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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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Saturday, August 29, 2009

MATSAI PUNCH UP ON FIREFORCE RHODESIA


G CAR 5783 19/12/1976 WILLIE KNIGHT AND BEAVER SHAW
FIREFORCE TROOPING MSUMI 2 SORTIES FLOWN
AIR TASK 565 -19/12/1976 REPULSE: - FOUR JUVENILES AT UN8738, 4 NM EAST OF MATSAI AND 40 NM NORTH EAST OF BUFFALO RANGE
LYNX 3407 PROP GELDENHUYS AND CAPT. WILSON SAS
K CAR 5817 GINGER BALDWIN AND ALAN SHIELDS
G CAR 5272 MARK KNIGHT AND BEAVER SHAW
G CAR 5729 CHRIS DICKINSON AND ROB NELSON
DAKOTA 7039 RICK CULPAN
We were called out to a sighting of twelve terrorists dressed in blue denims and armed with AK and SKS rifles which was 4 nautical miles east of Matsai and 40 nautical miles east of Buffalo Range which was to delay our departure to Bangala dam.
Ginger Baldwin and Alan Shields were in the K Car R5817 with Prop Geldenhuys in the Lynx.
Fireforce troops consisted of SAS soldiers commanded by Captain Wilson; G Cars crewed by Willie Knight and myself, Chris Dickinson and Rob Nelson.
A Paradak captained by Vic Culpan followed once we were on our way.
The SAS troopers were armed with a mixture of Rhodesian and communist issue weapons with the gunners being armed with RPD machine guns.
(Note; SAS troops were not trained for Fireforce operations as their primary task, at this time they were operating into Mozambique on external operations and agreed to stand in for the RLI who badly needed a rest for Christmas)
The SAS troops wore shorts and T shirts with webbing and wore black is beautiful camouflage cream to hide their exposed white flesh, somewhat different from the Scouts who dressed in denims and wore communist style floppy hats or baseball caps.

I was excited and scared at the same time as this was a new experience for me and events seemed to happen very fast, and I had to switch on to what was going on around me.
I listened to every word, and the crackle of the radio chatter… clutching the .303 Browning machine guns in front of me.
Willie told me to keep my (already saucer like) eyes peeled for gooks and to throw smoke to mark a target if I saw any terrorists on the ground.
I clutched a smoke generator to my flak jacket, which was bobbing like a tortoise on steroids… from my adrenalin filled heartbeat.
While circling the contact area, after the K Car had pulled up I could hear the mopani scrub whistling under my feet as we sped over it following a course at treetop level….waiting to be called by K Car to drop off our stick of SAS troops into the contact area.
K Car called… giving directions, talking us on to a clearing in the contact area to drop off our stick; I could hear the crack and chatter of the 20mm cannon firing over the radio as Ginger Baldwin spoke us on to our LZ.
Willie flared into a tiny opening amongst the scrub and I leaned out as briefed checking for obstructions (gooks) and to clear our tail, we flared and dropped off our troops in a whirl of dust and debris.
The troops deplaned running into defensive positions in the scrub thickets nearby as our G Car blasted out of the LZ in a trail of dust and debris with Willie milking the G Car’s collective lever for more power.
I had just survived my first Fireforce drop-off… without fucking up, and making a fool of myself due to my lack of experience!!!
After dropping off our stick we were directed by the K Car to refuel at an abandoned airstrip where we landed next to the Army land tail which had arrived from Buffalo range following the Fireforce and was parked near the main drag.(road)

We had landed close to the parked convoy and while Willie shut down our chopper I ran over to a fuel truck and collect a 44 gallon drum of Jet A1 to refuel my chopper.
I dumped the drum from the back of the truck onto an old tyre and rolled it by hand over some rough ground to the helicopter and struggled to lift it to an upright position.
(I was a lightweight in those days and used to battle to lift fuel drums on my own);
I checked the Jet A1 Aviation fuel for water and once satisfied that we were good to refuel I connected the chopper’s portable, 2 stroke putt-putt refueller; and began refuelling.
While refuelling Willie and I ate ration pack bully beef and mustard on biscuits for breakfast listening on the net for instructions from K Car which was orbiting the contact area.
After some time K Car instructed us to return to pick up our sticks and terrorist bodies which consisted of four AMJ, (African Male Juveniles) known as mujibas. (terrorist trainee’s)
We wound up the G Car and headed back into the contact area and were instructed by K Car to land and shut down to uplift bodies of the four Mujibas killed in the fire fight.
After landing in the LZ which was indicated by the SAS troops throwing orange smoke to indicate the LZ, Willie shut down the chopper, and I removed black polythene body bags from the front of the helicopter to stuff the dead mujiba’s into.
The Mujiba’s had been dragged into the centre of the LZ and were lying on their backs in a tangle of blood and gore, the smell and sights of these torn and shattered human bodies was nauseating, and I fought back the bile and nausea emanating from the back of my throat, as we stuffed their pathetic remains into the body bags.
Little did I know that as the Rhodesian war continued…I would have a bitter hatred for Mujibas and what they stood for….


I realised from that moment on, that war is not what one sees in movies; there is no glory in being smashed by a cannon shell or bullet in the African bush, it’s just a lonely gory death.
We uplifted these bodies to Buffalo range airport, where we landed at a secluded part of the airfield where we delivered our body bag parcels to Special Branch policemen, who were awaiting our arrival.
That evening, I scrubbed the helicopter with the sickly smelling Jeyes Fluid… until my hands bled; yet I could not get rid of the thought that the smell of blood and death which permeated from everywhere… including my own clothes and hands… supper was out of the question.

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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.