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Rhodesian Guard Force
Basic Training
4 January 1978
My first introduction to military training of any sort was when I was posted to the Rhodesian Guard Force Depot at Chikurubi just north east of Salisbury in early 1978.
The episode started about 3 months previous to this when I was issued with call-up papers to the Rhodesian military in early October 1977….I had been in the country less than 2 years and I was summoned to report for a medical in Gwelo in early December 1977. At the time I was a civilian being employed as a Shift Supervisor in the Quality Control Dept at RISCO (Rhodesian Iron and Steel Company) in Redcliff in the Midlands.
I fully expected  to be called –up and I took the summons with good heart. What I didn’t immediately realise was that the call up was for National Service which necessitated me being in the Armed Forces for a period of 2 years. I had not realised that married men over the age of 21 (I was at that time 24) were not required to do National Service to that extent but were only required to become part of the Territorial force once basic training had been completed. I wasn’t too concerned about this but I am sure my wife and children were! I contacted the Department of Defence and I was re-allocated a posting to Guard Force, I had no choice in the matter.
I presented myself to the Medical Officer at Gwelo with perhaps another 100 or so other ‘recruits’ At the gathering were Officers from Grey Scouts. As I had done some limited riding and could at least tell the ‘arse from the head’ of a horse I enquired about signing for Greys Scouts, they told me they were at that time only recruiting regular troops and declined. I was sorry about that. My medical examination went ok, although I did complain about the MO when he gave me the all OK for my hearing….I said to him that he never tested my hearing. His quipped reply was that,
‘I asked if your sight was good, you said yes, therefore your hearing must be good also.’!
It was a few weeks later that I boarded an overnight train from Que Que station to Salisbury. There were a few on the train destined for Chikurubi but I cannot remember getting into sort of conversation with them….it was a case of grabbing some sleep.
On arrival the next morning we were met by a couple of NCOs and then it was boarding some open trucks and off to the Training Depot.
As I recall there must have been at least 40 of us in that intake as we filled 2 large rectangular tents with at least 10 beds along both sides. My slot was 2nd from the front on the right hand side in tent number one. I knew I wanted to be as close to the front as possible but not the first. In the end it offered me no greater privileges as I was given responsibility for the 4X2 (rifle barrel cleaning cloths). About 15 minutes after stashing our civilian kit (we each had a large black metal trunk (no cabinets for us), we were to form up and ‘marched’ down to the QM stores to be kitted out. All kit was offered with no exception although I do not recall any pullovers being made available. Guard Force at that time was kitted out in khaki , but we knew that camouflage was available as we had seen plenty of troops at base wearing it. I immediately requested cammo kit instead and was given it…..after that most guys handed in their khaki items for the ‘real’ stuff.
That first evening was spent ‘re-sewing’ all the buttons on the kit…they were likely to fall off otherwise.
The following day we were issued with our personal weapons (Heckler and Koch G3 7.62mm). These were expected and although not brand new they were in very good condition. We had to memorise the weapon number as losing it would be a very big problem. I had no problem with this but could never remember it now. We had to have it with us at all times and even ‘sleep’ with it. As I said I was in ‘control’ of the 4X2 and always had issues controlling the issue to all and sundry. I think we spent the rest of the day becoming familiar with the workings of the weapon. We were issued with empty magazines after a few days.
The men in the Intake were from a varying degrees of background. I think the average age was about 30 and I was certainly the youngest at 24, I think the oldest was at least in his late 30’s. There were mostly Rhodesians or British, South Africans, with a fair number of Portuguese. We certainly had a Swiss national, a New Zealander, and a Frenchman. I was one of two Scotsmen. I think the other Scots name was Gallagher and he worked for the main vehicle battery manufacturer in either Gwelo or Bulawayo.
There never seemed to be any bad feelings or disagreements amongst this motley crew.
(To be continued)
George Parker September 2014




History is by definition a chronicle of the past and memories are made of this. Guard Force is a personal memory of a chapter in Rhodesia’s history the details of which fade with the rigor of time. This little memoir pays scant heed and certainly improper justice to the very real and lasting human tragedy evolved of a civil war fought and lived through those years ago so I apologise for this.

Rhodesia sic is probably as much a conundrum today as it was back then? As Life and time are inexorably linked perhaps humans might be considered victims of time? I have decided to simply jot down some of the lighter moments remembered of those days back in 1979.

January 1979 found us drafted as 18 and 19 year old conscripts into The Rhodesia Armed Forces-intake 163 I think- to contribute our bit to the defence of the country, as indeed many had done before. Intake 163 –Rhodesia Guard Force- was white i.e. ethnically European whilst the G.F Unit itself was probably 90% black African? We started our basic training at Chikurubi (Prison farm) out on the Arcturus Road in Salisbury as this was where Guard Force Regimental Depot and Training Centre were.

Our barracks consisted of two large Rooney’s marquees, of the type hired for weddings and things. They leaked a bit, sometimes a lot in a thunder storm, but we didn’t mind. A Rhodesian boiler serviced the open-air showers and we had bucket type lavatories which had to be emptied by hand. We were issued with ancient SLR rifles which didn’t work very well and initially used the Cleveland Range for live weapons drill and target practice. Battle-Camp took place on a tobacco farm near Mermaids Pool out on the Shamva Road. There we ran everywhere, made warrior type noise and practiced bush warfare using live ammo, grenades, claymores, 60mm mortars and other such lethal ordinance we couldn’t use at Chikurubi.It rained a lot, was quite tiring but good fun as nobody fired back at us-on purpose anyway!

Moving to 2 nd phase training- things got a bit more serious- endless drill and morning parades, tedious inspections, lots of smoke breaks, boring lectures and much more range practice, this time at an army base near Darwendale? By now we all had the G3A3 rifle instead of the SLR.I didn’t like my G3 very much as it tended to jam, it rattled and was made mostly of plastic. More importantly though we became experts at finishing the impressive GFRD assault course in an acceptable time.

Of significance for 1979 black (African) Rhodesians now trained with us. Cloud M. once confided that some of the others thought it odd that a black and a white should be friends? We must have been friends I guess as he borrowed my coveted Phillips pocket shaver prior to important occasions like CO’S inspection. His spoken English was excellent-sorry Horst. As the weeks passed we were to discover that very occasionally Warrant Officer R.Atkinson showed just a glimmer of humour which was very disconcerting. Bernard disturbed a nest of wild bees whilst on our last battle-camp exercise- Richard (training officer) was livid, almost as furious as the bees. Forced to abandon the mission we took cover from the swarming insects, all except Duffy who ran to Bernard’s rescue brandishing a burning* branch. Bernard might well have perished that day - so badly

stung he looked like a singed*hairy caterpillar prior to casevac.

And so we passed-out of Chikurubi-some of us to join 1 st Infantry Battalion- Mtoko. From there we moved to our forward bases via Mrewa.

Mashambanaka sic and Mutawatawa Camps were supposedly in a liberated zone-whatever that meant. I remember many destroyed causeways and ruined bridges and that the dusty, corrugated gravel roads were liberally mined and had wide trenches dug across them. It took hours to travel just a short distance. We had some contacts but nothing terribly serious. I once had the bright idea of running up the Rhodesian flag, our GF flag? and those of the units we shared camp with i.e. Police and Intaf -but got Intaf’s upside down-sorry for that. Someone then liberated the flags! Cloud somehow tangled with a conventional lima-mike in his borrowed PATU Hyena. Luck had it that we were close enough to react quickly to his location where he was found, grumpy and covered in dust but otherwise uninjured-unlike his vehicle! He mentioned crossly that it was my fault for some reason? Sorry Cloud- but on the positive we did recover the vehicle so not all bad. We and other units lost precious vehicles to centre-blast explosive devices, usually triggered by simple but cunning pressure-plate contraptions.

Our short COIN adventure came to an abrupt end as we were suddenly redeployed to the south of the country this time on Rail Protection duties- Gwelo (Dabuka) to Beitbridge. At this time I transferred to 1 st Battalion HQ Rutenga together with another chap, Paul (French name?) a capable and amicable person. He and several other resourceful individuals were to leave Guard Force and the bush war shortly afterwards as they had completed their 18 months National Service. This left a gap but we wished them well of course. Our little convoy out of Mtoko travelled through Salisbury to Fort Victoria and comprised of Swift Transport, several civilian buses, some elderly Pumas, a few Nissan/Isuzu flatbeds and a couple of trusted Kudus. Surprisingly and despite a dusk skirmish just outside Fort Vic we arrived safely- well almost-a Swift driver sustained shrapnel wounds and a civilian family of four were rescued as their car tyres had been punctured.

Rail Protection was very different to what we had become accustomed and there were some tragic moments, not all born of direct conflict, which left scars that probably not even time could heal. 9RR (Rhodesia Regiment) practically owned Rutenga and its airfield and comprised of reasonably pleasant and seasoned Rhodesians-mostly family men from Bulawayo who had rotated in and out of call-ups for years. They found sharing their camp with Guard Force very annoying but we didn’t really care. They were good people though and they had night vision binoculars-they really did!

And so my year’s National Service came to an end. Thinking about it now I’d encountered many colourful and interesting characters along the journey, most of whom had been fair and pleasant comrades, so thanks for that. All things considered Intake 163-Rhodesia Guard Force-Infantry, Farm Protection, Rail Protection …… achieved a great deal with very little and that’s probably what really mattered in the end. History is what it was -MAKOROKOTO


November 2018

Snr Cmdt John Steuart: OC GF Signals Section

Pic courtesy of Craig Fourie

Pictures below were kindly supplied by KC Eddie Mendes. Pictures taken at GFTC Chikurubi (GF 11) Jan 1978

Cadet Norman? (standing Left), Cadet George Parker (kneeling front) Can anyone identify the others?
These were the weapons we were initially issued with.....these were NOT the condition of the weapons we were eventually issued with prior to any subsequent deployment!

Above pic is of Chikurubi Training Depot with Intake GF 17 (August 1978) courtesy of Amadeu Dino Goncalves

Keep Commander Eddie Mendes

Keep Commander Eddie Mendes (right) We need an ID on the other KC.


Early Passing Out Parade' at GFTC, Chikurubi

                                                                    INTAKE 160                                                                            

08JAN  -  03 MAY  1978  at  


ONE OF OUR INTAKES – That is when and where military service for quite a few of our Guard Force soldiers started. Some of them paid the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our country.. They fought and died as soldiers. Some of us still remember their faces and comradeship we shared with them more than 35 years ago. Let us try to call the names we remember.

Snr Comdt Horst Schobesberger remembers :

J.F. BOLD :  GP 9 Mount Darwin, based at the GP HQ at the Airfield.

P.J.LYNCH :  GP 7 Mudzi, injured in an vehicle ambush on the 23 SEP 1878 at the Mudzi River close to the Mocambique border.

E. PAPADOPOULOS : GP 7 Mudzi, a cool operator during the vehicle  ambush on the 23 SEP 1978 at the Mudzi River close to the Mocambiquan border.

JNR COMDT  M.R. WOOD : GP 7 Mudzi and GP 9 Mount Darwin at the Bveke Reaction Force Base [ as confirmed by Sgt Juergen Winkler ]

COMDT  R.H. ATKINSON : Instructor and Trg Officer at GFRD Chikurubi [ as confirmed by A/Comdt Mark Axworthy ]. Coy Cmdr A-COY / 1 BN at Mrewa and Somabula and later Coy Cmdr D-COY / 3 BN [ as confirmed by GF list CC ].


DEREK  STREAK   [ reported for website duties on his own ] confirmed that soldiers of this intake did not go through a training period at the GFRD Chikurubi but were deployed direct to their postings after finishing their training at LLewellin Barracks.

G.P. OXLADE : GP 4 Honde [ as confirmed by D.Streak ] and GP 6 Mtoko [ as confirmed by Sgt J Winkler ].

MARK  SHAPLEY : Comdt Mike Howlett remembers that M.Shapley, one of his best schoolfriends, was killed in a Landmine incident in the GP 3 Chiredzi area when travelling in one of the early Kudu models.

JAN  PORTEUS :  Comdt Mike Howlett and Derek Streak remember that he was involved in a Landmine incident in the GP 4 Honde area. See website PV / GP 4 Honde.

NIK  MORTON : Comdt Mike Howlett remembers him when they were involved in an Vehicle Ambush in the GP 8 Beitbridge area. See Website PV / GP 8 Beitbridge.

(Black and white photos below courtesy of  Contact II , by Paul Moorcraft)

                Vehicles commonly used during operations
                                      Weaponry used

NATO 7.62mm Heckler and Koch G3

.303 BREN

Above mug from Intake GF2 from the collection of Patrick Bryan

Rhodesian Guard Force
Basic Training
March 1979

Above picture kindly supplied by Walter Specht

This picture was taken at Chikurubi during basic training. From left James Darr, sitting behind, Avi Cohen, Walter Specht 2nd from right. I don't remember the other names.

Mar 79, Training Camp Chikurubi, Intake GFR22
From left: Mills from Scotland, me, (Walter Specht). de Ridder from Australia, James Darr from the USA, Eddie Miles from Newcastle, Tony Crow from Gwelo (pic supplied by Walter Specht)