OPERATION DICE

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OPERATION DICE LATE 1979.

RhSAS attack the Zambian Bridges.

While the waring factions were negotiating at the Lancaster House Conference in London, Joshua Inkomo and his regular conventional forces knew they were running out of time to invade Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

Rhodesian Forces also knew the potential danger of an armoured invasion as ZIPRA and its 1st ZIPRA Mechanised Brigade had huge quantities of Soviet armour, T34 tanks, BRDM2 armoured cars, BTR 152, D30 artillery, GSP Amphibious Bridging Ferries, PT-SM Amphibious Cargo Carriers and tones more equipment and AA guns.

The RhSAS hatched a plan to cut Inkomo off and restrict his movement within Zambia and force Zambia and the warring factions to the negotiating table.

Flying in the RhAF ‘Cheetahs’ (Bell 205) the RhSAS with tons of explosives downed 10 bridges in four days, also mining and restricting the movements of ZIPRA. At the start three bridges were blown up on the way to Chirundu, cutting the access road to Kariba and Rhodesia.

As the RhSAS troops flew in they spotted a ZIPRA Land Rover and put in a hasty ambush, which discovered documents in the ambushed Land Rover, which showed the area of a new crossing point planned by ZIPRA.

While the demolition parties were dealing with the bridges the protection party had a clash with the Zambian Army winning the duel and destroying numerous Zambian Army vehicles. I believe these included Armoured cars and trucks so at this stage were the Zambian vehicles still Ferrets and Bedford RLs?

The protection party would be armed with RPD, 60mm mortar and a 20mm ground mounted canon to take out armoured vehicles.

Unfortunately, a Swiss truck driver tried to break through one of the cordons and was shot.

At one stage the RhSAS highjacked a van to carry all their kit and explosives to the next objective. and mine an roads leading to ZIPRA camps.

The RhSAS were ordered not to  destroy Zambia’s only fuel refinery, but went on to take out Nkomos huge arms dump effectively disarming ZIPRA before any invasion attempt.

Wargaming the scenario.

Figures Underfire Miniatures do all the necessary RhSAS figures in 20mm and 28mm scales and the 60mm mortar and the crews for the 20mm ground mount cannon. I think we still need to get the ground mount cannon made in 28mm scale so I will have to talk to Antonio Brass Nunes.

S&S Models do the 20mm RhSAS ground mount cannon in 20mm scale.

David Michael Freemantle can provide the various vehicles needed in this scenario in 3D Printed models.

S&S Models also do Rhodesian vehicles and the ferrets and RLs.

ZIPRA T34s.

RhSAS 20MM GROUND MOUNT CANON

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I just found these photos by Antonio Bras Nunes of his take on the RhSAS 20mm Ground Mount Canon. In fact Antonio used the crew from the RAR 106 RCL crew from Underfire Miniatures 20mm range. The 20mm canon is from S&S Models.

Antonio I hope you don’t mind me using your photographs.

UNDERFIRE MINIATURES RhSAS 20mm FIGURES

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I have been looking at the Underfire Miniatures RhSAS figures and what a great batch of figures.

The two groups of figures for the 50 Cal HMG and the AGS – 17 AGL, is a quandary as I do not know if RhSAS used that particular weapon. They used the 50 Cal HMG on their vehicles and in camp defences. These figures were originally intended for the RhSAS Ground Mounted 20mm Canon which was used on a number of operations, especially the operations to blow the bridges in Zambia.

The RhSAS 20mm Ground Mount canon can be obtained from S&S Models in the uk. Just contact Shaun at S&S Models and he will sort you out. I bought a batch of the 20mm canon and married them up with my Underfire Miniature figures. I have posted photos of this combination before but cant seem to find the photos at the moment.

During these operations 60mm mortars were also used to give covering fire and stop Zambian forces interfering with the bridge blowing operations.

RhSAS Ground Mount 20mm canon.
RhSAS Ground Mount Canon used on operations to cover the troops blowing the bridges in Zambia.

INTAF incident 1975

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I would like to thank Max Hoppe for this anecdote.

Christmas Day 1975 – On the drive to Mkumbura this vlei was about hubcap deep, but on the return journey the level had risen slightly. I actually stopped and considered the wisdom of driving through, but after a few beers it did not look much deeper, so I decided to risk it. Let’s just say that it was considerably deeper and eventually the water level was up to our waists. When the Land Rover stalled I realised we may have a problem.

Andy suggested that I put it in low range and drive it out with the started motor – it worked.

I then dried out the distributor and any other electrical parts that may have been affected by our misadventure, but at first it would not start. After waiting about 15 minutes or so the Landy’s engine came to life and we got back to Pachanza without any incidents.

At the time I had visions of explaining to the DC how I had managed to stuff up a brand new Landy, but no one was ever any the wiser about the incident, until now. 

INTAF 20MM FIGURES.

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I was asked an interesting question yesterday concerning availability of INTAF 20mm figures on the market. I suggested using the Underfire Miniatures range which have some good figures in the Rhodesian Home Front range which could double for INTAF figures.

A bit of cutting and changing of heads and you could have a reasonable batch of 20mm figures for Intaf.

Elheim miniatures do 20mm heads with the floppy hat for the conversion and Early War Miniatures do KAR separate heads with slouch hats.

The INTAF MRU (Mobile Re enforcement Unit) can be created by just using the RAR figures as they wore standard infantry kit.

Farm Guard who can be changed into INTAF by adding floppy hat or slouch hat.
Rhodesian Farmers which can be turned into INTAF.
PATU which can be used for INTAF or INTAF MRU.
Underfire Miniatures RAR which can be used for INTAF or INTAF MRU.
INTAF inside a Keep.

Rhodesian Army vehicle camouflage colours

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 Rhodesian Vehicle camo 1966  1979

Apparently during this early period Rhodesian military vehicles were painted gloss dark green and when operations started a matt dark green.

In 1966 it was decided to introduce a disruptive pattern of matt dark green with ochre patterns to a specific standard.

 standard base colour for the Rhodesian Army scheme 1966 would be the Dark green created by mixing Humbrol 76 uniform green, Humbrol 75 bronze green and humbrol 89 light blue. On the vehicles these colours would fade in the sun over the years with the green looking bluer.

Rhodesian Vehicle Camouflage

Selous Scouts vehicles for later external column raids

To complete the vehicles I spray painted overall with black or dark grey primer and then painted in pseudo Mozambique Army colours.

Dark green created by mixing Humbrol 76 uniform green, Humbrol 75 bronz green and humbrol 89 light blue.

Dry brush Humbrol 62 for dirt and rust.

Humbrol 28 to dry brush highlights.

The Ferrets for the Selous Scouts column raid on Nyadzonia they were just painted all over with the standard Rhodesian Dark Green blue.

Rhodesian Army Vehicle Camouflage introduced 1966.

To complete I spray painted overall with black or dark grey primer and then painted in Rhodesian Army colours.

Dark green created by mixing Humbrol 76 uniform green, Humbrol 75 bronz green and humbrol 89 light blue.

The ochre colour was created by using Humbrol 83.

Dry brush Humbrol 62 for dirt and rust.

Humbrol 28 to dry brush highlights.

1979

In 1979 when the T55s were introduced the SA instructors advised that anti IR paint be used on them for camouflage. Dark Earth/ Dark Green. The Rhodesian army then gradually began to use this camouflage scheme.

Bronze Breen late 50s to early 60s.
Overall Matt Camouflage Green 1965
Overall Matt camouflage green 1965-66.
Op Vermin all vehicles in overall matt camouflage green 1966. The new Rhodesian Army Camouflage of Dark Blue Green and Ochre would be phased in after 1966.
Land Rover use by the Army would become restricted once the Land Mine became prevalent.
Bedford in the new camouflage but some what faded by the sun at this stage,
1RAR 1978 newly painted MAP 4.5 TCV.
C Coy 6RR Merc 4.5 GS with faded camouflage scheme 1978.
1979 the new Dark Earth Dark Green camouflage which was introduced by the SA instructors for the new T55 tanks issued to E Sqn RhACR. This scheme would gradually be introduced to the army from then on. This tank is pictured in 1981 after the second Battle of Entumbane.

SUPPORT UNIT – BSAP

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‘The Black Boots’

Support Unit – bsap.

GARY GAINSFORD

Very informative. As for the Zulu troops, these were used as postings until there were enough persons for the tough training course. I was to Zulu 3 with S/O Ron Hein back in 75 and when I left in 76, we were still Zulu 3. at that time, we were doing 6 weeks out and 10 days in, then out again. Ron, Myself and 2 National Service guys. (I can only remember 1, was known as Donny Brook Dutton, think he used to race cars or something. He was sharp with tuning up our Hyena armoured vehicles, on the Highway we could get 140 Kph

LEONARD ALAN PITMAN

 I was in Zulu Echo Troop or Zulu 5, I think the last troop formed and served from mid-1977 to 79. Towards the end of 1978 we formed Juliet Company with 2 other Troops. During my time we did the 6 weeks out 10 day in routines. In 2020, Barry Woan the Zulu Alpha Troop Commander and many others brought out a book called “The Black Boots” which is a history and collection personal accounts of its members, which can better explain our active involvement in the Rhodesian Bush War than I as one man who was there can. I am extremely proud to have served with both the black and white soldiers of this unit which earned one of the highest reputations in the field of this war. The Black Boot book can be acquired through our website I would think if you’d like to read it.

I am reposting the information from my November 2017 post on the BSAP Support Unit. The BSAP Support Unit did outstanding work during the Rhodesian Bush War and I hope this information gives a bit of an insight into their operations. Some details from two former members of Support Unit add to the information from the previous post. Unfortunately, I never acquired a copy of the Black Boots book but I hope to in the future, when it is republished.

My November 2017 post with adjustments below.

SUPPORT UNIT – BSAP

Emblem the Martial Eagle worn on the shoulder.

Unit Call Sign – ‘Mantle’

Having researched the book on the BSAP (Blue and Old Gold) I found that African Police were introduced in the late 1890s and soon an armed branch was created which became the Askari Platoon. At one point there were 200 constables which were also known as the African Police Platoon. Used in support of the outlying posts, or when there were problems in the provinces. The unit was also used for Ceremonial Duties and as instructors for the African Police Training School.

In the early 1960s with the advent of UDI the unit became known as Support Unit. In 1968 it expanded by three more troops. As the war wore on the unit expanded rapidly until by 1979 it comprised 12 Companies of 1,500. Each company had 3 troops.

There is mention of Zulu Alpha and Zulu Bravo Troops so I am still wondering until someone from Support Unit explains.

It carried out duties to support BSAP units and outposts which included COIN operations. Riot Drills, and Field Craft. Guarding of the detainees at Gonakudzingwa was another responsibility. Crowd control, was another duty and similar duties in urban context, and support of the branches. This included dealing with stock theft, crime epidemics, poaching, similar offences, guard and escort duties.

In the later years of the war its roll increasingly included COIN, (Counter Insurgency) operations.

Looking at the photos in the BSAP book the 12 Companies had on average of 65 – 86 members and Troops averaged 21-28 members.

Originally formed in 1951 the Mounted Unit was eventually integrated into Support Unit and became known as ‘Mantle Mounted’

War Gaming-

Figures – As far as war gaming is concerned one could use the 28mm RAR figures by Eureka for Support Unit as they were equipped the same as regular army. Put the odd European head on one of the figures and you have a Support Unit. See the photographs from the November 2017 post.

Mounted Figures – Mantle mounted can be created by using Eureka Grey’s Scouts 28mm mounted infantry figures, or Underfire Miniatures 20mm Grey’s Scouts mounted figures.

Underfire Miniatures do a fine range of 20mm figures for this period. They are also expanding their 28mm range of Rhodesian figures

Vehicles – S&S Models do a good range of Rhodesian vehicles used by Support Unit and all in 20mm scale. UK based.

David Michael Freemantle in Australia does the complete range of Support Unit vehicles in 3D printing. David does 20mm and 28mm scales and actually can do whatever scale you want. David’s models are well detailed and reasonably priced, and worth buying from the UK. freemantledavid@mail.com

I am hoping to get some more accurate information about Support Unit in the near future, when I can acquire ‘The Black Boots’ publication.

Support Unit Puma by David Michael freemantle in 28mm scale
Cougar by David Michael Freemantle

RhACR Eland 90

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Initially the RhACR used Ferret Armoured Cars. The French AML 90 was to become known in South African and Rhodesian service as the Eland 90, with 20 being inherited by the Rhodesians from the SAP when they left Rhodesia. More were to be loaned from South Africa, in future years, until RhAMC were able to field 4 Troops Armoured Car troops.

There is still speculation as to the actual numbers as the Rhodesians liked to keep the enemy guessing.

HQ Troop, A Troop, B Troop, C Troop, in last years D Troop was to become the troop support for the armour as in 1979 E Troop with 8 T54/55 tanks were provided from SA. The intention was that D Troop would use the newly designed MPCV but the MPCV was to never see service before Independence.

The Eland 90’s main difference is that it carried the spare wheel on top of the turret and a jerry can was attached where the spare was normally held. The sand trays were also reversed so equipment could be strapped in to the trays.

Rhodesian camouflage was dark green (blue tinge) with ochre pattern but by 1979 the T54/55 were painted by the South African instructors in anti IR paint Dark Earth/Dark Green. From 1979 onwards most Rhodesian army vehicles started to go over to this new scheme.

I use Humbrol paints so Humbrol 76 Uniform Green with a touch of blue in it makes a reasonable green for this period and you can lighten it with white as the Green tended to fade to a bluish hue. Humbrol 83 or 84 are quite close to the lighter ochre colour used on the vehicles.

During Operation Miracle the Elands were painted overall Dark Green to confuse the FRELIMO Forces in Mozambique.

These are the Elands being deployed forward by the Muppet low-loaders for Operation Miracle.
Eland at Ruda waiting for the external into Mozambique. Operation Miracle.

From Inyantue to Entumbane.

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From Inyantue to Entumbane: The Rhodesian African Rifles 1965-1981Why did they fight?Why did they fight so well?What became of this fine Regiment?This study by Colonel Michael P. Stewart, a career officer in the US Army, addresses these and other questions in this fine new book published by the RAR Association, in a limited edition of 150.

Colonel Stewart’s thought-provoking thesis on the Bush War period of the RAR is accompanied by documents from the regimental archive, and 56 pages of photographs, most in colour, and most never before published. There are a number of detailed colour maps, including two with associated timelines describing the first contact between the RAR and ZIPRA at Inyantue in 1967, and their last encounter, at Entumbane in 1980/81.A superb addition to your bookshelf.

All proceeds to the RAR Benevolence Fund. £35 + p&pReserve your copy by emailing me: alan.charles.doyle@gmail.comFROM INYANTUE TO ENTUMBANE: The Rhodesian African Rifles 1965-1981Colonel Michael P. Stewart; 193 pagesPublished by the RAR Regimental Association; ISBN: 978-1-5272-8688-7

The Cover.