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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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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RHODESIAN CONVOYS


The Lion and Elephant Motel a popular stopping off point and watering hole, it still exists today.

Beitbridge Fort Victoria road approaching Ngundu Halt this area was very dangerous and was a prime ambush area, Fireforce had many contacts with ZANLA terrorists in this area.

photograph Dominique Hoyet

RELAX BUT KEEP YOUR SPEED UP
Time November 22 1976
As the Geneva conference grinds on, the tempo of fighting in Rhodesia is stepping up. Last month was the bloodiest in the four-year war between black nationalists and Ian Smith's white-settler regime. The toll: more than 300 dead, including 181 guerrillas, 20 Rhodesian "troopies," twelve white and 88 black civilians. Nearly 100 others have been killed in early November. One major guerrilla goal has been to cut Rhodesia's rail and road links with South Africa—vital conduits for the fuel and ammunition that Salisbury needs. To assess the threat, TIME Correspondent Lee Griggs accompanied one of the twice-daily convoys that travel along Route A-4 from Fort Victoria to Beitbridge on the South African border. His report:

"Nothing to worry about," chirped our commander as a dozen cars lined up for the 177-mile morning run to Beitbridge. "The 'terrs' [terrorists] don't like to take on convoys. They'll wait for a
single instead. Just relax, but keep your speed up, please."
At 7 a.m. sharp, we set out at convoy speed of 60 m.p.h. to accommodate the slowest vehicle, a bus carrying troops to the "operational area" near the Mozambique border. Two machine gun-mounted Toyota pickups cruised front and rear, while a third rode herd, keeping the cars spaced far enough apart to avoid offering a tempting target. Aboard the radio-equipped trucks were a dozen police in camouflage gear, toting high-powered Belgian automatic rifles. A few also carried Israeli-made Uzi submachine guns.
On the outskirts of town, a lonely concrete boundary marker wished us PLEASANT JOURNEY. We then passed the memorial to Rhodesia's pioneers, who trekked the same route in 1890 to establish "Fort Vic" as the colony's first permanent white settlement. Twenty miles south of Fort Victoria, our escorts donned crash helmets and goggles and manned their machine guns, mostly water-cooled Brownings, capable of firing 1,200 to 1,500 rounds a minute. For the next 100 miles they remained tensely alert as the terrain changed.
To reduce the danger of ambushes, the Rhodesians burn the tinder-dry brush, but heavy rains have fallen lately, and the foliage is defying their efforts. Between burnt-out patches, we caught occasional glimpses of soldiers in full battle gear breasting through deep elephant grass, rifles at the ready. Small contingents behind sandbagged revetments guarded scores of bridges over rivers now swelling with muddy water. Scanning the road ahead, the lead truck's driver strained to see road patches that might be innocent potholes or pressure mines embedded in the highway. So far, no mines have turned up on A4, but the guerrillas have begun planting them on less secure roads, carefully masking the gouges in the paving with a layer of charcoal.
About 60 miles south of Fort Vic, part of the convoy peeled off toward Chiredzi, nearer the border of Mozambique, where the road has been mortared twice in the past two months. We continued across the stifling lowveld, passing huge baobab trees and panicking a few curious ostriches. The halfway point was Rutenga, an army camp and airstrip. Near Nuanetsi, where three white motorcyclists were gunned down in April, we were in prime "terrorist country," and the concentration of army and police patrols along the road gave the first sense of a war zone.
The tension began to dissipate as we approached the South African border. On a brief tea break at the Lion and Elephant Motel near the village of Bubye, our ruddy, middle-aged commander distractedly puffed his pipe. "Bloody bore, this business. We haven't had an incident in weeks, but we can't take chances. We have to show the terrs who's boss." By 10:30, we reached Beitbridge, and he waved us goodbye. The next convoy back to Fort Vic was already starting to line up. "Must leave by noon," he said. "If there's trouble, it usually comes in the late afternoon. That's when the buggers like to strike. It gives us little time to chase them before dark."

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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.