The answer is simple you can't. I would rather run into a burning building than have to be the bearer of such tragic news again.

In the book Africa's Commandos an extract from the battalion padre's own book is published which deals with just this most terrible of duties our army passed onto our padres.

Baptism of Fire
By Bill Dodgen

Extract from 'Reflections of a God Botherer' by Lt-Col The Rev Bill Dodgen, Sigma Press (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1991, pp 1-7

I entered the Rhodesian Army as a chaplain at the start of the escalation of the bush war. If I had had any romantic thoughts when I was commissioned into the Rhodesian Army as Chaplain with the rank of Captain, my very first task on my very first day shattered them.

Having been welcomed by the Chaplain General, Norman Wood, I had a feeling of intense pride as I sat in that (Norman’s) dingy office. At last a dream had come true - a dream of being a minister and a soldier, woven into one. A chaplain at last, and not in just any army, but in the ‘greatest little army in the world’ – the Rhodesian Army.

Just then the sergeant from the Communications Centre arrived with the usual pile of notifications of injuries. Reading through them slowly, Norman’s face turned grey. He glanced at me over the signals in his hand.

“This is bad news, Bill. There has been an ambush and four young men have been killed. Sorry to spring this on you like this, but the deep end is the best place to learn. Please inform the next of kin. Sergeant Thompson will drive you.”

In that moment I was gripped by panic. My throat closed up, my mouth dried and I could feel the perspiration running down my arms as I gripped those notices. For the first time I read the words ‘killed in action’. I felt like I needed a life jacket.

After praying together, Andy and I set out in his Land Rover. I began rehearsing what I would say, an exercise which later I was to learn was useless. The news I had was the worst kind, even if it was said in Shakespearean prose, or with the skill of a Demosthenes.

After knocking at the door of the first home on my list, a young girl opened the door.

“Ma, there’s an army bloke here! Something’s happened to Boetie!”

Within a few seconds the mother was there, wringing her hands on her apron.

“It’s not serious? Tell me it’s not serious,” she said.

The expression on my pale face must have given her no hope. Before I could tell her that her son was killed in ambush, she threw her arms up and began wailing and chanting “No! No! No! Not my boy. It’s all a mistake. Not my boy – my boy.” With a groan she collapsed into a chair, sobbing.

Andy and I just stood there as if hypnotized by the scene that followed. The entire neighbourhood came running in and turned the place into a den of wailing. Andy and I slowly retreated with promises to come back later.

By this time the news had travelled all over the suburb. Mothers whose sons were in the same unit were waiting on their doorsteps. The Land Rover pulled up outside the gate of the second home on the list and before I even got to the gate, the wailing began with masses of people being attracted to the source of the noise.

Travelling to the third family, Andy requested to remain in the Land Rover as the trauma was too intense for him. At that home, I encountered an aggressive attitude and had to remove myself promptly for fear of physical harm.

By the time the fourth family had been informed, it was almost 1400hrs.

Returning to Army Headquarters I informed Norman that all the families had been notified. He then passed this information on to Army Public Relations for release on radio and TV. “Security Headquarters regrets to announce the death in action of four members of the security forces …”

Behind that communiqué were hours of tears and torment. No one can fully appreciate the agony of soul experienced by chaplains who, called to be messengers of eternal life, find themselves to be messengers of death.

Having received the necessary forms for funeral procedures, I returned to the homes of those poor grieving people. There I was bombarded with questions as to how, when and where he died. If he suffered. Was his death slow? Not knowing the details myself, I could merely state what was reported in the signals from the unit in the field.

What a day! A day of such intense emotional stress. This was indeed a baptism of fire. The deep end could not have been any deeper.

Who was sufficient for these things?

06-14-2012, 06:04 PM
1. jess = jesse bush = thorny bushwillow - Combretum celastroides (http://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata/species.php?species_id=141810)
2. ouen = troopie/mate/friend/comrade

Death of a boy in thick jess
by Chris Cocks

An ouen took a round in the throat that day
In the winter of ’77
In single file he was leading the way
On terrain that was rough and uneven

The horse flies were biting, the jesse bush tore
At our jump suits, our webbing and skin
Our camo cream ran, the sweat was a whore
In our eyes and our cuts it got in

The point man was yanking at creepers and vines
Visibility was down to a yard
The air was so thick, ambush played on our minds
Moving forward was so f###ing hard

Gunfire erupted to the front and the side
As we crashed to the earth seeking cover
AKs were cracking, with nowhere to hide
As a gunship came into the hover

Then our gunner came up, a hundred-round belt
On his gun he drummed out his tattoo
He blasted those f###ers right back into Hell
His aim straight and low and so true

The gunship was firing, the dust and the smoke
And the cordite were burning our eyes
Our point man was down, feebly clutching his throat
Blood gurgling and sputum and flies

The gunship withdrew to the stick leader’s screams
As the silence of death crept around
Almost incidental, for that’s what it seems
An ouen was now dead on the ground

In single file he’d been leading the way
On terrain that was rough and uneven
A boy took a round in the throat that day
In the winter of ’77


06-15-2012, 09:07 PM
An extract from the comprehensive article on the Rhodesian Fire Force from the book:

Note: The regimental march of the RLI is "The Saints" hence the references to 'the saints' (being the serving men of the regiment) and a word play on "when the saints go marching in...".



Reflections and legacy

The gain: The evolution of Fire Force as an infantry air-borne assault method and its widespread study by military academics and students in military learning institutions throughout the world bears testimony to its efficacy. However, the main lesson of Fire Force still probably has to be learned. Fire Force was the end product of a philosophy – a philosophy that ignored the inter-service rivalry, vested interests, convention, rank, petty rule books and personal agendas so prevalent in the behaviour of the modern military. Fire Force was a manifestation of an ethos that like-minded commanders of all ranks and of all arms needed to combine their considerate talents in a collective effort to constantly evaluate the battlefield, to be self-critical in all analyses, and to strive to work for the greater good.

The pain: The years 1975-1979 were the years of the RLI Fire Forces. Whilst much is made of the valour and achievements and of course the casualties, one thing was certain: no combatant of either side exposed to Fire Force action was left unscarred by the experience. Those who were left physically unscathed did not escape varying degrees of trauma which still stalks those veterans today. After 30 years, perhaps this is yet to be acknowledged. In 1978 Rhodesian society, which was overwhelmingly masculine in orientation, little was known of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even if its presence had been acknowledged, it cannot be said that its recognition would have found universal acceptance then. Commanders, however, remained sensitive. RLI soldiers subjected to sustained bouts of conflict and battle stress often displayed classic symptoms: irrational behaviour, fits of temper, depression and moodiness, and sensitivity was needed in their handling. There were many such young men in the RLI who were managed with great skill by young troop NCOs and officers. PTSD then was simply another problem for leaders who had a great capacity for problem solving. A casualty list compiled today would include many of those who served in the Fire Forces, an experience that would determine the behavioural pattern of many young lives from that time onwards for the rest of their lives.

A final word

The years 1975-1979 were momentous – only five years, a short span in the telling of things military. They were the years when a bushfire insurgency became a vicious regional conflict. The years when a fine fighting regiment and wonderful aircrew revolutionized counter–insurgency air assault doctrine. The years when RLI Fire Forces brought a nation to the cusp of victory. The years to which men would later return and say: “Yes, who could forget those stirring times - the RLI Fire Force years - when the ‘Saints’ found immortality; the years when ‘The Saints went marching in ....’”

N D Henson
September 2010
Copyright vested in the Regimental Association of the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

06-17-2012, 06:21 AM
From the book Africa's Commandos extracts from an article by the RMO (Regimental Medical Officer) on the use of an MRU:

Mobile Resuscitation Unit – the RLI lifesaver
By Cliff Webster

... The 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the then-recent Vietnam War had amply demonstrated the value of casualties receiving quick access to resuscitation and stabilization before transfer to major medical units for specialist attention. This required the medical personnel getting to the casualty in the field as soon as possible to commence resuscitation. The sooner the casualties received intravenous resuscitation fluids the better, whether in the field and/or on arrival at the MRU. During these years the international term ‘golden hour’ was coined. It referred to that critical hour after serious injury during which resuscitation should ideally commence to ensure a good outcome for the casualty. The MRU was frequently well within an hour’s helicopter flight from the battlefield. (both located in Salisbury, now Harare)...

... The MRU was often deployed next to a forward airfield so that fixed-wing aircraft could be made immediately available to transfer casualties back to a central hospital once they were stabilized in the MRU, usually to the Andrew Fleming Hospital via New Sarum Air Base. ...

... Injuries were broadly classified into the following groups (medevacs included):

Injury Groups.....................Number.....Percentage
Superficial injuries.................127.......... 39.1%
Orthopaedic injuries..............100...........30.8%
Multiple trauma......................24............7.4%
Burns...................................16........ ....4.9%
Head injuries.........................11............3.4 %
Chest injuries........................11............3.4%
Abdominal injuries..................11............3.4%
Other (e.g. ENT).....................8............2.5%
Medevacs............................17............ 5.1%

Note: in the terminology of the time the term 'MEDEVAC' (medical evacuation) related to evacuations related to sickness and disease - as opposed to CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) which included all war wounds and related injuries.


Of the 325 persons who were casevaced and medivaced through or from the MRU, two died en route to the MRU, two died as they arrived at the MRU and two died en route to a central hospital from the MRU. Three of these cases were multiple trauma cases, one was a gunshot wound (GSW) to the thigh with femoral artery severed, and two were GSWs through the base of the skull. This was a 1.8% death rate which emphasized the value of having such a unit in the forward area as there were clearly cases which would not have survived the long trip to a central hospital without stabilization. Sometimes the RLI MRU was close enough to a Fire Force contact to see and hear the K-Car over the contact. On a couple of occasions we received at the MRU, or were able to get to, critically injured troops within 7–10 minutes of them being hit.

In conclusion it can be said that the RLI MRU more than paid for itself as a lifesaver and also as a morale booster.

06-18-2012, 01:43 AM
Included in the book with the permission of the author:

With a little help from the ‘dagga boys’
Extract from Choppertech, Leach Printers & Signs CC, Louis Trichardt, 2011,
pp 182-184
By Beaver Shaw

The incident described below took place probably on the Angwa River in the Tribal Trust Land (TTL) about 45 minutes’ flying time from Karoi. My attempt to date it makes it 6 December 1978. I was in K-Car serial number R7509 with Nigel Lamb (pilot). It was possibly airstrike 907.

Fire Force was called out from its temporary base at the junior school in Karoi to a sighting of ten to twelve terrorists by a Selous Scout observation post (OP) in the TTL adjoining the commercial farming area. It was reported that the group of terrorists were armed with AK47 rifles, an RPD machine-gun and an RPG7 rocket launcher. They were dressed in blue denims and were relaxing in the riverline after having been fed a few hours previously by local village women from a kraal about three kilometres away.

Our K-Car flew overhead of the Scout OP and pulled into an attack pattern with the Scouts speaking the gunship on to the target area. As we pulled over the riverline the terrorists began to bombshell into the thick vegetation on both sides of the riverline.

I threw smoke (a smoke-generating grenade to mark the target) and began engaging the terrorists with 20mm cannon, killing two in their camp while the remainder of the terrorists who had managed to survive the initial contact took cover and ran into thick riverine vegetation and began to give us a serious snot squirt (return fire) from a heavily overgrown reed bed on the left-hand bank of the river. I returned fire with the cannon which did not have any effect in suppressing the enemy fire, as the 20mm high explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds burst on top of the reeds and did not penetrate into the thick reeds. We were taking a lot of hits from small-arms fire and had to pull into a wider orbit to avoid being shot down. Whenever we tightened our orbit, the terrorists’ return fire became more intense.

At this stage the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) Fire Force commander called for plan Alpha (which involved the supporting G-Cars dropping their troops at pre-determined positions thus giving the K-Car crew time to sort out their immediate problems). The G-Cars orbiting the contact area turned in to drop their stops both upstream and downstream of the contact area as planned. There was no need to put stop groups on the sides of the river because the surrounding bush was open other than the line of riverine vegetation. Any breakout would have been quickly stemmed by 20mm HEI rounds fired into the open by the K-Car. The RLI Fire Force commander was worried about his Fire Force troops sweeping into the reed beds ahead of their drop-off positions, and got them to sit tight in an ambush position while the Lynx was called on to drop frantan (frangible tank - the Rhodesian version of napalm). Nigel Lamb pulled the K-Car into a wide orbit to give the Lynx an opportunity to attack the terrorist position and the Lynx immediately swooped in firing .303 Brownings and 37mm unguided SNEB rockets, and then dropped a frantan which unfortunately went a little high and caused a huge fireball, followed by a plume of sooty black smoke in the riverbed, but failed to hit the terrorists in their secure position in the reeds.

A G-Car was called into the orbit to assist by putting down flushing fire with its twin .303 Browning machine-guns. We could see the tracer streaking into the reeds which only succeeded in the gooks returning intensive fire at the aircraft in the vicinity from this position. These gooks had found a really secure position and we were going to have a job at hand to root them out without taking any casualties on our side.

Earlier, as we were pulling up into the initial attack pattern, I had noticed two dagga (mud) boys (solitary old buffalo bulls who had been rejected from the herd due to their advancing years) wallowing in some swampy ground in an open area to the left of the river. These old buffalo were now milling about in the vicinity of the reed bed close to the contact area and it was obvious that they had become very agitated by all the activity, noise and smoke emanating from the contact in the area.

I had devised a plan which seemed out of the ordinary, but which could just swing things our way, and discussed it with the K-Car crew over the intercom. This plan was to attempt to drive these old dagga boys towards the terrorist position while I fired the cannon close to the buffalo without killing or wounding them in the hope it would scare and drive them into the thick reeds, which in turn would drive the terrorists out into the open where we would be able to take care of business.

The plan was accepted which resulted in me firing one 20mm round a time near the two old buffalo. As the dust from the strikes settled, the dagga boys charged for the nearest cover in that loping, bouncing run that only buffalo can do, with their tails in the air. As they entered the reed bed in which the gooks were hiding, the terrorists began to fire at the buffalo which incensed them even more. All we could see from above was the reed bed swirling as the buffalo charged at the gooks.

Stop 1 reported hearing gunfire from that area and thought the second stop group was in contact with the enemy. A few seconds later I saw three terrorists running towards Stop 1 at the top of the riverline with one of the buffalo in hot pursuit. Three terrorists were shedding themselves of their packs as they ran. I opened fire with the 20mm cannon, double tapping at the fleeing terrorists in the riverbed and dropped one as they tore away from the reed bed in an attempt to escape the enraged buffalo. The 20mm fire had unnerved one of the buffalo which once more crashed back into the reed bed where he remained. Stop 1 called on the radio to say that they had shot two of the terrorists attempting to run down the riverbed about 200 metres from the initial contact area. I don’t think these terrorists even knew or cared about the stop groups in their attempt to escape those buffalo which were now milling about in the reed bed. It was decided that it was not a good idea to sweep through the reed bed and suffer the same fate as the terrorists.

The stop groups swept the area surrounding the reed bed and the riverline and dragged the five bodies out for pick-up, together with one RPD machine-gun, two AK47 rifles, one RPG7 rocket launcher with three rockets, and an SKS rifle.

A few days later we flew over the contact area on the way to another call-out in the area and saw the dagga boys lying in the riverline chewing the cud as if nothing had happened.

The Scouts had a grandstand view of what must have been one of the strangest Fire Force contacts ever seen.

Bill Moore
06-18-2012, 02:30 AM
JMA, Many serious comments preceding, but that last report verifies that truth can be stranger than friction.

06-18-2012, 07:58 AM
JMA, Many serious comments preceding, but that last report verifies that truth can be stranger than friction.

Maybe it also indicates that in the absence of own forces casualties war can be fun at times... :eek:

... like when the 'A-Team' (on TV) used to talk about how great it is when a plan comes together. :cool:

Oh yes talking about using animals...

... our enemy used baboons as early warning of airstrikes. They kept baboons chained to a tree in their camps and if they had survived a camp attack they were valuable as they could pick up the approach of the jets long before the human ear and would start to get really agitated. This would allow the leadership to jump into a vehicle and escape to be able to run another day. I kid you not.

06-20-2012, 03:41 PM
A comment from one who served:

From an American trooper
By Ken Gaudet

When I attend military reunions with the unit I served with in Vietnam, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, I am often asked what it was like to have been a soldier in Africa.
My answer has always been that it was a time to be a soldier and one of the most memorable experiences of my time in the military. I reflect back when I was in Vietnam as a 19-year-old sergeant patrolling in our area of operations. The US armed forces had all the military firepower but not the will of the American people to win in Vietnam. Often in the RLI we thought how different the war would have been if the Rhodesians had had more helicopters, planes, modern equipment and troops to defeat the terrorists. What I saw was the Rhodesians making do with what they had because they had no other choice.

When I joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) right after the internal elections in April 1979, everything was changing except the morale of the combat troops. The mission was to continue to take the fight to the enemy, find them and do your job as a soldier. The RLI guys in Support Commando were a mixture of Rhodesian national servicemen, foreign soldiers from various armies, and Rhodesians who had been fighting since the beginning of the terrorist war. What a group to say the least. We were beyond fearless: it did not matter if we were on Fire Force, combat ops with the Special Air Service (SAS) or Selous Scouts – we were there to take the fight to the enemy.

The RLI soldiers can easily be compared to a modern US Army Ranger battalion. The RLI made numerous combat para jumps, not only inside Rhodesia on Fire Force operations, but para drops into Zambia and Mozambique into some of the biggest terrorist base camps of the war. The RLI will always be remembered as one of the finest fighting forces in modern times. I am proud to say for a time I was part of ‘The Incredibles’.

06-21-2012, 05:10 AM
In November 1977 The Rhodesian forces two major ZANLA military bases in Mozambique in Op Dingo. In two phases, this joint SAS/RLI operation; Zulu 1 was the attack on the Chimoio complex - killing in excess of 1,200 insurgents - and a few days later Zulu 2, being the attack on the Tembue complex - 220 km into Mozambique where in excess of 500 insurgents were killed. Audacious is not a strong enough word to describe these actions but perhaps to borrow from the SAS it was certainly a case of 'who dares wins'.

Extract from book...

Reflections on Operation Dingo
The RLI lost its innocence during Operation Dingo. The audacious plan, which a week before had drawn gasps of amazement, had been met with shaking of heads or total disbelief, had tested the regiment in a way it had never been tested before. The RL1 as a unit had emerged with much deserved credit, new-formed confidence and secure in the knowledge that it had a right to be described as ‘The Incredible RLI’.

For the first time, the regiment began to see the conflict’s wider picture: there was more to this war than the occasional Fire Force action; the numbers given by Special Branch in their ‘Threat’ briefings were not figments of imagination. The danger was now tangible. The RLI was in a toe-to-toe knockdown struggle that was a long way from being concluded.

Air power in Operation Dingo
The conduct of the Rhodesian Air Force in Operation Dingo was remarkable. This ambitious, audacious - some say outlandish - plan could never have been achieved without their planning, their professionalism, their devotion to duty, their passion to use every fibre of their being to employing their machines for their destined purpose and beyond.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF) on Commonwealth deployments in Aden and Cyprus achieved aircraft availability that had Britain’s Royal Air Force shaking their heads in disbelief. The availability of aircraft on the flight line for Operation Dingo matched and exceeded these figures; the flawless execution of two back-to-back airborne assaults within three days of each other employing eight different aircraft types whilst leaving nothing in reserve was a remarkable demonstration of the Rhodesian Air Force’s fighting resolve.

Lt Mark Adams, 3Cdo, who took part in Zulu 1 – Chimoio, has commented on the technical expertise of the chopper techs as follows:

“In the opening minutes of the Chimoio attack one of the trooping G-Cars was damaged by ground fire requiring a tail rotor assembly to be replaced. In addition the command helicopter damaged by 12.7mm heavy machine-gun fire limped away with damage requiring a full rotor change. The chopper techs on the ground waited for a full set of rotors and a tail rotor assembly to be flown in from Grand Reef airfield to repair the damaged choppers in the field. This they achieved while working in the bush and both choppers were repaired and able to fly back to Grand Reef that night.

“The day between the Chimoio and Tembue raids required extensive repair and maintenance work on the 31 choppers as every one of the ten K-Cars had sustained hits during the day. Bearing in mind that troops had stayed overnight at Chimoio to mop up any gooks who had drifted back into the area, they also had to be withdrawn the next morning by chopper.

“During the Tembue attack, 220km into Mozambique, the Forward Admin Base was only six kilometres from the camp itself. One K-Car had taken a strike to its engine and needed a replacement. The replacement engine was flown in to the admin base where the chopper techs changed the engine in the bush using empty fuel drums as their workbench. The repaired K-Car was able to fly out by the end of the day.

“Maybe we need to pause for a moment and remember the skill that these ‘chopper techs’ displayed both with machine-guns and 20mm cannons and technically. The Rhodesian Air Force ‘chopper techs’ were definitely the unsung heroes of the bush war.”

No country - no army - no regiment was ever served and supported by a more devoted Air Force who gladly risked life and machine in support of their troops on the ground. To a man, the RLI would have died for the men in Blue, whom they loved, honoured and revered.

Footnote: of course at the time the left wing propaganda was that Op Dingo was launched against refugee camps. Over the past 30 years this pretense has been dropped by all but a small group die-hard 'useful idiots' in North American and Europe who continue to perpetuate the lie.

06-21-2012, 08:47 PM
On 17 October 1980 the RLI held a final parade and laid up the colours prior to being officially disbanded on 31 October 1980. The Commanding Officer's speech on that parade is memorable.

CO's Speech on Final Parade - 17 October 1980

Officers and men on parade, distinguished guests and former members, ladies and gentlemen.

In a few minutes time this battalion, known to the country and to the world, for a short but golden period of history, as the first battalion, the Rhodesian Light Infanty, will march off the square and into history. To mark this dramatic and to many of us heart rending occasion we will shortly pay a last tribute and say farewell to our colours which we have carried aloft with such pride and honour for more than 14 years of war.

There is so very much that one can say at a time like this: yet it is a sacred moment. A moment for personal meditation and reflection. There is little I can say to alleviate our sorrow.

If the world neither knows nor mourns our passing, let us rest assured that the great captains of history and those who study military affairs will know that a fine regiment is lost to the honourable profession of arms this day.

I should simply add that we, the final team of this wonderful regiment must leave this square not only in grief but with intense pride, dignity and honour. We have much to be grateful for. I am eternally grateful to those fine men who served these colours before we did: to those amongst us who lost loved ones: to those who, to this day, bear the scars of war received whilst fighting under these colours : to those friends — and there are many of them - who have stood by us in adversity : to those who fought with such courage beside us.

I am grateful that we can shout to the world this day: “There are our colours. They are unstained, undefeated, triumphant. They are covered in glory”.

I would like to think that those of our number who lost their lives are paraded with us this afternoon. I believe they would be proud. We have not let them down.

I am reminded of Butch Fourie, an ordinary RLI soldier, who turned the words of a well known song to capture the spirit that prevails today:

“Far have I travelled
on land and through sky,
dark are the mountains
the valleys are green,
and oh our colours
fly higher than high,
for we are the boys of the RLI.”

Our colours will continue to fly higher than high. We know that in years to come we will say to our children and to our loved ones with the greatest pride: “I served in the RLI”.

Finally I offer a personal and humble prayer.

May god bless our beloved regiment and those who on this day and in the past have served her with such honour. I thank god that we have done our duty.


(JCW Aust) Lt Col
17 October 1980

06-22-2012, 06:02 PM
Note: buff beans, aka velvet bean or cowitch = Mucuna pruriens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mucuna_pruriens)
: TA = Territorial Army or reservist
: gonk = sleep
: N.O.K. = next of kin

“Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?”

By Major (The Rev) Bill Blakeway

“Padre, do you want to go on Fire Force.” That question put to me by Maj Pat Armstrong, then O.C. of Support Commando, started my understanding and appreciation of what the RLI was all about.

I nearly had a heart attack when I looked at the stick board that evening and saw there in first wave, stop one - Padre! It was quite a serious stick - Cpl ‘Dutch’ de Klerk, ‘Ticky’ Millet, ‘Buzzard’ Dalgerous and yours truly. Fortunately, the only contact we made that day was with ‘Buff Beans’. But I shall never forget the almost paralysing fear as the chopper circled the target area. For me the moment of truth. I have recalled that “heavy war story” because that experience helped me to know something of what the members of the Battalion had to go through every time the siren went off. I don’t think it is possible for a Padre to begin to communicate with the Troopie unless he has been frightened with him.

My association with the Battalion started during 1974, whilst I was still a TA. Right from the beginning, to me, there was something “special” about the Unit. It also became clear to me that there was a tremendous pride in the Unit by its members and like all regular army units, it was a “closed shop” to anyone on the outside. I soon realised that 1 would have to become a regular if I was to stand any hope of being accepted. It was during the first half of 1976 that the Chaplain General said, “You are now officially Chaplain to the RLI get on and know them.”

It would take far more than this article and would be impossible to recall and record everything I would like to of these last six years. The Padre’s Hour for instance. You know that exciting period during the week when most of the ouens catch up on their gonk! I recall a few anxious moments when difficult questions have come up, like . . “Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?” If anyone thinks there is an easy answer to that one - good luck. All I could do was to help the troopie to see that the country had the right to both rule and defend itself, and that the Christian had a moral obligation to be involved in both. I would also like to say that during the whole of my association with the Battalion, I have not come across one man who claimed categorically that he is an atheist. They might not have been Church-goers, but they accepted the fact that there was “someone up there” looking after them.

My trips to the bush to visit the different Commandos - few Chaplains had the privileges that I had in this respect. To be accepted as part of the Unit. I remember incidents like Forbes Border Post with 2 Commando, hot extraction demonstration with 3 Commando - with me hanging from that bar and the chopper circling a couple of hundred feet up - when I could have been back home sitting having tea with the old ladies of the Church! Being one of six sticks, total 24, and being told by the O.C. that 75 to 100 enemy had been sighted - I didn’t stop shaking for an hour.

The occasional patrol clinging hopefully to the promises of the Log Enslins and Charlie Warrens of: “Dont worry, Padre, we will look after you.” Another moment that aged me twenty years was when the present CO Lt-Col Aust was 2IC. We were discussing the various para courses and he said: “Do you want to be para-trained?” As I was still stumbling over my answer he picked up the phone, spoke to the para school and asked them if the Padre could get on a course. I sat completely speechless as I heard him say: “Right, thanks, — three weeks’ time.” Once again, however, what a privilege to be accepted as one who has jumped with the Battalion - even if they were only fun jumps.

There have been the sad times …. having to go and visit N.O.K. of members of the Battalion and giving them the one message they were dreading. The happy times at the get-togethers and marriages. The proud moments. There is no doubt that to me, personally, the supreme moment of pride was on the 1st February, 1979 when the Statue of the Troopie was unveiled. To have been part of that magnificent ceremony will always be the most treasured memory that I will have.

And who of those who were there will ever be able to forget the Memorial Service on 12th September, 1979, and the funeral service for Major Bruce Snelgar, held at the foot of the statue. Or that final Wreath-Laying. Possibly there will be those who will read this and say “the Padre’s being carried away again.” All I know is that those who have served in the Battalion will know exactly what I am saying. They will understand the fierce feeling of pride that the men in the Unit, and its achievement, coupled with the memory of those of their number who did not return from the op area.
As the Padre remembers, he would also like to say “Thank You”. Thank you to the men of the green and silver, for your professionalism as soldiers, for your courage, for your loyalty to the cause for which you fought. And I thank you for your personal friendship.

Remember this, we’re going to be in that number when the SAINTS GO MARCHING IN!

From the October 1980 Cheetah magazine.

06-25-2012, 01:03 PM
An extract from an article in the book:

The shyte hit the fan as we hit the ground. All hell broke loose and a long and fierce firefight took place. I experienced just about everything a soldier could expect to face in a lifetime in the army. There were airstrikes that nearly hit us, a terrorist threw and hit me with an empty AK magazine, two of my friends, Kevin and Kim, were seriously injured and flown out, and I had my first kill. I have never forgotten that moment … 18 years old and I took another human being’s life. Raised as a Catholic this had a severe impact on me. The worst was to come. At the end of the day we had to retrace our movements and collect all the bodies and drag them to a pick-up point. The sight of the fatal injuries were horrific, limbs shattered, huge holes everywhere, exposed internal organs and brains oozing out the bodies; the yellow fat, the flies, the stench of death were gut-wrenching. No training could have prepared me for this.

On our return to Mount Darwin camp, the troop decided that it wasn’t too late for me to be initiated. So there I was at 2100hrs, jogging on the spot, totally naked and drinking from a four-litre bucket filled with a mixture of beer, Chibuku (African beer made from maize meal) and spirits. I could not believe this was happening on what was probably the most frightening day of my life.

06-26-2012, 07:23 AM
A comment from one who served:

American Ken Gaudet eating a melon in the Angolan bush circa 1981:


The yanks who came to the RLI were certainly up for the fight. Their contribution (and in some cases, their sacrifices) are remembered with deep and sincere appreciation.

06-27-2012, 02:53 PM
.. except for the farmer and his wife, Trooper Jim Buckley and the gooks that is.

K-Car = Alouette III helicopter gunship - armed with 20mm cannon
G-Car = Alouette III trooping helicopter - carrying stick of 4 men.
Radio relay station = manned station on high feature to relay VHF radio comms
kopje = small hill (normally isolated)
"culling" = what the RLI did to the CTs contacted by the Fire Force

Extract from the book:

The perfect contact

1 Commando (1Cdo) were on Fire Force duties at Grand Reef in January 1978. This trip had been busy, starting off with the attack on Grand Reef by a large concentration of communist terrorists (CTs) during the first night in camp.

On the morning of 18 January 1978, a radio relay station was positioned by helicopter in the white farming area just to the south of Grand Reef. At about 1700hrs, the commando had just finished its daily PT session when the siren sounded. Amidst the normal groans and mumbling about it being “too late” to be called out, we assembled in the ops room and were told that the relay station deployed that morning had just witnessed a gang of ten CTs ambush a farmer’s vehicle directly below their position. The gang were now sauntering down the road toward the nearby tribal trust land (TTL) without a care in the world. As the relay station was only five minutes’ flying time from Grand Reef, the Fire Force was immediately deployed to contact the CTs.

The Fire Force consisted of the normal K-Car and three G-Cars. Because of the proximity to the airfield no paras were required. On pulling up over the target, it was found that the area consisted of open ploughed fields with the odd isolated rocky kopje. It was perfect ‘culling’ terrain. It was into one of these kopjes that the gang had bolted. During the initial deployment of stop groups around the kopje, Stops 1 and 2 came under fire from an RPD gunner, severely wounding Trooper Jim Buckley. In the initial firefight five of the CTs were eliminated, but as light was fading fast the action was broken off and extra stops were flown in to encircle the remaining gang still holed up in the kopje.

During the night a further three CTs were eliminated by stop groups as they tried to break out of the cauldron. At first light the next morning, with K-Car back overhead, sweeps of the kopje resulted in the killing of a final CT holed up under a rock overhang. The final score was nine CTs killed in return for two 1Cdo wounded. One CT escaped. The death of the farmer and his wife had been avenged within minutes of their murder and Jim Buckley, after a long battle, eventually recovered from his wounds.

06-28-2012, 12:44 PM
"We of the RAR used to laugh at your soldiers.
To us they looked like boys.
But they have showed us how to fight.
They have the faces of boys, but they fight like lions."

- Platoon Warrant Officer Herod,
E Company,
1st Battalion the Rhodesian African Rifles,
18th March, 1968.


"The Rhodesian's army cannot be defeated in the field,
either by terrorists or even a more sophisticated enemy.
In my professional judgment, based on more than 20 years
experience of counter-insurgency and guerilla type operations,
there is no doubt that Rhodesia now has the most professional
and battle-worthy army in the world for this type of warfare.
Here is a breed of men the like of which has not been seen
for many a long age."

Sir Walter Walker, former NATO commander
(writing in the Times, January 1978)

06-29-2012, 01:59 PM
Note: RAR = Rhodesian African Rifles

An extract from the book:

The area was flat and open with rocky ‘gomos’ (granite outcrops or koppies). The RAR had surrounded the area and when we landed the RAR Company Sergeant Major (CSM) told us their officer had been shot and they couldn’t get to him. Russell Phillips and I with our respective sticks immediately ran up to the side of the outcrop. We came under heavy fire, and when I say heavy fire it was accurate and was intense. My guys just pumped the fire back into the cleft in the granite koppie with the MAG machine-gun barking a full belt at a time. We battled but eventually made the bottom of the koppie and climbed up to the cleft. We found Lt Jeremy Fisher in a really bad way outside of the cleft. He had a serious chest wound and was visibly fading.

Russell and I grabbed him and hauled him back and down slightly about 10m behind a small ledge, while our sticks carried on pumping fire into the cleft/cave entrance. At this stage the boss was screaming for info and trying to find out what was going on. As I was the only one that could hear and see what was going on I had to try to co-ordinate what was happening on the ground as well as trying to prevent my head getting shot off. I organized the medic and tried to calm the RAR guys down. It was absolute mayhem with everybody trying to talk at the same time.

The boss kept on $hitting on us for not answering the radio – how the hell you talk on a radio when you are getting the $hit shot out of you I never found out. Russell said to me “stuff this”, dropped his webbing and rifle and grabbed his 9mm Browning pistol and dived into the cave, shooting like an absolute master. That was the only time I heard a 9mm Browning sound like an Uzi submachine-gun on automatic. It seemed like every few seconds he called for another magazine which I had collected from my guys and tossed to him as needed. It sounds quick but we were in and out of that cave for over three hours trying to duck shots and ricochets. We ran out of 9mm ammo until the RAR guys came up with some.

The gooks were below us in a cave below the main cave and shooting up a crevice which meant that most of the rounds were ricocheting all over the place. How we were never hit was unknown. I couldn’t go in with Russell as if I disconnected my FN from the radio there would be no coms and there was no way to swing an FN in that tight space. I stayed at the mouth of the cave and learned just how Jeremy got shot as when I stood there my shirt and webbing were drilled three times. Russell went deeper into the cave and after his eyes became accustomed to the dim light he dropped two gooks in the top cave and then we set about trying to get the others out from the cave below. We angled our rifles and shot down the cleft and then we tried to drop a grenade but it jammed halfway down the cleft and nearly took our heads off. This Mexican Stand-off went on for ages and as someone passed in front of the cleft the gooks shot at us. Things quietened down in the late afternoon and we suspected the gooks were running low on ammo or were wounded or hurting. An RAR sergeant was with us trying to talk the gooks out during the quiet phases but that didn’t work either.

Corporal Sandro Mazella, the troop medic, had been working on Jeremy for all this time with bullets and shrapnel flying all over the place. For the civvies reading this you must appreciate that the noise in a contact is unbelievable. You have three to four choppers circling overhead and with the firing and grenades you do not hear too well. We managed to cassevac Jeremy and continued into the late afternoon trying to winkle out the gooks but they were well ensconced in the caves.

This thing was going to have to continue overnight...

06-30-2012, 07:44 PM
The RLI greets the Commonwealth Monitoring Force - February 1980:


I wonder if the 'brown eye' salute is used by the yanks to any extent?

07-01-2012, 04:54 PM
The standard for Fire Force was 16 (4 sticks of 4) per Dak. Jumping at 500ft gave 20-25 seconds in the air. Good for a more accurate drop and less time as a sitting duck in the air. Highest number of Op jumps in the RLI: Cpl Des Archer 73, Lt Mick Walters 69.


Note: no use of containers, webbing worn, weapon under right arm and helmets a mixture, including motor cycle helmets, you use what you can get.

07-02-2012, 07:15 PM
...three of the six 'Daks' on their way to Chimoio (Op Dingo):


07-02-2012, 08:08 PM
Fantastic Pictures!!!!!:)

07-03-2012, 06:53 PM
Extract from the book:

The joy, sadness and pride of being an RLI wife
By Pauline Liversedge

I was a young 22-year-old wife with a small child when my husband Geoff came home one night and announced that we were moving to Salisbury from Bulawayo to join the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). I was petrified as I did not know what lay ahead of us. Little did I know that we were going to join a great and wonderful battalion of men, who, once you joined, embraced your family.

We moved into the Married Quarters not long after Geoff was promoted to sergeant which was when my life as an RLI wife really began. There were so many joys: seeing the battalion presented with its colours, being honoured with the Freedom of the City of Salisbury. My children made so many friends and had the security of being in a safe environment. The doctors and hospital were there for you at all times. There were men like Alan Beattie who looked after you and would never turn you away no matter what the problem even to phoning Geoff at Training Troop to tell him that my pregnancy test was positive, whereupon my proud husband announced to the rest of Training Troop “ Liversedge strikes again!” He never lived that down.

My children’s joy included the annual Christmas tree in the large hall close to the battalion’s entrance. Father Christmas was always George Walsh who arrived by army tank/truck, full of many other wonderful ideas.

We moved to the School of Infantry in Gwelo in 1968, if I remember correctly, and spent five years there. We returned to the battalion in 1973 and to our great surprise, moved into our old house, No 6 Married Quarters. Geoff became Company Sergeant-Major of his old commando, the Big Red, 1Cdo. The joy of being back! I met and made many long-lasting friends like Dot Springer, Jacqui Kirrane and more. My boys had wonderful friends like the Springer twins and the Kirrane children. They rode their bicycles all over the barracks. They had the use of the swimming pool. As they grew older they were trained on the assault course, played, and used all the facilities.

I became part of a group of women who were always there for one another whether it was in times of sadness or joy. The worst times were when the padre’s vehicle drove down the road, not knowing whose house it was going to stop at. Was your man injured, or worse, gone? If I close my eyes I can still see Trevor Kirrane marching down our road with his swagger stick under his arm coming home at the close of a day. Jacqui and the children would be waiting at their gate for him, while the other children in the street shouted out their greetings to one of their favourite uncles.

The ladies of the Sergeants Mess had the pleasure of enjoying a ladies’ night once a month on a Saturday evening. We were treated royally and I can remember one night in particular when we held tequila races amongst the ladies. This ended in the group enjoying a skinny-dip in the battalion’s swimming pool at 2 a.m. The guards on duty at the front gate were given strict instructions not to go anywhere near the swimming pool. The news travelled out to the bush very quickly and we literally had to stand on the mat on our husbands’ return. But what great fun we had.

At the beginning of 1977 I was one of the many mothers who stood to the side and watched my eldest son at the age of 17 trying to his best to be chosen for the RLI to do his national service. I was proud that he was chosen but my heart was heavy for the next 18 months while he served with Recce in Support Commando. He did his father proud but grew up very quickly.

When 1980 came we laid our colours to rest. That was one of the saddest days of our lives. Our time was over and slowly the battalion shrank as people left. I cried as we drove out of the barracks on our way to South Africa.

Fast-forward to 5 February 2011 and the reunion. What joy to see faces we hadn’t seen for 30-odd years! Rhodesians, we stand proud and tall. The proudest battalion in the world, we served our beloved country well!

Note: to serving soldiers, let your wives read this. There are things universal to life in a battalion at war.

07-03-2012, 08:53 PM
Elements of 11 Troop, 3 Commando after an uninvited visit to Mozambique.


Interesting photo. Top left is Chris Cocks - in Tarzan pose - (author of book FIREFORCE) then a Scotsman, then a Welshman and on the end an Englishman. Second from right at the bottom is the Troop Sergeant, an American.

07-04-2012, 03:55 PM
... it wasn't all "Rootin’ Shootin’ Tootin’" in the RLI:


07-04-2012, 10:22 PM

How old is that RLI Trooping the Colour photo? The flag being carried in the background has features of the Union Jack, so pre-declaration of a republic from memory in 1970.

07-05-2012, 07:47 AM
David, the Lancaster House Agreement was signed on 21 December 1979. At that moment Rhodesia reverted to the status of a British colony - 'The British Dependency of Southern Rhodesia'.

As a result the Queens and Regimental (with the crown on) colours were taken out of mothballs.

So on the final parade on 17 October 1980 both colours were paraded.

See both colours on parade here:


The men of the battalion were proud to parade the Queens Colour but would have gladly chopped the vermin who infested the corridors of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office into little bits.

07-05-2012, 08:12 AM
... cased and laid-up in the private family chapel on the Salisbury family estate at Hatfield, UK



07-05-2012, 06:37 PM
In memory of Sgt Hughie McCall from NYC, USA:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


Artwork by Craig Bone

07-06-2012, 12:16 PM
On 21 December 1972, Altena Farm in the Centenary District in North East Rhodesia had been attacked. The RLI and elements of other units were deployed. The next night Whistlefield Farm was attacked and elements of Support Group (as it was known then) deployed. The next morning while moving troops to start a follow-up they detonated the RLI's first landmine. Then Lt Ian (Buttons) Buttenshaw takes up the story:

I was sitting on the bonnet of the International (one and a half-tonner) truck and stopped them turning along the track, quickly telling them we had found the tracks and were about to follow up. As we turned the corner the rear wheel detonated a landmine. I was thrown clear, as were Corporal (Cpl) ‘Bog Rat’ Moore and Trooper (Tpr) Pete Botha who, both being in the back, absorbed the whole blast. The driver, Cpl Gordon Holloway and the other passenger Tpr Rod Boden, were in severe shock. I was not feeling too good myself. We organized a casevac but Cpl Moore died two days later and Tpr Botha eventually lost both legs.

Two views if the vehicle:



07-07-2012, 05:31 PM
The early landmine incidents led to the development of effective mine protection and later also ambush protection of vehicles in Rhodesia.

The Pookie mine detecting vehicle was a massive success. Read about it here (http://www.jrtwood.com/article_pookie.asp).


After a light aircraft - Cessna - detonated a landmine on a dirt airstrip a 'basic' device, the FU2 (figure out for yourself what that stands for), was developed using the proven Pookie technology with a bicycle - I kid you not:


07-08-2012, 05:29 PM
A selection of the vehicles used in Rhodesia circa late 1970's


07-09-2012, 11:58 AM
This configuration - a side mounted 20mm cannon - to create a gunship - called a K-Car was a devastating weapon used in Fire Force operations. The airborne commander was also seated in this bird which maintained an anti-clock wise orbit over the target area at 800ft.


07-09-2012, 09:48 PM
I look forward to reading this book. I've been studying Rhodesia for about7 years and little by little more and more books are popping up. Its frustrating money wise because of the cost of most books that come from overseas to the US.

Not to divert from this website but I was fortunate enough to write a 3 part article on the RLI Fire Force for sofrep.com . It's a basic introduction to the history and function but I had alot of positive feedback and am planning more articles on Rhodesian forces. I've also taken up fiction writing. Not about Rhodesia but warfare by PMC's in Africa. My books are linked at the end of the articles. I don't post much on the forums but I relish the influx of new scholarly articles. I learn so much.:D




07-10-2012, 10:04 AM
I look forward to reading this book. I've been studying Rhodesia for about7 years and little by little more and more books are popping up. Its frustrating money wise because of the cost of most books that come from overseas to the US.

Not to divert from this website but I was fortunate enough to write a 3 part article on the RLI Fire Force for sofrep.com . It's a basic introduction to the history and function but I had alot of positive feedback and am planning more articles on Rhodesian forces. I've also taken up fiction writing. Not about Rhodesia but warfare by PMC's in Africa. My books are linked at the end of the articles. I don't post much on the forums but I relish the influx of new scholarly articles. I learn so much.:D




Dan, your article is very good and is certainly recommended reading.

07-10-2012, 10:22 AM
The early landmine incidents led to the development of effective mine protection and later also ambush protection of vehicles in Rhodesia.

The Pookie mine detecting vehicle was a massive success. Read about it here (http://www.jrtwood.com/article_pookie.asp).

I have to say that the story behind this article has greatly impressed me. The first thing I actually noted on the pictures were does tyres, looking like F1 ones, and with the old SA GP in mind it clicked. Using a tyre designed to deliver as much traction as possible for turning, breaking and accelerating a beast of a race car to give a improvised vehicle created with such minimal economic ressources the ability to drive over personal mines is just amazing. It is not just genius, but also hard, hard work with a lot of skills and a great mindset - and not least the driving forces of much pain and sorrow.

This vehicle was, as the article states, designed with a precise purpose in mind. The enemey adapted and tried and found ways to reduce its impact. Technology has given both sides new means to blow things up and to counter them, but it is difficult to imagine a better solution under those circumstances against those threats.

07-10-2012, 07:48 PM
The gunship variant introduced late in the war was called the "Alpha Fit" and comprised a mounting of four .303 Brownings. Where the 20mm HE would detonate on the tree cover this baby had the penetration and the rate of fire to deal with targets under tree cover.


07-11-2012, 03:16 PM
This is a photo of a black eagle flying over the Matopos. Whenever possible gooks sited their camps were they a had the natural cover of the bush, rocks and caves. The RLI had to go in there and winkle them out one by one.


07-12-2012, 09:11 AM
Not a bad haul for a day's work... 20 odd weapons recovered after a good Fire Force action (bodies not on show). Time for a shower, a plate of steak, egg and chips (fries) and a few (maybe more) bitterly cold beers. A job well done.


07-12-2012, 09:34 PM
I have made an agreement with the managing editor to write a brief operational history of the Rhodesian SAS then some specific actions. I am fortunate enough to have contacts who served in the SAS, one started in 61 with the second intake. I will also write about D squadron, South African Recces who volunteered to fight as Rhodesian soldiers in a classified operation not divulged until well after the war. Probably in the late 80s.

Then likely to explore some of SA's elite forces. Great thread BTW!! there is alot of stuff out there that is in peoples basements or in their aging mind. I want to get more and more of it before it disappears. It is a legitimate part of COIN history. It has mostly been ignored due to apartheid and politics. The soldiers didn't have the luxury of dwelling on such things......

07-13-2012, 08:28 AM
I have made an agreement with the managing editor to write a brief operational history of the Rhodesian SAS then some specific actions. ......

Which managing editor IIMA?

07-13-2012, 08:59 AM
Carried on a scale of 1:4 the FN MAG light machine gun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FN_MAG) allowed Rhodesian 4-man sticks (fire teams) to independently engage larger numbers of enemy in action. Being accepted by his commanders - and also especially by his peers - as a ruthlessly effective gunner was what the young troopies strove for. To illustrate this point I met one of my ex-troopies last year in the UK - 35 years after the fact - and he explained that when I took the gun away from him - for having two stoppages in a contact - it (the humiliation) was the worst thing that happened to him in his 7 years military service. Here is a photo of a young gunner about to deploy on a Fire Force call-out:


Note: In early 1978 the gunner was positioned in the starboard door (the aircraft's twin Brownings (or single FN MAG) were mounted in the port rear door) so that he could engage opportunity targets from the air - especially when coming in to land in a hot LZ. Inside next to the gunner was the stick commander who wore an aircraft headset to allow him to monitor the radio communications on the run in to the target.

07-14-2012, 03:42 PM
Can you email me at X ? Thanks. Dan

07-14-2012, 06:59 PM
Time to go home... this time in the back of an Augusta Bell. This one a good farming boy who knew how to make that weapon 'talk'.


07-15-2012, 06:45 AM
Due to the lack of helicopter capacity and the need for more troops to be delivered into the target area early to block escape routes it was decreed in early 1977 that the RLI would become parachute trained for this purpose. Trained and experienced soldiers were rotated through the Rhodesian Air Force 'Parachute Training School' with out any fuss as they were all battle proven and the air force trainers were interested only in one thing and that was to train the RLI in military parachuting. As an American has written:

... a group of us reported to New Sarum airbase for Rhodesian Para Course 75/77. Though I was parachute-qualified I didn’t mind going through Rhodesia’s course taught by the Air Force. The course was only two weeks long with the second week consisting of nine jumps. Unlike the US Army’s jump school, there was no physical training associated with the course and the technical training was easy. There were no 34-foot or 250-foot towers and no mindless screwing with the future paras.

Armies just can't help themselves and despite the tempo of the war intensifying time was found in later years to put soldiers (mainly those coming directly off recruit training) through 'pre para course PT'. (Obviously the PT staff were getting bored with all the soldiers going on ops, but instead of giving them soldiers to play with the PT staff should have been packed off to the bush to get some trigger time in.)

This is how a gunner kitted up for a jump. The photo is of troops waiting to emplane for a fire force deployment. (Note: the Dak - C-47 had more air speed than the Alouette helicopters so would normally get airborne some time after the choppers.)


07-15-2012, 10:23 PM
... gunners told, "we are going to need those guns today, go make sure they are clean and ready, we will brief you later".


07-16-2012, 07:31 AM
... another farmer's son. Young, strong and committed... a penny for his (after action) thoughts?


07-17-2012, 06:22 AM
... a corporal at the time (later a sergeant and awarded the BCR - Bronze Cross of Rhodesia) takes an after action 'smoke break' after some Fire Force action.


Note: radio handset on the right shoulder... must be left handed as the left hand was never to leave hold of the pistol grip of the rifle. The two magazines were welded together and the sling swivels removed from the rifle to prevent any rattle.

07-18-2012, 02:41 PM
... the poster boy. Copied from a photo which was used as a recruiting poster. South African man giant, Marius Marais, wielded the MAG like the rest of us mortals used rifles. Don't be fooled by the smile... or the peace sign:


07-18-2012, 09:18 PM
... don't piss a jumbo off.

Extract from the book - which in turn is an extract from Dennis Croukamp's book:

The Bush War In Rhodesia: The Extraordinary Combat Memoir of a Rhodesian Reconnaissance Specialist (http://www.amazon.com/The-Bush-Rhodesia-Extraordinary-Reconnaissance/dp/1581606141)

... Shortly before dark, the five-man patrol appeared. One member of the patrol was covered in blood down one side of his head and body, and the Lance Corporal had his arm in a sling. Everyone tried to explain at once about what had transpired, but because everyone was talking at the same time trying to give their version of events, it was somewhat confusing at first.

After a while Penrose told everyone to shut up and we were then given a blow by blow run-down of what had taken place. Walking down a game trail along the thickly wooded riverbank with the Stick Commander, L/Cpl Penrose (Pinball), in front, the patrol observed a light aircraft repeatedly buzzing an area slightly to the east and ahead of them. With some concern about the low-flying plane disturbing and upsetting the larger game, Pinball was being a little more cautious than usual.

Even so, going around a bend where a large bush had obscured the trail ahead, he came face to face with a tuskless elephant. The elephant started charging and Pinball immediately did an about turn and tried to run away from the elephant. Pinball reckoned the problem came about because he had to run around the bush that he previously had walked around. The elephant simply ran through it. Pinball said that as he ran he felt its trunk running up and down his back as it felt for a grip. With the patrol’s change of direction he was now at the back of it, with Jumbo in hot pursuit.

It did not take long for the beast to grab him around the body, at first lifting him as if in a circus act, before pushing him into the ground, fortunately soft ground. Pinball voicing his objections to this unwanted and rather rough treatment drew the attention of his pal and companion, Pieta Pitman. Pitman responded to the screams for help and ran back to assist Pinball. Doing a bit of a dogleg, he approached the animal from the side.

For fear of shooting and injuring his pal who was now nearly under the elephant’s feet, he boldly moved up and gave the elephant a swift blow to its side using the butt of his rifle, but without any response from the elephant. When a second blow to its side also brought no reaction from the elephant, Pitman stepped forward and gave it a further whack in its ear hole.

He said that when he stepped forward, the creature’s one eye was looking directly at him and it scared the $hit out of him. It looked both cross and evil. When the blow to its ear landed, the elephant let its grounded victim go and side swiped the rescuer, flinging him over a bush, so that he landed some ten metres away. Pitman landed in a cloud of dust, completely winded. Getting his breath back he called to Pinball as the latter had gone quiet and he did not know if Pinball was all right. The elephant by now had wandered off.

Once the two had reunited and were satisfied that the danger had passed, they started looking for the others. The delay at getting to the RV was because it took the two of them over an hour to find the other three patrol members...

07-19-2012, 01:35 PM
1 February 1979:

“It is with great pride that we honour today those men of the Regiment who have made the supreme sacrifice and dedicate this statue to their memory.

“This statue, to be known as “The Trooper”, represents the courage and endurance of highly-skilled men who fight the enemy with dedication and professionalism.”


07-19-2012, 01:41 PM

07-19-2012, 01:50 PM

07-19-2012, 01:57 PM
RLI Memorial: The Trooper
by Ken Reed (last RSM of the RLI)

Conceived by Lt. Col. Derry MacIntyre in 1970 and implemented by Lt. Col. Ian Bate and RSM Ken Reed on the 1st of February 1979 The Trooper statue was unveiled on its plinth which was erected in the centre of the Holy Ground Cranborne Barracks Salisbury on the 18th birthday of the RLI.

The bronze statue funded by the RLI RA with donations from the Rhodesian public and others from around the world was sculpted by Captain Mike Blackman from a selection of photographs taken by him. Some Troopers in various types of dress were organized for him to photograph outside 2 Commando. He brought the proofs back with his choice for the statue which was the unposed photo of Trooper Wayne Hannekom. We naturally objected as the photo clearly showed the Trooper standing with his hands held over the muzzle of his rifle contrary to all weapon handling procedures. Capt. Blackman was adamant that this was the pose he was going to sculpt as it was completely natural and in fact how the men stood around in the bush. He got his way and it was the correct decision.

The statue was cast by Fiorelli Fiorini in his foundry which was situated just off the Beatrice Road near the tobacco floors. There was a rumour it was cast from cartridge cases, some were delivered to be incorporated in the bronze mixture.

The Trooper was unveiled and dedicated with a parade attended by the whole Battalion which required a juggling of Operational commitment by Army HQ. This meant there was very little time for organisation and rehearsals. The parade was kept simple and was very well attended by dignitaries, ERE members and the general public. The Trooper was unveiled by Trooper Phillips SCR from Support Commando who was our most highly decorated soldier at that time. The dedication was given by Padre Bill Blakeway and wreaths were laid by selected personnel on behalf of the RLI RA, The Battalion and Commandos.

As independence approached it was realised that The Trooper the Colours and other RLI memorabilia were in imminent danger so a plan was formed by the CO Lt.Col. Charlie Aust, RSM Ken Reed and the RLI RA to spirit away the Regiments honours to the South African War Museum in Johannesburg. Negotiations began and despite the politically sensitive nature were successfully concluded with Major General Minaar Fourie of the South African Defence Force. The crated Trooper and other memorabilia were airlifted from Fylde Air force Base near Hartley and received by the SA War Museum.

Moving The Trooper presented several problems Because of the mode of transport and the size of the crates we were permitted. It could not be moved upright, laying it down would have buckled its legs due to the weight of its base. After advice from Mr. Fiorini it was decided to cut the base off at the ankles so the Engineers came with their equipment took it down and crated it for us.

Initially housed in an outbuilding and covered with blankets at the SA War Museum, permission was obtained from the RLI RA by the Rhodesian Association of South Africa (RASA) for The Trooper to appear at the Rand Easter Show in 1985 in public view and visited by many former Rhodesians. The Trooper was returned to the Museum where it was placed in a more prominent position, no longer subject to its former sensitivities.

It was later decided to move The Trooper to the United Kingdom and the Rhodesian Army Association (RAA) through Brigadier David Heppenstal, was asked to act as its custodian. The Trooper and other memorabilia were flown out of RSA and stored in a Fleet Air Arm hanger. After further negotiations The Trooper was moved to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (BECM) in Bristol where it was agreed to be displayed.

Unfortunately this did not happen and in 2006 with The Trooper damaged, the Executive Committee of the revitalised RLI RA sought a more appropriate home for the Trooper. In 2007 Jerry Strong then Chairman of the RLI RA met with Lord Salisbury to begin the consultation process of where and how to site The Trooper at Hatfield House north of London.

Later in 2007 a delegation consisting of Brigadier John “Digger” Essex-Clarke, Martyn Hudson, Shaun Ryan and Chris Pearce of the RLI RA, John Wynne-Hopkins RAA and the BECM Trust’s Liaison Officer met with Lord Salisbury to select a site and at the same time received permission to lay up the Colours in the Family Chapel. Pressured by Martyn Hudson and the RAA Museum Trust led by Pat Lawless The Trooper was repaired by the BECM, placed on a new plinth and transported to the banks of the River Lee in the Hatfield Estate.

The Troopers journey from Rhodesia to the banks of the River Lee on the Hatfield Estate was made possible by the courage, stamina, resourcefulness generosity and dedication of all those who assisted in reclaiming back that small part of history which will forever be remembered as Rhodesia.

The Trooper now stands proudly as a lasting Memorial to the men who served with the RLI and those who died for their country Rhodesia.

In his final resting place:


07-19-2012, 01:59 PM
A poem:

The Troopie

He stood erect and proud.
Was unveiled before the crowd,
Representing what could not be said,
A memorial to the brave and dead.

A symbol of courage for all to see,
A salute to soldiers whose souls fly free.
The pride of the Rhodesian Light Infantry,
The man of bronze, the Immortal "Troopie".

He weathered sun and wind and rain.
He suffered not, he felt no pain.
Standing at ease and looking ahead.
He saw not the tears we shed.

A symbol of courage for all to see,
A salute to soldiers whose souls fly free.
The pride of the Rhodesian Light Infantry,
The man of bronze, the immortal "Troopie".

Where he stood is now an empty space.
Nothing else could ever take his place.
Yet he lives on in each and every heart.
In the lives of which he was a part.

Gone is the symbol of courage for all to see,
A salute to soldiers whose souls fly free.
Gone is the pride of the Rhodesian Light Infantry,
Gone is the man of bronze, the immortal "Troopie".

by Mrs. Jenny Ayling, from the RLI Cheetah 1980 Souvenir Edition.

07-19-2012, 02:06 PM
Rededication of The Trooper Hatfield, UK, 2008

Dedication speech by Lt Col JCW (Charlie) Aust - last CO of the RLI:

It is, indeed an honour and privilege to say a few words during this unique and deeply moving ceremony.

On reflection I realize and believe that it is a special time for personal thought. Our joint memories, our thoughts, our personal meditation this day, would fill the pages of military history with the most incredible unique and awe inspiring tales of war and peace.

Before us stands the symbol of our past ----- a sepulcher of our beloved Regiment our comrades, our fallen. Yes ---- these are personal thoughts and memories we cannot share.

It is essential that at the outset I speak on ALL our behalf, to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the Marques of Salisbury for the truly incredible and generous gifts he has given us and our Regiment. His permission to lay up our Colors in his private Chapel and to erect our Memorial on his private Estate is remarkable. The Marques' family is deeply embedded in the history of our once wonderful land - let us not forget ‘Hatfield', the suburb home of our Cranborne Barracks.

Let us not forget our Capital City and its title.

I personally remember, my friend Lord Salisbury's brother. Lord Richard Cecil with deep affection - he who died in action on the front line of our war. He who enjoyed our Country and its people. He is held in deep and respected memory today.

Thank you Lord Salisbury. We will remain eternally grateful for your kindness. And we do thank all your staff for their wonderful work to assist us.

We welcome especially this day our new Patron Gen Ron Reid Daly - a founder member of the RLI and a legend of our time and war.

I must also take this opportunity to speak on all our behalf in thanking Martyn Hudson for his truly outstanding efforts in organizing the relocation, repair and erection of our beloved Troopie and indeed for all his incredible work in arranging this unique weekend and all the events. His conduct reflects unbelievable determination, energy and commitment. Martyn, we all salute you in admiration and gratitude and indeed all who assisted you.

Our Chairman, Buttens Buttenshaw, who so sadly was unable to attend reminded me of Col Tufty Bate's statement when we unveiled the Troopie so many years ago ------‘that whilst the breath of one RLI member still existed the statue would remain'. Tufty who initiated the idea for a Regimental War memorial would be so proud this day. Let us thank him for this foresight..

Now I do, again on all our behalf thank all who have done so much to help us. As the years go by and we get older memories may fade but this sacred corner will always ignite that unique torch of military memory.

I do offer our gratitude to all our comrades from across the globe who could not attend who have also done so much for our Association. Let us cast aside differences of opinion which have arisen. Let us cast aside any anger. We thank and think of all our leaders and members across the world that are absent today. Our thoughts are with you.

As the ceremony proceeds I will once again think in sadness and gladness of that unique Regiment. The Troopie will again reveal to the world, a parachute Commando Unit of UNBELIEVABLE ability. A Regiment with nicknames which reveal a character and ability second to none. ‘The Incredibles', ‘The Saints' -‘The Green and White'. A band of brothers drawn together from all the corners of the world. Who can forget or, indeed, even repeat that incorrigible sense of frolic and fun and leg pulling that devastating efficiency in battle, that unbelievable courage and commitment.

I have learnt that comrades in war bring the human closer to his companion, than any other life - style. It is a unique blending of the human race. With gathering maturity our Regiment bred incredible, irreplaceable characters. Rank was deeply respected. Life was extremely tough and hard on so many occasions , yet true friendship jelled between all ranks.

The loss of our comrades initiates (and always will) deep sadness, yet deep pride. Before us today stands our anchor, our joint symbol of deep respect. As the veil falls we will see again he who stood upon the Holy Ground. He, we always saluted in passing --- our beloved Troopie He is now with us forever in safety.

I am reminded, in closing, of a well known song of the 70's. A song reworded by a tough RLI ouen. A song we sang together when enjoying R and R or stand down with a few grogs. I am moved to quote the words which have never ever left me.

"Far have I traveled on land and through sky.
Dark are the valleys, the mountains are green
But oh our Colours fly higher than high
For we are the men of the RLI
Now one lies wounded. He's so far from home.
All of the Troopies they pray for his soul
As life leaves him. He hears a heavenly choir.
As they carry him back to the RLI."

Let us remember those immortal words:

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age, shall not wear them. Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

May I end with a 5 word prayer, as I ended the final speech before the Regiment marched off the Parade Ground at Cranborne and into history in 1980.


Thank you

07-21-2012, 07:20 PM
Lynx : Rhodesian designation for 21 x Reims Cessna FTB337G Milirole delivered to the Rhodesian Air Force. Normal weapons load being twin .303 Brownings, two pods of 37mm SNEB rockets and two 15 gal Frantan (frangible tank - locally made Napalm). They would come in as close as required... the trick was that the pilots were attached to the various Fire Forces for a period of years and they got to know, train and fight with the same RLI soldiers over a long period. They were not just a callsign in the sky... we could put a face to the voice.



07-21-2012, 08:31 PM
A painting of the Angel of Mercy (or Death - depending on whose side you were on):


07-22-2012, 07:04 PM
The death of great RLI soldier Al Tourle while running a tracking course in 1972...

... Just before catching Colin that evening, we heard the roar of lions in close proximity on the ridge just above us to the south of the riverbed. We had decided that we would call it a day, find some water and a suitable place to base up for the night. We filled our water bottles and set up our bivvies on level ground above the riverbed. The area was typical heavily wooded mopani trees/savannah, elephant grass and jesse bush vegetation. In other words thick and dense! We were wet and cold from the rainstorm that had just passed over.

... Al had agreed that we could have a fire that night. A very rare treat I might tell you! As light was falling, Colin and I collected some leadwood and started the fire next to two big rocks. The call of the lions echoed through the still of the evening setting. In the meantime Al and Andr were making comms with Pete and the base back at Kariba. They could not get through to Kariba as the relay station had been brought down for a changeover late afternoon. While this was being effected, a storm had hit the relay position, which forced them to abort the exercise until the next morning. The storm was heading towards Kariba.

... After some time around the fire, Andre and Colin retired to their bivvy for the night. Al and I positioned ourselves on the bigger of the two rocks and started to reminisce about the RLI days. The fire had died down and only the glow of the coals remained. It was about 1930hrs (we did not have watches), it was pitch black and there was a light guti (misty rain) falling on the trees above us. The droplets from the leaves were falling to the ground. Mosquitoes had taken over from where the mopani flies had left off. It was quite noisy in its own special way. Suddenly the stillness of the night erupted with the roar of lions upon us. They had crept up on us from behind totally undetected, a feat that has left an indelible impression on me all my life. The one lion landed right on Als back while the other bumped sides with it and was thrown slightly off line. We were both knocked off the rock towards the coals of the fire. Immediately I scrambled to grab my rifle, which was at the opening of my bivvy. When I turned I could just make out that the one lion had Al by the neck and was dragging him between its legs away into the thick scrub. I instinctively double tapped a few rounds over the top of the lion. It dropped Al and disappeared in the darkness.

Andre and Clive had both joined me by now and we went forward to where Als body lay limply. He was unconscious and lying on his side with his head at right angles. As Andre and I were checking his vital signs the lions came charging back at us. We all grabbed our rifles and discharged a few rounds in the direction of the lions. They immediately dispersed under the volley of fire and ran off into the night. Andre and I turned our attention back to Al. He was just starting to come round, bleeding heavily from his chest, neck and back. The lion that landed on him had locked its jaws around Als neck, its upper jaw piercing his chest and lower back, in the process breaking his neck. We rolled him gently onto his back, moving his head as we rolled him over. I could already feel that his lower body was completely limp. We broke open our medical pack and start to dress the open wounds. As we were doing this Al uttered his first few words, Where am I, what happened?

Al Tourle survived the night but died as dawn was breaking and the CASEVAC chopper was approaching. None of the Rhodesian helicopters had a night flying capability.

07-24-2012, 09:39 PM
The Crippled Eagles


The Crippled Eagles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crippled_Eagles) was the informal name of a group of American expatriates that fought with the Rhodesian Security Forces during the Rhodesian Bush War. The name and emblem came from author Robin Moore who offered a house in Salisbury as a meeting place for the Americans who served in all units of the Security Forces, but never had their own unit. The name of "Crippled Eagle" and badge was meant to symbolize their abandonment by the US government.

KIA in the service of Rhodesia

John Alan Coey..............Corporal.....725702....July 19, 1975
George William Clarke......Trooper......728197....May 15, 1977
Richard L. Biederman.......Sergeant....726685....December 6, 1977
Frank P. Battaglia...........Trooper......728515....March 6, 1978
Joseph Patrick Byrne.......Trooper......728721....October 26, 1978
Stephen Michael Dwyer...Trooper......729803....July 16, 1979
Hugh John McCall...........Sergeant....727941....July 16, 1979

"When we landed on the shore and saw the foreign heather,
We knew that some would fall and would stay there forever,
I will go, I will go."

...and still they went and joined the battle. RIP brave friends.

07-24-2012, 09:58 PM
... all 11 of them, 2nd hand, all but used up from Israel. The Augusta Bell 205A. The technicians kept them in the air and operational.


Note: exhaust venting upwards for heat to be dissipated by the rotors as a defence against SAM-7 heat seeking missiles. It worked.

07-25-2012, 08:02 PM
a young stick on Fire Force with its 'catch' for the day at an LZ waiting for uplift:


07-26-2012, 08:27 PM
...let's roll


07-27-2012, 11:49 AM
Extract of article by Simon Willar from the book:

goose = girlfriend
joust = contact
Ek se = I say (Afrikaans)
RTV = Rhodesian TV
frantan = Rhodesian version of napalm

The first bush trip was in Kariba and within a few hours I realised I was, without doubt, in the RLI. A gentleman by the name of Felix Haneman, probably the most promoted and demoted corporal in the battalion, introduced himself to me and proudly showed me a pink and white pair of panties. These belong to my goose eks, wanna sniff? (In a later bush-trip in Mount Darwin, Felix was seen attempting to have his way with a non-consenting chicken but enough of that right now). After politely declining his kind pantie offer, I was promptly asked for a $5 loan, the real reason for his introduction, which remains unpaid to this day. Later in the evening, another character offered to swop me four little red tablets for a Lion Ale (he had reached his bar limit) and when I asked him if they were vitamins, he soon lost interest in me.

A South African corporal, Danny van Heerden, sat next to me one night at the boiler fire and offered advice, In a joust eks, you just need to keep your cool and your kop (head) down. If you dont youll get f***d up. If you dont listen to your corp, youll get f***d up, if you dont look after your gat (rifle), youll get f***d up, if you dont go and buy me a dop (drink) right now my china, youll get f***d up. Yup, I had arrived in the RLI, ekse.

Lieutenant (Lt) Nigel Theron, our troop officer, later KIA, asked me a few days later how I was settling in and could see by the look on my face that I had been exposed to some of the commandos most colourful characters. Just remember one thing Willar, its those guys who will save your ass one day and theyll do it without blinking or even giving it a second thought. He was right, I was in safe and experienced hands and the quirky behaviour was more than likely just stress releaseexcept for Felix!

It was Fire Force that defined the RLI. To a newcomer, it was not dissimilar to Combat! the TV war soap on RTV; only it was more intense, with more action and was gut-wrenchingly real. No matter who you were, when your stick was dropped on the ground, you became part of a well-oiled machine. You had to, or youd get f***d up as Danny the sage had said.

It is difficult to describe the heightened sense of collective awareness experienced when on the ground in a Fire Force scene almost like a pride of lions on a hunt. You just seem to know exactly what the others are thinking and anticipating and dont need to really talk to one another; everything flows naturally. It is truly a unique psychology.

I had just turned 19 when I experienced my first contact on a Fire Force bush trip in Mount Darwin. The unmistakable triple thud of the K-Cars 20mm cannon and G-Cars orbiting overhead, angry bursts of fire from MAG gunners and the acrid smell of frantan in the air, made for a glorious baptism of fire. This was it: just another day at the office for the RLI. Lt Nigel Theron was barking orders at us whilst we were under heavy RPD fire coming from a small densely vegetated outcrop and within 15 minutes we had taken out two of the three gooks with the other lying wounded on the ground. I had never seen a dead body before and recall being horrified. Six months earlier I had been sitting in a school classroom just as horrified at the final maths exam paper put in front of me. Its either you or them, simple as that. They dont give a f**k about you and you dont give a f**k about them, thats the deal, dont give it a second thought, Danny Danielson, all of 20 years old matter of factly said and to underline his detachment, he instructed me to check them for skins (money) and watches, I need a watch he said.

07-28-2012, 10:19 PM
Confidence building:


07-28-2012, 10:24 PM
Painting by John Wynne Hopkins:


07-29-2012, 06:59 PM
Extract from the book and article by Don Price:

Principles of tracking - essential skills required to make a good tracker

1. Fitness - mental and physical stamina
A tracker is often required to be up-front and in the first line of fire. In order to do this time and time again, he must possess both mental and physical stamina. The enemy will always be some distance ahead and it is essential to make up this time and close the gap; the faster the gap is closed the quicker the enemy is engaged so peak physical fitness is vital.

2. Unusually keen eyesight and attention to detail
A good tracker usually has very good eyesight and picks up small details that the normal person might overlook. He notices things that are unusual to the situation – a broken twig, a piece of bent grass etc. Eyes have muscles and like other muscles in the body need constant exercise to achieve ultimate performance.

3. Common sense and good judgement
A tracker must show good common sense and judgment as he moves along the tracks. For example, by reading the lay of the land a tracker may anticipate a dry stream up ahead, so could move forward quickly and relocate the tracks which might save valuable time in closing with the enemy. On the other hand if the tracks appear to be slowing down he may want to speak to the controller and check out the area ahead to avoid ambush and so on.

4. Patience
Patience is extremely important as the enemy often employs anti-tracking techniques to confuse the tracker. An impatient tracker or soldier can easily ruin a follow-up very quickly if he cannot at times slow things down in order to read and appreciate the signs ahead. A ‘gung-ho, go-get-em’ type will inevitably ruin a good follow-up. Relocating lost spoor is a slow, methodical and deliberate process which can be very frustrating and annoying to an aggressive leader. Remember the old saying, “Slowly, slowly catch a monkey.” How true this is especially in tracking. Patience, displayed by both trackers, command and control alike, are prerequisites to successful tracking operations.

5. Aggression and motivation
By its very definition, tracking means aggressive and meaningful pursuit. Its very success depends on the ability to pursue, close with and destroy the enemy. A follow-up has a beginning, a middle and an end, and the end must be pursuant with your goals. The point is that without an aggressive spirit, the tracker may as well pack up and go home. As far as a good tracker is concerned, motivation must be a driving force that sees no barrier to operational success. The strange thing about tracking is that better results are always attained by better-motivated people.

6. Good working knowledge of conditions and terrain
An attribute of a good tracker is being able to fit into the terrain in which he is operating. Ahead of time a tracker should familiarize himself with the lay of the land, know where the main water-points are, the distribution of roads in the area, the type of terrain, wooded, open, populated with game, humans and so on. If a tracker is flown into a new and strange surrounding he must find out about the area before tackling the task. A local tribesman, for example, may be a useful addition to the follow-up group if he is sympathetic and friendly. The lesson here is simple: trackers must have a complete and accurate knowledge of the area they are expected to operate in. In his book The Neutral Jungle, Spencer Chapman wrote, “The jungle may be neutral, but it will certainly assist the tracker and give him a definite edge if he is able to manipulate the environment to his advantage.”

7. Stealth
Being able to move silently is what keeps you alive and a good tracker should be able to move quietly through the bush, gliding along without making much noise, using silent signals to communicate with his group of men. These signals should be practised until all the members fully understand the language, at least enough to communicate all the situations and reactions they are likely to be confronted with on a follow-up. A tracker’s kit and equipment needs to be designed and adjusted for the task: good footwear in the form of lightweight boots are essential as hard sled shoes crunch on leaves and twigs; water-bottles must be full so as not to make a sloshing noise; webbing snug and well fitting so as not to hamper the tracker if he suddenly has to run, dive, roll etc. All these things must be considered.

8. Tactical awareness
Always be alert. Know your enemy and know yourself. By this I mean appreciate your own capabilities, work on your weaknesses and understand the enemy you are hunting and tracking. The essential elements of trust, training, tactics and testing go a long way in attaining full tactical awareness which will enable you to do the right thing in the right place at the right time with the right tactics, to the right people, with the right effect, for the right reason. Remember, ‘Know your enemy, know yourself.’

07-30-2012, 06:44 PM
As phase two of Op Dingo the ZANLA base at Tembue, 220km inside Mozambique across Lake Cabora Basa was attacked. Rare photos of the Daks (C-47) on the way in, over the target as the air stikes went in and low level across the lake on the way home. Another good day at the office for the air force, the SAS and the RLI.


07-31-2012, 08:43 PM
As with tradition Training Officers for recruits were normally ex-sergeant majors commissioned for the purpose given their background and experience in what is needed in terms of the skills required at this level of soldiering. As the war progressed and the manpower demands intensified up to 50% of the RLI comprised conscripted National Servicemen (NS) who had volunteered to serve with the RLI. Those attending recruit training in Training Troop were a mixture of regulars and NS on the same courses. Here is a comment (extract from the book) by the last Training Officer, Major Peter Cooper:

National servicemen

As with most youngsters called up to serve in the army, these were a cross-section of reluctant conscripts and eager Rhodesian school leavers. One thing they all had in common was the tender age of 18 and a lack of military experience. With the pressures on availability of manpower in the Rhodesian war effort these troops were often pushed into operational duty within days of their passing out from training, without time for familiarization or adaptation to operational conditions and many became casualties, sometimes on their first deployment. This became a cause of great concern to those involved in training and the contact report, the individual’s records and the training programme would be examined to see if any cause could be found as to why this should happen. In one case it emerged that a man’s reaction when confronted by a live enemy had been fatally hesitant before firing. A culture of safe weapon handling, instilled during training, had perhaps caused a split-second delay before taking the decision to kill another person, a fatal uncertainty that no amount of quick-kill shooting or pop-up targets on jungle lanes could overcome until the man had become accustomed to such situations. Recruits needed time to ‘learn the ropes’ from the older, more experienced men in their troops, themselves recruits not too long before, and in time they would become familiar with operational conditions. In due course most of the national servicemen became good troopers and junior NCOs, some receiving commendations in the field.

It should be noted that all recruits in the RLI were trickle fed in the operational sub-units which in turn allowed them to be placed with experienced troopies and NCOs on the ratio of no more than one in a 4-man stick.

As a personal note I would add that the hesitation to shoot a human for the first time probably has less to do with inbred safety considerations through training than a natural hesitation to shoot to kill an fellow human being.

07-31-2012, 09:54 PM
As a personal note I would add that the hesitation to shoot a human for the first time probably has less to do with inbred safety considerations through training than a natural hesitation to shoot to kill an fellow human being.

A third disjunct may need to be added to that equation nowadays; fear of legal repercussion. Whether perceived or real (context dependent), it may become that deeply ingrained that it leads to hesitation.

07-31-2012, 10:07 PM
A third disjunct may need to be added to that equation nowadays; fear of legal repercussion. Whether perceived or real (context dependent), it may become that deeply ingrained that it leads to hesitation.

Nowadays certainly ... then no - after the state of emergency was promulgated.

Post #14 above is an extract from a National Serviceman's account of his first contact. It is a credit to the training team in the RLI that when ever reports of KIA/WIA of recently trained troopies were received they did a lot of soul-searching to see if there were associated training problems.

Interestingly in September 1966 - which was before the state of emergency - the RLI had its first contact of the insurgency - on Op Yodel - about which Trevor Desfountain a troop commander at the time has this to say:

Because no state of emergency had yet been promulgated, civil law was followed and the surviving members of the terrorist group were eventually charged with illegal entry into the country and being in possession of weapons of war with the intent of causing acts of treason and/or terrorism. An attorney was appointed to defend them. I was subpoenaed to attend the High Court on a charge of murder. The Attorney-General of Rhodesia was appointed to defend me for and on behalf of the State and I was acquitted on a plea of self-defence.

There you go then, thats the British system for you.

08-01-2012, 09:27 AM
This advice seems simple enough, right?


Ok, now this is what could happen if you ignored the advice:



08-02-2012, 05:20 PM
... extract from the book:

However, when I think back on my time in the RLI it’s not the training or the contacts with our erstwhile enemy or the parachuting or the patrolling or the hunger or the tiredness or the fear or the elation or the stench of death that comes immediately to mind. No, it’s the unique camaraderie, the esprit de corps, and the often mischievous humour that spring to mind. Someone once described being a combat soldier as 10% pure terror and 90% utter boredom. I think it’s true and I know that when you take an energetic bunch of young men, men who have experienced the excitement of combat and the high of surviving a life-or-death situation, they will find ways to fill that bit of the 90% that isn’t devoted to cleaning weapons, training, eating and sleeping with robust ways to amuse themselves. Here, as with its fighting prowess, the RLI was without peer.

08-02-2012, 05:24 PM
... a practice jump at the bottom of a airfield in the op area.


08-03-2012, 09:45 AM
Mommy's lil darling...


I wrote in another thread in 2010:

It did not take me long to figure out that the means of springing an ambush by tapping the LMG gunner on the shoulder then relying on the accuracy of a bunch of riflemen to make the kills was a pretty bad option.

Rhodesia had it own home-made claymores the mini and the maxi which we used to a lesser extent until the South Africans coped the US M18A1 (or equivalent of the early 70s) and the R1M1 became available to Rhodesian forces.

I was sent along to the introduction demonstrations which was mainly attended by the SAS. The SAS at the time were mainly doing daylight ambushes in Mozambique so were quite happy to position and aim the claymores perpendicular to the path/track and position the ambush party 50 metres from the path. The RLI and all other forces when ambushing did so internally and at night and with 4 man groups/sticks/call-signs.

At night even with an African full moon there was no chance of seeing anything from 50m off the path (we had no night vision equipment). So I adapted the "recommended" siting of the mines as per the image below (which became official policy in the army).


A few notes:

1. By positioning the claymores at 45 degrees from the path the ambush group can get closer to the path to see and then finish off what may survive.

2. Use of paces rather than metres is practical for field work.

3. With a 4 man stick the commander faces forward and has the clacker/initiator, one rifleman faces backwards, the other rifleman and the LMG gunner face down the two directions of the path (beyond the killing ground) with the LMG on the most likely approach side to engage those not caught in the killing ground and discourage any thought of their interfering or any heroics. (Even with two claymores we used Cordex initiated by one clacker.)

4. Additional claymores could be daisy chained outwards with the use of Cordtex (det cord) to include more of the insurgents in the fun.

5. The detail above makes no mention of the clacker (as initiator) as a number of the other units were using the older stuff (minis and maxis) which did not come with a clacker.

6. I set a demonstration using 50 paces of hessian cloth (burlap) at 6 foot high stretched taught between wooden posts. Then fired the claymores as per the detail above one at a time. After firing the first one troopies marked each of the 700 pellet strikes on the hessian with one colour of blackboard chalk. Then I got them to fire the second one and marked the strikes with a different colour chalk. I then positioned a troopie in the killing ground and had two others position at the two claymore detonation points. In this manner we were able to figure out how many strikes an insurgent would receive from either or or both claymores. No survivors in the 40 pace killing ground using two claymores.

7. The siting of the ambush must take into account ground levels, vegetation and rocks and things which may shield areas of the killing ground from hits and in addition and importantly obstacles which would interfere with the explosive gass flow and thus upset the predictable pellet spread.

8. At the initial demonstration we saw the effect of the 3.2mm (1/8 inch) steel ball on ballistic clay and the holes made were equivalent to the cavitation effect on soft tissue. Awesome.

9. For a time I was flown out to all ambushes sprung using a claymore to asses the effect. Again Awesome. (In one case where a less than perfect siting of the mine had happened the lead scout got one pellet in the back. First we found his weapon, a few steps later the sling bad he was carrying then his jacket (he pulled off on the run) with one hole with a little blood then him with a bloodied shirt. Must have made 30 metres before he ran out of luck.)

10. In this way and in a millisecond every living thing in the killing ground pays the ultimate sacrifice. This is the way to wage war.

The mini-claymore was a home made Rhodesian weapon. Smaller and lighter was carried on a scale of one per rifleman when on patrols to allow a 4-man stick to protect itself at night when in an LUP (lying-up-place)


08-03-2012, 06:17 PM
... and those who flew them.

So it was... Hi Ho Hi Ho , Its Off To Work We Go!


08-03-2012, 06:44 PM
... we talk of a locally produced weapon which could cut a man in half... the "ploughshare":

...On one patrol we located large insurgent camps and set up explosive ploughshares on the paths leading into the camp. This device was the RLI’s improvized version of the claymore mine. It was a plough disc with plastic explosives packed on the convex side and plaster of Paris mixed with stones on the concave side. The device was triggered by a battery-operated electric detonator/clothes peg switch and a camouflaged trip-wire laid across the path to catch any unsuspecting terrorist returning to the camp.

As we said... "you shall pass this way but once..."

08-04-2012, 07:22 AM
... the Grey's Scouts was a mounted infantry unit who were coming into their own at the end of the war when operating in the 'flat lands' of the West and south-east. Who can forget the running contact over a few days - the gooks were doing all the running - where they and 2 RAR 'bagged' over 100 with minimal air support.

Troopie carrying a heavy barrel FN with 30 round magazine.


08-04-2012, 07:51 AM
... there was also the "Quick kill" shooting method:

Whilst formal range classification shoots with all platoon weapons was a prerequisite for all recruits before he could be passed out of Training Troop, this did not necessarily define good shooting in bush engagements. A method of shooting was practised in dense bush at battlecamp at close quarters was termed the ‘quick kill’ method.

This type of shooting had been well demonstrated and practised on platoon weapons instructor’s courses. The principles for this were: rifle brought into the centre of the body, the arms used as an extension of the rifle, both eyes open and the shottist practised until he completely recognized his master eye to ensure alignment with the target.

I recall some hilarity as we first began to teach the recruits and some really far misses. By the end of the initial training they were able with both rifle and MAG to consistently hit the kill zone on Fig.11 man-sized targets at close quarters. Today’s combat pistol competitors employ a very similar technique.

Another type of bush live training employed at the battle camp was the transitional shoot sometimes referred to as the ‘Drake’ shoot. This method of shooting was to combat the human tendencies to:

* Fire high, brought about by regular firing on a range where the targets are naturally higher than the firer, even up to six feet higher than the firer. In reality the terrorist may present an outline no higher than twelve inches.

* The failure to fire at likely enemy cover which could have fatal consequences if the enemy snivelling behind cover is not hit. He waits until the sweep line passes him and engages friendly forces from the back. The high velocity and force of a NATO 7.62mm round will smash through most natural cover.

* There is also the tendency for everyone to fire at the same patch of likely cover and not engage cover in their own arc of responsibility. This creates the same threat as above because one or more of the enemy are unscathed by the cover fire.

Therefore we demonstrated and practised with the recruits with the purpose of:

* Firing low, no higher than nine to twelve inches above the estimated ground level. (This was also critical to successful ambush operations at night and engaging a dug-in enemy which was often the case on external raids.)
Select and fire into likely enemy fire positions remembering to relate his fieldcraft to his shooting.

* Fire at the enemy within his own particular arc of view and not to be tempted to fire at the same obvious targets already being engaged by other members of his team.


08-04-2012, 08:03 AM
JMA, can you describe quick kill training in more detail. Specifically the part about bringing the rifle to the center of the body? Not sure I understand what he means by that.

08-04-2012, 07:08 PM
..."Reid, you gungy little ..., it looks like you need you need some help keeping yourself clean. Take him to the showers boys and don't bring him back until he is sparkling like a lemon."


08-04-2012, 07:13 PM
... they did the business:


Ken White
08-04-2012, 09:39 PM
LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_shooting). Scroll down to Quick Kill.

LINK (http://www.i-kirk.info/misc/quickkill/qwikill.htm).

LINK (http://www.pointshooting.com/qkrifle.htm).

We used Quick Kill in the late 60s. Most units / NCOs preferred to teach shoulder the weapon loosely but some guys contended that if it was shouldered, the instinct to use the sights, a no-no, was too strong and taught the Troops to keep the weapon roughly centered on their body with the but about 2-6 inches out from the chest. That worked with the BB gun, did less well with the cartridge weapons. the Division Quick Kill range at Bragg was up in Area Mike, behind the NC-Zero Club (which is now Division Headquarters, a gentle irony... :D )

08-05-2012, 06:20 AM
Extract from the book and from the article by Chris Donald one of the more skilled Fire Force commanders of the war.

Obviously, intelligence was the driver of the war and it is here where the SB (Police Special Branch), Selous Scouts, SAS, Aerial Photography, Aerial Reconnaissance and more played a critical role. From this intelligence operations and troop deployments took place. During my time with 3 Cdo I would spend quality time with the intelligence people where we were operating.

Having standard intelligence briefs was a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP), but getting close to them, building a relationship and asking question after question was for me the only way of obtaining what intelligence we required for Fire Force (FF).

As mentioned, the asking of questions was the only way to get the info one needed. For example, all SOP-type intelligence briefs I ever attended never gave the detail that we required on matters such as terrain, bush cover, hill features and caves in the area. This may sound to the reader as unnecessary but for FF operations we felt it was an operational necessity. This same tactic of getting more than the normal standard information and asking questions I used right up to and before arrival at a target area.

There was a standard list of what would be transmitted to FF call-outs by an OP, but we realised that to be more effective and successful we needed more than the norm, plus I wanted as many people as possible who were going to be involved in the operation, to hear every detail. In simple terms, from the first report on a potential call-out up to our arrival at the target, I wanted everyone to have a detailed painted picture in their minds of the target area and everything else related to the incident.

Over and above the obvious we would get answers to questions such as: how many huts in a kraal/s, description and layout of the huts, any striking features/colours on huts, where was the cattlepen, relevant paths in the area, colour of clothing of the locals they had seen, enemy clothing description, hats/caps, cattle being herded and where, which of the locals by dress colour had been seen moving in and out of the base camp area, which direction or down which river line did the OP think the enemy would go, vegetation description on the river lines and other details. One also had to realise that in the case of an OP one had to picture the area through the eyes of the OP.

I also found that, depending on the surprise factor we could achieve with the noise of the helicopters, there was real benefit for the K-Car on approach to fly directly over the OP towards the target area and by a simple go-left, roll-out, go-right, roll-out, I was able to see exactly what the OP was seeing. The OP advising me when they could hear the sound of the aircraft was a must on every call-out (for obvious reasons) and then, once we had decided where to deploy the stops, the OP became important eyes, ears and information for us.

08-05-2012, 06:55 AM
... there was time for stuff like this:


08-05-2012, 06:20 PM
LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_shooting). Scroll down to Quick Kill.

LINK (http://www.i-kirk.info/misc/quickkill/qwikill.htm).

LINK (http://www.pointshooting.com/qkrifle.htm).

We used Quick Kill in the late 60s. Most units / NCOs preferred to teach shoulder the weapon loosely but some guys contended that if it was shouldered, the instinct to use the sights, a no-no, was too strong and taught the Troops to keep the weapon roughly centered on their body with the but about 2-6 inches out from the chest. That worked with the BB gun, did less well with the cartridge weapons. the Division Quick Kill range at Bragg was up in Area Mike, behind the NC-Zero Club (which is now Division Headquarters, a gentle irony... :D )

Yep, I remember we have had this conversation before. I went through it in 72 at Ft. Jackson and have been researching Point Shooting ever since.

Now put your memeory hat on?..... Night firing without using your sites! I think we were taught (prone or standing foxhole position only) to place the weapon in the center of our chest and our chin on top of the stock of the weapon when sighted fire could not be used at night.

The Marines taught a crouch firing postion to Raiders (WW2) where the M1 was placed in the center of the body and the arms were fully extened as you pointed at the target. Might be able to find a picture when I have time.

Anyway to this day it is amazing at the number of so called firearms instructors and experts who don't believe it is possible to hit anything with this technique. PS people that believe this are usually people who have never been in or seen a gun fight.

Ken White
08-05-2012, 06:54 PM
Now put your memeory hat on?..... Night firing without using your sites! I think we were taught (prone or standing foxhole position only) to place the weapon in the center of our chest and our chin on top of the stock of the weapon when sighted fire could not be used at night.That was one technique. Some others included; a white string or strip of bandage tied between front and rear sight -- you just pointed the tape at the target (you heard, all the flashes screwed up night vision...), putting a small strip of luminous tape on both sights (Meprolight Beta Version :D), using aiming stakes and / or forked stick to get rough alignment (for likely avenues of approach or FPF). There were others but those were the most common and most likely to work.
The Marines taught a crouch firing postion to Raiders (WW2) where the M1 was placed in the center of the body and the arms were fully extened as you pointed at the target. Might be able to find a picture when I have time.They were still teaching that to the average Grunt in Korea.
Anyway to this day it is amazing at the number of so called firearms instructors and experts who don't believe it is possible to hit anything with this technique. PS people that believe this are usually people who have never been in or seen a gun fight.True dat... ;)

I can do far better with the pistol pointing than I can with aiming using one or both hands...

08-05-2012, 11:00 PM
... John R Cronin has published a book on Kindle about his service in the USMC and Rhodesia. I served with John in the RLI and enjoyed his coverage of his service in the RLI and the Selous Scouts immensely. At $4.06 it is certainly a must read for those with an interest in the Rhodesian bush war.


The Bleed [Kindle Edition] - John R. Cronin (Author) (http://www.amazon.com/The-Bleed-ebook/dp/B008IJ5JF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344207192&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Bleed+Cronin)

"These memoirs are a 40-year window into the life of someone who walked silently on patrol with Marine Recon in the jungles of Vietnam, infiltrated guerrilla groups on counterinsurgency operations with the Selous Scouts in Rhodesia, navigated the teeming streets of Cairo and was kidnapped by Hizbollah in Beirut, and then left this life behind for the highly competitive atmosphere of a graduate program in London, where survival came in a much different form."


... Enter moi in the middle of August of 1976. I reported in to the RLI the same day 3 Commando, my assigned unit, had returned from its 10 day R&R in preparation to be deployed the following day. I walked over from the BOQ across the parade deck to meet the rest of the officers and senior NCOs as they arrived to pre-pack up some equipment and I could see them studying me as I made my way to the offices.

It was the same look I had received the day I walking into Third Force Recon that day and I could feel the eyes on my back as I went down the corridor. Everyone had heard that a new officer was due in, and a Yank officer at that, and they were keen to see what kind of impression the new face would leave with them. They all had a ton of combat experience behind them, and as I grew to know them and the men of the other commands, I would be struck by how closely they resembled in temperament and bearing the Marines I had just left. Funny. profane. tough, violent, tactically and strategically savvy, innovative and not afraid to take some of the most awful risks you can imagine, they were solid in the bush and could be relied on to take care of one another out there without one doubt of hesitation, which is what made them so aggressive and ideally suited for Fire Force.


08-06-2012, 11:29 AM
... and to the RLI troopie.


RLI 51st Birthday – Cape Town 2012

Proposing the Toast to the Regiment – Mark Adams

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen… I am honoured to have been asked to stand in for Bill Wiggill tonight.

During the course of collecting the various contributions for the new RLI book – Africa’s Commandos - from those who have served in or with the RLI during the 19 years of the regiment’s existence my knowledge and understanding of the RLI has grown significantly.

It has been less about the phases through which the RLI passed over those 19 years as significant as they were …

…what with early years and service on the Belgian Congo Border
… to the significant manpower losses at the break up of Federation
… to the fun and games of the border control years
… to the earlier short sharp operations in the Zambezi Valley
… on to the low intensity continuous operations which begun with Op Hurricane in 1973
… and finally to the continuous high intensity operations through to the end.

For me it has become more about the human aspects of how the RLI ouens thought and behaved.

There has always been a broad mischievous and naughty streak running through the RLI from officers down to the troopies. The battalion has always been full of colourful characters. We all remember those characters of our respective vintages with great fondness and affection. They were good for morale.

There was always the ability to see the funny side of just about every situation the service and the war threw at us. I remember so well being repeatedly told by my training troop instructors that “If you haven’t got a sense of humour you shouldn’t have joined the army”. This humour, even if it was most often of the graveyard or gallows variety, served the battalion well especially when in the end we were committed to continuous operations with mounting casualties.

There were the lists of honours and awards, which in my personal view, were certainly under awarded in circumstances where continuous and daily displays of bravery and courage became the order of the day… these from young men so many of whom were under the age of 20 …with the rest being not much older.

There was the ability of the RLI to adapt to virtually any circumstances …as our second to last CO Tufty Bate stated from his personal experience in late 1979; “I realised that there was only one unit in the world who could be para-borne (one day) infantry (the next) an armoured column (a week later) and then marines all within the space of a few weeks.”

(The marine aspect amounted to a Dunkirk-style array of vessels hastily cobbled together to ferry the RLI across Kariba for a possible attack on a ZIPRA camp.)

My own personal observation is of how the RLI at war turned boys into men.

Remember intake 150 comprising about 225 recruits in mid 1976 and how 50 odd were fed into each commando almost doubling our combat strength overnight. We had to create new stick commanders to whom we gave only one each of the ‘fresh p...’ … err … can’t use that word here… so each new stick commander received one of the ‘fresh’ new troopies … resulting in Derrick Taylor my troop sergeant getting two new troopies and me - trying to set the example as the troop commander - getting three new troopies.

Next day as Stop 1 I deployed into a lively Fire Force scene with a Scotsman with unverified military service on the MAG and two 18 year old National Service Rhodesians with recruit course style ‘short back and sides’ haircuts which made their ears stick out.

It is certainly a testament to the quality of training Major Pete Cooper and his team in Training Troop delivered that despite my initial concerns about having three new troopies in my stick they acquitted themselves magnificently during a ‘liquorice all-sorts’ kind of day where we experienced directly to our front:

…20mm cannon being fired from the K-Car,
…Sneb rockets and Frantan from the Lynx,
…lots of small arms fire going in both directions… some at very close range,
…some grenade action to deal with a gook trying to get behind us
…and a swarm of angry African bees.

Such a first day in combat is not for the faint hearted … but these ‘boys’ took it all in their stride.

In fact despite my misguided anxiety over my stick they actually saved me that day when a well concealed gook zeroed in on me. In some armies the soldiers would wait for the officer to get shot before taking the enemy out … but not on that day … but then again … maybe it was because they were all brand new and hadn’t got to know me yet.

It did not take long before these self same troopies became the confident, strutting, street wise troopies of the RLI the Salisbury civvies had learned to fear. As we remember … when the RLI was in town the call went out … ‘keep your eyes on your wallet and your watch… and above all lock up your daughters’.

On another occasion out of Mtoko we spent a day and the night scrambling around a cave infested rocky outcrop. Leaving the MAG and one troopie to cover a cave entrance I moved off with a troopie to deal with some gooks who appeared to have a death wish. I kept looking behind me to see if the 18 year old with cheeks that had never seen a razor blade was still there. I shouldn’t have worried… of course he was still there. All bright eyed and bushy tailed… alert, wide awake and switched on… he was covering my back… he was after all an RLI troopie … even if he was just a kid.

I often think back to that level of mutual trust and faith we placed in one another during the war when we uttered the simple … yet powerful … words ‘cover me’. Something mere civvies would never be able to understand or comprehend.

There is not a day that passes when I am not proud … to an emotional level… of having served with those lovable ‘skates’ we called troopies… in the battalion we all love so dearly… the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

I end with a quote from our last CO, Charlie Aust who at the final parade on 17 October 1980 said: “Our colours will continue to fly higher than high. We know that in years to come we will say to our children and to our loved ones with the greatest pride: “I served in the RLI”.

…with that I ask you to be rise to toast the battalion … that Ian Douglas Smith named ‘The Incredible RLI’ … Ladies and Gentlemen … the RLI.

08-06-2012, 12:12 PM
JMA, can you describe quick kill training in more detail. Specifically the part about bringing the rifle to the center of the body? Not sure I understand what he means by that.

Got this response from the author and hope the book text can still be amended in time. Thanks for the question.

Whilst formal range classification shoots with all arms was a prerequisite for all recruits before the recruit could be passed out of Training Troop this did not necessarily define good shooting is bush engagements. In addition, there was often little time for a soldier to take a correct sight picture in close quarter bush engagements and had to fire instinctively.

A method of shooting that was practiced in the dense bush at Le Rhone and at close quarters termed as the “Quick Kill” method. This type of shooting had been well demonstrated and practiced on my Platoon Weapons Instructor’s course. The concept of Quick Kill was not a Rhodesian innovation but the application and practice of the techniques of the developer of the method, Bobby ‘Lucky’ Mc Daniel in 1954 and published by Mike Jennings in 1959 (USA). Quick Kill or ‘Point Shooting’ as the discipline was sometimes called, was taught as a combat skill to United States ground soldiers during the Vietnam conflict. It appears that a training manual of sorts with this title was used at Fort Benning, Army Infantry School c1966 but a formal instruction manual was published in May 1967 for the American army.

The basic principles for this technique are:

* The soldier must first determine his “Master” Eye as a prerequisite to the teaching. Determining which eye is the master or dominant eye is important for success in the use of Quick Kill. If he shoots right handed, and his left eye is dominant, then target strikes will tend to be to the left or he will miss left completely if shooting without use of sights. To determine which eye is the dominant eye, the instructor stands in front of the soldier at a distance of about two to three meters away, and places his forefinger against his nose. The soldier is told to focus on that point with both eyes, and at the same time extend his dominant arm and form a circle with his thumb and index finger forming a circle, and look through the circle and focus on the point of the nose of the instructor. The soldier's eye which appears directly behind and in line with the circle is the master eye of that individual soldier.

* The soldier should stand with feet apart with “weak” leg leading and pointing at the target. His weight should be balanced on the balls of his feet and he should be leading forward slightly.

* His rifle is supported with the "weak" hand extended towards the front of the stock (Pointing arm) and with the butt of the weapon slightly under his arm, into the pocket of his shoulder and his cheek against the butt. His head must be erect and both eyes are open and looking well over the weapon (60 – 100mm) and not down the length of the weapons barrel. The shotist must be trained to focus directly at a point on the target and not look for the sights on the rifle.

I recall some hilarity as we first began to teach the recruits and some really far misses even by marksmen on the general classification shoots. By the end of the initial training they were able to consistently hit the kill zone on Fig.11 and 12 man/head sized targets at close quarters. Today’s combat pistol competitors employ a very similar ‘eyes open’ technique very successfully.

The development of the ‘Single Point’ laser type sight system is based on the principles of Quick Kill and modern game bird and clay pigeon shotists employ the technique as a matter of course.

08-06-2012, 12:18 PM
... A young choppertech/gunner Beaver Shaw - author of the book Choppertech - back in the day. Man we were young.


08-06-2012, 06:05 PM
Got this response from the author and hope the book text can still be amended in time. Thanks for the question.

JMA,Ken, I new I had a picture. Here is a link to a PDF with a picture of an article about snap shooting from WW2 by a Marine Captain. In the picture you can see the crouch and extended arms,depending on how and who explains the concept to you, it could be described as putting the weapon in your chest while extending your arms. Anyway the picture shows the part I was getting confused over. As I said this has been a (point shooting,combat shooting,etc) pet rock of mine for nearly 40 years and I have spent a lot of time,money, and interviews of people and materials to try and get it correct for teaching purposes. I will shut up now and let the book review continue:D


08-07-2012, 09:14 AM
JMA,Ken, I new I had a picture. Here is a link to a PDF with a picture of an article about snap shooting from WW2 by a Marine Captain. In the picture you can see the crouch and extended arms,depending on how and who explains the concept to you, it could be described as putting the weapon in your chest while extending your arms. Anyway the picture shows the part I was getting confused over. As I said this has been a (point shooting,combat shooting,etc) pet rock of mine for nearly 40 years and I have spent a lot of time,money, and interviews of people and materials to try and get it correct for teaching purposes. I will shut up now and let the book review continue:D


I compliment you on your persistence.

To digress a little, what was interesting in Rhodesia - as opposed to South Africa on my return after 1980 - was how the training was driven front to rear as opposed to being a rigid enforced top-down policy.

This of course makes sense to everyone ... except those sitting in the highest HQ. While I never saw anyone from Army HQ-Training anywhere in the Op Areas they continued to put out TRADOC - Training Bulletins ... but must grant them some slack as they did constantly seek lessons learned from those in the field and did adopt them as official policy ... like my claymore layout for instance.

As far as shooting was concerned there were the basics which were taught during recruit training - in the case of the RLI all the recruit training was done within the battalion itself. The Bn CO was then in a position to ensure lessons from ops - with which he was involved daily - were immediately acted upon by Training Troop.

As the sub units (company size) were constantly on ops they evolved their own training with regard to quick kill shooting - and other stuff - as per their own experiences. As can be appreciated each sub-unit had its own CSM (company sergeant major) and platoon sergeants who led with this training. With the training instructors for recruit training being drawn from the operational sub-units on what we called temporary attachment there was a constant rotation of ops current NCOs through Training Troop.

It was here that the main debate over shooting techniques - and experience led tactical innovations - took place. Sergeants on rotation would express what their sub-unit was doing and there would follow a healthy - sometimes loud - discussion on the matter. In the end the training moved forward. The system was dynamic.

08-07-2012, 10:15 AM
... repositioning closer to something brewing and waiting for the call.


08-07-2012, 02:08 PM
From the article "Keeping training relevant in an ongoing war" the last Training Officer, Maj Peter Cooper shared the following:

During 1979 training was extended from four and a half to five months and would later be increased by a further three weeks to include the basic parachute course.

The basic subjects such as drill, weapons, voice procedure etc had remained much the same but tactics now differed greatly. Conventional war was covered only briefly, with 29 periods and two days devoted to an exercise, but insurgency rural warfare and COIN now occupied 65 periods and a further nine days on battle camps.

New subjects, including survival techniques, demolitions, mine awareness, advanced first aid, helicopter drills, CAS, and African customs, none of which were included ten years earlier, were now essential parts of the syllabus.

Specific comment is necessary IMHO because the tendency in wartime is to reduce the training time for recruits to be able to get them off to war as soon as possible. Recruits could in a action days after passing-out if they joined their sub-unit in the field.

08-08-2012, 11:05 AM
... we're rolling:


08-08-2012, 11:19 AM
...Mike McDonald from Canada served with distinction in the RLI.

Extract from one of his articles in the book:

Snakes and goggas (creepy crawlies)

In the first week I joined RLI we went out to Mazoe for training. On the first day I was napping in my bivvy after lunch. I was awoken to find a huge baboon spider inches from my face. The next thing I remember I was outside the bivvy beating this ‘deadly poisonous tarantula’ to death with my water bottle. A couple of guilty-looking RLI ouens (slang for ‘the men’) were sniggering nearby. Welcome to Africa! On my first bush trip with 3Cdo we stopped by this small base near Buffalo Range. There were some African soldiers toasting mopane worms on a grill over coals. My RLI corporal showed me this procedure then asked me to eat one. Smartass, me says, I’ll eat one if you do. This darn corporal popped one into his mouth and ate it. Damn, so I had to eat one too.

Support Commando had a trooper nicknamed ‘Snake’. In the bush he was always turning over rocks looking for snakes on his patrol breaks and often finding them. At Grand Reef Fire Force base there was this big mamba. ‘Snake’ chased the mamba from the berm to the airstrip trying to catch it. The mamba got cranky and chased ‘Snake’ back to the berm. This happened back and forth several times much to the amusement of many Support Commando onlookers. I don’t think he was able to catch the mamba. Legend has it that ‘Snake’, whilst early into a several-day deployment into Mozambique, caught a world record-size cobra but had to let it go due to military operations. Watching television recently a herpetologist from South Africa was being interviewed; he looked hauntingly familiar. This snake expert even said he had handled snakes in the army in Angola clearing them from bunkers etc. “If that’s really you ‘Snake’, congratulations on having a career in your beloved hobby”.

At Grand Reef I was nearby when a cobra went into the 3Cdo’s batmen’s tent when they were all inside having an afternoon siesta. All the screaming batmen exited the tent immediately, only one via the doorway! Aye, if only we had it on video. An Afrikaner 3Cdo trooper killed the snake and skinned it. Only one batman slept in the tent that night because of a cobra’s reputation of hanging around in pairs. On an extremely quiet day a very bored 3Cdo soldier caught a chameleon and spent several minutes chasing the batmen around with it. Good thing batmen weren’t armed or they would have shot me.

One time Support Commando was camped by the sports club of Ngundu Halt north of Beit Bridge. At dusk the Recce Troop sergeant had a hell of a dramatic time killing a big cobra in his tent with a shovel. He was in quite a rattled state afterwards. I was sharing a tarp bivvy with the company clerk there. He had the 2000-2200hrs radio watch in the signals truck while I did the 2200-2400hrs stint. At the end of my radio watch upon returning to our bivvy I found him sleeping about 30 yards away in the open. I thought whatever, crawled around our very dark bivvy, crashed in my sleeping bag on the stretcher. I asked him the following morning why he slept out there and he said, “Huge snake crawled into our bivvy!”

In Essexvale during troop medic course training I caught one of those huge locusts with a body the size of my index finger and big powerful back legs. I strolled over to the late Englishman, Tpr John Connelly, pulled open his T-shirt and dropped it in. He mumbled, “Now what have you done McDonald?” and pulled open his shirt neck to see this brute as it started kicking against his chest. He screamed his head off, jumped around, dropped his rifle, ripped off his webbing, ripped off his chest webbing and finally pulled off his T-shirt, still screaming and jumping hysterically. Aye, if only we had it on video. Why do Rhodesian and South African men find it extremely hilarious to see an Englishman freaking out over a gogga inside his shirt? Later that evening by my possie (sleeping place) I placed my ratpack on my lap for dinner, opened the box and found this big black scorpion running around inside. My ratpack sailed thirty feet into the air and curses flew towards John who was laughing his head off in the next possie. What RLI dudes do when bored. Speaking of scorpions I’m sure I sat on one once at night. I had been sitting for 30 seconds when this fierce pain stung my right butt cheek and I jumped about three feet in the air. The next day I had a red welt about eight inches in diameter on my right butt. It healed itself.

In Llewellin Barracks I found a newly hatched six-inch long baby cobra. It still had its egg tooth. Sadly, a poisonous snake has no place inside a military base. All I could find was a six-inch flimsy stick to try to pin it down to catch it. This little snake was quite a lively cheeky devil rearing up, flaring his hood, hissing and trying to bite me. Nearby was a truck packed full of African national servicemen watching this crazy man playing with a snake. After several minutes, although quite tricky, I managed to pin the snake down and grabbed him behind his head. I held him up wriggling for all in the truck to see. Then the RLI streak of humour took over and I lobbed it slowly and high into the back of the truck full of African soldiers. All but two debussed immediately. Hey, good ambush training for them. The biggest of the group, big tough Sam, stood there frozen, trembling and crying. The smallest of the group calmly killed the snake with the butt of his weapon. Aye, if only we had it on video.

In a bush camp once the batmen called me over to kill a puff adder. I just caught it and carried it a couple of hundred yards outside of camp and released it. Maybe it would bite some terrorist scouting out our camp. With 3Cdo we were operating out of Grootvlei airstrip way down in the southeast. This area was very bad for ticks. Every day I would take my boots and socks off and there would be hundreds of tiny mites between my toes. Never had this problem existed anywhere else. Nearby was Mabalahuta base by Gona-re-Zhou National Park. Everyone knew the infamous Mabalahuta ants there. We often heard the screams of first-time visitors who unwittingly actually sat on the long drops where thousands of these little brown monsters would rush out between the planks and bite simultaneously. SAS guys poured gallons of diesel on their campgrounds to fight them. Our guys put foot powder or grease on the legs of their stretchers to stop them at night. If the corner of your sleeping bag touched the ground, a column of them would run up it and you would find them all over your face in the middle of the night. Eventually I just found the cab of a truck to sleep in. I have no idea how the resident game rangers put up with them. As a commando MA3 medic I twice treated soldiers who had a painful ear filled to the brim with earwax. Both times syringing flushed all the wax, along with it a big tick.

With Support Commando the day before R&R, I loaned my can of Mercurochrome spray to an RLI Aussie prankster. They pinned down this handsome RLI NCO, pulled down his shorts and sprayed red all over his one-eyed trouser snake and surrounding area. We don’t know how he explained it to his girlfriend on R&R.

Note: African mythology has it (incorrectly) that the common chameleon is highly poisonous. Hence the ability to clear areas (of Africans) with relative ease if you have a chameleon on your hand. Also a great aid during interrogation (if one is locally available) guaranteed to obtain instant and total cooperation.

08-09-2012, 04:06 AM
Came a long way since the 1963 chopper drills:


To the real thing in 1979 - approaching the chopper for uplift:


08-09-2012, 04:25 AM
Extract from the article by an American who served:

The moment I had anticipated with cautious enthusiasm began on the morning of my fifth day in the bush. We had finished breakfast and were getting ready for a weapons class when the siren for Fire Force sounded. Immediately the men of 12 Troop grabbed their kit and headed for the helipad. I was assigned to Sgt Taylor’s stick which included L/Cpl Hughes, the MAG machine-gunner Terry Hammond and myself. Terry was a good guy who had taken it upon himself to show me the ropes. Actually I don’t remember any ‘hazing’ upon joining 12 Troop other than good-natured kidding. Arriving at the helipad I applied our camouflage paint for the first time when it mattered, a dark brown/black. The camo was applied with fingers leaving streaks across our face and other exposed flesh. A few minutes after arriving at the Alouette III Sgt Taylor joined us from the ops brief. A British South African Police (BSAP) stick had observed a group of terrs in camp. By this time the blades were turning and we loaded our helicopters.

The swirling red dirt of the strip began to dissipate as our troop carrier bird, the G-Car, lifted off. We had an orientation ride during Training Troop but this was the real deal. I was headed to war as a Rhodesian commando. Of course I was nervous, the nervousness one experiences before any action that is dangerous. But in my past that meant jumping out of C130s, not going into a firefight! As the G-Car flew over the broken terrain of eastern Rhodesia I tried to remember the lessons we were taught in Training Troop. I do remember thinking Sgt Taylor’s stick consisted of very experienced warriors. Watch and learn. Keep your head in the game. As the flight moved ever closer to the terrorist sighting Terry leaned towards me and asked how I was doing. I nodded my head, gripped my FN rifle a little tighter, and told him I was OK. He gave me a thumbs-up and smiled. He told me it was not a big deal, nothing to worry about.

The air assault contingent arrived over the objective area and began to circle. Major Strong, our OC 3Cdo, directed the fight from his control bird, the K-Car. After several minutes of boring holes in the sky the Alouette III dropped towards the ground. Sgt Taylor gave us a look and the bird began to hover over the tall grass. Terry gave me a tap on the leg and I followed him out. We were located in an area of tall grass, four or so feet high, with several small trees scattered about. We kneeled as the bird lifted off then Taylor led us toward a small hilltop 30 or so metres away. I remember the stick was arranged in line with L/Cpl Hughes on the far right, then Sgt Taylor, Terry with the MAG and then me on the left. As far as I knew we were the only troopies on the ground. Taking my cue from Terry who was several metres to my right we moved slowly toward the base of the hill. Little did I know I would soon be engaged in my first firefight.

It wasn’t all that hot but the sweat still trickled into my eyes. It didn’t help that camo was mixed in with the sweat. I heard helicopters flying in the distance but had yet to hear any firing. The stick arrived where the hill began to slope upward. I had only Terry in sight. We stopped briefly; I saw Terry get up and motion me to move forward. Staying in line with Terry, I began to climb the slightly sloping hill while sweeping the front and sides with my eyes. The hill was probably 20-30m high with a couple of trees on the crown. A third of the way up the hill I heard my first shots fired in anger. Two AK-47 rounds cracked within hearing, then a third. Immediately, I heard Terry yell, “Hey, Yank! You had better get down. That bastard is shooting at you!” He then loosed a burst of 7.62 at the crown of the hill. Welcome to 12 Troop!

I quickly knelt down and began looking for the terrorist. Terry fired a couple more bursts and then stood up. He looked over at me motioning to move forward. He had a more relaxed attitude and I soon saw why. Coming down the hill was Sgt Taylor with a young terrorist capture. Taylor had come up behind the Charlie Tango (CT – communist terrorist) and took him prisoner. So this was the guy shooting at me. After several minutes a G-Car arrived and the terrorist was thrown on board. He would soon be in the possession of Special Branch (SB). Listening to his radio, Sgt Taylor led us back up the hill and down the other side. I had yet to fire my FN.

On the other side of the hill was a small valley with a stream and several trees. The terrain was fairly level with scattered exposed rocks, mostly flat, not offering much cover. The grass was still three- to four-feet high concealing the flat rocks. Trees obscured the view after several metres. Sgt Taylor put us back in line and we began to move forward up the valley. We heard shooting some distance away but Taylor kept us sweeping in the same direction. Terry and I were still on the right of the stick with a small hill to our right. My second wartime experience was about to occur.

Terry and I began to move forward ten yards apart. The going was slow as we were cautious advancing through the waist-high grass. The wind was blowing slightly and I could see white smoke through the treetops off to our right front. It turned out to be a grass fire started by tracers. I continued to position off Terry but could not see L/Cpl Hughes or Sgt Taylor. They were out of sight to Terry’s right. As we swept forward Terry and I fired into likely cover to flush any bad guys.

After a few metres we broke through the tall grass to one of the flat rocks. It was about ten feet in diameter and lying on the rock was a wounded terrorist though I saw no blood. Why was he lying in the open and not hiding in the bush? I immediately aimed my FN while Terry positioned his machine-gun to cover the tango. The terr was lying face down with his hands underneath him. We could tell he was still alive as his body shook, probably from fear. I looked to Terry for guidance as this was certainly not a situation I had experienced before. I thought we would have another capture for SB to interrogate. Not to be.

The CT was wearing denim jeans, a blue shirt and an olive-green jacket. He appeared to be in his late teens. I could see no weapon. Amazingly I had now seen two live terrorists within 45 minutes of my first contact. Terry approached the terr giving him a quick kick with his boot. The terr reacted with a small cry but did not rise up. Terry took a few steps backward and aimed the MAG at him. I was a cherry when it came to people suffering violent death. As Terry aimed his gun, I thought, here we go, and turned my head. I heard a burst of 7.62. Simultaneous with turning back to look, I heard Terry swear and fire a second burst. His first burst missed! I had a ringside seat as his second burst took the top of the terrorist’s head off. I was transfixed as the bad guy’s brain went flying through the air.

Terry and I stood looking at the dead terr as Sgt Taylor and L/Cpl Hughes came up. Terry reported what happened in a straightforward manner. The stick leader reported the death. Another dead terrorist or ‘floppie’. We continued to sweep through the tall grass for approximately another hundred metres. The contact ended with the death of eight or nine terrs. I saw the dead after they were loaded on a Bedford truck. They were thrown on top of one another like sacks of mealies, a hell of a way to end up. I felt no sympathy for the terrorist dead. Their cause was not the cause of freedom but one of dictatorship. As far as I was concerned they were communists and deserved killing.

08-09-2012, 11:06 PM
... all dressed up and ready to go.


08-10-2012, 07:43 AM
Lt-Gen John Hickman who was a past CO of the RLI (see bio below). He wrote of his experiences for the book, an extract is as follows:

"It is my belief that there were three significant phases in the development of 1RLI into the potent counter-insurgency force it became. The first was the conversion from basic infantry into a commando role with emphasis on junior leadership, initiative and aggressive action. The next important phase was the full blooding of the battalion in Operation Cauldron which at that time included a comprehensive range of CO1N operations. It also cemented a sound and abiding trust and co-operation with the Air Force in general, and with 7 Squadron, the helicopters, in particular, especially when the dynamic Squadron-Leader Norman Walsh assumed command. The final phase as a reinforcing supplement to the Fire Force concept was the conversion of the entire battalion to parachute troops."

Bio John Hickman:

Born 18 October 1931 in the Police Camp, Bulawayo, eldest son of the late Col A S Hickman, MBE, QPM, formerly Commissioner of the British South Africa Police, and Mrs Mary Hickman. Educated at St George’s College, Salisbury. Attested into the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps in1951 where he served until commissioned in 1954 and posted to 1st Battalion the Northern Rhodesia Regiment (1NRR). Served in Malaya with the 2nd Battalion The Kings African Rifles from 1954/56 and received the Award of the Military Cross for Gallantry and Distinguished Service through action as a platoon commander. Served in various training and staff appointments until attending the British Army Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, England in 1963. Posted to 1RLI as battalion 2IC on 1 December 1966 and then appointed CO 1RLI on 23 August 1968 where he served until 1July 1970 when he was once again posted to Army HQ. He assumed Command of 2 Bde on 15 October 1972. Appointed Commander 1 Bde on 7 May 1974. Posted to Army HQ on 26 January 1975 and appointed Chief of Staff. Promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed Commander Rhodesian Army on 14 May 1977. Retired on 7 March 1979 and passed away on 28 October 2011.

08-10-2012, 04:17 PM
Innocence already lost...


08-11-2012, 04:05 PM
A commander reflects :

So what made 3Cdo so special for me? Success yes, being at the right place at the right time, yes yes yes. We had great troop commanders and just who they were at the time made a significant and substantial impact. However, the role played by our CSM, our sergeants and corporals, from top to bottom, just had to be the difference. They were the continuity, the professional soldiers, and the people who kept the culture, professionalism and family together over the long haul. It is they we were indebted to for what made 3Cdo.

A matter not often realised or considered at the time was “what impact and effect does such a job have on a person?” We had many a man who came out of recruit course and within a matter of days was being shot at, seeing death in its gory military form and having to shoot to kill people. With the services of men doing their national call-up, this also meant that some had just completed their schooling prior to their basic training. For such boys who became men and had to operate with hardened and experienced soldiers and the Fire Force, it was about doing this task every day. For the troop commanders it was about making these new soldiers a part of four-man effective fighting units. When there were only four men in a unit there were many considerations of where to put new and unknown soldiers. Going to sleep at night knowing what you had to do and face the next day in the FF was not something that many people could do, day in and day out. In hindsight I would like to think that it was for these very reasons that we lived and behaved the way we did and created our 3Cdo family which I have outlined above.

08-12-2012, 07:01 AM
The Freedom of the City of Salisbury was granted to The Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) on 25 July 1975.

In a message to the citizens of Salisbury, The Mayor, Councillor G H Tanser made these comments the day before the event:

“The conferment of the Freedom of the City by the Salisbury City Council is an acknowledgement of the exceptional service The Rhodesian Light Infantry has rendered to our city and our country.

When the men of The First Battalion of The Rhodesian Light Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel David Parker, march through the streets of our city tomorrow, with their bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying, to receive the high honour accorded to them, it is hoped that you, the citizens of Salisbury, will turn out to welcome and applaud these valiant soldiers, the guardians of our welfare and safety.”


08-12-2012, 08:22 AM

Battalion CO - Lt-Col David Parker - with his 2IC - Maj Boet Swart - (on his left) lead the RLI through the city.

The ouens:

08-12-2012, 02:56 PM
This corporal said... "It wasn’t a bad war, really."

... The choppers were warming up and we got aboard. I put on my headphones which stick leaders used to listen in to the K-Car conversation and orders; also to listen to Radio 5 from the good old South Africa. That was a bonus and took your mind off things, plus the pilot chatter would break in on the music so nothing was lost. Well not much anyway. I remember flying into one scene and while I listened to a tune called ‘Some girls will’, the Lynx had dropped a fran (naplam) on a thickly-covered rocky area from which spurted a very fiery gook running like crazy until he dropped. He was forever remembered as ‘Flaming Fury’; and never forgotten actually. It was quite a sight.

Off we went, the K-Car with Major Price in the lead and the rest of the chopper sticks following in a loose formation. I can’t remember the flying time, probably about 15 to 20 minutes but that was my favourite part of the call-out: looking out of the chopper at the other aircraft flying into battle gave me a sense of exhilaration. It’s just a shame Radio 5 never played a James Bond tune just at that time; would have been brilliant. I say I enjoyed flying … well I did and I didn’t. Yes, it was exciting but it was also a bit scary; you see, it wasn’t the people-shooting-at-you bit so much as I am not great with heights … especially heights where you were going to fall a very long way to the ground. I’d spent a year as an MAG gunner hanging out of the side of choppers and didn’t enjoy it at all. Nope, I was quite comfortable as a stick leader listening to the radio, sitting between the helicopter technician / gunner and my MAG gunner. If the chopper banked too steeply they’d fall out first. (To the best of my knowledge this never happened.)

All too quickly the pilot raised his open hand: 5 minutes out. There was (for me) a strange rise and fall of adrenaline with call-outs: when the siren goes you are full of it, but when you are flying into the contact area it seems to go away until you get the fingers; that’s when the nerves and adrenaline really kick in and you can see it on everyone’s face. But the strange thing is; when you get on the ground and you are doing your job: no nerves at all. Weird. And that’s where we were, on the ground, and we started to sweep toward a rocky outcrop. We had started to come across a few suspect hidey-holes which we cleared with grenades along the way.

Trooper Wade however had a case of bad time-keeping and nearly blew my head off. One of the small caves had holes front and back but we could not see inside. To be sure, I put Wade at one end and told him on my command to count to 3 and chuck the grenade in, while I would do the same from my end. My grenade went in and bang. I waited a good two seconds and presumed they’d gone off exactly together. No. They hadn’t. I looked inside the cave to have a shufti and bang! The best laid plans … I think Wade is still on guard duty in Mtoko.

We approached quite a large outcrop and this is where the gooks had holed up. Theo Nel’s stick had got there first and we had a quick chat about what to do next. Best thing to do sometimes is get some civvies in to talk to the gooks; the gooks never actually take any heed of the advice to come out but you often get an idea of where they are in the cave when they first shout at the civvy and then, secondly, shoot him. So two were duly sprung from a nearby kraal, sent into the cave, got shouted at and then shot.

“Anyone know what the population of that kraal was?” But, we had a vague idea of where the gooks were and I told Theo I was going to put a bunker bomb in.
“No, I’ll do it” he said.
“Hey! My idea!”
“Okay, we’ll both do it then.”

Oh, diplomacy. Don’t you just love it! Our position was above and facing the cave entrance and although we were directly in front of the cave we were reasonably safe as anyone attempting to break for it or try and give us a ‘rev’ would be seen well before anything could happen and instantly cut down. We went slowly and silently to the cave entrance. I threw my hefty bunker bomb in first, then Theo threw his and we quickly took cover to the side of the cave mouth. Two powerful explosions went off one after the other and we waited a few seconds. But before we could go inside and check the damage an RPD started chattering again so we decided to wait and think about coming up with a plan B.

This was obviously an established hideout for the gooks; we had found anti-aircraft DIY kits consisting of three stick grenades with the pull-rings attached to nails laid over a small amount of plastic explosive. The theory being that if the explosive detonated the stick grenades would be blasted into the sky, detonating in the air. I wasn’t going to experiment as it all looked highly unsafe. We needed to cover all escape routes from the cave and I took my stick to the top of the outcrop where there was a long narrow opening about a metre wide. It was from this opening that the gooks were giving it stick with the RPD as the K-Car circled pretty low overhead. I called up the K-Car and told him that they were being revved. Major Price replied curtly: “I bloody well know we are!” I left it at that.

We had thoughts of crawling up to the top cave opening and dropping grenades but there was quite a good RPD gunner in there and we didn’t know what was between our position and the opening. But, a few minutes later, for want of no other plan or strategy I decided to crawl over and dropped an M-962 in the crack. The grenade got lodged in rocks before it could drop to the cave floor and the RPD gunner took offence. Close thing! All this went on for some time and the afternoon was changing rapidly to evening; it was time to go home for as sure as eggs are eggs there’d be another call-out at first light and we couldn’t be tied up here. Not to mention the fact that we were completely knackered by now.

Two 1 Commando sticks plus a stick led by Paul Abbott, a very experienced ex-3 Commando ouen, arrived to take over. Paul had been the 14 Troop Sergeant before leaving us and was a good friend of mine. The 1 Commando sticks had been out on deployment operating with the Strike Force contingent which must have been nearby. For most of my army life, whatever was going on was a mystery and I hardly ever knew what the story was really. I sometimes wondered who did.

Rex Harding, one of the other stick leaders from 1 Commando, greeted me outside the cave with: “Budgie, if you laugh I’m going to hit you.” I knew Rex from our Troopie-to-Corporal course back in late ’78. I wasn’t going to laugh at all as the poor buggers must have been really pissed off after getting pulled in off a deployment where they’d probably been walking for miles … just to look after our scene. Paul Abbott joined us and asked for a sitrep.

“So the gooks are in there and that is the cave entrance?”
“So why are we standing in front of it?”
“Good question.”

I explained that due to the nature of the cave the gooks were around a corner in the cave, couldn’t see us and vice versa. Plus there were three openings: the immediate one to our front, the crack above and to the right of us, plus another farther down below the outcrop which another stick had been dealing with. I suggested that the best ambush pozzy was probably a little back from where we stood and left them to it. Totsiens.

And off we went to steak, beer and bed. It wasn’t a bad war, really. ...

08-12-2012, 10:45 PM
... but watch out for the sergeant major ... he probably doesn't have a sense of humour ;)


Artwork by Peter Badcock

08-13-2012, 02:38 PM
Nowhere to hide

I watch my children run and play
suddenly my mind is dragged back
to another time and different place
to the one’s I took away.

Huddled, cuddled beneath a blanket
a breathing, twitching mound
ignoring every bellowed command
the dusty lump made no sound.

God in the K-Car had made it clear
gooks dressed as women are in hiding,
this village is one for burning
and everyone is fair game here.

Should that include something alive
concealed in a corner of this hut,
that holds no immediate threat?
“ Absolutely ! No if’s or buts’! “

Somewhere close, rifle – fire spat out
taking us to our haunches
causing movement from the blanket
“ GET UP ! STAND UP ! “ I began to shout.

The shroud in the corner
had not moved at all
a full ten seconds or more
since I made the ceasefire call.

I lifted the smoking cloth
with the barrel of my weapon,
peeking , seeking what lay beneath
that which had faced our wrath.

Three entwined little bodies lay there
the oldest probably six,
no gook dressed in drag
one still clutched a shepherd stick.

A scream formed within me
but it had no voice,
for I knew this is what I’d see
yet still I made the choice.

My son shouts for me to go in goal
as I rise upon my feet,
his eager, smiling face looking at me
his father, who will never be complete.

Mark Goss Condon
Lincolnshire , 1993

08-13-2012, 11:08 PM
Things a pilot should watch out for when landing on a public road...


Message to pilot... "the squadron leader wants to see you in his office immediately!"

08-14-2012, 11:32 AM
The second to last CO of the RLI - Lt-Col Tufty Bate - recalls:

A truce with the Police

Generally we combined well with Special Branch of the BSAP (British South African Police) but our soldiers had no time whatsoever for the uniform and traffic branch. Commandos returning from operations invariably painted Salisbury red on their R&R. This normally included taking out various long haired non-combatant civilians who were seen as draft dodgers and usually took place in the various nightclubs in Salisbury such as Coq d’Or and Bretts. On many occasions the police riot squad was called in to quell the restless mob. Eventually I received a call from my old mate Senior Assistant Commissioner Pat McCullough requesting a truce between the police and RLI. Thereafter we arranged for an RLI officer to be on standby when soldiers hit town to defuse a situation before it got nasty.

Oh boy...

08-14-2012, 05:23 PM
...the lads could put it away!

Tom Davidson explains:

RLI drinks breweries dry

Reg Edwards who took over as CO from John Salt in 1963, loved his golf and in the evenings could be found practising on one of the many sports fields in the barracks. I believe he initiated the nine-hole course which was constructed near by the prison. At weekends he moved to the Salisbury South course and soon became firm friends with a number of the farmers in the area. It was not surprising, therefore, that Salisbury South was selected as the area where we would undertake our battlecamp for the year. It was also not surprising that Battalion HQ was set up close to the course and the clubhouse with its excellent ablution facilities. Needless to say, the CO’s handicap improved during this period. The rest of us were scattered around in company areas on the various farms. Peter Rich was 2i/c of HQ Company and one of his tasks for the camp was to set up a central canteen from which sub-units would draw their stocks. Soon after placing his order with the breweries, he was contacted by the manager and asked if the unit really needed such a large supply of beer. Peter advised that he would rather have too much than have to carry out a resupply run during the week and, in any case, it was hot weather and the lads could put it away. On day three, a resupply was necessary which took care of the total beer stocks in Salisbury and a very embarrassed breweries manager was thereafter frantically pulling in stocks from elsewhere.

08-14-2012, 05:52 PM
Something soldiers know so well...


08-15-2012, 12:24 PM
... from those who were involved in the proof reading of the book:

From Ian Macfarlane - one time troop commander and now hot-shot international destination marketing consultant with MBA:

Hi Mark,

I have now finished reading the book, as part of the ‘sub-editing’ project.

I must say that I often wished that I hadn’t been sub-editing; I got myself engrossed in the stories and often neglected the task at hand, having then to go back many pages and focus on the editing task !

The book is a fantastic account, it oozes authenticity and provides a strong human dimension to the regiment’s history. The range of writing styles and experiences truly capture one’s attention. The mosaic of stories provides for a compelling read, not only for military types but also for all those interested in the human condition

All the contributors need to be applauded for their efforts and time. They certainly add great value to the RLI narrative.

Best regards

and from Rob Marsh - one time National Service conscript and later Chartered Accountant, now happily retired at 56:

Hi Mark and Chris,

After having spent the best part of the last two weeks proof reading this book I would like to say what an outstanding job the two of you have done. The whole book is very professionally put together and I believe provides a great history of the Battalion from inception to the end through the eyes and words of the people involved.

Though when proof reading one reads with a different mindset than when sitting down to enjoy a good book, I found the articles from the ouens, of all ranks and times, both interesting and great reading. All of the articles were important in that they brought out different aspects of the RLI as seen by the people at the time and they put you right back into that time.

During my involvement with the project, from helping choose some of the pictures with Chris and proof reading the book, many memories were dredged up from the recesses of my mind, some were disturbing and led to bouts of introspection and sadness whilst others of course were humerous and uplifting. All in all though I found my whole involvement very cathartic and I must thank you all for letting me be involved.

Mark and Chris great job and I think the end product is excellent and is of the quality expected from a regiment like the RLI and of which you can be very proud of. It is a great testament to a fine regiment.

Thank you

08-15-2012, 12:29 PM
... from back in the day... requesting an invitation from the "boys in the bush" - as the gooks liked to be called.


08-16-2012, 12:18 PM
The date was 6 September 1979, and the tragic helicopter crash had occurred earlier that day on the Operation codenamed Uric by the Rhodesians, and Bootlace by the SA forces called in to support their embattled neighbours. Due to the extreme pressure of the battle, and the unacceptably high risks involved in attempting to recover the bodies of the dead men, the Rhodesian forces were forced, for the first time in the history of their counter-insurgency war, to leave their dead where they had fallen; in a quiet forgotten corner of a foreign land.

This was to be the highest death toll in a single operation in the entire history of the war:

Three South African Air Force (SAAF) aircrew;
Five Rhodesian Engineers;
Nine men of the RLI.

Everything happened so quickly, and the helicopters were all flying so low and so fast, that the eye witnesses on board the other aircraft say that they heard two loud, almost simultaneous bangs, and by the time they looked across, all that could be seen of Hotel Four was a rapidly-forming pall of black, oily smoke billowing skywards from the ball of flame on the ground. The shocked pilots called in the tragedy to the Command Dakota, and one of the Bell pilots immediately dropped his troops to search for survivors. The rest of the helicopters were ordered to continue on to Mapai.

The 1Cdo troops dropped beyond the crash site by the Bell, led by 2nd Lt Gavin Wehlburg and 2nd Lt Wayne Grant, advanced cautiously back towards the crash site, but met with no opposition, and saw no locals. The whole area was eerily deserted, and strangely silent.

The wreck of the Puma was found in a sparse tree line at the edge of a grassy clearing, next to a main gravel road. Immediately the soldiers realised that there could have been no survivors. The helicopter was totally destroyed, with only the engines remaining relatively intact. The bodies of the men on board Puma 164 had been scattered around the crash site by the impact of the aircraft and the subsequent explosion, and were reportedly still intact, but unrecognizably burnt. They had all died instantly in the searing heat of the explosions.

08-16-2012, 12:21 PM
... in a war and had to bury their own experience that burning pain that never subsides.


08-17-2012, 09:11 AM
Robert Clifford (another yank who served) recalls:

“I heard a single shot fired and saw Russell Poole fall to the ground as if pole-axed. As we started to run towards them, I saw Mike kneeling by the side of a hut firing into the doorway of another nearby hut. Shots were being fired back at him from inside this hut. As we arrived next to him, Mike threw a white phosphorus grenade at the other hut which landed in the straw roof. The roof began to burn.

As this was going on I began to treat Poole as he lay next to the first hut while Mike and Nigel continued to fire into the door of the other hut attempting to kill the gook inside. The roof of the other hut erupted into a blaze which jumped across to the roof of the hut that we were sheltering behind. The roof began to blaze and the heat became so intense that we had to withdraw.

As Nigel covered us with continued gunfire, Mike and I dragged Poole back along a path, away from the fire. Russell Poole was a big fellow, well over six feet and weighing around 190–200lbs. Mike Roussouw was a big strong guy while I was small and light. Even with both of us pulling, we struggled with his dead weight and all of his equipment to move him. The fire became so intense that at one point we both dropped him and ran to get away from it.

Fortunately for my peace of mind all of these years later, we both immediately turned back and finally managed to pull him away from the now disintegrating hut. I don’t know where we found the strength but we managed to pull him some 20 or 30 feet away where I could work on him. Mike then ran back to join Nigel as I began desperately to try to save Poole’s life.

After getting his shirt and kit off, I saw that he had been hit in both lungs. I sealed both the exit and entrance wounds and got a drip up on him. I then managed somehow to pull him up into a sitting position against a tree so that the blood would drain into the bottom of his lungs as I had been taught in medic school. I watched as his face became white and his lips blue and I knew I was losing him. I dragged him back down into a lying position and started to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but to no avail. He died there in that valley, the fourth of our troop that bush trip. I believe he was only 18 at the time.”

08-17-2012, 09:21 AM
Providing the CAS on Fire Force operations:


08-17-2012, 02:47 PM
Robert Clifford (another yank who served) recalls:
After getting his shirt and kit off, I saw that he had been hit in both lungs. I sealed both the exit and entrance wounds and got a drip up on him. I then managed somehow to pull him up into a sitting position against a tree so that the blood would drain into the bottom of his lungs as I had been taught in medic school. I watched as his face became white and his lips blue and I knew I was losing him. I dragged him back down into a lying position and started to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but to no avail. He died there in that valley, the fourth of our troop that bush trip. I believe he was only 18 at the time.”

How good was the training given in medic school? How was the first aid/combat care organized later in the war? In this example it seems that one of the stick, the author, was able to give quickly competent help. The whole stick performed according to this account well, doing seemingly a pretty good job.

With both lungs collapsed the chances of survival should have been very small indeed, especially there and then.


08-17-2012, 08:30 PM
How good was the training given in medic school? How was the first aid/combat care organized later in the war? In this example it seems that one of the stick, the author, was able to give quickly competent help. The whole stick performed according to this account well, doing seemingly a pretty good job.

With both lungs collapsed the chances of survival should have been very small indeed, especially there and then.


I will follow this reply with extracts from an article by a medic.

The medical training (we long since had stopped calling it "first-aid" training because of the advanced nature of how the training had developed) started during recruit training, followed by continuity training at any chance we had, then a structure 5-day course run by qualified medics for stick/Troop medics. The MA3 (medical assistant class 3) course was a three month course.

As stated by the RMO in post #6 of this thread by that later stages of the war we were able to clear casualties back to the MRU (mobile resuscitation unit) with 10 mins or to a local district hospital subject to flying time from the contact area.

To give you an example of what we (in the RLI) aimed for was a universal competence in dealing with the ABCDDE (Airways, Bleeding, Chest-wound, Drips, Drugs, Evacuation) process of stabilisation prior to casevac I attach a citation of an award made to one of my National Service (conscript) troopies after he had moved onto the Reserve. He had received no special medical training only what he got in recruit training and in the troop.

30 years after the fact I asked him whether the training - we (my sergeant and I) had to sometimes drag them out of their billets to do - was worthwhile when viewed in retrospect he replied, "I guess so."


There were a few problems, one was that when we took casualties other troopies rushed to help their fallen mates (often very close friends) placing themselves in the same line of fire that got their mate and reducing the rate of fire being returned.

The other was when their mate had a fatal wound they continued to attempt resuscitation after all hope was gone. Can't blame them. They at least had the basic skills to "do something" rather than just watch their mate die while not being able to do anything.

08-17-2012, 08:44 PM
A RLI medic recalls:

During basic training recruits were instructed by the battalion medics on the ABCs of first- aid. This included clearing the airway, stopping the bleeding, patching chest wounds, administering drips or drugs and evacuating the patient.


My attitude towards the army started to change from a reluctant conscript to an individual that was becoming an integral part of a team. I spent time while in camp learning from the commando medic and was eventually selected to attend a five-day troop medic course. By the end of the course I could set up a drip, splint broken limbs, seal a chest wound and give intravenous or intra-muscular injections.

The role of the stick medic while on Fire Force is limited to stabilizing the injured until evacuation by helicopter which normally happened within 15 to 20 minutes.


I signed on as a regular soldier after my initial conscription on condition that I was given an opportunity to attend a Medical Assistant class 3 (MA3) medics course. MA3 courses lasted for three months and were held at Llewellin Barracks. Week one was dedicated to Anatomy and Physiology with a comprehensive test on the Friday. Delegates failing that first test were immediately returned to their unit of origin. Those that remained were generally better educated and highly motivated to learning as much as possible in the allotted three months.


On Friday and Saturday evenings we were transported to Mpilo Hospital to practise what we had learnt that week by assisting in the casualty department. Patients had no idea that we were army medics with limited experience as we wore the same white jackets as the doctors.
Patients were evaluated by a doctor and referred to the suture room where we would be eagerly waiting. Deep head and body wounds caused by panga attacks were common injuries and some of the most interesting to deal with followed by massive trauma due to vehicle accidents.

08-17-2012, 08:49 PM
... proud when you earned the right to wear this:


08-18-2012, 08:00 AM
... from one young Troop Commander who, now retired, went onto have a very successful career in financial consulting:

World-class organizations regard ‘human capital’ as their most precious asset. Hiring, developing and retaining the best people sets great organizations apart from their competitors. As a result, most organizations today spend a great deal of time, effort and money on developing their leadership capability. The problem they face is that leadership is best developed under high pressurized situations. You cannot easily simulate these conditions. As an individual you do not know how you are going to react under such conditions, and whether you are capable of leading your people well under these conditions.

The Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) provided an unbelievably effective environment for developing first-class leaders. It was able to do this because of three key factors. These factors are essential for creating and maintaining a world-class organization, which in turn is a pre-requisite for developing effective leaders :

1. The right ‘conditions’ under which leadership can be developed

2. The ‘knowledge culture’ that an organization needs to enable incoming generations to stand on the experienced shoulders of their predecessors

3. An unwavering ‘self-belief’ instilled in all of an organization’s members

The RLI provided its young soldiers with plenty of action, under life and death conditions, day in and day out. Experience was gathered at a fast pace. The battalion’s kill:loss ratio was extraordinary, and had a lot to do with the way in which the more experienced officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and troopies passed on their knowledge to the less experienced men.

With the increasing number of national servicemen passing through the RLI during the mid to late 1970s this knowledge culture was essential to its ability to drive up kill rates and avoid casualties in the bush war. We all know that young people think they are invincible. What a self-belief to have in an organization! The RLI had this in bucket loads among its troopies and leaders.

In addition another you also went on to have a stellar career as an accountant (also now very comfortably retired) noted the following:

Serving in the RLI taught you to be self-sufficient and how to get on with men from all walks of life. It also taught you what was important and what was not. Many years later when I was about to leave a large corporation I got into a discussion with one of the executives about corporate urgency. I explained to him that executive management often tried to make things seem more serious and important than they really were as a way of motivating people to get things done. I told him that after having served in the RLI I knew what life and death situations really were and anything else was just corporate bull$hit.

08-18-2012, 10:07 AM
Introducing the contributing authors in alphabetical order:


08-18-2012, 04:18 PM
@JMA: thanks for that info about the medical training and system. It seems to fit into the general tendency of a strong effort to achieve a high level of training and integration at the necessary low level.

Personally I do believe that the historical context of this war is well known and can discussed in another thread. The same goes for WWII. It is hardly helpful to throw all of it into a single thread.

08-18-2012, 05:37 PM
I have moved four posts from this thread to the main Rhodesian COIN thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=2090&page=17

This thread on a forthcoming book by a SWC member clearly has a high visits rate (over 6k) and the exchange between JMA & Fuchs is best elsewhere.:wry:

08-18-2012, 06:57 PM
I have moved four posts from this thread to the main Rhodesian COIN thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=2090&page=17

This thread on a forthcoming book by a SWC member clearly has a high visits rate (over 6k) and the exchange between JMA & Fuchs is best elsewhere.:wry:

Thank you David, I am sorry I took the bait.

This book contains the personal experiences of some 108 persons who served in or with the RLI back in the day and I should not allow my personal opinions and beliefs to take precedence.

08-18-2012, 07:26 PM
@JMA: thanks for that info about the medical training and system. It seems to fit into the general tendency of a strong effort to achieve a high level of training and integration at the necessary low level.

Thinking back there are a couple of factors which I believe come into play.

The first one is that as a newly commissioned officer into the RLI you would serve three years as a troop commander on an operations rotation of six weeks on ops and two weeks traveling and on R&R. In other words we were there long enough - being beyond a six month tour or even a year tour - to make longer term plans for training and setting, achieving and maintaining standards.

Secondly, while the rate of KIA was low we did suffer an attrition rate of WIA.

The second factor prompted and motivated a relentless pursuit of higher levels of all skills - of infantry nature and medical etc.

One also reads of the horror stories from other wars where new recruits/replacements (aka FNGs) were treated poorly and often sacrificed or rejected by those they were posted in to join. We needed to draw them in and look after them as we really needed them as we were always numerically challenged.

What assisted in this was how quickly the new soldiers were blooded in combat (in most cases within days of joining the unit) and as such were "initiated" into the close personal network of relationships at troop/stick level.

I measured success by how the peer pressure worked. In the early days (1973 in my terms) a troopie was deemed to be smart if he knew how to beat the system. By 1977 the better the soldiering skills of the individual the more the respect they attracted from their peers. We would sit and discuss how we could do things better - which would translate into more enemy kills and fewer own forces KIA/WIA which was a vast improvement in approach over earlier times.

08-18-2012, 07:42 PM
Came across this in a book I am currently reading and thought would also be valid in the case of this book.

Finally if any young soldiers of today should chance to read this book, they may understand that while the face of war may alter, some things have not changed since Joshua stood before Jericho and Xenophon marched to the sea. May they come safe to bedtime, and all well. – George MacDonald Fraser in the introduction to his book “Quartered Safe Out Here”.

08-18-2012, 07:46 PM
... a means of delivery into battle.


08-18-2012, 08:06 PM
Mark aka JMA,

You are 100% right to commend:
George MacDonald Fraser in the introduction to his book “Quartered Safe Out Here”.

As the WW2 generation pass on I fear the British Imperial 14th Army will fade away, so we end up with a Euro-centric focus, plus North Africa.

08-19-2012, 03:47 AM
Mark aka JMA,

You are 100% right to commend:

As the WW2 generation pass on I fear the British Imperial 14th Army will fade away, so we end up with a Euro-centric focus, plus North Africa.

This book is full of deja vu moments even though I was never there. As the man says ... the face of war may have changed but there are many experiences which are universal. Like this one:

Corporal Little had paused to scan with his binoculars, and I was crossing the crest of the little bund when there was a sharp pfft! in the air above me, followed a little later by a distant crack. If the others had reacted quickly, I'd have done the same, but Little simply squatted down, and the other two looked around before following suit; there was no sudden hitting of the deck or cries of alarm. Little just said: "Gidoon, Jock," and continued his scan. (page 38)

This passage reminds me of post #99 above titled “Hey, Yank! You had better get down. That bastard is shooting at you!” and a number from personal memory.

Well written personal accounts such as this book leave me saying yes when he recounts experiences and feelings with which - through my own experiences - I can identify. This is authentic military writing at its best.

Buy the book: Quartered Safe Out Here - George MacDonald Fraser (http://www.amazon.com/Quartered-Safe-Out-Here-Harrowing/dp/1602391904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345347182&sr=8-1&keywords=Quartered+Safe+Out+Here) for two bucks or so.

What is so wonderful about good military books (and probably others too) is that when they are read every say 10 years you draw as much from the the book as the first time but from a different perspective - its like reading a new and different book.


08-19-2012, 03:07 PM
From the Rhodesian COIN manual:



Encounters with terrorists are sudden, short, and often so unexpected that the opportunity to inflict casualties is lost. What is required is immediate, positive and offensive action.

For this reason it is essential for simple encounter actions to be taught and thoroughly practiced. It is impractical to attempt to cover every contingency by committing to paper numerous "drills," because not only would they tend to cramp initiative but they would not be read or digested or remembered in the stress of action. It is, however, important to teach an action to cope with any situation commonly met. The principles underlying the action must be simplicity, aggression, s peed and flexibility.

Before a patrol leaves its base, the commander in his briefing should include directions for encounter action. This is necessary each time because patrols vary in strength and Organization according to the nature of their tasks. In addition, the mention of the encounter actions applicable to the operation will act as a reminder to the troops taking part and so help them to avoid being surprised.

A high standard of weapons training, marksmanship and a thorough under- standing and instinctive awareness of weapon capabilities and limitations will ensure that encounter actions are successfully executed.
The Encounter Actions

It is important to note that although encounter actions are usually taught on a section basis, they can be adopted for use by a platoon. These actions are applicable to the varied forms of terrain and in all cases normal infantry minor tactics or section and platoon battle drills usually apply after the initial contact. These encounter actions are a sound framework on which leaders at all levels should build as their experience dictates. it should be remembered, however, that no action, drill or order will achieve success unless the leader and men have practiced them to a stage of instinctive action, reflex and immediate reaction to firm and confident initiative on the part of the leader.

If a patrol is accompanied by persons who have little or no knowledge of encounter actions, e.g., guides, informers, surrendered terrorists, etc., the patrol leader should keep them strictly under control and in his view. These persons should be briefed as thoroughly as possible before the patrol starts. It may prove as well to rehearse encounter actions for these persons or even for inexperienced troops before a patrol moves out on operations.

Encounters with enemy could fall under one of the following headings:

Situation A. The initiative is with the military forces (terrorists seen first). Reaction: Immediate ambush.

Situation B. The initiative is split between the military forces and the enemy (simultaneous sighting). Reaction: Immediate offensive action.

Situation C. The initiative is with the terrorist (military forces are fired on with small arms or are ambushed). Reaction: Immediate offensive action to an enemy ambush.

Action for Situation A.
This will be used for situations when terrorists are seen first by the military forces.

Explanation of action.

* Leading elements give silent signals.

* Depending on the cover and distance, military forces make any reasonably silent attempt to go to ground in the best possible fire position. Minimum movement and silence may prove vital. Fire will be opened only on the orders of the patrol commander or in the event of the position being detected by the enemy.

* The commander now makes a quick assessment and issues silent signals/orders accordingly. His aim must be to eliminate as many terrorists as possible using the closest range and the best selected killing ground.


Note: The above actions are in effect a minor ambush. At troop level it is not normally possible to deploy into a particular area. At section level it may be possible to move everyone into specific positions if movement is acceptable and the terrorists are approaching along a definite route, i.e., a track, river bed or game trail.

Action for Situation B.
Immediate offensive action may be taken when military forces:

* Encounter sentries outside a terrorist base perimeter;

* Encounter part of the terrorist base perimeter;

* Encounter a moving terrorist group;

* Encounter a visible static terrorist group (in a base, at a resting place, drawing water).

Explanation of the action.

* Elements in contact or in close proximity put down a heavy volume of controlled fire with the aim of winning the firefight and eliminating terrorists. It may be possible for these elements to execute immediate skirmishing. The maximum use of grenades and light mortars should be made.

* Patrol commander makes a quick appreciation and plan and issues orders for the required action.

* If an assault is to take place, the route taken for deployment and assault depends on the ground. Consideration must be given to the deployment of cut-off groups, possibly using the patrol reserve. The assault plan must include covering fire.

* Throughout the preliminary stages of this action, the patrol commander must ensure that the firefight is won and the cut-off groups are moved into positions if at all possible.

* Normal reorganization should take p the assault i.e., face after all-around defense, clearance/security patrols, thorough search of the area, reporting the contact. But, if at all possible, contact with the enemy should be maintained with immediate follow-up action.


Action for Situation C.
This action may be used when military forces are ambushed and in situations where part of the military force patrol is pinned down.

Note: In the case of most situations detailed below, the military forces will not be able to confirm, until much later in the resulting action, the strength of the enemy.

Explanation of the action.

* Elements under fire or in close proximity go to ground and put down a heavy volume of controlled fire with the aim of winning the fire-fight and eliminating terrorists. It may be possible for these elements to execute immediate skirmishing. The maximum use of grenades and light mortars should be made.

* Patrol commander makes a quick appreciation and plan and issues orders for the required action.

* If an assault is to take place, the route taken for deployment and assault depends on the ground. Consideration must be given to the deployment of cut-off groups, possibly using the patrol reserve. The assault plan must include covering fire.


* Throughout the preliminary stages of this action, the patrol commander must ensure that the firefight is won and the cut-off groups are moved into positions if at all possible.

* Normal reorganization should take place after the assault, i.e., all-around defense, clearance/security patrols, thorough search of the area, reporting the contact. However, contact with the enemy should be maintained with immediate follow-up action.

However, where the whole patrol is pinned down, the group will have to extricate itself by maximum fire and maneuvering. Only then can subsequent action be taken as a result of an appreciation and plan, which may be either offensive action, or a withdrawal, depending on the casualties sustained and the strength of the enemy.

When a battle is at close range, the side that opens fire and applies the heavier and more accurate weight of fire will win. Skirmishing movement will consolidate the firefight. The encounter actions, therefore, are normally "Go to ground, win the firefight.

Subsequent action is based on the commander's initiative.

To some extent, the application of the actions explained above is affected by a patrol formation. If the formation has a leading element of approximately one-third of the local strength and the patrol commander moves into a position from which he can command and control any battle, the normal principles of fire and maneuver can be successfully applied. In all cases, the basic principles of a platoon in battle must be applied by the commander to the circumstances of the situation.

It is most important to emphasize that there are three main actions that take place:

* Go to ground.

* Win the firefight.

* Concurrent with a. and b. above, the commander must quickly assess the situation and give appropriate orders. Whenever possible, the patrol Commander is to keep his superior headquarters fully informed about the contact, i.e., what has happened, where it is, what the terrorists are doing and what the military forces are intending to do.

08-19-2012, 03:08 PM
Photo page from the book:


08-19-2012, 04:53 PM
This is a great thread. Much appreciation for the contributors. The article I wrote for sofrep.com was just an introduction in short hand and expose the RLI to a wider range of people. Its simply a piece of military history that doesn't get much attention...

08-20-2012, 11:21 AM
...in September 1960 the half trained RLI was deployed to Northern Rhodesia and positioned along the then Belgian Congo border when the decolonization process (predictably) turned into chaos.

The then Major Digger Essex-Clark remembers:

Our training was based on the standard British Army and identical Rhodesian Army systems. The difficulty was weapon-training space, with the firing ranges being a long drive to the Woollendale Range complexes out of Bulawayo. The old RAF Kumalo airfield provided adequate space for drill training and the hullabaloo of sounds from the words of command and instruction from that quarter were constant except at night. The few quickly attached British Army volunteer instructors from the UK fitted in very successfully and comfortably. Their joining us seemed to be one successful act by Army Headquarters and our Army staff in London. They were much needed.

Therefore, before we deployed to the Congo-Northern Rhodesia border the level of training had reached no further than what we call in Australia ‘Basic All Arms Training’, which, in simple terms meant that all recruits knew well how to drill as a squad, platoon and company, and fire and maintain a rifle, and an LMG (Bren), and how to dress well, stand tall and how to salute. They had practised arming and throwing a 36 hand grenade and some had thrown a small number of live grenades. However, they were long short of being trained infantry and did not know how to fight and win tactically as a team at section, platoon, or company level. Their NCOs knew them only from barracks maintenance and tidiness, the drill square and rifle/weapons ranges at Woollendale rather than deployed tactically in the field. We had not been able to gauge their quality as infantrymen as part of a team. Nor had we the time to train them in map reading or navigation skills, radio voice procedures or radio discipline and the NATO phonetic alphabet.

They had not completed what most Commonwealth and British oriented armies title their ‘special to corps training’ which includes, for infantry, team training at section and platoon level in tactical deployment, such as fire and movement tactical techniques, or defensive preparing and siting, plus active patrolling, and they had had no battle inoculation experience. They were, therefore, not effectively trained or practised infantrymen by any standards. This level of training that they had not yet achieved is often titled ‘initial employment training’ (IET) and follows basic training; and none had completed this. Nor could any of our recruits or our junior NCOs control artillery or mortar fire, or close air support.

However, many had militarily useful civilian skills such as first aid and vehicle maintenance; and some could read a map reasonably well, and use a prismatic compass, but not easily give grid references or do resection to find their position on a map. Most were not ‘bush aware’ and many from city life, or from overseas, were initially and understandably very nervous of the bush environment. Fortunately, we had many ‘bush aware’ Rhodesians and South Africans who helped them get over this apprehension of the natural environment and its only rarely threatening wild animals.

These were the semi-trained novices that we took to the Congo border. We were a far cry from the bush aware, well trained, tactically competent and combat-hardened infantrymen of the RLI in the middle and latter stages of the bush war. Our men in September 1960 were no more than warrior puppies needing much more collective training and sound leadership by corporals, sergeants and young officers. This they got.

Digger Essex-Clark left the service at the break-up of the Federation and returned to Australia where he served in the military, retiring finally with the rank of Brigadier.

08-20-2012, 12:05 PM
More of the contributing authors introduced:


08-21-2012, 10:48 AM
... John Ashburner recalls (extracts):

In early 1970 Capt Reid-Daly and other officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and those of us with tracking experience were deployed into Mozambique to assist the Portuguese Army Praquedistas (Grupos Especiais Praquedistas). This operational tracking experience proved very valuable and successful because the Portuguese troops never followed up the tracks of FRELIMO. So when we followed up their tracks we caught them totally off guard and killed many of them.


Another lesson learned in the early days of tracking was when someone had the notion that due to the contacts being initiated at close range, the tracker should carry a Browning automatic shotgun. I tried this for one contact that occurred in the Mount Darwin area. The weapon was useless as all it did was to make the insurgent run faster due to a backside full of buckshot. This weapon was quickly dropped and we went back to the proven and trusted faithful 7.62 FN rifle which was so effective in dropping the terrs in their tracks throughout the bush war.


The ability to track is something that comes from an inborn instinct and being able to use all five senses, and from living and experiencing all the things that happen in the bush. The more contact and experience you have with wildlife, the better the bushman/tracker you become. Some people will only progress so far while others will have the uncanny ability to become highly skilled.

Being a tracker demands great courage, mental fitness due to high levels of concentration, as well as being physically fit with good soldiering abilities. Following human tracks differs from following animal spoor. Humans are far more intelligent and dangerous. Tracking people can be extremely difficult if they know they are being followed.

08-21-2012, 01:04 PM
... a few hours work:


Good rear view of gunners webbing. Centre rear pouch probably containing some rats, two water bottles then the pouches to carry the belts. Got to have a bedroll in case of a night out. Travel light.

Oh yes, the bandana was normally worn to cover blond or light covered hair. Better than having to rub camo creme into it.

08-22-2012, 10:36 AM
Sgt Fraser Brown recalls:


After a couple of hours lying listening to sporadic fire in other areas of the camp where the SAS were also engaged, and having finished my guard stag, I had just handed over the claymore firing device to my neighbour when we heard the sound of heavy engines in the distance. It was just after 2300hrs and I immediately alerted the rest of the killer group and stood everyone to as the engine noise which seemed to be heading our way, grew louder. Within minutes the lights from a large vehicle could be seen cautiously making its way down the road towards us as we attempted to sink deeper into the hard-packed earth which offered little protection or cover – especially to the bright headlights which were shining out on both sides of the road.

As the vehicle drew level with me, I detonated the claymore and looking up by the light of my grenade saw a huge armoured vehicle with a pindle-mounted gun on it stopped dead in front of us. My first thought looking straight up at it from 20m was that I’d hit a tank. The vehicle was in fact a Soviet BTR-152 which after quickly recovering from its initial shock of being ambushed returned immediate fire. Although one wouldn’t have expected a claymore mine to have much effect on such heavy armour, the driver had had his front observation slit open and the blast must have entered there and killed him outright bringing them to a halt. Much to our displeasure the return fire was extremely accurate and controlled and, unless dealt with immediately, was in danger of putting us in a very dubious position. As testimony to their accuracy, the initial burst of fire left me with nine strike marks through my pack on which I was resting and peppered my clothing, one shooting off the webbing hook connecting my yoke to my belt. Another round actually went through a white phosphorus grenade I had in a pouch which unbelievably didn’t detonate. Luckily none of these penetrated my equipment and hit me unlike on several other occasions when I wasn’t quite so lucky.

Fig, my gunner, was also hit once in the pack and the guy next to him was shot through the heel of his foot – tribute must be paid to the immediate action drills these guys carried out in an attempt to save themselves. We swept the vehicle with fire and quickly suppressed the mounted machine-gun on top, but the troops inside were continuing to return accurate fire and we could hear someone inside the vehicle shouting out instructions in Portuguese to the rest of the crew so we knew this wasn’t over yet. At this point the flare was still burning and I shouted for the other flank party to fire the RPG they had picked up during the day’s fighting to see if they could finish them off as our small-arms fire seemed to be having little to no effect. The rockets duly struck the front of the vehicle and, while this put everyone’s heads down, they had little effect as the front is the heaviest armoured part of the vehicle. It did, however, set the tyres of the armoured personnel carrier (APC) alight and gave extra illumination just as the light grenade died out and everything went black. With all night vision gone, the BTR crew took this opportunity to attempt to debus.

After what seemed an age of attempting to win the firefight, some of the crew had managed to get underneath the vehicle or were lying in the road using the edge of the track as cover to return fire. We weren’t making too much headway at finishing this and were still lying in a rather exposed position compared to them. I decided the only way to settle this was to attempt to try and post a couple of grenades into the vehicle and retake the initiative. This was done under the covering fire from the rest of my troop, much of which was bouncing back off the armour and luckily passing just over my head as I crawled forward to lob the grenades in.

This ploy marked the beginning of the end and shortly thereafter we managed to finish off the APC and mop up the crew (13 of the occupants were accounted for). No sooner had we silenced this opposition, however, than we came under mortar attack from a flank as their back-up teams attempted to pin us down while a sweep line, headed by a couple of T-54 tanks, rushed forward to engage us. In the face of such odds and a rapidly deteriorating situation, we patched up our wounded and started to withdraw from our position under a barrage of indirect probing fire.


Fraser Brown was awarded the MFC (Military Forces Commendation) for his part in this action.


08-22-2012, 01:59 PM
JMA - how many of these stories that you're posting are already in the book, and how many of them should we be trying to cut-and-paste to save for posterity?

The stories have been fascinating, and I'm hoping to be able to chisel some spare change free soon to get a copy of the book.

08-22-2012, 02:57 PM
JMA - how many of these stories that you're posting are already in the book, and how many of them should we be trying to cut-and-paste to save for posterity?

The stories have been fascinating, and I'm hoping to be able to chisel some spare change free soon to get a copy of the book.

Thanks for the comment.

Most of the stuff in this thread (probably 90%) is an extract from articles in the book. There are 127 articles contributed by 108 different persons who served in or with the RLI.

We attempted to retain the distinctive style of each person through light editing. We can live with criticism over style and grammar because we retain the authenticity of the individual's feelings through his own words.

The book got a lot bigger than planned because we could not leave stories out. It is 300 x 220mm (11.8 x 8.6 inches in the old language) with 330 odd pages with a lot of pics. So the first edition will be sold through direct sales through the regimental association (RLIRA) and the Rhodesian diaspora. We hope if the demand is there to release a second edition through the book trade. We have sent out some copies to the US and UK to gauge the likely demand in those markets. We will be guided by the advice we receive from those who understand the respective markets.

The book should be released in mid to late September.

In the meantime enjoy.

08-23-2012, 08:39 AM
Corporal Jimmy Swan was also there:


This large, grey APC clanked around the corner, a mounted Guryanov machine gun with a soldier manning it, turning his head to and fro. From the size we estimated there were ten to 15 troops on board. They were dressed and prepared for classical warfare, wearing Russian helmets. There was a cloud of dust lifting behind it and then they were in our killing ground. Without hesitation the Claymores were electronically activated and they exploded. At the same time we fired furiously at the beast with our rifles and MAGs. The first Claymore must have sent shrapnel through the small open hatches, hitting the driver as, unfortunately for them, it ground to a stop. The soldiers on board were firing through small hatches and the Guryanov machine gun was hammering away at us. I was surprised by their bravery as must have been unbearable in that tin can. We threw grenades, but they bounced off the armour.

I managed to manoeuvre myself into a kneeling position and sent my first rocket hissing into the drivers cab. The whole vehicle rocked and we could hear the troops inside starting to incinerate. We could hear the screams over the mayhem. Howie Pascoe, our medic and my buddy, was just behind, but off to my flank, so took some of the back blast from the RPG. He told me later he had an instant new ‘Bart Simpson’ hairstyle as a result.

Intense firing continued at us from the APC and one of our men had his heel removed, requiring urgent medical attention. During the action, we heard the signaller in the cab calling for support in Portuguese—one of our guys was Portuguese and was interpreting for us as best he could above the din. This was a sign we needed to finish the job and relocate—quickly. Some of the Freds on board tried to get out the back and I believe one did manage to escape. But for the rest there was no way out. I took another rocket from my pack, Sgt Trevor Hodgson gave the ‘heads down’ and I sent a second rocket just back of the cab, but into the troops’ sector. Again, there was a massive surge as the vehicle swayed and again, screams from the survivors.

It was very dark. We stopped firing and I could hear the moaning. Then the Guryanov started up again—this guy was brave or stupid. For some insane reason, this gun kept hammering away at us. Duff Gifford and Stu Hammond had the night sights and zeroed in. As a hand came up in the turret, it was promptly removed by a bullet. The back door opened and the living tried a final exodus, only to be cut down. They were screaming as the final breath was taken from them.

Then it was quiet, the smell of white phos, burning flesh, cordite. But there was something else—the sound of a train coming from the north and lots and lots of shouting. We knew now we were in for a night of danger. We had no air support and they knew exactly where we were. It had taken us some time to eliminate the APC and troops.


And the newspaper article signed and marked by Sgt Fraser Brown:


08-24-2012, 06:32 AM
An ex-RLI troopie from back in the day - who has done well in the corporate world - thinks so:



I was fortunate to have been selected to be a stick leader fairly early in my time and in mid-1976 was sent by my Troop Officer, Lieutenant (Lt) Mark Adams, onto the ‘Trooper to Lance Corporal Cadre’ to hone skills as a stick leader. Five weeks in ‘Bright Lights’ during which time we frequented the night spots of Salisbury, Le Coq d’Or, Samantha’s and anywhere else that took our fancy, as well as learning the intricacies of military processes, procedures, discipline, military tactics and strategy.

Much is said over the pros and cons of ‘the military way of doing things’ but subsequent to the RLI I have never received training in man-management, discipline and particularly self-discipline that was as practical and useful as the training I received during this course and my experience in the unit as a whole. I still, 34 years later, make use of the basic principles instilled in me all those years ago:-

Set an example
Fair in discipline
Give clear reasonable orders
Take responsibility for your actions
Take an interest in your team
Keep your team informed

I find in the business environment that by practising these basic principles I have been successful in management and have always enjoyed the full support of those who fall under my control and despite all the ‘fuzzy’ training the corporate world throws at you, the basics learned all those years ago still apply and work best.


08-25-2012, 07:44 AM
... a good sergeant major is to take this lot:


and turn it into this in a matter of hours:


08-25-2012, 03:30 PM
... the troopies were not thrilled but after the parades they were proud to have taken part.


08-25-2012, 06:24 PM

Extract from the book ‘Staying Alive’ by Ron Reid-Daly

My first post as a commissioned officer in the 1st Battalion, The Rhodesian Light Infantry was that of Training Officer. Occasionally, I was required to deputise for commando commanders who were on leave, or on course at the School of Infantry. During their absence I would command their commandos on border control operations. It was during one of these stints that I had a unique experience which indelibly imprinted on my mind the necessity for soldiers to be trained in bush survival.

It was November 1967, and I had been ordered to command Support Group for a six week border stint at the most northern point of Rhodesia where Rhodesia, Zambia and Mozambique met at the junction of the Luangwa and the Zambezi rivers. A temporary military base large enough to house a company/commando had been built behind a police post known as Kanyemba, set in picturesque surroundings on the bank of the Zambezi. Whoever sited this post obviously had the natural beauty of the place in mind and nothing else. Tactically, in the very likely event of an attack, it was a potential death trap.

The Rhodesian insurgency war was in its infancy and Rhodesian regular military forces were used to patrol the vast uninhabited border regions of the country, searching for signs of terrorist infiltrations. I carried out the customary handover/take over procedures which included a brief on the local operational situation with the outgoing company commander and sat down in the Operations Room with a large tin mug of tea to plan my own patrol programme.

At this period, all troop deployments were carried out by vehicles along atrocious tracks, or by boat on the Zambezi River. The Mpata Gorge which formed my north western boundary was considered uncrossable because the mighty Zambezi River, constricted into this steep sided gorge, speeds up considerably, making any crossing hazardous. Below the gorge the river spreads out once again, slowing down in the process. The width of the Zambezi in this region is considerable and the Rhodesian military, taking cognizance of the insurgent inexperience in watermanship, considered it highly unlikely that this stretch of water would be selected for a crossing point.

About fifteen kilometres west of Kanyemba the river narrows once again as it passes between two high promontories which thrust out towards each other from Zambia and Rhodesia. Not surprisingly, these were known as "The Gates". The river narrows to about 200 metres at this point and because it is merely constricted at this point and opens out immediately it passes through the gates, it does not pick up speed as it does in the Mpata Gorge. This was the most likely insurgent crossing point. For this reason the brigade responsible for this region ordered that the Rhodesian side of The Gates was to have a permanent observation post.

I went up to this point by boat, landed and looked around. I was not impressed with what I saw; the promontory was littered with junk dug up by wild animals from the rubbish pits of previous patrols. Numerous remains of large fires gave a clear indication that some of these patrols had carried out their observation duties most unprofessionally using fires at night, either to keep warm, or more likely, to keep prowling animals at bay.

I did not see much point in travelling up the Zambezi River in full view of the Zambian bank to take up what should have been a clandestine position of importance.

On my return to camp I studied the 1:50 000 scale map pinned across a wall of the operations room, looking for a land route to The Gates.

There were no properly surveyed maps of this corner of the Zambezi valley at this time and troops had to make do with white sheets of paper covered with a military grid system. The rough outlines of the rivers were marked in blue, and crosses with a figure pointed next to them gave the approximate height of the high points. Vague form lines here and there were designed to give the map reader an indication of high ground, but there were no contour lines so one could not visualise with any accuracy the ground one was going to traverse. To compound the mapreading problem there were large bare blotches splattered across the map where cloud cover had hidden the ground from the aircraft cameras which had produced the detail for the maps. The cartographer was, however, kind enough to print "cloud cover" in each blotch.

I now understand why the previous commanders used boats to position patrols at The Gates; but I was determined to find a way to insert a patrol into The Gates area without the whole of Zambia becoming aware of it.

A careful study of the map showed that the nearest accurate jump off point for the patrol to enter the Gates area was the western corner of a bush airstrip which lay south east from The Gates and served the Kanyemba outpost. I worked out a compass bearing to the top of a high range of hills known as Kapsuku. If the patrol's mapreading was accurate, they would find themselves at the headwaters of the Euguta River and all they had to do was follow the river down through the hills to The Gates or the Zambezi River.

The total length of the patrol was seventeen map kilometres, a distance which could be covered easily in twelve hours. However, I took account of the fact that this was the hottest period of the year, with temperatures running at 90°F (about 32°C) when the sun is at its highest. In addition, each man had to carry a heavy pack weighing almost 30 kg. This coupled with the rough terrain which included steep hills, made me accept that the patrol might have to sleep out one night and reach The Gates only the following morning.

Orders were given for the task. At dawn the following day the patrol debussed at the airstrip in preparation for an early start so that as much ground as possible could be covered in the relatively cool part of the day. I checked the patrol commander's compass bearing and pointed out the clearly visible gap in the mountains that formed the headwaters of the river which would lead the patrol to The Gates. End part 1

08-25-2012, 06:36 PM
First one not unusual in that there were blank spaces due to cloud cover like the one available at the time of the incident written about:


This one how the an up dated map looked in the 70's:


08-25-2012, 06:39 PM
Staying Alive by Ron Reid Daly

Part 2

The patrol set off on its mission and I returned to my ops room to monitor other patrols on the valley floor. All patrols were required to adhere to a strict radio schedule. They would call their control station (headquarters) at 07h00, 12h00, 16h00, every day and furnish HQ with a situation report.

I heard nothing from this particular patrol throughout the day and by last light, was feeling uneasy. Failure to observe radio schedules did occasionally occur; there were many reasons which affected communications, ranging from mechanical failure to a faulty radio, or screening by mountains. But I had a nagging feeling that all was not well. Before going to bed I advised 2 Bde HQ that I might need a helicopter for a casualty evacuation the next day.

The following morning's 07h00 radio schedule, showed no sign of The Gates patrol. I summoned the boat crew and proceeded upriver, stopping along the banks of the Zambezi to call the patrol by radio. It just so happened, that one of our Canberra bombers on a cross country mapreading exercise passed overhead. I called him up, gave him the approximate map coordinates and asked him if he could deviate slightly from his course and give The Gates’ patrol a radio call. He returned a few minutes later to report nothing heard nor seen of the patrol.

It was now 12h00 and I knew that we had a serious problem on our hands. I returned to Kanyemba called up Bde HQ, and requested the immediate use of a helicopter. To acquire the services of a helicopter in those early days of border control was a major exercise and Heaven help the army commander called for a helicopter only to discover that there was no emergency.

Flying time to Kanyemba by helicopter was about three hours; at 15h00 an Alouette helicopter arrived. I gave the pilot a hasty briefing while his technician refuelled the helicopter and loaded as many water bags as could be found in the camp into the chopper. Then, with my medic, we flew off to try to locate the patrol.

We reached the area which the patrol should have passed through and circled for some minutes with no sign of the men. The pilot flew over the next range of hills. Suddenly he exclaimed loudly and banked sharply. An astonishing sight met my eyes; running around below us were seven stark naked soldiers.

We landed and had to fight these men off as they desperately tried to get to the water bags. Although it was late in the afternoon, the sun still radiated intense heat. There were many trees in the area, but in November these have no leaves and the parched soldiers had no shade at all to shield them from the blistering sun.

It was clear that most members of this patrol had reached their limit of endurance; had the helicopter not arrived that afternoon, several of them would have been dead by morning.

I flew them back to camp in relays where they rushed to stand or lie down under the cold showers. It was astonishing to see their rapid rate of recovery as they lay under the stream of water, mouths wide open, drinking as much as they could.

At the debrief which followed, it appeared they had missed the gap. But instead of pushing on north to the Zambezi River they had wasted precious time trying to find the Euguta River to follow down to The Gates. Climbing up and down steep hills with the sun blazing down on them had exhausted them; even worse, it had brought on a terrible, raging thirst. They had made good time on the first day and had their mapreading been more precise they would have reached the Zambezi River that evening, thus achieving the objective.

An element of panic had crept in when some of the patrol thought they were lost. Their state of mind was not improved when they discovered they could not make radio contact with headquarters. Anxiety and fear often make a man sweat profusely. All this, plus the heavy physical exertions while the patrol cross-grained exceptionally difficult terrain trying to find the correct river in fierce heat, under a pitiless sun, soon exhausted their two standard water bottles; dehydration rapidly set in.

I asked them why they had taken off their clothes and their reply was interesting. They found that dehydration had made their skins become paper dry and they could not stand their clothes rubbing against their skin. The only relief was to remove their clothes. Some, in desperation, had tried to drink their own urine, disguising the taste by mixing coffee powder with it.

I noticed that the younger soldiers had been the worst affected. It was clear that the older men had a tougher mental outlook and were much better able to cope with the considerable stress this situation had created.

Bushcraft had only just begun to be taught to the Rhodesian Army and this particular group had not received any training.

When we flew to recover the group we passed over an astonishing range of wild animals. In fact, a herd of elephants and a large herd of impala were in sight on the patrol. Had the men been trained their water problems would have been over, for the average impala provides about two litres of water from its stomach and an elephant holds on average, 36 litres.

Later, during 1973, when the bush war began in earnest, I was given the task of raising and training a special multiracial unit, the Selous Scouts. Bush survival and tracking formed an important part of the operational training of these men for it gave them tremendous self confidence in their abilities to survive and live comfortably in the African bush. Indeed, the confidence and self assurance of these soldiers was such that they found nothing unusual in carrying out long range two man reconnaissance patrols over distances, sometimes, of hundreds of km.

These patrols, comprising a black and a white soldier, would be dropped by parachute (high altitude, low opening) often 200 km from the Rhodesian border, in hostile country, for up to six weeks at a time. It was a tribute to their training that they never ran into problems from a bush survival point of view.

This book is not written specifically for soldiers although many may find useful information within its pages. It is an accumulation of bush knowledge gained by soldiers the hard way by experience. It sets out to show ordinary people, who may find themselves suddenly thrust into a survival situation in a rural or urban condition how to cope with the many problems they will be confronted with, and survive. It is also designed to meet the needs of the many lovers and enthusiasts of the wilds so that they can enjoy nature's bounty and handle any emergency.

Last, but not least, it is a book particularly geared to excite interest in nature and its conservation among the youth of our countries. Youth organisations such as the Boy Scouts, Voortrekkers and others interested in the outdoors, will find a great deal of material in these pages which will enable them to run comprehensive courses in bushcraft, tracking, mapreading, camping and survival techniques.

Once the basics have been acquired, the various skills can be put into practice in the bush. This could involve, for example, a cross country competition between teams, under supervision. To complete this course successfully, the teams would have to exercise their skills in mapreading (by day and by night), obstacle crossing, tracking, how to find water and even live for a short time off the bush.

What is important, is, that in getting to know the bush usually ends up in learning to love the bush. And only a deep affection of the wilds will save it from the depredations of those, often through no fault of their own, who are ignorant of the beauty of Mother Nature.

Johannesburg. May 1990

08-26-2012, 08:43 AM
Sub-unit plaques:


08-26-2012, 02:17 PM
... John R Cronin has published a book on Kindle about his service in the USMC and Rhodesia. I served with John in the RLI and enjoyed his coverage of his service in the RLI and the Selous Scouts immensely. At $5.15 it is certainly a must read for those with an interest in the Rhodesian bush war.


The Bleed [Kindle Edition] - John R. Cronin (Author) (http://www.amazon.com/The-Bleed-ebook/dp/B008IJ5JF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344207192&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Bleed+Cronin)

JRC writes this on Op Dingo - 23 November 1977:

Over 1200 ZANLA were killed in that attack with the loss of only two Rhodesians, an SAS trooper and a pilot, and only 15 wounded. Such an imbalance challenges credibility and later gave rise to accusations from the press that we hit primarily soft targets, among which were a lunatic asylum and a hospital, killing everyone inside, but this is wrong. Unlike American forces in Vietnam, Rhodesians didn’t consider a guerrilla a guerrilla unless a weapon was found with the body, and there was no room for error because Special Branch would have to verify any count that troops reported. And Special Branch was very particular about its counts. We could have a man dressed exactly like a guerrilla found dead with 10 others, but if only 10 weapons were retrieved, then only 10 guerrillas were confirmed killed. In the case of Chimoio, the personal weapons of these guerrillas were recovered, besides the thousands more still crated and packed in cosmoline, and along with scores of crew served weapons that had been deserted, all were destroyed in place. We left the entire complex a shambles, having obliterated every trace of any administrative building, storage and logistical facility or vehicle, and we put a lot of vehicles to death with thermite grenades (a mixture of aluminum powder and iron oxide) that melted baseball-sized holes straight through the engine blocks.

Cronin, John R. (2012-07-06). The Bleed. Kindle Edition.

08-27-2012, 09:52 AM
....last starboard stick going out the door. Note assistant dispatcher (in shorts) with emergency chute and hooked up by "monkey belt" to the Dak - in case he gets swept out in the process.

Note also the bag hanging under the ass of the last jumper. It was to place the recovered parachute in which it would be returned for repacking and reuse.


08-27-2012, 11:26 AM
... John R Cronin has published a book on Kindle about his service in the USMC and Rhodesia. I served with John in the RLI and enjoyed his coverage of his service in the RLI and the Selous Scouts immensely. At $5.15 it is certainly a must read for those with an interest in the Rhodesian bush war.


The Bleed [Kindle Edition] - John R. Cronin (Author) (http://www.amazon.com/The-Bleed-ebook/dp/B008IJ5JF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344207192&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Bleed+Cronin)

... John's book is full of great insight. Like this for instance:


"Some of us who survived these conflicts were, no doubt, thrown off our stride a bit after we returned to our families because we had been through some things that took awhile to process, but I’d like to think that most have integrated into society well enough to hold down jobs and raise families, though some of us tend to be impatient and don’t always necessarily relate to people on a civilized basis.

For the majority of the time that we were out there we didn’t even know we were becoming different people, because the only threshold we had was the men around us who were changing right alongside of us, and in the black hole of killing and survival that we lived in, we tended to suck our emotions in and not let them go once we returned home.

As a result, the differences a war has made in some of us are especially noticeable to the uninitiated. The veterans of any conflict don’t mean for it to be this way, but the only people on earth who really have a clue about that other life of ours are the men in our units with whom we went down those same lonely, dangerous corridors. It doesn’t really matter what kind of war we fought, because on combat operations out there in the deserts or the mountains or the jungles or the bush — out there in the bleed — we never fought for our country, anyway.

Not once, ever. That’s recruiting poster jazz. It was always for the guy walking behind us on one of those fearsome jungle trails; the guy we might not even know very well but for whom it would be unthinkable to let down. So we wave the flag and it’s a good thing we’re proud to do so, but in our hearts we all know that the men we served with will always be the first thing we think about when we see someone wearing the same uniform we once did. We couldn’t stop seeing those images if we tried."


OK, that's enough for now... go buy the darn book for yourself.


08-28-2012, 12:59 PM
November 1977:

By this stage the Fire Force strategy had been finely honed by the Rhodesian forces with the RLI being the accepted experts. Each deployment was for a period of six weeks and during that time it was not uncommon for the commandos on Fire Force to account for over 100 terrs. Multiply this by three or four fire forces and add all the other kills during any six-week period and an impressive number of terrs was being killed. As impressive as these numbers were they were in no way reducing the number of terrs resident in Rhodesia as their manpower pool was too deep and the extensive borders with both Mozambique and Zambia too long to be effectively sealed off. As a result of this situation ever increasing numbers of terrs were inside Rhodesia and the ZANLA holding camps in Mozambique also continued to grow larger. International political pressure was continuing to mount against Rhodesia and also South Africa at this time making it more difficult to equip and sustain the armed forces. It also focused the international spotlight on any actions that Rhodesians carried out, politically, economically or militarily. There was increasing military pressure for external operations, but this had to be balanced against the political fallout and the possible increased pressure on our allies.

This little sweetheart was sitting 90km over the Moambique border:


08-29-2012, 09:28 AM
... the build-up continues:

... Major Simon Haarhoff, Officer Commanding (OC) 2Cdo was ordered to report back to Salisbury for a briefing. No details were given, just report to Old Cranborne Barracks for a briefing. On arrival the impressive array of Army and Air Force senior personal indicated that this was not going to be a minor sortie and the fact that RLI were included as opposed to just SAS (who were the normal unit used for special operations) confirmed that this was something out of the ordinary. The briefing was right out of Tactical Wing, School of Infantry, complete with models, air photos, maps et al. However, the content was not your typical School of Infantry scenario and as the briefing unfolded the eyes of the recipients became ever wider. In a nutshell a two-phase operation was to be carried out against ZANLA camps in Mozambique using traditional vertical envelopment tactics supported by every possible source of air support that the Air Force could muster. Zulu 1 as the first phase was code-named was an attack against the ZANLA camp at Chimoio east of Umtali, followed two days later by Zulu 2, an attack on Tembue north of Mukumbura.


Then Major Jeremy Strong - OC 3 Cdo - recalls:


“I remember Brigadier Tom Davidson driving into the Fire Force camp at Grand Reef, telling me to pack my bags and be ready to leave with him to … destination unknown. I hurriedly shoved my clothes into my trunk, grabbed my rifle and webbing and next minute we were speeding off to Salisbury in his staff car. He never replied to any of my questions as to where, why or for what reason he was taking me back to the ‘bright lights’.

“Eventually he dropped me off that evening at my married quarters in the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) barracks. After having had a long stint as Fire Force and still not knowing why I had been recalled to Salisbury, I asked him if I could have a few chibulies (beers) that night and let my hair down. “Jerry, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow …” he replied, and left me to complete that well-known sentence. Needless to say, I did exactly as ordered!”

Followed by:


“I met 3 Cdo as they drove into New Sarum and summoned all the stick leaders together who looked as bewildered as I and we were ushered into a huge aircraft hangar. A large cloth model had been laid out surrounded by a series of wooden stands made out of scaffolding and soon the briefing on how Op Dingo was to be carried out began. It was as professional a briefing as there could be and Major Brian Robinson (C Sqn SAS) showed a great sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the whole plan. As he went on jumping up and down describing what was to happen - I felt I should have enjoyed myself the previous night a bit more!”


08-29-2012, 08:47 PM
Lt Mike Rich recalls:

Those present will never forget the feeling they had while listening to the extended ‘enemy forces’ paragraph of the briefing. Haarhoff must have spent at least 25 minutes detailing and describing troop strengths, weapons, equipment and defensive positions in the camp complex. Between 5,000 and 10,000 heavily armed Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) terrorists were dug in over a vast area 100 kilometres inside Mozambique. The numbers were quite staggering. The tension in the room was palpable and you could have cut the air with the proverbial knife.

However, I really felt like I was starring in my own episode of The Twilight Zone when Haarhoff delivered the ‘friendly forces’ paragraph which, by contrast, took about a minute: 40 helicopter-borne 2Cdo troops and 145 paras, made up of 96 SAS troops and 48 RLI troops from 3Cdo. A total of 184 men, excluding reserves. The odds were between 25 and 50 to one!

Haarhoff then proceeded to detail the air support: four Canberras; seven Hunters; four Vampires; four Lynxes; 32 Alouette lll helicopters; nine transport and paratrooping aircraft. As he spoke there was an audible stirring of excitement in the tent as the troops realized that virtually the entire Rhodesian Air force, modest though it was, had been mobilized to back us up.

Colour Sergeant John Norman recalls:

“Before the briefing started there was much speculation as to what was about to go down. Looking at the model we knew it was in Mozambique but few knew the area well enough to be certain of the actual target.”

Lt Mark Adams:

We knew something big was up when we, the two Dak loads (DC3) amounting to 48 members of 3 Commando (3 Cdo), filed into the hangar at New Sarum air base and saw the whole of C Squadron, the Special Air Service (SAS) were already there.

The briefing was in perfect detail and was delivered in typical understated manner given the likely impact the sheer size of the target and number of enemy forces present would have on the assembled troops. Around 10,000 gooks, half of whom were probably armed, and enough dug-in anti-aircraft weapons to scare the living daylights out of lesser men than the Rhodesian Air Force air crews. To deal with this target we were going to put 184 men from C Sqn and 2 and 3 Cdos on the ground. My feeling was that success or otherwise of this whole exercise would hinge of the accuracy and success of the initial airstrikes. They had better be on target.

Canadian machine gunner Mike McDonald:

Next day we went to New Sarum Air Force base and were put in quarantine. The 48 3Cdo soldiers along with 96 SAS soldiers were given the mission briefing by some top brass in a hangar with a big model of the ZANLA Chimoio base complex 80km inside Mozambique. The complex contained sub-camps, one being for urban guerrilla-warfare training etc. Each camp had a card recording the number of terrorists within. I added up all the cards and they came to roughly 5,000! I looked around the room at all us tough professional veteran soldiers and we seemed a very small force for such a big camp, but we also had 40 heliborne 2Cdo guys and the whole of the Air Force. We also had 48 Support Commando paratroopers standing by inside the Rhodesian border as emergency backup. This raid started the joke for all big externals thereafter, taken from the book/movie A Bridge Too Far … for us it became A Gomo (hill) Too Far. Hopefully we would rescue some Rhodesian prisoners held in the base. We even fancied catching Robert Mugabe there.

Corporal Jimmy Swan:

The information was that 8,000 men, either in training or operational, were in this camp at that time. The fact that enemy numbers were the equivalent of ten battalions was mind-boggling. This camp was visited regularly by the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) leaders like Mugabe and we were advised of this fact. Their kill or capture was regarded as a bonus. Enemy weapons would comprise the normal AK-47s, SKSs, RPDs, grenades etc. plus a barrage of high-powered anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rockets. Not to mention T-54 tanks and APCs. There was a concern over SAM-7s being used against our aircraft and possibly MiG aircraft from Tete.

2 Commando (2Cdo) would be the heli assault troops and SAS and 3Cdo would be the paras. The briefing officer advised all stick commanders that we would be working with our own sticks, who had much combat experience together, but the bad news was that only 180 assault troops, with air support, would be the total strike force for the raid. This brought a stunned silence and then a low rumble which grew into a roar - “They are fu$ked, eksê" (I say) shouted one troopie.

Mike Rich again:

. A voice from the back chimed with comic timing, “They’re fu$ked, ek sê!” (I say). The tent erupted in mirth. Such was the character and confidence of the RLI troopie.

08-30-2012, 12:39 PM
John R Cronin:

One November afternoon, we were sent to New Sarum and immediately restricted to that air base, which could only mean that a major attack was in the offing, but it wasn’t until after dinner that night and we were ushered into an empty hanger that we understood the enormity of the operational order. I looked around and there must have been close to 250 men in there, without a doubt the largest strike force ever assembled in the war. The entire squadron of SAS was present, along with 3 Commando, 2 Commando, engineers and ordnance personnel, Special Branch officers, forward medical and refueling teams, and Air Force pilots and crews for helicopters, Vampire and Hunter fighters and Canberra bombers. Then, as we looked to our front, we saw what this was all about: it was a 10’ X 20’ mockup of ZANLA’s operational headquarters at Chimoio, 75 kilometers (50 miles) into Mozambique.

Two-man teams from the Selous Scouts’ Recce Group had been in the hills overlooking the area for weeks charting the movement of men and equipment into and out of the 10 smaller facilities that made up the Chimoio complex itself and had sent back a series of descriptions of crew served weapons, training schedules and the timings within the general camp routines, and together they gave us a very detailed look at how this huge network functioned. Major Brian Robinson of the SAS gave us the briefing, and everything was pretty much routine until he arrived at enemy numbers. He mentioned it casually, but I’m sure a few of us were startled when the words ‘5000 guerrillas’ came out and hung there like a dark cloud over the room. Some of the men looked around wondering if they had heard him correctly, computing quickly that if only 200 of us were actually going to be on the ground, with the remainder in the air or in support roles, how exactly was this going to work?

Cronin, John R. (2012-07-06). The Bleed. Kindle Edition.

08-30-2012, 01:51 PM
Note: Essentially there were a few briefings. The order group in the New Sarum hanger for the SAS and 3 Cdo and others, 2 Cdo's 40 men were briefed separately at Grand Reef airfield and the various air force squadrons held their own. Just listing extracts to give the idea of different participants.

Flight Lieutenant Mark McLean a gunship pilot on the Op:

They listed all the friendly forces, the RLI, SAS and aircraft that would be involved, and you could see it was going to be a very big operation. The friendly forces added up to about 200 people. Having done that, they turned to enemy forces, saying that they estimated about 5,000 Charlie Tangos [communist terrorists].

It was the first time in my life that I heard a tremendous collective gasp, a huge intake of breath by 200 people… everyone was stunned.

Then some wise guy at the back, using the punchline from a well known Japanese kamikaze flying joke, shouted in an appropriate accent: “R loo flucking mad?”, whereupon everyone burst out laughing.

Extract from this book:

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War – Ian Pringle (http://www.amazon.com/Dingo-Firestorm-Greatest-Battle-Rhodesian/dp/1770224289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346331395&sr=8-1&keywords=Dingo+Firestorm)

On the op Mark McLean was one lucky .... see the photo below :


Ian Pringle's book covers the air force aspect in greater detail than before. Another must read.


08-31-2012, 12:55 PM
Lt Mike Rich writes:

My father, Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt-Col) Peter Rich, was Commanding Officer (CO) of the RLI at the time. He was an experienced soldier, having fought in Korea with the Suffolk Regiment and later in Malaya with A Squadron, 22 SAS Regiment. He was also a former CO of the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) and had a long association with the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI), having previously served as OC 1 Commando (1Cdo) and also as Battalion 2i/c.

And Mike recalls his father at the end of the Briefing to 2 Cdo by Maj Simon Haarhoff:

“Simon”, he said to Major Haarhoff, “could you handle an elderly Bols brandy drinker as your radio man?”

“Affirmative, Sir”, replied Haarhoff, “my pleasure!”

“Right then”, he said, and then using the troopie vernacular, “let’s go and cull some floppies ek sê!” (translation: "let's go and kill some gooks, I say!")

And so it was that Lt-Col Peter Rich, at the age of 50, slipped off his epaulettes and joined his men from 2Cdo as a frontline troopie for the day.

Keeping it in this post (at the risk of getting ahead of things):

Lt Col Peter Rich was a competition shotist in his day and Mike continues:

... My father later recounted the experience with his legendary sense of humour by commenting that he had noticed with disappointment (as a cool old hand, of course) that I tended to snatch the trigger when firing! Well, it wasn’t exactly bisley!

And getting his own dig in at his father Mike continues:

My father, as the CO not wishing to be seen gathering souvenirs, asked me out of the corner of his mouth to grab him a bakelite AK bayonet for his collection in the pub at home.

After clearing endless trenches and huts, we were informed at the end of an exceptionally long day that we were finally being picked up. Elated and exhausted, we flew to the forward admin base where I presented the bayonet to my father and he treated Officers Haarhoff, Murdoch, Prinsloo and me to a ‘Hatters Coffee’ from a bottle of Bols brandy which he had been carrying around all day (named after the suburb, Hatfield in Salisbury, where we lived).

09-01-2012, 06:32 AM
This is an extract from Group Captain Peter Petter-Bowyer's outstanding book on his career in the Rhodesian Air Force:

Winds of Destruction (http://www.amazon.com/Winds-Destruction-PJH-Petter-Bowyer/dp/141201204X)

Op Dingo briefing

Operation DINGO was the codename given to tir attacks on Chimoio and Tembue. Phase One was to be air attack against Chimoio on 23 November 1977. On completion, all helicopters were to move to Mtoko with their contingent of troops and the paratrooper element was to position at New Sarum preparatory to launching the long-range Phase Two attack against Tembue on 25 November.

I knew everything concerning Norman’s airstrike plans because he had involved me in formulating them; but that was all I knew. He had not mentioned the use of ground forces until, at short notice, I learned that I was to be the Admin Base commander for both operations and was to attend a two-phase briefing at New Sarum on Tuesday 22 November. The reason Norman Walsh selected me for the Admin Base task was to give me opportunity to inspect the areas of jet-strikes so that I could analyse the effectiveness of our locally made weapons in live target situations.

One of 3 Squadron’s hangars had been cleared and grandstands from the station sports field had been erected around a large-scale model of Chimoio Base. Present for the briefing were all the service commanders, senior staff officers from COMOPS and all active participants from the Air Force and Army. I remember the noise and excitement levels being incredible. Absolute silence fell when Captain Scotty McCormack of the SAS took centre stage to commence his target intelligence briefing on Chimoio. Having done this so many times for COMOPS, Scotty needed no notes for his excellent, smooth-flowing presentation. Much of what he had to say was new to me, even though I had known about Chimoio for months.

To assist in the briefing and to facilitate easy target identification during the operation itself, a single photograph of the entire Chimoio complex of camps was handed to every participant. ‘This photograph incorporated grid lines bearing alphabetic letters for the vertical lines and numerical numbering for the lateral ones. The same grid was overlaid on the target model.

Norman Walsh followed Scotty and commenced the air briefing by saying H-hour for Chimoio was 23:07:45 Bravo. He then outlined the operational sequence with specific timings before giving a detailed briefing to each participating squadron.

He revealed that he had arranged for a DC8 jet-liner to over-fly Chimoio at H-hour minus ten minutes in the hopes that this would have every CT diving for cover. He expected that, by the time the lead Hunter struck, ZANLA CTs would have realised that they had over-reacted to a passing civilian airliner and would be mustering for the regular 08:00 parade.

Using a long pointer and giving grid references directly from the target model, Norman indicated old farm buildings on the western side of the main concentration of camps. These were the headquarters and living quarters of ZANLA’s top commanders, Josiah Tongogara and Rex Nhongo. The first pair of Hunters, delivering Golfbombs against these HQbuildings, would initiate the air action spot on H-hour. Their Golf bomb detonations would act as confirming markers for a formation of four Canberras closing in from the west at low level to strike twenty seconds later. Smoke and dust from the Golf bombs would assist the lead bomber to ensure that the formation was correctly aligned with its targets commencing from the western edge of the HQ complex and stretching eastward.

Front-gun, Frantan and rocket attacks by Hunters and Vampires would follow the Canberras, striking against targets Norman indicated in sequence of attacks. At this time, the Dakotas would already be making their final run, three down the western flank of the main concentration of camps and three along the southern flank to drop the assaulting SAS and RLI paratrooper force in a single pass at H-hour plus two minutes.

Because of the noise factor, particularly over the fiat terrain around Chimoio, the helicopters would be coming in well behind the quiet Dakotas. This meant that the paratroopers would already be on the ground before the command helicopter and K-Cars reached them at H-hour plus seven minutes. However, Hunter and Vampire strikes would still be in progress for much of this intervening time. Flying on the north side of the K-Cars would be ten trooper helicopters to place RLI in a stop-line along the north side of Chimoio Base.

With troops north, west and south of the primary targets, four K-Cars were assigned to ‘close the gap’ by operating along a line across open fields commencing at camps in the southeast all the way up to the left flank of the RLI stop-line. The other six K-Cars would take on satellite camps lying west of the main target and to the rear of the assault troops.

A single helicopter assigned to the Admin Base, carrying spare radios and me, was to break away from the trooper belicopters and land in the assigned Admin Base area. My first job was to direct the DC7 for its deliveries of the Admin Base protection troops, fuel and ammunition. Thereafter I had to oversee all activity including refuelling, repairs and casevacs for helicopters moving to and from the target that was a little under ten kilometres away.

The command Dakota carrying General Walls and his staff had all the equipment needed to communicate with the command helicopter on VHF and COMOPS via HF and teleprinters. This aircraft was to rove at height, up and down the Rhodesian border. Peter McLurg would provide the link through which Norman could bring in reserve helicopters waiting at Lake Alexander or jets from New Sarum and Thornhill.

To keep security as tight as possible, helicopters positioning at Lake Alexander, which lay twenty-five kilometres north of Umtali, were to fly from New Sarum -and Grand Reef during the early hours, refuel and be ready for lift-off by no later than H-hour minus 90 minutes. Lift-off from Lake Alexander would be at H-hour minus one hour five minutes. Norman then gave details of how the DC7, Dakotas and jet aircraft were to launch from New Sarum and jets from Thornhill. Included were details of the ten reserve helicopters that would move from Grand Reef to Lake Alexander once the main force was clear.

Recovery of everyone back to Grand Reef, except for an SAS stay-behind force of ninety-seven men, had to be completed before nightfall. For this, all helicopters from the reserve pool at Lake Alexander would be called forward to assist the GCars and K-Cars already in the op area.

To be recovered were forty-eight RLI assault troops with parachutes, forty RLI troops of the northern stop-line, the admin area protection troops with parachutes, me and as many cargo parachutes as possible. No fuel drums, whether full or empty, would be recovered or destroyed.

The SAS stay-behind troops remaining in the target overnight were to be uplifted early next morning. Details for this recovery would be given at a separate briefing at Grand Reef. Norman concluded his briefing with details on VHF channels along with general and emergency procedures.

As commander of ground forces, Major Brian Robinson made his briefing in his usual crisp, clear manner aided by the target model, many charts and signals network diagrams. His in-depth briefing on all troop movements, all cross-referenced to Norman’s briefing, completed the entire operational presentation. An operational order issued with maps and target photos assisted operators to follow the briefings and fully comprehend their tasks.

When these presentations ended and all questions had been answered, there was a noisy tea break in the Parachute Training School hangar before everyone reassembled for the briefing on Tembue. The venue and set-up for this briefing remained the same as for Chimoio, except that the centrepiece was now the Tembue target model, suitably marked with the same grid markings that appeared on photographs of the target.

The briefing followed the same format as for Chimoio but only took half as long to complete because radio networks and basic procedures remained unaltered. On completion, General Walls gave a short address before everyone rushed off to prepare for an early-morning start.

09-01-2012, 12:41 PM
... used on Op Dingo:

Alpha bombs

Rhodesian made Alpha bombs


A circular shaped anti-personnel bomb that, when dropped by the Canberra from level flight, gave a natural dispersion pattern. The bomb would strike the surface activating the fusing mechanism and then bounce into the air to detonate about six metres above ground.

This bomb was an improved version of that used by the Rhodesian Air Force. About 300 could be loaded into the bomb bay.

Due to the sphere shape, when released they spread apart both laterally and vertically because air pressure builds up between them and pushes them away from each other. The Alpha is a hallow sphere(155mm external diameter.) pressed out of 3mm plate with two halves welded together. Inside the outer casing is a smaller sphere of 8mm steel. Between the two spheres is packed 240 hard black rubber "bouncing" balls of 15mm diameter. (Similar to those glow in the dark type bouncing balls kids have.) When dropped from low and fast aircraft, they hit the ground at less than 17 degrees from the horizontal. On impact most of the rubber balls compressed against the outer wall, thus creating forward bounce for about 60ft in the direction of the aircraft and rising no higher than 12ft. The inner sphere is similar to a grenade and on impact with the ground the fuze fired a cap with a 7 sec delay. The bomb exploded between 6 - 12 ft above the ground dispersing on average one lethal fragment per square yard with a radius of 15 yards from explosion. The Canberra carried 300 Alpha bombs in groups of 50 inside six hoppers fitted to the bomb bay and was operated electrically. They could be dropped in salvo or in ripples.


1 Safety Pin (removed before flight) - 2 Cap and Primer - 3 Delay Train - 4 Detonator - 5 Booster Charge - 6 Filler Plus - 7 Casing Outer and Fuse Pocket - 8 Striker Assembly - 9 Moving Parts - 10 Separator Spring - 11 RDX/TNT Main Charge - 12 Rubber Grommets - 13 'Super' Balls
(This anti personnel bomb was 155 mm external diameter and was coloured red. A Canberra B2 could carry 300 of the bombs in groups of 50 inside 6 specially designed hoppers. They were dropped from low level and bounced back above the ground, exploding at about 3 meters.)

The golf bomb


Extensive testing was carried out to produce a suitable bomb capable of producing a lethal effect over a large area. Conventional 5001b & 10001b MC bombs, which we held from early days, were not designed for, nor capable of, achieving this requirement. The finally accepted & proven answer to this requirement was named the " Golf Bomb" ( after the Project letter ).

It was a 450kg bomb, consisting of double steel cylinders conventionally shaped, between which thousands of pieces of chopped 10mm steel rod had been encased.. There were two pentolite booster charges, one at the front & one at the rear, both simultaneously initiated when the meter long proboscis impacted with the ground, causing an airburst.

The filling was ANFO, manufactured locally by mixing prilled ammonium nitrate with a small quantity of diesel fuel, giving the benefit of equally damaging explosion & implosion. The tail unit incorporated locally designed & manufactured drogue chutes which caused the bomb to become vertical before impact.

They also provided adequate separation when the bombs were dropped in pairs & produced a bush flattening area 90 meters wide by 135 meters in line of attack. These bombs became operational in March 1977 & were very effectively used by the Hunter & Canberra aircraft on airstrike operations thereafter.


The Frantan was a local Rhodesian made naplam delivered in a 50 gal variant from the Hawker Hunters in pairs.

09-01-2012, 12:47 PM
JMA's posts often touch upon OPSEC before major cross-border operations and this aspect cropped on the main Rhodesian COIN thread, in Posts 211-217:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=2090

As the raids built-up there was a suspicion that the targets were being warned, so this post (Post 211) is cited in part, first JMA:
Of concern to us was the fact that at one point operational intel was being passed on. For example on one camp attack into Zambia when we were going through the paperwork in their ops room we found a fresh signal they had received that morning saying "You will be attacked at 12h00 today" (JMA ends).

(I start)I learnt when in Zimbabwe in 1985 that operational security lapses had caused immense concern and aside from the "usual suspects" some thought was given to the regular arrival of external supporters before each major external operation. Supporters who provided the funding and more - they were not identified, but the finger of suspicion pointed northwards to Arabia. Their arrival in executive jets invariably was to Salisbury and could have been monitored.

After 1980 the Rhodesians discovered that some of the lapses could be attributed to the weather station at Salisbury airport, which was all-African and from their position could monitor the build-up of aircraft. Maybe even requests for weather reports? IIRC the Rhodesian Air Force main operating base, New Sarum shared the civil Salisbury airfield.

09-01-2012, 06:41 PM
And Mike recalls his father at the end of the Briefing to 2 Cdo by Maj Simon Haarhoff:

“Simon”, he said to Major Haarhoff, “could you handle an elderly Bols brandy drinker as your radio man?”

“Affirmative, Sir”, replied Haarhoff, “my pleasure!”

“Right then”, he said, and then using the troopie vernacular, “let’s go and cull some floppies ek sê!” (translation: "let's go and kill some gooks, I say!")

And so it was that Lt-Col Peter Rich, at the age of 50, slipped off his epaulettes and joined his men from 2Cdo as a frontline troopie for the day.

LOVE this story :cool:

09-02-2012, 07:33 AM
Hawker Hunter FGA.9


09-02-2012, 09:03 AM
English Electric Canberra B2


09-02-2012, 09:31 AM
de Havilland Vampire:


09-02-2012, 05:58 PM
More from:

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War – Ian Pringle (http://www.amazon.com/Dingo-Firestorm-Greatest-Battle-Rhodesian/dp/1770224289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346331395&sr=8-1&keywords=Dingo+Firestorm)

[Group Captain Norman] Walsh explained the air-strike sequence. First, a DC-8 cargo jet would fly over the target as a decoy, making as much noise as possible. When the assembled terrs (terrorists) heard the DC-8, they were likely to scatter and dive into the trenches or man the anti-aircraft guns. When they realised it was a false alarm, they would start reassembling on the parade square, by which time Red Section would be about to launch the initial strike. The DC-8 would also mask the sound of the approaching Dakotas and helicopters.

It was unprecedented to use a civilian jetliner at the leading edge of a major air attack. The aircraft in question belonged to Air Trans Africa, a Rhodesian sanction-busting airline operated by a former World War II Spitfire pilot, Jack Malloch. Jack was sitting in the audience. He would not be flying the DC-8 himself; instead, he would fly a propeller-driven DC-7, the aircraft every helicopter pilot would rely on for fuel.

Walsh continued:
“At precisely H-hour, Red 1 (Hawker Hunter) will strike the HQ building complex here, with Golf [percussion] bombs, while Red 2 (Hawker Hunter) will plant Golf bombs here, on target Mike [Chitepo College], and Red 3 (Hawker Hunter) will drop frantan here, on Lima [Pasidina 2]. The weather forecast is good, but if there is cloud, frantan will replace Golf bombs. Red Section’s strikes will be the markers for Green Section (Canberras), which will strike with Alpha bombs at H plus 30 seconds.”

09-02-2012, 07:04 PM
More on this from John Cronin:

Two weeks after we returned to Salisbury, I saw some black and white aerials of one of the parade decks on which several hundred ZANLA were mustering for morning formation when the Canberras dropped the first Golf bombs on them as a prelude to our attack. The Air Force had sent a civilian-marked aircraft in a few minutes ahead of the bombers to scare the guerrillas, and then allowed them enough time to regroup into their formations before sending in the first bomber wave, reasoning that the men on parade would be less likely to scatter a second time because they would believe it to be another false alarm. The ruse was lethally successful and the bombs had cut them down almost too easily, leaving over 400 dead, in row after neat row like corn stalks, still in ranks lying next to one another. They would have heard the engines, looked up, seen the aircraft fly a few hundred feet over their heads, seen the bombs bounce in front of them and died exactly where they stood, with not the time it would have taken to look around again.

Cronin, John R. (2012-07-06). The Bleed (Kindle Locations 6440-6447). . Kindle Edition.

09-03-2012, 11:18 AM
... what became the origin behind this T-shirt in all its variants:



09-03-2012, 12:09 PM
Op Dingo Op Order: Part 1

Operation Dingo

Op Order :


1. En Forces
a. Consist of FPLM (Mozambican), TPDF (Tanzanian) and approx 100 Russian/Cuban advisors. Tanks and armoured cars have been reported in Chimoio Town, but this cannot be substantiated.
b. No known air threat is present.
c. AA wpns consist of 14.5, 12.7 and Strela missiles

2. Breakdown
Troop dispositions, strengths and reaction times are as follows :
Ser... Location...........Function...... Strength..........Weaponry.................Reactio n Time
1...... Vanduzi Town....Ptl Base.......1 Pl........... .....AA, Mors...................30 mins
2...... Chimoio............Bde HQ........ FPLM 430........AA, Strela,.................1 hour
................................................TP DF 100........Mors, A/Tk
..............................................Russ ians 100......Armd Cars/Tanks, Vehs
3...... Manica.............Bn HQ......... FPLM 725........AA, Strela..................1hr 30 mins
...............................................TPD F 100.........A/Tk, Vehs
4...... Machipanda......Coy HQ........ FPLM 200........AA, Strela, Vehs............ 2 hours

Chimoio Terrorist Base
3. Functions
b. ZANLA Admin HQ
d. ZANLA Trg Centre
e. Manica Prov HQ

4. Total Strength
a. Trained terrs 2000
b. Ters under trg 1000
c. Hosp orderlies 1200
d. FPLM elements 80
e. Miscellaneous 200

5. Dispositions : The base is made up of 18 complexes all containing terrs with a small element of FPLM for control purposes. All complexes have at least six guards on by day and night.

(PASINDIA 2) a. Complex L WQ 522033 (This target will be struck at H-Hour)
1. Description - 66 pole and dagga structures laid out in rows to form a rough box shaped area.
ii. Function - to house trained convalscent ters.
iii. Numbers - up to 400 including 4 FPLM.

(TAKAWIRA 1) b. Complex J WQ540045 (This tgt is a K-Car tgt)
i. Description - This complex is made up of two camps known as Matopos and Takawira 1. It has 70 structures, all of which are pole and dagga.
ii. Function - Matopos complex houses the Registry, Takawira complex houses semi-trained terrs, recruits awaiting transport to selected external training camps.
iii. Numbers - up to 500 or more depending on recruit numbers and 4-6 FPLM.

(PASINDINA 1) c. Complex K WQ 541050 (This target is a K-Car target)
i. Description - This is a small camp containing 19 structures all poles and dagga.
ii. Function - houses the limbless terrs ex Rhodesia.
iii. Numbers - up to 70 and 4-6 FPLM

(HQ) d. Complex H WQ545042 (This target is first priority at H-Hour)
i. Description - This the HQ area and is the most important target in the whole base. The area includes 10 metal roof buildings, 41 large thatched buildings and 49 small structures.
ii. Function - houses the hierarchy and is the main office and clerical area.
iii. Numbers - up to 200 and 4-6 FPLM.
e. Engineers Complex WQ 545040 (This target is a K-Car target).
i. Description - This is a small camp containing 12 buildings, all pole and dagga.
ii. Function - to house the engineers resposible for the maintenance of the HQ Complex.
iii. Numbers - up to 70 and 4-6 FPLM.
f. Complexes M, C, D, B : From WQ 551036 to WQ 559040 (This target is second priority at H-Hour)
i. Description - This area is taken up by five complexes, all made of pole and dagga huts. There complexess are all inter-joining, therefore it has been considered as one target area.

ii. Function -
(a) Complex M - Chitepo College where political commissars are housed and taught.
(b) Complex D - Parirenyatwa Camp, Chaminuka Camp and the DB. These complexes house the trained and learning nursing staff, the security section and Rhodesian prisoners. Mugabe lives in this area on his visits.
(c) Complex B - Nehanda Camp holds the young terrs who are not yet of training age, and the women.
iii. Numbers -
(a) Chitepo College - 250 and 4-6 FPLM
(b) Parirenyatwa Camp - 1200 (700 male, 500 female, 4-6 FPLM.
(c) Chaminuka Camp - 500 (ex-Peking) and 4-6 FPLM.
(d) Detention Barracks - 20 Guards (unknown number inside).
(e) Nehanda Camp - Unknown numbers.

(NEW GARAGE) g. Complex A. WQ 568042 (This is a K-Car target).
i. Description - This is a small camp consisting of three pole and dagga buildings.
ii. Function - A new garage area where long distance drivers and mechanics are housed.
iii. Numbers - 50 and 4-6 FPLM.

(OLD GARAGE) h. Complex P. WQ557051 (This is a K-Car target).
i. Description - This area consists of 1 large one sided metal roofed building and 29 small pole and dagga structures.
ii. Functions -
(a) Fuel Dump (underground).
(b) Ammo store for Recruit Camp.
(c) Vehicle graveyard.
(d) Tool store.
iii. Numbers - up to 70 and 4-6 FPLM.

(NGANGAS - spirit mediums) j. Complex Q WQ 561054 (This is a K-Car target)
i. Description - The area consists of 88 informally set out pole and dagga huts.
ii. Function - To house ngangas and old people.
iii. Numbers - unknown.

(NATIONAL STORES) k. Complex R. WQ 569051 (This is a K-Car target)
i. Description - This complex is made up of an old tobacco barn and 53 pole and dagga huts plus 5 bell tents. It has a bulldozed fire break encircling it.
ii. Function - This is the main ZANLA Logistics Centre and contains food, clothing and ammunition.
iii. Numbers - Up to 150 and 4-6 FPLM with a guard on a boom on both entrance and exit.

(THIN CAMP) l. Complex S WQ 574048 (This is a K-Car target)
i. Description - This area consists of 12 small pole and dagga huts.
ii. Function - to house 'thin' recruits.
iii. Numbers - Unknown, but could be as many as 150, and 4-6 FPLM.

(RECRUITS CAMP) m. Complex T WQ 571089 (This target will be struck at H-Hour).
i. Description - This area consists of 33 barrack huts, 43 small huts, 3 bell tents and a kitchen area.
ii. Function - This area is the main Recruit Training Camp.
iii. Numbers - Up to 1 000 recruits, 25 instructors, and 4-6 FPLM.
Target Priority : H-Hour - Complexes H, MODB, T, thereafter K-Cars orbit over selected complexes.

Friendly Forces
i. Provide the following :
a. 48 troops para role after air strike.
b. 48 troops para role reserve.
c. 40 troops heli role.
d. 20 troops heli assembly area protection.
e. 16 troops Adm Base protection. This to include one 81mm mortar and team.
f. 1 doctor and 3 medical orderlies.

2. Provide the following :
a. 96 troops para role after air strike.
b. Para role reserve (approx 30 men).

Air Force
3. The mission is predominately air strike supported by ground forces. Following support will be available subject to serviceability .
a. 7 Hunters.
b. 4 Vampires.
c. 7 Dakotas.
d. 1 DC8
e. 1 DC7
f. 4 Lynxes
g. 4 Canberras
h. 31 helicopters (including Polo).

4. Three Officers to provide control at the following locs :
a. Grand Reef (normal FAF comd)
b. Heli assembly area.
c. Adm base.

5. Technical recovery teams and an armourer to be available at Grand Reef.
Special Branch

6. 4 man SB team for immed int gathering in camp area. This team to provide prisoner and body identification.

7. Further two teams may position heli assembly area as back up. This must include IO SAS and DMI rep in first back-up team.

8. Capt Jackson to be operation's log officer.
9. In consultation with QM 1RLI and OC 3 Air Supply Platoon you are to staff the following Supply Points :
a. Grand Reef
b. Heli Assembly Area.
c. Adm Base.
10. You are to establish a transit base and security area at New Sarum. This is to be done in liaison with Q Rep Sarum.

11. To provide ground forces in support of air strike on enemy terrorist base camp coded named Z1 with the following desired effect :
a. Killing and capturing maximum terrs.
b. Int gathering.
c. Destruction of enemy war materials.
d. Capture of selected enemy war materials such as STRELA.

09-03-2012, 12:16 PM
Op Dingo Op Order: Part 2


12. General Outline
a. Air strikes to take place against selected eneny targets followed by vertical envelopment by para and heli troops.

13. Detailed Tasks.
a. 1RLI
i. Grouping. Nil.
ii. Task
(a) Provide para stops 1 and 2 and heli stops A to J.
(b) Para sticks area of responsibility GR QQ 523040 to GR WQ 538027. Heli sticks responsibility GR WQ 528046-WQ 535050.
(c) Stick commanders to be officers where possible and are to position in centre of sticks. One officer in command heli troops.

b. SAS
i. Grouping . Nil.
ii. Task
(a) Provide Stops 3, 4, 5 and 6.
(b) Area of responsibility.
Stop 3 WQ 538025 to WQ 546019
Stop 4 WQ 546019 to WQ 558026
Stop 5 WQ 558026 to WQ 568032
Stop 6 WQ 568032 to WQ 578042
(c) Stops to be commanded by an officer who is position in centre of the stick.
(d) Major Graham to be ground forces commander.

c. Action on Landing.
i. Paras to get out of harness asp and group together with any other para immediately available. Take up a position in best cover, wait and shoot.
ii. Do not spend time trying to regroup in sticks. All paras to attempt to visually locate own forces in close proximity.
iii. Persons on strick extremes namely 1 and 24 para and A, J heli to have white phosphorous readily available to indicate sticks locs.
iv. Note the position you leave your parachute, reserve and helmet etc.
v. 40 heli troops who have emplaned in heli assembly area are to be positioned west of the ridge with responsibility from GR WQ 528046 to GR WQ 535050.
vi. Heli troops to be dropped off in dead ground to west of ridge. Once they have been dropped they are to move towards the target and position on top of the ridge.
vii. Before drop off stick commanders to take particular note of stick drop off points on either side.
viii. Officer to be nominated to command heli sticks. He is also to be centrally positioned.

d. The Sweep
i. Once the air strikes and K-Car actions are over, all sweep lines with sweep towards and eventually through the target area.
ii. The sweep sequence to be given by command heli.
iii. During sweep if contact is made and close air support required a white phosphorous grenade is to be thrown followed by a target indication.
iv. Once the outer camp area has been cleared a thorough search of the target area is to take place. SB teams will be made available at this time and will be delivered to the HQ area. Sticks in immediate area responsible for SB protection.

e. Reorg
i. After the sweep and search of the area has been completed, stick to return to their parachutes and recover kit and equipment left in the area.
ii. G-Cars to be sent to assist in parachute location. Once equipment collected G-Cars to uplift parachutes to Admin area.
iii. Extraction sequence to follow once parachutes cleared. Persons uplifted from camp area to Adm base initially and then to heli assembly area. Polo aircraft to carry out concurrent lift from admin area to heli assembly area.
iv. Orders for extraction from command helicopter on completion of parachute uplift.

f. Adm Area Troops
1. 16 RLI including mortar and mortar team emplane heli assmy area and land at Adm area. Mortar team and mortar to position as OP at GR WQ 519290 Adm base loc GR WQ 517290.
ii. Adm base to establish comms with DC7 and take fuel resupply.
iii. Q element to establish supply point.
iv. Air force rep to establish refuel point.

14. Special Tasks
a. Stop 1
i. Grouping. Nil.
ii. Task
(a) Provide one c/s early warning/mining party and position on road GR WQ 525037.
(b) You are to lay a centre blast mine to prevent any possible enemy vehicle interference.
iii. Reorg. Remain that loc throughout the extraction phase.
b. Stop 5
i. Grouping. Nil.
ii. Task
(a) As per Stop 1. Prevent vehicle interference from eastern road GR WQ 550032.
iii. Reorg. Remain that loc throughout the extraction phase.

15. Coord Instr
a. D Day is Wednesday 23 November 1977 and H-Hour is 230745B.
b. 1RLI Land Tail. To consist of the following :
i. 48 Para resrve.
ii. 40 Heli troops.
iii. 16 Heli troops incl mortar team for Adm area.
iv. 20 protection troops for heli assembly area. Must included 4 x 81mm mortar tubes and teams.
v. Q rep to liaise with OC 3 Air Supply Platoon.
vi. SB and medical teams.
vii. Resuscitation team.
c. Routing
i. 1RLI move from Salisbury on D-1 [Tuesday, 22 November]
ii. 1RLI paras remain Grand Reef to provide para reserve.
iii. D-Day [Wednesday, 23 November] Following persons depart Grand Reef for heli assembly area :
(a) 76 RLI.
(b) SB teams.
(c) Resuscitation team.
(d) Medical team for Adm area.
iv. Sufficient vehicles on this convoy to be capable of uplifting 150 men after the op.
d. Heli Assembly Area.
i. Location - Lake Alexander.
ii. Comd Air HQ Rep.
iii. Function :
(a) to establish LZ to cater for 31 heli at one time.
(1) Establish Supply Point. Log Officer to appoint representative.
(2) Establish Resuscitation medical team. Army HQ to org.
(3) Provide protection for fuel and transport required for op.
(4) Hold 4 mortar tubes in reserve.

16. Sequence of Events and Timings
a. D-1 RLL land tail to position Grand Reef by 221800B.
b. D Day. Heli assembly area to be functional by no later than 230600B.
c. All heli troops ready for uplift by no later than 230600B.
d. Air Force rep to ensure stick O's correct. Adm troops separated from heli troops.
e. 0430-0500 hrs. Helis carry out phased departure from Salisbury to Heli Assembly area.
f. 0630-0700 hrs. All 31 helis refuel at Heli Assembly area and pick up troops for target (10 G-Cars)
g. 0600 hrs. Paradaks airborne from Salisbury.
h. 0630. DC7 airborne from Salisbury with fuel.
j. 0710 hrs. 10 K-Cars, 10 G-Cars with 40 RLI leave Heli Assembly area for target.
k. 0710 hrs. 10 Polo aircraft leave Heli Assembly area for Adm Area. Air rep to ensure SB on board and all Q and aircraft munitions also on board.
l. H-Hour 230745B.
i. 2 Hunters, 1000 lb bombs on Target H, and M.
ii. 1 Hunter Frantan (227 litres of Napalm) on Target L.
iii. 4 Vampires with 20 mm cannon and 60 lb rocket projectiles on Target T.
m. H+30 seconds
i. 4 Canberras with MkII frags on following :
(a) 1 Canberra on Target H.
(b) 2 Canberras on Targets M, D and C.
(c) One Canberra on Target L.
n. During period H+30 seconds to H+5 [minutes]
i. 4 Hunters with 68mm rockets and 30mm cannon on AA positions Targets J and B.
o. H+2 Paradaks drop 144 troops on target.
p. H+5. 10 G-Cars deploy 40 RLI on ridge and 10 K-Cars attack following targets.
i. 2 K-Cars on Target H.
ii. 1 K-Car on Target R.
iii. 2 K-Cars on Target T.
iv. 2 K-Cars on Target L.
v. 1 K-Car on Target P.
vi. 2 K-Cars on Targets B, D, M and C.
q. 1 Command G-Car, Command Dak and 2 Lynx for wide recce and relay overhead. Thereafter cabranking of Hunters and Vampires. Once aircraft clear the area and rearm and refuel.
r. Aircraft standby state to cater for both air-to-air and tank threat.
s. H+15 Polo aircraft arrive Adm area carrying :
i. Reserve holding all type ammo.
ii. 4 SB.
iii. 2 Medics.
t. H+15. One Polo helic to mark DC7 and take fuel drop. Heli LZ 1 km from fuel DZ until drop completed.
u. H to H+5 and a half hours. Mopping up and closing in of Stop Lines. Search of area continues.
v. 1645. All troops clear of target area and clear of Mozambique by D+1 0800hrs.
w. Last wave directly to Grand Reef. Thereafter all troops recover to Salisbury by 6 Daks, helis and road transport. This move coordinated at Grand Reef.

17. General Instructions
a. No burning is to take place unless the order is given from the Command Heli.
b. During the reorg SB team are to examine the 'Pit' and vet captures. These captures are to be taken to the Admin area.
c. Every single document or attractive item of equipment must be handed to SB. Any souvenir hunters will be severely disciplined.
18. Heli positioning and extraction detail see Appendix A.
19. Air Aspects detail Appendix B.

09-03-2012, 12:23 PM
Op Dingo Op Order: Part 3

Adm and Log

20. Personal equipment per stick see Appendix C.
21. Logistic Instruction see Appendix D.
22. Ammo holding summary see Appendix E.
23. Transport required detailed Appendix F.
24. The above Adm instructions caters for both tasks Z1 and Z2.

Comd and Signals.

25. Air Commander S Force Group Captain Walsh, deputy Commander Squadron Leader Griffiths.
26. Ground forces Commander Major Robinson, deputy Commander Major Graham.
27. Substitute Command Heli Squadron Leader Griffiths and Major Graham.
28. 3 IC operation 1RLI Commander.
29. Radio discipline is vital to the control of the operation. Only use the battle frequency if the transmission is essential. Make use of the domestic frequencies for sub-unit control and co-operation.
30. Should a sub-unit require air support or if vital information is to be passed to the Command Heli that callsign is to change to the battle frequency.
31. Each stick commander is to have an additional radio operator close on hand in order to control the domestic net which will be on a different frequency.
32. Each stick and Squadron will be allocated domestic frequencies.
33. For net diagram see Appendix G.
34. See signals Op O Appendix H.

Op Dingo : Air Aspects

Phase 1

Allocation of Air Effort
1. The following air effort is allocated to the Phase 1 operation :
4 x Canberra
7 x Hunter
6 x Vampire (4 x FB9, 2 x T11)
4 x Lynx
10 x K-Car
10 x G-Car
10 x G-Car (Polo - South African)
1 x G-Car (Command)
6 x Dakota (Para role)
1 x Dakota (Command)

2. Co-ordinated rehearsalss and training to be conducted by various Squadrons prior to the Air briefing on Sunday, 20 November 1977.

3. Air briefing to be conducted by DOPS at Rhodesian Air Force New Sarum at 1500 hours on Sunday, 20 November, 1977. To be attended by OCFWs New Sarum and Thornhill, Squadron Commanders, Section Leaders and K-Car pilots.
Full Air/Ground briefing to be conducted at SAS Model Room at 0900 hours on Monday, 21st November, 1977. To be attended by OCFWs, Squadron Commanders and Air HQ reps.

Prepositioning of Aircraft
4. A phased withdrawal of helicopters, Dakota and Lynx aircraft will be conducted and is to be completed by 1800 hrs on Monday, 21st November, 1977.
5. Vampire aircraft plus supporting services are to position at Rhodesian Air Force New Sarum by 1800 hours, on Tuesday, 22nd November, 1977. Movement order and co-ordination to be conducted by OC No 2 Squadron. Rhodesian Air Force New Sarum to be informed of accommodation requirements.
6. All aircraft with the exception of Hunter and Lynx aircraft will depart from New Sarum on D-Day.
7. Lynx aircraft to position Grand Reef on D-1 for deployment on D-Day.
D-Day Sequence of Events
8. 0430-0500 Helicopter phased departures from New Sarum to Heli Assy area.
9. 0630-0700 All 31 helicopters refuel at Heli Assembly area. Following to be uplifted by G-Cars (Polo) to Adm Base :
23 pax (16 Army, 1 Air Force (DZ Controller), 4 SB, 2 Medics)
1 x mortar
4400 x 20mm ammunition
7500 x .303 ammunition
Demolition explosives
Army ammunition

10. 0600 Para Dakotas depart New Sarum for the target.
11. 0630 DC7 departs New Sarum for Adm Base (80 drums of fuel).
12. 0710 10 K-Cars, 10 G-Cars (40 RLI) and Command Heli departs for target.
13. 0741 DC8 deception aircraft overhead target.
14. 0745 H-Hour
2 x Hunters: 1000lb bomb High Dive profile or Frantan profile on Targets H and M. (Frantan profile if weather or noise problems arise).
1 x Hunter : Frantan on Target L with 30mm restrike capability.
4 x Vampires FB9s : RP and 20mm cannon strikes on Target T.
H+30 seconds : 4 x Canberras : Mk II Frag Bombs on targets as follows
1 x Canberra on Target H
2 x Canberra on Targets M, D, and C complex.
1 x Canberra on Target L.
H+30 secs to 5 minutes : 4 x Hunters: 68mm RP and 30mm cannon on AA positions and additional strikes on Targets J and B. One pair after RP strikes to climb up and provide top cover.
H+2 minutes 6 x Dakotas paradrop 144 troops on target.
H+5 minutes 10 K-Cars engage following targets :
2 x K-Cars on Target area H
1 x K-Car on Target area R
2 x K-Cars on Target area T
2 x K-Cars on Target area L
1 x K-Car on Target area P
2 x K-Car on Target areas B, D, M, C.
(K-Cars return Adm Base to refuel on phased/controlled basis).
10 x G-Cars deploy 40 RLI on ridge to north of target. Then proceed to Adm Base to refuel and to standby for further tasks (casevacs etc.).
Command G-Car in area.
Command Dakota in area.
1 x Lynx on close recce and radio relay.
1 x Lynx on wide recce
H+15 2 x Vampire T11s take over top cover from Hunters.

15. Post-Strike Requirement :
a. Top cover of either Hunter or Vampire aircraft throughout the sweep and recovery phase. (Recovery will extend into D+1 commencing 240545B).
b. Bomber profile Hunters to refuel only and remain in air-to-air configuration.
c. One pair to rearm with 68mm AP RP for possible anti-tank role. (Only to be used for top cover but 68mm only to be used if absolutely necessary).
d. Remaining Hunters rearm with normal 68mm or Frantan/30mm configurations.
e. Vampires recover to New Sarum for rearm with 20mm for top cover duties.
f. 3 x Canberras rearm with Mk 11 and Frag bombs and remain on crew room readiness.
g. 1 x Canberra rearm with 1000lb bombs for possible retaliation in the event of Umtali being attacked.
h. 6 x Dakota recover to Grand Reef and remain on standby for possible reserve troop uplift, resupply of fuel, ammo, water plus possible casevac uplift Grand Reef to Salisbury.
j. 2 x Lynx positioned at Grand Reef to take-over recce role from those already airborne.
16. Adm Area (WQ 5228)
a. H-20 minutes 10 x G-Car (Polo) aircraft depart Heli Assembly area for Admin Base. Loads as follows :
i. 16 x RLI including Mortar Team.
ii. 1 x 81mm Mortar and Bombs
iii. K-Car ammo
iv. Army ammo/grenades
v. Explosives
vi. 3 x SB reps
vii. 1 x Air Force DZ Controller
viii. 1 x Air Force armourer
ix. Doctor/Medic.
b. H+15. 10 x G Car (Polo arrive Admin Base and mark DZ for DC7 paradrop of fuel.
c. H+15. DC7 Fuel drop into DZ one km from heli LZ. (80 drums of fuel).

17. Control
a. Overall command will be conducted from the Command Dakota with intimate operational control being maintained by the Command Heli. A Deputy Controller (Alpha &) has been nominated and will assume command of the intimate operational area when necessary.
b. Admin Base control will be maintained by the Air Force DZ controller. VHF communications are required.
c. Heli Assembly area control will be maintained by an Air Force LZ controller. VHF communications are required.

18. Communications
a. The communications net is shown in Army Orders section.
b. Callsigns and frequencies will be allocated at Air briefing.

19. Recovery
a. The recovery of troops and equipment will be conducted in two phases but is planned to run concurrently.
b. Recovery of troops and parachutes from the target area to the Adm Base is to commence no later than 1330. A detailed flow chart is shown at Appendix A.
c. Troops, equipment and parachute recovery from this Admin Base to the Heli Assy area will commence immediately the first wave of troops arrive at the Admin Base from the target area. A detailed flow chart is shown at Appendix A.
d. It is anticipated that approx 62 troops will remain in the Admin Base overnight and will be recovered by 0830 on the 24 November, 1977. This move is included in the attached flow chart.
e. A helicopter recovery team will be positioned at the Heli Assembly area and will assist in the recovery of helicopter aircraft that cannot be flown out but are worth recovery action.

20. Emergencies
a. Helicopter emergencies will be dealt with by the Command team in the immediate operational area.
b. Search and rescue will be initiated immediately with the Lynx and helicopter effort in the area. Hot extraction/rescue will also be initiated immediately with helicopter effort from the Admin Base. Wherever possible destruction of irrecoverable downed aircraft will be attempted. Other emergencies will be covered at the Air briefing and individual Squadron briefings.

21. Logistics.
The following equipment is required to be positioned at Grand Reef and to go forward to the Heli Assembly area or Adm base as indicated :
a. Ammunition 4400 x 20mm (K-Car) 7500 x .303 (To go forward to Heli Assembly are a.m. Wednesday)
b. Sapres. Helicopter spares with recovery team and armourer plus vehicle (to move forward to Heli Assembly area a.m. Wednesday)
c. Fuel.
i. 160 drums to go forward to Heli Assembly area a.m. Wednesday.
ii. DC7 load of 80 drums to be loaded p.m. Tuesday for delivery by para on Admin Base a.m. Wednesday. (NOTE : These drums will be written off.)

22. Messing and Accommodation.
a. Messing and accommodation is required at New Sarum for No 2 Squadron personnel.
b. Helicopter crews (62 personnel) plus Dakota and Lynx crews will be required to be accommodated at Grand Reef (FAF 8) on the night of Wednesday, 23 November 1977.

09-03-2012, 12:52 PM
Op Dingo Op Order: Part 4

Appendix A to SAS Verbal Os


Appendix G to SAS Verbal Os

Command and Signals

1. Overall Command
Comd Comops, airborne as Comops Tac HQ (DC3)

2. Tactical Command
a. Command Heli
i. Army Comd - Major Robinson
ii. Air Force Comd - Gp Capt Walsh
b. Alternate Command Heli
i. Army Comd - Major Graham
ii. Air Force Comd - Sqn Ldr Griffiths

3. Ground Command
a. Stop 1 - 1RLI Comd – Lt Adams
b. Stop 2 - 1RLI Comd – Maj Strong
c. Stop 3 - Capt Willis
d. Stop 4 - Capt Mackenzie
e. Stop 5 - Lt Roberts
f. Stop 6 - Capt Wilson
g. Stops A-J - 1RLI Comd – Maj Haarhoff

4. Radio Communications
a. VHF Nets
i. Battle Cmd Net
(a) All aircraft, the mortars at the Admin Base and Stops 1-6 and A-J will be on the Battle Command Net frequency of 132.20 Mhz, A76 code L20.
ii. Domestic Net
(a) Stop 1 C/S will operate of frequency 130.50 Mhz, A76 code J50.
(b) Stop 2 C/S will operate of frequency 130.30 Mhz, A76 code J30.
(c) Stop 3 C/S will operate of frequency 130.10 Mhz, A76 code J10.
(d) Stop 4 C/S will operate of frequency 130.40 Mhz, A76 code J40.
(e) Stop 5 C/S will operate of frequency 130.00 Mhz, A76 code J00.
(f) Stop 6 C/S will operate of frequency 130.20 Mhz, A76 code J20.
(g) Stop A C/S will operate of frequency 130.60 Mhz, A76 code J60.
(h) Mortars plus the 16 RLI Prtn elm at the Adm Base will operate of frequency 130.70 Mhz, A76 code J70.
(j) Heli Assy Area, 20 1RLI Prtn troops will operate of frequency 130.80 Mhz, A76 code J80.
(k) Should a c/s request close air support, the c/s is to switch to the batatle comd net frequency 132.20 Mhz, A76 code L20.
(l) All aircraft have a dual fit and can speak to one another on their natter frequency.
iii. Adm Net
(a) The Command Heli, Adm Base, Heli Assy Area and SAS Grand Reef will be able to switch to the Adm net frequency of 130.90 Mhz, A76 code J90. All aircraft have the ability to swith to the frequence if necessary.
(b) The Adm Base, Heli Assy Area ;and SAS Grand Reef are also on the Army Comd Net (HF).
iv. Call Signs
(a) Comops TAC HQ (DC3) C/S 0
(b) Command Heli C/S 09 Maj Robinson C/S D0 Cp Capt Walsh
(c) Alt Command Heli C/S 9A Maj Graham (if airborne) C/S A7 Sqn Ldr Griffiths
(d) Stop Groups will use their Stop Gp numbers as their call signs (Stops 1-6 and A)
(e) Stop C/S 1, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
(f) Stop C/S 2, 21 22, 23, 24 and 25
(g) Stop C/S 3, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35
(h) Stop C/S 4, 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45
(j) Stop C/S 5, 51, 52, 53, 54 and 55
(k) Stop C/S 6, 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65
(l) Stop C/S A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J
(m) [unreadable] C/S 91, 91A, 91B, 91C
(n) Mors (at Admin Base) C/S [unreadable]
(o) Heli Assy Area C/S 92. This includes the Prtn party with 92A, 92B, 92C, 92D, 92E
(p) SAS Grand Reef C/S 93
(q) Normal procedures to be adopted for ground C/S to contact aircraft.
v. Batteries. All A76 setst o hold four spare batteries.
vi. Recovery of Equipment. This is the first time the A76 is being used externally. Every effort is to be made to recover this equipment should it be lost.
b. HF Net
i. The Army Command Net will be utilised and will consist of the following :
(a) Army HQ (control station) 13 NIS AY
(b) Comops HQ 52
(c) Comops TAC HQ (Airborne) 78
(d) JOC Repulse 63
(e) JOC Tangent 01
(f) HQ 1 Brigade Battle Group 81
(g) JOC Hurricane 32
(h) JOC Thrasher 60
(j) 1RLI (Rear) 12
(k) SAS (Rear) 41
(l) SAS (Grand Reef) 90
(m) Adm Base 62
(n) Heli Assembly Area 83
(o) JOC Splinter 71
(p) JOC Grapple 18
ii. Frequencies
(a) F1 2160USB
(b) F2 3226USB
(c) F3 4625USB
(d) F4 6245LSB
(e) Approximate times for changes frequency - on instructions from control station.
(i) At 0620 F1 - F3.
(ii) At 0830 F3 - F4.
(iii) At 1800 F4 - F1.
iii. Teleprinter. A secure teleprinter system will be utilised between Comops TAC HQ and Comops HQ. This will be an Air Force responsibility.

5. Establishing Communications
All stations to minimise before H-Hour and join respective nets as and when necessary.

6. Documents. All C/S, Air Crews, Comd elements etc. will be in possession of Special Button/Shackle/Riddle code. Comops TAC HQ, the Command Helicopter, Alternative Command Helicopter, Helicopter Assembly Area and Adm Base will be in possession of Placard and Trigram code in addition to the above.

09-03-2012, 03:12 PM
Op Dingo Op Order: Part 5:


8. Reserves. Spare radios and radio batteries will be held in each K-Car.

Appendix E to SAS Verbal Os




12 hours rats - 12 hours Emergency Rats per man.
1 x FFD and 1 x Sosegon capsule per man.
Blood groups written on shirts.
4 water bottles per man minimum.
Tracer 1 : 5 rounds
Spare Radio Batteries per callsign.
Heliograph per callsign commander.
Compass, Maps and Protractor per callsign commander.
Shackle code per call sign commander.
Full Rhodesian camouflage.
All men to wear Rhodesian Combat Caps with Dayglo for recognition. NO ter or jungle hats.
Commanders to ensure NOTICAS Detail current, and SAS and 1RLI (Rear) responsible for NOTICAS after initial notification via Comops HQ.
Length of paracord per man.
NO blacking up.
The Dak and Helicopter Wave Commanders to have gridded Air Photographs of Z1.
Casevac to Umtali Hospital, Resuscitation Team at Heli Assembly Area or Doctor in Admin Base dependent on seriousness.
PWs held by Stop Groups and later Adm Base by G-Car.
SB to Stop Groups as required. PWs returned to Rhodesia on completion of initial SB screening.
Resupply by parachute for any emergency items.

09-03-2012, 10:10 PM
Yesterday I thought JMA requested this thread be locked now, in fact it was to properly close a quote in Post 174 - it was a long day Monday.

He has given an update:
the book is at the printers so its a week or two until the release.

09-04-2012, 10:38 AM
Extract from the book:

OPERATION DINGO: Rhodesian Raid on Chimoio and Tembue' 1977 (http://www.amazon.com/OPERATION-DINGO-Rhodesian-Chimoio-Tembue/dp/1907677364/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346754593&sr=8-1&keywords=Op+Dingo)

0741–0815hrs (H-4 to H+45 minutes)

At 0741hrs, however, cloud cover over the target was broken enough for the opening ruse to work. Suddenly climbing to create maximum noise from its four jet engines, the Afretair Douglas DC-8 cargo liner roared overhead, alarming and scattering the muster parades in the camps. The ZANLA muster parades reformed as the DC-8 rumbled away northeastward.

At 0745hrs (H-Hour), flying in line abreast, three Hunters of Red Section attacked New Farm. Red 1, Squadron Leader Richard Brand (the officer commanding No. 1 (Hunter) Squadron) opened Operation Dingo with a long burst of fire from his four 30mm Aden cannons. Diving, he strafed the sprawling ZANLA headquarters—the former farmhouse, nine corrugated-iron-roofed outhouses and the surrounding 41 thatched buildings and 49 pole and mud huts.

On his left across the road, Red 2, Air Lieutenant David Bourhill, dropped a pair of 50-gallon frantan bombs on Chitepo College which housed 250 ZANLA trainees and staff. He followed Brand up into an orbit.

The right-hand Hunter, Red 3, flown by Squadron Leader John Annan, hit the westernmost camp, Pasindina 2, with his frantan bombs, setting alight many of its 66 thatched huts. Pasindina 2 was home to 400 veteran ZANLA convalescents, recovering from wounds and illnesses contracted while on operations in Rhodesia. Annan then raked huts along the tree line to the north of the camp with his cannons before climbing to rejoin the other two.

As Red Section turned in to restrike, the fires they had initiated belched fireballs, blown upward by fierce convection currents, marking the camps for the fast-approaching Canberra bombers beneath them.

Flying at 350 knots at 300 feet above the ground, their optimum bombing profile, the Canberras headed for their selected targets. The leading Canberra overshot Pasindina 2 slightly and ran a full load of 300 bouncing, exploding 155mm spherical Alpha bombs through the second half of the burning camp and beyond. The second Canberra deluged the headquarters complex with its Alphas, killing 600 ZANLA personnel. The two following Canberras smothered Chitepo College and its immediate neighbours, Chaminuka Camp (housing the ZANLA security section and 500 Peking-trained insurgents, and where Mugabe stayed on his visits) and Parirenyatwa Camp (inhabited by 1,200 male and female trained and trainee nursing staff).

09-04-2012, 12:57 PM
Captain Ian Buttenshaw recalls:

… Setting up the admin area was a bit of a nightmare. We had one large hill on which I positioned the Mortar Fire Controller. It was about two kilometres from the main admin area, but had good views over the whole area. However, any small, determined band of ters could have approached the admin area moving cautiously through the trees. On arrival, we established the 81mm mortar position—two tubes, about 50 rounds each, and also some very local sentries. However, no sooner had we arrived than Jack Malloch’s DC-7 arrived to drop Avtur fuel for the helis. This landed all over the admin area LZ area and in the trees. There were only about 25 of us there, so leaving one mortar manned and a Control Post Operator having established a Predicted DF (SOS) and a couple of DFs, it was all hands to recovering the fuel drums and positioning them so that the helis could land and refuel. We were still doing this when the first helis arrived, having dropped the troops. Basically, for the first two hours, local defence was non-existent, as refuelling and turning the helis around was the priority …

09-04-2012, 10:52 PM
Corporal Jimmy Swan recalls:

The night before the raid, we all turned in early, very much immersed in our own thoughts. We talked a bit and for the umpteenth time double-checked our kit was in perfect fighting order. Everything tied down, ensured grenade pins cannot get pulled out, ensured all magazines were in working order. But more than that, we continually reassured each other that it would all be okay.

On D-Day, we awoke at 0300; we kitted up, climbed on the 4.5s and for the first time in a week, rolled out of Grand Reef Fireforce base. We travelled in silence, fear and excitement etched on our faces. Arriving at Lake Alexander we were briefed and then the unmistakable sound of rotors, then lights ... We had a final brief and jumped in our choppers. Most of the pilots and techs we knew from previous sorties. We did final checks when in the choppers, gave the thumbs-up and we eased upward and forward, headed for the border and then on to our target, Chimoio. I clearly remember looking at my stick and thinking how we looked like fresh poes (NFGs) in the new issue kit.

The sun was an hour from rising, but there was light on the horizon and as we got up over the tree line, it was a proud moment. We were part of the most extensive raid ever and all around us we saw the lines of aircraft against the horizon. Tree-top flying was immediate as we entered Mozambique. This was just fantastic and a tactic we relied on to minimize noise on approach. Then the Daks and the Lynx joined us. The deep roar of the massed aircraft must have been frightening for anyone on the ground below.

We flew over the lake off the Rio Pungwe and knew our target was close. We were leaning half out the open doorways of the choppers, craning to catch a glimpse of what lay ahead. The sight to our front was awesome. Just streaks and hisses from the ghosts of the sky and then flashes on the ground. The jets had started the assault on their targets. Big thumbs-up from the pilot. We sat on the edge of our seats, adrenaline rushing, fear and excitement in a cocktail. We were ready.

09-05-2012, 11:35 AM
Machine gunner Mike MacDonald - from Canada - recalls:

Next morning we kitted up and put on our parachutes. I had 16 x 50-round belts for my MAG, and some were carried by the rest of my stick. It was an unforgettably awesome sight with six long lines of paratroopers marching to the six waiting Dakota transport planes for this historic raid, codenamed Zulu 1.

It was a two-hour flight to Chimoio. We flew low under the Soviet radar, bizarre to see trees and rock faces out the window only yards from the wingtips as we passed the gomos (hills). On Fire Force, I always seemed to be in the Dakota flown by Bob d’Hotman (nicknamed ‘Stuka Pilot’). Finally we got the ten-minute warning. I leaned back and there was a loud pop/crack noise. Ten guys near me jumped a foot off their seats thinking we’d been hit by ground fire but I’d cracked the little window behind me with my MAG butt.

Finally, “Stand up, hook up, check equipment!” The one dispatcher was partly out of the doorway, continuously photographing the camp getting bombed up, to the last second when we jumped. This same dispatcher told me later our Dakota took four hits from ground fire.

As I jumped out I noticed a huge fireball over the main camp and the sound of constant gunfire. I quickly checked my canopy, then the paratroopers on each side of me, and then studied the ground for running terrorists. Of the 12 combat jumps I had done, this damned parachute was the first to drape all over me on my hottest landing zone ever. I fought this entanglement and even used my knife to slash para cords, with bullets cracking all around. My fellow stick mates helped pull the ’chute off and I took cover ten yards away behind the right side of a large tree with another soldier on the left. Part of my ’chute was hooked on the branches of a young tree which drew lots of fire from several terrorists in a bushy river line about 70 yards away.

Luckily we landed in this scrub because the ground toward the terrorists was flat and open; had we landed 50 feet farther north we would have been easily killed in the open. A moment’s respite to wiggle out of harness and we watched, hoping the terrorists would come across the open towards us. On any combat jump we wanted to get out of the parachute harness immediately so we could fight evenhanded. We couldn’t see muzzle flashes or determine the exact position of the terrorists, as the river line was one long thick mass of bush across our front.

Our stick commander got a K-Car to fire at the river line; the K-Car fired three rounds and asked: “How’s that?” I was thinking maybe 20 or 30 rounds would have been a good start. The K-Car fired another short burst and that was all. The enemy went quiet and we slunk off to the right some way to join up with the rest of the para stops. As soon as we linked up word came down the line that Keith White had killed a gook carrying an FN rifle, which raised some eyebrows!

The overall assault was delayed because the main command chopper, flown by Group Captain Norman Walsh with Major Brian Robinson of the SAS in command, was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and withdrew. Eventually they returned in a new chopper. All Rhodesian aircraft involved were hit by ground fire on this operation.

09-06-2012, 05:48 AM
Lt Mike Rich recalls:

2Cdo were woken at 0300hrs on D Day, Wednesday, 23 November 1977, and drove from Grand Reef to Lake Alexander in the mountainous Eastern Highlands terrain adjacent to the Mozambique border. The vehicles arrived in the early morning light to an incredible sight. Thirty-two helicopters stood scattered on the grassy shores of the picturesque lake like a swarm of giant dragonflies. For those of us used to Fire Force deployments of four choppers, this spectacle was quite awe-inspiring.

We took off en masse, ten G-Cars carrying the 2Cdo troops; ten K-Cars; two command helicopters and ten G-Cars carrying the Support Commando troops detailed to man the forward admin base and ferry in fuel and supplies to the target area.

The flight provided us with some impressive and memorable visuals. All 32 helicopters were flying in single file through the majestic Penhalonga Mountains, some of the most magnificent terrain in the world. The troops gazed in awe at the spectacle as they leaned out of the Alouettes and looked around.

Two or three Canberras thundered low over us en route to their targets. For a few minutes there was the amazing sight of the command helicopters and the ten K-Cars peeling off in front of us to position over their allocated targets; the six paradaks dropping the 3Cdo and the SAS paratroopers; and the Hunters diving in on their targets. The air was thick with dust and smoke and the streaks of SNEB rocket trails.

As our helicopters descended, we could see the enemy fleeing towards us, away from the conflagration, and immediately upon landing we began having contacts with them. We were positioned with 6 Troop and 10 Troop on the left on the sweepline, under the command of Vernon Prinsloo and Bob Halkett respectively; my father and Simon Haarhoff in the centre; my troop, 7 Troop, were to their right, and to the far right of the commando line was Graeme Murdoch’s 8 Troop. Graeme’s men had been dropped in a single landing zone a short distance away from us, and took almost an hour to fight their way back through the retreating enemy to RV with the rest of the commando.

09-06-2012, 04:24 PM
Major Simon Haarhoff recalls:

Well before dawn the convoy left Grand Reef for Lake Alexander, which was the rendezvous (RV) point with the helicopters. When the troops arrived at Lake Alexander final checks and briefings were concluded and sticks positioned on the LZ awaiting the helicopters. The helicopters arrived as per schedule and with minimum fuss loaded up and headed out for Chimoio.

As always they kept just above treetop level and everyone was keenly watching and waiting for the start of the operation. As the helicopters flew around the northern end of the camps to position the sticks there was a great view of the start of the operation. In the centre there was a swarm of angry bees – the Air Force’s entire strike capability throwing any and every ordnance they could carry into the camp area. While this was going on the fleet of Dakotas were dropping streams of paras on the periphery of the camps. A truly remarkable sight and it filled one with awe. The helicopters were flying too low to see anything going on at ground level, so there was no indication of what may have been awaiting the sticks.

The 2Cdo sticks were dropped in a series of LZs behind a low ridge between the helicopters and the main camp areas. The orders were to move forward to the ridge, take up positions and await further orders from the commanding K-Car controlling the operation. The G-Cars left immediately they had discharged the sticks and returned to other tasks. The sticks moved on to the ridge, took up position over an area of about 300 yards and waited.

Within minutes firing started all along the line of sticks as terrs began breaking cover in front of the ridge and were picked off. It was like a badly organized turkey shoot with the Air Force as the beaters and 2Cdo as the shooters. Surprise was again complete as all the terrs were looking over their shoulders at the camp areas and the commotion caused by the Air Force.

After a relatively short time the number of terrs running into the 2Cdo position decreased as they heard the firing and realized that there were Rhodesian troops ahead. After the initial flurry it became quiet and not much action was taking place. This was not the case with the SAS and 3Cdo sticks that had dropped in and it was apparent from the command radio that a lot of action was taking place in other areas.

09-06-2012, 08:26 PM
Lt Mark Adams remembers:

On the run-in to the target Cpl Bob Smith, ex-Brit Paras, of 11 Troop was standing in the door (being the first man to jump). He turned and shouted back into the aircraft that he could see the airstrikes going in and they looked, “Fooking greeat!” Then there was the cracking sound of rounds passing close by our aircraft which tended to focus the minds of all in the Dak. The red light switched to green and we were out the door and the game was on.

My Fire Force experience made me familiar with the sounds of a single gunship firing but here we had ten. This was one big Fire Force operation. A very big one. I remember the green grass growing under the trees through which I crashed to land. It was after all November and the rains had started. The one thing learned pretty quickly on Fire Force was who and what was firing (in terms of the weapons and who was likely to be pulling the trigger) and whether it should be taken personally. What did help in this identification was that our weapons, the FN rifle and the FN MAG light machine-gun, and theirs, the AK47 assault rifle and mainly the RPD light machine- gun, made a distinctive sound when firing. To a combat seasoned ear the weapon being fired could be easily identified.

There was a lot of firing. The gunships with their 20mm cannons were letting rip. Watching the little Alouettes buck as the 20mm cannons were fired with the puffs of smoke gave a good indication why the gunners had to fire short bursts only. Fascinating. The gooks were returning fire with their AKs, and their green tracer could be seen reaching out into the sky, if the angle was right. Then there was the sound of the enemy 12.7 and 14.5mm heavy machine-guns firing, a new and ominous sound to me at the time. Then into the mix were the menacing sounds of the multiple Soviet origin RPD light machine-guns, carried by choice by C Squadron SAS who were obviously very ‘busy’. It was somewhat confusing to our RLI ears but we had to adjust our response accordingly.

On the way to the ground a number of the troopies received bullet holes in their parachutes. Luckily the gooks were not able to figure out how to lead off when aiming at this moving target of a paratrooper which was dropping and drifting at the same time.

09-07-2012, 05:48 AM
Mike Kelso - an American, now a retired CSM and member of the Ranger Hall of Fame - remembers back in the day:

“Participating in Op Dingo-Zulu One was a highlight of my career. One of the things that stand to mind was the close proximity of the close air support as we conducted the para assault. I was in Sgt Derrick Taylor’s stick and with L/Cpl Grant Hughes was an anti-tank team. Hughes carried a RPG7 (Soviet made rocket launcher) and two rockets while I carried two rockets and a Soviet AT (anti-tank) mine. We were the only two carrying rucks (rucksacks) and, of course, were the last two to exit the paradak. Most of the sticks were long gone by the time we got to the door. As my chute inflated directly overhead the Hunters and Vampires were making their gun runs. I would swear the jets were not 100 feet above my canopy. Quite a thrilling sight.”

09-07-2012, 04:04 PM
Major Jerry Strong remembers:

“As I had not jumped for a considerable time I threw rank and ensured I would be first out of the aircraft when the green light came on. Flight Sergeant Wiltshire was the Parachute Jump Instructor (PJI) and as we neared the target area he kept shouting, “It’s looking good chaps, it’s looking good!” whereupon another two or three troopies would throw up! I couldn’t wait to jump and after what seemed an eternity we were told to “stand up, hook up and check equipment”. Pretending to know what I was doing I fumbled around and shouted “number 2 OK!” and then stood to the door. As I looked around I beheld an incredible sight. The Hunters (Hawker Hunter jets) were screaming into the target area which was ablaze with fire and smoke. There was ack-ack flack exploding all around us – it was complete pandemonium and it looked just like something out of a Stephen Spielberg movie. I now really wanted to leave the aircraft in a hurry and as soon as the green light came on, I jumped. My chute opened - thankfully with no twists - and there I was floating down to Mother Earth. My surreal experience was abruptly curtailed as I suddenly realized I was being fired on by a terrorist in a tree which I had earmarked to aim for to help break my fall! I landed like a sack of potatoes nearby and was relieved to hear L/Cpl White thud into the ground next to me. As he was a machine-gunner I had ensured he was next out of the Dak after me and within seconds he had let off a short burst at the guy who had been firing at us from the tree, resulting in him coming crashing down – our first kill!”

09-08-2012, 07:54 AM
Corporal Jimmy Swan continues:

As we came over the last rise, we pulled up off the trees and broke into a circle on the outer perimeter at approximately 1,000 feet. As we looked out, it was Armageddon all over. Just flashes, smoke and miniature people running. The stench of napalm was incredible. We now had light and it was a perfect day to kill. Before we knew it, the choppers were coming in at pace, hitting the ground with some force. Already half-leaning out as we hit, we jumped down and ran for cover, expecting ground fire. We dashed into cover in our normal 360-degree formation, protecting ourselves and the choppers, who always gave us the thumbs-up on departure.

We kneeled at the ready, eyes keenly peeled and waiting for instructions to either get into stop positions or the okay to start the sweep. To our left, more choppers came in, more 2Cdo troops, and then one of my guys hissed, “Corp, check the paras.” We could only see the odd aircraft on the horizon, but like miniatures, the paras dropped from the Daks, completing the box cordon. We felt we were untouchable.

09-08-2012, 04:12 PM
Lt Mike Rich continues:

The entire day was a hectic blur of contacts, airstrikes and general mayhem. After the initial contacts with the fleeing terrs, subsequent sweepline contacts were mainly initiated at close quarters, with the gooks well hidden in thick undergrowth, huts and trenches. It seemed as though they would only fire once you were almost upon them. Clearing likely hiding places with small-arms fire and grenades was the order of the day. Amongst the chaos we had a close call when a wayward rocket from a Vampire overshot its target and landed right in front of us. Thankfully no-one was hurt.

The unique experience of fighting in action with my father cannot easily be explained. Thousands of fathers must have seen their sons off to war and feared for their safety, but I am certain that very few have literally fought shoulder to shoulder in combat with them. There was more than the occasional glance between us to see if the other was OK. My father later recounted the experience with his legendary sense of humour by commenting that he had noticed with disappointment (as a cool old hand, of course) that I tended to snatch the trigger when firing! Well, it wasn’t exactly bisley! His presence was a tonic to us all. His humour was ever present as he typically lamented the absence of tea breaks during the battle, and quickly lit up a Matinee cigarette during any pause in proceedings.

09-08-2012, 06:43 PM
Lt Mark Adams continues:

I loved the welcome and reassuring sound of our beloved FN MAG light machine- gun. In the RLI we carried one MAG in each stick of four men. In the hands of a skilled gunner the controlled bursts fired mainly from the hip were a mean and effective ‘gook killer’. As we moved forward the sounds of firing from up and down the sweepline kept up a steady rhythm. On that day hundreds of gooks found out, to their cost, that the one place you did not want to get caught was in front of an advancing SAS or RLI sweepline.

We were building up a nice momentum moving forward towards the main gate and the main camp headquarters area.

Corporal Tony Coom recalls:

“The battle found our sweepline soon and bullets started cracking around us, coming from the bush to our front. Lt Adams was full of spirit and screamed to advance and fight through and all that spirited stuff. In the confusion you just follow the crowd, double tapping (firing two quick single shots) at likely hiding places and really hoping that the idiot opposing you was more confused than you were…”

09-09-2012, 07:21 AM
While this book - Africa's Commandos - relates to the RLI, on Op Dingo 96 paras from C Squadron, SAS were involved. Their role should not be underestimated and can be found in other books.

Another extract from this book:

OPERATION DINGO: Rhodesian Raid on Chimoio and Tembue' 1977 (http://www.amazon.com/OPERATION-DINGO-Rhodesian-Chimoio-Tembue/dp/1907677364/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346754593&sr=8-1&keywords=Op+Dingo)

... The tracer fire spitting at them through the billowing smoke from the burning camps, failed to distract the six Dakota pilots as they flew their aircraft, steadily maintaining an altitude of 450 feet above ground, along their allotted sections of the dropping zone, disgorging paratroopers. Almost as they opened, the dull green parachutes floated rapidly down into the trees.

... Corporal Charlie Warren of Stop 2 and MAG gunner, Trooper Keith White, were still in the air when they came under fire from a dozen ZANLA cadres running at them. Warren drew and returned fire with his 9mm pistol. This distracted him and he did not have time to adopt the correct flex-kneed stance before hitting the ground hard. Winded, sucking for breath, he pulled his rifle free of his parachute harness and, still under fire, dived into cover. From there, he opened fire on a group running 200 metres to his front. He then linked up with Major Jeremy Strong and White, their 3 Commando officer commanding.

Although he landed safely, Trooper Mike McDonald’s parachute, snagged in a small tree, became the target for considerable fire from a bushy streambank 70 metres away across intervening flat open ground.

By contrast, Stop 1, the first down, had enjoyed a peaceful landing into the scrub, so had the last down, Stops 5 and 6, dropped along the northeastern leg. All along the five-kilometre cordon paratroopers unbuckled and cached their parachutes and formed up in their four-man sticks, with ten metres between men, ready for action. To protect their rear, Sergeant Derrick Taylor and the three men of his stick moved to mine and ambush the road to the southwest to hold up any FPLM reaction force coming to the aid of ZANLA.

Ahead of the thin line of Rhodesian troops, the Alouette K-Cars were hammering the camp complexes with short staccato bursts of cannon fire.

... The attack was not yet 15 minutes old but among the shattered buildings and burning huts lay hundreds of dead, wounded or stunned ZANLA personnel. When the Rhodesian troops reached it later, the rows of bodies lying on the parade ground reminded Lt John Cronin of a field of mown corn.


09-09-2012, 07:08 PM
Major Jerry Strong continues:

“We started to advance towards the burning buildings in the target area – but had to cross an open ploughed field to get there. In the middle was an anthill with a few thorn trees around it and from which we came under heavy fire from a 12.7 anti-aircraft gun. I immediately pretended I was a mole and desperately tried to hide myself in the ploughed furrows in which I found myself. Over the radio, I asked for air support and was given a channel and callsign to contact which I duly did. Much to my delight, I recognised the voice of the vampire pilot who answered my call for help, an old friend one Toll Janeke. After exchanging a few pleasantries I explained to him the dilemma I and my callsign were in. Instructing me to mark our position and to talk him on to the target, he duly came screaming in, rockets firing and guns blazing. The anthill disintegrated before my eyes, with bodies and gun being blown into the air – a real D-Day scenario. Our advance then proceeded uninterrupted and shortly after we successfully reached our objective.”

09-10-2012, 05:37 AM
Corporal Jimmy Swan continues:

It was dense bush, but we knew now that we were strategically surrounding an estimated 8,000-strong enemy and that their only choices were to fight, run or die. Some choppers left to refuel somewhere back on the approach route where troops and fuel were waiting, which had been para-dropped by the DC-7. The others stayed overhead to cover the ground force, now all down and awaiting instructions. The entire valley was now a war zone—small-arms and anti-aircraft fire, mortars and air strikes made it more than real. The sky was alight with tracer, ground bursts and the spit of fire from the jets as they launched their rockets or fired their 40mm cannons. And much of the fire was in fact from the terrorists directed at the aircraft. The air was already pungent with smoke and the tang of napalm. Smoke was bellowing from burning thatch and bush.

Almost immediately we got the okay from our K-car commander and we moved forward toward our targets, all ensuring we were not in front of the next stick, keeping our dressing. Slowly we crept forward, weapons at the ready with butt tucked in the shoulder, safety catch to R—eyes scanning just above the thick bush, which enhanced one’s ability to focus on objects that were not part of the bush. It was better this way, rather than looking directly for humans. Although there were 17 x four-man sticks, it was difficult to see the man next to you.

The sweep line commander called a halt and we went to ground and watched in absolute silence, camouflaged and crouched just inside a tree line facing the direction of the camps we had clearly seen prior to landing. We hoped that any escaping gooks would be running and looking upward at the aircraft and not detect us.

Then it happened as predicted—the bush in front of us opened up and they were running, in the crouch. All hell let loose as we fired into them from approximately 30 to 50 metres and they reeled back, shouting and screaming in shock and panic, some firing at us without effect … as we took them out with volleys of fire from the gunners and riflemen on both sides of me. All riflemen used the economical but effective double tap, which is accurate and always kills. They started dropping like flies and the bush was alive with movement and screams. The sounds of automatic fire from the MAG gunners and those meticulous double-taps from the riflemen were heart-warming. They tried to run back but they were being annihilated. We threw HE and white phos grenades and it was a massacre.

We ran through their position and then went to ground, awaiting the next wave. Other gooks, hearing their comrades making contact, headed off in another direction, and straight into the 2 Commando sticks on the left flank. It was full-on killing. The gooks knew if they headed back to the centre of the camp, they would be taken out by the predatory Blues (air force), so they chose to stay in the thickets of the rivers and gullies ... where we were.

09-10-2012, 01:42 PM
Canadian machine gunner Mike MacDonald continues:

We started sweeping towards the main terrorist headquarters. I sprayed a few thick bushes with clearing fire en route. We saw a G-Car land and move a few hundred yards to our northeast; I think it picked up an SAS KIA. We came across an abandoned anti-aircraft position with an intact Soviet 7.62mm-long machine-gun on a tripod in a pit next to a hut. This gun site had hundreds of empty casings so it had clearly run out of ammo, and was not destroyed by the Air Force. We burned the hut as small-arms ammo exploded inside … and we carried on. We took cover in the edge of some bush 150 yards short of camp: a totally open area with a road running across our front.

We scanned the base with binoculars but there was no sign of the enemy. A four-man stick at each end of the sweepline dashed across the open ground to take cover inside the edge of the base while covered by the rest of the para stops. If clear, the rest would come across. I was in the left-hand stick and this was to be the longest run of my life. I ran as fast as possible with all my weaponry but not as fast as I would have liked. We ran past several slit trenches with dead gooks inside them. Finally we reached the cover of the main camp with no enemy fire evident.

The rest of our para stops arrived, again with no enemy fire. We swept towards the main building area. I saw a pair of shoes on the ground with the body of the owner wedged in the fork of a tree 20 feet away; it was missing half its head from an airstrike. A few bodies lay here and there. We reached the main buildings which were somewhat burned out and one of our officers stepped gingerly inside to clear it.

09-11-2012, 09:27 PM
Corporal Tony Coom continues (about a gunship firing on own forces):

“In one instant I saw death from a gun barrel, the Christmas-tree-brilliant twinkling of the 20mm rounds exploding in the trees above me, the ground heaving from the impact of those that got through and the four guys being pole-axed to the ground.

… Lt Adams and the others did what they had to do about the machine-gun (at the main gate guard post) and I was left with the task of getting the wounded to an evacuation site.”

Lt Mark Adams continues:

The first attempt of a casevac chopper to land had to be aborted due to ground fire from gooks ahead of the sweepline. Then the whole casevac was delayed as a jet strike was needed ahead of the sweepline and the attack direction of the Vampires was directly overhead us.

Having dealt with the immediate enemy problem I had the opportunity to visit the wounded. I found C/Sgt Norman lying on his back. “They’ve taken my eye out,” he told me (in choice words to that effect). I looked down and saw blood had pooled in his right eye. A close look indicated that it was a shrapnel wound in the eyebrow that caused the bleed. Tried to reassure him, but not sure he bought it.

Coom continues:

“We again swept the area that we had come through by the guard post and hauled out the machine-gun, a 12.7mm on wheels that had opened up on us during our initial advance.”

Trooper Bruce Kidd continues,

“We passed the biggest food preparation centre known to man. The food and porridge was prepared in 210-litre drums. There must have been 20 drums in all stages of readiness. Later we found some generator sets to which we attached grenades to the working parts to render them unserviceable for future use.”

09-12-2012, 10:10 AM
Lt John Cronin (ex-USMC) continues:

We arrived at the headquarters complex from the south without incident and passed through a line of one story buildings to find 15 ZANLA lying on the grounds who had been hit close in by Golf bombs. They were quite dead. A few had not a mark on them but were completely naked, their clothes and boots having been torn off by the force of the explosions, and two had been impaled through their chests by their own weapons, but most were just completely shredded.

Of these, not one body was intact and they were nearly unrecognizable as humans, with limbs missing and their insides spattered all over the walls and trees, which themselves were full of impact holes from the bomblets. ZANLA’s headquarters was much larger than we expected and we cleared several sets of buildings before Strong gave us a 30 minute break.

It was ungodly hot, and the tension of the operation so far, along with inevitable dehydration, had given all of us massive headaches, so I took four of my men into what turned out to be a small medical hut and we sat down to brew up some tea and eat something.

The food and cool interior helped, but our heads were still raging, and it occurred to me that if this was a medical facility, then there had to be some aspirin lying around, so I scrounged through the shelves loaded with new supplies until I located a box and every one of us took four each. They had come from Finland, which I found interesting, because I had always thought that the only things that came out of that country were a pathological hatred of Russians, astronomical suicide rates and herring breath.

Cronin, John R. (2012-07-06). The Bleed (Kindle Locations 6265-6277). . Kindle Edition.

09-13-2012, 06:33 AM
The fun and games continue...

From the book: OPERATION DINGO: Rhodesian Raid on Chimoio and Tembue' 1977 (http://www.amazon.com/OPERATION-DINGO-Rhodesian-Chimoio-Tembue/dp/1907677364/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346754593&sr=8-1&keywords=Op+Dingo)

The attack was not yet 15 minutes old but among the shattered buildings and burning huts lay hundreds of dead, wounded or stunned ZANLA personnel. When the Rhodesian troops reached it later, the rows of bodies lying on the parade ground reminded ex-USMC Lt John Cronin of a field of mown corn.

Among them, however, were neither Robert Mugabe nor the ZANLA commanders, Josiah Tongogara and Rex Nhongo, something which Walls regretted when speaking to the press later. The wife of Edgar Tekere, Mugabe’s mentor (and later his opponent), survived hidden in a latrine.

Yet such was the sustained fire from the anti-aircraft gun pits that every aircraft flying low over the complex after the initial airstrike was hit. Heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Old Garage and the 88 thatched huts of the Ngangas’ (herbalists or spiritual healers) Camp prompted Walsh to order a restrike. Red 2 obliged by hammering with 30mm shells the Old Garage, its neighbouring National Stores and adjoining huts. In all, the three Hunters of Red Section had fired one thousand rounds. Blue 2 fired 45 Matra 68mm rockets at the mill at Old Stores and added a burst of 140 rounds of 30mm shells into the Ngangas’ Camp.

At 0800hrs (H+15) a large group of ZANLA cadres was spotted from the air west of Pasindina 2 Camp outside the waiting Rhodesian cordon.

Simultaneously, in the middle of the complex, just south of Chitepo College, an anti-aircraft gun opened fire on a K-Car and hit an accompanying Lynx. The Lynx turned away, heading back to Grand Reef, leaking fuel. Walsh called for a response. While two K-Cars swung across to rake Pasindina 2, Red 3 neutralized the gun and then fired rockets and his cannons at a hard core of ZANLA making a stand 200 metres south of the Chaminuka and Parirenyatwa camps and the headquarters.

09-13-2012, 12:52 PM
The Mark McLean story from:

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War – Ian Pringle (http://www.amazon.com/Dingo-Firestorm-Greatest-Battle-Rhodesian/dp/1770224289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346331395&sr=8-1&keywords=Dingo+Firestorm)

See photos in post #159 above.

Flight-Lieutenant Mark McLean’s helicopter, Alouette serial number 5037, now resembled a flying sieve; it had taken 12 hits. ‘You know when you have taken a hit, it’s a “ting” sound. A crack is just a near miss.’

Mark remembers that his technician, Finch Bellringer, was still sporting fresh wounds in his back from his last Fire Force action before Dingo, which made him ‘aware of his mortality, not overly nervous, but aware’. Then, just after 13:00, one round got much, much closer: a bullet passed right through McLean’s helmet.

‘I was in my left-hand attack orbit, and then I woke up to hear Finch Bellringer shouting, “Are you all right; are you all right?” By then, we were in a right- hand orbit. We must have flipped over into a right turn during the moment I was unconscious, or at least stunned, and Finch didn’t know what the hell was going on. He must have thought his pilot was dead.’

A bullet had entered the front of McLean’s helmet just above his right eye, smashing the visor and exiting above and behind his right ear, grazing his right temple. The bullet brought the total number of holes in the helicopter to 13, excluding the two holes in the pilot’s helmet. McLean recovered his wits enough to stabilise the helicopter; ‘It felt like I had been smacked by a prizefighter. I can only think that the resistance of the fibre in the helmet must have snapped my head to the right. It certainly gave me a savage headache, which lasted for the rest of the day. I remember the headache being worse the next morning, but that was probably more to do with the amount of beer I drank at Grand Reef that night.’

Mark McLean, sporting a huge AK-47—induced lump over his right eye, and his recently wounded technician, Finch Bellringer, bravely continued with the task of eliminating ZANLA resistance without any thought for their own discomfort or safety. McLean carried on flying his K-car, clocking a total of six hours, 40 minutes in the air that day

09-14-2012, 03:54 AM
More from: OPERATION DINGO: Rhodesian Raid on Chimoio and Tembue' 1977 (http://www.amazon.com/OPERATION-DINGO-Rhodesian-Chimoio-Tembue/dp/1907677364/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346754593&sr=8-1&keywords=Op+Dingo)

... Stop 1 was again under fire, this time from a dug-in 12.7mm DShK Soviet heavy machine gun. Summoned for support by Stop 1, K-Car K4, however, fired at moving figures through the trees’ foliage, hitting the Stop 1 stick of Colour Sergeant John Norman (commander of 11 Troop). Shrapnel peppered Norman, Neil Hooley, Paul Furstenburg, and M. Grobbler. John Norman was hit in the face. While Peter Leid, the 3 Commando medic, and Furstenburg, the stick medic, were attending to Norman, they were subjected stray rounds from a neighbouring SAS stick. Terry Hammond was hit, nearly severing his arm.

Walsh ordered a casevac by G-Car of the wounded. To cover this, at 1200hrs, a Hunter attempted to suppress the ZANLA fire in front of the troops. Lt Adams’s Stop 1 then silenced the 12.7mm machine gun and, at 1207hrs, Charles Goatley, flying a G-Car, attempted to fetch the wounded. He drew ZANLA fire and was waved off. Everything had to wait for Stop 1 to clear the area before Coom could talk Goatley in to remove the wounded to the care of Dr Webster at the admin area. Peter Leid travelled with them to tend to Hammond who was bleeding heavily. Hammond survived but was left with a bent, withered arm.

09-15-2012, 02:56 AM
Peter Petter-Boyer – who was involved in the design and development of the ordinance dropped on Chimoio - continues:

From the book - Winds of Destruction (http://www.amazon.com/Winds-Destruction-PJH-Petter-Bowyer/dp/141201204X)

When (Group Captain) Norman Walsh called me forward to inspect the air weapons effects, it was rapidly approaching the time for recovery to Rhodesia; in fact helicopters from Lake Alexander were already airborne enroute to uplift troops. It was only in the air on the short leg to Chimoio that I realized just how late it was. With so much noisy activity and so much to do, eight hours appeared to have compressed into mere minutes.

There was too little time to inspect more than a portion of an Alpha bomb strike and one site struck by Golf bombs. Nevertheless this was more than enough to let me see what I needed to see. In fact I saw more than I bargained for and the experience shook me to the very core of my being.

The four-man SAS callsign assigned to protect and assist me were clearly amused by my discomfort at being on the ground. The real fighting was over and for these men Chimoio had become a quiet environment. Not so for one who felt safest in the air. I dropped to the ground as bullets cracked overhead then raised myself sheepishly when I realized no one else had taken cover. The next time a flurry of cracks sounded around us, I remained standing when all four SAS had dropped to the ground. “Never mind sir”, said the nearest soldier “it’s the ones you don’t hear that you need to worry about.”

The airstrike effects were very troubling. Analysing weapons efficiency and counting holes in dummy targets out on a prepared site at Katanga Range was one thing. To see the same weapons’ effects on human beings was quite another. I had seen many dead Rhodesians and CT killed in Fire Force actions and had witnessed the appalling carnage on civilians blown-up by ZANLA land mines; but here I was seeing something more horrifying. Those who had been killed by the troops were greater in number, but somehow their wounds appeared to me to be so much more acceptable than those taken out by bombs.

The SAS men escorting me were used to seeing bodies mutilated by grenades, land mines and even heavy air strikes. For me it was different. An airman’s war tends to be detached. Even seeing CTs running and going down under fire seemed remote. Never again did I accept airstrike casualty numbers as a means by which to judge our air successes without remembering the horrors of what I saw at Chimoio.


It was a relief to lift off for the return flight to the Admin base and thence back to Rhodesia.

09-15-2012, 06:12 PM
Corporal Jimmy Swan continues:


We continued forward and cautiously entered the first training camp that had absorbed the initial air strikes. It was a mass of burning embers and bodies, with the sweet smell of napalm all pervasive. We ensured all sticks were in line and we watched. We had two choppers overhead and were assured any other units were not in our direct field of fire. We opened up on all the huts and any likely cover. We then advanced slowly, very aware we were heading for the bunkers, where we knew some of the gooks had scrambled into to try and hide. Suddenly our men were literally walking on hidden gooks in the undergrowth and, after nearly $hitting our pants, finished them with double taps.

Carefully we searched for bunkers. These were located and some of them were so large and so well disguised, we stopped any foolish thoughts of attempting to assault them and simply gave them the bunker bomb treatment. This was a grenade box, stuffed with one kilogram of plastic, a simple detonator and KABOOM! It had zero shrapnel but was all percussion. In a nutshell, all died. Again, you took cover and kept your mouth agape. While throwing the bomb into the bunker, the nominated person had to be very careful as he had to open the bunker vent just enough to drop the bomb in—at this time he was most vulnerable and liable to get shot. The rest of the stick lay flat on the ground as the bomber laid up on the side of the bunker, counted to two (so they could not throw it back), and quickly tossed it in before rolling clear. The shock wave was enormous.

In the first camp we came across five bunkers, cleverly camouflaged in the surrounding bush so as to be almost undetectable. The shout “Take cover!” was called by the grenade thrower and we all took heed. Once the smoke settled, in went one of the guys, simply to do the body count and remove all weapons and ammunition. We used controlled clearing tactics, rather than risk life—we fired into all remaining huts, likely cover and we killed many more terrorists. These training camps were very basic, made up of sleeping quarters and lecture ‘halls’—huts made of bamboo and timber, banana leaves and the like—and for protection the bunkers and foxholes.

By now my stick had accounted for 15 confirmed kills and all of us still in one piece. Similar figures were coming in from the sticks to our left and right, so we estimated that in four hours of sweeping 2 Commando had accounted for an estimated 120 kills. This did not include the similar figure found in camps taken out by the Air Force. A confirmed kill is one in your sights who dies from your round. Casualties found dead in a killing ground are credited as group kills or to the Blue Jobs (air force).


09-16-2012, 10:34 AM
More from Mike Kelso - Retired Ranger CSM and Ranger Hall of Fame:

“Op Dingo was also where I picked up my war trophy. The morning after the para assault we were sweeping through and burning hooches (huts). Before setting flames we searched each hooch throwing out any items we thought were of value. In several, we found cases of ammo, kit, and some medical supplies. In one of the last, I was throwing out some ammo cases when I looked next to the door frame and saw a commie holster hanging by its strap. As one of the more sought after trophies I couldn’t believe my luck. Hopefully there was a pistol in the holster. I was in luck, in the holster was a Russian Tokarev. I knew that I would not be allowed to keep the pistol and that it would end up in an NCOs or officers possession. The para-FNs (having folding butts or as the Americans say, folding stocks) we had captured came to mind. I believe Lt Adams and Cpl Coom ended up with those. That was OK but I wanted the pistol. I swiftly secured the pistol in my kit and threw the holster out to the pile of other terr kit. I received the holster after we returned back to our barracks in Salisbury. I managed to keep the Tokarev secret eventually hiding it in my luggage when I returned home to the US. After 35 years it is still in my possession and a prized remembrance of Op Dingo.”

CSM, that was 1978, I want to see you get a Tokarev through a couple of airports today. ;)

09-16-2012, 11:08 AM
I noted ex-Rh. AF veteran Peter Petter-Boyer in this passage (in Post 198), offers a rare example of reflection on the horrors of war in this thread:
The SAS men escorting me were used to seeing bodies mutilated by grenades, land mines and even heavy air strikes. For me it was different. An airman’s war tends to be detached. Even seeing CTs running and going down under fire seemed remote. Never again did I accept airstrike casualty numbers as a means by which to judge our air successes without remembering the horrors of what I saw at Chimoio.

It is also interesting as the Rh. AF was credited at the end of the war as having the better strategic viewpoint, alongside being technical proficient.

Not read much, aside from SWC and links therein, on Rhodesia for many years, although I have a shelf of books - so I am enjoying this thread. As the viewing figures show so are many others.

09-17-2012, 09:02 AM
Simon Haarhoff continues:

The sweep line then moved through the vlei area with considerably reduced resistance and claimed a number of kills before emerging on the other side. By this time the 2Cdo sticks were getting into the camp areas and evidence of habitation was all around. As the commando moved through, many buildings and weapons were destroyed, but this was in passing as we needed to continue the sweep. Around early afternoon the commando was sweeping in extended line using a well-defined track as the axis of advance when the left flank came under fire from close range. Good infantry training kicked in as the IA drill “Enemy left, charge” was ordered by the officer in charge of the left. The sticks on the left immediately charged towards the fire, firing as they moved. Fortunately it became apparent very quickly that the ‘enemy left’ was in fact elements of 3Cdo, who had seen movement through the bush, thought it was terrs and opened fire. One 3Cdo troopie was slightly wounded and had to be casevaced.

How that developed... Canadian, Mike McDonald again:

About 500 yards away to the north in some thick green scrub a lone gook kept taking potshots at every aircraft that passed nearby. The gook kept this up for some time.

Lt Mark Adams picks it up:

While regrouping at the headquarters a lone gook fired the odd shot in our direction from a clump of trees downhill from the where we were. I instructed my men to go to the other side of the main building and out of the line of fire. Major Jerry Strong tasked me off to deal with the gook with the death wish. I did it myself rather than delegate and took only my stick. Our approach was across a bare maize field. I placed Donnelly with his gun at a convenient anthill. The three of us swung round further to the left to get as close to 90 degrees to the supporting fire as possible, which was all good School of Infantry stuff. I gave Donnelly the signal to open fire and we approached at a brisk pace. Then we broke into a run. Donnelly stopped firing when we got close to his line of fire. I shouted, “BULLETS” and we stopped and fired into the trees. Then, “CHARGE”, then “BULLETS” again, and so on until we were into the trees at a gallop. Donnelly then ran up to join us.

The trees hid a small clay-pit used for making bricks. Inside were a number of bodies, most probably the result of gunship attention earlier in the day. Our gook got his wish and was at the death-rattle stage when we came across him. We worked through the clay-pit making sure that no one in the pit would be a potential source of future irritation to us. Ahead of me the edge of the pit was low enough to step out of while the others were faced with a chest-high depth. I climbed out and fired into some scrub ahead of me to clear it. That’s when the $hit hit the fan.

09-17-2012, 06:57 PM

The Rhodesian Light Infantry: Africa’s Commandos. By Mark Adams and Chris Cocks (Boksburg Industrial: RLI Regimental Association, 2012. Pp. 320.)

During the short lived British Commonwealth Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland several military units were formed in the 1960s that would feature in the subsequent Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Southern Rhodesia and the ensuing Bush War between 1966 and 1979. One was the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI), an all-white regular regiment formed to balance the black manned Rhodesian African Rifles. Other units established at the same time were a Special Air Service (SAS) Squadron and an armored car squadron. These regular units backed up the part time reserve and militia Rhodesia Regiment. Bear in mind that the Federation had a colonial police force, the British South African Police, which was larger than its armed forces. Federation army and air force units augmented the British Empire and Commonwealth commands in the various post World War II conflicts of “national liberation.” They also saw combat service as part of the independence struggles of southern Africa from Portugal, Great Britain, and South Africa.

The regiment had a single battalion with supporting establishment and soon adopted a “commando” or light infantry role as the best means to accomplish its mission as a force in readiness. This included intensive training in the use of helicopters and parachutes for “vertical” envelopment as a quick reaction element. Emphasis was placed on the integration of small units, with superior communications, supported by close air support to close with and destroy terrorist and guerillas. Manned by volunteers, conscription from national service requirements provided most enlistees. These “troopies” also reflected the values and vices of their society as the war went on and younger and younger men were called up. A foreign element was present from the beginning to make up for a lack of qualified local manpower bringing experience from other Cold War conflicts including personnel from South Africa, Great Britain, and America. These provided an outspoken, if not always the most skilled participants, which the native Rhodesians tolerated. One result was that the post war narrative was dominated by the more controversial views or opinions from those with the least to lose from the conflict. This book makes up for this with the authentic voices of its regimental members. As someone who had followed the conflict and the RLI for some forty years, this book is something new. Previous “unit histories” were published in 1977 and 2007. This is a departure from those with a collection of interviews, or oral histories, by veterans.

Oral histories, particularly those well after the events in question, need to be considered critically in conjunction with contemporary documents and narratives. For most individuals it takes years or decades to find the words to describe their experience with more eloquence than they commanded at the time the actions occurred. As a result, memoirs are long on subjective experience and can be short on facts. It also means you are dealing with those compelled to tell their story, regardless of significance. The “quiet professionals” are often left out. But these circumstances provide grist for the trained historian rather than the soldier. Even so, this is a valuable book with contributions that would otherwise have been ignored as the former government of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) has no one to tell the story. For professional soldiers, historians, and the public this is a good read. The ouens have the last word!

For example, there are the seven evocative accounts from the November 1977 Operations Dingo. This raid occurred at two locations respectively 90 (Objective Zulu 1) and 200 kilometers (Objective Zulu 2) inside of Mozambique. A force of 184 RLI and SAS troops on the ground, supported by air force fighters, gunships, and transports took on an enemy force of 7,000. This air and ground attack on the guerilla bases at Chimoio and Tembue netted the largest “bag” of enemy kills of the war through daring and aggression. At the time, there were an estimated 1,200 enemy dead with total casualty counts up to 5,000 based on camp occupancy at the time. The eyewitness narration of these events brings life to the historical narrative.

The text is arranged in three chronological parts. Each entry is preceded by a “postage stamp” photo and brief biography of the narrator. It includes a glossary and appendixes. Maps and images illustrate, but do not dominate the text. While a regimental publication, professional editing and design came from 30 Degrees South’s Chris and Kerrin Cocks. Graphic and editorial support was provided by Dr. J.R.T. and Carole Wood. Both authors Mark Adams and Cocks served with “The Saints” and are active in the RLI regimental association in South Africa. Profits from sales will go to the association. The book is available through direct sales.

Charles D. Melson, chief historian USMC.

09-18-2012, 11:53 AM
Bruce Kidd continues:

“I must say that was one of the most aggressive firefights I have experienced. The reason for that was soon to be understood. We had met another RLI sub unit. Mr Adams recognized the ‘crack and thump’ was from an FN and not the terrorist-used AK. Donnelly was shot in the shoulder. Mr Adams realized we were returning friendly fire. He immediately executed a tactical withdrawal. One at a time as I recollect, Mr Adams being the last to withdraw back to cover and out of the killing area.”
Note: in the British tradition a subaltern - lieutenant or 2nd lieutenant - would be referred to as 'mister' and addressed as Mr So-and-so, sir.

LtMike Rich continues:

Well into the afternoon, a ‘friendly fire’ contact took place in which 8 Troop, on our right flank, mistook 3Cdo’s left flank for gooks. During this fortunately brief engagement, Peter Donnelly of 3Cdo was unfortunately wounded. Sergeant Fraser Brown of 8 Troop, who was a good friend of Donnelly’s, was later to be seen proudly sporting a T-shirt which read I Shot Pete Donnelly!

After the action, and back in the forward admin area, Lt Mark Adams of 3Cdo gave Lt Graeme Murdoch a good bollocking when Graeme went over to apologize for the incident, which he then tempered with the compliment that he had never before been under such accurate fire, and had conducted his radio calls for assistance with his cheek pressed tightly to the ground so as to keep his head profile as low as possible!

Lt Adams continues:

A gunship came overhead and both 2 Cdo and I threw smoke. We were told we were 30 metres apart. Great. Donnelly was walking wounded so we pulled back to the headquarters area. Donnelly was casevaced. Thankfully Kidd and McLennan were OK. I made a cup of tea and chain-smoked a few cigarettes. It was one of those moments when one just shakes one’s head. That was just too close for comfort.

Lt Greame Murdoch has recalled:

“…Mark Adams was on Op Dingo and 2Cdo tried very hard that day to do our Christian duty and despatch him to his maker – much to his annoyance!” And more seriously, “When we met up with Mark Adams in the Forward Admin Area that evening Lt Vernon Prinsloo and I had very sheepishly approached an all-too-senior Mark Adams to apologize for the incident earlier in the day and after he had finished tearing the proverbial second arsehole in both of our junior rear ends, he did compliment us on the quality of our shooting.”

And finally from Mark Adams:

As soldiers are and have been since time immemorial it did not take long before a small group of 2 Cdo troopies, led I am told by Sgt Fraser Brown, produced and started wearing ‘I shot Peter Donnelly’ T-shirts. What can I say?

...oh yes and finally from Major Simon Haarhoff:

... So how many had 2Cdo accounted for? An accurate number was impossible as, unlike operations inside Rhodesia where the troops would follow up and hunt down all terrs engaged, this was an operation where the enemy was engaged and routed and the troops did not stop to take body counts. All the 2Cdo troops were polled as to how many had been killed and the best guess was about 150 confirmed and with true troopie humour – “don’t forget the one 3Cdo oke wounded”.

09-19-2012, 10:01 AM
Corporal Jimmy Swan continues:

We entered Camp 2 and, again, more devastation. We looked to the high ground to our west and there seemed a line of ants moving out. How they got through, who knows, but we had no time or energy to go after them. Our task was within. As we scanned and searched for ammo dumps and bunkers, we heard the distinctive pop of mortars and then all hell broke loose on the outer perimeter of the camp. A large group of well-trained and heavily armed gooks had engaged the sticks on the one flank. Two RPG-7 missiles came right over us and exploded in the dense bush. It is a distinctive sound. There is the initial explosion as it leaves the launcher and it is terrifying as it passes over you, then hits and explodes. It has armour-piercing ability and is very mean.

We swung round to support the flanks and moved forward to join the fight. I picked out two distinct, irregular shapes near an anthill and gave them each two shots, hitting two gooks in ambush position. Both died with muffled grunts. We confirmed further kills, about 14 this time. We all converged on the centre of the second camp, which was basically a continuation of the first, but had its own command hut. We then got the troops into all-round defence while the stick commanders had a meeting. In the interim, selected men went through the camp searching for bunkers and destroying them. We were all smiles, in spite of the cuts and bruises and grime. We had a water break, had a quick tin of bully beef and took stock.

... We then continued toward our final target—the CQ stores on the western side of the main parade ground. The killing continued, but with little resistance and basically it was now down to a clean-up operation—flatten the camps, blow up bunkers and weapons, burn and blow up ammo dumps, anti-aircraft positions and mortar positions. Water and food supplies were destroyed as well as, unfortunately, livestock, with some cattle having been killed in the battle.

We could make out our other forces moving in the distance. Then we got the message we had all been waiting for—get to clearings for chopper uplift. We are going home. We passed the message on to the troops and there was much joy. We made or way to our respective LZs and awaited uplift. This was a major task for the Alouettes. We sat in the crouch, I talked the chopper in, we climbed in, patted the pilot and tech and then we were up and airborne heading home to Rhodesia.

09-19-2012, 06:38 PM
A frame from a poor quality super8 film:


From the book:

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War (http://www.amazon.com/Dingo-Firestorm-Greatest-Battle-Rhodesian/dp/1770224289)

09-20-2012, 06:19 AM
Canadian machine gunner Mike McDonald continues:

The main headquarters area was then cleared. There were two rows of round huts running north-south on the eastern side of camp. East of us was a large field, then some woods running north-south on the far side. Most of the base inhabitants had fled to these woods where the SAS were currently sweeping through with plenty of skirmishes going on.

Our stick cleared the row of huts on the eastern side. My MAG was too unwieldy so I rested it on its bipod nearby and used my pistol for hut-clearing. Most huts contained a bed, a table and a wardrobe. With Soviet uniforms lying all around, these were probably the Soviet advisors’ quarters. A G-Car landed with Special Branch and a prisoner to give us a guided tour. We made a large pile of captured material nearby.

I placed a brand new folding-butt AK-47 in the pile which was quickly snatched up by a chopper pilot for his personal defence. I’m glad he got it. I placed a briefcase full of documents on the pile and several more trips with goodies, including a few empty holsters, stacked up the pile. I cleared more huts and scored a fancy Oris watch for myself off a side-table, but I was still mindful of the anti-looting order. I had to shoot the padlocks off some huts to enter. No gooks were found lurking in any huts.

Our huts cleared, we took up defensive position northeast of the HQ area. To our north were a bayonet-practice range and some large fields. About 500 yards away to the north in some thick green scrub a lone gook kept taking potshots at every aircraft that passed nearby. I wished I had a captured AK with several magazines so I could blast away at him. The gook did this for a couple of hours actually. I was conserving my own ammo as we were still far from home and might get an angry response from the nearby Frente de Libertaçao de Moçambique (FRELIMO) garrisons.

Several times we came under fire from the woods, plus took a few stray shots from the SAS skirmishes. We hugged the ground, looking around anxiously, then a few minutes later were back to sitting around. Same routine every 15 to 20 minutes. I was starting to wonder who had shot at us more today: gooks or SAS?

A terrorist armed with a Soviet SKS rifle with bayonet extended appeared out of the dead ground to our east, running flat-out straight towards us, away from the SAS. I grabbed my MAG and fired a single burst as two other soldiers fired double taps at him. Simultaneously he dropped dead 15 yards from us. Two of us ran over to him and I gave his SKS to a trooper to clear while I checked his body. I kept his fancy necklace, a wooden medallion two inches in diameter carved on both sides, which I still have today.

Now obviously not all our rounds hit the target and a couple went into the woods beyond. The SAS guys whined for months afterwards how the RLI fired on them at Chimoio. SAS ouens (men): you’re great soldiers and we love you like brothers but get over it. (PS I fired some of those rounds.)

09-20-2012, 03:32 PM
Lt Mike Rich continues:

We were amongst the final load out of the admin base late in the day and were witness to some impressive formation flying by the 7 Squadron pilots as we flew triumphantly into Grand Reef airfield that evening.

Remarkably, despite the odds, the Rhodesians had only suffered one dead and a handful of wounded. By contrast, literally thousands of terrorists were killed and wounded that day. The commando drove back to New Sarum and were placed ‘in quarantine’ until the Tembue raid two days later, where 2Cdo had a supporting role, with Simon Haarhoff and I manning the admin base on the Mozambican mountain feature known as ‘The Train’, and Vernon Prinsloo and Graeme Murdoch parachuting from a DC7 into the forward admin base north of Cabora Bassa.

All these years later, I occasionally contemplate that remarkable day, and the motivation behind my father taking the incredible risk that he did by joining his men on the ground for what he was well aware was potentially the most dangerous mission of the war. Was it to give his men courage in the face of bewildering odds in the tradition of great leadership, or simply to be with me at this critical time – perhaps the ultimate display of a father’s love for a son? Sadly, he died tragically in 1982 before I was mature enough to fully understand the great significance of what he did that day. No matter. He was a remarkable soldier and a man who will always be remembered with great respect, admiration and fondness by the men who were fortunate enough to have served with him. I am privileged to be one of them.

09-21-2012, 01:58 PM
Corporal Jimmy Swan continues:

Still flying low to avoid gooks opening upon us on the way out, we relaxed. We looked back at Chimoio and it was simply gone. We were crossing Chicamba Dam and suddenly our pilot stated we had taken ground fire, he had minimal control and that he would land on a small grass island in the middle of this lake, right below us. We came down, extremely vulnerable. Our ammo was in short supply and if we came under attack we would be in trouble. Watching our buddies flying away was just not good. We landed okay and took up positions around the chopper while I met with the pilot and tech. We had taken two rounds at some stage and the aircraft was now inoperable. To be honest, our ears were still ringing so we hadn’t heard a damned thing. We now faced a dilemma—do we destroy the aircraft or wait for spares? It was getting late and we were worried. Finally, in came Father Christmas in the form of a chopper with some parts and 30 minutes later we were airborne and, with some overhead protection, we headed for home. We flew all the way back to Salisbury and landed at New Sarum.

We were dirty, tired and basically worn out. Our equipment was in a tatty state. We washed up and were then immediately informed of our next raid. We were locked up in the hangars and the briefings began …

09-22-2012, 06:00 AM
Major Simon Haarhoff continues:

Shortly after reaching the assembly area and regurgitating the war stories to anyone who would listen the 2Cdo troops were uplifted by helicopter and returned to Lake Alexander for redeployment on Zulu 2. Somewhat unwelcome at Lake Alexander was the posse of Special Branch people who were checking for any trophies that might have been picked up and brought home – needless to say the troops were very pissed off by this and compliments were not the order of the day.

2Cdo were reunited with their vehicles and reserve personnel, replenished ammo and equipment and immediately set out to position for the second phase of Op Dingo – the attack on Tembue.

Canadian machine gunner Mike McDonald:

We were very glad to get back on Rhodesian soil.

... No rest for the wicked. We were briefed immediately about another raid on a ZANLA base at Tembué codenamed Zulu 2 and were resupplied. For Zulu 2, 48 RLI Support Commando paratroopers were on the assault with the SAS. Forty-eight 3Cdo paratroopers went to Mt Darwin as the emergency backup force. At Mt Darwin we donned parachutes at 0800hrs and waited to be called. Two Dakotas came straight there from dropping their first load of paratroopers, refuelled and waited with us. At 1000hrs we took off our parachutes but waited nearby in case we were summoned but we were never required.

Many years later back home in Canada I checked the archives of the public library for the newspapers during the time of the Chimoio raids. These historic raids had made the front pages of newspapers around the world. Sadly though, the ZANLA bull$hit terrorist propaganda version of ‘an agricultural training centre for refugees’ made bigger headlines and received bigger coverage than the official Rhodesian communiqué printed beside it.

It was one of the highlights of my military career to have been part of this operation.

09-22-2012, 06:29 AM
Thank to the Freedom of Information Act - UK the following telexs from the British Ambassador to Mozambique are now available:


Note: the gallant Mozambique forces did not arrive until two days later to "resist".

Then this gem:


Note: One wonders who these "independent eyewitness accounts" came from? Maybe also arrived a few days later after the site had been suitably "prepared"?

Also it calls into question the competence of the British Embassy and intelligence services in terms of knowing what was actually happening on the ground in Mozambique.


09-22-2012, 11:30 PM
Op Dingo - Chimoio



09-24-2012, 09:03 AM
"Refugees" at work at Chimoio:


From the book: Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War (http://www.amazon.com/Dingo-Firestorm-Greatest-Battle-Rhodesian/dp/1770224289)

09-24-2012, 03:01 PM
Operation Dingo
Zulu 2 – the attack on Tembue base, Mozambique, 26 November 1977

“Zulu 2 would test inter-service dependence way beyond the experience of any of its participants”, Major Nigel Henson.

At briefings on 20 and 21 of November 1977, senior Planning and Command officers Major Robinson of the Special Air Service (SAS) and Group Captain Walsh of the Air Force, whilst giving detailed attention to Zulu 1 (the attack on New Farm - Chimoio), made reference to another target that would probably be engaged (depending on the outcome of Zulu l) on an enemy location and at a time provisionally given as 26 November.

Once Zulu 1 was concluded and all the troops and aircraft recovered from Mozambique, detailed attention was turned to Zulu 2, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) base north of Lake Cabora Bassa in Mozambique. Considerable planning had already been done, but the final detail and its specifics had not been divulged to the troops and airmen involved. All was revealed at briefings held at New Sarum Air Base and at the SAS model room on 25 November. All the troops involved had been ‘quarantined’ within the confines of New Sarum since their return and had set up temporary camps on the base sports fields.

The target
Tembue base was situated some 200km from Rhodesia’s northern border, across the Cabora Bassa Lake in the Tete province of Mozambique. This base was ZANLA’s Tete Province High Command and also the location of their training and specialist skills centres. The complex known as Tembue was in fact three fortified mud hut locations complete with trench and bunker systems spread along the banks of the Luia River: Camp A covering an area of some 3.5sq km populated by about 1,000 trainees in simple shelters; Camp B some 8km to the south was of the same dimensions and housed about 500 trained insurgents undergoing skills training, and Camp C 1km further south occupied by 150 trained personnel awaiting deployment into Rhodesia. Various AA (anti-aircraft) weapons (12.7 and 14.5mm heavy machine-guns) were located in Camps B and C as were some 81mm mortar and 75mm recoilless rifle positions.

The Forças Populares para o Libertaçao de Moçambique (FPLM) presence (about 10 troops in each camp) could be supported by 1,250 additional troops within a six-hour reaction time. These FPLM forces had the capability of deploying SAM 7 missiles, various Soviet APCs and heavy mortars.

09-25-2012, 09:17 AM
Tembue : the raid - 26 November 1977


09-25-2012, 02:43 PM
Tembue continued:

The plan
Using the same modus operandi as Zulu 1, Zulu 2 would be para-boxed on four sides (as per figure 1) shortly after the camps had been attacked by Hunters (two on each camp) and bombed by Canberra (Camp B). Concurrent with the paradrop after this bombing, eight K-Cars would attack opportunity targets from orbit (as indicated in figure 1).

Once the air assets had stabilized the target, the paratroops, under Airborne Control, would conduct sweeps and destroy operations in Camps B and C supported where necessary by K-Car and Lynx aircraft.

Gathering the parachutes would conclude the operation and thereafter all troops in the target area and admin bases would be backloaded by helicopter to Rhodesia.

In order to support the operation, two admin bases (Zulu 1 had only one) would be established, one close to the target and the other on a feature known as ‘The Train’ (because its profile view resembled a train with coaches), on the southern shore of Lake Cabora Bassa. In addition, a further admin base was necessary just inside Rhodesia at the remote Chiswiti airfield.

Whilst Zulu 1 and Zulu 2 operations might be considered as similar, there were some essential differences:

Zulu 1 has always been viewed as the ‘glamour’ operation and Zulu 2 as almost an afterthought because of the number of enemy involved (i.e.10,000 vs 1,500); Zulu 1 was first of a type, and was the blueprint (with very little modification) for any subsequent operations. Very little was changed when Zulu 2 was launched.

However, whilst Zulu 1 was a ‘harder’ target, Zulu 2 was a far more complex undertaking for many reasons: sheer distance when operating light payload helicopters of limited endurance made the operation more hazardous; 15 minutes of flying would be over water, a flight not to be undertaken lightly in a single-engine aircraft; access to anything but the most basic of medical attention (drip, morphine, field dressing) was over two hours’ flying time away.

The enormity of the logistical problem becomes apparent when one contemplates the helicopter fuel problem, particularly at the Forward Admin Base. Failure for any reason to deliver the paradrop fuel would result in 30 ‘dry’ helicopters, and many troops left without intimate air support, no casevac/medivac and no means of extraction; backloading of troops and equipment required about 66 hours of helicopter trooping time on Zulu 1. This figure was in excess of 140 hours for Zulu 2; adverse weather en route or over the target area would have played havoc with the execution of the plan.

Thus, every phase of the operation left no margin for error or for any gremlins. Indeed, commitment had been made far past the point of no return. The time and space problems of Zulu 2 would test inter-service dependence beyond any experience the participants could have ever contemplated.

09-26-2012, 02:05 AM
Corporal Jimmy Swan:

I was again in the thick of the action at Tembue. 2 Commando (2Cdo) as a whole unit would jump from the DC-7 and act as stop groups and mortar teams for the main assault, made up of Support Commando, 1 Commando and the Special Air Service (SAS). Coming with us on the DC-7 would be the fuel supply for the choppers. According to the briefing, Tembue was a smaller camp. We expected to encounter many of the gooks who had escaped the Chimoio raid. They would be demoralized and exhausted.

The huge plane would be used to deploy the commandos, all with 50-kilogram CSPEPs, packed with mortars, mines, spare ammo and the like. The plane was totally stripped down to form a huge hollow cylinder and would deploy 70 men, 50 drums of chopper fuel, and more. It would be a dispatcher’s nightmare. We were still reeling from Chimoio and all we wanted to do was get to the pub and drink ourselves stupid. While we packed our containers and re-established our tasks, we wiped the mud and blood off our webbing and nurtured the blisters and cuts from the Chimoio raid. We simply looked at one another, cracked jokes and pumped ourselves full with extra-sweet tea and the favourite beans and franks … cold. We kitted up and slept with our parachutes.

We were woken at 0300hrs and gulped down hot coffee and sandwiches. We had the final briefing and kitted up. The CSPEP containers were large and clumsy. Each man was carrying heavy and hence most uncomfortable. We moved in single file onto the plane, which was dimly lit. We had already fitted our ’chutes and strapped our weapons. We dragged the containers and finally we sat in discomfort in our positions. The fuel and other supplies had been loaded beforehand; hence we would land first and secure the dropping zone (DZ) for the later supplies.

We took off before first light from the long New Sarum airstrip and headed for our target, just past The Train, being the mountain range in Porkos (Mozambique) with which we were all too well acquainted. We flew low to avoid ground fire. The dim lights in the plane allowed us to just see our buddies and equipment. We crossed the border and could see the choppers and other aircraft falling in below.

Then we felt the increase in altitude in a sudden upward movement and we knew we were over the DZ area. By now the jets had commenced their attack. We were told to “Stand up, hook up and check equipment”. The dispatchers moved through the sticks, doing their final checks. Then we moved forward in the famous two-step, shuffling clumsily with the weight of equipment. We were up and ready, packed close together. I could see the trees clearly below. Then the command to stand in the door. “ONE TWO” is the chorus from the entire plane as our first man stands in the door, part of his body protruding into the slipstream. The dispatchers look up at the light and we all take a deep breath. Now the pilots are turning sharply and heading for the DZ. Taking ground fire now could be deadly as we are packed like sardines, and surrounded with drums of fuel. It would just take one tracer …

09-26-2012, 07:25 AM
Tembue the attack:

The weather was clear when the attacks went in. At 0800 hours, Red Section reported: “On target. Red 2 on target.”

Blue section reported: “On target.”

At the same time the Vampires reported: “Time over target in one minute.”
But for some unknown reason the usual morning muster parade had not occurred, which meant that the majority of the occupants escaped the aerial holocaust when it struck. The ground troops—Stops 1 to 6—were dropped. Robinson checked them out. There was one minor jump casualty. The camp was virtually surrounded with Stop 6 closing the gap between itself and Stop 1. K-car 2 reported fire coming from the area of the garage. Robinson ordered Stops 4 and 5 to move forward to the river. Stops 1 and 2 were ordered to move to the road. A mere 48 minutes after the initial attack and obviously expecting great things given the Chimoio results, ComOps inquired of Robinson: “Can you estimate Charlie Tango casualties yet?”

K-car 1A reported many trenches and bunkers in Camp C. Robinson now ordered Stop 1 to sweep northward.

A minute later K-car 2 came on: “Southwest of Bravo—have killed many CTs—require additional assistance.”

K-car 4 came into the action, directed by K-car 2: “Open fire now. CTs at base of every tree.”

Stop 6 called for a strike on target F. Robinson told them to mark the target with smoke. Then: “Are you clear? Yes? Stand by. FLOT marked.”

Two minutes later Air Force c/s Label 2 reported: “On target.”

K-car 4 requested: “Put more strikes in.”

K-car 2 came forward: “Will mark. Label 2—hold off.”

Robinson ordered Stop 1 to move in after the strike. Both RLI Stops 1 and 2, under covering fire from 3 and 6 were directed to sweep through the complexes. Having done so, Robinson ordered them to sweep through the camp area at C and toward the river where Stops 4 and 5 were in an ambushing stop line. Here Major Mick Graham, the alternate airborne commander, instructed Stops 4 and 5 to “watch and shoot”.

There was a flurry of enemy movement as the ZANLA cadres ran wildly, anywhere, seeking escape. Stop 4 was in contact. K-car 2A was ordered to support Stops 1 and 2 as many insurgents were seen moving toward them. Graham asked K-car 3 to support Stop 6 as they swept through. Stop 1 now shook out into extended line and began to sweep systematically northward. Ten minutes later, they came up against several insurgents whom they dispatched in a series of fire fights. They fought through, continuing the sweep northward towards Stop 2’s position in the middle of B. They were again engaged by insurgents.

Robinson relayed to Stop 4: “Stop 1 still having contacts. Hold where you are.”

K-car 3 coming up to support Stop 1: “Stop! Romeo 3—Charlie Tango lying down just in front of you.”

At 1044 hours, Stop 1 began to enter area B. Here they joined Stop 2 and compared notes. Stop 1 advised Robinson: “Stop 1 killed 25. Stop 2 killed 45 on move up to Bravo. Not many dead in Bravo.”

Stop 4 came on: “Killed 80 at Camp Alpha—still killing.” Later followed by: “Have located camp office. Can we have Sierra Bravo?”

SAS Stop 6, still at camp F, reported killing 23 and capturing one. They appeared to be in a receiving and controlling centre. They requested Special Branch to come in and have a look.

Stop 1 began to sweep the western side of B where they arrived at some huts and found interesting documents. An SB party moved up to investigate. Further documents indicated a magazine in area C or B. Stop 1 moved forward and was involved in further contacts. It was obviously thirsty work because 20 minutes later they asked for more ammunition and water. They blew up a munitions dump after which they were joined by Stop 2 and cleared Camp B. Robinson told Stop 3 to link up with them and then ordered all three to move to the LZ. Stop 5 had found a large arms cache, including 75mm and 82mm mortars, grenades and much ammunition and got busy setting up demolition explosives. At 1445 hours they reported the demolition complete.

At the camp office Stop 4 requested: “Require G-car to uplift documents plus two prisoners. Killed 150 in Camp Alpha.”

Three 12.7 anti-aircraft guns were found, one damaged by the air strike. Both serviceable guns were dismantled and uplifted.

At 1450 hours the energetic Stop 4 came back on air: “Captured ter maintains 1,000 Charlie Tangos left last night for another camp to the north and another 500 to Bene in the south. Require replacement K-car as still sweeping the area and still finding Charlie Tangos. Estimate further 45 minutes to one hour to complete task.”

The reason the camp had been ‘under-populated’ by ZANLA that morning was now explained. Wasting no time Walsh got on to ComOps: “Have located new camp at Victor Uniform 815688. Permission to take out?”

He had a reply in less than 3 minutes: “Okay, given to take out new camp.”


09-26-2012, 04:02 PM
Major Simon Haarhoff on the Tembue raid:

2Cdo’s role in Zulu 2 was hard work and not very exciting. The commando moved by vehicle to Mukumbura in the north of the country and close to the Mozambique border. At the Mukumbura airfield five sticks (20 troops) under the command of Major Simon Haarhoff were uplifted by helicopter and dropped on The Train late afternoon. Lt Col Peter Rich had declined to join 2Cdo again as he saw no fun in cutting LZs and manhandling 44-gallon drums of AVTUR around the top of a mountain. That’s why he was the CO, a wise man!

2Cdo’s task was to prepare an LZ on the eastern end of The Train to accommodate five Alouette III helicopters at a time. In addition 44-gallon drums of AVTUR were to be dropped by parachute on to The Train and these had to be positioned on the LZ so the helicopters could refuel.

Most of the first night on The Train was spent cutting the LZ and preparing that for the first wave of helicopters in the morning. The foliage on top of The Train consisted of a few stunted trees and multitudes of bushes that had two- to three-inch thick branches that were very whippy and strong. As soon as the troops started to clear the LZ it became apparent that our equipment was woefully inadequate for the task. Army issue pangas with blunt edges just were not able to cut the branches of the bushes, let alone the trees.

However, the troops went at it with a will and open spaces soon began appearing. The other challenge was that, despite The Train looking flat as a table from afar, it was far from flat at close range. So there was not enough contiguous level ground to allow for a five-helicopter LZ, resulting in three separate areas being chosen as the LZs. When the progress with pangas became too slow and tedious, the well-known LZ creator - the 7.62mm FN chainsaw - was brought into action and a number of the larger trees and bushes were cleared using this cunning device. It took most of the night to complete clearing the LZs and to mark them up for the arrival of helicopters shortly after first light the next day. In addition to clearing the LZs the troops had to manhandle the AVTUR drums into position, no mean task over the rough terrain on The Train.

All was ready for the first helicopters and for the next two days the 2Cdo troops received and dispatched helicopters to and from The Train. In inimitable Blue Job fashion hot tea was expected with all arrivals and departures. As helicopters and then troops started filtering back to Rhodesia via The Train it became apparent that the attack on Tembue had not achieved what it set out to do. There were considerably less terrs in the camp than expected and the reason for this was not clear. Had they got wind of the pending attack after the Chimoio raid, or was it just the luck of the draw that there were far fewer than expected? The old adage of first in, last out applied to 2Cdo and when all the troops had been extracted from Mozambique the 2Cdo force was helicoptered back to Mukumbura after all equipment on The Train had either been recovered or destroyed.

At Mukumbura the 2Cdo sticks were reunited with the remainder of the commando and moved back to Salisbury for the night. Next day, after replenishing ammo and equipment, they departed again for Grand Reef to resume duties as Fire Force, Grand Reef. A very hectic few days followed with moments of frantic action interspersed with periods of boredom, in true Army fashion. No casualties were a bonus and not what was anticipated when the briefing was given of approximately 8,000 armed terrs in Chimoio. A good op.

09-27-2012, 03:55 PM
Tembue continued:

Zulu 2 and the RLI


The RLI played a significant part in Zulu 2. The 136 troops involved were committed as follows:

Assault: 48 troops ex Support Commando (Sp Cdo) in two para stops commanded overall by Major Henson with Lieutenants (Lts) Webb and Jackson as stop commanders.

Forward Admin Area: 16 protection troops supplied by 2 Commando (2Cdo) and parachuted into position together with 60 drums of fuel from a DC7.

On The Train: 16 troops commanded by Major Haaroff with 2 x 60mm mortars.
(The "Train" was a large isolated flat-topped feature which resembled a train when viewed in profile.)

Chiswiti: 20 Sp Cdo troops with 81mm mortars commanded by Captain (Capt) Buttenshaw. The RLI CCP was also positioned there.

Mt Darwin: 36 para reserve troops from 3Cdo at battle readiness.

D-Day: 26 November 1977
The day dawned clear across the northern part of Rhodesia, the route to the target, and the target itself. The short-term forecast was for later thunderstorms across the affected area in late afternoon and early evening. One concern had been removed from all commanders’ minds - weather would play no part in preventing the plan from proceeding.

Across the various staging posts/departure points, activity was frenetic. We now follow developments as they occurred:

Corporal (Cpl) Jimmy Swan, 2Cdo (Forward Admin Area): “We were woken at New Sarum at about 0300hrs. We gulped down some coffee and kitted up. We carried CSPEP containers and boarded the DC7, the fuel and other supplies having been loaded earlier”.

At 0510hrs, ten Alouettes lifted off from Mt Darwin for The Train via Chiswiti, carrying 16 RLI and nine drums of fuel. At 0555hrs, eight K-Cars and the command helicopter left Mt Darwin for The Train to refuel before tackling the long trip to the target.

Meanwhile, back at New Sarum the 144 paras were kitting up. “There were 48 men from Sp Cdo”, recalls Second-Lieutenant (2Lt) Neill Jackson, “Stop One commanded by Mike Webb with Major Nigel Henson also in his stick, and Stop Two commanded by myself.”

Major Henson remembers a long (un-officer-like) walk to the DC3 and remarked upon boarding, “I saw the pilot Bruce Smith already wearing a parachute and remarked to him that there was no way he would beat me to the door!!”

The six para DC3s took off at 0625hrs and in the words of Neil Jackson, “We flew north at low level. The trip seemed to take hours (in reality 1hr 37mins) in bumpy conditions. Some men threw up, but for most of us it was just uncomfortable, being unable to relieve the pressure on aching limbs.”

Ten minutes later, the command heli and eight K-Cars arrived at The Train to be refuelled from the nine drums brought earlier. At 0700hrs, the DC7 with Corporal (Cpl) Jimmy Swan and 15 2Cdo, 2,500 K-Car shells and 80 drums of fuel (20 for The Train, 60 for the Forward Admin Area) departed New Sarum.

0715hrs - 12 G-Cars left The Train for the target area. 0720hrs six Hunters, four Canberras and four Vampires depart New Sarum for the target area. 0720-0758hrs - all the troops and aircraft now routing to the target.

0800-0900hrs - airstrike and drop.

0758hrs - 12 G-Cars arrive at the Forward Admin Area and the fuel and protection party drop from the DC7 called in. The drop into the Forward Admin Area became a nightmare for Jimmy Swan’s stick of protection troops. They were used to the sedate manners of the DC3, with a cruise speed of 160mph, a stall speed of 75mph and a normal paradrop speed of about 90mph. The DC7 was a different animal: it cruised at 359mph and whilst it stalled clean at 97mph, it could not be safely flown loaded with fuel and troops at less than 120-130mph. Even at this speed, the DC7 bucked, porpoised and groaned and its huge radial engines generated a slipstream that was almost lethal. 130mph became the new drop speed - 30 to 40mph faster than ever experienced before, but still within the safety limit of the T10 parachute which was 180mph.

As Jimmy Swan reflects, “We knew we were over the DZ area when we received the order – stand up, hook up and check equipment! We are packed in like sardines. ‘Go’ is given and seconds later there are paras everywhere - Jesus - we are in the trees, no time to jettison the containers. We have been dropped far too low, coming into a non-existent DZ at 16 feet per second. We plough in, weapons broken, bodies broken, some serious casualties.”

0800hrs - six Hunters attack Camp A, B and C (two on each) followed by four Canberras dropping 1,200 Alpha bombs on target B. Further strike by five Vampires put in on Camp A.

0803hrs - eight K-Cars and command heli into the orbit and receiving AA fire.

0804hrs – “We were dropped from 500’ AGL,” recalls Stop 2’s Neill Jackson. “Once my chute was open, I remember the awesome sights and sounds of the Hunters attacking, firing their cannon into the already burning camp area. As I floated gently to earth, I was relieved to see no fleeing enemy beneath and immediately upon landing, grouped into all-round defence and reported to the airborne commander that we were safely on the ground”.

09-28-2012, 04:15 PM
Tembue continues:

A member of Stop I recalls enemy running beneath his para descent, and after landing in short grass, his stop managed to deal with 30-40 enemy who had blundered into them, probably exiting Camp C.

A little while later Stop 2 was ordered to advance on Camp B. Shortly after moving from the DZ Jackson recalls, “A couple of us noticed what looked like a lone man hiding behind a tree 500m to our front. Sweeping forward we suddenly found ourselves confronted by a large calibre black barrel in a fortified trench system. It was a 75mm recoilless rifle, pointed straight at us!” Stop 2 destroyed the weapon and continued with their advance, killing about 40-50 enemy before arriving at the outskirts of Camp B.

Meanwhile Stop 1 had been ordered to advance on Camp C, coming across limited opposition on the way. Many enemy had climbed into trees to escape the K-Cars and Golf bombs and the ground troops and aircraft were being constantly sniped at. After numerous skirmishes, eventually Stop 1 arrived at the outskirts of Camp C. Henson found, “I had next to me (as I subsequently had an all externals) Cpl Russell Phillips, SCR, with an MAG, my reasoning being that he had more than enough courage for both of us and I wasn't feeling particularly brave anyway!”

At this stage, the tally for Sp Cdo was about 90 ZANLA kills. “Under instruction from the command helicopter we continued our advance,” recounts Jackson. “We also ended up firing at Stop 1 who had slowed in their advance”. Stop 1 were kept active, not only by occasional fire from Stop 2, but with periodic firefights until the riverbank had been reached. Sergeant (Sgt) Graham Enslin picks up Stop 2’s story, “A captured enemy cadre led us to an AA position where there were 2 or 3 12.7mm weapons plus ammunition abandoned in a fortified trench. On instruction, we readied them for uplift out of the area”.

Stop 1, having reached the river, proceeded to search the huts, destroy weapons and gather documentation. Whilst waiting for Special Branch officers to arrive for an assessment, Henson recalls sitting under a large tamarind-type tree, when Cpl Phillips suddenly yelled out, “Watch out Sir!” and began revving the foliage with his MAG. Out fell a number of ZANLA cadres who landed at his OC’s feet. Henson, in surprise and confusion, recalled, “I immediately awarded Russell Phillips with every medal I could think of, whilst at the same time reprimanding him for waking a sleeping officer!”

Stops 1 and 2 then joined together, wheeled right and began sweeping upstream on the right-hand bank of the river. A considerable number of enemy were eliminated as they progressed, all hiding in a large latrine complex and in the various huts which were torched, as well as in the thickly-vegetated tree-line. This sweep, which covered a few kilometres was eventually halted by Airborne Command at a weapons pit which contained an 80mm mortar, and on instruction this weapon plus others were destroyed.

Stop 3 (SAS) then swept southward to meet Stops 1 and 2 who had been instructed to prepare for uplift. “The SAS continued to engage and eliminate small pockets of resistance,” recalls Neill Jackson, “but our evacuation had begun in earnest.”

The extraction involved the troops being lifted back to their parachutes at about 1420hrs, packing and then backloading them by G-Car. Stop 2, on completion of this exercise, were the first to be uplifted.

09-29-2012, 01:04 PM
Tembue... and finally:

Zulu 2 was by any measure a highly successful operation. The conduct of all airmen, troops and command and planning staff was exemplary. There were no losses of either aircraft or troops, considerable damage had been done to ZANLA’s infrastructure and in excess of 500 enemy were known to have been eliminated.

Reflections on Operation Dingo
The RLI lost its innocence during Operation Dingo. The audacious plan, which a week before had drawn gasps of amazement, had been met with shaking of heads or total disbelief, had tested the regiment in a way it had never been tested before. The RL1 as a unit had emerged with much deserved credit, new-formed confidence and secure in the knowledge that it had a right to be described as ‘The Incredible RLI’.

For the first time, the regiment began to see the conflict’s wider picture: there was more to this war than the occasional Fire Force action; the numbers given by Special Branch in their ‘Threat’ briefings were not figments of imagination. The danger was now tangible. The RLI was in a toe-to-toe knockdown struggle that was a long way from being concluded.

Air power in Operation Dingo
The conduct of the Rhodesian Air Force in Operation Dingo was remarkable. This ambitious, audacious - some say outlandish - plan could never have been achieved without their planning, their professionalism, their devotion to duty, their passion to use every fibre of their being to employing their machines for their destined purpose and beyond.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF) on Commonwealth deployments in Aden and Cyprus achieved aircraft availability that had Britain’s Royal Air Force shaking their heads in disbelief. The availability of aircraft on the flight line for Operation Dingo matched and exceeded these figures; the flawless execution of two back-to-back airborne assaults within three days of each other employing eight different aircraft types whilst leaving nothing in reserve was a remarkable demonstration of the Rhodesian Air Force’s fighting resolve.

Lt Mark Adams, 3Cdo, who took part in Zulu 1 – Chimoio, has commented on the technical expertise of the chopper techs as follows:

“In the opening minutes of the Chimoio attack one of the trooping G-Cars was damaged by ground fire requiring a tail rotor assembly to be replaced. In addition the command helicopter damaged by 12.7mm heavy machine-gun fire limped away with damage requiring a full rotor change. The chopper techs on the ground waited for a full set of rotors and a tail rotor assembly to be flown in from Grand Reef airfield to repair the damaged choppers in the field. This they achieved while working in the bush and both choppers were repaired and able to fly back to Grand Reef that night.

“The day between the Chimoio and Tembue raids required extensive repair and maintenance work on the 31 choppers as every one of the ten K-Cars had sustained hits during the day. Bearing in mind that troops had stayed overnight at Chimoio to mop up any gooks who had drifted back into the area, they also had to be withdrawn the next morning by chopper.

“During the Tembue attack, 220km into Mozambique, the Forward Admin Base was only six kilometres from the camp itself. One K-Car had taken a strike to its engine and needed a replacement. The replacement engine was flown in to the admin base where the chopper techs changed the engine in the bush using empty fuel drums as their workbench. The repaired K-Car was able to fly out by the end of the day.

“Maybe we need to pause for a moment and remember the skill that these ‘chopper techs’ displayed both with machine-guns and 20mm cannons and technically. The Rhodesian Air Force ‘chopper techs’ were definitely the unsung heroes of the bush war.”

No country - no army - no regiment was ever served and supported by a more devoted Air Force who gladly risked life and machine in support of their troops on the ground. To a man, the RLI would have died for the men in Blue, whom they loved, honoured and revered.

09-30-2012, 07:51 AM
RLI paras kit up for Fire Force:


09-30-2012, 05:56 PM
Extract from Chris Donald's article. Chris commanded 3 Cdo and later served with the Selous Scouts as a Group Commander (running pseudo teams):


So what made 3Cdo so special for me? Success yes, being at the right place at the right time, yes yes yes. We had great troop commanders and just who they were at the time made a significant and substantial impact. However, the role played by our CSM, our sergeants and corporals, from top to bottom, just had to be the difference. They were the continuity, the professional soldiers, and the people who kept the culture, professionalism and family together over the long haul. It is they we were indebted to for what made 3Cdo.

A matter not often realised or considered at the time was “what impact and effect does such a job have on a person?” We had many a man who came out of recruit course and within a matter of days was being shot at, seeing death in its gory military form and having to shoot to kill people. With the services of men doing their national call-up, this also meant that some had just completed their schooling prior to their basic training. For such boys who became men and had to operate with hardened and experienced soldiers and the FF, it was about doing this task every day. For the troop commanders it was about making these new soldiers a part of four-man effective fighting units. When there were only four men in a unit there were many considerations of where to put new and unknown soldiers. Going to sleep at night knowing what you had to do and face the next day in the FF was not something that many people could do, day in and day out. In hindsight I would like to think that it was for these very reasons that we lived and behaved the way we did and created our 3Cdo family which I have outlined above.

During my time with 3Cdo the decision was taken to have the RLI as a parachute battalion. When it was our turn to have everyone in the commando parachute trained, the decision of who or which troops were going on the first course and who was going last, was a decision that neither I nor anyone wanted to make. I can’t recall how we solved this but I do remember the first group of men who returned with their wings. They were the centre of attraction and envy of us all with many questions being asked by those who had not yet been trained. As far as the new trained para commandos were concerned, they were now in a league of their own. To say you were now parachute trained and to wear the wings made such a difference to each individual. I am sure many slept with their wings! To be able to make use of this new troop and additional quick troop deployment was not only a learning curve for me but was also a great new enhancement to the way we operated.

Much has been written about airborne assault, airborne command, FF and in the main these articles and books concentrate on the intelligence gatherers, the fighting troops and the enemy, with normally a sideline mention, at best, of the role the Air Force played. It is so obvious but nevertheless an unfortunate fact that one always seems to forget that the role played by the Air Force is equal to and an integral part of such operations. To put it bluntly Rhodesians did not give them the recognition they so rightly deserved or thank them adequately during or after the war. Specifically from a 3Cdo point of view, a great deal of our success was due to them.


10-01-2012, 10:57 AM
Extract from Chris Cocks' article in the book:


We found the first guerrilla face down among the tufts of grass beyond the mango trees, his spine smashed. A bullet-shattered AK-47 lay next to him.

“Clear his weapon, Bob, and search the body,” McCall ordered.

Ten metres farther on was another body. It was a boy of about fifteen or sixteen and his head had been blown apart like a melon. He must have been a mujiba running with the guerrillas. His clothes were saturated with fresh, sweet blood. Already the flies were settling on his corpse.

I scanned the ground for the others but they were nowhere to be seen. “I hit them, I know I did,” I insisted indignantly. “I saw all four fall.”

McCall remained sceptical.

Then I noticed an SKS rifle half concealed in the grass a few paces away, next to a large antbear hole. I looked inside and saw a crumpled heap of bloodied humanity. There were two bodies in there, one draped over the other. I bent to pick up an AK lying on top of the bodies when suddenly there was movement and a pair of eyes stared at me in abject terror.

I jumped back, startled. “There’s one still alive in there, Hugh.”

McCall and Smith came over to the hole.

“Simuka! ... Stand up! ... Get out of there!” I brandished my gun and the guerrilla slowly extricated himself from the clawing embrace of his dead comrade. As he crawled from the hole I saw why he was taking so long. I had shot him through both legs and he couldn’t stand.

“Visa shamwari ... Get your friend out!” I yelled, indicating the body slumped in the hole. I must have looked particularly fiercesome, because in spite of his dreadful wounds he struggled desperately to obey me. It was pitiful. Smith assisted him and soon the corpse was stretched out on the ground near the hole. I searched it and discovered a diary and other papers of military importance, as well as a wrist-watch which I pocketed.

McCall checked out the wounded man who was losing a lot of blood and whimpering in pain.

“D’you reckon he’s worth keeping?” McCall asked.

I shook my head.


10-01-2012, 07:12 PM
From Bob Lines - ex-Grenadier Guards and Anglian Regt:

Operational Trip To The Valley With 1 Commando (1Cdo)
Never having been to the Rhodesian bush before, I was deployed with 1Cdo to the Zambezi Valley. Here was I having only seen wildlife in photographs and at circuses and zoos. This was something out of a Disney film.

First day Mana Pools area on the Zambezi river, quickly learning from the boys. I informed them that I wanted to try compass marching, only to receive blank stares. However, we slogged along la Musembura-style but after changing direction several times, I realized that these ouens had been patrolling this area for months and knew it like the back of their hands. So I changed strategy quickly. However, it was a good experience. Within a day or so, having got used to the valley heat, mopani flies, wild animals and the like, I was leading a five-man patrol. We were up and away in the early morning and, having tabbed three to four hours, we came to a large riverbed. Now I learned what a vlei was. Steve Rousseau, the leading scout, suggested we move up the riverbank, inside cover, with the intention to crossing further up. This we did. We found a suitable crossing point. We got down tactically peering across the vlei. All appeared fine, wide riverbed with an island in the centre. We sent Steve across. We were ready to give covering-fire support if required. Three-quarters of the way across Steve knelt down. We started to bristle and Steve backtracked towards us. On reaching us he said Better if we cross further up the riverbed beyond the island. So we came out of the position, backed off the bank into cover, and continued walking upstream. We stopped further up, well past the island and we started crossing procedures again. This time Steve reached the other bank safely from where he signalled for us to cross. We did so. Half way across, Dave Parkin shouted enemy left. For seconds we were stunned. There was an outburst of weapons fire. But then we realized the enemy happened to be one big bloody rhino charging at us from the island. We dropped this rhino a few feet away from where we were standing. Then we saw Steve grinning from ear to ear on the opposite bank. He had set us up: having first seen the rhino on the island, he got us upwind so it could get a good smell of us crossing the vlei. Now we had to abort the patrol and head back to base and report it to the game rangers. Killing a rhino was a serious offence. The remainder of the next weeks deployment was spent with much more caution, forever learning many aspects of Rhodesian soldiering. The fantastic countryside and wild animals were, for me, an experience never to be forgotten.

Several months later at Karoi Magistrates Court and having been presented with the game rangers evidence, I was accused of slaying a rhino, a protected species. He had a whole map showing what had happened, including our footprints and where we had gone. Knowing we were guilty with nowhere to run, I pleaded with the magistrate that I had only previously seen a rhino in the London Zoo. He accepted my plea, bollocked me and acquitted me. I swear to this day I can classify that as very good luck.

10-02-2012, 07:38 AM
I noted ex-Rh. AF veteran Peter Petter-Boyer in this passage (in Post 198), offers a rare example of reflection on the horrors of war in this thread:

It is also interesting as the Rh. AF was credited at the end of the war as having the better strategic viewpoint, alongside being technical proficient.

Dick Paxton - a Rh AF chopper pilot - echos the "air" view in his article:

Killing people from helicopters is not difficult: there’s a feeling of detachment - the distance does that.

There are a number of contributions which cover the "horror" that PB speaks of and you refer to. Steve Geach talks of collecting and moving dead bodies with horrific wounds and Mark Condon wrote a poem about then in a conatct - where the insurgents were dressed in womens clothes - in clearing a hut (hooch) he fired at movement under a blanket... and found he had killed three children under six years old. 30 years on he still not recovered from that personal trauma. I see him quite often and the really sad thing was that whenever he saw his children playing he thought of those children. He finishes with:

My son shouts for me to go in goal
as I rise upon my feet,
his eager, smiling face looking at me
his father, who will never be complete.

Nobody remains unscared by combat.

10-02-2012, 03:28 PM
Where it all began. No 1 Training Unit became the 1st Battalion The Rhodesian Light Infantry on 1 February 1961:



10-03-2012, 07:40 PM
By Tim Bax, author of Three Sips of Gin (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0066UPJPE/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d7_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0S2SH6AMZB8AT6GW1JTH&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846) who served with both the RLI and the Selous Scouts:


Twenty minutes after my call, the helicopters appeared as four tiny dots on my horizon flying fast at treetop level. The pilots had no fancy navigation equipment to assist them to their target. They relied solely on a compass and their skill at reading a 1:50,000 map. At a distance of 1,000 yards from the ravine, the gunship began to climb steeply, its rotor blades clattering noisily in the thin air as it gained altitude and started circling the target below in a tight orbit. Almost immediately the gunner started laying a withering stream of steep-angled 20mm cannon fire into the thick foliage inside the ravine. The three troop-carrying Alouettes orbited once, then descended heavily into a nearby cornfield amidst clouds of flying dust and debris, quickly disgorging their cargo of RLI troopers.

There were no thoughts by the young soldiers of taking cover and waiting for the gunship to inflict maximum damage before their assault. Without waiting for any orders they fanned out into an extended line and advanced quickly toward the ravine. They started taking heavy fire from the terrorists’ position even as they started skirmishing quickly and inextricably towards their prey, deadly streams of lead spitting from their assault rifles.

The soldiers were all in their late teens or early twenties, some barely out of school uniform. They wore no helmets, no body armour, no heavy boots. They were not weighed down by layers of heavy equipment or by heavy weapons. Their uniforms were black running shoes, military green shorts, T-shirt and camouflaged sweatband around their heads. Their exposed skin was tanned a deep brown by the African sun. Around their waists they wore webbing with enough water, food and ammunition to sustain them through the day. Each carried a Fabrique Nationale NATO issue 7.62 automatic assault rifle (FN). Every fourth soldier carried a general-purpose medium machine-gun. They were light, mobile, fearless, and they were unstoppable. They had only one thought: to close with and kill a murderous enemy who sought to take their country through force of arms.

Modern military doctrine is never to engage an enemy unless with overwhelming force of numbers. The Rhodesian soldier enjoyed no such luxury. From my vantage point on the hill I heard a vicious firefight taking place inside the ravine below me. A long staccato burst of fire from a terrorist RPD machine-gun was instantly answered by the heavier, rhythmic chatter of a NATO issue general-purpose machine-gun carried by a trooper. It was twelve RLI soldiers against twelve terrorists who enjoyed the advantage of fighting from a prepared defensive position. Fighting would be at close quarters and victory would belong to the bravest and the best trained. RLI soldiers were the bravest of the brave and they were superbly trained. The outcome was never in doubt. It was over almost as quickly as it had begun. Thirty minutes after they had disappeared into the ravine, the young troopers emerged from the other side. Nine terrorists had been killed and three captured. One RLI soldier had suffered a minor flesh wound to the shoulder. It would quickly be patched up and he would be fighting alongside his comrades later the same day in yet another firefight, at yet another location.


10-04-2012, 08:54 AM
The late Lt-Gen John Hickman recalled:

On 8 December 1968 the first of a number of attachments to the Portuguese Forces in the Tete Province of Mozambique took place. The objective was to assist the Portuguese in their counter-insurgency war against the Frente de Libertaao de Moambique (FRELIMO), who were then penetrating this area from Malawi and Zambia but for the most part were confined to areas north of the Zambezi River. We in Rhodesia were justifiably concerned about FRELIMO and by association their new allies, Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) occupying Mozambique, thus opening up the whole of our vulnerable eastern border. The real reason, however, was to stiffen up our allies military resolve to engage the enemy aggressively and demonstrate some of the successful methods of our joint service Counter-Insurgency (COIN) warfare.


We soon found that, despite lengthy and time-consuming conventional war type Operation Orders, including such unnecessary data as Start Lines and Phases of Attack, etcetera, that these were seldom applied in a practical sense. In fact, on one occasion an imminent surprise attack on a FRELIMO base was aborted because another phase was due according to the original order. Not to overstate the case, we found that we were making the hard-yard with little or no support from our allies, so much so that the ground troops were reinforced to provide the combat trackers with our own immediate, but limited, support. Some of our operations were described as a turkey shoot for we found that FRELIMO were not accustomed to long, bold and aggressive patrolling and immediate assaults on their bases, no matter the size. The Portuguese troops, on the other hand, when and if they did patrol on foot, were of short duration and insignificant distance. They were often too noisy and appeared to be over-dependant on fresh rations, particularly fresh bread, which dictated the length of their patrols. They also had a definite defensive complex and preferred to barricade themselves in isolated bush forts for the duration of their operational tours and venture forth as little as possible. There they became the victims of intensive mining and ambushing campaigns on the bush tracks linking the forts and subject to frequent
mortar and rocket attacks from a free-moving enemy.


10-04-2012, 05:41 PM
31 in a contact:


10-05-2012, 08:48 AM
Hill 31 – contact report

On Monday, 15 November 1976, at 0545, contact broken at 2000. VQ744430. Fire Force A. 3 Commando, 1RLI, commanded by Captain C.W. Donald. 30 plus terrorists. Trooper Da Costa, F.D. killed, Rifleman Grobler, P.J., Privates Chikoto, Saxon and Philip Chagwiza, wounded. Killed 31, one captured, escaped unknown. Escaped wounded. Unknown.

The main contact area was on the western side of steep broken feature with numerous gullies and covered in dense undergrowth. Weather: initially extremely low cloud base which cleared after midday. Callsign 81A (K Company 10 RR) sighted approximately 20-30 people moving in single file from east to west south of Honde Mission.

Sticks were dropped to the west of the contact area and a 4 RR Sparrow team on the tracks. The tracker team and 81A had a contact with two terrorists at Point A, killing both of them. The terrorist tracks then followed the main path and as the follow-up team came round the feature, the main terrorist group were contacted. More sticks were brought into the area including Support Company 1RAR mortar team who were used only in a minor role.

For the remainder of the day series of sweeps took place resulting in a large number of contacts. All contacts were at extremely close range, in rugged terrain and dense bush. The following aircraft were used during the contact. One Lynx Call sign Alpha 4 which dropped four frantan and made four SNEB rocket attacks. One K-Car. Three G-Cars. A total of 25 flying hours was flown by the Fire Force helicopters carrying out trooping, casevac, air support, resupply and airborne command. In the rocky terrain the 20mm cannon proved extremely effective. All in all an excellent job was done by the Air Force.

Trooper Da Costa was killed instantly by a terrorist running away from the sweep line. Da Costa was casevaced immediately by helicopter to Ruda and then by fixed wing to Umtali. Rifleman Grobler was casevaced with minor injuries by helicopter just before last light. Two RAR privates were injured by small arms fire in a helicopter while flying towards the combat area. They were casevaced direct to Ruda. The terrorists settled themselves down on the western side of the feature and as usual all the contacts between ground forces took place at very close range in dense bush or rocky outcrops.

A significant point to note was that a great deal of terrorist small arms fire was directed at the aircraft throughout the day. One RPG7 rocket was fired at a troop carrying helicopter which exploded about 20 metres behind the aircraft. Another helicopter was forced to land due to damage received from small arms fire from the vicinity of VQ748452.

Generally terrorists tend to avoid high ground when contacted but due to the position of stops, available cover and the approach direction of the Fire Force, no other course was open to them. The capture had no idea of the number of terrorists in the area. He gave out that he had come into the country as a member of a group of eleven. The exact number contacted in not known. Direction: unknown. 32 terrorists were accounted for and 33 weapons recovered. All the terrorists were dressed in a mixture of civilian and camouflage clothing.

The night of 15-16 November, stops were left in ambush on likely escape routes and as a result one terrorist was killed at 2000. All the bodies and equipment recovered were displayed to the locals, leaflets have been distributed and a great deal of publicity was given to the contact. Interrogation of the capture would be done and the necessary action taken. Weapons: eleven SKS, one RPD, 21 AKs, one RPG, 25 RPG projectiles, one landmine, 19 boxes of ammunition, 59 82mm mortar bombs and 28 stick grenades.


The Sub-Unit Commander noted the large variety of sub-units were involved. Under the circumstances, the co-operation between them all, including the Air Force and every man doing his bit, was extremely good. This resulted in a smooth running contact with excellent and a well earned final result.

To give individual praise would be most difficult but Trooper Garnet, commanding Stop 3 was outstanding and must be complimented on his work. Thee necessary action will be done in due course. Brigadier A.O.N. MacIntyre found the outstanding feature was the first class co-operation of the RLI, RAR and 10RR with first class Air Force back up. Captain Donald did an excellent job, remaining cool and positive through a long day’s battle. The 4RR trackers worked well. In all a most satisfactory effort. Major-General J.S.V. Hickman agreed, writing ‘An excellent effort’.

10-05-2012, 05:10 PM
Hill 31 thirty years later:


10-06-2012, 01:35 PM
From the book "The Saints"

Part 1

Battle of ‘Hill 31’

At dawn on 15 November c/s 81A of K Company 10RR, operating in the Mutasa North TTL (south of Honde Mission), sighted approximately 30 to 40 persons moving in single file on the western side of a steep broken feature with numerous gullies and covered in dense jesse bush. There was a kraal to the north. Fireforce was called up, Captain Chris ‘Kipper’ Donald in the K-car. Sticks were dropped to the west of the target area and four 4th Batt Sparrows (trackers) led by Sergeant Laurie Ryan were dropped alongside c/s 81A and began to follow tracks on a footpath heading south. As they advanced they contacted two insurgents and killed both. Moving on and still on the track, they came around the feature and hit the main insurgent group.

A series of contacts, all at extremely close range, began to take place as sweeping sticks moved in. The mortar team from Support Company 1RAR was also called in. Trooper F. D. da Costa (recently arrived from Portugal), who was part of a sweep line, was killed by an insurgent who had been flushed out and had fired on the run. Da Costa’s body was casevaced to Ruda. The K-car’s 20mm cannon proved extremely effective. All call signs were performing well, Trooper Pete Garnett as commander Stop 3 being particularly aggressive (Donald recommended him for an award and he was awarded a Military Forces Commendation (Operational) for his conduct).

Two RAR privates, Philip Chagwiza and Chikoto Saxon, while on their way to the contact area in a G-car, were wounded by small-arms fire. Both were casevaced to Ruda. Rifleman Grobler received minor injuries and was also casevaced. The enemy had now settled themselves in the rocky outcrops on the western side of the kopje from where they continued to direct most of their small-arms fire at the helicopters. One RPG rocket fired at a troop-carrying G-car and exploded 20 metres behind it. Another helicopter was forced to land because of damage caused by small-arms fire. The sweeping stops closed with the insurgents and the fire fights took place at close range. The battle had gone on through the day, by the end of which 31 insurgents had been killed and one captured (by Lieutenant Rod Smith’s stick). An unknown number had escaped. Twenty-one AKs, 11SKSs, one RPD, one RPG (with 21 rockets) 19 boxes of ammo and a landmine were recovered and handed in to SB Ruda.

Beryl Salt on the Air Force’s participation: …The first signs of an enemy build-up came early on the morning of 15 November, when ground forces reported unusual activity in the valley. Flight Lieutenant Tudor Thomas, the senior pilot at Ruda, the police base in the Honde Valley about 55 kilometres north of Umtali, was called on for support. The four helicopters were crewed by Flight Lieutenant Chris Wentworth and Sergeant Tony Merber; Flight Lieutenant Tudor Thomas and Sergeant Brian Warren; Flight Lieutenant Trevor Baynham and Flight Sergeant Ted Holland; and Air Sub-Lieutenant Nick Meikle and Sergeant Hans Steyn.

The helicopters with RLI, RR and RAR sticks were quickly deployed and the first contact came about at 0645 hours on the western face of a kopje. The crews came under fire as soon as they flew into the contact area and were under sporadic fire throughout most of the day. Despite the difficult and dangerous flying conditions with early morning cloud, they worked steadily, trooping men and re-supplying ammunition. During the day, vital supplies of ammunition and fuel had to be ferried into Ruda.

During the 12-hour battle, the four helicopters spent a total of 14 hours in the air. It was good to be in on it, said Flight Lieutenant Tudor Thomas. A fixed-wing aircraft, piloted by Squadron Leader Dag Jones, also took part in the fight and put in several effective strikes on the enemy. “Afterwards, when we found out that the total killed was 31, the morale of the pilots and technicians was high. I had underestimated the number of terrorists and when we found out how many we had killed, it was fantastic,” said Dag …

Chris Cocks adds: … We christened it ‘Hill 31’, bit like the Yanks in Vietnam. Some called it the Battle of the Honde Valley. At the time, it was the biggest internal kill of the war and it was quite something to have been involved in. I remember how awed I was by Kip Donald’s control of the battle. He was controlling a good couple of hundred troops—RLI, RAR and TF (including Laurie Ryan’s formidable 4th Batt trackers), all spread out over several square kilometers, on all sides of the mountain. (And a mountain it was, not a kopje! We climbed up and down the bloody thing several times and it was pretty damned sheer.) I got my first confirmed kill here, fairly innocuous, but for me it was a life-changing event. I was in Lieutenant Roddy Smith’s stick. Humphrey van der Merwe was the MAG gunner and Peter McDonald, a new rookie from Canada, was the other rifleman.

We were in first wave (Stop 1) and got dropped at the foot of the gomo around 0700 hours. We hooked up with Laurie Ryan’s sticks, who’d just had the initial contact and were waiting for us. They all had beards and looked fearsome, but were good guys and were happy to see us. (We regarded the 4th Batt trackers as some of the best in the Army. Sadly Laurie Ryan was killed in a hunting accident shortly after the war.) Kip Donald then sent them up the path leading to the top of the mountain and directed our stick to sweep around the southwest of the base of the mountain and then straight up to the top, covering all the likely re-entrants the gooks might try and escape through. Roddy was like a bitch on heat, itching to get into the action and at times was literally bounding up the slopes—thickly vegetated, rocky and treacherous as they were. We had a series of running contacts all the way to the top. Humphrey nailed a couple of gooks snivelling down a gully with his MAG. One was only wounded and moaning loudly so Roddy chucked in an HE grenade and finished him off. This was Pete McDonald’s first contact and he was wide-eyed and scared, but hung in there. He was quite a portly guy and was struggling to keep up with our intrepid leader.

Around midday we finally got to the top of the mountain. To my surprise, we came across a TF stick huddled in some rocks. Where in the hell had they come from? They were old guys, scared to death and clearly didn’t want to be there. Their relief on seeing us was immeasurable and within minutes they’d packed up and were gone, down the mountain. We took over their position near the summit and spread out into all-round defence and waited. I was next to Humphrey looking out from some thick bush into a clearing that was the summit. No wonder the TF guys were so terrified. There were gook bodies lying all over the place, probably taken out by the K-car—the TF guys would have been pretty close to where the 20mm rounds were striking.


10-07-2012, 10:44 AM
From the book "The Saints"

Part 2

Battle of ‘Hill 31’ (cont)

I figured we’d climbed all the way to the top for nothing as it appeared business had been taken care of, when literally minutes later a gook strolled into view in the middle of the clearing, carrying an AK in each hand at the trail. About 40 metres away, he appeared to be in a daze and was walking slowly, without making any effort to take cover. He looked shell-shocked. I raised my rifle, in spite of Humphrey’s urgent plea not to shoot as he thought he was an RAR soldier. I was convinced he was a gook, so took careful aim, at his chest as we’d been taught, as the chest made the largest target. I squeezed the trigger, one shot, and the gook dropped like a stone. No mess, no fuss. Humphrey was in a terrible state, convinced I’d shot an RAR soldier. We got up and warily went forward to inspect my handiwork. My chest shot had entered the man’s forehead neatly between the eyes.

Roddy came bounding forward to see what had happened and at that moment, the $hit hit the fan with volleys of AK firing coming our way from slightly down the slope. My first kill moved into the realms of history as we hit the ground and skirmished for cover. In seconds the K-car was overhead, blasting away into the bushes not metres to our front. It was terrifying and comforting all at the same time.

Then all went quiet and we crept forward to clear the area. That’s when we got the capture. A gook was hiding under a bush and he’d been hit in the legs and couldn’t move. He looked up at me with terror on his face. He looked very young. He tried to raise his arms and was gasping, “Surrender … surrender.” His eyes looked directly into mine, imploringly, as I raised my rifle to finish him off. I mean, what were we going to do with him? But I was shaking and pulled the shot. He screamed as the bullet winged him, a flesh wound above his ear. I stopped, stunned, as Roddy approached. I think he realized this guy deserved to live, if there’s such a thing. (In war, who deserves to live and who deserves to die? Isn’t it all one big lotto?) Roddy and I stooped down and gingerly grabbed the guy under his arms and managed to drag him onto the path. He was crying and shivering uncontrollably. We bandaged his legs as best we could and then gave him a cigarette which seemed to calm him down. I asked him his name and he said it was Cuthbert.

The next problem was how to evacuate him. There was no LZ on the summit, so a chopper came and dropped a stretcher—that’s how we’d get him down—carrying him. The next few hours were a surreal nightmare as we slithered and slid down the slopes, half-dragging, half-carrying our captured charge. And every few dozen paces or so, Roddy Smith on point would make contact with a guerrilla or two hiding in the bush and engage in contact. The rest of us were too tired to care. As dusk enveloped us we came to the original LZ where we’d been dropped 12 hours before. The capture was casevaced and we were uplifted back to our base above the Mtarazi Falls. That night we celebrated our victory around the campfire and got very drunk.

I heard later that Cuthbert recovered, was tried and received a life sentence. (There you go—still the ‘police action’ mentality in place.) I was secretly pleased I hadn’t killed him. We went back the next day to sweep the area again and recover all the gook bodies, a hideous task as many of the corpses had been dead for over 24 hours and were lodged in inaccessible nooks and crannies all over the gomo. By evening, arranged neatly in a row at the foot of the mountain near a school, were 31 bodies, all in various stages of disrepair, dismemberment and decomposition. It was a gruesome sight. We’d lost one man—Trooper Francisco da Costa from my troop, 11 Troop. He was a gentle man and had joined up in the RLI because he couldn’t get a job in his native Portugal.

‘Hill 31’ was something of a watershed in terms of guerrilla infiltrations. From here on it would become a regular occurrence to encounter groups of 50 or more …

Beryl Salt concurs: … The size of the gangs crossing the border was now very much larger and in the middle of November, a group of about 100 crossed from Mozambique. On Wednesday 24 November at 1100 hours, a contact occurred with security forces. Acting on information from a call sign, a stick of four soldiers entered the area under cover of darkness. They were moving into position in thick bush when they heard movement. It was a group of 60 ZANLA men. The patrol went to ground and there was a similar reaction from the terrorists. The security patrol knowing they were in a curfew area, opened fire first. The group returned fire and beat a retreat dropping their equipment as they ran. The patrol gave chase. Tudor Thomas who was once again at the scene said, “We picked them up quite easily and dropped troops into the area.” He also reported that captured equipment had included anti-aircraft guns. “We haven’t lost any planes,” he said. “They don’t seem to be very effective at using their guns.” This fight, which included the Army, the Air Force and elements of the police force continued for a week, taking place in rugged hilly country about 20 kilometres from the border in the Inyanga North area close to Avila Mission …

10-08-2012, 08:15 PM
Now we hear it from (Lt) Roddy Smith:

Cisco’s Mountain - Part 1
By Rod Smith

The Honde Valley, halfway between Umtali and Inyanga, was one of the few areas within Rhodesia on the eastern side of the mountains which border Mozambique, and one of the highest rainfall areas in the country. Waterfalls drop in wavering torrents from the surrounding mountains to the fertile valley floor, where extensive cultivated areas are interspersed with thick tropical vegetation. This valley was a major infiltration route for the terrorist groups which were flooding into Rhodesia at the end of 1976: the location east of the mountains made it easy for them to cross the border, the dense population (thoroughly subverted by the classic Communist combination of intimidation and indoctrination) together with the thick vegetation provided perfect cover, and it was close to the major terrorist staging camps in Mozambique.

Consequently it had become one of the hottest operational areas in the country; a mini-Joint Operations Centre (JOC) under the energetic Colonel (Col) Peter Browne of 4th Battalion Rhodesia Regiment (4RR) had been set up to control operations and the Op Thrasher Fire Force – K-Car plus 3 G-Cars and 11 and 13 Troops of 3 Commando Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) (12 Troop had been detached to Hot Springs in support of a Selous Scouts operation and 14 Troop was on R & R – the Commando was permanently deployed at the time) - had been moved from Grand Reef to a temporary base in the Eastern Highlands close to the Honde Valley in order to provide back-up to the companies deployed there.

At first light on 15 November callsign 81A from K Coy 10RR sighted a group of 20-30 armed terrorists on the move and called for Fire Force. When a sighting involved static terrorists in a base some time could be taken to plan, but in a situation such as this where the terrorists were on the move (and indeed had already moved out of the Obervation Post’s (OP’s) field of vision) speed of reaction was absolutely critical. Fortunately 3 Commando (3Cdo) were extremely experienced at this by now so the initial briefing – general situation and lay of the land – was very brief indeed and we were airborne within minutes.

As the choppers came over the rim of high cliff-girt mountains and made the stomach-lurching drop into the valley, the target area was easily identifiable: the dominant feature was a big isolated granite hill thrusting up from the valley floor. The low ground around it where the terrorists had last been sighted was almost all cultivated land, but the hill itself was steep and rugged with great broken boulders, rocky outcrops and gullies, and dense tree cover. There was no doubt that the terrs were in there somewhere, but it looked like a pretty big haystack from which to pluck some nasty sharp needles, and with only three G-Cars to drop troops it was going to take time to get troops in any numbers on the ground.

The Fire Force commander that day was Kip Donald, the 3 Cdo 2i/c at the time and a superb K-Car commander. He had a great eye for ground: a big part of what made a good Fire Force commander was the ability to put the stop groups in the right place and he had to make decisions on the spur of the moment as to which way the terrs were most likely to break and how far they could already have gone: too far out and you doubled the area you had to cover and reduced the chances of contacting them; too close in and they were already gone. Given the limited number of troops available these decisions could make the difference between a successful contact and a big lemon. Kip was methodical and totally unflappable under pressure, and had a gift for relating what he was seeing from 800’ up to what the troops were seeing at ground level (more difficult than it sounds) and for giving the ground troops clear and easily understood instructions.

Normally we would have tried to approach the target area flying low-level using hill features and the wind to keep the terrorists from hearing the aircraft for as long as possible; in this case this was not practical as we knew that as soon as the choppers cleared the surrounding mountains they would be audible over the whole valley and the terrorists would probably bombshell before we could see them. For this reason a Sparrow team (tracker combat team) from 4RR under Sgt Laurie Ryan was included in the first wave. The terrs had last been seen at the base of the west side of the mountain: Stops One and Two were immediately dropped at the north and south extremities of the west side of the hill and directed to move a little way up the slope and take up stop positions where Kip judged they had the best chance of contacting the enemy, and the Sparrow team was dropped at the spot where the terrs had last been sighted to get an idea of direction of movement. The choppers then headed back to pick up more RLI sticks.

It turned out that some of the terrorists had not gone far – within about ten minutes the tracker team had made contact and killed two of them. Firing now started breaking out sporadically all over the mountain – scattered groups of terrs firing at the orbiting aircraft (“Just like Paris by night” as Major Jerry Strong was wont to say, referring to the red and green tracer streaming up into the sky) and the K-Car engaging terrs as they were spotted, with the Lynx flown by Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Dag Jones putting in frantan and rocket strikes when particularly heavy resistance was located. Fire Force actions were always very much a team effort between Blues and Browns, the two complementing each other and the whole being very much more than the sum of the parts.

It had immediately become apparent that two under-strength RLI troops were never going to be able to cover the whole expanse of the mountain, and while the helicopters were ferrying in the remaining 3 Commando stops Kip was making arrangements to bring in sticks from Sp Coy 1st Battalion Rhodesia African Rifles (1RAR) and 4RR.

In the meantime Stop One (consisting of myself, Chris Cocks, Humphrey van der Merwe with the machine-gun (MAG) and a rather portly Canadian named Macdonald) was waiting on what Kip had assessed as a likely enemy escape route a little way up the mountainside. We were spread out in extended line, motionless in the available cover, when we saw terrs approaching. We opened fire and terrs vanished into a gully. They seemed to have been hit; we advanced cautiously and hearing scrabbling sounds, tossed a fragmentation grenade in and then closed in to check that they were finished and took their weapons. It was awkward having to carry captured weapons with us in a combat situation, but at that stage no part of the mountain could be considered clear of terrorists, so we couldn’t leave the weapons there and have other terrs possibly pick them up.


10-09-2012, 01:07 PM
More from Roddy Smith:

Cisco’s Mountain - Part 2
By Rod Smith


Kipper’s game plan at this point was for the stops that were already on the ground to sit tight and cut off what escape routes we could cover until we got enough troops on the ground to form a viable sweep line, which would then sweep around the mountain and push the terrs into another stop line. He was reluctant to have callsigns advancing straight up the steep slope into an enemy which would have all the advantage of higher ground and good cover, but then we got a call that a Special Forces (SF) callsign was in contact at the very top of the mountain and required assistance and Stop One was in the best position to respond. We pushed straight up the hill as fast as we could given that it was steep, rough country, with sporadic contacts going on all around us - it was a beast of a climb and it was not the last time we would have to do it that day. Eventually we reached the top, drenched with sweat, and found a Territorial Army (TA) stick huddled behind a big fallen tree.

They were older guys, obviously from one of the TA Reserve companies, and I still have no idea how they got there – they must already have been on the OP up there when it all started and may even have been the guys who made the initial sighting. At any rate they were mightily pleased to indicate where they had last seen the terrs they had contacted and let us get on with it. We put in a quick flanking attack on the location but the birds had flown so, after a brief halt to catch our breath and have a few sips of water, we started down again towards the sound of firing.

We were on the edge of a small clearing when we saw another terr approaching; we went to ground, he walked briskly into the clearing without seeing us and Chris Cocks shot him dead – classic Immediate Action (IA) drill. Humphrey van der Merwe, who somehow managed to be one of the best MAG gunners I ever knew despite being very short-sighted, was convinced we had shot an RAR soldier by mistake but in fact he was very much a terr and carrying two AKs. We found the owner of the second one under a bush, wounded. He had a broken leg from K-Car fire and our first inclination was to shoot him as getting him out of there would be a major task; the bush was too thick and the terrain too steep to uplift him by chopper. In the end, however, a stretcher was dropped to us and we started the back-breaking task of carrying him all the way back down the mountain. We found a rudimentary goat path twisting down the steep rocky hillside but it would have been hard going for one man unencumbered, let alone four carrying a loaded stretcher. To make matters worse we were in the middle of a major contact and had to maintain some semblance of tactical alertness as we slipped and skidded down, sweating and swearing. We could hear firing going on sporadically all around the mountain and a lot of 20mm cannon fire from the K-Car, which claimed a lot of kills.

About a third of the way down as we stopped for a breather we had a contact with one terr. He fell down-slope and landed in a space between a cliff and a great boulder which had broken away from it. As I approached cautiously an AK muzzle thrust round the rock and fired a burst; we returned fire but the owner was screened by the rock and we heard him crashing away down the slope. A few minutes later we heard firing further down the mountain; he had run into Corporal (Cpl) Bob Smith’s stick who I think killed him, but unfortunately not before he had shot and killed Trooper (Tpr) Francisco Da Costa. Cisco was a nice guy from Angola, fairly new to the Commando but very well liked and a sad loss.

Meanwhile more troops had been choppered in from Sp Coy 1RAR and 4RR. Two RAR soldiers, Privates (Ptes) Phillip Chagwiza and Saxon Chikoto, were wounded by small-arms fire as they were being flown into the area, which gives an idea of the amount of fire being directed at the aircraft. For the territorial soldiers of 4RR it was the first experience of Fire Force operations: Kipper had done a remarkable job of briefing them over the radio as to do’s and don’ts and required equipment before uplifting them, but it was still very much a case of them being thrown in at the deep end, and they did very well under the circumstances. As far as possible they were interspersed with RLI sticks. Pete Garnett, although still only a trooper, was commanding Stop 3; he ended up running a whole sweep line of six or seven sticks and doing an excellent job for which he later received a well-deserved MFC. He was a quiet, compactly built young guy, very professional and confident and a natural soldier. He would undoubtedly have gone far in the Army, but tragically he was killed in action the following year.

The operation continued throughout the day with intermittent contacts all over the mountain; late in the day Rifleman Grobler of 4RR was wounded and casevaced. At last light the 3 Commando troops were uplifted back to the Fire Force base as they had to be ready in case the Fire Force was called out again first thing in the morning, while some of the remaining callsigns based up for the night in ambush positions surrounding the mountain. One of these killed another terr trying to get out of the area at about 2000hrs.

The following day came the unpleasant task of sweeping the mountain all over again and recovering the bodies of the dead terrs. The end result was 31 terrorists killed, one captured and an unknown number escaped wounded, and 21 AKs, 1 RPD, 1 RPG7 launcher and 25 projectiles, 11 SKSs, one landmine, 59 82mm mortar bombs, 28 stick grenades and 19 cases of ammunition captured for the loss of one of our men killed and three wounded.

The Rhodesia Herald christened this the Battle of Hill 31, but for 11 Troop it was always Cisco’s Mountain.

10-09-2012, 09:31 PM
RLI Troopie trying to look rugged ;)


10-10-2012, 04:15 PM
Book review ans local launch details:


10-11-2012, 01:08 PM
Rhodesian Drake Shoot
(Also to be found here (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=139844&postcount=348))

(aka Drake Shoot)


1. During most contacts a low rate of kills is being achieved to the number of rounds fired. For example after one engagement it was reported that a platoon fired approximately eleven hundred rounds and achieved no kills or hits despite the fact that the contact took place at a range of less than thirty yards. Examination of the contact area later revealed that the majority of shots fired by the security forces were high, this was borne out by the amount of damage to trees in the vicinity. Most rounds had struck foliage three to four feet above ground level.

2. From those observations it would appear that whilst it is possible to train a soldier to a high standard of shooting on the range it does not necessarily follow that he is automatically able to apply the lessons learnt when he comes under fire in battle.

This lack of application can be put down to two basic reasons:

a. A failure to relate his weapon training lessons to fieldcraft.

b. A natural nervousness due to stresses created by battle conditions.


3. The aim of this range practice is to teach soldiers to relate field craft and ground appreciation to good shooting under realistic conditions.


4. The basic faults to overcome are:

a. A tendency to fire high. This is a result of firing range practice at comparatively large figure targets mounted approximately six feet above ground level. The terrorist will usually be at ground level and will present a target no higher than twelve inches.

b. Failure to fire at potential enemy cover. Soldiers nust appreciate the ground, and fire at likely enemy positions, WHETHER THEY CAN SEE MEN THERE OR NOT. Logs, bushes, tree trunks and folds in the ground all provide likely cover, the high velocity 7,62mm round will penetrate most natural cover at close range!

c. Tendency to concentrate fire on the most likely position. If a terrorist is visible or isolated cover suggests more likely position, there is a tendency for all to fire in one direction. This results in the arc to the front not being fully covered and although one terrorist may be well and truly dealt with, several others in less obvious fire positions will remain unscathed and potentially dangerous.

5. To summarise, a soldier must be taught and practised to:

a. Fire low, no higher than 9 - 12 inches above the estimated ground level.

b. Select and fire at likely enemy fire positions remembering to relate his field craft to his shooting.

c. Fire at the enemy within his own particular arc to his front and not to be drawn to fire at obvious targets already covered by others within his fire unit.


6. This dootrine has been tried and proven. A platoon trained on the lines described above engaged terrorists in three separate contacts in one day, resulting in:

a. Four terrorists killed.

b. Two seriously wounded (one suffered 10 hits).

c. Five captured.

d. A total ammunition expenditure during the whole day of 250 rounds and one grenade.


7. The following practices are best fired on field firing ranges or in jungle lane areas but can be adapted to classification or transitional ranges by the provision of artificial cover.

8. This shoot should be fired by all soldiers at the completion of recruit training and Practice 3, with variations, by trained soldiers at every available opportunity.



10-12-2012, 01:53 PM
Memories of a medic : George Dempster

My time as the 3Cdo medic which lasted for nearly 18 months was life-changing. I matured from a schoolboy with little direction in life to a man with skills that were respected and relied upon by real mates. I attended a parachute training course in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and thereafter jumped into Mozambique and Zambia on external operations.

I was selected to attend a six-week MA2 course at Llewellin Barracks. This was a very different experience from the MA3 with less than ten delegates all of whom were living in the sergeants mess. Lectures were held during the first two days of the week while the rest of the time was on the job training at Mpilo Hospital.

My first two weeks at Mpilo were spent in the trauma and surgical wards followed by a stint in the mortuary. I recall one of the patients that I had looked after during my time in the surgical ward ending up in the mortuary on the slab undergoing a post mortem. Talk about the consequences of making a wrong diagnosis!

A key objective during our time at Mpilo Hospital was learning to intubate patients about to undergo a surgical procedure that required an anaesthetic. We were allowed (under supervision) to administer the paralyzing drugs, insert the tube, connect the Boils machine, manage the gasses during the procedure and lastly bring the patient around.

On my return to the battalion I was posted to the mobile surgical unit. This unit was staffed by a medical doctor, myself and, when available, a medic in training. We were normally deployed to one of the Fire Force bases and on all external operations.

Troops were generally pleased and reassured by the presence of the mobile surgical unit. I spent many enjoyable hours in choppers en route to collect casevacs. My heart always started pounding as we came in to land often with a firefight still in progress. The pilot would normally wait on the ground while you ran to the patient. If I was required to insert a drip and stabilize the patient he would normally take-off and orbit close by; if not he waited on the ground. By the time you had the patient back in the chopper you were mentally and physically exhausted. The chopper ride back was always intense, especially when you were looking after one of your seriously injured mates.

I was asked to go into Zambia to collect between eight to ten soldiers that had shrapnel wounds when a number of mortar bombs exploded in their vicinity. A fierce firefight was on the go as we arrived over the area so time on the ground was limited to getting all of them on board. Within three minutes we were airborne and heading for the safety of Lake Kariba. I had little time to enjoy the ride as I inserted drips, administered morphine and patched as best I could. I can still see the faces of those soldiers sitting or lying in the Bell chopper holding their own drips grinning as we skimmed over a pod of hippos running in the shallows of Lake Kariba as the sun set.

By the end of the war we were working so close to Salisbury that the Andrew Fleming Hospital was normally the destination of choice. I remember flying across the suburbs one Sunday around lunchtime with two seriously injured soldiers on board watching families enjoying a braai with fighting taking place less than 20kms away.

10-13-2012, 10:22 PM
From Pat Hill who commanded 2 Commando in the early '70s:


What did I learn as a person from my experiences with the RLI?

Rank is purely a level of achievement that one has gained through hard work or could be something that was bestowed upon one not by what they knew but by who they knew. Rank is purely a measure of what that particular individual accepts as his responsibility and accountability. Rank does not earn the right to be respected, one earns that by whatever principles and actions one sets for oneself and how one treats his fellow man. Autocratic rule by officers had no place in the RLI. The men had to be properly led and managed. Never use rank as a lever; use man management skills.

Be firm and fair, be truthful and speak your mind, never ask of your troops something that you could not do yourself or had not tried yourself. You were not expected to be first in every race. Stand up for your men if it was a just cause, regardless of consequences. Put faith and trust in your CSM and senior NCOs as they were the link between you and the troops. Give them responsibility. Do not allow trivial matters that should have been sorted out by the responsible officers and NCOs to cloud your judgement. Do not be petty: these were men not children.


10-15-2012, 07:13 PM
Newspaper article:

1978 - A Rhodesia Herald reporter filed this story to ‘celebrate’ the New Year.

Just another day

For the RLI Fireforce troops, it was just another day at the office. Ten insurgents were killed in the first contact, eight in the second, one a woman wearing a green uniform with webbing strapped across her bosom. Nine insurgents died on the third day. Here is his story: … The terrorist is ‘visual’. He is wearing green trousers and a blue shirt and is carrying an AK assault rifle. He moves slowly, casually, across the complex of huts. Smoke from the cooking fires drifts lazily upwards towards the grey skies. A small child chases a thin uncared-for dog. Cooking pots are washed in an old oil drum containing water. Another terrorist steps out from one of the huts. He pauses, looks upwards to the gomo, his AK slung over his shoulder. He turns and re-enters the hut. The young section leader with the police Support Unit puts down his binoculars and gets on the radio.

It is only minutes later that at the Grand Reef military base many, many kilometres away, a siren sounds and fighting men converge on the operations room at the double. Telephones are ringing and messages are shouted out in staccato tones. The Fireforce commander pores over a map. He is a tall, young man and mature beyond his years. He stabs the map with a finger, tracing the outline of the hill feature. “We will drop sticks in here and here, sir,” he says. The base commander nods his head in agreement. “Send it!” he says. There is a tremor in his voice.

Within seconds, the helicopters are hovering over the small groups of young soldiers standing beside the runway. They drop and the men run forward, their heads low to avoid the rotor blades. The helicopters nose forward and are airborne. As they sweep away to the nearby gomos, the troopies give the thumbs-up. This is a full Fireforce operation. Young men of the ‘second wave’, their arms, legs and faces covered in thick camouflage grease, clamber aboard trucks. The rain is coming down in torrents; the men don’t smile. There is a fixed grim look on their faces as they drive off into the unknown.

Across at the Air Force section, the Fireforce paras have donned their gear and are huddled together beneath plastic sheets seeking shelter from the rain. They don’t know whether they are going to be dropped. They sit and wait, staring straight ahead. They don’t talk.

The Fireforce commander decides where he will place his stop groups, the men on the trucks, and where he will drop his paras. “There are twelve visual,” he tells his men as he emerges from the briefing. There is a murmur of approval. The Fireforce is out to beat its record kill for a bush camp and this number will go a considerable way towards meeting the objective. Tensions have relaxed all round—there is now an eager desire to get stuck in.

Then there is the command, “Paras into the Dak”. Five sticks run forward through the pools of mud towards the Dakota. They are in and the ageing giant roars down the runway, then she’s up, up and away. The men still say very little. Their thoughts are on the unknown. They don’t know the type of scene they will be dropping into.

The helicopters, spanned out across the sky, surge forward, skimming the tops of the gum trees and scattering cattle in the fields below. The police station comes into view. The helicopter pilot banks sharply to the left and drops for a soft landing in a field. The rotor blades splutter to a halt, and other helicopters land, throwing up a smokescreen of dirt, leaves and grass. This is the first rendezvous point.

At a briefing, the police tell the Fireforce commander that 12 terrorists have been ‘visual’. They are all in and around the kraal complex. Maps are studied. If the terrorists run, in which direction will they head? The huts are fairly isolated but there is a thickly wooded hill feature on one side and open ground and a river on the other. There is also a mealie field and a thick crop of bananas.

The helicopters are four minutes away from the scene. As they approach, the Support Unit call sign radios to say the terrorists have started to break. “They are going in all directions,” he yells.

“Don’t panic!” the Fireforce commander replies with the calm of a veteran. He has the kraal located and hovers while the troops are landed. The terrorists fire two RPG-7 rockets. They are both way off direction. “Cheeky!” says the Fireforce commander.

The Dakota is almost overhead. The commander is in radio contact with the pilot. He wants the scattering terrorists.

“How many sticks?” asks the pilot.

“All five!”

The men are gone within seconds, immediately cutting off one escape route. The weather has cleared considerably by now but there is a crosswind and the men tend to drift. One hurts his ankle against a rock as he lands; another damages his neck—two minor casualties. Two terrorists running for the river come face to face with the para-drop, stop and head back towards the kraal. They run straight into FN fire and drop instantly like two stones without so much as a whimper.

The security forces have the kraal virtually surrounded. Most of the terrorists make for the shelter of the banana trees. On the hill feature, security forces are firing at those terrorists still seeking shelter among the huts. One has placed a blanket around his shoulders and surrounded himself with small children, pretending to be a village woman. He is shot from 100 metres and the AK falls out of the folds of the blanket. The children scatter, terrified.

Without warning, a terrorist pops up from behind a rock a few metres in front of the security forces’ position on the hill feature. He doesn’t live long enough to pop down again. The main battle concentration has moved to the banana trees; it provides thick cover and in all, the fight goes on for more than five hours. In this time, one terrorist surrenders waving a white flag. “I have never seen that before,” says the Fireforce commander.

The Fireforce sweeps forward, three men move in single file to search a rock feature. A terrorist emerges from the shadows unseen. He aims his AK but it has jammed and he is captured. In come the helicopters, first to evacuate the civilians injured in crossfire, then to carry away captured terrorists. The captured men are stripped of all clothing except their trousers and blindfolded. They are met at the second rendezvous point by Special Branch. Civilians suspected of actively assisting the terrorists are taken to the same rendezvous point. There is initial questioning and one old man is immediately released. The others climb into the back of a truck and are driven away.

The helicopters fly out the bodies, captured equipment and personal belongings. The troopies at the rendezvous point search the bodies and strip them of webbing. Tucked inside a magazine is a letter from a girlfriend. They carry cigarettes, charm beads to protect them from death, and spare clothing. This particular battle is over. The men are being flown back to the rendezvous point for the long ride back to base. Their parachutes are being collected. They look like a line of dead bodies—there is no comment. They have been out here for five hours and their faces record the strain. Then someone reads an entry on one of the captured documents—‘We were never told about the power of Fireforce on the other side,’ the terrorist had written.

The troopies laugh.

10-16-2012, 03:49 PM
Some sobering stats from 1978:

Casualty rates and strengths

Chris Cocks writes: … Of the 56 members of 3 Commando pictured below, as far as I recall, six members were KIA (killed in action) and 16 members WIA (wounded in action), i.e. a total of 22 casualties. (WIAs refer only to those seriously wounded.) This constitutes a casualty rate of 39.3%. In other words, if you were in 3 Commando in mid-1978 you had roughly a 1 in 2½ (or 4 in 10) chance of being killed or wounded.

Although this is a ‘snap statistic’, this probably held true for the other commandos and, as the war intensified into 1979, I would say it’s fair to assume that the battalion’s casualty rate increased significantly, possibly to around one in two, or 50 percent.

As it is, the casualty rate gleaned from this pic is probably higher as it does not take into account the wounded members not present who were recuperating in hospital—for example John Coleman and Craig Bone, both of whom were critically wounded while on ops in Mozambique.

Of those wounded, there are some interesting asides. Mark Pilbeam took an AK round through the face which blinded him in both eyes (during the same contact when Englishman Brad Little was killed). Mark went on to complete a law degree after the war at Edinburgh. In the same contact Ray Wilken (MAG gunner) took several RPD rounds in the legs, Bob Smith (from Georgia USA) took an AK round in the gut and Neil Hooley (Brit) was wounded for the third time. Neil’s second wounding was when he stumbled on a gook and got bayoneted in his leg with an SKS ‘pig-sticker’ for his troubles, which earned him his nickname ‘Death Wish’.

Another interesting statistic is that there are only 56 members pictured here, underlining the ongoing manpower shortages experienced by the battalion. Of course, some members might have been on leave or on courses, but in an ideal world there should have been 100 to 120 members on parade. Often down to half-strength, the strains placed on the fighting men were severe. Consider that a commando on Fireforce duties out of Grand Reef, for example, might only be able to muster twelve, perhaps fifteen, four-man sticks and was expected to deal with the entire Operation Thrasher area with around 15,000 enemy guerrillas …


10-18-2012, 02:31 AM
RLI converts to an airborne unit...


During 1977, by necessity, the RLI became an airborne commando battalion and parachute training proper was begun. Two troops from 1 Commando had been para-trained toward the close of 1976 in an experiment to get more troops, more rapidly into Fireforce actions. It was a success and para-training rapidly got underway, with two troops from 3 Commando following in January 1977. Support Commando had 24 of its members trained as parachutists by March and thereafter each commando sent troops on a regular rotational basis to New Sarum for training. But facilities at New Sarum were limited and in 1978, the SADF Tempe Base in Bloemfontein, South Africa, stepped into the breach.

Chris Cocks, a member of 3 Commando, describes the experience: … During the middle of a Mtoko bush trip, we were suddenly told that 11 and 14 Troops were returning to Salisbury for parachute training. At first we didn’t believe it. We knew a troop from 1 Commando had been para-trained in November 1976 but we had thought this was only for experimental purposes. However, with the shortage of helicopters there was only one other way to rapidly deploy troops into a Fireforce action—by parachuting them in. It transpired that the 1 Commando experiment had worked out well. Therefore it had been decided to train the whole battalion. We felt honoured that 3 Commando had been selected to go first, particularly as 11 and 14 Troops were leading the way.

Not everyone was thrilled with the idea, however. Loader was terrified but said he would try. Smit, the MAG gunner, was also terrified and said adamantly, “I’m not going. If God had wanted us to fly he would have given us wings.” Lieutenant Smith tried to reason with him. But Smit stubbornly refused to go and the lieutenant was left with no choice and Smit was posted out of the commando. I was very sad to see him go.

When the day came we found ourselves outside a large hangar at New Sarum Air Base, where the Parachute Training School was housed. The instructors were a happy bunch. There were Rhodesian, British, American and Australian PJIs, and unlike Training Troop, there was no malice in their training methods. Their job was to teach us how to jump … in as short a time as possible. Our training was both extensive and comprehensive. We learned how to land—the mysteries of side-rights, side-lefts, front-rights and back-lefts. They taught us how to exit the Dakota and the drills while still inside the aircraft. We were shown how to guide the lift webs during descent and how to operate the reserve if the main ’chute failed to open … Everybody paid particular attention during that lecture. It was important.

Some of the lads were already para-trained. Furstenberg, for example, had his Special Air Services wings, and Hugh McCall had served in an American Airborne Division. It was old hat to them, naturally, and of course they took every opportunity to tell us so. “Listen sonny,” McCall used to tease, “I was in a T-10 harness before you were in a T-shirt.”

At last came the big day for our first jump. We boarded the Dakota nervously, the packs comfortable but still somewhat alien on our backs, and sat down along the sides. Then the Dakota gathered speed down the runway and took off, and we climbed sedately to a thousand feet. In my stomach a million butterflies felt as if they were moving a lot faster than the plane itself. We were to jump in sticks of two and we waited for the word of command.

Suddenly it came. “STAND UP … HOOK UP … CHECK EQUIPMENT,” bawled the instructor. The roar of the slipstream outside the open exit door almost drowned his words. I rose and hooked the clip to the overhead static-line cable. It was just like the drill … except this time it was for real. I checked my equipment—quick-release box secure and clipped in … reserve secure … lift webs comfortable. The assistant dispatcher came forward and gave us a final check. When he was satisfied he returned to his position at the door.

“ACTION STATIONS,” yelled the instructor. I shuffled forward to the door and put my right hand on the cowling above it to steady myself. My left hand was firmly across the reserve on my chest. Both my hands were sweaty and I realized I was biting my lips. Smit had been right. It was unnatural. I glanced at the instructor. He winked and flashed me a broad grin and I smiled back nervously. Would I remember everything I had been taught? When exiting the aircraft, jump out and not down … look straight ahead … keep your feet together. “STAND IN THE DOOR!” The red light flashed on. Two steps forward … “One two” The slipstream buffeted and distorted my face. Green light on.


‘I leapt out, both arms across my reserve. I was immediately struck by the exhilarating force of the slipstream as it tossed me around like a feather behind the Dakota. Had I done everything I’d been taught to? There was a sharp crack above my head as the parachute opened, and I gazed up with relief at the large expanse of material billowing into a green mushroom above me. So far so good … But everything seemed to be happening too quickly.

Remember the drills! Head tucked in … knees bent … elbows in. The ground rushed up at a frightening speed. Pull down hard on the lift webs and prepare the angle of your body to land with the wind direction. Crunch!

I landed with a hard jolt, but rolled into a side-right in the manner born.

Suddenly I realized that apart from a few bruises I was all right. My first jump was over. A newspaper photographer snapped his camera at me as I gathered in the folds of my parachute, and the next day in The Herald there was a picture of me which I cut out and vainly pinned on my locker back at barracks. Eight jumps, including a night jump, and we were qualified paratroopers. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when I was awarded my wings and on our return to the bush we were regarded with envy by our comrades.

However, jumping operationally, we soon discovered, bore little relationship to the halcyon days of training. The Rhodesians kept paratroopers in the air for as short a time as possible, so as to offer little target opportunity to the enemy on the ground. To achieve this we were supposed to be dropped from a height of five hundred feet. But in reality it was usually lower. On occasions we were inadvertently dropped from altitudes of less than three hundred feet, which gave the parachute barely enough time to open before the ground rushed up to meet you. Rhodesia is rough country so invariably there was a lack of suitable dropping zones in a contact area. This left the pilots with no choice but to drop us into treed areas or onto rocks, and jump casualties were often high … especially when a strong wind was blowing.

Encumbered with bulky webbing and an awkward machine gun strapped to one’s side, could be a frightening experience. Sometimes we jumped with CSPEPs attached to our web straps. CSPEPs are large containers or packs that dangle beneath a paratrooper. They are not only extremely heavy, they also are difficult to jump with as they tend to sway and disrupt the parachute’s course. It is small wonder that RLI paratroopers referred to themselves as ‘meat bombs’.

In very short time, however, the RLI became adept paras. With some aggressive dispatching ‘techniques’ it was not unusual to get a stick of 20 men out the plane in less than 20 seconds. Less than one second per man. The benefit of such a sharp exit was that the troops would land closer together on the ground and be at readiness far sooner to prepare their sweep or advance than if they’d been scattered over a great distance.

It is doubtful whether the Rhodesians’ record of operational jumps will ever be matched. In one year alone, in the late 1970s, over 14,000 operational jumps were recorded. It was not uncommon for RLI troopers to parachute into two contacts a day and on the rare occasion, three. Out of my total 42 jumps, 18 were operational. This was ordinary and there were many paras who exceeded 50 operational jumps. (The record for the most operational jumps in the RLI is held by Des Archer of 1 Commando—a staggering 73 op jumps! Surely a world record in any sense.)

Jumping operationally was not a pleasant experience and I did my damndest to ‘snivel’ and get into the heliborne sticks. I’m sure most RLI paras would agree with me that given a choice between para or heliborne, the vast majority would opt for the latter.

10-20-2012, 05:40 PM
On 16 August 1977, 727613 Tpr Turkington, G. (1 Cdo) was killed in action.

Fire Force Birchenough Bridge

Extract from Choppertech, published by Leach Printers & Signs CC, 2011, pp 62-63

By Beaver Shaw

On 14 August 1977 Fire Force was called out to a Selous Scout sighting of ten to twelve terrorists moving along the side of a hill near Birchenough Bridge. The Scout call-sign seemed to have trouble talking the K-Car on to the target area and our G-Cars, carrying Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) troopies, went into a wide orbit circling the K-Car. While we were circling I glimpsed movement on the ground and spotted about ten terrorists dressed in blue denims and carrying a variety of weapons scurrying along the side of a hill feature.

As soon as I identified them as terrorists, I engaged them with my twin .303 Browning machine-guns. I was excited and the adrenalin was pumping making me forget to throw a white smoke generator to mark the target area. I saw my rounds hitting all around the terrorists as they made for cover. Things were happening so fast that I could not see if any of this group was hit.

My pilot, Norman Maasdorp, called the K-Car over to our position which took a while as he did not have us visual at that time, so Norman decided to drop our stick ahead of the terrorists in a dry riverbed which they appeared to be making for.

We got airborne and spoke the K-Car overhead the target area, indicating where we had dropped off our stop. Soon afterwards we heard the stop yelling, “Contact … Contact ... Contact,” and then silence. K-Car dropped a smoke generator and began firing.

The stop group came back on the radio and said that one of the troopies on the ground had been wounded in the neck and chest by a rifle grenade fired by one of the terrorists and required an immediate casevac. K-Car affirmed his position and we were told to land and uplift the wounded troopie and casevac him, while the K-Car gave us top cover.

We turned into the target area and saw an orange smoke grenade go off in the bush ahead of us. We flared and landed in a tight landing zone (LZ) in a cloud of dust and dead leaves. Two troopies supporting their wounded buddy approached our helicopter and pulled him onto the floor as there was no time to get him onto a stretcher. Norman pulled up the collective and we rose out of the LZ and set course for Chipinga hospital.

I looked down at the wounded troopie, Graham Turkington, and saw that he was battling to breathe and blood was coming out of a wound on his neck. I grabbed a roll of mutton cloth and attempted to stem the flow of blood and then after a while I attempted to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as he was dying. I could see it in his eyes that we were losing him. The interior of the Alouette and all our clothing were covered in a fine mist of blood. There was nothing I could do and it made me feel so helpless.

I was so involved with attending to Graham that I did not even notice us landing at Chipinga Hospital. The nursing staff was incredible and went to work on Graham as soon as they got to the helicopter and removed him with the rotors still running. Once he was out of the chopper, we got airborne and flew to the Chipinga police station, where we refueled and waited for further instructions from K-Car.

Later that day we uplifted our stick and flew them to Chipinga where we night-stopped.

Frank Robinson knew the nurses and the two of us were invited over to their house where we were told that Graham had not made it.

(Graham’s father was a Police Reserve Air Wing pilot and a few months later I recounted the story to him in the Choppers Arms in Mtoko.)

10-21-2012, 08:24 PM
Cpl Jimmy Swan gets wounded and is CASEVAC'd by the Padre...

Frelimo attack the Forbes border post

Since the border between Mozambique and Rhodesia had been closed in 1976, there was much sabre-rattling from the agitated and aggressive Frelimo troops who were openly in cahoots with ZANLA, and therefore clearly seen as the enemy by the Rhodesians.

Jimmy Swan recalls an incident on the border:

" … 2 Commando was spread out across the Honde valley and 3 Commando was on Fireforce at Grand Reef. Umtali had recently been stonked with 120mm mortar fire from over the border and ZANLA gooks were swarming in the Honde and saturating the entire eastern border area Intelligence sources indicated there was a strong possibility of further attacks on the town of Umtali from across the border.

The local Indep company was based at the Forbes border post and 35 men from 7 and 8 Troops relieved them as Frelimo was getting belligerent. Our role was to defend the border and try and get as much information about what weapons and artillery were positioned on the opposite ridge in Mozambique. In support was Rhodesian artillery with their 25 pounders.

At the border post we used the roof of the Customs building as an OP and gun emplacement and bunkers were built near the forward fences where we had established permanent gun and mortar positions.

It was a morning ritual for us to climb on the roof and, on cue, drop our shorts and give the Freds (Frelimo) a ‘brown eye’. They would be looking at us through their binos and would give us plenty of abuse. Clearly they lacked a sense of humour.

The Freds knew we were aware of their threat and yet they kept strengthening the gun positions on the opposite hill. They were truly digging in.

The border post was surrounded by very thick bush, easy to hide in if you had the guts to sneak across the border and do a recce. One night, Trevor Hodgson, Ronnie Travers, Surge and a couple more infiltrated Mozambique on foot to try and gather information. We went part way with them to support them in case of compromise. It was a night-long op and was very dangerous as there were gooks everywhere. But they came back at dawn none the worse for wear and with some useful int.

The subsequent Frelimo attack was so unexpected, so furious and so well organized that we were caught totally by surprise. The guys on guard duty had not seen the gooks sneak up through the thick bush and prepare the assault. They hit us from three sides. The attack was initiated with an RPG-7 rocket right into the building, which blew me clean off my feet and resulted in my facial injury. I remember coming round with Ronnie sitting over me, firing his rifle furiously and trying to assist me at the same time. Blood gushed as he stuffed a field dressing over my face. My jaw was shattered and my tongue torn severely. My face was split open. Facial wounds bleed profusely and there was concern as to how to evacuate me.

Still inside the building and still under a barrage of fire the border post was alive with rifle fire and explosions. Our men returned fire effectively and killed some of the gooks running into the killing ground. Their artillery began shelling our position, but it appeared Umtali was the primary target. In a flash our big guns retaliated, which quickly silenced their heavies.

I was basically trying to care for myself but I couldn’t see because of the blood and I’m sure I was in shock, so my efforts were ineffective. My mates were too busy returning fire. The barrage seemed never to end—the splinters and cracks as the bullets thudded into the walls, the thump of mortars …
Ronnie called for a casevac but the request was refused until things calmed down.

The battalion padre, Bill Blakeway, was visiting us at the time and sat with me, comforting me. He knew I was losing too much blood and that he had to get me out. He also knew that the gooks were infiltrating the fences.

Still under fire, he dragged me to the back door and into his Land Rover. He started it up and he drove at speed. Somehow I still had my weapon for support but it was useless as I had a towel stuffed over my face as the field dressings were sopping with blood and had run out. He got me to the local hospital where they did immediate transfusions and stitched me up. I was dressed in the normal flimsy RLI combat kit of T-shirt and shorts but still with full AK webbing and my rifle.

I’m told that as I was walked into the hospital people fled at the sight of me. One of the nurses struggled to get my weapon away from me and had to literally prise it from my grasp. I don’t remember very much.

Apparently there were no further casualties on our side that day, thanks mainly to our artillery which hammered the enemy.

I was back with 2 Commando before I was eating solids. The RLI padre was decorated for his bravery, the same padre who officiated at my wedding two years later, with Howie Pascoe, the 2 Commando medic, as best man … "

10-22-2012, 03:02 PM
Reflections on leadership experience...

Leadership Reflections
By Wayne Furphy

World-class organizations regard ‘human capital’ as their most precious asset. Hiring, developing and retaining the best people sets great organizations apart from their competitors. As a result, most organizations today spend a great deal of time, effort and money on developing their leadership capability. The problem they face is that leadership is best developed under high pressurized situations. You cannot easily simulate these conditions. As an individual you do not know how you are going to react under such conditions, and whether you are capable of leading your people well under these conditions.

The RLI provided an unbelievably effective environment for developing first-class leaders. It was able to do this because of three key factors. These factors are essential for creating and maintaining a world-class organization, which in turn is a pre-requisite for developing effective leaders :

1. The right ‘conditions’ under which leadership can be developed

2. The ‘knowledge culture’ that an organization needs to enable incoming generations to stand on the experienced shoulders of their predecessors

3. An unwavering ‘self-belief’ instilled in all of an organization’s members

The RLI provided its young soldiers with plenty of action, under life and death conditions, day in and day out. Experience was gathered at a fast pace. The battalion’s kill:loss ratio was extraordinary, and had a lot to do with the way in which the more experienced officers, NCOs and troopies passed on their knowledge to the less experienced men. With the increasing number of national servicemen passing through the RLI during the mid to late 1970s this knowledge culture was essential to its ability to drive up kill rates and avoid casualties in the bush war. We all know that young people think they are invincible. What a self-belief to have in an organization! The RLI had this in bucket loads among its troopies and leaders.

A few of the more important lessons that I took into business about leadership from the RLI were :

• be decisive
• never judge a person at face value
• out-think your enemy
• remain calm when under pressure

Be decisive
In a combat situation you have to make a decision with the information you have on hand. Inevitably you rely on judgement because there is a limited amount of time to gather sufficient information. You take the decision and then you make it work, because if you don’t then you are in trouble. In business, leaders too often delay their decisions to gather more information. I experienced this time and again in my business career. The outcome is either a missed opportunity or an organization paralyzed by indecision. The RLI taught me to take these decisions and then make them work.

Never judge a person at face value
We all too often miss the real gems. Soon after I joined 2 Commando one of my troopies came to me and asked if he could go on a parachute training course. He had failed the course twice before so I was reluctant. He was an experienced soldier who had been in the RLI years earlier. He was unimpressive – overweight, untidy and commanded little respect among his fellow troopies. I asked him why he wanted to do the para course and he said that he wasn’t seeing any action and felt that he had a lot of experience to offer. I let him go on the para course and I said if he passed I would include him in my stick. I was surprised when he returned a couple of weeks later, having passed the course, and lost some ten kilograms in weight. He reminded me, with a huge grin on his face, of my promise to include him in my stick. He was a gem! His experience was eye opening, he thrived under pressure, was cool under fire, and when I left the RLI at the end of my national service he was a corporal - a leader among men.

Out-think the enemy
Out-thinking the enemy in the military is akin to out-thinking the competition in business. 2Cdo found itself on the ground in Mozambique in support of a Special Air Service (SAS)- led external raid. The SAS had taken heavy fire and we had been flown in to provide additional fire power on the ground. We spent the day sweeping through a large Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) camp. We had found a number of arms caches during our sweep, but few of the enemy. As nightfall approached we were instructed to ambush a road leading into the camp, which we did and settled down for the night. There were about 50 of us including the OC, 2i/c, four lieutenants, four sergeants, corporals and troopies. It was a dark night. The area we were in was covered in mopani trees, with little undergrowth on the flat ground – not ideal cover for an ambush. But given the lack of contacts we had had in the camp during the day, we did not really expect much action.

The enemy had fled the camp before we got there.

A couple of hours later we heard the deep throaty growl of a large vehicle approaching along the road from our right and heading towards the camp. It was moving slowly and cautiously. It entered our ambush zone, and once it reached the pre-assigned ambush activation point we triggered the claymores and opened fire. The vehicle stopped in its tracks. We discovered later that it was a Russian armoured personnel carrier (APC) used by Frente Populares para o Libertaçao de Moçambique (FRELIMO). A fierce firefight ensued. The troops inside were firing out through slits in the armoured sides of the vehicle. After an intense exchange of fire some of the occupants decided it was time to leave, and they leaped out the back door of the APC and ran. With the help of a nightsight, a couple of them were brought down. Another ran straight back down the road. He was the only survivor and probably set several sprint records as he made good his escape. The remainder were killed. We only took one relatively minor casualty, which in itself was amazing given our lack of protective cover. We had our FNs, MAGs, grenades and claymores. The APC, with its armoured casing, mounted machine-gun and armed soldiers should have driven straight through the ambush, was it not for the driver having his protective hatch open so he could see where he was going on such a dark night. The claymores killed the driver and trapped the vehicle in the killing ground of our ambush. So, job done we thought contentedly. Sit out the night here and see what the damage is at first light.

A short while later we heard clinking and rattling sounds coming up the road. Sounded like tanks? I had never heard the sound of a tank before, but it was unmistakeable. We moved like greased lightning up the road back into the camp. The clinking and rattling followed us. We decided to move out onto a wide open plain given the darkness of the night. The tanks spread out into a sweepline, troops were deployed on the ground as part of their sweepline, and they tested the machine-guns mounted on their tanks and other supporting vehicles by firing in our direction but well over our heads. They fired shells periodically in the same direction soon after one of us had been in radio communication with another of our callsigns while coordinating our movements on the ground. We figured out from where the shells landed that they could pick up from our radio communications the direction but not the distance we were in front of them. We went into radio silence, and unknown to them we were only a couple of hundred metres in front of them, keeping them visual. They had assumed that we had run into deep bush cover for protection. By first light we had crossed the open ground and settled down in the fringe of thick bush along its edge, getting ready for a serious fight. We expected air support to arrive soon after dawn, and were very relieved to see the Hunters appear overhead. The FRELIMO forces immediately turned around and hot-footed it out of the camp. We had avoided direct confrontation with the FRELIMO force with the odds tipped heavily in their favour all night by doing what they had not expected, staying right under their noses.

Remain calm when under pressure
One of my first impressions after arriving at 2Cdo and participating in the first of many Fire Force engagements was how calm every stick leader and the K-Car commander sounded on their radios, irrespective of the situations they found themselves in. I realized that this was a very important part of dealing with pressure. There was never any panic and this had a positive effect on all of our troops on the ground. There is always an exception to be found, and in my case it was when a Lynx pilot decided my stick and I were the enemy. We were sweeping up a hill when the K-Car commander told us to stop where we were, and wait while his chopper went off to be refuelled. A few minutes later the Lynx pilot who had been circling the scene told all callsigns on the ground that he had enemy visual and was lining up his attacking dive. We hadn’t engaged any enemy as yet so I was a little concerned when I saw him lining up his dive in my direction. I asked him whether he was sure it was the enemy. He told me to keep off the network as he was attacking. The Lynx was in its dive and he was coming straight for my stick. We looked at each other in disbelief and bolted for the nearest cover we could find which was a rock in an open area of ground that could protect no more than one person. All four of us dived behind this rock landing on top of one another in an untidy bundle of legs, arms and curses. The Lynx opened up with his machine-guns and a parallel stream of rounds cut a path on either side of us. It must have looked hilarious to any bystander. Calmness abandoned, my next radio transmission left the Lynx pilot in no doubt what we thought of him and how much we would like to reciprocate when we all got back to base.

10-23-2012, 11:47 AM
KIA on his last day of service... RIP Hugh McCall

By Peter Trigg

16 July 1979 was a very bad day for 3 Commando. In fact it had been a bad few weeks. Exactly one month earlier, we had lost Troopers Bruce McKend and Elssaeser, KIA, in the Hurricane area. We were now out of Buffalo Range forward airfield (FAF) 7 in the Operation Repulse area, unforgiving territory with Ghona Re Zhou National Park, dry and hot lowland, to one side of the main road and thick dense undergrowth in the Tribal Trust Land (TTL) to the other.

This day, I recall, we should have been on our way home but the day before we were told that our tour of duty had to be extended for 24 hrs because the relieving commando were delayed. I think that was Support Commando.

Typically, the screecher went mid-morning and we rushed to the helipad to receive a hasty briefing and kit up before boarding the choppers. I was in Dave Cohen's stick. A Selous Scout callsign reported in that several gooks were rested up in a densely treed area in the TTL. Being a Selous Scout sighting we were pretty sure it was going to result in a contact, as opposed to a ‘lemon’ which was often the case from other unit sightings. Lieutenant (Lt) Roger Carloni was 3-9 in the K-Car, Major Bruce Snelgar away for the day. After some 30-odd minutes’ flying time we were deposited on the edge of dense tree lines and undergrowth and told to sweep through to a position some way westward within that area.

This vegetation was so dense we could hardly see where we were going and our progress, for what it was, was mainly on all fours crawling under thick undergrowth. As a result, Dave Cohen instructed us to form up into box formation as opposed to extended line as we were in great danger of losing sight of each other. I was in the rear of the box, behind a rifleman, taking it in turns to lead (or to be on point, as the Americans would say). This was somewhat relaxing as you would be covering ground the man in front had already traversed. I shouldn't have relaxed. Crossing a narrow stretch of tall grassland, I suddenly stepped on something soft and immediately looked down to see a pair of eyes staring at me through the grass reeds which had been laid back as cover. Due to the thick undergrowth, my FN rifle was on ‘safe’ but I quickly clicked to ‘repetitive’ and let loose a volley of double taps. Hell, I was angry with the rifleman in front, who had let me down on several occasions in the past, for not passing on movement instructions etc., or at least not making sure I acknowledged receiving them. No, he had walked over or alongside what turned out to be two suspect gooks. Had they had weapons with them in their basha, undoubtedly they would have shot us in the back after we had passed.

I called Dave Cohen to come over, intending to give him a blast about the rifleman ahead of me but didn't get the chance. Together, we pulled out the bodies of two naked young African females. No signs of weapons or clothing. I wanted to search the surrounding area, but we had neither the time nor the visibility to do so. We moved on. I am 99% positive they were female gooks who had ditched uniforms and weapons, rather than adult female Africans who had been running with the terrs as their whores, as was suggested later in the corporals mess back at Buffalo Range FAF. So we moved on.

Hugh McCall’s stick was somewhere to our right as we were crawling our way through. We heard over the radio that his stick had been split in two by a deep re-entrant, a dry gully running through the bush. Still crawling on all fours, a single shot rang out, clearly an AK round. Callsign 3-9 called and called trying to reach Hugh, calling “McCall, McCall”, as well as his stop callsign, but to no avail. The other part of the half of the stick, on his side of the re-entrant, informed Lt Carloni he was in a position to go look for him.

Less than five minutes later, another single AK shot and then silence. No response to attempts to contact them and it was not possible for the other half of his stick, and in any event too risky, to search for them. We were told to stay put and throw smoke to mark the front line of troops (FLOT). The K-Car was going to strafe the area with 20mm cannon.

Being on the left-hand end of our stick, I took out my orange smoke grenade and on Dave's command threw out and to my left. Ideally, you want the grenade to be some ten metres away. This damn grenade hit a tree or bush, as the scrub was so thick and bounced back, detonating about 2m in front of me. Too late to do anything as we had a ‘heads down’ command from 9.

The K-Car then opened up. It was only about 15 seconds of explosions and detonations but it seemed like forever, wondering how close they would come. I don't think the ground actually shook with each explosion but it certainly felt like it.

Called by 3-9, 2nd Lt Noel Smee then swept the small area, finally calling in, “These guys are dead,” meaning Sergeant Hugh McCall and Trooper Steve Dwyer, American Vietnam vets, were both shot with one round by a single gook sniper. He was also dead, killed by the K-Car. Hugh had only very recently been promoted sergeant and was due to fly home within days to see his wife and new-born child.

We were told to move back for uplift by Cyclone 7.

On landing at Buffalo Range I saw Major Snelgar standing adjacent to the airstrip to welcome us back. He gave us a short talk, a morale booster, or an attempt at one. Even fresh steak provided by the ever-considerate Colour Sergeant Brian Lewis as Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant did little to lift our spirits. It was very sombre and quiet, with no frivolity around the campfire that evening as would normally be the case.

The following day, we moved back to Salisbury for our late but welcome R&R.

10-24-2012, 02:12 PM
Lessons learned...

By the end of April 1968 Operation Cauldron was all but over. 51 terrorists had been killed and 38 captured. The operation was officially closed on 31 May 1968.

Cauldron saw the RLI well and truly blooded in battle and also some significant changes in operational tactics. A major terrorist incursion into Matabeleland the previous year had been successfully wrapped up by 1RAR with 2 Commando 1RLI under command for operations. Denoted Operation Nickel, the experience gained had led to the beginning of an overhaul of tactics. Until then Rhodesian Army Counter-Insurgency (COIN) operations and tactics had been based largely upon the experiences of officers and senior non-commissioned officers who had served in the Malayan COIN campaign in the 1950s. After Op Nickel, however, follow-up and contact drills were overhauled. The RAR adopted a broad arrowhead formation for their full-strength platoon structure. This was suited to much of the bush to be found in west and south of Rhodesia. The RLI, with its very small and under-strength troop structure, opted for a formation of two sections forward with the troop commander and his radio operator central and slightly to the rear and within visual distance for command and control purposes. A third section behind the command element was the reserve under the Troop Sergeant, but such were the manpower shortages in the RLI that there was seldom the luxury of a reserve section. What this did mean was that a small, highly mobile and flexible sub-unit capable of fighting in half-section groups became the core of tactics at Troop level. Adapted further to suit the carrying capacity of the Alouette III helicopter this was the basis of the 4-man stick and the beginning of the evolution of Fire Force tactics employed with such devastating effect in later years.

Operation Cauldron also saw the development and innovative employment of limited air support assets applied over a wide operational area. RLI sub-units deployed with helicopters in support and based in the field for extended periods, often in remote areas, forged close friendships with the pilots and technicians supporting them. This extended to the crews of fixed-wing aircraft deployed at forward airfields. Living and working together led naturally to a greater appreciation of the capabilities and limitations of each force and hence the discussions and experiments leading towards highly effective ground and air mobile operations based on helicopter and fixed-wing close air support. Highly effective and innovative integration of ground and air forces from section level upwards was a benchmark in Operation Cauldron and was to continue to the end of the war in Rhodesia.