Our speaker on 9 June 2011 was Mr Stephan Fourie whose topic was the History of the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment. This, in fact, was the only unit in the Rhodesian Armoured Corps. In his introduction to the illustrated talk, amply filled out by his personal period photographs, Mr Fourie explained that the reason why soldiers volunteer to serve in a war is seldom a patriotic response. A nineteen year-old youth usually has no knowledge of politics and has not yet worked out his motives for serving. When he is in the army, he does not really know what is going on around him.
Our speaker recalled his own youth as a lively, free-minded Afrikaner youngster who frequently tested authority. He gave us a brief outline of his National Service in the SA Armoured Corps where he completed his National Service training at the School of Armour and 1 Special Service Battalion in Bloemfontein. The greater part of his service time was spent with 1 SSB, which was one of the two armoured car training units in the SA Defence Force at the time. He also served on four tours of duty to the SWA (Namibian)/Angolan Border and in Angola.
He took part in Operation Savannah and the Battle of Bridge 14, commenting that he much preferred serving on the border to training at the School of Armour and 1 SSB in Tempe, near Bloemfontein.
He then described this country's enemies at the time -- UNITA, SWAPO, MPLA and FNLA. Of these, UNITA and FNLA later became our allies.
After his National Service in South Africa, Mr Fourie attempted to join the Rhodesian Army but without initial success. He was informed that foreigners were not accepted and his letters to the Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Armoured Regiment went unanswered. In desperation, grabbing the bull by the horns and without telling his parents, he travelled to Rhodesia by train with his passport and R20.00 in his pocket.
On arrival in Salisbury, he told the taxi driver that he needed a hotel for the night and that this should not be an expensive one. So he found himself at the Queens Hotel. Here his attempts to sleep were frustrated by various "ladies" offering him "room service" which he politely declined. He recalled that the manager the next morning seemed a bit perplexed as to why he did not want "room service"! He subsequently found out that the establishment in question was located in the red-light district of Salisbury and out of bounds to Rhodesian military personnel. The anecdote was appreciated with much delight by the members of the audience either originally from the erstwhile Rhodesia, or those familiar with Salisbury.
On the following morning he reported to the King George VI barracks on the outskirts of Salisbury. The commanding Officer of the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment, Major Rooken Smith, quickly realised that the young volunteer from the SA Armoured Corps had much to offer the Rhodesian Army. He was very well trained and a war veteran as well. Mr Fourie noted that members of the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment were given a very good grounding in infantry tactics but only a very perfunctory and rudimentary training in armoured warfare. In contrast, the SA Armoured Corps training covered a period of 6 months and was very comprehensive. He was then sent to the Rhodesian Army Recruiting Office which was filled with young Rhodesians who had been called for their compulsory military training. He commented on the fact that he was the odd one out in the queue - whereas most of the other potential recruits were keen on getting their call-up deferred or on being discharged on medical grounds, he seemed to be the only one keen to enlist.
LEFT: Sgt Fourie, Rho ACR, sitting on his Eland 90
The regiment was formed in 1941 as the Southern Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment and was renamed the Southern Rhodesian Reconnaissance Car Regiment in the same year. This name it retained until 1947, when it became the Southern Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment until it was disbanded in 1956. In 1973 it was reformed and renamed the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment. The name was then changed to the Rhodesian Armoured Corps in 1980 and to the Zimbabwe Armoured Corps later in the same year.
The regiment had formed part of the armed forces of the Central African Federation (Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland). When the Federation broke up, the lion's share of the forces went to Southern Rhodesia, these being the greater part of the Air Force, the Armoured Car Regiment, the Rhodesian African Rifles, the Special Air Service Squadron (SAS) and the Rhodesian Light Infantry. The Northern Rhodesian Regiment and a couple of aircraft were handed over to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and the Kings African Rifles were allocated to Nyasaland (now Malawi).
Our speaker found that the cohesiveness of the Rhodesian forces was much better than that of the SADF. There was no antipathy between Regulars and Territorials (Citizen Force) as there was (and is) in South Africa. After National Service, Rhodesian Territorial Army troops were used in the areas where they lived and thus had the advantage of being familiar with and having an intimate knowledge of the terrain in which they served.
Three officers commanded the Regiment during the Rhodesian Bush War. The first of these was Major Bruce Rooken-Smith, a British officer who held the post of OC from 1972 to 1978. He was succeeded by Major Darryl Winkler, an American who was a Vietnam veteran. He was responsible for issuing black overalls and leather jackets to his troopers. The terrorists, as a result, called the armoured troops "Black Devils". His period of command was two years, from 1978 to 1979 and his big complaint was that he "had so little to do so much with", a common complaint in the overstretched Rhodesian Army. He was known for his love for publicity. The final commander before the end of the war was Major van Graan, seconded from the SA Armoured Corps and who served from 1979 to 1980. He had served at the School of Armour at Tempe and was responsible for turning the Regiment into a properly organised armoured car regiment.
Role of the Regiment
This was two-fold - counter-insurgency operations and conventional warfare - two very different types of operation.
The main activities in counter-insurgency operations were curfew patrols, flag marches, crowd dispersal and follow-ups, road blocks, cordons, communication tasks, traffic control, fire support, escort duties, guarding of vulnerable points, reconnaissance, demolishing enemy strong points and urban and rural support of infantry. Most of the regiment's time was spent carrying out these tasks.
The main activities in conventional warfare were advance to contact, delaying tactics when withdrawing, guarding the flanks of major combat formations, deep penetration operations, exploitation of gaps when advancing, disruption of the enemy in the pursuit and disruption of enemy echelons. These types of operation took place when the regiment supported cross-border operations later on in the bush war.
The depot of the regiment was at the Blakiston-Houston Barracks in Salisbury. All training was conducted there and, in addition to the Regimental Headquarters, a Signals Troop, Training Troop, Army Service Corps stores detachment and workshops were to be found there.
The fighting part of the regiment consisted of four Armoured Car Squadrons (A, B and C Squadrons were manned by Territorials and D was manned by Regulars and National Servicemen). In 1979, an Infantry Troop was added - this proved to be a very useful addition to the unit. Finally, in 1979 E Squadron was formed - this included eight T-55 Russian tanks and a few T34/85 tanks and was commanded by a German immigrant Captain Kaufeldt, who had served in a Bundeswehr Panzer unit before coming to Rhodesia. These tanks were upgraded by the installation of South African radio equipment, far more modern than the Russian equipment fitted when they came into service. Their crews were trained at the School of Armour at Tempe.
The regular squadron was deployed for most of the Bush War with a troop each of Eland 90s at Victoria Falls, Umtali and Kariba, as well as a troop of Ferret scout cars at Chipinga. The Territorial squadrons were originally tasked to support the six Independent Companies of the Rhodesia Regiment, based at Wankie, Kariba, Inyanga and Umtali. In practice, they were utilised wherever needed.
Most of the Regiment's operations were of a routine escort or patrol nature, including convoy protection work. Our speaker remembered many occasions when armoured cars would patrol in the area of airfields at Kariba, Victoria Falls and Wankie to deter possible insurgent activity before aircraft either landed or took off. There were, however, a number of more serious actions as set out below:
* 1976: Nyadzonya/Pungwe Raid - in support of the Selous Scouts with 4 Eland 90s deployed
* 1977: Victoria Falls mortared by ZIPRA - 41 Troop deployed under command of W/O O'Reilly
* 1977: Mount Selinda action against Frelimo bombardment where a Bronze Cross of Rhodesia was awarded to 2Lt Rae
* 1977: Vila Salazar against an incursion by Zanla - D Squadron deployed
* 1977: Land mine incident near Chipinga
* 1978: Contact at Chirundu on the Zambezi River, near the Otto Beit Bridge, between D Squadron (supported by 1RR) and elements of the Zambian Army over a period of 3 days
* 1978: Convoy ambush at Tanganda Halt in which our speaker, then Sgt Fourie, was involved
* 1979: Aggressive patrols with the SAS, Selous Scouts and RAR on the Eastern Border
* 1980: Operation Quartz
* 1981: Second Entumbane Uprising (Bulawayo) with the North Korean trained 5th Brigade (now Zimbabwean Army)
Casualties suffered by the Regiment were among the lowest in the Army because the enemy avoided contact as far as possible. The reason for this was the devastating effect of the shells from the Eland's 90mm gun.
Ferret Armoured Cars at Melsetter
Equipment used by the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment
Various types of Armoured Fighting Vehicles were used by the Regiment and these are discussed briefly below:
* Marmon-Harrington armoured car, built in South Africa. Manned by a crew of three, armed with a Bren gun, weight 6 tons, speed on road 80kph, used from 1941 to 1945, then by the BSAP until 1972
* Staghound armoured car, built in the USA, 37mm gun plus two machine guns, crew of 4, road speed 89kph, cross country speed 25khp, weight 14 tons, 20 cars supplied, used from 1945 to 1956, thereafter by the RLI
* Ferret light scout car, built in the UK, road speed 89kph, armed with a 7.62mm machine gun, crew of two, weight 5 tons, from 1972 onwards, very light and not mine proof. Some 20 supplied
* Eland Mk V 90mm armoured car, built in the RSA, three man crew, weight 6 tons, road speed 90kph, cross country speed 30kph, 90mm DEFA low recoil gun plus 2 machine guns, moderately mine proof. Some 60 or so supplied from 1975 onwards but many of these were returned to South Africa after Mugabe came into power.
There was also an Eland 60mm car equipped with a 60mm breech loading mortar which our speaker suggested would have been very useful in counter insurgency encounter.
* T-55 LD main battle tank, Polish-built, main armament 100mm D10T rifled gun with 2 machine guns, diesel-powered with a road speed of 56kph and a cross country speed of 25kph, weight 36 tons, crew of 4. In its time, a useful tank, the tanks in question were confiscated by the South African authorities from a Libyan cargo vessel in Durban harbour in 1979. Two were sent to the School of Armour for testing and the other eight were sent to the Rhodesians.
In 1980, a number of much older T34/85 tanks were supplied to Rhodesia. These were essentially World War Two T34s fitted with an 85mm gun.
ZIPRA had been building up a conventional force in Zambia and the Rhodesian tank force was designed to counter the ZIPRA force and make them think twice about invading Rhodesia.
The echelon (i.e. supply, communications) vehicles used by the Regiment were briefly as follows:
* Bedford 3-tonner truck, underpowered and not mine-proofed and replaced by more suitable vehicles
* Long Wheel Base Land Rover 4-cylinder, a useful vehicle but difficult to mine-proof, extensively used by the Rhodesian forces.
* Mercedes Unimog truck known as a "25", with an excellent cross-country capability, which could be mine proofed when it became the "Bullet" APC
* Mercedes long-wheel base truck known as a "45" - this could be mine-proofed
* Nissan Truck Chassis which was converted into a "Crocodile" APC by the ever-ingenious Rhodesians.
Our speaker commented on the use made of armoured cars by South Africa as compared to the Rhodesians. The Rhodesians used their armour almost entirely in a pure counter-insurgency role, while the South Africans used their armour the classic way, in encircling moves, in combat against enemy armoured vehicles and even in an anti-armour capability against Angolan tanks. The counter-insurgency operations were not neglected - convoy escorts, patrol work searching for terrorists were carried out as well. The Angolan bush and the Rhodesian bush were similar but northern Namibia is almost desert or semi-desert.
Mr Fourie concluded his talk by showing us a number of photographs taken by him during his service with the Rhodesian Army. These depicted the terrain, the vehicles used and the troops and, for those of us who did not serve in the Rhodesian Bush War, or who are not very familiar with combat conditions and terrain, they were most informative.
Our Chairman, Mr Johan van den Berg, thanked Mr Fourie for another highly interesting and informative talk and presented him with the customary gift.
Our Chairman paid a courtesy call to Brig Gen Dick Lord over the past weekend and conveyed wishes of well-being on behalf of his fellow branch members. Gen Lord was most appreciative of our concern for his health and sends his sincerest regards and appreciation to all the members for being interested in his well-being. Shown on the attached photograph is Gen Lord proudly showing off a painting of the US Navy Phantom he flew while on an exchange tour from the RN Fleet Air Arm to the US Navy at NAS Miramar during 1966-1968 (the painting was given to Gen Lord as a get-well gift by Justin Zimmerman, one of South Africa's foremost aviation artists).
ICOMOS SA, in association with the Castle Control Board and the Castle Military Museum, recently presented a solo art exhibition by artist Lizelle Kruger, titled First World War Impressions. The opening evening was a great success and well attended, amongst other, by a number of our fellow-members. We wish to congratulate the artist, organisers, and in particular fellow-member Simon Norton, who facilitated the organising of the exhibition as well as the invitations, with the success of the event. Members or anybody from the public interested in viewing the exhibition, can liaise with the artist at Cell: 082-673-0013 / Tel: 021-787-1215. (Shown are examples of the work on exhibition (R). The picture top left shows the artist (white jacket) in conversation with the wife of the branch chairman).
The Rebel Record, Part 1 - Abbott to Maria and The Rebel Record, Part 2 - Marie to Zwiegers, by Taffy and David Shearing: These two voluminous books supplement Taffy Shearing's PhD thesis, titled The Cape Rebel of the South African War, 1899-1902. Each volume is about 700 pages in total and collectively contains the names of 15,435 Cape Colonials who rose in rebellion and supported the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State during the South African War, 1899-1902. Where possible, each entry is supplemented by a short biographical sketch of the individual in question. These are the only (virtually?) complete record of Cape Rebels researched to date - it is definitely the only published record to date and stands as a monument to the single-minded purpose, perseverance, tenacity and unflagging energy of the husband-and-wife team who undertook this mammoth task. This is an indispensable tool for any historical researcher, serious SA War enthusiast or genealogical and family history researcher. Available from selected Africana/antiquarian, non-fiction/historical or specialis t book dealers. Illustrated History of the Fleet Air Arm: Stringbag to Shar, 1938 - 2006, by Prof Derrick Dickens: Forewords by HRH Prince Phillip (in his view the book was such a significant contribution to the history of the Royal Navy to agree to writing the foreword); Admiral Sir Raymond Lygo, KCB (Patron of the Fleet air Arm Association) and Dick Lord, Lt-Cdr RN (Rtd.); Brig-Gen SAAF (Rtd.) This A4-size, 166-page, Landscape-format book features 89 paintings of every fixed wing aircraft to have served on British aircraft carriers from 1938 to 2006. What makes the book unique is that it represents each aircraft type and Mark in full colour, with a short history and technical details. These paintings have never been made public before, and bring a totally new dimension and refreshing look to the history of the Fleet Air Arm. There is no other complete record of Fleet Air Arm aircraft in full colour anywhere in the world, making the book without equal, and a sought-after collector's item. What makes the book significant in its own right is the fact that it is only the second book of note on Aviation Art published in South Africa, the first being A Portrait of Military Aviation in South Africa, by the late Ron Belling, in itself a much sought-after and very scarce publication today. Available from selected historical or specialist book dealers. LIMITED EDITION - 100 copies only!
John Mahncke has just informed me that his publisher in the UK broke the good news that John's book "For Kaiser and Hitler" has been nominated "The Book of the Year" by the "The Cross and Cockade". "The Cross and Cockade" is a prestigious international magazine, the Journal of the First World War Aviation Historical Society, known for their in-depth research and historically-accurate articles on WWI aviation.
Well done! Congratulations on behalf of his fellow-branch members to John Mahncke, as well as his publisher, Robert Forsyth, of The Tattered Flag Press, for this great achievement! - The Branch Chairman.
FORTHCOMING [LECTURE] PROGRAMME
14 JULY 2011: THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ZULU KINGDOM, 1840-1884 by Alan Mountain
The talk is the second delivery in a continuing series on the rise and fall of the Zulu Empire by fellow-member Alan Mountain. The death of Dingane in 1840 signalled the end of Zulu imperialism and the entry of Boer and English imperial involvement in Zulu affairs. Mpande, the third half-brother to become king in the House of Zulu, gained the Zulu throne with the help of Boer allies. Although initially considered to be an amiable oaf and therefore escaping death at the hands of his paranoid half-brother, Dingane, he proved to be a shrewd negotiator and in the turbulent politics of the times he managed to hold the Zulu kingdom together for 33 years. His eldest son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him to the Zulu throne after a very bloody succession battle with Mpande's favoured son, Mbuyazi. It was Cetshwayo at whom Sir Bartle Frere, the British High Commissioner in South Africa and Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in South Africa aimed his aggression in his quest to establish a Confederation of South African States and which resulted in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. While Sir Bartle ultimately won on the battlefield, he failed to settle the resulting turbulence in Zululand which eventually culminated in the Zulu Civil War in 1884. As Alan Mountain is known for his masterful and professional blending of video and audio input in his talks, this should prove to be one of the highlights of this year's programme.
11 AUGUST 2011: STRATEGIC REVIEW OF THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL SITUATION IN AFRICA by Helmoed Römer-Heitman
Maj Römer-Heitman's annual strategic review of the military and political situation in Africa is always well-received and this year should be no exception, especially in view of the events in North Africa at the beginning of the year, which have unfolded with such rapidity in a matter of months. Of particular interest, amongst other issues, will again be his analysis of the piracy problem in the Indian Ocean that is slowly but surely creeping southwards - exactly as he predicted in 2010. From the attendance figures of his previous talks it is easy to predict that it will be no different this year - bear in mind that we have limited parking and seating available, please arrive early, so as to avoid disappointment.
8 SEPTEMBER 2011: A FRESH LOOK AT THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, 1940-1941 by Greg Pullin
Our speaker is well-known in aviation circles and is currently also the chairman of the Friends of the SAAF Museum locally. Being an avid aviation enthusiast since an early age, he is well-read and very knowledgeable on aviation history and aircraft types. As September will also be the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, it is appropriate that we decided to choose this particular topic to coincide with the anniversary, being presented by a speaker who is without a doubt well-qualified to do justice to such a complex and contentious subject. He also intimated that it will be a tale with a twist in the tail.
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