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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, May 9, 2009

THE TRUSTY RHODESIAN ARMY BEDFORD RL AND TROOP CARRYING VEHICLES






















RHODESIAN RAT PACKS

Ration packs

The military nutrition experts had a hand in the design of these little brown boxes filled with things that were supposed to be good for us.
There were three varieties, (A), (B) or (C) packs, but Heaven alone knows what the difference between them was. They looked exactly the same.
Inside these “Jamstealer Gift Boxes” there were all sorts of exciting things. Every one had a pack of “biscuits”. These would have made a hyena stop laughing and, if you were to glue them to yourself, there would have been no cause for the invention of Kevlar body armour. If you soaked them in water or boiled the living daylights out of them, you got a sort of gooey target paste, which tasted exactly like…gooey target paste. The Rhodesian bush, when archaeologists from the future start rummaging around, will yield up millions of these slightly pale, oversized dominoes. It will puzzle them too that they will be dug up in close proximity to the shattered remains of the teeth of powerfully jawed carnivores and hominids.
The tins of “Braised Liver” were of great interest. We had never seen green liver before and especially liver that smelled like the inside of a Sumo wrestler’s jock strap. Few of us actually ate it, so it is not possible to describe the taste. I feel sure it would have been memorable.
In a little silver and gold foil sachet could be found the notorious “Curry Powder” packed by Messrs Khatri Brothers of Salisbury. I never did meet with one of these brothers so I was unable to ask how they had managed to discover a wrapping foil so robust that it could contain this “Universal Solvent”…it went straight through anything, turned everything yellow and yet somehow proved to be a very effective radiator sealant for Bedfords and Landrovers.
A favourite was the “Condensed Milk”. This was Nestle’s finest and came in small tins or, at one time, in plastic tubes. As tea was always welcome out in the bundu this was a very tradable commodity.
Some “ratpacks” very thoughtfully provided a few sheets of the famous “Bronco” toilet paper which was savage stuff, but still preferable to the use of large leaves for personal hygiene needs. There were a lot of stinging nettles in parts of Rhodesia…
“Baked Beans” were almost always included in the ration, so quiet nights were often punctuated by intermittent blasts of flatulence, which put even the elephant to flight.
The sustenance was always welcome, but the side effects were not.

Some contained little tins of jellied methylated spirits. The idea was that you opened this tin and found a way to perch your mess tin of graze an inch or two above the flame. I bought a very clever Swedish designed petrol primus from a camping store in Salisbury. This little gem came in it’s own canister which doubled as two cooking pots and required no priming or pumping. As long as you could filch half a pint of army petrol you only had to warm the tank with your hands to send enough up the stem to set fire to it. In a minute or two the thing would be purring contentedly and a little later a brew could be enjoyed while your mates were still trying to coax their stoves into life. It was swiped shortly before I left the army and I have never found a replacement. To the thief I say, “May your chickens all choke and the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!”

Rhodesia had a hand in the development of military vehicles

South Africa’s armoured vehicle success steeped in impressive design, manufacture history
By: Keith Campbell

Published: 10 Oct 08 - 9:40

South African industry has gained world renown for what the Americans have come to call mine-resistant and ambush- protected (Mrap) vehicles, thousands of which have been produced, and hundreds of which are on order, for a growing number of international customers, especially the US.

But this is not the first time that South African industry has successfully filled a gap in the international light armoured vehicle market. In fact, the history of the design and manufacture of armoured vehicles in this country goes back nearly 70 years - to the start of the Second World War.

World War

When South Africa declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939, the South African Army estimated that its minimum armoured vehicle requirement was a battalion of 22 light tanks and 67 armoured cars. The country actually had just two obsolete medium tanks and two obsolete armoured cars.

Fortunately, as the threat of war had been glaringly obvious, South Africa had already launched an experimental programme for the local design and manufacture of armoured cars, and the prototype was delivered on September 18, 1939. This vehicle was designed by Germiston-based Dorman Long (Africa), and it was based on a 3-t 4 × 2 truck chassis manufactured by Ford Motor Company of Canada, with a Ford V8 engine. After extensive tests, the design was modified - for example, the chassis was shortened.

The improved vehicle entered production in 1940 as the South African reconnaissance car (SARC) Mk I. Still only a two-wheel-drive vehicle, which limited its tactical mobility, only 113 Mk Is were built. They were replaced by the 4 × 4 SARC Mk II, the first large-scale production version, which, in turn, was replaced (from mid-1941) by the further improved SARC Mk III.

Dorman Long was responsible for the production of the drawings for all South African armoured car designs during the war, and undertook final assembly at its Germiston plant, in facilities specially erected for the purpose. Some 70 other South African com- panies acted as subcontractors on the programme. These companies often had to design and build special tools and jigs to produce these components.

The Mk I to Mk III all used shortened Ford 3-t truck chassis, with the Mk II and the Mk III fitted with four-wheel-drive conversion kits supplied by the Marmon-Herrington company of Indianapolis, in the US. As a result, and for some odd reason, the armoured cars became popularly known as Marmon-Herringtons.

The armour plate for the vehicles was developed and supplied by the then South African Iron & Steel Industrial Corporation, or Iscor (today, ArcelorMittal South Africa). Iscor had, through experimentation, to develop a suitable medium manganese steel for the requirement. This was then heat-treated in a specially designed and built plant. Each plate was individually tested, before being cut to shape and size by acetylene profile-cutting machines.

The armoured steel plates were then sent to the workshops of the then South African Railways & Harbours, where they were welded together to form the turrets and bodies of the armoured cars - the welding shops operated 24 hours a day. The hulls and turrets were then despatched to Dorman Long for the final assembly process.

Iscor also manufactured the bearings for the turret ball races for the armoured cars, another undertaking that had never been done in the country before. The armament was supplied from Britain.

The SARC Mk I served only with the South African Army, while the SARC Mk II was also supplied to the British Army. The SARC Mk III, which had the biggest production run (more than 2 600 vehicles) served with the South African, British, Indian, New Zealand, Free French, Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) and Dutch East Indies (colonial) armies. It was deployed in every region of Africa - North, South, East, Central, and West - as well as in the Middle East and South-East Asia. Countries and territories in which the Mk III served include (using their current names) Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Madagascar, Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Malaysia (Malay peninsula) and Indonesia (Java and Sumatra).

"The Mk II and Mk III were the most important versions of the SARC," says military historian Hamish Paterson. "The Mk IIs were critically important during the Italian East African campaign, which saw the liberation of Ethiopia, where they were deployed in place of tanks and not as reconnaissance vehicles. The Mk III formed the bulk of British 8th Army reconnaissance vehicles in North Africa from about November 1941 to about July 1942."

The South African vehicles developed an excellent reputation for reliability, but their production-standard armament of, basically, two 7,7-mm or 7,62-mm machine guns was regarded as far too light by their frontline users. So British maintenance depots in Egypt significantly enhanced their armament, often removing the original guns and even turrets, and replacing them with captured Italian 20-mm and 47-mm, and German 37-mm, guns.

The SARC Mk III was followed by the Mk IV, which was a complete redesign. The Mk IV had a monocoque hull (no chassis), had its engine (still a Ford V8) mounted at the rear, not the front, and had a larger, two-man, turret, in place of the original one-man turret.

Basic armament was one two-pounder (40-mm) gun, with a coaxial 7,62-mm machine gun, and a pintle-mounted anti- aircraft machine gun (also usually 7,62 mm) on top of the turret. The Mk IV started rolling off the production line in March 1943, and 2 116 were built in two versions, the Mk IV and Mk IV F, the latter using only Ford automotive components.

However, the war in North Africa ended in 1943 and the SARCs, designed specifically for African conditions, were adjudged unsuitable for operations in Europe, with the result that the Mk IV reportedly did not see combat until the 1948/49 Israeli War of Independence, in which the Mk IV served with the Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians, and (a few captured units) with the Israelis. The Mk IV also served with the Cypriot National Guard, apparently seeing action as late as 1974, during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The Greek Army also operated Mk IVs post-1945, later assigning them to defence duties on islands in the Aegean and reportedly only finally retiring them in the 1990s.

The Mk IV was the final production version of the SARC series, but there were also Mk Vs, VIs, VIIs, and VIIIs, which existed in prototype form only. The most significant of these was the Mk VI, an 8 × 8 vehicle inspired by highly successful German armoured cars of the same layout. Two prototypes were built, each powered by two Ford engines. The first had a main armament of a two-pounder gun, the second, a six-pounder (57 mm). Ideal for operations in North Africa, but clearly unsuitable for the much more cramped environments of Europe, the Mk VI programme was cancelled, although it probably served as a conceptual inspiration for today's Rooikat armoured car.

Thus, the first phase in the history of South African armoured vehicle design and manufacture came to an end. In total, some 5 770 SARCs of all marks were manufactured, with production ending in April 1944. "The success of South Africa's Second World War armoured cars may have entrenched the culture of wheeled armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) in the South African Army," suggests Paterson. "Wheeled AFVs are easier to design, manufacture, and maintain. Also, the wartime experience showed the South Africans that wheeled AFVs could be taken to places that other armies wouldn't have believed possible."

Regional Wars

Perhaps, significantly, the South African Army's first armoured personnel carrier (APC) was the British wheeled (6 × 6) Alvis Saracen. And during the 1960s, South Africa manufactured the French Panhard AML familiy of 4 × 4 armoured cars under licence as the Eland.

The reinitiation of indigenous armoured vehicle design activities was stimulated, as the original phase had been, by necessity. If any one weapon can be identified as the characteristic weapon of the Southern African liberation wars, which covered some 30 years from the early 1960s to the end of the 1980s, it was the landmine. The Portuguese, Rhodesian, and South African armies were all heavily dependent on trucks for troop transport, motor patrol, outpost resupply and convoy escort duties, and these trucks were terribly vulnerable to landmines - the blast would not only wreck the vehicle but, much worse, kill or wound a significant proportion of the troops riding in it.

Protection against landmines became imperative. The first step was improvisation - the first attempts at mine protection involved putting sandbags on the back of the trucks and water in their tyres. To a degree, this worked - it reduced, but did not eliminate, the casualty toll.

The Rhodesians experimented with all sorts of mine-protected vehicle designs, manu- facturing several hundred, and there was close cooperation between them and the South Africans.

The history of the South African develop- ment of mine-protected vehicles is rather complex, with different streams of development running parallel. A plethora of vehicles were developed - Buffels, Mambas, Hippos, Casspirs, Bulldogs, Okapis, Kwêvoëls, and so on - and many companies were involved. There was a further development stream, concerned with heavier AFVs, which gave rise to the Ratel, the Rooikat, and the G6 programmes. Consequently, the following account is somewhat simplifed and some projects will be omitted.

Over the years, the main industry players were TFM Defence & Security, Sandock Austral, OMC Engineering, Truckmakers, Gear Ratio (specialising in transmissions and powerpacks), Henred Fruehauf, UCDD, and Ermetek. Mergers, aquisitions, and disposals complicate the corporate history of modern South African AFV design and manufacture.

One of South Africa's earlier attempts at series-production mine protection by design was the Bosvaark, which was simply a German-designed Unimog cross-country tactical truck fitted with a V-shaped rear body; otherwise, it was unprotected. This was followed by the Buffel, with a V-shaped and lightly armoured (but open-topped) hull.

The Buffel was designed by the Defence Research Unit (DRU) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and manufactured by several companies, with mass production starting in 1978. Some 1 400 were built. The Buffel employed the chassis and automotive components of the Unimog, and many Unimogs were later cannibalised to supply these components to the Buffel production lines.

The Buffel was effective, but it was subject to excessive roll when moving across rough terrain and its open top left the troops vulnerable to shrapnel. It also proved unsuit- able for urban operations. So, at the end of the 1980s, it was succeeded by the Mamba, designed for internal security tasks - lower than a Buffel, more stable, less military in appearance, and enclosed.

Built by TFM (later absorbed into OMC), the first Mambas were 4 × 2 vehicles, but 4 × 4 soon became the standard. Mambas were built reusing the Unimog components originally used in the Buffels and some originally used in unprotected Unimog ambulances. So, just as Unimogs had been stripped to supply the needs of the Buffel production line, so Buffels were cannibalised to feed the Mamba programme. Mamba production numbered over 500. Surviving Mambas were upgraded to Mk III standard during 1997 and 1998.

Meanwhile, another stream had developed, in parallel. Even before the emergence of the Buffel, a prototype vehicle, designated the Hippo, had been built. This was a modified Bedford army truck, which proved to have good protection but was overweight. Developed by the DRU, the Hippo Mk I was built by three companies, with the first order placed in July 1974; some 670 were built. The vehicle served with both the South African Police (SAP - now the South African Police Service, or SAPS), which was the original customer, and the South African Army.

To eliminate the weaknesses of the Hippo Mk I, a totally new vehicle, misleadingly (perhaps as a security measure) designated Hippo Mk II, was developed. "The Hippo Mk II did away with the chassis - it had a monocoque hull. It was the start of a new phase in South African mine-protected vehicle design," highlights BAE Systems Land Systems OMC engineering and business improvement director Gert Pretorius. (The Rhodesians had already developed some monocoque mine- protected vehicles.)

From the Hippo Mk II, the CSIR developed the Casspir, specifically for the SAP (the vehicle's name is an anagram of CSIR and SAP). The first Casspir was built in 1979, by TFM, with initial production (by another company) following in 1980 and mass production (also by TFM) starting in 1981. The Casspir employed automotive components stripped from Bedford trucks, and well over a thousand were built. Conceived as a mine-protected, lightly armoured, counter- insurgency combat vehicle, the Casspir, because of its superior off-raod mobility and better protection, was soon adopted by the South African Army as well, replacing some Buffels in bush operations.

Meanwhile, the South African Army needed new armoured vehicles for more conventional warfare operations, to replace the Saracens and Elands, and to be able to provide more effective support for the tank force. This programme started in the early 1970s, when the South African Army evaluated four AFVs - the Unimog UR-416 from Germany, the French Panhard M3, the Brazilian Engesa Urutu, and a vehicle from local company Springfield Bussing, confusingly named Buffel. The three foreign designs were all APCs - basically, armoured ‘battle taxis', armed only with a machine gun, which carried troops into battle, at which point they had to disembark to fight. But the South African Army decided to go with a new concept, pioneered by the West German Army - the armoured infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV, but usually referred to in South Africa as IFV). An AIFV carries a powerful gun (20 mm or 30 mm) as well as a squad of troops, who have their own vision ports and firing ports, so that they can fight from within the vehicle. So, around 1975/1976, the South African Army decided to adopt an AIFV based on the Springfield Bussing vehicle.

This became the Ratel (honey badger, in English), which was mass-produced by Sandock Austral. Another monocoque design, the Ratel hulls were made in Sandock Austral's Durban dockyard and taken by rail to Boksburg for fitting out. The turrets were based on those on the Eland armoured cars - the 20-mm gun turret of the standard Ratel IFV, for example, was a redesigned Eland 90 turret. A whole family of Ratels was developed - command vehicles, fire support vehicles (with 90-mm gun turrets taken from Elands), mortar vehicles (with 60-mm breech-loading mortar turrets taken from Eland 60s), and, later, tank destroyers armed with Z3 antitank missiles, and mortar carriers with 81-mm muzzle-loading mortars carried in what had been the troop compartment. An 8 × 8 Ratel logistics vehicle did not go into production. It is reported that more than 1 400 Ratels were built, and a number have been exported.

On operations in the bush, it became clear that the Elands could not keep up with the Ratels. So a programme was launched to develop a new and more capable armoured car (the Ratel 90 fire-support vehicle was an interim solution). Three prototypes, from three companies, each using a different suspension system, were ordered.

The Sandock Austral prototype, fitted with an upgraded version of the Eland suspension - independent suspension on each wheel - won. The Rooikat (lynx or caracal, in English), as it is called, was designed as a long-range, high-mobility, AFV with good hitting power. To increase ammunition storage capacity, it was armed with a 76-mm gun (although later a 105-mm gun version was developed, in the hope of attracting exports). It is believed that more than 250 Rooikats have been built.

Mention must also be made of upgrade programmes for the South African Army's Centurion tanks, by OMC, first to Skokiaan standard and later to Olifant standard. Nor must the G6 155-mm self-propelled gun be forgotten - the hull was developed by OMC, and the turret and gun mounting by Denel-LIW. Unlike the Rooikat, the G6 has been exported.

International Markets

The end of war in Southern Africa at the end of the 1980s, unlike the end of the Second World War, did not see the end of armoured and mine-protected vehicle design and manu-facture in South Africa. Rather, horizons were broadened, and foreign investment obtained.

With Reumech manufacturing the Mamba 4 × 4, TFM sought to develop a new mine- protected, lightly armoured vehicle, specifi- cally for export markets, which were now (post-1994) open to South African defence companies. The result was the RG31, which benefited from the experiences with the Casspir and Mamba. The launch customer proved to be the United Nations (UN), in 1995, followed by the first order from the US Army in 1996. The latest versions are the RG31 Mk 5E and Mk 6.

The company then developed the RG32 Scout as a 4 × 2, 3-t, protected patrol vehicle for the SAPS. The UN also adopted it, but required that its version be 4 × 4. The next improvement was to fit a diesel engine. Then a military version was developed - the RG32M - which was ordered by Sweden. As with the RG31, the RG32M has been constantly upgraded, with the latest version being the RG32M LTV.

While technical developments were driving forward, major corporate changes were also taking place. TFM, Sandock Austral, OMC, Ermetek and Gear Ratio merged into Reumech OMC, based in Benoni. In 1999, Reumech OMC was acquired by British defence group Vickers, becoming Vickers OMC. In 2002, Vickers was, in turn, taken over by another UK group, Alvis, and then, in 2004, Alvis was bought by BAE Systems, so the local company was renamed BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa (Land Systems SA, which is 75%-owned by the British group and 25% by a South African black economic- empowerment enterprise) and divided into Land Systems OMC and Land Systems Gear Ratio. In 2008, Land Systems SA acquired IST Dynamics, which became Land Systems Dynamics. Being a part of major international defence groups has greatly facilitated the global marketing of the South African vehicles.

To date, 1 388 RG31s are in service with, and 984 more are on order from, 12 countries, while 442 RG32Ms are in operation with ten countries. Most of these have been manufactured in South Africa. Moreover, Land Systems OMC has designed a new Mrap vehicle family, specifically to meet US requirements. This is the RG33 family, comprising the 4 × 4 RG33 and the 6 × 6 RG33L. Rapidly prototyped in Benoni, the production vehicles are made under licence in North America. Total RG33 family orders to date are about 2 300.

Meanwhile, smaller players are re-emerging in the market. For example, black-owned defence company Ivema has launched a 4 × 4 mine-protected APC named the Gila, which is designed to replace the veteran Casspir.

Since the original prototype SARC emerged in 1939, South Africa has manufactured some 13 000 locally designed amoured and mine-protected vehicles, not counting those being produced under licence overseas. It is an impressive story of improvisation, innovation, design, manufacture, and operational and commercial success over 70 years. And it is far from finished.

Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment




ORIGINS
The Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment (Rh ACR) first saw service in Abysinnia and North Africa in 1941-2 under Lieut-Col Blakiston-Houston, who gave his name to Rh ACR's base in Salisbury. Its original equipment was South African-built Marmon Herrington armoured cars (armed only with a Bren .303 (7.62mm) light machine gun), which the BSAP Armoured Car Unit continued to use for urban riot control until 1972, by which time they were 30 years old! Rh ACR was reformed after World War II, and equipped with 20 American Staghound armoured cars, but again disbanded in the 1950s. The Staghounds, which by then had passed to Support Group, 1 RLI, were moved to Kariba for border defence at the time of UDI in 1965, and one of them marked the event by firing a symbolic 37mm round in the direction of Zambia.

Rh ACR was reformed in 1972 as a Territorial unit under the command of Major Bruce Rooken-Smith. Its main equipment was the Ferret scout-car, armed with a single .303" (7.62mm) machine-gun. This 2-man vehicle was intended for light reconnaissance.

ARMOURED CARS IN RHODESIA - THE THEORY
The Rhodesian ATOPS manual, based no doubt on an understanding of the Ferret's capabilities, and the memory of how similarly-armed Humber and Marmon-Herrington vehicles had been used in World War II, itemised useful functions for Armoured Cars as patrolling, particularly along borders ("watching over you and I ..."), convoy escort ("ever been revved [attacked] in a Landie [Land-Rover]"), picket duties at key points, and "showing the Flag" in sensitive areas such as Tribal Trust Lands. This light recce role owed much to the experience and training of many key Rh ACR officers with British armoured car regiments in UK and Aden.

... AND THE PRACTICE ... 3 WEEKS IN GONA RE ZHOU
The ATOPS manual's theories (and their imperfections) are perfectly illustrated by this account by D. Newnham of Rhodesian Air Force Regiment (Rh AF Regt) of a deployment into the Gona Re Zhou game reserve, much used by ZANLA for infiltration from neighbouring Mozambique, in Octobr 1978: "Rh ACR were keen to evaluate Rh AF Regt's AML 60s, with a view to purchasing some to operate alongside their Elands, so we were invited to send 2 AML 60s to make up a troop with 2 'borrowed' Ferretstotake part in a sweep with 3 troops of Rh AC R Elands. We crossed into Gona Re Zhou from Chiredzi. The sweep was intended to re-establish a Security Force presence where it had been lacking for 6 years by patrolling the game-trails. This was all very well, but in the time the elephants and terrs had had the place to themselves, the grass and scrub had grown to at least 8 feet, severely reducing visibility even from an armoured car turret.

We saw nothing until a few days before the end of the deployment, when we (literally) ran into a terr assembly area 5km from the Mozambique border. There were between 30 and 50 Terrs, armed with RPG-7s (2 of which narrowly missed us), RPD machine-guns, and AK 47s. One Eland destroyed an ant-hill which had been sheltering a group of terrs at 17 metres - half the theoretical distance it took a 90mm round to arm. We chased the terrs over the border, but (much to our annoyance) were denied permission to follow them, so most of them got away in the gathering gloom of nightfall, taking their casualties (which we estimated at 16) with them.

The final irony came at sunset one day'as 5 armoured cars were speeding along the ruler-straight road which parallels the railway line, returning to our laager at Tswiza. Ahead of us appeared a lone, and weary-looking, African. Hearing our engines, he extended his thumb and turned round... at about the same time he realised he was trying to hitch a lift from an armoured car, we realised he was carrying an AK. He vanished into the scrub, 5 armoured cars spread out to encircle him... but the sketch below is wishful thinking. All we ever found of him was his rucksack, which contained only some chicken bones and a half-empty water-bottle. He was obviously lost. I just hope he found a square meal!

After such an account, any comment on the efficiency of using high-tech armoured cars to catch low-tech infiltrators would be superfluous!

Rh ACR ORGANISATION
Initially, the Regiment consisted of 4 squadrons (A-D) each consisting of 4 troops of 4 vehicles. "C" squadron consisted of regular personnel. The others were made up largely of Territorials who were selected for Rh ACR, and given 6 weeks' specialised training in armoured warfare, vehicle handling, and gunnery followed by a 1-week crash course on mine countermeasures.

Clearly, only 64 purpose-built recce vehicles couldn't meet all the mobile tactical reconnaissance needs of a country half as big again as the UK. Hence, many of the local recce, routine patrol, and convoy protection, duties fell to locally-raised forces such as PATU reserve, using vehicles such as the Leopard already described. "George" and his companions tended to be used where fast, specialised recce vehicles were most needed ("his fire-power's might handy..."). In practice, this meant sensitive border areas and external ops, where elements of the Armoured Car Regiment were allocated at Squadron, or even Troop, strength to "Independent" (Indep) Companies.

Rh ACR's CONTRIBUTION TO AN ALL-ARMS TEAM
"Indep" companies contained armoured cars, along with elements of the Rhodesian Artillery with their 25-pdr guns, Infantry, and Engineers with mine-lifting skills. The Indep companies were "parented" by Rhodesia Regiment until 1977, and subsequently by RAR. There was a cadre of regular officers, but most of the manpower for all elements of the Indep companies (Infantry, Armour, Artillery, and Engineers) came from national servicemen on their initial 2-year call-up, or from Territorials doing their (increasingly) regular 6-8 week tours of duty.

The Indep Companies were deployed as follows. 1 and 4 were based at Wankie, (Operation "Tangent") covering Rhodesia's NW and SW borders, sandwiched between ZIPRA's main base areas in Zambia and Botswana. 2 was based at Kariba (Op "Hurricane"), covering ZIPRA's other main infiltration routes across Lake Kariba and the lower Zambesi Valley. 3 Indep, based at Inyanga, and 5 and 6, based at Umtali, (Operation "Thrasher') shared between them the unenviable task of covering ZANLA's innumerable infiltration routes into Rhodesia from its bases in Mozambique.

INDEP COMPANIES IN ACTION
This account is based on the experiences of Neil Cave, who was one of 12 men "selected" (i.e. told!) to join Rh ACR from National Service (NS) intake 144, which served for 12 months from February 1975. After completing his initial training in April, he received specialist armoured car training, and joined a troop of 4 Eland armoured cars posted to the 5 Indep company area around Umtali in October.

"Rh ACR crews were drawn from every 3rd NS intake, so we replaced crews from 141. In August, a 5 Indep sub-unit had been involved in a cross-border fire-fight with Gooks ensconced in a derelict farm house on the Mozambique side. Since Rhodie forces were forbidden to cross the border, they were forced to view the engagement as an exercise in converting live rounds into empty shell-cases... until 2 Elands from 141 happened by, and were invited to join in the fun. I don't know how many 90mm rounds they fired, but when one of them scored a direct hit on the farm-house, it brought the contact to a swift end. We subsequently heard that the Gooks were shocked, stunned, and not a little surprised at the unexpected arrival of 5kg of high explosive in their midst!

The Eland's fire-power was seen to be extremely useful. The infantry had been frustrated at their inability to follow-up across the border, and were delighted to have a means of getting at the Gooks on the other side. The Gooks were also impressed, and wherever we went, they were sure to get out of the way. In an effort to spread this benefit, the commanders decided to split the troop, with 2 vehicles under the Troop Sergeant being detached to 3 Indep at Inyanga, while our two under Lieut Meaker settled into a routine of patrolling areas where the threat was deemed to be high, and supporting 5 Indep infantry sub-units deployed along the border. The Honde Valley was a favourite, but we covered the whole area from there South to Chipinga. Our tactics were pretty naive. We often operated over great distances in fairly close country with no infantry support whatever, which in a more hostile environment would have made us highly vulnerable.

We got away with it because of our mobility and unpredictability, and because the Gooks hadn't worked out how to deal with us. For instance, we were deployed to support an Infantry unit at Vimba School South of Melsetter in December after a bunch of Gooks from a largish camp 2km over the border had opened fire at night, making a lot of noise and totally failing to hit anything. The morning after our arrival, they pulled out!

The Elands' high degree of mobility meant that they were effectively used for "flag-waving", but only because of the low threat-level. We covered a lot of miles in the3 months up to January '76, but without seeing any real action. The huge distances involved meant that we were usually in the wrong place at the wrong time. This piecemeal deployment was dictated by lack of resources, and the decision which was taken after our stint not to deploy Elands along the border in this way was probably correct. Though we'd kept things around Umtali quiet for a few months, if we'd continued to deploy armoured cars in small numbers without infantry support, they'd probably have been whittled away in ambushes and minor engagements, as the French found out to their cost in Vietnam."

THE FERRETS SERVICE RECORD
Rh ACR's Ferrets, though regarded with much affection by their crews and the troops who were "given peace of mind when George was in the line" alongside them, were in poor condition when first received by the Regiment. Bruce Rooken-Smith, former OC of Rh ACR recalls: "10 Ferrets belonging to "A" Sqn, Southern Rhodesian ACR [part of the armed forced of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland - Author] were passed to Support Group, 1 RLI on the break-up of the Federation. We scraped them down to their original sand paintwork, revealing the logos of the UK Middle East Land Forces who had seen service in Aden years previously. Thus our Ferrets were very old, tired, and much-abused "old ladies", long overdue for the qualified attention we were at last able to give them."

The Ferrets were much maligned because of their age, and the increasing unreliability which was said to have resulted from hard use and difficulties in getting spares from the UK, but this verdict is not entirely borne out by Gerry Spick, Technical Quartermaster (TQM) of Rh ACR: "The Ferret performed exceptionally well... (it) was most effective, and eminently suitable to the terrain ("even seen him climb a gomo..."). The standard of maintenance was very high - several ex-REME (UK army Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) mechanics, as well as excellent Rhodesian ones. The Ferrets were completely overhauled many times... sanctions-busting involved receipt of spares, including engines, from the UK. The Ferrets were modified several times, with additions such as larger locally-designed fuel tanks." There were also plans to up-gun the Ferret with an improved turret designed to take a 20mm cannon. one grainy press pnoto of 19 is snows a Ferret w~tn an eniargea turret, ana describes plans to fit these to all Ferrets, but it seems doubtful that these were ever carried out, given the shortage of weapons which meant that the MPCV (see section on 2.5 "family"), which was also designed for the 20mm, was armed with such stop-gaps as captured Soviet 12.7mm machine-guns. Further doubt is cast on the 20mm story by Peter Bray, OC of "C" Sqn Rh ACR: "I do recall some test-firings, but they didn't get very far. The 20mm's recoil wrecked the turret ring!"

Gerry Spick also mentions an interesting throwback to the Light Cavalry traditions which many UK Armoured Car regiments still cherish: "In the Chiredzi area, several groups of infiltrating terrs were rounded up between Rh ACR Ferrets and Gray's Scouts Cavalry (acting as a sweep-line), with the Ferrets operating on the flanks."

"George's" firepower, though handy, was a bit limited. A machine-gun is, after all, only an infantry weapon. The only heavy weapons the Rhodesian Army had were British 25-pdr gun/howitzers - reputedly the same ones used in Italy in World War II by the fathers of the gunners who used them in the Rhodesian War. The 25-pdr is a very fine weapon. It can be traversed through 360 degrees on its turntable, and fired so fast by a well-trained crew that the Germans thought it was belt-fed. It is, however, a towed weapon, which cannot provide mobile fire-support like a vehicle-mounted gun, or fire at high velocity over a flat trajectory like a true anti-tank gun, (though it has been effectively used as such by gunners in tight corners!). Along Rhodesia's Eastern border, artillery duels with ZANLA's FRELIMO allies became increasingly common as the war progressed, and the Rhodesian Army was well aware that ZIPRA was being trained by its Soviet mentors to mount a "classical" military attack with armoured support.

Clearly, there was a requirement for a fast, mobile vehicle mounting a powerful gun. This was filled by the Panhard AML 90 armoured car, built in South Africa as the "Eland". It had a crew of 3, and mounted a 90mm gun powerful enough to defeat the heaviest vehicle likely to be ranged against it, the Soviet T-54, with a 100mm gun and a maximum armour thickness of 100mm. What it could do to the more thinly-armoured BTR 152 was gruesomely demonstrated at Entumbane in 1981. (Bruce Rooken-Smith's recollection "It was like shooting pheasants on the ground.")

In addition to its main armament, the Eland had a co-axial 7.62mm machine-gun, and the option of mounting a .30 cal MG on the turret for the commander's use. However, the Eland's armour was no better than the Ferret's (8-12mm). Tests revealed that its armour could be penetrated even by an AK-47 firing AP rounds. Clearly it would have stood no chance against the 12.7mm or 14.5mm Soviet machine-guns supplied to the terrs for air defence, not to mention the R PG-7. These weaknesses were offset by the vehicle's high speed (90kph/55mph on a good road), and the long range of the gun.

SOUTH AFRICA GIVETH .. .
The Elands were phased into use by Rh ACR troops A-C in increasing numbers as the war progressed. The Ferrets were retained for reconnaissance, and the Elands operated alongside them in the same troops as a strike force. Officially, the Elands were "on loan" from South Africa. Gerry Spick recalls: "when we first acquired the Elands they had South African Police (SAP) number-plates, and any enquiry (about them) was countered by saying that was who they belonged to." The longer "reach" of the Eland's powerful gun was quickly turned to advantage. Several were dug in around Umtali to help counter FRELIMO rocket bombardments. Peter Bray recalls: "We operated mixed troops of Ferrets for recce and Elands for fire-support - ideally, we liked 2 of each, but in practice we used whatever we had... sometimes up to 6 Ferrets for a recce sweep, or 4 plus 2 Elands."

The version of the Eland which carried the 60mm mortar as main armament was also supplied, and used by the Rhodesian Air Force, (Rh AF) along with a variety of other unlikely vehicles (such as a WW II Bren carrier fitted with twin MAG mountings and an armoured superstructure, and a pedal-powered "Pookie" for mine clearance!) for airfield defence. Rh AF 60mm mortar vehicles operated alongside Rh ACR vehicles on occasions, as described above.

... AND SOUTH AFRICA TAKETH AWAY .. .
... Or at least tries to! Initially, fears of international embarrassment led the South Africans totry to impose restrictions which prevented the Rh ACR using Elands on external raids. However, the withdrawal of the SAP units who were supposed to be operating the Elands from Rhodesia in 1976 made the restrictions unenforceable, and Rh ACR Elands were used to give fire support on external raids such as Op "Miracle", against the ZANLA camps at New Chimoio. The Elands were never "re possessed", like some other South African equipment, and continued to be operated by the Zimbabwe Army until poor maintenance and lack of spares led to their replacement by Brazilian Cascavel vehicles.

HOW DID ARMOURED CARS FARE AGAINST LAND-MINES?
Neither the Ferret nor the Eland can be classified as "mine-protected". Both designs pre-dated the Rhodesian work on the blast-deflecting hulls which characterise most of the other vehicles described in this book. Their flat bottoms and thin armour made them potentially vulnerable, but as Illustration 150 shows, most mine detonations blew off wheels with no injury either to the main part of the vehicle or the crew. Peter Bray recalls: "I remember one case where a B Sqn Ferret lost its nearside front wheel to a ZIPRA TM 46 landmine near Kazungula at the Westernmost tip of Rhodesia. The crew simply lashed the nearside door, spare wheel, and the damaged wheel to the offside rear mudguard to counterbalance it, and drove it 60 miles home to Wankie on 3 wheels!"

Only 6 armoured cars were shown by Rhodesian Army statistics to have been involved in land-mine incidents. No one was killed, but 10 of the 19 people involved were injured (ie, a 50/50 chance of injury). Peter Bray recalls: "That just goes to show how misleading statistics can be! All those casualties came from a single incident iii Maranke Tribal Trust Land in June 1978, when an Eland was flipped over, and its heavy turret blown clear of the hull. It was carrying about 10 RR Troopies (which it shouldn't have been) on a day's "swan", and most of them were injured. The worst injury was the gunner, whose legs were crushed by the turret basket. We later heard that the South Aficans hadn't fitted about 30% of the turret ring bolts, but that was all hushed up afterwards..." A member of the Eland's crew added, "It's hardly surprising the turret came off... they'd boosted the land-mine with a box of 80mm mortar-bombs!"

Peter Bray added that Rh ACR's good record with land-mines had more to do with the Pookie than with "luck... I remember one trip to Mukumbura (that name again! Author) on which we took 3 Pookies because the road was so mine-infested. Each one was blown up in turn, but none of the armoured cars was hurt. When I talked to the driver of the last one to be blown up, he told me this was the SEVENTH blast he'd survived. Those guys were amazing..."

NEW EQUIPMENT - AND AN EXPANDING ROLE
In the last years of the war, Rh ACR was expanded and restructured to face the threat of "classical warfare" anticipated by the Rhodesian Army. D Squadron was equipped with MPCVs and expanded to include the armoured infantry which fought in them. It took part in extensive exercises on Somabula Plain in 1980 with the elements of 1 and 2 RAR which had been earmarked, and were undergoing extensive training, to operate as a mechanised infantry battalion. The MPCV was well-designed to operate alongside the Eland, and indeed was far superior to the obsolescent BTR 152s supplied by the Soviets to ZIPRA fo use in classical warfare alongside equally obsolescent T-34s. The only incident which tested this combination took place after the 1980 settlement at Entumbane. The fact that this abortive coup proved to be the end of ZIPRA's aspirations to political power speaks for itself.

CLASSICAL TANKS FOR A CLASSICAL WAR
Rh ACR was the unlikely beneficiary of the fall of the Ugandan dictator !di Amin. A freighter laden with T-55 tanks from Libya destined for him sought refuge in Durban after his atrocious regime had been toppled - ironically by similar tanks operated by the Tanzanians! The South Africans appropriated the tanks "in lieu of port dues", and offered them to the Rhodesians, who used them to equip the newly-formed E Sqn Rh ACR. They took part in the 1980 exercises described above, and it is rumoured that they were ready to roll in a coup planned at the time of the 1980 election. This scenario would make a fascinating plot for a thriller, because there is little doubt the tanks' influence could have been crucial. Subsequent photos show these tanks, supplemented by others of the same type, being used by ZNA's North Korean-trained 5th Brigade.

OTHER Rh ACR EQUIPMENT
E Sqn also had a number of T-34/85 tanks, which were said to have been captured from FRELIMO oncross-border raids. Bruce Rooken-Smith doubts this, and suspects they were supplied after the 1980 settlement from ZIPRA sources. One of these T-34s now reposes in the Army Museum at Bulawayo, but these aged and unreliable vehicles were never highly regarded, or much used, by either Rhodesian or Zimbabwean Armoured Corps.

In 1979, Rh ACR acquired Magirus-Deutz transporters for its tanks from South Africa. Because these vehicles were acquired late, they were not mine-protected like the earlier Leyland vehicles dubbed "Muppets". These had a trailer designed by Rio Tinto Zinc which could be used to transport up to 3 Elands, but was incapable of handling a T-55.

25 POUNDER ARTILLERY GUN USED BY RHODESIAN SECURITY FORCES IN BUSH WAR


Length: 18 ft. 2 in.
Width: 7 ft. wheelbase
Barrel Length: 31 calibers
Breech: Vertical Sliding Block
Feed System: Separate Loading
Shell: Normal, Super
Caliber: 3.45 in.
Elevation: -5 to 45 degrees
Traverse: 360 degrees on platform, 4 degrees on carriage
Rate of Fire: 6 to 8 rounds per minute
Muzzle Velocity: 1,700 ft./sec. Charge Super
Range: 13,400 Charge Super
Sights: Direct Fire - Telescopic Indirect Fire - Calibrating and Reciprocating

Development:
In the years after World War I, the Royal Army began seeking a replacement for its standard field guns, the 18-pdr and the 4.5" howitzer. Rather than design two new guns, it was their desire to have a weapon that possessed the high-angle fire capability of the howitzer along with the direct fire ability of the 18-pdr. This combination was highly desirable as it reduced the types of equipment and ammunition needed on the battlefield. After assessing their options, the Royal Army decided that a gun of approximately 3.7" in caliber with a range of 15,000 yards was needed.

In 1933, experiments began using 18-, 22-, and 25-pdr guns. After studying the results, the General Staff concluded that the 25-pdr should be the standard field gun for the Royal Army. After ordering a prototype in 1934, budget restrictions forced a change in the development program. Rather than design and build new guns, the Treasury dictated that existing Mark 4 18-pdrs be converted to 25-pdrs. This shift necessitated reducing the caliber to 3.45". Beginning testing in 1935, the Mark 1 25-pdr was also known as the 18/25-pdr.

With the adaptation of the 18-pdr carriage came a reduction in range as it proved incapable of taking a charge strong enough to fire a shell 15,000 yards. As a result, the initial 25-pdrs could only reach 11,800 yards. In 1938, experiments resumed with the goal of designing a purpose-built 25-pdr. When these were concluded, the Royal Artillery opted to place the new 25-pdr on a box trail carriage which was fitted with a firing platform (the 18-pdr carriage was a split trail). This combination was designated the 25-pdr Mark 2 on a Mark 1 carriage and became the standard British field gun during World War II.

Crew & Ammunition:
The 25-pdr Mark 2 (Mark 1 Carriage) was served by a crew of six. These were: the detachment commander (No. 1), breech operator/rammer (No. 2), layer (No. 3), loader (No. 4), ammunition handler (No. 5), and a second ammunition handler/coverer who prepared the ammunition and set the fuses. The No. 6 usually served as second-in-command on the gun crew. The official "reduced detachment" for the weapon was four. Though capable of firing a variety of ammunition, including armor piercing, the standard shell for the 25-pdr was high explosive. These rounds were propelled by four types of cartridge depending on range.

Transport & Deployment:
In British divisions, the 25-pdr was deployed in batteries of eight guns, which were composed of sections of two guns each. For transport, the gun was attached to its limber and towed by a Morris Commercial C8 FAT (Quad). Ammunition was carried in the limbers (32 rounds each) as well as in the Quad. In addition, each section possessed a third Quad which towed two ammunition limbers. Upon arriving at its destination, the 25-pdr's firing platform would be lowered and the gun towed onto it. This provided a steady base for the gun and allowed the crew to rapidly traverse it 360°.

Variants:
While the 25-pdr Mark 2 was the most common type of the weapon, three additional variants were built. The Mark 3 was an adapted Mark 2 that possessed a modified receiver to prevent rounds from slipping when firing at high angles. Mark 4s were new build versions of the Mark 3. For use in the jungles of the South Pacific, a short, pack version of the 25-pdr was developed. Serving with Australian forces, the Short Mark 1 25-pdr could be towed by light vehicles or broken down into 13 pieces for transport by animal. Various changes were made to the carriage as well including a hinge to permit easier high angle fire.

Operational History:
The 25-pdr saw service throughout World War II with British and Commonwealth forces. Generally thought to be one of the best field guns of the war, the 25-pdr Mark 1s were used in France and in North Africa during the conflict's early years. During the British Expeditionary Force's withdrawal from France in 1940, many Mark 1s were lost. These were replaced by the Mark 2 which entered service in May 1940. Though relatively light by World War II standards, the 25-pdr supported the British doctrine of suppressing fire and proved itself highly effective.

After seeing American use of self-propelled artillery, the British adapted the 25-pdr in a similar fashion. Mounted in the Bishop and Sexton tracked vehicles, self-propelled 25-pdrs began to appear on the battlefield. After the war, the 25-pdr remained in service with British forces until 1967. It was largely replaced with the 105mm field gun following standardization initiatives implemented by NATO.

The 25-pdr remained in service with Commonwealth nations into the 1970s. Heavily exported, versions of the 25-pdr saw service during the South African Border War (1966-1989), the Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979), and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus (1974). It was also employed by the Kurds in northern Iraq as late 2003. Ammunition for the gun is still produced by the Pakistan Ordnance Factories. Though largely retired from service, the 25-pdr is still frequently used in a ceremonial role

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

FINDING HOTEL 4 PUMA IN MOZAMBIQUE






Under the cover of darkness, on the night of the 6th September 1979, I was flown out of the forward admin area of Op Uric, situated deep in the Mozambique bush, to our Operational Forward HQ situated at Chipinda Pools. I was the sole
passenger in the SAAF Puma that evening, and my task was to sort out notices for the casualties sustained earlier that day, when a SAAF Puma (See Photo 1) carrying elements of 1 Commando 1RLI and 2 Engineer Squadron had been shot down on the outskirts of Mapai (Rail) formerly known as Jorge de Limpopo, killing all 17 on board. During the 40 odd minute flight back to the Rhodesian border, I vowed that I would one day return to the crash site to honour my friends and comrades in arms who had made the supreme sacrifice that morning, but who, because of the expediency of the battle, had had to be left behind where they had died.

29 years later I was privileged enough to be invited to join Bob Manser's expedition to find the Donaldson Canberra lost over the Malvernia area in January 1977. It became plainly obvious during this search, that the local police, militia, and Mozambicans were more than willing to assist in the location of these war sites and bore absolutely no malice towards their former adversaries. It was then that I realised that it was possible to honour the pledge I had made in 1979.

Slowly over a period of 5 months I was able to assemble a ‘Team’ for the Mapai expedition by using the members of Bob’s Canberra party as the nucleus. Regrettably both Bob and Alistair Macrimmon were both unable to make it and so Neill Jackson ex Support Commando, ‘Stan’ Standish White ex SAS volunteered their services. Added to these ‘volunteers’ were Eastern District farmers Duff Odendaal and his son in law, Gareth Barry. The final search team was thus made up as follows:

Rick van Malsen
Kevin Jones
Malcolm Macrimmon
Neill Jackson
“Stan” Standish White
Duff Odendaal
Gareth Barry

Nearly two hundred E mails were sent out globally as we planned, sourced information, obtained eye witness accounts, speculated on where the actual site was, made up introductory letters and catch phrases in Portuguese, sorted out admin and log etc. It finally all came together and on Thursday 11th April 2009 ‘The Team’, complete with wives, converged on Mabalahuta camp in the southern Gonarezhou National Park.

Friday 12th April was used as a rest day and was used to prepare ourselves for the trip to the search area. Later in the afternoon we held a final formal briefing of what to expect, where we were going etc.

Saturday 13th April 2009 we rose early and in two vehicles, left camp at 0500 hours so that we could be at the border at 0600 hours, the supposed opening time. True to form, the bleary-eyed border officials only arrived at 0645, which meant we only got through the border formalities at 0800 hours, 1 hour behind our planned timings. The road down to Mapai remains mostly unchanged over the last 30 years. Trains derailed by various SF operations that many years ago,
were still in evidence, as well as many shot out buildings. We all just hoped that Stan’s contribution to the road had been removed, as he couldn’t remember where he had buried them.

At 1030 hours we arrived in Mapai (Rail) and asked directions the police station.
This was a broken down 2 room building that could have passed for a toilet. Not an auspicious start! A young policeman read our letter of introduction and said that we needed to see the local military or garrison Commandant. He then went off to find him but returned to say he was not there. We were then taken to the head of FRELIMO party for the area. Arlindo Penicela Baloi, who, although unable to speak English, was able to read our letter of introduction. Thank heavens for Bob’s notes! He reiterated that we had to go back and get the Garrison Commandant’s permission. Back down the road again and fortunately the Commandant was now at home and after reading our letter cheerfully gave permission for us to go to the crash site, but insisted we had to get the local headman’s blessing first. Protocol reined supreme! Now accompanied by Arlindo we set off to site. Suddenly Arlindo stopped me and spoke to a portly gentleman on the side of the road who turned out was able to speak English. Wallah a translator! Solomone, the translator, climbed in and off we went. We followed a track leading directly East from the main road for about 3 kms when we stopped at a small village where, seated under a tree, was the local headman Araujo Chivite. After a brief discussion between my other two passengers and Araujo, he readily agreed to show us where the site was. With Araujo‘s 2ic also in tow, (now making 5 of us in a king cab!) we then continued down the track which gradually turned South where we intersected the main Mapai – Machaila road about 3.7 kms from Mapai (Rail)

We had only gone a few metres down the road when we were told to stop and on getting out of the vehicle, we were shown an area which we were told was the crash site. An initial search turned up a partially burnt SF water bottle and then we started finding the unmistakable signs of an aircraft crash.



There was a large mound in the centre of the site and this, we were told, was where the soldiers killed in the crash were buried. We had brought a prefabricated cross complete with a base with us and asked permission to erect this on the site. Araujo immediately agreed but only on condition the site was cleaned up first, which they insisted on doing themselves!
These were recovered and brought back with us.

Once the cross had been erected, a brief service was held, using the exact format as Bob had used at the other sites, and the Roll of Honour read out. This is repeated below for those who have not seen it.

“With thanksgiving, let us remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we may live on in peace, and in appreciation, we now dedicate this cross to their memories. Help us to keep them in our thoughts, and never forget what they gave for us."

CAPT JOHANNES MATHEUS DU PLOOY 1 RLI
CAPT CHARLES DAVID SMALL ENG
2ND LT BRUCE FRASER BURNS ENG
SGT MICHAEL ALAN JONES ENG
CPL LEROY DUBERLEY ENG
CPL GORDON HUGH FRY 1 RLI
L/CPL PETER FOX ENG
TPR JACOBUS ALWYN BRIEL 1 RLI
TPR AIDEN JAMES COLEMAN 1 RLI
TPR MARK JEREMY CROW 1 RLI
TPR BRIAN LOUIS ENSLIN 1 RLI
TPR STEVEN ERIC KING 1 RLI
TPR COLIN GRAHAM NEASHAM 1 RLI
TPR DAVID REX PROSSER 1 RLI
CAPT PAUL VELLERMAN SAAF
LT NIGEL OSBORNE SAAF
F/SGT DICK RETIEF SAAF

"They shall not grow old
As we that are left, grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor do the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them"



Neill then repeated the words of the service in Afrikaans in memory the South African crew. Finally the ‘Last Post’ was played. At all stages of the service the Mozambique contingent were actively involved which we all found very humbling and magnanimous.

At the end of the proceedings headman Araujo called a woman called Lydia, who was farming the surrounding fields, and instructed her to build a fence around the site so that the war graves can be looked after properly in the future.
After leaving an appropriate reward with the headman for this to be done, we packed up and left the site, each in our own thoughts.

After dropping off Araujo at his village, we returned to Mapai (Rail) and then decided to go down to the old Mapai airfield and Mapai (River) both targets of the Scouts column raid in June 1977. Arlindo and Solomone both accompanied us on this leg, which rather inhibited us from scouting around too much for old military positions. At Mapai (River) we were shown a mass grave, covered by a concrete slab, which we were told held the civilian victims of this raid. Expedition members showed the appropriate respect at this site.

We then returned to Mapai (Rail), dropped off our two passengers and headed off back towards the border.

Our next task was to return to the site of the Donaldson Canberra crash site in order to place a more permanent memorial to the airmen lost in this crash. Time was running short, so we dispensed with protocol and just drove direct to the site.
After placing the cross, we sounded the “Last Post” which was particularly fitting as the sun was starting to set as the sound of bugles rang out hauntingly through the silent bush.

We then had to rush for the border before it closed, which we got through without
any problems and headed for home, arriving at 20 00 hours. We had travelled a
total of 360 kms in 15 hours.

There are many people involved in making a trip, such as this, the success it
was. My grateful thanks go to the following:

First and foremost to Bob Manser, who pioneered searching for these forgotten
sites. Bob gave us all his notes to use, offered invaluable advice and
encouragement throughout

Prop Geldenhuys for all the help, encouragement and research done on our
behalf.

Eyewitness accounts from Gavin Wehlburg, Jono Lane and Keith Dell all helped
to get an overall picture of approximately where we had to look.

To the ex Rhodesians of Francistown, who fabricated the crosses, galvanised
them and then painted them all at no cost. They looked magnificent.

To the 5 wonderful Mozambicans who took the time out to guide us and asked
for nothing in return. You were a wonderful example of what true reconciliation
should be. There is absolutely no doubt that this war memorial will be looked
after by these people.

And lastly to the most wonderful “team “without whom, none of this would have
happened. All rallied to the call, and freely gave up their valuable time and at
personal cost, to be there. “Thank you” is not enough.

RICK VAN MALSEN
FRANCISTOWN