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Nairobi, Kenya
I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Monday, July 28, 2008

HERE TO STAY













photo Dominique Hoyet
TIME FEB 27 1978
HERE TO STAY
For a look at how the small, strained but proficient Rhodesian army is preparing to handle its changing role. TIME Johannesburg Bureau Chief William McWhirter spent ten days touring the military zones on both the Mozambique border and along the Zambezi River opposite Zambia. His report:
In the five years since Rhodesia declared that it was officially at war, the army has changed greatly. In many respects, the struggle resembles a World War II campaign in an African setting. There are battered green Dakota aircraft, ration packs, small base camps of whitewashed canteens and dusty beer halls, tin-roofed headquarters rooms with map-covered walls and the whine of heavy trucks stripping their gears in the red clay sludge that passes for roads. Rhodesia's 9,000-man army is less than a U.S. Army division in strength, and its war is still mainly fought at the level of small patrols—four-and five-man army "sticks" and ten-man guerrilla sections seeking to hunt and kill in a heavy bush terrain.
For a Rhodesian soldier, a typical day begins with dawn patrols that involve setting out from an overnight jungle camp for a tramp in slept-in fatigues across deep grass, mountain trails and through village kraals. In the bush, visibility is often limited to a few yards: one stick recently ambushed a guerrilla group that had been sleeping less than 50 yards away. In the present summer season, rains flood the rivers and the jungle trails that make up the infiltration routes. By July, the middle of the arid winter season, the water holes will have dried up; the soldiers will have to quench their thirst at the stagnant pools buffaloes use for wallowing. Ticks, fleas and horseflies are constant irritants, and at night elephant herds have been known to lumber blindly through troop positions. But the main hazard is the growing number of guerrillas coming across the borders. Says one major: "No army has ever had to fight a guerrilla war like this, on a one-to-one basis."
The Rhodesians have developed an aggressive tactical approach to bush warfare. Infantry soldiers in black kit and camouflage are simply dropped off on a main road to walk into the jungle. There they may remain for two or three weeks without relief or resupply, living off the land or out of their rations (including rice and a thick African cornmeal paste called sadza). Whether tracking guerrillas by day or setting up ambush positions at night, the "troopies" communicate by hand signals as they search out foot and boot prints, bowed grass, broken camps or other varieties of "terr spoor," army slang for terrorist tracks. Says Major James Cromar, 43, a reserve commander stationed near the Mozambique border: "We have created a top-rate bush fighter. You can drop an average reserve troopie anywhere in the country at night with a compass, and he can give you a six-figure grid reading which can put you within 100 yards of his position."
To inflict maximum casualties, the army chases and traps guerrilla bands, then calls in heavy firepower, like the airborne "fire force" units that raided guerrilla bases in Mozambique last year. One Rhodesian unit even claims a world record. Its members made three parachute jumps into separate combat actions in a single day. Fire force officers say they have been responsible for at least 80% of the more than 4,000 guerrillas killed in the war so far.
Army service has become a way of reacting against the helplessness of being civilian targets of terrorism, especially for reservists, who, after completing the mandatory 24 months of active duty, spend at least half of each year on rotating one-and two-month call-ups. Striking back has produced a kind of cocky resilience that has hardened the army's resolve to go on fighting. Gallows humor is abundant. "The bloke got triple-tapped," a sergeant recounted one day about a luckless but still alive friend near the Zambian border. "He was stripped from a corporal to a private in the morning, got blown up at night by a land mine going into position, hit another mine on the way back and was mortared when they zeroed in on his base."
When major mobilization began in early 1976, the average age of the draftees was 23. Says a senior field officer: "A lot of them were married with very young families, totally unprepared for any war situation. Many of those draftees finally left the country." Sometimes it was just the wife who packed up: stories still circulate of men who completed their army tours to return home and find no one there. But morale has improved, both in the field and on the home fronts. "Everybody always talks about leaving, but I think I'll brace it out," says a lance corporal. "When you come out after you've had a few contacts, you can feel it's a job well done." The country's isolation may even have strengthened the soldiers' belief in their professionalism. Laughs Reserve Rifleman Pat Thompson, a welder: "Rhode-sians enjoy their status. Everyone likes being called a rebel."
But why such rebels go on fighting is far less easy to explain. Theirs is not a war against blacks: as a result of a massive recruitment drive, the army is now more than two-thirds black. Mixed field training has begun, the first 13 black officers have been commissioned, and black troopies are taking their places in integrated sticks—all with little hostility from whites so far.
Many of the black recruits come from guerrilla target areas in the tribal trust lands. Some come from army, police or other families identified as progovernment. A few join simply for the money, even though, at $87 a month, a black soldier makes only a fourth of what a white one does. The army tries to protect its black recruits from reprisals, but not al ways successfully. One sad example is Rifleman Arimando Changadeya, 27: his father was killed by terrorists last March, his uncle was beaten up in June and died a month later, and last December his wife, mother and two children were shot and mutilated. He learned about their deaths when he went home on leave last month. "I won't go home again." he says. "I still have seven years to serve."

The soldiers are contemptuous of the guerrillas, whom they dismiss (in the words of one sergeant) as "nothing but a bunch of bloody garden boys with weapons." Top officers are confident that the army cannot lose, militarily, and that it will have to be disbanded before it is beaten.
But that is not the future this army is preparing for. Having grown from a ceremonial outfit good mainly for parades to a tested combat force, these soldiers seem ready to take on the far more complex mission that will face them when they are doing their fighting for a black-dominated government

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I welcome comments from everyone on my book Choppertech.
I am interested especially on hearing from former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants who also have thier story to tell.