e-Cheetah: October 2010
  • Editorial: Stand by your beds!
  • Chairman’s Briefing
  • UK Branch
  • SA Branch
  • Chinas Signing On
  • The Last Post (Vale)
  • Comd & Sigs
  • Admin & Log
  • There we were … knee-deep in grenade pins


This is the last e-Cheetah for 2010, so Happy Christmas chaps. The first e-Cheetah for 2011 will in fact be coming out as a glossy hard-copy A4 magazine of 80 pages extent, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our founding on 1 February 1961. Hopefully, depending on costs, the magazine will be included in the price of the tickets for the anniversary reunions to be held in SA and UK. It will also be on sale through the association, and thereafter it will appear electronically on the website. We are looking for contributory material in the form of photos and anecdotes, so please send your stuff through to the editor and we’ll do our best to include it. We will need all material by mid-December latest. This is your chance to go down in history! You won’t be around for the centenary edition. To help fund the project, the association is also selling advertising space. Contact the editor for rates.

As mentioned in the previous edition, one of the scribe’s pet projects is to get all the songs of the RLI down electronically. There are the old faithful's like ‘Don’t let me cross over’ and ‘Riding down to Salisbury’, but there are several that I don’t recognize (before my time, I imagine), so as and when the songs are published, in the 50th anniversary edition, for example, I’ll be asking members to shed light on the origins of the song and the tune if possible (most RLI songs were sung to the tune of a popular hit of the time). Reading the lyrics (words for 1 Commando) I was almost crying with laugher: many are so brashly non-PC that they will need some cunning editing so as not to offend non-ouens but without losing the unique RLI flavour of the times. As an example, here’s a random song that I’ve never heard. Any members remember it?

Chung-chunga runga rung
Chung chung cha rung
Chung chung cha rung
Chung chunga runga rung
Chung chung cha rung
Cafenol make you well

Cafenol is a painkiller
A painkiller a painkiller
Cafenol make you well
You put ze tablet in ze glass
You mix with water
And you drinks it fast
For headaches and flu
Take a tablet or two
Cafenol make you well.

A classic, ne? As you may know, Mark Adams is well on track with the RLI book due out in July 2011. I was hoping for his sitrep for this edition, but he’ll be in the UK on a recce to see what int he can gather from the museum for the book. There’ll be a comprehensive sitrep in the 50th anniversary edition.

There has been a flurry of functions of late, sadly many funerals, as well as the UK and SA AGMs. I see the UK has now changed its name to Europe Branch. In keeping with this trend the SA Branch is really the Africa Branch—now we have European and African branches. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (Afrikaans sign on a Joubert Park bench, circa 1972).

No major changes with the office bearers; a few sideways shuffles and that’s about it. I was hoping to be on the bench but I see I’m still in the starting line-up, in spite of voting against myself. On a disappointing note I see Gary Huxham is stepping down as SA QM because of work commitments. Gary and his good wife Debbie have done a remarkable job in taking our memorabilia from zero to something quite substantial and can be justifiably proud of what they have managed to achieve, in often trying and thankless circumstances.


Wiggill and Huxham at the AGM

Chris Cocks


Since the last e-Cheetah the association has sadly lost two well-known and respected members. Firstly, Lt-Gen Peter Walls, who as CO transformed the unit into a commando battalion and then went on to become Commander Combined Operations; and secondly, our legendary and revered Patron, Lt-Col Ron Reid-Daly, who was our first RSM, then Training Officer and OC Support Group, before going on to greater fame as founder and CO of the Selous Scouts. We offer our most sincere condolences to all their family members. Their names will be remembered for eternity in the annals of RLI history.

The association has continued to surge ahead with many new members coming out of the woodwork all the time, which is very encouraging. The new site has been revamped and updated, and for this we must thank George Dempster and his E2 team for their efforts in this regard. Preparations are going ahead well for the 50th birthday celebrations next year, and the two events in South Africa and UK in February have all the makings of superb reunions that will really do the old regiment proud.

Finally, I would like to welcome our new Patron, Lt-Col J.C.W. ‘Charlie’ Aust MLM, former 2IC and OC 2 Commando, Battalion 2IC and the last Commanding Officer. It is great to have him aboard and all the ouens look forward to seeing him at next year’s birthday celebrations. Let’s keep the ‘Green and Silver’ moving forward.

Very best regards to you all.

Ian Buttenshaw
Chairman RLIRA

1 Commando stick prepares for Fireforce callout


It is with pleasure that we advise you that Lt-Col Charlie Aust has kindly consented to accept the position of Patron of The RLI Regimental Association, with immediate effect. Welcome Charlie and may you serve with us for a great many years to come. Other changes to the Executive Committee that have been ratified are that Martyn Hudson has stood down as CEO to take up the post as Association Development Officer (ADO) and Bill Wiggill has accepted the nomination to replace Martyn. Therefore the worldwide RLIRA structure is now as follows:
  • Chairman: Ian Buttenshaw
  • Europe Branch Chairman: Mark Pilbeam
  • RSA Branch Chairman & Association CEO: Bill Wiggill
  • Development Officer & Treasurer: Martyn Hudson (& Museum Curator!)
  • Webmaster: George Dempster
  • Legal Advisor: Shaun Ryan
  • History and Publications: Chris Cocks
  • Padré: Clive Larrett
  • Membership Officer / 2011 RLI book editor: Mark Adams

Members, please note that there is an error that exists in sending out bulk emails where incorrect passwords appear at the heading of signals. Please ignore this; our webmaster's team is busy resolving the issue. You will shortly receive your correct own password to log onto the website. At present you can still view all the content on the site without having to log on.

Kind Regards
Billy Wiggill

Well it looks like the rain gods favoured the Rhodesian Light Infantry again. On 25 September the day dawned bright (although a little chilly) on the third Annual General Meeting and get-together of the RLIRA held in Bedford at the Royal Air Force Association Club. Now, this is something that should be considered quite carefully and with a great deal of interest and scrutiny. Consider the Ryder Cup. True, it is being held in Wales, a country well known for its balmy climate and palm-treed sandy beaches. Add to that the combined economic might of the United States and the European Union; the nearly one billion people who live in those lands, the majority it would seem, supporting either one or other of the teams and what happens? It rains and then it rains and then it rains a bit more. In Bedford about 150 people came together to celebrate and remember the RLI and the RLI Association of around, give or take, a thousand people and the sun shone although a little cloudy but it shone. Not only was this remarkable on its own, but each time we have had a get-together the weather, despite being September, has been fine; so the questions is:

Walls and Reid-Daly prepare to paint
a gutter

“Who loves the RLI!”

Those unable to attend missed another lekker party which started at 12 and continued on until 12 that night although there was a story that some folks had to be escorted out of the club a lot later than that! The events were a little thrown out of kilter by the failure to appear of two of the acts booked for the day. On the previous Friday, one of the bands phoned to say that they were no longer a five piece, but had gone down to three due to commitments elsewhere. At nine on the Saturday another call informed us that the lead singer was currently involved in a bit of wildlife conservation as he was talking to Ralph and Huey on the big white telephone. This brought their number down to two, and it occurred to the committee that if things continued as they were we might end up with a soloist with a kettle drum and a harmonica; so we cancelled! The second disappointment was to have more serious effect on the day and it was with some irritation that we discovered that the provider of the Karaoke had decided unannounced to go for a jaunt to the Caribbean without giving us any notice.

This presented major problems as we were relying on the PA system for both our memorial ceremony for Uncle Ron as well as the AGM. The result was that that at the memorial service many had difficulty in hearing. We would like to apologize to everyone who attended; it was not something that we were very happy about. The ceremony itself went well with three excellent eulogies from Charley Aust for the RLI, John Evans for the SAS and John Ashburner for the Selous Scouts. We would like to thank Ben Buckland from the UDR, our piper and Major Chris from the Salvation Army for playing of ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’. A great man and soldier, we hope that Uncle Ron would have approved of a service that highlighted his achievements and marked the affection and respect that we all felt for him. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking all of you who turned up for the ceremony as well as those who were unable to make it, but who sent us their apologies and thoughts.

So the ceremony ended and as ‘The Saints’ came to an end the ouens and crows headed off in various directions, all of them leading back to the bar for a top-up and the AGM. Obviously a vital part of the running of the RLIRA, the pit-stop took a little more than ten minutes; actually a lot more than the ten allocated minutes between the ending of the ceremony and the beginning of the AGM and required much shouting and poking of sharp sticks as the members were carefully herded into the large outside tent that was to house the AGM. The minutes of the meeting will be forwarded a little later but we would like to bring to your attention to one or two important points:
  • John Ashburner volunteered (what do we always say about volunteering?) to join the committee and this was endorsed by all of the members. We would like to welcome John on to the committee and we know that he will do a fine job.

  • Martyn Hudson relinquished his role as Chief Executive Officer of the worldwide association and Bill Wiggill of the RSA branch has agreed to take up this role. In addition, Martyn has taken over as Projects Officer for the association, a job that he has been doing unofficially (along with all his other jobs!) and we would like to thank Martyn for all of the work that he did as the CEO and pass on our thanks for his taking up of his new role as PO.

  • It was with great support agreement and encouragement that Martyn announced that the new Patron of the worldwide association was to be Charlie Aust. Charlie received the unanimous support of the ExCo as the new Patron and his selection and agreement to serve was, judging by the noise made by the members, universally popular. Thank you Charlie for agreeing and from the UK branch, and we are sure from the RSA branch as well, that we are looking forward to working with you, and looking forward to your support and encouragement.

  • Stalwart awards were presented to Neill Storey and Ian Clegg. Both of these ouens have worked very hard behind the scenes helping to make things happen for the RLIA, not just here in the UK but also throughout the worldwide organization. Their clandestine activities have now been brought into the light and we would like to say a great big tatenda to them both for all of their help and support—seriously much appreciated ouens.

With the end of the AGM, folks got on to the more serious business of formalized enjoyment. The braais were going big time, with smoke from the fires completely annihilating any perfume that the lads from 2 Commando might have been wearing; it wasn’t doing much for the ladies either. Although folks were encouraged to bring along their own nyama, skoff was available, provided in the main by the BraaiMeister Glenn Seymour-Hall who must have cooked more than 25kg of wors which were then attached to bread rolls for the hungry. Glenn—a big thank-you for all your help and efforts both up to and on the day. The rest, as they say, is history. Yup, a lot of folks would agree the next day that they were history! We would like to thank the Selous Scout contingent who brought a little bit of international flavour to the ‘do’ by extolling the virtues of tequila which was readily received by Cindy and Neil, who were last seen holding a wall up and talking in what most thought was Mexican; well there was a ‘gringo’ in there somewhere. It was also nice to see an RAF mannequin receive intimate treatment from one of the ladies and it has taken a fair few rub-downs with lemon juice to wipe the smile off the mannequin’s face.

To Ben the piper: we hope you got to your party in London on time and we apologize for providing you with Scottish nectar to keep the cold out of your piping fingers and your consequent inability to tell the time (or day?) We would also like to thank Ben for his rendition of ‘The Saints’ and the accompanying vocal chorus from the ouens. It is curious and some might say impossible, but Ben and more importantly, his pipes were playing away inside a relatively small area called the RAFA club and no one complained! Well, not that we heard anyway. To all of you who were there, a big thank-you for making the day such a resounding success. To all of you who were unable to make it; don’t leave it too long before you get back in contact with us. Remember the association only lives with its members and without you we are going to stall and eventually die.

Grey’s Scouts Regimental Parade
Guest of Honour: Houghton Regis Town Mayor, Counciller Robin Hines. Proudly on 13 November 2010 the Rhodesian Grey’s Scouts Regiment will celebrate their regimental reunion in Houghton Regis, Dunstable, UK, with a full military band and procession through the High Street, culminating in a flag-lowering ceremony on the village green. Many of the unit’s Commanding Officers will be present and maybe for the last time the Grey’s flag will be proudly lowered to finally rest as the whispers of those who sacrificed their lives for their country are remembered by those of us that remain. The march will begin at 11.00am on Saturday morning and finish with the flag ceremony on the green and a regimental luncheon served to all those in attendance at a cost of £8.50 at around 12.00pm and then it’s off to the pub to damp the dust. All those Grey’s in attendance please dress smart and if you have a beret please wear it as this is our sign of the pride we hold in the history of our unit. If you need regimental ties they can be purchased on the Grey’s website. We welcome all the related families and friends and special invited guests to our parade on the day and I’m sure old friendships will be rekindled. Many berets and badges have been bought and those that still need, better jump in quick as things are running out fast. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this an event to look forward to and if you need any further help or assistance the number to call is below. We are looking forward to a great day to be shared by all. The cut-off date to buy kit for the parade is 12 October. Hamba gashle guys, see you soon. Contact the writer for transport and accommodation options and details. For further information contact Neville on 01582-867151 or greyscouts@aol.co.uk

50th Birthday Celebrations
Although still a while to go, but coming up from behind very rapidly, work on the Regiment’s 50th birthday celebrations in 2011, is actively being pursued. Negotiations for accommodation, food, beverage, music and transportation are being finalized even as we speak. So far we have received a huge groundswell of approval and promises of attendance and we would like to thank all of those who have got in touch indicating their intention to come to the celebration. We would like to remind those who have not made their minds up that there will be a limited number of tickets for the events of the weekend, distributed on a first-come-first-served basis and we would encourage all members to book their places by contacting the UK RLIRA with their intentions to avoid disappointment. The UK committee will be meeting in the next month to continue with the preparations, so if you have any comments or inquires, please get them to us ASAP by mailing either Mark or Martyn.

Warning order: Rhodesian Army Association AGM and Regimental Dinner
We know that this is a bit early for a warning order but we would like to draw your attention to the RAA’s AGM to be held on 2 April, 2011. All the details are on the RAA’s website and we would encourage folks to pencil this into their diary. The event will be held at the King Charles Hotel in Gillingham, Kent. Please note that the dress code for the dinner is lounge suit and not black tie; I reckon it would be pretty cold that time of year just in a black tie.

Remembrance Day: The Trooper and Hatfield House
On 30 October it is our intention to hold a remembrance ceremony at the site of the Trooper at Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. We will be meeting at 10:30 for 11:00 at the Red Lion in Hatfield, just up the road from Hatfield House. At the conclusion of the ceremony we will return to the Red Lion for a committee meeting to discuss 50th celebrations and lunch. We would like to extend an invitation to all our members to join with the committee for the remembrance ceremony as well as the lunch. Please note that there will be no organized formal luncheon but just pub fare and we would encourage as many of you as can make it to join us. Dress code will be, where possible, regimental blazers and ties, or lounge suits. Also note that Hatfield House is closed for the winter and it is only by kind permission of Lord Salisbury that we are able to make use of his grounds and that this is a courtesy extended only to the Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association and her members.
Out for now.

Mark Pilbeam

Tarr practises his recruit abuse on Reid-Daly


Vic Mackenzie's tribute CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

Hail all from the sunny spot of southern Africa. I have not seen a quarter pass so fast or so many goings-on for nearly a year now and as we advance to contact, the 50th Reunion in February 2011, the pace will no doubt hot up for all the MMWC involved in the organizing and planning of said grand affair. Of course, the most serious occurrences were the passing of two of the Regiment’s finest members and great soldiers in Rhodesia’s history, namely Lt-Gen G.P. Walls, Army Commander and Lt-Col R.F. Reid-Daly who was also our Patron. Another sad loss was that of Air Marshal Norman Walsh, a great leader of the air war in our fair land. (All reported in the ‘The Last Post’ Vale section below.)

All Forces Bash, 31 July
This quarterly event was held at the Dickie Fritz Shell Hole as usual, with a good turnout of all units. Most noticeable was the increase in RhAF men; keep it up gentlemen. Sadly, chief crow Carol Doughty was in hospital from some lurgy infecting her ankle. Carol is on the mend but still limps along. (We suspect that this is so ouens can carry her around).

The show was ably handled by Graham Peak (Short Army Soldiers); thanks Graham for keeping the band fed and grogged up to entertain us.

Military Regalia Day, 7 August
By kind invitation of the War Museum in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, the association made its first tentative venture into the public domain at the SAACA (SA Arms and Ammo Collectors Assn) Fair. Made new fiends and sold some memorabilia for the coffers (about R6,000 worth). Hats off to the ouens who gave of their time and energy to man the stand and again later on in September at a subsequent event. Willing helpers were Papi Bolton, Alan Strachan, Len Beechy and Keith Blanchard (all ex-Big Red).

SA Annual General Meeting, 28 August
This was held again at Dickie Fritz with Carol organizing the hot meal through the dear ladies of the Shell Hole—and it was good scoff. The AGM was preceded by a short memorial service for ‘Uncle’ Ron for those members unable to make the Cape Town affair. Glenda Reid-Daly was also there and it was indeed great to see her, even under such sad circumstances. As seems to be the norm for AGMs, attendance could have been a lot better—some 89 on parade, including a few from the other units who were there for the memorial. The contents/minutes of the AGM are available on the website at the following link: click here

Of note was the recognizing and serving warrants on the following as
Honorary Crows:
  • Debbie Huxham
  • Kerrin Cocks
  • Francina Pittaway
  • Mariette Kluckow
  • Sylvia Wiggill
  • Shirley Dempster
  • Carol Sobey
  • Shirley Ras
  • Lana Du Plessis
  • Madeline Goetsch
A belated Honorary Crow and RLIRA Life Membership award was also made to Eunice Walls who replied thus:

I am humbly aware of the honour you have bestowed on me as a member of the ‘Honorary RLI Crow Award’. Please thank the committee and advise them I hope to be worthy of the title. I shall now strive for that pinnacle of awards, the ‘Female Buzzard Award’.
Eunice Walls

George Dempster presented the new RLIRA website and kudos to him and his team for all the hard work put in to make this happen. A movie was shown to members of the re-launch of the e-Cheetah newsletter to much guffawing from the gallery. The production of the RLI History is well underway and it looks like we will meet the July 2011 publication deadline.

BSAP Annual Dinner (Gauteng), 10 September

Yours truly and crow were invited to attend the BSAP Annual Dinner at the Johannesburg Country Club. A fair representation of the RLI was present and keynote speaker was Bruce Harrison, ex-RhAF.

A black tie affair with a swirling piper in attendance (at least he was by 21h00) Good to meet up with old comrades; we thoroughly enjoyed the dinner. Thank you to John Pirrett and his committee for a splendid ‘do’.

Hawtrey congratulates Dempster on achieving
a lifelong ambition

War & Peace Fair, 25 September

Papi, Alan and their External Operations Team (XOT) again set up shop at the War Museum, this time at the War & Peace Fair. Well done manne. We know that the pedestrian traffic to the stands was a bit low-key, however, with the long weekend and also the serious African Air show down in the Cape many ouens from this part of the Republic had bomb-shelled. (No mortar tubes to be taken on these ops.) This time the stand was next to the BSAP’s which was being run by Doug McGibbon. A few chirps about zol and “our chinas next door” were overheard.

Strachan and Blanchard fighting off the hordes of customers

Birthday Planning 50th
Plans are afoot at the moment to put together a road show for the manne to visit each region as a support group when each region has its annual bash.

The pre-op O Group is now confirmed for the Friday night (4 February) at Dickie Fritz: no entrance fees, Moth bar prices and finger snacks (mopane worms and kapenta).

The Saturday 5 February Reunion will be held at AFB Swartkops near Pretoria: detailed signals to go out asp to all members. Watch this space.

Enjoy this edition of the eCheetah and thank you to Chris Cocks for all the effort he puts into this ever-growing rag. Ever wondered what happened to Dave Scott-Donelan (Big Red 2IC)? Now teaching US hot cakes how to track.

Billy Wiggill

The past year went by in a flash and a blur—like my drill movements as a rookie on the parade square. The AGM went well with the past 12 months being very constructive. It is very rewarding to see that the various goals that were set have been achieved; growth in membership being one and a growing interest in the association among the ouens another. I trust we will all dig a little deeper to make the association even stronger. Just as we and other Rhodesians fought for what we believed was right, so also we must fight to keep the memory of the The Rhodesian Light Infantry alive with pride and respect. We have a magnificent heritage and must not allow it to fade. Lastly, at the AGM it was noted that many had not paid their subs and in order to maintain the association, I would like to encourage you to please do so. Contact me to find out if yours are outstanding.

Chris Ras

Since my last sitrep, I have the following to report on: The monthly Prayer Meetings at Ollie’s Pub & Grill still need a boost with some extra effort from members to attend. Most meetings are attended by the same personnel each time and it would be appreciated if more members, their spouses and friends attend—we need the support. Since the last e-Cheetah, the RLIRA Gauteng region annual function was held at Ollie’s Pub & Grill on the afternoon of Saturday 3 July and was well attended which made the event worthwhile. The weather was cool but the rain held off and it did not take long for the mood and party to kick in—especially when the band ‘The Spillage People’ got going with the ’60s and ’70s music. We were honoured with the presence of members of the BSAP, SAS and Selous Scouts on the day which really made it feel like a good old Oasis Motel party day and, NO! no police cars had their blue lights booted off or did any member receive Alsatian bites. A number of raffles were done on the day:
  • The Saints donated by the RLIRA and won by Neville Craig-Smith, or ‘George’ as most of us know him, who immediately donated it back to be re-raffled at the next event with the proceeds to go to young Jordan Pittaway’s trust fund. Thank you George.
  • Stick Leader RLI donated by the author Charlie Warren, 3 Commando and won by Debbie Huxham who, because she is my wife, thought it should be redrawn to allow someone else the opportunity to win it, which was done. (For those who are interested, Charlie Warren’s book Stick Leader RLI second edition will be available in November 2010.)
  • Bar fridge donated by Piet and Lynette Olivier of Ollie’s Pub & Grill was not drawn as there were insufficient ticket sales; it was carried forward to the next event, the AGM. All tickets taken on the day were carried over to the final draw.
Thank you all who assisted with the day’s function. The last event was the RLIRA AGM on Saturday 8 August 2010 held at the Dickie Fritz MOTH’s shell hole which, unfortunately in my opinion, was not at all well supported by the RLIRA members, which is a shame. Well done to those members from the other regions that made the effort to attend. The bar fridge raffle was drawn and Mervyn Kluckow had the winning ticket. So if you want to buy a house, contact Mervyn and you can now get a cold beer when you sign up. The Saints was re-raffled and won by Ollie, who re-donated it, with R 720.00 going to the Jordan Pittaway Trust.

Instead of raffling the book again it was decided by some of the members, including Ollie, that we will have the book mounted in a case with a plaque from the members of the RLIRA, which will then be given to Jordan Pittaway when he comes to SA in December for further medical tests. There was also a booze hamper raffle that was won. This said, the party raged on and when I left at 23h00, there were still some diehard members keeping Wally amused at the bar, blond wig and all. Thank you Wally and the MOTHs.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members who have supported me as the Gauteng Regional representative throughout this past year and for those who still have faith in my performance by re-electing me for the next year. I have a few ideas for this next year which I will put out to the members as soon as I discuss them with the committee—BE PREPARED!
Over and out.

Hux (Gary Huxham)
083-227 7158

KZN continues to host its monthly gatherings at the NMR officers’ mess. George Galbraith from SASRA has been busy organizing the construction of a display cabinet which is to house the memorabilia of RLI, Selous Scouts and the SAS. This will be situated in the officers’ mess until the downstairs bar (Boot ’n Spur) is moved to its new location when the display cabinet will form part of the military museum that currently exists at the NMR. An interesting fact about the NMR building is that it was originally the airport terminal building for the old Durban Airport (can you believe so close to town!) which means that it is over 100 years old and therefore is a protected building under the National Historical Buildings Act.

John van Stan received a mail from Fred Aves (ex-1 Cdo) who now lives in West Virginia, US. Please contact me should you require his details.

Nick Skipworth-Michell

November Tango Romeo

Dennis Croukamp

FALL IN! Welcome to the following who have registered recently with the RLIRA:
  • Veronita Gargan (Affiliate, widow of Michael Gargan)
  • Neville Smith (Tpr, Support Commando, 1977–80)
  • Pete Grobler (L/Cpl, Base Group, 1968–74)
  • Bruce ‘Bungy’ Upton (Corporal, 3 Commando, 1970–75)
  • Michael Toma (Tpr, 2 Commando, 1976–77)
  • Robert Brown (Tpr, Base Group, 1975–79)
  • Martin Wake (Maj, Support Commando, 1979–80)
  • Michael Robinson (Honorary, formerly SWA 101 Battalion)
  • Mike Law (Pte, RLI, 1961–64)
  • Colin John (Associate, Insp, BSAP, 1962–80)
  • Ian MacFarlane (Lt, 1 Commando, 1974–80)
  • Brian de la Rosa (Associate, WOII, Rh Corps of Signals, 1972–80)
  • Nick Fergus (Tpr, 3 Commando, 1976–1979)
  • Rick Elliot (2 Commando, 1967–1969)


Art Nulty

Nick Skipworth-Michell received an email from Pat Nulty who is the brother of the late Sergeant Arthur ‘Art’ Nulty, an MA3 medic with 1 Commando. If anyone can throw some light on Art’s South African chapter of his life, please email me at skippy@jwayelani.co.za and I will forward to Pat. Pat writes: ‘I’ve been trying to piece together my brother Arthur’s life since he left the UK in 1974 through to his death in SWA in 1985. His headstone shows that he served with 1 Commando RLI and I wonder if you knew him or anyone else who is able to help with information. I think he joined the Rhodesian Army after about 12 months working in SA. In 1980 he moved back to SA and joined the SADF with the units identified on his headstone. Other than that we know very little. Indeed, it is only now that we are able to trace the two guys who were in his car when he was killed on their way back to barracks. I am also trying to trace a John Nienaber/Niemaber who was the executor of his will. I believe that he served with Arthur in the RLI. When I’ve completed everything I would like to place his obituary on your Vale and I’ve have asked Martyn Hudson about how I would go about doing so.’

Pat Nulty (Major Retd)
David Thomas Gent

His son Dan writes: “My father, David Gent, died on Sunday after a long illness. He came out to Rhodesia from Britain in about 1960 and was in both the RLI and C Sqn SAS. After the break-up of the Federation in 1963, he joined the SMT (School of Military Training) in Zambia for a short time before coming out to NZ and joining the army here.” Obituary in the New Zealand Herald reads: “Gent, David Thomas, WO1, 3 Para, RLI, C Sqn, Zambia Rifles, 1 Ranger Sqn, NZSAS. Died on 4 July 2010, peacefully at Howick Baptist Hospital. Dearly loved husband of Anne and much loved dad of Roger, Wanda and Martin, Danny and Serena and loved granddad of Luis. You will always be in our thoughts and forever in our hearts. Pat and family invite friends to attend a Service of Remembrance for David which will be held at St Marks Chapel, Papakura Military Camp, Grove Road, Papakura on Thursday, 8 July at 10.30am.

Gavin Yell writes: I would like celebrate the memory of the following members of the Rhodesian Forces KIA on 19 July 1975 in the Kandeya TTL, Op Hurricane:
  • Cpl M.J. de Beer – RLI
  • Cpl J.A. Coey – medic
  • Rfn E. Potgieter – RLI
  • Temp WOII T.G. Bain – 2RR
Killed 35 years ago, forgotten by the world, but not by those who were there. They bravely gave up their young lives and made the ultimate sacrifice in a world obsessed with war.

Jason Davis
Yesterday I received a phone call from a Tim Efstratiou who is the son of Jason, and this is the info given about, his father, 727217 Sgt Jason Davis who served from 1974–1980. He served as a troopie in 2 Commando and later went on to become a medic. He sadly passed away last Thursday. I have not got him on my database, and I am wondering if anyone knew him. His son would like somebody to attend the funeral and take the RLI flag and a beret to place on the coffin for the service; the service will be held in the Chichester area on Friday 10 September.

Hugh Bomford
Rhodesian Services Association, NZ

[Ed: I have a huge apology to make to Tim. This email slipped through the cracks and I have only processed the contents recently: too late for Jason’s send-off, which is of deepest regret. Hugh, or anyone, if you have Tim’s contact details, please send to me and the association will make contact with him. Also, if any of Jason’s ex-2 Commando buddies can contact me, we’ll put a notice on the Vale page of the website once we’ve compiled a biog of Jason.]

Lt-General G.P. Walls

On 20 July 2010, Peter Walls suffered a heart attack and died while boarding an aircraft in South Africa. He was on his way to a safari with his three daughters, Mary, Val and Paddy. Mentioned during the memorial service was that his end was quick and without suffering.

Peter was born on 28 July 1926 in Southern Rhodesia and schooled at Plumtree. He graduated from Sandhurst in 1946, a time when the British Army was drastically cutting back and had little need for young subalterns.

However, Field Marshall Lord Wavell, with an affinity to Rhodesians, found Peter a commission in the Black Watch. In the fifties, he saw action in Malaya as the OC of the Malayan Scouts, which became C Squadron SAS.

 In 1964, Peter was appointed CO 1RLI, overseeing the conversion of the unit to a commando battalion, and at the same time introducing the green beret. In 1967 he took over 2 Brigade before being appointed to the General Staff and then Army Commander. In 1977, he was persuaded to come out of retirement and accepted the position of Supreme Commander Combined Operations (ComOps).

His memorial service was held on Tuesday 27 July, 2010 at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Linden, Johannesburg, conducted by the Reverend Cyril Halkett. Prior to the service a helicopter circled above the church, flying the Rhodesian flag. Over 300 mourners, many who had travelled from afar, crammed the church to hear the tributes, paid by Pat Armstrong (RLI, Selous Scouts and son-in-law); Dave Padbury (SAS); and four of the children: George, Mary, Val and Paddy.

The recurrent theme was of an uncompromising man of great humanity, a staunch yet fair disciplinarian, and a man with a passion for rugby and the bush.

As General Sir Walter Walker once said of him: “ … a real professional, a true and inspiring leader, a man of decision and action who radiates confidence”.
He was undoubtedly a soldier’s soldier; he had an amazing propensity for remembering names and connecting with the common soldier.

Prior to Operation Uric in September 1979, to attack ZANLA and Frelimo bases at Mapai, Mozambique, Ken Gaudet, an American trooper serving with Support Commando, 1RLI, was kitting up, when he felt a pair of helping arms behind him manoeuvring his parachute onto his back. Seeing the American flag on Ken’s right shoulder, the voice behind him said: “Good hunting, Yank!” It was Peter, and to this day Ken cherishes this memory of a very special man.

A trumpeter, Mr. S.G. Ferguson of the Transvaal Scottish Regimental Association, sounded ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’. Then piper Sergeant-Major C. Palos of the Transvaal Scottish Regimental Pipes and Drums—a regiment twinned with the Black Watch—played ‘Flowers of the Forest’ before the final hymn and the blessing. The congregation adjourned to the church hall for tea, before proceeding to the Wanderers for the wake. Members who attended our 49th in Durban will remember General Walls as our guest of honour along with Eunice and the insightful speech he made about the final passing of Rhodesia. We know that he thoroughly enjoyed the event and camaraderie at our birthday.
Farewell old warrior—we salute you.

Lt-Colonel Ron Reid-Daly

Ron Reid-Daly passed away on 9 August 2010 in Simon’s Town, South Africa. A memorial service was held in Cape Town on 20 August to honour and say farewell to ‘Uncle Ron’. There was an incredible turnout of Selous Scout members to say cheers to their old commander.

Most pleasing was the large number of RLI men and some crows but especially great to see such a gathering of the officer corps (ex-RLI types). At a good guess close to 300 guests attended. The Scouts went on the next day for their AGM/Lunch in Cape Town.
I have the very sad duty to inform you all that our favourite uncle passed away a short while ago. He was at home in Simon’s Town with Glenda and David, and died peacefully after slipping into a coma on Thursday. From the committee and members of The Selous Scouts Association, our sincere and heartfelt condolences to Glenda, David and all his family, friends and many, many comrades. This great man will be missed by us all. I will keep you informed of the funeral arrangements.

Pamwe chete

Tom Thomas
Secretary Selous Scouts Association

Dear Glenda and David

I was greatly saddened to hear of Ron’s passing last weekend.

I know though, that he has been suffering severely over recent months, and it must have come as a welcome relief to both him and yourselves to know he will suffer no more. It is still though a very distressing time for all of you. On behalf of myself and all the Global RLI Association members, I offer our most sincere condolences at this very sad time.

Ron was a great leader and very well respected by all those who served with him, in both the RLI, his real home, and later in the Selous Scouts.

 Both units and Rhodesia as a whole were very lucky to have had such a versatile and able man as Ron within their ranks. He was such a dedicated Rhodesian patriot who served his country ‘above and beyond the call of duty’, and will never be forgotten for his unstinting efforts. I will be coming out to the Memorial Service, and I am sure there will be a very large turn out to say farewell to such a well-loved and respected officer. Once again I offer my most heartfelt condolences to all your family members from both the Global RLI Association and myself. Our thoughts are with you.

With very best regards

Ian Buttenshaw
Chairman RLIRA

Air Marshal Norman Walsh

Sad news for us: Norman passed away about two hours ago (3 August 2010); he just shut down, an old rugby injury that made his cerebellum shut down. He is to be cremated, no service etc; he was a no-nonsense fellow; we are doing what he wanted, no flowers, nothing please.

Merilyn Walsh

Norman gained his wings as a member of 5 SSU, attesting in1956. He was an Officer of the Legion of Merit (OLM) Military and had also been awarded the BCR (Bronze Cross of Rhodesia). He later commanded the Air Force of Zimbabwe. He was resident in Australia at time of death.

Mapai Day
September 6th, 2010 marks the 31st anniversary of the downing of South African Air Force Puma 164 near Mapai, in the Gaza Province of Mozambique, during Operation Uric in September 1979. Seventeen brave young men lost their lives that day and thirty-one years later their families and comrades-in-arms honour their memory and remember the sacrifice they made so that we could live. Included in their number were three South African Air Force crewmen:
  • Captain Paul Velleman
  • Lieutenant Nigel Osborne
  • Sergeant Dick Retief
Five men from the Rhodesian Corps of Engineers:
  • Captain Charlie Small
  • 2nd Lieutenant Bruce Burns
  • Sergeant Mick Jones
  • Corporal LeRoy Duberly
  • Lance-Corporal Peter Fox
Nine men of the Rhodesian Light Infantry:
  • Captain Joe du Plooy
  • Corporal Gordon Fry
  • Trooper Kosie Briel
  • Trooper Aiden Colman
  • Trooper Jeremy Crow
  • Trooper Brian Enslin
  • Trooper Stephen King
  • Trooper Colin Neasham
  • Trooper Dave Prosser
In the same operation the Rhodesian Air Force lost one of their helicopter technicians when his Bell Cheetah helicopter was shot down at Barragem on 5th September, 1979:
  • Leading Aircraftsman Alex Wesson
On 6th September we remember not only these fine young men but also their families, who grieved for thirty long years without knowing the true circumstances surrounding the loss of their loved ones, nor the location of their remains.

In April 2009, former RLI officer Rick van Malsen led a small team of former Rhodesian soldiers on a search for the crash site of Puma 164 and the last resting place of their former comrades-in-arms.

In doing so he honoured the pledge he had made thirty years previously,

whilst being flown out of the Uric operational area to complete and send the Noticas signals for the men lost that fateful day. Rick was successful in this search and placed a steel cross on the grave of the fallen soldiers and then held a short but emotional graveside service to formally lay them to rest.

Of the eighteen men who lost their lives on Op Uric, the search team has so far managed to inform sixteen of their families of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their men, and the exact whereabouts of their last resting place. The search for the relatives of the last two men is ongoing on a worldwide basis. This news has brought immense relief and final closure to these grieving relatives and the depth of their gratitude has been incredibly humbling for the search team members.

Since the discovery and marking of the war graves, the families of three of the crash victims have returned to the site to pay their last respects to their men. Rick van Malsen has recently led a second expedition to Mapai, taking with him three former RLI men wanting to pay their respects at the grave site, and also undertaking further research for a book about Op Uric, of which he is the co-author. During this second trip Rick also succeeded in locating the burial place of Bell technician Alex Wesson, near Barragem. The Wesson family has been informed of this find and is planning a trip to the grave site. Rick is also planning a third trip to the area in order to guide other next of kin to the graves.
There is a separate project underway, under the auspices of The Ebo Trust in South Africa, to raise funds for the construction of permanent memorials at the Puma crash site, at the graves of the Frelimo victims of Operation Uric in Mapai and at the burial site of Alex Wesson near Barragem. This project is fully supported by Rick van Malsen and his search team.

In February 2010, shortly after the 49th Birthday celebrations of the RLI Regimental Association in Durban, Terry Griffin, former OC of 1 Engineer Squadron, suggested that the Rhodesian Engineers and the Rhodesian Light Infantry jointly adopt and observe 6th September every year as Mapai Day. Operation Uric resulted in the most casualties, from either unit, in any single operation of the Rhodesian War and this tragedy has united the two units forever in history. It is for this reason that the observance of Mapai Day has been proposed. This proposal has been favourably received in many quarters and has been forwarded to the RLI Regimental Association for ratification.

Neill Jackson


The Guinness Book of Records does not have an entry for the most operational parachute descents for either a unit or an individual soldier. I am aware of the fairly stringent recording procedures for an entry into the Guinness book. Surely the jump book of the RLI corporal for the most by an individual would suffice. There must be some other jump records from the blues to show a considerable number of op jumps by RLI? I read that in Vietnam that two or three offensive op jumps was a lot. There were some Special Ops boys who did more, but these were not offensive. They were clandestine insertions. It has to be a record that will outlive all of us.

John Clayton
RLI and then back-squadded to SAS

[Ed: The association committee is looking into this, and ways to verify this for the Guinness Book of Records. Des Archer of 1 Commando has a staggering 73 operational jumps to his name, which is undoubtedly a world record, unlikely ever to be broken. Unfortunately Des’s para log book is sitting at the bottom of the Zambezi, along with other military paraphernalia of his.]

Dear Bill
Pat brought home the beautiful beer mug that had been engraved for my dad for the RLI’s 50th Anniversary celebration next year. It is absolutely exquisite and just looking at it brought a lump to my throat. He would have been so thrilled to receive it and I know it would have had a very special place in his home. I will tell Eunice about it when I phone her tomorrow morning and I will keep it safely for her until I next see her. On behalf of the whole family, who do not even know about it yet, our sincere thanks to you and the committee.

Mary Armstrong (née Walls)

Dear Bill
On behalf of Eunice and Peter’s family, I would like to thank you and the RLI Association most sincerely for the tremendous support at Peter’s Memorial Service in Johannesburg. Thank you especially for arranging the wreath on behalf of the Association, which was very much appreciated by Eunice and for personally laying the wreath at the service. Thank you also for arranging Rees Davies as the trumpeter, albeit that the trumpeter from the Transvaal Scottish was later confirmed in time to finalize the initial arrangements. Merely for your information, having already spoken to Rees, he voluntarily came to the service as a back-up, for which I have sincerely thanked him. As always, Bill, thank you so much for your support and for everything that you do for the Association; and it is fantastic that Peter was able to be with the RLI ‘family’ again, when you arranged for Peter and Eunice to be guests of honour at the fabulous 49th RLI birthday celebrations. What a fantastic DVD, which will serve as a lasting memory for Peter’s family!

With best wishes
Pat Armstrong

I’d like to extend my condolences to the RLI ouens for the sad loss of Lt-General Peter Walls. It was a great honour for me to have met him at the reunion earlier this year and I feel privileged to have been present at such a special occasion.
Jacques Olivier

Hi Mark [types Adams]
My condolences for the untimely passing away of Lt-Gen Peter Walls. I visited the RLIRA site with great enthusiasm. I am an ex-army officer (captain) in the Zimbabwe National Army and was once based at Induna Barracks (formally Llewellin Barracks). I worked with many ex Rhodesian Light Infantry officers and men who were attested into ZNA after independence in 1980. GREAT fighters! Although I joined the army in 1989 and I had no direct association with the Rhodesian Army, I have a strong conviction that the Rhodesian Army is part of our history and all professional military officers (serving and retired) need to understand it that way. After all, all successful military campaigns that the Zimbabwe National Army undertook after 1980 were as a result of disciplined training and fighting that we were fortunate to have inherited from the Rhodesian Army.

Velile Mguni

Superb work on the e-Cheetah. Will need at least a good hour to absorb.
Hugh Bomford
New Zealand

Hi Chris

I hope you don’t mind me addressing you by your first name.

My late husband Geoff Liversedge served with the RLI from 1963 until 1980. We left the RLI not long after the country became Zimbabwe. He started as a corporal in 1 Commando. Eventually he became a sergeant.

Spent time in Training Troop, doing what he loved—being a drill sergeant. After many years at the officers’ school in Gwelo, he returned to 1 Commando as the CSM.

He wrote the words to be sung to the tune of Galway Bay, on one of his many bush trips and the troops used to sing this song while they travelled the bush roads, coming and going to the bush. He eventually retired from RLI as the QM. I don’t know if you remember him.

But he lived, breathed and existed for the RLI and all its members … as I know once you joined the RLI family you belonged to a proud Battalion of men. I have really enjoyed reading the  e-Cheetah which my son sent to me. It brought back many wonderful memories of our life in the RLI family. Thank you to the many who are involved.

Pauline Liversedge

Admin & LOG
RLI ties: £12.50
RLI blazer badges (green or black backing): £14.50
Poppy lapel badge: £1.50
Chest wings: £6.00 (only certified paras eligible to wear these)
Lapel/cufflink & tie pin set (para wings): £20.00 (only certified paras are eligible to wear these)
RLI silver beret badge (from NZ): £12.00
RLI polo shirt: £15.00
DVD Rhodesia Remembered: £10.00
Prices exclude packaging and posting  
Contact mark.pilbeam@dsl.pipex.com for orders and payment methods available.

Merchandise sales are moving, still being well supported by our members with a few enquiries from overseas. As promised and after much persistence, we have finally received some stock of items we have been talking about for a while, now sourced from the UK as the SA suppliers have not been very accommodating:
RLI ties: R100
Beret: R75
Lapel wings: R110 (only certified paras are eligible to wear these)
Chest wings: R80 (only certified paras are eligible to wear these)
Lapel/cufflink & tie pin set (para wings): R150 (only certified paras are eligible to wear these)
RLI blazer badge (green or black backing): R140
Prices exclude packaging and posting  

There is limited initial stock of the above; however, more is on order. Unfortunately, the beret badges that were ordered have not arrived and are AWOL, but as soon as we have them we will notify everyone by email and through the website. In addition to this we now have in stock:
  • Base Group key rings
  • 4XL & 5XL – Golf shirts and Mac jackets
  • 4XL & 5XL – Golf shirts and Mac jackets
So for those large guys who felt left out, we now can supply. So place your orders. There are a few items that we are still working on and these will be made available in the near future. For those who were not at the AGM, I have had no alternative but to stand down as the QM due to business commitments which do not allow me to put in the effort that is needed to keep control of the merchandise procurement, stock-holding, order processing, banking and dispatching. It has been an interesting challenge and well worth the effort; if there are any members out there in the Gauteng Region who would like to offer their services to take over the QM position please contact the RLIRA chairman Bill Wiggill. In the interim, I will still look after the QM position until it is taken over by a willing member.

Gary Huxham

The Battalion Artist
In August, American Red Cross Fort Bragg will be working with Artist Craig Bone and the Army Wounded Warrior Career Program, Warrior Transition Brigade and the Wounded Warrior FRG to identify 12 artistic Wounded Warrior soldiers who are transitioning to civilian life and are interested in pursuing painting or art as a new career. The 12 soldiers who are chosen for the project will get to work with Craig Bone, a well-known and respected painter and former Rhodesian Light Infantry soldier, to foster their creative abilities before returning to civilian life. By beginning this process before going into the civilian sector, it will create a stable goal that the service member can hold onto once re-entering the civilian world. Each member will work with Craig Bone to create a piece of art and develop the inspiration or the back story to go along with it.

Well done that RLI ouen; you make us proud.
Bill Wiggill

Missing watch … if anyone knows the whereabouts
I, V3132 2Lt J. W. Widdup, having been duly sworn under Oath hereby declare the following to be the facts of the case. At 0630 hrs on 18th August 1976 I was dropped into the Contact zone by Helicopter. I was O.C. Stop 5 and had to sweep over a thick kopje to reach the Contact. After the Contact had taken place I noticed Wristwatch 1100 was missing from my wrist. A subsequent sweep of the area did not reveal the watch. It must then be concluded that the watch fell from my wrist during the Contact and was then lost.

(Signed) J. W. Widdup 2Lt.
20 August 1976.

[Ed: Rumour had it the there was a 2 Commando stick in the area, however, they were not available for questioning after the contact.]


Wafa Wafa: adventures of an RLI Canadian at the Selous Scout Combat Tracking School

In February 1978 I was selected to attend the three-week Selous Scouts tracking course at Wafa Wafa. RLI members on course were three members from 3 Commando, five from 2 Commando and five from Support Commando’s Recce Troop. We took the duty truck to the Selous Scouts home base at Inkomo Barracks, where we met all the other students, a large group of rookie Selous Scouts who had just passed selection and various African soldiers, Guard Force etc; it was a large course of about forty. We were lectured by an officer that no racial nonsense would be tolerated, and then got the truck transport to Wafa Wafa. It was a very long ride and most guys slept but I always like to watch the world go by: the old saying that a soldier sees half the world from the back of an army truck.

Upon arriving at Wafa Wafa we gather around a circular wall three feet high by about ten feet across with small bushes inside. All of us RLI guys are leaning over checking out the snakes inside. There is even a stupid puff adder in the branches. After a while an instructor walks up to tell us about their collection. He puts on sunglasses and approaches cautiously, holding the palm of his hand outward because of the spitting cobra inside … and we had all our bare faces in there! We always gave that snakepit a wide berth after that; if it was an instructors’ joke, then they got us. We get our basha / bivvy allocation; two of us 3 Commando guys get the one next to the road on the lakeside which turned out to be a disastrous choice. Because it’s the rainy season we get to use a bivvy but it must be totally camouflaged at all times or we lose it. Camp security is very strict no fires allowed at night. The camp was attacked once by gooks thinking it was a tsetse fly control camp. Selous Scouts followed up next morning and all the terrorists were dead by lunchtime. Our basha gets mortar duty; every night we collect a small mortar with some bombs from the instructors’ mess hall in case of night attack and return the mortar every morning. We get issued AS (African soldier) ratpacks while on course. With these ratpacks I mix milk and sugar with sadza in the morning pretending its porridge and in the evening salt and butter with sadza pretending its mash potatoes. Unfortunately nobody briefed me about this course and most RLI guys at the first opportunity ran into the bushes to bury all the extra food they’d brought up. The first night is miserable: tons of mosquitoes, pull sleeping over my head, too hot to breathe, bag up, bag down etc. Didn’t bring a mosquito net, so not much sleep that night. Didn’t get any sleep previous night either—partying in town.

Next day it’s PT of course, as per every morning; one particular instructor was quite the sadist during PT, the rest were okay. With this sadist we run 30 yards, down for push-ups, run 30 yards, do sit-ups, run 30 yards, do burpees, over and over. If anyone lagged he would fire a shot over the student’s head! Sadist takes PT most days. On the runs the new Selous Scout guys sang their Scouts African songs; I still remember a few lyrics today. Most of the first day is in the lecture room. Really excellent lectures but by mid afternoon I started dozing in the heat, not having slept for two nights. Caught by the instructor I am doubled down to Lake Kariba, a quick glance for crocs, and then I swim out to a distant tree stump and back—then wide awake dripping wet in the classroom. We are assigned into our training sticks. Scouts stay together but the rest of us are mixed: four European with four African soldiers. Our group has the three 3 Commando guys plus one Support Commando and four African soldiers. Each trainee takes turn doing guard each night. The last guard has to climb a rope way up this very tall tree to ring a triangular gong for reveille. The African soldiers in my group can’t climb rope so I take all their turns for them, and I ring it five times; I don’t mind, I’m good on ropes. The instructors must have used a bow and arrow to feed string to feed rope to hang up the gong in the first place? Two Selous Scout African sergeant instructors have trouble understanding my accent and always call me ‘Ma English’. One with a BCR is famous for tracking into 88 contacts; they are great soldiers and brilliant trackers. Some of our instructors have nasty scars on their bodies from being wounded in the war. One tells us he got caught in the middle of a firefight between terrorists and the follow-up troops. One even has to wear sunglasses in daylight because of getting spat in the eyes by a spitting cobra. One European instructor speaks Afrikaans and African languages but hardly any English; even he calls me ‘Ma English’. I think one of our instructors was killed in action later.

Next day it’s tracking training; the course usually alternates one day field tracking then one day lectures or range work etc. I am good at the tracking part even though I grew up in a big city in Canada; I have some field craft from the Canadian Army. One student grew up on a farm and failed this course. Tracking training involved the rest of squad walking 200 metres, then waiting while a student with the instructor would track them. It helped to peek at the squad leaving so one could get started on their trail, but once I missed them starting in an area where baboons foraged and it even took the top Scout tracker 20 minutes to find their spoor. Once while out laying tracks in the forest we came face to face with a bull elephant 15 yards away. He just looked at us. All of us whites were saying, “Check the jumbo”, admiring him. I eventually turned around and all our African soldiers were long gone! We had to track them 200 yards to find them. The area was full of elephants, buffalo etc.

The RLI Support Commando students who are all foreigners (one American and four Brits) demand to be RTU’d. All of us RLI troops are experienced combat Fireforce veterans but the Support guys don’t like being treated like recruits. I know some of them from the pubs in Salisbury. I am the only foreigner left and the instructors approach me and ask if I’m going too. I tell them “I’m a soldier, I don’t quit courses.” They settle for that and walk away. I have too much pride to quit a course though this one was miserable at times. The Support guys are taken to the big baobab armoury tree for the night then sent out on a truck the next day.

We get to do the famous Selous Scout rope assault course. We were banned from doing a high traverse on a single rope because a student on a previous course fell off and broke his back. Of course, being RLI when no instructors are watching we scramble over the forbidden part easily enough, just for the bragging rights that we have done their complete course. The course was all rope work, ending in a fufi slide into a very deep bay of Lake Kariba. One African soldier nearly drowned but was pulled to the surface by a 2 Commando ouen. The instructors had little hiding spots in the trees should a student try to skip part of the course. We RLI ouens found this assault course quite easy but it is tougher when you haven’t eaten for a few days. For most physical trials on the course we RLI soldiers put on a ho-hum look in the spirit of a friendly unit rivalry, we sometimes noticed the instructors’ bewildered looks.

One night we were sitting around the burning coals of some rookie Scouts’ bivvy area talking about life. The smoke from the coals was keeping the mosquitoes at bay. An African soldier student tossed his empty cardboard ratpak box on the coals and it flares up. There just happens to be an instructor and the Scout CSM on the road nearby so we are all in shite for violating the fire at night rule. We all have to grab our sleeping bags and report down at the main camp. One rookie Scout was in near tears thinking he was going to be RTU’d from Scouts after passing selection. The instructors beamed a flashlight out into Lake Kariba checking for reflecting croc eyes, and seeing none we had to swim out to some tree making sure our sleeping bags got soaking wet. Quite miserable having a soaking wet sleeping bag. A few days later another 3 Commando soldier and I did the wet sleeping bag trick again for some infraction that I now can’t remember.

We get lectured on vegetation and shown the wild spinach dereri that we can eat and which grows everywhere. We learn what we can eat and where to find water. We blister our hands trying to make fire without matches, compulsory for all students. Luckily my fellow RLI soldier has a hidden match and lights ours when the instructor isn’t watching. Some guys get terrible hand blisters and have no luck; even the instructor blistered his hands demonstrating. We then get lectured on making string out of bark. We have to make webbing from bush string and bark to take two rifle magazines and a water bottle. This takes us the rest of the day. The next morning on muster parade our bush webbing is inspected and half a dozen students get their webbing cut up and thus have to spend the day carrying their two mags and water bottle in one hand and their rifle in the other; then repair their webbing that night. Every morning a few students get dinged for their webbing and it gets cut. Somehow I pass muster each day; I even took some rope off a truck, unravelled it and used it slyly to repair my webbing daily without getting caught. We thought this would only be for a day or two so we weren’t amused that it lasted for several days as our course was in an operational area and we’d have preferred our own webbing in case of a chance contact with terrorists.

We get a lecture on making small animal snares using bush string. During the lecture the instructors raid all our bivvies removing all our ratpak food. We now have to trap our own food; if we show our catch to the instructor we get a ratpack for a reward. Instead of doing morning PT we are to go out and check our traps. I do find an active game trail down the road away from camp and set up my loop snare. Every morning my snare bush string is broken and the trap knocked about by the escaping animal. If I had wire I would have had something. When the instructor comes to check our traps and mark us he just laughs at me. The ‘Ma English’ joke is repeated. I live on dereri for half the course, enhanced with salt tablets. We are not on survival but technically reduced rations to encourage trapping. Most guys ate their buried food in the first two days but this ordeal lasts for seven. We only get issued two packets of sadza while in the field for the whole week. Some guys eat it dry. I did come across some 2 Commando guys fishing with grenades in a small inlet but all they got were tiddlers which they ate anyway. After being hungry for a few days we are snapping at each other like junkyard dogs. Some guys raid the spoor-layers’ tent and retrieve some confiscated rations. One morning while returning the mortar to the instructors’ mess hall I notice a big box of raisins on a shelf with nobody around. Some people say RLI stands for Rhodesian Light-Fingered Infantry! I share the raisins with the other 3 Commando ouens. Nobody on our whole course was able to trap anything. On the way back to camp in the truck from field training some students would have handfuls of rocks to throw at the guinea fowl on the road hoping to knock out one so they could run back and get it for dinner. Nobody was able to hit one either but were damn close so many times.

One night I walk down to the ablutions in camp. The resident spoor-layers call me to come farther down the path toward the lake to shoot a snake. They are shining a flashlight on a section of the path and I’m expecting to see a black snake coiled up. I get up close and there is this huge python head and a few inches of his neck on the path. They tell me to shoot it but I just reach out with my rifle and give it a very gentle tap of the muzzle on the forehead. It slowly withdraws off the path into the long grass. The spoor-layers say it is going down to the lake and run down to the shore. Now I am alone standing in the pitch dark three feet away from where this monster python is/was so I take off back to my bivvy. If it had been daylight and the snake a bit smaller I would have pounced on it, grabbed its neck and dragged it to the instructors’ area for a ratpack.

After a week of reduced rations we get a lecture on skinning and eating wild game. An impala antelope is hung up and prepared. We eat some raw liver and raw tripe which is called ‘bush bubblegum’. Then we get to drink water from the animal’s stomach. A Scout newbie volunteers his dirty smelly T-shirt to strain the wet green grass stuff from the stomach into a canteen cup. This green water looks vile and most of these big tough guys take a sip then run and puke. Now there are about 40 students and I am a cunning, experienced soldier so I go to the very back of the line figuring it’s only an impala and it’ll run out of water by the time my turn comes. My turn comes and there is still water left. I’m psyched that it is going to be super-foul, not pleasant but drinkable. It is. The instructor asks me if I want seconds so in a flash of macho insanity I say “Sure.” They squeeze out over half a canteen cup and give it to me. I grin, drink it all, then grin at all of them and never puke but it did give me foul breath for two days afterward. I must be the only person in Selous Scout history to have had seconds. Actually, I noticed a newfound respect from the instructors from then on; I was no longer the ‘Ma English’ joke. We braaied the antelope and had a big pot of sadza and were allowed to eat our fill. Our stomachs had shrunk so much we could only eat a small amount. At least we didn’t have to eat the infamous green rotting monkey hanging from a tree.

One day out tracking training our instructor gets lost in this forest of trees bashed up by elephants. It is overcast so no sun to help with navigation. Being students we were just bumbling along without navigating. We seem to run round in circles a long time but finally emerge clear of the forest and find the truck. The rest of the course is long gone. Our instructor is embarrassed and apologizes, giving us the bad news: the truck is for him only; our whole course must run back to camp because we are all in the shite over something, can’t remember what but probably for not snaring anything. We RLI soldiers put on our no-problem, no-big-deal act, shrug and start jogging the long way back to camp. Our fellow African soldiers walk most of it. Another day we take a boat out to a large island for training for a very pleasant change of scenery. The crocodiles basking on the shore hear us walking from afar and splash into the water and we watch them adrift some way out. We try sneaking along a spit to get close but the crocs always sense us from afar and take off farther into the lake.

We get a treat: a visit to Kariba crocodile farm. A baboon is shot for croc food. At the croc farm the baboon is dangled in front of the nose of their biggest croc ‘Satan’. He doesn’t even flinch; this brute is so dark and big I figured I could lie down in his belly. Satan is reputed to have eaten several African children. Now I have been to both croc farms, the other being at Victoria Falls. Both claim to have the biggest croc in captivity, the one at Vic Falls missing some of his tail. Having seen both I would say Kariba had the biggest. We go over to the nine-year-old croc pen and line up along the wall. We have a long wait and only see half a dozen crocs spread around. Now we macho RLI guys start talking about sprinting across the pen on a dare for bragging rights. The talk gets serious between a 2 Commando soldier and me and we start working out the logistics. To cross the pen there is about ten feet of grass, then ten feet of water, a concrete sidewalk down the middle, then ten feet of water, then ten feet of grass. There is not enough space on the grass for a running long jump over the water. The biggest stumbling block is we don’t know how deep the water is. If it is only a foot deep, okay, but if it is three or more feet deep then we could be in serious shite if landing short. Finally the keeper arrives and tosses half a baboon body out. The part-baboon bounces once and this big croc snaps it in mid air at lightning speed and rolls over with others after the meal. Dozens of crocs now emerge from everywhere. The rest of the baboon is tossed in and two crocs fly out of the water one catching it mid air like a dog catching a Frisbee, as other crocs chase after this one too. There is no more talk of sprinting across the pen!

A kilometre away from our training camp is another camp of about 200 African soldiers on Selous Scout pre-selection course. Several times they all come to our camp to do the rope assault course and then when finished walk back to their own camp in small groups. Our bivvy is in a disastrous location by the road and gets regularly ransacked. The first time I lose all my money, a Rhodie knife made from a tyre spring and whatever rations we had left for our supper. In all fairness the instructors did offer to lock up all our valuables on the first day but I didn’t bother about it, but we had no forewarning of the crowd down the road. After losing our rations a couple of times we hide our supper in some bushes away from camp. I ate wild spinach for supper a few extra times. One time several pre-selection soldiers are caught prowling our camp and are marched up to the instructors’ area. They are lined up and all have to open their mouths; some have mouthfuls of sadza powder. I don’t know what punishment they got.

The tracker training is excellent. We get an interesting lecture on anti-tracking. We are taken to terrorist bush camp made by spoor-layers. Someone dashes to pickup an AK-47 magazine in the middle and there is a bang from a detonator cap simulating a booby trap. Lesson learned. We learn to count the sleeping positions and the guard positions. We learn to exaggerate the number of terrorist on a follow-up after counting heel marks to keep everyone switched on. We might have missed someone off to the side taking a crap or a piss. It happened early in the war; a tracker thought there were say 5 terrorists on follow-up. A contact occurs and five terrorists are killed so everyone relaxes and switches off, meanwhile an unknown sixth terrorist hiding nearby killed an unsuspecting soldier. We start practising tracking open-terrain and close-bush tracking formations with simulated contacts. I struggle learning African names of trees and bushes and barely pass the vegetation test perhaps due to the benefit of the doubt because of my ‘English’ accent. That test was done by running behind an African sergeant instructor through the bush as he pointed to various trees and bushes while we had to shout out their names.

The course finishes and I pass so I get $15 a month tracker allowance (hazard pay) for the rest of my army career. I don’t think too many non-African born men pass this course. I even got recommended for the Advance Tracking Course, which I never did. Part of the advance course has a student alone on an island with only a knife, a rifle with 20 bullets (should a real terrorist show up) and wearing only a pair of shorts for several days on survival. I don’t relish the thought of doing that. A Selous Scout friend told me they would take one bullet, empty the powder out, put matches inside and then place the bullet in the bottom of their magazines. Once in a while a student would forget about his doctored bullet and have a peculiar stoppage on the rifle range. We leave Wafa Wafa and spend a night at the Kariba airstrip. We arrive after supper and this wanker cook NCO won’t feed us, not even bread and jam. One of our students is caught prowling the kitchen later and this wanker wants him court martialled. The Selous Scout instructors have a serious talk with this NCO, charges are dropped but we still didn’t get fed.

The next day we head for Salisbury; we stop in either Sinoia or Karoi for lunch. All of the rest of European soldiers head to the Wimpy restaurant for lunch. I’m too proud to borrow money so being broke I go with all the African soldiers, about 20 in number, to the WVS canteen. Inside are three smiling ladies and plenty of pies, cakes sandwiches etc. Suddenly it is a chaotic mob scene with all the African soldiers grabbing anything and everything within reach, whole pies, cakes, everything. The ladies have a look of sheer horror on their faces but bravely try to smile. They look pleadingly at me as if I’m in charge; sorry, but the two Scout sergeants are but I don’t tell them. I suddenly realize if I don’t grab something I’m not going to eat so I reach out too, twice having a black hand snatch something from my fingers. I actually get hold of a small pastry and that’s all. The African soldiers suddenly depart; all the food within reach is gone within seconds. I can’t say I remember them saying ‘thank you’ but perhaps they did in their haste. I smile sheepishly at these shell-shocked ladies, say “Thank you” and leave, not bothering to ask for some desired tea. I don’t think they had any clue what military unit we were from. These African soldiers were good brave men and great soldiers but they weren’t quite ready to have high tea with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth just yet. The ladies were probably also grossed out by my legs covered in veld sores from the malnutrition, not to mention the body odour. God bless all those WVS ladies.

On my next bush trip back with 3 Commando on one of the first Fireforce callouts as soon as the G-Car drops us I notice very fresh aerial spoor of two terrorists running across our front in the four o’clock direction of our sweep. I tell the stick commander who informs K-Car. We get new instructions that I am to track these fresh tracks away from our original sweep direction. Another G-Car then drops a stop group in the direction of these tracks. I am actually tracking real armed terrorists for real now and lead the way. All my senses are working overtime and I track for a couple hundred yards into a forest. I now smell African male body odour and inform the stick commander. Most trackers don’t smoke to keep their sense of smell at full awareness. I proceed cautiously and the stop group 50 yards ahead of us makes a kill. We get new instructions to start sweeping on the eight o’clock direction that we were tracking; probably so we don’t get shot by our own stop group. So my very first tracking venture results in a kill. For the rest of the war I track a few times and even do serious anti-tracking in Mozambique. Thanks Ron Reid-Daly and the Selous Scouts for enhancing my bush craft and making me a better soldier. It was a very tough course but one that I am always glad to have done. Even today when I am out in the bush I always scan the ground for aerial or ground spoor … part of a lifelong habit now.

Postscript: I met up with some of the Support Commando guys who were RTU’d. They ended up doing a tracking course run by TA Rhodesia Regiment. They had normal meals and beers every night in a relaxed atmosphere. They did learn some fancy snap-shooting technique. I’m very glad I did the Selous Scout Combat Tracker course instead—much better bragging rights.

Mike McDonald
3 Commando

Nigel Rittey discusses a variety of topics from the early days:

While the keeping of pets was generally frowned upon—except by married personnel at their quarters—there were a few informal ones worthy of recall. Private Rossouw was at one time, the custodian of a young baboon. This animal had been seriously influenced by the beer-drinking capacity of his mentor and was usually found in an inebriated state having polished off the dregs of many bottles of Castle.

At 2 (Indep) Company at Kariba someone brought in a small warthog. This also became notorious for its drinking habit. As it matured it became more and more aggressive (possibly because it was either pissed or suffering from ‘babelaas’). When this became a problem, Brian Bowley and a couple of others, threatened to give it “the unkindest cut of all”. I cannot recall this animal’s ultimate fate.

Of the ‘formal’ animals the most famous was Lance-Corporal Cheetah, the RLI’s mascot. There was, in fact, more than one cheetah, as they had a habit of kicking the bucket from cat flu. He / they lived in the fenced area surrounding the Regimental ammo store near the assault course. This may account for the lack of any attempts by naughty people to break into the store. At the Freedom of the City ceremony in Salisbury where the RLI were granted the privilege of marching through the streets ‘with bayonets fixed and colours flying’, Lance-Corporal Cheetah was seated in the rear of an open SWB Land Rover following a detachment of troops as they turned left from one of the streets into Kingsway. The crowds were densely packed right up to the barricades. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted an old African who, after watching the departing troops to his left, turned his head and found himself staring into the eyes of the cheetah at a range of about two feet. He let out a yell and bolted for it. The cheetah merely yawned.

The medics
These were mostly a pleasant lot devoted to the cause of preservation of military property (us!). There was however, a downside to them. They were ‘syringe happy’. The book said that we were all to be regularly inoculated against all sorts of horrible ‘lurgis’, plagues and poxes, so they would get us to queue up outside the camp hospital with sleeves rolled up, ready to be assaulted by their deadly weapons. These hypodermics appeared to us to have been salvaged from a veterinary surgery specializing in circus elephants. After a hasty wipe with an alcohol swab, their needles would plunge into our arms seeking firm contact with bone before the various venoms were pumped in. As fate would have it, some clown would ensure that when the real agony had begun to take hold, usually an hour or two later, we would be scheduled for a circuit of the assault course. To cap all this they would regularly lose the records of those they had jabbed. To rectify their problem they would then call us all back for another round of pain and humiliation rather than have some individual miss out on their not-so-tender ministrations. ‘Sick parade’ was at set times of the day and was actually attended by some who really were sick. Malingerers wishing to avoid unpleasant duties and the habitual Swingus Plumbii sufferers were often there. These were, with great understanding and passion, given dreadful-tasting remedies, ferocious purgatives or a kick up the proverbial backside. These angels of mercy did excellent work really and were a likeable lot.

Annual qualification tests
So that the army could be guaranteed that we all remained fine soldiers and did not decay with time, the ‘Bright Sparks’ Department at AHQ designed all sorts of annual qualification standards. The most enjoyable was the ‘Marksman’ where, provided you managed to shoot the living daylights out of a whole lot of Figure 11 targets at various distances, which involved a lot of running (puffing and panting!) on the shooting range, you could add a couple of quid to your measly pay package. Not so much fun was the high-speed, long-distance marches with full pack, tin hat and rifle. Then, if you survived that, they made you prove you could carry a troopie of your own size, along with your pack, rifle and tin helmet, and run with that lot over a distance of 100 yards. Toughest of all was to swim the length of the swimming pool with your fellow soldier dragged helplessly in your wake.

Ration packs
The military nutrition experts had a hand in the design of these little brown boxes filled with things that were supposed to be good for us. There were three varieties: A, B or C packs, but heaven alone knows what the difference between them was. They looked exactly the same. Inside these ‘jamstealer gift boxes’ there were all sorts of exciting things. Every one had a pack of ‘biscuits’. These would have made a hyena stop laughing and, if you were to glue them to yourself, there would have been no cause for the invention of Kevlar body armour. If you soaked them in water or boiled the living daylights out of them, you got a sort of gooey target paste, which tasted exactly like … gooey target paste. The Rhodesian bush, when archaeologists from the future start rummaging around, will yield up millions of these slightly pale, oversized dominoes. It will puzzle them too that they will be dug up in close proximity to the shattered remains of the teeth of powerfully jawed carnivores and hominids.

The tins of ‘braised liver’ were of great interest. We had never seen green liver before and especially liver that smelled like the inside of a Sumo wrestler’s jock strap. Few of us actually ate it, so it is not possible to describe the taste. I feel sure it would have been memorable. In a little silver and gold foil sachet could be found the notorious ‘curry powder’ packed by Messrs Khatri Brothers of Salisbury. I never did meet with one of these brothers so I was unable to ask how they had managed to discover a wrapping foil so robust that it could contain this ‘universal solvent’ … it went straight through anything, turned everything yellow and yet somehow proved to be a very effective radiator sealant for Bedfords and Land Rovers.

A favourite was the ‘condensed milk’. This was Nestlé’s finest and came in small tins or, at one time, in plastic tubes. As tea was always welcome out in the bundu this was a very tradable commodity. Some ratpacks very thoughtfully provided a few sheets of the famous Bronco toilet paper which was savage stuff, but still preferable to the use of large leaves for personal hygiene needs. There were a lot of stinging nettles in parts of Rhodesia. ‘Baked beans’ were almost always included in the ration, so quiet nights were often punctuated by intermittent blasts of flatulence, which put even the elephant to flight. The sustenance was always welcome, but the side effects were not.

Some contained little tins of jellied methylated spirits. The idea was that you opened this tin and found a way to perch your mess tin of graze an inch or two above the flame. I bought a very clever Swedish-designed petrol primus from a camping store in Salisbury. This little gem came in its own canister which doubled as two cooking pots and required no priming or pumping. As long as you could filch half a pint of army petrol you only had to warm the tank with your hands to send enough up the stem to set fire to it. In a minute or two the thing would be purring contentedly and a little later a brew could be enjoyed while your mates were still trying to coax their stoves into life. It was swiped shortly before I left the army and I have never found a replacement. To the thief I say, “May your chickens all choke and the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!”

The first encounter with one of these military maniacs was during recruit training at Brady Barracks. A few of us were sent to fetch some kit from Llewellin Barracks and, while doing the ‘hurry up and wait’ thing some of us, having the attitude common to soldiers all over the world of ‘Why run when you can walk?’, ‘Why walk if you can stand still?’, ‘Why stand if you can sit?’, ‘Why sit if you can lie down?’ and ‘If you are lying down why not be kipping?’, were doing just that. Our reveries were rudely interrupted by a fierce, khaki-clad, apoplectic fellow with a shiny pace stick under his armpit, who screamed dreadful obscenities. His description of our collective parentage was frightful. This was the notorious RSM Erasmus who had terrified Territorial soldiers for years and became a legend in Rhodesian military history.

Later Ron Reid-Daly became RSM of the Regiment. He was renowned for his skills in the use of his pace stick. Legend has it that in one lightning motion he was able to insert the lead tip precisely half an inch up the starboard nostril of anyone suicidal enough to cause him displeasure. His parade commands could be heard from miles away. Robin Tarr came on the scene after him, but Reid-Daly was a tough act to follow and it took this replacement some time to step into his gleaming boots.

3 Commando Fireforce, early 1979
I was the 3 Commando MA3 medic at this time doing Fireforce out of Beitbridge. We had a Rhodesian K-Car crew with South African G-Car crews. On this particular callout the K-Car orbited atop the contact scene as usual. The G-Cars for some strange reason did little individual orbits each at 2, 6 and 10 o’clock position to the K-Car at centre clock instead of the usual one big orbit—but as usual, orbiting counter-clockwise so the chopper’s machine guns face inward toward the contact area but which meant the pilot was turning into his blind spot. This brought the choppers’ paths inward toward the contact area. This day we had a real cheeky bunch of ZANLA terrorists who kept firing snotsquirts (slang for a burst of fire) at the G-Cars from behind tree trunks. I was sitting across from the chopper gunner exposed by the door. Bullets kept cracking the air by my face but we couldn’t see the shooters as it was thick bush below. I’ve never received so much ground fire before in a chopper. Finally I really get pissed off and bugger the no-firing rule from a G-Car because of bouncing empty casings around. If I see these terrorists I’m going to blast away at them with my rifle. Everyone is focused on the ground looking for the terrorists. Something makes me look up. I see our chopper flight path at the 6 o’clock orbit position and I see the flight path of the chopper at the 10 o’clock orbit position. I instantaneously do the math and see we are on a COLLISSION course! I slap the chopper gunner’s leg and point to the oncoming chopper. He screams into his radio mouthpiece and both choppers do a sudden hard banking turn. Both choppers pass each other belly to belly only yards apart. Too damn close! Incredibly no soldiers fall out. I believe I saved the lives of 12 men in a midair collision—eight RLI soldiers and four aircrew—by three seconds. Funny, I don’t remember much else of this scene; I suppose our stick didn’t get any kills. The next Fireforce callout we were back to one big orbit! The South African aircrews were a little different from their Rhodesian cousins but they did risk life and limb for us many a time. One good thing riding in a South African chopper on the way back from a contact was that we would fight for the extra headset so we could listen to Radio 5, a South African rock music station.

Mike McDonald