Page 13 of 15 FirstFirst ... 31112131415 LastLast
Results 241 to 260 of 282

Thread: Africa's Commandos - new book on the RLI

  1. #241
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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.

  2. #242
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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.

    ...

  3. #243
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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.

  4. #244
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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 …
    Last edited by JMA; 10-16-2012 at 04:03 PM.

  5. #245
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    RLI converts to an airborne unit...

    Airborne

    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.

    “GO!”

    ‘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.

  6. #246
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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.)

  7. #247
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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 … "

  8. #248
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    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.

  9. #249
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    KIA on his last day of service... RIP Hugh McCall

    Contact
    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. #250
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default Op Cauldron

    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.

  11. #251
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    1968-71 : operations with the Portuguese in Mozambique Part 1

    Operation Birthday, November 1968

    As a young lieutenant, I was privileged to participate in one of the first of these operations codenamed Op Birthday in November 1968. Sadly, much of the detail of that trip has been lost in the passage of time (another way of saying that I’m suffering from a little bit of ‘old timers’ disease) but I do have some random recollections, together with some photographs, that may help other (more competent) military historians to fill in the blanks.

    We left New Sarum in a Dakota and endured the usual long, noisy and uncomfortable flight, landing first in Tete before heading on up to a forward Portuguese base close to the Tanzanian border. As I recall, its name was Cassacatize, although I stand to be corrected on that. There we were, issued with our Portuguese camouflage outfits which included, would you believe, a camouflage shirt. That was something of a novelty as our Rhodesian camouflage at that stage had not progressed beyond camouflage denim trousers. Our Commanding Officer (CO) and team leader, Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt-Col) John Hickman, accompanied by Wing Commander Ken Edwards and with Lt-Col Ted Culbert (as an observer) joined their Portuguese counterparts for a joint planning session.

    In the meantime, Lieutenants (Lts) Jerry Strong and Bert Sachse and I went to meet our troops. It was at that point that we gained an understanding of the enormous communication gulf between us and our men. I believe that most of them were cacadores or conscripts from Metropolitan Portugal. They seemed rather amused at our attempts to educate them in fire and movement techniques. Apart from being able to ask for a cold beer, I spoke no Portuguese and they spoke no English. If they did, they were certainly not going to show their hands and I eventually had to resort to giving my instructions in broken schoolboy French which some of them appeared to understand. That said, I still had some serious misgivings about how successful our battle drills might be if we got into a really hot contact.

    We assembled that evening for a briefing from John Hickman and were astonished to learn that we were going to be deployed to an area where there was absolutely no indication of any communist terrorist (CT) activity. It seemed that we were going to be kept away from the main infiltration routes. We gained the impression that the CO was having to engage in a certain amount of politicking until he had established a reasonable level of trust with his Portuguese counterparts.

    The following morning we were shuttled out in Rhodesian G-Cars to our operational area where we began patrolling. Early rains had fallen and the bush was an Eden of short green grass and unspoilt woodland. The going was easy and the troops relatively responsive to my hand signals even if they insisted on holding their G3s by the muzzles, with the stocks casually resting on their shoulders. The area was a free fire zone and I could see why. The odd village that we found had long since been abandoned, with the occupants either having been moved to the Aldeamentos or having fled to other areas. Meanwhile, Squadron Leader Petter-Boyer was doing what he did best; criss-crossing the area in his Trojan, scanning the terrain below for telltale path patterns. Eventually the word came back that he had found something suspicious and the G-Cars moved in to uplift our patrols and shuttle them to landing zones (LZs) closer to the target zone.

    Now, with heightened awareness, we began moving towards the suspected CT camp. Still, the cacadores insisted on holding their weapons by the muzzles. As we moved through the relatively open countryside towards a collection of granite outcrops, it was hard to imagine that we had not been seen. We finally arrived at the target and, sure enough, there, tucked under the trees, was an extensive but deserted camp. We began counting the bashas to see if we could establish the number of occupants but as we continued our search it became more and more apparent that the bulk of the residents were displaced locals and not CTs at all. Tucked in every nook, cranny and crevice of the granite kopje above the camp were all the trappings of civilian men, women and children. It is worth remembering that this was our first exposure to counter-insurgency operations in which the local populace was such a key factor. We had hitherto been fortunate to have conducted most of our operations in Rhodesia in wilderness areas, where the CTs could not benefit from the eyes and ears of a local populace with intimate knowledge of its surroundings. This was a new dimension for us but, in my naivety, I did not envisage such a situation ever developing in Rhodesia. How wrong I was!
    to be continued...

  12. #252
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    1968-71 : operations with the Portuguese in Mozambique Part 2

    We recovered as much of the stashed effects as we could for uplift to the forward base. I was amazed to find an excellent Johnson & Johnson medical kit hidden in a crevice and, in line with the rules of the game at that time, I wrote on the tin box that I would like it. Imagine my delight at being handed the box when we returned to the forward base. Someone had the last laugh on me as I discovered that the entire contents of the tin box had been removed and I learned later that the Portuguese troops were allowed to sell the spoils of war to supplement their meagre incomes.

    Having by this time established our bona fide, the decision was reached to redeploy us to a hotter area and we were uplifted to another forward base named Cassuende. There we received a report of an ambush on a Portuguese convoy. Although I was not present when the news broke, I am told that the Portuguese colonel rushed up to John Hickman shouting “Good news, good news….we have been ambushed!” We scrambled aboard the G-Cars together with the Special Air Service (SAS) tracking team under Brian (aka Barney Rubble of Flintstones’ fame) Robinson and headed for the scene to start the follow up. We found that one of the convoy’s Berliets had detonated a mine earlier in the day but there was considerable doubt in our minds about the ambush. There were no firing positions to be found and the cacadores lounging around were somewhat vague as to the details of the ‘ambush’. We cast around for some time looking for spoor, to no avail, and we were forced to conclude that the mine had been laid some days before.

    The G-Cars began to recover the troops, but the storm clouds were gathering and only one lift of the trackers had taken place before it began to bucket down. Jerry Strong and I sat huddled under a single shelter lightweight, which was all we had between us, and waited for the storm to abate. It didn’t, and we began to regret the indecent haste of our departure from Cassuende with just our weapons and webbing. The old adage, ‘never get separated from your kit’ took on a new and potent meaning as dark grey clouds relentlessly dumped their load on us throughout the rest of the day. All we could see when peeping out of the shelter’s lightweight into the gathering dusk was a thick mist – ‘Harry Clampers’ in Blue Job (air force) terminology - and it was painfully clear that there would be no recovery that night.

    Jerry and I debated on how we would be able to get some sleep as the rain continued to hammer, without pity, on the shelter. We were both cold and totally saturated, and we eventually resolved to zip ourselves back-to-back into the shelter’s lightweight and hunker down for what we knew would be a very, very long night. By the time Jerry had wormed his not inconsiderable frame into the shelter, there was almost no room for me and it was with great difficulty that I managed to close the zip. Once that had been achieved we would have made for an interesting sight to any observer, stuck as we were like two peas in a pod, almost unable to move. The situation was not without its hilarity and, of course, the details of that night would lose nothing in the telling. We emerged rather sheepishly from our cocoon the following morning to another grey and miserable day. Having not eaten since leaving Cassacatize, we were more than a little peckish, but we had no option but to sit tight and hope that the clouds would lift. Eventually we received the order to proceed the short distance to the road for uplift by Portuguese convoy. Landmine warfare was something new to us and the sight as we travelled around of the mangled remains of numerous mine-damaged Berliets cemented my resolve to avoid any movement by road. Alas, the alternative was another cold, soggy and hungry day and we needed little persuasion to clamber aboard the Berliet, jostling with the cacadores for somewhere comfortable to sit.
    Back at the forward base, there was not much going on. The weather was still clampers and neither PB nor the Alouettes were able to fly. We sat around waiting for something to break, and I very foolishly took off my glasses and picked up a magazine. The next moment there was an ominous ‘crunch’ as someone walked by and, to my horror, there were my glasses lying on the floor with one lens completely shattered. I managed to find a piece of cardboard to place in the frame and went back to the magazine.

    The boredom and frustration were palpable but, just when it seemed that nothing would happen that day, we heard several long bursts of automatic fire and even the odd crack and thump from somewhere close by. We leapt to our feet, grabbed our weapons and rushed outside. The cacadores were all milling around but we, in the Rhodesian contingent, quickly formed ourselves into a sweepline and moved out in the direction of the firing. There was something ludicrous about a collection of Rhodesian officers in Portuguese camouflage, advancing on an unseen enemy with their rifles at the ready, being watched disinterestedly by 30 or so Portuguese conscripts. I found myself on the left flank of the sweepline feeling very vulnerable with my cardboard lens and limited vision. I kept having to turn my head all the way round to the left to check the flank at the CO’s almost continuous insistence. The firing had ceased but we kept going and before long we caught a glimpse of Portuguese camouflage through the trees. Something made us hold our fire and it was as well because there, to our utter amazement and disbelief, was a militiaman busy cutting the throat of a cow which he had just finished filling full of lead!
    That evening the wind picked up and the clouds gathered again. Shortly after dark the heavens opened and twelve of us Rhodesians ran for the shelter of our large ‘A’ frame tent dug into a pit about one metre deep. We settled down to catch some sleep, but it was not long before the effect of wind and rain formed a large and ominous bulge in the tent roof. As we gingerly tried to manoeuvre the bulge with the muzzles of our rifles, its contents began to pour through everywhere we touched the canvas. It was another long night as the wind howled and we dodged mini cascades and the tent pit inexorably filled up with water.

    Again the day dawned grey and miserable and we wandered through the base surveying a scene of utter devastation. Every tent and mortar pit was filled to the brim with water, the mortar barrels poking comically through the murk. The toilet and shower enclosures were all flattened.

    Happily, it was time to pack up, and we held a rather inconclusive debrief. On the face of it, and by Rhodesian standards, we had achieved very little. In reality, however, we had been given a priceless insight into the type of war which we would eventually have to fight back on Rhodesian soil. Perhaps, if we had had the prescience to realize that, we might have given much greater emphasis to the part that the local populace would play in future campaigns.

  13. #253
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Chris Donald who commanded 3 Commando in 1976 reaffirms where the backbone of any effective combat regiment lies:

    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.
    and also:

    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.

  14. #254
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    RLI troopie brewing up for the lads in the early days of border control:


  15. #255
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    13,352

    Default The Portuguese (colonies) impact on Rhodesia

    One Rhodesian Army commander who visited the Portuguese in Mozambique, on a staff visit before 1974 returned impressed, especially given the constraints upon them - notably resources and geography. A staff visit is very different to the experiences JMA has posted.

    Whilst Rhodesia had a long history of black African participation in the police and the army at one point the Portuguese in their campaigning suddenly were able to recruit and field very successful local African units. First in Mozambique and then Angola, IIRC they were called "flechas" and were primarily given the title, if not role of commandos. A very scanty Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flechas and a wider, better Wiki on Portugal's colonial wars:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Colonial_War

    What is often overlooked is how the Portuguese had virtually defeated the nationalist movements in Angola (except a small UNITA) and Mozambique. Portuguese Guinea being the exception. The came the 1974 coup at home and the decision to exit quickly from Africa.

    I wonder if inspiration for the Selous Scouts was influenced by this experience?

    On a quick check they were formed in 1973:
    The Selous Scouts had many Black Rhodesians in their ranks who were from 50%–80% of its ranks...
    From:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selous_Scouts
    davidbfpo

  16. #256
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    The then Lt Col John Hickman wrote of the Mozambique operations:

    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.

    Our first deployment was to Bene. This was in fact the Headquarters (HQ) of a cavalry battalion (Batalhao Caadores 2350). Initially, the Army component consisted of combat trackers (two teams from the SAS, myself and several junior officers from the RLI. These were jointly to lead the Portuguese follow-up troops. The Air Force contingent comprised of four helicopters and crews under the redoubtable Squadron Leader Norman Walsh. The ground element was flown to and from Bene by one of our Dakota aircraft. We were all dressed in distinctive Portuguese camouflage and were instructed that this and subsequent missions were rated as Top Secret and that the need to know principle applied, even within our respective units.

    Bene is a small village situated northeast of Mt Darwin, approximately halfway between the Zambezi River to the south and the Zambian/Mozambique border to the north. It is about 20kms south of Tembue. The dam wall for Cabora Bassa Dam was under construction at that time. Because of the intensive use of anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines by FRELIMO in Mozambique, the Rhodesians were warned not to travel by road but to use the helicopters for operational transport. This was not always possible under the conditions pertaining at the time - a heavy rainy season. As a result the ground component spent many nervous hours in the back of Portuguese trucks which only had mostly inadequate sandbags for protection. We certainly learned to be landmine-conscious and more alert.

    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.

    There was a considerable social difference and standing between the Portuguese officers and their men. The former were mainly from the aristocracy, the wealthy or those of good education, while the latter were, for the most part, peasants and treated as such. Again as a generalisation, the officer corps gave us the impression of being aloof and on different strata from those under them. Certainly, there were some of a good calibre by any military standard but most had little liaison with their troops. The bulk of the soldiers were National Servicemen completing a three-year engagement from the Metropolis to a distant African colony that had no attraction for them whatsoever. While immigration was encouraged, the National Servicemen had to return to Lisbon for demobilization and then had to pay their own way back. Few were interested. This dangerous gap between the privileged and the peasants was made obvious in the rural bush forts where, despite the Portuguese love of football, there were seldom any facilities, not even a single goal post to shoot at, to keep the men occupied while in base. Their recreation facilities appeared to be non-existent, not a good feature in maintaining high morale but rather an encouragement to negative attitudes such as boredom and lassitude. To us man-management was seriously lacking.

    Norman Walsh and I had got into trouble, and were reprimanded by our respective HQ, for using helicopters to uplift stop groups for vertical envelopment in a contact towards the end of Operation Excess. However, here in Tete and free of the military hierarchy, we used this tactic on several occasions. In one such occasion, the Portuguese had captured a FRELIMO terrorist but were unable to interrogate him for he spoke only Chinyanja (the language of the lakes - Lake Malawi). As he was a fresh capture, I questioned him and learned that his former base was at the junction of two streams fairly close to our operating base. Naturally, he could not indicate the location on our maps for he could not read a map, let alone read or write, but reluctantly agreed that he could indicate the position if we flew down one of the streams. We therefore filled three helicopters with our troops, while a fourth helicopter, piloted by Norman Walsh, with his technician, a fellow 1RLI officer, the captive and me, led the way, at low level, in the vain hope of using the element of surprise, conducting a vertical envelopment on the terrorist base. Not unexpectedly it was all in vain, but an experience nevertheless, with the agitated captive obviously thinking this was a ploy to throw him out of the helicopter. In his terror he was spraying saliva and mucus in all directions which was most unfortunate for I had to remain as close as possible to him in order to hear his directions above the noise of the helicopter. Not so amusing at the time.

    Officer Commanding (OC) SAS Major Porky Rich and I alternated as the Army commander on these missions. As far as I can remember - over 40 years ago we conducted operations in Bene (twice more) Furancunco (near the Malawi border), Vasco da Gama, Chicoa, Tembue, Chifombo and several other isolated bush forts near the Zambian border. Besides the Batalhao Caadores 2350, we served with the Batalhao Caadores 2/503 and Regimento Caadores Para Quedistas (I have their pennants) amongst others whose titles I do not now remember. Although I have been critical of the Portuguese Forces operational modus operandi, their hospitality to our teams was always excellent and offered with warmth and courtesy. These attachments did have a lighter side. On one deployment to an unusually primitive fort near the Zambian border, our operations required the use of a radio relay station. We had been joined, as an observer, by a rather pompous, very English, senior officer, who was well known for his not inconsiderable theoretical knowledge of military affairs, but was rather lacking in practical experience. Being short of first-line troops as usual, we issued him with several radios, water and dry rations and sent him by helicopter to the top of a nearby bald granite hill. There he remained, in the blistering valley heat, in a vulnerable and exposed position for the duration of our commitment. As he was fairly pale in complexion and bald into the bargain, he rejoined us looking fiery red, hot and bothered, at least now with more practical experience. Also, Porky Rich and I were mates but not adverse to the odd practical joke against one another.

    At one of the final debriefs to the Operations Coordinating Committee, at which the Prime Minister was present, I stated seriously that if the whole 1RLI battalion was deployed we could hold the line of the Zambezi River as a major obstacle in the northwest sector of Tete Province, but obviously, for diplomatic reasons, as well as the military pride of our Portuguese allies, this was impossible. It could have affected ZANLA’s aspirations, at least initially but, with hindsight, with the collapse of the Portuguese Empire, this would only have bought more time. The collapse of the Portuguese in Mozambique was a major, fundamental factor in the unfortunate outcome of our bush-war.
    Last edited by JMA; 10-30-2012 at 07:27 AM.

  17. #257
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default ‘I am a lieutenant in the RLI …’

    The following two court statement makes for interesting reading, not so much for the events that took place (although contacts are of interest), but for the fact that an experienced Rhodesian Army officer was required, by law, to immerse himself in legal bureaucracy. The fact of the matter is that, even as late as 1974, Rhodesian civil authorities, with heads buried in the sand, still believed the insurgency was a matter that the police and the courts could deal with.

    Centenary C. R. 1/3/74: Statement No. ‘......’:

    Richard John Alexander Passaportis states:
    I am a lieutenant in the Rhodesian army attached to 1 Commando, 1st Battalion of the Rhodesian Light Infantry based in Salisbury.

    On Tuesday, 26th February, 1974 I was on operational duties and stationed at Rumange Farm, Centenary. At 0900 hours on this date I received a radio instruction to stand by to give immediate support to a follow-up then in progress between a detachment of the RAR and a gang of terrorists (hereinafter referred to as Ters).

    Some 15 minutes later I was uplifted by helicopter, commanded by Lieutenant Anderson, to Stacey’s farm where we arrived at about 10:15am. I had with me a section of three men and radio communications. At Stacey’s farm I was briefed on the position regarding the follow-up. I was then instructed to proceed by helicopter with my men to a grid reference south of Mutungagore Hill where I was to establish a stop line. In the helicopter I was in radio ‘intercom’ contact with the pilot and I overheard instructions being relayed to the pilot of a Provost aircraft to conduct ‘recces’ in the general area where I was to establish my stop line.

    Some five minutes later I saw the Provost and I overheard his report that he had spotted a group of some ten Africans dressed in civilian clothing climbing through the fence into a tobacco field. The Provost pilot then stated that he was going down to a lower altitude to have a closer look at this group as at this time he could see no weapons. Still airborne in the helicopter at this time I could not see the group of suspected Ters. However, I saw the Provost going down and then recognized green and red tracer bullets arching up towards it. I heard the Provost pilot report that his aircraft had received bullet hits. I then pinpointed the source of the fire being directed at the Provost and I counted eight Africans in the tobacco field who were directing fire at the Provost. I saw these Africans, now established to be Ters, running in single file between two rows of small tobacco plants.

    Lieutenant Anderson then orbited the tobacco field at which stage we also came under automatic fire. I notice one Ter lying on his back aiming an RDP machine gun in our direction and assumed that he was firing at the helicopter, although at this stage we received no hits. I then instructed the helicopter pilot to land and indicated a small ridge about 50 yards southwest of the Ter position. I later ascertained that this action was taking place on Panorama farm. The ridge obscured the helicopter from the Ter position and at this stage no further fire was being directed at us. I noticed the Provost pilot now making strafing runs on the Ter position.

    I put my men into extended line and we moved forward towards the Ter position. We were in mopani scrub which afforded a fair amount of cover and managed to get right up to the fence bordering the tobacco field. I climbed through the fence and having taken up a firing position ordered my men to follow. As they were doing so my position came under heavy automatic and semi-automatic fire from the Ter position.

    The helicopter, which had now taken off again, then opened fire on the Ter position from directly above me at an altitude of about 100 feet. I then heard the helicopter pilot report receiving hits to his aircraft and I actually heard two metallic strikes on the aircraft from my position. The helicopter then left and took no further part in action that followed.

    My position was now coming under very heavy fire and I was pinned down, taking cover behind a furrow. My radio was now only receiving and it could not transmit. The Provost pilot then afforded me covering fire by diving on the Ter position and firing with his front guns. With this cover I then assaulted the Ter position in extended line. I had been pinned down by this time for about four to five minutes. As the Provost ended this strafing run the Ters then began to reappear from the cover they had taken and attempted to redirect fire at my position. We engaged opportunity targets as they presented themselves and swept through the Ter position, noting a number of dead bodies in the process.

    I then noticed the Provost pilot conduct another strafing run on a position some 150 yards northeast of my position in the main contact area and I assumed that the Ters had fragmented and the Provost was directing fire at the remnants of the group. I heard the Provost pilot report over the radio that he was engaging two running Ters and during the subsequent sweep of this position located a wounded Ter lying under a tree. This Ter eventually died of his wounds.

    I conducted a sweep of the main contact area with my corporal, leaving the two other men to guard the wounded Ter. As I was returning to the main contact area I saw two Ters hobbling off in a southerly direction. Both were dressed in civilian clothing and I noticed the one, who was not wounded, undoing the chest webbing which he was carrying. I called on them to stop which they did. I took possession of the webbing and found that it contained a quantity (I did not count them) of 7.62 intermediate ammunition and one Chinese stick grenade. The other Ter had a leg wound. Neither was carrying weapons at this time and in response to my question they both indicated their weapons lying on the ground among the dead bodies in the main contact area.

    I now see the two Ters referred to above as the two accused in this case.

    I then examined the main contact area and counted six dead terrorists. I located the following weapons and equipment:

    4 AK-47 rifles
    5 SKS rifles
    large quantity 7.62mm ammunition,

    together with the 7.62mm ammunition and a grenade which I took possession of from the accused.

    A short time later D/P/O. Bacon, the CID representative arrived at the scene and I handed the above weapons over to him.

    I now see that equipment as EXHIBIT ‘……….’:

    Signed: R. J. A. Passaportis

    D/Inspector K Samler
    RLI
    27/11/74
    Last edited by JMA; 10-31-2012 at 04:56 PM.

  18. #258
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,021

    Default "Even as late as" today,

    a large segment of the UN and EU legal community believes and asserts that terrorism is a matter that the police and the courts should deal with - and generally work to limit the "War Paradigm" as much as possible.

    And, so it goes ....

    Regards

    Mike

  19. #259
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    a large segment of the UN and EU legal community believes and asserts that terrorism is a matter that the police and the courts should deal with - and generally work to limit the "War Paradigm" as much as possible.

    And, so it goes ....

    Regards

    Mike
    One more for the record:

    Richard John Alexander Passaportis states:

    I am a lieutenant in the RLI, 1 Commando. Normally based at Salisbury, but at present engaged in ‘operational duties’, in the northeastern border area of Rhodesia. I know the accused Lameck Wandiawona and Felix Takavarasha, only in connection with this case.

    On 28th April, 1974 and at first light, approximately 5:45am and acting on instructions received, myself and members of my troop were uplifted by helicopter from Mount Darwin and dropped at an area in the Kandeya Trust Lands at a map reference US453752. The reason for this was that a group of terrorists were believed to be residing in a tin hut at this location.

    I carried out an assault on this hut but found it to be empty. At this time helicopters and a Provost aircraft were overhead giving my troop ‘top cover’. I observed one helicopter circling approximately 700 yards to my northeast and then heard a burst of automatic fire from the ground which was directed at the helicopter. With my troop I then ran about 600 yards towards the point that I had heard the automatic fire come from. At this time both helicopters and the Provost were conducting ‘ground strikes’ into the area from where there rifle fire had come from.

    I formed my troop into extended line and commenced a frontal sweep into this area which was made up of short mopani shrub. When I reached a position, approximately 50 yards into this scrub, I was fired upon by a burst of automatic fire. Having been in contact with terrorists on numerous occasions I knew this to be rifle fire from a communist AK rifle.

    I then deployed one section into ‘fire position’ and instructed them to fire into the bushes from where the fire had come from. I then carried out an assault on this position with the remainder of my section. On reaching a clump of bushes where the fire had come from, I observed a wounded terrorist lying on the ground. This person attempted to bring his weapon round to fire at me and I had no alternative but to shoot and kill him, which I did.

    I then received a report over the radio from a helicopter to the effect that further terrorists had been seen running from my position towards the Karuyana River. I then called in the Provost to carry out an air strike on this group prior to my moving in on their position. This the pilot did. I observed the Provost firing into a ridge in a field. I then ordered my machine gunners also to fire at this position; this they did. We then swept through this area.

    I there located, in this ridge a wounded terrorist. I now know this person to be Lameck Wandiawona. He was lying on his stomach. I instructed him to be turned over and observed that he was holding a folding-butt AK rifle (no. 601743). I took possession of this weapon. I also observed that he was wearing civilian clothes but over these he wore a terrorist-type ammunition pouch, which contained two fully loaded AK rifle magazines, one clip of ammunition and several loose rounds. He was also wearing a blue anorak.

    I now produce that ammunition pouch and the magazines before the court as: EXHIBIT ‘……….’

    I then instructed two of my troops to remain with the accused while I carried on with my sweep down to the Karuyana River. A helicopter directed me to an area where we he had fired on a terrorist who was wearing blue clothing. I swept this area for about five minutes and my left-hand section located a wounded terrorist in some thickly wooded rocks. I went to this position.

    I there observed a wounded terrorist, who I now know to be Felix Takavarsha. His weapon was lying beside him. It was an AK rifle (no. 14162347). I also observed that he was wearing civilian clothes, a brown hat, but what bought my attention to him was that he was wearing a police reserve jacket. I also observed that he was also wearing a communist-type ammunition pouch which contained rounds of ammunition.

    I took possession of this property and now produce it before the court as: EXHIBIT ‘……….’

    I then caused the helicopter to land and uplift the two accused and the deceased. The two accused required urgent medical attention. I later handed the two AK rifles, the property of the accused, and the deceased’s AK rifle to Superintendent K. MacDonald of the BSA Police.

    During this confrontation with the group of terrorists I cannot say how many rounds of ammunition were fired by the terrorists. I can say, however, that numerous bursts of automatic fire were directed at my troop, the helicopters and the Provost. In fact one such burst passed between me and my troop corporal missing him by inches.

    Signed: R. J. A. Passaportis
    Mount Darwin,
    31st July, 1974

  20. #260
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Op Mulligan

    Extract from Stick Leader RLI, Just Done Productions Publishing, Durban, 2007, pp 114-117
    By Charlie Warren

    Op Mulligan took place on 16 June 1979 northwest of Salisbury. I don’t remember where we based as a Fire Force as the call-outs were coming in thick and fast daily, and we were moving from Fire Force base to Fire Force base. This particular call-out was for a group of gooks that had kidnapped a woman by the name of Mrs Mulligan. At the briefing after the siren sounded, we were told that this woman had been kidnapped from one of the farms just north of Salisbury. As she was overweight, she could not keep up with the group of terrorists, so they had stolen a wheelbarrow in which to push her to Mozambique as a prisoner.

    The sticks were already at their choppers waiting for the pilots and their stick commanders. While the pilots did their pre-flight checks, the stick commanders briefed their sticks. Little did we know that this was going to be a black day for 3 Commando. The K-Car took the lead and the G-Cars followed in formation, resembling dragonflies flying low searching for water. I had my headphones on to keep up to date with any new information, but it was the normal conversation between the K-Car and G-Car pilots. After about 20 minutes, I heard the K-Car pilot say, “K-Car pulling up,” which meant we were near the contact zone. The K-Car commander was in orbit with the G-Cars flying in orbit below him but there was no sign of any gooks. Eventually, as we were orbiting, we saw a whole lot of villagers sitting in the centre of one kraal. This was unusual as it was not their normal practice, although they had been told countless times that if the choppers orbited their area they should sit where they were and not make any attempt to run (which they usually chose to ignore). The K-Car commander was suspicious and, as we were in the area, he proceeded to put stop groups down around the kraal line about 200 metres away from the kraal where he had seen the sitting villagers. It was at this point that he noticed that there were young males with the usual terrorist dress sitting amongst the villagers. (There were hardly any young males of terrorist age, 16-25, in kraals anymore as they had either left to look for work in the bigger towns or they had been abducted for terrorist training, or had left for terrorist training of their own accord.) While the K-Car was orbiting this kraal, one or two of them made a break for it with their AKs.

    The contact was initiated by the 20mm cannon and then there was an eruption of gunfire from all over the contact area. I had been dropped to the east with my stick and told to wait. The other sticks had been dropped north, west and south of the contact zone.

    At about 1500hrs while we waiting in the mealie fields outside the kraal, we heard a large contact to our west approximately 300 metres away. The K-Car called the stick leader of the stop group he had dropped there and asked what had happened. There was silence for a while and then the leader came on air to request a casevac for two members of his stick. We didn’t know where the gooks were, and kept our eyes peeled to the west. The K-Car sent a chopper in to uplift the casevacs, but sadly it was to remove the bodies of two of our troopies, Bruce McKend (Rhodesian) and Eike Elsaesser (Canadian). They had been killed in the initial firefight. This we heard over the radio and I couldn’t believe it as we had never lost two soldiers in one contact before. While we were watching the villagers in the centre of the kraal, I saw one young male dressed in blue jeans and a denim jacket starting to get up; then he ran to a hut about ten metres away. While watching him run, I saw he had an AK under his jacket. I told the gunner and the other two riflemen to give me cover from the group of villagers from where this gook had run, and instructed him that if any other gooks made a move from this group, he was to open fire on the whole lot of them. I wasn’t prepared to take the chance of any of my stick being killed or wounded. I ran towards the hut the gook had entered; at the doorway I saw that there was more than one gook in the hut.

    I radioed K-Car and told the Officer Commanding what I had seen and that I was outside the hut preparing to throw a bunker bomb through the window. He acknowledged my position and told me to carry on. I pulled the pin of the homemade bunker bomb and lobbed it through the window, but it was a dud and didn’t explode. Then three gooks came running out of the hut firing. I managed to get off two or three rounds at the gooks before the K-Car opened up on them about ten metres from me. The 20mm high explosive (HE) rounds started exploding around me and eventually drew away from me and found their targets. At the time the K-Car was firing at the gooks near me, I felt something like a bee sting on my left hand, but was too busy ‘$hitting’ myself because of the HE rounds exploding near me to care about it. I ran behind the back of the hut to get away from the K-Car fire. I saw my stick, and the gunner was gesturing to me if I wanted them to come to me. All hell had broken out at the doorway of this hut with the gooks’ rounds going off in virtually every direction. I had done a foolish thing by running up to the hut, but had wanted to blow up this gook in the hut with a bunker bomb after hearing about the deaths of Bruce McKend and Eike Elsaesser. I felt flies on my left hand and it was starting to throb and I thought that I had been stung by a wasp. I then took my hand off my rifle to look at the ‘sting’ and saw I was bleeding like a slaughtered pig from between my middle and third finger. My hand was starting to swell and I still couldn’t understand it. I put my hand back on my rifle and winced; I couldn’t grip it properly, so I took my right hand and rubbed my finger over where it was bleeding. I felt something hard and tried to pull it out but it was too painful so I left it.

    There were contacts taking place all around this kraal and the group of villagers started running in every direction, a lot of them being killed and wounded in the crossfire. The K-Car ordered my stick to sweep towards the village in a westerly direction, and then do an about-turn and return to the village, which we did. When my stick reached the village and we had cleared our area of sweep, I asked the troopie carrying the medic’s kit to clean my hand properly with water, so that I could see what was stuck there. Once he had started pouring water over it and rubbing the drying blood of the wound, I could see that it was a piece of shrapnel from the K-Car’s 20mm cannon. I told him to pour some Acriflavine on the wound to prevent infection even though this was about 30 minutes later. The Acriflavine hurt more than the shrapnel and I told him to stop. He covered my hand with a field dressing. I had no feeling in my hand anymore (bar the throbbing). I asked him to give me a couple of paracetamol tablets for the pain and swallowed them with some water. I contacted the K-Car commander and told him what had happened and that I couldn’t use my rifle as I had no feeling in my left hand. He shat all over me for taking so long to tell him that I was wounded, and told me to leave my stick with the 12 Troop stick commander who had lost two members of his stick in the initial firefight, and then to pick up a captive and take him with me for uplift to return to base.

    As I couldn't grip my rifle properly, I slung it over my shoulder and took out my 9mm pistol. I made sure the captive had his hands tied and went to the mealie field not far from the contact zone and called the chopper in to pick up the captive and myself, which he did and just before last light. Back at the base, I was sent to the camp doctor who gave me a lignocaine injection in my hand as well as a shot of penicillin for the infection, and a few painkillers. While he waited for the lignocaine to take effect, he went out to dispense some medicine to someone who was sick in the wards. He came back and put on a surgical mask, picked up a long pair of steel tweezers shaped like a pair of scissors, and told me to look away. I looked in the other direction and could feel him working on my hand. I looked at him and then my hand, and saw he had these tweezers halfway into my hand and was trying to pull the shrapnel out. After I had seen this I started to feel the pain, even though he had deadened the area with lignocaine. He eventually told me that I would have to go to Salisbury for X-Rays and they would remove the shrapnel after examining the X-Rays.

    I went back to Salisbury the next day with the duty vehicle. I had the X-Rays taken and the shrapnel removed at Andrew Fleming Hospital the following day. I was put on light duties for about a week, but returned to the bush to do them as I didn’t want to do battalion orderly sergeant duties at the RLI Barracks while on light duties as there was too much crap involved in barracks.

    It was a sad day for the commando on the day of the Mulligan contact when we lost two fine soldiers in the prime of their lives. We never found the woman (Mrs Mulligan) that day as we had hit the group who was waiting to take her over for transport to Mozambique.

    It was to be exactly a month to the day and year, when we were to lose another two good soldiers from the commando in a totally different part of the country - Buffalo Range.

Similar Threads

  1. The Human Factor by Ishmael Jones
    By Juan Rico in forum Intelligence
    Replies: 52
    Last Post: 02-15-2013, 02:58 AM
  2. Sonny's "Expeditionary" Bookshelf
    By SWJED in forum Blog Watch
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 07-07-2006, 08:23 PM

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •