News‎ > ‎

Jnr Cmdt Gary Rees Rendition








































The following is kindly submitted by ex Jnr Cmdt Gary Rees from his notes on his career within Guard Force. We are indebted to Gary for this very comprehensive and interesting piece on his experiences within the unit.  Please note that none of this may be reproduced without the Author's permission.


 

--҈--҉--҈--

-        THE FOURTH FORCE -

RHODESIAN GUARD FORCE

- Rhodesian Guard Force Lament -

‘Our blood ran red, the same as theirs, the spiteful crack of our .762s spat the same death, or maimed the enemy just as badly as their rounds. Denigrated, lampooned, and subjected to ridicule by the other Defence Forces, yet more often than not we were the only white man in our hostile environment for weeks on end. Often, unable to communicate with our indigenous guards in the vernacular, we were cursed with involuntary solitary confinement, a perfect breeding ground for negative, psychotic thoughts and images. Like the proverbial Albatross the burden of isolation and stress was, for some a cross too much to bear, and they left our glorious land forever. Their departure simply increased the weight of the albatross for those of us who stoically remained, hoping one day, justice and common sense would once again prevail.’

J/Commandant Gary (Randy) Rees

Ex Rhodesian Guard Force

CIVILIAN AT WAR

T

hese are my recollections of events, situations, locations and above all the people I served with, was associated with, or simply heard of during the Rhodesian Bush War. I make no apologies for what you the reader may discern and dispute as inaccuracies as nearly four decades have been consigned to history since these events occurred. However, I have attempted - from whatever sources I’ve had available – to be as accurate as I can. Circumstances and situations resulting from the Winds of Change that blew down my Africa have exacerbated my researches even with the wonders of the internet.

For my own benefit and the possible edification of readers I have also included a brief synopsis of my time in the ‘military’ in Northern Rhodesia and my National Service in South Africa.

NB:-

To add credence to various recollections, I have used, WITHOUT formal permission, some photographic copies I found while surfing websites on the Internet. Should any photographer take umbrage at my use of his/her photo/s then should they contact me in that regard I shall remove their photos from this synopsis with immediate effect from the date of notification. My email address is: garyrees61@gmail.com.


My GSM Medal showing the obverse and reverse sides, my slide, informal ribbon and my ‘Dog’ tags

 

 

 

 

RUDE AWAKENING AND EARLY MILITARY HISTORY

 

M

y introduction to the Guard Force was not auspicious as majority of my civilian mates – serving with Rhodesian Regiment Battalions, Grey Scouts, Selous Scouts, Recce Commando, BSAP and Airforce - advised me I had been called up to the Wank Force, the Garden Force or even the Blind and Crippled Force. I was physically an A+ Cat and not enamoured by any of the sobriquets I heard in reference to the Guard Force.

I had immigrated to Rhodesia from Durban, South Africa – my home town - arriving two days after Operation Hurricane was officially declared during December 1972. As a South African my understanding when I immigrated to Rhodesia was that I was exempted from Military Service for the first five years of residency.

Though I understood the concept of military life which consists of lots of hurry up and wait, being required to respect people one had little time for, carrying out a myriad pointless exercises to satisfy someone’s ego, etc, I much preferred my civilian lifestyle where at least I was able to control my own destiny and was quite content to see out my 5 years exemption before committing to the Defence Forces in Rhodesia.

I received a brown envelope through the mail which contained a rude awakening. The President and Prime Minister were inviting me to forego the time I still had available to me as an immigrant and the letter suggested I report to the Drill Hall for a medical test. The time had come in Rhodesia when the net was enlarged to sweep up many more men to assist with the war effort. I was caught up in the 25 – 38 age group and 1000 of us had to report to the Old Drill Hall in Salisbury for a medical examination. I was past as an A+ Cat (super fit category). I was very fit as I played a lot of disparate social sports which enabled me to hone up the use of majority of my muscles and also kept my eye/hand coordination up to scratch. For endurance I competed in various ‘marathons’ from 5 km charity runs to a full blown 42 Kms.  Being young, fit and healthy I assumed I would be posted to a Rhodesian Regiment Battalion or at the very least the BSAP – PATU, Blackboots, etc, never Internal Affairs (Intaf) or dear God no; the Guard Force.

Soon after I knew my medical results I received another brown envelope and this one contained an instruction advising me I had to report to Chikurubi Training Depot where I was to report to the senior Training Officer of the Guard force. So much for trying to analyse the military logic for here I was an A+ Cat being called up to the Guard Force. It was revealed during basic training that we were the first intake containing A Cats as the powers that be realised they needed to uplift the calibre of the Guard Force officers (both commissioned and non-commissioned). As memory serves me there were some fifty of us on the training course, but of those only a dozen or so were A Cats. As I recall there were only 6 A+ Cats among us and of them three could claim their fitness through the type of work they did for a living whereas only three of us could claim to be actively involved in lifestyles where we used our bodies for our entertainment through sport. One of the 6 A+ Cats though sporting was lacking in eye - hand coordination though fit enough to run all day long.

At Chikurubi my worst fears were confirmed – my ‘civvy,’ mates were right; majority of the ‘men’ on course with me were the leftovers, has-beens or unwanted and pretty damn terrifying as so many were incapable of being real fighting men. I vowed to myself as soon as my basic training was at an end I would volunteer for the Selous Scouts Selection Board – at least from what I had heard they were well trained and likely to survive the war.

My application to the Selous Scouts never materialised for two reasons:

At the end of our basic training, Sergeant Gavin Ford said to me he understood my reasoning for wanting to join a better trained and equipped unit but said until fit men like me decided to remain in the Guard Force it could never change its image or morale, which as things stood was not totally undeserved. Though I sympathised with him I only had one life and seeing the quality of the men around me I still wanted to break away so I had a better chance of surviving the war.

The other reason I remained with the Guard Force was not altruistic or realistic but unashamedly materialistic. I worked for the TA Group of Companies in the TA Management Services Company at the time. When I explained my position to my boss he advised me the Group would support me by continuing to pay me my usual salary if I was called up for the Guard Force, as the Ministry of Defence had allocated me to the Fourth Force and in addition I could keep any military pay I received as a bonus for putting my life on the line for Rhodesia. However, should I volunteer to complete the Selous Scouts Selection Board or some similar specialist unit TA would not pay me anything and it was likely they would release me from employment. It was a quite reasonable situation as members of the specialist units – Selous Scouts, Recce Commando, and SAS - were on constant standby and could be called up within the hour.

As I worked in the Accounting and Administrative sector to be called up with such short notice was simply untenable – this was proven later when, even though I was operating on a four weeks at work six weeks at war basis I was still required to work for 18 hours for three consecutive days in order to complete the Annual Accounts for the group of companies I was seconded to look after. On one occasion I was even offered a free flight to Kariba where I was competing in the Annual Tiger Fishing Competition, if I would complete the accounts before I went off. I declined the offer, worked all through the Friday and night before arriving at my friend’s house at half past six on Saturday morning as we had agreed to set off at seven o’clock. The accounts were completed and I was completely knackered.

Fortunately we were calling in at Sinoia where we would collect two more of our fishing team. I dozed to Sinoia and then slept heavily all the way to the Makuti turn off. We had a very nice relaxing time at Kariba but we had no chance of catching any Tiger fish let alone winning the competition as too many of the team were there simply to have fun.  My friend was quite wealthy and always had the latest innovation on the market. At the competition we were out in his boat – a Caravelle - which he insisted on driving at full throttle. If that didn’t scare off the fish, his Boom – Box Master Blaster certainly did. When he turned it on he had obviously pre-set the volume to full bore and the racket was so loud every bird in the neighbourhood left for more tranquil climes. I don’t believe there was a fish within several kilometres of us. It was nice in the sun at least and if my friend wanted to advertise our presence to the CTs he was certainly making a very fine job of it.

I’m sure there are some readers who believe I and others like me had a cushy number returning from the war after a 6 week call up to spend 4 weeks of R & R, relaxing and recuperating. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were still operating the largest Rhodesian owned Group and were determined to be successful despite the war. To do so meant very hard work by all of us. I was a bachelor and as such often covered for married men to allow them to take their families on holiday. The only holidays I took during the war were Public Holidays that fell on working days. After the war I took a world tour lasting a week short of 4 months using up some of the leave I had accumulated during the war.

Because I enjoyed my civilian life, afforded by the money I earned there was no way I was going to prejudice my lifestyle by joining a specialist unit. I’d do my bit for Rhodesia but a professional soldier I was not. Being a senior manager meant that I had some cognitive powers and I bent these to assisting me in deriving a plan to survive the war while serving in the Guard Force.

Through the advice and generosity of my civilian mates I managed to better prepare myself by obtaining pieces of equipment the Guard Force simply did not issue to us. These included camouflage uniforms – at the time of my initial call up the Guard Force were still dressed in Khaki, I still have my khaki battle jacket which I use when carrying out house maintenance or fishing during the winter, all the pockets are very useful. I also purchased a camouflage battle waistcoat which served me well during the war. It was hell to wear as it was padded for comfort but the padding made it very hot, however, when stalking or tracking through the bush with the prospect of hot lead singing past the ears the heat issue got confused with the adrenaline rush and simply disappeared. The waistcoat contained numerous pockets and clips so I could carry spare socks and underpants, a poncho, a sleeping bag, two spare water bottles, six loaded magazines as well as 100 spare rounds. A medical pack including a snake bite kit. Half a dozen sticks of biltong, two packs of cigars – Country Club, what else, and though these were marketed in Rhodesia as Country Club I started smoking them in South Africa where they were sold as Rhodesia Club. Of course I also carried a small note book and a couple of pens and pencils. I had also purchased a ploughshare knife which being made of tempered steel maintained a razor sharp edge. Later on I created a lightweight yoke for myself which carried my knife, six magazines, a water bottle and a pouch filled with chopped up biltong sticks and a spare pack of cigars. When I travelled about I would wear the yoke and take along my waistcoat as backup.

Because we were such a Cinderella Force we were issued the bare necessities only so I developed a habit of purloining anything I considered useful for my men and their survival or comfort, irrespective of the source. It was a trend I developed throughout my service and one of the men in my command  - Eddie Mendes - labelled me the Hijacker - he claimed if it wasn’t guarded or nailed down I would uplift it to make our survival that much easier. I recall uplifting sundry materiel and even once, a Puma which saved us a lot of walking for about a week until the authorities collected it after admonishing me.

Anyway, long story short, I decided to remain with the Guard Force.

CHIKURUBI

BASIC TRAINING

I

had received the inevitable letter in the mail advising me I had to report for basic training at Chikurubi during the first week of July 1977. My intake was GF7 and I believe the intakes continued well into the 20s as well as other intakes being trained at the School of Infantry at Llewellyn Barracks near Bulawayo.

CHIKURUBI TRAINING CENTRE

T

he main training facility was designed for the mass of African guards forming the majority of the Guard Force. We were trained as Keep Commanders and Deputy Keep Commanders. These ranks were equivalent to Warrant Officers in the Army (Reference Rhodesian Defence Force Discipline Regulations 1978) Keep Commanders were equivalent to Sergeant Major First Class and Deputies to Sergeant Major Second Class, however the responsibilities, appointments and pay structure were distinctly different. Our training was to prepare us to command a small contingent of African guards and through them offer security for the protection of several thousand locals confined to a protected village. Generally each Protected Village was staffed by a Keep Commander - sometimes supported by a Deputy - to take care of the security aspects while an Intaf Senior Vedette, supported by a team of District Assistants, was in charge of all civil and administrative aspects, reporting to the DC or PC in the area. Sometimes a Brightlight - BSAP reservist - would be stationed at the village, generally with a regular Constable in tow.

ACCOMMODATION

A

s memory serves me the Training Centre Headquarters consisted of some wooden edifices from which the Training and Administration elements operated. These included offices for the senior Training Officers, Pay Office and Infirmary. There was a large building which housed the ‘Q’ Stores and Armoury and in addition there were some tent classrooms and a couple of other wooden buildings, one of which was the Officers Mess – not sure if it was only for commissioned officers or not. Standing in front of the buildings, looking towards the main ingress there was a large parade ground to the right and to the left was a field where the CABS buses taking the troops to the front lines waited before departing to various theatres. Beyond the field was the Assault Course – we were the first Group to initiate the Assault Course and as far as I am aware three of us still hold the record for completing the full course in record time, more about the Assault Course later.

Away from the Guard Force Administration block after the Assault Course past the Prison Services HQ was the Internal Affairs (Intaf) HQ. Their Administration buildings were made of bricks, as were their barracks and ablution areas and their dining hall and barroom. In front of the Intaf Barracks, three large marquee tents had been erected on a bed of shale. These were to be our home during our basic training – July is during the Rhodesian winter and though it may not freeze as many Northern countries do it could be bloody cold, especially in the early morning or after sundown. Within each of the first two tents there were two rows of beds to accommodate us. As I recall there was around twenty six of us in each tent. Each bed had what appeared to be a thin horsehair pallet serving as a mattress and a single feather pillow. Within the third tent the beds had been stacked up, indicating it was not in use.

The tents had been erected with the northern end almost against a stone wall segregating the accommodation from the general acreage of the farm. Opposite at the southern end were the entrances to the tents.  Being winter the sun appeared to travel in a more northerly arc as it was summer in the northern hemisphere. Because of this from around 3 o’clock it was already dark enough inside the tents to turn on the lights. Each tent supported only three 60w globes which cast an almost ethereal light inside the tent. This was very useful when we were inspected as the light was so muted it hid many imperfections. In front of the tent there was a shale area large enough for us to carry out our morning PT loosening up exercises.  Standing in the tent entrance looking outward to the right there was a corrugated building which was our ablution block. It contained three showers, four wash hand basins, three toilets and a urinal. There was no lighting in the ablution block and it was a breezy place at best. As I recall there was no hot water for the showers or for shaving. So cold showers again, something I’d learnt to endure during my National Service basic training at Voortrekkerhoogte, near Pretoria in South Africa. Strangely enough that was also in July, though there the fire buckets did freeze over. I know, as once for punishment all English speakers in our bungalow had to rise in the dark at 3.30am and having broken the ice we then had to use the freezing water to wash the tar road outside our bungalow.

I like to push the boat to the limit sometimes and I’d grown a beard just to see what reaction it would invoke. If as I suspected I would have to shave the beard off I did not relish the prospect of doing so in water heading towards freezing. I was correct and later I was given very short shrift and told unless I could produce a doctor’s certificate showing why I needed to wear a beard it had to come off. As a concession I was allowed to maintain my moustache, like a brush under my nose, no air-force sweeps or extended mutton-chops. Fortunately I managed to shave my beard off with hot water which was a relief I can assure you.

Alongside the northern side of the tents there was a stonewall segregating the tentage from the general acreage of the farm. Over the wall there was a piece of vacant land with some pine trees growing intermittently on it. Having arrived by car, the gate guard directed me to the tents and I drove alongside the wall separating the piece of land from the tents. I parked my car and decided I’d see how the land lay before disconnecting my battery as I intended to keep my car close to hand for the duration of my training.

I had purchased a ubiquitous black tin trunk – every school boy and girl attending boarding school in Southern Africa and even in Northern Rhodesia had one as well as many others attending colleges and so on - they were also very popular with the indigenous locals as they were robust and easy to handle. In my trunk I had brought a tracksuit and a sleeping bag as well as a beanie and a pair of gloves. I also had several pairs of underpants and socks, in case we weren’t issued them. I had a couple of towels and my toilet bag, including a battery operated shaver and some luxuries like biscuits, a good supply of cigars and a couple of books to read. I would keep my trunk and personal goods in my car boot until after we had been kitted out and then I would supplement myself as needed.

I have always been early for appointments as I loathe tardy people, so I must set an example. Because of my fetish I was first of our call up to arrive and so I inspected my environment. It didn’t take me long to work out that we were definitely the poor relations compared to the Intaf men. In front of the tent closest to the western side was a roadway and across the road were the Intaf quarters which I went to investigate. There was an ablution block, barracks, dining hall and bar. I thought the bar would be out of bounds for us Guard Force but I guessed we would be sharing their dining hall as we had no facilities at our tents or at the Administration block.  I came across an Intaf recruit and on asking him he told me we would be invited to the bar as long as we respected the Intaf rules. As I had suspected we would share the dining hall and be responsible for cleaning our own pig pans. He said the barracks were definitely out of bounds but he didn’t mention using the ablution block. My investigation revealed the luxury the Intaf trainees had over us. In the barracks there were no horsehair pallets for them, their beds all had dunlopillo mattresses, though they too had the same shitty pillows we’d been issued. Their ablution block was terrific. Hot and cold water for both showers and wash hand basins, a dozen cubicles with proper lavatories and plenty of loo paper and a tiled urinal. There was even soap provided in the showers and at the basins. They were very keen on promoting hygiene it seemed; unlike the Guard Force. There was also a huge mountain of towels and a large basket with a sign saying ‘used, wet towels for laundry collection’. Banks of lights crossed the ceiling.

Anyway being the ‘Hijacker’ I checked out the lay of the land and seeing no one around I quickly purloined one of the mattresses and secreted it in my car boot. I at least would sleep comfortably at night. I had also decided I would be using the Intaf ablution block from the beginning, I just had to work out when would be the best time. Luckily each shower had a full door affording privacy and also keeping the water inside the cubicle.

I returned to a small rocky outcrop in front of the tents where I perched and had a cigar while I waited for other recruits to arrive. Some Portuguese arrived and three of them claimed a bed each in the west tent. I decided to lay claim to a bed in the east tent, two beds from the far end, away from the entrance I claimed the third bed. A few others arrived including friends, Rod and Henry – can’t recall their surnames. Rod had served in the RLI some years before but was doing something in Civvy Street and Henry worked for Rhodesian Railways. They asked me what was potting so I explained which bed I’d claimed and Henry claimed the one next to me and Rod the furthest from the entrance. A chap called Peter (I think his surname was Drew) from Umtali appeared and he claimed the bed next to me, nearer the door.

Next to arrive was Dirk Botma. He was a South African like me and had also done his National Service. I knew him from Civvy Street, not by name but by sight. In my social sporting life one of the games I played was social hockey – each team was required to field a minimum of four girls. The team I played for used a school field as our home ground and of course it had no facilities for a drink or even toilets available to us. This was not an issue as the Red Fox hotel was close by and we made that our home base for socialising after we had finished our game. Not being too shy and having matured early in life I arranged with the Landlady for a couple of platters of snacks for free when we called after our home game. At first she was leery but soon realised not only did the platters improve the consumption of alcohol but also stirred the taste buds of many of the players and their partners who came to join them after the game. This resulted in a number of meals being sold which normally would not have occurred. After the initial socialising with the other team we would play darts. Sometimes against players from the other team or if they left early, amongst ourselves. You may wonder what this has to do with my memories of the Guard Force, well listen up as I unfold my story. Usually on a Thursday we would play at home and meet at the Red Fox. It just so happened that often on a Thursday Dirk and some mates would arrive to play darts. Being amiable we would give up a board so they too could enjoy themselves. That’s how I knew Dirk before call up.


Dirk and Big Dave observing our accommodation. The green marquee was our ‘home barracks’.

Dirk wanted to know what the scene was and so I explained what I’d discovered, though I didn’t divulge my plans to make life easier for myself. Within minutes he was off to his van and when he returned he had some tools, a tin of sockets and a reel of flex. In short order we had rigged up a line from the first tent to the ablutions block. I discovered Dirk was an electrician in Civvy Street and the task of installing the lights was too easy. A big improvement to the situation but I still intended to use the Intaf ablution block. We had just completed installing the lights when a few more recruits turned up. Among them was Pete Twiddle, he was a jovial giant who had once been a member of the BSAP. He lost the plot once during our course and later we discovered he was under enormous stress as he’d received a Dear John letter from his wife. He was not alone and a number of men received Dear John letters, some like Pete did their best to reverse the situation. Whether Pete succeeded or not I have no idea for after basic training I never saw him again. Sadly many wives – rightly or not – used the call up situation to end their marriages. It was not a situation unique to Rhodesia and I have read many accounts of Dear John letters from the First and Second World Wars. I am not blaming the wives entirely as often in bad marriages, frustration or whatever, causes the man to lash out at the woman. Generally woman are more forgiving than men and accept the entreaties of their men that they will change and never raise a hand against them again – until the next time. With the man being away at the pleasure of the President, often the woman would take the opportunity to break the shackles once and for all.

 In the group arriving with Pete was an Englishman – Jim Lawrence. Jim worked for a poultry farm just outside Salisbury on the Bulawayo road. When he had first come to Rhodesia he had joined the Prison Service and was stationed at Chikurubi. Jim was well set up and apparently at some event the Prison Service were holding, an associate who had drunk too much, past a disparaging remark about Jim’s wife. Jim reacted very quickly and he nearly killed the associate by cutting off his head with the broken glass from the window through which Jim had knocked the lout. Other colleagues realised how enraged Jim was and they reacted quickly to prevent him from committing murder. Jim was beyond reason and reacting like an atavistic barbarian and so his colleagues went at him with batons. The upshot was Jim’s face is covered in scars, a memento of that terrible night. Needless to say Jim was released from the Prison Service and as I said he worked for the poultry farm. He was very worried while on call up as his wife and kids were left on the farm. They were not entirely on their own as there were some other workers also living on the farm but the farm had been attacked a couple of times before and Jim was petrified he would be posted in one of the war zones away from Salisbury. In the event he transferred to the Pioneer Corp and managed to work days returning at night to protect his wife and kids.

Finally the rest of the group turned up and we all stood around wondering what the hell was going on. Some had been waiting since 9 o’clock in the morning whereas I had been there since seven thirty. By nine thirty all recruits were present but unlike me most just complained and did nothing to resolve the situation. I’d figured out where the Intaf had their morning tea and accompanied by Dirk and Jim I led the way behind their dining hall with Big Dave trailing along. A request and a smile and we were all having a tête-á-tête and some lovely hot tea.


Picture shows Big Dave (to the right) snivelling some tea at the Intaf ‘tearoom’. In the background other recruits get to know some of the Intaf recruits. The Fellow in front of Dave was a recruit in Intaf – different hat with a red band

At lunch time once again Dirk, Jim and me set off for the Intaf Mess Hall. A couple of other recruits followed us but the bulk were too afraid to leave the tents. Not causing any ructions, being polite and friendly earned us the right to a meal. Before we knew it mid – afternoon arrived and nobody from the Training Depot had come to welcome us or even to see if we had turned up. I was getting a bit peeved as were some of the others but no one was prepared to make a positive suggestion. Having always been independent I simply headed off for the Training HQ and soon I was joined by Dirk and Jim and we went in search of some Training ‘Wally’. That was the beginning of a friendship that was to remain through our first call up and second call up, right until the end of which was the last time I ever saw Jim or Dirk. I learned Dirk left Rhodesia for Germany. He was a freefall skydiver with over one thousand jumps and he wanted to join others to create a world record for the number of divers who could link up while falling before breaking to open their chutes to land safely. Jim simply disappeared and I have no idea where he went or if he remained in Rhodesia.


Picture shows yours truly standing on the left, third from left is Dirk Bothma and on his left (fourth from the left) is Jim Lawrence, we were best mates on the course. Next to Jim Lawrence is Tom ? who was my 2IC at Rusape on one call up. The Group shows the 17 of us who qualified as Keep Commanders from our tent

Reaching the Administration Offices we saw someone – we later learned it was Assistant Commandant Terry Wilde. I was not best pleased, having waited all day and voiced my opinion. He laughed and said dismissively the hierarchy were aware of our arrival and shortly someone would come along to welcome us. Returning to the tents less than satisfied we joined the others for a further wait. Eventually someone came to speak to us. I cannot recall his name or rank as he fronted up wearing a camouflage T shirt. I considered it discourteous to say the least but then this was the Guard Force. He advised us as it was a Sunday our course would only commence the following day. For those of us from Salisbury he suggested we return home but ensured we were back at 7 30 hundred hours the following morning. For those from outside Salisbury he suggested they follow him to the Q stores where they would be issued with some blankets to get them through the night and then later they could go to the Intaf Mess to grab a bite to eat.

I decided to stay in camp for my own reasons, which some readers may consider quaint, others as sentimental and some as unmanly. Frankly I didn’t give a damn then and I still don’t, others may think what they will and good luck to them. I looked after three mutts, which for whatever reason doted on me. Having to leave them to go on basic training was extremely traumatic and I didn’t want to upset them unnecessarily. I was naïve, as I did return home during the course, over the weekends which did upset the mutts. Some might think it gave them a chance to adjust to my absence, believe me it didn’t and each time I went on call up they would pine, eating only enough to remain alive. When I returned they would be skin and bones but overjoyed at our reunion and then they gourmandized putting on weight until they were almost obese.  That was how they acted and reacted until the end of the war. Anyway in camp I remained and surprisingly so did Dirk. He was like me in a way he’d made his plans and they started from that Sunday morning not the next day. Jim was only too happy to go home and we didn’t see him for dust.

We collected our blankets and Dirk and I couldn’t believe the other guys with us. So polite and honest – they hadn’t a clue about the military – but suckers, they would learn numero uno was always taken care of first. Dirk and I had grabbed four blankets each whereas the polite guys only took two. In the early hours the temperature fell below double digits and they started to freeze. Back at the tent I gave Dirk two of my blankets. He looked at me in query but I just smiled.

We sat around getting to know each other, killing time until the Dining Hall opened. At 1830 hundred hours we went to eat. Surprise, surprise there were only half a dozen Intaf guys eating. We started to chat and discovered their local guys had all gone home for the weekend. Even a few who came from towns not too far away from Salisbury had gone home. The poor sods in camp came from Bulawayo, Plumtree, Dett and one even from Victoria Falls. They had already been on course for a couple of weeks and we discovered that before they were let loose on the local populace they were trained for twelve weeks, our course was only for six weeks before we were thrown to the lions. The food was well prepared and nutritious and we were even served by indigenous waiters. After the meal, a couple of the Intaf guys invited us into their bar. We shared a few cold chibulis, even though it was July. It was while talking to them I learned what I wanted about their ablutions block. The guys in the bar said by nine all of them would be in bed as reveille was at 700 hundred hours and they had to report for PT at seven thirty hundred hours, washed, shaved and ready for action. Breakfast was served from seven thirty till nine thirty hundred hours and then they fell in for drill, lessons or whatever. I hadn’t a clue yet what our roster would be so I’d just take pot luck until I did, then I’d make a proper plan. They intimated the guys on pass would start returning around ten o’clock that night. At 8 30 hundred hours they went off to their barracks and we didn’t want to push our luck so we went off to our tents. Only two other guys had joined us in the bar the rest had gone back to the tents and to attend to their ablutions. One of the guys was from Bulawayo, his name was Bill Smith the other guy was called Lionel Cross – can’t recall where he was from – more about both of them later.

Back at the tents we caught up with the rest of the guys in camp and they weren’t impressed. They all complained about the freezing showers but were all grateful to Dirk for organising the light. In short order they were all shivering under their blanket. Stupid buggers lay on one and used the other for cover. By morning all had abandoned the idea that sleeping directly on the horsehair pallet was bad as they preferred to have the cover of two blankets. Anyway Bill and Lionel excused themselves and off they went to attend to their ablutions. Dirk looked at me smiled but didn’t say anything. I said I was going outside for a smoke and he said he would keep me company. We sat there amicably chewing the fat until Bill and Lionel returned. They settled down for the night and I said to Dirk time to shower. We collected our kit – we both had track suits which we would sleep in as they were amazingly warm.

Outside the tent Dirk followed me as I led the way to the Intaf ablutions block where we had a beautiful hot shower. As we both had trained during our National Service in the South African army we understood how to snivel our way into better conditions, more importantly we both had learnt the very valuable lesson not to abuse the privilege and we would leave the facilities as good if not better than when we used them. By doing so meant others were content to let sleeping dogs lie. After our showers I found some rags in a cupboard and we dried out our showers leaving them spotless. Same after cleaning our teeth in the wash hand basins, they were so clean nobody would have known we had used them. When we were returning to the tent Dirk confirmed that I only wanted two of the four blankets I’d taken. I nodded and at the tent I said goodnight to Dirk and went to my car.

There I removed my personal sleeping bag as well as the dunlopillo mattress I had purloined earlier in the day. When I walked into the tent only Dirk was up and preparing his bed. He couldn’t believe how organised I was and he quickly beckoned for me to meet him outside the tent. There he asked me where I’d got the mattress so I told him and expressing an expletive about my cunningness he disappeared in the direction of the barracks. There was no uproar so he must have been quiet and careful. With a grin splitting his face in two he asked me where I intended to hide the mattress during the day. I’d checked out the tent and there was a really neat aperture between the tent roof and the fly which was spread over the entire marquee. It wasn’t big but served our purpose perfectly and each morning as soon as we got up we’d secret our mattresses. But the end of our course I thought everyone would have cottoned on but no, only Dirk and I used a mattress. When we left the course I took the mattresses home – I couldn’t return them to the Intaf barracks as the missing ones had already been replaced and I didn’t want to drop anybody in the dwang by them having extra mattresses.

I slept like a baby in my track suit inside my sleeping bag under one blanket and used the other as a cover for the mattress which was on top of the pallet. Dirk was almost as comfortable as he lay on one blanket and used five as covers. In the morning he said at three o’clock he was so hot he’d given two blankets away, one to Bill and one to JC ( I don’t remember what JC’s name was but we dubbed him that because he was a different kind of a guy. He arrived wearing the same kind of uniform house servants wore. He was a vegetarian – almost a vegan – he wouldn’t even eat fertilised eggs. Typical of healthy young males some of the guys had started a gallery of voluptuous women on the tent wall right by his bed. He was so disgusted he tore them off the wall and threw them away. When he was challenged he said quietly that those offended could beat him and he wouldn’t resist as he was a pacifist but if they put them up again he’d tear them down. No more pictures decorated the wall.

Next morning from about 6 30 hundred hours the Salisbury contingent began returning. Dirk and I snivelled off quietly and had a hot shower and a lovely shave with hot water. When we got back others were cursing shaving with cold water in the breezy ablution block prepared for the Guard Force. Dirk and I kept mum saying nothing. We went to breakfast and a lot of the others followed us and Jim having arrived from home, joined us. Once again I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the fare and the service. Our only chore was to rinse our pig pan (we were served on metal trays with various indentations which were filled with a different course of the meal. If the server was sloppy you ended up every time with Chinese take away – sweet and sour.

After breakfast we were killing time at the tents when at long last the RSM arrived – I cannot recall his name, all I remember he was known by us as ‘Whispering Grass’ after the hit from the TV show ‘It Aint Half Hot Mum’ starring Windsor Davies and Don Estelle. I think he was ex British Guards, very smart, principled and yet possessing of a fairness and humour we could understand. He introduced himself and some instructors who had accompanied him to meet us at the Tents. There was Corporal Havel – he was to be our PT instructor. Sergeant Gavin Ford and Sergeant Burns – he was ex Rhodesian SAS - who would assist Colour – Sergeant Lawrence Foulds – ex RLI - with our drill. Whispering Grass would take us for lessons along with some of the senior training officers such as Assistant Commandant Terry Wilde and Senior Commandant Robin Tarr. There was another Assistant Commandant helping with the training – he had been some sort of manager at Flannegan’s Bar before joining the Guard Force – he was a blowhard and what his provenance was I don’t recall ( I think his name was Nichols).

Whispering Grass removed himself stating he would catch up with us later on then smartly marched back towards the Administration Block. Colour Fould’s took over and he had us fall into some sort of order. Fortunately a number of us had drilling experience which stood us in good stead and helped a number of those who had never enjoyed the experience previously. One recruit simply couldn’t march left arm forward right leg forward, right arm forward and left leg forward. He marched left arm and leg forward, right arm and leg forward which was disruptive to the squad to say the least. Anyway somehow Colour Foulds managed to get us to the ‘Q’ stores where at last we were kitted out and issued the ubiquitous black tin trunk to store our kit in.  We had to carry the trunks in a squad formation over to the Administration Block where the Training Commandant Robin Tarr was going to address us. I’m damn sure all the senior officers and Whispering Grass were inside the buildings peeking out and rolling about with laughter as poor old Fouldsie and his assistants tried desperately to make us resemble a military force. Here we were supposedly at attention, but holding our tin trunks in front of us. For many on our course they hadn’t subjected their muscles to such punishment for many years – for a few it was a unique experience never encountered before – hence the disintegration of the squad as first one then another and another tin trunk was dropped on the tar road and the holders moved with alacrity in their attempts to avoid having their toes – encased in civvy shoes crushed by the weight of the falling trunk. It sounded like a drunken machine-gunner as the trunks spasmodically hit the tar. Fouldsie and his assistants began screaming at the squaddies who simply looked on in disbelief and a few tried to explain the situation to the instructors who weren’t really interested in their sad tale of woe. Finally out of chaos order came and Sergeant Ford loudly suggested to Colour Foulds perhaps it would be safer if we all put our trunks of the tar and stood to attention behind them. Sounds easy but not so with the deadbeats in our squad. Poor old Colour, I think he was nearly in tears knowing the senior officers were not far away and probably watching us. Finally the squad resembled a proper unit and with a deep sigh Colour Foulds went to report to the RSM. In his exasperation he’d forgotten to stand us at ease and here came the RSM immaculate as ever expecting to hear us brought to attention but we were already at attention. Realising the dilemma Gavin Ford quickly ordered us to stand at ease. Another shambles as the men who had never drilled before had never heard such commands let alone know what they meant. Some of them really lost the plot when we were ordered to stand easy. Some of the men thought stand easy was the same as being dismissed and began to wander out of the squad. In a flash there was a cacophonous sound as the other Instructors including Corporal Havel screamed orders and applied some physical pressure as they herded the men like a bunch of sheep being put in a pen, only the pen was the squad. Meanwhile the RSM observing the chaos smartly did an about - face and marched off into the distance to give the instructors a chance to sort the squad out. There he was marking time with his face becoming blacker and blacker while we were brought to attention, stood at ease and then easy.  A lot of instructions were being issued as the RSM marched up. Colour was in charge once more and he screamed for the squad to come to attention. It was not a bad effort except a couple of the Portuguese decided that they should salute the RSM. With a growl like an enraged lion just before it attacked he asked them in the vernacular what the hell they thought they were doing. Calming down he told all of us, “NONE OF YOU ARE TO SALUTE. YOU STAND STILL AND THAT IS ALL YOU DO. I AND ONLY ME, WILL SALUTE WHEN NECESSARY. IS THAT CLEAR.”  Personally I believe as I said earlier the senior officers had been well entertained and would have been laughing their heads off at the squad’s expense.

Senior Commandant Tarr appeared on the veranda running outside his office and the RSM handed the squad over to him. Fortunately he was facing Tarr and not the squad for the Portuguese joined him in his salute which surprised Senior Commandant Tarr and involved some of the instructors moving with speed to force the arms by sides again.

Bobbin’ Robin – Robin Tarr – ex RLI - had a habit of rocking heel to toe and back while he was addressing us, hence the name we gave him - addressed us, making us welcome and trusting we would all become proud members of the Guard Force. Nodding at the RSM he received a smart salute from the RSM and told him to carry on as he disappeared inside the Administration Block. The RSM cast a malevolent eye over the squad as if we were some crud stuck on the bottom of his shoe. Turning to Foulds he told him to have us in the training tent at 1400 hours, he braced up and then he also disappeared.   Fouldsie with a thunderous look on his face told us to pick up our trunks and as best he could he marched us back to our tents.  Several trunks were dropped along the way as muscles not used to physical work gave way to the strain, a lot of swearing was heard and not only from the instructors, but eventually we arrived back at the tents. The Instructors dismissed us telling us to display our kit on our beds. Fouldsie said they would return in thirty minutes and God help anyone who hadn’t laid his kit out.

KIT OUT AND DRILL

O

ur basic kit consisted of three sets of khaki shirts and trousers, three pairs of grey socks, a pair of boots, a pair of tracker boots, some shorts and T shirts – for PT. We were also issued with a kepi, a cap badge and a web belt.  Very basic as I said but in the event sufficient for our training course. The Instructors checked our kit and explained what was required for kit inspection when it was ordered. In the meantime we were to put our kit into our black tin trunks and if we needed locks we could purchase them from the ‘Q’ Stores.  The trunks had to be maintained at the foot of each bed, which nobody objected to as the trunk made a perfect seat.

Still in our civvy clothes we were told to fall in as we needed to learn the basics of drilling. Foulds asked how many of us had experienced drilling before and he had us form up into a mini squad. He took us through our paces to demonstrate to the rest of them what was required.  We were pissed off when later the Instructors broke the squad up and allocated some of the raw recruits to each of us with instructions we were to train them. Fortunately over the next few days most of the recruits picked up the basics and the squad began to march with a degree of unison. All except one – Lionel Cross – bless his cotton picking socks. He always meant well and tried so very hard but for some obscure reason he seemed to think when marching the left hand and foot were linked together as were the right. You can imagine the consternation this caused in the squad, which became shambolic. After a few day of Lionel cocking up the squad I think the Instructors were about ready to shoot themselves, or at least Lionel.

He was so solemn and sincere and really tried so hard but just couldn’t get it together. The Instructors became more and more frustrated and in the end decided to pass the buck to us recruits. They threatened if Lionel didn’t improve and quickly they would have to think very seriously about cancelling our weekend passes so we could stay in camp and improve our drilling. No way José, we wanted our passes? Dirk and I had an idea used in the SA Army to solve similar problems so we purloined two broomsticks from the Intaf cleaning cupboard and what we did was place Lionel between us with each of us holding onto the broomsticks. I was in the lead and off we went and as long as we used the broomsticks Lionel marched perfectly. Take away the sticks and he reverted to type again. Through frustration I got annoyed and was becoming aggressive but realised it wouldn’t solve anything to have a go at Lionel as he genuinely tried very hard to comply. Dirk calmed me down and suggested to Lionel he should visualise the broomsticks in his mind’s eye and pretend the recruit in front of him and the one behind were each holding onto the broomsticks while they marched and then he should have no problems and it should help him keep in time. Whether it was this suggestion or not that did the trick I don’t know, all I do know is Lionel started to march in time with the rest of us and it pleased the Instructors. By the way we got our pass over the weekend.


I saw this picture of Lionel when I visited the Rhodesian Guard Force.co.UK website. This is definitely the Lionel I remember. Though if memory serves me well he was only awarded Warrant Officer Second Class or Deputy Keep Commander. He must have proved his worth for here he is with the rank of Assistant Commandant. I never saw Lionel after our basic training so have no idea of his war. From the rank he attained all I can say is ‘well done Lionel.’

LECTURES

A

fter putting our kit away and being drilled until lunchtime we were dismissed and told to be fell in outside the tents at a quarter to two. After lunch we gathered outside the tents and seeing Sergeant Ford arriving we fell in. He marched us down to the lecture tent where we would be addressed by the RSM. There was an older South African with us who said he was interested in joining the Guard Force on a permanent basis. His aspirations surprised me as it didn’t take Einstein to realise he was an alcoholic. At our first lecture he asked the RSM for permission to go to the lavatory and permission granted he started to weave his way towards the ablution block. In his way was a drainage ditch to divert rainwater away from the tent. All I saw was this fellow (I can’t remember his name) disappearing into the ditch, he went arse over kettle and landed at the bottom of the ditch. Blithely the RSM continued his lecture as if nothing untoward had happened. I was distracted and watched as the drunk attempted to get out of the ditch, three times he tried and three times he fell back into the ditch. Finally he managed to crawl out of the ditch covered in dust - he was wearing a white short sleeved shirt, now covered in mud from his sweat – and he headed for the toilet. He never returned to the lecture and we only saw him at dinner that night, washed and wearing a fresh shirt.

Finished for the day, after our evening meal we made our way to the Intaf bar. They were most hospitable and allowed us access simply asking us to respect it, as we would our own.  We’d only been there about a half hour when the RSM appeared. He addressed Dirk and me and ordered us to accompany the drunk to our tent. At the tent he demanded the key to the drunk’s tin trunk which he gave to me and ordered me to open it. There was only one set of the uniform in the trunk accompanied by at least a dozen bottles of booze. Next we were ordered to march the drunk to the Administration Block carrying the bottles of booze as evidence. On arrival the RSM disappeared into Bobbin’ Robin’s office and shortly after we were ordered to deliver the evidence which we did. Next thing the drunk was marched in and discharged from the Guard Force with immediate effect. One of the Assistant Commandants was ordered to drive the drunk, together with his property into Salisbury where he was to be deposited and left to his own devices; I have no idea what became of him.

PHYSICAL TRAINING

A

t the end of day one we were advised that from the following morning we would be expected to fall in at 600 hours in PT kit. On the second day JCs alarm went off at ten minutes to six and some of us rose with alacrity, majority arose with much yawning, cursing and grumbling and a few pulled the covers up over their heads and went back to sleep. Those of us who had done this before went outside and began slowly to limber up, stretching hamstrings and breathing deeply to exercise our lungs. Some of us ran on the spot forcing blood to circulate around our bodies and thus warming us up. Just before six majority of us were outside though not fell in. In the distance we saw the Instructors walking towards us with Corporal Havel and a large man, we later discovered was an Assistant Commandant – I never knew his name and we never saw him again - in the lead and they appeared to have been exercising though neither was breathing heavily, the Sergeants – Ford and Burns – followed at a brisk pace and bringing up the rear far more sedately was Colour Foulds. On arrival Havel fell us in and made us spread out as he said we were going to exercise to warm up. Meanwhile Colour Foulds and the Sergeants went into the tents and all we heard were beds being tipped over followed by curses and apologies. In short order those that decided to lie in were now fell in in their sleeping togs, not an altogether pretty sight and they certainly were not comfortable. 

Corporal Havel had trained as a physical training instructor and he was young and fit and he took us through our paces. Fortunately he had been training recruits like us for some time now and knew he had to be a little careful as some of the recruits were totally unfit. Still he had to push us to begin to get us fit. After loosening up exercises he handed us over to the Assistant Commandant who ordered us to quickly fetch our rifles. This we did and then he demonstrated his strength by holding the flash-hider in his fist with his arm outstretched with his rifle as an extension of his arm.  He simply raised his arm and bent his wrist to lift the rifle until it was parallel with the ground. Slowly he lowered the rifle and then relaxing he ordered us to follow suit. He had to be kidding; there were a couple of guys among us who considered themselves reasonably tough but there was no way any of us could lift our rifle as he had. I tried and was a complete failure. My only saving grace was that I didn’t see myself challenging a Charlie Tango to see which of us could lift our rifle the highest. Either he’d be using his rifle in an attempt to kill me or I’d be doing the same to kill him. The seed was sewn, however, and all throughout our training you’d see one or other of us trying to lift our rifle as the instructor had. The best I managed was to lift my G3 to within a few degrees of parallel. The grimaces on my face and my posture certainly weren’t pretty to see.

Anyway when the Assistant Commandant handed us back to Corporal Havel he sent us off on a run to the main gate leading into Chikurubi. It couldn’t have been more than one and a half Kms from our tents to the main gate – it seemed longer that second day – so perhaps in all we ran three Kms.  It wasn’t long before Dirk, Jim, myself and a few others including a big, young, blond guy call Dave (surname escapes me) were in the lead. Dave was also young and fit and it was not long before he outstrip us.  Initially our competitive edge got the better of us and we accepted Dave’s challenge. Looking around I felt conspicuous out in front and on the return leg I slowed my pace and automatically Dirk followed suit; Jim wasn’t sure why but followed our lead. We finished somewhere in the middle which to us was perfect and we explained to Jim why we didn’t want to win. He understood straight away and said he’d follow our lead in these matters. By finishing where we did we showed we were reasonably fit yet not big headed enough to shame the rest of the squad. Fortunately for us being of the 25 to 38 age group the Instructors had been told to take things easy with us. Dirk and I weren’t even breathing very hard and we agreed if this was all our PT involved we were in for a doddle.

Poor old Henry – he had done nothing physical since leaving school twenty years before – was huffing and puffing like a steam engine. He was standing with his hands on his knees and wheezing like a ninety year old who had smoked 50 cigarettes a day for most of his life; we learned later Henry actually smoked nearer 60 cigarettes a day.  The Instructors had worried looks on their faces and only Corporal Havel seemed at ease with the situation. He made Henry stand straight up and to breathe deeply. In short order Henry started to breathe easier though he still looked very ill.  The Instructors were rushing around like blue arsed flies attending to a number of recruits who were wheezing and moaning as if they were dying; a number of them they really thought their last days were upon them. Gormless Peter Drew from Umtali was contemplating his navel – wondering if he had in fact run to the gate and back or if it was only a trick of his imagination. Molico – much more about him later – strolled over to a tree and he was having an earnest conversation with it. JC was studying his feet, especially his toes, and realising the benefits of wearing tracker boots for PT over his truck tyre sandals.

We were dismissed, told to shower and shave, have breakfast and then to fall in for more drill training. Dirk and I with Jim in tow snivelled off to the Intaf ablution block where we had hot showers, shaved in hot water and were relaxed and ready for breakfast. The rest were cursing the cold water and a lot had decided not to shower and were not smelling to clean, we stayed upwind of them and survived.  After breakfast we fell in but a few of the guys were absent; the instructors went looking for the missing men and they were quite worried when they returned from inside the tents. Our curiosity was aroused but we had to wait to satisfy it as we were off doing our drilling again. Later on we established that six of the recruits, including Henry, had missed drilling.

When we were finished for the day and returned to the tents there was Henry and another guy both in bed; both looking very ill. In the other tent there were four cases of sick men. When we went to dinner Henry accompanied us but the other guy said he was too sore, personally I thought he was milking the situation but then I’m not a doctor. Only one of the guys from the other tent came to dinner. Next morning the other guy from our tent was told to report to the infirmary. He told us he couldn’t bent his body to sit up in bed. Someone disappeared and returned with a door. Some of the guys managed to slide him onto the door and they carried him to the infirmary.  Henry was also summonsed but he went off under his own steam though he was coughing like a two stroke. 

When we returned at the end of that day all six had been discharged from the Guard Force, exempted from any further military duties. Three, including Henry had my sympathy, they’d tried and nearly killed themselves doing so. We are all different and they had chosen a sedentary lifestyle full of booze and fags and excluding physical exercise in any shape or form other than sex. Were they wrong, I don’t think so, just different. Of the others I wasn’t too sure if one was swinging the lead or genuinely was ill, our paths never crossed again. The other two I had no time for as I knew they were malingering. My instincts were proved correct, for some time later I learned one had already left Rhodesia for the UK and the other – the one who had been carried on the door – was fine again and he even boasted to me that he was the clever one as he didn’t have to risk his life in the military whereas we were the fools who would probably be killed. I was of two minds to report him but he told me he was leaving in a week or so to make a new life for himself and his family in peaceful Australia.

ASSAULT COURSE

W

hile we were square bashing we had noticed activity in the field on the way to the Administration Block and ‘Q’ Stores. We realised it was an assault course and wondered if it had been built for the mass of black recruits. Were we surprised when Colour Foulds explained that our PT was just about done and soon we would be completing the assault course every morning and again at the end of each day. Two days later we were introduced to the course and what a diabolical cock up. Of course it was done on purpose to see who could do what but a bit unfair as many of the men had never done an assault course in their lives and had no concept of the rigours to be endured.

The third obstacle did for me. It consisted of a wooden tower rising some twenty feet into the air. It was about six feet square. Between the four wooden uprights at the top two rope squares had been created. One about sixteen feet off the ground and the higher one at the twenty foot mark. On two opposite sides there was a rope suspended from the twenty foot rope square to the ground. The purpose was to pull yourself up one side of the rope square to the top rope then standing on the lower rope square you pulled yourself across the square by holding onto the higher rope. Reaching the far side you climbed through the rope square and holding the descending rope you climbed onto it and descended to the ground. Not a difficult exercise if you know how to climb a rope and if you are not hampered by others. Colour Foulds was standing by this obstacle and he was chasing us recruits over it; that was his intent though it never happened that way.

When it was my turn to shinning up the rope there were two guys already on the rope ahead of me. It had been 10 years since I’d climbed a rope and I gripped it incorrectly with my feet. This caused me to use my arms to support my weight far more than they should have. Ahead of me Peter Drew hadn’t a clue and he had simply used his arms to pull himself up. When he lost his strength he simply slid down the rope until it burnt his fingers so he let go. Luckily for him I was below him and he landed on me breaking his fall and we both fell to the ground. Getting up, Colour Foulds insisted I climb back up the rope which I did. Big Dave was now ahead of me and he was hanging about waiting to climb onto the rope square. He was not keen on heights and didn’t want to let go so he swore at the fools ahead of him threatening all sorts of dire happenings if they didn’t hurry up. Finally he made the top rope and standing on the lower rope he stood regaining his breath when I reached the top. Seeing me arrive Dave move over to the other side and I placed a foot on the lower rope and held onto the top rope while I flexed my fingers. When there was space to move I stepped onto the lower rope and nearly got pitched off it as it was bouncing about so much. Fortunately my will to survive was strong so I held on for grim death.

Dave was descending ahead of me and when his feet were about three feet from the ground he let go and fell. He rolled over and stood up relieved to have finished in one piece. I started down; again gripping the rope incorrectly with my feet and by now my fingers were beginning to lock up. I was holding the rope about 10 feet from the ground when my fingers completely locked and I slid down the rope as I couldn’t grip it properly. I burned my palms and fingers with the friction but I couldn’t relax my fingers. I hit the ground but managed to retain my feet. Freeing my hands it suddenly struck me what I’d done wrong. I thought I might go back and do the obstacle again but sanity prevailed and I decided to rest my aching hands. Only four of us managed to complete the obstacle. Big Dave, myself, Dirk and another recruit called Tim (can’t recall his surname, he was from Bulawayo and sold records, more of him later). Colour Foulds dismissed us reminding us that we had to report at the Assault Course at six the following morning. On the way back to the tents Dirk said how close he was to letting go the rope as he too had forgotten how to use his feet. I promised to show him once we were back at the tent and Jim was keen to find out as well.

I went to my car and from my boot I fetched a piece of rope which I secured to a handy tree. I threw the end over a branch and it fell to the ground. I grabbed the rope as high as I could by extending my arms and then I let the rope fall between my legs. I pulled myself up the rope with my arms until they were bent as far as they could go. I then bent my legs as far as I could and then I hooked the rope with my right heel causing it to wrap round my right leg passing over my right instep. Using my left foot I forced the dangling rope under my right boot trapping it against my left instep. Straightening my legs I pulled myself up as far as I could and stretching my arms above my head I locked my hands around the rope. I repeated the bending of my legs keeping the rope in place but allowing it to slide over and under my feet. Completely bent I locked my feet on the rope and straightened my legs again. Reaching the branch I couldn’t go further so I descended. I simply allowed the rope to slide between my feet until my arms were stretched above my head then locking my feet I lowered my hands and bent my knees, I then repeated the exercise until I reached the ground. Dirk was grinning like a Cheshire cat as his memories came flooding back. In a trice he was on the rope and shimming up it. Jim had been paying attention and he too went up the rope with ease and grinning broadly he said how lucky he‘d been linking up with us. We could hear the others yodelling in the cold showers as we snivelled off to the Intaf ablution block to have our hot showers. We then went to breakfast and fell in for our morning drill.

One perk we had been provided with was a laundry service which arrived and took away our dirty uniforms and socks and brought them back the next day when they collected the next lot for cleaning. We could also have our underpants laundered but we had to pay for that ourselves. I and a few others took advantage but most simply washed their own when they showered and dried them over night; a few of the guys didn’t even wear them. By using the laundry service we managed to have a clean uniform for each day, one in the trunk one being washed and one on our bodies.

Next morning we attended the assault course and having experienced the debacle the previous day I made sure I was near the front when Colour Foulds sent us on our way. I have always had good balance, hand eye coordination and a turn of speed. Given the off from Colour Foulds I shot to the front of the pack and scaled the first obstacle without a problem. By the time the next person was over I was almost at the end of the second obstacle. Now came the tower but with renewed confidence I quickly shimmied up the rope crossed over and shimmied down.  I reached the ground just as the second person started to ascend the other rope.

I negotiated the next few obstacles without hassle which involved being able to Leopard crawl with your bum near the ground. If it protruded to high above you it was liable to be punctured by the barbed - wire covering the obstacle. Again it was technique, one had to slither a bit like a snake to move forward but remain close to the ground. One of the obstacles in this set was a tunnel with a kink in the middle. It was probably the obstacle I hated negotiating most of all. The tunnel was not very large and I had to fight claustrophobia as I went through it. Because of the kink in the middle it was pitch black in the tunnel and when you reached the kink you had to ensure your body was facing the right way because you had to bend it around the kink and then pull yourself forward and into the final stretch with the welcoming light of day at the end of it. Of course this was Africa and who the hell knew what nasty had decided to use the tunnel for a home during the night. Strangely enough I never heard of a single incident involving a sting or bite from the tunnel.


The kind of denizen I had visions of meeting in the tunnel, in the dark

The next obstacle was impossible to negotiate on your own and had been designed for teams of at least three to overcome it; to build team spirit I was told. It was a wall of planks at least ten or twelve feet high and running at it I jumped but failed to reach the top of the wall. Realising the obstacle had been designed to test our ingenuity I waited for the next recruit to catch up with me. Because I was so far ahead I was unaware of the shambles occurring back at the tower. Finally in desperation Dirk and Jim had forced their way to the front and shimmied over. They left the rest in their wake as they did the Leopard crawl. Jim suffered the indignity of being punctured in his bum but quickly learnt how to slither like a snake. Dirk almost got stuck in the tunnel because he entered the wrong way and it was only having Jim behind him which kept him calm. Jim pulled Dirk out of the tunnel calmed him down and they figured out that there was only one correct way of negotiating the tunnel. At the next attempt Dirk shot through and waited for Jim. Together they reached the wall. They were surprised I was still there until they too realised it was impossible to negotiate on your own. It was also impossible for two men to get over as it was too awkward for one at the top to assist the other up to the top. While I’d been waiting I’d figured out how we could negotiate the wall at speed. It did mean we would be leaving the wall at the same time thus removing any advantage gained to that stage of the course. I explained how I figured we could all best get over the wall. Jim and Dirk would hoist me up the wall by lifting my feet and hoisting me as high as they could. I would straddle the wall and lean forward towards the ground and then Jim would lift Dirk by his left foot. I would grab Dirk’s left hand and hoist him up the wall he would grab the top of the wall with his right hand and together we would hoist him into a position he could lift his right leg over the wall. With Dirk and me facing each other we would bend forward gripping the wall with our legs and Jim would run and jump at the wall seeking our outstretched hands. As we made a grip we heaved Jim up ward and he would grab the top of the wall.

Dirk and I would help Jim straddle the wall and then I would grab the top of the wall and drop over it hanging by my arms. I would let go and fall to the ground. As soon as I had my balance I would move aside and wait to assist Dirk when he fell. Once he was over we’d wait for Jim to come down. When all three were safely over we took off for the next obstacle, and may the best man win rule then applied. As we had never done the course before we had no idea if there were more obstacles to be negotiated as a team. It turned out that all of the other obstacles could be negotiated on one’s own. I would be lying if I said I can recall how many obstacles made up the complete course, but I do recall a couple of others we had to overcome. At one obstacle there was a sloping ramp rising to about ten/fifteen feet at the top. In front of the ramp but some feet away from the edge a large rope net was fixed to stout poles imbedded at the front of the edge of the ramp. The rope net rose upwards for about thirty/forty feet where it was tied to a stout cross branch of a very large pine tree.

The objective was to run up the ramp at speed and to fling oneself onto the net. You had to climb the net to the cross branch, climb over it and using the reverse of the net lower yourself to the ground. By hooking your feet through the netting you could actually climb down the net to a point where if you released your feet you only had to drop two or three feet to be back on terra firma. As we became more used to the net we would release our feet and hang anywhere from six to ten feet above the ground before releasing our hands. Like the other obstacles this one also required a technique. If one used a riser as the hand hold and straddled the cross rope on each side of the riser it was a simple process to shimmy up to the cross branch. If you tried to climb between the risers it was nigh impossible, especially if others were also on the net and climbing causing it to bounce here, there and everywhere. The other thing one had to do was to establish which was the best way to climb over the cross branch at the top. It was quite daunting especially if others were bouncing the net all over the place as the branch itself bounced around a bit. I preferred to climb up nearer the left side and at the cross branch throw my right leg over the branch. I would hook my right leg through the net and then twist my body over the branch and again hook my left leg into the net. I would then put my right hand over the branch and grab the riser. Finally I’d pass my left hand over and grab the riser and then lift my head and shoulders over and begin my descent. I chose my right side descending as most men ascending would choose their right side being my left as I descended. When the net began to curl under as it was tied to the base of the ramp I would release my legs and hang suspended above the ground; I would be some eight or ten feet above the ground when I let go; as I hit the ground I’d roll much as a paratrooper does. I ‘d been taught how to do this when I completed some training to see if I was eligible  for the Parabats (Paratrooper Battalion) in South Africa. Rising I would hare off to the finish line. Occasionally Dirk would beat me and once even Jim finished ahead of me though majority of the time I would finish several seconds ahead of them.

After completing the Assault Course morning and afternoon for a week we were becoming quite competent and of course ‘cocky’; silly fellows that we were. On Monday afternoon of our second week I finished the Assault Course well ahead of Dirk and Jim and as I ran to the finishing line I saw Sergeant Burns pointing me away from it. I didn’t have to be an Einstein to see that the Assault Course had been extended; and ahead of me I could see at least three new obstacles. The first I knew from a previous course. It consisted of a rope being tied to a stout branch as far away from the bole as was possible and safe. Some twenty or thirty feet above the ground a firm steel rod had been hammered into the tree and suspended near it was a rope ladder. A few feet from the ground a strong stick was tied to the rope which formed a tail after the stick several feet long.  The idea was grab the rope tail and then to climb the rope ladder to the steel rod. Standing on the steel rod and gripping the stick and the rope tail you launched yourself into space. You sailed across what was supposed to be a deep ravine to land on the other side. As you landed you let the handhold go and held onto the rope tail. Once you were safely across the ‘ravine’ you launched the rope back across the ravine so the next recruit could grab it and proceed as you had. I successfully crossed the ‘ravine’ and noticing that no recruit was yet at the tree I simply flung the rope back knowing it would eventually come to rest vertically below where it was tied to the bough above and then I ran off to the next obstacle.

The second obstacle resembled one I’d conquered before. It consisted of a steel cable tied tautly between two trees about forty feet apart. The cable was strung at least fifteen or more feet above the ground at the start and about four inches lower on the other side. I climbed up the first tree and looked for the handhold attached to the wheel that ran along the wire rope. I found it and launched myself towards the far tree being propelled along the rope. At the other side I quickly grabbed the bole of the tree and found a foothold before releasing the wheel. I climbed down the tree and raced off to the final obstacle. Attached to the handhold was a thin stout nylon cord which stretched back to the first tree. The next recruit simply turned the sprocket by turning a handle and thus brought the handhold back to the beginning again.

 The final obstacle was another steel rope suspended between two trees about fifteen feet apart and strung about 10 or 12 feet above the ground. There were several small rods hammered into the bole of the first tree which afforded access to the rope, however, there was nothing on the rope to assist with crossing it. I’d seen a movie once where the soldiers hung suspended beneath the rope with their legs hooked over it and by using their hands and arms they pulled l themselves along it. I was about to attach myself in this way when Colour Foulds arrived under me. He explained that I should lie on the wire rope and hook my right ankle over the rope. He instructed me to hang my left leg straight down as it created a counter balance preventing me from falling and using my hands and arms I could then pull myself along the rope.

 I was always willing to learn and I found the method easy to follow and zoomed across the rope. On the other side there was another tree leaning toward the first tree. Where the end of the rope was tied the idea was to climb off the rope onto a rod stuck into the tree. When standing on the rod one grabbed the bole of the tree and climbed down the rungs hammered into the tree. Simple, except nobody had completed the dismount rod or rungs. Colour Foulds said he’d seen me drop off the net so this was no different. What he didn’t know was I’d given my all completing the old Assault Course and then conquered two additional obstacles so I was tired and my hands weren’t functioning as they should. When I dropped my legs below me, my hands couldn’t hold my weight and somehow my body moved into a horizontal position and I dropped like a stone, to the very hard ground. I hit it so hard I caused my nose to bleed and I knocked the breath out of me. I was flopping about like a stunned mullet with the Instructors staring at me bug eyed. Suddenly Corporal Havel realised my predicament and he flipped me onto my side and smacked me hard in the back which thankfully allowed me to regain my breath. Dirk and Jim had both completed the first new obstacle and were waiting to tackle the wire rope but seeing what had happened to me they were thinking twice about it. Colour Foulds seeing them told them to get off the tree at once as the obstacles were not yet finished.

I had been extremely lucky, only blooding my nose and winding myself for there were some concrete pipes – like the ones used in storm water drains - beneath the wire rope. They were to be used in the final obstacle on the Assault Course – a tunnelling maze obstacle. When I fell my head missed the closest pipe by a mere few inches. Had I hit the pipe I could have been concussed or even worse I could have fractured my skull. Later after we had finished for the day and we were having a smoke break before our showers the Instructors arrived at the tents. They asked me to accompany them and once we were out of earshot Colour Foulds asked me what I intended to do about what had happened at the Assault Course.

Lawrence Foulds was a Colour Sergeant in the Guard Force for a reason. He was not the most astute person I’d ever met but he possessed an honesty I’ve often found lacking in the commercial and industrial world I inhabit. He realised he’d messed up big time by getting me to complete an obstacle that was not finished and had not been past safe for use.  We sat down and had a smoke and I explained I was going to do nothing, except to go to the hospital the next day to have an x-ray of my chest as I had a pain where I’d smashed into the ground. Lawrence thanked me but said he was curious because there were others who definitely would have reported him and the other instructors.  I agreed but explained I had a different attitude. I said our training, no matter how hard we thought it, was designed to prepare us for the front lines, designed to give us a chance of surviving the war. I said had I been at the front trying to cross a ravine and the rope broke and I hurt myself who would I sue? I said I was so contrary that if I didn’t know how to cross the ravine because I’d not been trained then I’d want to sue the Guard Force. They laughed and Colour Foulds said I shouldn’t think he would show me any favouritism and laughing I said if he did I’d think a hellava lot less of him.

The X-rays showed nothing was broken or fractured merely bruised and within a week I was breathing easier. I still competed on the Assault Course – which the others considered nuts - but I realised by using my body I was in fact helping it mend. The four new obstacles had been finished and past and I knew nobody would be game to cross the wire rope until I had successfully done so. Three days after my fall I forced myself to ignore the pain, knowing I was not doing any damage to my body and I was again in the lead when I went for the new obstacles. Swinging on the rope across the ravine nearly undid me as I was suspended by my arms above my head with my body weight below me. I survived and ran to the wire rope and wheel with the handhold. Without obstruction I was soon across and headed for the next obstacle – the one that had caused me pain.

Without hesitation I crawled out onto the wire dropped my left leg and pulled myself across. Reaching the other side I lifted my left leg and hooked it onto the wire then I inverted my body so I was suspended beneath the wire. Taking the strain on my hands and arms I lowered my left leg and then my right until I was hanging a few feet off the ground when I let go. I hit the ground and I managed to keep my balance without rolling. Colour Foulds was agitated and he told me the descent rungs had been hammered into the tree and tested as safe. I smiled and agreed but I said I had to prove him right. When I had first attempted the crossing had I tightened my grip and slowly lowered my legs one at a time I would never have fallen, so in reality I was to blame for my fall and not him or the Guard Force. Some of the other recruits heard what I said and realised I’d just exonerated the Guard Force and Colour Foulds of any culpability in the matter.

By the end of our course we were all reasonably fit and everyone remaining managed to complete the Assault Course. Dirk, Jim, I and a few others were super fit and the three of us competed with each other seeing who could finish the complete Assault Course in the least time. A fortnight before we finished our basic training the three of us challenged the instructors to a race around the Assault Course. At first they said we were being unfair as we had trained for nearly a month whereas they hadn’t. I pointed out that they were regulars and therefore should be totally fit at all times whereas we were conscripts from Civvy Street and had no obligation to keep fit. It didn’t wash and Colour Foulds being so honest said I was mad if I thought they were going to accept our challenge as they had seen us complete the Assault Course.

Unbeknownst to us Colour Foulds spoke to Assistant Commandant Terry Wilde who contacted some other units and he offered a challenge of three Guard Force recruits against any three from their unit over our Assault Course. Terry Wilde had been in the RLI and he reckoned the Guard Force Assault Course was one of the longest and hardest he had ever seen. I had tackled three different Assault Courses in South Africa and I agreed with him that the Guard Force Assault Course was harder to finish as it required stamina as well as speed. Just before we completed our basic training Assistant Commandant Wilde told us no other unit had accepted his challenge saying they were too busy fighting the war to play silly games. Dirk, Jim and I didn’t give a damn. We’d taken our training seriously and had done the best we could to be physically fit when we too went off to war.

LECTURES

M

any of the recruits found the lectures– especially those conducted by the RSM - boring and had to fight hard to stay awake yet I, having a penchant for history and knowledge found much of interest in them. For instance I always thought the Shona were a single cohesive nation like the Matabele whereas in fact there are some 76 different tribes who are collectively known as the Mashona.  Though I lived in Rhodesia I had spent little time in close association with the indigenous people. Through the lectures I gleaned much information I would use to my advantage once I was in the field. My one regret was we were not taught basic communication skills in Shona or Sindebele, Had I been posted to Matabeleland I could speak Fanakalo or Chalapalapa badly, but to be posted in Mashonaland or Manicaland with a group of black guards to look after a village of several thousand blacks was going to be a challenge as I had very poor communication skills in the vernacular. Fortunately - because of the many different languages in Africa and also because of W.N.L.A. (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association) often pronounced ‘Winela’, which brought peoples from various countries in central Africa together to work the gold mines of South Africa - a common language had to develop, this was Fanakalo. In addition many indigenous men spoke Afrikaans or English and in Rhodesia it was English rather than Afrikaans. Because of this and because I managed to pick up some Shona words reasonably quickly I managed to survive the war and was able to communicate with some degree of success.

DEBUSSING

I

t was important for us to learn the proper way to debus from a moving vehicle, having such knowledge just might save our lives in the future were we to be ambushed or in a contact. Dirk, I and the other recruits who had served in some military force had an idea of how to leave a moving vehicle. Believe it or not my experiences were enhanced because I started my working career in Durban, South Africa. Durban was a first world city at that time and the infrastructure of public transport included London double decker buses. Because I used the buses for my transport I learnt how to stand on the platform at the back of the bus where passengers boarded or alighted and as the bus slowed down I’d jump off onto the road. By observing others I realised to avoid problems I had to run forward in the direction of the bus slowing myself as quickly as I could.

Sadly some of the recruits had no idea of how to debus. We were told to board a Heavy (Nissan five tonner) and once we recruits were aboard the Instructors took off down a dirt road around the Chikurubi farm. Chikurubi was a very large farm. Not only were Intaf based there but also Guard Force, the Prison Service and of course the prison itself. The farm provided sufficient produce to enable the complex to sustain itself directly or through sale of its produce. Anyway here we were being chauffeured around by the Instructors but having been through this kind of exercise before I was suspicious. Instructors were not usually benevolent enough to chauffeur a bunch of recruits around the farm so they could sun themselves which meant something was afoot. Suddenly the truck slowed as if climbing a gradient and at the same time a hand came out of the passenger window of the Heavy and it flung something into the back of the truck amongst us. Fortunately it landed between my legs and instantly I recognised it for what it was, it was a thunder-flash, not as powerful as a hand grenade but powerful enough to blow a finger or two off the hand holding it when it exploded. Certainly powerful enough to do some serious damage to my crown jewels hanging above it.

In a flash I did an adrenalin assisted backflip off the back of the truck and hitting the ground I ran forward in the direction of the Heavy and slowing I came to a stop. Behind me it was shambolic. Dirk seeing me disappear followed me quick as Jack Flash, as did several others. Sadly most of them hadn’t a clue what to do. Some jumped and hitting the ground stood still. Well, they thought they would stand still but gravity had other ideas. Gravity thought they should be travelling as fast as the Heavy and so it flicked them into the ground with impunity. Fortunately by then the Heavy was stationery and a couple of the recruits met with an unmoving obstacle as gravity played with them. Some simply bit the dust and lost a bit of skin along the way. When the truck stopped Sergeant Gavin Ford with remarkable agility jumped on the back and picking up the thunder-flash he hurled it away from the truck.  Just as well, as some of the recruits were still sitting on the back quite unconcerned as they had no idea what it could do to them and obviously no idea what a grenade would do. One recruit, I cannot recall his name – all I know is he was a qualified Lawyer – did jump off but standing still when he reached the ground offended gravity so much she hurled him into a shrub. The Instructors, Dirk and I were killing ourselves laughing at the antics of the recruits, adding insult to injury. The lawyer was so mad he claimed he’d hurt his back and was going to sue the Guard Force. What a wanker, what would he do out in a TTL when a Chinese grenade was thrown at him, would he sue the Charlie Tangos? Just as he emerged from the bush the thunder-flash went off and nearly frightened half the recruits to death. They thought we were under attack and were terrified for although we had been issued with rifles we had no ammunition. Eventually Colour Foulds calmed things down and got everyone back on the Heavy and we returned to base. I spoke to the lawyer and suggested he forgot all about suing for he would be a laughing stock as we were being trained for the real thing. I don’t know what happened to him as I never saw him after basic training. Because of his ‘damaged’ back he was exempted from future debussing exercises.

A few days later we were learning how to debus on the road in front of the Administration Block. The road ran through the pine forest and a few trees had been cut down but not yet removed. Anyway we were on the ‘Heavy’ trundling along at about 25 mph when Colour shouted “debus”. Majority by this time had mastered the technique but there were still a few needing fine tuning. There was a Portuguese - from the other tent – who was supposed to have done some time with the Portuguese army in Mozambique. I had my reservations for he didn’t seem to have much of a clue about drilling, marching or debussing – perhaps like me during my basic training he had a language problem. Anyway from previous experience he had realised it wasn’t a good idea to run against the direction the Heavy was travelling. Trouble was he hadn’t quite worked out it was best to run parallel with the truck. So when Fouldsie told us to debus Carrera shot off over the side hitting the ground running at what he thought was right angles to the direction of the truck. Gravity wasn’t amused and so he described a gentle arc bringing him into line with the direction the Heavy was travelling. Bad luck for him a pine tree had been felled and was lying in his path. He was motoring when he hit one of the main branches lying close to the ground. His impetus caused the branch to bend at an acute angle until it arrested his thrust, then almost in slow motion it wreaked its revenge by shooting forward and flicking Carrera at the Heavy. Thank God, Sergeant Ford saw him coming and he slammed on the brakes. Carrera landed on the road between the wheels of the Heavy. Had it continued at its previous speed it would have been curtains for Carrera.

He wasn’t the only one who needed some fine tuning. Good old Peter Drew from Umtali also jumped off the Heavy but somehow he was heading for the ground head first. Automatically he thrust his rifle forward to prevent himself biting the dust. About half the barrel disappeared into the soft earth and the rifle acted like a spindle and all we saw was Peter whizzing around like a top until he let go of the rifle and was flung unceremoniously into the soil. To add insult to injury he had to spend a deal of time later removing the soil from the barrel.

AMBUSH

W

e were nearing the three-quarter stage of our basic training and the Instructors decided the time had come for us to test our ambush skills. One night after dark we were marched out into the pine forest which covered a number of acres on the farm. There we were split into two groups. The idea was for us to set two ambushes somewhere in the forest and in an hour or two the Instructors would come with the intent of springing the ambushes. Each team leader was given an Icarus flare with the parachute removed. The idea was to tie the flare to a tree at head height so when the enemy came into the Killing Ground the flare was set off blinding them for a split second and allowing us the advantage to kill as many as we could while the light lasted. Of course it was a balls up as usual and whether the Instructors were having a good time or simply forgot about us we never found out. All we knew instead of waiting two hours or so we remained in ambush the whole night. The sun was already rising when the instructors arrived and told us to go to the tents and prepare for the day ahead.

We were peeved at having been messed around and decided to take our time readying ourselves for the day ahead. Strange how a situation can change radically through an unrelated event. In the other ambush a guy called Tim (surname unknown) from our tent, had persuaded the team leader to let him be in charge of the flare. He tied it to the tree and was really looking forward to setting it off, which of course never occurred. On the way back to the tents he placed the flare in the side pocket of his khaki combat jacket and forgot about it. He had the mutters about spending the night in the forest when he had a perfectly good bed in the tent. Anyway when we returned to our beds most of us sat on our black trunks to save messing up our beds. Not Tim, in fake annoyance he threw his combat jacket onto his tin truck with some force and jumped onto his bed.  Somehow by throwing his jacket onto the trunk he set off the flare. For a few moments we all just stared at the magnesium burning as it devoured his combat jacket. Tim shot off his bed realising not only was the flare burning up his combat jacket but was in fact cutting through his tin trunk like an oxy - acetylene torch. He flicked the jacket onto the shale floor of the tent and stamped on it hoping to put the fire out but the magnesium just kept on burning and Tim caught the remains of the flare on his right boot and started hopping around as he tried to get rid of the burning magnesium. Every time he flicked his foot in an attempt to rid his boot of the magnesium. Anyone sitting in the pathway of the boot dived to the side in case the flare shot forward in their direction. Finally Tim managed to get the flare off his boot and it expired of its own volition. We were rolling about with laughter as poor Tim inspected the damage. He had a very badly singed boot, a scorch on his khaki trousers and of course a totally written off combat jacket which was still smouldering. Worse news was to come. 

Tim was a record representative in civvy life and he had brought a large number of vinyl LPs to camp hoping to flog them to us. He now inspected his trunk which would have to be replaced for it would leak like a sieve as it had a huge cut across the lid. Tentatively feeling the tin trunk Tim found it cool enough so he could open it and we heard him curse a blue streak. He picked up what once must have been a dozen or more LPs. Now, the extreme heat had welded them together into an amorphous mess of vinyl. The bad news for Tim was he would have to repay his company the wholesale price of the records so his petulance had cost his pocket dearly. Fortunately for him some of us had enjoyed the comedy show so much we chipped in to reduce his loss. When he told Fouldsie what had happened the instructors saw the hilarity of the moment and rolled about with laughter. Colour Fould’s shook his head while he wrote a note which he presented to Tim telling him to take it to the Q Stores. Tim managed to replace his kit and tin trunk without any cost, which was a generous thing Foulds did. Rumour had it he felt obliged to overlook the situation and make restitution as I had laughed off my injury on the Assault Course and had also persuaded the lawyer to leave things alone. For some time after, we had the amorphous mess hanging in the tent and some wisenheimer would ask Tim to play a particular LP welded into the mess.

Our last serious training was to learn how to set an observation post successfully and to perform cordon, search and destroy missions.

SETTING A SUCCESSFUL OP (Observation Post)

W

e were transported across the farm into a field below a kopje and split into four groups. Two groups were to be taken around the far side of the kopje and the remaining two groups were instructed to move off in the long grass and set ambushes. The purpose was for the OPs to spot the ambushes and vice versa. We were told we had to wait for at least an hour before the other two groups would reach the top of the kopje to set their OPs. Some of the guys thought it was a good time to do a bit of sunbathing and some were so white it was almost blinding and certainly a beacon for the OPs to hone in on. After about 45 minutes our team leader – Pete Twiddle – said we’d better take up our positions.  There were twelve of us in our group and he set two stop groups of three men each with six in the killing ground. Jim and big Dave were in the killing ground and I was with Peter Drew and Molico in the rear stop group.

 I couldn’t believe most of these guys, sure we were only play acting but they were so casual about the whole thing I certainly didn’t want any of them with me at the sharp end when we faced the real thing. What a cock-up. I picked up both OPs within minutes of their arrival at the top of the kopje. Some of them were literally standing up silhouetted against the light as they peered excitedly at the ambush groups in the valley below. There were nine men in each OP and I identified FOURTEEN. I missed THREE in one OP and only ONE in the other. Later I discovered it was Dirk I had missed in the left hand side OP. From the right hand OP I’d missed Bill Smith– from Bulawayo with the flat feet -, Lionel Cross and a guy called Tom (can’t recall his surname but I remember him telling us he had a hole in his heart).

During the exercise we were under the control of a new Corporal – he was from England and he’d joined the Guard Force as a regular instructor – who had previously been training squaddies in England and he was in charge of the ambushes. Realising the OPs were compromised he signalled Sergeant Ford et al, up on the kopje indicating all was lost and they should re-join us in the valley. While we were waiting he decided to show us how they trained the squaddies in the UK how to hold their NATO weapons when firing. Some of the guys got a bit bored and he made them go into the long grass to do some leopard crawl so the rest of us could attempt to spot them. Realising they were taking the piss and had simply gone to ground for a snooze he decided to throw a thunder-flash in among them to wake them up. Perhaps with all the rain in England to do what he did was normal practise. However, this was the middle of Africa and the land was parched as it waited for the rainy season and the grass was golden and as dry as tinder. He woke the idiots up when the thunder-flash exploded and the silly buggers were running about like headless chickens. He was yelling at them telling them to fall in as they were NOT under attack.

They might not be but the grass was and it responded as African bushfires do. As we watched bemusedly flames quickly rose as the grass caught alight. Suddenly the Corporal realised what he’d done and he ordered us into the grass to put the fire out. He may have been a Corporal and he may have trained squaddies in England but he sure didn’t know squat diddly about the African bush and bushfires. There was no way José any of us were foolish enough to enter into the grass. The fickle wind simply had to change direction – which it often did during a fire - and we would have been toast – ‘Sommer like being on a braai hey’. Here he was panicking and screaming at us as he rushed about trying to stamp out the fire, he had less chance than Peter with the dyke. Finally he gave up, exhausted and covered in soot and ash. By that time the crowd from the OPs had arrived and Fouldsie ordered us onto the trucks and we sped away back to camp. Meanwhile the lookout had seen the smoke and called the fire brigade who soon arrived and put the fire out, but not before it had burnt out some 15000 acres.

The Corporal was contrite and tendered his resignation and was totally surprised when Robin Tarr refused it saying in a strange way he had done the farm a favour as the ash and soot acted as a fertiliser and every year a controlled burn was conducted before the rains came. Bobbin Robin warned him though to be more careful in the future as African bushfires raced faster than a three legged dog – which totally confused the Corporal; from what he’d seen the fire raged at a pace faster than a thoroughbred with a rocket up its arse- still the Corporal got the message loud and clear.

 CORDON, SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSIONS

O

ne of the areas we were told to focus on when we were running security in the PVs was the concealment of materiel for the Magandanga – Charlie Tangos  ‘communist terrorists’. Who could blame the locals for assisting the Gooks, certainly not me as some of us really realised the fantastic pressure the rural locals lived under. They were extremely superstitious and preyed upon by the Magandanga. If that didn’t work, intimidation against the family was not only threatened but often demonstrated. Then of course many locals were simply brainwashed and conned into believing the good life lay just around the corner and would be theirs for the taking once we were defeated. Many whites I heard speaking, thought the enemy – the Gooks - were just so much cannon fodder without a brain in their heads; how wrong they were proven time and time again.

We were taken to the parade ground where the buses collected and returned KCs and Deputies as they move to and from the front. A bus was parked where they usually parked and we were ordered to examine it and to retrieve any materiel we could find. Needless to say being completely inexperienced we found nothing. Many of us were shattered when ALL the materiel was removed from the bus which moments before nearly fifty of us had examined and found nothing. Sure some of the materiel was not visible; for instance a plastic bag containing around 70 AK rounds had been secreted in the fuel tank. Had we been more observant we would have seen the small piece of baling wire tied to the filler cap. The wire was attached to the bag. Under the bus two AK 47s and an SLS rifle had been secreted by changing their shape with mud before being attached to the bottom of the bus. Inside there were 15 stick grenades, 3 LM46 land mines a dozen or so anti - personnel mines.  What shocked me was all this materiel had come from one single bus. I was told because the buses were not welcome inside the PVs those assisting the Magandanga would secrete the materiel in the bush before it arrived at the village and then piecemeal they would take it into the PV on a daily basis. For instance the kids in the PV would accompany their mothers to the fields each day and while their mothers worked they would make a clay mombie – cow – or pig or some toy animal which they would bring back to the PV.  We were told we had to smash the toys because the Magandanga had shown the kids how to secrete a single of sometimes several rounds inside a toy. It was difficult as a lot of guards and even some KCs refused to smash the kids’ toys. How many, through their generosity and kindness, were instrumental in the death of their colleagues, relatives and friends. The women knowing we would not strip search them would secrete anti - personnel mines around their bodies, a favourite place was between themselves and the baby strapped to their back. Larger items such as rifles or land mines would be pushed through the protective fence at night and then secreted in the huts, in the thatch or hidden under the floor of the hut.

We were shown how to create a cordon around a random area of the PV – we were told not to get carried away and cordon off too many huts because it only upset the locals, especially when we found nothing. Far better to only do a few huts at a time more regularly. If we found something, we could use it as ammunition to cordon off a larger area. We were taught how to identify items not by their shape but by unusual shapes, to look for something out of place, change in the colour of soil and so on.

MEDIC AT LARGE

T

he last thing we learnt was how to deal with wounds we might come across. How to insert a saline drip, tie a splint, use the wrapping of a field dressing to cover a chest wound, especially a lung wound. How to tie a tourniquet and to release the flow of blood to prevent gangrene. I am damn glad I paid attention during the medic lectures because over the years I was to call upon my knowledge time and again. Being a ‘hijacker’ my medical kit was much more comprehensive than most. I even carried hypodermics of Sosegon, a brand name of pentazocine – a formidable pain killer - as well as a snake bite kit. I also managed to carry two saline drips with me and a professional tourniquet and scalpel. Thankfully I was well prepared as I believe at least three time I saved lives that would otherwise have been lost.

MOLICO

I

t is pertinent that I make special mention of Molico, introduced earlier. Who was Molico, I really cannot recall his name at all. I remember he was reasonably tall, possibly six foot or six foot two, well set up but certainly not of an aggressive nature. I never got to know him well enough to find out his background, what he did for a living, where he came from, etc. I am one of those people who doesn’t ask personal questions but gleans much from what is told to me. For instance I found out Molico was married and he was very religious, though what denomination he favoured I have no idea. I do know that the congregants gathered on pavements around the city in small groups where they would sing songs of praise and preach their message in a totally unaggressive way.

Why did we call him Molico? Perhaps you may recall there was a baby food supplement in Rhodesia, which was sold in what would be five or six pound tins. Molico had one of these tins in his black trunk and one day when he forgot to close it, some of us noticed the tin was filled with a variety of pills. You may recall me mentioning Molico standing and speaking to a tree. We now knew why, he was obviously a junkie of sorts who needed a fix now and then. Being in an impecunious state Molico couldn’t afford to buy drugs such as cocaine, heroin or even dagga so he befriended a medic at the dispensary who gave him carte blanche access to the medical cabinets in the infirmary. Hence his large tin of pills. When he felt down, he’d grab a handful of pills and pop them down his throat. Nobody, not even Molico knew the effect they would have on him. One time I recall watching him spin like a top for at least an hour, non-stop. I got dizzy just watching him. Another time I caught him out in the field where we parked our cars and there he was baying at the moon.

We had been on course about three weeks and I was amazed when I went to my car for something and a saw a very heavily pregnant, pretty young woman sitting against the wheel of my car. She obviously didn’t want to be seen as she was sitting against the rear wheel on the left side of my car. Next to me Dirk had parked his car and in front of us a couple of guys had badly, parked their cars. What this meant was the young woman was invisible from prying eyes wandering along the roadway. It was her bad luck I happened to own the car against which she was sitting and I needed to get something from the cubby hole which was on the left hand side of my car. Seeing me, she had a look in her eye of a petrified buck caught in the spotlight of a night hunter. She was whimpering and trying to get up, so quickly I pacified her and told her to relax. I simply wanted to find out who she was and what she was doing there. Apparently she was Mollico’s wife and she was just about to have her baby. Because she couldn’t pay the rent the landlord had kicked her out of her home and not having anywhere to go she had spent the last of her money to come to Chikurubi to be with Molico. He had told her to come as the Lord would provide; I thought he was pushing his faith a bit far.

Anyway I was concerned and found out she had been there for four hours and had no food or drink since the night before. I was annoyed and wanted to see Molico about this and I told her to sit in my car if she liked but she refused saying sitting between the cars she felt safer. I found Molico and he was out with the fairies – he’d obviously popped a handful of pills and simply wasn’t with us. Finding Dirk, I explained the situation and together with Jim. Tim, Bill, big Dave and JC we made a plan to help Mollico’s wife. For proprietary’s sake I shall call her Helen – she reminded me of Helen of Troy – as she was so brave and obviously deeply in love with Molico to be so trusting. Dirk and Jim went off to get some breakfast and tea for Helen while Tim, Dave and I collected some blankets and rigged a shelter between our cars for Helen to stay out of the sun. Hopefully it wouldn’t rain as the blankets weren’t waterproof. I also gave her Dirk and my dunlopillo mattresses which were a damn side more comfortable than the hard ground. We also gave her some blankets to cover herself if she wanted to sleep. I suggested to Helen she use the ablution block provided for the Guard Force if she was desperate but later after ten thirty, say around eleven she should be safe enough to use the Intaf ablution block where she could have a shower, use the loo and do whatever she wanted as long as she was done by twelve thirty when the Intaf guys returned for lunch. She started to cry as she had no soap or shampoo or anything. In no time flat we had organised everything she needed including a new tooth brush and toothpaste. She was truly a lovely girl and perhaps being pregnant she radiated trust and happiness when she was happy.

We left her to her own devices eating her breakfast while we went off to attend our lectures. It was Friday and we would finish our tasks at four o’clock and today we’d not do the Assault Course at the end of day but change as fast as we could so we could go on pass. We only had to report back at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. I only hoped Molico would come back from the fairies so he could take care of Helen. At lunch time we returned to the tents for lunch and we organised something for Helen. Molico seemed rational enough and was quite attentive towards Helen. She didn’t look too perky to me and in response to my enquiry simply said she was having trouble with her back. Off we went for the afternoon lectures and then it was four o’clock and we hurried back to the tents.

Bad news greeted us. Helen was in a lot of pain and Jim being the only married man among us as well as being a father said he was sure she was having labour pains. Poor old Molico couldn’t believe it and he was all for going to his tin for a handful of relief but we threatened him with dire consequences if he did, this was his doing, not ours. He was very nervous and simply didn’t know what to do. Tim was off for the weekend with big Dave, Bill had some relatives near Norton he was going to stay with and JC had to return to his sect as he was some sort of leader. Jim wanted to get off to his wife and family and Dirk didn’t seem too keen to stick around – not that I blamed him – that left only me. Molico implored me not to abandon them for the weekend. Just then Helen who was really trying to be a trooper groaned loudly as the pain creased her. It made my mind up. I asked her where she needed to go to have her baby. She sat holding her stomach as the tears ran down her cheeks. She said she should go to the Lady Chancellor but they simply couldn’t afford it, they couldn’t afford anywhere. I’d made my decision and told her to stop crying as she would be going to the Lady Chancellor; come hell or high water. I asked her if she had what she needed and the water works started again. Now she was going to the Lady Chancellor she needed proper kit and she simply didn’t have what was needed. I was more useless than tits on a bull but I knew someone who could help me but time was of the essence. I left Molico and Helen while I went to the Intaf Mess and used the phone. I called a girlfriend of mine and explained the situation. She assured me she could prepare the perfect case for Helen but wanted to know what budget she had. In for a penny in for a pound so I told her not to break my bank or my balls but to do the right thing for Helen. She agreed and what’s more she agreed to meet me at the Lady Chancellor at five thirty.

We returned all the blankets and mattresses and I told Helen and Molico I needed a beer. So off I went back to the Mess and bought a couple of Shumba – Lion beers - and a coke for Helen. Now everything was coming together Helen was happy again and even Molico seemed calm. Suddenly Helen wanted to know how they could repay me and I told her not to worry as we’d sort it out once the baby was born and they were on their feet again. We went off to the Lady Chancellor where we met Wendy – a pseudonym – my girlfriend, who presented Helen with a case containing God knows what. I was presented with a bill from Barbour’s that took my breath away, having babies was an expensive exercise. Wendy gave me a look which said, ‘don’t even think of querying the bill’. She in fact told me my pocket was still to be affected as I owed her big time and she intended to collect that Saturday night. I left Helen and Molico at the hospital having arranged a room for Molico and for the bill to be sent to me. Wendy rushed off to do whatever she had planned and I went quietly home. Tomorrow I was playing golf and then I’d be taking Wendy to dinner and a show and then who knew what would transpire.

I returned home and had a relaxing bath with a Shumba while I was contemplating what I would do for dinner when the phone rang, it was the Lady Chancellor, and a nurse advised me Helen’s baby had arrived, a little girl, a bit above average weight. According to the matron Helen was in perfect health and could go home on Sunday. Why tell me I had done my bit it was over to Molico now. Not bloody likely. I mentioned the situation to Wendy at dinner on Saturday and she gave me both barrels saying I was hard and uncaring. When I mentioned how much it had cost me she called me a mercenary and said a new life could not be measured with money. Needless to say Saturday night was not the success I’d hoped for.

They say every cloud has a silver lining and right they are. Early Sunday morning the phone rang, it was Wendy. I was ordered to cancel my golf – I’d planned to play with some mates – as I needed to collect her and take her to her parents’ home in Hatfield. Shit what a weekend I was having. Anyway I collected her and off we went to her folk’s home. They had three acres and down the back there was a small cottage. Apparently years before they’d bought the land then built the cottage where they’d lived until they could afford the mansion they now lived in. The cottage hadn’t been used for a number of years but the roof was watertight and the cottage had been used as a storage unit over the years. Once Wendy had told her folk’s the situation they set to with a will. Wendy got on the phone and before I knew it there were people all over the place. Her folks obviously were well known and liked, because before long there were nearly forty men and women working on the project. In no time we cleared out the cottage and painted it throughout as well as externally with a Morello or lime wash. The woman made bright curtains and the men sorted out the old furniture. By midday the job was just about done and I stopped for some coffee and a smoke. While I was smoking I thought of Molico’s utter belief and faith in his God. He’d been right all along, he’d told Helen not to worry as the Lord would take care of everything and the proof was, he had. Helen had her baby at the Lady Chancellor; she wasn’t embarrassed by having the best case she had ever owned and now they would be moving into a cottage rent free and according to Wendy she and her folk’s would never allow Helen or the baby starve.

Wendy explained to me how her father, a German from Potsdam had been stationed on Jersey for the last three years of the war. When the surrender came he and several others abandoned their uniforms and caught the ferry to Weymouth. During their time on Jersey he and three others had been befriended by several British people who realised they had little interest in the war, were religious and simply longed to go home. All changed when they realised with the carve up of Germany, the Russians would be occupying their previous homes in East Germany and the four men pleaded with their British friends to help them get to England where they could become refugees.   Through their friendship Wendy’s father managed to settle in England where he commenced his budding carrier as a civil engineer. Sadly too much water had gone under the bridge and as soon as his accent was heard many British people turned on him.  He persevered and prospered as well as meeting Wendy’s mother and marrying.  The first Armistice Parade after they were married was a disaster and several drunk Englishmen beat Wendy’s father up because he was German. Her mother was livid and it was she who set the wheels in motioned for them to immigrate to Southern Rhodesia where they had struggled at first but over time had been absorbed into the community and they had prospered. Wendy and her siblings were born in Salisbury and though proud Rhodesians they also had one foot in England. At three o’clock Wendy ordered me to drive her to the Lady Chancellor where we would collect Molico, Helen and the baby and I would settle the bill. That was duly done and off we went returning to the cottage.  Neither of them could believe the kindness extended to them and I left them praying with Wendy’s folks. As I was leaving Helen approached me and said because I’d been so kind she wanted to call the baby after me. God help the poor thing. I was called Randy in the Guard Force and I didn’t think that was a good name for a girl. Helen just smiled and said she intended to call her daughter Verity so she would always remember me. She said once I took charge of their situation I had told them everything would be fine and it had been.

:


Back row left to right, yours truly, ?,  Drik Bothma, Jim Lawrence, Tom?, ?, ?  Centre row squatting left to right, ? JC, ?. ? Third row seated, ? Du Preez ex RLI, ? Big Dave, ? In the front, Tim with legs spread eagled and to the right Mollico lying on the ground.

 

BINDURA/MADZIWA TTL GF1

O

ur last week was upon us and we were told by the instructors we were going to Bindura where we would be deployed to several Keeps in the Madziwa TTL to get first-hand experience of what being at the sharp end would be like. On arrival at Bindura we were split up into four groups, two with 12 men and two with 13 men. I was in a group of 12 men including Dirk, Jim, Dave, Tim, Tom and Bill and I recall we also had one of the youngsters and two of the Portuguese with us. I cannot recall the other two, though I think Rod (?) was with us. The bus driver drove us around the TTL to a Keep (I cannot recall its name) where we met the KC. He was a young guy, probably in his mid-twenties. He was hospitable and took us inside his quarters. As this was the first area where PVs were built, the buildings were well constructed and designed to withstand a revving. Dirk, Jim and I thought it couldn’t be all bad if this was a sign of things to come.

The KC apologised for the lack of beds but told us we were welcome to make ourselves as comfortable as we could on the floor. We had been issued with two rat packs, one for our evening meal and one for breakfast before we were uplifted to Chikurubi the following day. Many men complain bitterly about rat packs and yet I never found them unpalatable and they certainly sustained me. I got hooked on the dark chocolate, I can’t tell you who made it or even if it was cooking chocolate. All I can tell you is that since that time I have never liked milk chocolate and would rather go without if I can’t find a bar of dark, rich chocolate. The only thing I provided for myself was a small packet of Tanganda teabags from the Cashel Estates and some raw sugar. I loved my tea, especially after a meal and just before bed and I like it sweet. Each rat pack only contained one teabag and a small sachet of white sugar, I used to take two heaped teaspoons of raw sugar in my tea. I prefer fresh milk in my tea but if necessary will use condensed milk with one spoon of sugar.

The KC suggested he take us on an inspection tour of the village before it got dark and he told me I could buy some fresh milk from the trading store in the village as deliveries were made daily from Salisbury. He showed us the diamond mesh fence surrounding the village and showed us how it had been buried to prevent anyone or thing gaining ingress or egress under the fence and he proudly told us he sent a fence patrol to inspect the fence every morning and every evening. I didn’t say anything but I thought if I wanted to gain entry or exit I would have no problem doing so without leaving a trace. He explained how every morning his guards assisted Internal Affairs to record the names of all those leaving the village and every evening they would record those returning and thus they could keep track of who remained outside the village. He admitted he had a cushy number as his area hadn’t been ambushed or revved for over a year which he put down to the excellent relationship Intaf had with the locals as well as a permanent presence of some elements of the RAR.

After our tour we returned to his quarters where we prepared and ate our dinner. I was enjoying an after dinner cigar with some hot tea when he addressed us saying he had received an order entailing the arrangement of an experienced guard to take some volunteers on a night patrol outside the village. You could have heard a pin drop, the silence was so complete.  He explained he was not able to order us and in fact his order expressly stated only volunteers need go. I was definitely curious enough to want to pit my strengths against the unknown forces outside the fence.  Dirk was also game but then he was as mad as a hatter as he did free fall parachute jumps for kicks. Jim was our mate so he also volunteered, nobody else uttered a word. Were they petrified, fearful or cowardly, I know not. Fear affects all of us in very different ways. I’ve known some men who have no fear scaling incredible heights yet they have been terrified of a cockroach, others think nothing of joining in a fistfight with anybody irrespective of their size yet they are terrified of mice or spiders. I personally believed the others with us were fearful of the unknown. What bothered them was the not knowing how to react in any given situation when the enemy was trying to kill you and he was armed with a weapon equal or superior to yours. Was I afraid, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but a long time before I’d learnt how to conquer my fears. Sometimes it took massive willpower to conquer my fears and regain my confidence, especially if I’d been hurt in a situation. Fortunately I’d learnt from my past experiences and it made me more capable to deal with my fear.

It was arranged a guard would collect us after he’d eaten and off we’d go for an hour or so. Whether he’d done this before or not I have no idea but he entered into the spirit of the situation and he made us jump up and down, indicating we had to remove various pieces of equipment as it rattled too loudly. I was affronted when he smelt me and indicated I should leave my cigars in camp. To add insult to injury when we were just outside the gate he made all of us rub our faces, necks and hands and wrists with the sap of a pungent smelling bush. He explained the smell would cover our European smell as well as my cigar smell. He said there was an additional benefit as the smell ensured the mosquitoes kept away.

As we set off I smiled to myself when Dirk smartly fell in behind our leader. Jim without hesitation jumped in behind Dirk and I was left to play tail end Charlie. Not the ideal position as my back was completely exposed to the bush. I don’t know if you have experienced the worms that run up and down your spine, anticipating the worst.  Over time I’d learnt to respect them as they made me extra alert. My ears became more attuned to the noises of the night surrounding me. My eyesight seemed to be able to focus with greater intensity and my tendons and sinews seemed to be wound taut, just waiting to explode into action. I can’t say I enjoyed being at the back of out patrol but felt I was probably the most competent of the three of us to react to a situation. The reason I smiled as we formed up is because though I was well set up I was short, barely making average height, whereas both Dirk and Jim were around six foot and neither was a shrinking violet as I have described earlier. Yet here was an example of their fear forcing them to seek the protection of being between the guard and myself.

I thought we would apply some cammo cream and asked the guard if he had any. He chuckled and said he understood my request but indicated the hunter’s moon above us. I got the message loud and clear, the moonlight was so bright it was like a bright sunny day but without the heat. The guard gave us a quick lesson in some basic hand signs as he said once we were on patrol there would be no talking and we needed to obey his signals as if our lives depended on them, in fact they did. The guard set a cracking pace and observing from the back I realised he was like a creature of the night. He seemed to blend into his surroundings and he walked so quietly whereas to my attuned ears the three of us were crashing about like a disturbed rhino. Another lesson learned that night. During my month back in Civvy Street, once our basic training ended, every single night I walked at speed through the bushland behind my garden flat until my servant agreed he had not heard me creep up on him. I also got to know through him several native shrubs issuing a pungent sap which was a perfect camouflage as anybody smelling it simply recognised t as part of the surrounding bush. I’m not a botanist or even much of a gardener but I do know some plants and flowers issue a far stronger smell at night than they do during the daylight. It was this fact that made using the sap so appropriately.

Several times the guard stopped us and a couple of times he made us squat close to the ground. Try as I might each time I would look in the direction the guard was looking but I never saw anything. Once I caught movement in my peripheral vision and felt an adrenalin rush as my body coped with the alarm. Fortunately I have a propensity to remain calm in most situations so I just breathed deeply and held my breath until I felt in control again. Focusing my sight on where I saw the movement I recognised it for what it was. It was a cow and her calf having a moonlight meal. We had come round a large bush and when I caught sight of her she was no more than twenty feet from me. Had she been a Magandanga I’d have been in deep shit.

Back at the Keep the guard praised us saying we were obviously mature enough not to simply panic at the first sign of danger. Inside the KCs quarters the others kept pumping us for information as if trying to imagine what it was like out there. Seeing the KCs face while all this jabbering was going on I got the impression we were quite safe from two legged enemies. Perhaps the RAR had been shadowing us, whoever knew wasn’t saying. Nevertheless danger still lurks in the African bush and we may well have come across a poisonous snake, a rabid dog or jackal, a lion, leopard or hyena, even a short tempered rhino. Fortunately nothing untoward happened to us and I’d learnt two valuable lessons.

We returned to Chikurubi and before we knew it Friday arrived. Our last day in camp. At the end of day we’d become civilians once more for at least few weeks. We had been told we would do a roster touring for six weeks and then be civvies for six weeks. It didn’t work out that way and during my first tour we received an amending order indicating we would tour for six weeks and then spend only twenty eight days as civilians before returning for our next tour.

We attended lectures during the morning after our final round on the Assault Course. The RSM was very pleasant and wished us well on our tours and said he hoped he’d managed to impart something which may help to keep us alive. After lunch the Instructors fell us in and Colour Foulds marched us down to the Administration Block were we were stood at ease.  Senior Commandant Robin Tarr came out and addressed us saying how pleased he was how many of us had survived the course, especially as we were the first intake to have to negotiate the Assault Course. We all felt very proud when he mentioned that senior officers from Rhodesia’s elite units as well as the BSAP Blackboots and the RAR had come and toured our Assault Course and agreed it was by far more testing than the ones they used for their men.

Finally the moment we were all waiting for arrived and the Senior Commandant called out our names indicating if we had past the course as Keep Commanders or as Deputy Keep Commanders. If memory serves me correctly we had somewhere around fourteen or fifteen Deputy Keep Commanders with the rest passing out as Keep Commanders.  These ranks were seldom recognised – especially by other units -yet I still have a copy of the Defence Force Regulations 1978 concerning Discipline and within it there is a comparison schedule showing the ranks of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th arms of security, Army, Airforce and Guard Force. The Police Force is the 1st arm of security.  The table shows emphatically that a Deputy Keep Commander’s rank was identical to a Warrant Officer Class Two and a Keep Commander holds the same rank as a Warrant Officer Class One. To those who know, each member of the security forces has a rank and an appointment. For instance a Keep Commander’s rank was equivalent to a Warrant Officer Class 1 in the army yet their appointments are quite disparate. This is more so when we consider the role of Junior Commandants and Assistant Commandants once the Guard Force assumed the farm and installation protection role.

An additional problem I came across and had to stamp out very early in the piece was the inane belief some regular members of the Guard Force had regarding rank. Some idiotic regular Sergeants believed their regular non-com rank was superior to a conscript’s Warrant Officer’s rank or Commission.  I soon put their misconceptions to rights. Just as I did with some idiots from the Blackboots and the Rhodesian Regiment Battalions.

Anyway here we were being presented with our rank insignia by Assistant Commandant Terry Wilde. I was proud to have past out as a Keep Commander and swore a vow to myself I would honour the Corps and do my damnedest to stay alive until the war ended. After the presentation we had to attend a pay parade and then we were dismissed and relaxed with the instructors, recalling funny or serious events during our course.


A colourful presentation of my Warrant Officer Class1 (Keep Commander) insignia.

 


My rank insignia, adapted to enable me to wear it on the Front Lines without attracting unwanted attention.

 Finally they dismissed us and warned us to ensure we took all our belongings with us as the next intake would be arriving on the Monday. Whether Molico and Helen’s baby was ever christened or called Verity I never knew as our paths have never crossed since that time. I even lost touch with Wendy as she, not long after settling Helen and Molico, headed off to London and that was the end of that chapter of my life.

Strangely once back in civvy life we quickly returned to our previous social lives. I guess like me most of the others in my intake were having trouble adjusting to their civilian working lives again. I had to catch up events from the previous six weeks. It was a stressful time as my superiors simply expected me to pick up where I’d left off when I was called up. In addition I had to attempt to clear my desk so when I went off for my next call up I didn’t leave a massive backlog on my desk and by the time the war ended I was able to catch up within the first two or three days. I was so busy working or socialising I forgot all about the Guard Force until I was rudely reminded when I received a brown envelope from the Administration Office advising me to report to Chikurubi for deployment to GF6 Mtoko.

One extremely sad event occurred during the weekend I was attending my initial call-up. At the time was working for one of the TA Group companies called Hire-a-Vision. We were the biggest hire company of televisions and white goods in Rhodesia with branches countrywide. Being so large we had a large Debtors Ledger and not all were honourable payers. Because we had delinquent accounts we had to handover such accounts to another Group company specialising in debt recovery. The Debt Recovery operation was relatively small as its function was simply to make the first overtures in the process. If their input failed to persuade the delinquent debtor to cough up then the account was assessed and if considered hopeless we wrote it off but where it was felt some pressure brought to bear would result in payment the account was past along to professional lawyers. Just prior to my call-up I was involved with the principal - a lady who had worked for years with some lawyers - and her assistant, a young girl as we were trying to reconcile the handed over debts. I advised them I would take up the reconciliation when I returned from my basic training.

On my return to civilian life I contacted the principal –I still see her face but I forget her name - and reminded her I would be calling on her.  Strange how people assume everyone is aware of events occurring around them. When I called on the Debt Recovery Agency the following day I received one of the greatest shocks of my life.

WOOLWORTH BOMB BLAST

O

n Saturday the 6th August 1977 two African teachers – terrorist sympathisers – carried a large suitcase into the Woolworth’s Shop on Manica Road, just before it was due to close at one p.m. Woolworth’s was a popular shop especially for Africans as their prices were extremely reasonable. Many whites also frequented the shop for the very good prices on offer as it allowed their limited financial resources to stretch much further. The Mayor family had shopped at Woolworths for years and on that fatal day the eldest daughter – I don’t recall her Christian name -had forgotten to buy something. It was hot and her father was irritable – tired of shopping and just wanting to get home as soon as he could – and he blew a fuse when his daughter asked him to please wait while she returned to the shop to make her purchase. Her father was annoyed but pressured by his wife relented but told her to hurry up.  Miss Mayor accompanied by her mother and brother - Donald Brinin – hurried back into Woolworths. As they past a table near the entrance they were about to walk past a suitcase – the one the two teachers had left in the store. Unbeknownst to them it contained an estimated charge of 75 kilograms of explosive and a timer. As they walked into Woolworths the ‘bomb’ exploded. All three members of the Mayor family were killed along with 8 Africans including several pregnant women. Scores of shoppers were injured from the blast and the whole wall was blown out of the shop.

Hearing the huge blast Mr. Mayor wondered what it was at first then it dawned on him it could have been a bomb. In urgent panic he abandoned his car and ran towards Woolworths frantically screaming for his wife and children.  Pandemonium reigned as shoppers tried to escape from the store hindering his progress into the store. The police having been alerted were quickly on the scene and took charge. They asked Mr Mayor to wait outside while they and other emergency services assessed the situation and tried to help those shoppers who were alive but injured. Later having discovered 11 people had died including three white people they asked Mr Mayor if he could identify the dead. His wife was a mangled mess of meat and all he recognised was her frock, his son simply seemed to be asleep and uninjured except for a small cut on his left temple. The cut had been made by a sliver of shrapnel created by the blast and it had penetrated his brain killing Donald instantly. His daughter had obviously taken the full blast of the bomb and had simply evaporated. Parts of her no doubt decorated the store where blood and gore could be seen. All the police had recovered were a pair of ankle boots containing stumps of legs and the feet. Mr Mayor recognised the boots instantly as he had ridiculed his daughter for buying and wearing them. He collapsed and broke down in his guilt and suffering and was taken to The Andrew Fleming for observation and assistance.

The above explanation was related to me by the principal of the Debt Recovery Agency. Young Miss Mayor – never the brightest person around, but pleasant and innocent – worked for the Agency. Later the story was confirmed to me and more facts established by a friend of mine who was called-up for duty with the police and had been on duty when the call came through about the bomb blast at Woolworths.

I was shocked as I realised the vulnerability of our families. Though I was a bachelor I had a brother in Gwelo serving with the Rhodesian Engineers as well as both my parents living in Salisbury. My Dad and an Uncle of mine were called-up in the 38-65 age group to do patrols through the suburbs at night to free up younger men who could operate at the front lines. What shocked me was the fact that every Saturday – along with thousands of other Rhodesians – my folks did their weekly shopping.  It could have been them blown to smithereens if the bomb had been placed in one of the shops they frequented. I could only pray they remained vigilant at all times.

FIRST CALL UP GP6 MTOKO

 


The Operation Hurricane Plaque depicting the NATO target soldier

T

oward the end of our basic training we were introduced to Commandant Hallack – Commanding Officer GP6 Mtoko - as we were to be deployed to his Group, GP6 Mtoko when we were next called up.

When Basic Training came to an end I returned home – for a month not the 6 weeks we’d been led to believe would be the case – and within a week I received my official brown envelope containing my instructions typed on pink paper, regarding my next call-up. I was instructed to report at Chikurubi on the 21st October by 0800 hours. I was also instructed as to what I should take with me, carrying it in my black trunk. We were misled as we were instructed to take our food with us as we would be in the bush and unable to buy fresh meat though we would possibly be able to buy fresh vegetables. I had a carton full of tinned meals, sufficient for 6 weeks in addition to my tin trunk.

I took a taxi to Chikurubi on due date and saw a sign advising us to congregate on the field where the CABS buses parked. Because I’m always early I was first to arrive and paying off the taxi I sat on my tin trunk and waited for developments. Not long after a bus arrived and on enquiring I was told it was the bus that would take us to Mtoko. I could not believe we were going to war in a CABS bus, anyway the driver said I could load my tin trunk and ration box if I liked. I liked as it allowed me to wander off to the Intaf Dining Hall to scrounge a cup of coffee and as luck would have it I also managed to purloin a couple of bacon and egg sandwiches. Back at the bus I greeted a few others who had arrived and together we waited……and waited…..and waited. I couldn’t believe what was happening this was exactly like what had happened on the first day of our Basic Training. Yet again no one seemed to care if we had arrived or not. By mid - morning the troops were getting restless and we all decamped for the Intaf Dining Hall for some tea. We took our time over tea with nobody chivvying us up. Eventually bored we went back to the bus and finally Assistant Commandant Wilde strolled up.

He fell us in and took a rollcall. Of the original 52 recruits only 42 had completed the Basic training and now we’d lost another 6 recruits including Jim Lawrence. I only ever saw him once more and when we met up he explained how after basic training he had transferred to the Pioneer Corp as it allowed him to return home each night to protect his family. Apparently the Charlie Tangos had revved the poultry farm again and Jim told the Commander if he wasn’t transferred to the Pioneer Corp he would up sticks and take his family back to England. It did the trick and within a week he was transferred. Of the others Pete Twiddle, ex BSAP – he who received the Dear John letter – wasn’t with us. I never saw him again and have no idea what happened to him. Of the Bulawayo contingent only Bill - with the flat feet – was with us, the other four missing guys, including Tim – he of the flare incident – disappeared. Whether they completed call ups around Bulawayo or not I have no idea, and I never saw any of them again.

Terry Wilde told us to go to the Intaf Mess to have some lunch – it was only eleven o’clock but as he explained we either went then or forfeited our lunch as GF8 were on course and together with the Intaf call up they would have priority at the Mess. Mutters changed into eagerness as none of us knew when the hell we’d be going to Mtoko, or even if we’d be going that day and who knew when next we would eat. We had to hurry our lunch at the end as the new recruits arrived and needed our seats. Back at the bus we realised the driver had disappeared and eventually we espied him taking a siesta in the shade of some smallish trees bordering the field. At two o’clock he arose and approaching us said unless we left within the next hour he would refuse to drive us to Mtoko that day as it meant we would be travelling at the most dangerous time of the day before we arrived at the GP6 HQ.

Suddenly Assistant Commandant Nichols arrived, all hustle and bustle and artificial efficiency. He told us to quickly embus as we were late and needed to make up lost time. Who was he kidding, we’d been sitting around bored out of our skulls for hours on end. Aboard the driver fired up the bus and off to war we went. On arrival at Chikurubi we’d all gone to the armoury to be issued with our rifle and 60 rounds of ammunition. When I asked for more ammo’ the armourer just laughed and said we’d have as much as we wanted once in the field. The thing that bothered all of us was the fact that if attacked none of us had any idea how our rifles fired. Were they zeroed or did they shoot high or low, left or right, who knew. We were issued with automatic weapons and that is all I can say. They were a motley collection of SLRs, FNs, and R1s. None was new and God only knew how much abuse they had suffered being used by a plethora of dysfunctional hands. No wonder the driver didn’t want to be on the road too late. With us lot being un-blooded he was more likely to be shot by one of us if we were attacked.

The further away from Salisbury we travelled the quieter the newly appointed keep Commanders and Deputies became as the roads became emptier and emptier as the time moved closer to four thirty. Fortunately the driver had done this route before and he was exceeding the speed limit most of the way. Eventually he said to all and sundry, “We are nearly at the camp”. He turned off the sealed road onto a gravel road which perturbed me as I had visions of land mines. Fortunately we only travelled a hundred metres or so along the road and then crossing a cattle grid we reached an entrance; we had arrived at GF6 HQ. Commandant Hallack met the bus flanked by two Assistant Commandants and two Junior Commandants. Assistant Commandant Thompson (Tommy) was British, ex British Army and he’d been in Ireland fighting the IRA.  He was the OC Mudzi based at Kotwa (call sign Delta 10). At that time Mudzi was a part of GP6. The other Assistant Commandant was Guenter Maeser (German or Austrian). He was the 2IC of GP6. Hallack, Maeser and Thompson were all regulars in the Guard Force. The first Junior Commandant was Glynn Trevelyan – he was a South African from Johannesburg and he was the General Manager of a wire cabling company in Salisbury. He was the 2IC at Kotwa. The other Junior Commandant was Phil (I forget his surname). I recall he was from Umtali, I don’t recall his civilian job and he was appointed the OC Mtoko based at Chidamoyo mission. Obviously prior to our arrival Commandant Hallack and his support officers had sorted who was to go to Mudzi. Within short order of debussing they were ordered to load their belongings onto a heavy and with Tommy and Glynn in the cab they trundled off to Kotwa. Commandant Hallack, Guenter and Phil conferred and they decided we would be allocated our destinations but would only be deployed in the morning.

When told of the plan we were quite relieved as by now it was close to 5.30 in the afternoon and I had visions of us being trundled about the TTL in the damn bus; not very mine-proofed or bullet proofed at all. Unknown to us the driver had refused to travel back to Salisbury until the following morning and had made arrangements for the night ahead. Commandant Hallack had his clip board and he started to allocate the troops. Dirk and I were standing together and observing and we realised each Keep in the Mtoko area was receiving a KC and a deputy KC. After two or three allocations we did a quick head count and realised soon there would be no more deputies and if two KCs were to be allotted together we would attempt to go together. As we suspected once the deputies ran out two KCs were allocated together. Next we tried to work out how CO Hallack was doing the allocation. It certainly wasn’t alphabetical for Dirk’s name commenced with a ‘B’ and he’d been overlooked. I realised we were already into names beginning with ‘T’ and I too hadn’t been called. Suddenly everyone had been allocated except Dirk and me. The CO addressed us directly and asked if we minded working on our own. He said he’d reserved the Keep nearest the Chidamoyo HQ and wanted to know which of us wanted it. Pretty much like our patrol near Bindura, Dirk was in like Flint. I didn’t blame him for we were taught in the South African Army that he who hesitated was last and often, in the army, dead; yes I know the actual adage is ‘he who hesitates is lost’. I wished Dirk good luck and waited to hear my fate.  For my sins I was to be the 2IC at Chidamoyo.

Having been allocated our postings we were told we would remain at the GP6 HQ for the night and would be taken to the Mtoko club where we could buy some dinner if we wished.  The club was great and the food reasonably priced and of good quality. I guess the Club Secretary was happy having to prepare extra meals for us as we wouldn’t be frequenting their club during out call-up.

Back at GP6 HQ we were shown to a room sans beds or mattresses. Fortunately my South African Army experiences had prepared me for the mores of army life and I simply unrolled my sleeping bag onto the concrete floor and donning my track suit was prepared for the night. I improvised a pillow by using my uniform and boots. Dirk followed suit as did a few others but for the main the rest were so unprepared they had a miserable night lying on the bare concrete in their uniforms and complained bitterly the next morning.

The GP6 kitchen prepared some scrambled eggs and bacon for our breakfast and then it was all aboard the heavy which would be deploying us. We called at the Chidamoyo HQ where I was ordered to offload my possessions and then to join the OC Chidamoyo in the cab of the heavy – I didn’t realise it but I was his armed guard. Phil explained that should we be attacked his job was to drive through the killing ground and the forward stop group while my job was to lay down suppressive fire to protect him.

Once we had dropped off the KCs and Deputy KCs, Phil and I returned to Chidamoyo. There we met an Intaf District Officer who said he was standing down the next day. He was driving a leopard anti mine vehicle which he said belonged to Chidamoyo. He suggested that the next day I took him to Mudzi DC where he had to go to sign off and then I could bring the Leopard back for our use.


Showing the ubiquitous Leopard built using VW components

Phil had his heavy which he seemed comfortable with and he suggested once I brought the Leopard back it would be my vehicle. Fortunately my Military Licence allowed me to drive a Leopard. In the late afternoon three men joined us at Chidamoyo, they were expected as the Intaf District Officer had told us about them. They were from the Malarial Eradication unit and they were visiting the various villages in the Mtoko TTL to spray likely breeding grounds for the anopheles mosquito – the female carries the malarial parasite to humans. They had just completed their touring and tomorrow they were heading back to Salisbury. One of their number was a Canadian who was touring Africa and had temporarily joined the Malarial Eradication unit to see the country and to raise some finance for the next part of his journey.

-        Several years later (1981) I was touring the world and visiting my sister at Edmonton, Alberta. She and my brother-in-law had been invited to a New Year Eve party – they had only been at Edmonton for two months at the time – and they asked the host if I could tag along. The Canadian hosts were very gracious and agreed. At the party who should I bump into but the fellow who had been in Mtoko during the war? Quite surreal, as I had only met him for one night in 1977. We confirmed he had been part of the Malarial Eradication unit and had been at Chidamoyo on the first night I spent there. -

First thing the next morning I joined the guards for the mine patrol – they had been doing them for several weeks before we arrived - from the base HQ to the first Keep. Each Keep in turn patrolled to the next Keep thus clearing the complete road network in the TTL. They famba’d down the road leaving me in their wake and I was fit. What I observed was their only interest was in returning to the HQ a.s.a.p. to have breakfast. I was not impressed with the way they attended their duties and quickly corrected their attitude.

I was keen on the mine patrol doing a good job as I was using the Leopard to visit the Keeps later each day, Phil preferred to be the administrator and to liaise with GP6 HQ. I suppose it was with self-preservation in mind that I continued to do the mine patrol each morning.

It was while on one of these patrols one of the prodders hit something in the loosened soil. Directing my attention to the spot I made the other guards in the patrol form a 360 in the road while I investigated. We had found a mine and not only a mine but also several AP mines along each side of the road.

We were later informed we had found the first plastic [sic] Bakelite anti vehicle landmine in Rhodesia. They had been produced to counter the metal detecting ability of the Pookie (bushbaby) - made by Trevor Davies Engineering in Rhodesia – a brilliant mine detection vehicle. Because the Pookie was shod with second hand Formula One slicks from Kyalami in South Africa it had a footprint smaller than a human and thus could travel over a buried landmine without setting it off. As time went by the Charlie Tangos became more sophisticated and they would attach an anti - personnel mine to the anti - vehicle mine and even a bicycle rider could set it off. Through sympathetic detonation the ATM would explode with devastating effect as can be imagined. As the war progressed the Rhodesian Defence Forces became more expert in producing troop carriers designed to survive the blast of an anti-vehicle/tank mine and to counter this measure the Charlie Tangos would sometimes boost a landmine with sticks of dynamite.

Some of you may recall the events that followed at Chidamoyo. I had managed to get a message to Phil at our base and he’d phoned the GP6 HQ requesting they call in the engineers. They arrived in the early afternoon of 1st November 1977 and were under the command of WO11 Sydney (call me Syd) Russell Davidson. He was driving a low-loader on which there was a Pookie. The Pookie driver was a Sergeant and they had three troopers with them to assist with the vehicles but they were also security for the Pookie.

The only good thing that came out of that event was Syd’s confirmation that it was the first Bakelite mine discovered in Rhodesia. Sadly for Syd the Charlie Tangos had boosted the mine with sticks of dynamite and to prevent removal of the mine they had booby trapped it. When Syd attempted to remove the mine he accidently tripped the booby trap and it blew up the mine and the booster. The blast was so powerful it left a hole big enough to lose a Kudu (troop carrier) in it.  Without recounting the gory details suffice it to say little remained of Syd for burial.

My first kill I think was a majiba. He was in his twenties and may well have been a terrorist melding into the local scene to observe the devastation his handiwork had caused. He saw me making my way towards him with my Corporal in tow and started to run away. I ordered him to stop and had my Corporal to tell him to stop in the vernacular. He chose to ignore both challenges and began to run faster. Suffice it to say he could have saved Syd Davidson’s life had he told us of the danger instead of losing his own by running away..

A couple of days later I hitchhiked back to Salisbury as I had to write some examinations towards my accounting degree. Assistant Commandant Guenter Maeser asked me to escort his wife from Salisbury when I returned to the front. I was pleased to do so as I had a guaranteed ride all the way back to Mtoko and she was happy as she had an armed escort to protect her.

MUDZI

W

hen we left Salisbury it was early in the morning and we arrived at GP6 without incident but I was in for a shock. I met Phil at GP6 and he informed me he was no longer based at Chidamoyo. The senior command at GP6 had decided it was better for him to work out of the GP6 HQ. Later during the day the reasoning became clearer. Apparently Carrera –one of the Portuguese from my initial course GF7 - had been allocated to the Mudzi area under Tommy Thompson because of his previous military experiences in Mozambique. Anyway he had been allocated the Keep at Dindera (call sign Delta 9) off the main road to the Nyamapanda border post. Something didn’t add up. He was supposed to have served in the Portuguese Army in Mozambique yet from what I was told once he arrived at his Keep he crept under his bed where he stayed, only venturing out to attend to his bodily functions and to eat. In consequence the Keep was a shambles and the guards ran riot. Either Tommy Thompson or Glynn Trevelyan had gone to visit him at Dindera and discovered the debacle.

They had uplifted Carrera there and then and taken him to Kotwa (call sign Delta 10) the Mudzi HQ.  They reported the situation to GP6 HQ and requested a replacement immediately. The only possible replacement was me which meant Phil would have been on his own, a situation he was not enamoured with. It was then they had agreed to the closure of the HQ at Chidamoyo with Phil transferring to GP6 HQ and me transferring to the Mudzi. Phil handed me some keys to a Heavy – I was to discover my black box and carton of provisions had already been loaded onto the back. I was ordered to drive over to the Mtoko Hotel where I would meet up with Tommy Thompson and Glynn Trevelyan and then we would drive to the Mudzi HQ. Bloody marvellous – I’d never driven a diesel vehicle before – but I refused to lose face so I pretended nonchalance and climbed into the cab. I remember observing others go through the starting procedure and followed suit. To my amazement the Heavy started first time and I was away. I’d never driven a five ton truck before so was a bit apprehensive crossing the cattle grid at the GP6 entrance. Fortunately I have driven in some tricky situations and so nothing untoward happened until I reached the hotel. When I parked in front of the hotel the damn truck wouldn’t switch off even if I removed the key from the ignition. I was not to be denied so I backed away a few feet from the wall and quickly I dropped the clutch and stalled the truck. For a minute I had visions of smashing into the front of the hotel as the truck leapt forward like a maddened bull. Luckily the truck stopped with inches to spare. Quick as a flash I pulled on the handbrake and removed the key.

Entering the barroom I saw Tommy and Glynn having a beer so I walked over and reported to them. In a flash I deposited the keys on the counter greatly relieved to be rid of them. I shared a couple of beers with them as the afternoon wore on.  Finally we headed for the truck and the great adventure right out into the gungeni. Where we were going could not get closer to the front. The end of the road was Nyamapanda border post to Mozambique - Recently closed and evacuated by the BSAP and Customs officials – I was to learn that a lot of the ‘luxury’ equipment at Delta 10 Kotwa had been uplifted (purloined, if you like) from the border post before the Engineers had mined the site as it was inside the Cordon Sanitaire. At that time Kotwa had a very fine kitchen boasting several paraffin fridges and deep freezers as well as gas stoves. The Sunray and Sunray Minor and a guest luxuriated on beds of several dunlopillo mattresses – curtesy of the border post and meals could be eaten al fresco on suitable table and chairs also from the border post. Numerous other items such as gas lanterns, an extra two generators – I think they were petrol driven - for supplying lighting all added to the comfort of the sub HQ. Of course there was plenty of crockery, cutlery, table linen and pots and pans.

As we trundled along the road to Kotwa the sun was heading to the west when suddenly Tommy Thompson – the driver – pulled onto the shoulder of the road and Glynn Trevelyan armed with a Beretta automatic shotgun jumped out and assumed a firing position. A cold hand grabbed at my heart as I thought we were about to be attacked. I saved myself from embarrassment when I noticed Tommy nonchalantly seating behind the wheel. Suddenly several guinea-fowl rose from the land and flew across Glynn’s front. Before he could fire they disappeared out of sight. Tommy was disgusted at the lack of a bag but frankly I was not unhappy as it was the wrong time to eat guinea-fowl – the rains had started the birds are full of worms. I also thought it a bit strange as we had been told around sundown was the time the Charlie Tangos were most active as they could slip away in the darkness.

Without further ado we trundled onwards past the DC Mudzi base and past Suswe Keep eventually arriving at Kotwa. I noticed a Kudu parked in the strongpoint and wondered how Glynn and Tommy had driven down to GP6. Alighting from the Heavy I assumed I would be spending the night at Kotwa as darkness was settling in. No-one told me to remove my kit from the Heavy so I left it there.

Tommy was in a surly mood and kept to himself whereas Glynn and I struck up a report – perhaps because he was also a South African. We had a couple of Chibulis – Shumba – of course, while Tommy arranged a meal with their cook (a guard had been allocated kitchen duties). In short order we had a meal of sorts and I was told about ‘Pied Crow’. Apparently Internal Affairs were more civilised than Guard Force and once a week a light aircraft landed at Dondo Keep – mainly because it had a finely graded road which was used as a landing strip. Each week Pied Crow an African employed by Intaf would arrive with meat, vegetables and other items the Intaf staff had ordered. The DC Mudzi had granted Guard Force Mudzi a dispensation whereby we could also use Pied Crow. That was a great relief to me as I had envisaged eating tinned rations throughout my call up.

 Delta 9 DINDERA

 

S

uddenly Tommy got up from the table and said to me,

“Right let’s go”. Go where, he had to be kidding, here it was eight o’clock at night in the middle of Africa and dark as the inside of a black cow at midnight. He was serious and in short order we were in the Heavy heading for Dindera Keep. I couldn’t believe the casual attitude and could only assume Mudzi was safer than Bindura. It seemed highly unlikely from what I’d been told about the eastern border area. Arriving at the PV the Main Gates were locked but no trouble to Tommy he just sat on the hooter with his lights blazing until a DA (District Assistant) and a guard arrived to open the gates. We drove in like the Lord of the Manor onto his private estate totally ignoring the men at the gate.  We neared the Keep and suddenly Tommy stopped and told me to get my kit off the Heavy. I did so and without a by-your-leave he drove off, heading back to Kotwa.

Thanks a bunch, I thought, here I was somewhere in the Dindera village with no knowledge of the layout or anything. I walked into the Keep and espied three asbestos ‘A’ frame buildings. I noticed the one on the left had some lights on so I made a beeline for it. When I walked in not a single guard jumped to attention. Discipline was obviously foreign to them. That was about to change – tomorrow. I indicated that a couple of the guards should follow me, which they did reluctantly, but looking into my eyes they decided they best humour me. We backtracked to my black box and carton of provisions which I had them carry to the ‘A’ frame to the right which I assumed would be my quarters. Inside I saw it consisted of two bedroom cubicles, a kitchen area and an ablutions block at the far end. In between was a large open plan area where there was trestle table where we would eat, four canvas camp chairs, a paraffin deep freeze and a metal cabinet containing supplies of 4 x 2, gun oil, spare ammo and a few cleaning items. I discovered the small ‘A’ frame between the two large ‘A ‘frames was the ablution area for the guards and Intaf district assistants. Behind the guards barrack was a cooking area where they could prepare their meals and eat.

Dindera had mains electricity as it was linked into the national grid which serviced the PV, very civilised it was yet for some unfathomable reason we had a paraffin deep freeze – why not one operated by electricity. I realised the ‘A’ frame were designed for a Guard Force KC and an Intaf D O (District Officer). As the quarters were empty it was apparent the DO had not yet arrived to replace the previous one or the current one was away somewhere. Perhaps had he been at Dindera when Carrera arrived things may have been different and I would never have enjoyed the highlights of the Kotwa HQ. 

The next morning I was up at dawn and went for a stroll around the Keep. I was not impressed as none of the guards were about, no piquet had been rostered on. I noticed a tall tower behind my quarters and as quick as a monkey I shinnied up to the viewing platform. The tower had to be at least forty or fifty feet high and the whole village was visible form the viewing platform. For obvious reasons not all the perimeter fence could be observed nevertheless I was able to locate the business area, the village store, the main gate and the school. I noticed a crowd gathering at the main gate which meant the DAs would soon be about to open the gates and allow the villagers out to attend their livestock and gardens. It suddenly occurred to me the mine patrol should have been out and about as we didn’t want a local losing a leg to an A P mine we hadn’t detected. I scrambled down and walked into the barracks to find one of the DAs and a guard dressed while the rest simply slept on.


Picture shows my Guards at Delta 9, Dindera Keep – Mudzi (Note the Khaki uniforms). In the background is an off duty Intaf DA. Behind the storeroom is a strongpoint with sandbagged roof to deflect mortar blasts


Picture shows my Guards at Delta 9, Dindera Keep – Mudzi The drums held avgas for any gunship requiring refuelling

 

 


Picture shows guards quarters on the left, their ablution block in the centre and the KC/DOs quarters on the right. Backrow on the left is Guard Kapuke with whom I had many escapades.

 

I rudely awakened the barracks and a few tardy guards found I was not Carrera but meant business as I tipped them out of their beds and onto the floor.  Shouting and shoving I fell them all in and then discovered one was an Intaf Sergeant and one was a Guard Force Corporal. I fell them out and berated them and the Intaf Sergeant advised me I had absolutely no right to shout at him or the DAs as they weren’t Guard Force. I agreed and apologised and excused him and the DAs from the squad. The dressed DA made off for the main gate and speaking to the dressed guard indicated he needed to fall out as well. I told the guard to remain in the squad as Administration was not a Guard Force duty but Intafs’. The Sergeant protested saying in the past the guards had helped out as there was too much work for just the two DAs. I shrugged my shoulders and told him I saw three Intaf personnel so get on with it.  He was horrified as he considered himself above such mundane work. I ignored him and addressed the guards explaining that from then onwards major changes would be occurring. I extracted four of the guards including the one who was already dressed and I told them they would be doing the mine patrol – with me.  I gave them five minutes to report for duty and off we went. The Main Gate still hadn’t been opened as the DA was trying to explain to the gathering crowd he had to wait for his associate to help him before anyone could leave the PV. I led the guards out onto the unsealed road and off we went. I was to discover a mine patrol had not been done for weeks even though a CABS bus from Salisbury came to the PV daily.  A state of déjá-vu seemed to have crept in to the Keep’s thinking. It was as if the Charlie Tangos had agreed not to attack Dindera. In a sense this was true and during my call up we discovered much collaboration with the Magandanga. After the war I was privy to a conversation (more of it later) and was shattered when I was told that often, groups of Charlie Tangos were ferried into Salisbury on the CABS bus.

It was at the second morning parade the Intaf DAs fell in and the Sergeant approached me asking if they could work under me. There still was no sign of the DO or Senior Vedette and I had thought it would be advantages to have an amalgamated unit at the Keep. I agreed and explained that until further notice the Sergeant was to be in charge of both DAs and guards. The Guard Force Corporal would be subordinate to the Sergeant but in charge of both guards and DAs. I called the Sergeant aside and asked him to draw up a gate roster and a picquet roster as it would be introduced from that night. The Sergeant realised I was not trying to diminish his authority, in fact I had expanded it. There was only one qualification I stressed for all of them and that was my arrangement would only work until the DO/SV showed up. Thereafter the Intaf men would report to him and the guards to me. Two weeks were to pass before the SV fronted up. He was an Irishman – Paddy? He and Tommy Thompson certainly didn’t see eye to eye as Paddy had obviously supported Sinn Fein and Tommy had been sent to Ireland to oppose the IRA. I got on well with Paddy and he was more than happy for the guards and DAs to continue as a single unit under my authority. He carried out his admin duties and I looked after security.

Before Paddy arrived I had introduced myself to the shop owner – Fazo - who spoke excellent English. As I got to know him he explained how he had been educated at a mission school and was befriended by a priest who had helped him set up his shop. Faso was obviously destined to run his shop successfully as he was the wealthiest local in the PV. In addition to his shop he owned 10 acres of land which his three wives tended. Fazo seemed to be a progressive thinker and surprised me when he said he had purchased a tractor. He explained his three wives were finding it difficult to cope with the 10 acres so he intended to buy a tractor and he was going to purchase another 15 acres. I commended him on his forward thinking and wished him well.

When I returned to Dindera for my next call-up I noticed the tractor outside his shop sitting on large wooded blocks, it had no wheels. I asked Fazo what had happened and he said the tractor had been more trouble than it was worth as it kept breaking down and so he’d abandoned his idea and was cannibalising it and selling the parts to various locals for use in their cars and trucks. Meanwhile having purchased the extra 15 acres he needed someone to husband them so he bought some more wives. He said life was much better with all of his wives getting on extremely well together and his only complaint was sharing himself equally with them.

From Fazo I used to buy the Herald – the Salisbury newspaper - each day which arrived with the CABS bus Monday to Friday. I also bought a crate of Shumba to help me through the dreary nights, especially when I was on my own before Paddy arrived. I had been at Dindera for three days before I got a radio call from Kotwa. It was Glynn who said the following day he’d be calling on me and he hoped I had a few cold ones set aside. Glynn and I got on very well and formed a friendship which continued after the war ended. Tommy never called on me at Dindera and I only ever saw him at Kotwa.

The first time I went inside the A frame barracks used by the guards and DAs during the daylight I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The asbestos sheeting at the apex forming the roof was blown to bits. I realised it was for this reason the sign at the entrance gate to the PV had been erected. The sign read ‘keep rifle pointing at sky. TAKE OUT Magazine. COCK, HOOK and LOCK rifle, catch round from chamber and put back in magazine. Release breech block and pull trigger. DON’T put magazine BACK ON RIFLE.’ My only query was why the sign wasn’t written in the vernacular but in English instead. I was informed it was only a few days before when the guards had been converted from .303s to automatic assault rifles. Being used to the single shot .303s they knew once you slid the blocking plate over the magazine no other round could feed the breech so when they cleared the weapon once the round up the spout was ejected there was no way another round could enter the breech from the magazine. They couldn’t understand why with an automatic if you cleared the weapon with the magazine on a fresh round was collected from the magazine when the breech block was released. Consequently when you pulled the trigger the rifle fired a round. Fortunately – even with .303s the guards had been drilled over and over never to clear their weapon with it pointing anywhere except at the sky – a valuable lesson learnt as it saved many lives, testament was borne out by the numerous apertures in the asbestos near the apex of their barrack room.

I can vouch for the conversion occurring within days prior to my arrival as I was involved with the transfer of the old 303s to Mtoko. Some of the old 303s were still in fantastic condition and with a bit of care and ingenuity they could be converted into a very powerful hunting weapon. The problem in the future would be obtaining ammunition as there was no demand for it. Applying logic and reasoning and possessing the ability to employ sleight of hand always proved beneficial in such situtaions.

I had a near death experience within my first week at Dindera. Though the guards had been issued with automatic weapons a small bar had been welded onto the rifle preventing the selector being moved from single shot to automatic fire. It could be moved from single shot to safety but that was all. The powers that be realised the danger of automatic fire, especially in the hands of inexpert riflemen and to ensure the guards only used single shot the little bars had been welded to the rifles. They were quite easily removed with a bit of ingenuity and force. Because this was so an order was issued by the Commander of the Guard Force stating that anyone caught with a rifle from which the bar had been removed would be in serious trouble and severely punished. Fortunately there was a large labour pool clambering to join the Guard Force so the threat of being sent to the DB for several months and then being kicked out of the Guard Force was a real deterrent.

Nevertheless some of the guards had been to the movies and seen John Wayne and others holding two machine guns at waist level firing them on automatic with deadly accuracy. Anyone who has fired only a single automatic weapon soon realises how comically fatuous Hollywood heroes really are. The silly guards didn’t realise just how heavy two MAGs with ammo belts trailing were or how forceful the kick of firing them would be. If memory serves me well I recall when we were issued our rifles for the first time we were told the recoil force equated to 7 tons reacting to the bullet travelling forward up the barrel hence the importance of holding the rifle tightly into the shoulder with your cheek securely attached to the butt.

One day at Dindera I had decided to test the guards’ rifle ability. I created a range using the earth wall of the Keep as the back stop and I took the guards through their paces three at a time. All went well until I finished my test then one of the guards asked me to demonstrate automatic fire. I had experienced firing an R1 in the South African Army so knew how inaccurate it was. I loaded a magazine with 20 rounds and made the guards line up to my left. I let rip and they didn’t appreciate the cumulative force being generated by my rifle. They did, however, see me being pushed around in a clockwork direction by the force of the rifle. With a cyclic rate of 500 – 600 rpm the 20 rounds were very quickly expended.

I showed the guards how when I started firing I had aimed at the bottom of the Keep embankment and by the time the magazine was empty the last shot was near the top. Not only did the force turn me but it also lifted the barrel. I explained it was really a waste of time as usually only the first and possibly the second round found the target.  Short two or three round bursts were far more effective. One of the guards asked me if he could have a turn firing on automatic fire. I gave him more credit than I should have and I loaded 5 rounds into a magazine and cocking my rifle I handed it to him. I was standing right on his left shoulder in case he had a problem with the other guards to my left. He let rip and after three rounds he had a stoppage.

For a split second I couldn’t believe what he was doing. He swung around towards me with the rifle at waist level. As the barrel lined up with my stomach I realised the danger and made a quick grab to lift the barrel into the sky in case it discharged. I went cold when I realised he still had his finger on the trigger. Not only was I in danger but also all the guards as they were standing to my left. I reacted without thought and grabbing the barrel forced it into the sky. I had expended 20 rounds on automatic fire through my rifle and then he had fired three more rounds. The barrel was red hot when I grabbed it and I seared the palm of my left hand badly and in my pain I wrenched my rifle away from him and ordered the guards to stay where they were until I returned.

I flicked the safety on and ran to my quarters with my hand on fire. I was terrified I would lose the use of my hand as I recalled an event that occurred some years earlier in my life. Some fitters in the mine workshop - where we lived near Belingwe - were horsing around and one had heated a spanner with a cutting torch. He over heated it and when the user grabbed the spanner the heat was so intense it fused his fingers around the spanner forming his hand into a claw. The culprit realised what he’d done and being a large man he grabbed the injured party and wrenched the spanner from his hand and quickly he forced it into a drum of dirty engine oil. He threatened the injured party with a very bad beating unless he flexed his hand over and over again. After about an hour he allowed the injured man to withdraw his hand which was then cleaned up. He was still in tremendous pain and the culprit drove him thirty miles to the nearest town of size – Shabani - where there was a doctor and a hospital. They managed to save his hand and they praised the culprit for his quick thinking.

When the injured party grabbed the spanner the heat dehydrated his hand and begun to shrink all the tendons inside. By forcing the hand into the oil the flesh was cooled and lubricated by the oil which was absorbed by the charred flesh and the tendons and by continuously flexing the hand the tendons regained their elasticity. A few month later he was right as rain and he suffered no after affects with his hand. The culprit was nearly fired and his quick actions was all that saved him but he was warned one more practical joke and he was out of a job and liable to be charged with malicious intent.

Remembering that occurrence I grabbed the big bottle of gun oil and filled a pot with it. I then immersed my left hand and flexed my fingers. The pain was indescribable to start with but eased as the oil penetrated. I repeated the exercise three times that day and again the following day and though my hand was tender I had no blisters or any permanent damage.

I returned to where the guards were waiting and berated them for being so casual with their weapons then I dismissed them and returned to release the stoppage in my rifle.  I had been issued with an old SLR that had seen far better days and too many different users. I managed to knock the round out of the breech and thoroughly cleaned my rifle. Because of the way we went to war it was the first time I had fired my rifle and though I thought it was clean, having been collected from the armoury at Chikurubi, it really wasn’t. I discovered because it was worn I needed to leave excess oil on the working parts to keep it lubricated.  After that incident on all future call ups as soon as I reached my destination I would fire my rifle to test its accuracy and reliability.

During that call up, Bill Smith – he of the flat feet - was KC across the slight valley at the next PV called Marembe. At Marembe in addition to Bill there was a conscripted ‘Brightlight’ from the BSAP. He was supported by a regular constable who was permanently stationed there and then there was a SV and a cadet plus a number of DAs. All in all there were 4 European at Marembe to support one another. Come the weekend Paddy asked if I was interested in inviting Bill and his cohorts to come to Dindera where we would have a braai and if they brought a team of guards and DAs with them we could arrange a football match. I thought it a splendid idea and called Bill right away. He was enthusiastic about the braai and the football match but was adamant none of the Europeans had any intention of setting foot outside the PV until they were uplifted at the end of their call – ups.

CATTLE DIP

I

couldn’t believe they had not set foot outside their Keep and PV. God, from my first morning at Dindera I’d been doing the mine patrol and in addition Dindera had a dip tank in which all local cattle had to be dipped on a weekly roster against ticks. Because there were so many different herds in the neighbourhood I went to the dip tank sometime during most days. The DC had appointed a local - from the PV - to tend the dip but I was charged with protecting the locals when they brought their cattle to the dip. Initially I noticed very few locals were dipping their cattle and the DC asked me to act firmly as it definitely eradicated disease in the national herd. As the days passed by, my threats became stronger until out of sheer fear the locals forced their cattle through the dip. I didn’t need to be Einstein to realise something was dreadfully wrong as the cattle simply baulked at the edge of the dip and had to be beaten to make them move forward and then they leapt in as far as they could before rushing out the other side where they stood shivering with fear and in pain.

Something was gravely wrong for I’d seen cattle dipped before and though they didn’t really enjoy the experience they certainly did not react as these cattle did. I broached the dip boy trying to establish what was causing the problem. The stupid sod, being a bit on the shy side decided rather than exposing himself to the Magandanga too frequently he would doctor the water in the dip with a concentrate equal to a month’s worth of the tick killer. It was no wonder the cattle refused to enter the dip except under enormous duress, the poor beasts were being severely burnt. Absolutely, any ticks on them were killed instantly but the cattle suffered severely with burnt eyes, noses and ears and any other orifices would have been stinging like mad. No wonder the locals were reluctant to dip their cattle. I explained to the dip boy that as long as I was based at Dindera and was able, we would go to the dip together each day with me protecting him so he could put the correct dosage of the concentrate into the water. I made him wash out the dip and refill it with the correct concentrate for the next dipping day. He was not enamoured but having my assurances and a cigar each day we were at the tank – I smoked Rhodesia Club cigars; in Rhodesia they were known as Country Club – I won him over. The locals observed what had been happening and tentatively brought the cattle to be dipped and it took some urging to get the cows into the dip as they expected to be burnt again. As each batch came out of the dip and realised they were not distressed others followed much more quickly and even their owners smiled as they realised their cattle were no longer being hurt. Strangely enough they appreciated the benefits of the dipping but were reluctant to cause their beasts discomfort.

FOOTBALL

T

he next Sunday I called Bill and told him we’d be coming to Marembe for a braai and were bringing a football team with us so he’d better arrange things his end.  Paddy and I selected 9 guards and 2 DAs from the 17 men we had at Dindera (11 guards and a Corporal, 4 DAs and a Sergeant). Two were left on Gate Duty and four at the Keep including one who could use the radio if necessary. When we arrived at the Marembe Keep, Paddy and I were bombarded with questions about what it was like outside the PV. The Europeans simply couldn’t believe we were prepared to expose ourselves to the Magandanga. Paddy and I couldn’t believe none of them ever left the PV. By the way we beat them at the football 4 goals to 2 and we enjoyed their hospitality - a braai and cold Shumba - which they provided. As the shadows lengthened we departed back to Dindera. I wondered what Bill would have thought had I mentioned Paddy and I and some guards had been outside the PV at night setting ambushes to catch villagers who were breaking curfew. I was suspicious of a couple of the teachers being collaborators and so I set ambushes hoping to catch them disappearing at night to meet with some CTs. They must have got wind of what I was about as we never managed to catch any of them.

 

Delta 8 MAREMBE

P

addy wasn’t long with me as he had to return to Salisbury for personal reasons but promised to be back during my next call-up. Back on my own I simply maintained discipline at Dindera as I had done before his arrival. A few days after Paddy left, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon Glynn raised me on the radio and asked me to pack an overnight bag as I was being transferred to Marembe. He came to collected me and explained that a mentally retarded local had threatened the gate guards with a panga. In fear one had run off to the Keep and called Bill. When he got to the gate the panga wielding local made as if to attack him so Bill double tapped him through the heart. That caused utter shock in the PV and when Bill reported to Kotwa what had transpired Tommy and Glynn decided to uplift Bill to Kotwa. He was finished at Marembe and was later to be discharged from the Guard Force. The SV, cadet and Brightlight packed and jumping in the Intaf Leopard they took off for Mudzi DC base. The DC had been informed and he said the body had to be preserved overnight as the coroner had to examine it before it could be released for burial. Thanks a bunch guys so here I was being dropped off at Marembe where the only assistance I would have was the compliment of guards and DAs based at Marembe and the BSAP constable. Bloody marvellous, as soon as Glynn departed the locals gathered in their hundreds outside the Keep fence and were well behaved as they requested the body for burial. According to their tradition the body had to be buried before sundown on the day of death else the spirit would walk disturbed forever. I explained that they couldn’t have the body until after the DC had come to see it the next day. That was not what they wanted to hear and the natives began to get a little restless. As with any crowd there are always the cowardly hecklers hiding in the seething mass stirring them up. Bad luck for this crowd I was standing on a parapet three or four feet above the ground so I could see into the crowd. I called the constable up next to me and I explained to him what he needed to tell the crowd in the vernacular. He obliged but the crowd became even more restless. I pointed out a heckler and told the constable to point him out to the crowd and to tell him if he didn’t leave immediately I would shoot him for causing trouble.

Whether they thought I’d do it - as Bill had done - or not, was irrelevant but as soon as I took aim at the heckler he disappeared with alacrity. Trouble was there must have been four or five thousand locals gathered against me and my huge force of 23. Fortunately I exuded confidence and showed no fear else I’m sure we’d have been overrun. Eventually sanity prevailed or perhaps it was that darkness overtook us and the locals realised the dead man’s spirit was condemned to wander forever and the crowd began to disperse.  It was a poor night’s sleep I got sitting on the parapet staring into the PV. The breaking dawn was never so welcome and not long after daybreak the crowd began to gather once more. Where the hell was the DC? He and I had not got off to a good start. He called on Dindera PV dressed in civvies and we held a meeting with the local chiefs. When he was about to leave he said goodbye and I cordially wished him well. He took umbrage and reported me to Commandant Hallack for being insubordinate. I was duly reprimanded and told I was to salute him the same as I would any other superior officer. What a slimy shit. We’d never been told we had to salute Intaf personnel – had we been so apprised I would have done so as it was no skin off my nose – what a sneaky shit to go to Hallack, that didn’t sit well with me and the next time we were at Mudzi I made a point of apologising to him loudly in the Intaf bar at Mudzi and told him how I had viewed the situation. I made him feel small and petty which was my intention.

Anyway here I was at Marembe waiting for him to arrive with the coroner so the body could be released. The sod kept all of us waiting until after 10 o’clock and I showed my displeasure by saluting him and in response he chose to simply ignore me. I pointed out his lack of recognition of me and he had the courtesy to blush. He became very officious demanding an explanation of what had occurred and I explained that as I wasn’t there when the local was shot there wasn’t much I could tell him. I suggested he speak to Tommy or Glynn and he advised me they had taken Bill to GF6 at Mtoko. When I expressed my surprise that his own staff or the Brightlight who had gapped it to his locstat at Mudzi hadn’t briefed him he looked at me speculatively but decided to keep the peace.

Fortunately the coroner joined us then and said there were no extenuating circumstances; the local had died from two shots through the heart and he was happy to release the body for burial. When I asked the constable to tell the locals they could have the body they all started grinning spontaneously. Strange custom I thought until the constable explained to me that after they left us last night they had all been brewing what was known as 7 day brew. Nobody could drink it until the body was buried and now as we had released the body they would all soon be into the brew sending the spirit of the dead man on his way – albeit belatedly. When I said last evening the crowd were very restless and angry because they couldn’t have the body to bury thus ensuring the dead man’s soul would not wander aimlessly for eternity now suddenly they seemed quite happy to overlook the situation the constable laughed and explained to me they justified the situation by blaming the stupid white men for not understanding their customs. Late that afternoon Glynn arrived with a replacement for Marembe. He was a KC I didn’t know and I don’t recall his name. He was only there for the rest of that call up and I never saw him again. As I recall he made a better fist of it than Bill had.

Delta 9 DINDERA

 

CORDON & SEARCH

I

returned to Dindera and carried out several cordon and search patrols. I was successful in recovering several hundred AK rounds and a dozen or so banana magazines from these searches which pacified the locals who at first thought I was being extremely arrogant and rude for interrupting their lives with my insane searches.

It always saddened me when the guards at the gate broke the children’s clay animals they had made during the day. It had to be done though as many times the guards would find AK rounds, sometimes only one, at others as many as ten rounds hidden inside. Once inside the PV the animals were broken anyway and the rounds secreted in the huts; either buried in the sand floor or hidden in the thatching. As I was having fair success through my cordon and searches the locals were becoming wary of me, wondering how I always seemed to be able to target huts where only the previous night Charlie Tango materiel items had been hidden.


 Here is a comparison of rifle rounds from my war

The first 4 rounds are .762 intermediate rounds for the AK assault rifle. The second and fourth rounds are normal rounds. The first round has a black cartridge case - the significance escapes me - I think it indicates it is an armour piercing round. The third round, the green one was a tracer round. It is further identified by the red cap on the bullet.

The next two rounds are .762mm cartridges for the FN, SLR or G3. The one on the left has a red cap on the bullet signifying it is a tracer round.

The last two cartridges are .303 rounds. The one on the right has a grey cap on the bullet signifying it is a ‘night’ tracer round.


 A 20mm HE shell from a Gunship.

           

 At the top of the base 20 can be seen indicating it is a 20mm shell.

                                                

OBSERVATION TOWER

D

indera was the only Keep I ever frequented either as a KC or later as an officer that had an observation tower. It was a magnificent structure, made of timber and standing somewhere between 25 and 30 feet high at the viewing platform. I spent many evenings and nights in the observation area. The platform was completely walled in and there was a thatched roof to keep out the rain and sun. I had taken my private binoculars to war with me and as darkness crept in I would scan the village. Though I couldn’t see the diamond mesh perimeter fence I certainly could see much movement within the village. Whether from the quality or the design of my binoculars I could see clearly except on the darkest nights after the locals had retired. In the early evenings I could clearly see locals scurrying about. Those that looked at the tower suspiciously I noted and followed through my glasses. It was in this way I managed such success at my cordon and searches.

I guess I hadn’t conducted myself too badly in the Mudzi as I was invited to spend the last night of the call up at Kotwa with Tommy and Glynn where we enjoyed a braai. At first I was a bit loathe to leave Dindera as Paddy had already disappeared but Glynn assured me all was good as he had spoken to the Intaf Sergeant and he was convinced the men were now disciplined enough to behave themselves.


Showing the observation tower at Dindera. Note the vegetation growth on the embankment and the flower garden in front of my quarters. Beneath the tower is a corner bunker.

STRAIGHT TO MUDZI

A

month later I was back at Dindera and soon had things shipshape and Bristol fashion, one of the guards had gone on holiday and been replaced with another otherwise they were still the same as before. Paddy was already there and after a week he finished his call up and disappeared. After several days Paddy’s replacement arrived – Brian Mons, only just into his twenties – and informed me he wanted to run his Sergeant and DAs separately to my guards. No problem for me and it didn’t take him too long to be persuaded by his Sergeant and DAs to let sleeping dogs lie as they found life a lot sweeter under my arrangement.

 I knew Brian’s father – Harry Mons – in Civvy Street. He worked for one of the companies in the sub-group I was analysing and rationalising for TA Holdings – my ultimate employer though I worked through TA Management Services. Brian was only a kid and was flexing his muscles is all and I knew he’d soon see the merits in how Paddy and I were operating the Keep at Dindera. Brian’s father Harry was a large man and in his youth he’d been a wrestling champion. When I knew him he’d turned a bit to seed but nevertheless was still a powerful man. Having mentioned to Brian I knew his dad when he returned from his weekend pass he was a different kid. What Harry told him I don’t know, all I do know is that after that weekend Brian had a completely different outlook towards me and we ran Dindera along the lines Paddy and I had been so successful with.

Delta 10 KOTWA

T

he following week I was uplifted to Kotwa, Tommy Thompson was ailing – what was wrong with him I never found out. All I know he left the day I arrived and I never saw him in the ehlathini again. Glynn Trevelyan took over as OC and he appointed me 2IC for the Mudzi area, even though I was only a Keep Commander. Two young guys had been posted to Kotwa – both had been trained at Llewelyn Barracks at Bulawayo, both were fit and eager. The taller one was called Sean and the shorter, stockier one Jimmy – surnames escape me. Jimmy had been the schools heavyweight boxing champion before he left school and was tough as nails. Sean apparently was no slouch himself having passed out at Llewelyn top of his course. Trouble was they were young boys who needed leadership to temper them. We could do our best but being civilians after 6 weeks we’d be gone and someone else would be there with them. Unlike us older men they were doing their national service and were obliged to serve for two years, albeit with regular passes throughout.


Picture shows Junior Commandant Glynn Trevelyan and Guard compliment at Kotwa. Sergeant Garikai is on the left. Note the mixture of ‘uniforms’.

Picture shows Junior Commandant Glynn Trevelyan, Jimmy, Sergeant Garikai, the Base Corporal (?) and the Guards based at D10 Kotwa.


Picture shows yours truly KC ‘Randy’ Rees, Jimmy (??), Sergeant Garikai, the HQ Corporal and the guards at Kotwa.

 

We spent the night at Kotwa and the next day Glynn took Sean to replace me at Dindera.  Being young and enthusiastic he should get on well with Brian Mons and between them they should have run a successful PV. All Sean needed to do was continue what I had started and Bob would have been his Uncle. Unfortunately being young and inexperienced he lost control of the guards within a few days. He battled on but realised he was fighting a losing battle as the guards simply would not obey his commands. I discovered later he’d tried to be too chummy, chummy with his guards and the DAs once Brian Mons had departed for who knows where. Rather than take the Intaf Sergeant’s advice to back off and show his leadership and authority Sean decided on a friendly approach expecting to make a good relationship the guards and DAs. It backfired spectacularly as the guards and DAs simply took advantage of the situation and milked it for what it was worth. Sean didn’t know how to cope and he had fudged it when Glynn had called on him to see how he was going, the guards knew Glynn was a different kettle of fish and pretended to obey Sean while Glynn was present.

Glynn and I shared the duties at Kotwa and on alternate days one of us would visit the various PVs. We broke the Mudzi into three areas: area one; PVs D1 Makaha, D2 Nyamande, D3 Chikwizo, area two; D7 Dondo, D8 Marembe and D9 Dindera and area three; D4 Benson Mine, D5 Suswe, D6 Shinga. Glynn would do area one with me remaining at Kotwa then I’d do area two with Glynn remaining at Kotwa. Next day Glynn would do area three and I’d stay at Kotwa. On the fourth day I’d visit area one and so on. In that way we both got to visit all of the Keeps throughout the area. The longest a Keep had to wait for a visit was two days, not all officers were as generous and KCs sometimes only ever saw their officers once or twice during the whole call up. That just wasn’t our way, remember we were managers in Civvy Street and understood the mores of leadership and all it entails.

TROUBLE AT DINDERA

I

was at Kotwa when I received a radio call from young Sean, apparently the guards were threatening to riot and he was seeking my advice on how to resolve the situation. I told him to wait and I would drive over to see him. Young Jimmy was with me at Kotwa so I left him in charge with instructions to stay by the radio in case Mtoko wanted us or Glynn contacted him or I wanted to speak to him. I took the Kudu and with two guards I drove to Dindera to see Sean.

What a shower awaited me. Arriving at the Main Gate I noticed how slovenly the DAs and guards were and the look on my face told them I was not best pleased. Reaching the Keep I parked the Kudu and one of the guards saw me and disappeared into the barracks with alacrity. Meeting Sean we went into his quarters and I asked him to explain the circumstances to me. When he told me how he’d tried to be buddy-buddy with the guards my heart sank for those with experience know there are defined lines between those in charge and those subordinate, which must never be crossed if discipline is to be maintained. I had turned this group of guards from a team of rubbish under Carrera into the best of any Keep in the Mudzi, it was for that reason I’d been uplifted to Kotwa and made 2IC. Now they’d back slid through no fault of their own. I tried to explain to Sean a few home truths and he started to whinge about being lonely as he was on his own – the DO to replace Brian Mons hadn’t arrived yet. I took that on board though I lost a lot of respect for him when I thought how many times I’d been on my own – not just in Rhodesia during the war but also when I did my National Service in South Africa - when I was his age. I fell the guards in and tore a strip off them. I was disappointed at how sloppy they were and whipped them into shape in front of Sean. He saw how I instilled fear into them by voice alone. The reason was they all knew if push came to shove I was willing and able to go all the way to where the chunk was flung. – I’d done it before when I took over from Carrera. I told them I’d be back and they’d better shape up while I was away.

I knew it was a lost cause as they had no respect for Sean. When Glynn returned to Kotwa I explained the situation and made a suggestion on how I saw it being resolved.  He agreed and I told Jimmy to pack for a transfer to Dindera and his face dropped – I knew he had a deal going with some of the guards at Kotwa, he was getting kachasu (a local maize distillate) and dagga (marijuana, indian hemp, boom, cannabis or whatever you know it as) from them – as he realised his nefarious ways were about to come to an end. I’d warned him surreptitiously that if I or Glynn caught him in the act of acquiring kachasu or dagga we had no option but to turn him in, he didn’t believe we would catch him and smiled, pretending innocence. Anyway like it or not he was going to Dindera the next day to help support Sean, at least until the next Intaf DO arrived. I was also changing the complete force of guards at Dindera using guards from our pool at Kotwa, they’d be replaced by those from Dindera. Later that night Sean radioed again complaining that he couldn’t cope and I told him I’d be there first thing the next morning to remove all of his guards and to replace them with new ones from Kotwa. Glynn interrupted me and told Sean he’d be coming as well to have a chat to him personally, that sobered Sean and he remained quiet the rest of the night.

Next morning I took the Puma and Glynn took the Kudu with Jimmy as we convoyed to Dindera. I left Glynn to sort Sean out while I collected the guards and introduced the new ones to the Corporal who would be remaining - he and three of the guards had tried to accommodate Sean as best they could so I was leaving them at Dindera. I changed the other 9 guards and waited for Glynn to finish with Sean. He emerged looking stern and Sean looked chastened. Jimmy took his kit inside and Glynn and I took the dirt road back to the sealed road. He turned right and went to Kotwa and I turned left and went down to the Ruenya River PVs.

Back at Kotwa I bumped into Jimmy and he explained that just after we left the Intaf DO had arrived so Glynn had collected him from Dindera, returning him to Kotwa. I took the guards from Dindera behind a shed and meted out some localised discipline. Some of you might think I was abusing my power and acting like a bully, because I knew the guards wouldn’t dare to retaliate. That is your privilege, but if you are of Africa - from that time - I’m sure you will agree the African soldiers simply could not understand the military ways of the white men, their tribal culture was still too close to them.

In their culture, indiscipline was dealt with summarily and swiftly and it was as quickly forgotten unless the crime had been severe when death was the price. They were bemused and extremely unhappy when brought before a Guard Force officer and charged being advised they would be fined with the fine being deducted off their next pay. When they received their next pay they would attempt to reconcile the shortage in pay received and no matter how much it was explained that the fine they had incurred nearly a month before had been taken from their pay they simply couldn’t understand the white man’s way. Many would say to me but that was then, not now, so why should they pay now.  I agreed with them and understanding something of their African ways I devised a localised discipline which worked well. I would get an interpreter to explain that the miscreant could choose my discipline or the Guard Forces discipline. With the opportunity of choice, only once did a guard elect to accept the Guard Force’s discipline and then he complained bitterly about having his fine deducted from his next pay. He must have felt like a real fool as all the other miscreants laughed at him saying they had been punished at the time and received full pay packets.

Glynn used to make miscreants run around the perimeter of the base carrying sandbags. It meant though that he had to keep an eye on them else they’d simply stop until he shouted at them to carry on. I didn’t fancy wasting my time watching miscreants carry out their punishment so I’d give them a sharp, hard slap or punch, depending on their crime, sometimes if there were more than one to discipline I’d get them to slap each other and once the punishment was dispensed the matter was forgotten. I can assure you of all the guards I disciplined in this way not one hated my guts.

One in particular had a perfect opportunity to shoot me without me even knowing about it. When I first was at Dindera I called the roll and one of the guards I’d put on wall duty wasn’t there. I was told he had decided to go shopping. I took two guards with me and made them take me to where the shopping was being transacted. The miscreant was in the process of finalising his purchase of some dagga. By rights I should have arrested him, confiscated the dagga as evidence and sent him before Glynn as the only officer at Mudzi. He would have been charged, taken to Mtoko where the CO would reaffirm the charge and then we would have to take him all the way to Chikurubi to the DB.  No way was I going to do that as I only had 11 guards and a Corporal to help me protect 7000 locals. I smacked the dagga out of his hand and told him to march back to the Keep. He started to argue with me and I was so mad I knocked him down and had the two guards drag him by his boot-heels back to the Keep. I stormed off in the lead and he held his rifle while he was being dragged across the ground. He never even dreamt of shooting me in the back as he knew unless he killed me or wounded me severely I would be all over him like a rash and I would have killed him.

Back at the Keep I tied him to the flag pole and got some guards to saturate him with water and then to throw handfuls of sand at him. I left him to endure the discomfort through the whole morning. I am not sadistic no matter what readers may think and at lunch time I released him and told him to shower and change his uniform.  All bluster had been knocked out of him and he held out his cheap watch to me saying the water had damaged it and now he had no watch. I explained to him he should have thought of the consequences before he bought the dagga and was cheeky to me, his superior. I mention this because when I returned to Salisbury I bought a more expensive watch for him. When I returned for my next stint I sought the guard out and found him at the Makaha PV – down near the Ruenya River and he assured me he wasn’t using dagga any more. I gave him the new watch and explained that though it was his own damn fault for disobeying my orders, buying dagga and being cheeky I should have removed his watch before punishing him. He didn’t seem to really understand what I was saying but was extremely chuffed with his new watch which he proudly showed all and sundry.

Strangely the guards I’d uplifted from Dindera assimilated into life at Kotwa very quickly as did the ones I’d posted to Dindera.

 

THIRD CALL-UP TO MUDZI

D

uring my next call up Glynn became ill and had to return to Salisbury. An Assistant Commandant – I cannot recall his name, though I know he was a civilian who had volunteered his services to the Guard Force – came to replace Glynn until he returned. I came across a couple of men like him during my call ups and I suppose they considered they were doing their bit by relieving younger, fitter men to more active roles. I continued as 2IC and the Assistant Commandant advised me that he had no intention of visiting the Keeps as that was my job, it didn’t bother me one way or another as I didn’t mind visiting the Keeps. What blew me away was the fact he’d brought two young boys with him, I couldn’t believe it, we were right out in the gungeni close to the cordon sanitaire  and here this old fool had brought two young boys with him.

I calmed down when he explained his predicament to me. Apparently he had married for a third time and his wife was some years younger than he was. One of the boys was his son and the other, a friend of his son who was staying for the holidays while his parents went off together on a second honeymoon. The poor old sod had been presented with a fait accompli by his wife when he told her he’d been called up to relieve Glynn. His wife told him she wasn’t prepared to stay at Christian Bank on their smallholding with only her young son and his friend to protect her if the need arose. When he said he was honour bound to attend Mudzi his wife slammed out of their property saying she was going to stay with her mother in town and then they would fly to Durban for a holiday. That was exactly what she did and the upshot was he had to drive the two boys with him to Mtoko where he was to collect the Kudu, Glynn had left there. Fortunately Commandant Hallack was sympathetic and apparently said I would ensure nothing untoward would happen to the boys. I get on with most people and especially kids so we soon had a rapport going. I even took the boys on the Puma to Dindera a couple of times. They were as safe as being at Kotwa as I took as many as twenty guards on those trips, to protect the boys but more importantly for the guards to visit Faso’s shop.

The first time I took the boys I was shattered when I returned to the vehicle to find the boys both crying. When I asked them what the problem was they said they were scared because so many locals had gathered around the Puma. It was true there were several hundred gathered and I wondered why. I climbed into the capsule and blew the hooter calling the guards as I was about to leave. They knew better than to keep me waiting and the consequences of being AWOL. What they didn’t realise was they were all in trouble already as I had ordered them to remain with the boys until I returned from Faso’s shop. The boys were quite young, the relieving OC's son was only 9 years old and his mate a few months younger. I asked Guard Kapuke why the people had gathered and he said it was because many of them had never been to Salisbury and had never seen little white boys or girls for that matter. Many had assumed whites came already grown up.

Learning the reason I climbed on the back of the Heavy and asked Kapuke to translate for me. I asked the boys to stand on the edge of the back tray while I held onto them and then got Kapuke to explain that whites just like blacks began life as babies and had to grow up just the same. It gave the boys much face and great confidence and it amazed me to discover that at that time in history there were still countless Africans in Rhodesia who knew little of the country other than their own small world. Not so strange when one considers their lifestyle. Their lives had been very harsh before the construction of the PVs and few could afford to go into Salisbury. Being forced into the PVs suddenly they found so many benefits such as stand pipes in the village to provide running water, the business centre, school and two or three privileged locals even had electricity. Only the teachers and a very few senior locals had flush toilets. The mass of the villagers continued life as they had done for hundreds of years except now they were protected from the Magandanga and they had facilities, like running water to make their lives easier. What need had they to venture into Salisbury which they had heard was like Sodom and Gomorrah.


Picture shows the Assistant Commandant, his son, in the blue and his friend at Kotwa. Jimmy is standing on the right next to the Base Corporal. Sergeant Garikai was otherwise engaged at the time.


Picture shows the Assistant Commandant, the boys and yours truly at Kotwa. Our Puma can be seen in the background.

Easter occurred during that Call Up and I wondered if that had anything to do with Glynn’s illness. I received a call from Mtoko telling me to take the Assistant Commandant and the two boys to Mtoko on the Thursday before Good Friday as Glynn had contacted Mtoko assuring them he’d be there first light Easter Monday when I could collect him. Relieved, the old man and the young boys were happy to return to Salisbury for Easter and I never saw any of them again, whatever happened to them I have no idea. Commandant Hallack told me he was confident I could take care of the area over the weekend until Glynn returned.

It was to be an interesting Easter for me.

At the inspection parade on Saturday morning I had agreed that the Sergeant and the twelve best guards could go to Dindera, the closest PV where they could have a few beers and do some shopping. I let them go at 1 o’clock but with strict instructions to be back at 5 o’clock. Typically they disobeyed me and arrived back after dark and worse for wear. The alcohol gave them a courage they would never have sober and I was annoyed and ordered the Corporal to lock them all including the Sergeant in the cell we had created and I would deal with them in the morning. The Sergeant refused point blank to allow the Corporal to put him in the cell and when I intervened he threatened to hit me. That was a red rag to a bull. I may not be the biggest guy around but by God I’ll use whatever is necessary to resolve a situation. I went into my quarters and grabbing my rifle as I intended to belt the bloody great Sergeant over the head if he continued to disobey me. He was stuffed already as he would forfeit his rank and end up in the DB. When I appeared with my rifle the Corporal and the guards thought I intended to shoot the Sergeant and begged me not to. The Sergeant blanched and ran away into the night and meanwhile a sneaky guard called Lovemore Garwe - a smart arse - went to the radio room and contacted Mtoko saying I had gone mad and was threatening to kill all the guards. Next thing I knew I was being called to the radio room and questioned by the CO. he wanted to know if I’d been drinking and I’m sure he accepted my denial as I hadn’t even had a single beer. He asked if I had a problem with the guards and when I said no he demanded to know why I was threatening to shoot them. I begged his indulgence and said I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It hit me what had happened so I explained that I had earlier had a problem and I intended to use my rifle as a club had it been necessary but in the event the guilty party had seen the light and I had not been required to use my rifle, I assured him all was well. He sounded sceptical but gave me the benefit of the doubt but ordered me to keep calm.

When I returned to my quarters The Sergeant softly knocked on my door and asked if he could speak to me privately. He had obviously realised he was deep in the dwang. He was after all only a bloody Sergeant and I was acting OC for the area. You don’t threaten the OC and expect to come out smelling of roses. He’d been broken once before and knew how long it had taken to regain his stripes. I was not some punk kid he could browbeat. I’d been there and flung the chunk. He realised that from the way I’d conducted myself first at Dindera, then Marembe and finally at Kotwa.

He asked my forgiveness and apologised for being late returning from Dindera and also for threatening to hit me, he claimed it was the booze talking and he was very sorry.  He asked if I couldn’t punish him myself as he really didn’t want to lose his stripes or to go to DB with the loss of pay it would involve. I told him I’d think about it and see how I intended to react. I ordered him to call guard Garwe to me and when he appeared I asked him who had given him permission to use the radio. At first he thought about arguing but realising I was extremely calm he knew he was in very deep doo doo. He admitted nobody had given him permission but he reminded me he did not have to accept my punishment he could accept the Guard Force punishment. I absolutely agreed and said he must consider himself under open arrest until the OC returned on Monday and then he would be sentences for his crime. He smiled because he knew Glynn believed in making recalcitrant guards run around the perimeter carrying a sand bag.

On Sunday morning – Easter Sunday – I fell the guards in and carried out the inspection and then I dismissed all, except the Sergeant and the twelve guards who had been tardy returning yesterday. I sent the Corporal to my quarters to bring me a tray with some opened beers standing on it. When he returned I had the Sergeant translate for me as I told the guards I realised they enjoyed drinking but sadly the affect scrambled their brains somewhat and they believed they no longer had to obey my orders. I told them that grieved me but what could I do and to show I had no hard feelings I was giving each of them a beer but I insisted drink it in the squad and none of them would be dismissed until they all had done so. Of course I said they could refuse and we would then wait until the OC returned and he would advise them what their punishment would be. I said of course being drunk on duty which is what they were once the time was 5 o’clock, the punishment was two or three weeks in the DB.

They all blanched at the thought of that as a couple of them had enjoyed the hospitality offered by Sergeant-Major Pretorius and had freely spread the word. The Corporal handed out the beers and I ordered them to drink. The first swig caused them to screw their faces up into a rictus of disgust. I had introduced – as ordered – the taking of their daily anti - malarial tablets at the inspection parade. It ensured that they took the tablets which left a foul taste in the mouth. Usually they were allowed to have water to get rid of the taste but not today, not for these chancers. I had doctored the beer with the tablets. They had dissolved into the beer making it taste really foul and all they had to wash it down was more of the same. They looked at me with disgust but the threat of DB forced them to drink down the beer. With a bit of luck for some time to come they would steer clear of beer. The tablets would not harm them as they took them anyway. Once the beer was finished they thought I would dismiss them but I had other ideas and I drilled them for ten minutes before I dismissed them. They ran like hell to wash their mouths out to rid themselves of the bitter taste.

The Sergeant realised he was in very deep trouble as I hadn’t forced him to drink a beer and even though he’d volunteered I’d refused. I suggested he take his malaria tablet for to refuse to do so was a crime in the eyes of Guard Force.

That night I received a radio message from the KC at a PV down near the Ruenya River – nearly 4 decades ago so forgive me if I’ve got the name wrong. I believe it was from the PV known as D2 Nyamande. Anyway the substance of the message was that the Keep was being revved and they needed help. I explained that we had a standing order to report any incident to the Mtoko HQ and they would take over command of the situation.  I duly called Mtoko and the 2IC, Guenter Maeser said he would contact the KC directly. I kept a radio watch and I heard the KC and the 2IC converse.   After about an hour the Charlie Tangos broke off the engagement and silence reigned supreme. The 2IC ordered the KC not to leave the Keep in case the CTs started to stonk it again. He also advised the KC to conserve his ammunition stocks because experience had taught him thousands of rounds were fired into the air wastefully as the bullets went nowhere near the enemy.

During the revving the Keep had expended most of their ammunition and the KC started to panic and began to beg for a visit to replenish his ammo and for some comfort as well. The 2IC said they would call on the Keep the following day. Next the 2IC radioed me telling me to be prepared to travel to Nyamande first thing but to wait the arrival of himself, the CO and Glynn Trevelyan.

Glynn must have been contacted and told to arrive at dawn because by 7.30 a.m. the Mtoko convoy arrived at Kotwa. The CO arrived in his Land Rover with his eight trusty guards. The one who normally travelled in the cab was also on the back as Glynn was next to Commandant Hallack in the cab. One of the guards on the back was armed with a LMG, I didn’t even know that Guard Force had LMGs at that time. Guenter Maeser and his elite unit of muscle men were in the van with their Puma. I had started our Puma warming it up and selected some guards as well as a Corporal to travel to the Keep. I assumed I would be ordered to remain at Kotwa to man the radio but to my surprise the CO ordered me to accompany Glynn and he ordered young Jimmy to operate the radio. I rode on the back of Glynn’s Puma and we were instructed to lead the convoy. The CO in his Land Rover followed with Guenter bringing up the rear with his muscle men.

Arriving at the PV we drove to the Keep and met the KC. Inside his quarters he explained what had happened the night before. He had heard grinding sounds like tanks forming up to fire a barrage – that never happened – and they all saw plenty of green and blue tracer, heard the crump of mortars and the swish of RPG rockets and of course rifle and machinegun fire. He estimated there must have been at least 500 Charlie Tangos attacking his Keep. I was beginning to understand fishing stories – not that I blamed the KC – it was not much fun on your own with a few guards you can barely communicate with or even with a deputy KC if one was present, considering they were stuck out in the TTLs and miles from comfort and support from their own unit.

Anyway the CO was taking the report seriously enough to suggest Guenter and his superior band of muscle men should go for a wander outside the PV and see if they could find anything. Guenter declined saying he had already sent his men to the village to speak to the locals. He suggested as I knew the area should take some of our Kotwa guards and a few from the Keep and do the search. I was the lowest rank and second lowest appointment so had no recourse available to me.  The CO agreed and told me to get on with it while they went for a wander round the village to survey the damage.

I collected 6 of our guards from Kotwa including Dondo and Kapuke. The KC indicated two of his guards who would be best to lead me around the PV. It was a large village even enclosing a bush airstrip and the Keep was a long way from the main and only gate. Instead of going towards the gate in the southern fence the local guards led us towards the eastern fence, where they said the firing had come from. I was surprised as to the east was a fairly open plain but then what did I know and I guess it was ideal for tanks, etc. Arriving at the fence the first local guard shimmied up a stout centre post flipped over the wire and let himself fall to the ground. His shamwari threw his rifle over the wire to him and I realised they had practices this move before. Standing back I let all the guards climb over before me. I was the only one with a sling for my rifle so I threw the last guard’s rifle over to him, slung my rifle over my neck and I scaled up the pipe. I let go at the top and being agile fell to the ground on the other side without incident.

Next thing I knew was I was being stuck in the left arm bicep with a red hot hypodermic – what the hell! Jesus, I was stabbed again lower down my left arm. It wasn’t a crazy doctor with a bunch of massive needles, it was a swarm of hornets. Unlike bees, hornets don’t lose their sting once they have attacked they keep their sting and can inflict much more pain. The bloody guards seeing my antics bolted with incredible speed away from me. I too started to compete in the hundred yard dash hoping to evade the swarm of stings buzzing around me. The further away from the fence I got the quicker the hornets lost interest in me. I figured it out and what had happened was that the hornets had built their nest within the hollow pipe and having eight guards shimmy up the pipe had disturbed them. My doing the same thing was too much for the warriors and they came at me to protect their queen and nest.

By the time I’d caught up with the guards my left arm was throbbing abominably from the poison injected into it. My bicep had never been that big before and it was extremely hard. I’d have been proud to own such a muscle except it was on fire and extremely sensitive to touch. The guards didn’t know whether to laugh – at my amazing antics - or use discretion and be sympathetic lest I belted them in my pain and anger. I broke the ice by laughing at myself even though I was in great pain.  Kapuke illustrated my antics which had all the guards in fits of laughter and even I joined in. They assumed we would call off the search and return to the Keep. They didn’t know me and I set Dondo to track.  He soon discovered where the Charlie Tangos had set a mortar by the signs of the base plate.  The number of footprints indicated there were possibly 10 Charlie Tangos in the group.

We pressed on and Dondo discovered another location where the footprints indicated possibly another 10 Charlie Tangos, there was no base plate markings but we did find a piece of packing paper which I’d seen before, it was from an RPG – 2, 5 or 7 - I did not know which.   Dondo found a third area where there were an estimated thirty CTs but all we found were hundreds of AK doppies. We circled the PV expanding our circle for the next sweep. We did four circuits in all when I called off the search. We had collected nearly 900 hundred doppies and Dondo showed me where the Terrs had converged before heading for the Cordon Sanitaire where they had obviously created a safe passage across the border. I had heard stories they would drive game or rustled cattle through the Cordon Sanitaire to clear a safe path.

The Keep had fired off nearly 2000 rounds of ammunition but as we had found no blood spoor chances that they had hit anyone were quite remote. I sympathised with the KC as I too had been stonked and you had the knowledge no help would be coming your way until morning light. The nights were really bad as the slightest sound sends the imagination running riot. And in that part of the world being close to the Cordon Sanitaire every night there were at least half a dozen bangs as innocent game ventured into the cordon; sometimes it was Charlie Tangos.

Ref above please see account under: Protected Villages, GP 7 Mudzi

Back at the Keep I reported what I’d found and the KC told me they had found two huts that had taken the blast of a mortar bomb but luckily the locals had abandoned their huts and had huddled along the fence thus avoiding injury. It was then Glynn noticed my arm and asked what had happened. When I explained they all had a good laugh at my expense but my arm was throbbing abominably and I didn’t see the joke. We left the PV and made our way back to Kotwa having lightened our load by leaving 2000 rounds at the Keep and me taking with me three hornet stings and a bloody sore arm. When we reached Kotwa, Guenter mentioned the radio call he had received about me wanting to kill all the guards. I shrugged and said all was good and as he could see I hadn’t killed even one guard. As I wasn’t forthcoming he dropped the subject. After the Mtoko contingent left I told Glynn what had happened and what I suggested for punishment. He agreed and he held orders calling Sergeant Garikai. He was sweating profusely and anticipated the worst. Glynn asked him if he still wanted to hit me and Garikai squirmed in his embarrassment swearing he could not recall ever threatening me and blamed the booze. He swore he would never have struck me because he knew I would not leave it alone until I had killed him and he wanted to live. When Glynn laughed and dismissed him Garikai stood there for a minute then realising I wasn’t pressing charges he grinned broadly and turning to me he saluted me saying, “Ini kusaruta baba vakachenjera”.  I didn’t know what he had said but assumed it was complimentary – later Clever, who had been watching from the kitchen told me what Garikai had said. According to Clever what Sergeant Garikai had said was ‘I salute the wise father’.

Next Glynn called all the guards who were tardy returning and asked them if they wanted some beer. Their emphatic refusals caused him to chortle and he promised he would be using that treatment himself if they didn’t behave. Finally he called Lovemore Garwe and said he believed he had refused my punishment and wanted to be tried under the Guard Force law. Lovemore stood there shivering because he realised he could be going to the DB at Chikurubi. Glynn told him I had every right to send him to the DB but had decided to let the Sunray mete out his punishment instead. Glynn told Lovemore when he was dismissed he was to pick up two sandbags and he was to run around the redoubt walls until he was told to stop. Lovemore looked at me and weakly smiled at my stoic countenance before Glynn dismissed him

NEXT CALL-UP AT MUDZI

R

eturning to the war for my next call up I was told that at long last the PV and Keep at Shinga had been completed and was inhabited. The Charlie Tangos had sworn Shinga would never be occupied and they had tried their level best to achieve their goal. Along the road leading to Shinga many trees were decorated with broken pieces of asbestos. Several depressions dotting the road was evidence of vehicle land mine blasts. At one place the road had been badly damaged and you had to negotiate your vehicle across some rocky outcrops before once again reaching the level roadway. The first time I drove over the outcrops the Kudu fell on its side causing great consternation among the guards travelling with me. Quickly I got them out of the Kudu and I showed then how to hold the Kudu up so I could drive over the outcrops. We became quite expert at negotiating the rocks with two guards assisting me while the other four posted a sparse 360 degree defence while I carefully drove across the rocks. At that time there was an unsealed road from Dindera to Dondo and then onwards to Shinga. You had to backtrack all the way to Dindera to reach the sealed road or you could backtrack from Shinga for a few Kms where there was a branch gravel road which led to the DC base at Mudzi. I had never been down the branch road as I was based at Kotwa so only used the Dindera - Shinga road.

PAY RUN

D

uring that Call Up the paymasters from Salisbury arrived at Mudzi to do the pay run. Glynn collected them on the first day and took them to Kotwa to pay the guards there and then he took them down to the Keeps near the Ruenya River. There were only three keeps down there so on the way back to Mudzi DC base they called into Benson Mine and Suswe leaving only Dindera, Marembe, Dondo and Shinga to be done the next day. I collected them from Mudzi and I suggested we use the sealed road to go to Marembe first then Dindera and then the gravel road to Dondo and then Shinga.  I think the Assistant Commandant’s name was Peter Hudson and I got quite friendly with him through some Meyer parrots and as I recall he lived near Marandellas and worked for the Salisbury Bottling Company, they bottled Coca Cola among other drinks. The assistant paymaster I recall was a Sergeant George Chinsen.


I found this photo on the Rhodesian Guard Force.co.uk website and include it as I can definitely vouch for the fact that this is the George I remember but not the other guards in the picture

We drove to Marembe Keep where they did their pay run. They were both chirpy as I had four guards with me to offer protection and Marembe was only a hundred metres off the sealed road. Next we visited Dindera Keep, my old stomping ground, again it was close to the sealed road and the paymasters accomplished their task expeditiously. The third Keep we had to visit was Dondo. As the crow flies not that far from Dindera but it was several Kms away from the sealed road. I wasn’t too worried about LM42 or LM46 vehicle landmines because I knew the KC paid special attention to his mine patrols. The roadway was kept in tip top condition because it was used as a runway for the weekly plane bringing Pied Crow with all the orders made the previous week. I did notice the paymasters had become a lot less chatty the further we went down the dirt road. As soon as we entered the PV they became chatty again.

After they had finished their pay run we shared a cuppa with the KC who kindly added to their stress by telling them Shinga had been revved only 2 days before. I had known this but always managing to read people accurately I’d not mentioned it. I gave the KC a warning look and he cottoned on straight away and attempted to allay the pay masters fears. No matter really as we had no option but to go to Shinga as the guards had to be paid.

We left Dondo and I sped off down the dirt road. The pay masters were not impressed by my speed but keep their own counsel. I realised we had some thirty Kms to travel to Shinga and we had to cross the rocks as well and already it was after two o’clock in the afternoon. Sitting in silence the pay masters were greatly perturbed when I suddenly stopped and the guards climbed out of the Kudu before reclosing the door. The Assistant Commandant was becoming very nervous and quietly asked me what was going on. In response I asked him to be quiet but to ensure they were both securely strapped in. Suddenly the Kudu seemed to rear up and then fall on its side. Not the best experience for the pay masters and I guess my calm composure was all that placated their fears to some extent. Quickly the guards pushed against the roll bars while I continued to drive the Kudu forward. Just as suddenly the Kudu righted itself and I stopped so all the guards could re-enter through the back door. Relieved to be stable again the Assistant Commandant said he thought I had to be mad driving across the rocks like I did. We drove off towards Shinga and I pointed out the numerous pieces of asbestos decorating the trees on each side of the road. Once again when we entered the Keep the pay masters were relieved and became quite chatty.

The KC and his merry band hadn’t been visited since the Keep had been revved and they wanted to tell their stories. I suggested they contain themselves and simply give me a bare bones report of the events while the pay masters did their pay run. The pay masters must have put on a spurt because in no time flat they were finished and back to hear all stories over the inevitable cuppa. In addition to the KC there was a Deputy KC, a Senior DO, a DO, and two bright lights above the compliment of 18 guards, 4 DAs and 2 constables. I had no problem with the number of whites based at Shinga for the Keep had been revved several times in the short time since the PV was opened.

Finishing my tea I suggested we leave if the pay masters wanted to get back to Mudzi before nightfall. The Assistant Commandant wanted to prolong their visit as he was gleaning much information about the latest stonking but fear overcame him and he agreed we best be leaving. The KC said they had received a visit from the DC at Mudzi who had told them the short cut to Mudzi was now open which meant we didn’t have to retrace our way to Dindera.

MUDZI SHORT CUT

I

insisted we leave and when I mentioned we had to negotiate the rocks again which I preferred to do before the Charlie Tangos favourite killing time – late afternoon – I got no arguments. I drove to the rocks and we reversed the process crossing over without incident. When I reached the turn off to the short cut to Mudzi I mentioned I’d not yet driven down the road and voicing my concerns suggested we go the long way round through to Dindera. The Assistant Commandant over ruled me as by now the shadows were lengthening appreciatively. We started down I road I have never driven as it had been closed until only a few days ago. The Charlie Tangos had mined this road several times and a number of vehicles – mainly Lorries – had been blown up by hitting land mines. We had travelled about ten Kms down the road which was well surfaced I had to admit, when we came to a low level bridge. It was completely under water and I had no idea how deep the water was.

All I said was “Wash time Kapuke” to which one of the guards responded “Ehe Eshe” as Kapuke began to strip off his boots and socks while the other guards laughed at him, grateful they didn’t have to walk in the water. When I stopped at the water’s edge Kapuke alighted and rolled up his trouser legs past his knees. Both he and I knew if the water wet his trousers we’d not be crossing the river as the Kudu would simply stall in the middle of the bridge. I have the greatest respect for Land Rovers, but converted into a 7 ton (not sure if weight is correct) troop carrier no way could it combat the deep water, even revving like hell and continuing to drive forward I knew from bitter experience we wouldn’t make it. I stood in my seat space with my rifle poking through the aperture giving Kapuke the confidence he needed to walk into the water without his rifle – in case there was a hole and he disappeared underwater. Off he went and I kept a 360 scan on the bush leaving it to Kapuke to tell me the depth. I had deployed the guards to give Kapuke extra cover should the need arise. The pay masters sat very quietly with their rifles poking out the back door of the Kudu.

Kapuke returned and climbed into the back of the Kudu and he told me the deepest water was only about a foot deep. I thanked him and I waited while he dried his feet and replaced his socks and boots. I was worried as the water would be over the exhaust pipe. Not a lot but still over it. I had to rush through the water without letting the engine suck water in through the exhaust. Biting the bullet I thought, in for a penny in for a pound and I told the pay masters what I had to do. The Assistant Commandant looked at me as if I’d just landed from another planet. What the hell did I mean I was going to back up and then charge into the water? Yup I agreed he had it in one. I did offer a concession I suggested they got out of the Kudu and I’d see them on the other side. The Assistant Commandant gave me that look as if I definitely was a bloody alien. Was I mad, no way Jose were they getting out of the Kudu, they were stuck to their seats like shit to a blanket so I just better get on with it. I reversed up the road and lining the kudu up I floored it, pedal to the metal and all that as the saying goes and we shot forward like a scalded cat. Smashed into the water in utter silence – even most of the guards were quiet – until we shot out the other side and with a collective sigh of relief we headed for Mudzi DC’s base.

At the base the pay masters were back to their chatty selves and the Assistant Commandant even bought me a beer in the bar. It was then he asked me had I seen any Meyer parrots around the Keeps as he had before the war often come to Nyamapanda to buy parrots for his large aviaries at Marandellas.  In fact I was a bit of a bird man myself and I had seen some Meyer parrots during my perambulations around Dindera. I ended up buying the Assistant Commandant about 50 parrots as well as a few for myself. Unfortunately I didn’t know enough about Meyer parrots and they soon died on me. What amazed me was that they would hook their beaks into the top bars of their cage and then hang themselves by their beaks until they were dead. After I had lost a few I gave up on them rather leaving them in the wild where they had a better chance to live.

D10 KOTWA

A

t Kotwa Tommy Thomson had utilised one of the guards as a camp batman/cleaner/cook. Ali was the cook’s name and he was well trained as his mother was a cook at the Salisbury Monomotapa Hotel. We were extremely civilised at Kotwa and refused to allow the circumstances of war diminish our civility. At end of day we would wash and eat at a table with a white tablecloth and the correct cutlery and crockery. All items, including the tablecloth had been purloined from the BSAP and Customs at Nyamapanda - when they were leaving due to the border post closing – as we believed if it was good enough for them it certainly was good enough for us.

SOFTIES

You the reader might think we were soft, poufy soldiers well let me enlighten you. When I had to I could suffer the filth along with the best of them. I once spent three weeks without the means to change my clothing, have a shave or even a wash. I could not even clean my teeth properly as water was in very limited supply – only one water-bottle per day. We were given no toilet paper and had to improvise best we could. I’m sure you are getting the picture. It gets worse. For reasons I won’t go into I had to catch a civilian passenger train to return to my base. The journey took an afternoon, night and the following morning.  Not only could I still not change my clothes or shave, I at least could have a hand wash and partially clean my teeth. I refer you to the paragraph headed Battle Camp under my South African National Service.

I have also lain in ambush for several days. Anyone who has performed this is well aware often he who moves first is dead. Long story short I could pea in my shorts where I lay or I could risk death by moving. I had to wait for darkness to defecate and immediately had to bury my deposit to prevent the smell permeating the surrounding air.  During October in Rhodesia towards the Zambezi valley it gets very hot and the sweat flows freely. No matter who we are our sweat has a pungency of its own so to counter that we used the juice of certain bushes to cover our natural smell.

So dear reader you see I have been in the filth – by circumstance – but never by choice or laziness.

BENSON MINE KEEP ATTACK

A

Li the cook was due for leave and Glynn ordered another guard – whose name was Clever – to take over as the batman/cleaner/cook. He tried hard but his cooking wasn’t up to much so I ended up cooking majority of our meals.

One night as Clever was clearing the table he said to Glynn, “Eshe, Benson is being attacked by the ‘Gandangas”. We looked at him speculatively wondering if he had been smoking happy grass when the radio operator – Lovemore Garwe - came from the radio room and told us he had the Sunray from Benson Mine on the radio reporting an attack. Glynn being in charge took the radio call and advised the KC that we’d call first thing in the morning as – according to Standing Orders – we could not venture out at night, especially on unsealed roads in case of landmines followed by ambushes.

BUSH TELEGRAPH

W

hen he returned from the radio shack we had a chibuli and speculated as to how Clever knew about the attack at Benson which had to be around 100 Kms from Kotwa. When we questioned him he said he heard the attack on the wind….. It was an illustration of the Bush Telegraph so many people poo pooed as so much hooey. Not me, I had a great respect for the incredible belief black Africans have for their ways after an incident I was witness to in Northern Rhodesia.

BELIEF

A

s a teenager in Northern Rhodesia - what is now Zambia - at a town called Ndola my brother and I saw a black man lose his sight simply through his incredible belief. He had stolen a chicken belonging to another who went to the witch doctor (Muloshi) to have a curse put on the thief. We’d been attracted by the crowd and being curious I asked an older black man what was happening. He explained that the thief had been brought before the Muloshi to have judgement past upon him for stealing the chicken of another man. As we stood there watching an acolyte handed the Muloshi a black bird – a crow – (mawa). The Muloshi held the bird aloft and spoke to the thief who was pleading and crying. Suddenly the Muloshi released the crow which flew away and landed at the top of a tall tree before flying away.

The old man next to me sucked in his breath and shook his head sadly. Turning to me he said, “You see the Muloshi has cursed the thief. He told him when he let the mawa go it would take his sight with it. He would only see again when he caught that particular black bird and brought it back to the Muloshi. He is now blind and will spend the rest of his life trying to catch the black bird”.

Nearly two years later we happened to be in Ndola again and we saw the thief being led by his young daughter, his two sons were looking for mawa hoping to catch the right crow. It transpired that they had caught numerous crows and taken them to the Muloshi who always denied it was the one he’d set free. We later heard that an eminent eye surgeon from Johannesburg had been intrigued by the case and had offered to examine the thief for free. He could find absolutely nothing physically wrong with the eyes but the thief could not see – such was the power of his belief.

Sadly after I’d left the Mudzi, Clever was killed in an ambush, according to Glynn Trevelyan.

MAKE MY DAY

T

he CO at Mtoko contacted Glynn advising that he had to return the sandbagged Heavy we had been using at Kotwa to GP6 HQ as we would be getting a Puma to replace it.  We both went to Mtoko, Glynn in the Heavy and me in the Kudu – so I could take Glynn back to Kotwa.

We were told the Puma would be delivered to Mudzi the following week. A Puma is a Heavy with a reinforced tray and a capsule for a cab. The idea was if the Puma hit a land mine the blast would blow the capsule off the chassis but the driver would be well protected.

The first Puma that was given to us was ambushed on the road from Mtoko to Mudzi almost outside the Intaf Mess at the DC Mudzi’s post. The stupid Gooks hadn’t realised we were waiting there for the Puma so when they ambushed it they caused the driver to lose control and he hit a culvert tearing out the oil sump. While the Puma was coming to a stop the CTs threw a withering fire at it. Hearing the attack we and some Intaf and SB POs who were in the Mess, went to war. I think Glynn was more annoyed at the effrontery of the gooks causing the Puma to crash rather than because they had disdainfully initiated their attack so close to the Intaf Mess. Nevertheless we opened fire on the run like Wyatt Earp and with about as much success. We did have the effect of causing the CTs to break off the contact and for them to run away.

It was then I saw a beautiful example of adrenalin at work.  Forgive my ignorance and I’m sure the town planners and road-makers among us will mentally correct me if I am wrong but I believe a national tar road in Rhodesia was somewhere between 22 and 25 feet wide. Here we were all firing at the departing CTs and I saw one take a STEP across the road. He didn’t run and jump he simply ran across the road but adrenalin made his strides massive. Mind you I suppose when the wild bullets are buzzing around you it does tend to cause one to lengthen one’s stride. Afterwards I confirmed what I’d seen with Glynn and the POs and SBs who agreed it was what they had seen but didn’t believe. What of the CT who crossed the road so spectacularly. It really wasn’t his day as he was killed, shot three times – twice in the back and once in the back of the head. He was the only kill, though the blood spoor did indicate three others were wounded, obviously not so badly they couldn’t escape. None of us claimed the wounding or killing shots. All we knew over 300 shots had been fired at the CTs and three had hit the jumper. At least three others had also found flesh to penetrate. When we swept the area we found another dead CT who had been shot through the back just above his heart. His exertions as he fled must have ruptured an artery or vein resulting in his death. We followed the other two blood spoors but found no more Charlie Tangos. As was usual the SB took over and completed the reports, etc. Glynn being the GF Officer in charge had to report the damaged Puma to GF6 HQ. We took the driver and his guard detail back to Kotwa for the night as we were promised a replacement Puma the next day. A Puma – for us –and a Heavy would be coming and the Puma driver and his crew would return with the others on the Heavy.

D4 BENSON MINE

A

t first light the mine patrol checked our unsealed road and we set off for Benson Mine. For those of you who don’t know the location, the Keep is situated at the top of a small gomo within the PV. A roadway had been carved around the gomo in a spiral until you reached the mesa at the top where the Keep was located. According to the KC they were stonked with mortars for about twenty minutes during which time several AKs and possibly a couple of RPDs were fired. The Keep – consisting of the KC, a deputy KC, and a DO with 14 guards and 6 DAs had returned fire. On enquiry we discovered the Keep had fired off nearly three thousand rounds. The KC and DO were extremely nervous as they had almost exhausted their ammunition. Not knowing what to expect Glynn had ordered two cases of ammunition loaded on the Puma. He gave the KC one case of 1000 rounds and kept the second case for our needs. He ordered the KC not to open fire if he heard firing in the field as we were going outside the PV to carry out a sweep in case some of the Charlie Tangos had been killed and abandoned or wounded and were still in the vicinity.

Off we went in a sweep line, Glynn, myself and twenty guards. On each side of me I had Kapuke and Dondo - two guards from Dindera I had uplifted to Kotwa. Kapuke told me Dondo spoke very little English but he was a very good tracker. Sure enough it was Dondo who found the blood spoor – at least one of the Gooks had been injured. We swept the valley and as we started to climb a range of hills we heard a strange humming sound. Dondo hissed the word ‘Nyosi’ as he quickly lay on the ground without moving. The other guards were right behind him and Glynn and I seeing what the guards did followed suit without question. All the while the hum grew louder. Suddenly it was above us and I realised it was swarming bees looking for a new home for their Queen. There must have been several thousands of them for the cloud over us actually darkened the sunlight. A very dangerous time for the swarming bees are irritable and will attack at what they consider the slightest provocation. Eventually they past us by and we rose ready to continue our sweep.

Half way up the hill Dondo shrank to his haunches and the rest of us followed suit. He pointed ahead and to his left and following his indication I saw what had he’d seen. There were some structures under the tree canopies. I signalled to Glynn that I would go and take a look see. He trusted me from his knowledge of my ability and I leopard crawled forward until I was close enough to see that the structures had been abandoned. Standing up the others joined me and through Kapuke I gathered that the Charlie Tangos had been living here for a few weeks before they had decided to attack Benson Mine PV.

We never found any Charlie Tangos so the injured one must have still been mobile though we did find several AK magazines and three mortar bombs. We also found a bloody field dressing but beyond that our search proved fruitless. By the time we got back to the Keep the SB were on site so we handed over most of our findings and explained what we’d seen. The PO shrugged his shoulders and said chances were the Charlie Tangos were already back in Mozambique.


AK Magazine recovered during follow up at Benson Mine – Mudzi area – OP Hurricane


RDR (RHODESIAN DEFENCE REGIMENT) HOLDING UNITS – COLOUREDS AND ASIANS 

M

any Rhodies often forget or didn’t even know that many Coloureds (mixed race) and Asian (Indians) fought on the ‘good side’, our side, during the war. There were some who supported the Charlie Tangos – and can we really blame them? We recognised the black Africans – especially in the Guard Force, Internal Affairs, RAR and Police – but somehow the Coloureds and Indians were not considered worthy of our recognition.

The Coloureds were considered at best, ‘Skollies’ (Hooligans, gangsters, layabouts, petty criminals) and somehow the Indians were lumped together with them, because they often employed sharp practice in business.

I never had too much to do with the RDR but two incidents occurred while I was located in the Mudzi area. The first was while I was at Dindera. One night after I had eaten I was searching the airways on the radio when I heard a sitrep being reported. I quickly realised it had to be the RDR. What I heard went something like this.

“Echo two fifer niner calling Echo one onena fifer, over.”

“Echo two fifer niner this is one onena fifer go ahead, over.”

“Echo one onena fifer, Bravo Tango Oscar, over”.

“Echo two fifer niner please repeat, I say again please repeat, over”.

“Echo one onena fifer Bravo Tango Oscar, I say again, Bravo Tango Oscar, over”,

Silence…then.

“Echo two fifer niner what the F… do you mean, Bravo Tango Oscar, over”.

“Agh man Echo one onena fifer, keep your hairs on man, and don ’gets so uptight. ‘Aven’t you ouens heard of Bachman Turner Overdrive, over”.

“Echo two fifer niner this is the Senior Sunray, what the hell has a rock band got to do with anything? Stop wasting time and make your report this minute, OVER”.

“Echo one onena fifer, Yerra man Senior Sunray haven’t you ouens heard Bachman Turner Overdrive’s great song hey! It’s called ‘I aint seen nothing yet’, well we’s in the Oscar Papa an’wes aint seen nothing yet, over”.

Silence followed, I never discovered if Echo one onena fifer responded.

My second involvement with the RDR made me realise ….but for the grace of God… I could die at any time. It was during the early hours of the morning - around 3 o’clock - when human spirits are at their lowest ebb that I was awakened by a loud explosion. To put things into context you need to realise we were very close to the Cordon Sanitaire that the engineers had sewn with millions of APs and land mines. Nightly we would hear half a dozen, maybe a dozen mines explode. It broke my heart for majority of the blasts were set off by innocent animals who knew nothing of war or protected borders. For thousands of years their kind had traversed Africa freely, without hindrance or let, now suddenly an extra danger lurked in the night for the unwary. I had I very sad experience at the Cordon Sanitaire but more of that later. I mention the bangs we heard daily because we became immune to them. That is why when I was rudely awakened I knew the blast was a damn side closer to us.

I rose and checked on the guards and was surprised to see Glynn was fast asleep. The guards on duty were alert and Kapuke who was located in a corner bunker said to me that he reckoned the blast had come from the road leading down to the Ruenya River. He was right and once again I was amazed at the black African’s ability to pinpoint the source of a disturbance.

Very early next morning Glynn and I took some guards in the Puma and Kudu to investigate. As we approached the turnoff to the Ruenya River we could see the outline of a vehicle – it turned out to be a Rhino – tilting to one side.  As we approached 7 Skollies materialised out of the surrounding grass. It was a RDR vehicle and it had hit an AP mine which was powerful enough to shred the off front tyre. When Glynn asked what they were doing there at that time of the night their leader – a Sergeant – concocted a story about having to get to Makosi PV at first light so that was why they had been on the road.

I asked why they hadn’t simply put the spare wheel on and continued their journey. I expected the Sergeant to tell me they had tried to do that but the wheel hub was too badly damaged and they couldn’t repair it. Nothing of the sort, his response was something like this.

“Agh man Sir wes couldn’t do thet. Firs’ of all we aint got no jack, then we aint got no spare so we’s stuck until someone come along like youse”. The penny dropped with a loud clang in my head. Obviously these skollies had been involved in some light fingered purloining in the past and their powers that be had become a little shy at continually replacing anything that wasn’t welded down – like tools, tyres and wheels, and so on. It was a crazy war but what were the senior officers to do. Rhodesia was fighting a war she could ill afford and there were many rogues trying to rip her off at every opportunity.

Fortunately the Rhino was also based on the Land Rover chassis as was my Kudu. I had tools, a jack and more importantly a spare wheel. Glynn was adamant I could help the RDR but I was to stick to them like shit to a blanket until we reached the CMD at Mtoko where I was to recover my spare wheel. He needn’t have worried as I had no trust for the Goffels and knew they would pilfer anything not tied down. Once we were ready to head for Mtoko, Glynn said he would return to Kotwa to call Commandant Hallack at Mtoko to put him in the picture. On the way to Mtoko I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. On the road from Mtoko there was Commandant Hallack in his Land Rover and Guenter Maeser in a Puma with his specials on the back. His specials were regular guards but each was at least 6 foot tall and well built. An elite unit, if you like. They thought they were special but a lot of normal guards thought they were clowns. I know our Sergeant at Kotwa had little time for them. He had a right, for he must have been at least 6 foot 6 inches tall and possibly weighed around 240 pounds and not much of that was fat. Apparently he had been approached to join the specials but laughing he’d refused, saying he preferred to stay in the Mudzi area.

Once I’d finished at Mtoko I retraced my steps to the turn off – where the blast had occurred - when Commandant Hallack immediately ordered me to return to Kotwa and to assume radio operator duties until further notice.  What I didn’t know was while I was still in Mtoko, Dondo and Kapuke had discovered a landmine near the culvert where the RDR Rhino had exploded the AP mine. Lady Luck was on their side as their wheels had barely missed the landmine before hitting the AP. Because we were so poorly equipped we could not do what Hallack was doing, he had a radio and an operator who rode on his Land Rover. He radioed me and told me to chase up the engineers. He said he could do so but was preserving his battery and anyway he said after my involvement with the Engineers at Mtoko I could probably pull a few strings. Either he was addlepated or simply had forgotten Sergeant-Major Davidson had been killed. I can’t remember the Sergeant’s name – the Pookie driver – but I managed to speak to him on the phone and asked if he could find out when someone would come to Kotwa to lift the mine. He assured me someone had already left and should be at our location shortly.

The engineers duly arrived and removed the LM46 as well as a number of unexploded AP mines and with the excitement over the Mtoko team returned back to base without even calling at Kotwa. Glynn came back and said I was in the shit with Hallack and when I asked why he said while I was tending the radio I had used some bad language over the air which was duly reported back to Hallack who was annoyed. I explained to Glynn I did not usually use bad language – let alone on the airwaves, however, my patience was sorely tested by idiot KCs calling me every five minutes demanding an update of the situation. I’d politely told them to keep off the airwaves as I was expected to be available immediately should Commandant Hallack contact the base at Kotwa. After about the third repetitive call I had lost my rag and told a particular KC to keep off the airwaves – in the vernacular liberally interspersed with expletives. Glynn found it extremely funny and I never heard anything further from Commandant Hallack.

D5 SUSWE PV

O

n the road to Mtoko from Kotwa there was a PV called Suswe where I encountered a strange situation when I was visiting the keeps from Kotwa.  I can’t recall the name of the KC in charge of the Keep but during one visit the KC advised me the leader of a local gang of CTs had personally challenged him to a shootout – elements of the OK Corral! I told him not to be a bloody fool but to kill the CT if he had the chance, even from ambush. I definitely thought the KC was smoking something other than tobacco and hallucinating but it turned out there was something in what he had said for a few days later two of his guards were killed when a Chinese stick grenade exploded. The Charlie Tangos had crept up to the perimeter fence in the dark and taped the grenade to the main gate. When the dozy guards opened it the next morning it exploded and killed two of them. We investigated and swept the area but found no trace of any CTs. The PWD sent a team out to repair the gate and we all thought that was the end of it, except for the KC who said it was a challenge to him from the leader of the CTs. 

To my utter amazement the KC reported the next morning that another guard had been killed and three others injured when another grenade exploded on the gate. One was wounded quite severely and I saw him later and he’d lost his left forearm and hand. The amazing thing was the naïve attitude demonstrated by the guards. Rather than checking ultra-carefully because of what had happened the day before the guards simply opened the gates believing because it had happened the day before it would never happen again.

Whether the KC and the CT had a shootout or not I never knew as that was to be my last call up to Mudzi as Glynn had recommended me for the Officer Training course. Successful or not trainee officers were never sent back to where they had been previously.

CHIKURUBI OFFICER TRAINING

A

fter completing my “R & R” back in civvy street – catching up 6 weeks work in my civvy job with no chance of leave - I reported to Chikurubi once again. Back to the same tent I’d used when I completed my initial training. Only this time things were different. There were only 10 of us on the course for starters and we did not have to square bash or attend the assault course. I voluntarily did the assault course each morning and at the end of the day just to keep my hand in, excluding the obstacles I could not complete on my own. At first I went on my own but as the course progressed three other cadets would join in albeit at a slower pace.

On course with me were the following cadets.

Chris Pickering:           He was English and at the time the youngest QS to qualify in the UK. As I recall he worked in Salisbury for Richard Costain or Roberts Construction, I’m sure it was the former. He wore a beard as he suffered a skin complaint if he shave on a daily basis.

Dave Fry:                     He was the General Manger of either the Norwich Union or the Commercial Union Insurance Company in Salisbury.

 

Ronnie (I think his Surname was Woods):  

Didn’t know much about him. As I recall he was from Que Que or Redcliffe and he was having marital problems.

Pierre Theron:            He was a South African who, like me had emigrated from South Africa. Jovial, slightly overweight, but I knew little about him.

Peter?:                        He was a Swiss national living in Rhodesia. He lived at the Norfolk Hotel which seemed to be mixed race, a first for that time. I played some golf with him at the Sherwood Arms Golf Club.

Jules?:                         He was only a kid – late teens or early twenties. His father had been a Lieutenant – Colonel or a Colonel in the RDF and Jules was being forced to follow in his footsteps even if he admitted he was not cut from the same cloth.

Barry?                         Didn’t know much about him other than him being some sort of commercial artistic designer. He was married and apparently his design of the star which replaced the Jerry Can insignia for officers was accepted by Colonel Pringle, the Deputy Commander. He also created sets of miniature medals which he tried to flog to us other cadets. They were expensive and I don’t recall anyone buying a set.

?Dietrichs:                   Another youngster. Willing but a bit of the slow side.

Richard Teutcher:       He was tall, six three or four and well set up. He worked for some Government agency in civvy life. Not the most ambitious of chaps or the most decisive.

Gary ‘Randy’ Rees:     Finally there was me.

I formed a close association with Chris and Dave though I was friendly with all of the cadets, less so with Ronnie and Barry than the others.

Without sounding arrogant or egotistical, Chris, Dave and I were the brightest on course – this was reflected in the positions we held in our civilian lives. Jules was also bright but being so young was too much of a shrinking violet. Pierre, Richard and young Dietrich vacillated, being willing to follow the herd. Ronnie was off with the fairies most of the time with his personal problems. Barry thought himself and acted intelligently until he was tested and then was found wanting. Peter I believe was intelligent but lost something through interpretation.

 Being aspiring officers our instructors were different from those on our initial training courses. Our main instructor was Assistant Commandant Terry Wilde and the new RSM. Whispering Grass had moved along and a new fellow from Llewellyn Barracks and the School of Infantry had taken over. I cannot recall his name and at the end of the war he too was an Assistant Commandant.


My copy of the G, A & Q instructions issued at our Officers Board and my personal Notebook.


We were issued a copy of the Rhodesian Defence Act. The First Schedule showed the equivalent rank structure of the second, third and forth arms of the Defence Force.


We were also issued with a copy of the Drill Manual



These pictures above show the correct way to salute, somewhat lost on numerous members of the Guard Force, some relatively senior in rank.

Half way through the course the cadets were all beginning to speculate as to which of us would be commissioned. Everyone agreed that through sheer acumen, logic, determination and presence Chris Pickering, Dave Fry and myself would fly through the examination and be commissioned as Junior Commandant Grade 1. Speculation was Richard, Jules, Pierre and Barry might be considered for Junior Commandant Grade 2. Ronnie, Peter and young Dietrich all agreed they would never be considered.

At the end of our course we had to attend an interview with Senior Commandant Robin Tarr and Deputy Commander Pringle. Ronnie was called first and as expected he failed. Pierre was next and he too failed. Next was Peter and he also failed. Dave Fry was next up. When he returned he was as mad as a snake and white faced. When we asked his result he said he’d failed. He said he could accept failing but not the reason given him for his failure. He’d been told he failed because of his bad eye sight. What made him so annoyed was that before attending the officers’ course he had explained about his eyes and had been told his sight was absolutely not a hindrance, as his glasses adjusted for his poor vision, now suddenly it had caused his failure. Chris Pickering was called next and he too was spitting chunks when he returned. Like Dave he too had failed. His failure was due to his having a beard which apparently sent the wrong signals to subordinates, so he was told. Like Dave prior to embarking on the course he’d explained he wore a beard because he had a skin complaint which caused great discomfort if he shaved. He had a doctor’s certificate exempting him from shaving, yet here he was being told his beard sent the wrong signals.

 By that time I’d concluded I too would fail on some inane pretext. Our failure had nothing to do with the implausible reasons given but because we were considered too bright and radical to fulfil the role of officers of the Guard Force. Finally I was called and I too failed. No surprise as I had already figured out what standard of officer the Board were looking for – ‘Yes Sir don’t rock the boat, thank you Sir’. I have a devil in me and sometimes I like to twist the tiger’s tail. Having been told I was not suitable for Guard Force officer material I simply asked why I had failed. Almost gleefully Senior Commandant Tarr of the Training Centre advised me it was because of my whinging when we had gone into a live situation near the end of our course. Four of us would mount an OP under the aegis of an experienced black Selous Scout on top of a convenient gomo. The remaining 6 cadets with Sergeant Ford would mount an ambush in the valley below. I apparently had been reported for whinging almost all night long and had compromised the ambush. Lifting my eyebrows I simply said, “Thank you Sir for your explanation. However, should you question Pickering, Fry and Theron you will find I in fact spent the night with them at the OP, on top of a gomo with the Selous Scout member? I don’t even know where the ambush was set”. Bobbin’ Robin was lost for words as he sat there blushing furiously.

Colonel Pringle coughed and spluttered and said, “Be that as it may you have still failed.” He’d never forgiven me my comment in the Officers Mess - at GHQ Guard Force in the city when we had been invited to meet the two most senior members of Guard Force. I had advised Chris Pickering I had no intention of sucking up to the Commander or Deputy Commander by buying them drinks all night – many senior officers are old soaks who expect new officers or cadets to continually keep them supplied. Pringle eavesdropped on our conversation and first showed his unforgiving nature by denigrating my design – we’d all been charged with preparing a design for presentation at the Officers Mess when we were invited to attend - of the new insignia to be worn by officers of Guard Force. The previous insignia looked like a jerry can and was referred to as such by the other forces. It was Barry’s design that was accepted on the pretext he was a graphic designer so he must know best.  Cobblers, his design was almost identical to that used by the army and police. He was quite open to us other cadets when he admitted he had simply copied them with a little alteration. I had done exactly the same thing because I believed if we were all Defence Force with identical rank structure we should use the same rank insignia design. The difference between our designs was in our attitude towards the most senior members of Guard Force, Barry couldn’t buy Pringle enough drinks that night. So much for wishing to lift the standard and change the image of Guard Force I thought. I thanked them for their probity when judging me and I don’t think Bobbin Robin knew what I was saying, Pringle wasn’t sure if I was being genuine or sarcastic, so kept his peace.

Richard, Barry and Jules were all offered commissions as Junior Commandant Grade 2 – the same rank as a subaltern. Richard and Jules both said they couldn’t understand how Chris, Dave and I had failed whereas Barry, I was told claimed to have known all along that we would fail.

With the course over we were all allocated different areas to report to – not where we had come from. I was going to the Honde Valley as was Richard. He would be the 2IC and me just a KC allocated to a Keep.

Through some confusion and misinterpretation of command Richard thought after the ‘gruelling time’ we’d had on our course we were free to go home even though we still had two weeks of our call up to run. I sat around the whole day waiting for my new CO to collect me from Chikurubi, which was the plan. Towards the end of the day Terry Wilde told me to go home as there was no accommodation for me at Chikurubi because a fresh intake was already in the tent we had been occupying. So I went home less enamoured by the Guard Force by the minute.

Terry Wilde had told me to report back at Chikurubi the next morning at 9 am. I was there at 8.30 am and once more sat around – bored to tears – waiting for my new CO. As the afternoon drew to a close Terry told me to go home and report back the next day. I could not believe the ineptitude of the hierarchy at Guard Force.

I returned the third day and at eleven o’clock Terry asked me if I would mind painting some of the Training Centre buildings. I leapt at the chance to do something and spent the next few days painting. Later I learnt that the CO from the Honde wasn’t interested in collecting me as he considered me a loser having failed and he was slightly annoyed Richard hadn’t used his initiative to drive to Umtali where he could have met the daily truck from the Honde Valley.

With still one week of my call up to go Terry Wilde told me to get lost and to report back on the final day to collect my pay. I was happy to oblige him and disappeared with alacrity. In my civilian life I was an independent operator so I simply reported at the Everglo Group the next morning and continued with the project I was working on. Some might wonder why I reported back at work when I was entitled to be away until my call up was over. I couldn’t do that as my employer was very good to me and all of us who had to go on call up. While we were away fighting for our country the TA Group benevolently continued to pay us. They considered our Forces pay a bonus for putting our lives on the line. My ethical nature simply would not allow me to steal time I was being paid for.

GP4 HONDE VALLEY

D

uring my return to civvy street I’d met up with Glynn Trevelyan  and when he broached the subject of my course I simply told him I’d been overlooked. He was amazed and past some derogatory comments regarding the competency of the Guard Force hierarchy. He had spent some Call Ups in the Valley and suggested I try to get a posting to either Katiyo or Aberfoyle tea estates in the White Highlands. He reckoned they were the best keeps he’d ever been posted to as the owners of both estates were extremely grateful for the Guard Force presence and rewarded the KC by making him an honorary member of their clubhouses.  The KC was also given a bar account with a credit dollar balance on it for his use.

I had also received a copy of the proposed Call Up programme for the next year with my Call Up notice.


The Timetable was very interesting though it was amended several times as the war progressed. I initially was part of the Alpha Group but ended up in the Charlie Group. I never spent more than 30 days away from the operational areas. Though the Timetable indicated an average of 60 – 70 days away. I did find it interesting as it listed GF21 as the latest training intake. I was from GF7.

Four weeks later I reported back at Chikurubi preparing to go to the Honde Valley, with Glynn’s information tucked in the back of my mind. With my experiences from Mudzi I assumed that a similar arrangement would exist in the Valley so I didn’t take very much food with me. If I was wrong I’d approach the CO and make a plan. When we met up I realised I didn’t know any of the other KCs or Deputy KCs including some who were about to go on their first stint out in the gungeni. A familiar face appeared when Richard Teutcher finally arrived, as I recall, his initial intake was GF10. Of all the cadets on my Officers Board only Chris Pickering, Ronnie?, Pierre Theron and Dave Fry had trained before me. Chris Pickering had trained before any of us, he was one of the earliest trainees having trained with GF 4.

Because we’d been on course together Richard and I gravitated towards each other and we chewed the fat while waiting for the bus. When I told Richard what had happened after the course was over he said he was sure he’d been told to go home, not my affair anyway. I was taken aback when Richard told me he hadn’t a clue what he was supposed to do as the officer in charge. Fortunately for him I worked in an environment where I was responsible for making decisions and working expeditiously.

I made a few subtle suggestions and he grasped at them like straws to a drowning man. Eventually the bus arrives and we boarded our ‘armoured troop carrier’ which would be taking us to war. Richard and I ended up sitting together and it didn’t take me long to discover he had an ulterior motive for sitting next to me. He wanted information on how to conduct himself.  Sadly managerial skills are basically inherent not taught. Training courses and interpersonal relationships can only enhance and fine tune the basic skills required to lead. Instead of being annoyed or upset with Richard I was sorry for him. Later I discovered he was amazed when his CO had told him he had been recommended for the Officers Board. Richard simply wasn’t a leader. Very likeable, reasonably intelligent, certainly not adventuresome and quite happy to exist on the periphery of life. I tried to give him some help as we travelled to Umtali.

When we arrived the driver pulled up in a paved parking lot and told us this was his stop. When we did nothing he said we all had to get off the bus and to remember to take our trunks with us. Richard just sat there like a stunned mullet not sure what to do so I stood up and moved to the doorway. Once off the bus I took my trunk out of the luggage bay and made my way over to a scrubby tree where I used the skimpy shade to my advantage. The others followed me and even Richard decided he’d better join us. As soon as we had removed ourselves from the bus the driver drove off. Richard was worried and voiced his concern saying what if nobody from the Valley came for us. Not so far - fetched as all that considering the debacle that had occurred during my last Call Up. 

I suggested Richard leave his trunk with me and he might wander off to the Cecil Hotel – a Meikles Hotel – where I’d stayed a couple of times when attending business in Umtali. Nearly an hour later Richard returned saying he’d found the CO at the hotel but was told the CO didn’t want his late lunch disturbed. He’d eventually seen Richard and told him to tell us to wait patiently as the daily truck was collecting supplies and once done would call to collect us. Bloody arrogance of the man we’d had no food or drink since leaving home that morning and here he was enjoying his late lunch while we suffered from dehydration. Because I knew Umtali I said to Richard I was going to a greasy spoon to get a bite to eat and a drink and asked if he wanted anything. He asked for a hamburger and coke and off I went. Richard was deserted as everyone else set out to find some refreshments and as a parting shot he ordered us all back in half an hour. I found my café and bought a couple of hamburgers of dubious quality – my brother always referred to them as bacteria-burgers – and a coffee for me and coke for Richard then I returned to the parking lot.

We finished eating and the afternoon wore on. After an hour Richard began to get restless as 6 of the KCs still hadn’t returned. Another half hour past and Richard was getting very nervous so I told him he’d better go and collect the missing men. He was such an innocent he had no idea where to look so I mentioned there was a public bar at the back of the Hotel and off Richard went to round up the missing men.

While he was away a Puma arrived and a young driver who got out and stretched. He told us we should put out trunks on the back as we’d soon be off, just as soon as the CO joined us. I loaded my trunk and climbed aboard the Puma settling myself for the journey ahead. Richard and the missing men saw the parked Puma and Richard made them run back to the parking lot. He apologised to the driver for holding him up. The driver was amazed for he was only a Deputy KC whereas Richard was an officer.

Sometime later the CO arrived in his Land Rover with driver installed and security on the back. He didn’t bother to recognise us but simply waved the Puma driver ahead and we set off for the Honde Valley. Not a successful trip as I was sitting near the back of the Puma and directly opposite me there was a forty – four gallon drum filled with diesel. It was so full that any slight jerk by the Puma, any slight bump in the road caused some diesel to splash out of the drum ever increasing the puddle around its base. One of the KCs sitting near the drum started to complain as he ended up sitting in a puddle with the fumes rising from the diesel all around him but then the stupid fool pulled out a cigarette which he then proceeded to light. I couldn’t believe how stupid he was but he quickly learnt I was not best pleased by his actions and he put his fag away. Thank God it was diesel and not petrol otherwise we’d most likely have ended up as toast.

TO THE HONDE VALLEY

W

e travelled along the Penhalonga – Inyanga road to the turn off to the Honde Valley. As memory serves me it was at Watsoma Mission where we began the descent to the valley floor.





This is a sketch taken from the book by Jim Parker (Intaf) ‘Dawn of Deliverance – the battle for the Honde 1977’. I have shown this sketch as it shows the PVs in the Honde Valley. However, I was in the Honde Valley during the third quarter of 1978 and by that time Moyo – wa – Shumba had been created. My recollection of the roads was somewhat different to the sketch in that the main road out of the Honde Valley from Ruda PV continued past the Mtarazi Falls and then meandered through the forest climbing the escarpment until it arrived at the top at the Watsoma Mission on the Inyanga – Salisbury road. Reference to Google Earth clearly shows this road still in operation.

 


Picture shows the beginning of the Honde Valley from the escarpment. The haze is not mist but pollution caused by the thousands of cooking fires from the PVs.

It was some 19 Kms of twisting and turning road from the plateau to the floor of the valley. As I recall GP 4 (Ruda PV) was located in reasonable proximity with the BSAP Ruda base. When we arrived at GP4 the first person I saw who stuck in my memory was the Group Sergeant – Major – a black African – he was respectful and courteous but I could tell from his eyes his respect was for the older wiser heads in the group arriving.


Picture shows some of the buildings at GP4 HQ. The second small building on the left was the Officers Mess. The building on the right was occupied by Jerry and Fannie and it was also where they did the cooking.

I cannot for the life of me recall the CO’s name but he reminded me of a Pouter Pigeon – all puffed up with self–importance. On arrival he ignored us and disappeared into his office. We were unsure what to do and it was the GSM (African) who suggested we might utilise an empty hut as our temporary quarters. A KC, - Jerry (can’t recall his Surname) - based at the GP4 HQ approached our group and asked Richard to follow him to the CO’s office. Richard disappeared and had his kit carried to what were to be his personal quarters.  

Jerry came back and told us the CO would be interviewing us and we would be spending the night at the HQ having arrived so late and he said at our interview we would be allocated our PV. When it was my turn the CO made no bones about telling me he was not impressed having me along as I’d failed my Officer’s course. I kept my counsel without comment and Pouter Pigeon then asked me if I had a preference as to which PV I’d like to be stationed at. Remembering Glynn’s words I said either Katiyo or Aberfoyle would suit me. The CO was an arsehole and was simply playing a game with me; abusing his rank and position; had we been in Civvy Street I’d have eaten him alive.

Anyway in his condescending way he advised me he’d already decided to send me to the newest PV which was part of his command. It wasn’t in the Valley and was located up on the escarpment not too far from the Watsoma Mission. At the Mission there were the ubiquitous African trading store, tailor, general handyman, layabouts, woman shoppers gossiping, scrawny chickens – hukus – a kaffir dog (a mongrel almost skin and bone) or two, keeping out of the limelight so as to avoid being abused. The CO continued to tell me about the PV without naming it. As he spoke the CO had a smirk on his face as if daring me to countermand his posting order. He thought he was such a smart arse but he was an idiot and had we been playing chess I’d have had him, after the first move he made, in checkmate. I didn’t react and simply thanked him and then asked how I could get more rations as I had assumed there would be a “Pied Crow” arrangement in the Valley.

At first he seemed disappointed by my response and I wondered why, however, he seemed to consider the latter part of my reply reasonable and advised me indeed there was a similar arrangement in the Valley to that provided by the Intaf “Pied Crow”. Each day the driver of the Puma – whom everyone called Fannie – went to Umtali to collect mail and to procure supplies for the HQ and the KCs. The CO explained to me it was the HQ 2IC‘s duty to visit some of the PVs every day but as there were so many he may only visit each one once a week. Whenever he was paying a visit he would take the ordered goods to the KC. He said I shouldn’t worry because tomorrow I would be going with him to my PV as he personally was going into Umtali. Fannie and Richard would be delivering our group of KCs to the PVs and collecting those who were standing down. Pouter Pigeon would be driven in his Land Rover and Jerry would be in the van in the Kudu. I would travel with Jerry and was told to give him my order and he would drop it off for me when he returned from Umtali.

I joined the others and as I was the last to be interviewed The CO came with me.  He told us we could use the troops Mess to have our dinner but we had to use our own rations. He ordered Richard to join him at the Officers Mess and he need not bring his own rations along as Pouter would be standing him to dinner. Thank God I had some tinned rations and I soon had a meal prepared. I managed to scrounge a couple of slices of bread from Jerry with the promise of a full loaf in return. As he would be filling my order he couldn’t lose so he had readily agreed. 

After a restless night the dawn arrived and again I scrounged some bread and a couple of eggs. I had some bacon in a small cooler bag I had with some ice packs. They were still reasonably hard and had kept my small amount of meat and bacon chilled. I had a slap up breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast. Many an envious stare was cast my way but the others had to learn to fend for themselves if they wanted to survive in life. Jerry and Fannie had been more than helpful especially when they saw me washing up everything I had borrowed and used returning it to its rightful place. Too many time their hospitality had been abused by sheer arrogance with dirty utensils, pots, pans and so on being left for them to clean, so I was a refreshing change.

MOYO – wa - SHUMBA

T

ime to go and I loaded my trunk into the Kudu. In addition to Jerry and myself he had four guards. Usually he would have 6 but this time my trunk and I took up two of the seats. Off we went and on the way I asked Jerry what was the name of the PV where I was going to be based. He was bemused the CO hadn’t bothered to share that intelligence with me. Moyo-wa-shumba, which translated into “the heart of the lion”. It had a ring to it and I hoped it was not an omen.

When we arrived at the Main Gate I was surprised. The gate structure was fine the frame stood at least ten feet high and was robust in its construction. However, the perimeter fence instead of being diamond mesh approximately 8 or 10 feet high this one consisted of 3 strands of barbed wire no more than three and a half to four feet high.. Who was kidding who, the only thing such a fence would keep in or out was large domestic animals, it had to be a sick joke - but it was not.  Considering I had been told there were +7000 locals in the village I could only assume that with such a fence there had to be several hundred guards to control them. Sadly this was sheer speculation on my part and the guard compliment consisted of a Sergeant, Corporal and 12 guards. There was no Intaf presence and the guards were required to carry out the administration function as well as that of security. Unless we had a ‘shoot on sight’ policy after curfew there was no way in the world the Guard Force could ensure the locals stayed in the PV or aliens were prevented entry. The gate was a joke and only useful for vehicles.

When Jerry stopped at the Keep the KC I was relieving quickly opened the rear door and physically removed my trunk form the Kudu. I thought him extremely courteous but I was mistaken, he simply wanted me out and himself ensconced in the Kudu in the shortest possible time. Once we had reversed rolls he stood up in the Kudu and did the briefest handover I’ve ever had, it went something like this.

“The buildings aren’t finished yet. That concrete bunker over there is your quarters. You share it with everything of value for the Keep, the corner bunker over there is the radio room and the three radio operators live there. The other corner bunkers and those in the middle of the other three walls are where the Sergeant, Corporal and other guards live. Those black pieces of hose stuck in the dirt walls of the Keep are where all of you pee. Over there the first long drop is reserved for you and the other two for the rest of the compliment. As you can see the barracks and the guards ablution block is almost completed. They should be finished in the next two days. Your quarters – according to the builder will be finished by next Monday. Thank God I’m out of here.” Good luck and watch out for the kaffir dogs”.


Picture shows the bunker that was my home at Moyo – wa – Shumba. The piece of tubing to the right of the bunker was one of the numerous ‘piss pipes’ that dotted the embankments.

He sat down and Jerry promised to drop off my supplies on his way back to the Valley.  Inspecting my quarters I couldn’t believe how different they were from Kotwa and Dindera. I was to become even more disillusioned before the following Monday. Inside the bunker there was a raised concrete shelf on which defenders stood to fire at the enemy. This allowed them to shoot through the firing aperture without exposing more than their heads, part of their shoulders and their hands. This was to be my bed until my quarters were completed. There was no door to the bunker and there was access from both sides. The previous KC had wedged the furniture, gas freezer and fridge into the one aperture sealing it off. I realised that he was using the trestle table as a gate to block the other aperture. The concrete shelf bed was not very long as each end was stacked with boxes of ammunition, other perquisites and equipment. From marks in the ground I realised he had stored his trunk against the freezer, which he obviously wasn’t using. I would follow his example, at least for the next day or so until I saw how the land lay.

It was time to meet my guards.  

The African Sergeant was something different and within a week I had got him transferred to another Keep. He was what we called a tsotsi – a young thug; a wide boy – I was told later by some of the guards they had to pay him each month if they wanted to be relieved of some their duties. They were extremely upset when I punished a couple of them for dereliction of duties as they had already paid the Sergeant to exempt them. I tried to explain to them as guards they were expected to fulfil all of their duties not avoid them by paying a superior.

Under the Sergeant’s aegis the guards were sloppy in their dress and attitude. That was about to change as was the Sergeant’s role. He tried to browbeat me with his nonsensical belief that because he was permanent staff his rank was somehow superior to that allocated to enlisted civilians, I soon rid him of his inane belief much to his disillusionment. When I decided to rid myself of his disrupting presence he was quite happy and advised me he was going to a much better PV. I was deployed to Moyo-wa-Shumba on the Tuesday and within two days the Sergeant was gone. Pouter pointed out I wouldn’t be getting another Sergeant. Hooray we could now begin to get the guards to act like what they were – soldiers.

CHARLIE TANGOS (CTs)

 A

t home Saturday afternoon would find me at the Golf Club, but here I was out in the bush and so to pass the time I had relieved the radio operator and was twiddling with the station finder when I picked up communications on a contact in our area and I managed to follow the progress during the afternoon. Around 5 o’clock the Hunters disappeared and I established from the ‘comms’ they considered they had done all they could to winkle out the Charlie Tangos and they were finished for the day. As the twilight began to deepen the gunships also pulled out, not being prepared to risk their choppers –Rhodesia had so few of them – I remember seeing the movie ‘Apocalypse Now’, if only Rhodesia has as many choppers as were wasted in that movie.  

I was very perturbed when I heard the RR Battalion Commander stand down his forces saying the Charlie Tangos had bomb shelled and were so close to the border they would be long gone before his forces could catch them. He suggested a sweep the next morning in case some CTs had been a bit tardy going for the border, badly wounded or died from their wounds. He was asked by some superior or other to whom he was reporting if he could estimate how many CTs had been involved and how many escaped. He estimated an initial party of 90-100 had been sighted and possibly 65- 80 had escaped and were heading for the border. That was particularly worrying news for me as Moyo-wa-Shumba lay directly in the path the CTs would be following to the border. I had 12 guards, a Corporal and myself to protect +7000 locals from 65 or 80 heavily armed and pissed off Gooks with only a three strand barbwire fence between us. Quickly I assembled the Guards and told them to eat as we were going into an ambush position. I instructed the radio operator to be prepared to man the radio all night and if he heard us in contact he was to call the Sunray at Ruda. Knowing the African mind-set I left a companion – the Corporal - with the radio operator.


Picture shows one of the fence posts with the strands of barbed wire attached. The yellow colouring is because the photo was taken as dusk was arriving at the village.

 


Picture shows some of the huts within the PV. It was a joke as with so few guards I had no chance of stopping locals form coming and going as they wished. Neither could I stop infiltration of CTs though I tried my best. In the background are part of the Chimanimani Mountains bordering Mozambique.

With darkness closing in rapidly I took the other 11 guards and set an ambush inside the village near the fence on the southern side, this was the most direct way to the border. Fortunately I had by that time managed to induct the guards into my way of doing things, mainly they had to carry out their duties in a disciplined way. We set our ambush, not in the classical way as there were far too few of us – no stop groups only a killing group.  The hours passed by and suddenly around midnight in front of us was a very large group of CTs. One minute nothing but bush then the next around thirty or forty armed Charlie Tangos materialised. We lay waiting for them to breach the fence before opening fire. All we had to defend the village were our G3s and about 100 rounds per man. If you have ever been in action with black troops you will know for every one excellent soldier there are twenty who close their eyes when they fire and they lay down what is best described as prophylactic fire. Luckily my discipline worked and none of the guards opened fire, we only had 1000 rounds between us, usual contacts on Keeps result in thousands of rounds being fired by both sides. Suddenly there was movement in the village alongside us and some locals from the village had joined the CTs bringing water and sustenance. They were whispering loudly to one another when one of the guards tapped me on the shoulder. He whispered in my ear that the locals had told the CTs I was very evil – I was the Tockoloshe and was out looking for them. The effect on the Charlie Tangos was amazing, they bolted their food and drank some water then carrying extra food and water they quickly and quietly began to move toward the border. The leader said something in mumbled undertones which I later was told were his instructions to the missing Charlie Tangos. Had I acted with cowardice by not attacking the CTs or was I simply trying to avoid getting my guards and many villagers wounded or killed in the cross fire. To me it was simply a judgement call I had estimated there were forty Charlie Tangos in the group and yet I’d heard on the radio the estimate was between 65 and 80 had escaped. Remember this group had escaped the might of a RR Battalion supported by gunships and Hawker Hunters so they were obviously well trained and battle hardened and all we had to oppose them with were our G3s.  Fortunately I had made the right call for as the initial group moved off toward the border a second and then a third group of about 20 CTs each stood up from their stop group positions gathering in front of us to receive water and food before they too headed for the border. I breathed a big sigh of relief as they moved off.

Yes, we could have engaged them but it would have been to no avail. We might have killed or wounded two or three – even, God forbid, a dozen or so before we were annihilated. There was no question we would all have been killed or badly wounded had I opened fire on the Charlie Tangos. Remember we were not at the Keep but lying in the open. Had 70 or so CTs fired wildly in our direction chances are a hundred or more locals would have been killed or wounded. Above all remember we were Guard Force and all we had were our G3s and four or five spare magazines, no MAGs, no claymores, not even an Icarus flare. To me my role was to protect the villagers, not prove how many CTs I could kill. What I found confusing was that generally we were attempting to protect people from their enemy yet they were giving free succour to their enemy, as we perceived the situation. The real situation was far more complex and both ZANLA and ZIPRA forces exploited the fear of the spirits world by locals to coerce them to do their bidding, setting examples by torture and murder of innocent victims but we also had to remember many CTs had voluntarily joined up and they loved their families just as much as we did ours.

LAND MINE BLAST

O

n the Sunday after the CTs had past us by one of the villagers – he owned a VW Kombi – was taking a group of locals off to the Mission Church at Watsoma. About 100 metre beyond the main gate his Kombi ran out of petrol so he walked back into the village to borrow or buy some petrol. Acquiring some fuel he returned to the Kombi and with it fuelled he ushered all the passengers in and started off for the mission. They had only travelled about three or four hundred meters further down the road when he hit a boosted landmine. I won’t dwell on the sight that greeted us when we arrived. Suffice it to say I still keep a small piece of misshapen metal and rubber – the remains of part of a shock absorber - to remind me of the horror of war when civilians – good people – get caught in the middle of something not of their making. 11 people died in the blast and three were seriously injured. Within an hour they too had died and none survived the blast. We had swept the road early that morning – we swept the road all the way to the tar every day because the builder came every day and none of us wanted anything to happen to him at least  until the Keep was completed. Unless you have done a mine clearance don’t be too quick to judge, it is not easy to spot a mine if the mine layer is quite expert.


A piece of the remains of a VW Kombi after hitting a boosted LM46 outside the PV at Moyo-wa-Shumba.

Remembering my experience at Marembe I contacted the CO at Hauna and asked him to advise the SB and DC as the locals would want to bury the remains before sundown. The SB said they would call later in the day and the DC gave permission for the dead to be buried. What the SB hoped to achieve I don’t know but they arrived, asked a few questions and quickly disappeared.

I was only to remain at Moyo-wa-Shumba for another week and a half, nevertheless it was an exciting time for me.

Every weekday the European builder and his crew arrived to work on the Keep and every afternoon they would disappear for the night. I discovered the builder had a small holding not far beyond the Watsoma Mission where he had planted several acres of nuts – I believe pecan nuts – which take nine or ten years before they reach full maturity and produce bumper crops. After he had completed the Keep he invited me to lunch with his wife and in front of her he laughingly told me how he used to dread coming to the Keep as I never shut up. Apparently I talked incessantly while he was with me. He was kind enough to say he could never do what we did, that is to spend weeks on end without our own kind to communicate with.

With the Keep completed I moved into my quarters – the guards had already been in their quarters for over a week – and I was extremely glad to be out of the bunker. I could at last have a hot water shower each day rather than trying to bathe from a basin. I also had my own flush toilet – what a luxury – similar to the one at home.

COMMISSION

 I

 had just got settled into my brand new accommodation when Pouter Pigeon arrived and informed me - through him I had been commissioned in the field -  I was to redeploy to GP4 HQ as his 2IC, what about Richard? Pouter had brought a young KC to take over from me and fortunately for him the Keep was now fully operational.




Picture shows Pouter Pigeon’s Landrover when he arrived at Moyo – wa - Shumba to uplift me to GP4 HQ. The incredible protective barbed wire fence can be seen surrounding the Keep on top of the embankment. Two three strand barbwire fences – one around the village AND another around the Keep – to keep the CTs out and the villagers in, WOW such comfort!

At the HQ, Pouter acted as if he was in command of a Battalion during Victorian times. In addition to him and me there were two other white men on Call Up. One was a KC and the other a Deputy KC. Jerry the KC had to act as cook for the CO and Fannie, as his waiter. He used to eat alone in the ‘Officers Mess’, a tin walled rondavel. The KC and the Deputy ate in the general ranks Mess where the kitchen was located. They took umbrage to my being posted to the HQ but as I was their superior officer they had to do my bidding like it or not.  I later discovered their animosity stemmed from their fear they both or at least one would be deployed to Moyo-wa-Shumba to replace me. As they were both nervous wrecks it would have been a disaster and even Pouter had appreciated that fact, hence his requesting a KC from Chikurubi. All Jerry and Fannie wanted was to stay at the HQ where they felt safe and secured.

They were fools to have thought that way as they had the CO in their corner fighting for them. He was not about to lose his cook and waiter. I allayed their fears and got them onside by increasing their workload – much to their relief and satisfaction – as it made them feel indispensable. I turned Jerry into a more useful clerk and Fannie I used for more productive driving and vehicle maintenance duties, he also had to help Jerry in the kitchen by preparing the vegetables and so on.

The Pouter was ecstatic for now he and I could share the Officer’s Mess. Crazy but we two were served by the other two. They weren’t enamoured being considered ‘in service’ like staff of a grand mansion, but both were as happy to be able to remain at the HQ.

Pouter had given me a message confirming my commission to Junior Commandant Second Class. I had no shoulder boards with the single star of a Junior Commandant Grade 2, Pouter said he would arrange for the Rhodesian Regiment Q Stores at Umtali to send some to me.

Richard Teutcher had been sent by Pouter to a sub base closer to the Tea Estates as he had blotted his copy book somewhat when he was 2IC at GP4, I believe the sub base was located at the Pungwe PV south of the Aberfoyle Tea Estate. Each Sunday the 2IC would collect all of the KCs in the Valley and take them to the Aberfoyle Tea Estate club –a wonderful privilege, not to be abused. One Sunday Richard had collected the KCs from the Valley and taken them to the Aberfoyle Club for a few drinks and a bit of socialising.  He upset the Aberfoyle Director - Peter Ring - because he lacked control over his men with two of the KCs becoming intoxicated and starting to cause trouble with some of the local people who lived and worked in the White Highlands. The upshot was the Guard Force being banned from the Club and Pouter was very distressed. Now that I was an officer he charged me with taking the KCs to the club where I was to ensure their best behaviour. He had managed in the interim to persuade Peter Ring to give us one last chance. I knew Peter Ring and the owner’s sons’ – Mark and David (I think that was the older brother’s name; he was the Managing Director of the Tea Estate) though I cannot recall their surname. I met Mark through the Folk Club at Salisbury and David and Peter Ring while playing in their Charity Golf Tournament at Salisbury. I later found out Pouter had shamelessly used my association with the owner’s sons and Peter Ring to persuade Peter to give us another chance.

I left early on Sunday morning driving the Kudu on my own up to Moya- wa-Shumba to collect the new KC. I thought it wrong that he - like me before him - was overlooked simply because he was up on top of the escarpment. He was extremely happy I had taken the trouble to collect him and rewarded me by hand writing a vast number of folk songs Jerry had brought with him to the HQ. Anyway I collected the other KCs and they too were impressed that I had been prepared to deprive myself of a Sunday lie-in to go and collect the Moyo-wa-Shumba KC.

We arrived at the sub base and Richard greeted me by congratulating me on my promotion – which Pouter had imparted to him - and said he was vastly relieved as he was content to stay in the sub base where he intended to improve his tan. He was kind enough to give me a spare set of shoulder boards so at least everyone would know I was an officer.

Arriving at the club I warned all of the KCs I would tolerate no nonsense and would personally see any miscreant sent to the DB at Chikurubi. In the club I met Peter Ring who vaguely recalled me at the charity golf tournament. Later in the day he approached me and said he was impressed with the attitude of the KCs and their friendly demeanour. He spoke too soon and just after lunch while I was talking to Peter I noticed one KC speaking in a belligerent way to one of the estate workers and excusing myself I quickly nipped any issue in the bud by physically escorting the troublemaker to the Kudu where I ordered him to remain. I threatened him with a transfer to the DB should he overstep the mark further. His attitude changed instantly and he apologised profusely saying he was not good with crowds of people, especially those who called him a Guard Force wanker. I tried to explain how sticks and stones could break his bones but words could never hurt him. He couldn’t see the logic but promised to stay in the Kudu. After half an hour I checked up on him and there he was good as gold minding his own business. I was so impressed I went to the bar and with my own money I bought him two chilled chibulis. His face was a sight to see and he was very happy when I suggested I would collect him in half an hour so he could have a relieving pee. After his pee I collected two more chibulis for him and he remained in the Kudu as good as gold. Peter called me aside and gave me a letter for Pouter and told me I had a standing invitation at the club. Later on Pouter read Peter’s letter and with a beaming face intimated that Peter had given the KCs open invitations to the club as long as I was with them. Whether the Guard Force remained welcome after I left the Valley I never heard.

After two weeks at the HQ, Pouter told me he had to go to Salisbury to sort out some personal issues – I never saw him again - but I was not to worry as I would only be in charge for one day as an Assistant Commandant had been posted to the Valley to take over in his absence.


Picture shows Honde Valley from the escarpment.


Picture shows haze hanging over the Honde Valley and in the distance the Chimanimani Mountains bordering Mozambique.


Picture shows a local stall selling vegetables on the Honde Valley floor looking towards the escarpment.


Picture shows a blue escarpment due to smoke haze.


Picture shows a PV down in the Honde Valley. I think it was Tikwer PVi or Mutasa PV

After Pouter left all was quiet at the base and the next day the Assistant Commandant arrived, I cannot recall his name. He did tell me though that he had hit a supercharged biscuit tin with his Kudu on the road between Inyazura and Dorowa Mine. Apparently the force was so great the kudu was airborne and ended up a large tree next to the crater. He claimed they were upside down and as usual there was no roof on the Kudu – they were designed to blow off if a landmine was hit diluting the concussion. They also blew off if the driver reached a speed greater than 100 k.p.h. He said he and his guards were being supported by their seatbelts only, as they hung above the ground. They had a dilemma, if they released their seatbelts they would fall to the ground below. If they stayed where they were they risked the tree collapsing and the Kudu crashing to the ground. They apparently decided to release their seatbelts and risk the fall. None suffered any untoward damage and luckily they moved away from the tree just in time as not long after the Kudu fell out of the tree. Was this story true or not I don’t know other than to say I saw a large crater and the badly damaged tree when I went to Dorowa Mine later on? There was no wreckage under the tree when I saw the location but there was plenty of evidence to prove a vehicle of sorts had been lodged in the tree and weighty enough to destroy part of it allowing the vehicle to fall to the ground.

The Assistant Commandant took over GP4 HQ with me as 2IC. Refreshingly being only a year or two older than the rest of us he had a different attitude and from then on the four of us white officers used the Officers Mess. This went down very well with Jerry and Fannie and their attitude much improved. The first night together in the Officers Mess the daily mail was given to the Assistant Commandant for dissemination. Suddenly, he pointedly and with annoyance addressed me asking why I had deliberately mislead him and insisted on being out of uniform and more so committing an offence under the Defence Force Act. I was at a loss for words as I had no idea I was out of uniform – other than that I wasn’t wearing my Kepi, being without headgear was most acceptable and in fact Mess etiquette. As for deliberately misleading him I had no idea what he was on about.

He burst out laughing and handed me a message from Guard Force HQ in Salisbury. It apologised for the initial cock up and asked me to ignore the original message as I was not commissioned to Junior Commandant Grade 2. I had been commissioned to Junior Commandant Grade 1 (equivalent to a Lieutenant) and entitled to wear two pips on each shoulder.


My web belt, KC Recruit shoulder boards, and my dress shoulder boards showing my Junior Commandant Grade 1 rank.


These are the shoulder boards I wore in the field. The stars are muted whereas on the dress boards they are dark and distinctive.


My second Military Driver’s Licence. I was issued a licence when I became a Keep Commander but had to have it updated once I received my commission. As can be seen various vehicles are specified in the licence, however, during the war I had to drive a number of other vehicles without being able to have my licence updated each time prior to the necessity to drive them. The other vehicles I had to drive were a Leopard, Rhino, Crocodile and a 12 ton diesel land mine proofed vehicle the farmers in the Virginia District had purchased.

Amazing within three weeks of active service I had gone from being advised I had failed the Officer Selection Board to being offered a commission at Grade 1 making all those who ‘passed’ the Board, subordinate to me.  I now had the same problem as before, I had no appropriate shoulder boards for my new rank. Luckily the Assistant Commandant had himself only been promoted the week before and he still had two sets of Junior Commandant shoulder boards in his kit. Next time I saw Richard I returned his shoulder boards for Grade 2 and he said he wasn’t surprised and always thought Chris Pickering and myself should have been commissioned to Grade 1 on the course.

MAJIBA OR NOT

S

ome days later I was returning from Umtali and seeing a young boy – perhaps eleven or twelve years old I thought I would stop and offer him a lift to Ruda. As we approached the BSAP base my Corporal whispered in my ear we should drive straight to GP4 HQ. Realising something was amiss I did as the Corporal suggested. At our HQ he took the young boy to the Group Sergeant- Major who interrogated him. I was called and when I arrived the Sergeant- Major had stripped the boy. I was amazed as he seemed to be wearing his complete wardrobe at the same time. The Sergeant – Major explained to me the boy was a Majiba and if he was chased by the SF he would remove his shirt and trousers and thus become invisible to the Makiwas. To pass muster with the Charlie Tangos he carried a piece of red cloth hanging out of his back pocket. What interested me were the two dark stripes crossing each shoulder. The Sergeant – Major explained they had been caused from carrying the heavy loads the Charlie Tangos gave the boy. The Sergeant- Major told me the boy was not unhappy with the Smith Regime but he had to help the Freedom Fighters because they threatened if he didn’t they would kill his parents, grand –parents and siblings. I tried to get him to tell me where the Charlie Tangos were but he burst into tears knowing if he did chances were his family would be wiped out. What a sad world we lived in. I couldn’t handle the boy’s tears but I had to steel my heart by recalling some I had known who had died or suffered at the hands of Charlie Tangos. I took the boy to the BSAP Ruda base and left him with Butch (I can’t recall his proper name) the SB Member in Charge. Later I was relieved when Butch told me they had let the boy go as they didn’t believe in waging war against kids who had been threatened as the boy had been.

PV STONKING

W

e had just settled down for our evening meal one night when I was called to the radio room. It was the KC (I don’t recall his name) - of a PV nearest the GP4 HQ I think it might have been the Mtarazi PV.

He claimed he was under attack by a vast force and he was seeking help to drive them off. He was panicking so much he began to hallucinate and he told me he was under attack from Russian MIG fighters, Russian Tanks and God only knows what else. I managed to calm him down and tried to get a more rational sitrep from him.

He was adamant he was about to be overrun and pleaded for me to go to his assistance as the Keep was running out of ammunition. I couldn’t believe it. Only the day before I had raised the ammunition issue with him and he told me they had over 3000 rounds available. I was worried because he sounded close to a nervous breakdown and I recall what happened at Dindera with Carrera and then Sean. I didn’t need that again so I explained the situation to the Assistant Commandant and said I needed to break the curfew and go to the village to see first-hand, what the hell was going on. He wouldn’t hear of me going on my own in the Kudu and insisted on accompanying me. Jerry and Fannie may have been afraid but both also agreed to come.

I asked Jerry to drive the Puma which gave him some Dutch courage as he was protected by the armour of the capsule. Fannie drove the Kudu and he too was happy to be in the armoured troop carrier. I allocated a dozen guards to the Puma and the regular 6 to the Kudu. The Assistant Commandant insisted on driving his Land Rover with me as shotgun – literally, as I was armed with a Berretta automatic Shotgun - which I reluctantly agreed to carry but insisted on taking my trusty G3 and battle waistcoat as well.

We travelled slowly in convoy towards the village through the stygian darkness and when I estimated we were approximately half a kilometre from the village gate we stopped. Setting a 360 with the guards the Assistant Commandant and I went forward on foot. All was quiet, either the Keep was conserving their ammunition, had run out or the Keep had been overrun. Suddenly I saw the silhouettes of two or three men walking calmly towards us. We jumped into the storm water draining channel and waited for the men to draw close.

We had no personnel in the area so they had to be Charlie Tangos or from another SF. Suddenly the silent night was broken by a loud whisper. Someone was calling me. Was it a trap or were these men from GP4 HQ. When the voice mentioned my name I knew they had to be from GP4 as no other SF unit knew my name and as far as I knew the Charlie Tangos wouldn’t be talking to me, they’d be trying to kill me. If it was a bunch of Charlie Tangos how did they know my name? I responded and shortly a body appeared in front of me. It was the Corporal of a stick I had deployed the day before on a COIN exercise.

Trouble was, I had sent them on a course west-nor-west of the GP4 HQ whereas we were southwest of the base.  He whispered to me that they had been attacked by a party of Charlie Tangos and had returned fire. Hearing the firing the Keep had opened fire and so he and his stick buried themselves as close to the ground as possible and soon the Charlie Tangos disappeared towards the border. The Keep carried on firing for at least an hour without return fire. He informed me one of his men, Guard Buru was dead and another seriously wounded. We followed the Corporal back to where the rest of his stick was waiting and in the light of a pencil torch I carried, I confirmed Buru was dead and the other Guard alive. He was, but he had a chest wound and was breathing badly. I had a pack I always carried with me. It was a waistcoat harness with sundry pouches and pockets. I carried spare cigars, spare ammo, medical kit, a saline drip, field dressings, bandages, and two ampoules of Sosegen among other items. First thing I did was to bandage a field dressing over each hole. Fortunately the bullet had gone straight through Guard Chingwa though the exit hole was big enough for me to put my fist into and I had to push the flesh back into the hole. I then injected half an ampoule of Sosegen into his chest as I wanted a quick reaction. Almost immediately he calmed down but I was worried about shock as more wounded men die because of shock than directly from their wounds.

The situation in Rhodesia required all incidents to be reported to the SB (Special Branch) and they collected any dead bodies, weapons, Intel, etc, and followed up if they considered it worthwhile. Luckily we had the Puma with us and we managed to carefully load Chingwa and Buru. The rest of the stick and the Corporal were also loaded to make Chingwa as comfortable as they could. We drove back to the BSAP base at Ruda and woke the Member-in-Charge. Butch told me we had to get Chingwa to Umtali Hospital or he could die from shock but he needed me to complete various details. I didn’t order but asked Jerry if he would take the Puma to Umtali. He was afraid but said he would if Fannie could drive in front in the Kudu filled with guards. The Assistant Commandant said he would return to our base and radio the Keep telling them all was fine now. He would also organise a contingent of guards to accompany the party to Umtali.

I was annoyed I had to stay at Ruda as I should have been the one going to Umtali not Jerry. Anyway they set off with the Group Sergeant-Major, twenty guards, the Kudu and the Puma. Just before they left I injected Chingwa with the other half of the ampoule. I asked Jerry to ask the doctor for a replacement in case we needed to administer it again sometime. They were also taking Buru’s body to the morgue at Umtali under cover of a message from the SB Member-in Charge. He told the Supervisor at the morgue he would go to Umtali the next day to complete the details.

I completed the required details and finally we were free to go so we returned to our base for a few hours’ sleep. I told the Corporal he was under open arrest for the time being and not to leave the base. The next day I interviewed the Corporal and I never managed to establish the truth of why they were outside the Mtarazi PV where they were attacked. All the Corporal kept saying was they had lost their way in the dark and somehow they had arrived at the Mtarazi PV. They were going to wait outside the PV until daylight when they would report to the KC.

Initially I didn’t believe him but outside the PV wire we located where the group of Charlie Tangos had been. The Assistant Commandant and I accompanied the SB 2IC to examined the ‘battle site’ the next day. The SB 2IC estimated a group of at least thirty or forty CTs had been in the group. We found some AK mags and some clips of bullets – I still have one of the clips – as well as blood spoor in five places. We also saw where the stick had been camped and the blood spoor from Buru and Chingwa.

Trying to assess the positions the SB reckoned the Charlie Tangos had killed Buru and wounded Chingwa before fire was returned at them. The blood spoor from the Charlie Tangos indicated they had been hit by fire from the stick as well as from the Keep. The SB instructed his constables to do a follow up but nothing was ever found.

The Assistant Commandant returned to our base with the SB and I borrowed his Land Rover to visit the KC. He was shattered and still insisted that they had been attacked by MIGs and Tanks as well as having RPG rockets fired at the Keep.  There was no damage to the Keep but all the trees in the line of fire had their canopies shredded. The telephone poles along the main road were riddled with bullet holes and would have to be replaced. Fortunately the telephone still worked and Jerry managed to phone the base once he was at the Umtali hospital. The KC worried me and I was justified for being worried because within a week I had to send him home, a physical and mental wreck. I still find it hard to understand why some soldiers keep firing blindly until all their ammunition is expended.

Jerry returned with the others and I asked the Group Sergeant-Major to interview the Corporal. He had no more luck than I did. I could have charged the Corporal with dereliction of duty and sent him to Chikurubi DB. If I did I’d be less a man on the ground. Instead I demoted him one stripe which would hurt his pride and pocket but at least he was still available for duty.

The next day the Assistant Commandant informed me he was leaving the Valley as he had completed his task which was to observe me. If he felt me capable he was to hand over to me for the remainder of my call up and return to GFHQ Salisbury. I had obviously impressed him enough for him to leave, which he did. I never saw him again.

I didn’t find running the Valley too onerous and had the full support of Richard Teucher and the KCs which made life a lot easier. Each Sunday I uplifted the KCs and even persuaded Richard to join us on one Sunday at the Aberfoyle club. I had invited him to return to GP4 as my 2IC but he asked if he could remain at Pungwe where he was comfortable. As we only had a week or two left of our Call-Up I agreed and realised he was quite content to stay out of the limelight if he could. He had a veritable library with him which he advised me he intended to have completely read by the time we stood down as well as developing his tan.

RENAMO

T

hree days after being put in charge I was called to the radio early on a Saturday morning. It was the KC from Moyo-wa-Shumba who quietly told me he had a group of eight ‘Charlie Tangos’ at his Keep. I was impressed, assuming they had been captured by the KC and his guards. He shattered my assumption when he said they had simply walked into the village and straight to the Keep where they presented themselves to the KC. What was alarming was the fact that they were heavily armed and yet none of the guards had challenged them. None of the guards even attempted to attack them. The KC told me the leader of the group who called himself Eduardo said they were resistance fighters from Mozambique – part of Renamo which was run by Andre Matsangaissa and they were Fleischers (I never saw this word in writing I only ever heard it spoken so my spelling may be incorrect). Renamo was a group of resistance fighters supported, financially and with materiel by the Rhodesian Government and later South Africa. The story seemed plausible and the KC said Eduardo was asking if we could contact the SB at Ruda so the Fleischers could be uplifted from Moyo-wa-Shumba and taken to Ruda.

I contacted the SB and Butch said to leave it with him and he would arrange the pick-up. I advised the KC and as far as I was concerned it was done and dusted. Five hours later the KC was back on the radio much more alarmed saying the ‘Charlie Tangos’ were still at his Keep and getting a little agitated. I was surprised and a bit annoyed when I called the SB again. I was told Butch had gone off to collect the Renamo contingent at Moyo-wa-Shumba. When I explained that they were still at the Keep the SB 2IC laughed and said that was typical of Butch and he had probably gone to Umtali first and would pick the ‘Charlie Tangos’ up on the way back. He told me he would contact Butch and give me an ETA Moyo-wa-Shumba. He did contact Butch who said he was on his way and the Renamo men would be uplifted within the hour. I relayed the message to the KC and left it at that.

Four hours later – at half past five in the afternoon – the KC radioed again saying the ‘Charlie Tangos were still at Moyo-wa-Shumba and had become very agitated and were becoming a little aggressive. Really annoyed I called the SB only to be told that the 2 IC had also gone off base and had no comms with him. I was by now very annoyed and advised the KC, I would come and uplift the Fleischers myself. I took two guards with me in the Kudu and set off for Moyo-wa-Shumba. I couldn’t take more guards as I needed the space for the Fleischers. By the time I arrived at Moyo-wa-Shumba it was dark and the main gates had been locked for the night. Being Guard Force we had no radio comms in the vehicles so I couldn’t call the KC to come and open the gate. I used my lights and hooter to attract the KCs attention and eventually a guard arrived with the keys. I was not best pleased having been there when 60-80 Charlie Tangos had passed by the PV on their way to the border.

At the keep I met the KC who was relieved to see me but agitated having had the Fleischers at his Keep all day. They too were relieved someone had finally come to uplift them. I told them that as I didn’t know them I would disarm them while they travelled in my Kudu. It didn’t sit too well with Eduardo but seeing I was fed up and ready to explode, he relented on condition if we were attacked I would allow them to use their weapons to defend themselves. Agreed, at last we set off for the Valley and the BSAP base at Ruda.

On arrival I met up with Butch who was casually recounting the wonderful day he had spent at Aberfoyle – not Umtali, as I was told - and the great game of darts he had won. I was pissed off at his irresponsible attitude and he could see it. Hearing my scathing remarks he realised I was on a very short fuse and he apologised for his behaviour. I told him I had brought in a bunch of locals, heavily armed with AKs, SLS, Chinese stick grenades and an RPD. I said they claimed to be Renamo Fleischers but I had no way of proving it. He came outside and recognized Eduardo, who began to complain that his men were hungry and thirsty. I left Butch soothing them and went back to my own base. Later there was a kerfuffle at the BSAP base and I discovered the next day Butch and the Fleischers had driven off into the Valley and finding a local’s cattle Butch had killed a steer. The Fleischers loaded it onto the flatbed and the merry bunch returned to the base. In short order the Fleischers skinned the steer and building a fire began to braai the meat. Sometime later the local who owned the steer together with the village headman and three young men arrived and demanded to see the Member in Charge. When Butch appeared the headman accused him of stealing and killing the local’s steer. Butch realised he was in ‘big’ trouble as the headman was wearing his chain of office which displayed the medal the Rhodesian Government issued to trusted headmen. Eventually he calmed the locals down and managed to appease the owner and the headman by paying some dollars for the steer. Glumly Butch told me the bloody Fleischers had cost him plenty and he was glad they had had to wait all day for collection.

The only other events worth reporting from my time in the Valley were as follows:

LOCAL HISTORY

O

ne of the KCs did himself proud, though showed he was not much of a soldier. Brave enough but irresponsible in his attitude. He was something of a historian – specialising in early Rhodesian History. Through his guards and some locals he’d been told that not too far away there were some ancient burial sites. He couldn’t resist and though none of the locals or his guards would go near the sites he went off on his own. To his astonishment and great excitement he found several artefacts. Being very selective and not wanting to offend the locals by desecrating the burial sites he proudly informed me he had only taken a few artefacts to add to his collection. Fortunately he only told me as we were standing down at Chikurubi, it saved me having to make a judgement in the field.

DB AND DISCIPLINE

M

y tsotsi Sergeant from Moyo-wa-Shumba – remember I had him transferred – and I crossed paths again quite quickly after my commissioning. He was just as casual and sloppy in his dress but now confronted by a commissioned officer he realised he’d better smarten up quickly else he could be visiting Sergeant- Major Vermaak - I believe this was the Commandant of the Detention Barracks name-  at the DB. A subtle threat worked amazingly well and he was soon back to being a good Sergeant again.

CRASH AND ALARM

T

he third event was a bit more serious. Fannie went off to Umtali to do some tasks like collecting and posting mail, shopping for supplies, collecting diesel and petrol supplies and so on. He left early in the morning and was due back by five o’clock or sundown at the latest. Being Guard Force we had no comms in our vehicles so we had no way of checking on the whereabouts of our vehicles. When the shadows began to lengthen in the Valley and he hadn’t returned I began to become a bit concerned. This was not a good time to be on the road. The Charlie Tangos often attacked at this time as it darkened during the attack and they could escape in the darkness across the border without fear of a pursuit. Eventually I decided something untoward must have happened so I loaded up the Kudu with a tow chain – in case the Puma had gone off the road and had to be recovered – my trusty vest with packs loaded, some extra water bottles with extra sweet tea in case I needed to combat shock and finally 6 guards.

Off we went across the Valley. I warned the guards they needed to be extra alert in case we were attacked. Fortunately nothing happened and we began to climb up the escarpment to the plateau above. We were no more than a few kilometres from the top when in the lights we picked up the shape of the Puma. It was standing foursquare on the tar road without lights or life. I stopped and it was quite eerie seeing the Puma just sitting there. I was about to order the guards to debus when we saw Fannie and his escort walking towards us as if out on a Sunday stroll. He and the guards with him had decided to take up a position in the storm water ditch rather than stay with the Puma in case the Charlie Tangos attacked it. On enquiry, he told me that they were negotiating the descent down the escarpment and suddenly the motor cut out. He wasn’t a mechanic and had no idea what to do and all he’d managed was to run the battery flat.  I too was not a mechanic – especially of a diesel vehicle – so could not offer any worthwhile solutions so I told him I would tow him back to GP4 HQ with the Kudu.

We hitched the Puma to the Kudu then before we took off Fannie and his guards flattened the water-bottles of tea I had brought with me. I asked Fannie if he was OK driving the Puma on tow and he assured me he was fine. I boarded the Kudu and signalled when I was ready and one of his guards shouted ‘ok’ so off I went. The road down the escarpment wound about like a slithering snake and at the first corner I braked to negotiate the bend. Suddenly there was an almighty bang and the Kudu lurched forward. I braked hard and stopped. I couldn’t get out of the Kudu through the door because Fannie had failed to brake for the bend and had run into the back of the Kudu. Swearing under my breath I climbed out of the Kudu – the roof had long since been blown off by excess speed, long before my arriving at the Valley. Belatedly I explained to Fannie he needed to focus exclusively on the rear of the Kudu – he had no lights because the battery was flat – because the only light he had was my number plate light. Fortunately the brake lights were intact so I told him when I was braking I would tap the brakes so the lights flicker before I applied the brakes as smoothly as I could. Acknowledging what he had to do we set off once more.  At the next turn I tapped the brakes and nearly went through the tiny windscreen of the Kudu – fortunately I had my seat belt on and it saved me, so violently had we stopped. Later Fannie apologised and said he was focusing so hard when he saw the brake light flare he stood on his brakes arresting all movement. Anyway as we progressed he gained confidence and we began to travel more smoothly.

We had nearly reached the Valley floor when suddenly something bulky whizzed by my head. Worms of fear screamed up and down my spine as all I could think of was an RPG7 being fired at me from the hillside. Nothing happened to my immense relief and I knew I had to carefully bring the Kudu and the Puma to a stop so I could remove the unexploded rocket which I could feel resting against the inside of my left leg. The road at that point decided to dip forward so I had to brake and as I did so the ‘rocket’ bit me on the inside of my right leg. Obviously it was distressed at being squashed when I shifted my foot to brake and was doing what it could to relieve the pressure. Managing to accelerate again I moved my right leg and relieving the pressure the ‘rocket’ stopped biting me. It dawned on me that the rocket was a stupid night bird that had somehow flown into the Kudu roll bar and ended up by my feet. Because it bit me I worked out it was an owl. I told the guard sitting nearest me to get it out and to release it. No way, José - apparently in the Shona culture Owls are taboo and to interfere with them brings huge bad luck on the person and his family - and none of the guards wanted anything to do with it. Being a son of Africa myself and having lived in several African countries I have a great respect for their beliefs and culture. This being so I knew I had to either kick the owl to death or frighten it enough for it to fly away OR – being a conservationist and lover of the African wildlife, especially that of the avian variety – I would have to feel for it with my left hand, grab it while being pecked and then heave it out of the Kudu and to freedom. I followed the last course and still bear the scars where it bit my hand but I managed to pull it up from the floor and heave it out of the Kudu. In the dark I had no idea how badly my hand had been pecked though I could feel the blood welling out of the injury. I managed to tie my handkerchief around my hand and thank God nothing else happened before we reached the base as our nerves were all shot with the tension we had been under.

Poor Fannie was frazzled from focusing so intensely on my number plate and brake lights. Overall we hadn’t suffered too much from the ordeal, nothing a couple of hours sleep wouldn’t sort out. Later we would take the Kudu to the CMD at Umtali for repairs. One very useful thing did come out of the accident. Being helpful Fannie removed the damaged door from the Kudu so we had easy access when using it. God was obviously watching over us because when we took the Kudu to the CMD the mechanic told me what bloody fools we had been driving the Kudu without the rear door.

According to the mechanic if we had hit a landmine we would have died a horrible death. Not directly from the blast but because the blast caused a massive vacuum sucking up all the air around it. The pressure was such our innards would have been sucked out of our mouths and most likely our eyeballs would have been plucked out. He reckoned our chances of survival would have been zero and anyway who would want to survive being blind and looking forward to months, perhaps years of operations repairing their insides. He explained to us why the Kudu sides were shaped with corrugated ‘v’s as was the rear door. The reason was to drive the blast away from the occupants of the vehicle leaving the air inside the vehicle. He explained it was also why the roof was only held in place with some strong springs. It couldn’t be fixed otherwise it would be counterproductive forcing the blast inside the vehicle. By being loose it would simply be sucked off in the blast allowing even more air to enter the vehicle and vastly reducing the effect of the blast. By taking the door off we had simply invited any blast to enter the vehicle to destroy us.  It was a valuable lesson and one I never forgot.

LAST TREE

P

erhaps those of you who read this may recall the smoke cloud that often hung over the Valley in the mornings waiting for the strength of the sunrays to dissipate it. The smoke cloud was the result of hundreds of fires being lit each night in the PVs. Such concentration of fires had to have an effect on the air in the Valley. One of my most poignant memories from the Honde Valley was travelling to Umtali one day I espied a woman – axe in hand – attacking the last great tree in that part of the Valley.  I wanted to stop and tell her to leave it alone but then I realised the futility of it all and it really was their valley anyway. In their ignorance they had destroyed the very source that provided them with fuel for their needs but historically it was how they had lived from time immemorial. Some say they were no longer nomadic, have settled and learnt how to husband the land. I disagree and follow the school who have traced the African movement down Africa. They are not nomadic in the sense they moved constantly every year or so. But nomadic they are and they had migrated down Africa over eons, moving whenever they had raped the land so much it could no longer sustain life. Later when I returned to the Valley, the giant had been felled and I felt a great sadness, it was if the giant with prescience was warning me by sending an omen – a portent - of the future that faced the beautiful country we had worked so hard to build.

HAND OVER

F

inally on the second last day of our call up the next intake arrived at Umtali. Unlike our introduction I was waiting at the parking for the bus. In no time at all I uplifted the KCs and Deputies and the Junior Commandant Grade 2.  I had received a message from the relieving Assistant Commandant who was coming to lead the Valley until the permanent Commandant was appointed he said he was only arriving later the following day and would be coming straight to GP4 HQ in the Valley and he had told me to allocate the replacements so I could uplift my men from the PVs. I loaded the men on the Puma driven by Fannie and I took the officer in my Land Rover as we headed for the Cecil Hotel. At the hotel I suggested the men have a few beers and a meal then we would head off to the Valley. I explained I had been told by the new Sunray to allocate them to the various PVs and I had done so. If they were unhappy with their postings they could advise the Junior Commandant who would take up their complaints with the Assistant Commandant when he arrived.

When we took off for the Valley it was early afternoon and I intended to deploy the new KCs into all the PV south of GP4HQ.They would be fortunate as they would spend the night with my KCs being briefed on the situation in the PV and the Valley as a whole. My men would be uplifted by Fannie tomorrow and driven in the Puma to Umtali to await the bus bound for Salisbury. The KCs and deputies going to the locations north of the HQ would spend the night at Ruda HQ and in the morning Jerry in the Kudu and the Junior Commandant and I in my Land Rover would drop them off as we collected my men and Richard Teutcher from Pungwe PV. We would then drive straight through to Umtali to the bus terminal where we would catch up with the others standing down. There were two Deputy KCs allocated to the HQ and one had a licence to drive the Puma so he was going with Fannie so he could drive back from Umtali. The other HQ deputy was also going so he could drive the Kudu back. The JC would drive my Land Rover back to the base.

All went well and the next day I said goodbye to the Honde Valley. Years later, in 1988 at Christmas I viewed the Valley from the escarpment near the Mtarazi and Pungwe Falls. It was a cloudy and drizzly day so I couldn’t see the Valley clearly and I wondered if by then or since has the Government or private enterprise regenerated the growth of tall trees in the Valley or has it become just another desert and abandoned. Google Earth shows me a green land with urbanisation depicting the Valley is still inhabited but sadly it appears still devoid of the giants that once rose so proudly from the Valley floor.

 

THRASHER – REGIONAL HQ ‘B’

 


The Thrasher Operational plaque

 

EDUCATING GF NON-COMS AND MEETING OC REGIONAL HQ ‘B’

 

O

ne month later having caught up with my civilian job and managed to do a bit of socialising I was back in uniform. I’d caught up with Glynn during the break and he shook his head in disbelief when I explained the saga regarding my commission. As he said things had really changed since he was first called to arms, he was in intake GF1 or GF2 when they wore khaki uniforms with a khaki kepi. He was commissioned around the time GF 4 or 5 were undergoing basic training. He was given 2 pips (jerry cans) straight away and went off to the field after spending three weeks on course. 

Only this time I was bound for Regional HQ Bravo located in the Burma Valley. As I’d been switched from PVs to Farm and Installation Protection. My call up papers stated I was bound for the Area Command at Rusape which didn’t upset me too much as I’d been through Rusape several times when travelling to Inyanga where I stayed at Troutbeck Inn, fished for trout or played golf or simply chilled out.

With my Call-up papers I also received a copy of the following showing my area to be Area HQ ‘B1’. The HQ was at Rusape and covered not only the Rusape environs but also Headlands, Mayo and Inyazura.


This communication identified the Farm protection areas which I had been transferred to from the Protected Village programme.

As usual we were collected by a CABS bus and taken to Umtali. On route we stopped at Rusape for some refreshments at the Rusape Hotel. While I was relaxing in the bar a Sergeant from Guard Force arrived and addressed me in a disrespectful manner. He could see I was an officer yet he considered his Sergeant’s rank superior to my commission. I had to teach him some very basic military manners very quickly. He soon realised I was not some wet behind the ears kid who had been given a commission. I held down a senior position in Civvy Street and ate idiots like him for breakfast every day. His excuse was that he was French and he said he’d been told being a regular his rank was superior to our rank because we were only part time soldiers. I had to educate him – he was a French Mercenary after all and didn’t have too many grey cells between his ears. I have done some legal studies among others and know a bit about the process of passing Acts into Law and the promulgation of legislation et al. Part time soldiers we may have been – we were conscripts, a fact lost on those who elected to soldier for a living. They might call themselves regulars but to the government of the day they had passed into law structures within the Defence Forces that applied equally to “regulars’ and ’conscripts’.

For enlightenment I quote The Rhodesian Defence Act Issue 578 Chapter 94 as amended 1st January 1979 records at the First schedule Sections 4 & 5, the equivalent Ranks of the various branches of the Defence Force viz. the Army, The Air Force and the Guard Force.



The Rhodesian Defence Act Issue 578 Chapter 94 as amended 1st January 1979 records at the First schedule Sections 4 & 5, the equivalent Ranks of the various branches of the Defence Force viz. the Army, The Air Force and the Guard Force

Titles differ in the three branches but the equivalent ranks are struck. For instance a Sergeant in the Army is equivalent to a Sergeant in the Air Force, a Guard Sergeant and a Keep Sergeant in the Guard Force.

A Warrant Officer (Class 1) in the Army is equivalent to a Warrant Officer (Class 1) in the Air Force and equivalent to a Guard Warrant Officer (Class1) or a Keep Warrant Officer (Class 1). The latter was the rank of Keep Commander and a Deputy Keep Commander was a Warrant Officer (Class2). I have read disputing reports regarding the rank of Keep Commander being equivalent to a Warrant Officer Class1. I happen to disagree on two fronts. One, the promulgated legislation as shown above and two, from a conversation I happen to have had with Lieutenant – General Walls  - the Commander of the Defence Forces of Rhodesia.

Finally a commissioned officer rank in the Army of Lieutenant was equivalent to an Air lieutenant in the Air Force and a Junior Commandant (Grade 1) in the Guard Force. My Commission Certificate signed by the President of Rhodesia charges me with the identical duties and responsibilities as the equivalent rank of the other branches of the Defence Force, there is absolutely no difference.

Few men (and now women) in the forces of anywhere, I refer specifically to Southern Africa, viz. South Africa and Rhodesia - where the military structures were based upon that of the UK - know they have three separate personas. They understand as civilians who they are and once in the forces their rank and that is about it. Yet each individual has three distinct separate personas.

Me for instance: in my Private Capacity (first persona) I am Mister Gary Rees or Gary Rees Esquire - citizen at large.

When I first attend my force (let us say the Army) I am by Rank, my (second persona) Private Rees and finally my Appointment (third persona) is Raw Recruit. In the Guard Force my first persona was the same as above, my second persona was Trainee Keep Commander and my third persona was Raw Recruit. Once I had completed my basic training I became a Keep Commander First Class. My first persona remained the same except I was known by the nickname ‘Randy’ but my second persona was Keep Warrant Officer (Class 1) and my third persona was Keep Commander (somewhere, e.g. Dindera)).

Once I was commissioned and allocated a responsibility my first persona remained the same, my second persona, my Rank, became Junior Commandant (Grade 1) but my third persona, my Appointment became Area Officer Commanding (somewhere, e.g. Melsetter). Our Ranks may well have been equivalent to the other Defence Forces but our Appointments differed massively.

I recall meeting an army Lieutenant at Cashel. We were in the bar and he was trying to put me down, as being a wanker from the Guard Force. I wasn’t biting and told him we had enough gandangas to keep all of us busy without fighting among ourselves. I asked him as an army Lieutenant what was his responsibility and I was shattered when he told me usually he was responsible for a platoon but at the time he was only responsible for a stick of 7 bayonets and himself. I pointed out to him how lucky he was as I was responsible for several hundred men at a number of locstats and they were located over hundreds of square miles. When I began pointing out how I travelled around and the sparsity of our weaponry and comms he quickly backed off and apologised saying rather me than him thanks. He was equivalent to a Subaltern (one pipper) and he said to me in parting he was sorry for trying to put me down as he had no concept of the Defence Act or the equality of our ranks.

Back at Rusape the Sergeant realising he’d got off on the wrong foot thinking he could browbeat me quickly apologised and then the reason for his presence came out. With my appointment to Rusape he’d been told he had to go to the Melsetter base. That didn’t suit him and he wanted to stay at Rusape. When he saw I wasn’t interested in his preferences he intimated that he’d already spoken to the Commanding Officer of Regional HQ Bravo who said he would allow him to stay in Rusape and I could go to Melsetter. I told him my orders were different and we’d see. He didn’t push his luck and even bought me a beer. Quite honestly it mattered not to me going to Rusape or Melsetter. I’d past by Melsetter once before in 1964 and as I recalled it was a green, mountainous part of Rhodesia so not too hot being located near the foothills of the Chimanimani Mountains.

We left Rusape and headed for Umtali where we were collected by a driver in a Puma. He took us to the Burma Valley in the Vumba mountains area where Guard Force were leasing a farmhouse as the GF Group Bravo HQ. I met with the Commandant, ‘Smokey Richardson’. He was a laid back character who had an old Malaya Sergeant with him. I can’t recall the Sergeant’s name but I believe he was holding the rank of Colour-Sergeant when I spoke to him. He told me both he and Smokey Richardson were ex British SAS and Smokey received his nickname because of his exploits laying APs and other explosive devices for his enemy.

I realised something was amiss as I was the only officer on my Call Up. I knew there was a Sergeant at Rusape but that was all. My understanding from reading the instruction I had received was that the Bravo Region was broken up into B1, B2, B3 and the Regional HQ. This indicated a Commandant at Bravo HQ and three subordinate officers at the sub HQs. A real joke. Here we were with a Commandant at the Bravo HQ and myself to be allocated to Rusape. The Sergeant I had met in Rusape to transfer to Melsetter and I later found out a KC was to look after B2 Inyanga.

Smokey Richardson interviewed me establishing my views regarding my orders from GF HQ in Salisbury. I explained I had already had to educate the Sergeant at Rusape – putting him in his rightful place – to which Smokey grinned and said yes he was finding similar problems with other Defence Force Units. He asked me if I would consider being posted to Melsetter as he was suspicious of the way the current KC had been running the area. One of my first duties was to complete the Pay Run but Smokey had a feeling the current OC – a KC - had been dipping his fingers into the pay but couldn’t prove it. I am an accountant by profession and had specialised for a number of years in troubleshooting at various Group companies as well as having commenced my career with a firm of Public Accountants and Auditors. Reconciling the pay run was simply child’s play. Smokey was also suspicious that the OC was dealing in drugs – mainly dagga more commonly known as cannabis or marijuana. He also indicated that the Sergeant at Rusape was having some domestic problems and needed to remain in Rusape in an attempt to resolve them. I explained that it didn’t matter to me if was posted to Rusape or Melsetter, I was on Call up for the next 42 days and that I would do my duty wherever.

 

 




Smokey said he was pleased with my attitude and sent his orderly to fetch the KC who’d been running the show at Melsetter. He explained that we would travel to Melsetter in the Land Rover and I said I’d take the KCs from my Call Up with me. One for Cashel, one for Melsetter and one for Chipinga. We were to drop off the KC at Cashel then travel on to Chipinga where I would drop off the KC for that location. The KC from Melsetter, myself and the one to be deployed at Melsetter would spend the night at Chipinga. The following day we’d drive to Melsetter where I would deploy the KC from my Call Up and the KC standing down and myself would reconcile the Pay Run balance.

 

Monument commemorating the Moodie trek

 

 

 AREA HQ ‘B’3 – MELSETTER


From Skyline Junction looking down the valley towards Melsetter


Looking down valley to Melsetter. Note the rusty bullet hole in the signpost. A souvenir from an earlier contact

 

 

 

Moodie Voortrekker Memorial - Melsetter

 




Moodie memorial in the afternoon. Strange pinkish light

 


The main plaque on the Moodie memorial gives the names of the 1892 trekkers. 


The inscription (in Afrikaans) reads: 

"To the Memory of the Voortrekkers of Gazaland by Their Thankful Descendants". 
(Gazaland is still the name of the district.)

 

 


The main plaque on the Moodie memorial gives the names of the 1892 trekkers 


Showing the epitaph to the pioneers of Gazaland

 


Melsetter Church

 


Melsetter Church Window

 


 Melsetter Village Green with Moodie memorial to left

We set off from Umtali and at Melsetter Junction we branched off for Cashel. At the Police Camp at Cashel we dropped off the KC who was reliant on the BSAP for transport to the various farms for which he was responsible, unless the OC Melsetter visited on a regular basis. There was no KC at Cashel – the KC at Melsetter was covering Cashel as well as Melsetter.

We returned to the main road south and passing Skyline Junction - the turnoff to Melsetter – continued on our way to Chipinga. At Skyline Junction we had posted guards on the Gwendingwe Forest Estate, more of that later.

At Chipinga the Guard Force representative was accommodated at the police camp which also contained barracks for some army units. The KC who was taking over – his name was Hans? – met with the KC who was standing down to familiarise himself with the area and situation. He too would rely on the police for transport to visit the farms he was protecting unless the OC visited frequently. Fortunately there were some empty barracks where I and the KCs from Melsetter could doss down for the night. We had no facilities at the base so we had a meal at the Chipinga hotel and after a couple of beers we went back to the base and I and the KC standing down went through the cash on hand for the pay run. The KC from Melsetter was a bit nervous but soon calmed down as he realised all I was doing was assessing the cash on hand which I would be taking over. He agreed with the amount and signed my receipt for that amount. He obviously was not clerically minded and did not realise how a reconciliation would be performed. We attended our ablutions as best we could and I went to bed. The KC said he wasn’t tired and could he and the new KC take the Land Rover into town, I agreed but had my doubts as to his real motive.

Next morning we rose early and collecting the KC who was standing down from Chipinga we set off for Melsetter where I needed to complete the reconciliation. Armed with the payslip summary and the cash receipt it didn’t take me long to ensure everything was in order. The ex OC was cock –o-hoop that all balanced as he no doubt realised Smokey Richardson didn’t trust him.  As I said previously I was an accountant and had done some troubleshooting in a similar vein for one of our Group companies. I kept my peace and opinions to myself but would be having a chat with Smokey the next day.

Because we had finished early and with the shortage of beds at the HQ the Melsetter KC who was standing down suggested we travel to Umtali where we could spend the night at the Cecil hotel. Being in the forces we were offered discounted rates. The hotel was happy to accommodate us as we were added protection for them.

Leaving the new KC at Melsetter we set off for Umtali and booked in for the night around 5 o’clock. We each had our own room and agreed to meet at 7.30 for dinner.  Left to our own devises I wrote a report for Smokey Richardson regarding my suspicions and an appraisal of what was happening in the area.

Next morning we drove to the HQ in the Burma Valley and I left the KCs to their own devises while I reported to Smokey. I handed him my report which he read and then musing, said to me, “So unless you go back and check every guard against the pay summary you cannot tell if all named guards actually exist?”

“Yes Sir that is correct. I’ve seen a similar incident before where the labour force is large, especially here in Africa where the labour force use names we are not familiar with and majority are illiterate and make their mark by way of signature. If your suspicions are correct I would bet on the fraud being perpetrated this way.” I replied.

“Damn it but each week I insist on the OCs coming here to brief me on what is happening in their area. One of their duties, which will become yours as well, is to work with Sergeant-Major (an African who’s name escapes me) to update the Strength Board. I need to know what my total manpower is at any time. So tell me Randy how has he fooled the SM and me?”

“Obviously as he is working with the SM on the Strength Board he has no doubt kept active a number of bayonets who in fact no longer work in this area, have left Guard Force or no longer exist. Sir.”

There was nothing we could do at the time and the KC simply went to Chikurubi for stand down. Eventually I figured out what he was doing but not without some real detective work on my part and not until my second Call Up at Melsetter.

During that first Call Up in Melsetter only two incidents of note occurred.

GROUP 2 HQ CHIPINGA – PVs

I

was at the Police Camp when a Junior Commandant (Grade 2) accosted me saying he had a message from the Commandant at GF2. I was ordered to report to the HQ immediately and explain what I was doing in the area without the Commandant’s permission. I finished what I was doing and then drove over to the GP 2 HQ. The Commandant (I cannot recall his name) tried to browbeat me for being discourteous and arrogant. I acknowledged him but refused to apologise as I explained my brief made no mention of the need to report to him or even to recognise him as I was working under the aegis of Farm and Installation Protection. I said I would take the matter up with my CO at Regional HQ Bravo and as soon as I mentioned Commandant Smokey Richardson’s name the Commandant at GP2 quickly lost his aggression and suddenly seemed to be full of bonhomie. So much so he invited me to stay over for the night and to share a meal with him and his other officers. At the meal I met the 2IC – an Assistant Commandant. He was a European - either German or Austrian, reminding me of Guenter Maeser -and he too had created a larger than life stick he took with him when he toured the PVs. The 3IC was the young J/C Grade 2, a lad of about twenty, nice enough as I recall but torn between being as tough as the 2 IC and recognising his natural fear and coming to grips with it. 

As we were finishing our meal we heard small arms fire and the CO immediately called a Stand-to. I was allocated a window in the HQ building from which to return fire, return fire at what? Sure we had heard some firing but none of us has seen anyone firing at us so had no idea where the enemy was. I couldn’t believe how many of the guards stationed around the base at GP2 had simply opened fire into the night. What they were shooting at I had no idea. The 2IC meanwhile had fallen in his specials and he was telling the CO he intended to load them in the Puma to take the fight to the enemy. Where he intended to go I had no idea, nor did he I surmised. For someone so aggressive and positive he seemed to be doing a hell of a lot of talking and making very little attempt to go. I personally thought he was a blow hard trying to impress the young J/C and possibly me as well, but was hoping the CO would order him not to go. Unfortunately for him the CO seemed to be agreeing with his 2IC that he should take his specials and take the fight to the enemy, preferably as far away from the HQ as possible.

Sanity prevailed and the 2IC was saved by the bell when the radio operator approached the CO with a message. The message was from the CO of the army units at the police base and he was demanding that the guards cease fire as they were firing at anything and everything including friendly forces – his men - in the area. He apologised for the situation which he said had occurred when one of his men on patrol had tripped over and having his weapon on automatic fire had shot off a full magazine. I smiled inwardly thinking what a cock up. Any right thinking CT would simply have headed for the border and left the SF to shoot the hell out of each other. It was the last time I visited GP2 at Chipinga and I never saw the CO, 2IC or J/C again.

GWENDINGWE FOREST ESTATE – SKYLINE JUNCTION

I received a telephone call from the Member-In-Charge at Melsetter. He had received a telephone call from the Manager of the Estate saying there had been some shooting and one of the guards was badly injured. Bloody marvellous, it was nearly 9 o’clock at night. I called the Manager and explained to him that we had a Standing Order which prohibited us from going to the rescue after dark. He sounded a bit panicky and said he understood the order but as the roads were all sealed from Melsetter to the Estate and then to the hospital in Umtali he felt I could make the effort to assist the guard who was in great pain. What he wasn’t telling me was it was he who needed some TLC himself. He did tell me there had been no further firing, it was as if the enemy knew they had wounded one of the guards and therefore had achieved their objective. I wasn’t buying that situation but took the point about the sealed roads. Leaving the KC at Melsetter I collected three guards, one in the cab with me, two on the back and off we went, one of the guards on the back took his kit as he was going to replace the wounded guard at Gwendingwe.

At Gwendingwe the Manager seemed inordinately relieved to see me and quickly took me to where the guards were stationed and sure enough one appeared to be in a bad way. His knee cap had been blown out and was hanging by what appeared to be a tendon. He was calm and I realised he must be in shock. I quickly broke an ampoule of sosegen and injected half a syringe into him. It had an almost instant effect and he relaxed and became quite garrulous. I put his kneecap back where I believed it should be and carefully bandaged it in place. I appropriated two broom handles and by turning the sleeves of two combat jackets inside-out I threaded the broom handles through the sleeves and made sure all buttons were connected thus making a durable stretcher – I’d been taught how to make the stretcher during my National Service in South Africa – which made it easier to lift the guard and settle him on the back of the Land Rover. Leaving the replacement guard at the Estate I set off for Umtali. At the hospital they were very efficient and soon had the guard inside being prepared for the theatre. I had to fill in all the various documents and then I returned to Melsetter for some sleep.

Late the next morning I visited Gwendingwe and interviewed the guard who had been there when his companion was shot. According to him both of them were patrolling the fence line when they saw some movement. Realising there were men ahead they called out ordering the men to stop, instead of complying the men opened fire on them and as they took cover the other guard had been wounded. The guards returned fire and the CTs ran away. A plausible answer until investigated further. I asked to be shown where the guards had been when they opened fire and where the CTs were. There was no blood spoor there or any footwear tracks, yet at the entrance to the shelter the guards were using I saw blood spoor and marks which would be concomitant with someone being shot in the leg and falling to the ground and thrashing about. I couldn’t shake the guard’s story and he couldn’t explain the blood spoor to me.

Later in the day I went back to Umtali to see the guard who had been wounded, I was hoping to interview him but feared he would be sedated. I was shattered when I arrived at the hospital, not only was the guard up and about - albeit limping a bit - but we went outside into the sunlight and sat on a bench so I could interview him. I asked him how he felt and he said a little sore but otherwise fine though he couldn’t run for a while. I was amazed yet again at the African’s ability to ignore pain if they felt they were being cared for. Had a white man had his knee blown out he probably would still have been in bed and heavily sedated. At best he might have been on pain killers and hobbling about on crutches.

When I questioned the guard about what had happened he said he had gone to the compound for a short while to have some food then when he returned to his companion he said they were attacked by some Charlie Tangos. They had returned fire and he was shot. His companion kept firing and he was sure he hit one of the CTs before they ran away. Always willing to give benefit if doubt exists I returned to Gwendingwe and broached the other guard with the story about him hitting one of the CTs. Suddenly he remembered shooting the CT and showed me where they were supposed to be when he shot the gook. Again there was no blood spoor at the site, not totally unreasonable as a shot high up the body that wasn’t fatal would allow the CT to run metres, perhaps hundreds of metres before the blood began spilling to the ground. When I had asked how the CTs had been positioned both guards had said they had been standing.  A search of the ‘firing positions’ of the CTs revealed not one cartridge case. It must be remembered it was dark and the chances of the CTs managing to collect every spent casing were extremely remote. The guard had been wounded in his right knee. The bullet had penetrated behind the knee, blowing the knee cap outwards. I had examined the wound and for it to have been inflicted by a standing man the path would have been downwards from entry to exit. I estimated the bullet would have missed the kneecap and penetrated the top of the fibula or tibia. The pathway in fact from entry to exit was in an upwards direction, indicating the shooter being in the prone position.

I could not shake the guards’ stories and get them to admit exactly what had happened but my belief was that the wounded guard had gone to the compound for whatever reason. He had overstayed his welcome and on his return he had either crept into the guards’ quarters because the other guard was asleep or he’d brazenly walked in, tripped and made a noise. In falling he had twisted around and the sleeping guard being rudely awakened seeing someone about to attack him had reacted as any of us would. He’d opened fire and seeing his enemy fall was about to fire again when he realised he’d shot his companion, not his enemy. Because I knew the African guards well I had no doubts the wounded guard hearing the firing would have retaliated by firing his rifle. Only trouble being he’d have been firing blindly. Fortunately like so many other guards most shots scream harmlessly into the night air a long way away from the target. I never did get to the bottom of the incident and it was simply written off as a misadventure and giving the guard the benefit of the doubt the incident was reported as ‘wounding, most likely from enemy fire’.

PAY RUN

 

Later during my stint I did a pay run and at the end I had issued pay to all guards on the Pay Summary sheet. However, my suspicions were alerted by Smokey Richardson’s comments and I attempted to recognise every guard who collected his pay. This was not an easy task for me as I found it difficult to distinguish between faces, especially when there was a large number being sighted for the first time.

 

AREA HQ ‘B’3 – MELSETTER SECOND CALL UP

 

W

hen I was collected from Umtali and taken to the Bravo Regional HQ I discovered it had moved from the Burma Valley to the White Rose hotel situated on the Umtali – Rusape road about halfway between Umtali and the Grand Reef turnoff. Smokey Richardson was still the CO and at that time had his girlfriend staying with him. As I recall she was a very good looking and sexy lady with long black hair and an hourglass figure. I reported in and he asked me to continue at Melsetter – I’d been posted to Rusape again – as he said the Member-In Charge and several farmers in the area had complimented me to him on the way I had conducted myself. Whether that was true or not I don’t know but I could agree that with an exception or two I generally got on well with everyone from Chipinga to Cashel.

The same KC who I’d previously relieved was there to greet me and he very quickly assured me that he had completed the Pay Run so I didn’t have to worry about that. Once again we ended up at the Cecil Hotel on his last night before standing down. I was fortunate for at that time I was living in a Mess at Salisbury where I shared a house with two girls. One of the earlier girls had left the Mess as she had been transferred from Salisbury to work at the Cecil in Umtali. I hadn’t realised she worked in the hotel trade and was pleasantly surprised to meet her at the Cecil during my second Call Up. She made my stay at the hotel memorable and until I left the area I would always stay a night or two at the Cecil.

Once again I had Hans (?) at Chipinga, a KC at Cashel (can’t recall his name) and at Melsetter I had Pop Henwood. Pop had been awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia for his bravery during a firefight with large contingent of CTs down in the Beit Bridge area. I believe 17 terrorists were killed and a number injured. As I recall Pop had defended his Keep with only a dozen or so guards.  I’m a pretty good judge of character and I was a bit nervous about Pop, hence my decision to keep him at Melsetter.

Sadly his nerves were shot and while I was doing my rounds I received a call from the Member – In – Charge advising me to return to Melsetter post haste as he was holding Pop at the Police Station. When I arrived I realised Pop had been at the pub and had a skin full. I thanked the Member – In Charge and took Pop back to my base. He kept apologising for his actions but instead of being annoyed I was filled with pity. Pop was not a hairy shirt, chest basher. He was a quiet man living his life quietly as a civilian. Suddenly circumstances had thrown him into a situation where he had acted with a bravery that had only come about through the desperation of the situation. Pop could now recall the fear and the stress of the situation and he feared mainly not being able to act in the same brave manner should the occasion arise again. Sadly he was no good to me, I couldn’t rely on him to react in my absence and I feared he would go to pieces if he was with me and we had a contact. There was nothing for it but for me to take him to the White Rose. It eventuated that I actually took him to Chikurubi where he was stood down. His days at the front line were over. I never saw him again and have no idea whatever happened to him.

Due to an incident at Cashel I decided to check rifles with guards and found the link to the scam Smokey Richardson was sure had been occurring.

One of the farm guards had left his rifle leaning against a concrete loading dock and reversing, the farmer didn’t see it and drove his tractor trailer into the rifle causing a bend in the barrel. Not really noticeable to the naked eye but definitely noticeable when the rifle was fired.

The resident KC had decided to hold a rifle practice at the local range so he and the BSAP PO collected as many guards as they could from several farms and took them to the range intending to redeploy them later that afternoon.

All went well until the bent rifle was fired. According to the KC all hell broke loose as the impact of the bullet heading in a straight line met with the resistance of the bent barrel.  Anyone who knows Newton’s third law will understand that the recoil effect was magnified by the resistance of the bent barrel. According to the KC the guard lying in the prone position was physically pushed backwards over a foot. He screamed as his shoulder was slammed backwards breaking his collar bone and tearing the ligaments in his shoulder. The bullet meanwhile – being an armour piercing round had imbedded itself in the wall of the barrel.

By the time the incident was reported to me the guard had been treated at the Umtali hospital and was walking around with a sling holding his damaged right arm. He had been issued with a temporary rifle belonging to a guard who was on leave. When I took the damaged rifle to Bravo HQ I discovered that it was not issued to the guard who was injured. When I questioned the injured guard he said it didn’t matter which rifle the guards had as long as they had one because they’d been told if they lost their rifle they had to pay for it. He couldn’t understand the necessity for each guard retaining the rifle he was issued with originally. I had this same issue in the future- but more of that later.

I decided to do a complete rifle check and was astounded at how few guards actually had the rifle they had been issued with initially. To compound the problem the changing of rifles had been going on for some time and many of the receivers of the issued rifles were not even in the Bravo Group anymore. When I told Smokey about the problem he hit the roof cursing the stupidity of the guards and ordering all Area OCs to do a check on who had what rifle. I was already ahead having done this at Cashel and then Melsetter so only had to do Chipinga. It was agreed that lists of all current holders be named and identified as the owner of the rifle in their possession. Once established the Strength Board was expanded to include Rifle numbers. Copies of the lists were sent to GFHQ Salisbury for clarification and amendment.

To confirm that the guards had taken the threat of going to the DB seriously for changing their rifles I decided to check their rifles when I did the Pay Run.

It was through this exercise I discovered eighteen Guards on the Pay Summary who had no rifles. The actual guards had been KIA, transferred, been to the DB then transferred elsewhere, left Guard Force permanently or gone AWOL. I knew now how the KC had been skimming the pay packets yet reconciling the Pay Summary. There had to be collusion because the KC was also a civilian doing Call Ups so was not there for every Pay Run. Suspicion would have resulted had there been a substantial variance between Pay Runs, some being absolutely perfectly reconciled whereas others always returning a number of pay packets as unclaimed.

It transpired that the Area Base Sergeant and two Corporals at Cashel were involved in the scam. When the KC was not on Call - Up the Sergeant took the money which was divided 50% for the Sergeant, 10% for the KC and 20% for each Corporal. When the KC was on Call Up he received 50% of the take, the Sergeant 20% and the Corporals 15% each. They were all extremely happy with the arrangement as it was money for jam. Their scam didn’t end there for the KC had persuaded the Sergeant and the two Corporals to buy dagga with the money they had skimmed and he would take it to Salisbury when he stood down and on sell it for a handsome profit. The Sergeant and Corporals were weary at first but when the KC presented them with a sum more than double what they had skimmed from the Pay Run they were in like Flint. Their successful scam was about to come to an end all because of a broken rifle.

I reported my findings to Smokey Richardson and he alerted GFHQ. The KC must have smelt a rat or perhaps he had planned all along to leave Rhodesia. All I know is that by the time the police went to arrest him he had been long gone. They assured me the trail was never abandoned and they would catch up with him some time, somewhere in the world. Personally I doubted he was ever caught because of the way events turned out In Rhodesia. The Sergeant and the two Corporals were both sent to the DB and afterwards discharged from the Guard Force and charged with theft and supplying illegal drugs by the BSAP. With the change in circumstance in Rhodesia after independence chances are they were released as heroes for hindering the Smith Regime.

As part of my role I had completed an inspection of the guards at each location in my area. At Cashel I was especially interested in the farm owned by a Mrs Nel. She was in her eighties and had been asked to leave the farm and to move to Umtali for her protection. She was the last survivor of her line which dated back to the original Moodie Trek, a fact of great pride to old Mrs Nel – I believe her name was Susannah – and as she said she was not going to be found wanting in the eyes of her ancestors by leaving the farm. Through various circumstances she had outlived her two husbands and three children, none of whom had lived to maturity. We had stationed seven guards on her farm and they were happy enough as the ‘Madam’ took good care of them, even taking them into town – to Umtali – at least once a month.

I tried to persuade her to leave, if not for her sake then for the community as a whole. I asked her to consider the devastating affect her death at the hands of CTs would have on morale within the community. I couldn’t get through and a stalemate had been reached. Then I received a message from the resident KC that his Sergeant had told him some of the guards on Mrs Nel’s farm had been warned that the CTs intended to destroy the farmhouse and steal her livestock because the old lady had threatened some of their relatives with police action if they did not leave her property.

I took the threat seriously and once more approached Mrs. Nel imploring her to go to Umtali. Adamantly she refused and I was contemplating forcibly removing her for her own safety. Two nights later some CTs attacked her farm and the Guards gave a good account of themselves. They prevented the CTs from burning down the farmhouse and they managed to kill a CT and wound at least two others during the firefight as seen from the blood spoor. However it was not without a cost, a guard – I think his name was Saladi - was killed and another Garikayi was wounded, being shot through the chest. The attack occurred at 3.30 in the morning – when human nature is at its lowest ebb – and continued for nearly an hour. The CTs were confident they would still have plenty of time to strike for the border before first light. A later follow up discovered two more CTs who had died from their wounds.

Mrs Nel was distraught at the death of Saladi and told me she would carry the cross of his death to her grave because it was through her intransigence that he was killed. It took a lot of diplomacy on my part to ease her guilt. She was not to blame for his death, he was a guard and totally aware of the dangers inherent in his chosen career and even if she had left the farm we would still post guards there to protect it as best we could. The major positive that came out of the contact was Mrs Nel agreeing to ‘retire’ to Umtali. Sadly later on – not when I was on Call Up, her farmhouse was razed to the ground and her livestock driven off. For whatever reason the OC at the time had decided to withdraw the guards from her property, removing all protection. I never saw Mrs Nel again which was just as well as I couldn’t have faced her accusatory stare, as it was me who told her we would protect her property, even if she was not there.

Travelling around the farms on a daily basis I kept in touch with what was going on in my area. On one such trip I called at a farm where I knew the owners had gone away for a short holiday. When I pulled up the guards fell in and the Corporal saluted me. Returning the salute I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. One of the guards forming the rear rank was holding his rifle at attention but he seemed to be favouring his right shoulder. I couldn’t believe the state of his rifle, the end of the barrel had mushroomed out and split in several places.

I asked the Corporal what had happened and he said the guard was ‘Terrible sore in the right shoulder’. I nodded my understanding but asked what had happened to the rifle. The Corporal said the guard was doing his duty last Sunday but was bored and hungry. He said the guard saw the large fish swimming around the pond and obviously the farmer didn’t like to eat them so he thought he would help him out. He was educated to standard six and he had studied science and knew about refraction. He knew he couldn’t simply point his rifle at the fish and pull the trigger because the fish wasn’t where it seemed to be.  To overcome the effect of refraction the guard had reasoned if he put the end of the barrel in the water then he could line it up with the fish. Carefully he did so and when one of the big fish lined itself up with the barrel he had pulled the trigger.

“Maiwe Sir, it was terrible, when he pull the trigger the rifle go poof and lo barrel ifa and enza so like banana skin. The force he come up the rifle and into his shoulder kapow and I think he break his arm he cannot bend it ver’ easy,” said the Corporal.

I couldn’t believe the guard, he was more concerned about not killing the fish than about his broken collarbone and the nice little bill he was going to get for a new rifle.

The last incident of note from that Call Up involved a guard at Melsetter. At the time I had lost my KC – Pop Henwood - based at Melsetter and was trying to run that area and visit Cashel and Chipinga on a regular basis. I was at Chipinga when I received a telephone call from the Member-in-Charge at Melsetter telling me he had, had no alternative but to arrest one of the guards at my base as he was threatening to kill some other guards unless they obeyed his orders. He most certainly was not in charge, being only a guard himself but he was well set up and aggressive riding roughshod over the Sergeant and Corporal based at the HQ. I promised to call at the Police Station when I returned later that day. The guard was in a cell and seemed calm and not in any way aggressive. I knew I had to take him to the DB as we could not have guards running amok threatening the non-coms and generally causing havoc in the land.

I left him in the cells overnight and next morning I took him to my base and explained I had bagged his possessions, which together with his rifle would be handed in at the White Rose for safekeeping. We then headed out for Chikurubi and at the White Rose I told Smokey’s 2IC – Smokey was out and about somewhere – what I was doing and handed the guard’s rifle and kit in for safe keeping. I had taken the Kudu for this trip as it offered the escorts some protection as well as the prisoner, who was not armed.

Melsetter always seems to be rainy and cold – much like the UK weather – misty in the mornings but warm during the day in the sunshine. On our way we called into the WVS at Marandellas for some refreshments – no colour bar existed at these establishments where so many women volunteered their time and skills for little reward – and for me to buy myself some mittens. My hands used to feel like ice blocks when driving the military vehicles, even the Land Rover had no doors, safer if a landmine was hit. Being so al fresco one’s hands did get rather chilly and the mittens worked a treat keeping my hands warm. The escorts looked with envy at my purchase as they too did feel the cold but lacked the resources to buy mittens for themselves. Feeling generous I bought each of them a pair of mittens and I even bought a pair for the prisoner. My Corporal translated for me telling the guard his mittens would be added to his kit being held at the White Rose.


 Showing the mine proofed Land Rover without doors

When we arrived at the DB the guard began to shiver with fear as he finally realised he was going to suffer for his wayward actions at Melsetter. Discipline had to be maintained at all costs otherwise anarchy would reign so he had to be punished. At the check-in desk a huge African Staff Sergeant stood. He was very smart in his uniform and extremely polite to me. Not so the guard whom he tried to lift off the floor by pinching his nipple and pulling on it. I’m not sure if you the reader has ever had someone grab you by the nipple, if not let me assure you it is excruciatingly painful. The guard was standing on his tippy toes in an attempt to lighten the pressure on his nipple all the while assuring the DB Staff Sergeant he was very contrite for the trouble he had caused. I never saw that guard again and only hope he got his mittens which I left for him at the White Rose.

AREA HQ ‘B’3 – MELSETTER THIRD CALL UP

M

y third Call Up at Melsetter didn’t start out too flash but turned out to be one of the best Call Ups I ever had. At Umtali, Commandant Hallack met the bus and we sorted out the contingent and who was to be deployed where. I was given three KCs to man the sub HQs at Cashel. Melsetter and Chipinga. The Regional HQ was still based at the White Rose hotel but Smokey Richardson had moved on and Commandant Hallack was the new CO. Yet again I was posted to Rusape but ended up at Melsetter.

I decided to send KC Eddie Mendes to Cashel. Eddie was a Portuguese, originally from Mozambique where he had served in the Portuguese Army as a Captain, I believe. His experience was soon apparent once I began to speak to him.

Once more Hans was with me and I sent him to his familiar stomping ground, Chipinga. Remember at Chipinga we were segregated from the Guard Force contingent at GP 2 who were still looking after PVs. Hans stayed in the police camp as before.

The third KC I had was a fellow called Mike Book. I was amazed he had been allowed to keep his long golden locks, recalling my issue with the beard I had grown before my initial training. I was to discover that Mike Book also worked for the TA Group, as I did. I worked for the TA Management Services company in an accounting and administrative capacity whereas he was an auctioneer on the Tobacco Auctions Floor. It was a strange set up as the auctioneers only worked during the season. They were well paid and some simply enjoyed having a long relaxing holiday until the next season. Others took on a temporary job until the next season. Mike Book was a musician and had his own band which was where he was at in the off season. As an entertainer his hair was part of his persona hence his been allowed to keep it long. Me I’m not a muso but I’m pretty good at reading people and I was convinced Mike was up to the tricks musos’ worldwide seemed to get up to, like the KC I had initially relieved at Melsetter. As long as he did his job and caused no trouble I was happy.

After about week Mike asked me if he could take the Kudu and go for a drive as he’d been stuck at the base all day, I agreed and asked where he intended to go. He told me he would drive around Melsetter and perhaps a short way down the road to the Tarka Forest. It was getting late in the afternoon and I told him to be careful.  I went off in my Land Rover to visit some local farmers and being Guard Force we had no radio in our vehicles. All the radio operator at my base knew was that I had gone to visit some of the farms in the district and hadn’t yet returned to my base.

 The Member – in Charge at Melsetter called my base asking for me only to be told I was out and about. He asked if I could contact him urgently when I returned. On my return I contacted the Member – in – Charge and he and he asked me if I had a Kudu and he quoted the registration number. I told him yes it was mine and he said it had been ambushed on the Chipinga Road. The CTs had fired an RPG2 into the Kudu from a small gomo near the roadside – no roof, it had blown off sometime previously - on a corner and the KC – Mike Book - had lost control. The Kudu had hit a culvert and overturned. The KC and the guards with him took cover behind the overturned Kudu and returned fire. I have no idea what the outcome would have been but for the good fortune arising from a wealthy farmer who was flying around overhead and his passenger heard the firing. They buzzed the CTs and the passenger opened fire on them causing the CTs to bombshell towards the Mozambique border. The pilot contacted the Member – in – Charge Melsetter and reported the situation. He’d reacted and arriving at the Kudu found Mike and three guards had been wounded. He arranged for them to be rushed through to Chipinga Hospital and then he tried to contact me. It was nearly sundown and futile trying to mount a follow up operation though a check was done and 13 firing positions discovered. I immediately drove through to Chipinga to the hospital – I was perturbed as Mike Book had no business being on the Chipinga Road as he was supposed to be on the Tarka Forest Road.


This was a Kudu based on the chassis and using the drive chain of a Land Rover. A very similar vehicle was the Kudu Ram, however, it was based on a Toyota Land Cruiser and only had three forward gears

When I got to the Chipinga Hospital I found Mike Book in a very agitated state and when I enquired why, he said he was not going to allow the black sister shave his pubic hair. Apparently the RPG2 had hit the steering wheel – I confirmed this when I inspected the Kudu – and the plastic had shattered. One piece had penetrated Mike’s right shoulder and lodged against his shoulder blade while another piece had shot downwards and hit him in the right groin lodging itself in his right buttock. He required surgery and the staff were worried as he would not allow them to prepare him. I told him not to be a bloody fool and ordered him to allow the sister to do what she needed to do. Because it was an order he succumbed under duress and begged me not to tell his wife or even the CO, who had shaved him.

When I visited him some days later he was once more very perturbed, only this time not with the hospital staff but because he was losing his hair. He said every time he turned his head on the pillow several strands of hair fell out. So much so he was afraid of going bald. I suggested he wear a ladies hairnet and at first he thought I was pulling his leg. What I was suggesting made sense he realised because when he turned his head on the pillow the net would be against the pillow and not his hair.

I had also checked on the three wounded guards. All had suffered shrapnel wounds caused from the RPG exploding against the plastic of the steering wheel. None was seriously wounded and being further away from the steering wheel the shrapnel had not penetrated very deeply. The doctors managed to remove the shrapnel by only using forceps and within a week the guards were back on duty.

Later when I visited, Mike said to me, ‘what the hell, I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks? I needed help and the black sister has been brilliant. She has a fantastic sense of humour but also a very serious side and we’ve had some very open and down to earth conversations”. 

When he was fit enough to leave hospital I collected him and took him to the White Rose where Commandant Hallack said he had to go to a meeting at Salisbury so he’d take Mike through and I never saw him again.  While at the White Rose I managed to get another KC Amerigo D’Olivera – known as Ollie – to replace Mike Book at Melsetter.  I was due to do a pay run during December 1978 just before Christmas and because the war had escalated I decided to use both Eddie and Ollie to assist me. Eddie had a military licence to drive a Puma which is what Melsetter was given to replace the Kudu. It was the rainy season and that year the rains were particularly good along the Eastern border.


Showing a close Up of Eddie Mendes

 

With the White Rose being close to Grand Reef I decided to call on the Selous Scouts based there to see if I could obtain or purloin some better armaments for us – all we had were our trusty G3’s - because of what had happened to Mike Book it was obvious the CTs were active in the area. The Pay Run would involve us visiting every location in my area and some were right up against the border in very isolated locations so I intended to be prepared.

I must say like all units there are good and bad men and I knew both types among the Selous Scouts. They had some excellent soldiers but they also had some real wankers who thought they were real hairy shirts but in reality, weren’t. As luck would have it the one I met at Grand Reef was one of the good ones. When I explained who I was and what I was about he told me to wait and he snaffled three rifle grenades for me. He apologised saying he couldn’t give me an LMG as it was too big and it would be too difficult to conceal its loss. I thanked him profusely and was touched when he also said rather me than him, thank you very much, He was dead honest when he said he much preferred the logistics afforded to the Selous Scouts.

Returning to the White Rose I collected the Cash Box containing the pay for some 550 guards in my area. On the way back to Melsetter with Ollie I called in at Cashel and collected Eddie leaving his Sergeant in temporary command. For the next week or so we would be together as we trundled around my area paying the guards. It may have seemed a long time for the pay run but I incorporated other aspects as well into my visit. At each location before pay parade I fell the guards in and we did some drill and I also inspected them, their kit and rifles. If the farmer or manager had any complaints I would resolve them as well and where convenient I would also hold a rifle practice to maintain their expertise.

 


Showing ‘Ollie’ his future home at Melsetter from Skyline Junction

Before setting out from Melsetter we filled all of the pay packets and I completed a reconciliation to ensure all balanced. I told Eddie and Ollie we would pay Cashel first then Chipinga and lastly Melsetter.

Cashel was a breeze and even the weather was kind to us, completing the area we spent the night at Melsetter and had a meal at the hotel. Next morning early, we headed down to Chipinga and collecting Hans we headed out for the farms below Chipinga, mainly coffee farmers. As the afternoon closed in we arrived at a very well managed farm. Judging by the equipment and cars parked in the garages the farmer was obviously very wealthy and efficient. We arrived at the farm in a filthy state as initially we had been covered in red dust and then the heavens opened up and as the Land Rover had no doors and the back of the Puma was uncovered we got wet. When the sun came out and we got covered in red dust again. The farmer was dressed very smartly in a dinner suit and did not seem to notice our state but was observant as I took the guards through their paces. We couldn’t do any rifle practice but the farmer assured me he had held a number of practices as he wanted to ensure the guards were capable should the need arise. We were about to leave and he invited us in for a drink before we departed. I apologised and declined as we were so filthy.

He wouldn’t hear of it and insisted we go inside the house with him. We were directed to a bathroom where some pristine snow white towels had been laid out for us. Being the OC I had to lead the way and I tried to wash off as much of the red dust and mud from my face and arms. Nevertheless I left red streaks on the towel, which I folded, showing the streaks and lay on the bath tub. The others followed suit and left slightly stained towels as well. They followed me as I headed back to the entrance hall where the farmer collected us and took us to his barroom which was well appointed. It had a very nice and well stocked bar in front of which there was a rumble pit festooned with velvet cushions. He had installed a sound system which was playing softly in the background, adding to the ambiance.

He’d just given us a beer when his wife, son and two daughters appeared. They were all dressed as if they were about to depart for a show at a theatre. We stood up immediately and the farmer introduced them to us. I apologised to the farmer saying we best be on our way as he obviously needed to prepare for their journey. He threw back his head and laughed saying it was not safe to go gallivanting around the country side that late in the day. He said they were simply dressed for dinner and he explained that they made dinner a formal occasion at which they dressed formally every night. He said that being farmers and so isolated it was easy to backslide and lose all sense of form and manners. I smiled and told him of my experiences at Kotwa and he nodded his head sagely and admitted there was something about me, even as filthy as I was that caused him to invite us in for a drink. After a second drink I wished them all well and we departed as the sun began to disappear over the western horizon. On the way back Hans said he had never been invited to share a drink and had never previously been inside the house nor did he know of any of the police who had been invited in.

 We spent the night at the police camp. Hans was allocated quarters in the HQ building with the police but we simply slept in an empty barrack room. Hans had access to the police mess and as we didn’t, we went to the Chipinga Hotel for a meal and a couple of beers. Due to the war footing we were the only guests at dinner. However, after dinner while we were sitting in the lounge having a quiet beer a very young Assistant Commandant from GP 2 and five very young police including two from the Special Branch arrived and were acting like a bunch of schoolkids, laughing loudly and inanely as if to impress the world. Eddie, Ollie and I were all mature thirty year old men holding down responsible positions in our civilian lives and were the least impressed by their behaviour. Suddenly the started to play Bok – Bok, in the lounge which I considered very much offside but it was up to the hotel management and not me to put a stop to it. The Assistant Commandant looked at us speculatively to assess if we would join in even if he ordered us to but my look told him not to bother as we were way beyond their childish games. He outranked me and I would have had no choice but to obey a lawful, rational order but not for something so trivial and childish and he knew it so decided not to push the boat. I would have definitely taken the matter further had he made a bigger arse of himself than what he was already doing.

The following morning we set off without Hans to do the next batch of farms as we were on the homeward leg and as the afternoon wore on Eddie told me we were approaching a farm he knew. He explained we were right on the border with Mozambique and the farm’s eastern boundary was in fact the border. Across the border was another farm which had once belonged to either his father or one of his uncles (my memory is hazy due to the passing of time). Whoever it was who owned the Mozambique farm and the Rhodesian farmer got on famously. Laughingly he said much trade was done across the fence between the good neighbours and totally exempt from customs duty.


Showing an armed convoy crossing Birchenough Bridge over the Sabi River


Showing the Sabi River running under Birchenough Bridge


A large Baobab tree in the low veld

Arriving at the farm I was shocked, such a contrast from the coffee farmer we had visited the day before. Eddie too was shocked, he admitted he hadn’t seen the farmer for many years due to the war with Frelimo and couldn’t believe the deterioration. The farmer was only in his sixties yet he looked and acted like a ninety year old. Obviously he was suffering from something like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, though I don’t recall the condition being referred to as such in those days. The farm was run down and the guards complained about their accommodation which while dry was full of fleas and quite primitive.

The farmer himself had two young African women to look after him and they were definitely required. The farmer went for a pee and in his forgetful state hadn’t bothered to put his chaloga (bowris) away and do up his zip. No trouble at all as one of the young women simply flipped it inside his shorts and pulled his zip up, obviously a common or garden practice which occurred innumerable times each day.

After several attempts Eddie finally managed to get through to the farmer and explain who he was and it was like turning on a light switch as the farmer finally remembered Eddie. He was off and running, suddenly the memories flooded back as Eddie spoke of various events. Apparently the farmer’s wife had died several years back and that had been the straw that broke the camel’s back. His children had no interest in farming and had all left for the bright lights of the city as soon as they could and then his wife died causing enormous depression and a lack of purpose in the farmer’s life. Very sad, and he begged Eddie to stay for dinner, I agreed and we gave the unfortunate farmer some company. The meal was reasonable but then the farmer was taken off to bed by his helpers. We had no beds and attempted to sleep on the lounge floor. It was impossible, for no sooner were we in a supine or prone position when the bloody fleas attacked us and eventually out of sheer exhaustion we fell asleep.

We were rudely awakened early in the morning by loud voices and a demand as to why we hadn’t reported in where we were staying. It was the two SB men we’d seen at the hotel. When I asked them what they were on about they said it had been reported to them that we hadn’t returned from our Pay Run and they were annoyed I hadn’t bothered to radio in.  I thanked them for their concern but explained I reported to the CO Regional Group Bravo at the White Rose who simply relied on whoever found us if we had been missing for some time to advise him accordingly. I pointed out that as we were Guard Force we had no radios so simply could not report our position to anyone. They were amazed and also said rather us than them and the younger one said he would simply refuse to venture out without a radio. They stayed until after breakfast when they returned to Chipinga and we carried on with our Pay Run northwards.

We completed the Chipinga run without any further problems and returned happily to my base at Melsetter. After a hot bath and wearing fresh uniforms we enjoyed a few cold chibulis and a good meal. I explained to Eddie and Ollie that the next day we would head up to Skyline Junction and pay the guards at the Gwendingwe Forest Estate then we would head out to the Tarka Forest Estate which was right near the border.

The Forestry Commission had hired 6 white security guards to protect their property. And in addition they had 12 guards from the Guard Force. Their accommodation was terrific, a double story mansion with its own swimming pool and games room. There was also a huge fishpond teeming with ornamental Koi. The only drawback was being stuck away from civilisation for 8 weeks before they had 10 days R & R back at Salisbury.

Nothing untoward happened at Gwendingwe and I put the guards through their paces. We left and headed down the Chipinga road to the Tarka Forest turnoff.

The branch road to Tarka Forest Estate was gravel but with all the rain had become a bit of a quagmire.  For safety sake Eddie drove the Puma in the van and I followed in his tracks.  Trouble was along the road he got into a skid and the Puma – all 12 tons of it headed towards the roadside bank where it came to a halt. With me following closely behind I tried to stop but skidded along in Eddies tracks finally stopping less than two feet behind the Puma. Bloody hell he was trying to reverse out and back on to the road but I was stalled behind him. In a flash I managed to start and rip the Land Rover into reverse before Eddie smashed it. After that little adventure he drove with much more care and I kept a greater distance behind the Puma.

When we arrived at the Tarka Forest Estate HQ the guards were relaxing around the pool and I couldn’t help but notice the fish pond was empty. When I asked what had happened they cracked up laughing, it was obviously a tremendous joke because it took them several minutes to control themselves. Finally one of them explained that a couple of days previously they had been drinking for several hours and were bored out of their heads when one of them said he could die for some real fresh fish. Another reminded them about the huge Koi swimming around the fish pond. Excitedly they rushed out and then realised they had no fishing kit. It was then one of them recalled seeing a movie where the hero was in a similar predicament to theirs and he’d solved his problem by chucking a grenade into the sea. When it exploded underwater a whole lot of dead fish gently rose to the surface and he had himself a grand meal.

One of the guards had said that wasn’t a problem as they had a box of grenades in the armaments cupboard. In a flash a couple of them had fetched a few grenades Being rather shy of exploding grenades four of them had lined up and pulled the pins of four grenades then together they had dropped them into the fish pond and thrown themselves to the ground to avoid the blast. The grenades went off in sympathetic detonation and the force was so great it caused a huge crack in the fish pond wall which was expanded as the water forced its way through it. They reckoned that when the grenades exploded the water shot thirty feet into the air before it returned to the pond and out of the crack. They hadn’t taken account of the force of four grenades exploding together in a tiny fish pond not a bloody great ocean and though they managed to collect enough fish to enjoy their meal to me their drunken daftness was going to bite them in the backside as they were going to have to explain what had happened to somebody in authority as well as paying for all the damage to the pond and the dead fish, a very expensive fish meal, I thought.

I held a kit inspection and did a rifle inspection of the Guard Force guards. Being in the middle of the forest it wasn’t a problem to hold a rifle practice and even the white guards joined in. The sound of so much firing would have caused any Terrs in the area to move off in case they got caught up in the fire fight. After we’d held the Pay Run we took off back to Melsetter. The next day was Christmas Eve and we only had four farms to complete the Pay Run.

We had completed three of the four farms and were heading for the last one which was a dairy farm, in the mddle of the afternoon. It wasn’t very far from my HQ and I’d got to know the lady farmer quite well. She and her husband were originally from Scandinavia – Norway as I recall – sadly I cannot recall her name. She was tiny yet had the courage of a lioness. With the escalation of the war her husband decided to sleep with a loaded shotgun near the bed. One night he was disturbed and thought some terrorists were in their bedroom. Ever so quietly he reached for and secured the shotgun and grasping it hard he fired at where he could hear the rustling. With an almighty yowl their cat shot out of their bedroom like greased lightning. It was no wonder for her husband was bellowing like a bull about to be castrated because he’d stot his big toe off his left foot.  After months of local treatment and not getting better they decided he should go to Norway where he would be with family and perhaps the Norwegian doctors could work a miracle on his foot.

They owned the dairy farm which they had built up over the years and their plan was to sell it one day and use the proceeds to fund their retirement so the lady stayed behind in Rhodesia to keep the farm working. Guard Force had provided her with some guards and each day when she did the milk run some of them went with her for protection while others stayed on the farm to deter any Terr attacks.

As we reached the farm gate the lady farmer was going on her milk run. She waved frantically at me as she went past and she shouted something which I didn’t catch. Cheerfully we continued up the fairly steep hill to the farmhouse. For convenience they had built a circular drive about halfway up the steep hill and generally traffic went to the left on the way up and came down on the right side. Unfortunately Eddie driving the Puma ahead of me in my Land Rover hadn’t been to the farm before and he started to drive up the right fork. At the junction the incessant rain had turned the road into a quagmire. Eddie was driving a 12 ton vehicle up a steep hill on a muddy road so he was accelerating when he hit the mud. His forward movement came to a halt as the back wheels sunk into the mud. Thankfully Eddie was a good and experienced driver so he stopped trying to move and settled the Puma before applying the handbrake. Seeing what was happening ahead of me I shot through the gap up the left hand fork before stopping to see what the hell difficulty we were in. At that moment the owner came back up the road from the gate and also took the left fork she stopped near me and said she’d been trying to warn me that the Puma was too heavy for the road and now it was blocking the right side and if it slipped it would also block the left fork or worse still tumble down the hillside.

I tried to allay her fears by telling her not to worry as we would make a plan to get the Puma out of the hole it had created and then we’d fix her road for her. She stood there, this forlorn little old lady wringing her hands as it started to drizzle quite hard. Marvellous, just what the doctor ordered for Christmas Eve. Though it was December, summer in Rhodesia, being Melsetter and rainy it was cold and miserable but there was nothing for it but to get the Puma out. I explained to some of the guards what I wanted them to do and off they went with Ollie. They were going to raid the fire wood and bring me some stout branches. I sent some other guards off under my Sergeant to fetch as many rocks as they could find. I asked the lady farmer if she had some spades or shovels we could borrow and sent some guards with her to bring them back to me. While we waited Eddie and I surveyed the scene to see what would be the best way to get the Puma out of the hole. Eddie was all for driving forward up the right fork but inspecting it I doubted he would get very far before getting bogged down again. I elected for him to reverse up the left hand fork. Eddie wasn’t enthused as he worried about sliding off the road and careening down the slope completely out of control. I was the officer in charge so I had to carry the can. I told him not to worry as I intended to use a steel wire sling to attach my Land Rover to the Puma. I explained that we would have to work in tandem because when he started to reverse I too would reverse adding power to him. I didn’t share with him my personal concern if he started to slide off down the slope he would at least be in the capsule which was designed to withstand a mine blast whereas I’d be in the Land Rover without any doors, my only restraint would be my seat belt.

Anyway first things first we had to dig the mud out from under the Puma’s axle so we could create a wood and rock slip way for Eddie to drive over. Nothing for it but to show the guards what I wanted. I have heard derogatory comments about the Portuguese and not always unwarranted but I am very proud to have served with Eddie Mendes and Ollie D’Olivera, two finer soldiers you couldn’t find to serve with.  The three of us were covered in red mud by the time the Puma’s axle was cleared and by this time darkness had set in and we were working in the light from the Land Rover’s headlights. We were filthy, cold, wet and hungry. Not just us but the guards as well but at least we had cleared out the mud and laid a foundation of logs and rocks. All was set for us to attempt to pull the Puma out at first light tomorrow. I couldn’t take all the guards and the three of us on the Land Rover back to my HQ and I sent half the guards off by foot. They were too happy when I told them when I got back with the other guards I would give them all some beer for their great efforts. We were just about to set off for the HQ when the little lady farmer appeared from the gloom. She said to me, “Sir it is far too dark for you to try to get your truck out tonight and I insist on you stopping until the morning“. I thanked her for her concern and explained I had reached the same conclusion. I explained how we had lodged large rocks against all of the wheels of the Puma as well as attaching a sling to the front tow hitch and a steel jump bar we’d driven deep into the ground. I thanked her for her indulgence but assured her the next day we would rebuild her road.

“”I thank you for that Sir but you cannot go to your HQ now. It is Christmas Eve and I am cooking a roast meal for you. I insist you come to the house and have a very hot bath. I cannot offer you any clothes as my husband has taken all of his with him but if you men don’t mind wearing your dirty clothes I certainly don’t mind. I noticed you didn’t use any of my guards to help you so now I will repay you but ordering them to watch over your vehicle through the night. Having the three of you in the house with me will allow me to sleep like a baby for the first time in a very long time”.

I thanked her so very much for her hospitality and asked if Eddie and Ollie could go with her to have a hot bath. I had to take the other guards back to the HQ but I promised to come back as soon as I could when I’d enjoy a hot bath as well. 

With the remaining guards I carefully negotiated the road down to the HQ and as agreed I gave the guards a crate and a half of beers – all I had - to share among themselves. Grabbing a shirt and cammo trousers, socks and underpants for myself, Eddie and Ollie I wished the guards a pleasant night and told them I expected to see them back at the farm at 9 o’clock the following day. Finally I told them to tell anyone who was trying to contact me to telephone the farmer. With that I drove the Land Rover back to the farm on my own and was extremely careful because I didn’t want to get bogged down. At the farmhouse I was greeted by the glorious smell of roasting chicken. Ollie was sitting near the fire glowing with cleanliness even if his clothing was stained. I handed him his clean clothes and he disappeared to change.

The lady farmer took me down a passage and showed me the room where I could sleep. I couldn’t believe my eyes there were pristine white towels on the bed. Didn’t these farmers realise that we were grubbing around in the dust and the rain and most days we were covered in filth. The bed looked very welcoming and warm but all I did was drop my change of clothing on the bed before joining Ollie in the lounge by the fire.

“I am so sorry I didn’t decorate this year. I didn’t see the point just for me but it is the first year when I haven’t got a tree decorated at Christmas”. The lady farmer said. I knew exactly where she was coming from as I came from a family of traditionalists who always decorated at Christmas and because I was still so filthy I slipped outside and I cut a couple of branches off a pine tree I’d seen previously. I found an old paint tin and before you could say Jack Robinson I’d knocked up a Christmas tree. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea I didn’t destroy the pine tree, my Christmas tree was only about two feet high, small enough to fit on a small table near the fireplace but a tree nevertheless. The lady was so excited she rushed off to get her box of decorations. Just then Eddie came from the bathroom and apologised for staining the white towel. He was grateful for the clean clothing I’d brought from our base as he explained that was where the stain on the towel came from as he tried to remove some of the mud from his shirt. I excused myself to have my bath and last I heard the lady was asking Ollie and Eddie to decorate the tree.

In the hot bath I could feel the chill leaving my bones as the heat seeped in, what bliss to lie there relaxing. All I needed was a cold chibuli but I hadn’t the heart to deprive the guards after their sterling efforts. Bathed and wearing clean clothes I joined the others and admiring Eddie and Ollies work I enjoyed the smell of the meal to come. Finally the lady farmer said she was ready to dish up and asked me if I would carve the bird. While I did she said all she had for pudding was a small Christmas pudding and some custard. With our meals dished up we sat at the table and the lady had a tear in her eye as she apologised once again saying she had no alcohol in the house other than a small amount of Sherry. I assured her it was sufficient as we were sitting at a table with glorious company in a warm ambience anticipating a lovely meal so who needed alcohol. Smiling she asked Eddie to pour the Sherry which he did and each of us only had a mouthful.

Before we ate the lady asked me if I would say the Grace which I did and then we toasted Christmas and absent family and friends. At last we began to eat and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. After our meal I shocked the lady by suggesting as she had cooked we would wash up which Eddie and I did while Ollie made some coffee. We sat and enjoyed the company while listening to some carols on the radio. Finally at 10 o’clock she apologised but said she had to go to bed as she needed to get off at daybreak to milk the cows. We weren’t far behind her as we knew we had a difficult day ahead of us.

We were exhausted from our efforts and we overslept. I put it down to sleeping in such a comfortable bed. Startled I woke suddenly and looking at my watch saw it was already half past seven. Rising I found where Eddie and Ollie were sleeping and woke them and wished them a Happy Christmas. The house was silent as the lady farmer had obviously risen at dawn and disappeared to milk the cows. By eight we had shaved and dressed in our dirty clothes we headed out to see how the Puma had faired during the night. It had stopped raining and things took on a different perspective in the daylight. Checking the slipway I saw how we could improve it to our advantage which we soon were working on. It was while we doing this the lady farmer returned and wished us for Christmas. She asked me when we intended to attempt to pull the Puma out and was surprised when I said right away. Quickly she drove her Land Rover to the house and then from a safe distance stood and watched as Eddie climbed into the capsule and started the Puma. Meanwhile I attached the steel wire sling to the back tow-hitch on the Puma and secured it to the front tow hitch on the Land Rover.

Eddie and I had worked out a signalling system. I would blow my hooter when I had taken up the slack of the sling and then I would give two blasts when I started to reverse. I engaged four wheel drive and low ratio and was ready to rock and roll.  I hooted once and took up the slack on the sling. As soon as I felt the tension I hooted twice and began reversing. At first I felt the Land Rover slide towards the edge of the hill which caused my sphincter to work overtime. Suddenly I felt the Land Rover grip the road and with Eddie revving the Puma we started to pull it out of the hole. Once we had broken inertia we started to move quite quickly and I had to be careful Eddie didn’t drive over me. We had a signal for that and as soon as we hit the flat near the house I blew the hooter twice and then a long blast. Eddie slammed on his brakes and nearly caused me to fly through the windscreen because I’d taken off the seat belt, my thought being if the Land Rover went down the slope I had intended to jump out as soon as I could to avoid damaging myself to much. 

Eddie appeared out of the capsule grinning like a Cheshire cat and he said to me he would never have believed how powerful the Land Rover was.  When I asked him what he meant he said that he’d stalled the Puma just before we cleared the hole and he was desperate to stop it slipping back into the hole. He said then he realised he was still moving backwards as the Land Rover pulled the 12 tons up the hill. He quickly started again to help the Land Rover move the Puma.

Leaving the vehicles we went to the hole and quickly I had some guards collect rocks while others dug out the mud. Just then the lady said she had a pile of bricks which might help us. Hallelujah, they would be brilliant. I had helped build a driveway with bricks and it worked brilliantly, a bit like cobble stones but smoother. Quickly I arranged for the guards to fetch the bricks and Eddie showed me his bricklaying skills as we completely bricked the junction and using the rocks we built up both forks. We were getting carried away as we built a better road than had ever been there before. I had noticed that once we had parked the vehicles the lady had disappeared inside her house.  Now we were finished she sent a servant to call us to the house and establishing that we were finished she ordered us to bathe and change our uniforms.  I sent Ollie first and while he was bathing Eddie and I shared a cup of coffee and we took the lady to see our handiwork. She was amazed and agreed the road had never been so well built before. Jokingly she suggested Eddie should come back during the rains and get stuck further down the drive so we would be forced to repair that part of her road.

As soon as we had all bathed and changed she served us a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and French toast. In addition there was fresh toast and a variety of conserves.  After we’d eaten we took our leave and on our behalf I thanked her for her wonderful hospitality and hoped we hadn’t caused her too much inconvenience. She was speechless and gave each of us a Christmas kiss saying it had to be one of the most wonderful and unexpected Christmases she had ever had. Then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She said there definitely was a God and knowing how lonely she was at Christmas he had directed us to her farm at the end of our Pay Run so we could celebrate Christmas with her.

Back at my HQ Ollie said it had to be one of the best Christmases he’d ever had and both Eddie and I agreed wholeheartedly. I was amazed how good I felt about doing that lady farmer such a good turn by rebuilding her road.

Nothing untoward happen during the remaining days of our Call Up and we were all looking forward to celebrating New Year as civilians again. I collected Hans from Chipinga, Ollie from Melsetter and Eddie from Cashel and we headed off to the White Rose where were to meet the CABS bus that would take us to Chikurubi for stand down. As I broached Skyline Junction on the way to collect Hans I had a premonition this would be my last Call Up at Melsetter. This was confirmed by Commandant Hallack when I got to the White Rose. He was disgruntled because the French Sergeant who had pleaded to stay at Rusape had brought the Guard Force name into disrepute by hunting on a farmer’s land without permission. He had no licence to hunt, no permission from the farmer – who was a conservationist building up herds of various buck – and had fired a military weapon carelessly to satisfy his ego. He was sent to Salisbury where he was discharged from the Guard Force. Because I had the goodwill of the farmers at Area HQ ‘B’3 Commandant Hallack wanted me to inculcate something similar from Rusape Area ‘B’1. To that time Area ‘B’2 Inyanga had been operating directly under the regional HQ’s direction as there was only a KC in charge at Inyanga.  Commandant Hallack wanted me to control Area ‘B2’ from Rusape as well.

Sadly this was my last Call up with Hans, Eddie and Ollie. However, I did meet all of them in civvy life. My social crowd used to meet at the Flagstaff Bar in the Meikles Hotel every Friday after work to decide what we would do that night and generally over the weekend. One Friday I met Hans who was waiting for his brother who was part of the Recce Commando – as I recall. I met Eddie at the Samantha’s Nightclub when he’d returned from a tour of Angola or South West (Namibia) I cannot recall exactly. I do recall he had a motor bike and was assisting the bouncer with his duties. Ollie I persuaded to play a social hockey game with us. It proved rewarding but also costly for me personally. I did something stupid I’ve regretted ever since. Because Ollie was coming to play I decided to take the developed pictures I had taken of our tour together in the Melsetter area. When I showed them to Ollie he begged me for the prints, even offering to pay for them. Being generous I declined his offer of payment as I knew it wouldn’t break the bank for me to have another set made.  Stupidly I had left the negatives in the folder from the developer. Sadly after a very convivial night I must have dropped the folder somewhere. Next day I retraced my movements from the night before but sadly without success.

I had every intention of asking Ollie for the prints so I could arrange for another set of copies to be made. With one thing and another I never did get to have an additional set made for myself. Much later when I decided to emigrate from Rhodesia I even phoned Ollie – who worked for Biddulphs Furniture Removals – and arranged for Biddulphs to store my goods until I left for Australia. I still did not ask Ollie for the pictures so I could get a copy. 

I was amazed to see two of the pictures I had taken on the Rhodesian Guard Force website and have shown them here as I can identify each of the KCs and myself in them.

 


This picture was taken when we were heading to the White Rose on our way to stand down at Chikurubi. I cannot recall the guard’s name but from the left is yours truly – Junior Commandant ‘Randy’ Rees, KC Eddie Mendes, KC ‘Ollie’ Amerigo D’Olivera and KC Hans (can’t recall his Surname) Note the 42 Zulu on Eddie and Ollie’s G3s

 


Showing the two guards, Ollie, Eddie and Hans. The 42 Zulus Ollie and Eddie have are those I snivelled at Grand Reef from the Selous Scouts. The rifle and Zulu the guard is holding is mine he is holding it while I took the picture.


Showing a Puma. This was built on a Nissan chassis and power unit. The armour plating was very heavy and these vehicles weighed around 12 tons. If it hit a powerful land mine the idea was that the capsule would be blown off and protect the driver. Note the roll bars over the back where the troops sat


Shows the ubiquitous Land Rover sans doors – safer from landmine blasts but total exposure from ambush weapons. Little or no protection for anyone on the back but needs must and generally as I travelled around my area I would have one guard in the passenger seat and one on the back

 


Showing either a Kudu or a Kudu Ram. The Kudu was based on the Land Rover chassis and power unit whereas the Kudu Ram was based on the Toyota Land Cruiser and power unit.  The Kudu Ram only had 3 forward gears - the Toyota was based on the Chevy which only operated 3 gears at that time; as I recall Low, Normal and High - and personally I did not find it as robust, rugged or powerful as the Kudu. Notice the lack of a roof. These were attached by springs so in a landmine blast the roof could be blown off to avoid a build-up of the vacuum effect caused by the oxygen being sucked up by the blast

RUSAPE AREA ‘B’1

FIRST CALL UP

H

aving enjoyed four weeks as a civilian I was once more back in uniform and destined for the HQ at Rusape. I called at the White Rose with the CABS bus and was deployed to Rusape with a KC for Odzi, a KC for Headlands and a KC for Inyanga. There was an African Sergeant caring for Inyazura and I was to look after Rusape myself.

This was a huge sub - command stretching from the Mayo area – it was always referred to as the Makarekate TTL, stretching towards the Virginia Farming Area – down to Headlands, up to Rusape, down the Willows road, up to Inyazura then down to Dorowa Mine. From Inyazura up to Odzi and surrounds towards the White Rose and the Grand Reef turn off. From Rusape up the Rusape – Inyanga road to Inyanga. The Inyanga district including the Downs and up to Troutbeck. Then down the Inyanga – Penhalonga Road towards Kukiniswa Mission. I estimated I was responsible for locations within an area somewhere around 20,000 square Kilometres.

When I arrived I enjoyed a ten minute hand over from the officer standing down and he was gone, heading for Salisbury even though he was only due to stand down the following day.

My duties included visiting the Bravo HQ at the White Rose once a week to update the Strength Board and keeping the CO informed of what was happening in my area. Another duty I had was to attend a weekly mini JOC at Rusape. I was the most junior officer present yet I commanded the largest force in the area. The JOC was chaired by a Chief Superintendent (I can’t recall his name) supported by a deputy who was a Superintendent Grey (both BSAP), there was a Lieutenant – Colonel from the Rhodesia Regiment – not sure which Battalion he was from – who in civilian life was a director of the Cairns motor dealership at Salisbury which was a part of the TA Group. I’d met him at an inter Group Golf tournament but I can’t recall his name. There was a Major Kip (cannot recall his surname) from the Selous Scouts and then there was me from the Guard Force.

The Bravo 1 HQ was situated on Tapson’s farm. The farmer, Mr. Tapson had over the years been successful and built himself a mansion where he and his family resided. Considering he was doing his bit for the cause he offered the original house to the Guard Force to use as an HQ. One of his requirements was for the house to be used as accommodation by commissioned or warranted officers only and as administration offices and storerooms. He had converted an external storeroom/workshop into a barracks for the black guards and non-commissioned officers. He had built toilets for them and provided an el fresco shower with only cold water close to where they could cook their food. There was a stand pipe providing water for them to wash their dishes and utensils, etc. The fire they used to cook their food also provided heat to boil the water for hot water to be used in the house kitchen and bathroom.


Showing my vehicles and compliment of Guards at my HQ at Rusape. To the right is my Sergeant, in the centre is Corporal Farai and on the left another Corporal (I cannot recall his name)

 


Shows the HQ Sergeant taking the guards through their daily drill


Shows more drilling

 


Shows the medic simulating the administering a saline drip

 


Shows the guards relaxing while one begins to dance. Their spontaneity was catching and with only their incredible harmonies and hand clapping they could generate a terrific rhythm

 

 

Shows the guard rapping on the ground

 


Shows more drilling in front of the shed farmer Tapson converted into a barracks for the indigenous guards. Parked in front are my Kudu and Land Rover. At that time my Puma was written off, down the side of a Gomo

 


Shows the chain of command at my HQ at Rusape. In the centre is my Sergeant, to his left was one of the squad Corporals – an excellent guard and very good in the bush. To his left was Corporal Farai – he was very useful with our mortar. To the Sergeant’s right was my DB Corporal and to his right was my admin Corporal

Being of Africa I understood the situation and agreed with the farmer’s viewpoint. Where we differed was that I believed with minimum cost and a bit of ingenuity the facilities offered to the guards and black non-coms could be improved enormously. Through my civilian work I had called on some businesses at Rusape who were agents for the company I was working for at the time so relying on the goodwill I’d created I approached a couple of businessmen and with a little expertise and a few dollars from my pocket I managed to provide the blacks hot water for their shower. I managed to beg a stone sink off a farmer which I sited for them to wash their dishes in and even had hot and cold water delivered to the sink. My efforts were not lost on them and they realised though I was somewhat of a martinet I would always do the best I could for my men.

During that first call - Up I visited the farmers down the Willows Road included one farmer called Bassett and another who was a Rhodesian Front MP, Minister De Kok was his name. Mr Bassett was having a few problems with his guards which I resolved for him. Because of the way I resolved the issue Mrs Bassett befriended me and whenever I called at their farm she would have some baking delight for me to try. I never left their farm empty handed and worried about my weight. They were attacked during my call - up and though they had nothing but praise for the efforts of the guards Mr. Bassett said enough was enough. Apparently they had been targeted three times and he said to me he felt like he was playing Russian roulette with not only his life but that of his wife and family as well. He said he couldn’t justify continuing on the farm any longer and decided to sell up and move his family to Salisbury.

During an average call - up I would visit each sub - location at least once a week and the larger areas such as Inyanga and Inyazura I would visit two days a week. Being on call - up I worked 7 days a week no weekends off. Every day I would travel around 250 and 300 Kms so over a call - up I spent a large amount of time travelling somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 Kms.

I used to travel around the properties we were protecting along the Rusape – Inyanga road making my way towards Inyanga. Arriving at Inyanga I would collect the KC and we would visit a few of his farms before returning to the Police camp. Like Chipinga the police had accommodation for one Guard Force representative only. I was offered a camp bed in the KC’s room which I declined. I would have been addlepated had I accepted when there was a perfectly wonderful hotel - Troutbeck Inn - up in the mountains where I could stay. The hotel management – I believe the manager’s name was David something and the Housekeeper/receptionist/undermanager was Denise something - were only too happy to have me stay as it gave them a bit more security for their few guests and staff. They offered an extremely good tariff but there was no a la carte menu only chef’s special – still a three course meal.

Initially I took Kapuke and ‘Mombe with me but after the first stay Kapuke asked me if I minded if they too stayed at the police camp as they were uncomfortable at Troutbeck and it was also expensive for them. I could have ordered them to stay with me and paid their bills but to me that would have been bloody minded. I wanted to stay at Troutbeck not them, so I simply agreed. Thereafter I would leave the police camp as the sun was setting and I alone would drive up to the hotel. In the morning I would have an early breakfast and drive down to the police camp where I would collect Kapuke and ‘Mombe and with Malcolm (the KC) we would visit other farms in his area.


Troutbeck Lake as viewed from the 18th hole


Showing the lower tier of rooms at Troutbeck Inn. I had a personal interest in Troutbeck as my brother, a civil engineer was involved with the project responsible for the building of the lower tier


Showing the spillway at Troutbeck lake. This view is on the western side of the spillway opposite to Troutbeck inn


Troutbeck Inn showing the lower and upper tier. With the 18th hole in front. Behind the upper tier across the car park was a third higher and much older set of rooms. To me the lower tier rooms were the most luxurious


Al Fresco terrace on the upper level at Troutbeck Inn


Showing the cross over from the 18th hole looking towards the 17th across the lake. When I played golf here having finished the 17th one could take the safe way by heading across the walkway then down the fairway to the 18th green or for the brave hearted there was a tee opposite the 18th green and one could tee off across the lake and with luck land on the green with an excellent chance of getting an eagle or birdie. Though I once scored an eagle and several birdies I also lost a number of balls in the lake. It was from the17th fairway Troutbeck was mortared during a terrorist attack


Shows a waterfall on one of the main streams feeding Troutbeck Lake

 


Showing the mountainous topography surrounding Troutbeck Inn. Because of the lay of the land some of the holes on the golf course were challenging to say the least. I recall one hole where you teed off from an elevated tee aiming for a green some 150 feet below and perhaps 300 metres away as the crow flies. At another the green was buried between surrounding boulders which made it unsighted to golfers until they arrived to see what they had achieved. It was a disaster if you shot hit the boulders as your ball could end up anywhere and many a stroke or three was dropped at that hole as the air turned blue with the colloquial language used by the cool, calm and temperate golfer.

Other incidents of note which occurred during that call - up.

First incident:

This incident occurred along the Rusape – Inyanga Road. The Government had issued an edict in terms of which farmers had to install security fences around the homestead and the compound where their labour lived. Most farmers co-operated but as always there were a few who bucked the system and knew best. A couple owned a beautiful smallholding along the road to Inyanga and it was obvious the landlord was an excellent manager because everything was in its correct place and the homestead was extremely well appointed with the compound for his labour force being clean and neat.  When I called on him and his wife he proudly showed me the diamond mesh fence he had erected around his labour force compound. Not only that but he had built an accommodation for the guards within the compound.  Looking towards the homestead it too looked secured by a diamond mesh fence and the owner – as I recall, his name was Green, though my recent researches have failed to confirm his name, perhaps being a smallholding he was not considered a farmer as such, hence his name not being included on the Roll of Honour for Farmers who lost their lives during the Bush War. He told me the guards on duty patrolled around the homestead grounds during the night.

When we walked towards the homestead I couldn’t believe my eyes. The diamond mesh fence was not a continuous fence at all but a series of overlapping offset screens.  When I broached the subject Mr. Green said he simply was not prepared to live in a cage and what he’d done was as far as he was prepared to go. I argued with him but to no avail, he wouldn’t budge claiming as a smallholder he was exempt from the Governmental Edict. Amazingly his wife agreed with him saying to all intents and purposes anyone looking towards the homestead would see a continuous fence and anyway they had guards patrolling during the hours of darkness. I was never sure if they smoked happy grass, were simply naïve or were mental retards. Anyway when I finished my call - up nothing had changed even though I raised the matter at the mini JOC in Rusape. Later I heard a group of CTs had simply walked right up to the open French doors and shot Mr and Mrs Green while they sat watching their television. I felt sorry for them but was annoyed at their stupidity and the despondency their unwarranted deaths caused in the local community and the country as a whole.

Second incident:

This occurred at Headland. I had completed a tour of Mayo down to the Makarekate TTL and on my way back to Rusape I called into Headlands Police Station – where the Guard Force KC was based – to catch up with him. When I entered the reception area of the police station there was an African male sitting on a bench with a smug look on his face while next to him there was another African youth wearing a strange looking contraption on his head which was also supporting a local axe with the head buried into his skull. Seeing the KC I called him aside and asked him what was going on.

Apparently over a period of weeks a fire breathing monster had been terrifying the local shopkeepers in the TTLs. He would chase them from their stores and when they returned the shopkeepers would find the register empty and several items of stock stolen. Being so superstitious they rather let sleeping dogs lie than report the theft to the police.

Over confident the monster had pushed his luck too far and he attacked a shop where the shopkeeper wasn’t overawed and afraid. He in turn attacked the monster burying his axe in its head and he then promptly arrested the monster and brought him to the police station. The youth – the thief – had been quite ingenious and he had made a metal ring he could place on his head. To the ring he had attached several bicycle lamps – as a gimmick some manufacturers produced various coloured lamps, green, red, blue, orange and yellow, even purple. The thief had attached eight different coloured lights to his ring making a helmet. Using his ingenuity he connected the lamps to a bicycle generator he adapted so he could operate it by hand. Once darkness set in he would position himself near the shop and when there were no customers he would crank up the generator and with the lights flashing and flickering he would shamble into the shop frightening the shopkeeper half to death. In an eerie voice he’d tell the shopkeeper to flee or risk being eaten alive. His ploy had worked for several weeks but now he not only had a very severe headache but also faced the prospect of going to jail. I was incredulous at the African’s ability to bear pain with such stoicism, had someone buried their hatchet in my head I doubt very much I would have been sitting in the reception area waiting to be attended to and charged.

The shopkeeper was sitting next to the ‘monster’ preening with all the attention he was receiving. Later after the thief had been taken under guard to the Rusape hospital I spoke to the shopkeeper to confirm his story. He explained how he had been terribly afraid at first when the ‘monster’ appeared at the door of his shop but fortunately as the ‘monster’ stepped into the shop he tripped over the threshold. Attempting to save himself from falling the ‘monster’ stopped cranking the generator causing the flashing lights to go out. In the dim light of the hurricane lamp on the counter the shopkeeper realised the ‘monster’ was only a man intent on theft. He said he became very angry because the foolish thief had frightened him and because the thief was much bigger than the shopkeeper he grabbed his axe and hit the thief on the head. Unfortunately he could only hit him once, “because the axe got fixed in the thief’s head’ [sic].

Third incident:

Two farmers Mr. A Purcell-Gilpin and a Mr Peter Purcell-Gilpin were killed on the 4th March 1979 in the Headlands area. Though their deaths occurred during my call – up I cannot recall either of them.

Fourth incident:

This was a significant incident and really raised my ire at the idiotic and infantile attitude some members of other forces had towards the Guard Force – sadly their feelings were not always baseless as we certainly did have our fair share of ‘wankers’ to contend with.

Down the Willows Road the Right Honourable Mr De Kok, Rhodesian Front MP, had a farm. He had been a successful farmer and like Mr. Tapson had reserved the best site on his farm on which to build his mansion in the future when he’d made his pile. The original homestead he built was utilitarian but modest in comparison. He called me and thanked me for the guards posted on his property but as he and his wife and family were going on holiday he was asking for some more guards to protect the older house as he had received information the CTs were intending to attack and burn both houses to the ground and to steal his livestock including his two pedigree bulls and his pedigree Marino rams while he was away. I promised to do the best I could and arranged for an extra half dozen guards to be deployed at the farm. Later I called on the farm and split the guards into two groups each under the control of an experienced Corporal who had spent time guarding the farm in the past.  I explained what had to be done and left word that if there was any trouble the senior Corporal was to call my base so I could advise them what to do. I had also explained to them how I would react and what they needed to do in the event of an attack.

Two nights later around 9 o’clock I got a frantic call from the senior Corporal saying the CTs were attacking the farm. According to him there had to be, ‘hundreds of Magandanga Eshe’ [sic]. Fear is a great exaggerator I’ve found, though in fairness to the Corporal in the cold light of day we did establish firing positions of nearly 100 attackers. The Corporal told me they were resisting the enemy but needed help before their ammunition ran out. Notwithstanding the Standing Order regarding the use of vehicles at night I told the Corporal I would be coming to the farm. Because I knew the farm I asked him from where the Magandanga were firing and established they were firing from the east side, away from the road and nearer the border. I explained to the Corporal we would approach the Magandanga from the north-east and engage them from that position. I warned him when the guards on the farm heard other firing of G3s they were to cease firing as I didn’t want to get shot by my own men. He said he understood and would I please hurry.

I loaded 30 guards on the Puma – I know totally overloaded - and if we had hit a biscuit tin I would have been in deep shit as it would have been pure carnage. I gave Fazo, the driver strict instructions to stay behind me and to eat my dust. I was in the Kudu with 10 guards – none were sitting or wearing seat belts – holding on for grim death. We blazed our way down the Willows Road and I trusted to my luck. I believed the road would be safe at that time as the Magandanga had not yet reached the roadway. They had obviously walked in from the east and I was certain more likely they’d come from the south-east, from Dorowa Mine way. My reasoning was they were too far from the border to simply make a mad dash during the hours of darkness and needed a place to hole up for at least one day as they made their way back to safety. Down the south-east around Dorowa there was plenty of open land with kopjes and scrub in which to hide.

A few hundred metres from the farm gate I pulled onto the verge of the road followed by Fazo.  I left two senior Corporals and 6 guards to protect the vehicles while we were away. Thirty four of us created a sweep line and headed through the barbed-wire fence onto the farm and made our way across to the far side.  We could hear the doof, doof of the guards G3s and the rat-a-tat-tat of the AKs and RPD. We even heard the crump of the mortars as they were fired at the farmhouses.

We were close to the Magandanga having walked parallel to them from the west though much further north. When I considered it safe we walked due south which had brought us behind and to the north of the CTs. I signalled to my Sergeant and senior Corporal indicating we were to take up our firing positions. They knew the drill, nobody would fire until I commenced firing. No matter how much training or how much you beat the guards most of them simply fired blindly trusting either the noise would kill the enemy or the bullets when returning to earth having been fired straight up into the sky would do the damage . Fortunately they were not all bad and in fact some were downright bloody good soldiers. I was fortunate to have a few of those and I was also blessed to come across Kapuke whom I’d first met at Dindera in the Mudzi district of Operation Hurricane. We knew each other and he had obviously spread the word about me at Rusape and it had certainly made my life easier. I knew he was a damn good soldier and calm under fire as well as being a better than average shot.

 It eventuated that I used Kapuke and another guard – as I recall his name was something like Muswewemombe – I simply called ‘Mombe, the Shona for cow, as my personal Land Rover guards. Kapuke sat in the passenger seat and ‘Mombe rode on the back. He was a cheerful young guard who loved to sing and whenever the prevailing wind was in the right direction or we slowed down I’d hear him singing away. Sadly he was a bum shot and closed his eyes when he fired his G3 straight up into the air. He was one of those believers who thought the falling bullet did the killing. I left him with the vehicles but Kapuke stuck to me like glue.

We were moving into our firing positions when we heard a loud swishing sound and saw a ball of fire heading directly towards the old farmhouse. The farmhouse had a very dry thatched roof and the Terrs had fired a RPG or a SAM7 at the roof – later it was confirmed it was an RPG incendiary grenade – we all saw the explosion and the fireball as the grenade burnt with a fierce heat which soon had the thatch burning wildly. Cursing I stood and fired at the silhouette of a CT backlit from the burning thatch. As soon as I fired, Kapuke, having selected a target, open fire. Hearing us open fire the rest of the guards fired. In the firefight the guards at the farmhouses hearing us open fire held their fire – testament to their discipline – as I had ordered. Meanwhile the CTs being suddenly attacked from a sector alongside them and not near the farm houses were disturbed, especially as our volume of fire confused them as to how many enemy were attacking them. Had they been superior soldiers we would have been in trouble as they outnumbered us about three to one. Fortunately they were, in the main, poorly trained and as superstitious as the guards. In short order they broke off the attack and headed off towards the eastern border as fast as they could go.

We could hear some wounded CTs moaning and groaning in the dark but there was no way I intended to offer them succour until sunup. I quickly ensured the safety of my own men and very fortunately the only issues I had was a sprained ankle and a small shoulder wound. I applied a field dressing to the wound and the guard said he was fit to go. Not much I could do for the sprained ankle other than to tightly wrap a bandage around it. I don’t profess to know much about the medical field but I think simply by being concerned and attempting to assist the guards with an air of confidence helped them overcome the trauma of their injuries.

We couldn’t stay where we were all night and I needed to get in contact with the guards at the farmhouses without being shot by my own men. With the cessation of firing they were concentrating on putting out the fire. While the fire burned brightly I decided to take advantage to let the guards at the farmhouses know I was around. The easiest way to get their attention was for me to remove my cammo shirt exposing my white torso. The sight of a white man should steady itchy trigger fingers long enough for the guards to recognise us. Kapuke and I reached the farmhouse undetected and I quickly removed my shirt. When we came face to face with the guards attempting to put out the fire we were fortunate they had momentarily abandoned their rifles as they were focusing on killing the flames with beaters or water. Seeing us they froze and before they could panic and dive for their rifles I addressed the Corporal in charge. Relief flooded his face and his white teeth gleamed in the firelight.  I ordered him to tell all the guards as well as the other Corporal at the new house I was among them and taking charge.

Taking Kapuke I retraced our steps to the perimeter of the farm and making contact with the Sergeant and guards I led them to the burning farmhouse. I quickly organised a perimeter guard and soon had the others helping me remove what furnishings we could. Once the roof burnt through and started to collapse we would have to abandon our efforts retrieving goods from within. We had cleared over half the rooms when with an almighty crash the roof collapsed sending sparks flying a hundred feet into the air. I was fearful some sparks would land on the roof of the new farmhouse while others would set the bush on fire. I believe God was watching over us and fortunately the slight breeze was blowing across the new farmhouse towards us and assisted in keeping the sparks away from its thatched roof. Because we were in the rainy season and as Mr de Kok had back-burnt his land previously the growth was green and not good to burn. Other than a few singed areas no fires broke out.

As the fire died down we stacked the furniture and other goods in a barn where it would at least be out of the rain and sun. With the fire under control we settled down to get some sleep during the remaining hours of darkness. The guards were alert as we didn’t need any more surprises that night. At first light I examined the shell of the house and realised there was little more we might save. I could only hope the de Koks’ had removed all precious mementoes from the old house.  I ordered a Corporal to conduct a mine sweep of the road from the farm gate all the way to the vehicles where they were to tell the guards they were to remain there until I called on them. Meanwhile I, the Sergeant and twenty guards – including Kapuke and Dondo went out to where the CTs had sprung their ambush.  Getting close I left the bulk of the guards with the Sergeant and taking Dondo, Kapuke and a Corporal Farai, I very carefully moved forward. I could see three bodies in a small clearing. They weren’t moving but you never knew until it was too late unless you applied the patience of Job and were alert to all nuances.

 I scanned the surrounding bush and luckily I did for I saw a foot moving spasmodically. That CT was definitely alive and possibly armed. I gave Corporal Farai my rifle and withdrew my Beretta pistol (a personal weapon I took to the war with me, useless except for close quarters) and ploughshare knife. The knife had a 9 inch blade of tempered steel as used for a ploughshare and had a razor edge. Carefully I approached the wounded CT and managed to place my blade across his windpipe. Fortunately he understood English and when I told him to lift his arms above his head he complied. His smell was rank as he had messed himself in addition to the sour smell of fear sweat. I moved around and was surprised he was still alive. His shirt was saturated with blood as he had been shot twice through the back with the bullets exiting through his chest. I removed his AK – 47 away from his reach as well as the Chinese stick grenade he was partially lying on. I had Kapuke tell him in the vernacular I meant him no harm as long as he behaved himself and I would also attend to his wounds. I told Kapuke to tell him if he tried to harm us Kapuke would just shoot him through the head. The CT nodded as Kapuke presented me with my trusty vest. I injected half an ampoule of Sosegen into the CT’s chest to ease his pain and then opened his bloody shirt exposing the wounds. They were frightful and I pushed as much of the flesh back into the holes as I could. Fortunately for him neither shot had punctured a lung so his breathing was not affected. Using field dressings I secured four of them to his torso. I gave him the remainder of the Sosegen and offered him a water-bottle. I called the Sergeant and had him get some guards to make a litter to carry the CT back to the burnt out farmhouse. Corporal Farai, Kapuke and I then checked the three bodies I’d first seen in the clearing. One had been shot through the side of his head and must have died instantly. A second had been shot through his face and the third through his chest close to his heart. The second like the first would have died instantly but the third would have died more slowly. It was easy to see the first two had died before they could booby trap their bodies but not so the third. Carefully I tied a piece of stout string to his right arm and reaching the extent of the string I applied pressure to turn the dead CT over. It was as well I did for he was holding a stick grenade in his right hand. Obviously had he lived when we arrived he would have pulled the string killing himself but us as well.

In my note book I noted their positions and wrote down the serial numbers of their weapons. I had some guards carry them back to the farmhouse. We looked around and Dondo found three blood spoors leading away from the farm. We marked the trails and Dondo through Kapuke explained to me how the CTs had positioned themselves. They had spread out in a line along the fence before commencing the attack. We could easily see where the mortar base plates had been and even from where the RPG had been fired as there was some wrapping which had been removed from the rocket. I asked Dondo how many CTs he estimated had been in the attack and he said around 100. We didn’t find any more wounded or dead CTs so we headed for the new farmhouse. I washed my hands and arms at the farmhouse and was about to fetch my vehicles when I saw two Rhino’s and a Land Rover arrive at the gate. As I approached the mine patrol arrived at the gate and the Corporal informed me they had completed the clearance and were almost back at the farm when the SB passed them. Thanking him I sent them on their way and went to meet the SB. In addition to the SB Section Officer there was an Inspector as well as Superintendent Grey. I recognised Superintendent Grey and he asked what had happened. Apparently some locals had heard the firing during the night and at first light had driven to the Rusape Police Station and reported what they had heard. The reporting locals were well known to the police as they were reliable informers hence the cavalry arriving at the farm. Superintendent Grey said they had at first thought I had been out with my vehicles and had been ambushed when they saw them on the side of the road. That was soon put to rest when they spoke to the Corporal in charge of the vehicles and they had hurried on to the farm.

Superintendent Grey cursed when he saw the burnt out shell of the old farm house and the idiot Inspector asked what he expected as the wankers from Guard Force had simply messed up again. I addressed him and told him in no uncertain terms if it hadn’t have been for the wankers from Guard Force Mr de Kok would have lost both houses as well as his livestock including his pedigree bulls and rams and also all of the furnishings from the burnt out homestead and in addition there wouldn’t be any bodies for the idiots from SB to play with or wounded CTs to interrogate. Superintendent Grey could see I was on a short fuse and quickly defused the situation. He gave the Inspector short shrift for his disparaging remarks and asked me to account for the situation. At the end he shook his head and said what I had done was commendable but bloody irresponsible as I had totally ignored Standing orders. I didn’t respond and simply showed him the wounded CT and the three dead bodies.

The Inspector began to berate me for moving the bodies and destroying the evidence. Sarcastically I spoke to him as I would to a five year old explaining I had made a sketch of the location where the dead bodies had been, as well as identifying their weapons. And in addition I said we had marked the three blood spoors we had found. Sheepishly he apologised and asked if I could show him the site. Off we all trooped and they soon realised it was a large group of CTs that had attacked the farmhouses. The Inspector quickly organised sticks to follow the blood trails but whether they found anything I can’t recall. The Section Officer had been sent off with the sticks while the Inspector interrogated the wounded CT until Superintendent Grey said enough and he was taken to the Rusape Hospital under guard. I left them to it and collecting my vehicles I returned to my base. I can tell you I was bloody proud of my men when I heard them all singing the Guard Force Song. Sadly I don’t recall much of it but it went something like this.

“Terivana eguardforcee, terivana ecunjeta…………..”

I formally reported the complete incident at the next Mini JOC we held at Rusape having already reported it to the CO at the White Rose. Later when Mr de Kok returned from leave he personally sought me out and thanked me for my efforts as well as personally praising the courage of the guards in their attempt to protect his property. He agreed the old house roof was just waiting for a spark and the rocket certainly provided that.

SECOND CALL-UP

I

arrived at Rusape to find two KCs at the HQ. Apparently the same officer I had met previously had brought the KC from Inyanga to Rusape to accompany his 2IC, another KC until I arrived so he could take off for Salisbury. What a war we were fighting, that evening the one KC suggested we go to the Crocodile motel for dinner and I agreed but I made a mistake and instead of taking command straight away I agreed to his suggestion that he drove the Land Rover. Second mistake I made was when he suggested the three of us should travel in the cab together. The one KC drove the Land Rover while the other worked the clutch and changed gears with the same amount of success as you can imagine. I kept my counsel but resolved at the motel I would take over the keys and I alone would drive us back to base. That is what happened and next morning I collected a third KC from Headlands and took all three to the Hotel at Rusape where they would catch the CABS bus back to Chikurubi after it had been to the White Rose.

Once again I had a KC at Headlands, a KC at Inyanga, the same African Sergeant at Inyazura and myself at Rusape.  My KC for Inyanga had arrived at the White Rose in his private vehicle and because the KC he was to relieve had already been transferred to Rusape the CO agreed for him to drive his own vehicle to Inyanga on condition I agreed. I had no issue as long as the KC didn’t use it during his call-up as he too, like me would be on call 7 days a week. I think the KC’s name was Malcolm but again I cannot recall his surname. He was based at the Inyanga Police Camp.

This was an interesting call-up for several reasons which I have set out below.

i)            From the previous call-up I had established a rapport with a farmer in the Inyanga district. He farmed trout and made trout pate which I rather enjoyed. At the end of each call-up I would call on him and buy several boxes of pate which I kept frozen until I required to eat them. They were delicious.

 

ii)           At the mini JOC Major Kip (cannot recall his surname) from the Selous Scouts approached me and asked if we could draw up a roster separating the guards from his African men. Embarrassed he told me he was getting upset each time his men returned from their visit to Vengere Township with black eyes, split lips, missing teeth and broken bones. Apparently like their white counterparts the black Selous Scouts jeered the black guards. Sadly for them the African guards didn’t suffer any feeling of inferiority complex, they considered they were the equal of the black Selous Scouts and to prove the point they would fight them at Vengere Township with the Selous Scouts coming off second best.

 

How this came about was partly my fault. I realised early in the piece that not all guards had to stand guard duty each night and there was little or nothing to entertain those off duty. Each morning I held an inspection parade and I would select between 15 and 20 guards who had put some effort into their turnout and I would allow them to go to Vengere Township from dusk until midnight. This bred competition between the men, gave them something to do with their spare time and they could get a pass as their reward. I hadn’t counted on them destroying the Selous Scouts thus embarrassing their illustrious leader.

 

I agreed with Major Kip something had to be done for after all we were supposed to be on the same side. We agreed that on alternate nights he would send his men to the township and on the other nights I would send the guards. This eliminated the fisticuffs and saved a lot of face.

 

iii)         This call-up was over Easter 1979 and I was very touched by the young girl who worked at the Post Office. Each week I would go to the Post Office to collect our mail and became quite friendly with the staff. On Maundy Thursday I called to collect the mail as usual and without looking at it I wished the two ladies at the Post Office a Happy Easter and left to return to my base. At the base I sorted the mail and found an envelope addressed to the boys of the Guard Force. I opened it and the young lady at the Post Office had bought an Easter Card for the Guard Force in appreciation for what we were doing during the war.

 


 Showing the envelope I was given. It is addressed to: “To all the boys in Guard Force, Box 72 Rusape”.

 


Showing the cover of the card I received. It shows a hare being flicked skywards off a see-saw, which makes sense of the printed words inside.

 


Showing the words written inside the card “To all the boys in “Guard Force’, God Bless and a happy quiet Easter to you all, love, Lorna”.


Showing the printed words inside the card.

 

Fortunately it was a quiet Easter.

iv)         The war had been escalating and though we were winning in the field, economically Rhodesia was bleeding to death.  With the insidiousness of a terminal cancer our so called western allies from days gone by were squeezing our one and only ally, South Africa. Kissinger held meetings in Pretoria and the gist was if South Africa didn’t apply pressure on Rhodesia to chase up a settlement she herself would be subjected to enormous pressure from her western allies. When your own sovereignty is threatened you have to look after your own people first and consequently enormous pressure was applied. In hindsight all it really did was to force South Africa to abandon her policy of Apartheid and to have open elections resulting in majority rule. The western world has lost all sense of integrity and honour all they wanted was easy access to the vast riches of Africa. At what price though. One simply has to look at Zimbabwe and even South Africa today to see what our once allies have destroyed, God rot their septic souls.

 

With the enormous pressure being brought to bear Ian Smith had no choice but to attempt to broker a reasonable situation for the country he loved and cherished.  It was agreed to create Zimbabwe – Rhodesia with two rolls which allowed all people to have a vote. The first election for whites was held on the 10th April 1979 and then the general roll for Blacks, Coloureds, Asians and Chinese were to vote at an election on 21st April.

 

All members of the forces were entitled to vote and I had to arrange for the guards to attend the voting booths. To avoid verneukery – derived from the Taal (Afrikaans) - or finookery as we Natalians used to say. In simple English this means to swindle which was what we had to prevent as the locals were apt to vote numerous times.  To prevent this the powers that be decided to make each local impress his thumb on a stamp pad. The dye residue could not be washed off easily or quickly and took a week or two to completely disappear. Thus it was easy to pick out voters who had voted previously. Trouble was the locals were very superstitious and believed we whites were pulling a fast one which would result with their thumbs rotting and falling off. Even the Guards were extremely suspicious until I impressed my own thumb. Having done so they had little choice but to follow suit.

As we now know within a few months the land we knew and loved would be changed forever being called Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

 

I recall South Africa lending Rhodesia many military vehicles to transport Pfumo re Vahnu auxiliaries around the country to the various booths. These were supporters of Muzowera, Sithole, etc who had now come out of the bush and had to be absorbed into the Rhodesian forces.

 

v)           I had to attend to the Basset’s farm yet again as the guards were playing up and needed some discipline to bring them back onto the straight and narrow. It always seemed that they began their nonsense after dark and so once again I had Fazo drive the Puma in front of me in my Land Rover – it was no joke eating his dust but better than going into orbit as a result of hitting a biscuit tin. Problem solved at the farm I was returning back to base when a duiker, confused by the lights of the Puma, made a dash across the road in front of me. I simply picked up a movement through the dust and had no chance of avoiding the buck and all I heard was the crump sound as it went under the Land Rover. Being a conservationist I stopped to check the duiker’s condition – I couldn’t bear to think of it severely injured and suffering - it had broken its neck when it went under the Land Rover and was quite dead. There was no point leaving the carcass on the road so the guards loaded it on the Land Rover and off we went. Reaching the base I told the Sergeant he was to skin out the duiker and the guards could share out the meat except for the rear legs. I intended to roast one for myself and to present the CO at the White Rose with the other, if he was interested. Commandant Hallak was interested and he gave the leg to his cook to prepare for him. You may recall in the beginning when I was doing my initial training at Chikurubi there was a recruit we called JC well he became Commandant Hallak’s cook at the White Rose. I guess as he was a vegan and a pacifist it was the best he could get without becoming a Conscientious Objector and possibly going to jail or being forced to leave the country. I enjoyed my leg which I roasted myself.

 

vi)         That was the last time I saw Commandant Hallak as he was replaced by another Commandant – a much younger man whose name simply escapes me. The Bravo HQ also changed location yet again and relocated to the Grand Reef Airbase. In addition to the Blue jobs based at the airfield there also was a base for some Selous Scouts and I think the SAS may have also been located there. And of course now Guard Force was also located there.

 

vii)        The first time I met the new CO at our weekly meeting we got on well and were chewing the fat when he suggested I better go and assist the Sergeant-Major write up the Strength Board. I explained it was all in hand as my Admin Corporal had already done the update while we were talking. The CO was amazed and when I explained the benefits of using a full time guard who had continuity of service to update the Board he immediately saw the benefits and soon after ordered the OCs from Melsetter and Umtali to do the same.

 

viii)      On the 01/05/1979 a farmer, Mr. M D Cleave from the Juliasdale district was killed by the Makandangas.

 

ix)         At the mini JOC on 23rd April Superintendent Grey asked me if the Guards could put on a demonstration as the Battalion of the Rhodesia regiment based at Rusape, the RAR, Black Boots and Selous Scouts would be doing so on Saturday 5th May as a demonstration to show the locals what defences Rhodesia was providing for their protection. I readily agreed and on my return spoke to the Sergeant and senior Corporals. They were excited and very enthusiastic and Corporal Farai said he had seen a movie where some Americans demonstrated with their rifles. He offered to demonstrate the moves for me and I was impressed but suggested a couple of minor changes. The game was on and every day at every opportunity the guards practiced the routines.  

 

My Sergeant showed me a carved wooden drum without a hide covering and suggested if I could get a skin they could cover the drum and it would greatly enhance their performance. I had seen a hide on a barn wall at a farm in the Odzi area and quickly approached the farmer who was only too willing to donate the skin. In due course the drum was recovered beautifully and one guard was appointed as the drummer and beat maker. How right the Sergeant was, the beat lent precision to the movements and I had no doubt the crowd would all be impressed.

 

With some of the excess hide the Sergeant and the Corporals made me a swagger stick of bamboo covered with hide. In frustration I would beat recalcitrant guards much as boys were disciplined at school at the time. Unfortunately I broke many of the canes presented to me to mete out punishment, hence the presentation of the hide bound swagger stick. Once the hide dried it was as hard as iron and I never broke that stick and still own it as a proud possession.


Showing my ‘swagger stick’ bamboo cane covered with cowhide, presented to me by my Sergeant on behalf of all the HQ compliment in appreciation of my efforts in obtaining a cowhide for their drum – also to give me a stouter swagger stick as I had broken several previous sticks carrying out discipline drills.

Saturday duly arrived and the squad I was taking to demonstrate were spick and span. Their uniforms and weapons were magnificently turned out and they were extremely careful mounting the Puma so as not to mar their turnout. The only guards not involved were three on guard duty at the base and a junior Corporal who was also the radio/telephone operator.

When we arrived at Rusape we took out place and as usual Guard Force was to be last. This time I didn’t mind as it would allow us to measure our performance against all those going before. I promised the guards some free beers if they performed well which went down a treat. To show good faith on the way to the demonstration I purchased four crates of beer for the guards. Not enough to get drunk but sufficient to allow them all a couple of beers each. I had also arranged at the hotel for some sadza and meat – enough for my 46 men.

The parade commenced with each unit marching down the main street past the dais filled with VIPs and dignitaries. Each unit marched separately and saluted as they marched past the dais. I was surprised at the lack of enthusiasm and poor quality of turnout. Finally it was our turn and I proudly led my men past the dais in unison keeping the pace through the beat of the drum. The guards were immaculately turned out and having marched past the dais the squad did an about face keeping the time until I marched to the new front and marched them back to the dais. We did not salute this time but halted in front of the dais and I explained to the dignitaries that the squad would now perform a demonstration for their entertainment. Corporal Farai led the squad through their paces. It was a performance of precision, not a rifle was dropped, not a movement out of place. Some of the moves were dextrous to say the least and drew several gasps from the crowd as they appreciated the efforts the guards had gone to. All the while the drummer played the beat to stimulate the movements. When they finished their demonstration the applause was deafening and the VIPs were rewarded by huge smiles from the guards. The Sergeant fell the squad in and re-joining them I saluted the dais before I marched them off the parade while they sang the Guard Force song accompanied by the drum. Dismissing them at the Puma I told them I would take some with me to the hotel to collect their food and of course they had the beer I’d purchased previously for them. I joined the VIPs for some snacks and a few beers myself and was rewarded by the many thanks for the efforts the guards had gone to. Major Kip and John Grey had the courtesy to congratulate me on the performance of the guards and I was well satisfied Guard Force had held up their end and won many kudos that day.

Sadly there are people in this world who through their own inadequacies or jealousies cannot abide others bettering them. When I returned to the Puma the Sergeant was looking very sad and certainly not acting in a celebratory manner. When I quizzed him he simply showed me the drum they had so proudly repaired and used to such wonderful effect. Apparently feeling cock-o-hoop after they had eaten the Sergeant suggested they repair to the rear of the hotel where they could obtain some more beers. When they returned to the Puma they immediately saw someone had slashed the hide covering the drum rendering it useless.

I had my suspicions as to which unit had destroyed the drum but had no positive proof. I told the guards not to worry as I would get another hide from a farmer for them. When I visited the farmer at Odzi he was full of praise as he and his family had travelled to Rusape for the march past and he was only too happy to have played a small part by providing the original hide.  When I showed him the damage small-mindedness had wrought on the drum he was really annoyed and demanded that I take the matter up with the police. I explained we had no proof only suspicions so there was not much to be achieved from approaching the police. When I said I would seek another hide so the Guards could repair the drum again he was enthusiastic and said he had another hide from a heifer he had slaughtered after it had broken its leg. I offered to buy the hide but he refused point blank saying it was his pleasure as the Guards were the smartest on parade and the only unit who not only entertained with their demonstration of rifle handling skills but also with their fantastic harmonies as they sung the Guard Force song. 

x)           I received a call from the CO at Grand Reef advising me that Lieutenant-General Walls the Supremo of the Rhodesian Defence Forces was coming to Rusape and I had been ordered to meet his plane when it landed.

I duly complied and was surprised to find all the representatives of the mini JOC present. As the plane landed we formed up from the most senior nearest the door of the plane. The BSAP being considered the First Force – though not military – took first position; the Chief Superintendent, Superintendent Grey and a Chief Inspector from the Black Boots. They were followed by the Second Force –the Army in order of seniority; the Lieutenant-Colonel from the RR Battalion and Major Kip from the Selous Scouts, and finally myself representing the Forth Force.  General Walls alighted from the plane and the Chief Superintendent saluted on our behalf which General Walls acknowledged as he walked down the line of us representatives of the mini JOC. Arriving in front of me he asked who I was and then cutting me off, he addressed the others by saying he would be travelling with me and he would see them all at the Police Station where we held the mini JOC. The earth physically shook as several jaws dropped to the ground at the Generals declaration.

 

I soon realised the General was one step ahead. He obviously knew who I was before he addressed me. And I was to discover he had his own agenda when he advised me to take the scenic tour to the police station.  While we meandered to the police station the General told me he had a dilemma. He was obliged to allow an American journalist freedom to wander around Rhodesia to obtain first hand experiences by travelling around the various routes we encountered during the war. The safe green routes where only occasional incidents occurred, orange routes where one had to be alert and ready for action which could quite possibly occur and red routes where anticipation of action was the norm.

Unbeknownst to me my actions at MP De Kok’s farm had not gone unnoticed and my name was thrown into the hat, in addition reports of my nocturnal visits to the Basset homestead were also debated and finally my travel arrangements when visiting Inyanga. The upshot was I was to be ordered to play nanny to the Yank Journo when he arrived.

 

I was left in no uncertain frame of mind that the General was relying on me to take the journalist wherever he wanted to go. A lowly Junior Commandant does not argue with a Lieutenant-General but simply acquiesces to his demands which is exactly what I did. When we arrived at the police station the General advised me our arrangement was between us and nobody other than my CO need know what had transpired. His last words on the subject were that I was to meet the journalist at Grand Reef the following day.

 

Entering the room where we held the mini JOC the curiosity was palpable yet none present raised the matter in front of the General. They would wait until I was on my own in an attempt to intimidate me to find out what happened. The Chief Superintendent was most put out as he had assumed the General would travel with him. More curiosity was to follow for when the General was ready to return to the airfield he told the others he would travel with me and there was no need for any of them to come with us.  He suggested on the way to the airfield that I travel to Grand Reef to brief my CO after I had seen him off at the airfield.

 

I did that and when I returned to my base I had several urgent messages to contact Superintendent Grey as soon as I could. I delayed returning his call until the following morning. He didn’t directly order me to tell him what had happened but made it clear he felt the mini JOC had a right to know. I suggested had General Walls wanted the mini JOC to know he would have told them himself, however, if he really insisted on knowing I suggested he contact my CO at Grand Reef. That brought a pause on the line and I assumed Grey was consulting with the Chief Superintendent who wanted to exert pressure. I broke into their private and whispered conversation by advising that I had to go as I was late for a meeting at Grand Reef. Superintendent Grey asked when I would be back and I simply said I wasn’t sure but he could contact me through the CO at Grand Reef.  Leaving my Sergeant in charge at Rusape I took off for Grand Reef. From my visit the previous day The CO had suggested I take the journalist to Inyanga as it was picturesque and contained all the different coloured routes he wanted to encounter.

 

It seemed a practical solution to a problem I had been given. I admit I wasn’t enthusiastic playing baby sitter to a journalist as in my civilian life I’d already had a bad experience with lying journalists. Anyway I duly collected the Yank from our base at Grand Reef and we set out for Inyanga. By all accounts he had been in some hairy situations like Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Iraq and Iran. From what he said I assumed I had been wrong and he was serious about finding out the real deal for himself. I explained we would stay at Troutbeck up in the mountains and each evening I would advise which route we would travel the following day. He seemed excited about travelling down red routes but suggested we do a couple of green routes first so he could get the feel of the land.

 

We called in at Inyanga Police Camp and I introduced him to the member – in-charge and they seemed to hit it off well enough. So much so the member-in-charge invited us into the Body Box which was the name for their pub. To be sociable I had a beer then excused myself so I could speak to Malcolm – the KC. Being responsible for the journalist I decided we would leave for Troutbeck around four o’clock to allow him time to settle down.

 

He was sociable and could spin a good tale and at dinner he had the Troutbeck security guards in his thrall. Denise was more sceptical and circumspect and even David was reticent in his acknowledgement of the Yank’s supposed exploits.  After dinner I explained where we would go the next day, it being a green route and Denise told me only two days before some workers from the Montclair casino at Juliasdale had been revved by some Gooks at eleven o’clock in the morning when they were taking the earnings to Umtali for banking. Luckily nobody was hurt but the car had been hit 19 times as they sped past the ambush. I nodded philosophically as we were at war after all. The yank seemed excited at the prospect of action and said he was really looking forward to our adventure in the morning.

 

Not in a particular rush I took a leisurely breakfast and then sat in the window overlooking the lake enjoying a cigar and cup of coffee while I waited for the Yank to appear. By 9.30 I was getting a bit annoyed as I’d eaten at seven which I considered late and here half the morning was already gone. I was about to go to his room to knock him up when Denise came up to me with a smirk on her face. She said my friendly journalist had just called reception to enquire if I’d left and finding I was still waiting for him asked Denise to let me know he was not up to travelling today. He said he must have eaten something that didn’t agree with him and he had slept little during the night. He said I should go about my business and he was sure tomorrow he’d be fit as a fiddle. Shrugging my shoulders I set off to the police station and collecting Malcolm we visited a few farms in the area.

When I returned to Troutbeck Denise’s smirk had developed into a grin as she told me of the miraculous recovery the Yank had as soon as he saw my Land Rover disappear. He had recovered so well he even cadged a lift off the security guard who was going to Inyanga to collect the mail and some supplies. Sure enough at dinner he was right as rain and telling his war stories like there was no tomorrow. I advised him we’d do a green route the following day if he was up to it. But it was our last chance if he wanted to go down an orange and red route by Friday. Nodding his head sagely he said yes that would be in order and I left him with the others as I said we needed to be on our way by eight o’clock at the latest as I intended to visit some farms on the Inyanga – Umtali road as well as calling in at Kukiniswa Mission.

 

The situation was the same as before except at eight o’clock I advised Denise to tell the Yank I couldn’t wait any longer as I needed to visit several farms that day.

When I returned he had the decency to blush when he said his bad turn started during the night and creased him again. He suggested we had one more chance to do the green route and then an orange and red route on Thursday and Friday respectively. I shrugged and said I’d be leaving at eight o’clock the next morning. Denise’s grin had broadened somewhat during the day. She told me by nine o’clock he was as right as could be and had asked the security guards to take him to the Police Camp. Denise said for me she would accommodate my tame Yank but I was building a debt with her –big time.

 

When I went to breakfast the following morning the Yank was waiting for me, which surprised me. He said he was right as rain and raring to go. After breakfast we set off and I collected Kapuke and ‘Mombe from the Police Camp and off we went.  As we drove past the Montclair I mentioned it was the casino where the workers who had been revved came from. It had an amazing effect on the Yank and he wouldn’t shut up. Turning down the road to Umtali I pointed out there were numerous positions ideal for ambushes. I was trying to be helpful but it seemed to have an adverse effect on the Yank for he clammed up real tight and spent all the time to Kukiniswa checking out for Gooks everywhere. Anyway we completed our visits and nearing two thirty I suggested we head back to Troutbeck as I didn’t want to tempt fate. The Yank was all for it and the closer we got to Troutbeck the more voluble he became.  After dropping off Kapuke and ‘Mombie he went quite until we started the long climb up the mountain to Troutbeck then he resumed his chatter natter. I hadn’t had such an ear bashing in a long while and the beast inside me wanted to twist the Yank’s tail so I mentioned the time Troutbeck had been revved. It had the desired effect and he shut up assuming the ‘looking for Gooks under every bush’ look. He was very relieved once we arrived back at the hotel. He’d asked me a dozen times why I didn’t order Kapuke and ‘Mombe to come to Troutbeck with me. I explained once and thereafter simply shrugged.

 

At dinner I told the Yank that Thursday morning I’d like to leave at 7 o’clock as we’d be driving down an orange route. One of the security guards asked where I intended going and when I told him he said rather me than him thank you very much.  I happened to look at the Yank and his face had a look of sheer horror on it until he caught my gaze. Suddenly he was Mr. Tough Guy nodding his head sagely letting me know he was right with me. Leaving them to go to bed I said to the Yank I would not be waiting and I looked forward to seeing him at 6. 30 for breakfast.

 

Obviously I left at 7 o’clock on my own and when I returned that night Denise giggled as she told me my pet Yank had said he had another rough night yet by ten o’clock he was fine again. I was in a sombre mood because one of the farmers Malcolm and I visited had told us three of his workers wives had been raped by Terrs only the day before when they went to the river to do their washing. The Terrs had told them to tell the farmer they intended to attack his farm very soon. I asked Denise if she had heard anything and she said none of her staff had mentioned it but she would check with the cook. Later he admitted he had heard something like that had happened but he was too afraid to speak of it. Using the phone at Troutbeck I called the Member-in-Charge and told him what I knew. He said he could do nothing if Terrs had been responsible for the rapes as none of the locals would point them out in fear of reprisals. I thought how hard it must be if you were black. The whites threatened you if you didn’t cooperate and the Terrs threatened you if you did. The major difference was you knew the whites were restricted in what they could do by their laws whereas the Terrs new no bounds and perpetrated some horrific acts on their own people.

 

At dinner I told the Yank it was a pity he was indisposed again as it had been an interesting day and he assured me teams of wild horses couldn’t prevent him from coming on the red route tomorrow.  He lost a bit of his enthusiasm when I said I would be leaving Troutbeck at 6 o‘clock and I asked Denise if I could settle up that night.

 

 That night a school teacher at Inyanga was targeted by the CTs. Under cover of darkness they crept up to her house and laid an anti-tank mine just in front of the left front wheel of her Renault 4 car which was parked in her carport adjacent the house. Next morning when she started for school she set off the landmine which blew off the complete front of her car. Miraculously she escaped with massive shock and some minor abrasions and bruises. Unfortunately the aftermath was far more perturbing as she decided there and then to leave Inyanga and so did several other residents who were shattered at the temerity of the CTs to walk right into the village, not a stone’s throw away from the Police Camp to lay a mine.

 

Back at Troutbeck I discovered my tame Yank had miraculously recovered from his complaint, so said an openly laughing Denise and being so well he had enjoyed a round of golf and attempted to tickle a trout. His credibility had been severely dented through his actions and the lustre of his war stories had worn paper thin and even the sycophantic security guards were becoming disenchanted by him. Fortunately tomorrow we would be checking out and I’d be returning him to Grand Reef.

 

 

 

Next morning I left Troutbeck at 6 o’clock - on my own. I was annoyed with the Yank as I knew that he knew I couldn’t go anywhere without him. So I would have to come back to collect him. What a day it turned out to be. I collected Kapuke and ‘Mombe from the Police Camp. Malcolm asked if I minded if he didn’t come as he had a blinding headache. I suggested he went to the doctor at Inyanga as he could be suffering from dust inhalation. I’d suffered similarly during my National Service and had never known such pain before.

 

Off I went up over the Inyanga Downs to visit the Hanmars among others who farmed the Downs.  I recall walking into the foyer of one of the brothers home and seeing a racking containing somewhere between 50 and 100 leopard skulls. When I enquired why so many he had said to me not nearly enough. He wanted to kill them all. I thought it a bit drastic until he asked me how many sheep and especially lambs had I seen alive but dying because their entrails had been ripped out by a leopard, in fun. He told me of counting thirty dead and dying sheep after a leopard had some fun in a single night.  I saw his point of view. The Hanmars owned 90,000 acres of forest in addition to their sheep enterprise as well as some other mixed farming. Their farms were very picturesque but a bit of a nightmare to protect as they had the forests and were slap bang against the border in parts. The Cordon Sanitaire did separate them from Mozambique but over time the CTs had created pathways through the mine field, so much so they could run flat out down some of the lanes they had cleared. I was told some tracking resources spent their war searching for ingress and egress points which were then marked for the engineers to reseed with mines. A tedious job but one vital to keep the CTs out.

 

On this particular trip the older brother was concerned as he said his younger brother who farmed nearer the border had received information that a group of CTs had crossed his land on their way towards Inyanga. He and his guards had set ambushes but without success and one of the guards had shown where the CTs had come within yards of the ambush and then veered away to avoid a confrontation. What was perturbing was that they seemed to know where the ambushes were being set so they could avoid them. For reasons of their own the CTs didn’t want to disturb the Hanmars by direct confrontation preferring to use their land for a pathway to other targets.

 

Later on in the war it was discovered that the CTs had established large cache of arms on the far western border of the older Hanmars land. They would cross from Mozambique carrying their AKs and not much else other than a number of porters carrying additional food products and mainly mines, grenades and ammunition. The porters would remain at the cache re-joining the CTs when they returned to their base in Mozambique. This particular set up operated for a number of years and showed organisational ability way above that usually encountered. It was also established that the cache was a staging drop point from which armaments were moved down towards the Umtali farming areas. By this time the CTs were pushing for control of the Honde Valley and once gaining a foothold they could focus on the farming areas through Odzi, Inyazura towards Rusape.

 

I advised Mr Hanmar I would drive around their properties to see if I could find anything worthy of reporting. This was done more to allay his fears rather than expecting to find anything of interest. The Forests were not conducive to finding anything on the firebreaks and I didn’t have time to spend quartering the 90,000 acres. I had an uneasy feeling something untoward was about to happen. That feeling stayed with me all the way back to Troutbeck though my searching at the Hanmars had revealed nothing.  I told Mr Hanmar that I would come back with more guards and we would do a night patrol around his property hoping to surprise some CTs. I duly arrive a day or so later with twenty guards including Kapuke Mombe – who while not the greatest soldier had terrific night vision and a fantastic desire to preserve his skin -and Corporal Farai. We stayed at the farmhouse until darkness set in and having had our meal we checked for rattles and satisfied we headed for a patch of the bush with the pungent odour. Squeezing the leaves we smeared the juice over our exposed areas. This killed our smell but also deterred even the most determined mosquito. We were all wearing our tracker boots and I had Mombe and Corporal Farai in the van with me next. I had taped a powerful torch to the underside of my barrel. If we had a contact I surmised it would be at very close quarters and I’d rather be able to light up my target while causing some difficulty seeing me.

Off we went and we heard and saw nothing until the early hours of the morning. It was around two o’clock in the morning when we came across an outcrop of rocks. As we neared the rocks something rose on top. I’d told the guards no firing until I fired. I was suffering a massive adrenalin rush as I switched on my torch ready to shoot my enemy as soon as he was in sight. This is what I saw.

The light startled the Leopard for an instant and then all we saw was a flash of tawny speckled hide disappearing at great speed into the darkness. I gulped air and held it in my lungs as I calmed down slowly letting it escape from my body. I heard many sighs around me as the guards released their own tension. We were all would tighter than a watch spring. Regaining calmness I had the patrol move out, we were all very alert after that incident.

 

A few days later I headed up the road towards Nyamapanda as I had guards on a far flung farm where they were growing nut trees. The farmer had put a hundred acres under several types of nuts and had explained to me it was a labour of love for the first few years until the trees matured and started to produce a crop. I cannot recall his name – other than everyone called him Jock - but I do recall he was of Scottish descent and had come from the Highlands of Scotland and was endowed with enormous patience. He must have been in his fifties though he kept telling me as soon as the trees were producing he intended to write to the lass he had been stepping out with for many years and to ask her to become his bride. Whether he succeeded in his quest I have no idea.

 

Anyway here I was on my way to his farm which was very close to the border as the roadway was at its closest to the border only a mile or two south of his property. Similar to the Hanmars he had been left alone as though the CTs would rather he remain untouched thus keeping the SF away from that part of the world. I was uneasy as I travelled and my focus was enhanced. Even Kapuke seemed on edge. ‘Mombe wasn’t singing which could only mean he too was worried.

 

Suddenly a group of CTs charged out of the bush on the western side of the road heading for the border. Seeing my Land Rover the leader – a light skinned man, possibly a renegade Portuguese stopped and opened fire at us. I swerved across the road attempting to put him off his aim. For once ‘Mombe had the right idea and pointing his G3 at the group he opened fire on automatic. That caused them to break off the contact and they ran like the wind towards the border.  There were only seven of them, including the light skinned man. I was bloody annoyed at their effrontery and quickly I stopped on the roadside and taking Kapuke and ‘Mombe with me we set off in hot pursuit after the CTs. I was fit and I knew Kapuke and ‘Mombe were the equal of the CTs. We started to gain but rather than stand and fight the CTs were encouraged by the light skinned man to keep on running. It suddenly hit me the light skinned man may be a Cuban as it was known there were a number assisting the CTs. They were fighting with SWAPO in South West Africa and some had been allocated to helping ZANLA in Mozambique.

 

What a coup it would be if I could wound the Cuban. Imagine the effect on the so called Western World if we could present a live Cuban to them. We had laid claim to such support on numerous occasions only for the western media poo pooing such an idea. This gave me the strength to increase our pace and we gained on the group ahead. Suddenly the border was in sight identified by the Cordon Sanitaire and I realised the CTs would be in it before we could get into range. I made a decision and stopped and quickly opened fire. The exertion of the chase was not conducive to accurate firing but I knew enough to control my breathing while I fired. Kapuke had hit the ground and set up his Bren gun and he began firing. ‘Mombe feeling exposed was also firing but straight up into the air with his eyes closed all the while muttering and moaning. When I fired I hit the Cuban and two other CTs picked him up and were running him towards the Cordon Sanitaire It was a target Kapuke couldn’t resist and both he and I opened up of them The Cuban and one of the CTs dropped to the ground in death while the others fled into the Cordon. They had a way of running while firing their AKs over their shoulders. It may not be accurate fire but it certainly was prophylactic as nobody knew where the bullets were going. As soon as I saw them reverse their AKs I too hit the ground and pulled ‘Mombe down with us. We continued to fire after the five CTs speeding through the Cordon and Kapuke, with the accuracy of the Bren gun hit one and we saw him stumble. He was only wounded because he regained his feet and carried on running to the safety of Mozambique. Gaining what they considered their freedom the CTs stopped and turning fired at us. Stupid, as the AK for all its many attributes was not an accurate weapon over any distance whereas the Bren gun was not as fast or robust but it certainly was accurate firing its .303 round, capable of hitting a target nearly a mile away. Kapuke was an exceptional shot and with his Bren he managed to wound another CT which was enough for them and they quickly dispersed deeper into Mozambique.

 

Carefully we approached the two bodies lying in the dust near the Cordon Sanitaire. Both were dead and I was saddened that we hadn’t managed to capture the ‘Cuban’ alive for now all we had was another dead body. Examining him I saw where I had hit him in the rear left buttock but Kapuke’s shot had hit him in the back and had penetrated his heart. The other CT Kapuke had shot in the back of the head which made a massive mess of his face. I searched their pockets and other than some money, a dirty handkerchief, a crushed packet of Marlboro cigarettes and a box of Lion matches the CT had nothing else on him. The ‘Cuban’ was more productive he had a wallet containing a lot more money, plus a photo of a woman and two children. He also had a stained letter in an envelope. The writing was what I took to be Spanish – Cuban, neither of which I spoke. He also had a wristwatch and in a holster on his belt he had a Tokarev pistol and a pouch of ammunition. His AK was also superior to the other CTs being a beautiful folding butt AK. I had Kapuke remove the CTs boots and sure enough both had an extra supply of money hidden in their boots. Removing the notebook from my back pack I drew a reasonable sketch of how the bodies were lying when we first arrived as well as their position in relationship to each other and the Cordon Sanitaire. Under each body in the sketch I listed their possessions. Beneath the sketch I quickly jotted down some notes to assist me with my report which was inevitable after any incident.

 

Being so isolated and only three men I told Kapuke and ‘Mombe to remain with the bodies while I fetched the Land Rover. I drove the Landy to the bodies and we carefully loaded them and their AKs. I then marked the spot where the CTs had entered the Cordon Sanitaire as the engineers would need to reseed that part again. We returned to the gravel road and drove to – ‘Nut’ farm – a standing joke with Jock who claimed that anybody mad enough to farm in the district had to be a little bit nuts. Jock and his guards were filled with curiosity at the dead bodies and Jock agreed it was a pity we hadn’t managed to keep the ‘Cuban’ alive.  I curtailed our visit as I had to take the bodies to the Police Camp at Inyanga. 

 

I reached the Police Camp around one o’clock and reported what had transpired to the Member-in Charge and asked for the SB representative. The Chief Inspector said I obviously hadn’t heard about the schoolteacher and her landmine incident. He quickly filled me in and said the SB officer was still at the scene. The Chief Inspector suggested I should have left the bodies in situ for the SB to examine but as soon as he saw the bodies and the number of us involved he laughed and said I had to be mad chasing 7 CTs with only 2 men. I suppose in hindsight like Jock I was a little bit nuts myself. I certainly was no superhero, I simply possessed an enlarged sense of fairness and justice. I had taken umbrage at somebody who had been hell bent on killing me was all. We removed the bodies from the Land Rover and I went inside with the Member – in – Charge to enable him to type up a report of the incident.  He gave me a form onto which I copied the sketch I had made in my notebook. He was amazed at the details I had recorded yet to me it was natural as I simply applied the same rules as I used in my civilian life when I was troubleshooting among our Group Companies.

 

Suddenly we heard laughter from outside and I recognised Kapuke’s laugh so I went to the door closely followed by the Member-in-Charge. What I saw caused me to lose my cool instantly. Before my eyes I saw the bloody Yank standing next to the Cuban’s body with his right foot resting on his chest while he was pointing a G3 at the Cuban’s dead head. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat as he stared into the camera Kapuke was holding while he took the picture.  I growled at my guards telling ‘Mombe to get back his rifle as he knew nobody but he was ever to touch it. I asked Kapuke who had given him permission to take pictures and to get rid of the camera by returning it to the owner. I told them both I’d deal with them later. Turning to the Yank I belittled him by saying while we were at war we respected out dead enemies. We didn’t go round having trophy pictures taken and we certainly never stood hipshot with a foot resting on the slain enemy so would he mind terribly removing his foot. That was as far as I got as the Member-in-Charge took over. With steel in his voice he told the Yank to hand over his camera and without ceremony the Member-in-Charge ignoring the Yank’s protests removed the spool of undeveloped film and handing back the camera he ordered the Yank to wait for me at the Body Box. I didn’t blame Kapuke or ‘Mombe as they had been brought up in a society where the white man had to be obeyed at all times but I had to get through to them the differences between white men.

 

Completing my report with the Member-in Charge we heard a vehicle arrive, it was the SB representative returning from the incident of the Schoolteacher’s car being blown up. He was looking worried as he entered the office because he had heard so many locals voice their concerns over the attack in the village.

He asked about the bodies and was about to have at me for moving the bodies from the site when the Chief Inspector held up his hand. He explained what I had told him and the SB Section Officer calmed down. Mention of the Cuban had his full attention and we trundled out of the office so he could perform a closer inspection. When he found the letter he was excited but also realised that we could not use the dead Cuban to our advantage as we could had he been alive. Nevertheless he did let slip that he must have been someone of importance considering his weapons and the amount of cash he was carrying. Establishing the site he said he would go out first thing in the morning as he doubted the site would be disturbed in the meantime. The Chief Inspector said he would contact the engineers to reseed the Cordon Sanitaire.

 

I left the Charge office and started my Landy to drive to the Body Box to collect the Yank. As I put it into reverse I broke the gear shift off leaving a stump of about six inches sticking up. This was a fault in the Rover gearbox design and I recall my brother breaking the gearshift in my Dad’s Rover 90 and again in his Rover 100. I recall my father telling my brother he was a bum driver and used brute strength instead of finesse. I disagreed with my father as I was a driver who used finesse but sometimes war situations caused the finesse to disappear. Obviously coming under fire this morning had affected my gear changing and I had weakened the gear shift. Because this had happened to me in the past I had acquired a short length of water pipe which I inserted over the stump which at least allowed me to change gear so I could drive to the CMD to have the Landy repaired.

 

I drove past the Body Box and saw the Yank waving frantically at me. Tough, he could wait I had a more important date with the CMD. I knew the chief mechanic at the Inyanga CMD as he had replaced the gear shift once before for me. When I arrived and explained my dilemma he shook his head and was about to tell me I was a bum driver when he noticed the bullet holes in the front of the Land Rover. I knew they were there as I had checked the front of the Landy at the contact site. The Cuban had hit the Land rover three times with his automatic fire. Because he knew how a rifle rose when on automatic fire he had commenced firing at road level. One bullet had ripped through the steel bumper, one had penetrated the mudguard and the third had hit the roll bar as I swerved the Landy across the road.

 

Suddenly the chief mechanic was all serious and I explained what had happened and he assured me I could call on him anytime day or night if I needed a repair. I explained about the Yank and the need for some transport. He kindly offered me a Leopard and said I could collect the Landy the following day. I returned to the Body Box to collect the Yank. He was still upset with me but I couldn’t care less. I felt I had done my best and it was he had shown his true colours. Fortunately should there be repercussions I had a number of witnesses available.

 

We set off for Troutbeck so he could collect his kit before we headed off for Grand Reef. I was embarrassed when Denise presented him with his bill and he refused to pay saying he was a guest of the Rhodesian Government and he had assumed I had been told so. He said it was my fault the matter hadn’t been clarified at the beginning. I’d really just about had enough of this bloody Yank and said to Denise to add it to my bill as I would be back tomorrow to return the Leopard and I’d be staying the night at Troutbeck when I would personally settle it.

 

Leaving Troutbeck I couldn’t wait to get to Grand Reef to rid myself of the Yank. Of course travelling in the Leopard was different to a car or even a Land Rover. For protection the whole body of the vehicle was like a capsule so if we hit a landmine the blast would shatter the vehicle but the troops in the capsule would survive with little or no damage. This meant there were no windows only a small slit between the roof and the walls of the capsule through which the troops could return fire in an ambush situation. The driver had a small armour plated glass windscreen. Because it was so expensive the windscreen was very small. To enable sight of the rear view side mirror there was a metal flap which could be opened to give access to the mirror.

 

Driving along the road to the turnoff just after Juliasdale I glanced at the internal rear view mirror and saw the bloody Yank trying to stick his nose outside through the gap between the roof and the wall. I pulled over and asked him to please resume his seat and to put his seatbelt on as I was responsible for his safety. As if speaking to  a five year old I explained that as the afternoon was moving along and evening would soon start to close it was a dangerous time to be travelling about, especially so close to the border. The CTs were known to ambush vehicles at this time as they knew by the time the SF had managed to organise a pursuit darkness would be coming in to be their ally. That made the Yank sit up and take notice and he asked incessant questions about the protection offered by the Leopard.

 

Reaching the turnoff I thought, ‘Thank you God, not much longer now.’ I had the Leopard doing its top speed and the Yank said he thought it a bit reckless travelling at such speed. I assured him it was necessary as at speed we could possibly be through an ambush before the CTs realised we had entered the killing ground. That made sense to him and he implored me to go faster. Silly bugger, what did he expect, it was only a VW Beetle engine trying to push along a few tons of reinforced steel, not a lightweight car body. Still I managed to sit at around 60 mph. We flew past Kukuniswa Mission heading towards Penhalonga. Through Watsoma, not far to the turnoff to Moyo wa Shumba – my first home when with Group 4 Honde Valley PV protection – down to the intersection with the main road between Rusape and Umtali. Turn right and head for the turn off to Grand Reef. The sun was heading closer to the western horizon as I headed down the road to the airport. Clearing the main gate guard I headed for the Guard Force HQ. The Yank who had been very quiet outside the gate was now quite voluble. He made it clear he needed the toilet in a hurry. I told him to stay in the vehicle until I had cleared the situation with my CO. I explained we were not the only unit based at Grand reef and mention of the Selous Scouts and SAS seemed to terrify him so he quickly changed his tune from arrogance to pleading with me to hurry as he was becoming desperate. I entered the HQ and the Sergeant- Major greeted me and went to advise the CO I was wishing to see him. I was shown into his office and offered some refreshments which was most welcome. While I waited for the tea I told the CO of my adventures with the Yank. He shrugged his shoulders agreeing it was a pity the Cuban was dead and became quite annoyed and agitated when I told him how the Yank had disrespected the dead Cuban. I mentioned the Yank was still in the Leopard and getting desperate for the toilet. The CO still incensed at the lack of respect shown the dead Cuban said the Yank could piss his pants for all he cared. While we were drinking our coffee he sent a Sergeant to escort the Yank to the communal ablution block.

 

I told the CO the Yank needed to get to Umtali where he was meeting a representative of the Rhodesia Regiment who was to escort him down to Chipinga and Chiredzi and he had my very best wishes as well. The CO said a convoy was heading into Umtali in half an hour so the Yank could cadge a lift with them. I was relieved and said I’d best be getting back to Rusape to see what was happening since I’d been away. Before I left I introduced the Yank to the CO and I took off for Rusape.

 

Fortunately other than not being able to do my usual rounds for a week nothing untoward had happened at any of the locations I looked after. Next morning the chief mechanic said he hadn’t bothered repairing the bullet holes as they hadn’t penetrated any vital parts of the vehicle and they could be dealt with when it went in for its next major service. I checked in with Malcolm who wanted to know all the gory details of the punch up with the CTs and he told me the engineers had already arrived and had gone off to reseed the Cordon Sanitaire. The SB Section Officer had earlier gone off to where we had the contact.  I said to Malcolm as I was at Inyanga for the day we might as well call on a couple of his farms which we did. I was amazed it was as if I’d suddenly grown two heads and six arms and become a super policeman. Each farm we visited the farmer and his wife would treat me like royalty. Apparently the Agric-alert had been working overtime the previous evening. I later learnt the Section Officer spread the word to counter the negative effect the blowing up of the schoolteacher was having. As I said I am no super hero and though I had hindered the Cuban’s escape Kapuke was the hero as it was he who killed the Cuban and the other CT as well as wounding two others of the fleeing group.  If I had managed in my small way to give the community the confidence needed to stay on I was very happy to oblige. Leaving Kapuke and ‘Mombe at the Police Camp I headed for Troutbeck. Where I hoped to have a great meal, a few chibulis and a chance to relax.

 

When I arrived I greeted Denise and David – the Manager – and he asked me to spare him a few minutes of my time. In his office he asked me about the Yank’s bill and I said General Walls hadn’t told me anything about settling the Yank’s bills. I may have been guilty of being ignorant and perhaps I should have raised the issue but hadn’t so I would settle the bill from my own pocket. David said it was an unusual situation and usually the hotel would have been contacted by a Government Department if a guest was to be accommodated. They had received no such communication so had assumed the Yank was paying his own way. I explained that again I may have been guilty as it had been at my discretion where we stayed. Because I always stayed at Troutbeck I had simply brought the Yank with me assuming he would pay his way. David said he didn’t want to upset me by charging me too much for the Yank especially in view of what had happened yesterday. To me that had gone far enough and I simply asked him for the Yanks bill. I knew I received very special and favourable rates as the hotel management were very grateful to have an extra rifle to assist with the protection of the hotel property and the guests.  The Yank wasn’t offering anything in that department so the hotel had every right to charge him the full tariff. David and I argued and eventually he relented and agreed to my paying half the regular tariff when I said I had every intention of recouping my costs from the General.

 

At dinner we had quite a few laughs at the Yank’s expense for he only once went with me down a green route and even then he nearly shat himself. Denise and David were horrified when I told them of the Yank’s disrespect of the dead Cuban and I realised the two young security guards were suddenly paying me a lot more attention than ever before. All I knew if the hotel was attacked I would want both of them in front of me as I wouldn’t trust either of them in a contact.

 

Next morning after breakfast I settled my bills and took off for the Police Camp to collect Kapuke and ‘Mombe before heading off to Rusape. When I got back I had received an urgent call from the CO at Grand Reef. I called him and went white with anger at his attitude. I was ordered to Grand Reef without delay and so I went off again. Arriving at Grand Reef I met the CO who was very annoyed with me. He didn’t say anything but threw a copy of the local paper at me and pointed to the article I was to read.  That bloody Yank had got his revenge alright. He had written an article and had it published in the local paper. According to him I was certainly not an advertisement Rhodesia would want to send overseas if they were looking for a sympathetic ear. He accused me of treating him with rudeness and derision. He intimated I left Troutbeck each day without giving him an opportunity to accompany me. He said I had again been extremely rude at the Body Box and had caused the Member-in-Charge to destroy his property without cause simply because I had shown total disrespect for a man I had killed. He accused me of grandstanding over the dead Cuban and in his disgust he had taken a picture of me as he had intended to use to expose my callous attitude.

 

He was a journalist and knew how to use words to full effect.  I understood my COs attitude for he was going to get it from General Walls in the very near future as no doubt I would, The CO told me he wouldn’t be at all surprised if I wasn’t Court Marshalled and cashiered out of Guard Force. Sure enough I was commanded to appear at General Walls office immediately and fortunately he had spared the CO any comeuppance. I contacted the CO and explained my summons and he wished me luck.

 

The General was not amused and asked me for my explanation which I gave him. He questioned me and asked me if anybody else could substantiate my claims.  Fortunately I had a good name in my area and people like Denise and David, the Chief Inspector and the SB Section Officer from Inyanga among others were more than willing to substantiate my claims. Support came for some unexpected sources as many of the Rusape farmers contacted the Prime Minister through the Honourable Mr de Kok explaining if anything was to happen to me they would have to rethink their support in the future for the Rhodesia Front. Apparently farmers from Odzi, Inyazura and Inyanga also joined in.

I was ordered to Salisbury a second time and the General showed what a big man he really was by apologising to me and saying he believed I had paid the Yank journalist’s bill at Troutbeck. I agreed I had and he told me to submit it to his office and he would see I was reimbursed, which he did. I was to meet with him again during my next call up but didn’t know it then. Thankfully the current call up was coming to an end and I was really looking forward to my return to Civvy Street for a spell of normality.

 

At the end of my call up a regular American Assistant Commandant arrived to relieve me and I had no recollection of his name but definitely of his actions. All I did recall was in an earlier life he’d been a policeman in Florida before touring through Vietnam and South East Asia in the military. I have since confirmed through my research that he was Jack Wilkie who apparently was OC GF Group Mike – I have no idea where that was – The text indicates Jack Wilkie was a Captain in the Guard Force. This was fallacious as the rank in the Guard Force was Assistant Commandant. The rank was the equivalent to an army Captain, however, generally the appointment and responsibility was far more onerous with the incumbent being responsible for thousands of square Kilometres of territory and large swathes of the indigenous population, in addition to the numerous white farmers and their families. He would also be responsible for anywhere between a Battalion’s strength and possibly two or three Battalions strength, depending on his role.

 

THIRD CALL-UP

M

y arrival at Tapson’s farm was less than I may have hoped for. I had an urgent message to report to Mr. Tapson as soon as possible. I had met him previously as he was a bit of a fuddy - duddy who would pay us surprise visits to ensure we hadn’t destroyed his property. What most of the OC’s who occupied the Rusape HQ didn’t know was Mr. Tapson had offered the Guard Force access to his old farmhouse for an extremely attractive rental on condition they respected his demands in the agreement.  One such demand was that only white officers would occupy the farmhouse premises as accommodation otherwise the various rooms were to be used as offices, for messing, storage or conferences. Jack Wilkie obviously had no knowledge of the terms of the rental agreement or had chosen to ignore them. When I arrived the Sergeant and all of the Corporals as well as a number of senior guards were being accommodated within rooms of the farmhouse. I knew the terms of the rental agreement and I also knew what Tapson wanted to see me about. I knew his demand was not racial for though the demand stated only white officers – at the time there were no black officers based at Rusape HQ – he didn’t trust junior ranks in his farmhouse. I did not blame him for I had seen young white hooligans destroy rental property through sheer vandalism, drug addiction or alcohol.

Sadly majority of the indigenous population had vastly different attitudes to what constituted a good, healthy culture. Were they wrong, no; simply different – having lived in a number of different countries since the Rhodesian Bush War I understand Tapson’s reluctance even more so as often I have been disgusted at the behaviour of Caucasians and so called advanced black people – and I believe we should be able to choose with whom we associate and who we wish to have enter and use our property. If that makes me racist then so be it. I called the Sergeant and asked why they were accommodated within the farmhouse whereas when I was based there before they were accommodated in the wooden outbuilding which I had improved for them. He agreed with me but said the white Officer before me had insisted they move into the farmhouse with him. Strangely the Sergeant didn’t seem enamoured with the change in his circumstances and being of Africa I understood why. We understood each other to a degree but only a blind fool would ever believe our cultures, thoughts, aspirations and desires were the same. After more than a century the Americans still haven’t figured that out, yet they like other so called western experts had the audacity, the temerity, the arrant arrogance to tell us we were wrong and didn’t understand our own people. I explained to the Sergeant he and the others needed to return to the wooden outhouse and happy rather than sad he went off to arrange the move.

I unpacked in the room I had always used and discovered on top of the wardrobe a hand grenade.  As we were not issued such materiel I assumed it had been left by Jack Wilkie. It worried me as I knew how curious the African is and some idiot would pull the pin to see what would happen and we would all be killed. I set off to visit Mr. Tapson and as I suspected he was unhappy with what had happened to his farmhouse. He was most indignant when ‘That American fool had accused me of racism. When those fools still hadn’t solved their own problem after 100 years’ [sic]. I explained how I had already set change in motion and instantly he was back on side. He had intimated he was considering cancelling the rental agreement, though I think it was more bluster rather than genuine threat. I based my conclusion on the fact that Mr Tapson had previously confided in me that he was extremely happy having so many armed soldiers on his property as it allowed him to sleep easy during the night.

One night during the first week Mr. Bassett called me around 7 o’clock and said he was having trouble with the guards as they were fighting among themselves. Ignoring the standing order and bloody annoyed I loaded the Land Rover and the Puma with guards. I had the driver Fazo, drive the Puma in front of me again and he thought I was mad as I would be eating his dust once we left the sealed road. He and the guards on the Puma were secure in the knowledge they were in a mine proof and ambush protected vehicle. I didn’t enjoy eating his dust or the grit in my eyes but for sure I preferred that discomfort rather than the effect of hitting a landmine.

We set off and arrived at the farmhouse with me and the guards on the Land Rover covered with dust but safe. The problem confronting me at the farm was due to a clash between civil custom status and military rank structure. One of the guards considered he was superior to the others as he would have been in civilian life. He was some sort of sub chief or other. However he had volunteered to join the Guard Force of his own volition and as with the British and many other armed forces military rank takes precedence over civil rank on active service. The issue at the Bassett farm was this particular guard was refusing to obey the lawful orders of the Corporal and when being forced had physically struck the Corporal resulting in a melee between the guards with some favouring the Corporal and others the sub chief. The situation was untenable and an example had to be made to avoid further repercussions. I ordered the recalcitrant guard to collect his kit and I promised the Corporal I would deploy another guard the following day.

It was difficult to apply the disciplinary punishments and recourse as practiced in most western armed forces as the indigenous guards simply couldn’t understand the concept of being punished sometime in the future for a crime committed say, to day.  In their society retribution was swift and once meted out the matter was closed, no records were kept and all was supposedly forgiven, that was the theory anyway. I recall trying to explain to some guards why their pay was less for a particular month than the month before. They had committed what could be considered dereliction of duty and had been fined. They simply couldn’t grasp the fact the fine had been imposed when they were charged but was deducted from their next pay-packet. 

Being of Africa and understanding something of the local people I understood their frustration and displeasure. So once I became an officer I introduced my own disciplinary methods. I would have the Sergeant translate the two alternatives available to the guilty party. Either they could accept my punishment with no record being maintained and no loss of pay or alternatively they could elect to be tried the Guard Force way – the official way - which meant a record being struck, a potential fine, a trip to the DB or even both depending on the seriousness of the offence and sometimes a loss of rank. If I considered the committed offence serious enough no alternative was offered and the guard was prosecuted in accordance with Guard Force laws. Some of the guards were better educated than others and did have some inkling of the nuances of our thinking and a number refused my punishment preferring to have a record and possibly a fine, though none ever refused my offer if a stay at the DB was in the offing.

That came about when a guard from the Inyanga area had committed a serious offence. When charged he refused my punishment and when I took him to the White Rose the CO suggested I take the guard to the DB at Chikurubi as he felt he needed to spend some time there contemplating his future. I duly delivered him and it so happened he was returned to me on completion of his punishment. He had a plaster cast on his left forearm and when I asked him what had happened he told me the wardens at the DB were ‘ver’ fierce’[sic] and treated the prisoners as numbers only. Because he didn’t perform his task fast enough for the warden, he had hit the prisoner with a staff – very hard – and broken his arm. Though he was in pain the wardens showed no mercy and made the prisoner continue with his chores for another hour before they took him to the medic. When I asked him if in future he was found wanting would he accept my punishment rather than the Guard Force system he nodded his head vigorously in the affirmative with a huge grin on his face. He said he would never again go to the DB as it was ‘Too harsh’ [sic]. Not only did he have a broken arm but he had also been fined for his crime and he received no pay or sustenance allowance while he was at the DB.

At Tapson’s farm there was a concrete swimming pool with a massive crack across the middle rendering it useless as a pool but very useful to me as a holding cell. The deep end was ten feet deep and where the pool was cracked the depth was still eight feet deep. At the crack I had the guards create a wall of timber eight feet high and from the shallow end to the wall I had got the guards to fill in the pool with soil.   The prisoner was lowered into the pit where he would spend an uncomfortable night before I formally charged him in the morning.

The next day I held Orders and offered the guard the alternatives and he elected to accept my punishment. I explained to him no military unit could act effectively if the individual members refused to obey lawful orders from a superior. It was then he started to argue saying he didn’t recognise that the Corporal was superior to him as in their society this simply was not true. The upshot was I sentenced him with dereliction of duty, failure to obey a lawful command and inciting violence among the guards. I sentenced him to a week of punishment before I deployed him again. I ordered the Sergeant to issue the prisoner with some old denim clothing we kept for prisoners and ordered him to commence the punishment, which consisted of physical exercise to tire the prisoner and then to make him uncomfortable he would be sprayed with the hose and then dusted down before being allowed to contemplate his future. 

An hour later I checked on the prisoner and could not believe my eyes. The prisoner was wearing the old denim but he was calmly sitting at the table used by the guards for their meals, having tea. I called the Sergeant and asked him what the hell was going on and he said the prisoner had refused to obey him and because the prisoner was some sort of sub chief he couldn’t force him to do anything. I threatened the Sergeant for disobeying a legal order and said he could be reduced to the ranks if he didn’t do as ordered and though he agreed and squirmed like a worm he wouldn’t force the prisoner to do anything. The situation was untenable and I couldn’t afford to let it continue so I took control. All the Corporals were watching to see what transpired as I ordered the prisoner to stand up and he ignored me continuing to drink his tea. I smacked the mug out of his hand and applied some discipline with the special cane the Sergeant and Corporals had made for me. It was a bamboo cane wrapped with dried cowhide – a swagger stick with a difference – which I still possess.


Showing my ‘swagger stick,’ a bamboo cane covered with cowhide against a tapestry of the Rhodesian Flag

I nicked his right hand and he was bleeding like a stuck pig. I didn’t care, I was bloody annoyed and needed to instil discipline fast or my HQ would begin to unravel. I ordered the Sergeant to put the prisoner in the pit and to advise him he was under close arrest. I then told the Sergeant and the Corporals that if the prisoner should try to escape they were to shoot him. I told them if they disobeyed my orders there would be consequences because tomorrow morning we would be taking the prisoner through to Grand Reef where he would be charged by the CO. I warned the Sergeant and the Corporals should any of them refuse to carry out my orders they would be charged as well and would definitely be visiting the DB at Chikurubi as well as being reduced to the ranks and possibly fined as well. 

Next morning I had Fazo drive the Kudu with the prisoner accompanied by the Sergeant, Corporal Farai, Lance Corporal Denis (I can’t recall his surname but I had promoted him as he was my admin clerk) and two guards. Kapuke and ‘Mombe accompanied me in the Land Rover as I set out for Grand Reef.

At Grand Reef I briefed the CO and he agreed the guard required to be disciplined but he’d deal with him at Grand Reef rather than send him to the DB. He too was of Africa and understood swift treatment was the best way with the guards.  He also had something I lacked, he had a huge Ndebele Sergeant he used to run his DB. As majority of the guards in Mashonaland were Shona the Ndebele had no interest in their private hierarchical order.

The prisoner was marched in by the Sergeant- Major and the CO screamed at him that he couldn’t talk to him as he was not turned out as a guard should be. He shouted for the DB Sergeant and ordered him to make the prisoner presentable before returning him for trial. As I had washed my hands of his punishment I had returned the guard’s uniform, removing the cast off denim I used for prisoners, so was bemused the CO had said the guard was not turned out as a guard should be. The only thing I thought wrong was the guard had grown his hair rather longer than the average African man wore his hair.

The prisoner was shattered at what was transpiring as he had held out his left hand with its bloody wrapping covering where I had nicked his hand hoping for sympathy yet here he was being forcibly marched off by a huge Ndebele Sergeant who grinned like a predatory shark about to attack.

The CO and I had some tea while we waited and shared a joke about journalists and American ones at that. There was a knock at the door and bid entry the Sergeant-Major marched in and said the prisoner was now presentable. The CO nodded and the Sergeant marched the prisoner in. What a change, he was once again dressed in cast off denim. The trousers had been converted to shorts and the shirt had no sleeves. The prisoner was also barefoot and bald. The barber had been rather brutal and several nicks were oozing blood. In short order the CO dealt with the prisoner and meted out two weeks punishment. The guard would suffer physically and lose some dignity but there would be no permanent record to affect his chances of promotion nor would he lose any pay or subsistence allowance. He would also be available for redeployment in a fortnight though he would not return to Bassets farm.

Back at my base at Rusape I received a message from Corporal Denis – the Admin clerk I had created – that an army captain wanted to see me at Inyazura. I was going through to check on the farms the next day so had Corporal Denis call the army base to let the captain know I’d call on him the next day.

I duly arrived and espied two whites doing jankers, probably because they were wankers. They were disrespectful in that they didn’t recognise my rank considering being Guard Force we didn’t count for much anyway. Hearing me arrive I was surprised when the captain came out to greet me. Unlike his wankers I saluted him as his rank was superior to mine. I was wearing my beret but as he had no head covering he simply braced up. I pointed out his men needed to be educated into the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Defence Act and the laws governing the military. He was a bit perplexed until I asked him if he recalled and understood his Commission Certificate. Looking at me askance he said of course he did and he recited exactly what it said intimating that his rank insignia indicated to the world at large that he represented the President of Rhodesia and he was charged with never bringing the President into disrepute. I agreed and recited the wording on my certificate which was identical. I explained to him I couldn’t care less if his wankers denigrated me or disrespected me but they better be very careful disrespecting the President. He agreed and in a loud voice called the miscreants doing jankers and dressed them down. In front of them he asked me if I wished to take matters further. Looking directly at the miscreants I said. ” Not this time but like Lieutenant-General Peter Walls I too am losing patience with idiots who believed they are above the law”.   Dismissing the wankers back to cleaning the vehicles the captain invited me inside.

He was a conscript as I was and he was probably 4 or 5 years older than me. I soon found out what he wanted to see me about. With the country becoming Zimbabwe-Rhodesia there was integration for the forces. This never affected me as Guard Force had always been 96% - 97% black but for the Rhodesia Regiment it was a massive culture shock. Suddenly from commanding an all-white company the captain had been allocated 40 black troops and 40 white troops. He didn’t have a clue how to deal with the blacks and wanted to pump me as to how I handled my black guards. When I told him I looked after in excess of 600 guards located over somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 square kilometres he blanched as he only had 40 black troops and his area was only the Inyazura magisterial district. I had arrived with Kapuke and Mombe and the captain mentioned how well turned out and respectful they were. I agreed and asked him how long his family had been in Africa. He was only second generation but even so I asked him how his family treated the blacks generally. He said they dealt with them at arms-length, never overly familiar but fair in their dealings. They gave respect and expected respect in return. I suggested he treat his troops the same way but agreed he had a hard row to hoe as he had to discipline his white troops if they did not treat his black troops as equals with respect but expected respect in return. He smiled for the first time when he said that was a minor issue as he had some brilliant support staff, especially his company Sar-major who was a martinet and the men all knew he was not to be trifled with. In addition he had some good Lieutenants to help him. After hearing his structure I thought how lucky the RR Bats and companies had been. Compared to them we had negligible support structure whether we were in keeps, looking after farms or patrolling.

I was to conduct the pay run at the end of June 1979 and decided to start down at Headlands and then tackling the guards along the road to Weya and Mayo. This was bordering the Makarekate Reserve, (this was what the TTL was called by the locals farming in the Virginia Farming Area behind Macheke though I cannot find reference to it on a map) next I would do Rusape, then Inyanga and lastly Inyazura and Odzi. At Headlands the KC borrowed a police vehicle and collected the guards from the surrounding farms and when I did the pay run at Headlands I would also take the opportunity to inspect the guards and if possible hold a practice shoot. There were also guards along the road to Weya and Mayo and because the guards were too far away from Headlands I would send Fazo to collect them and we would congregate at the Police Station either at Weya or at Mayo (I cannot recall the exact location) where I repeated the exercise as I had done at Headlands. At Rusape I went to the individual farms and installations to pay the guards which meant they did not get an opportunity to practice their shooting. I solved that problem by organising three separate shooting practices, one for the Willows Road farms, one for the Inyanga Road farms and one for the farms along the Inyazura Road. At Inyanga Malcolm would borrow a police vehicle and collect the guards and I would pay them and inspect them at the Police Camp and we would use the police butts for a practice shoot. For Inyazura and Odzi I would send Fazo off in the Puma early in the morning and he would collect the Sergeant from the Police Camp at Inyazura and together they would collect all the guards from the Odzi and Inyazura farms returning them to Inyazura where I would pay them, inspect them and sometimes do a practice shoot at the police butts.

To let us know they were around the CTs had killed a farmer called Breytenbach on the 25th June in the Headlands area. No matter, the pay run needed to proceed as the guards had to be paid. The Headlands run went smoothly and by lunchtime we had done the inspection and even managed a practice shoot. After a quick bite of lunch we set off for the Weya/Mayo Police Camp and for extra protection I drove in the Puma’s tracks. Because I suffered with my sinuses from the dust I wore a dust mask/respirator – making me look quite alien - which was very useful but when I reached my destination and removed my mask and goggles I looked like a clown with two very white eyes, a white nose and mouth area whereas the rest of my face and beret were covered in a layer of either red or tan dust. I didn’t give a damn, I’d rather look like a clown and be alive and pain free than to be all one colour, in pain and possibly dead.

At the Weya/Mayo Police camp I had a wash and slapped the dust out of my beret and cammo trousers and shirt. Kapuke and ‘Mombe did likewise and then we prepared for the pay run. While I prepared the packets, Fazo took the Puma to collect the guards. I was conducting the inspection after the pay run when Superintendent Grey and the Chief Superintendent arrived. They had flown down from Rusape considering it a safer method of transport than driving. After exchanging salutations I left them to conduct their business while I took the assembled guards to the butts the police camp used for some much needed shooting practice. Completing the shooting practice Fazo took the guards back to their farm locations while I commenced preparation of my HQ pay packets as I would be paying the HQ staff that night. The afternoon shadows lengthened as I waited for Fazo to return so we could head for home.

I was enjoying a well-earned coffee and smoke break when Superintendent Grey approached me with a worried look on his face. He said there seemed to be a problem with their plane and he wondered if I’d mind waiting a bit longer before returning to my base as they might require a lift back to Rusape with me. Fazo was still dropping off some guards so shrugging I agreed to his request. Around five o’clock Fazo returned and I wanted to get off as it was not the best time to be travelling. The police had still not received confirmation regarding the availability of their plane so I told Superintendent Grey I would wait until five thirty but no longer as darkness would set in before we reached the tar road. He asked me to give them a bit more time and being junior in rank I had little option but to agree. If their plane arrived they would be home safely at Rusape before I was even half way down the dirt road from Weya/Mayo.

Fortunately for me not long after they received a call saying their plane would not be ready to collect them that night and they best make whatever arrangements they could. Superintendent Grey asked me how I intended to accommodate them and I said they could either ride on the back of the Puma or I could have Kapuke ride in the back of the Land Rover with ‘Mombe and he could sit in the middle and the Chief Superintendent on the outside in the door-less cab. I explained how we usually travelled on dirt roads with me following Fazo in the Puma until we hit the tar when I’d move to the front. It would be dusty but we’d have less chance of hitting a mine following closely in the Puma’s tracks and being in the dust we should escape any ambush at such a late hour.

The Chief Superintendent was appalled we did not have radio contact with my HQ and simply trusted to our luck and prayers for our survival. He realised though his choices were limited to staying at the Police Station at Weya/Mayo or trusting my ability to get him back to Rusape safely. The prospect of staying at the Police Station had little appeal as there was no food or even a spare bed and as Superintendent Grey was definitely against staying at the Police Station the Chief Superintendent decided to accompany us. They told me they’d travel with me in the Land Rover as they didn’t trust Fazo driving at 100 kms down a dirt road. They had been advised that he was a bit of a cowboy by one of the constables and only knew one speed flat out. The Chief Superintendent said we were mad because if Fazo hit a boosted mine the bloody Puma would be in orbit. I nodded philosophically for he was right but my options were very limited. While the constable had been correct in his assessment he did not understand the reasoning. Fazo drove fast because usually he followed me and I always drove flat out as it was the only real defence I had to get through an ambush. Fortunately in my youth I had raced a car for a friend of mine and considered myself an above average driver. I didn’t correct Fazo’s driving predilection as he knew from receiving several whacks from me there was a time and place for speeding in the Puma. Dirt roads out in the bush at sundown definitely qualified as a good time for speed whereas the main street at Rusape didn’t.

Kapuke stoically climbed into the back of the Land Rover where there were no seats let alone seat belts. With his trusty Bren, he simply trusted my ability to protect him which didn’t sit too well with me. I knew ‘Mombe’ trusted me implicitly but Kapuke was far more intelligent and educated and I reasoned he could work things out for himself. I had offered Kapuke the option of riding in the Puma but he refused saying his place was with me. All aboard I donned my respirator and goggles and with a toot on the hooter we set off and it didn’t take the cops long before they tied handkerchiefs over their noses and both put on their sunglasses to protect their eyes. It must be remembered my Land Rover’s had no doors so the dust billowed into the cab. Glancing at the Chief Superintendent I noticed his knuckles were white from the pressure he was applying to the dashboard as we sped along only a few feet behind the Puma. There was not much talking but I guess there was a fair bit of praying going on. Twice Fazo lost control in the thick dust covering the road and the Puma started to slide sideways. All I heard was a huge intake of breath while the cops waited for the Puma to roll over. They were to be disappointed as Fazo was a good driver and willing to learn so he relaxed and left the brakes alone as he wrestled to regain control which he did each time. I simply slowed down to give him room to manoeuvre and once he was back in control I would move up behind him again.

I’ve always had a reasonably good sense of direction and distance and before he started to slow down for the turn onto the tar road I began slowing down. John Grey was about to quiz me why I was slowing when Fazo’s brake lights came on and he too began to slow down as he indicated he was turning left. Once we were on the tar I overtook the Puma and removed my respirator and goggles. Both cops removed their handkerchiefs and the Chief Super said,

“Thank God we are at last on the tar as I doubt I could have survived another mile of the bloody dust and following so close behind the Puma. You have to be stark raving mad to travel like that and without a radio; madness”. The closer we got to Rusape the more voluble they both became. At the Police Station I dropped them off and they thanked me for the lift but said as far as they were concerned if they never had to ride with me again it would be too soon. I guess they thought I was smiling at their attempt at jest whereas I was smiling at the apparitions before me. Both had taken off their hats and from their eyebrows upwards they were both covered with red dust as were their cheeks except where their glasses covered their eyes. They looked like a pair of clowns about to attend a child’s birthday party rather than the two most senior cops at Rusape. Back at my base I washed and prepared some dinner. After dinner I paid the HQ staff and those who had passed muster at our parade in the morning were free to go to Vengere Township to spend their pay.

During my next call-up Superintendent Grey was reminiscing about that journey and said to me he had, had absolutely no intention of staying at the Police Station without food and the prospect of having to share a bed with the Chief Superintendent was not something he cherished doing but he might have to reconsider his options next time after the nightmare of the journey with me.  

The next morning I went down the Willows Road and calling at the various farms I paid the guards and then inspected them and their kit. During the afternoon I visited the farms along the Inyazura Road and followed the same pattern.  That night at my HQ I called the guards into the large office area and I set up my portable radio/tape recorder. The African is a natural showman and when I asked them if they would sing for me there was no stopping them. In addition to the Guard Force Regimental Anthem they knew numerous other songs and were only too happy to sing them all. One song required each guard to take a turn to dance a bit and though I regret being unable to converse in Shona I could follow the gist of that particular song and when I heard them singing about me through use of my name I got up and did a bit of a dance, they loved it and I won many kudos that night. Towards the end of the session I played the recording I had made back to them and it blew them away. The Sergeant begged me for a copy and I said it would be my pleasure to make a copy for them which I did and presented to the Sergeant. I made a second and third tape of their singing but sadly over the years two of the tapes were overwritten in part and the third deteriorated with use. I still play them on occasion when I’m feeling a little maudlin and homesick for a time of life never to return.

With Fazo driving the Puma with ten guards, the Sergeant and Corporal Farai and me in my Land Rover with Kapuke and ‘Mombe I set out along the Inyanga road to pay and inspect the guards at the farms and installations on the way to Inyanga village. In addition to the farm protection we also provided guards at two radio mast installations and an electricity supply transformer. We suffered no incidents on the way and duly arrived at Inyanga. As usual I dropped the guards at the Police Camp and told Malcolm I’d pay his guards the following day while he and Fazo collected the outlying guards for inspection and payment. I then took off for Troutbeck on my own accompanied by the strongbox containing several thousand dollars.

Nothing remarkable happened on that part of the pay run and we returned to Rusape.  All I had left was the Inyazura/Odzi area to complete and I would do that the following day. I sent Fazo on ahead as he was to collect the African Sergeant at Inyazura and together they would collect the guards, bringing them to the Inyazura police camp where I would pay and inspect them. The pay run and the inspection went well and I sent the guards off back to their farms with Fazo and the Sergeant. I had finished and was returning to Rusape to complete my report regarding the pay run. As I drove past the local township I noticed the Puma parked outside the store. Angered I drove to the Puma and sent Kapuke to fetch the Sergeant and Fazo. I tore a strip off them as they had not sought permission to dawdle at the store, furthermore they had been drinking which was a no-no as Fazo had to drive a fairly long way to drop off the guards, return the Sergeant to Inyazura and then make his way back to Rusape.  I waited until all the guards were aboard and Fazo set off for the farms before I resumed my trip to Rusape.

When darkness set in and Fazo had not returned I began to worry then I got angry as he was overdue and I assumed he and the Sergeant were at the booze again. The telephone rang and when I answered it was the Member-in Charge at Inyazura. He informed me that my Puma had been involved in a terrible accident caused by a terrorist attack. He said a passing farmer had reported hearing rifle fire and saw the Puma careen down a hillside. He stopped and saw guards being hurled out of the back of the Puma as it summersaulted down the hill. He saw the capsule wrenched from the chassis and roll further down the hill before it came to rest. The farmer had raced through to the Police Station at Inyazura and informed the Member-in-Charge of what he’d seen and he in turn set things in motion by calling the hospital at Rusape then he’d rushed off to the scene to render assistance while one of his PO’s called me and advised me of what had happened. A number of ambulances raced through to the scene of the attack where they found the police attending to the injured. Eleven of the guards were seriously injured and two were critical. One had a crushed pelvis as part of the Puma had squashed him into the ground. The other had lost his left forearm and hand when the sharp edge of the rear of the Puma sliced through his arm. The Sergeant had abrasions and bruises but nothing seriously wrong though the Member-in-charge said he smelt like a brewery when he attended to him. By the time the police arrived Fazo was sitting outside the capsule staring vacantly at the wreck of the Puma.

I raced through to Inyazura in the dark and met the Member in Charge at the Police Station. He said when he interviewed Fazo all he could understand was that the Puma came under attack and a bullet had entered the capsule through the reversing vent which was open and was whizzing around like an angry bee. Eventually it hit Fazo on the back of his neck where it had ploughed a furrow into his flesh. In pain and alarmed he had twisted the steering wheel while accelerating out of the killing ground and had lost control causing the Puma to plunge down the hillside. The Member-in-Charge intimated to me Fazo had also smelt like a brewery as had several other guards. That alarmed me as it seemed after I had seen them on their way Fazo and the Sergeant had doubled back to the store where they had imbibed several more beers and possibly had bought some for their trip. From Inyazura I telephoned the CO at Grand Reef and explained what had happened. I said I would attempt to identify which guards had been injured, find out how they were fairing and arrange for replacement guards to be deployed to the various farms and then I would drive to Grand Reef to fully brief the CO. In addition to Kapuke and ‘Mombe I’d brought Corporal Farai and Lance Corporal Denis armed with his records to help me identify the injured guards. At the Police Station the Member-in-Charge showed me the pile of weapons he had collected from the attack sight. He told me it was a pretty bad attacked and the Puma was pretty well written off. I told him I intended to visit the sight first thing in the morning and in the meantime, through the weapons I hoped to identify which guards had been involved.

Initially I had arranged to telephone each farm to see which guards they had and to find out which farms had no guard support. Lance Corporal Denis looked perplexed and I discovered the bloody guards at Inyazura had done the same thing they had done at Melsetter, they had been exchanging their rifles so the owners of the rifles I had from the attack were mainly not involved as many had already been dropped off at their farms and in addition some of the original guards had been transferred away from Inyazura/Odzi. Another bloody nightmare. We completed the exercise and Denis was reasonably sure he had the correct guards listed who had been injured in the attack. Loading the rifles onto the Land Rover I told the Member-in-Charge I was returning to Rusape to the hospital where the guards had been taken to identify them and to assess their injuries.

At the hospital the doctor in charge briefed me saying I had been extremely lucky as only three guards had been severely injured. One had lost his left forearm and hand, another had a crushed pelvis and the third had, had his lower right leg amputated as the bones had been smashed beyond repair. Seven had minor lacerations and bruises while the driver had a nasty furrow across his neck where the errant bullet had hit him. The Sergeant and eight other guards had been discharged and sent back to Inyazura to pick up their duties. I arranged a telephone call to the Sergeant and I told him to keep the eight guards at Inyazura and I would catch up with him and them the next day. As an aside the doctor also intimated that a number of the guards smelt of beer. I interviewed Fazo and he was adamant that terrorists had attacked them causing him to lose control. I didn’t doubt that aspect as it was exactly what had happened to Mike Book at Melsetter. What I didn’t buy was the denial that he and the Sergeant had stopped somewhere to drink more beer and to allow the guards to do the same. Using Denis I managed to confirm the identities of the guards still in hospital. Three of the seven were not who we had thought and we amended our list.

First light the following day found me out on the road heading to Inyazura where I issued the eight guards with different rifles recording the new numbers. I threatened them if they ever changed their rifles without permission they would end up at the DB.  Five of the guards came from one farm, two from another and the last guard from the last farm. I told them to climb into the Puma I borrowed from the police at Inyazura and in addition the 7 guards I had brought from Rusape joined them. I set off to deploy the guards and told the Sergeant to be available when I returned as I wanted his statement of what had happened. As I dropped off the guards I collected the belongings for the guards in hospital which I held at my HQ until they were released and ready for convalescence or redeployment.

Having dropped off the guards at the final three farms I went to the attack sight. When I arrived the SB were investigating and the Inspector in charge said it was similar to many incidents he had attended previously. He confirmed they had found where some terrorists had attacked from but they were surprised they only found a number of old casings. He said it didn’t add up and he could only surmise this group of CTs had been led by a more intelligent leader who had made them collect all the new casings before leaving the old ones to confuse the scent. He wasn’t enthusiastic about following the spoor as it was cold and any CTs long gone. He was quite happy for me to organise for the CMD to remove the remains of the Puma as he drove away.

I wasn’t convinced there had been a terrorist attack and I inspected the site more thoroughly.  I was perturbed but relieved when I found three more smashed rifles.  After my visit to the hospital I had been short three rifles but now had accounted for them all. My inspection revealed where the Puma had summersaulted and crashing to earth upside down the roll bar had burst and penetrated the ground. It had acted like a fulcrum around which the body of the Puma turned. It was this movement which had caused the terrible injuries suffered by the three guards.

Confirming the capsule was secured I climbed into it and I was very surprised as I traced the marks left by the errant bullet as it travelled around the capsule before striking Fazo on the back of the neck. I was also concerned by the broken glass which was definitely from beer bottles. The amount of glass indicated four beers had been consumed in the capsule. There was also a crushed Maddison package containing five cigarettes and another one containing eleven cigarettes. There was a Bic lighter as well as a box of Lion matches. Such items had obviously not been of interest to the SB who were looking for CTs but were extremely important to me. I carefully removed the cigarettes, lighter and matches as evidence of what I suspected had happened. Knowing the African as I do, I know they hate being on their own. I surmised Fazo had invited a friend to join him in the capsule. They had been having a great time making merry and drinking. Something went wrong and I believe the friend in error fired his rifle. The bullet had whizzed around the capsule hitting Fazo on the back of his neck causing him to wrench the wheel and at excessive speed he had lost control and plunged down the hillside. I also believed if the SB did some research they would find that some time previously there had been a terrorist attack at the same location and it was from that attack that the old casings had been abandoned and overlooked by the follow up team. I simply could not buy the argument that the CTs were trying to confuse us by leaving old casings at the site of a fresh attack. I believed the cigarettes, lighter and matches confirmed for me there were at least two people in the capsule when it left the chassis. To have someone else in the capsule was totally against all protocols and a chargeable offence.

I examined the rear of the Puma as well as the external surfaces of the capsule and could find not even the vestige of where a round had hit the metal. I simply could not envisage the CTs in attack mode being so accurate to manage to put a round inside the capsule and yet not hit the surrounding metal or indeed the rear of the Puma. I also had never heard of a CT attack were only one round was fired and that satisfied the blood lust of the attacking party. Things just didn’t add up. I returned to Rusape and arranged with the CMD to collect the remains of the Puma and notified the Guard Force HQ in Salisbury I needed a replacement vehicle. I prepared a report of the incident for the forthcoming Board of Inquiry that was definitely on the cards. 

The CO at Grand Reef called me and told me not to go to him but to go to the airport where I was to meet General Walls again as he wanted to visit the guards at the hospital. I duly turned up and met the plane only this time I was on my own. After greeting me the General asked me to take him directly to the hospital which I did. He greeted all the severely injured guards and told them not to be concerned about their welfare as the Guard Force would take care of them. He then spoke to the other guards who were about to be released.

He quizzed me and asked what I honestly believed happened and so I told him. I also intimated that I had Fazo in a cell on suspicion but was getting nothing out of him, he simply refused to talk. Giving me the benefit of his experience he suggested I release Fazo as he said once the African went into that space nothing would cause him to speak out. He also advised me that there would be a formal Board of Inquiry which I would have to attend and possibly Fazo might speak to them. He suggested all I could do was to present the evidence I had found and not to turn it into a witch hunt. I thanked him and returned him to the airfield and saw him fly away. It was the last time I was to see him in person.

Times had changed and Zimbabwe Rhodesia had come into being. The African Regimental Sergeant – Major as well as the white Regimental Sergeant-Major were given rapid promotion to Assistant Commandant. I was to meet both later during that call-up for as General Walls predicted a Board of Inquiry was called, being the two previous RSMs and they came to Rusape to commence proceedings. I was called before the two Assistant Commandants and asked what had transpired. I stated exactly what happened as I recalled it and then I gave my interpretation of the events as I saw them. I presented what evidence I had available and that was that. Fazo was questioned and then the Assistant Commandants disappeared off to the hospital to interview the guards convalescing and then they went to Inyazura to interview the Sergeant and the other guards who were involved at the attack.

 

Whatever conclusions were assessed, occurred after I stood down and the outcomes were never given to me. Fazo continued to be the driver at Rusape so presumably was exonerated of all blame. I had a bit of a witch hunt trying to track down the rifles that were currently in possession of which guard. Eventually we managed to correct the records at Grand Reef for the whole of Bravo 1, Bravo 2 and Odzi, which was designated as part of the Bravo HQ set up.

Not long after the accident I was conducting a tour of the farms in the Inyazura area accompanied by the Sergeant who was supposedly looking after the area. I had never really trusted him as he was sycophantic and I always suspected him of feathering his own nest wherever he could. At one of the farms I visited the farmer invited me in for tea. We were disturbed by a commotion arising from outside and when I went to investigate I saw the Sergeant holding a portable radio while he held a guard at bay with his free hand. I asked him what the hell was going on and he told me the guard had asked him to have his radio repaired which he did but now the guard was refusing to pay for the repairs. The guard was educated enough to understand English and he said to me the Sergeant was not telling the truth. When I questioned him he agreed he had asked the Sergeant to have his radio fixed as he had little chance of visiting the repairer himself. But, he continued, the Sergeant had insisted he be given $10 to cover the cost of repairs. The guard had paid him and handed the radio over in good faith. The Sergeant had the radio repaired and was now demanding another $10 to cover the repairs. The guard was refusing and demanding the repair invoice, any change he was due and the return of the radio.

I had a dilemma, did I believe the Sergeant or did I believe the guard, my credibility would be sorely tested if I acted incorrectly so what I did was to take over the radio. I explained to the guard I would accompany the Sergeant to the repairer and demand the repair invoice. If the Sergeant was correct and the repairs had cost more than the initial issue of $10 the guard would be required to give the Sergeant the difference and also would apologise to him for his untoward behaviour. He would also be charged by me for being disrespectful towards the Sergeant and would be punished. If on the other hand if the Sergeant was lying and the repairs had cost less than the initial $10 he would refund the change to the guard and would be obliged to apologise to him. I would return the radio to the guard and I would then charge the Sergeant for abusing his authority. The guard looked horrified as if he already knew the outcome believing I would side with the Sergeant. The Sergeant looked cock o’ hoop as if he too felt that would be the outcome. Neither knew me or my fetish regarding probity, they were about to find out.

When we returned to Inyazura I asked Kapuke to ask the Sergeant where the repairer was located. His shop was in the local township, not far from where Fazo, the Sergeant and the other guards had purchased their beers. I ordered Fazo to follow me to the shop and when we arrived the Sergeant jumped off the Puma ready to run into the shop. I called him and told him to remain on the Puma as I had not given him permission to debus. I ordered everyone to remain on the Puma as well as ‘Mombe on my Land Rover. They knew me well enough not to disobey me. Taking Kapuke as my interpreter I went into the shop and accosted the owner. I asked if he understood and spoke English and he said he did. I said that was wonderful and I was sorry I was ignorant and did not speak Shona and understood very little. My honest admission made him smile and he said I at least admitted my failing whereas many whites were simply arrogant expecting all people to speak English. I sent Kapuke to collect the Sergeant and I met him outside the doorway. I told him I wanted him to bear witness as I spoke to the Shop owner. He was not to say a word or make any gesture which could be interpreted by the owner.  Should he disobey me Kapuke would advise me and there would be some very, very serious consequences.

I asked the owner had he ever seen the radio before and he readily agreed saying the Sergeant had brought it to him for repairs as it wasn’t working. The owner explained to me he had worked for Hire-a-Vision at Umtali for a number of years where the Workshop manager had trained him how to repair TVs, radios and other audio equipment. Because he was interested and prepared to work afterhours to learn he said the Workshop Manager had taught him a lot of the theory he had needed to pass his examinations to qualify as a fully trained radio/TV technician. Pointing at the wall behind his counter he proudly pointed to his certificate of qualification and a framed commendation from Hire-a-Vision signed by the Workshop Manager and Umtali Branch Manager praising his conscientiousness and competency. Next to the Certificate he had framed his testimonial from Hire-a-Vision wishing him every success in his quest to open his own business.

The owner explained to me that he had repaired a number of similar radios for different guards because being short of cash they would steal a battery for the Guard Force radio and attach it to their radio causing it to burn out. They simply applied too much power and cooked several diodes and other elements required to allow the radio to operate. What the guards couldn’t understand was that the Guard Force radio battery was a composite of cells, necessary to provide the amount of power necessary to allow the radio to operate. On the other hand the guards’ radios required a lot less power. Had they known they only needed to steal three or four cells which would be sufficient to run their radios, it would be like buying three or four ‘D’ cells, not two or three 12 volt batteries.

Nodding his head the shop-owner agreed he had replaced some diodes and other pieces to enable the radio to work properly. Suddenly a wary look crossed his face as he asked if there was a problem with the radio. I assured him that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the Sergeant had misplaced the repair invoice and I wondered if he had a copy I could have. Ever efficient he nodded his head again and said he had a copy for his records but he could use that to make me an identical copy if that would satisfy me. I nodded and agreed that would be perfect.  He completed the copy which showed the cost to be $5.35.  Thanking him as an aside I asked him had he given the Sergeant any change and he again nodded his head saying the Sergeant had apologised as he only had a $10 note which meant he had to handover $4.65 in change. He only kept a float of $10.00 in change in his Cash Register which meant he would have to go to the store and ask the shopkeeper to change a $5 note for him so he could give other customers change. The Sergeant was looking most uncomfortable as I thanked the owner and we left his store. The Sergeant started blustering and blubbering and I simply ordered him back onto the Puma. I order Fazo to follow me back to the farm where the altercation had occurred and in front of the farmer as well as the guards I presented the owner with his repaired radio. I asked him to test it and he broke into a huge smile as a melody filled the air. I gave him the repair invoice and ordered the Sergeant to hand over the $4.65, which he did. I then had him apologise to the guard for his abuse of his power.

Saying farewell to the farmer a second time I headed out back to the main road and drove to Inyazura. I ordered the Sergeant to pack his belongings and I informed the Member-in-Charge that temporarily should there be any Guard Force issues he needed to contact my HQ at Rusape. I offered no explanation and off we went to Grand Reef. Leaving the Sergeant with the Sergeant-Major I consulted the CO explaining what had transpired. He like me hated power abusers and he shouted to his orderly to fetch his DB Sergeant. He was instructed to take my Sergeant from Inyazura and to make him presentable for orders. That entailed being shaved bald and having his complete uniform removed and bagged with his possessions. He was presented for orders shaven and wearing only a pair of cast off denim shorts and a sleeveless cammo shirt.

The CO read out the charges against him and asked him if he disputed the charge. Looking at me with tears in his eyes the Sergeant said he didn’t disagree. The CO explained that abusing one’s power was a serious offence in itself but abusing one’s power to steal from subordinates was a damn side more serious. The punishment for such a crime was to be sent to the DB at Chikurubi, to suffer a financial fine and to be stripped of all rank. By the time he was finished the Sergeant was a quivering wreck.

The CO offered an olive branch by saying it was up to the Sergeant but he could choose a different punishment. He could agree to the CO’s punishment. The benefit of that was the Sergeant’s record would not show any charge. He would not be sent to the DB at Chikurubi, he would not suffer a financial fine nor would he lose any pay as he would if he went to Chikurubi. He would however, lose one stripe but would be eligible to regain it if he proved himself worthy.

Shivering and blubbering the Sergeant thanked the CO and said he would accept his punishment. He knew it would not be a walk in the park as he had previously brought recalcitrant guards here for punishment and had heard their stories. The CO ordered the Sergeant-Major to hand over my Sergeant to his DB Sergeant for some discipline. It was the last time I ever saw the Sergeant from Inyazura. I did see the guard who owned the radio and he had blown it up again. This time he asked me if I would be so kind as to have it repaired for him. Jokingly I said perhaps I would have the radio repaired but would keep it for myself and take it home when I finished my call-up. He giggled and squirmed but insisted that would never happen because my Sergeant from Rusape HQ had told him I was ‘Ver’ honest and would never tshontsha anybody’.

On the 8th July a Mr Hartley, a farmer from Headlands was killed by some CTs. Though we had formed Zimbabwe Rhodesia the war was still alive and well.

 

FOURTH CALL-UP

A

fter a too short break I was back at Grand Reef about to return to my HQ at Rusape. Once again I had Malcolm at Inyanga – we seemed to be paralleling our military careers – and I was allocated a KC for Headlands and also one for Inyazura. As there were only half a dozen farms and two installations GF looked after in the Odzi area I decided to use the KC based at Inyazura to look after Odzi as well. To accommodate him I intended to leave my Kudu at Inyazura for his use during our call up. At the Rusape HQ I was to have two KCs. One – Tom (can’t recall his surname) had been on my initial call-up and I recalled he had a hole in the heart. A fact I was to have reinforced shortly at my Rusape HQ. The second KC – cannot recall his name at all, though I can picture him as being very young, tall, blond and blue eyed - was a youngster of eighteen or nineteen, he wasn’t real macho and this was his first posting after his basic training, he was serving out his national service.

At Rusape I took over my old room and suggested Tom and the kid grab a room to sleep in. To my surprise they decided to share what would have been the lounge in days gone by. It was a large room and easily accommodated two men. In a way I saw their logic as my room was adjacent the bathroom and toilet and the lounge was directly across the walkway to the bathroom and toilet. With them using the lounge as a bedroom the house was nicely segregated between accommodation and military use. What was probably the original dining room we used as a lounge/dining room, mainly because it had a fireplace which was very comforting during the winter months. There was no TV but then we were supposed to be at war. Occasionally I’d go to the Crocodile Motel on the outskirts of Rusape on the Salisbury road to have a meal and watch a bit of TV. This was mainly if I had someone with me at my HQ. When I was on my own I simply prepared myself a meal on base and read one of the books I’d borrowed from the Rusape library or brought with me from home.

Leaving Grand Reef I had dropped off the KC at Inyazura and the one for Headlands and then drove back to Rusape. While I was settling in I overheard Tom telling the youngster he had no intention of visiting the farms and intended to spend his time at the HQ.  He said I couldn’t force him to go anywhere because it was known he had a hole in the heart. Fair enough if that was the way he wanted to play the game I could do so as well. Later that first night I suggested to the youngster we go to the Crocodile motel for a meal and some TV. Tom’s eyes lit up and he was really looking forward to a meal at the motel. When we approached the Land Rover I said to Tom he couldn’t come for by his own admission he intended to remain at the HQ for the duration of his call-up so he best arrange a meal for himself. His face dropped and then he embarrassed me totally when he said he was sorry but he was petrified to go out to the farms. He said he’d heard of my escapades and they really terrified him in case I expected him to do the same as I did.

I switched off the Land Rover and told him and the kid to join me in our lounge. I went to the fridge in the kitchen and grabbed three beers which I took into the lounge and while we had a drink I laid out the situation. I told Tom I definitely expected him and the youngster to alternate between doing duty at the HQ and visiting the farms around the Rusape area. I explained to them that I did not expect them to do as I did. I expected them to ride in the back of the Puma, totally in control of Fazo the driver and the guards accompanying them. I explained they were to take a full complement of guards with them including Corporal Farai, who was a bloody good soldier. They could even take the mortar with them if that gave them confidence. They couldn’t have Kapuke and his Bren as he was my guard when I ventured out in my Land Rover. Suddenly Tom realised I needed him to share the duties but I would do whatever I could to protect him. I offered to allow him to drive the Puma if he had a licence but he declined with alacrity saying the capsule made him claustrophobia.

 He agreed he was more than happy to travel on the back next to the voice tube which gave him access to Fazo while he was driving. Finally he said if I was serious and would back him if the guards refused his orders he would do as I asked. I told him there was no question about that as he too had qualified as a Keep Commander Grade One. I know there have been many disputes as to the validity of the Keep Commander rank. As far as I was instructed and believe, in accordance with the Rhodesian Defence Act it was the equivalent to a Warrant Officer; First and Second Class. Through my association with numerous civilians on call-up I know of a number of cases where Sergeant - Majors had very cushy numbers with very little responsibility or aggravation whereas I know of a number of Keep Commanders – myself include – where, with very limited resources, both bayonets and materiel, they were expected to manage massive responsibilities such as caring for and protecting several thousand locals or catering for several farmers, their families and their work force. In some cases they were the front line right up against the border with little in the way of comms and weaponry.

Tom asked me if we could start again and I agreed and off we went to the Crocodile. Next morning I introduced him and the youngster to how I ran my HQ. They were impressed with my parade and inspection and Tom said to me afterwards the guards really tried hard so they could get a night pass to visit Vengere Township. After parade I suggested they both head off with the Puma down the Willows Road as Fazo knew where the farms were and he could take them to all of them. I indicated what I wanted done and gave Tom a list of the farms and the farmers’ names.

When he returned he told me that Mr. Basset had been killed on the 19th of August, only a week before we were called-up. It was terribly sad as he had finally managed to sell his farm and was kindly travelling to the farm each day as he handed over to the new owner. On the 19th he had set off as usual and just before he reached the turn off to what used to be his farm some CTs ambushed him and shot him to death. I met with Mrs. Basset to give her my condolences and she told me she couldn’t wait to leave Rhodesia for good with her family. She said she hated her dead husband for having so much integrity and kindness because it had killed him. She said rather he had been miserable and hard-nosed but alive, then she broke down. Obviously she had loved her husband very much. I asked her where and when the funeral would be held and she told me it had already been held as there was no point waiting and she just wanted to be free to leave. She told me she would be going to the Cape where she had a sister and two brothers living there with their families and she hoped to make a life for herself and her children with them. It was the last time I ever saw any of them.

PAY RUN

V

ery soon after our arrival I had to do a pay run and I was quite surprised when Tom volunteered to help me if I considered him worthy. Since offering him a ride in the Puma he was a changed man and quite prepared to do his share. I never discovered what had happened to him on previous call-ups, I would not ask and he never volunteered the information. We completed the Headland/Mayo run followed by the Willows Road and then the run to Inyazura. I was saving the Inyanga area till last as I was sure Tom and the kid would enjoy a night or two at Troutbeck. The KC at Inyazura was doing a great job since his arrival and he made life easy by taking the Kudu I’d lent him to accompanying Tom, the kid and Fazo to collect the guards from the Inyazura  farms and from Odzi as well. Once the pay run was complete I did the inspection and then we loaded up the guards and took them to the police butts for some rifle practice. When we finished Tom and the kid accompanied Fazo and the KC to return the guards to their farms. By the time all had been redeployed there was only Tom and the kid left on the back of the Puma. They weren’t perturbed as the Inyazura KC was following them in the Kudu with his single guard acting as shotgun. They arrived back at the Inyazura Police Camp just as the sun was setting and my Sergeant and the five guards I’d been carrying in my Land Rover mounted the Puma for the return trip to Rusape.

Back at HQ we relaxed in our lounge with a beer before venturing to the Crocodile motel for our dinner. We were sitting around the hearth even though we weren’t lighting a fire. Some of the locals had donated some old furniture pieces to our HQ and there were six old lounge chairs ranging from quite luxurious, if frayed to positively dangerous and full of borer. Obviously there was a pecking order with the OC having first choice, the 2IC next choice and so on.  We were lucky as there were three good chairs, two passable ones and one only used in desperation.  We had selected our chairs and moved the others to one side for the duration of our call up. Not only were the chairs important but also the positioning of them.  Was this unique, certainly not, it was a part of our culture stemming from being Anglophiles, perhaps being part of the British Empire, who knows, I don’t. All I do know is that my whole early life I was subjected to pecking orders – from kindergarten through high school, especially when a boarder, to commencing my career, doing my National Service and finally fighting for my adopted country.

The next day we set off for the Inyanga area to do the pay run commencing with the Rusape farms along the Inyanga road. In addition to the farms there were the installations we protected with guards. There were the radio relay stations and an electrical sub - station. The guards at these installations were changed every two weeks to prevent them going stir crazy. They had a rough trip as there were no locals to interact with as there were on the farms and they never got to be taken into town as the farm guards were. The pay run coincided with the changeover and the guards were exited as they not only would be able to go to town but would also have an opportunity to visit Vengere Township. The Sergeant told me all of the Guard Force at Rusape HQ looked forward to me returning on call up as no other OC allowed them to go to the Township which was very frustrating. I shrugged my shoulders as it was their business if that was how they wanted to act, so be it, I had no demons to kill. The guards remaining on base knew if an action had to be attended to they would be the ones accompanying me. Standing Orders prohibited official movement at night so keeping all of the guards at the HQ night after night only lead to great frustration and mischief, which I believe had been the result at several HQs and concentrations of troops. My way gave the guards an incentive to be smart and disciplined with them being rewarded with a pass to visit Vengere Township. I doubt they ever cottoned on to my method of allocating passes. What I did was to ensure all of the guards were given a chance to visit the Township. Yes they had to pass muster at parade and some went to the Township far more often than others but everyone was given a chance. The only time I prohibited them leaving the base was when I was away at Inyanga. Kapuke had to be the smartest guard I ever knew and deservedly received many passes to Vengere yet he was always the first to forgo his pass if it meant he could accompany me.

Finishing the pay run for the Rusape area we headed off towards Inyanga. When we arrived I met with Malcolm and he asked me - as I had Tom and the kid along – could he be excused roughing it around the district as he had fallen and wrenched his ankle. Hardly unnoticeable as the local medico had put his foot in a moonboot for stability. I agreed he could take it easy and then we paid the guards at his HQ and he asked me if I intended to go to Troutbeck for the night. I agreed that was the plan and he said since they were stonked everyone was nervous, especially the two security guards they employed. David was asking if Guard Force would provide guards on a permanent basis and apparently it was still under discussion and consideration. Meanwhile Malcolm had lent Troutbeck four guards and he hoped I didn’t mind. He had brought them back knowing I was doing the pay run and that was why David and Denise and the others were only too happy to have an extra gun at the hotel.

I assured Malcolm it was his call to make regarding the guards at Troutbeck. I said I would check with David and Denise regarding the accommodation for the guards and the chain of command as I didn’t think much of the security guards the last time I’d met them. I mentioned that Tom and the kid would be accompanying me to Troutbeck and Malcolm wished them good luck saying they were obviously as mad as I was. When pressed as to what he meant he told them I usually went off on my own and returned the same way in the morning.  Tom said surely I took Kapuke with me and Malcolm grinned like a Cheshire cat before saying the first time I did but Kapuke and ‘Mombe didn’t enjoy it so thereafter I left them at the Police Camp. The kid had gone very quiet and Tom was looking at me bug eyed. I smiled and told Tom and the kid if they’d rather spend the night at the Police Camp they were most welcome and I’d simply see them in the morning. I could see Tom’s mind working overtime weighing up the benefits of staying at Troutbeck against the dangers of getting there and back. Thoughts of sleeping on the hard floor at the Police Camp after a miserable dinner at the Body Box persuaded Tom if it was good enough for me then he would trust to my luck. The kid had taken a real shine to Tom – Tom was nearing the 38 year limit whereas if the kid was 20 he was old – and as soon as Tom said he would be coming with me the kid said he would like to come if I’d take him. That was settled and I said to Malcolm I was going across to see the Member-in-Charge so I could arrange to leave the strong box with him overnight. This was an arrangement I had used for some time, at least when I was doing the pay run if something happened to me the balance of pay would still be safe and intact.

TROUTBECK INN

W

ith the shadows lengthening we took off for Troutbeck. I suggested the kid should sit in the middle with Tom on the outside. With three of us inside the cab I strapped my waistcoat with all its supplies to the roll bars at the back behind the cab and the kid would have to ride with one leg in the driver’s well and one in the passenger’s well. Not the most comfortable way to travel but he was getting used to it as it was how we went to the Crocodile Motel for dinner. I asked Tom and the kid if they had a condom and they looked at me as if I was from another planet. I could tell by the expression on his face Tom was about to tell me he was a happily married man and how he conducted his sex life was his own business. The kid blushed scarlet and started to stammer. I put them out of their misery by explaining condoms were ideal to keep the dust out of their rifles and if they needed to fire them in an emergency the resistance caused by the condom was no more than having some dust inside the barrel when firing the rifle. Relieved both said they didn’t have any condoms so I fished a couple out of my pack. I suggested they tie a handkerchief or a duster or something across their noses to help with their breathing because I created a dust storm when I travelled to and from Troutbeck as I went at speed as that was my greatest defence against ambush.

Ready at last we set off and as I hit the hill climb from the village I was hitting eighty with dust billowing around us. Reaching the crest I shot over and had the Land Rover going flat out. We were strapped in tight otherwise I’d have lost Tom and the kid from all the jostling and sideways shift as I negotiated the bends at speed. With darkness surrounding us I flicked on the lights and careened along the twisting road until eventually I reached the tar road at the top. Removing my bandana from my nose and lower face I breathed in the clean fresh night air. Tom and the kid did the same and though alert they were much more relaxed now we were on a tar road. Soon I saw the entrance to Troutbeck and drove in to the parking area. I was saddened to see only three cars in the bays which meant not many tourists were in situ. Debussing we slapped most of the dust out of our clothing and feeling a smidgen more respectable we trooped into the foyer. Denise was on the counter and smiled broadly when she saw me.

After welcoming me she arched and eyebrow at Tom and the kid and I knew exactly what her question was. In reply I assured her neither was a Yank nor were they journalists. She cracked up and said she was happy to hear it. Tom and the kid didn’t see the funny side but then neither knew the story about the Yank. I explained they were with me and we would like three rooms and dinner and breakfast. She said with so few guests they were still offering Chef’s menu only. I said that would be fine and we would like to freshen up before having a drink before dinner.

On the way to our rooms I explained about the Chef’s menu and what the tariff would be.  Though the princely sum for the room was miniscule I knew it would still be a lot for the kid as he was serving his National Service and wouldn’t be receiving much pay. I wasn’t sure of Tom’s situation regarding his civilian pay while he was on call up but I did know my situation. I offered to pay for their accommodation and meals but said they needed to pay for their own drinks. Tom assured me he’d pay his own way thank you very much as he was still earning his full civilian pay. I agreed happily and the kid looked a little embarrassed until I told him to enjoy himself and not to worry about the costs involved. I explained I not only go my full civilian pay I also earned more being an Officer. What really was the icing on the cake was when I told him when I did my National Service I used to end up with R9 which was the same as $9 a month to buy all my necessities and to entertain myself. I said there were times when I was very grateful to some generous person like the many drivers who picked me up when I was hiking home for my weekend pass. Without their generosity I would never have been able to afford a train or bus ticket to go home on pass.

I explained that to offset the cheap price we were charged we were expected to offer our rifles for the defence of the hotel should the need arise, we would have done so even if we had to pay the full tariff but who were we to look a gift horse in the mouth. We cleaned up and like me, Tom and the kid had brought a fresh change of uniform with them plus their washbags. Having enjoyed a hot shower and a change of clothing we met up in the bar room where David was serving drinks. I shook his hand in greeting and recognised the guests. Two of the cars were travelling together. One family consisted of Mum and Dad and two large teenage boys. The other family had a teenage son and a girl of about eight years old. They were South Africans up on a holiday tour of Rhodesia which was familiar to the men as when just out of their teens both had worked at Salisbury before returning to Durban in South Africa.

The third car was occupied by two English travelling salesmen. They were a bit nervous and when they heard I’d be travelling back to Inyanga village in the morning they asked if they could join me in convoy. I agreed if they were ready straight after breakfast as I had a full day ahead of me and couldn’t afford to wait for them if they were late. While we were drinking the three boys couldn’t take their eyes off our G3s. How incongruous I thought, they thought we were so well armed and yet we bemoaned our fate at ONLY having our rifles, no MAGs, no Stirlings, no Uzzis and so on. I whispered to Tom and the kid saying no dice if the boys wanted to hold a rifle as they were loaded and ready for war.

Called to dinner we were all sat at a long single table. The guests at the foot and the hotel staff next to them. Then the hotel security then the three of us at the head. It was not for privilege but practicality. The guests sat nearest the windows whereas we sat nearest the doorway so we could disappear outside should the need arise. It was a gamble seating the guests near the windows but it was a calculated risk as the hotel staff believed they could remove the guests if danger arose. The hotel security were more accommodating than we were and agreed to the boys holding their weapons. I suggested to them they might unload them and remove the magazines before handing them over as we didn’t need any accidents. Both Security Guards had been sycophantic towards the Yank Journalist and had found they had backed the wrong horse when the chips were down. They hadn’t forgotten me or what transpired so they weren’t ready to take me on and simply complied with my request. The one youngster was more bumptious than the others and he said they weren’t fools, they knew about weapons of war. I shrugged and asked him how many weapons of war he had fired at an enemy ready to kill him. He blushed and shut up like a clam. Having finished our meal I rose and excused myself saying I intended to have a nightcap before retiring.

Everyone moved to the barroom and while I enjoyed a port and coffee I told the boys – and the others who listened attentively – how I had almost been killed by a supposed trained soldier who had suffered a stoppage. It was only my speed and ability to absorb pain that had saved my life. I explained how a guard had asked me to demonstrate automatic fire and then asked if he could try. I agreed but after three rounds had been fired he had a stoppage. Instead of making the rifle safe and then resting it on the ground he had simply turned towards me pointing the bloody rifle at my belly button while he started to explain he had a stoppage. I reacted immediately and I grabbed the barrel and raised it to the sky. I had fired a full magazine through that barrel and he had followed me with a further three rounds. The barrel was red hot and seared my palm. I screamed at the guard in my pain and I ran to my quarters where I plunged my hand into a bowl of gun oil. Thankfully I hadn’t damaged the tendons and by continually flexing my hand I managed to keep it working. After a couple of weeks the seared skin fell off like pealing after severe sunburn.  Meanwhile I went back to where the guards were to collect my rifle. Pointing it at the embankment I smacked the firing mechanism with the side of my burnt fist and it suddenly fired the other two rounds – I had only loaded five rounds in the magazine – the guards stood with their mouths agape as I explained the slightest knock could set off the automatic firing. What had happened was the mechanism that grasped the fresh round from the magazine before inserting it in the breech ready to be fired had overheated or become gritty and temporarily seized up. When I hit the side of the rifle which had been cooling for some time the mechanism shot forward chambering the round which was fired as I was pulling the trigger. Remember the guard still had his finger on the trigger when he turned towards me.

The boys sat bugged eyed as they listened and realised our rifles were killing machines and they were meant to kill the enemy not friendly forces. The bumptious boy said he was sorry he hadn’t realised the danger. I smiled and told him how I was given a clip around the earhole when I was fourteen for being stupid and dangerous. At the time my family lived in what is now Zambia and I was camping with some other scouts and the assistant scout master. One of the older scouts had brought his .22 so we might shoot our supper. While we were striking camp he asked me if I would like to hold his rifle. Would I ever, yes please I said and he warned me it was loaded. I assured him I would be careful. Anyway I tripped over a root but in the attempt to save myself from falling I accidently pulled the trigger and fired the round in the chamber. Suddenly the camp was deathly quiet as everyone realised I had just fired the rifle. The scout master was so annoyed it was he who gave me the clip around the ear and he took the rifle away from me saying I was too irresponsible to be trusted with a deadly weapon. I couldn’t believe it was such a big deal as I had been pointing the rifle up at the sky. It was only later after dinner the owner of the rifle told us how he had shot his brother through a similar incident. Only he had lowered the barrel trying to save himself from falling and had shot his brother in his left buttock. Fortunately there was no long lasting damage and his brother forgave him.

Finishing my coffee and port I excused myself and said I was retiring for the night and hoped to see them all at breakfast. I told Denise we’d be there again tomorrow night if she would be kind enough to make the arrangements.

From Tom, I was to later learn what transpired after I left the barroom. One of the guests said he hoped his son hadn’t upset me and Denise had laughed her head off. She said it was nothing like that as I always went to bed soon after eating because later during the night I would go for a walk around the hotel listening to the night. Sometimes I might go for a second walk just to be sure. She assured the guests they could all sleep easier in their beds with us there to lend our support.

 Both David and Denise knew the circumstances regarding the Yank journalist and after I had retired Denise insisted on telling the guests, Tom and the kid the story. Later Tom told me not only the boys but their fathers as well were trying to correlate my pleasant nature with the atavistic action being described to them. Tom admitted to the gathering he had been fortunate to be on the initial call-up with me so he could talk about how Dirk, Jim and I killed the assault course and how he also overheard my conversation with Sergeant Gavin Ford when I said I was going to apply for the Selous Scouts and Gavin Ford had begged me to stay with the Guard Force. Tom admitted to me later that he knew he would sleep easier knowing I was patrolling about during the night but still he prayed for peace as he didn’t want to be involved in a contact.

I patrolled twice during the night and fortunately nothing untoward happened. At breakfast the next morning one of the father’s asked if they could accompany us to the Inyanga village and I agreed as long as they were ready to travel straight after breakfast. As we were about to leave the other father asked me when I would be returning to Troutbeck and if they could follow me back to the hotel? I again agreed and said I’d meet them at the police camp at five o’clock.

At the police camp I collected the Puma and my guards and was surprised when Tom asked if he could ride with me in the Land Rover. I thanked him for his trust in me but refused him preferring him to be in the Puma. I explained I knew where we were going as did Kapuke and ‘Mombe. They knew it would be a rough ride but would stick with me. I saw the disappointment in Tom’s face but wouldn’t relent. We set out and at the first farm we came to I could see Tom was busting a boiler as the road had been tarred all the way. I ignored him and we completed the pay run before setting off to the next farm. Suddenly he understood my request of the previous farmer when I enquired if the drift was passable. You see what Tom hadn’t realised was for me to complete the pay run that day I had to take some short cuts between the farms. I simply would not make it driving along the tar and gravel roads.

Suddenly I turned off the good tar road onto what at best could be described as a track through the bush. Later Tom asked me why I led the Puma rather than it taking the van. I explained by me going first if the Land Rover could negotiate the track I knew the Puma would because I would be able to assist it if needs be. We bounced along over boulders and mud holes and eventually arrived at the next farm. Tom grinned down at me and said he now understood why I had made him travel in the Puma.

The rest of the day went according to plan and we had only one more farm to visit when disaster occurred. We had to negotiate a weir and because of the recent heavy rains I had to be careful as I couldn’t see the bed. The water had scoured the soil away from a boulder near the weir and when I proceeded through the water I was holding the gearshift so I could change gear quickly if I needed a lower gear. The left front wheel hit the boulder and threw us forward. I was wrestling with the steering wheel to avoid us being swept over the weir and sadly my forward force on the gearshift snapped it. I was stuffed as I now couldn’t change gear and I desperately needed to as I had to get over the boulder. Luckily I had engaged four-wheel drive and low ratio so I simply revved like hell and we bounced over the boulder like a bucking bronco. As I reached the other side the motor cut out. Fortunately I was locked in second gear as we had to push start the Land Rover as the starter had been playing up for a couple of days which meant I was always seeking a slope on which to park. Using some of the guards from the Puma I managed to get up enough steam to start the Land Rover. I sent the Puma ahead and asked Tom to arrange with the farmer a temporary welding job to enable me to get back to Inyanga PMD.

We chugged along in second gear all the way to the farm and while I paid the guards the farmer welded the gear shift back to the stump. Ready to leave I managed one gear change before the weld broke. The farmer said all he could do was make a reinforced weld but it would only allow me to use second and third gears.  Once more I sent the Puma ahead, firstly to the PMD for Tom to request a loan vehicle for me and then to the police camp to tell the Troutbeck guests the problem.  We chugged to the PMD and the mechanic chaffed me saying I really was a bum driver so he better order a few dozen gear shifts so I could complete my call up. Meanwhile he said he could lend me another Land Rover but he needed it back the following afternoon. He said he would have my Land Rover ready by noon which suited me and I agreed to return the loan vehicle at that time.

I caught up with Tom and the guests from Troutbeck at the village. They had been content to wait for me to escort them back to Troutbeck and were chuffed that we’d only be leaving at noon the following day. It was to be their last day and the two men asked if they could persuade me to go trout fishing with them in the morning before breakfast. They had toured about enjoying the scenery and had even squeezed in a nervous round of golf on the challenging course at the hotel. I knew it was challenging as I’d played there several times in the past. Fishing for trout was something else as the fish were usually on the bite at dawn or more likely during the late afternoon as the sun was heading for the horizon.

At dinner the gents were explaining to me if you were really patient and possessed the correct skill you could tickle a trout and then with the speed of a sprung rattrap you could flip it onto the bank. I wasn’t too sure about that trick, I had enough trouble catching a fish the conventional way. Next morning before the dawn I tapped on their doors and both men were already dressed and waiting to go. I said it was far too dark and the fish were still asleep so we might as well enjoy a cup of coffee while the sun woke up. Being up in the mountains and on the water of the lake it was chilly that early in the morning so we were wrapped up and the steaming coffee never tasted so good.

I’m not a morning person yet whenever I have been up before the dawn I have found the breaking of day a magic time. This was no different and as we made our way to where the stream rushed down the mountain into the lake the sun was just hiding behind a hill. I quartered the ground around the lake and up the hill where we were going and in my peripheral vision I picked up movement on the horizon. I froze and focused to the left of where I’d seen the movement. Both the men with me also froze and in dry mouthed silence waited for my lead. Suddenly I saw movement again and quickly focusing on it I relaxed. It was a family group of Steenbok. There were a number in the mountains and this was just one such group. The Leopards preyed on them rather than on the Hanmar’s sheep which they seemed to use as toys in a deadly game for the sheep.

Satisfied there were no gooks lurking in the vicinity I suggested I take the men to a pool where I’d often seen trout. They were agreeable and we crossed the little bridge where the stream met the lake. On the far side we climbed the foothills to a swale where the stream entered and formed the pool before exiting and continued down to the lake. I checked the vicinity again and declined an offer to borrow one of the men’s kit to try my hand at catching a fish. I said I preferred to act as the Bellwether while they fished. They were both good fly fishermen and soon began landing trout. When they had each landed 5 trout I was beginning to consider them greedy. They continued to fish and then I noticed they had been keeping their catch in keep-nets. Now they compared the latest catch with the fish in the net and if the latest fish caught was larger they removed the smallest fish and let it swim away. At eight o’clock I said we should begin to make our way back to the hotel for breakfast. It was then one of the men offered to show me how to tickle a trout.

He lay down on the side of a deeper pool and gently lowered his arm into the water. The other man went round the larger pool and let his shadow fall over the water. In addition he lowered his rod into the water and agitated the water by swishing his rod about. His action was to drive the trout across the pond to where the other man was lying. In short order a trout positioned itself above his hand and he gently began to tickle it. Suddenly with great speed he whipped his arm out of the water and flung the trout onto the grass where it flopped about as it began to die. Quickly he got up and ensuring his hands were wet he captured the trout and gently lowered it back into the water where it remained stationary for a few seconds and then realising it was still alive and free it darted off into the deeper part of the pool.

Collecting their catch they told me that I might think they were being greedy taking so many trout but in fact Denise had asked them to bring her a dozen trout if they could. They had failed as they only had managed to catch 10 trout of what they considered reasonable size. My opinion of them rose immeasurably and was completely blown away when they said neither of them ate fish. They simply enjoyed the skill required to outsmart the trout.

Back at the hotel Denise was overwhelmed and said she had anticipated receiving three or four fish only as that was the usual bag. I was concerned at first as I am a true conservationist at heart and vehemently hate those who kill for the sake of killing or for some obscure trophy or gain. Denise assured me the trout were well received and would be cleaned and frozen until the next Friday when a group of businessmen from Salisbury were going to Troutbeck for a conference weekend.

We all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and around eleven we checked out and I led the convoy down to the Inyanga village. There we said goodbye to the tourists and wished them a safe journey back home. I personally thanked them for coming to Rhodesia in our time of need and one of them said something to me which had great meaning. He said,

“That is what friends are for. Sadly we are often disappointed by the action of our friends but if the friendship is strong we forgive time and time again”. He then said “During the Boer War my great grandmother and her children, including my grandmother who was sixteen at the time, were incarcerated in a British Concentration Camp. Only my grandmother and her youngest brother survived till the end of the war. The rest perished to camp diseases, lack of medicine and malnutrition. You would think my grandmother would have hated the British for what had happened. She didn’t and often told us she hated those in authority who had ordered the concentration camps but not those who were forced to operate them. She said the British nurses and doctors and even some of the guards shared their meagre rations with the inmates. The Chief Surgeon was distraught and kept apologising for the terrible situation the inmates found themselves in. My grandmother said she actually saw him aging day by day from the horror he was forced to be a part of.

After the war The Surgeon – General helped my grandmother re-establish herself and her young brother on their farm. My great grandfather had died when his horse fell on him after it had caught its front off-leg in a burrow in the veld. The Surgeon - General helped others as well though some spat at him and cursed him for their woes. Not my grandmother and she passed her feelings down through our family. In 1914 my great uncle went to Europe and fought for the King with distinction. During the Second World War my Father went off to fight for the King and yet now like Rhodesia we are considered to be pariah by our once erstwhile friends. Perhaps sometime in the future we can forgive them their madness and arrant foolishness.”

How right he was. I have lived in England and Australia and visited Canada and in all of those countries I have found more blatant racism than I ever encountered when I lived in South Africa or Rhodesia. I’m not gainsaying it did not exist, I’m not that naïve, but I never practiced racism through denigration or superiority. I simply wished the choice of whom I associated with and with whom I could have social intercourse. That was the philosophy of those I associated with, perhaps because I associated with professional, well educated people we had a different attitude towards racism. What I found was that many people in the street had a different attitude to that portrayed by their Governments. They could see their country changing in ways they were not happy with yet their hands were tied and they were made to feel guilty for wanting to retain their country as it had previously been.

Sadly for all so called western countries due to the various agreements forcing them to accept so called refugees it is already too late to stop the changes which will be wrought on their societies. We see the mayhem being created all around the world today and whether the western countries like it or not we are seeing blatant racism, be it blacks in the USA or Muslims elsewhere or even the Asiatic races resident in the UK. To be white in the West is now a stigma, all whites need to feel guilty for our past – so the various Governments intimate. Governments have criminalised their own people by forcing them to mix with others they have little or nothing in common with. These western countries, like my countries South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe shall never be the same ever again. In fact these western countries are beginning to realise what we prophesised thirty – forty years ago is now becoming reality in their own societies. And this is only the beginning. I am glad I am on this side of the slope as I worry about the kind of world my young granddaughter shall inherit when she becomes a mother.

I returned the Land Rover to the CMD and collected my repaired Land Rover. Meeting up with Fazo Tom and the youngster climbed aboard the Puma and we set off back to Rusape. The normal routine returned and Tom and the youngster alternated daily with one staying at the base. I carried on as before and most nights we would head off to the Crocodile for our evening meal.

DOROWA MINE

I

received a call from the CO at Grand Reef ordering me to visit Dorowa Mine to the south east of Inyazura. The CO said he had received a complaint from the Mine Manager that the guards were using his garden wall as a urinal. This didn’t please his wife or himself and he was disappointed because he had raised the matter with the regular Caucasian Sergeant in charge, to no avail. I must point out that at that time Dorowa Mine was not a part of my area of command, it was part of the Grand Reef area like Odzi except Odzi – and Inyanga - had been specifically given to me as part of my command.

I recall that the Assistant Commandant I’d met in the Honde Valley when I was first commissioned had told me it was on the Dorowa mine road where he had hit a land mine with his Kudu and had ended up a tree from the blast. I decided I didn’t want to emulate his experience so I arranged to take the Puma filled with guards and my Sergeant with me. I exempted both Tom and the youngster saying I couldn’t vouch for the area I was going to so I was happy for them to stay at the base to man the fort. Tom was livid and accused me of not trusting them in dangerous situations. I was taken aback considering his initial statement when our call up had started. I held up my hands and said if they were both that keen welcome aboard and we would leave first thing in the morning. By applying a few basic man management skills I had completely won Tom and the youngster over and both were now demonstrating they had not lost their fear but had learnt how to marshal their powers to overcome it. The proof of the pudding would be in the eating – should we get into a contact or be unlucky enough to hit a mine.

We set off with me leading the way to Inyazura. Behind Inyazura we moved onto the gravel road which led to Dorowa mine. I told Fazo he was to lead in the Puma and I would follow in his tracks, all the 65 Kilometres to Dorowa. At the mine he was to stop and I would resume the lead. Kapuke raised his eyes to the heavens as if to say here we go again but I noticed he and ‘Mombe both covered their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs and both put on their sunglasses. I too had tied a handkerchief over my nose and put on a pair of goggles. I suppose we must have looked like a bunch of outlaws from a bad Western about to hold up a bank. I hooted and Fazo drove off with me following on his tail. Fazo understood my requirements and we travelled at speed. If we were ambushed chances were I would collect the burst as Fazo should be through the killing ground before the ambushers realised how fast he was travelling. My theory was that both of us would be through the killing ground before the ambushers realised there were two vehicles not one. The down side was if Fazo hit a mine at speed it would probably flip the Puma onto its back causing much mayhem, though the guards, Tom and the youngster were all strapped in. If I hit a mine we would be sent into orbit. Kapuke and I were strapped in but ‘Mombe would take off like a man shot from a cannon. I had fashioned a seatbelt through the CMD which meant ‘Mombe had to sit against the cab looking backwards. My problem was getting ‘Mombe to use it. He loved standing on the back holding onto the roll-bar as he sang to his heart’s content.

About 15 or 20 Kilometres from Dorowa mine Fazo suddenly braked and came to a fast stop and I suspected a contact except I could hear no firing. Curiosity got the better of me and I drove alongside the Puma. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Where once the road had been was a great big hole, much like a home swimming pool. Obviously the Assistant Commandant I had met at the HQ in the Honde Valley had been telling the truth about hitting a mine in this vicinity. Looking around my eyes alighted on a large tree some feet from the hole and glancing upwards I saw where one of the large main limbs had been snapped off leaving a jagged wound. From the angle of the break the limb had been broken off by some large weight falling onto it before crashing to the ground.  I sauntered over to the tree and could see where the Kudu had crashed into the ground. There were odd bits of metal lying about and an oily patch where the sump had drained. Looking at the hole and the tree in profile I estimated the Kudu must have been blown at least twenty or thirty feet and at least twenty feet in the air. The Assistant Commandant was obviously travelling at speed when he exploded the mine and the forward thrust would have enabled the Kudu to travel that distance. Traffic had flattened a new pathway around the hole and considering I was there almost a year after the event I wonder if the original road has ever repaired.

We continued to the mine at Dorowa and reaching the outskirts Fazo pulled over and I took the lead. However, before proceeding to the house where the Guard Force had set up camp I stopped to allow us to bash the dust out of our hair and clothing. I was looking forward to a long hot shower already but knew that wouldn’t occur for several hours yet.

Having never been to Dorowa before I wasn’t sure where the Guard Force were located. Dorowa mine wasn’t large – reminded me of the Vanguard asbestos mine we lived on in the Belingwe district – perhaps twenty or twenty five houses. Certainly no shop unless one considered the ramshackle one in the African Compound. Daily the mine sent a vehicle to Inyazura and Umtali or Rusape to pick up essential supplies, newspapers, post, etc. I drove past the largest house and assumed it was where the Mine Manager and his family resided and it was confirmed later on for me. Driving down the one and only main road I passed a side road leading to what was the focal point of the social life on the mine – the Mine Club. Not far along the road I came to what had to be where the Guard Force were accommodated. The sight before me caused my blood pressure to rise. The Guard Force may not be considered very highly by the two other arms of the Defence Force or the Police but I had become proud of it and the achievements we had accomplished with the limited materiel we had at our disposal. Yet here before me was an example of why other arms thought we were a bunch of wankers.

As we drove up I saw three guards with Afro hairstyles sunning themselves on the garden wall surrounding the property. Shorts, including some colourful swimming trunks, shirts that hadn’t seen an iron for months. Their boots were the best, not only were they unpolished they were not laced, that is they had no laces to be tied up. As I pulled up next to one of the guards he deigned to turn his head to look at us and then he turned over with his back to us. That was a red rag to the bull for me but I demonstrated extreme willpower as I remained objective. When Fazo drove up in the Puma the guards lying on the wall took some interest and sitting up continued to ignore me and shouted greetings to the guards I had brought with me. My Sergeant debussed and coming to attention in front of me saluted which I acknowledged but did not return his salute because I was not wearing my beret. He asked what my orders were and I asked him to enquire as to where I could find the Sergeant in charge. He did so and advised me the Sergeant was at the Mine Club because it was Saturday afternoon and many of the mine people gathered for drinks, sport and a braai in the evening. Leaving my Sergeant and guards at the camp I took Tom and the youngster with me to the club in the Land Rover.

Walking into the club I asked for the Secretary and explained who I was and what we were about. He gave us permission to enter and make ourselves at home. At the bar I saw what had to be the Sergeant in Charge. He was unshaven and wearing a pair of shorts and a cammo ‘T’ shirt. Around his waist he had a web belt to which was attached two magazine pouches containing 4 magazines. At the back between the pouches there was a ‘K – Bar’ knife. The sleeves of the ‘T’ shirt had been torn off to expose the biceps and triceps even more than usual. This was one dude who thought he was Rambo. He even wore a red rag tied around his head.  For footwear he was wearing a pair of cowboy boots, I didn’t see his horse tied up outside and I thought he had to be an idiot attempting to drive in those boots. It always amazed me how guys at the frontline always thought by looking like the Yanks in Vietnam made them tougher. My dress out on patrol or in ambush or OP usually consisted of a tiny pair of green shorts, a cammo ‘T’ shirt, rolled down grey socks and a pair of veldskoens. I wore a yoke or sometimes my waistcoat and attached to which ever I was wearing was my combat jacket, super useful in making a stretcher and very comforting once the sun went down. However, once I was in civilised surroundings I wore full uniform. Here we were, Tom, the youngster and myself dressed in full uniform and here was ‘Rambo’ at the same locstat - Dorowa Mine.

I walked over to the Sergeant and introduced myself and explained I had come to inspect the Guard Force set up at Dorowa and I asked if he would drink up and join me back at the camp. As we were about to leave the Secretary asked me if we would care to attend the braai that night and graciously I accepted thinking perhaps the invite might be withdrawn later that day.

Back at the camp I asked my Sergeant to fall in the resident guards so I could inspect them. They were beginning to realise things weren’t as kosher as they had previously thought they were. At that point the Sergeant in Charge deigned to appear. Quietly and calmly I ordered him to change into proper uniform as he was on duty. Instead of complying he started to argue with me telling me he was a regular Sergeant whereas I was only a part time officer so he was my superior. That was when I exploded and educated him in the reality of the armed forces of Rhodesia. I advised him if he continued to disobey me he would be under close arrest. I would charge him at Grand Reef and once found guilty I personally would escort him to the DB at Chikurubi. Suddenly he realised I was no wet behind the ears youngster he could browbeat, I was the real deal, intelligent and old enough to browbeat men far superior to him. He disappeared to his quarters to change while I commenced berating the rubbish his guards had become.

In short order I had my Sergeant give all the guards a haircut more becoming guards in my unit. Unfortunately he wasn’t very well trained and only had a safety razor. To enable the blade to chop through the Afro hair he loosened the blade somewhat and by the time he was finished I’m afraid most heads were bleeding from one or more nicks. I then carried out my inspection which did not please me at all as their weapons hadn’t been cleaned for a very long time. Their uniforms were in disrepair and dirty, as was their accommodation. I’m make no apologies for being a martinet and I expected my men to be the best unit in the Guard Force NOT the worst.

I allocated some of the resident guards to Tom and some to the youngster and ordered them to drill them. The guards were unfit and totally unsuitable to be in the Guard Force at that time. In reality it wasn’t their fault but that of their officer who rather than maintaining discipline and fitness he had allowed them to degenerate into slovenly, disrespectful loutish majibas. The Sergeant realised I was anything but pleased with the situation and kept a low profile while I disciplined his guards. I did not realise how loud my berating was nor how my actions were being portrayed at the time, only later on, would I find out. I really castigated the guards for pissing on the Mine Manager’s garden wall and especially when his wife was having tea on her veranda in the afternoons.

Finally I was satisfied the guards were showing signs of being part of the Guard Force once again and dismissed them. I asked the Sergeant for his guard duty roster so I could see who was about to go on duty and he informed me he didn’t have one as he let the Corporal sort out who was on duty. Dorowa was an important mine and the Guard Force had provided forty guards to protect it. Each shift consisted of ten guards on duty at a time with ten in reserve. By having forty guards, the spare ten could be inserted at different times to allow all guards to have an early shift an afternoon shift and a night shift. The roster rotated every 5 weeks. The guards rested were used to fill in for sickness or leave and to assist the Sergeant with his administration. To assist the Corporal there were three Lance – Jacks, one for each shift. Their duties were not onerous but needed to be done properly. The Lance Jack would check the guards on his shift every hour to ensure they were on post. The Corporal and the Sergeant would check randomly during the day and night to ensure the guards were alert and on duty, that was the theory anyway. I discovered neither the Corporal nor the Sergeant bothered to check on the guards during the nightshift which was probably the most important shift to check as late at night or in the early hours, human nature is at its lowest ebb and needs to be chivvied up.

My CO had told me to make a judgement call regarding the situation and I realised unless someone with far more self-discipline than the Sergeant-in-Charge was in charge the situation would very quickly revert to what it had been when I arrived. Obviously the CO had not considered it important or feasible enough to send an officer to check the situation on a regular basis, hence the mess I’d found. I had no doubts the person in charge had to be changed and I advised the Sergeant we would stay overnight and in the morning he would be leaving with us. He offered me his bed which I refused saying it was his and he should enjoy it. Tom, the youngster and I would attempt to sleep on the floor in what was the lounge. He was incredulous expecting me, having made such a song and dance about our relative ranks to claim the best. I may have been a martinet but I never abused my rank or power and believe I treated my men fairly. Of course the Sergeant did not know that I had slept with the fleas on the farm in the Chipinga district, nor did he know of the nights I had attempted to sleep on the steel seats of a Kudu without a roof, in the rain. For those who don’t know, each bench of three seats has a seat belt the belts are shackled to the seat by large bolts, two per seat, not the most comfortable things to sleep on. I had also slept on the ground in ambushes and OPs and at one time, in my filthy clothing for three weeks, not being allowed to change or wash during that time.

We spruced ourselves up and were ready for the braai. Before we left I established with my Sergeant that my men from Rusape were accommodated and had rations for their dinner. He told me there was a shop at the compound where they could buy some beer and food for their dinner if he and some others could be allowed to go there. I gave him permission and I told him I didn’t want the guards going on duty to drink beforehand but for some beer to be kept for them to drink once they had finished their shift. He was a damn good Sergeant and I knew my wishes would be carried out to the letter. I told him to take Kapuke and ‘Mombe with him as well as Corporal Farai and a couple of guards. I gave Kapuke twenty dollars to buy some beer for all the guards and told him I would be checking the guards myself later that night so he should warn them.

Leaving the guards we headed off to the club for the braai. On the way the Sergeant asked me why I had given Kapuke some of my money to buy beer for all the guards when I had disciplined his guards earlier in the day. I explained as far as I was concerned they had let the Guard Force down and had been punished. That was that, no grudges, no pack drill, finish and klaar and he kept quiet as he tried to analyse me. The locals were very hospitable and we enjoyed the braai and a few drinks. The Mine Manager bought me a drink and said he had been impressed at the turn around and only hoped it would be sustained. I shrugged my shoulders and said I agreed with him but matters were out of my hands. Soon after eating and a few drinks we returned to the Guard Force quarters for the night.

Around three o ‘clock in the morning I rose and went for a stroll around the mine. As I passed the accommodation where the guards slept there was a quiet cough and Kapuke materialised out of the blackness. He said he would accompany me as he knew where the guards were stationed. So did I but I didn’t want to disappoint such loyalty so I agreed to his company. The message must have got round for all guards were attentive and wide awake at their posts.

Next morning I anticipated the guards who had been on shift yesterday afternoon would need to be attended to. I was wrong, they had got the message from their shamwaris and they had all had haircuts and were smartly dress at the morning parade. I explained that the Sergeant-in-Charge would be leaving with me and in the interim the Corporal would be in charge. I would be back soon and if I received bad reports in my absence from the Mine Manager or anybody there would be very big trouble with some of the guards going to the BD at Chikurubi. They smiled and assured me everything would be good when I came back.

We set off with the Sergeant riding on the Puma. At Inyazura I took over the lead and we headed for Rusape. It was late when we arrived and I arranged a bed for the Sergeant in one of the spare rooms. I mentioned that we’d go to the Crocodile for dinner and was attending to some paperwork when I heard raised voices coming from where we relaxed by the fireplace. Entering I heard the Sergeant telling Tom, his rank – Sergeant - was superior to Tom’s rank of Keep Commander. And as such he got second choice of the chairs after me. Again I had to put him in his place explaining he was a nothing in my HQ whereas Tom was my 2IC and the youngster my 3IC so they definitely outranked him. I explained to him rather than being a dickhead had he been more amicable he would have ended up with the second best chair as both Tom and the youngster were polite men and fully cognizant of my attitude towards guests. As it was he’d burnt his bridges and best make do with the fourth best chair. We soon set off for the Crocodile and the Sergeant was astounded how quickly I forgot previous occurrences when I bought him a beer.

Next morning we set off for Grand Reef. At the HQ I explained to the CO what I had found and what I recommended and the CO agreed with me. He was really put out and bloody annoyed with the Sergeant as he had personally appointed him to the position at Dorowa. He had his Sergeant-Major bring the Sergeant in and in front of me he berated him and fired him there and then. He told him to collect his possessions and to get off the base immediately and to go to Chikurubi for his final pay. He warned him if he was still on the base in ten minutes he could be shot for trespassing on military property. The Sergeant went white and then nearly burst into tears before he shot off and grabbed his suitcase disappearing in the direction of the gate. Personally I didn’t agree with the CO’s action for Grand Reef was at least ten Kms from the main road and then twenty to Umtali and at least forty to Rusape.

The CO called in a young Keep Commander who had a look about him. The CO said he was to collect his kit as I was taking him to Dorowa where he would complete his call up. My youngster knew the KC and I gathered from him the KC was a man after my own heart. And would do my bidding. We set off and drove straight to Dorowa where I introduced the KC and explained what I believed was necessary. He agreed with me and said he would carry out my orders but he wasn’t sure if he reported to me or directly to the CO. I said I didn’t know but would find out and let him know.

Back at Rusape we got back into our normal routine but on the second day back I got a phone call from the CO saying he had received a complaint from Dorowa about my attitude and language. I was taken aback and then he started to laugh. He said he had received a call from the Mine Manager who initially pretended to be annoyed at the loud bad language I’d used resolving the problem. Apparently two ladies were sitting on the balcony of a house close by but my language was so blue it curled their hair and my tone was so aggressive they feared for their lives and departed inside. I thought I was done like a dinner. Apparently it was then the Mine Manager had laughed and said he was totally impressed at the total turn around in the guards. None had peed on his wall. All had suddenly become very respectful and even the Corporal had told him ‘that officer is too harsh Sir but he make us proud again, he make us sing the Guard Force song because we are lions.’ The Mine Manager admitted he had heard the guards singing and marching about with pride. Finally he said the new KC was working out very well and the guards were keen to do his bidding. The CO then said that as I had done such a good job perhaps I would continue to look after Dorowa as well.

I advised the KC of the situation and said I would call on him in a couple of weeks which I did and I made a point of seeing the two ladies and I apologised for my bad language and I explained how upset I was that men of my unit were behaving so badly. They forgave me and said they were very happy I was on their side as they managed to sleep better in that knowledge. They were very enamoured with the KC and said he too made them feel very safe.

 Nothing else of note occurred on that call-up and we duly stood down for 4 weeks back in civvy life. My father worked for the Salisbury Municipality and through his work he knew Tom who also worked for some Governmental department, road planning, traffic control or something or other. I went to have supper with my folks and my Dad asked me why I was known as Randy in the Guard Force. When I explained he laughed his head off and then said to me Tom had confided in him that he wished he could be certain of doing his future call ups with me as he’d never felt so important, needed or safe as he had during our call up together. I was destined never to return to Rusape with the Guard Force and I have no idea what happened to Tom, the youngster based with me at Rusape, the KC who took over at Dorowa or the CO based at the HQ at Grand Reef.

 

Back in civvy street I soon caught up with my job and social life and realising the Rhodesia I had loved was doomed to die and unlike the Phoenix never to rise again I decided I needed to look to myself and consider my own future. I had been trying to complete a degree without success for a number of years and decided I needed to focus on passing. I asked for an exemption which would give me more time to apply myself than I had over the previous 4 years. I was granted my exemption which meant I would be a civilian for nearly 14 weeks rather than 4 weeks. I had been due to return for my next call up on 6th November but for whatever reasons the Examinations Board of the degree I was reading had delayed the examinations until the 20th November usually they were held on the 5th or 6th of November. I explained to the Administrators at GFHQ I only needed an exemption until the 21st November but they insisted that it was not possible for me to remain in my call up cycle and only serve 4 weeks instead of 6 weeks.

The next thing I remember I received my official brown envelope advising me that I was to report for duty on the 28th December 1979. I was to take over the protection of the farms in the Virginia region and my call up would be for a minimum of 10 weeks. I was still off duty and preparing for my examinations and enjoying my time back in Civvy Street. All too quickly the examinations were written and Christmas was upon us. No sooner had Boxing Day arrived and I was preparing to return to my military role at the Virginia farming area. Virginia was behind Macheke and the Guard Force HQ was based on a farm called Salama – once owned by Tim Peech who was killed by CTs in 1978. His widow continued to run the farm with the aid of two young learner farm managers. A young SB PO on call up call Charlie (can’t recall his surname) became her lover and spent his time based at her house rather than using the camp facilities. I recall Charlie’s father running his own business from an industrial park located at Salisbury. Mrs. Peech had a young son whom Charlie seemed to dote on and the boy seemed to really enjoy having Charlie around.

FINAL GUARD FORCE CALL-UP

MACHEKE/VIRGINIA

I

went to Chikurubi as usual and caught the CABS bus to Macheke where I disembarked. Fortunately an Assistant Commandant was waiting for me and he took me to the base at Salama. I cannot recall his name but I do recall him telling me he and his mother had immigrated to Rhodesia from Kenya once Independence showed where Kenya was headed. They were farmers and owned a farm in the Macheke/Virginia area. His role was basically cosmetic and he soon made it clear to me that I was in charge but he was there to lend me support should I need it.

At Salama there was a brick complex which contained an office, reception room, kitchen, storeroom and 2 bedrooms. There was also a toilet and shower. Behind this complex there were two wooden barracks, an ablution block and some storerooms. The Assistant Commandant dropped me off and soon disappeared having introduced me to a local farmer’s wife who occupied the office. Basically she was there to man the Agric-alert and telephone should an incident occur. From 1800 Hours until 600 hours a local farmer manned the office and he occupied the one bedroom.. The PO was ensconced in the other bedroom so I had no option but to occupy the one barrack room. Fortunately there were only 8 guards based at Salama so they only occupied part of one of the barracks. I indicated to the PO I would be using the kitchen, shower and toilet in the office complex and that was that. The resident Guard Force Corporal met me and fell the guards in so I could address them. I established that they were quite bored as they spent most of their time lazing about the base waiting to be used by one of the farmers when they were available and inclined.  It didn’t take me long to establish that the farmers in the area considered themselves a private army without responsibility to the Minister of Defence. They were a wealthy community of tobacco farmers and had purchased their own mine proofed personnel carrier as well as establishing a motor bike squad who supposedly reacted if any farm was under attack in the area. The personnel carrier was based at Salama where I had the use of a Kudu and the PO a Rhino.

I anticipated some animosity with my being based in the area but I was completely wrong and I was welcomed by the local farmers. The farmer on duty the first night asked me if I would be prepared to go to the club the following evening to attend a meeting of the farmers to which I agreed. I prepared my meal and the farmer on duty ate his own meal. After I had showered I wished him well and I retired to my bed. I thought it strange when I saw each metal bedstead had its legs resting in a half metal can filled with water. The Corporal told me the ants were terrible and if the water wasn’t there they were a real pest as they climbed into the bed.

Next morning I held my parade and shocked the Corporal and guards with the standard I required. The Corporal was incredulous but soon decided to do my bidding when I mentioned the DB at Chikurubi. Leaving two guards at the base I took the Corporal and 5 guards as I began my tour of the farms and the guards located on them. As I arrived at each farm the farmer or his wife was curious as to my intent as they had been running the guards as their personal force. I explained how I did things and was amazed at their scepticism I soon got the message that all previous officers running the base simply let the farmers get on with their guards. They said that each month they brought their guards to Salama to receive their pay. I explained that may have been the way of the past but while I was in charge things would be different. They could expect to see me at least once a week as I had a keen interest in my guards. At each farm I visited I had the guards fall in and I held an impromptu inspection. Most of the guards were clean as were their uniforms but a number failed when I inspected their rifles. They seemed to think if they didn’t fire their rifles they didn’t need to clean them.

The Corporal told me each month the farmers took their guards to the rifle range behind Macheke. They would leave their guards there while they went to Macheke or Rusape to shop. One of the farmers would take the guards through their paces at the range. I thought overall the farmers in the Macheke/Virginia area were well organised and enthusiastic but I held my judgement as to me the farmers anywhere had to be special in order to survive the war situation.

I saw the contrast in personal attitudes to life in Virginia. There were two brothers, both farmers but that was as far as the similarities ended. One was clean, tidy, married and ran a tight ship. He was wealthy and proud of his achievements. His brother was not the cleanest individual around nor was his clothing, he wasn’t married and his home was like a pigsty. His farm appeared run down yet despite all that he managed to make a decent living. He was the farmer who took the guards through their rifle range practice.

That second night I met majority of the farmers from the district and they were interested in how I intended to operate. They were very keen to reduce their involvement so they could concentrate on their farming again. I assured them I intended to operate as I had in Rusape which seemed to please them, especially those who had heard of me from friends at Rusape.

Charlie advised me he would be moving into the Peech homestead and I took over the one bedroom which suited me perfectly. As I was now resident in the office complex I advised the farmers they need no longer operate the radio at night as I would be available to answer any calls coming in. Two weeks later Charlie completed his call up and went home. His replacement used the other bedroom and we got on well together.

 I had an open invitation to the Club and on one visit I was introduced to ‘Hoss’. He was the club resident cat who had to fend for himself except when some of the farmers were at the club. He was a moth eaten tom and huge with extremely long claws as I found out. I was sitting at the bar one night and one of the farmers put Hoss on the stool next to me. He sounded like a bloody tractor as he purred his contentment. Being an animal lover I shared some of my biltong with Hoss and in his appreciation he rested a paw on my thigh. In his ecstasy he flexed his claws and all I felt was a bunch of red hot needles penetrating my thigh. I was surprised and in my pain I shot off the stool much to Hoss’s indignation and contempt and to the hilarity of the gathering. Thereafter I steered clear of sitting near Hoss. The new PO was introduced to Hoss in the same way and he wanted to kill Hoss until the farmers dissuaded him with some less than veiled threats, cop or not.


Shows the dirt road passing my base at Salama farm heading to the farm house

One night the young bucks in the district called on us and invited us to join them for a few drinks at the Macheke Police Station. They were a mad bunch of youngsters and many were part of the motorbike squad. At the Police Station we were made welcome and soon started to play darts and snooker but as so often happened too much drink was drunk and to avoid a serious altercation the cops closed the bar and sent us home. On the way I loss a wheel from my Kudu which I’d only recently recovered from the PMD after having a puncture repaired. Fortunately the Kudu being based on the Land Rover was so well balanced I managed to pull up in the storm water ditch. The young bucks had been following us so they gave us a lift back to Salama.

Next day I took my Crocodile back to where I’d left my Kudu. I sent the guards out to scour the land for my wheel. I couldn’t believe it when one of the guards found the wheel. When it came off the hub it gained speed and bounced through the storm water drain leapt over a farmer’s fence and came to rest on a corpse of trees at least 300 metres from the road. I managed to remove three of the sheered studs and replaced them by stealing one from each of the other three wheels. Finally we were ready to go back to Salama but I could only drive one vehicle at a time. The PO had disappeared to do some work so I asked if any of the guards could drive. One was very enthusiastic and agreed he had a car licence. We were off the beaten track and only about 6 Kilometres from my base. I ordered him to drive in front of me and to watch for my signals. If I flashed my lights he was to slow down. He agreed he understood and off we went.

We started out fine but he kept getting faster and faster. I flashed my lights to no effect and then I hooted to no effect. I was getting annoyed and he was in serious trouble for disobeying me. As we neared the turnoff to my base I thought he was going to drive past as he wasn’t slowing down. No trouble to him he just turned the steering wheel. I couldn’t believe it. Of course even a converted Land Rover wasn’t built to complete a right angled turn at 90 Kms an hour. It flipped onto its side and for whatever reason stopped dead without skidding and causing extensive damage.

 

 


Shows my vehicles, a Kudu and a Crocodile, at Salama with my compliment of guards.

The driver knew he was in deep shit with me but before I could stop the Crocodile he and his three passengers had crawled out of the Kudu and physically lifted it back onto it wheels. As I approached him with a thunderous look of suffused anger on my face he smiled at me and said,

“Sorry Sir I forgot to brake but all is good look, no damage…” That was as far as he got before I slapped him on the side of his head sitting him on his backside. I was grateful to my God above that none of them had suffered any injuries as they were strapped in.  The Kudu appeared undamaged but when it flipped all the oil in the sump drained out. I checked it over but decided I better contact the PMD and tell them what had happened. The mechanic laughed like a drain when I explained what had occurred and said he’d come to Salama to check out the Kudu, especially as each wheel was missing studs.

When the mechanic called he cracked up laughing all over again when he recalled what I had told him. The Kudu had survived remarkably well and though he replaced the oil and studs he said his off sider would drive it to the CMD at Rusape where he would give it a thorough check and a full service. He said he and his off sider would bring back the Kudu when it was checked over so I’d better have some beers in the fridge.

 

 

 

Shows my vehicles and guard compliment at Salama. To the left in the background in front of the Kudu is the diesel troop carrier the farmers purchased to protect themselves. The tank in front of the Kudu is a water tank.

The new PO and I were at the club one Saturday night, we’d gone in the Land Rover I’d inherited from the Assistant Commandant – I had vehicles coming out of my ears but no drivers (with licences) to drive them – when a farmer phoned the club and asked for me. He sounded nervous and panicky and I found out why. His pig boy had been carrying his shotgun and as he climbed through a fence he tripped and the shotgun went off and almost blew his arm off. The farmer was beside himself not knowing how to cope and begged me to go to his assistance, he reminded me that I had bailed out his good friend Brian Bassett at Rusape late at night as well as the MP, de Kok. Confronted with such evidence simply reinforced my belief that we needed to assist farmers in their hour of need. I explained what I was about to the PO and asked if he could arrange a lift back to Salama. He wouldn’t hear of it and offered to accompany me to the farm. Most of the journey was on tarred roads so I wasn’t worried about land mines but the last few hundred metres were on dirt. Nothing happened and arriving at the homestead gate the farmer was there to open it for us. He was in a terrible state and kept referring to the blood, so much blood he kept saying.

I know a bit about gunshot wounds and have attended to several but I was a tyro compared to the PO. Very quickly he administered half an ampule of Sosegen which calmed the pig boy down. Because of the loss of blood the PO said we needed to administer a saline drip. I only had one with me but fortunately the farmer had a very well stocked medical kit. The PO inserted a drip and then applied a tourniquet to the extreme upper part of the arm to stem the flow of blood. We could see the shattered bone in the wound, with the arm hanging on by a thread. The PO bandaged it against the pig boy’s body and said to me he really need to go to hospital. I agreed and we prepared to drive to Umtali.

Fortunately I kept the Land Rover filled with petrol and off we went, driving hell for leather to avoid ambushes. I could only admire the pig boy who must have been in excruciating pain as he only uttered a sigh now and again when I hit a bump in the road.  On arrival at the hospital he thank us for our kindness in bringing him to the hospital for as he said had he stayed on the farm until the morning he would have been dead.  I saw him again several weeks later and miraculously the surgeons at the Umtali hospital had managed to save his arm which was strapped to his chest. He said to me they had told him he would never be able to lift his arm very high but at least he would be able to use his hand. He told me he intended to exercise his arm so he could carry on being the pig boy.

During February 1980 elections were held to see if the people wanted to continue as Zimbabwe – Rhodesia or as Zimbabwe. Britain’s duplicity became apparent once more when Lord Soames (colloquially known as Soapy Soames) stated categorically that any ‘sniff of intimidation would render the result from that polling station Null and Void’. Utter unadulterated hogwash. As I had previously done at Rusape I took the guards from Salama to the polling station so they could cast their votes. I personally observed blatant intimidation occurring in the queue of potential voters which I deliberately pointed out to a British Police Sergeant. He smiled broadly and said he’d make a note of it and report it to Lord Soames. I realised he had no intention of making such a report and suddenly I knew we’d been shafted by Britain again. They had a different agenda and integrity, honour and honesty were not on it. Numerous reports of blatant intimidation were filed and reported in the Herald yet Lord Soames allowed the results to stand.  I knew then Rhodesia was truly dead and it just remained to see how badly we’d been shafted.

Considering we had been duped by the British several rumours were started about coups. All threats of a coup were simply so much pissing in the wind and the conversion was as peaceful as could be.

Over the next few weeks I saw contingents of Australian troops arrive to help with the conversion of the CTs to the new Zimbabwe Security Force.

During this time some arsehole from one of the Infantry Battalions arrived with a company of guards for deployment in the Virginia area. He thought he was some sort of big deal and tried to browbeat me with his importance by telling me how it was going to be at my HQ from then on. I demanded to know who he was, what his rank was and where he came from as well as who his commanding officer was. He tried to ignore me, then to bluff me by telling me that he was a Commandant. I ignored him and telephoned the Assistant Commandant for the district and asked him had he received any orders or even a courtesy visit from an officer from the Infantry Battalion.  He answered in the negative and I suggested he contact the Commander of the Guard Force – Bill Godwin, with whom he was on very cordial terms - to establish what was going on. Unbeknownst to the arsehole with me the Assistant Commandant and the Commander were on first name terms – the Assistant Commandant’s mother was some sort of royalty and a genuine Lady whose family was indirectly related somehow to the Commander’s. Anyway hearing me on the phone, the infantry ‘Commandant’ decided to come clean. He showed me his driving licence and I discovered he was a Junior Commandant Second Class (one pipper).

I told him I was not impressed with his attitude, lack of manners or discourteous behaviour and was of two minds to place him on orders in front of the Assistant Commandant. He agreed he had been an arsehole and asked if we could start again. To me, my call up was coming to an end and I was willing to accommodate him. I agreed his men could use the one barrack room and his Sergeant- Major the spare bedroom in my quarters. He thanked me and said they were only to be in camp for two days and then they were to set off on patrol for ten days before returning. Their brief had changed somewhat and they were to capture any armed locals (note they were no longer referred to as CTs) as well as apprehending any cattle rustlers. With the win of the election a number of blacks simply believed Mugabe and his cronies that if they won the election whatever the white man own was now theirs for the taking. They were in for a very rude awakening, hence the presence of the infantry.

During the last weeks of my call up I called on Richard Teutcher who had been posted to Macheke South. He had no transport and was very happy to simply improve his tan and catch up on his reading. I invited him to Salama but he declined saying he had no transport so I went to visit him. It was the last time I was to see him.

In the last days of my call up I called on the farmers and thanked them for their assistance during my time at Salama and I even went to dinner with a few of them. With the election over there were supposed to be no more gooks about so there was a sense of euphoria among the farmers. At one such dinner the farmer’s wife gave me a tiny kitten which was half feral. It was a cute little thing which I eventually took home with me as well as the cat from the base at Salama. The base cat didn’t stay long before it disappeared but the kitten grew. I had to have it neutered though as it was too wild and killed the neighbour’s cat after practically destroying their flat during the chase. When I left Zimbabwe for Australia my servant asked me could he have the kitten which he doted on. I agreed and with my leaving immanent I moved into lodgings with some friends of mine. I had no need for a servant and settled a fine gratuity on John, my servant for his loyal service for which he thanked me and that was that.

Not quite, six months later I was on my way to the airport and at the gate there was my servant with his suitcase and the cat. When I asked what he was doing he said he knew that I was leaving for Australia and I would need a servant there so he was ready to come with me but would I mind if he brought the cat. It broke my heart having to deny him his wish but there simply was no way he could survive in Australia. He simply had no concept of the world, politics, environments, immigration /emigration, etc. In his mind he knew I was going a long way away but he thought he might be able to visit his wife and family each weekend. Anyway I headed to the airport in a taxi leaving a forlorn servant and his cat at the gate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNIFORMS

Different Uniforms during my conscripted military career during the Rhodesian Terrorist War

 

 


I’m wearing the original Guard Force khaki uniform. Notice brown and white shoulder boards issued to aspiring Keep commanders. The spear above the entrance nearly ended my life when I accosted a cattle rustler, just days before my last call up ended, I survived and after a stint in hospital he went to jail.


Close up of web belt, shoulder boards and khaki kepi

 


This was my bush kit. Tiny green shorts, cammo T shirt, cammo waistcoat,


Me wearing my rank on my right wrist. I did not wear my gold watch to war but a cheaper version ensconced in an elephant hide cover. The swagger stick is a bamboo stick covered with cowhide as presented to me at Rusape by my guards in appreciation for my organising a hide for their drum.


Me in full uniform as an officer when doing farm protection. Swagger stick and field shoulder boards


With my swagger stick and dress shoulder boards


My dress uniform. Note stable belt and beret as well as dress shoulder boards


Shows beret badge sitting on scarlet diamond background. Stable belt contains the Keep and Sword badge attached


My beret with the Guard Force badge backed by the scarlet diamond flash

 

 




Comments