- Beaver Shaw
- 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 email@example.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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08/23 - 08/30
- AK 47 ASSAULT RIFLE
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- TIME ON DEVILS GORGE
- PUMA 164
- MATSAI PUNCH UP ON FIREFORCE RHODESIA
- CANADIAN TOURISTS SHOT AT VIC FALLS
- VIC FALLS BRIDGE FAILURE
- RHODESIA 1977
- HOUSE DEBATE ON RHODESIA 1978
- OP URIC REQUEST
- THE BUFFALO INCIDENT
- MONTE CASSINO ONE VIEW
- MIKE BORLACE AND MIKE UPTON
- ALAN LOCKE SHAW
- Seven Squadron Photos
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Saturday, August 29, 2009
Kalashnikov’s 60 deadly years (Homeless Talk, South Africa)
June 2, 2008
The world’s most popular weapon, the AK-47, has reached the 60th anniversary of its deadly career. About 100 million Kalashnikovs are in circulation worldwide, used by state agents, insurgents, gangsters, individuals and private security; and there may not be a country which has not had an incident involving an AK-47.
The gun has featured prominently in nearly all armed conflicts around the world, especially in Asia and Africa. During the 1970s the Vietnamese used it to drive US troops out of their country; though American face savers argue that they were not actually defeated in combat.
It was also the standard weapon in the Korean and Cambodian wars. In the hands of idiots like late Cambodian Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, the Kalashnikov became an accessory in some of the world’s worst human rights calamities.
Since the 1960s, the unending Middle East wars have relied on the AK-47 for firepower. That included the bloody Lebanese civil war of 1975-90, in which death squads operated with impunity. Today’s nasty fighting is reminiscent of that period, and the AK-47 is still the weapon of choice.
Both the Iraqi and Iranian Arab brothers used Kalashnikovs when they fought during the 1980s Gulf War. Reports said hundreds of Iranian child soldiers were often massacred by Iraqi gunners as they charged at enemy tanks armed only with AK-47s, having been made to believe that the popular weapon made them invincible.
The Kalashnikov gun has also featured in the killing of prominent personalities. On 6 October 1981 AK-47 wielding fundamentalist assassins assassinated ex-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in a hail of bullets.
In June 1989 the Type 56 version of the AK-47 was involved in massacring hundreds of Chinese pro-democracy protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Government forces opened fire on the crowds, killing 3 000 people, according to student unions. The New York Times newspaper estimated the toll at 800, while the Chinese government reduced it to 200.
At that time one soldier said students sparked the carnage by seizing an army tank and opening fire on the troops, using the vehicle’s mounted PKT machinegun, an AK-47 derivative. He however would not say why he brought a battle tank for civilian crowd control.
In the 1980s Afghan Islamic Mujahedeen fighters, armed with earlier versions of the AK-47, fought Soviet troops who were armed with the latest AKS-74. The fighters, who included wanted Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, scored major victories against the superpower Soviet army and ultimately overthrew the Kremlin installed communist regime.
The AK-47 features in the current Iraqi imbroglio, where it is often used to spray crowded marketplaces with automatic fire. The UN says over 30 000 Iraqis died from gunshot wounds last year, most of which were inflicted through the AK-47. Executed ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein so loved the AK-47 that he had his own made of gold and displayed in his Baghdad palace. Upon his defeat the prized weapon was seized by the Americans and its location is not clear.
In Afghanistan, where the ousted Taliban gunmen have vowed to return to power, and in Palestine and Lebanon, brother shoots brother with an AK-47 in convoluted political squabbles. It is also the prime weapon against Israeli occupation in Palestine.
The Kalashnikov also featured prominently in the 1991-95 Balkan war, where some of the world’s most chilling atrocities were committed. Gunmen often rounded up hundreds of people and executed them in a hail of AK-47 fire.
Between the 1960s and 1980s African liberation forces used it to end colonialism, most prominently in Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Upon independence the Mozambican FRELIMO liberation movement incorporated the image of an AK-47 in their flag to symbolize its importance in their struggle for freedom. In South Africa, in the hands of MK and the APLA, the AK-47 helped to force apartheid rulers to the negotiating table, paving the way for democratic rule.
Ex-Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong’s declaration that ‘power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ motivated many of the guerillas, who often reworded it to mean it did not ‘grow out of any kind of gun’ saying it actually ‘grows out of the barrel of the AK-47’. Other motivators were Bolivian legendary guerilla Ernesto Che Guevara and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who also used AK-47s in their heydays.
The liberation movements also used the Kalashnikov against each other after attaining independence, notably in Angola and Mozambique, which included the death of hundreds of thousands of people and ruining the economies. Another conflict where the gun served diligently was in Liberia, where the fighting started in December 1989, lapsed in 1996, resumed in 1999 and went on up to 2003. By that time it was reported that nearly every 12 year-old boy there had an AK-47, and the country had been destroyed.
The Sierra Leone civil war of 1991-2002 had similar features, with AK-47 toting child soldiers committing indescribable atrocities. The same happened in the Ivory Coast insurrection of 2002-06, where untold savagery was reported.
In that conflict it emerged that warlords like ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor bought the AK-47s with illegal diamonds; then passed them on to rebels in neighbouring countries, who caused untold suffering to civilians. Taylor is currently on trial for alleged crimes against humanity at The Hague, and is expectedly denying the charges. His arms supplier Guus van Kouwenhoven was jailed in the Netherlands. That also led to governments and diamond organizations to tighten laws to prevent the proliferation of what came to be known as ‘blood diamonds’.
On 22 February 2002 Angolan troops killed Angolan UNITA rebel chief Jonas Savimbi in a nasty AK-47 duel at the banks of the Luvuei River in Moxico province, in which his 21 bodyguards ‘fought to the last man’. That killing paved the way for peace, as world opinion had long labelled Savimbi a stumbling block for negotiations.
In 1994 the Kalashnikov also featured in the unprecedented Rwandan massacres, however assisted by machetes and pangas in the beastly butchering of nearly a million people. Soon after the plane that carried Rwandan ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian leader Cyprian Ntaryamira was downed on April 6 1994, killing both leaders, some news reports suggested that the aircraft might not have been hit by anti-aircraft fire, as both the Rwandan army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels denied deploying their Zsu air defence guns in the vicinity.
That was quite plausible because the Rwandan air force was not very active against the rebels during much of that conflict. So that left the AK-47 and its variants likely responsible for the downing of the plane, and the subsequent reprisals that led to the bloodshed. This of course does not rule out the possibility of SAM 7 rockets having been used.
In the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, the Janjaweed militia and the local gunmen confront each other using the AK-47, which they often turn onto innocent civilians. The same happens in Somalia and eastern DR Congo, where rebel Colonel Laurent Nkunda is determined to emulate the late Angolan insurgent Jonas Savimbi.
In South Africa robbers often use it together with its sub-clone, the R5, in cash-in-transit heists and other violent crime. In Colombia drug mafias use the AK-47, however often in conjunction with the American M-16 and the Israeli Uzi, to protect their interests. Some of the cartels pose as armed political movements and fight government forces that interfere in their illicit trade.
The AK-47 has an amazing manner of changing hands. In the 1980s Israel captured AK-47s from Palestinian PLO fighters and gave them to apartheid South Africa, who passed them on to Angolan UNITA rebels. South Africa also captured AK-47s from Namibian SWAPO guerillas and gave them to Mozambican RENAMO rebels, in its policy of destabilizing the neighbouring states who opposed apartheid rule.
Earlier, during the Zimbabwean liberation war, the Rhodesian army seized AK-47s from ZIPRA and ZANLA guerillas, and gave them to the fledgling Mozambican RENAMO reactionary group, setting it up as a formidable and highly atrocious armed movement. During the civil wars in Mozambique and Angola, government troops also used AK-47s, which gave the rebels the opportunity to brag to ignorant villagers that they armed themselves with weapons they captured from government forces.
In the late 1980s Zimbabwean Super ZAPU rebels benefited from a similar arrangement with the South African secret service. Nonetheless, a 1988 political settlement between the rival PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF politicians prevented the development of an imbroglio to the magnitude of what was happening in Mozambique. That also ended a brutal insurgency and state counter-insurgency that left thousands of civilians dead; in which the AK-47 played the main killing role.
At about the same time thousands of Kalashnikovs from the Ugandan military were reportedly transferred to the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army fighters. Conversely, AK-47s formerly in the hands of Sudanese government troops were said to have ended up with the murderous Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army; and recently with the Janjaweed militia, which the Sudanese government however vehemently denies.
The UN and Amnesty International have indicated that the AK-47s arming Somali gunmen largely originated from overthrown dictator Siad Barre’s armed forces, while more were brought from neighbouring Ethiopia and Eritrea. The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) blames Eritrea, Iran and Yemen among other countries for violating the arms embargo on Somalia.
Besides its prominence in the 17 year Somali bloodshed, the AK-47 also features in the hands of pirates along the Somalian coastline. The gunmen hijack ships in the Indian Ocean and demand ransom of up to US$7 million. In May last year they seized a Taiwanese vessel and murdered a crew member to force the ship’s owners to pay up.
That has solicited global alarm since 2005, when the World Food Programme (WFP) suspended food deliveries by sea for several weeks. WFP spokesperson Josette Sheeran said the buccaneers in speedboats mounted with Kalashnikov machineguns hijacked one of their chartered ships and murdered a guard.
“This increases commodity prices for the poor Somalis, as insurance and protection expenses rise. That may also lead to cut-offs in food supplies to them,” Sheeran warned.
Uganda and Rwanda provided the AK-47s used by Congolese rebels to overthrow ex-Zairean (DR Congo) dictator Mobutu Sese Seko; and also to turn against their former friend, Laurent Kabila, who succeeded him. The ensuing fighting sucked in Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, whose troops, also armed with Kalashnikovs, helped Kabila remain in power, albeit for a while. One of his men later shot him dead, with an AK-47.
The gun’s designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, born in 1919 in the Russian village of Kurya, a self taught engineer, learned mechanics when he worked at a train depot. As a Russian Red Army tank unit commander during the Second World War in 1941, he was wounded in battle, and while in hospital conceived the idea of designing his own gun.
The Russian army’s urgent need for a simple weapon with a high volume of fire motivated Kalashnikov; since the 1939-40 war with Finland, in which the Finns devastated the Russians with submachineguns in close combat; and in 1941 when German troops invaded Russia.
Kalashnikov was however not the first to respond to that need. It was Georgii Shpagin who designed the light PPSh-41, which was cheaper and quicker to make. Its magazine was a 71 round Suomi drum; providing only high rate automatic fire, without a fire selector.
Six years later Kalashnikov unveiled the ‘Automat Kalashnikova, model 1947’, the AK-47.
Up to the late 1950s the PPSh-41 was phased out of Soviet military service, in favour of the AK-47. Shpagin’s gun is nonetheless still active in some hotspots today.
The AK-47 was initially developed for motorized infantry and adopted in 1949. It was a gas-operated selective-fire weapon which fired 7.62mm bullets, housed in a 30 round curved box magazine.
Of the two early versions one had a fixed wooden stock, and the other, the AKS, a folding metal one, for use by paratroopers and armoured regiments. In 1951 it became the standard Soviet army weapon.
In 1959 the Soviets developed the AKM, weighing a kilogram less; made from stamped sheet metal, replacing the forged steel. The hand guard, pistol grip and butt were laminated wood, replacing the solid wood. It provided a fire control lever near the trigger, and a rear sight graduated to 1 000 metres, approved for Soviet army use in 1961.
Later Kalashnikov developed a machinegun variant of his AK-47, the Ruchnoi Pulemyot Kalashnikova, the RPK; and another belt-fed one called the Pulemyot Kalashnikova, the PK. Between 1950 and 1970, Kalashnikov’s guns were produced in a series, which included the AKM, AKMS, AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74U, RPK, RPRS, RPK-74, RPKS-74, PK, PKS, PKM, PKSM, PKT, PKTM, PKB and the PKMB. Up to 1990 over 70 million different designs had been produced.
More versions were manufactured in Eastern Europe and Asia: the Hungarian AMD; Czech V258P; former East German MpiK; Polish PMK; Bulgarian PMKm and the Yugoslavian M70. The short barreled Chinese Type 56 and North Korean Type 68 have been popular with gangsters and terrorists, as they can be easily concealed in clothing.
Variants of Kalashnikov machineguns were produced in 1961: the PKB for use on armoured carriers, the PKT for tank use and the PKS heavy machine gun. The long barreled Yugoslavian PKM, commonly known as the Yugo, has been a favourite for African and Asian gunmen. Its concentration of fire has not been matched by any other light machinegun, including the RPD, the Goryunov, the DshK or NATO models.
In 1990 the AK-74M was produced, and in the next year the RPK-74M light machinegun also emerged. Up to this moment there is the 100 series AK-47s in production. Those include the AK101, AK102, AK103, AK104 and AK105.
All AK-47s function normally after being handled roughly, like being immersed in mud or water. The initial test included dragging it behind a truck for over a kilometre, and it still worked properly. The fully chromed barrel provides for effective operation at extremely low temperatures, and can be cleaned by merely dragging a banana frond through it. In African conflicts rebels are often seen toting some of the earliest versions of the AK-47, which were produced before their fathers were born, the butt completely worn out, or the pistol grip having long broken off; but the weapon functions perfectly.
Kalashnikovs fire in semi-automatic and automatic mode, with a range of about 300 metres. They can fire about 600 bullets per minute, practically 100 rounds in automatic, or 40 in semi-automatic.
During the Cold War the Kalashnikov faced rivals in weapons that were associated with the ‘free world’, as opposed to the ‘communist world’. Many NATO aligned forces in Africa used the Belgian FN-FAL, or the ‘Fabrique Nationale-Fusil Automatique Léger’.
The colonial troops of Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) however loathed the FN-FAL for its inclination to jam in wet conditions. It was the same with the West German G3, but their commanders would not directly change to the AK-47, ostensibly owing to Western policies that shunned association with the ‘communist weapon’, the AK-47. They rather used the Armalite AR-10, the M-16 and the Uzi, or even the old Lee Enfield .303, which was almost useless in that kind of combat.
In 1969 the Israeli military adopted the Galil rifle; a design based on the Finnish Valmet RK-62, itself an AK-47 copy. Sub-clones of the AK-47 are the South African modifications of the Galil; the Galil AR, or R4; the Galil SAR, or R5 and the Galil MAR, or R6; made by DENEL’s Vektor Arms. The Croatian APS-95 is another variant of the Galil.
In 1980 the South African army replaced the R1, a clone of the FN-FAL, with the R4, an AK-47 derivative. To this Mikhail Kalashnikov lamented that the manufacturers did not even thank him after ‘stealing his design’.
For his contribution to the arms industry the Soviet government conferred to him the Stalin Prize in 1949; the Soviet Russian Hero of Socialist Labour Award in 1958; promoted him to the rank of colonel in 1969; and granted him a Technical Sciences doctorate in 1971.
He again won the Hero of Socialist Labour Award in 1976. He was also awarded three Orders of Lenin, Order of the Patriotic War First Class, Order of the Red Star, Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and more medals. His bronze statue was erected at his native village in 1980, and in 1998 he was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the Protoclete.
In his 75th birthday late Russian ex-president Boris Yeltsin awarded him the Order for Distinguished Service for the Motherland-Second Class, and promoted him to major-general.
In 2004 Kalashnikov toured Western Europe promoting his Kalashnikov Vodka, in a bottle shaped like his AK-47. When London reporters suggested he must feel bad that his invention kills so many people, Kalashnikov argued that people killed each other even before the gun was invented. “Human nature, being so evil, would still come up with something else with which to kill each other, maybe something even worse. I however regret that terrorists also use my gun,” he said.
He also denied making any money from the weapons, saying he survives from a miserly pension.
Quite unexpectedly, Russian special forces have ditched his AK-47 in favour of the AN-94, the ‘Automat Nikonova’ designed by Gennady Nikonov in 1994. It however costs six times more to produce. Its mechanism is complex, with an uncomfortable pistol grip and folding stock that covers the trigger, making it unusable when folded.
In October 2006 the UN passed a resolution towards a treaty to regulate arms trading to prevent guns from falling into the hands of gunmen. Members would start work on an arms treaty to regulate the flow of weapons that fuel conflicts, like the AK-47, which would provide legally binding safeguards for the import and export of the weapons.
Nonetheless, while countries that included the UK and the EU voted for the motion, Russia and China, the chief producers of the AK-47, abstained, which could reduce the effectiveness of the resolution. The US, another major weapons provider, voted against the idea, saying it already has its own high standards of controlling the weapons trade.
International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) director Rebecca Peters said up to April last year member states submitted their views on the feasibility, scope and parameters of the proposed treaty to the UN secretary-general. Under the Control Arms umbrella, IANSA, Amnesty International and Oxfam, launched a worldwide campaign.
The matter is to be presented to the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) as the next phase of the process. “The emphasis is on regional and national initiatives. West Africa’s new convention is the third sub-regional small arms agreement in the continent, after those in Eastern and Southern Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa must now amend its national policies to meet the new regional standards,” she added.
By Harrison Ndlovu
Reprinted from Homeless Talk
BEAVERS LOG BOOK
AIR TASK 768 HURRICANE NEAR MTOKO/NYADIRI RIVER GAP 12/1/1978
K CAR CHAS GOATLEY AND FLAME FLEMING
K CAR FRANCOIS DU TOIT AND TECH UNK
G CAR NORMAN MAASDORP AND HENRY JARVIE
G CAR AL THOROUGHGOOD AND TECH UNK
TECHNICIANS, FLAME FLEMING AND HENRY JARVIE KIA
After having completed a marathon bush trip which had taken me across Rhodesia, my Squadron Warrant Officer; Barry Ord ordered me back to New Sarum from Mtoko for some badly needed R and R.
The Changeover Dakota arrived on the 11th January 1978 and Flight Sergeants Flame Fleming and Henry Jarvie arrived to relieve us.
I was flying with Chas Goatley in the K Car; and Flamo took over from me.
Little did I know that he would be dead in the next few hours? (Flames father and mine worked for the Veterinary Department in Rhodesia)
Fireforce were called out to a scene and during this scene, the Army K Car commander Lieutenant Adams was wounded in the hand and was not able to continue running the battle.
He was transferred to a G Car flown by Luigi Mantovani, the G Car came under intense fire as it lifted off with the casevac and was grounded on return to Mtoko.
Francois du Toit took over the Stop groups on the ground as he was an experienced Fireforce operator and continued to command the Fireforce operation until it ended.
Chas Goatley and his Gunner in the K Car; with Norman Maasdorp and his technician Henry Jarvie were air ambushed as they flew through the Nyadiri River gap West of Mtoko a few minutes flying away from the FAF.
Flame had leant forward to look through the centre Perspex window when he was hit in the head by an AK round.
Fireforce heard about the incident and Norman and Henry returned to Mtoko to refuel and pick up an RAR stick and deploy to the Nyadiri river gap to carry out a follow up of the CT’s.
Chas Goatley had returned to the ambush area was flying in the K Car and running the scene, he guided Norman into an LZ.
As Norman and Henry’s G Car flared to land they were fiercely attacked by an RPD gunner.
Henry was hit and slumped into the middle of the helicopter behind his guns.
The instrument panel vibrated fiercely, as it was shot to smithereens by the intense incoming machine gun fire.
Due to his wounds Norman was unable to walk, so he crawled around the G Car to attend to Henry, however when he got to him he heard a loud gushing noise and could see fuel pouring out of the ruptured tank.
He could also see that Henry was dead!
He crawled back to the stick leader and gave him some painkillers… while he contacted Al Thorogood to casevac them on the stick leaders radio.
Norman was casevaced with the RAR stick and on arrival at Mtoko found that his legs and heel were peppered with shrapnel from the RPD.
The pedal area of the Alouette was peppered with machine gun bullets and shrapnel; and it was a miracle that Norman was not killed in this action.
That night one of the sticks who had been left in overnight ambush by Francois du Toit in K Car was attacked by about 20 CT’s and an RAR soldier killed in the fire fight.
It had been a frustrating and equally worse day for the Rhodesian Security forces.
As for me, I had survived by a hair and I knew it, the shock of it began to tell.
I started questioning myself, as to whether we could sustain all this war and terror, and how it would all end up.
LEOPARD ROCK ATTACK
In January 1978, a group of thirty terrorists approached the Leopard Rock Hotel outside Umtali and began firing AK 47 rifles and RPG 7 rockets at the hotel from a distance of 100 meters away. A rocket hit a turret of the hotel and went through exploding in a vacant room.
A second rocket struck the hotel’s roof and damaged the water mains.
There were only eight guests staying in the hotel and some of these guests managed to return fire at the terrorists.
After this attack we were banned from going to the hotel while on Fireforce duty at Grand Reef.
BEAVERS LOG BOOK
BEATRICE CALL OUT 6/1/78
AIR TASK 767 SALOPS BEATRICE 6/1/1978
G CAR 5277 CHRIS MILBANK AND BEAVER SHAW
I CT KILLED TRACKER DOGS USED IN FOLLOW UP
I was on stand by on Seven Squadron on the morning of the 6th January 1978 enjoying a day at the pool, when the duty officer called and told me to stand by and prepare a G Car for a possible scene which was brewing in the Beatrice area.
I pulled the stand by G Car out of the hangar and prepped it for operations; and within a few minutes was met at the heli-pad by Chris Milbank, who would be my pilot on the operation. Soon afterwards we were airborne setting course for the Beatrice Police Station where we were to uplift a dog handler with his dogs to join a PATU stick in the Beatrice farming area that were following up a group of terrorists.
We refuelled at the police station and headed back to the PATU Sparrow (tracker) stick; who reported that they were about five minutes behind a group of four terrorists who were moving in an easterly direction.
We dropped off the dog handler and his two Labrador retrievers and began circling ahead of the stick in an attempt to bring the terrorists to ground.
After some time orbiting over savannah bushveld, we noticed that the long grass had been trampled in the direction of a thick clump of trees.
Chris pulled the G Car up into an overhead firing pattern and instructed me to put some clearing fire into the thicket with my twin .303 Browning machine guns.
I fired a burst into the target area; and as the rounds impacted into the trees we came under small arms fire from that location.
I could hear the rounds cracking as they passed our helicopter.
Suddenly a terrorist made a break from the thicket and attempted to run into a stream bed, he was armed with a folding butt AK 47 assault rifle.
“Fuck you”, I yelled over the intercom; as I raked him with a long burst from my Browning’s.
The terrorist disappeared into a cloud of dust and I saw him lying prone with his weapon lying about a meter from his lifeless body.
We turned back to the thicket and dropped a white smoke generator into it and gave the area another few bursts of machine gun fire, this time all was quiet.
We spoke the trackers on to the target area and commenced a sweep of the thicket and stream bed but came up with nothing.
It appeared that the terrorists had bomb shelled.
After some extensive sweeping, and letting the dog’s loose we called it a day and recovered all, including the terrorist and his weapon back to Beatrice.
CASEVACS AND DOGS 6-9 February 1978 -FROM THE BOOK, “AIRSTRIKE” BY PROP GELDENHUYS
AIR TASK 777 CONTACT C/S 14 AND 42 TROOPING C/S 43A
G CAR 5729 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW
DEPLOY DOGS, TOP COVER AND CASEVAC LANDMINE VICTIM
Due to the march of time I cannot recall this time
HELICOPTERS DAMAGED IN FIREFORCE ACTION
27th January 1978
Mike Borlace and I were involved with 2 RAR, the text has been extracted from: The War Diaries of Andre Dennison; to describe the actions which followed.
On 27th January 1978, (by now fully operational), the Scouts called us in on a sighting of ten CT’s, in a camp a few miles east of Enkeldoorn.
We had time to dispatch a road party with fuel and the second wave of troops, everything appeared to be set up for a big culling scene.
However the road party was late in arriving, and as K Car One got into the orbit over the target area it collected a mean snot-squirt, warning lights for Africa blossomed over the panel, and Nick Meikle made an immediate emergency landing in a mealie field.
The OC, Dennison transferred to K Car 2, and directed the two G Cars to land sticks. The second G Car pranged on landing, the rotors taking off the tail rotor and totally immobilizing the aircraft.
At this time the paras were dropped and the sweeping started, Stops One and Two contacted a large group of AMA/AFAs (African Male and Female adults)
In the camp area four AMAs were killed; and six AFA/AMJs (African Male Juveniles) killed; with three AMAs who had surrendered.
The call-sign then came under point blank RPK (machine gun) fire and 2Lt Biffen had a close shave when a bullet creased his FN barrel, bulging it badly, two CT’s broke West and were unsuccessfully engaged by K Car Two and a G Car.
One of the CTs was pinned down in some rocks, and Stop 3 were flown in, who flushed him out and killed him, recovering an AK. These were our first OP Grapple kills.
It was later established that one of the dead AMAs was a CT, and that the captured AMAs, by inference, (the dead ones), had received local training. The Scouts later established that three wounded CTs were evacuated that night by vehicle.
The Selous Scouts records, date this contact as 28th January, as the wounded and the dead were always flown in to a Selous Scout Fort for examination, investigation and interrogation in the case of the living; by Special Branch attached to the Scouts, these records were normally accurate.
The records relate that one of Corporal Croukamp’s sub call-signs, callsign One Three Echo, visited a village in the guise of a survivor from the main contact on the 24thJanuary.
In the general conversation that took place the villagers mentioned that another group of terrorists had based up near the village. The commander of call-sign One Three Echo then carried out a one man reconnaissance and duly located five terrorists based up at UQ055023.
The Fireforce, commanded by Andre Dennison was called, arrived and the contact ensued; in the course of which the aircraft were hit. There were ten terrorists in the base, one of which was killed and four captured.
After these contacts a great deal of information was gleaned by the Selous Scouts callsigns who had called in the Fireforce, as unless they were compromised, they would remain in the area posing as survivors.
STRIKE FORCE, BEIT BRIDGE-COL RICH
My deployment to Strike Force in Beitbridge was to be an interesting time because it was my first time to be living with the Army in their environment in a battle camp.
Our Strike force was commanded by Colonel Rich who was based with us in a camp in the Mtetengwe TTL; just outside of Beitbridge.
We were supported by members of 2 Commando RLI only our G Car in support. We were based in a tented camp and in typical army fashion all ranks were separated according to seniority, rank wise..
I was a corporal at the time but wore Sergeant Stripes in the bush as it was much more comfortable to be in the Army Sergeants mess with batmen taking care of you in the field than struggling along with the junior ranks.
I did not enjoy living with the army very much due to the split messing and the rank discrimination however while camping on this tour I met up with Stu Hammond and Al Parsons who made the evenings in the Sergeants mess bearable with their constant banter.
Our task was to carry out relay changes on a regular basis and to carry out trooping and casualty evacuations if required.
We were also to give top cover to the troopies on the ground when they came into contact with terrorists.
I remember spending my time on this deployment with Dutch De Klerk, Stu Hammond, Alan Parsons and Buzzard Doulgeris
I can also remember that digital watches had just come out; and were the rave at the time, Keith Spence, my pilot had just returned from South Africa and was sporting a new Seiko digital watch around camp… like a rat with a gold tooth.
While on this deployment we were sent to casevac a Police reserve callsign which had been involved in a fleeting contact with a group of terrorists and one of the reservists had been shot in the face and it appeared that he had lost an eye; but would survive.
I took my flak vest off during the flight to Messina in South Africa and shielded him from the wind.
During our Beitbridge deployment we had a few great evenings in town at the local club where I was lucky enough to meet one of the local farmer’s daughters Mimi, who worked as a radio operator with the BSAP.
We also frequented the Customs and Excise club and were given bottles of brandy and Coco Rico, which was the drink of the day.
I also met Ed Byrd who was our Special Branch contact in the area and Ed was a mine of information on the area; and which terrorist groups were operating locally.
During this deployment to Beitbridge we met up with some members of the Air Force regiment who were based at Beitbridge. Their leader an Air Force VR Sergeant asked Mike Borlace if we would be kind enough to spend some time giving the VR’s trooping drills with the G Car so that they could be of use if required in a call out.
Mike agreed; and we arrived at their small base near the Bridge and briefed them on
trooping drills; and the art of emplaning and deplaning from a helicopter while armed.
The VR Sergeant looked fierce wearing his combat kit and armed with an MAG machine gun and his ammunition belts draped all over his body like an RAR recruiting poster.
We boarded the stick and practised drills for a while and when we had completed the exercise flew the stick back to their base.
The stick leader saw the convoy to South Africa, parked near their base awaiting clearance to cross the border and asked Mike if they could do a hover drop near the convoy to impress the onlookers in the convoy.
We went into an orbit and came in for the drop, our Sergeant was a little too keen to impress the crowd and bailed out of our G Car at about fifteen feet above the ground… landed on his feet, but due to the height and weight of his MAG, collapsed in a heap injuring his back.
We landed next to him, I got out and extracted a stretcher and with assistance of the remainder of his stick; placed him on board the G Car and casevaced him to Messina hospital in South Africa.
I wonder what went through the minds of those onlookers in the convoy…
G CAR 5817 18/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING AND RELAY CHANGE BEITBRIDGE AREA
G CAR 5817 19/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING BEITBRIDGE AREA
G CAR 5817 20/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING BEITBRIDGE AREA
G CAR 5817 22/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING BEITBRIDGE AREA
G CAR 5817 24/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW RELAY CHANGE
G CAR 5817 25/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW CASEVAC AND TROOPING
G CAR 5817 25/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING STRIKE FORCE
G CAR 5817 26/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW BEITBRIDGE-SALISBURY AIRCRAFT CHANGE
G CAR 5729 26/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW SALISBURY BEITBRIDGE
G CAR 5729 26/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING STRIKE FORCE
G CAR 5729 28/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING STRIKE FORCE
G CAR 5729 29/01/1978 KEITH SPENCE AND BEAVER SHAW TROOPING STRIKE FORCE
G CAR 5729 01/02/1978 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW TELSTAR AND TOP COVER FOR C/S 32
G CAR 5729 01/02/1978 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW GUN TEST 500 RDS .303 BROWNING
G CAR 5729 03/02/1978 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW RELAY RESUPPLY C/S 28
G CAR 5729 03/02/1978 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW TULI-VEHICLE AMBUSH-TODDS-BEITBRIDGE
G CAR 5729 04/02/1978 MIKE BORLACE AND BEAVER SHAW RELAY RESUPPLY
JON KENNERLEY AND FARMER ABDUCTIONS
An incident that hounded me for many years finally came to light during research for Choppertech was that of Jon Kennerley.
Jon Kennerley was working for the Bulawayo Chronicle as a compositor and had taken a few days leave from his regular night-shift with the newspaper to visit his father, who worked in Beitbridge as a vehicle Inspector.
Jon managed to hitch a ride in a Ward’s Transport pantechnicon and they headed for Bulawayo on the afternoon of the 5th February 1978.
Mike Borlace, myself with Mike’s dog; Doris, flew over the pantechnicon about 20 kilometres outside Beitbridge and we could clearly see Jon waving at us as we flew over them.
About 12 kilometres outside Beitbridge a group of terrorists stopped the pantechnicon on the main road adjacent to the Mtengwetengwe tribal trust lands; they robbed the driver and his assistant of $30 and abducted Jon Kennerley at about 18h30 in the evening.
Mike Borlace had positioned at the Drummond’s farm in West Nicholson and was told (later that evening), to return to Beitbridge at first light the next day to carry out a follow-up on the abduction.
The terrorists hid Jon in some huts in the Mtengwetengwe TTL; and waited for the follow-up to settle down then moved him from village to village at night to avoid contact with us.
Mike Borlace, myself and our stick of troops from 1 Indep. Coy; RAR were in the G Car; we scoured the area in search of Jon, dropping the troops into villages and constantly checking for any signs of him; but to no avail, however while in the process of our search we made contact with other groups of terrorists in the area; and had some lively contacts.
Jon at this time was hidden deep in the TTL and had his first meal consisting of sadza, chicken and dried milk,(a day after his abduction when things had quietened down)
On the third day Jon was handed over to a new group of terrorists who took his money and bought tins of meat and biscuits from a store.
Five days after his abduction Jon managed to escape from his captors who had relaxed and fell asleep. Jon ran from the village where they had been hiding and wandered about in the TTL looking for water, as this area of Rhodesia is semi desert.
He walked into a village and asked for water; (there was actually a small river nearby) and was told by the locals of the river. As he was crossing the river he heard shots and was recaptured by the terrorists who were enraged with him for escaping.
The terrorists bound his hands with donkey hide straps and his feet with a belt and returned to the village.
That night Jon attempted to escape again but due to being tied up made too much noise which alerted his guard who threw water over the donkey hide straps as punishment for his attempts at escape.
The straps contracted at night and in the morning his hands had swollen terribly leaving him in excruciating pain.
It took sixteen days; from that village for the terrorists to extract Jon into Mozambique and when the group crossed the Nuanetsi River Jon had another go at escape and was caught once again.
This time the terrorists made him walk for six days without shoes walking barefoot with water up to his chest at times and other times walking through very long grass.
When Jon was interrogated by the terrorists he told them that he was in the RLI, however he was too young to serve in the Rhodesian Security forces at that time.
Jon fed the terrorists with a lot of lies and stories which they believed.
Once in Mozambique Jon was whisked away to Chimoio; where he was interrogated once again. He was also given the use of a small transistor radio by his captors.
Five months later Jon was moved to another camp (Tembue) where he met up with an Afrikaner, who had also been abducted by the name of Johannes Maartens.
Jon was to form a strong bond with the old man and called him “Oupa”. (Grandad) Who had been abducted from his farm in Headlands on 18th May 1978. Johannes a 54 year old farmer; and father of seven, was unarmed and attending to his farm in his vehicle; when he was surrounded by a group of terrorists. This group took 9 days to move the sickly old man with a heart condition into Mozambique. The terrorists were aware of his condition and took care to carry his pack and give him frequent rests during which time they assured Johannes that; they were not racists and did not wish to expel all whites from Rhodesia.
The deeply religious Johannes told them that they were being seriously manipulated by Communist ideologies, to which they laughed.
Tembue camp was attacked by the Rhodesian Security forces in July and Jon recalls the camp being “Revved” from his position behind a clump of rocks about 500 meters away from the strike. He says “It was a beautiful sight”.
By this time Jon had befriended his captors and it appeared that they had become quite fond of him.
Food was always a problem; and Jon assisted by catching lizards and tortoises which he said were good eating.
While Jon was abducted we had a few contacts with terrorist groups in the Mtengwetengwe TTL, and in Mozambique, where we found documents and letters about Jon. I was constantly looking out for him and wanted to know the outcome of his abduction. We missed rescuing him a few times; when we were searching for him in the Mtengwetengwe TTL.
A retired British Army Colonel; by the name of Major Thomas Wigglesworth was abducted on the 1st August 1978 from the Penhalonga farming area.
Maj. Wigglesworth was farming fruit and vegetables when the terrorists struck, he returned home from the fields one morning; and was knocked down by a terrorist when he got out of his vehicle.
The terrorists told him that they would have shot him if he had been holding a weapon.
The terrorists took Wigglesworth to his homestead where they looted him of foodstuff, typewriters, a sewing machine and the Major’s war medals. One of the terrorist’s pinned the medals to his chest and swaggered about with them which annoyed the old man who could only just watch and take the abuse.
The group then took Wigglesworth captive and headed west; which was away from the border, for three days and held him in a camp.
During his abduction Wigglesworth had hidden a revolver and attempted to use it, when he was caught reaching for it he was brutally beaten by the terrorists.
After this time; the group made a forced march to Vila Manica which was hard on the old man who hurt his leg, ankle and foot in the process.
During the forced march Wigglesworth saw the lights of Umtali, antagonizingly close by as they made their way to the border.
Whenever the group stopped Wigglesworth was handcuffed to one of the terrorists as a precaution.
When his morale dropped the terrorists reminded him of his war days and said that he must resist as it was a time of war.
Wigglesworth had a hard time when he first arrived in Mozambique; he found eating sadza disgusting and his captors could only speak Portuguese.
He was moved to Chimoio sometime later by Land Rover.
At Chimoio he met up with Johannes Maartens and Jon Kennerley, there was also a gentleman who had been abducted from Melsetter by the name of James Black.
The abductees were interrogated by a ZANLA Cadre called Lameck who had been trained in China.
Jon says that this interrogator tended to write down the answers to his own questions before the abductees could reply.
The white captives were visited by many senior ZANU commanders and politicians who included Rex Nhongo, Tongogara, Tungamirai, Munangagwa and Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe asked Wigglesworth why he did not eat sadza on one occasion.
The abductees struggled with food and their health problems which were not helped by flies, mopani flies and tsetse flies and a host of mosquitoes.
The abductees also had to suffer jigger fleas, leeches, snakes, scorpions and a host of nasty insects.
Due to the constant external raids by Rhodesian security forces in the area, the group of abductees were moved to a camp in the bush near Tete on 4th October, where they remained incarcerated for the next three months.
In P.J.H. Petter-Bowyer’s book Winds of Destruction he mentions that the Rhodesian security forces were disappointed that they did not find the abductees in the camps which were attacked, however some documentation relating to them was found.
The following text has been extracted from his book: -
There was considerable disappointment in not finding the four abductees the troops had hoped to rescue. However amongst the piles and piles of captured documents, SB came upon records dated three weeks earlier in which four captured whites were listed as:
John HERNLEY. Place of residence –Bulawayo. Date of capture 5.2.78(Note ZANLA erred in their spelling, it should have read Kennerley).
Johannes Hendrik MAARTENS. Place of residence – Maringoyi Farm, Headlands. Date of capture -2.8.78.
Thomas WIGGLESWORTH. Place of residence –Odzani, Umtali. Date of capture – 2.8.78
James BLACK. Place of residence –Martin Forest, Melsetter. Date of capture -19.8.78
Military ribbons and medals belonging to Thomas Wigglesworth were recovered from the personal belongings of a CT in Nehanda camp: the location known to have been where the abductees had been held. Fortunately, sufficient evidence was obtained for the Red Cross International to bring about the release of these men from the Tembue area where they had been taken.
Here I divert for a moment. The Rhodesian’s lack of knowledge concerning its enemy, particularly ZANLA, has already been touched upon, and I have told of my absolute fear and certainty of being killed if downed in Mozambique.
The release of these men made me wonder if I might have been wrong in believing the press and some political statements that was conveyed to Rhodesians the awful hardships that the abducted men must be facing.
Upon their release all these men said that they had been very well treated, particularly by Josiah Tongogara. Since first news of their release came from press interviews in the Polana Hotel in Maputo, obviously attended by ZANU and FRELIMO officials, no notice was taken of their good reports.
But then the Rhodesian Foreign Minister PK van der Byl introduced Maartens and Black at a press conference in Salisbury. This backfired on him to some extent because he was fully expecting to hear from these men what had been fed to the public.
Instead Maartens, who was under no pressure to say the “right thing”, repeated what he said in Maputo. When relating to the return of his medals in a book he wrote about his time with ZANLA, Thomas Wigglesworth records that the “truth is stranger than fiction...”
On the 21December they were flown to Maputo and incarcerated in a cell in Nampula. The men were devastated as they thought that they were going to be freed by ZANLA.
The group was then handed over to Amnesty International for release after having been briefed by Mugabe that they would become casualties of war if they returned to Rhodesia.
They all returned to Rhodesia, and after nearly thirty years; I found out what had become of the young guy who had waved at me from the pantechnicon.
There is not likely to be a Pioneer Day next year in Zimbabwe
The two leaders of the Patriotic Front guerrillas who are fighting for black rule in Rhodesia, Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, flew separately last week to Addis Ababa. There they helped Ethiopia's Marxist military rulers celebrate the fourth anniversary of the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I. More important, from Nkomo's and Mugabe's point of view, they had a chance to confer at length with visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro, one of their principal supporters in the six-year-old war against the Salisbury regime.
The meeting of Castro with the Patriotic Front leaders was the latest in a series of disturbing developments in the Rhodesian debacle. Two weeks ago there was the shooting down by Nkomo's guerrillas of a Rhodesian civil airliner with a Soviet-supplied ground-to-air missile. Anger and revulsion swept the white community, and this time Prime Minister Ian Smith was included as a target of white criticism, because he had secretly conferred with Nkomo in Zambia in mid-August.
Smith had offered, in effect, to set Nkomo up as the first leader of black-ruled Zimbabwe if Nkomo would join the interim government in Salisbury and thus help to bring an end to the fighting. After the airliner incident and subsequent atrocity, whites called for martial law, general mobilization and attacks on guerrilla camps in Zambia.
At first, both Smith and Nkomo seemed to be trying to calm things down. Smith promised merely a "modified" martial law and rejected the idea of general mobilization as an unnecessary burden on the country's economy; most young whites spend six months a year in the armed forces anyway.
But Smith did pledge to "liquidate" those organizations inside Rhodesia that were associated with the external guerrilla movements. Until now, his government had boasted about its release of political detainees and the freedoms enjoyed in Rhodesia by Patriotic Front civilian sympathizers. But no more. By midweek the government had arrested more than 200 blacks thought to be linked to the guerrillas and detained them without trial. As he tried to rally his white constituency, Smith raged that Nkomo, who had readily accepted responsibility for the destruction of the Rhodesian airplane, was "a monster" who had gone "beyond the pale."
From his base in Zambia, Nkomo announced that the plan for an all-parties conference on Rhodesia, long advocated by Britain and the U.S., was "dead and buried" and that "the only way left is war." He again sought to justify the destruction of the airliner. "Having about 40 people killed in a plane crash is not pleasant," he said. "We are not rejoicing over death. But the Rhodesian armed forces are killing 30 to 40 of our people a day."
In view of these "deliberate massacres," added Nkomo, "we cannot contemplate working with them. I don't think there will be a place for them in Zimbabwe."
Not since the Matabele and Mashona uprisings against Cecil Rhodes' white settlers in the 1890s had Rhodesian whites felt so threatened. For years, the very notion of black terrorism seemed inconceivable. Most tribal chiefs were docile government stooges. Those who spoke up for black nationalism were quickly clapped into prison. Early terrorist raids misfired. No longer. In recent months, wellarmed, well-trained and well-organized bands of black nationalists have been infiltrating south of the Zambezi River to launch guerrilla warfare against Rhodesia.
Ian Smith's white supremacist regime is fighting back, trying to cut out the infection before it can spread. Last week, along the shores of Lake Kariba and at remote Devil's Gorge, troops tramped through the underbrush seeking terrorists, while Rhodesian jets roared overhead, raining bombs, bullets and napalm from the skies. In Salisbury's High Court, pictures of a huge arms cache were displayed as 32 Africans went on trial, charged with possessing "weapons of war"—an offense now punishable in Rhodesia by death. All along the Zambezi, which separates Rhodesia and Zambia, the hunt was on.
To combat infiltration from Zambia, Rhodesia has beefed up its light infantry, started using dogs on border patrols and ordered an increase in aerial surveillance. Rhodesia, South Africa, and Portugal's "Overseas Provinces" of Mozambique and Angola are coordinating their security operations. South African police helicopters are helping the Rhodesians keep the border watch, and two weeks ago a South African police constable was shot to death in a border clash, becoming South Africa's first casualty of the confrontation.
Bunkers and Buried Arms. An estimated 3,000 black Rhodesians have slipped away to Zambia and Tanzania for training by Russian, Chinese, Egyptian, Algerian and Cuban guerrilla experts. Several hundred have infiltrated back across the Zambezi, digging up arms previously smuggled in and buried at preplanned locations. Guerrillas who once toted old Lee-Enfield rifles are now using Czechoslovak-made recoilless rifles and rocket launchers. They have built underground bunkers and tunnel complexes in Viet Cong style.
The increasing infiltration poses a problem not only for Rhodesia but also for President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, who fears Rhodesian retaliation because his country serves as a staging area for at least 1,000 guerrillas. Last week Kaunda returned from London, where he discussed the purchase of British Rapier ground-to-air missiles in order to cope with possible Rhodesian air raids. At the same time he appealed to Smith to change his "unhuman, un-Christian and ungodly" policies. "Let him think again," urged Kaunda, "and we in Zambia will be the first to shake Smith's hand." But Smith seemed in no mood for handshaking. He was intent upon crushing any trace of a black challenge to his regime.
30th Anniversary of the Loss of Puma 164
Sunday 06 September marks the 30th anniversary of the loss of Puma 164 during Op Uric/Bootlace, the attack on Mapai in the Gaza Province of Mozambique.
On this day two brave ladies will be travelling to the crash site, in order to pay their respects to their fallen brothers, and to the men who died with them on 06 September 1979.
The ladies are Delia Forbes, sister of LeRoy Duberly, and Sue Wentzel, sister of Peter Fox.
They will be accompanied and supported by their husbands on this difficult and emotional pilgrimage.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers next Sunday, and perhaps take a moment to remember the brave men at whose graveside they will be standing:
Capt Paul Velleman SAAF
Lt Nigel Osborne SAAF
Flt Sgt Dick Retief SAAF
Capt Joe du Plooy RLI
Capt Charlie Small RhEng
2Lt Bruce Burns RhEng
Sgt Michael Jones RhEng
Cpl LeRoy Duberly RhEng
L/Cpl Peter Fox RhEng
Cpl Gordon Fry RLI
Tpr Jacobus Briel RLI
Tpr Aiden Colman RLI
Tpr Mark Jeremy Crow RLI
Tpr Brian Enslin RLI
Tpr Steven King RLI
Tpr Colin Neasham RLI
Tpr David Rex Prosser RLI
"With thanksgiving, let us remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we may live on in peace.
Help us to keep them in our thoughts, and to never forget what they gave for us."
Graveside prayer read by Bob Manser and Rick van Malsen at the four crash sites which they located in Mozambique.
Spare a thought also for the families and friends of those brave men, who had to wait 30 years for their men to be finally laid to rest by their comrades-in-arms.
May they at last Rest in Peace.
G CAR 5783 19/12/1976 WILLIE KNIGHT AND BEAVER SHAW
FIREFORCE TROOPING MSUMI 2 SORTIES FLOWN
AIR TASK 565 -19/12/1976 REPULSE: - FOUR JUVENILES AT UN8738, 4 NM EAST OF MATSAI AND 40 NM NORTH EAST OF BUFFALO RANGE
LYNX 3407 PROP GELDENHUYS AND CAPT. WILSON SAS
K CAR 5817 GINGER BALDWIN AND ALAN SHIELDS
G CAR 5272 MARK KNIGHT AND BEAVER SHAW
G CAR 5729 CHRIS DICKINSON AND ROB NELSON
DAKOTA 7039 RICK CULPAN
We were called out to a sighting of twelve terrorists dressed in blue denims and armed with AK and SKS rifles which was 4 nautical miles east of Matsai and 40 nautical miles east of Buffalo Range which was to delay our departure to Bangala dam.
Ginger Baldwin and Alan Shields were in the K Car R5817 with Prop Geldenhuys in the Lynx.
Fireforce troops consisted of SAS soldiers commanded by Captain Wilson; G Cars crewed by Willie Knight and myself, Chris Dickinson and Rob Nelson.
A Paradak captained by Vic Culpan followed once we were on our way.
The SAS troopers were armed with a mixture of Rhodesian and communist issue weapons with the gunners being armed with RPD machine guns.
(Note; SAS troops were not trained for Fireforce operations as their primary task, at this time they were operating into Mozambique on external operations and agreed to stand in for the RLI who badly needed a rest for Christmas)
The SAS troops wore shorts and T shirts with webbing and wore black is beautiful camouflage cream to hide their exposed white flesh, somewhat different from the Scouts who dressed in denims and wore communist style floppy hats or baseball caps.
I was excited and scared at the same time as this was a new experience for me and events seemed to happen very fast, and I had to switch on to what was going on around me.
I listened to every word, and the crackle of the radio chatter… clutching the .303 Browning machine guns in front of me.
Willie told me to keep my (already saucer like) eyes peeled for gooks and to throw smoke to mark a target if I saw any terrorists on the ground.
I clutched a smoke generator to my flak jacket, which was bobbing like a tortoise on steroids… from my adrenalin filled heartbeat.
While circling the contact area, after the K Car had pulled up I could hear the mopani scrub whistling under my feet as we sped over it following a course at treetop level….waiting to be called by K Car to drop off our stick of SAS troops into the contact area.
K Car called… giving directions, talking us on to a clearing in the contact area to drop off our stick; I could hear the crack and chatter of the 20mm cannon firing over the radio as Ginger Baldwin spoke us on to our LZ.
Willie flared into a tiny opening amongst the scrub and I leaned out as briefed checking for obstructions (gooks) and to clear our tail, we flared and dropped off our troops in a whirl of dust and debris.
The troops deplaned running into defensive positions in the scrub thickets nearby as our G Car blasted out of the LZ in a trail of dust and debris with Willie milking the G Car’s collective lever for more power.
I had just survived my first Fireforce drop-off… without fucking up, and making a fool of myself due to my lack of experience!!!
After dropping off our stick we were directed by the K Car to refuel at an abandoned airstrip where we landed next to the Army land tail which had arrived from Buffalo range following the Fireforce and was parked near the main drag.(road)
We had landed close to the parked convoy and while Willie shut down our chopper I ran over to a fuel truck and collect a 44 gallon drum of Jet A1 to refuel my chopper.
I dumped the drum from the back of the truck onto an old tyre and rolled it by hand over some rough ground to the helicopter and struggled to lift it to an upright position.
(I was a lightweight in those days and used to battle to lift fuel drums on my own);
I checked the Jet A1 Aviation fuel for water and once satisfied that we were good to refuel I connected the chopper’s portable, 2 stroke putt-putt refueller; and began refuelling.
While refuelling Willie and I ate ration pack bully beef and mustard on biscuits for breakfast listening on the net for instructions from K Car which was orbiting the contact area.
After some time K Car instructed us to return to pick up our sticks and terrorist bodies which consisted of four AMJ, (African Male Juveniles) known as mujibas. (terrorist trainee’s)
We wound up the G Car and headed back into the contact area and were instructed by K Car to land and shut down to uplift bodies of the four Mujibas killed in the fire fight.
After landing in the LZ which was indicated by the SAS troops throwing orange smoke to indicate the LZ, Willie shut down the chopper, and I removed black polythene body bags from the front of the helicopter to stuff the dead mujiba’s into.
The Mujiba’s had been dragged into the centre of the LZ and were lying on their backs in a tangle of blood and gore, the smell and sights of these torn and shattered human bodies was nauseating, and I fought back the bile and nausea emanating from the back of my throat, as we stuffed their pathetic remains into the body bags.
Little did I know that as the Rhodesian war continued…I would have a bitter hatred for Mujibas and what they stood for….
I realised from that moment on, that war is not what one sees in movies; there is no glory in being smashed by a cannon shell or bullet in the African bush, it’s just a lonely gory death.
We uplifted these bodies to Buffalo range airport, where we landed at a secluded part of the airfield where we delivered our body bag parcels to Special Branch policemen, who were awaiting our arrival.
That evening, I scrubbed the helicopter with the sickly smelling Jeyes Fluid… until my hands bled; yet I could not get rid of the thought that the smell of blood and death which permeated from everywhere… including my own clothes and hands… supper was out of the question.
Friday, August 28, 2009
This was all a most interesting development. As a young boy being brought up in Rhodesia, I remember standing at Victoria Falls and looking North across the Zambezi river at Zambia. Two young Canadian girls, tourists, standing right where I was standing, had recently been shot dead by soldiers from the Zambian side. These were just the most recent examples of an on-going terrorist campaign against Rhodesia.
So, as I looked North across the Zambezi, I remember feeling the same sense of fascination mixed with horror and apprehension that I had felt when looking across the barbed wire and mine fields, separating East and West Germany. Zambia was the enemy! "I will never be able to stand on that side of the border," I thought.
Can anyone assist with more information on this incident?
1975: Rhodesia peace talks fail
Talks between the Rhodesian Government and the African National Council (ANC) have collapsed acrimoniously.
Negotiations to bring about a cease fire in the civil war broke up after Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith refused to grant immunity to African nationalist leaders attending the talks.
"It would involve people who are well-known terrorist leaders who bear responsibility for the murders and other atrocities which have been perpetrated in this country," Mr Smith said.
The ANC leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, said any hope of achieving a settlement depended on Mr Smith being prepared to compromise.
"If Mr Smith cannot go with us on very small things like this (diplomatic immunity), we think he cannot be serious," Bishop Muzorewa said.
The talks were held in a railway carriage on the Victoria Falls Bridge midway between Rhodesia and Zambia.
The presidents of South Africa and Zambia, the principal allies of Rhodesia and the ANC respectively, acted as mediators at the talks.
But after nine-and-a-half hours of discussions they were unable to find a compromise to save the negotiations.
Mr Smith is now expected to employ tough new military measures against the guerrillas.
The guerrillas, mainly members of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), are said to have been training several thousand men in Zambia and Mozambique.
Mr Smith will also try to win support among "moderate" African leaders for a phased transition to black rule.
1977: Smith keeps power in Rhodesia
Ian Smith's ruling Rhodesian Front has won an overwhelming victory in the country's general election.
The party made a clean sweep of all the 50 seats reserved for whites in the 66-seat parliament.
The result represents a decisive defeat for 12 right-wingers who split from Mr Smith's party because of his plans for constitutional change.
Mr Smith advocates a phased introduction to black-majority rule.
Last year he accepted a US plan to introduce black rule to Rhodesia within two years.
However, the newly-formed Rhodesian Action Party campaigned on an anti-majority rule platform.
Their defeat in all the seats they contested is seen as strengthening Mr Smith's position.
Ideas being proposed by Britain and America which call for a swift transition to black rule were backed by the left-of-centre National Unifying Force.
Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today
At the polls their candidates were also trounced by the Rhodesian Front.
Speaking after the election count, Mr Smith told journalists he believed the scale of his victory would give him more leverage to produce an internal settlement.
"I am satisfied it has strengthened my hand tremendously. Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today," Mr Smith said.
But the prime minister promised to give the Anglo-American proposals careful consideration.
Mr Smith said: "No matter how unpalatable at first sight, we will give them very careful thorough consideration and investigation before attempting to pass judgement."
In spite of Mr Smith's preference for a phased handover to black rule, Wednesday's election is widely expected to be the last time a white-majority parliament will be returned in Rhodesia.
Under the current voting system, the country's 85,000 white voters elect 50 white MPs.
However, just eight black MPs are elected to represent the country's 6m black people - because only 7,000 of them are eligible to vote.
Ian Smith has been Rhodesia's prime minister since 1964.
He unilaterally declared independence from Britain the following year.
RhodesiaHC Deb 01 August 1978 vol 955 cc228-9W 228W
§ Mr. Lee asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many black people have been killed as a result of military activities in the course of the war in Rhodesia during the last 12 months, irrespective of the side upon which such persons appeared to have been ranged, and how many white people and how many of other ethnic groups.
§ Mr. Rowlands We have no means of verifying the number of categories of 229W casualties, but figures published recently give the following breakdown of deaths for this year: Guerrillas 1,167
Black civilians 688
Security forces 134
White civilians 124
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The members of the team which located the crash site of the SAAF Puma shot down during Op Uric in September 1979, are attempting to contact the next of kin of all of the victims, to inform them of the discovery of the Puma crash site near Mapai, and of the fact that we have erected a cross on the graves discovered there.
Could I please ask you to appeal to your ORAFs members for any information that will assist in contacting family members or friends of these men.
We are still attemping to locate family or friends of the following men:
Flight Sergeant Dick Retief: SAAF
2nd Lieutenant Bruce Fraser Burns: Rh Engineers
Sergeant Michael Alan Jones: Rh Engineers
Trooper Jacobus Alwyn Briel: RLI
Trooper Mark Jeremy Crow: RLI
Trooper Steven Eric King: RLI
Trooper David Rex Prosser: RLI
Any assistance in contacting the families fo these men will be most welcome.
Many thanks for your assistance with this project.
Please mail Neill Jackson on firstname.lastname@example.org and copy email@example.com with any information that you think may assist to locate these people.
A request to other Rhodesian Associations please consider distrubuting this appeal to their members.
Posted: Aug 26, 2009
Could I please ask you to appeal to your ORAFs members for any information that will assist in contacting family members or friends of these men.
We are still attemping to locate family or friends of the following men:
Flight Sergeant Dick Retief: SAAF
2nd Lieutenant Bruce Fraser Burns: Rh Engineers
Sergeant Michael Alan Jones: Rh Engineers
Trooper Jacobus Alwyn Briel: RLI
Trooper Mark Jeremy Crow: RLI
Trooper Steven Eric King: RLI
Trooper David Rex Prosser: RLI
Any assistance in contacting the families fo these men will be most welcome.
Many thanks for your assistance with this project.
Please mail Neill Jackson on firstname.lastname@example.org and copy email@example.com with any information that you think may assist to locate these people.
A request to other Rhodesian Associations please consider distrubuting this appeal to their members.
Posted: Aug 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
THE BUFFALO INCIDENT
Possibly Air strike 907 - 7/12/1978.
Fire force was called out from its temporary base at the junior school in Karoi to a sighting of 10-12 terrorists by a Selous Scout O.P. in the Tribal trust lands adjoining the commercial farming area.
The group of terrorists was reported to be armed with AK47 rifles an RPD machine gun and an RPG 7 rocket launcher; they were dressed in blue denims and were relaxing in the river line after having been fed by local village women.
There was a kraal about three kilometers away and this is where the women had brought food from a few hours previously.
Our K Car flew overhead of Scout O.P. and pulled into an attack pattern with the Scouts speaking the gunship onto the target area. As we pulled over the river line the terrorists began to bombshell into the thick vegetation on both sides of the river line.
I threw smoke (Smoke generating grenade to mark the target) and began engaging the Terrorists with 20 mm cannon fire killing two in their camp while the remainder of the Terrorists who had managed to survive the initial contact took cover and ran into thick riverine vegetation and began to give us a serious snotsquirt (return fire) from a heavily overgrown reed bed on the left hand bank of the river.
I returned fire with the cannon which did not have any effect of suppressing the enemy fire as the 20mm HEI rounds burst on top of the reeds and did not penetrate into the thick reeds.
We were taking a lot of hits from small arms fire and had to pull in to a wider orbit to avoid being shot down.
Whenever we tightened our orbit the Terrorist return fire became more intense.
At this stage the RLI fire force commander called for plan Alpha (this is when the supporting G Cars drop their troops at pre determined positions which gives the K Car crew time to sort out their immediate problems) the G Cars orbiting the contact area turned in to drop their stops on both upstream and downstream of the contact area as planned.
There was no need to put stop groups on the sides of the river because the surrounding bush was open other than the line of riverine vegetation, any break out would have been quickly stemmed by 20mm HEI rounds fired into the open by the K Car.
The FF commander (RLI) was worried about his fire force troops sweeping into the reed beds ahead of their drop off positions and got them to sit tight in an ambush position while the Lynx was called on to drop frantan. (Frantan is the Rhodesian version of napalm)
Nigel pulled the K Car into a wide orbit to give the Lynx an opportunity to attack the Terrorist position and the Lynx immediately swooped in firing .303 Browning’s and Sneb (68 mm unguided rockets) rockets followed by frantan, which unfortunately went a little high and caused a huge fireball followed by a plume of sooty black smoke in the riverbed but failed hit the Terrorists their secure position in the reeds.
A G Car was called into the orbit to assist by putting down flushing fire with its twin .303 Browning machine guns, we could see the tracer streaking into the reeds which just caused the Terrorists to return intense fire at the aircraft in the vicinity from this position.. These gooks had found a really secure position and we were going to have a job at hand to rout them without taking any casualties on our side.
Earlier I had noticed some old Buffalo Dagga boys wallowing in some swampy ground (Dagga boys as we called solitary old buffalo bulls who had been ejected from the herd due to their advancing years) in an open area to the left of the river as we were pulling up into the initial attack pattern.
These two old buffalo were now milling about in the vicinity of the reed bed close to the contact area and by now it was obvious that they had become very agitated by all the activity, noise and smoke emanating from the contact in the area.
I had devised a plan which seemed out of ordinary but could just swing things our way and discussed it with the K Car crew over the intercom.
This plan was to attempt to drive these old Dagga Boys towards the Terrorist position with me firing the cannon close to the Buffalo without killing or wounding them in the hope it would scare and drive the Buffalo into the thick reeds; which in turn would drive the Terrorists out into the open where we would be able to take care of business.
Plan accepted which resulted in me firing a round at a time of 20 mm near the two old buffalo.
As the dust from the strikes settled the Dagga boys charged for the nearest cover, in that loping, bouncing run that only buffalo can do, with their tails in the air.
As they entered the reed bed in which the CT’s were hiding the Terrorists began to fire at the buffalo which incensed them more, all we could see from overhead was the reed bed swirling as the buffalo charged at the pop, pop of the AK fire.
Stop 1 reported hearing gunfire from that area and thought the second stop group was in contact with the enemy.
A few seconds later I saw three Terrorists running towards Stop 1 at the top of the river line with one of the Buffalo in hot pursuit. These three Terrorists were shedding themselves of their packs as they ran.
I opened fire with the 20mm cannon double tapping at the fleeing Terrorists in the riverbed and dropped one, as they tore away from the reed bed in an attempt to escape the enraged Buffalo.
The 20 mm fire had unnerved one of the Buffalo and he crashed back into the reed bed once more and he remained there.
Stop 1 called on the radio to say that they had shot two of the terrorists attempting to run down the riverbed about 200 meters from the initial contact area.
I don’t think these Terrorists even knew or cared about the Stop groups in their attempt to escape those Buffalo.
The old Dagga boys were now milling in the reed bed and it was decided that it was not a good idea to sweep through the reed bed and suffer the same fate as the Terrorists.
The stop groups swept the area surrounding the reed bed and the river line and dragged the five bodies out for pick up together with one RPD machine gun two AK47 rifles one RPG 7 Rocket launcher with three rockets and an SKS rifle.
A few days later we flew over the contact area on the way to another call out in the area and saw the Dagga boys lying in the river line chewing the cud as if nothing had happened.
The Scouts who had a grandstand view of what must have been one of the strangest Fire force contact ever seen.
I wish that I had marked more information about this incident in my logbook but one did not think of the future in those days.
(This incident happened in the TTL about 45minutes flying time from Karoi and my attempt to work the date out makes it to be 6 December 1978 and 1 was in K Car serial numberR7509 with Nigel Lamb and was probably on the Angwa river)
Trooper Dave Hughes version of the Monte Cassino action as written to me, Dave is a train driver in Canada now:-.
It's 0330hrs - red eye, head 'bobbing' express time.
Rain beats against my windshield, the rivulets streaming down the bullet-proof glass like tears from a wounded behemoth's eye.
Westbound, swallowed up somewhere in the lush green fields between London and Windsor, Ontario 8,800 horsepower struggle mightily beneath my feet, heaving our 7,000ft - 8,000ton train into the yawning abyss of darkness ahead.
Lightning flashes, in no particular rhythm, drowning out the feeble glow from the locomotive headlight - illuminating the landscape and interior of the cab. Out of the corner of my eye I see the conductor staring glassy eyed out the window.
Another flash, the terrain bathed in an eerie glow - does he see what I see?
Row upon row of zigzag slit trenches cut through ochre earth. Soviet 12.7mm DSHK A/A and Portuguese 7.92mm MG-34's cradled in sinewy black arms stare back at me. Selous Scout Trooper Gert O'Neil, his ash-white body tended by a very brave (and still unknown) Selous Scout officer lies very still beside my Eland 90 AFV, call sign 42Alpha.
My tracer fire reaches out, pummelling the 12.7 and MG-34 top covers and receivers, rendering them useless - impotent. A gnarled black forearm, hand clutching a Soviet RPK with bi-pod and 40rd magazine rises out of the trench directly in front of me. It's followed disembody, by a lanky 'terr' sporting an 'afro' hairdo nearly two feet across. He is the first African I have seen with an 'afro'.
Rising to his full 6' plus height he reaches down, grabs the RPK and begins to stride quickly from left-to-right no more than 25 feet from my position. Pressing the firing button my co-ax Browning 7.62mm belt-fed machinegun staccatos into life. I swing the turret clockwise simultaneously raising the muzzle as 1-in-3 tracer punctuates the oven-hot air!
In seconds, that seem an eternity, my fire and 'terr' collide. Tracer streaks through his 'afro' setting the hair alight as he drops straight into the trench from where he had just arisen. A Selous Scout throws a grenade into the slit and an enormous orange sheet of flame billows out of the earth. (This one’s for you 'Gertie'!)
"Ash, (my vehicle commander) did you see that - I just nailed a 'gook"! Too busy loading the Browning and taking orders over the radio Ash hasn't seen what I just saw either.
Another flash, unseen by the now sleeping conductor.
What does it take to dissect 10, or 15 men? The pathologist, smiling while holding his scalpel will tell you it takes time son, - time.
But I know differently - I know it takes but seconds. One twenty second burst of fire from every machinegun in our column. Six 7.62mm Brownings (each firing 650 rounds per minute) from Elands 42, 42Alpha and 42Bravo plus two sets of twin .50 calibre aircraft Brownings (each firing 2,000 rounds per minute) from Selous Scouts armoured 'Pigs' 74 and 74Alpha swivel and fire upon a group of 10 or 15 ZANLA who have shown up on the edge of our battlefield like spectators at a cricket match.
Seeing our guns bearing down on them they turn to flee but we show no mercy, Trooper Gert O'Neil's body having just been removed from the trench lines.
At 75 yards a wall of fire renders them obscenely before my eyes into their constituent parts - flesh to bones to dust: molecules; atoms. Standing up out of the hatch I continue depressing the firing button until there is nothing but the sound of a waterfall of empty .50 caliber cases and links cascading onto the metal floors of 74 and 74Alpha as our guns run dry.
We are truly dangerous men.
Another flash, my conductor momentarily awakened after nearly falling out of his chair rearranges his position and promptly falls back asleep.
A vast green canopy unfolds before 42Alpha. In the distance Monte Cassino stands castle-like, honey-combed with caves sited with crew served anti-aircraft weapons. Massive explosions rock my ears as shells from 20mm Yugoslav multi-barrelled cannon explode around us. To my left and right in line-abreast Selous Scouts soldiers lay flat, their bodies moulded into the rock just inches below the crest of the hill.
20mm rounds impact into the rock face! Some are armour-piercing - they glance off the ancient surface and rocket over the prone bodies of the Scouts. Some are high-explosive - they detonate with a brilliant orange flash that sounds like a shotgun going off beside my ear and I am inside the crew compartment of an AFV! "What must it be like for the Scouts outside," I think?
"Shit, a 20mm cannon will penetrate this vehicle"!
Ash orders Roland (our 17 year old driver) to reverse the car. His foot slips off the clutch and we stall, fully exposed on the rock face directly in the line-of-fire of the 20mm. The only problem is - we have a faulty starter solenoid on this vehicle. When it's hot the starter won't turn over until the solenoid cools - usually about 15 minutes! Grimly, I search through the gunner’s scope for the source of the fire, now homing in on us for the kill.
"Follow the tracer back to the source - damn, it doesn't start to burn until it's far enough from the 20mm that I can't follow it back - make a wild ass guess then"!
"Ash, load an HE round", I shout! "HE - loaded", he replies! I set the range cursor at the second farthest setting and lay the gun on the most likely area the enemy fire appears to emanate from. Bang - the car reverberates wildly! "That's not our cannon firing", I think? Roland screams, "I'm hit - I'm hit!" "Where", asks Ash? "It's my arm, shit my arm", cries Roland!
A 20mm shell has gone through our front fender, sand channels, skimmed over the left front wheel, struck the driver’s door and ricocheted through the left rear fender (just missing the left rear wheel) exiting the vehicle. (Elvis is not in this building!) Roland's elbow was resting against the driver’s door when the round impacted - the vibration through the armour has given him a nasty bruise but his arm is still intact and working. By the end of the week Roland, exhausted by the continuous fighting, will come down with a serious case of battle fatigue - it will be months before the 17 year-old will be right again.
Back to the main gun: "firing - now", I cry through the helmet inter-com! Roland applies the brakes as the 90mm round explodes out the gun tube! Our 6 ton AFV rocks violently backward - the back blast from the muzzle jarring our tightly clenched teeth.
"Clank - clunk", a spent case ejects out the breech-block; the heady scent of gunpowder fills the interior. "Clank", Ash has reloaded another HE round before the first shot falls into the jungle canopy short of Cassino's ramparts. "Damn, that 20mm has to be in Cassino" I curse, as another fusillade of enemy fire pounds our position! Raising the elevation beyond its' farthest range of 2,200 meters I lay the gun on Monte Cassino's sheer rock walls in line with the angry tracer speeding towards us.
"Firing - now", our 20lb HE projectile arcs gracefully towards Cassino, this time exploding like a brilliant orange balloon half-way up the rock cliff!
More return fire, a crash of metal-upon-metal from the turret roof. "There goes the top-mount Browning - shit"! In a close range action it's our only means of engaging the opposition other than with our personal sidearms.
All fire stops - an uncanny silence fills the void. Ash orders Roland to try the starter. "Vroom", our tiny 4-cylinder Chevy Vega motor returns to life. "Driver - reverse", commands Ash! Backing over the crest of the hill we find shelter in the defilade.
Rain fades, clouds break. An opaque moon casts shadows in the bush surrounding the glistening rails. Moonlight softens the age lines etched on the sleeping conductor’s craggy face.
An unrecognizable form, hiding behind a small bush fills my gun-scope. "Ash, I have a target but I can't tell if it's a 'gook' or one of our guys"? As if to answer my question the "form" rolls from behind the shrub into the roadway 25 yards in front of us - revealing brand new East German camo-fatigues, full webbing and shiny new AK-47 with 30rd mag.
"Firing - now", - my burst of 15rds of 7.62mm from the co-ax tears into the prone figure. Every bullet finds its' mark, (the co-ax has a rock-solid mount and scope!) each impact recorded as an involuntary, violent convulsive jerk by the now very-dead ZANLA 'terr'.
Who was he - what the fuck did he roll out in front of us like that for", I wonder? He never answers, even now nearly a quarter of a century later. By the week’s end, stripped of rifle, magazines and full medical kit he carried in his pack his body will be reduced to the thickness of a comb by the combined passage of our AFV's over the corpse.
So hardened we have become, so immune to the suffering of others we refer to the incident with gallows-like humour as the time the 'terr' invented a new disco-dance. We call it doing the 'funky chicken'.
"Fuck, that’s a level crossing - why isn't the whistle blowing"? Now, even I am asleep - eyes wide open taking in the view ahead!
BURNING ZANLA TERR CAMP OP MIRACLE –PHOTO DAVE HUGHES
My late whistle wailing, our train thunders through the crossing headlight shining on the sole occupant of the only car stopped at the gates. Our eyes meet for an instant - an eternity, as we flash by.
Do you see - what I see, now?
MIKE BORLACE AND MIKE UPTON
On the 27 March 1976 Mike Borlace and Mike Upton were operating in a K Car with the Mtoko based fireforce which was despatched to Mudzi near the Mozambique border for an operation which turned out to be a lemon (failure).
The fireforce were told to return to Mtoko on the 27 March which they did carrying sticks of RAR troopers and an RAR major in the K Car, the remainder of the fireforce set sail for Mtoko by land tail.
On arrival at Mtoko the fireforce were told that they were to be deployed immediately to a sighting of 25 ZANLA terrorists spotted by a Selous Scout OP on a kopje at Kathana which was 25 km to the North of Mtoko and was in a frozen area.
The plan was for the fireforce to attack the terrorist position with the heliborne RAR troops and pick up the remainder of the troops by G Car from the land tail as required.
Mike Borlace was leading Amber Section which consisted of two G Cars with K Car being commanded by a South African pilot who was not very experienced in Rhodesian fireforce operations. The K Car was an Operation Polo (SAAF loan) helicopter. This small fireforce was supported by a Lynx armed with 68mm Sneb rockets and Frantan bombs.
The Selous Scout call sign who were positioned on a ridge talked the fireforce on to the target area which was a thickly wooded kopje surrounded by open country and fields in a wide valley.
The fireforce approached from the north overflew the Scout OP and ran in to the target with K Car pulling up to a height of 800 feet above the ground. When K Car pulled up things started to go wrong when the K Car pilot made a map reading error which could not be rectified by the other aircraft as the pilot was keying his mike and jamming all transmissions.
The two Amber Section G Cars headed for the correct target kopje and set up a left hand orbit around it and after an initial orbit a group of terrorists were spotted from the G Cars. Mike Borlace flying in Amber 1 told Mike Upton to engage the terrorists with his MAG 7.62 machine gun with Amber 2 also engaging the same group.
The ZANLA terrorists on the ground opened up with accurate small arms fire and RPG 7 rockets at the two G Cars orbiting their position.
Amber section once again attempted to raise K Car to no avail and in an attempt to attract K Car’s attention threw smoke to mark the target area. K Car was yelling at the Scout call sign on the ground and it was clear that the K Car pilot was getting flustered with the Scout on the ground who was also confused with the situation on the ground. After some time a more senior Scout came onto the net and informed the K Car of the contact in progress with Amber section. K car broke off and headed for the correct target area and began firing at the kopje.
Amber 1 at this time was taking an incredible amount of small arms fire but as luck would have it no one was hit in the G Car.
The ZANLA terrorists opened up on K Car wounding the RAR major on board.
Once again Amber 1 the G Car took a huge snot squirt from the terrorists with an AK round striking the G Cars ammunition belt putting the MAG out of action, Mike Upton grabbed an FN from one of the RAR troopers and continued firing at the enemy troops below.
The Lynx circling overhead the contact area acted as a Telstar and radioed a sitrep to JOC who in turn deployed the Mount Darwin fireforce which consisted of a K Car and four G Cars to assist. It would take the Darwin fireforce just over half an hour to get to the contact area.
The terrorist’s bomb shelled with some of them running away from the kopje and into the valley.
Amber 1 was struck by small arms fire in the transmission and hydraulics and Mike Borlace was forced to land the stricken G Car in an open area about a kilometre from the contact site. As soon as the G Car landed the RAR stick on board formed a sweep line.
Amber 2 by this time had uplifted the seriously wounded RAR major and casevacked him to Mtoko. (He died from his wounds later). Unfortunately K Car also had to leave the area as it was low on fuel and ammunition.
Mike took over from the ground and spoke the Lynx on to the target to put down rocket and Frantan to keep the ZANLA terrorists down.
The G Car crew then joined the RAR troops in the sweep line and headed off to the contact area.
The Darwin fireforce arrived about an hour after the initial contact with an experienced K Car pilot in control and an RLI fireforce on board to assist the RAR troops already deployed in Stops on the ground.
Once the RLI sticks were deployed there were a few fleeting contacts with sticks on the ground killing a number of ZANLA terrorists. Sweep lines found four dead terrorists on the kopje at the initial contact area.
ALAN LOCKE“OUBAAS” SHAW: 9th October 1928 – 19th August 2005
You’re worn in the barrel; you’re gone in the stock,
Your sights are deceptive and battered askew,
You’re foul in the breech and you’re crank in the lock,
Yet I love you far more than I loved you when new!
I’ve done a fair quotum of stalking and shooting
Old rifle, with you
Rhodesianna reprint library
I feel very privileged to have this opportunity of write a few words of reminiscence about an old friend and colleague from those incredible days when Alan Shaw and I worked together in Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Rhodesian Government. We worked together, mainly controlling Foot and Mouth Disease from about 1969 until after Independence, until I “retired” to go farming in 1982 and Alan retired a few years later .Although most of our work we did together was in the Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) Province, I spent my last year in Bulawayo working with Alan, at his request.
In a few words how do I describe Alan? He was an absolute gentleman and mentor, or father figure to many, who was respected and loved by all. This is probably where he got the nickname “Oubaas”. One would never have thought that he started his career as a professional soldier in the Special Air Services (SAS), having served in Malaya during the insurrection there. In all the time I knew him I never witnessed any aggressive streak.
Alan was a very tall and imposing man who was almost bald with the remaining hair being grey and distinguished. His gait was very slow and graceful but his strides were very long so he actually moved faster than he appeared to.
Alan was married to Eileen and they produced five strapping sons, who I did not really get to, know that well because they were much younger than me. They are Owen, Bevis, Colin, Glenn and Grant – in that order. Owen and Bevis (Beaver) are in South Africa; Colin tragically drowned in Botswana; Glen is in Botswana; and Grant (“Huki”) is in Australia.
Huki was the “laat lametjie” who used to travel in the bush with Alan during school holidays, so I saw a bit of him. I got to know Beaver better after the war when he popped into the farm several times whilst on his way to service the Zimbabwean Air Force helicopters. Trouble is he and Linda never knew when to leave as they once stayed for over a week enjoying each other’s company on the farm.
Alan’s first love was farming and I am sure he always wanted to go farming fulltime like his bothers and cousins in the Gwelo (now Gweru) District. Farming was definitely in his blood and perhaps his work in the Veterinary Department was a good enough substitute. He loved working with both people and animals alike, although later in his career he was obviously in the more supervisory role with us juniors in the younger generation doing the manual work.
If anybody should be writing this article it should have been Alan himself because he was a fund of information and history. He was very knowledgeable on many across the board subjects, as well as being a recognized expert in many fields. His extensive library of stories used to keep us spellbound around the campfires at night on our bush trips.
During the course of our veterinary work in Victoria Province our main focus was Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) control thus we spent much more time on patrol on the farms and communal areas in the FMD prone districts. We used to spend very little time in the office at all.
When I was transferred to Victoria Province in 1969 my first station was Chiredzi. I was employed as a Learner Animal Health Inspector (L/AHI) at that time. My immediate boss there was Senior Animal Health Inspector (S/AHI) Ron Eardley. At provincial level Dr John Adamson was our Provincial Veterinary Officer (PVO) with Reg Brandt as our Chief Animal Health Inspector (C/AHI) and Alan as S/AHI.
Although in those days Rhodesia was under a sanctions regime to punish the Government of Ian Smith for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) it was still our duty in the Veterinary Department to control FMD so that we could still export our Rhodesia’s Best beef to many European countries through an elaborate sanctions busting exercise.
“Where there is a will there is a way”, and we were proud to be part of it.
In 1970 I was transferred to a lonely outpost called Vila Salazar, which is situated on the Rhodesian border with Mozambique where the railway line exits the country to Lorenzo Marques (now Maputo). Vila Salazar itself consisted of a Police camp, Customs and Immigration accommodation and a small house for the AHI. It was also the home of many political detainees at that time, but they were housed some distance from the small village so I never even saw them or had anything to do with them.
The town on the Mozambique side of the border was where the railway station was as well as the accommodation for the Rhodesia Railways (RR) and CFM employees. There was also a club, a hotel and several businesses. Historically, when the railway was officially opened the town in Mozambique was called Malvernia after Lord Malvern who was the (British) Governor of Rhodesia at the time. The “town” in Rhodesia was named Villa Salazar after the President of Portugal.
VILA SALAZAR PHOTO ANTHONY SEAWARD
Since Independence the Zimbabwean town has been renamed as Sango.
The AHI’s duty at Villa Salazar consisted of supervising and monitoring patrols and constant repairs on the game fence, which was erected along the Rhodesia/Mozambique border to control movement of livestock and wildlife. In those days we had been successful in pushing back the Tsetse fly (and the deadly disease Trypanosomiasis) about 70 miles into Mozambique. This was done by an intensive spraying regime using DDT and the elimination of specified vector wildlife species from barrier corridors. Not a popular move at all with the conversationalists, but it worked and effectively freed that part of the country of the deadly disease, which is transmitted by the Tsetse fly.
The control fence was 108 miles long (decimalization only came out after I left Villa Salazar) and started at “Crooks’ Corner” at the Pafure/Limpopo River junction and ended at the Sabi/Lundi River junction. We had a team of 36 scouts who daily patrolled and repaired the 15-strand wooden fence. We used Tambuti for the posts and Mopani for the droppers.
The patrol teams, called “Fence Guards”, also had to be “rationed” and paid and it was the provincial staff that brought this down towards the end of every month. The meat was supplied on contract by Donnie van Eden of Rutenga butchery and was given in generous portions to remove the temptation of poaching wildlife in the Gonarezhou National Park of which our fence was the eastern boundary.
We also had to “wet smear” cattle from 8 test herd which we had scattered at various points in Gonarezhou. The herds went right up to Claredon Cliffs, Chitove Pools and Lesodo Pools as well as herds inside the Park at various pans and artificial drinking points watered from boreholes. The blood samples were examined on site under a microscope for Trypanosomiasis and any diseased animals were treated with Berenil.
On alternate weeks the AHI inspected cattle for FMD in the nearby Matibi II and Sengwe communal areas and we camped at the Malipati District Commissioner’s Camp on the Nuanetsi River. The camp was also situated in the Malipati Game Reserve, which was developed by District Commissioner Alan Wright in an early attempt to share the benefit of the natural resources with the occupants of the Communal Areas.
This bachelor life in the bush was probably the most enjoyable part of my life and whenever our bosses in Fort Victoria got tired of “pushing pens” they used to volunteer to bring out the pay and rations. There was always huge competition on who would make the trip, which would keep them out of the office and into the wildest, most remote, yet most beautiful part of the province.
I don’t know if they drew lots or what, but I was always the loser because I seldom got a trip to Fort Victoria during the year that I was stationed there. I almost forgot what female company was like!
Alan seemed to come down more often than John Adamson or Reg Brandt so it was down here that I got to know him more. Although the communal cattle sales were covered by the resident AHI in which area the cattle sales were held, it later seemed to become more Alan’s responsibility to attend the sales, particularly those held in this part of the world. Whenever the Malipati Sale was held the whole team of buyers
and graders, etc, would come through with Alan to Villa Salazar for a treat of the unique Portuguese cuisine.
I therefore got to see quite a lot of Alan and to get to know him better whilst down there in the “sticks” at Villa Salazar.
There were lots of interesting episodes and attractions in that year at Salazar. I remember once I went with Alan to Marumbini in my short-wheel-base diesel Land Rover. Firstly, he refused the adventure of going down the steep and rocky “crank-shaft hill”, which is the road along the fence which goes down the Sabi/Lunde Valley escarpment. Although an incredible view from the top you literally slid down and there were only a very few vehicles which ever made it to the top – hence the name!
Instead Alan insisted we took the more sensible long way around. I guess he didn’t trust my driving? Alan made friends easily with everybody and we visited the “Chef” of the Customs “post” there for a luncheon date. It was so hot in that small sweatbox of a house that heat fatigue overwhelmed me. I just could not eat this scrumptious meal, which the hospitable Portuguese man’s wife had laboured over. I was willing Alan to leave so I could get some cool air but the two just talked and talked. It was late afternoon when we finally left and the cool air of the open Land Rover was a welcome relief.
ALANS LANDY HF LISTENING WATCH FORT VICTORIA-PHOTO BEAVER SHAW
When doing the fence patrol with Alan we often stopped at the sawmills, which were situated along the fence line. It was amazing to see the size of some of the hardwood logs, and volume of timber, which were being carted along the road to the railway line at Malvernia. A lot of the timber was cut into railway sleepers but there were also some incredible carpenters. At the time Alan was building his house on a plot just outside Fort Victoria and he had quite a bit of furniture made to furnish his new home. I also appreciate good wood and carpentry, which I have done as a hobby, so I also bought some furniture, which I commissioned the carpenters to make.
Another attraction down there was the “Gonna-Stagga-Inn”, the pub that a group of us built at the Police mess in Villa Salazar. In those days beer came in “dumpy” bottles, the disposal of which seemed to develop a new game instead of the resultant arduous task. In the original pub on the verandah of the Police mess there were two shelves, on which we had to personally line up, and later balance, the empty bottles. There were various “down-down” penalties and clean-up duties for whoever caused the first and subsequent bottle to fall and break on the concrete floor below.
In the new Gonna-Stagga-Inn there was a hole in the wall behind the bar with a chute to deposit the empty in a drum outside. The hole was covered by a toilet seat and controlled by a string which went through a buffalo skull on the wall, which was pulled by whoever was on bar duty. More beer guzzling penalties for those who missed the hole! We also had great fun one afternoon when building the pub. We decided to build one wall with empty dumpy bottles but unfortunately the wall became uneven as we reached the top, in late afternoon, because we had to empty the bottles before we could build!
A further attraction to Malvernia, and one which Alan would probably not want me to mention, was the “blue movies” which old Chico at the station used to enthusiastically show. One could never understand why such an avowed Catholic could ever be involved in such disgusting “entertainment”. Although Alan was never interested in watching them one day he was tricked into watching one after he had indulged in far too much Cherverge. He had virtually passed out when he was put in a chair in the front row and was asleep for most of the time. However, some of the plotters eventually woke him up, and he was so shocked in what he saw he immediately staggered out in disgust to join me outside.
Whenever people joked about what had happened, even many months later he just rubbed his eyes and shook his head and said, “Sis… Sis.. I still feel sick. I don’t know how anyone can be so low to watch such disgusting stuff.”
At least he was a good example of a family man who kept his principles in life. For this I had huge respect.
Living and working in a game reserve on the Mozambique border was a unique experience so people like Alan used to bring down all sorts of visitors with him to introduce to “our man in Villa Salazar”. We became very good friends. One of his constant friends and great characters of the cattle sales was a private buyer called Jimmy Robinson.
I truly think that the only time Jimmy stopped laughing was the day he died. He turned everything into a great joke, including the time he went “missing” in the pub in Malvernia. As keeper of the fence and Villa Salazar resident I was allowed keys to some 5 entry points into Mozambique so when I took friends to the pub there was no need for the formalities, as I had the key. Yes, I was (just) over 21!
This particular day Alan and I gave up on Jimmy. On a previous occasion when he wanted to prove he could out drink us all he navigated his way home by crossing the border along the railway tracks. This time he was beyond reason to hear us that the Portuguese had recently closed that route with spikes embedded into teak railway sleepers. Jimmy arrived in his Peugeot at about 3am with all of his Michelin tyres shredded. We spent the rest of the night patching up his tyres whilst he spent time thoroughly inebriated and trying to convince us that they were only flat on the bottom!
In those days the bush was very thick and the roads were terrible. We were in constant fear of elephant whenever we left our base. The road was a single track, which developed a new route every day as the elephant kept blocking the road with fallen trees. We used to be on edge until we saw our first elephant – even if that was at a distance of 2km away in an open space!
Following my year long stint at Villa Salazar I was transferred to Nuanetsi. Again, there was an abundance of wildlife here, especially around the village. I used to take my Staffies for a walk in the evening and walk through herds of Impala numbering around 3000. My dogs seemed to have developed a mutual respect for the wildlife and the no-shooting ban agreed by the management of Nuanetsi Ranch and Alan Wright when he was District Commissioner here.
When cattle were bought at the communal sales in the Nuanetsi area they were first quarantined for 14 days before we re-inspected and released them to move to their various destinations. The most southern quarantine camp was called Gurungweni, near Mpagati and Chikombedzi. Quite often Alan used to come down and we released the cattle together until he felt I was properly qualified.
Trouble with FMD detection was that most of us had little experience with the disease and had never seen it due to the efficient controls in place. In fact the only FMD I had seen was right up at Kazungula on the Zambezi and another later on Humani Ranch in Chiredzi. It was therefore difficult to build up the trust and confidence of the bosses until you eventually proved your worth. It was only much later in my career that I developed the reputation of being the “chief FMD spotter in the country”.
In fact my memory has faded as to which was the first primary and secondary outbreaks I detected. I do remember though that a number of those detected were a single diseased animal out of herds of several hundred head of cattle. It eventually became like a sixth sense to me, which certainly assisted after a full day’s inspection of many thousand head of cattle. I liken it to long distance driving, when although your mind is wondering and the concentration is not there, let an obstacle appear you snap out immediately and take the appropriate action. The first could have been on Battlefields Ranch in Mateke Hills, Nuanetsi. It was at late evening and I had started work at 4.30am that particular day. In the last herd of the day I reacted and there was only a single diseased animal in the Stander Brothers’ herd.
I was so worried that night when I reported it to John Adamson because it was so serious that it seemed the whole of Veterinary Department were coming down – Director, Deputy Directors, PVOs, C/AHIs etc – and Alan. I sweated the whole of the next day until they arrived at about 10am and we went down to the herd. By then the virulent disease had spread and there were 5 fresh cases! I had passed the test.
That outbreak in Mateke Hills turned out to be a nightmare because much of the wildlife became infected and transmitted the disease from farm to farm. Whilst cattle could be separated and cordoned off within the normal farm fences, the wildlife was free to roam everywhere. If my memory serves me right I think we found in the region of 11 kudu bulls which had died from secondary infection and/or starvation after succumbing to the disease.
The disease seldom jumped over paddock fences but instead broke out in herds 10km to 30km away. We therefore had to carry out weekly inspections of all the cattle in Mateke Hills. We had quite a large contingent on AHIs working there. Over a period of 8 months I left the area for only a single weekend – OK another attraction there for me was in the form of one of the farmer’s daughters.
She lived on Malumba Ranch with her parents Hendrik and Marta Boshoff. The homestead on Malumba is situated just off the main Mateke Hills road, which had become the main point of call, which both visitors and residents of Mateke Hills passed without a social call. Hendrik had bought the farm from the late van der Merwe bothers, who had a lot of their own stories. I only met Troos as by then the other brother Hannes and the other whom I did not meet had already passed on.
First was their fencing, which was second to none. All their straining posts were made of huge dead Mswile logs. Probably the largest of these signify the boundary between Bubye Section of Nuanetsi Ranche and Benjani Ranch – probably about 2-foot in diameter! It amazes me on just how they managed to carry these hardwood trunks and then to lift then into the holes! I copied this practice when I went ranching, albeit with much more manageable pieces.
On the Mateke Hills road, just between Windmill dip and the Bubye Section homestead there were three massive Baobab trees right near the road on a ridge. The joke was always that they signified the three van der Merwe brothers, who were really huge fellows themselves! The irony was that the trees disintegrated and died following the deaths of each of the brothers.
When one talks of their hospitality it was second to none! When you arrived for a braai you were asked what you drank. If it was brandy a new bottle was taken out of storage and handed to you minus the top – which was taken off and thrown away, as an incitement to flatten the whole bottle!! If it were beer a whole crate was put down next to you and you were expected to flatten that! Mind you, a good way of replacing all the fluids you had sweated out in the very hot Mateke Hills!
Next morning breakfast should have been called “breakfeast!” Huge plate of porridge followed by literally a whole sheep on the table, complete with eggs, tomatoes and all the similar trappings that only the Afrikaans “Tannies” of the Mateke Hills know how to cook! Although they never went to university I am sure they are all more highly qualified and experienced than any cordon bleu!!
Our first camp was in an empty house on Ranch Louis, which belonged to Barney Jordaan. We then moved to the hunting camp on Valley Ranch, which was owned by “Ryktjie” Geldenhuis and managed by Piet Bouwer. The final move we made, as the disease pressed steadily westwards was at Sheba Ranch where bachelor Boytjie Bosman lived.
I will never forget the one night when “the crowd” decided to go to the Lion and Elephant Motel, about 70km away, for a drink, and I decided to stay at Sheba and catch up on my sleep. Long before the boys got back from the pub I was awoken by the sound of a dog killing a cat. My Staffies were always with my but Boytjie’s one stipulation was that should my dogs not live in harmony with the cats (of which he had plenty) and killed his favourite I would have to replace it.
So the fight was on and I could not save the cat. And yes it was his favourite. What was I going to tell Boytjie when he returned? I phoned everyone I knew had kittens, but nothing was available. By the time the boys got back I was asleep, and in fact faked sleep when their noise woke me up.
Next morning I approached Boytie to inform him the sad news. When I told him we debated which of his cats had been killed. Turned out all the cats were alive and it had been a wildcat which had been killed! In fact my dogs were heroes because they had killed a cat that had been responsible for killing a huge number of his bantams and chickens over a long period of time!
As a bachelor he had about 7 cats walking over the huge dining room table, who were continually trying to remove the food from our plates, which was most annoying. There were therefore many comments from the crew saying they wished my Staffies had got stuck into those instead!
This reminds me of another bachelor foray to the L & E Motel at the invitation to a meal there from our then Assistant Director Jock Hodgkin. He, like all former Onderstepoort students spoke Afrikaans fluently, which went down well with the predominantly Afrikaans community of the Mateke Hills. There was a huge group of us, which included Alan, Reg and John Adamson so we went in several vehicles to enjoy the free supper – and to experience some form of civilization! However, we worked very long and hard hours and the alcohol soon took its hold. Although I must say us juniors lasted much longer than the older generation.
I got a lift back to the camp on Valley Ranch with Tommy Herselman in his Peugeot 404 pickup. The next think I remember was waking up with the rising sun shining brightly into my eyes – which just increase the severe headache I was experiencing! Tommy’s car was stopped in the middle of the Mateke Hills Road which travels due east right into the rising sun! This was about 65km from where we were camping and the continuous glare of the sun did us no good at all. At least the bosses had a good sense of humour over our very late arrival, especially as they were also rather hung over from the evening before!
I remember Jock talking to old “Oom” Hendrik Boshoff one day. He asked him which university he was going to send his young son “Boet” to, to increase his knowledge about farming. The old man took it as a huge insult and said that there was absolutely nothing they could teach Boet at university that he could not teach him himself! The response was so heated that I thought poor Jock was going to be physically as well as verbally assaulted! Boet never went to university, but turned out to be an incredible, decorated soldier and is an extremely successful farmer and entrepreneur!
Shortly after that I went on Army call up, and not long afterwards was transferred to Fort Victoria with Alan. However, this did not mean I was away from Nuanetsi. It just changed my base, as we continued to spend a lot of our time working back in Nuanetsi.
This was the first time we had used FMD vaccine so extensively. We used a vaccine which was manufactured in Kenya but which unfortunately did not cover any of the subtypes of FMD, which we were fighting at that time. Although natural immunity, which is developed from an active infection, can last up to 18 months, and immunity developed from vaccination can last about 6 months, it only protects from a particular type, or subtype. The problem is that when the disease is introduced into the carrier buffalo it often mutates. It can go in as, say, SAT 1 (South African Type) and come out as SAT 3.
Despite the fact that we had vaccinated the cattle up to 12 times it was completely ineffective.
That particular outbreak slowly spread right into Matabeleland despite our attempt to halt the movement of the wildlife across the Fort Victoria Beitbridge main road. At about that time a rail link was being built to South Africa from Rutenga so we in fact had a double corridor to patrol. Alan Shaw came down with an extra team of hunters to try to enforce this double cordon. He based up at Nuanetsi village and we rented a house from “H P “Prinsloo to accommodate the team, which patrolled the road and railway corridors day and night. Although a lot of game was shot we did try frightening them away by first firing rounds over their heads. Any infected animals were burned on site and any meat from uninfected animals was distributed to staff for rations.
At about that time John Adamson decided that the quarantine camp situated just across the Nuanetsi River at the Nuanetsi village was impractical and swapped it for part of Mbizi Section of Nuanetsi Ranche on the railway line near Mbizi Station. There was a lot of work to be done in fencing the area, fencing and watering paddocks and building reservoirs, dip tank and staff accommodation. This became Alan’s baby and he spent a huge amount of time developing the project. It almost became a second home to him.
Whenever we were doing the inspection or vaccination patrols in the near vicinity we always stayed at “Alan’s” camp, which was immaculate and always very hospitable. We all enjoyed each other’s company especially around the campfire at night in the bush.
Not sure when Alan’s companion “Shorty” came onto the scene. Each AHI was accompanied at work by a “Cattle Guard” who was a multi-tasked personal assistant, and in some cases the cook and camp guard. Shorty and Alan were together for many years and his cooking got better and better. He was like a batman to an army officer and did almost everything for Alan and nearly always on the run!
On the cattle sale rounds the group used to have their meals together instead of each cooking his own meal. It eventually was accepted that one person would supply food and do the cooking for the whole camp for the entire week on a roster system. This obviously developed into a competition and boy did those guys eat like kings!
Alan and Reg Brandt used to camp together quite a bit and his right hand man was nicknamed “Skamprection”. In fact I cannot remember his real name. He was a true-blue Shangaan who in fact had to learn Shona from Reg, who spoke it fluently. His nickname came from a joke made about his attempted pronunciation of scrambled eggs. The stalwart of the Fort Victoria office was the widow Vi Brandt (not related to Reg). She always used to joke about how Reg and Alan were always together and called the “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” – never sure which one Alan was though.
The Mbizi Quarantine Camp was almost a monument to Alan’s abilities and I will never forget the nostalgia when we had to strip it down and evacuate it during the War of Independence. By that time I had been promoted to S/AHI and was in charge of the evacuation. All out vehicles were mine-proofed and ambush protected and I used two teams of several light and heavy vehicles each. We had Police and Army escorts as usual but I also had to use an anti-ambush strategy because we had to make several trips. Tragedy struck on the last loads when a new “black” L/AHI disobeyed my instructions and went the “quick” route home only to have a vehicle blown up in a landmine and one of the occupants lose his legs. That mine was unusual because it went off under the centre of the back of the vehicle instead of under the wheel.
Apart from that we got everything to safety and the camp we only opened the camp well after the war when FAO financed a Heartwater Research project under Dr Japie Jackson’s now son-in-law, Dr Howard Andrews. Mickey Visage managed it and by that time I was already farming at Mwenezi.
Although the War of Liberation started many years before it was fought mainly in the Zambezi valley and escarpment so we were virtually left alone to carry out our veterinary duties without difficulties and keep the sanctions busting export markets open. In fact my introduction to the war was in Wankie (now Hwange) towards the end of my National Service in August 1967, when there was contact with a group of 80 fighters from the South African ANC.
In mid-1976 I received a radio message from Dr John Adamson to inform me that I would be exempted from all further military call-ups due to the escalation of the FMD. This was at a time that all freedom loving young Rhodesian’s blood was up with the handover of Mozambique by Portugal to FRELIMO forces. A new front was obviously going to open up in our beloved Lowveld, which we wanted to defend. We were all sitting drinking beer after work at the Lion and Elephant Motel at the time and despite my vigorous protestations John Adamson would neither lift the exemption nor accept my resignation! It was only Alan who managed to cool us all down.
Subsequently I can honestly say that I took more “flak” and had more contact with the opposing forces in the following years in Veterinary Department than I ever experienced on my Army call-ups!
The first incident in Mwenezi was the gunning down of a group of visiting motorcyclists on the Beitbridge Road on Alko Ranch. Before this Fred Reichard and I were driving around dip tanks in Sengwe near the Mozambique border checking for FMD following some reports which had come in. It was only when we spoke to the driver of a white Land Rover at Rutandare Dip tank, who turned out to be none other than Ant White, who was the Regimental Sergeant major of the Selous Scouts doing a reconnaissance mission in the area!
He told us we were mad to be in the area because it was swarming with terrorists and instructed us to get the hell out of there. Although both Fred and I were trained soldiers the only weapon we had to defend ourselves was my trusty .22 Brno rifle, which was certainly no match to an AK47!
I remember also driving in my “soft-skin” Peugeot on Minaarshof and Stelmarco Ranches when I heard a landmine go off. This was just after I had spotted a suspicious “lump” in the BJB Road on the way in. You know what it is like when you approach a rock or stump in the road you cannot avoid? You try to lift the whole vehicle through mental telepathy and levitation! I was driving like that until I arrived home safely!
Once the war was brought to our province we all had to change our comfortable Peugeot, Mazda and Datsun bakkies for Land Rovers which we had mine protected at S&S Engineering under the ownership of Keith Knowles. Benox was used to plate the underside of the vehicle except for above the wheels in the mudguards, which were fitted with thick conveyor belting to absorb the shock of the blast and the shrapnel. Thick amour plated glass was fitted to replace our windscreens.
Keith and others had very inventive minds and they also developed all sorts of gadgets to assist us during ambushes. There was the Persuader, which was a bank of tubes fitted on either side of the front of the vehicle. When ambushed a knob in the cab was pulled and they fell down one-by-one onto firing pins which set of the shotgun blasts at the attackers. I had a mounting on my Land Rover door made for my fully automatic SLR .762 rifle. Although I only had about a 45-degree firing angle it was extremely effective as it could be swiftly removed whilst jumping out of the vehicle when attacked.
We were issued with FN automatic rifles, Oozy sub-machine guns and an assortment of revolvers and pistols. I was issued with a Smith and Wesson .38 calibre revolver, which I never really used but sat on the dashboard of the Land Rover. This revolver had a bit of a history. I did not particularly like it because the trigger had a long hard pull to it, which tended to put me off my aim. I tried to kill a blind cow with it during an exercise in Mshawasha Native Purchase Area. Although shot at point blank range the animal merely shook its head and carried on stumbling along until I dropped it with a single shot of my rifle. Upon examination the .38 slug had not even pierced the cranium!
This became a joke with the staff, which came to a climax one day when my trusty Cattle Guard Sam played “Russian Roulette” with it whilst taking it without my permission to defend himself travelling in a different vehicle. He accidentally shot a fellow member of staff in the neck. He did instantly in an incident, which resulted in a court case and a huge amount of paperwork.
I was later issued with a Czechoslovakian CZ45 9mm pistol, because the .38 revolver was taken in as Police evidence during investigations. This pistol was top-of-the-range and extremely well balanced. The magazine held 15 cartridges and it fitted comfortably in a hip holster where it was permanently attached. I never was one of the “gung-ho” crowd who loved showing off walking around armed to the teeth, but after a nasty ambush in Mateke Hills during which I was pinned down with a weapon that jammed 11 times I felt I needed a backup – I also felt my luck just had to run out at some time. Fortunately it never did.
I think Alan had a Star pistol with an 8-shot magazine and an FN rifle for his protection.
I remember Alan’s Land Rover was dark green and Reg’s was dark blue. Before the war we used to go out in a single vehicle unless we were involved in a major vaccination campaign or something. But once the war started we went around in convoys and heavily armed escorts. We also employed extra AHIs as hired guns to travel with us.
The ingenuity of our engineers never ceased to amaze me, especially when it came to building mine and ambush protected vehicles for use by Army and civilians alike. A Volkswagen Kombi engine drove the first, which was built. The protected area was in a V-shape and a canvass roof. The engine was outside the armour-plated box at the back and the wheels were set away from the box. If the vehicle hit a mine the wheel would merely blow off and could be replaced, but the occupants of the “cocoon” were well protected from the blast. This was called a “Leopard”. Then another military version fitted with mine detecting equipment and soft wide tyres was called a “Pukie”.
Land Rovers and Ford F250s were also modified and heavily armoured and were called “Rhinos” and “Hippos” respectively. Our Toyota and Isuzu 7-ton Lorries had armour plated and mine protected cab fitted and were called “Crocodiles”. We also had our 7-tonners fully mine protected and armour-plated so we could use them to carry our military escorts and civilian assistants.
I always remember once when Rag Brandt and Alan were bringing ice and FMD vaccine supplies out to us once when we were working on Devuli Ranch. Whilst we had been ambushed and attacked by the opposing forces on many occasions, “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” had been very lucky not to have had any lead thrown at them. However, they never let their guard down and were always ready for action.
When they were winding through the hills in a two-vehicle convoy approaching the Devuli Ranch turn-off Reg’s assistant “Skambrecktion” grabbed his FN and started shooting. He was seated next to Reg in the front of the mine-protected Land Rover and just pointed the rifle forward, shooting holes in the dashboard, before Reg managed to stop him. The escorts fired a few more shots before they stopped to assess what had happened.
Apart from the “self-inflicted” holes in Reg’s vehicle, which fortunately just missed any vital working parts in the engine, there was no other evidence of an “ambush”. After much discussion it was resolved that the “ambush” was the backfiring of Reg’s overloaded Land Rover as it struggled to climb the steep rise! They thought it was a great joke and were all still laughing when they arrived at our camp about an hour later. Needless to say, their 1st “ambush” dominated the conversation around the campfire that evening.
A lot of our first work was centered in the Zaka/Bikita communal areas. Our main base was at Bikita where Alan spent a lot of time in the company of people like Alan (“Mazenk”) Leadbeater. At that time we had attached to us “Bright Bights” who were civilian Police Reservists from the Highveld like Rhodesian Rugby wing “Blondie Harris”. Some of them were farmers themselves and I remember some of the people from Sinoia and Lion’s Den like Gert Pretorius who became life-long friends with us.
The main task of the teams based at Bikita government village was to erect a cattle-proof fence either side of the Fort Victoria – Birchenough bridge Road. Once erected, their job was to patrol and maintain it. The purpose of the fence was to separate FMD infected cattle from the south of the road moving into and infecting the cattle to the north of the road. No cattle were allowed near the road and had to be kraaled overnight a few kilometers from the road. Any animals seen from the road were shot and burned to stop the spread of the disease into the vast communal areas of Buhera.
Should the virulent disease spread into Buhera control would be almost impossible to control as there were no more natural control barriers like the Masvingo – Birchenough Road, right through to Salisbury (now Harare). Farms north of the road were also situated in what we called the “Catchment Area” or “Export Zone from where cattle were eligible for direct export to Europe.
It should be realised that in those days Foot and Mouth Disease was regarded very seriously indeed and in a country where the disease occurred no agricultural products of any kind were accepted. This was a serious threat indeed for a country like Rhodesia whose economy was agriculture based and whose tobacco was in such high international demand. The control of this disease was therefore taken very seriously indeed.
Unfortunately most of the FMD outbreaks occurred in the communal areas during the war. Civil disorder was encouraged by the opposing forces, which made FMD control particularly difficult. We therefore decided to vaccinate all the cattle north of the road against FMD. However, as mentioned earlier the locals were encouraged not to cooperate with government officials, which made the logistics extremely difficult indeed.
The Zaka and Bikita communal areas are very hilly and mountainous. Whilst they are extremely beautiful to the eye they were extremely dangerous during a war situation. We therefore went around escorted by heavily armed military and paramilitary personnel. Our convoys usually consisted of about 10 vehicles of various descriptions.
The only way we could vaccinate the cattle was to use civilians, escorted by paramilitary forces from the District Commissioner, Guard Force and Police Reserve, to physically round up the cattle and bring them to the old communal dip tanks. By this time all government dip tanks and vaccination races had been destroyed so we devised a method to erect vaccination races with the use of metal portable races.
Our modus operandi was to work out a plan on a map to round up all cattle from kraals nearest to each dip tank. We would then arise at about 3am and drop of round up teams by vehicle to surround the decided area. We would then go to the rendezvous to erect the vaccination race and wait for the cattle to arrive.
On the very first day my team started in the Nyika area near our base camp. We had just started vaccinating the cattle when there was the sound of mortars and gunfire. As we dived for our weapons and cover, all the cattle just dispersed so quickly that the resultant silence was quite eerie. One minute the cattle were there bellowing and with bells jingling – and the next minute there was absolutely nothing.
By that time most of our teams were back but two teams were unaccounted for. We radioed back to camp and spoke to Lieutenant Passaportis, who headed our military escort and he sent some of his Rhodesia African Rifles (RAR) soldiers out on a search party. It was not long before they found our remaining teams. They had both bumped into the opposing forces and one of the District Commissioner’s staff had been threatened and held over a cliff face. He was very lucky to have talked his way out of it. The shots and mortars had been fired wildly at them to frighten them away from their territory.
The next morning we left with a larger escort led by an American Vietnam veteran officer who had joined the RAR. He decided that attack was the best form of defence so his soldiers adopted the tactic of emptying a few rounds of ammunition into any possible ambush site. He called it the Portuguese anti-ambush drill. His favourite “toy” was a hand held 2-inch mortar tube, which he used quite spectacularly from the back of a moving vehicle. He had little difficulty dispatching a mortar straight into a grass hut, or other suspected hideout, from the back of the moving vehicle.
When we arrived back at camp in the early afternoon the other team had not yet arrived back. We became concerned because their dip tank was closer to the camp than ours and we had expected fewer cattle to vaccinate there. Each AHI had a short-wave radio in our vehicles, which had a tremendous range. I went to our radio shack at the base and they had heard nothing, saying they thought the radio was on the blink. I put up my bipod aerial and turned my set on.
“Three killed, five wounded”, I heard Alan Forbes telling John Adamson in Fort Victoria. I immediately broke into the conversation to get a logstat and sitrep. Alan said they had been ambushed and the deaths and wounded were all soldiers. We discussed what was needed as I gathered up our “army” and we headed to their rescue. I then switched to the use of my mobile aerial and headed out at high speed.
We met the ambushed team at the rendezvous and were they glad to see us! They were towing one of the Army Mercedes 45 Lorries and had to leave our soft skin lorry where it had been ambushed. We escorted the wounded to the airstrip at Silveira Mission station where they were collected. One poor fellow had his guts zipped open and had it all wrapped up in his poncho for the doctor to push it back.
I linked up with Alan Shaw at Bikita who organised ambulances and aircraft to evacuate the wounded. He also linked up with John Adamson to reassure our families at home.
It was a Saturday afternoon so most of the Veterinary Department radios were off. We had base stations in most provincial and district offices but they were only manned during working hours. It later turned out that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the set at our Nyika base, the AHI left to monitor it had not connected it properly after he had been messing around with it! He was not the most popular guy for a few days and we were lucky John happened to turn his set on in his car at his house in Fort Victoria. These things happen I suppose.
An Army ambulance was waiting for us at Nyika to transfer the bodies of our dead comrades. We all returned to camp for debriefing. It was a very sad day indeed. Whilst John insisted we stopped the operation and come home Alan Forbes and I wanted revenge and refused to be intimidated. The next morning a smaller group of us went back to the ambush site and the stories of the ambush came out whilst our Army escorts left us in a “safe” open area when they went to clear the ambush area and do a follow up.
Alan (Forbes) had been driving behind the military vehicle, which took the brunt of the fire. He said he did not know what was happening because he heard a noise and all of a sudden there was a flood of red liquid pouring out the back of the vehicle in front. The attackers had been hidden in the rocks halfway up the side of a mountain and had opened up into the troops with an RPG machine gun. All hell let loose and our troops fought back and drove the attackers off. But one of our youngsters who had not yet been called for military service spoke of small pellets hitting the ground in front of him every time he put his head out from his position behind the wheel of a lorry. We later identified these “pellets” as the core of armour piercing rounds.
We were soon called to recover our vehicle, which had been left overnight. We replaced two tyres, which had been punctured by bullets and drove back to camp as the military had lost the spoor of the attackers.
Next day we headed back to Fort Victoria to discuss the situation with John Adamson. One problem we had to overcome was to find new drivers for the 7-tonners, which carried our cattle herders and portable races. Our drivers had either run away or refused to drive after the ambush. We spoke to Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) from whom the department hired the vehicles to get permission for me to drive one of the trucks. I had a military licence but not a civilian one. Les Reid referred us to their boss, a Mr. Williamson I think, who was unfortunately far too bureaucratic to understand any reason,
Those were the days when civil servants took their jobs very seriously. (30-odd years later, Les Reid befriended my mother-in-law in Pioneer Lodge and passed away early in 2007, at the grand old age of 92! He was still driving his old Morris Mini vanette until he sold it to my mother-in-law about 18 months before that for $1,000,000 – about US$15 at the time. I am sure that this well kept “antique or classic car would have fetched much more on the collector’s market.)
I eventually gave up with all the red tape and simply drove anyway! I just cannot handle petty bureaucracy, especially when there was a very serious job to be done. Alan and I headed back to camp that evening and following the support of the rest of the staff we continued with our vaccination campaign.
We completed our first round of vaccinations with no further interruptions – bar one, but this was from a member of our own team.
Whilst we were vaccinating cattle at the Nyika dip near our camp one youngster decided he wanted to be a “hero” because he had never experienced action and merely walked out of camp into the bush to look for it! It took us a while to realise he was missing as we were only alerted by a Fire Force helicopter pilot talking to his troops about the “white terrorist” in the vicinity of a contact (with opposing forces) he was involved in. From the description he gave we recognised who he was talking about and intervened to save his life. Those chopper techs were deadly accurate with their guns – ask Beaver!
I then took a few of our team and headed out to retrieve him in two Land Rovers. When I spotted him he was on the other side of the fence so I had to back off and locate a suitable vehicle crossing point. All this time he was running away from me – and into trouble! I eventually back tracked after crossing the fence and got out of the vehicle to try to talk to him. His response was to send a few rounds in my direction!
Well, anybody that has done that to me before would know exactly what my immediate reaction would be, but fortunately I managed to check myself from firing back, even if it was intended merely to be a warning shot! Young Ian Adamson and Fred Reichard were nearby and were concerned about my possible reaction and ran forward to also pull me off. I then tried to chase him through the bush in my Land Rover but I was not driving properly because my blood was up and got stuck in a ravine. After that we just let him go, as there was nothing more we could do. The area was swarming with military from both sides and we could not risk getting in the middle – for the sake of our own safety.
We went back to our camp some 30km away and left him to it. However, we monitored the security situation and then patrolled the tar road to cover the area from where he had disappeared. Alas, no sight of him and we expected the worst. What were we to tell his parents?
Later that evening, I was called to the radio to speak to Section Officer “Black Mac” Alistair McIntyre who was based at the Bikita Police Station. By that time John Adamson had already reported the incident to the youngster’s parents. I expected only bad news but Alistair said he had courageously patrolled the road in his own VW Beetle in the hope to lure him to a civilian vehicle, and had succeeded.
“What do you want me to do with him”, he said.
“Lock him up and charge him with attempted murder!!!” I replied in a more descriptive dialogue. He said he had already disarmed him and locked him in the cells and I thanked him sincerely for his efforts and courage of driving that dangerous road at night.
Next morning we had all simmered down and he was released on bail into my custody. I had packed up his gear at the camp and spoke a few home truths to him during the 100km back to Fort Victoria where I handed the youngster over to his parents. I withdrew the charges and never saw him again. On the way he was telling me horrific stories of noises and screaming in Moodie’s Pass during the late afternoon. This was later confirmed by security force reports of the murders and torture of headmen and villagers accused of being “sell outs” to the Rhodesian forces. The brutality and torture of these people was worse than barbaric, if that is possible, and the youngster just does not know how lucky he was to have survived his little escapade in the bush.
Unfortunately, he was a little fat boy who had been spoilt all his life and was sent to join Veterinary Department with brand new camping gear, which was the envy of our other team. He was obviously teased by some of the other guys who had to listen to his fantasies about he had won the war! When he was shown up and his stories disproved, he went out on his own as an untrained and untried soldier to take on an army of terrorists to prove them all wrong. Most of the others were well experienced, and even blooded, in the war. Rather sad.
Although I cannot remember the exact time, but when we came back to the Fort Victoria office from a bush patrol during the war, old Mrs. “B”, greeted me at the door as asked me what it was like to have my name in lights. I had not the foggiest idea of what she was talking about, and besides I was rather weary after a long hard week and could not wait to get to the Chevron to begin out Friday ritual of washing down the dust – notably disregarding the dust and filth of the convoy we had been travelling in the whole day! Had to get clean on the inside first and swap all our “war stories” of the week in the bush!!
I followed her into her office and she opened the newspaper to reveal my name on the national honours list. I had apparently been awarded a gong for my services to the country for my tenacity on continuing to fight livestock diseases during the war. My citation revealed that I had survived some 18 ambushes and attacks – boy, that many, I had never kept count!
I must admit that I was quite shattered but I am still proud to have served my country during those difficult circumstances and very humbled that it had been recognised by our Government. From what I remember John Adamson, Alan Shaw, Tony Coolican and Willie Landsburg were also later recipients of the honours. They were MSM (Civil Division) and Legion of Honour.
Whilst the others definitely deserved theirs I am not absolutely convinced that I was a worthy recipient of such an honour! I enjoyed my job tremendously and the intrusions of operating during a war were just another obstacle to be cleared whilst performing our duties.
Once that campaign was over we were “biding time” by carrying out reconnaissance for the southern spread of the disease (FMD). We were still pretty jumpy after our Bikita ambush and we saw what looked like a dozen or more terrorists moving into an ambush position in the distance.
We quickly stopped our convoy and raised my aerial. The bipod aerial was held up by a series of interlocking aluminium pipes, which formed a telescopic mast. The base was a metal pipe attached to the rear of the Land Rover and the centre of the wires was raised with the pipes, then one wire was thrown out in opposite directions. Although we had extremely good comms with this radio for some reason I cannot remember we could not get a clear signal. I therefore borrowed our military escort’s SSB radio and tuned into our frequency.
I spoke to John Adamson who spoke in “shackle” ordering me to get to the nearest airstrip with my toothbrush only and to leave my Land Rover to be brought back to Fort Victoria a day or two later. We were camped at the Tokwe Section homestead on Nuanetsi Ranch, which had been vacated. When I explained that there was a possible ambush waiting for us, between us and between Renco Mine airstrip, he said I should get to Buffalo Range airport and meet Tony Davy.
Many years later, whilst talking around the campfire it turned out that the “terrorists” ahead of us were in fact a patrol of Grey Scouts (A unit which was mounted on horseback.) Young Stuart Howie, who had been part of that group, related the incident to us, after he later joined us as an L/AHI once he had completed his national Service. I always remember that he had been severely affected by stress caused a close call when his mounted troupe was ambushed in Gonarezhou National Park, near Buffalo Bend. He was apparently separated from his unit during the heat of battle and had to fight his way through dense bush to locate the rest of the troupe some of whom had been badly wounded.
My first concern was that something was wrong with one of my parents in Salisbury. Anyway we arrived at Buffalo Range airport late afternoon and I met up with Tony. He introduced me to Major Brian de Woronin, but I was baffled. He said I was in charge of an operation to vaccinate cattle in the Zaka and Bikita communal areas and I had to brief the officers 5 companies of Army who were situated on the ground. How could I do this when I had no plan? He said the orders had come from John and I would know what to do!!
Well, we jumped in the plane and I had my first aerial view of the treacherous area we were destined to work in for the next three weeks. Being a “boy from the bush” with a love for the wide-open spaces I get claustrophobic in small aeroplanes and was happy to touch the ground at each of the company headquarters on the ground. The plan was to revaccinate the cattle, which we had previously done north of the road. We would then move to the south of the road and “virus” all the cattle there.
We finally hit the ground after dark at Fort Victoria Airport and not before time because the claustrophobia, stress, hunger and fear of flying had got the better of me. I was shaking like a leaf when I got out the plane. Who was there to meet me but Piet Kriek? He was one of our Fort Victoria “gang” and son of Cora Kriek from Barry Nell’s Chemist. He was doing National Service and had been assigned to get me home – via a few pubs of course!
This is a method of rapidly spreading infection by injecting 1mm of a sterile 5000 – 1 (or more) solution made up from the vesicular fluid drawn from a blister on a FMD animal. Dr John Adamson was the first to use this method many years ago. FMD is a non-fatal disease and animals that recover are immune to that specific strain of the disease for up to 18 months. The rapid mechanical spreading of this disease aids by reducing the risk factor. Although the incubation period of FMD is 24 hours or less in a herd it is necessary to spread the disease like this because some herds are isolated from others.
Alan (Shaw’s) job was to ensure none of the infected cattle crossed the tar road to move north and then it was my next job to ensure none of the infected cattle crossed the Mutirikwe River to move west. I will come back to that later.
For the next three weeks we split up into three teams for both the vaccination and virus campaign. I have never been able to count exactly how many people were placed under “my new command”. There were about 25 L/AHI and AHIs; about 35 Guard Force; about 30 District Commissioner armed staff; about 75 Veterinary and casual labour; 1 company of RAR escorting us and another 5 companies of regular and national service Army personnel.
We started work at 3am every day and I never got to bed before 11pm every day for the entire 3 weeks without a weekend break. When we got back from our daily task we generally had to move or set up camp and then we had the “O Group” and planning, and then the briefing of the staff and troops in preparation for the next day.
We did our job well and we ended up with a party at the Zaka Club to celebrate. It was also the one and only time I every pilfered any Government money to pay for the drinks for the troops and staff. The boss new about it and covered for me, after I had nearly exposed the “plot” by making the request over an open radio channel! You have to use your own initiative in the bush, and besides my system was so exhausted that I only personally benefited in the form of 2 beers before I collapsed in a heap!
Bad news! The last dip tank had to be revisited because the turnout was too low and that particular dip was right on the Mutirikwe River so John insisted it had to be redone the next day. Bad move! We had developed various successful anti-ambush strategies during the exercise, which had been ambush free. Our group revisiting the dip walked into trouble and there was a bit of a firefight, but fortunately no casualties.
We all then dispersed home with a job well done. But it ended with me getting a nickname of “Colonel Klink”, which was taken from a character in the Hogan’s Heroes television programme. Fortunately it was only mainly Alan Leadbeater who favoured to use it, as I did not particularly approve of it. But who am I to say?
My next task was to set up patrols along the thick western banks of the Mutirikwe River. John had liased with Provincial Water Engineer Mike Lotter to release sufficient water from Kyle Dam to form a barrier that cattle could not cross. He asked me to check this physically, but I don’t know what I was thinking, because I went straight into the water, which was waist deep.
I sometimes travelled with my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers (Staffies), especially when I was alone for a week in the bush. I had set up two armed lookouts at strategic spots before I entered the water, in case of a terrorist attack. My two Staffies dived in the water to follow me when they disappeared one by one. They then came up very angry and proceeded to dive under again and attack whatever was down there. A raging battle ensued until finally each dog staggered out, blooded, on opposite banks. Fortunately they survived and fortunately I had a friendly veterinarian to patch them up for free because the wounds were extensive.
I asked the lookouts what was going on. They said a crocodile – “about two FNs long” (over 2 metres) had attacked them and they had won!! Crocodiles were the very last things on my mind, but I can assure you I exited that river with great speed indeed! So fast in fact, that I felt that I was walking on top of the water to avoid the ghastly creatures with their incredibly powerful jaws.
Trying to use the Mutirikwe River as a cordon line was a very bad idea and ultimately did not work. Working in that thick river line and using the same roads every other day was extremely dangerous and the only reason I am alive today is because of my sixth sense for which I am very grateful. They were laying in ambush for me all over the place but somehow I managed to evade them.
Then a great tragedy occurred. Whilst in Fort Victoria I received a message that my Cordon Guards had all run away because some had been either killed or abducted by terrorists, apparently in their frustration in being unable to get hold of me.
I reported the matter to the Police and went down in convoy with Patrol Officer Nigel Leakey, early the next morning. We searched everywhere and questioned the local people until we found the three badly mutilated bodies. They were scattered around and not in one place. There was more horror when we turned the bodies over to identify the victims. Apart from masses of maggot eggs on their naked torsos, dogs and maggots had chewed away their faces and other “meaty” parts of their bodies.
Unfortunately we only had a single stainless steel “body box” as the reports had been sketchy so all three decomposing bodies had to fit in there and were then tied to the roof of the Land Rover station wagon. The unhealthy stench unfortunately did not allow the dignity of placing them inside the closes vehicle. I followed in my vehicle but even though I stayed quite far back to avoid the dust the stench was overpowering.
I could never forgive the senseless torture and murder of such innocent, unarmed civilians in the war, by people who would later go on to become leaders in Zimbabwe. It was a sign of their barbarity and lack of compassion for their fellow human beings, which has never ceased and still continues so many decades after independence was achieved.
A few days later Fred Reichard and I set off in a 2-vehicle convoy to carry the bodies home to their homes in the Chipinga district. That whole trip was another story in itself, as is every day that you spend in the company of that mad, but lovable and charismatic Hollander, especially during his bachelor days. In fact Alan Shaw had recruited the long haired “hippie” after they were in Fort Victoria Hospital together. I don’t think the two “Bright Light” Police Reserve escorts will ever forget that trip, particularly the St Patrick’s Day party at the Chipinga Nurse’s Home!
At least we gave the three victims a decent and dignified funeral in coffins, which were supplied by our department.
The brutal war years continued for several more years and so did our dangerous work of controlling diseases in livestock in Rhodesia. There were FMD outbreaks all over the country as it became more and more difficult to control. With the lack of vaccinations and lack of control many other diseases spread completely out of control. And no we did not spread the deadly Anthrax amongst the indigenous herd as the new Zanu (PF) government’s incessant propaganda machine has often accused the Rhodesian forces of doing!
I was transferred back to Nuanetsi as Senior/AHI and was worried that my mine protected Land Rover modified with the 190D Mercedes engine was now too slow for the convoys and also that my luck just had to run out. I therefore bought Tony Coolican’s “Armadillo”, which was a converted Land Rover with an armour-plated cab! This vehicle was a real juice guzzler as it was petrol. The Mercedes modification on my old one gave me 36 miles to the gallon on the cheaper diesel fuel, but this one drank petrol with all the extra weight. The springs had to be reset and modified to carry all the extra weight of the armour plating.
It was rather ironic that I never saw any more military action in that vehicle. I will never know if it was still a good investment or not!
Most of us in Veterinary were seconded to the farcical elections in 1980 as Presiding Officers and it was an extremely interesting time riding around with the pink nosed, red faced and “rooinek” British Bobby’s. Very interesting people and a lot of friends made. However, I think we were all flawed with the results, especially as we submitted more affidavits complaining about intimidation, than we did votes, which we collected and put into the ballot boxes.
I was so stunned the day the “Enemy” became our leaders that I literally locked myself in my house at Nuanetsi for 3 days to meditate over my own future. I decided to stay and give it a go in the new Zimbabwe and was soon “summonsed” to Bulawayo by Alan to work with him there.
One thing I will never forget in my life was the first day of the end of the war. Overnight the brutality and threats ceased. There was a void left after so many years of violence and the readjustment took quite some time.
Just before Alan moved to Bulawayo we opened the first round of cattle sales in Nuanetsi communal areas with quite a fanfare. However, our “fanfare” was soon put out because it just poured with rain. Knowing the problems with flooded rivers in the area from previous experience, we jumped into our convoy of now civilian vehicles and tried to beat the first flooded river the Dinhe. Alas we were far too late and had to sleep in our vehicles without food, on the riverbank. The flooded torrent kept up all night and it was only early the next morning that we managed to get across.
Fortunately I had my Staffies with us to amuse us through the night. Once they got into water they never wanted to get out. One of their tricks was to remove sticks and stones from the bottom of the cattle water troughs on the ranches we visited. The river was one big “water trough” and once the cattle buyers started throwing in objects for them to retrieve from under water they just did not stop. By morning there was a huge pile of retrieved objects on the riverbank.
Alan also told some of his cattle sale stories, some of which I will relate below.
There was an AHI called “Niggley” Wilson, who insisted on carrying an iron bed on the roof of his vehicle whenever he camped. This was completely different to the rest of us who used fold up camp beds. Anyway, as the story went, he had the habit of keeping a large jam tin under the bed at night for use as a potty. Part of his habit was to get into bed and then urinate into it before placing it under his bed! The one night, after a few drinks around the campfire, one of the cattle buyers punched a few holes in his tin, with the expected result. He was furious and I leave the rest to your own imagination, as it is not printable!!
The other story was about old Gert Nel who was a cattle buyer and local icon from Chatsworth. Although he was stinking rich and even built the local junior school, which was named after him, he was reputed to be as tight as a d… (Shall we say Scrooge instead!?) He is said to have never brought either food or drink to the cattle sales and sponged of everyone else instead! I remember meeting him at the Chikombedzi District Commissioner’s camp on the Nuanetsi River. He was the only person in camp and immediately went to the fridge and offered me a beer or two. It was only much later that I learned that this was what he did. The rest of the buyers (whose beer it was) had been for a walk down the river and were looking forward to a cold beer on their return, only to find the fridge had been empties by Oom Gert and myself!
Most of the other buyers were much younger than him and out of respect they just put up with it until one day! One evening whilst camping at Chigwedziwa DC’s camp, one buyer had enough of the old man’s antics and brought some Jeksen Pills (a laxative) with him. He crushed them and put them on the old man’s food and more in his coffee the next morning. There were stinking “skid marks” all over the place and he even soiled his clothes on his way to the distant outside long-drop on the hill. The persistent medicine even affected his attempts to bid for cattle the next day, and that was the last cattle sale round in Nuanetsi that he ever attended!
Alan summonsed me to work with him in Bulawayo during the second year of independence. There was a huge amount of work to be done in training new staff as well as administering the new funding which had come in from the European Union to assist us with disease control to open up our Lome export market again. My new beat covered the area from Beitbridge in the south, right up to Hwange and Victoria Falls.
Alan called a lot of his old Fort Victoria team to help him in his newly promoted position as Chief Animal Health Inspector Matabeleland. Alan Forbes and I both came to his call.
I actually spent my first month or so house sitting for Alan and Sheila Forbes who went on leave.
The two Alan’s and I were responsible for virtually rebuilding Veterinary Department in its new role which meant we had to rebuild all the damaged dip tanks in the communal areas and to take over that responsibility completely from the Ministry of Local Government. We also had to recruit and train new personnel and to open up Veterinary advisory centres located all through the communal areas.
This obviously required us to enroll more administrative staff as well as building workshops at our Bulawayo office. Fortunately the office was situated on the edge of the industrial sites and the area had previously housed a Veterinary Quarantine centre, so there was adequate land available to us. It was an incredible project, which was financed by the European Union, and Alan and I became very sought after by traders around town as we had a huge amount of money to spend.
Keeping tabs on all this spending was quite a job – especially for untrained “accountants” like myself, but we were all extremely proud of comments handed down to us by the EU audit team that spent two weeks checking on our work around the Matabeleland Province. According to their assessment our books and our assets balanced right down to the last cent and they had never experienced such incredible control over donor finance in their entire careers! I wish I could say the same for my own business’s books! Anyway it was a tremendous compliment. I must say we had been extremely worried during the build up to their inspection. But it was all credit to Alan and the team he had brought in from Masvingo – even if I say so myself!!
It was during that time that we introduced the branding of cattle with specific brands, which identified disease or vaccination status as well as provincial, and Foot and Mouth Disease zone brands. When we discussed it the whole idea sounded impossible to manage but we had to do something to curb the uncontrolled movement of cattle if we were going to keep out vital export contracts to the EU open. We therefore had thousands of branding irons made and distributed amongst our staff and this exercise has continued even until today.
Alan was more at home in Bulawayo because it was closer to his Gweru home and also he was more fluent in Ndebele than in the Shona language. The province also has its own crop of memorable characters like George Parkin and Ernie (“My boy”) Stock – both cattlemen of course except George peddled and speculated in absolutely anything and seemed to just revel in the raw power of dominating any kind of auction. Consequently he had huge piles of junk scattered all over the place, but seemed to resell most of it in his shop in town.
Every Friday evening, and sometimes during the week, after work it became a “tradition” for us all to go for a drink at Skittle Inn, near the railway Station. Although it was in a rough part of town it had real character and our constant companion there was Jimmy Corker, who owned Metfab, who did a lot of work for us making anything from cattle neck clamps to brick moulds. He had a loud Cockney accent and a raucous laugh to go with it. He was married to a Czechoslovakian lady who he was always “complaining” about and often repeated the story of how she once tried to kill him with a pitchfork! His also, often repeated joke, which stuck in my mind was, “My wife said she wanted to go on holiday and I said she could. When she asked where he recommended she should go he said, the Valley of a Thousand Hills – and spend a month on each!” Of course all tongue in cheek but his constant joking (albeit repetitive) helped us wash the dust and stress of work away with a few beers.
In 1982 I left Veterinary to take up an opportunity to farm in Nuanetsi. I will never forget the evening which I said farewell to Alan and all my mates. It started at the Skittle Inn and ended up at BAC.
Although I had put Bulawayo and Veterinary behind me Alan and Eileen were the only two people who kept in touch with me. They could not keep away from the bush and drove down to see me on the ranch several times after their retirement. They used to stay for several days and I enjoyed their company tremendously, especially when Alan and I were alone around the fire trading stories of the past.
Many years later, after Alan and Eileen had returned from working at a feedlot in South Africa they stayed in a cottage on Peter Locke’s property in Bulawayo. Our daughter Karen was at Girl’s College then so we managed to pop in quite regularly, who they really appreciated – and so did we!
As described in son Owen’s poem of tribute below, the loss of his son Colin “blew out his candles”. Like all the elderly in Zimbabwe the value of his pension was also adversely affected by the incredible hyperinflation. I visited him once or twice in hospital but he had tremendous difficulty in breathing. He just wasted away and was a shadow of his former self the last time we met. He then moved to South Africa to be under the care of his loving children and I never saw him again.
Sadly only some of my memories of Alan are included above. All of them are happy memories and of a loving family man of whom I will always have tremendous respect and love.
He was a gentleman of gentlemen.
POEM FOR ALAN
I was not there
On Saturday evening
When you left us
No time to say farewell
Nothing but silence
You have let us go
Now we have to find the strength
To let you go
Into everlasting peace
Close to Colin …..
I was deprived of
Just one more time
To say thank you
For loving me
And believing in me
You were always so strong
Tall, lean and skin kissed by the golden African sun
Handsome in your bush jacket
You were a great hunter
And a skilled fisherman
A wonderful father
A dedicated husband
You loved to have fun with us
Make us squeal when you teased us
And sit with huge round eyes
Listening in awe to your recollections
Of events long gone
You were a treasure of knowledge
So proud of your great ancestor
Who I am sure
Is proud of the wonderful way
His great grandson conducted his life
You were a master
Of the tongues of Africa
Zulu, Xhosa, Shangane, Mashona
You respected their culture
And those that worked with you
Had the greatest admiration
Long before the winds of change blew
You loved your grandchildren
And they all have a special place
Reserved in their hearts
For you Dad
You always wanted to have a little girl
After the fifth boy arrived you gave up
Then when we brought the girls
That became our wives
You spoiled them with love
They were your special daughters
Ma has always meant so much to you
We will take care of her Dad
Us brothers have all been special to you
Each in our own unique way
You understood our differences
Your fire died
When Colin left us
I saw your candles burn out
All of them at the same time
What has happened to you and Ma
Is so cruel
You were tested so harshly
And came through scarred
But with flying colours
Hamba Kahle Inkulu!
You were the best!