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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 17, 2008

SUPPORT COMMANDO RLI


Support Commando was the 'youngest' Commando in the Battalion and was officially formed on the 6th January 1976 when Support Group was expanded to a full size Commando.

The Commando consisted of a Headquarters and four Troops, namely:
The 81 mm Mortar Troop.
The Assault Pioneer Troop.
The Reconnaissance Troop.
The Anti-Tank Troop.
The Commando was directly responsible to the Commanding Officer for providing the Battalion with supporting fire and specialist resources in both Classical War and Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Operations, however, during COIN operations it normally fulfilled the roles of a standard Infantry Commando.

The effectiveness of Support Commando as a fighting “infantry” unit during is amply demonstrated by the fact that it holds the record for the highest number of enemy killed by a single RLI sub-unit in one bush trip (147) and, throughout the final intense phase of the War (April-December 1979), again accounted for highest number of enemy killed by a single RLI sub-unit

RLI’s Enemy Killed Tally
April - December 1979
Sub-Unit No. of Enemy Killed

1 Commando 450
2 Commando 350
3 Commando 410
Support Commando 470

History
On the break-up of the Central Africa Federation in December 1963, the Battalion’s Support Weapons and Specialist Platoons were all operating as independent Platoons, under command of Headquarter Company (now Base Group).

During 1964 the Rhodesian Light Infantry was reformed as a Commando Battalion, and as a result it was decided to group the Support Weapons into one Group.

Consequently on 1 January 1965 Support Group was officially formed under Captain Tony Stephens as the OC, with Colour Sergeant Harry Birkett, who had been the driving force behind forming the original Mortar Platoon, as Group C Sgt (Support Groups equivalent at that time to a CSM).

Support Group originally was comprised of just two troops, the Reconnaissance Troop and Mortar Troop.

On formation of the Recce Troop, they were allocated 9 Ferret Scout cars which originated from the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment (Selous Scouts) which had been disbanded on 14 December 1963.

The Ferrets arrived at the end of January 1965, giving Support Group two sections of 4 Ferrets plus 1 for the Troop Commander.

Whilst the Recce Troop started to sort out their Ferrets, which were in a poor state of repair after a year of neglect, the Mortar Troop commenced their training.

The Mortar Troop of Federation days had virtually collapsed at the break-up, so on 17 February 1965, the then Commanding Officer, Lt Col G. P. Walls, MBE allocated 25 troops of all ranks to Mortar Troop and sent them to the School of Infantry to train.

Lt D. I. Pullar who was then at the School was officially posted to Support Group as 2IC Mortar Troop Commander, and tasked with training these troops.

The Mortar Course finished on 15 April 1965 and the personnel returned to Salisbury. Thus, by the end of April 1965 Support Group properly became a united entity rather than two separate troops.

The organization at that stage was as follows:
a. Headquarters b. Mortar Troop c. Recce Troop
OC (Recce Tp Comd). 3 x Sgts. . 2 x Sgts.
OC (Recce Tp Comd). 6 x Cpls. SxCpls.
2IC (Mortar Troop Comd). 24 x L Cpl/Tprs. 12 x L Cpls/Tprs
Group Colour Sergeant (CQMS).
3 x Clerks (Storemen).

During 1965 Support Group asked to be issued Staghound Armoured Cars for interest training, a request that was refused. However, on 9 November 1965, OC Support Group was summoned to the CO, who had Army HQ on the line asking how many trained Staghound personnel in Support Group. At that time there were two, Capt Stephens and Sgt Tony Riley plus the 2IC Base Group Capt Peter Jackson.

As UDI was pending, members of Recce Troop underwent a couple of hours of crash Staghound Training. The Staghounds at this stage had already been condemned and all the Radio Equipment, leads etc had been cut-out with bolt cutters, just to add to the problems.

Eventually the bulk of Recce Troop with two Staghounds, driven by Capt Stephens and Sgt Riley left for Kariba at 2200 hrs on 9 November 1965 with orders to be at Kariba by 0530 hrs on 10 November.

Their task was to escort Air Force and Radio vehicles which were continually breaking down. This was further aggravated by the fact that all the brake linkage on the OC's Staghound collapsed. Holding 14 tons of Armoured Car on the road ceased to be a joke, consequently Tpr Paddy Ryan became the OC's braking system and sat the whole journey on the back of the Staghound armed with two chunks of concrete which he placed behind the wheels every time the convoy stopped.

The Staghound saga did not end here and were issued with 6 rounds of solid AP shot each, the boxes that these came from were marked "FORT WORTH TEXAS, 1941".

Shortly after UDI it was decided to test the Gun on Kariba Range. The gun fired alright but the breach protector sheared off through metal fatigue. This was probably the last 37 mm round fired in Rhodesia. On the return to Salisbury Support Group kept 5 Staghounds, as an additional troop until early 1966 when they were handed back to Army HQ.

Support Group continued on a 2 Troop organization, participating in most major operations, until 1972 when Tracking Troop was incorporated as part of the Group.

Tracking Troop was originally formed as an independent troop towards the end of 1971. It was administratively controlled by Base Group, and had tracker teams attached to the various Commandos for operations. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory and in June 1972 Tracking Troop became an integral part of Support Group forming the third troop.

In October 1972 the Battalion received the first consignment of 60 mm Hotchkiss Brant Mortars, which were intended to, become the Infantry Commando's Mortar Sections. However, because of the lack of mortar training in the Commandos they were eventually given to Support Group.

Following the arrival of more mortars a 60 mm Mortar Troop was formed in mid 1974, although through lack of personnel this broke up and when required the 60 mm mortars were manned by personnel from the 81mm Mortar Troop.

With the reformation of the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment in 1973, Recce Troop, who were at the time deployed operationally with their Ferret Scout Cars, started to lose personnel and eventually their Ferrets to the new unit.

The Ferret Scout Cars were gradually withdrawn, as they were released from operations, commencing in November 1973, the last car leaving Support Group on 22 January 1974. The remaining personnel in Recce Troop were absorbed into the Mortar and Tracking Troops and Recce Troop officially disbanded.

By mid 1975, Support Group again had only two Troops, namely the 81/60 mm Mortar Troop and a Tracking Troop, which for COIN Operations were broken down into three callsigns, 81, 82 and 83.

It was at this time that Major Pat Armstrong came onto the scene, and commenced agitation to have Support Group reformed as a proper Support Commando. His efforts were finally rewarded and Support Commando was eventually officially formed on 6 January 1976. Army HQ signal G 19 dated 060840B Jan was the official authorisation of this. Being now a fully fledged Support Commando, internal reorganisation took place.

The 81 mm and 60 mm Mortars split and became two separate troops. The Tracking Troop was renamed Reconnaissance Troop, and given extra roles in addition to just purely tracking.

Towards the end of 1976 an Anti Tank Troop was formed in anticipation of the arrival of the new antitank weapons. Until the first of the new anti tank weapons arrived in April 1977, the Anti Tank Troop was equipped with 3,5 (88 mm) Rocket Launchers, although they underwent training courses on the new weapon.

In January/February 1977 it was decided that as the 60 mm Mortars were primarily a Commando Support Weapon they should be returned to the Commandos. This was duly done, the Commandos providing the personnel and Support Commando continuing to provide the training.

This move threw up, the 60 mm Mortar Troop personnel, who had now no weapons to operate with. Thus in February 1977 an Assault Pioneer Troop was formed to add an additional Support Troop to the Battalion.

This new Troop underwent Combat Engineer Training & was eventually operationally effective in September 1977.

Consequently by the end of 1977, Support Commando comprised the following:
a. Mortar Troop.
b. Assault Pioneer Troop,
c. Reconnaissance Troop,
d. Anti Tank Troop.
e. 60 mm Mortar Troop - split up and attached a section to each Commando.
During 1977 the RLI became an Airborne Commando Battalion, and Parachute Training commenced. Support Commando's first 24 men were trained in March 1977 as Parachutists.

Also during late 1977 three 60 mm Mortars were given back to Support Commando for use on COIN operations. These were manned by members of the Mortar Troop when required.


The Troops
Mortar Troop
Originally Callsign 41, later redesignated as Callsign 71 and, also unofficially known as Dog Section.

The Troop was equipped with 81 mm Long Barrel Mortars, and comprises Three Sections of two mortars each.

Each section consists of a Section Commander (Sergeant), a Section 2IC (Corporal) a Section NCO (Corporal), 6 Mortar Numbers and 2 Drivers.

The Troop was commanded by a Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant with a Colour Sergeant as the Troop Second in Command.

The Troop originated from the 3 inch Mortar Platoon, which started its Mortar Training under 2 Lt R. J. Davie and Sgt Harry Birkett in March 1961. On completion of its training in May 1961, it officially became recognised as the Battalion Mortar Platoon.

The Mortar Platoon changed its name to Mortar Troop when the Battalion changed its role to a Commando Battalion in 1964 and was incorporated as part of Support Group.

Its original 3 inch Mortars were changed for 81 mm Short Barrel just prior to the break-up of Federation, which in turn were changed for 81 mm Mortar Long Barrel in early 1968.

Assault Pioneer Troop
Originally Callsign 42, later redesignated as Callsign 72

The Assault Pioneer Troop was designed to provide the Battalion with a Combat Engineering capability, in the form of demolitions, booby traps, mine lifting and laying etc.

The Troop was organised into a Headquarters and Three Sections, & was commanded by a Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant with a WO 2 as 2IC.

The Assault Pioneer Troop was the newest Troop in the Commando, formed in February 1977, as the concept of having Assault Pioneer Troops/Platoons as an integral part of a Battalion fell away with the break up of Federation in December 1963.

The RLI last had an Assault Pioneer Platoon between 1961 and 1963. This Platoon was formed in No 1 Training Unit in Beltway, in January 1961 and was then commanded by Cpl Tony Poole and, was used in those days for demolition trench digging etc.

Its First Platoon Commander was WO 2 Doughie Baal. The Platoon was disbanded in December 1963.

Reconnaissance Troop
Originally Callsign 43, later, redesignated as Callsign 73.

The Reconnaissance Troop was organised to fulfil two functions. In Classical War it provides the CO with his own Recce capability, separate from any Army/Brigade Recce effort. In COIN it is organised to provide the Battalion with both Trackers and Recce Teams. It also had members trained as Snipers.

Recce Troop originated from two Troops. The original Recce Troop formed in 1965 was equipped with nine Ferret Scout Cars which were handed over to the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment in 1974. Consequently this Troop then ceased to exist, the members of it being absorbed into Mortar and Tracking Troops.

Tracking Troop, who absorbed the bulk of the former Recce Troop personnel, was renamed the Reconnaissance Troop, when Support Group became a fully fledged Commando in January 1976.

The reason for this renaming was that additional Recce roles were given to Tracking Troop thus making it more of a Recce Troop than a Specialist Tracking Troop.

Anti-Tank Troop
Originally Callsign 44, later redesignated as Callsign 74.

The Anti-Tank Troop comprised a Headquarters and 3 Sections, each with two anti tank guns.

The Troop was commanded by a Captain with a WO 2 as 2IC and each section is commanded by a Sergeant.

The Anti Tank Troop was formed in late 1976 by Maj. Armstrong in anticipation of the arrival of the new Anti-Tank Weapons, these being 106mm Recoilless Guns. It was initially equipped with 3,5 (88 mm) Rocket Launchers. However, until the new Anti-Tank weapons arrived, the members of the Troop attended courses so that the Troop was prepared for them.

The first two guns arrived in April 1977 and the remaining four in September 1977.

The Troop is therefore now fully equipped with six guns on specially modified Rodef 2,5 (Mercedes Unimog) 2.5 ton vehicles.

The Commando flag
From the inception of Support Group in January 1965, until its deployment on Op SABLE, no flag had been in existence.

The idea of a flag was first discussed on Op SABLE between the then OC, Capt Ron Reid-Daly, Lt Steve Carey (not Sp Group then, but an ex-member) Lt LAN Buttenshaw (the 2IC), Charlie Krause and Frank Ricardo.

In 1973 whilst on Op Hurricane, it was decided that the flag would be an eagle, symbolising the recce element of the sub-unit (Ferrets were then being used), holding in its claws a mortar bomb.

Below the eagle would be the words "The Elite" as an indication of the Specialist Roles the Commando was called upon to carry out.

It was at the time that Capt Reid-Daly relinquished command of Support Group to Capt Graham Noble, who then instructed Lt Ian Buttenshaw to have a flag made.

Lt Buttenshaw tasked his girlfriend's sister Anne Martin, with making the first flag; a German Eagle in Black on a White background which was duly presented to Support Group on his posting.

The flag was raised the same day by Capt Noble on the Base Group flag post, much to the displeasure of CSM 'Rock Jaw' Kirrawee.

This flag remained in Support Group until mid-1975 when Maj Pat Armstrong assumed command. His enquiries as to its whereabouts, after his takeover, resulted in months of fruitless search.

As a result, in January 1976, new flag was ordered when Support Group became Support Commando.

The Commando was given Yellow as its colour, and the QM ordered a flag through Army HQ. As Army HQ had not produced the flag one year after the order had been placed, the Commando purchased its own in January 1977, and the Commando Badge was dyed on.

The new flag was made up of a Black German Eagle on a yellow background, holding in one talon an 81 Mortar Bomb and in the other a telescope, symbolising the Recce Role. The Eagle having been adopted as the Commando emblem, as opposed to the Recce Troop one.

The original Support Group Flag was eventually located and was hung in the Foyer of the Support Commando Pub.

The Commando Nickname
Support Command were know as "The Elite" as an indication of the Specialist Roles the Commando was called upon to carry out.

The Commando Mascot
Until January 1976 Support Commando had no mascot.

In that month Colonel T. M. Davidson then Deputy Commander 2 Brigade at Bindura presented the Commando with a Wahl berg Eagle as a Mascot.

The Eagle was in keeping with the Commando Flag whose main motif is an Eagle. This Eagle was never given a name, and was unfortunately lost by Capt Pete Fardel at Grand Reef in April 1976. Having lost the Eagle, Capt Fardel was tasked with replacing it.

In August 1976 he duly acquired an African Hawk Eagle chick from the Guinea Fowl

Area which was adopted as the Official Commando Mascot and named: 'HENRY'.

The Commando Pub
With the pending transformation of Support Group into Support Commando, Support Group became a separate administrative entity, and in December 1975 moved out of Base Group into a 'tin hut' as its Headquarters behind Base Group Block.

At the same time half of the Base Group Block was bricked off, making Support Group completely separate from Base Group.

To give the Commando its own integral Drinking /Recreational facilities it was decided to build a Bar and Lounge in two of the bottom floor Barrack Rooms. This was started in February 1976 and thanks to the sterling efforts of John Armstrong was completed in late September 1976.

It was officially opened in October 1976 and comprises a Bar, Lounge, Veranda and a Foyer which houses the Commando Photos, Trophies etc.

Great pride was taken by all the various Commando’s in their pubs and during 1979 a swimming pool was installed in the Commando Pub garden area making Support Commando’s Pub arguably the best in the Battalion.
Support Group Officers Commanding
Captain A. P. Stephens January 1965 - March 1968
Captain W. B. Rooken-Smith March 1968 - November 1969
Captain R. F. Reid-Daly DMM, MBE November 1969 - May 1973
Captain G. J. T. Noble May 1973 - November 1974.
Captain N. B. Morgan-Davies November 1974 - June 1975
Major P. W. Armstrong June 1975 - January 1976

Support Group Company/Commando Sergeants-Major
WO2 Pretorius, J. A. October 1972 - April 1975
WO2 Payne, P. C. A. April 1975 - January 1976

Support Commando Officers Commanding
Major P. W. Armstrong OLM January 1976 - May 1977
Major N. D. Henson OLM May 1977 - November 1979
Major P. V. Farndell December 1979 - April 1980
Major M. C. Wake May 1980 - October 1980

Support Commando Company/Commando Sergeants-Major
WO2 Payne, P. C. A. January 1976 - April 1978
WO2 Enslin, G. N. April 1978 - April 1980
WO2 Croukamp, D. W. BCR May 1980 - June 1980
WO2 Naestead, J. July 1980 – October 1980


Seconds-in-Command
Support Group
Lt D. I. Pullar Feb 1965 Aug 1967
Lt I. R. Bate Aug 1967 Jan 1968
Lt J. D. Des Fountain Feb 1968 Aug 1969
Lt P. H. S. Mincher Aug 1969 Jul 1970
Lt S. C. Gary Jul 1970 May 1972
Lt I. Buttenshaw May 1972 Jul 1973
Lt K. C. Noble Jul 1973 Jan 1974
Lt P. V. Farndell Jan 1974 Jun 1975
Capt N. B. Morgan-Davies Jun 1975 Aug 1975
Capt P. V. Farndell Aug 1975 Jan 1976

Support Commando
Capt P. V. Farndell Jan 1976 Sep 1977
Capt I. Buttenshaw Sep 1977 Dec 1977
Lt A. B. Shaw Jan 1978 Feb 1979
Lt V. Prinsloo Feb 1979 Jul 1979
Capt M. Jack Aug 1979 Jul 1980
Capt G. D. B. Murdock, BCR Aug 1980 Oct 1980

Commando Sergeants Major
Support Group
WO2 Pretorius, J. A. Oct 1972 Apr 1975
WO2 Payne, P. C. A. MFC (NON-OP) Apr 1975 Jan 1976

Support Commando
WO2 Payne, P. C. A. MFC (NON-OP) Jan 1976 Dec 1978
WO2 Enslin, G. N., DMM Jan 1979 Apr 1980
WO2 Croukamp, D. W. BCR, MFC (OP) May 1980 Jun 1980
WO2 Naestead, J. Apr 1980 Oct 1980

Honours and Awards
724988 L Cpl Gallias, M. G. MFC (OP) 26-09-75
725305 L Cpl Boden, R. V. MFC (OP) 26-09-75
725694 L Cpl Rose, I. E. MFC (OP) 26-09-75
724678 Sgt Kerr, M. D. BCR 15-10-76
727990 L/Cpl Watson, M. W. BCR 23-07-77
725748 L/Cpl Fourie, J. BCR 27-07-77
727598 Tpr Hyde, J. B. BCR 27-07-77
727700 Sgt McKelvie, J. SCR 29-07-77
726454 Cpl Beech, R. T. MFC (OP) 29-07-77
781028 Lt. Webb, M. F. MFC (OP) 23-09-77
780636 Maj. Armstrong, P. W OLM (Combatant) 17-10-77
781057 Capt Farndell, P. V. MFC (OP) 31-03-78
728022 Cpl Mazella, S. B. MFC (OP) 31-03-78
727860 T/Cpl Phillips, R. N. SCR 19-05-78
724876 WO2 Enslin, G. N. DMM 13-04-79
725592 A/C Sgt Kruger, T. MFC (OP) 13-04-79
727060 Sgt Liverick, J. MFC (OP) 13-04-79
722777 WO2 Payne, P. C. A MFC (NON-OP) 13-04-79
728272 Cpl MacLoughlin, N. K BCR 08-06-79

Killed in Action
3108 Tpr Meyer, G. D. 27-04-71
4522 Cpl Wentzel, T. H. C. 27-04-71
4013 L/Cpl Moorecroft, L. W. H. 28-04-71
4553 Cpl Moore, N. D. R. 29-12-71
6353 Tpr Van Staaden, J. J. 15-03-74
6250 L/Cpl Lord, C. P. 19-09-74
100097 Rfn Parkin, G. J. 24-02-76
725437 Cpl Locke, K. P. 06-12-76
94232 Rfn Vaughan, A. E. 17-02-77
728342 Tpr Warnick, E. S. C. 09-04-77
728197 Tpr Clarke, G. W. 15-05-77
727392 Tpr MacDonald, E. A. C. 15-05-77
114506 Rfn Barclay, D. I. F. 07-07-77
727896 L/Cpl Overbeek, M 04-04-79
729659 Tpr Moore, M. A. 17-04-79
729752 Tpr Poole, R. F. 19-04-79
730180 Tpr Stanley, A. J. 20-04-79
730053 Tpr Myburch, K. H. 16-05-79
728831 Tpr Furness, H. L. H. 14-10-79
Tpr Greyvesteyn, A. W. 15-12-79
Tpr Banks, G. T. 28-12-79

Died on Operations
2201 Sgt Gary, J. B. 29-01-69
5507 Tpr Yunker, K. G. 29-09-72
5271 Tpr Stockhill-Gill, R. V. 27-09-74
728920 Tpr McIver, A. J. 01-01-79

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