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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, June 20, 2009

Rhodesian Army T55


Here's the story of Rhodesia.
A land both fair and great.
On 11th of November an independent state.
This was much against the wishes of certain governments.
Whose leaders tried to break us down, to make us all repent.

But we're... all Rhodesians and we'll fight through thick and thin.
We'll keep our land a free land, stop the enemy coming in.
We'll keep them north of the Zambezi till that river's running dry.
This mighty land will prosper for Rhodesians never die.

They can send their men to murder and they can shout their words of hate.
But the cost of keeping this land free will never be too great.
For our men and boys are fighting for the things that they hold dear.
This land and all its people will never disappear.

'Cos we're.... all Rhodesians etc......

We'll preserve this little nation, for our children's children too.
For once you're a Rhodesian, no other land will do
We will stand forth in the sunshine, with the truth upon our side.
And if we have to go alone, we'll go alone with pride.

'Cos we're... all Rhodesians, etc.


It was a genuine horror story, calculated to make the most alarming of Rhodesian doomsday prophecies seem true. As a blood-red sun was sinking behind the thorn trees on the Zambezi escarpment, a lumbering Air Rhodesia Viscount airliner took off from Kariba on a flight to Salisbury. Ten minutes later the pilot, John Hood, 36, reported that he had lost control of his starboard engines. "We're going in," he radioed. In a few moments, his craft crashed into the thick bushland of the Whamira Hills.

Of the 56 people on board, 38 died in the crash. Five of the 18 survivors struggled free and left immediately in search of water. Three of the remaining 13 were miraculously spared by hiding when, half an hour later, nine armed guerrilla soldiers arrived. "It's only because I know a terrorist when I see one that I'm still alive," recalled Anthony Hill, 39, an army reservist. He hid in the bush. At first the guerrillas, clad in jungle green uniforms, seemed friendly, promising help. But then they herded together the ten people at the wreckage, robbed them of their valuables, and finally cut them down with automatic weapons fire. From another hiding place, businessman Hans Hansen and his wife Diana could hear the victims crying, "Please don't shoot us!" as the firing began. Dazed by the ordeal, Hansen said later: "I'll never be able to get that moment out of my mind."

From his headquarters in neighboring Zambia, Joshua Nkomo, co-leader of the Patriotic Front guerrillas, denied that his troops had slain the ten survivors of the crash, but proudly boasted that his men had indeed shot down the plane. Such civilian craft, he claimed, were sometimes used by the Salisbury government for military missions. Rhodesian authorities at first denied that the plane had been shot down, but after four days of investigation confirmed that it had been hit by a heat-seeking missile, presumably an SA-7 of the kind the Soviet Union has been supplying the guerrillas.

The incident turned the tense mood of Salisbury uglier than ever. Middle-aged businessmen talked of taking up arms. A group of whites in a mixed Salisbury bar, fingering the triggers of rifles, ordered blacks who sat beside them to get out. The blacks did not tarry. Rumors circulated that two young whites, after hearing of the massacre, stopped their car and shot the first black man they saw. In Parliament, a backbencher called for martial law and general mobilization, and blustered that Africa was about to see "its first race of really angry white men." Almost certainly there would be acts of vengeance by the Rhodesian armed forces, probably in the form of retaliatory raids against guerrilla camps in Zambia and Mozambique. Even many whites who had begun to seem receptive to the idea of eventual black rule in Rhodesia wondered, after hearing Nkomo claim responsibility for the air crash in a BBC interview, wondered anew whether there could be a political agreement with him.


A book most of my young Rhodesian friends read while at school or in the military DONT DIE IN THE BUNDU BY COL GRANGIER
Here's the book's foreward:



Chief Justice of Rhodesia, Chairman of the Rhodesia National Hunters' and Game Preservation Association

"Don't Die in the Bundu" is a handbook of survival techniques which are based on many years' experience of men who have lived - and some who have died - in the bush. Above all, it is based on common sense.

Men still get lost - and hurt - in the bush in this Twentieth Century. "Don't Die in the Bundu" has been written primarily for the soldier, the airman and the policeman, whose duties often take them into the bush. The book is aimed at sup­plementing the knowledge they acquire in their basic training and specialised exercises, but this book will also prove of great value to all those whose work, hobbies or recreation take them into the bush - the land surveyors, the contractors, the members of the National Park staff and the hunters. Organisa­tions such as Outward Bound and youth organisations such as the Boy Scouts, whose members often spend much of their time in the bush, will also find much of interest in its pages.

The aeroplane has revolutionised speedy travel but it has also created a new hazard - the hazard of a forced landing in the bush, exposing people wholly unfamiliar with the bush to dangers to which they would otherwise never have been ex­posed. To aircraft pilots, particularly those who pilot small air­craft on unchartered flights across our trackless bush and for whom the risk of a forced landing in the bush must always exist, this book must prove particularly valuable.

Jeffrey Farnol said:

'He who a great good thing would know, Must to the silent places go.'

Many townsmen with no knowledge of our bush fear it, and fearing it, they avoid it. They thus never know the "great good thing" of our "silent places". They never know that they are losing something which Rhodesia with her vast wilderness areas is so well fitted to give. The townsman who is afraid of the bush should read this book, and reading it he will learn how groundless his fear really is. Losing his fear, he may well be tempted to explore our silent places.....

I therefore commend this book to every Rhodesian.



An Abridged History
The deployment of Security Force Auxiliary detachments started in the second quarter of 1978 and coincided with the formation of the Government of National Unity following the Agreement of 3 March.
The objective was to bring on side guerrillas who were prepared to throw in their lot with the internal nationalist leaders, and was tied in with a new amnesty campaign. Initially recruiting was slow and confined in the main to ZANU (Sithole). A fair proportion of these were externally trained, mainly in Uganda.

Initially Special Branch, assisted by the newly formed Headquarters Special Forces, were responsible for their control and administration. Funds were provided through the Prime Minister's Office, and SFA were armed with an assortment of captured communist weapons. Their dress was similar to the guerrillas themselves being in the main blue denim or other civilian clothing. It was only towards the end of 1978 that the forerunners to the brown uniforms started to appear.

As 1978 drew to a close their usefulness was becoming apparent and they were beginning to have a marked effect on the guerrillas themselves. By the beginning of 1979 the date for the election had been set for April and large numbers of additional SFA were recruited for operations in areas generally supporting the UANC as it was apparent that the latter had the most support amongst the internal parties.

At this time, and on the recommendation of the Army Psychological Operations Unit, the SFA were given the name 'Pfumo re Vanhu' or 'Spear of the People'. This name had no party political connotation although opponents of the UANC were quick to allege that it had an UANC flavour.

During the run in up to the election the strength of the SFA grew from some three thousand to more than ten thousand men. The vast majority of these were ordinary tribesmen although there were a number of guerillas who had thrown in their lot with either Bishop Muzorewa or the Rev. Sithole and a number of press ganged ZANLA mujibas.

Because of the urgent necessity to deploy the SFA into the Tribal Trust Lands to ensure a good vote at the April Election, few of them received more than four weeks basic training whilst their leadership was selected more by trial and error than experience. There was, on an average, one European liaison Officer, normally a junior NCO, to every one hundred and fifty SFA.

The SFA achieved the aim of obtaining a good vote in the TTL's into which they had been deployed but the result of the election brought about different reactions from the main parties involved.

a. The SFA orientated towards the UANC who numbered about 6,000 were delighted with the results, but there were immediate demands to stand down as they were now the "Winners". When they realised that this was not to be, as the war was continuing, there was a marked drop in morale in some areas and a number of desertions.

b. When the election results were announced there were slightly under 2,000 SFA orientated towards ZANU (Sithole) in the field. The allegations of gross irregularities in the election made by Sithole and others of his party had a marked effect on the ZANU detachments who were convinced they had been cheated. A mistake in the addition of the votes cast in the Gokwe district, which reversed a narrow ZANU majority into a loss of almost a thousand turned what was a model detachment at Nembudzia into virtual enemies of the Government.

Although the Rev. Sithole gave out that the ZANU SFA were to continue to support the Government of National Unity there was an undercurrent of plotting and machinations going on behind the scenes. Junior party men were in constant contact with detachments and were inciting them continually to disobey the Security Forces. Following the general election a major re-training and re-orientation programme was instituted. This started in May 1979 with a senior staff orientation course with about 84 students supplied equally from the UANC and ZANU. A new rank structure was introduced and those who did well on the orientation course were slotted into senior positions.

At this time it was also resolved that the funding of the SFA would be switched from the PM's Department to the Ministry of Defence and that the force would therefore come under the Army from 1 July 1979. Special Branch would be relieved of their part in the administration as this was detrimental to their correct role in the intelligence field. HQ Special Forces with its very small staff then became almost entirely responsible for the day to day administration of the SFA.

Following the completion of the senior orientation course in June the re-organisation of the detachments began. Members who were dissatisfied were discharged and the conversion of all those armed with communist weapons to G3 rifles was begun. The establishment was cut from 10,500 to 7,818 and a period of consolidation took place. More emphasis was placed on leadership and motivation.

The conversion of the ZANU detachments to G3 rifles was scheduled to start in early July but this was immediately met with opposition from most quarters and a refusal to obey orders and go for re-training. As a result Security Forces had to be used to ensure that ZANU SFA complied with orders given to them. This resulted in two major incidents on 20 July when fighting broke out between Security Forces and ZANU at Nembudzia (Gokwe) and Nyamaropa. These incidents resulted in the death of about 190 SFA and one soldier. A number of other soldiers and SFA were wounded. All the dissident SFA were detained whilst the remainder were retrained and redeployed. On redeployment they were integrated with their UANC counterparts and SFA of all factions and tribal groupings were warned that further participation in party politics would no longer be tolerated.

The future emphasis of the SFA was to be directed towards national politics and nation building. Whilst supporting the Government of the day, the emphasis was to be placed on freedom to vote for and support any party of a persons choice without fear of intimidation. This was a high ideal, and, as can be seen throughout Africa, it is not easy to implement.

Following the take over of all administrative and logistical responsibilities from Special Branch it became immediately obvious that the three married quarters in KG Vl Barracks were totally inadequate. As a result investigations were undertaken to find an alternative site. By August a suitable location had been found at the Imperial Tobacco Company at Msasa for a Rear Headquarters. During that month all the AQ staff, MT and the ordnance depot moved to the new site leaving only the command, operational and liaison staffs at KG Vl Barracks.

As the SFA worked closely with Home Affairs an investigation to examine whether the force could be handed over to that Ministry took place. It became immediately apparent that Home Affairs did not have the administrative capability to take over, and so the Army continued with some assistance from personnel of other ministries.

On Sunday 2 September the raising of the new National Flag took place at Rufaro Stadium in Salisbury and at numerous other centres throughout the country. Wherever there were SFA detachments in close proximity they took part. In Salisbury there was a squad of 30 on parade and a further 100 lined the parade ground. They received tumultuous applause from a crowd estimated at 30,000.

In September Com Ops decided that the SFA should take over the responsibilites for 74 PV's from the Guard Force so that the latter could be deployed on the lines of rail and in a mobile role in the European farming areas. As a result the SFA establishment was again raised to approximately 10,000.

The PV's in the Beit Bridge, Chiredzi, Chipinga, Mutasa and Darwin areas were taken over by the beginning of October, and once initial teething troubles were overcome the scheme worked well.

In October 1979 the PM in London at the Lancaster House talks, instructed that the SFA were immediately to be increased to 26,000. It soon became apparent that the administration could not handle this number and the ceiling was set by the National JOC at 16,000 which is the highest figure it had ever reached.

During the period 1 July to 31 December the Central Training School at Domboshawa and the next door farm, Elphida, were working at full capacity. Thirty five courses were conducted by the staff and 4,365 students and recruits passed through the school. Seventeen different types of courses were run. These were Senior Staff Orientation, Liaison Officers, Detachment and Unit Leaders, Junior Leaders, Area Administrators, Trackers, Basic Recruits, Re-Training of detachments, Envoys,Advanced Envoys, Drill and Weapons Instructors, Radio Operators, Basic Administration, Q Accounting, Troop Medical Orderly, Drivers and Intelligence.

Up until the end of 1979 instructors were loaned to the SFA from the Army, BSA Police/ Guard Force, Air Force and Home Affairs. An eight week drill and weapons instructors course attended by 102 SFA students was held over the period October to December at Guinea Fowl and of those attending 56 passed at an Army standard. All attached instructors were therefore released back to their own Services early in January.

Recruit courses and retraining also took place at various Brigade and JOC Battle Camps during 1979. These were staffed by a variety of instructors from JOC resources. Standards were not always uniform and the long term plan was for all training except refresher to take place at Elphida.

The large increase in recruiting over the last quarter of 1979 put a greater strain on the administrative and logistical systems. Treasury funded the money and orders for uniforms, kit, equipment, radios, vehicles and support weapons were placed in November. For almost two months, however, the majority of the SFA were clad in little more than Tee shirts, shorts and boots. Other Government Departments were mobilised to assist, and uniforms together with the bulk of equipment became the responsibility of Government Central Stores. This eased the burden on the overworked logistics staff at Headquarters Special Forces. By the beginning of 1980 sufficient of most items had been received and stocks were arriving on an almost daily basis.

During the second half of 1979 considerable success were achieved on operations. During this period 66 guerrillas were killed and another 93 captured. SFA losses during the same period were 98 killed in action or vehicle accidents, a further 100 were wounded or injured.

There can be no shadow of doubt that the SFA had proved that they were an essential back-up to the Security Forces and provided a link between the Government and the people in many of the areas in which the SFA were deployed. The situation would have been far worse in the country without them and they proved to be a thorn in the side of the Guerrillas.

As in any semi-trained and inexperienced force motivation is a key factor in keeping the boat on an even keel. In the case of the SFA this received high priority and a large number of envoys were trained by 1 Psychological Operations Unit. These envoys were trained to motivate both their own men and the tribesmen to follow the course of democracy. Over the period December 1979 to February 1980 approximately 300 additional envoys were trained. On the orders of Commander Combined Operations these envoys were used to explain the difference between marxism and true democracy to the people.

On several occasions HQ Special Forces had recommended to both Com Ops and Army HQ that the SFA should be made a properly constituted force, but this was always resisted mainly due to the number of other forces already in being, and because of their previous political taint. However a full establishment and rank structure were introduced and SFA funds were used to purchase a Computer for the Army. The personal details of every member of the SFA was actually recorded by this computer.

During the months from November 1 979 to March 1 980 the MT Branch carried out driving courses at HQ SFA (Rear), Msasa. During this period 195 learner drivers passed their tests. Almost half of these had never driven before whilst the remainder either had a civilian licence or some experience. In addition 172 drivers successfully completed conversion courses onto other types of vehicles.

After the introduction of the so-called Cease Fire and the move of guerrillas into assembly points, the SFA were able to concentrate more fully on re-construction and re-building. A competition between detachments was introduced. This was called operation "Ruoko re Vanhu" of which a literal translation is "a helping hand to the people". Over the period 1 January to 24 February this operation resulted in the opening of over 90 schools, 27 clinics, 9 business centres, 71 stores, 71 dips, 4 beerhalls, 16 grinding mills and twc missions. Several of the clinics were staffed by SFA medical assistants.

Reconstruction had been undertaken on a national basis. District and Provincial teams were formed to do the planning under the direction of Home Affairs. The SFA worked very closely with these tearns and also with the tribespeople themselves to assess their needs. Much of the pick and shovel work was done by them and there were instances when detachments actually clubbed together to buy materials for certain projects.

The purchase of Elphida Farm was finally resolved in January 1980 and the contractors John Sisk and Son (Pvt) Ltd were tasked with building an Headquarters, Camp Hospital, QM Stores and instructors quarters for the Central Training School.

On 11 February the first passing out parade to be held at Elphida took place. A large number of guests and three overseas TV teams were invited, and the parade was reviewed by Brigadier Campling the day before he was promoted to Major General. Everyone was impressed by the standard and bearing of all SFA at CTS.

In line with the rest of the Civil Service and Security Forces the SFA received a pay rise with eflect from 1 February 1980. For the majority of the SFA this was about 15 percent although for the top five grades it was approximately 100 percent, as these ranks had not received the previous rise in August.

Although there was meant to be a cease fire in operation from early January, this was far from the case. Several thousand ZANLA guerrillas remained in the TTL's to intimidate the local tribesmen and their place in the Assembly Points was taken by untrained mujibas to make up numbers and dupe overseas observers. During the first two months of 1980, operations continued almost unabated and the SFA achieved considerable success. During this period they killed 23 guerrillas and 7 mujibas, captured 86 guerrillas and 26 mujibas and lost fifteen of their own men killed in action.

With the lifting of sanctions against this country, the Imperial Tobacco Company decided to sell their factory at Msasa. As a result it became necessary to move all the administrative staff back to KG Vl Barracks in March although Q, Ordnance and MT were given an extension of lease until 31 May 1980 at an increased monthly rental.

The ZANU (PF) landslide victory at the polls meant there was no possibility of the continuance of the SFA as a force. They had been too successful against the guerrillas and their early political background mitigated against them . In spite of severe provocation by ZANU (PF), their conduct after the election was generally exemplary and they proved that they were still a disciplined force who had the interest of the people at heart.

The keenness, willingness to learn, espirit de corps and dedication to the cause of the SFA were exceptional. Many members of the Security Forces at middle and lower levels who were detailed to serve with them came reluctantly. It took only a short time for them to appreciate the worth of the SFA and become amongst their most ardent supporters. Great is the pity that the SFA have not been able to realise their full potential for the furture of Zimbabwe.

(From: Lion and Tusk, vol. 2 no. 2)



CM/Res. 590 (XXIX) 1977


Having considered the report of the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Mozambique on the recent invasion of Mozambique and continuous incursions by the rebel regime of Ian Smith,

Recalling the Mauritius Resolution AHG/Res. 86 of the Assembly of Head of State and Government which inter-alia:

a) Declares that any attack by the racist regime on any front-line states shall be considered as an attack against the whole of independent Africa,

b) Decides that in the event of such an attack member states of the OAU will grant all possible support to repel the aggression against an independent member state,

Recalling the relevant OAU Resolutions on Southern Rhodesia,

Recalling further UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions calling on UN member states to apply strictly economic, political and other sanctions against Southern Rhodesia with a view to ending racism and rebellion in the territory,

Recalling the decision of the Government of Mozambique of 3 March 1976 to close its borders with Southern Rhodesia and strictly apply sanctions against Southern Rhodesia in conformity with UN and OAU Resolutions aimed at toppling the illegal rebel regime in Salisbury,

Indignant at the provocative and arrogant attitude of the rebel regime in attacking member states of the OAU neighbouring on Southern Rhodesia, namely Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia in a desperate effort to cow them from supporting the legitimate liberation cause on the territory,

Expressing appreciation for Mozambique’s courage in repelling the forces of aggression of the illegal racist regime of Southern Rhodesia,

Noting with satisfaction the stepped up execution of the national liberation war in Zimbabwe and the support rendered to the nationalist forces by the front-line states who have had to make unlimited sacrifices towards this cause,

Reiterating the firm commitment of the OAU to the liberation of the people of Southern Rhodesia from the illegal minority rebel regime, the establishment of majority rule and exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of Zimbabwe.

1. STRONGLY CONDEMNS rebel Rhodesia’s naked war of aggression against Mozambique backed by artillery and aircraft and the subsequent massacres of hundreds of innocent civilians;

2. CONDEMNS South Africa for collusion in the rebel regime’s invasion of Mozambique;

3. CONGRATULATES the people of Mozambique for their undaunted courage in repelling the forces of aggression and their unwavering commitment to the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe;

4. COMMENDS the Zimbabwe liberation movements for stepping up the liberation war in their country thus causing panic in the ranks of the rebel regime;

5. REAFFIRMS the OAU’s total support for and solidarity with the Government and people of Mozambique in their unshakable resolve to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity and carrying out their African and international obligations, in support of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe;

6. URGES all OAU member states in the spirit of the OAU Mauritius Resolution AHG/Res. 80 (XIII) to provide the people of Mozambique with effective assistance particularly that geared to strengthening her defence capabilities;

7. REITERATES the unqualified commitment of the OAU in its determination to step up its material and financial assistance to the freedom fighters of Zimbabwe to enable them to vigorously execute the armed struggle which is the only option left in the liberation of Zimbabwe in the colonialist and racist regime of Southern Rhodesia determined to suppress the majority of the people of Zimbabwe and to harass those countries opposed to racist minority rule in Southern Africa;

8. INVITES member states of the OAU to assist front-line states’ victims of aggression by the racist minority regimes by committing themselves to come to the aid of those countries whenever they are attacked or threatened by the racist regimes of Southern Africa;

9. APPEALS to all member states of the UN and indeed all governments and organisations to give immediate and substantial practical assistance to enable the Government of Mozambique to meet the challenges arising out of systematic acts of aggression committed against her through the invasion and threats to its national sovereignty and territorial integrity;

10. CALLS UPON the Security Council to take effective measures particularly those provided for under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in order to bring to a speedy end to the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe which is the source of instability and insecurity, and which constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security;

11. FURTHER CALLS upon the Security Council to adopt measures facilitating prompt and effective assistance by the international community to the People’s Republic of Mozambique in order to enable it to strengthen its defence capabilities, as well as overcome the tremendous material loss incurred as a result of the series of aggression and devastation committed by the illegal racist minority regime;

12. MANDATES the following countries: Algeria, Nigeria, Gabon, Tanzania and Lesotho to assist Mozambique along with the African group during the consideration of the matter at the forthcoming meeting of the Security Council of the UN;

13. REQUESTS the Administrative Secretary-General of the OAU to convene, as soon as possible, a meeting of the Defence Commission with a view to recommending the appropriate measures for the settlement of the important question of repeated aggression of Ian Smith’s administration against front-line countries in particular and all victims of such aggression in general;

14. DECIDES on the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee composed of Algeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Egypt, Lesotho, Uganda, Mauritius, which shall recommend all forms of appropriate assistance to Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Interesting reading on UDI

Fireforce Rhodesia another perspective

Today's Military History Lesson: Fireforce extracted from Defense Tech.org

The Rhodesian Security Forces were arguably the most effective counterinsurgency units in modern history. Rhodesia, a former British colony (now Zimbabwe), unilaterally declared independence from the Crown after a disagreements on a power transition from European colonists to the Africa majority. A fifteen year long Bush War followed, between the Rhodesians and two African nationalist movements: ZIPRA, led by Josh Nkomo and backed by the Soviets, and ZANLA, led by Robert Mugabe and backed by the Chinese. The Rhodesians, the target of the first UN economic sanctions, were backed by no one except apartheid South Africa.

The security forces, therefor, had to cover the area of the size of Texas with highly limited resources and manpower (there were approximately 275,000 white Europeans and 7 million Africans living in Rhodesia during the war). Using South African supplied Alouette helicopters and DC-3 Dakotas (some airframes veterans of Operation Market Garden and D-Day), the Rhodesians developed a highly effective technique of aerial envelopment called the "fireforce" (see photo above).

A fireforce consisted of several "sticks" of troopies, usual one stick of 4 men per helicopter or 5 sticks of 20 men per Dakota. The choppers were designated either K-cars (a command car armed with the fireforce's commanding officer and a heavy machine gun) and G-Cars, which carried the combat sticks. Fireforce teams were largely drawn from the highly elite Rhodesian Light Infantry -an all European commando outfit- or the Rhodesian African Rifles, also a highly effective COIN outfit, this one all African with European officers. The typical Fireforce was one Dakota, 3 G-cars, one K-car, and modified Cessna called a Lynx (used for close air support). Hawker Hunter jets were also used.

The Rhodesians guided Fireforces onto terrorist (or Terr) targets using mostly human intelligence, stemming from the highly effecitve Selous Scouts (a pseudo infilitration unit which employed "tame" terrorists), observation posts, and spies run by their Central Intelligence Organization or Special Branch of the British South African Police. Once a group of Terrs was located, a Fireforce was dispatched through local Joint Operational Commands (JOCs).

The first wave of a fireforce consisted of eight sticks (also called "stops," in that they "stopped" terrs from escaping into the bush), with the K-Car always the first responder. The K-Car's gunner flushed Terrs from their positions -usually a local village in one of the Tribal Trust Lands- while the Fireforce commander evaluated logical escape routes. Once established, G-Cars or Daks dropped troops onto their stop positions, with their troopies quickly forming a sweep line (four men spaced approximately 20 meters from each other). The stops locked their targets into place, while the Lynx dropped frantan (napalm) on the fleeing terrs.

The Fireforce tactic resulted in remarkably lopsided kill ratios in favor of the Rhodesians, while enabling them to patrol vast swaths of territory with a relatively small number of soldiers. Unfortunately for the Rhodesians, their combat prowess didn't translate into political effectiveness, as they won every major engagement from 1965-1980, but lost the war. Still, their skillful use of airpower as an envelopment technique was as groundbreaking as it was deadly.

--John Noonan

June 18, 2009 04:38 PM | Contingency Ops |
LEP, I think the difference is that with the Rhodesians, it actually worked.

Posted by: Chris C at June 19, 2009 02:23 PM

Quoth one Rhodesian Light Infantry soldier, circa 1978: "Had we been fighting the Viet Cong, we would have lost this war years ago."

Posted by: Chris C at June 19, 2009 02:01 PM

I do not see the "unique" aspects of the Rhodesian vertical envelopment tactics. The French had tried similar anti-guerilla tactics with larger paratroop drops from fixed-wing aircraft against the Viet Minh in Indochina. The tactic could work against small guerilla formations. It was a different story if the French paratroop forces faced larger enemy formations with heavy weapons, and the operations took place in adverse weather that hindered both air resupply and close air support by piston-engine fighter aircraft. The French also used vertical envelopment tactics with helicopters during their Algerian counter-guerilla operations.

Also, the ZAPRA-ZINLA guerilla groups in former Rhodesia generally lacked modern man-portable A/A weapons such as Soviet-built SA-7 Strella MANPADS or heavy 14.5 mm DshK machine guns. Similarly, these guerilla groups did not have the training or the self-learning ability to counter the Rhodesian vertical envelopment tactics. For example, it would be interesting to know if the Rhodesian forces lost any of their French-built Alouette helicopters to guerilla RPG-7 rocket fire as happened much later in Mogadishu, Somalia, and at what time point in the conflict.

Posted by: LEP1 at June 19, 2009 01:38 PM

@DT: Some were, sure. Remember though, Rhodesia never embraced South Africa's apartheid policies. Their concern, at least at the governmental level, was that if the African majority was to participate in a Western-style democracy, voters needed to first be invested in the nation and democratic system.

So the Rhodesians had two separate voting rolls. The first was the main roll, which was predicated on land ownership or financial holdings (sort of like the American system in its infancy). Naturally, most Africans didn't make the cut to participate in the main vote (only 60,000 or so out of 7 million), but interestingly enough, neither did some whites.

The second roll was for Africans to vote for tribal leaders to represent African interests in Parliament. This was a much smaller roll, with the Tribal Chiefs usually assuming a defacto representation over their respective tribes.

Also, keep in mind that Rhodesian Europeans were watching the rest of Africa disintegrate around them as the colonial powers left. I'm not necessarily saying that they were right, but I do understand if they were scared (massacre of white settlers in the Congo case in point). Hell I'd probably want to secure certain representation in parliament, the military, and the banks before handing over power too.

And DT, our previous commentators are right: many, MANY Rhodesian blacks signed up for the RAR, BSAP, Territorials, and Selous Scouts to protect their villages from the nationalists, who would kidnap men into their ranks, rape their women, and kill anyone suspected of working with the colonists.

Posted by: John Noonan at June 19, 2009 11:22 AM

@ Chris C
"Well trained fireforces could do well in friendly second-third world nations who are fighting insurgencies, however. We should teach the Iraqis this method"

Fireforces would do well in places like the Phillpines, Africa, etc. but not in Iraq, it appears a key part in the fireforces success was napalm, which beside the fact the U.S doesn't use it anymore, which be infective in a place like Iraq.

Posted by: Airman at June 19, 2009 10:38 AM

dt: Given that the Rhodesian forces were 85% black and from 1978 on taking orders from a black President in a 2/3 majority black government . . "racist Rhodesians" is both trite and repugnant to reason.

Posted by: Murray Kruger at June 19, 2009 08:17 AM

Um dt. The RAR and the Selous Scouts were almost completely black units. They fought for Rhodesia.

Posted by: WJS at June 19, 2009 07:11 AM

I think the main point is that the Rhodesians were racist scumbags.

that's why they lost

Posted by: dt at June 19, 2009 03:56 AM

Americans don't need to use fireforce, however I can see a pseudo group like the Selous Scouts being of some use in Afghanistan... the problem is that it's much harder to flip religious zealots than African Nationalists, many of whom were kidnapped into ZANLA/ZIPRA service during the war.

Well trained fireforces could do well in friendly second-third world nations who are fighting insurgencies, however. We should teach the Iraqis this method.

Posted by: Chris C at June 18, 2009 09:32 PM

The problem with today's forces isn't that they're getting beaten in fire fights.

American Marines have been ambushed by superior numbers outside of CAS and can still come out top consistently.

But this won't save you from a roadside bomb while on patrol.

Posted by: fil at June 18, 2009 09:16 PM

Exactly right Alex. Most of the post-war critiques of the Rhodesians' performance centered around their obsession with kill ratios instead of psyops.

This isn't a post on how to conduct COIN ops, however. It's simply a discussion of fireforces as a military tactic. Big difference. Cheers, John

Posted by: John Noonan at June 18, 2009 09:12 PM

apply this to Afgan & Iraq & adapt system for & update for Spec Forces & Regular Forces.
Could be viable.
Replace C47s with C17s, C130s & use estd Gunships & now UAV drones.
Very doable with todays Info Tech Systems in place & have C3I.
Very doable Today with our forces & save lives

Posted by: stephen russell at June 18, 2009 08:10 PM

Evaluating a counter insurgency campaign based on its kill ratio is missing the point of COIN entirely.

Posted by: Alex at June 18, 2009 06:33 PM

Rhodesian Air Force K Car

To the memory of the Rhodesian Helicopter Pilots and
the 20mm cannon Gunner. Two men one helicopter;
Known as K-car…..Killer-car.
A formidable force in the Rhodesian Bush War.


‘Chopper’ pilot calmness,
Cannon gunner’s skill,
Two minds in perfect harmony,
Flew in now for the kill,
Ten comrades in arms,
Pinned down by enemy fire,
Ambushed and compromised,
Their backs now to the wire.

One pilot and one gunner,
Men who knew no fear,
S.O.S. came through to them,
Urgent… but so clear,
“K-car, Call sign Bravo,”
“Contact, contact, contact”!
Pilot with nerves of steel,
And veraciously exact,

“We have you visual, four o’clock”,
Crackled in the pilot’s ear
He responded calmly “Roger
Call sign Bravo… illuminates a flare”
Flare lit up and in they flew,
Oblivious of the danger;
Taws’ deaths turn to roll the dice,
With life their coin of wager.

Two hands upon the cannon grips,
One finger on the trigger,
Gunner’s eye took a site,
Through peep site to the jigger;
Bullets ripped into the cockpit,
Of that killer-car machine,
Barely two year out of school,
K-car gunner… aged nineteen

Fire Force airborne pilot,
Turned cannon to the smoke,
Gunner pressed the trigger,
And the dragon now awoke;
Twenty millimeter cannon,
Boomed forth volcanic life
Spewing deadly rounds,
Of instant death and strife.

No place for enemy to hide,
>From this matchless opponent;
Terrorists now in full flight,
Were gunned down in a moment.
The Kill-car hovered overhead,
Just six foot off the ground,
Two enemy lay screaming,
But from thirty dead…no sound.

Most men of war, whom I knew then,
Have turned now to the Lord,
They have turned into plow shears,
Their weapons and their sword.
Lord please teach us here in Africa,
Love for one another;
Take xenophobic intolerance from us,
Teach us to love our brother.

Alf Hutchison

Rhodesian Air Force Cheetah Crash

Bell 205 Crash Maranke TTL Suffered tail rotor failure with Bud Cocroft flying and Kieron Meakin as crewman, both airmen suffered minor injuries.

Rhodesian Air Force Alouette Crashes R7524

The attached photo reflects R7524 in a state of serious disrepair. (Cat 5 ?)
One source of information (Brent) states 01-09-1976 R 7524 "no crash" - Flt Lt Harvey / Sgt HF Belstead (killed.)
The second source (Nesbitt/Cowderoy) says R 7524 "written off after damage caused engine failure during a Fireforce Operation at Nyanga on 1 Sept 1976. Tech killed which is incorrect as it was Ian Harvey and Eric Thompson at Grand Reef ,no -one was killed..
Brent also shows : 22-12-1976 R 7524 Cat 5 Shot down near Malapati Ft.Lt VBW Cook / Sgt M Upton which is incorrect it was Finch Bellringer
Clearly it could'nt have been written off twice in the space of 4 months. Was it written off by Vic Cook at Rutenga or Ian Harvey in Grand Reef?

An interesting point is that the drums in the picture were for the revetments in which the Helicopters for Fireforce Ops would be parked in at night.

Rhodesian Airforce Helicopter Crash R 5176?

Can you throw any light on this one. Picture comes from Pride of Eagles - caption says a spanner was left in the engine intake after a service in Fort Vic. Spanner was drawn into the intake during a training flight over Seki causing crash and fire - no other info on serial number or crew. Judging by type 1 shroud and full armoured seat it could be late 1977. The only recorded prang (Brent) that fits is 10 th October 1977 - Peacock and SAC Watt - R 5176. Any ideas / comment ?

A previous query on R 7524 Harvey / Thompson - 1 st Sept. 1976. I see from Props book that Harvey / Belstead were using K Car 5074 when Belstead was killed and presumably Ian Harvey pranged R 7524 (with Eric Thompson) later the same day at Grand Reef ? Harvey's nerves must have been stuffed after that lot !
Can anyone verify this info please as I have my doubts that Ian flew both aircraft, as far as I know he was with Eric Thompson when the K Car had an engine failure, Beef Belstead was shot in a K Car in Boli which was a long way from Grand Reef?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wouter Basson in Rhodesia

Extract form the Sunday Times 31 October 1999

A Mercenary Confesses

I saw Dr Death inject five men before they were thrown alive from plane. MICHAEL SCHMIDT reports on five murders that have escaped the attention of the courts. A former soldier of fortune has made a taped confession in which he claims he saw Wouter Basson 'doctor' five guerrillas on a plane in 1979 before they were thrown out over Mozambique. Retired French Foreign Legionnaire Charles 'Chris' Timothy Pessarra claimed from his home in Texas this week that Basson, who he says was wearing a mask, injected two of the guerrillas with an unknown substance. He says the five men had been disguised in the camouflage uniforms of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts and were poisoned so they would spread 'contamination' among the guerrilla force that recovered them

A FORMER French Foreign Legionnaire this week claimed he saw South African chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson inject five unconscious guerrillas with a solution on board a "death plane" from which they were then thrown out over Mozambique

Retired mercenary Charles "Chris" Timothy Pessarra, 50, who also served in the Rhodesian and South African armies, told a chilling tale of a top-secret flight aboard a Rhodesian Air Force Dakota at the tail-end of the Rhodesian bush war.
Pessarra's testimony about the alleged flight in May 1979, which has never been previously revealed and which is not known to Basson's prosecutors, was sent to the Sunday Times from a town in rural Texas, recorded on two micro-cassette tapes. He added some details later in a phone conversation.
Pessarra describes a memorable night at the airfield at Buffalo Range, near Chiredzi in the south of Rhodesia, 20km from the Mozambican border - nicknamed the Russian Front - where he was an airborne-assault paratroop instructor.

The tape begins with Pessarra's description of the night in May 1979 when a Dakota aircraft was due to fly across the border into Mozambique at 9pm.
The pilot of the Dakota, a civilian Air Rhodesia pilot who flew reserve for the air force, begged him to come on the flight because he was worried about the unusual levels of secrecy involved.
At 2pm that day, Pessarra says, he argued at length with a Rhodesian major , and a former Foreign Legionnaire serving with the Selous Scouts. The Scouts wanted five parachutes, but Pessarra said he had not received any orders to that effect from air force headquarters.
Pessarra says that he examined the Dakota, and that its interior windows had been blacked out and the pilot's cabin sealed off with canvas.
But he was able to see what was being loaded: "Five . . . semi-conscious [Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army] terrorists into the back of the Dak.
"I recognized several different people from the Recce people, and also recognized an American intelligence officer and two of the gentlemen who I'd seen once before with the Recce people, the South African Recce [reconnaissance unit]."
He says Basson "drove up in the Land Rover . . . he was there for at least a few hours". Basson "did not have a beard; hell of a bit more hair. He looked like a German hunter out on safari."
Pessarra sneaked onto the aircraft through the navigator's door. "I was able to look through the side window, saw them load the bodies. They were still conscious.
"Basson got out of the door . . . on the right-hand side of the Land Rover, walked around the side, climbed up the steps. He had his case with him. He bent over them inside the door, on the back part of the aircraft between the last seats and the doors."
Peeping through a hole in the canvas screen, Pessarra saw "the terrs [terrorists], they were semi-unconscious, some of them were obviously, I could see, alive".
"I only saw him [Basson] inject two of them with some type of solution [directly into their stomachs]. They did some scrapings, everything. The rubber gloves were put on.
"Basson had a mask on . . . he put the mask on once he was inside the door, took it off once he was outside. This all took about 25 minutes."
Five members of the Recces had helped Basson, he says.

"We took off . . . They made the drop. We returned to the airfield . . . They dropped the terrs out on the parachutes . . . A powdered substance was sprinkled on the bodies just before they were ejected from the aircraft once we were over Mozambique airspace."
Pessarra says he believes the mission was an intelligence "double-bluff": the unconscious guerrillas had been disguised in the camouflage uniforms of the Selous Scouts, complete with firearms and false papers. He adds that the ex-Legionnaire had said the guerrillas were alive, but had been "doctored" - poisoned. Pessarra assumed the intention was to drop them over Mozambique where their bodies would spread "contamination" among whichever guerrilla force recovered them.
He says Basson met the flight on its return to the airfield.
"Later . . . in '97, when I saw Basson's photograph in the paper, I recognized who he was," he says.
In 1997, Basson was arrested for dealing in the drug ecstasy. Pessarra says he knew it was Basson because "I never forget a face . . . I'm not mistaken."
Basson's trial, which will be one of the biggest in South Africa, resumed this week after adjourning three weeks ago when the defense successfully argued that the court drop six charges.
One charge related to an allegation that Basson supplied drugs which were used to dope about 200 Swapo guerrillas, who were then taken up in a light aircraft and thrown to their deaths over the sea.

The Namibian government has never reversed a blanket amnesty granted in 1989 to all former SA Defense Force soldiers like Basson. But there is no such amnesty relating to atrocities, such as the one Pessarra alleges, committed by the SADF in then-Rhodesia or in Mozambique.
Court documents describe at least 24 death flights between July 9 1979 and December 12 1987, in which the drugged bodies of guerrillas were thrown out of aircraft, usually into the Atlantic or Indian oceans, about 100 nautical miles off the coast. Some were strangled, some killed with hammers, and others suffocated with drugs. The state alleges Basson supplied the drugs on at least 25 occasions.
At the time of the alleged death flight that Pessarra witnessed, Bishop Abel Muzorewa had been elected as the head of the new Rhodesia-Zimbabwe, but the guerrilla war had increased in intensity - and South African Reconnaissance commandos, or Recces, were heavily involved in the conflict along the Russian Front.
Pessarra said the top-secret death flight had been under the control of the Selous Scouts.
Dr Torie Pretorius, who compiled the murder and drug charges against Basson, said he would be calling "several witnesses from Rhodesia who will give oral evidence that they met with Basson in Rhodesia".
Pretorius said he did not know Pessarra but was "interested" in his evidence for possible further prosecution.
Pessarra claims that he has broken his silence after 20 years because the security police, for whom he acted as an informant in the late '80s and early '90s after leaving the SA army, wanted "to destroy me after all I did [as a whistle-blower on dirty tricks], and to destroy my wife and children. So now, I simply want revenge."
Both Rhodesian and South African military veterans confirmed that Pessarra had been a member of the Rhodesian Light Infantry's support commando during the bush war and then became a parachute instructor at the Parachute Training School at New Sarum, outside Salisbury, now Harare.
A former colleague at 1 Parachute Battalion in Tempe, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Kieser, retired, said: "I know him very well. He qualified here as a static line instructor and he also did freefall."
Basson's lawyers did not respond to the allegations.

link: http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage...tName=Pessarra