Bush War Rhodesia
An extremely interesting book by Peter Baxter with some very interesting new information and photographs. Ideal for the war gamers wishing to find out more about this war.
The Rhodesian African Rifles.
Yes an old colonial regiment which served with pride in two world wars and in Malaya during the Emergency. It is an interesting fact that the RAR asked to form 8 battalions in 1966 which would have made a great difference to the conduct of the war and the economy of the country, as there would have not been the need to call up excessive numbers of Europeans. This would have curtailed the drain on man power as men left the country due to the call up. It was the Government and certain high ranking officers who did not trust having more African battalions.
The officers in the RAR wanted equal pay for serving African soldiers and wanted to start introducing African officers into the battalion. Yet again it was the Government and certain high ranking officers with no experience of the RAR who were against this.
An interesting fact is that Lt Col Kim Rule asked for his sword to be presented to the first African to be commissioned in the RAR. In 1977 his widow Mrs Rule presented his sword to Lt N.M. Tumbare.
It is a fact that the RAR has an enviable record in Fireforce operations and parachuting, which is recognized in the history of military parachuting and airborne operations.
The permanent Fireforces were drawn from the ranks of the white regular soldiers of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, who achieved the highest kill rate with relatively small loss to themselves, the black professional soldiers of the Rhodesian African Rifles who also achieved enviable results and, in 1978, the national servicemen of the independent companies. There were occasions when territorials and reservists provided men for Fireforce. (Counter Strike from the Sky, J.R.T. Wood, p117.)
Even though small packets of helicopters had been used to deploy the RLI and RAR and other units in COIN operations, 1974 was to see the first dedicated Fireforce manned by RLI. For a period I believe there were four standing Fireforces, two manned by the RLI, one by 1RAR and another manned by 2RAR, but in 1979 it expanded to 6 Fireforces and a number of Jumbo Fireforces (A Jumbo Fireforce comprised the air assets for two Fireforces), one of which was deployed manned by the whole of 1RAR in the Wankie area. In late 1979, in the south of Matabeleland, South African, Parabats under Rhodesian command, served clandestinely in the role, using South African aircraft.
On 21 October 1977, B Company (Chenjera, ‘Beware’) 1 RAR was proud to have the first para-trained troops in the regiment. (Masodja, Alex Binda, ).
In time every company in 1RAR and 2RAR would have enough paratroopers to provide each deploying company with paratroopers as they rotated Fireforce duties with ground coverage deployments. To this day the British Parachute Regiment knows of the achievements of the RAR in the history of military airborne operations.
By 1977 the amount of whites of call up age, were leaving in great numbers and thus denuding the Rhodesia Regiment of fresh recruits.
In 1977 the idea of mixing white territorial battalions of the Rhodesia Regiment with trained African soldiers of the RAR was formulated. This was very successful in the white national service independent companies. On passing out from depot, the Rhodesian Regiment, after basic training, white conscripts usually completed their 18 month service with an independent company of the Rhodesia Regiment: such as 1 (Indep) Company RR at Wankie, 2 (Indep) Company RR at Kariba, 3 (Indep) Company RR at Inyanga etc. These companies now became multiracial RAR independent companies with the white conscripts re-badged RAR and serving alongside the regular black soldiers of the RAR. By 1978, there were six such independent RAR companies. More were to follow including the RR territorial battalions receiving more RAR badged AS.
Even though the RAR is only credited with two large external operations into Zambia against ZIPRA bases at Kavalmanja and Kabanga Mission the two battalions did carry out a continuous series of smaller external missions by companies and smaller units on foot, which are recorded in the books Masodja and The War Diaries of Andre Dennison. One must remember that air assets tended to be hogged by 1SAS, RLI and to some extent the Selous Scouts. One external operation not recorded at the end of the war, practically the whole of 1RAR actually marched into Zambia to take out a ZIPRA battalion base camp. The cease fire came into being so 1RAR had to be withdrawn by helicopter.
It should be also remembered that there were a very large number of ex RAR men European and mainly Africans serving in the Selous Scouts , and probably provided more men than any other regiment in the Rhodesian Army.
RAR loyalty and recruitment.
As far is recruiting, the RAR was over whelmed with Africans wishing to join the battalion and even right up to the end of the war. On a normal recruiting day were only 150 – 200 recruits were needed for each new intake and even in 1979 as RAR geared up to expand to 8 battalions, at least 600 candidates would turn up for selection. There was never any need to conscript Africans for the Rhodesian Army.
There was never an incident of disloyalty within the ranks of the RAR and the RAR can be justifiably proud of this record.