In recent years it has always amazed John that whenever he talks with experienced British airborne special forces soldiers, be they Parachute Regiment, SAS or Royal Marines, they know who the Rhodesian African Rifles are. The Rhodesian African Rifles just like the Rhodesian Light Infantry manned two of the four main Fireforce, Forward Air Field bases in Rhodesian. The Fireforce concept, a unique concept, entailed the vertical envelopment of the enemy by airborne troops deployed into battle by armed trooping helicopters and paratrooper carrying Dakotas. The Rhodesian Fireforce paratroopers dropped at extremely low heights (500 to 450 feet) to avoid enemy fire, dropped by venerable C-47 Dakotas called the “Dak” or “Paradak” by the Rhodesians. The rest of the Fireforce was deployed by three Allouette III trooping helicopters called G-Cars, armed with a twin 303 browning mount and commanded by an Allouette III K-Car armed with a 20mm cannon. It was not unknown for a Fireforce to be deployed three times in one day and for Paras to be dropped. The Rhodesian Paras are known to have carried out the greatest number of combat jumps in military history, of any army in the world. More fire support was provided by Rhodesian Air Force Lynx ground attack aircraft and when need be, Hunter, Canberra and Vampire jets. My good friend Brigadier Pat Lawless had over 30 operational para jumps under his belt by the end of the war. In the Rhodesian army that was considered above average as the record was held by a Rhodesian Light Infantry Trooper who had completed in the region of 79 operational jumps. Unheard of in any other army in the world.
I have attached the books which give the history of the RAR during the Rhodesian Bush War and also the history of the RAR defending the Crown, The Empire and Rhodesia.
The book ‘Counter Strike from the Sky by J.R.T. Wood is probably the best description of the development of Fire Force.
The Rhodesian African Rifles were an elite Fireforce Airborne unit ranked amongst the Airborne and Special Forces units of Southern Africa.
I have put some early RAR photos on. Note the 5 man stick or patrols. In those days the helos carried no machine guns and so they could carry 5 men, with pilot and Tech. The photos show a company deploying in the very beginning of the Bush War (1965-66) and 2 helos deploying with them. Masodja describes this! What you will note that most are carrying SLRs or Sterling SMGs, but no sign of Bren Guns or MAG. They initially deployed only with SLRs or SMGs thinking to move fast and light on follow ups. The initial contacts proved that they needed MAG support.
Having spoken to a lot of the old bods they said that they continually had limited helicopter support but more in a transport, deployment and resupply role! Not an offensive role and were not to get into contact with the Terrs.
Gradually this was to change as helos were armed with single MAGs and once the twin MAGs were introduced this cut troops down to 4 in the helos.
With the advent of the 20mm cannon things got a lot more aggressive!
|At the start of the Bush War (1965-66) the RAR had gone over to the SLR and apparently the MAG replaced the Bren Gun LMG. As I mentioned with reactive operations, follow ups, cross graining, etc the RAR felt the chaps needed light order and only carried the SLR or SMG.
Anyway it was soon realized that the MAG would be needed. Infact they even considered carrying limited amounts of ammo to keep weight down. That myth was soon dispelled in contacts.
By the end of the war troops were carrying 8 mags and a bag of extra ammo in packs. Some carried more.
The 7.62 LMG (Bren Gun) continued to be used in the early part of the war by the Royal Rhodesia Regiment and all their battalions and Indep Companies. Saw an interesting conversation on Facebook concerning blokes from the RR
These photos are of Op Garmpus 10th August 1966. D Coy RAR