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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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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LORD RICHARD VALENTINE-GASCOYNE CECIL


Richard Cecil was a war correspondent who was one of the only war correspondents to be allowed to go with Rhodesian troops on Fireforce actions and record them. He used his family connections and his friendship with PK Van Der Byl to get permission to operate in the field as an independant journalist. He provided material for various publications including TIME and The Times, he also contributed reports to the UK ITN television network. Nick Downie later did a documentary called Frontline Rhodesia on Thames network in the UK. Quote from Nick on this:- Until Thames TV bought the UK broadcast rights, it was an entirely self-financed operation. In the event, neither I nor anyone else made money out of it - I simply covered my and Richard’s expenses for what turned out to be ten months’ work (he was killed within a month of the project starting).
While operating on fireforce with us (from Mtoko) Richard would be armed with an FN rifle at the insistence of the RAR, and his job was to watch Nick Downey's back, encumbered as he was was with a 16mm film camera to his eye, headphones over my ears, and a tape recorder, plus a pack containing spare batteries, camera mags and film, etc. Bear in mind that we were filming contacts shoulder to shoulder with the RAR combatants, and only a few metres from the terrorists.
On fireforce operations with 2 RAR Richard actually fired on terrorists with his weapon. Richard was part of a group of 20 journalists who operated in Rhodesia who were known as the Bang Gang because they went about thier trade armed. (This info from an article I read and Nick Downie disputes this saying he never did fire his weapon at anyone -so it appears that the article in Time Magazine was incorrect in it's report )

Richard was killed in a Fireforce action by a terrorist who shot he was shot first in the thigh, and then a second bullet traversed his chest from left to right from a distance of 5 meters in the Mtoko area while filming a contact in which troops from Major Andre Dennison's 2 RAR were in action.

His death was reported by the Rhodesian Ministry of Defence as being "Killed in Action" and his body returned to England for burial where his funeral service was held at the Parish Church of St Mary and St Bartholomew on the 27 April. A memorial service was also held for Richard Cecil at the Guards Chapel in Wellington Barracks which was attended by Lord Mountbatten.

Nick Downie his associate continued with his work in Rhodesia.


THE BANG GANG
EXTRACTED FROM AN ARTICLE BY TIME MAGAZINE
Winston Churchill packed a pistol when he covered the Boer War for London's Morning Post, and it was hardly a farewell to arms when Gun Fancier Ernest Hemingway went off to report the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. But to most front-line journalists nowadays, carrying a weapon while on assignment is a grievous offense against professional ethics. It also means forfeiture of a journalist's status under international law as a neutral noncombatant, and it encourages troops to consider all journalists as fair targets.
In the guerrilla war now raging in Rhodesia, however, that convention has been shattered. Many of the 40 or so foreign correspondents who regularly cover the country carry weapons on the job at least some of the time. The journalists are so often armed that visiting colleagues have disdainfully nicknamed them the "Bang Gang."
Rhodesia's journalistic arms race first came to international attention last year after Freelancer J. Ross Baughman won a Pulitzer Prize for his Associated Press photograph of a suspected Rhodesian guerrilla; it turned out that the photo had earlier been rejected for an Overseas Press Club a Ward, in part because the judges learned that Baughman was armed and wearing a Rhodesian cavalry uniform. Then Richard Valentine Cecil, a British television correspondent and TIME stringer, was killed last April by guerrillas, reportedly while carrying a rifle and accompanying an army detachment. A check by TIME turned up an arsenal of reportorial aids that includes revolvers, small-caliber automatic pistols, automatic rifles and Rhodesian-made submachine guns.(Disputed by Nick Downie who was with the RAR Fireforce on even more callouts than Richard Cecil)
Journalists who have covered other mid-century conflicts might argue that a side arm is not much protection in a rocket attack. But reporters in Rhodesia counter that their war is different: there are no battle lines, no secure areas and every white man is a guerrilla target. "There is no such thing as a neutral here," says one freelancer. "If you've got a white face, you are the enemy. This is a race war."
Most Rhodesian-based correspondents have either been forbidden by their editors to carry guns, or would be if the home office found out they were doing so. Some reporters prefer to remain unarmed. "If you're captured, having a gun is a death warrant," says the Los Angeles Times's Jack Foisie. But the armed correspondents maintain that such ethical hairsplitting is irrelevant to their workaday peril. Says one: "Anyone who can sit in an editorial chair and demand that reporters ride around the Rhodesian countryside unarmed should come here and try it for himself." —

I was involved in this contact and my side of the story is recorded in Choppertech.

2 comments:

  1. I believe that your book will soon be counted among the greats concerning the Rhodesian Bush War. You seem to have a real talent for allowing us to "feel" a little bit of what it must have been like to be there. Thank you for your efforts, and I can not wait to purchase a copy and read it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My name is Nick Downie, and I was standing next to Richard Cecil when he was killed. I should like to correct the errors in your account of his activities, and his death on 20th April 1978.

    First, I was with him during his entire time with the 2 RAR Fire Force (I actually spent more time with them than he did, and went out on more contacts) and NOT ONCE did he fire his weapon at any insurgent. He was armed with an FN at the insistence of the RAR, and his job was to watch my back, encumbered as I was with a 16mm film camera to my eye, headphones over my ears, and a tape recorder, plus a pack containing spare batteries, camera mags and film, etc. Bear in mind that we were filming contacts shoulder to shoulder with the combatants, and only a few metres from the insurgents.

    Again at RAR insistence, I carried a 9mm pistol for self-protection (useless, but still), not least because when we parachuted into a contact with them, I was first out of the Dakota door - the bulky container holding my film gear barely fitted through the door and on the run-in I had to be held by the dispatcher half-in and half-out of the door.

    Next, he was shot first in the thigh, and then a second bullet traversed his chest from left to right. He was not shot in the stomach. He died some 5-10 minutes later as we were trying to resuscitate him (we were so close to the guerrillas that at one point I heard them whispering to each other - armed as I was, only with a pistol, I did not open fire).

    He did not “present” anything called “Frontline Rhodesia” on Thames TV - that was simply the name of the documentary which I completed in Rhodesia over the following months and later edited for Thames, months after his death. Until Thames TV bought the UK broadcast rights, it was an entirely self-financed operation. In the event, neither I nor anyone else made money out of it - I simply covered my and Richard’s expenses for what turned out to be ten months’ work (he was killed within a month of the project starting).

    I trust all that is now clear,

    Yours, Nick Downie.

    ReplyDelete

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.