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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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Sunday, August 3, 2008

ONE MAN GUARD FORCE


Guard Force vedette in Keep
PHOTOGRAPH DOMINIQUE Hoyet
The one-man guard force
From a Rhodesian Government publication "The Farmer at War"
GEORGE STYLE is a tall, rangy active ex-farmer, hunter and policeman, who has packed a lot of experience into his 75 years — experience he's now willing to put to good use, helping farmers in the operational areas who need to get away for a break. "I'm just a house guard, really," he says deprecatingly. In fact, he does a lot more than guard houses; he runs farms in the absence of their owners, supervises the labour and pays them, and generally keeps a watchful eye on all that is going on.
Not surprisingly, he's in great demand; during a recent five-week stint he had seven telephone calls and six letters asking him to come to other farms. One man booked him a year in advance! He goes mostly to the Eastern Districts, like Penhalonga, the Vumba, Melsetter, Cashel and Chipinga, which he says is like a second home, he's made so many friends there.
He has plenty of anecdotes about his experiences, like the story of the terrs who were taking R & R in the compound when he was looking after a farm over Christmas. Then there's the African baby, Georgina, who was named after him because he got her mother to hospital just in time. There's the lunch parties he'll be giving on his next stint; "I've been to this farm before, and they've got a marvellous cook," he says. "I buy mostly all my own food, though. I don't want people coming back from holiday to enormous food bills, and saying that old George has been living well."
Not all his anecdotes are funny: he tells the story of a young coffee farmer near Chipinga, who, although badly wounded, routed a gang of 30 terrorists singlehanded. He was ambushed, and his companion also badly wounded, but, with his right arm smashed, he loaded his rifle with his left hand, propped it in a tree, and wounded one terr who dropped his rifle before the rest ran away. If that wasn't enough, he also managed to administer first aid to his companion.
Though he lives constantly with danger, George Style wouldn't have it otherwise for anything — he's enormously grateful for the chance to do his bit. Retired, and living in Chisipite, Salisbury, while his two sons run his Buffalo Range ranch, he tried, three years ago, to join the Police Specials, those older men who do invaluable duties in the suburbs. They wouldn't have him, regretting that he was "too old" — they just don't know what they missed!
So he put an advertisement in the local newspaper, and a few replies resulted. Once he started, though, the word went round and the whole thing snowballed.
"It's been so rewarding," he said. "I've regained my health, and I've got an interest in life. I could have been six feet underground by now."
Though nervous about publicity, because he is basically a modest man, he insists that there's nothing special about his work, and says that there are plenty of men of his age who could do the same. "They sit around in old people's homes, waiting to die," he said. "They might just as well get out there and do something useful."
But before anyone starts up a Grandad's Army, it's only fair to say that not many septugenarians have George Style's energy, ability, and, bluntly, money. He says it is really all thanks to his sons, who support him. In fact, he built up a fantastic ranching and hunting business from practically nothing. There were many times in the early days when it was a real battle; his wife, Ethne, a true partner who still backs him all the way, ran trading stores to help the farming operations, and to help keep the boys at school. He takes her along on his stints very occasionally, but mostly she's like any other war wife, left in Salisbury, with the widow of a Police comrade of 53 years ago, Mary Perkins, to help and keep her company.
All George's stints are done at his own expense, and he uses his own car. "I live pretty rough sometimes, too," he says. "Some of these so-called cooks can't even make tea, and lots of them are busy pinching food — I catch them at it sometimes." Not all cooks, obviously, are of the luncheon party variety.
Because of his experiences in the operational areas, especially on border farms, he has plenty of tips for farmers. He suggests that many are "under-dogged" — a word he has invented. "All very well having these little yappy things underfoot," he says. "True, they make a noise, but what is needed is big, fierce, Alsatian or Labrador-type dogs — I've often known terrs running from dogs like that. And they must sleep outside, it's no good having them indoors."
Just the same, he has a small, adorable white Maltese terrier, Kachito, named by his first owner, a Spaniard. Her mistress was killed in an ambush, and her farmer husband couldn't bear to keep her dog, the memories were too much. So George asked if he could take her to Salisbury, where she is now very happily at home.
He's also horrified at the number of farmers who keep fire-arms locked up during the day. "You've got to have them right beside you, readily available, at all times."
And, while he sympathises tremendously with wives in the sensitive security areas he'd destroy the trees and large shrubs in their carefully tended gardens if he had half a chance. He points out that the value of a security fence is diminished if you have lots of cover within the fence. When there's a shoot-out, it is all too easy for terrs to reach the house, through garden vegetation.
He's now worked on farms a total of 21 years, and says he can still run a farm efficiently, provided there are good foremen. "Age doesn't matter — one just has to supervise, and maybe drive trucks into town for supplies. Many of these farms have first class foremen, but no drivers."
It isn't easy to get George Style talking about himself; he'd rather talk about his family, of which he is very proud. His father, an ex-colonel who served originally in the 17th Lancers, (the Death or Glory Boys of Balaclava fame) was mayor of King Williamstown, in the Cape, for 10 years. George's brother, Claude, nicknamed "Stylo", was officer in charge of the first air unit formed in Rhodesia, and chairman of the first flying club in Salisbury, during the Thirties — he'd joined the Royal Flying Corps at 16, and won the DFC in the First World War. Claude's son Colin has recently won a poetry award in South Africa.
Of George's own sons, Clive, now managing director of Buffalo Range Safaris, was on the first Gwebi College of Agriculture course, while Rodney gave up university to return to farming.
Reluctantly, George is persuaded to talk about his current activities again, but he swiftly turns the conversation to the farmers themselves — about the tension they all live under in border areas, how they have no social life, and can't travel at nights. And how sometimes, terrs who shoot up homes, leave notes advising the owners to "get out now."
And finally, he gets on to the subject of compensation, something he sees, or rather, doesn't see, at first hand. He mentions a farmer who has lost everything, and has waited months for compensation of any kind. George is angry; the people he has helped have become his friends, and he waxes eloquent about politicans who ignore their needs.
George Style has kept letters sent to him by farmers and their wives. They paint a picture of life in the frontline of the terrorist war, bringing home more clearly than any official communique, what is is like to live with danger, every day. Below are just a few extracts.
"Labour driven away, and their huts burned, tobacco barns burned, and house attacked."
"The terrs called all the labour to come close so they could show them what power was. Then they opened fire at point blank range, killing 13 and injuring 16".
"You never know if your labour will be there in the morning, and we dread dipping day in case the cattle have been stolen".
"Our friends have vacated their farm after being ambushed in daylight, at 5 p.m. at the security fence."
"Our neighbours leave for good next month".
"Two ponies were shot in the stables on the next farm".
Townswomen, too, are volunteering to look after farms in the hot war zones to allow the farmer and his family a holiday break, women like Sybil Duncanson who vividly recounts her first "guard stint".
"My husband Jack and I drove down from Salisbury to the farm where we stayed for two weeks while the owners took a well-earned holiday at the coast. The day after our arrival, a Friday, there was a terrorist ambush during daylight on the main tarred road over which we had come, and two vehicles were attacked. That night, our second night, we were jerked awake at one in the morning by the harsh agric-alert alarm. Then came a woman's voice calling Police Control and reporting that they were under attack. She sounded so very calm and controlled. I was impressed and wondered how I would shape in a similar situation.
"Control replied immediately and messages continued back and forth over the two-way radio for the next two hours. I lay in the dark and followed the action. Mostly the reports were made by the wife and I presumed the husband was fully occupied firing back at the terrs. Throughout the action she maintained this same wonderful control and calm clear voice for her progress reports. (I later discovered that I knew this woman from a camping holiday). Apparently the terrs attacked and burnt down the Medical Store which supplied two African clinics run by this farmer's wife, who is also the local district nurse. Fortunately there were no casualties at the farmhouse.
"This incident occurred some miles north west of where we were. Next morning about 7 am, while Jack and I were at the cattle dip near the house seeing the dairy herd being dipped, four helicopters carrying armed soldiers flew southwards very low right over us. We could see the men in the helicopters clearly. They were followed a few minutes later by a Dakota transport plane with its open despatch doorway clearly visible — presumably taking the paratroopers to drop them at an enemy contact in the opposite direction to the previous night's attack. So obviously they were after a different group of terrorists. This with the previous night's attack and the main road ambush all within two days of our arrival made me very aware of the fact that we were in a hot security area!
"There is a three-metre-high security fence surrounding the house, garden and outhouses (laundry, store, etc.) and another around the tobacco barns, workshops, with an interleading gate. All the gates are bolted and locked at sunset and opened at sunrise. There is a general curfew throughout the district from 5 pm to 6 am and no one is permitted to move around except the Security Forces, as this is the time the terrorists are most active, under cover of darkness. This means, of course, that the house servants also must leave before sunset. There can be no visiting between neighbours for dinner or an evening bridge game.
"Surrounding the house about two metres away from the outside walls is another brick wall just one-and-a-half metres high. From inside the house when standing up one can just see over this wall, whereas the windows are partly protected by the wall against anyone firing from outside. This, of course, ruins the view of the garden from the house because when you are sitting down inside and look out of the window you look straight on to a blank wall, instead of across a pretty garden and lawn down to the swimming-pool. A pity, but the wall does give one a reassuring feeling of added security in the dark of night.
"On top of the roof is a special flashing light which can be switched on from inside the house. It is an identifying light to guide in a helicopter or such-like in case of emergency. Our neighbour has flares attached to his outside wall, which are triggered from inside the house, the idea being to blind the attackers.
"The farms in the district have not got mains electricity laid on, so have to generate their own using noisy diesel engines, which for this reason are not usually too near the house. Once this motor is switched off (there is a special cut-out in the house) the lights cannot be switched back on again without someone going outside and down to the power house.So once lights go out at night they stay out till next evening when the pump is started up again. In other farming areas where mains power is available some farmers have strong lights which can be switched on to illuminate the attackers so that they cannot see the homestead. However, this would not be possible here which is perhaps why the authorities choose this area to try out placing a "stick" of five Guard Force soldiers on certain farms. These guards take turns of duty during the night. In the morning they check the security fence and gates for booby traps and look for land mines on the road.
"When we go down to the cattle dip on the next door farm, which is some distance away and isolated and surrounded by very tall grass and bush, we take the Guard Force with us to 'clear' the road and 'sweep' the area round the dip and be on guard while the cattle are being dipped, as there have been numerous incidents and fatalities in ambushes at the dips especially if cattle dipping is done on a regular day each week.
"I must admit I find it a great comfort at night knowing the Guard Force are around — except when the dogs bark at them in the middle of the night.
"Before going outside the security fence I have to 'saddle up' and end up looking rather like a pack mule! First on is my leather belt holding a pistol and spare bullets as well as two spare magazines for my LDP semi-automatic. The webbing sling of the latter then goes over my head to rest on my left shoulder and across my chest so that the gun rests on my right hip (I am getting a permanent bruise on my right hip from the 'cocking knob' knocking against my hip bone!) Then, of course, being a keen bird watcher I never can go anywhere in the bush without my binoculars in case I see any interesting birds, so they hang from a cord round my neck. With a bush hat on my head, my denim trousers and cotton blouse, I really look the part of an armed Christmas tree or female bandit! I am now so used to wearing the gun belt round my waist (usually worn under my loose blouse) that when I come back in I often don't even bother to take it off to eat. There was Jack and I sitting eating our breakfasts with spare ammo and pistols strapped round our waists. An armed breakfast and neither of us even thought it strange!
"Even as I sit here in the garden writing this I still have on my gun belt.
Unnecessary really, but I am already, after only one week here, so used to wearing it that I forget to take it off. It is unnecessary in the house and within the security fence during the day to be armed, but before going outside the security fence one must be armed at all times. I admire tremendously the farmers, their wives and families who live and have been living under these tense conditions for years now, never knowing when they may be shot up or when the car they are travelling in may be blown up by a landmine planted by terrorists in the gravel of the farm roads.
"As soon as it starts to get dark in the evenings the power plant is started up and the lights come on throughout the house. Immediately all curtains are drawn shut and doors closed. All lights are left on in all the rooms throughout the house so it's not obvious from outside which rooms are occupied. This means one can't put out the house lights and read in bed till sleepy as I am used to doing back home in the city. Here that practice is considered very unwise. When the last person is ready for bed he or she presses the switch to turn off the power pump and all the lights go out together. If you are that person you then use a torch to find your own bed! You get into bed with your loaded gun on the floor beside you and all is dark and very quiet and you wonder what the night has in store — will it be quiet all night or will the agric-alert alarm suddenly blast you awake, or will you maybe have to press that alarm button yourself?
"Then with the early morning light everything seems so normal — till you are dressed and have to strap on your gun belt again before going to the dairy. Another normal day has started for those who live with the gun ever beside them in the isolated homesteads in the security areas of our country."

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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.