About Me

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Nairobi, Kenya
I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hendos Shot Down-

Thanks to ORAFS Eddie Norris and Marcus for this incident report






K-car Dalmatian fit or K-car Alfa
Pilot A/Lt. Ian Henderson (Hendos)
Tech. Sgt. W.J…..
Commander/SB Observer Mike Norton

Mike Norton takes up the story –
Enterprise Base, at the Enterprise club, was set up in March 1978, to stem the flow of "terrs" into the Salisbury area. I was Bailiff Acorn at the base. The Enterprise district and adjoining TTL ((Tribal Trust Land) was totally subverted, and where the ‘Salisbury Detachment’ gang was based, this was the group responsible for the attack on the fuel depot in Southerton suburb.

After a few months of intensive operations a reasonable degree of control prevailed, particularly after Op Enterprise, the most successful internal operation. Most of the gooks had been forced into the adjoining Chikawaka/Mangwende/Msana TTL’s. However, late on the 15th July, Mrs. Yvonne Mulligan, a farm manager’s wife, (Strathlorne Farm) was abducted and marched into the Chikwaka TTL, presumably for propaganda purposes. Being of ample frame she was put on a bicycle and later a wheelbarrow to hasten their escape. Follow up was swift but running out of light, the Patu (Police Anti Terrorist Unit) guys had no option but to sleep on the tracks. We liaised with Salops (Salisbury Operations) for more troops and aircraft for the next day. Can you imagine my surprise when we received 3 Commando RLI (this was to be a black day for the unit) and 10 helicopters positioned at the Enterprise Club/Base! Someone must have leant on Comops (Combined Operations) to get this type of response (Farmers Union?).

Early in the day information gleaned from a locally trained terr. was that a white woman had been seen in the Chipagura Kraal area with 25 plus "terrs". Another source told of 8 terrs (Rhodesian term for terrorist) 2 km’s away at Gwamura Kraal. The Colonel and Bruce Snelgar’s plan was simple, split the fire force, one section (with 20mm k-car) to Chipagura (refer Charlie Warrens book Stick Leader for this contact) and the other (k-car Dalmatian) to Gwamura Kraal. Sticks were briefed and cautioned about Mrs. Mulligan as our objective was to rescue her.

After about 8 flying minutes we approached the Gwamura Kraal line, Hendo’s pulled up to 800ft and started the orbit. Stops were positioned and sweep lines formed. Everything was going like clockwork and stop 2 was ordered to advance. As these brave troops approached a brick house/school, all hell let loose. Fire spewed from the windows felling 2 troopies (Tpr .Mike Elsaesser and Tpr. Bruce McKend) they didn’t stand a chance. The tech. Sgt. WJ filled the building with .303 ball from the 4 Brownings silencing it permanently. We then took heavy fire from another building, the Alfa fit also took care of them, but were still under heavy pressure. (An RLI stick leader, who was on the ground, reported controlled RPD fire). By this stage the K-car (20mm) was on its way to support us. Things were really getting hot and we were taking more hits, when, suddenly, a message came through from the orbiting PRAW (Hamish Harvey) that we were on fire, WJ and I peered out the side and saw black smoke trailing behind us, Hendo’s had already lowered the orbit height to bring the guns to bare under some trees, not giving him much room to auto rotate, he shut the fuel flow lever and we dropped like a stone. We took more hits as Hendo’s struggled to control the aircraft, then, I heard a very loud bang and felt as if I had been hit by a 4 pound hammer, next, we ploughed into a sandy field and I was thrown into the Perspex, rotor blades, smoke and dust filled the air. There was a lot of blood but fortunately nothing serious. We were still in the contact site and scrambled to a nearby ditch and were picked up minutes later by a G-car. It was only later that I found out that a round had passed between my head and headphones!!

The battle on the ground ended with a few ‘Golf’ bombs. It was late by then, so the troops went into ambush mode, watching over the downed aircraft.

Meanwhile back at New Sarum, WO Doug Quinn of ASF, (Aircraft Servicing Flight) had been instructed to get his crash recovery team together. Doug takes up the story. We left early the next morning with my two recovery vehicles and crew and headed out on the Shamva road. We eventually got near the site at mid afternoon, after escort delays and the road condition. I was told by an army Lt. that an Alouette would be coming to collect me and one other tech. to take us to the downed helicopter! I was rather confused but selected my engine tech the necessary tools and waited for uplift. (Little did I know that the area was still hot.) We were uplifted at 3.45pm and after about 10mins were dropped at the crash site. It was apparent that the Alo was quite badly damaged, the main and tail rotor blades were scrap, the nose and main oleo’s had collapsed, tail boom damaged due to impact and most panels bent. With the help of the RLI troopies we set about dismantling the blades and tail boom from the main frame, however it was getting late and requested an airlift by Alo from New Sarum. I knew that an Alo stripped to the bones could airlift another, as I had done this at least 4 times before !! After about an hour I was shocked to hear a Bell 205 in the distance, no way, it’s never been done by Bell. Sure enough the Bell tech came across to us and asked how I wanted this done!! Well we were ready for the extraction anyway, so the pilot positioned the Bell in a hover above the Alo, the downwash was unbelievable. I then lifted the chain attached to the main rotor head and hooked it to the Bell cargo swing under the Bell. It then lifted the Alo like a toy back to the road and recovery team. A short while later the Bell returned to collect the tail boom, other wreckage, tools and return us to the recovery team. We arrived back at ASF New Sarum at 10.30pm that night.

It was only the next morning (Monday) did I find out what had occurred in the Chikawaka that day !

Alouette 5732 was classified as a CAT 4 and was rebuilt at Rhotair to fly again.(?)

Ian Doig from Rhotair confirmed that the engine took a round through the oil return pipe and continued into the combustion chamber, hence all the smoke ! This engine was re-built with old parts as an experiment, to run on sunflower oil ?

Mrs. Mulligan was taken to Chimoio where she remained till November. She was released to the Red Cross and immigrated to South Africa on the spoils of her story to a magazine. She claimed that she had been well treated throughout her ordeal.

Thanks to Mike, Charlie, Doug, Budgie, Ian and many others for filling in the gaps and helping to record this event.

Dedicated to Mike Elsaesser and Bruce McKend. Also Ian Henderson who died in 2008 of acute pancreatic problems.

Marcus Main-Baillie

The K-Car Dalmatian was the name given to the weapon fit - 4 x .303 Browning machine guns.
The K-Car Alfa was the operational name to distinguish it from the 20mm gunship

Comment by Eddy Norris
Thanks to Marcus Main-Baillie for this story.
Marcus researched this story for a long period of time and he is to be congratulated on sticking with it till its completion.

Ian Smith Gambles -Time Magazine June 1977

Even as Britain and the U.S. continue to press Prime Minister Ian Smith's regime in Rhodesia toward accepting black majority rule, "Smithy" lashed out at nationalist guerrillas operating from across the border in Mozambique. The incident could further diminish the chances of a settlement and inflame the situation in southern Africa.

For weeks, Rhodesia's Supreme Military Commander, Lieut. General Peter Walls, had been receiving intelligence reports of a guerrilla force building up in southwestern Mozambique. Faced with a security problem that would further extend his hard-pressed troops, Walls asked Smith for permission to make a punitive raid on Mozambique's Gaza province, a key infiltration and supply route. Smith readily gave him the go-ahead. Last week the first columns of Rhodesian army trucks, carrying some 500 troops, rolled across the Mozambican border shortly after daybreak and headed toward the village of Mapai, 60 miles away. Overhead, Rhodesian air force planes provided cover, while low-flying C-47 Dakotas disgorged teams of paratroopers.

This raid was significantly different from other search-and-destroy missions the Rhodesian military has mounted in its four-year war with the guerrillas. No sooner had the troops crossed the border than the Salisbury government announced the attack—and declared that they would stay in Mozambique as long as necessary to complete the job.

News of the mission was received by many Rhodesian whites with satisfaction; successful or not, the raid was a way of venting their frustrations at living for so long with uncertainty and terror. The international response was anger and outrage. Washington publicly denounced both Smith's government and the raid into Mozambique as illegal. To emphasize the point, South Africa's ambassador to Washington, Donald Sole (who represents Rhodesia's interests), was informed of the Administration's displeasure by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Britain also sent Smith a stern message, and the two countries began drawing up a resolution of condemnation to put before the United Nations Security Council.

Mission Accomplished. Whether or not the warnings had their intended effect, the Rhodesians reported their mission accomplished after five days at Mapai, and packed up to return home. The joint operations command in Salisbury announced that 32 guerrillas had been killed and only one Rhodesian—a pilot who was shot down after taking off from the airstrip at Mapai. For its part, Mozambique reported that it shot down three Rhodesian planes and a helicopter, and engaged the Rhodesian forces in "heavy fighting." Minister of Combined Operations Roger Hawkins denied such claims, as well as Mozambique's announcement that a number of Rhodesian troops had been taken prisoner.

Considering the size and scope of the operation, there was little evidence of any major gains. Even the cache of weapons displayed from the operation turned out to be unconvincing. TIME Correspondent William McWhirter, who landed at the dusty airstrip at Chiredzi in southeastern Rhodesia, reports: "Spread out on two canvas aprons on the brown grass were two small heaps that looked like the remains from a weapons picnic or the last leftovers from some outdoor arms fair. There were a couple of rocket launchers, several assault rifles and ancient carbines, some mortars with rounds. The sad little arrangements were all there was to show from the drama and bravado of the week.

"The Communist-supplied weapons, mainly Soviet, were still wrapped in their wooden packing crates—a reminder of the fresh arsenals flowing into the frontline states. Among the prize exhibits was a deadly 14.5-mm. antiaircraft gun with glistening gold-and red-tipped bullets. There was also a Czech-made land mine of Bakelite, undetectable with any of the usual metal devices used by the army. Like the other arms on display, the weapons were newer than the Rhodesians' equipment."

In an interview with McWhirter, Minister Hawkins insisted that the raid was purely a military operation stemming "from our inherent right of self-defense." But did Smith have political motives in authorizing the mission? Western diplomats noted that the raid began the same morning an Anglo-American negotiating team, headed by British Diplomat John Graham and U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Stephen Low, left Salisbury for the Mozambican capital of Maputo. Their mission: to discuss a possible settlement with Black Nationalist Leader Robert Mugabe, head of the Zimbabwe African National Union and co-chairman with Joshua Nkomo of the Patriotic Front, the joint guerrilla force that is recognized by the frontline states as the sole legitimate liberation movement. Smith opposes U.S.British demands that any settlement include the guerrilla leaders. He wants the negotiators to come around to his own "internal solution"—meaning turning power over to black moderate Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who leads the nonmilitary United African National Council. The timing of the raid, a top Whitehall source told TIME, was "a very strange coincidence. Our assumption [of Smith's sincerity] has been badly shaken."

There was little doubt that Smith hoped the raid and its attendant publicity would boost flagging morale. More than 1,000 whites are leaving Rhodesia each month, fearful both of the expanding civil war and their doubtful future under majority rule. Others who want to stay are convinced that a quick and equitable settlement is necessary. Still, when word trickled out that "the boys" were returning from the supposedly successful raid, many whites were cheered.

Rhodesian blacks were more apprehensive. They recall a similar search-and-destroy operation last August on a U.N.-sponsored refugee camp in Mozambique that reportedly killed some 700 civilians (the Rhodesians claimed to have killed 320 guerrillas). "We fear this place could become like Angola," said a black insurance salesman in Salisbury. "Why can't they all talk? We're frightened of what might happen next." Added a leading black lawyer: "It's an open invitation to [Mozambican President Samora] Machel to get someone to help him. The danger is getting the Russians and the Cubans in. I don't believe the Africans really want them. But Smith has exacerbated the problem, and every minute lost arriving at a settlement is a minute gained for Communism."

Although the mission was humiliating evidence that Rhodesian forces can cross Mozambique's borders any time they choose, Machel's government downplayed the raid as "just another aggression." Mozambique officials believe that Smith was merely trying to up the ante by raising the stakes of Mozambique's support for the guerrillas—and perhaps forcing Maputo to seek outside help. That in turn, they theorized, would justify Smith's seeking help from South Africa. If Smith did have such a Machiavellian motive, he was apparently mistaken. A top aide said that South African Prime Minister John Vorster was "dismayed" by the raid, adding that "the last thing the Prime Minister wants is to see a full-scale Cuban or Nigerian or Somalian involvement to protect Mozambique." Already under fire from the U.S. and other Western powers for his government's apartheid policies, Vorster has enough trouble of his own.


Rhodesian use of Counter Insurgency Principles

In January 1983, Lieutenant Colonel P.A.C. HOWGILL, Royal Marine Commandos, provided the
Command and Staff College with nine principles which should be adhered to while conducting a
counterinsurgency campaign. Although the text of his class was directed toward the British involvement
in Northern Ireland, the principles have a universal adaptability. These principles will be discussed in
relation to their use during the Rhodesian War.
1.REQUIREMENT FOR GOOD INTELLIGENCE: The Rhodesians generally received high marks in
this area. Their collection agencies were divided into three groups - The Central Intelligence
Organization, Military Intelligence, and the Special Branch of the BSAP. Although some rivalry existed,
the Security Force received timely and good intelligence. The majority of their collection means involved
prisoner interrogation, aerial photography, and ground reconnaissance missions. Once the Supreme
Commander established unity of command with the Headquarters for Combined Operations, the
dissemination of this material became much more efficient.
RESPONSIBILITY: The Rhodesian government had recognized the necessity of this from the early
days of the war. When they implemented the concept, they failed to include its most important
ingredient. The necessity to ensure unity of command. As has been discussed, this was not
accomplished until 1977.
Rhodesians’ finest trait. They had the ability to gather the facts, plan a mission, organize a task
force, and strike. Much of this was driven by the nature of the war and their lack of sophisticated
equipment. Yet they had developed a unique capacity to examine a situation, and tailor a force to
counter or eliminate its threat.
4.ADEQUATE MOBILE RESERVES: They utilized the American doctrine of a helicopter-borne
reserve element (SPARROW HAWK) which was developed in the Republic of Vietnam. Due to their
inability to obtain parts and equipment, this reserve was used in a sparing fashion. Their assault
elements developed the mentality that the reserve would only be committed as an absolute last resort.
5.ADEQUATE TRAINING: The Rhodesian soldier was a much more well trained fighter than his
European counterpart. He was driven by the knowledge that the enemy was “on his door step.”
Consequently, he was a much more willing participant in the training. On an average, the minimum
instruction he received was 16 weeks. After being posted to an operational unit, the entire unit would
“stand down” for periods of retraining. Because the European population carried the major share of the
fighting, the system of national reserve training ensured that the soldier stayed proficient in his skills.
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6.GOOD COMMUNICATIONS: Although the Security Forces never enjoyed the advantage of
satellite communications, they developed an effective system of tactical and strategic
communications utilizing British, American, South African, and Israeli equipment.
7.PUBLIC RELATIONS: Rhodesia was an international outlaw. It was a nation attempting to justify
a system which had been by-passed by the 20th century. The advantage of modern
communications brought this war to the forefront of international attention. When the British crushed
the Malayan Insurgency, it was during a period when the world still accepted the vestiges of imperial
dominion. Rhodesia attempted to prolong this status in an era and a geographic location dominated by
the people who had shouldered the burden of colonialism for centuries. They made a good attempt to
justify their existence, but it was doomed from the beginning.
necessity of this principle, but they were unable to utilize it because of their lack of strength. As the
insurgents increased in numbers, the Rhodesians were forced to accept a defensive posture. They
exercised the ability to strike at the enemy in force, but they were unable to control the terrain.
9.CONTINUITY: Because of the size of the Security Force, continuity was a major advantage. The
members were familar with one another, and able to communicate in a very efficient fashion. The
National Reserve System also helped to ensure the continuity of the force.
Although the Rhodesian government and its Security Force were basically sucessf ul in their adherence
to these principles, they were simply unable to resist the flow of the 20th century.


The Rhodesian Security Forces had been conducting raids and operations into Mozambique since 1972,
but as the war intensified these operations became almost routine. Although a state of war did not exist
between Rhodesia and Mozambique, the latter was the firmest supporter of the ZANLA guerrilla
faction. On 9 May 1976 the New York Times reported:
An estimated 1000 guerrillas are inside Rhodesia. Another 1400 are thought to be
encamped across the border (in Mozambique) and anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 more
training in Mozambique and Tanzania.
As a result of the size of the nationalist element staging and training inside Mozambique, the Salisbury
government authorized its forces to begin clandestine operations inside the border regions.
Operation LONG JOHN serves as an excellent example of the type of mission mounted against guerilla
forces in Mozambique. This operation was an attack on a guerrilla transit camp at Mapai and staging
post identified as Chicualacuala. The plan involved the first use of a tactic that would become known as
the “Flying-Column Attack”. The transit camp was located approximately 60 kilometers inside
Mozambique. It was necessary to introduce a reconnaissance force into the area in order to determine the
exact location and size of the camp. It was confirmed that approximately 90 ZANLA insurgents were
staged at Chicualacuala, and a large ZANLA arsenal was located at Mapai. The confirmation of an
arsenal” meant that the attacking force would come in contact with FRELIMO soldiers of Mozambique.
The new government of Mozambique was willing to provide sanctuary for the Patriotic Front
Insurgents, but they would not allow them to travel throughout the countryside in armed groups. Their
weapons were maintained and guarded by FRELIMO soldiers, and issued immediately prior to their
infiltration into Rhodesia.
The plan involved a mechanized assault across the border utilizing armored cars, trucks, and
several buses. The attack would bypass Chicualacuala, and strike directly at Mapai. The former
would be eliminated on the return trip. On the morning of 25 June, the assault force crossed the
border, and proceeded to the Chicualacuala railway staging area where it was observed by
FRELIMO sentries. The column had the markings of ZANLA insurgents, and was not
challenged. The force reached Jorge Do Limpopo by the evening of the 25th, and established a
perimeter. At 0600, 26 June, the formation reached Mapai. A battle commenced in which several
Rhodesians were killed, but a large quantity of arms were captured, to include a number of Soviet
RPG-7 rockets.
On the return trip, the column attacked the staging camp, and killed or wounded 37 ZANLA
Insurgents. This operation was an absolute success, and the “Flying Column” became the standard
tactic for cross-border operations.2
This war reveals an impressive point concerning the limited size and nature of this conflict. The
attacking force of Operation LONG JOHN consisted of 55 Rhodesian soldiers, and approximately 8
vehicles. The only air support provided for the attacking force was a helicopter medevac for the
wounded at Mapai. The Rhodesians favored the use of its fixed wing assets on an “on-call-strip alert”
basis. The close air support aircraft were only used in an emergency situation. Helicopter vertical assault
tactics were very seldom used because the insurgents had a SAM capability, and the Rhodesians’
heliborne assets were virtually irreplaceable because of the international sanctions.
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Throughout the summer of 1976, Rhodesia became aware of a major ZANLA staging and training camp
located in Mozambique and identified as the Nyadzonya Base. This camp appeared to be the main
insurgent and logistics base for operations conducted in the THRASHER operational area. Both
aerial reconnaissance and captured guerrillas had confirmed that the camp contained a large hospital,
and approximately 5,000 ZANLA personnel.
This constituted the largest center of insurgent activity discovered to this point in the war. As a result, a
combined force was organized to include members of the RLI, RAC, SAS, Selous Scouts, and
members of selected Territorial Units. The success of the “Flying-Column Attack” during the Mapai
raid served as the basis for the tactics devised for a strike against the ZANLA forces at Nyadzonya.
Once again, air support would be provided for serious medevacs on the objectives, and close air
support would be available in the event of a dire emergency. The planning included a table model of
the camp and its surroundings. Captured insurgents provided information concerning the defenses,
positions of the armories, hospital, living quarters, the daily routine, and a general outline of the
escape drills of the ZANLA insurgents. The “Flying-Column” consisted of 14 vehicles and 85 men.
The vehicles were of two types: 10 UNIMOGS and 4 FERRET Armored Cars. The transports were
armed with a wide assortment of weapons: 20mm aircraft cannons, medium and light machine guns, and
a captured Soviet 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The men were dressed in captured Mozambique
FRELIMO uniforms with their distinctive caps (the European members of the force wore black
ski-masks). The vehicles were painted using the FRELIMO colors, and Rhodesian Intelligence had
provided genuine FRELIMO registration numbers for the vehicle license plates.
The detailed planning depended upon achieving total surprise in conjunction with both FRELIMO and
ZANLA demonstrated inability to mount a rapid response to a decisive strike. The route to the objective
utilized a secondary road which SAS Reconnaissance Units had found to be guarded and patrolled only
during the hours of daylight. Once the objective was reached, it would be necessary to destroy the
Pungwe River Bridge in order to isolate the area, and allow the column to move north from the objective
without fear of pursuit from a numerically superior force equipped with better mechanized assets.
The Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organization had established that an “all hands” formation took
place each morning at 0800. This muster was attended by everyone with the exception of cooks,
patients, and hospital staff. The assault force set 0810 as the time of attack. At 0005 on August 9, the
Rhodesian Force crossed the Mozambique border. The FRELIMO guard detachment was absent as
had been anticipated. At 0200, the convoy entered the town of Vila De Manica, and passed
without incident while returning the salutes of several FRELIMO sentries. At 0330, the
column established a bivouac several kilometers past the Pungwe Bridge. At 0700, the force
moved toward Nyadzonya without incident. By 0825, the column reached the entrance to the
camp. There were six ZANLA soldiers on duty. They should have been accompanied by two
additional FRELIMO soldiers, but they were absent. The ZANLA were never allowed to forget
that they were guests in Mozambique, and were reluctant to interfere with a FRELIMO
convoy. The Rhodesian Force was allowed to enter the camp.3
Upon entry, the vehicles moved to pre-established positions surrounding the camp. As the lead vehicle
moved forwardthe
parade ground suddenly opened up in front of them, and there were few men in the
column who did not gasp in amazement at the sight which greeted them... there could never
have been enough rehearsals... never enough briefings and mental preparations to have
readied them for the sight which met their eyes. A short distance away from them as their
UNIMOGS formed into line just off the parade ground, was the largest single
concentration of terrorists mustered which would ever be seen by any members of the
Rhodesian Security Forces, throughout the entire war. (one soldier simply commented), I
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just hope we don’t run out of ammunition.... (approximately 4000 insurgents) were milling
around the parade ground in a state of flux.4
When all the vehicles were in place, a Rhodesian soldier announced over the vehicle loudspeaker in
SHONA, the native language of the ZANLA, “Zimbabwe tatona”...we have taken Zimbabwe. The
crowd immediately began cheering and singing, and ran toward the vehicle on the edge of the parade
Soon 4000 yelling and singing terrorists were jam-packed around the vehicles and more
were streaming in from all corners of the camp.”5
Then the Rhodesians began firing with their machine guns and rifles. An 81 mm mortar section
dismounted, and fired into the crowd. The firing continued at a maximum sustained rate until all
movement in the kill zone had ceased. There was some return fire, and five Rhodesian soldiers received
minor gunshot wounds. Two Ferret armored cars had been positioned to block the escape route. These
vehicles killed an additional 150 ZANLA before the retreating crowd broke toward the river. In their
attempt to cross the Pungwe tributary, another 200 insurgents were drowned. At this point, the Security
Forces had been in the camp approximately 45 minutes. The task force had captured 14 prisoners, and a
good deal of documentation. As the main force withdrew from the camp, the Pungwe Bridge was
The Rhodesians turned north along their planned route of withdrawal. Along the road, the column
entered a village with approximately 100 FRELIMO soldiers. As the convoy passed through the hamlet,
the lead vehicle made a wrong turn, and the force drove onto a football field without another exit. A
FRELIMO officer approached the lead vehicle and offered directions. As the column began to
withdraw, two of the vehicles stalled. The FRELIMO officer became suspicious, and noticed several
European soldiers. A brief firefight ensued, and the attacking force required the assistance of a section
of Hawker Hunter jets in order to fight their way to the Rhodesian border.6
On 22 August, 1976, the New York Times reported the attack:
This was seen as the beginning of a campaign to strike out at the guerrillas before they
entered Rhodesia in small units, spreading thin the, limited reserves of the Rhodesian army.
The international condemnation of that raid, and the private protests made by South Africa,
which has feared the provoking of a wide-ranging racial war, prevented other strikes at
encampments across the Mozambique border ...(in addition), South Africa withdrew 50
helicopter pilots who had been flying with the Rhodesian Air Force.7
Both the ZANLA and ZIPRA factions claimed that Nyadzonya had been a refugee camp. In May,
1976, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had visited the camp, and
verified its refugee status. After the attack, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the High Commissioner of
UNHCR, issued a statement in Geneva.
I have no doubt that a settlement of Zimbabwean refugees which has been receiving United
Nations’ assistance was attacked, and that hundreds of refugees were killed and wounded.
To be a refugee is in itself, a tragedy. That such large groups of refugees should have been
made victims of indiscriminate bloodshed makes this incident particularly shocking and
abominable. It escapes my understanding as to what those responsible thought they were
accomplishing through such are atrocity.8
This appears to be convincing evidence that the Rhodesian Forces had attacked a refugee
center. It is balanced by three facts. The Salisbury government claimed throughout the war that
the inspection of refugee camps by UN officials was never impromptu, and that prior to these tours
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the insurgents were removed, and their families with augmentation remained. In addition, it is
interesting to note that upon Robert Mugabe’s assumption of legitimate power in Zimbabwe, this
incident was never mentioned, and there were no “war trials”. The final fact remains the most
conclusive. The official ZANLA Report, dated August 19, 1976, clearly indicates that Nyadzonya
was an insurgent camp. It specifies that on August 9 there were 5250 personnel in the camp, of
which 604 were “povo” or refugees. The ZANLA Report gives the casualty figure as 1028 killed,
309 wounded, and approximately 1000 missing. The report is exceptionally candid. The
paragraph entitled ATTITUDE OF COMRADES offers the final synopsis:
It should be mentioned once again that the comrades have only one desire, to go for
training. This desire more than strengthened after the massacre on the 9th instant. The
attitude of the comrades towards the revolution is now much deeper than before. They are
highly committed to the cause of the liberation of ZIMBABWE more than they ever were.
Keeping them in bases often referred to as “Refugee Camps” keeps robbing them of their
morale and their desire to concentrate seriously on revolutionary matters.9
This operation is examined because it illustrates the impact of the international community’s economic
sanctions upon Salisbury’s ability to wage war, and the manner in which Rhodesia compensated for this
liability. In addition, the commander of the principle combat element was Captain John Murphy,
Rhodesian Army. Captain Murphy was an American citizen who had served as a 1st Lieutenant with the
U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in the Republic of Vietnam in 1969.
He was released from active duty in 1971, and attended graduate school at the University of South
Carolina. He was commissioned an officer in the Rhodesian Army in 1975, and served until 1979. He
was commissioned in the South African Defense Force (SADF) in 1980, and died in a parachuting
accident with the SADF in 1981.
In May of 1977, it became apparent that the Rhodesian Security Forces did not possess the depth
required to stop or reduce the infiltration of insurgent forces from Mozambique into the southeastern
REPULSE operational area. It was decided that a major attack against ZANLA guerrillas in
Mozambique was required.10 Before the operation was completed in June of 1977, a total of 700
Rhodesian soldiers would have crossed the border, and participated in action against ZANLA
insurgents and FRELIMO forces.
The operation commenced on the border at Gona-Re-Zhou. The 2nd Battalion, Rhodesia Regiment,
pushed approximately 10 kilometers into Mozambique to strike at a ZANLA staging camp in order to
create a diversion. At the same time, a commando company from the Rhodesian Light Infantry would
conduct a heliborne assault on a ZANLA installation at Rio while a second commando would conduct
an airborne assault on a ZANLA base camp at Madulo Pan. The commando companies would secure
strong points at these locations. Once this was accomplished, a “Flying-Column”, under the operational
control of Captain John MURPHY, would enter Mozambique and follow the rail line as far as Jorge Do
Limpopo, destroying all ZANLA camps and installations along the route. Elements of the
“Flying-Column” would also move west to Mapai to destroy ZANLA camps in the area. The Rhodesian
Air Force would be used only in the event of an emergency. During Lt.Col. Daly’s brief to Captain
Murphy, he stated:
I made it crystal clear he could likely be in for a stickier time than he had ever dreamed
possible while serving with his old outfit...the very fine U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam.
There would be nothing to parallel the instant and massive air support he would have had
there if he got into difficulties. He would be almost completely on his own...there would be
the sparing support, on call only, of two old Hawker Hunter fighter bombers...but he
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would only be permitted them if his difficulties were in the extreme.11
The principle reason for this reluctance to use air support , was not political. It was economic.
Rhodesia lacked the foreign exchange required to buy ammunition and spare parts for the aircraft.
They remained the government’s most valuable asset, and would not be used until absolutely
The “Flying-Column” for operation AZTEC consisted of 110 men, task organized into a combat
element, supported by an organic 81mm mortar group/platoon. The unit was out-fitted in FRELIMO
uniforms, and the trucks were painted in FRELIMO patterns. On May 28, the operation commenced.
After heavy fighting, the commando units secured the strong points, and the column advanced to Jorge
Do Limpopo. The town was rapidly overrun, and Murphy learned that the main ZANLA base had been
moved to Mapai. The commando company at Madulo Pan was brought forward to secure Jorge Do
Limpopo, and the column turned west to attack Mapai.
The assault element moved toward Mapai without incident until it reached the airfield on the “outskirts”
of the city. A large force of FRELIMO and ZANLA units were well “dug in”; they were also equipped
with 61mm mortars and several 14.5mm heavy machine guns. After several hours of intense combat,
the ZANLA and FRELIMO forces were driven from the airfield, and a subsequent attack pushed them
from the city.
On May 30, one of the unique elements of this war occurred. Until then, there had been several sharp
engagements in which 32 guerrillas had been killed.13 This had been a good operation, but not
necessarily remarkable. Upon entering Mapai, Captain Murphy had captured a vast quantity of ZANLA
arms and ammunition, and his force had discovered a number of ZANLA vehicles. Captain Murphy
requested and received Dakota aircraft at the Mapai air-field to return the arms and ammunition to
Rhodesia. The aircraft also brought several teams of mechanics and drivers trained and equipped for
the specific mission of repairing and returning the captured ZANLA/Soviet vehicles to Rhodesia.
At 2000, May 30, the last Dakota was leaving the Mapai air-field when it was struck with an RPG-7
rocket. The passengers and most of the crew survived the crash. At first light, on May 31, an air force
salvage team flew to the airfield by helicopter, and retrieved every piece of serviceable equipment prior
to the final destruction of the plane. The retrieval of this equipment was considered such a high priority
that the entire combat operation halted until this mission had been completed.
On May 31, the column returned to Jorge Do Limpopo. At this point, Murphy was told to prepare for
withdrawal because of the international pressure being placed on Rhodesia by the United States and the
Republic of South Africa. Although the military was told to anticipate this order, it had not yet been
given, hence the column commander was ordered to move an additional 20 kilometers south of Jorge
Do Limpopo and destroy as much of the railway as possible within the limitations of that distance.
Captain Murphy turned south, but disregarded the restrictions on his movement. He moved to Mabalane
which was 200 kilometers from Jorge Do Limpopo. During his movement, he destroyed a number of
railroad bridges and stations. Upon reaching Mabalane, he discovered the only railway steam crane in
Mozambique. His unit destroyed it. It is interesting that this crane was replaced in a matter of months by
the Republic of South Africa. The column turned north, and moved through light resistance toward
the Rhodesian border. The operation ended on June 2, 1977.
The final evaluation of this operation was summarized by Lt.Col. Daly:
The total kills achieved on the (operation) was never accurately ascertained, but even the
minimum figures were in excess of 60. The major achievements had not been kills... it had
been the final elimination of the Mozambique railway in the Gaza Province along which the
ZANLA terrorists, their equipment and stores had been moving to the Rhodesian border,
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the destruction or capture of a large number of military vehicles being used for the same
purposes, and the capture of a vast quantity of terrorists’ war material. 14
1978 has been called the “Beginning of the End” for the white minority government of Rhodesia. By
June, Military Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Organization had completed a study which
documented that the kill ratio inside Rhodesia was significantly less than the level of infiltration.
Rhodesia was being over-run by nationalist insurgents.15 The Rhodesian Army had spread itself too
thin and had become ineffective. As a result, several new policies were instituted. The country was
reduced to vital areas. These areas included the most productive agricultural lands, the industrial centers,
and the lines of communication with the Republic of South Africa. The remaining portion of the
country would be ceded to the insurgents, and swept by the armed forces on occasion. This was a
pragmatic decision, based upon the fact that the civil administration in the abandoned areas had already
“broken down.”
The territorial units and the Rhodesian African Rifles would be responsible for operations within these
areas. The Rhodesian Light Infantry, SAS, and Selous Scouts would continue operations in the newly
established “Insurgent Liberated Areas,” and continue their raids into the Front-Line border states.16
Within the parameters of this new policy, Operation VODKA commenced. This attack was
directed against Joshua Nkomo’s ZIPRA forces in Zambia. Until this point, Nkomo’s military
objectives had remained obscure. It was felt that he was purposefully allowing Mugabe’s forces to do
the majority of fighting while holding his own in reserve and building his strength. When the ZANLA
operations had sufficiently “worn down” the Rhodesian forces, and its own strength was diminished,
Nkomo would strike. He hoped to mount a conventional invasion of Rhodesia from Zambia with the
assistance of Cuban troops and East German advisors.
As the focus of the war turned to Zambia, it became known that a ZIPRA camp had been established
approximately 140 kilometers north of the traditional Rhodesian border at Mboroma, Zambia. This camp
held a special interest because it was identified as a ZIPRA prison compound. Rhodesian Intelligence
had confirmed that members of the Rhodesian Security Forces and ZIPRA dissidents were held in this
area. The Rhodesians were anxious to free their countrymen and have the additional advantage of
gaining a great deal of information from the liberated dissidents.
The Selous Scouts, whose strength now numbered approximately 1000 men, were assigned the
responsibility for this raid. The attack would be syncronized with an air strike on the town of
Mulungushi, and an SAS assault elsewhere in Zambia as a diversionary action. Throughout the early
days of December, reconnaissance elements had confirmed 120 prisoners within a fenced camp, and
approximately 50 ZIPRA guards. The insurgents were very conscious of air activity, and had fired upon
several Zambian aircraft which had flown over the compound. The guerrillas were well “dug in,” and
armed with several Soviet 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns.
On December 22, an air strike attacked the ZIPRA barracks and non-prisoner installations.
Immediately following the air-strike, a company size element of Selous Scouts made an airborne
assault on the camp. Upon consolidation, the Scouts seized the camp while killing 18 ZIPRA
insurgents. During the initial sweep of the compound, only 32 prisoners were located. While these
men were being processed, the search teams began to prepare to detonate several underground storage
chambers. As they set their explosives, the recently liberated prisoners told them to stop.
When these chambers were examined, the Rhodesians found underground detention cells. As the
soldiers assisted men from their cells, it was obvious that some of them had not seen sunlight in
months. They were covered with their own faeces, suffered from rat and insect bites, and were
malnourished to the point of starvation.
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Many of these men had been members of the Rhodesian Army who had been kidnapped from their
home villages while on leave. A number of the dissidents were young men who were offered
educational scholarships for higher studies in Botswana. Once they entered Botswana, they were
marched to Zambia and worked in the ZIPRA Publicity Department. At this point, they were evaluated.
The zealots entered the ZIPRA forces while those who remained reluctant were sent to Mboroma for
While this operation served as an emotional victory over insurgent forces, it also marked the
beginning of a concentrated effort of the Rhodesian forces against Nkomo’s ZIPRA insurgents, and
the involvement of Zambia in the final year of the war.17
As the pressure of the war continued to turn against Rhodesia, desperate plans were introduced. The
country had held free elections, and Bishop Abel Muzorewa was elected Prime Minister of the newly
formed State of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The international community refused to recognize its legitimacy
because neither Robert Mugabe nor Joshua Nkomo were participants in the elections. Bishop
Muzorewa immediately declared an amnesty for all insurgents who surrendered to the government
forces. His offer failed. As the new government began to form a policy for the continuation of the war,
two dramatic incidents occurred which served as the final catalyst for the initiation of assassination
orders. On February 9, a commercial Air Rhodesia Viscount was climbing to altitude after taking off
from the resort town of Kariba in northern Rhodesia. It was struck by a Soviet SAM-7 missile. The
civilian aircraft was carrying 54 passengers. The plane crashed with 18 survivors. The ZIPRA
insurgents who had fired the missile proceeded to kill 10 of the 18 surviving passengers.18 Within a
short span of time, ZIPRA guerrillas downed a second Viscount. Joshua Nkomo claimed
responsibility during a radio broadcast “and horrified white Rhodesians heard him chuckle over the
The mission for the assassination of Nkomo was given to the SAS. A force of 25 men began
preparations in early April on an isolated peninsula on Lake Kariba. The raid was to be conducted with
the use of 7 Land Rovers painted in a Zambian camouflage pattern, and manned by the raid element
dressed in Zambian Army uniforms.
On April 14, a radio message from the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, confirmed that Nkomo had returned
to his residence. The operation commenced, the convoy was ferried across Lake Kariba, and landed on a
remote beach in Zambia. Reconnaissance flights had photographed a road through the “bush” which
would bypass most of the Zambian Army check points along the main highway leading to Lusaka from
the Rhodesian border. The road was almost impassable, and one of the vehicles had to be abandoned.
When the column reached the main highway, it was approximately two hours behind schedule. The
principle concern throughout the entire operation was the crossing of the bridge which traversed the
Kafue River along the Lusaka road. The bridge was reported to be protected by two Zambian Army
units stationed on either side. They were well equipped, and possessed Soviet anti-aircraft guns. As the
Rhodesian force approached the bridge, they found it was manned by a lone sentry who waved them
through his check point without incident.
At 0240, the column entered Lusaka and moved through the capital to Nkomo’s home, the Zimbabwe
House. This residence had been the former Zambian Prime Minister’s home. It was located across
the street from the residence of the British High Commission, and within several hundred meters of
the State House, the home of President Kenneth Kaunda. The lead vehicle crashed through the iron gate
of the fence surrounding Nkomo’s home. An intense fire fight began, and the insurgents proved to be
well trained and disciplined fighters. The SAS was armed with a number of Soviet RPG rockets, and
this weapon served as the decisive factor. The insurgents withdrew. As the SAS began to search the
wreckage, they realized that Nkomo was not amongst the dead or wounded.
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The Nkomo strike force withdrew, and moved to the Liberty House, which was the ZIPRA
headquarters building in Zambia. Upon entering Lusaka, a team had struck the ZIPRA Headquarters as
a secondary mission. The entire column consolidated at this point.
After the destruction of the building, at approximately 0500 the force withdrew from Lusaka with only
three casualties. The convoy crossed the Kafue Bridge, and moved to a rendezvous point on Lake
Kariba while avoiding Zambian spotter planes. Fortunately, the Zambian government believed that the
raid force had been parachuted into the country near Lusaka and obtained the vehicles on the ground.
The Zambian Army concentrated its efforts in the capital by establishing road blocks and questioning the
European population.
Joshua Nkomo claimed to be present in his residence when the attack commenced, and escaped via a
window in the rear of his home. The raiding party disputed his claim by asserting “that no one left the
building alive after the attack had begun.”20
RHODESIA): 1979-1980
Throughout the Rhodesian War, Nkomo had received considerable aid from the Soviet Union and East
Germany. This assistance included a number of advisors to his War Council which was located at his
Military Headquarters, the Liberty House, in Lusaka. These advisors were primarily Cuban and Soviet
military officers who were attached to their respective embassies.
During the early months of 1979, the insurgents were convinced that they would emerge as the victors
in their war against Muzorewa’s coalition government. The tenuous bonds of the Patriotic Front began
to dissolve as Nkomo and Mugabe focused their plans upon their attempts to consolidate their own
power within Rhodesia in order to seize control of the government once an insurgent victory was
The Soviet Union began to increase its assistance to Nkomo in order to ensure his control of Zimbabwe,
and to enhance their sphere of influence with southern Africa. Nkomo and his Soviet sponsors became
concerned over their lack of influence throughout the black population of Rhodesia in contrast to
Mugabe’s ever increasing popularity, and his recognition as Muzorewa’s most probable successor. In
order to counter ZANLA’s influence, the Soviet and Cuban advisors to the War Council provided a
complete revision to the ZIPRA Order of Battle within Rhodesia, and its long term military objectives.
This revision outlined the necessity of developing a conventional ZIPRA Army while using its guerrilla
forces to open the way for a full scale invasion of Rhodesia.
The plan was based upon the training and equipping of at least five battalions of ZIPRA soldiers which
were task-organized following the model of Soviet Motorized Infantry Battalions. It was estimated that
this would be the minumum force required to defeat both the Rhodesian Security Forces and Mugabe’s
ZANLA insurgents. The scheme of maneuver involved an assault along two axis of advance across the
Zambezi River. The first was along the northeast border to seize the airfield at Kariba while the second
would occur at Victoria Falls in order to capture the airfield at Wankie. Once this had been achieved
Libyan transport aircraft would airlift those remaining ZIPRA forces in Angola and Zambia into
Rhodesia. MIG 17, 19, and 21’s would be provided for air-support, and manned by ZIPRA pilots. It
was assumed that additional aircraft would be manned be Cuban and Libyan volunteers if they were
required. The capital city of Salisbury remained the principle objective. Once the bridgehead was
established at Wankie and Kariba, three armored columns would speed toward the capital. The first
would move directly from Kariba. The second would attack from Wankie via the city of Que Oue. The
third element would move from Wankie to Kariba in order to consolidate the northern frontier, and then
advance toward Salisbury. The second largest city in Rhodesia, Bulawayo, was by-passed because it
was in Matabeleland, which was Nkomo’ s homeland and base of power.
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In order to achieve these ambitious objectives, the Soviets took charge of training the ZIPRA
conventional forces. Two training areas were established. The first was at the former Zambian Army
Barracks at Mulungushi, and the second at the Boma camp in Luso, Angola. As the emphasis of the war
became focused upon Nkomo’s conventional forces, his ZIPRA insurgents in Rhodesia were
confronted by two serious problems which manifested themselves into a single element - ZANLA. The
ZIPRA guerrillas in southern Matabeleland were confronted by ZANLA soldiers who were pushing as
far into Rhodesia as possible in order to consolidate ZANU power.
Nkomo’s unconventional forces were required to wage war on a dual front against the Rhodesian
Security Forces, and the encroaching elements of the ZANLA insurgents. To add to this dilemma, both
of these components were much better equipped than the ZIPRA guerrilla.
Nkomo had made the decision to use the majority of his Soviet supplies to equip his conventional force.
As a result, the ZIPRA insurgents began to express their resentment against their role as an ill-equipped
force facing the enemy while their conventional counterparts enjoyed the security of Zambia. The result
was large scale desertions as the disenchanted Matabele tribesmen returned to their villages.
Once Nkomo realized the seriousness of the situation, he began to commit his conventional force. This
should have made a dramatic impact, but it did not. Nkomo had made the decision to allow his principle
guerrilla commanders in the various insurgent regions to exercise operational control over the regular
forces. This was a serious mistake. These leaders demonstrated their resentment of the newly arrived
forces by splitting their unit integrity and using them as replacements to existing guerrilla elements. Into
the midst of this situation moved the Rhodesian Security Forces, intent upon using every ZIPRA
problem to their advantage.
ZIPRA was being trained by the Soviets on their usual rigid pattern and probably, to
them anyway, any area of African bush seemed to a degree mysterious and easy to move
through without detection... even though this view certainly wasn’t held either by the
ZIPRA personnel or by the Rhodesians. The consequences were that ZIPRA regulars, on
Soviet orders, infiltrated at set crossing points, and the culling of their numbers by the
Security Forces became a daily almost boring routine. Generally, because of their lack of
subtlety and, provided one is willing to accept the evidence of one’s eyes at face value,
there is nothing particularly mysterious about Soviet tactics which are rigidly bolted to their
strategies...both are one and the same, in fact, as they try to control tactics from the top,
giving the man in the field little flexibi1ity.21
In addition to his ZIPRA regular forces, Nkomo had approximately 300 South African - African
National Congress Insurgents. They had trained and lived with the ZIPRA guerrillas since the early
1970’s in preparation for carrying the war of liberation to the Republic of South Africa. During this
period, they had entered Rhodesia and were committed to the ZIPRA operational area surrounding the
city of Gwanda. Their primary mission was to assist Nkomo’s forces in halting the ZANLA advance
into Matabeleland. At the end of the Rhodesian War, these forces were reconstituted, and were
preparing to continue their mission in the Republic of South Africa. At this point, the British
peace-keeping force that had been introduced into Zimbabwe to oversee the general elections, intervened
and caused the return of this element via RAF transport aircraft to Zambia. To the British government’s
credit, it did not allow an insurgent base to develop in Zimbabwe under its protection.
By the summer of 1979, Nkomo’s conventional forces began to mass at a complex identified as CGT-2
Camp. Rhodesian intelligence estimated that approximately 20,000 men were being assembled. It was
confirmed that MIG fighters had arrived in Zambia, and the armored vehicles which were to be
supplied to ZIPRA forces via the Zambian Army began to appear. Joshua Nkomo received an
additional impetus from the Lancaster House Peace Talks. If these talks produced a settlement, he would
need as many of his forces in Zimbabwe as possible in order to achieve majority status in Nkomo’s
traditional tribal area.
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The Rhodesian Security Forces were being assaulted from all sides. The elected officials under
Muzorewa’s government were beginning to prepare for the insurgent assumption of power. No one
wanted to be associated with the element of the white minority government which had caused the
guerrillas so much pain throughout their struggle. Yet the military remained the single cohesive element
of power within this fragile nation. Although the government was headed by a black Prime Minister, the
Rhodesian Security Force remained an instrument of the white minority. It realized that it was incapable
of halting a full scale invasion of its country by ZIPRA forces, but it could delay such an advance long
enough to persuade Nkomo to accept the conditions of the Lancaster House Settlement in lieu of an
invasion; if this occurred a peaceful transition of power under British supervision would result.
The Security Force developed a strategy which would delay ZIPRA’s use of its mechanized assets as
the basis for its invasion. The SAS, Selous Scouts, and the Rhodesian Light Infantry were tasked with
the destruction of the major bridges along the main Zambian lines of communication leading to the
Rhodesian border. This was accomplished with surgical precision under the guidance of the SAS. They
had already destroyed the road and rail bridges along the major thoroughfare which linked Zambia to
Tanzania. This had a major impact upon the Zambian economy because this route served as the primary
means of import/export exchange with the international community. In a period of approximately three
weeks, the SAS directed the destruction of 8 additional road and railway bridges in Zambia. This action
crippled Nkomo’s forces, while virtually halting all Zambian trade in the international market.22
The SAS is credited with accomplishing Rhodesia’s final military objective. Nkomo was forced to
reconsider his participation in the Lancaster Settlement; thus an “all party” agreement was signed on
December 17, 1979. On December 12, Lord Christopher Soames entered Salisbury as the British
Governor and officially returned the country to a colonial status. Great Britain’s dominon ensured the
peaceful transition of power through free elections held between February 14-18, 1980. As a result of
this vote, Robert Mugabe was elected Prime Minister, and the nation state of Zimbabwe was born.

An RLI Soldier of Note

Remembering a Soldier
by Michael Peirce
My training instructor in Rhodesia was SGT. Trevor Hodgson (Bronze Cross – the big one). He taught me, a clumsy American hillbilly (who had previously been playing bass in an LA rock band) to be a soldier. He was credited with personally killing more people than lived in the town I grew up in. Yet he was a perfect gentlemen with no annoying "tough guy" affectations.
I first noticed that he was different when I realized our training platoon was not doing the same silly things as the others. Things characterized by soldiers as "chickenshit." We were busting our butts but everything we did made sense. (I was older than the rest and given to trying to make sense out of the war – a futile exercise.) Once he marched us into the bush near our barracks and told us to look around. We did, and saw nothing. Then he walked into the bush and pulled out the numerous deadly bits of hardware that were in plain sight, had we but eyes to see. Then he had his batman, an African in a black dusty coverall, simply walk into the bush. He seemed to disappear. The war began to take on a rather serious aspect for us at that point.
Then I was assigned to help load chairs for an officer's mess "do" – and spent the day helping out himself. I saw him in his domestic world – the perfect country squire – polite to servants, genteel to women, and kind to all he encountered – except recruits. Because he knew that to be kind to us, he had to turn us into to soldiers because the only kindness that mattered was teaching us to stay alive. Yet he was never cruel.
In our first field trip (army style – battle camp near a beautiful game reserve where I was nearly trampled by an apolitical rhino – another story!) he was unsatisfied with our sense of urgency in building our "shell scrapes" (Brit for foxhole). He addressed us quietly but said "you lot have heard about me...." and held out his right hand. His ever present African batman and jack of all sinister trades handed him an AK 47. "You know what I'll do..." quoth he. We knew "what" and trembled.
Last time old Trevor had been on training troop duty it was widely rumored that he had shot up the first battle camp his recruits had made because he found it "unsatisfactory." Apparently, it wasn't a rumor. "Pooool Feengar you lot!" he shouted. (That's "pull finger" in American.) We did.
He stood over me one night as I was slumped in my own vomit and tears having gone down in a rigorous little ordeal called "change parades." He was satisfied. I'd done my best. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. "You'll lead the squad tomorrow. But first – get cleaned up and be useful. I've heard you are a musician. Write three marching songs for tomorrow!" And turned on his elegant heel and strolled out of there. One problem though, it usually took me around a month to write a song. But I delivered one, and it was well received by all. I stole it from the Rivieras:
Our NCOs are strong and mean.
The nastiest people I've ever seen.
It's all right, it's all right – it's ALRIGHT
Because we're out here having fun, in that warm Rhodesian sun!
Trevor Hodgson was content.
When I was injured in training and in danger of being sent to a soft job in motor transport I confronted him and demanded a combat assignment. He grinned at me in a way that said, "don't presume too much sonny..." but gave me what I wanted.
Next time I saw him we were both on combat ops (invading Mozambique in a rather colorful and exciting action called Operation Miracle) and he looked major froggy and totally in control. I, on the other hand, had become a "character," the COs personal shooter, and manned a big old 50 cal and added a little dash to the hq group of an armored outfit. But when I saw Trevor, even in the middle of a major op – I snapped to attention. . But his response was clear: "none of that – we're doing the same job now." Second proudest moment.
He was the meanest, toughest man I ever met. And had the best manners. He was the deadliest killer in the Rhodesian Army (no small claim) yet was the best parade ground soldier to ever stomp his foot in that appallingly difficult (to me) British Army style drill.
To a sick solder he was a doctor, to a weak soldier he was a very stern coach, to a woman he was the perfect husband and absolute gentleman. Am I idealizing this man? Absolutely.
But he'd been kicked out of Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and was running out of options. When (Southern) Rhodesia fell, the Hodgson brothers (Percy was cut from the same mold) didn't stop fighting. Trevor was killed I hear, by a rocket in Maputo in a raid with the South African Security Forces. He had no choice but to fight. Yet one is sad to think how war has deprived us of so many of these "special" people.
It was said of Marshal Murat that had he been born in another age, he'd have amounted to a whole lot of nothing. He was made for war. Well, so was Trevor Hodgson yet I can say of him that had he been born in another age – he'd have made a darn good neighbor, family man, and friend.
I miss him. One could count on him, always. Peace has been good to me. But war showed me some people I'd not have met otherwise, and I've no regrets, or only one. That they are not here to enjoy peace with me.
January 11, 2000
Michael Peirce, a Confederate-American, served in the Rhodesian Army.
Copyright 2000 LewRockwell.com