Sunday, 23 March 2014

Father Christmas Visits Mashonaland Flying Club (December 1960)

Father Christmas arrives by air for the Mashonaland Flying Club's annual children's party at Mt. Hampden. 

On the right Don Gillespie waits to sustain the visitor with a glass of refreshment.

Source Contact dated December 1960 which was made available by Mitch Stirling. Thanks Mitch

ORAFs records its thanks and appreciation to Glyn Hall for sharing this sketch  with ORAFs.

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sketches of Rhodesia (1902)

By Glyn Hall

I have no idea who Albert Harcourt is or was. Maybe some of your readers may be able to assist.

They are from an autograph album started by my grandmother who was Mayoress of Salisbury in 1930.

The album also has the signatures of a lot of the original 1890 column that travelled up to and raised the Union Jack at "Fort Salisbury".

ORAFs records its thanks and appreciation to Glyn Hall for sharing this sketch  with ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

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Ref. Rhodesia

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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Tragic Tale of Monty Bowden By Jonty Winch

The Tragic Tale of Monty Bowden
By Jonty Winch

A drawing of Monty Bowden which appeared in ‘Cricket:
A Weekly Record of the Game’ (7 May, 1885)

 Montague Parker Bowden was a member of the first English cricket side to visit South Africa.  The team arrived at the Cape in December 1888 and received a welcome of unprecedented magnitude.  Prominent figures sought political mileage from events associated with the tour.  A public dinner was staged at which His Excellency the Governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner for South Africa, Sir Hercules Robinson, was present.  The chair was occupied by Sir Thomas Upington, who had served as Prime Minister of the Cape for two years before resigning and was said to be a peerless parliamentarian whom few dared to challenge.  Other guests included Sir JH de Villiers (the Chief Justice), Sir David Tennant (Speaker of the House of Assembly), Sir Thomas Scanlen (Prime Minister 1881-84) and the Hon JH Hofmeyr (Parliamentary leader of the Afrikaner Bond).      

Monty Bowden with the legendary W.G. Grace on the occasion they played for the Gentlemen in 1888.

  At the dinner, the bemused tourists listened to speakers taking turns to drum the importance of the northward expansion of the British Empire.  Upington stated, ‘I sincerely hope before Sir Hercules Robinson’s period of office in this Colony has terminated, that what is at the present moment known as the “sphere of influence” will be known as the British Protectorate up to the Zambezi.  And I shall be inclined to go further ... I see no reason why we should not cross the Zambezi …’  His statement was greeted with loud and prolonged cheers.

 Twenty-three-year-old Monty Bowden was not oblivious to the relationship between sport and expanding British imperialism.  He had attended Dulwich College, a public school that made a significant contribution to the Empire through support for the military and the Indian civil service.  Yet Bowden had no desire to follow a similar career path.  He had not enjoyed the hardness, even brutality, of much of school life.  He had steered clear of the rigors of the football field and the Rifle Volunteer Corps, the latter attracting a large following which included his elder brother Frank.  Young Monty occupied himself in other areas, demonstrating ability in drama for which Dulwich had, by that time, gained a reputation.  His love for cricket might have been regarded as an extension of his interest in acting as he was a stylish batsman and a lively showman behind the stumps.  The game awakened his aesthetic sensibility and became an essential and influential part of his life.

 Bowden was England’s outstanding schoolboy batsman of 1883. At the end of the season, Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game included an article on the high scorers for the year.  It recorded the achievements of three players – England stars, Dr EM Grace of Gloucestershire and WW Read of Surrey, and the promising Bowden.  The youngster had not only scored 845 runs at an average of 52.81 for Dulwich College but had played for Surrey.  He was to experience several successful seasons for the county before suffering a lapse in form.  A taste of the good life possibly affected him whilst the initial aura and excitement of playing for Surrey might have worn off.  To his father’s consternation, he frittered away the money he earned as a stockbroker’s clerk and was perpetually in debt.

 A tour to Australia in 1887-88 revived Bowden’s cricket fortunes.  Fitter, stronger and more focused, he blossomed in the 1888 season.  His batting exuded a quiet and easy confidence, ironically in a wet season when conditions were not conducive to stroke-making.  He finished third in the Surrey averages for all matches, scoring 797 runs at 31.22, and was placed eleventh in the English first-class averages for the season.

 A few weeks later, he left England for South Africa in the knowledge that he had made a notable contribution to the success achieved by Surrey, England’s undisputed champion county.  His talent as a wicket-keeper had also been recognised in his selection for the Gentlemen against both the Players and the Australians, whilst his explosive batting commanded interest at cricket grounds around the country.

The cover of ‘England’s Youngest Captain’ which features Monty Bowden in the course of the 1888/89 tour to South Africa – the first trip by an English sporting team to that part of the world

 In South Africa his wicket-keeping ‘fairly electrified the locals’.  He also captained the tourists in the Second Test at Newlands when tour leader, Aubrey Smith, was unable to get to Cape Town in time for the match.  Bowden, at 23 years 144 days old, remains England’s youngest-ever Test captain.  He led his side to an emphatic victory by an innings and 202 runs – still a record margin in Tests between the two countries – with Johnny Briggs claiming fifteen wickets in a day.

At the conclusion of the tour, Bowden decided to join his captain in a stock-broking business. They had spent an exciting week on the Rand and were stimulated by romantic notions of amassing great wealth.  Bowden brushed aside his commitment to Surrey cricket in the belief that everyone would understand.  He was convinced that it would take only a year or two to amass his fortune.

The partnership of Smith and Bowden did not last a year.  Like so many other businesses, it was forced to close as a result of the dramatic crash which took place.  The boom of the previous two years had been killed by dishonest methods, rumours that gold was giving out and the panic-selling of shares.  ‘There were serious flotations and all kinds of abuses,’ said one report, ‘and the investing public became sick of Rand mining.’

 Smith publicly attributed the closure of their business to bad luck but people in the know might have disagreed with his interpretation.  The Comtesse de Bremont, an American friend of Oscar Wilde’s mother, questioned whether the two cricketers were committed to their work.  Through her novel, The Gentleman Digger: A Study of Johannesburg Life, she ridiculed their efforts: ‘When the team first came to the Rand we set him [Smith] and another cricketer up in brokering. They prospered for a few months but were not smart enough to go ahead on their own legs.’

 Amidst the gloom, cricket was again Bowden’s saving grace.  He continued to demonstrate good form in the 1889-90 season, averaging 53.92 from 701 runs.  Admittedly his runs were made in the less exalted sphere of Transvaal club cricket but the fast wickets and dry conditions allowed him to develop his footwork and timing to a new level.

He was well prepared for the first Currie Cup challenge when Kimberley hosted the Transvaal in April 1890.  The game became a personal triumph as he scored 63 (out of 117) and an unbeaten 126 (out of 224 for 4) to inspire an historic victory. ‘Galopin’, writing in The Star, was ecstatic: ‘It is to Bowden more than anyone else in the team that Johannesburg owes the victory; and I think most people will now admit the truth of the assertion – which I have held for a long time – that Mr. Monty Bowden is far and away the best bat in South Africa ... It is to be hoped that a reception befitting the occasion awaits this talented young cricketer, as well as the other members of the team.’

 Bowden did not go back to Johannesburg.  He admitted to being ‘dead broke’ but his problems were deeper.  He knew his firm’s bankruptcy would affect his chance of being readmitted to the fold should he return to England.  He also realised that much depended on whether the London Stock Exchange committee accepted Aubrey Smith.  If Bowden had known, he would have been horrified to discover that Smith told the committee their business failed because of an ‘untrustworthy’ partner who had ‘absconded’.  It was an absurd claim as Bowden had bid goodbye to Smith in Kimberley and had, in fact, collected the Currie Cup when his captain made a hurried departure.  As it turned out the committee were not fooled by Smith’s argument and his request for admission was refused. Justice prevailed but damage had been done.

 The process by which Smith’s fate was decided took several months and in the interim Bowden had to find employment.  His options were limited: the idea of a severely reduced status as a professional cricketer was not considered and, in the aftermath of his business failure, he dared not approach his father, a successful shipbroker but mid-Victorian stereotype of stern, unapproachable character.  In any event, his father would probably have supported the one clear option open to his son and that was for young Monty to join the Chartered Company’s expedition to Mashonaland.

Rhodes’s Pioneer Column enters Mashonaland

The proposed march into the northern hinterland gained prominent newspaper coverage.  Reference was made to reports by the German explorer, Carl Mauch, who had visited old gold workings and the Zimbabwe Ruins nearly twenty years earlier.  Great interest developed in the fabulous treasures and lost cities that were thought to exist in the area.  Rider Haggard had become a giant in the world of Victorian literature and his King Solomon’s Mines was a spectacular best-seller.  It was an age when men could believe such exotic tales simply because there was not yet the knowledge to challenge them.  Adventurers of the time hoped to stumble across chambers of subterranean wealth such as Haggard had imagined.

 Cecil John Rhodes’s planned expedition to Mashonaland in 1890 attracted 2000 applications for a force of nearly 200 men.  They were recruited from various trades and professions and, once they had opened up the new territory, they would be free to set up their own businesses and form the structure of a complete community.  As a celebrated cricketer, Bowden’s selection for the expedition was guaranteed.  It would give him another chance to earn the fortune that had eluded him in the Transvaal goldfields, although sacrifices would have to be made.  For a start, his career as a cricketer was put on hold indefinitely.

 Bowden’s concerns were numerous, with his greatest fear being the anticipated military-style discipline.  It would bring an abrupt end to the comforts he had always cherished as an English gentleman.  He would miss his role as a cricket celebrity, a status amply re-enforced during his stay in Kimberley.  Ironically, when news circulated that he was joining the expedition, lustre was added to the fame he had acquired.  For a few weeks, he could not resist playing up to the role, disguising the torment of someone who was in reality the antithesis of the intrepid Pioneer.

There was tremendous excitement in Kimberley during the weeks leading up to the departure of the expedition.  Frederick Courtney Selous, the appointed guide to the Pioneer Corps, was in the town until 13 April and citizens jostled with one another to catch a glimpse of one of the most romantic figures of the period.  The governor, Sir Henry Loch, made an official visit prior to the departure of the expeditionary force.  A banquet was held in his honour at the Town Hall on 17 April.  Bowden was mentioned high on the published list of dignitaries, his name appearing alongside Cecil John Rhodes, members of the Cape parliament, Sir Thomas Upington, Sir John Willoughby (second-in-command of the Pioneer Police), Admiral Wells, the Reverend John Moffat and Sir Sidney Shippard (Administrator of Bechuanaland) – men deeply involved in the expedition to Mashonaland.  Bowden listened intently to several rousing accounts of the need to take the Pioneer route.

 On Saturday 3 May – with three days to go – Charles Finlason was able to announce in the Daily Independent that Bowden had finally made up his mind to join the Pioneer Corps.  ‘The force will have a very powerful cricket team,’ he observed. ‘It would be sad if the Currie Cup found its way to Vryburg or Elibe or some town on the Zambezi.’  Finlason was obviously unaware that Bowden had already ‘sold’ the Currie Cup.  During their time in Kimberley, Bowden and some of the Transvalers stayed at the Central Hotel.  With the players enjoying the good life, their debts mounted and eventually the management became concerned about payment.  Bowden, as the group’s spokesman, was asked for some form of surety.  He obliged by handing over the one item of value that he possessed – the Currie Cup – to the manageress, Mrs. Creagh.

 Bowden continued to play cricket in the course of the march northwards.  Between Zeerust and Mafeking his section of the Pioneer Corps met members from Cape Town.  Adrian Darter recalled: ‘The Johannesburg contingent challenged us to cricket and gave us a tremendous drubbing, due chiefly to the savage relish they took in my bowling, and the unmerciful manner in which they punished it.  Wimble and Bowden were the chief offenders – to me – both played a splendid innings. We contested this match in the neighbourhood of Otta’s Hoek, and in the vicinity are the Malmani goldfields …’

 Further matches were played in Mafeking, a bustling staging post which served as a temporary base for the Pioneers.  Later a match was arranged near Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) on the afternoon of 16 August.  It was the first cricket match to be played in the country that was to become Rhodesia and, ultimately, Zimbabwe.  Bowden captained ‘A’ Troop and the Scottish rugby international, Edward Pocock, led the combined ‘B’ and ‘C’ Troops.  Skipper Hoste later wrote, ‘I forget who won. It was probably ‘A’ Troop as they had several outstanding cricketers, notably Monty Bowden.’

 Cricket aside, the expedition was not a pleasant experience for Bowden.  He had loathed the intensive training in preparation for the march.  The expedition leader, Frank Johnson was a hard taskmaster but as there was a strong likelihood of their being attacked by the Matabele in the course of the 400-mile journey, he wanted to ensure that they were a well-disciplined body.  One Pioneer wrote that the men ‘were being unnecessarily worried about and overworked, what with parades, drills, fatigues, etc.’

 Charles Finlason referred to Bowden in the Daily Independent: ‘I heard of his progress from time to time.  The life was abhorrent to him and he fretted until he fell a victim to an attack of fever.  He became so depressed as to be almost broken-hearted; his one aim was to get out of the force and back to civilisation.’

Bowden’s plight upset his friends and they rallied to his assistance.  ‘Great efforts were made,’ continued Finlason, ‘to obtain his release [but] from the first attack of fever he seems never to have recovered.’

 The Star reported his death on 24 October 1890.  Finlason thought it was likely that ‘many months of sickness and debility had seen the young trooper return to Motloutsie where he died a lingering death.’  The emotional report infuriated Dr Rutherfoord Harris – Rhodes’s ‘close confident, henchman and hatchet man’ – but Finlason was not unduly worried.  He presented a patronising explanation in the Daily Independent:  ‘I am assured that Mr. Johnson is singularly kind-hearted, and would be the last to refuse to grant Bowden his release had he asked for it.  The probability is that Bowden, being in a depressed state incidental to perpetual fever relapses, was very anxious to get home, but was prevented from moving, not by the commands of the Chartered Company or Mr. Johnson, but because he had not sufficient money to make the journey.’

 The comment did not reflect well on the Company and its concern for the welfare of its men.  But those who knew Bowden would have been aware of the reasons that led to the impecunious cricketer joining the corps.  They would have realised that he was trapped and would have stayed that way until someone came up with a means of extricating him from a wider and increasingly complex personal predicament.

 Another factor to be considered was that Johnson made it very difficult for his men to obtain a release and, as a deterrent, had issued a regimental order to that effect.  He had also instituted a censorship of letters.  When efforts were made to gain Bowden’s release, Johnson and Harris might well have used some means at their disposal to block it.  They would not have wanted somebody as well-known as Bowden leaving the expedition, being interviewed and possibly criticising the manner in which it operated.

 Throughout a tense debate which took place in the press, rumours circulated that Bowden was still alive.  Then, on 11 December, the Daily Independent printed an official announcement.  A triumphant Harris had supplied a telegram for publication: ‘Fort Salisbury – Mr. Bowden alive and well; he was in here yesterday from Hartley Hills; is very indignant false report’.

 The Star carried out an investigation and later revealed that a man had died of fever. He was a post-rider in the Chartered Company’s Police and his name was Briggs.  It transpired that when details of the man’s death were relayed to Pretoria, the recipient of the information was careless in its subsequent distribution.  He had misplaced and could not record the name of the dead man except for the fact that it was the same as that of an English cricketer … it began with a B… someone else along the line recalled that Bowden had signed up with the Pioneers … it must be him …

 Bowden’s venture to Hartley Hills was a failure because when it came to prospecting, he and most of his associates were rank amateurs.  After a few months of struggling in fearful weather, with indifferent food and the ever-present fever, many of the men began to lose heart.  Bowden joined Edward ‘Ted’ Slater as a partner in a trading business in Fort Salisbury.  Prospects seemed good as the Pioneer Column had been unable to transport much in the way of building equipment, materials and tools.  Nor had they been able to bring up furniture, cooking utensils, bedding, lamps and the various requirements to start a new life.  Unfortunately for Bowden and his partner, a horrific rainy season lasting five months prevented trading taking place.  The rivers flooded and the roads were impassable.  By Christmas 1890, the fledgling capital was effectively cut off from the outside world and the settlers suffered great inconvenience and hardship.

Bowden settles in Manicaland

Towards the end of March 1891, the Chartered Company promoted the excellent prospects in Manicaland. Reports were optimistic that gold existed there in great quantities.  A geologist, Dr Hector Smith, had stated in a published pamphlet in January 1891, ‘I have not the slightest doubt that Manicaland of today, and the Ophir of Sheba and Solomon’s time are one and the same.’

 For Bowden a move to Umtali on the eastern border made sense from a business angle.  The cost of importing goods into Mashonaland by road from South Africa was prohibitive and his best option was to operate the Beira route.  Goods could be brought up for him from South Africa by sea and unloaded at Beira.  From there they would be taken by a small launch to M’pandas on the Pungwe River.  It was then up to Bowden to devise a way to haul them 180 miles to Umtali.

 When he arrived in Umtali, the town was no more than a collection of scattered huts on a steep little kopje near the present turn-off to St Augustine’s Mission on the road to Penhalonga.  Bowden’s trading business was conducted on foot and necessitated leading his porters through heat and swamp on the treacherous lion-infested journey to the trading post at M’pandas.  African bearers cost little more than a yard or two of limbo, but they were scarce, especially when their own fields needed attention.  They were likely to run away at awkward moments.

 Whilst Bowden struggled to establish himself, cricket officials in South Africa lamented his departure.  Harry Cadwallader, the Cape Times reporter and secretary of the South African Cricket Association, was in the process of organising an overseas tour and believed Bowden’s presence in the South African team would be the draw card needed to attract financial backing and to encourage counties to provide fixtures.

 A trip to Mashonaland to chat to Bowden was not out of the question.  The territory was a major talking point and it suited the Cape Times to have a man on the spot.  It was agreed that Cadwallader should update views on gold prospects; the growing impatience with the Chartered Company; the findings of an investigation by the controversial Randolph Churchill; the aftermath of the British-Portuguese conflict … and lure Bowden back to South Africa.

 Cadwallader’s venture was held up at M’pandas because of lack of transport and he spent nearly two months in a tent erected haphazardly on the bank of a muddy stream.  Local inhabitants were rarely pleasant and competed viciously for business at cut-throat prices.  The Pungwe, with its monstrous crocodiles, ran along one side and a stagnant creek bordered another.  Dense fog from the water often enveloped the area.  It was not a place that anyone wished to stay for long.  Like the other Portuguese villages, it was dirty and unkempt and rats were a virtually uncontrollable feature.

The one bright moment for Cadwallader occurred when Bowden arrived on 12 July.  He swept dramatically into M’pandas, heading a convoy of seventy naked carriers.  Cadwallader was told that Bowden had ‘come to fetch provisions for the Europeans and forces in Manica … they have very little left.’  The carriers had been collected with much difficulty from Manica kraals.  It was therefore to Bowden’s immense frustration that he lost a number on arrival because they were in demand at M’pandas and could obtain a higher rate of pay from other parties.

 Cadwallader was thrilled to meet Bowden and discover that he intended travelling to Durban before the next rainy season.  The prospect of Bowden being available for South African cricket was very reassuring.  But, tragically, the next few months would yield numerous problems.  Bowden’s second venture to M’pandas was marred by the dreaded fever and he was fortunate to be rescued by Cecil John Rhodes near the Mozambican village of Mandigo.  Rhodes was on his first trip to the country that would bear his name and he was understandably anxious to assist Bowden.

 ‘Before Mr Bowden parted with us,’ wrote DC de Waal, a member of the Cape Parliament, ‘Mr Rhodes gave him a bottle of whisky.  At this action of the Premier I felt rather displeased, for we had very little of that liquor left, and I told him so afterwards.’

 The next day, Rhodes and Bowden met again and De Waal received another surprise.  On this occasion, Rhodes gave Bowden the horse that de Waal was using. ‘Not to appear disagreeable,’ said de Waal, ‘I did not utter a word, though it was with a feeling of deep regret that I witnessed my dear brown pony leave us, and the animal showed its disinclination to do so by repeatedly neighing as it was being led away.  Mr. Rhodes now asked me whether I minded his giving my horse away.

      ‘ “That,” I answered, “you should have asked me before you did it.”
      ‘ “But you would have had no objection”.’ 

In December 1891, Charles Finlason arrived in the country.  He was shocked by Bowden’s condition and wrote, ‘The hardships that he had incurred had told severely on him and he was much weakened by the fever.  He was in the best of spirits although he complained that he could not get entirely rid of the fever.’        Finlason also discovered that Bowden had delayed his departure for Durban.  ‘He learnt whisky was fetching three and four pounds per bottle.  The chance appeared too good to be lost and he determined to make one more journey and take his chance of getting back before the rains set in.’

 Finlason detested Umtali, not least because he was paranoid about fleas.  ‘When I got to Umtali,’ he told readers of The Star, ‘the camp was being shifted to the new site – some seven miles nearer Salisbury’.  He explained:

The move was imperative, because the Company had omitted to secure the first site of the township to themselves, and enterprising prospectors came along and pegged out the whole camp, fort and all.  So a new site had to be found.  It was as well because the whole place would have been uninhabitable in another three months, owing to the fleas.  They used to drive me out into the night sobbing.  It was dreadful

According to Finlason, the new township was a vast improvement, situated in a healthy spot and out of the range of Portuguese gunfire should a war erupt.  He admired the green and wooded hills surrounding the town on all sides, while streams of the clearest water flowed past it in the east and south.  At that time of the year, noted Finlason, ‘the grass is as green as it can be seen in summer in “dear ould Ireland” and we have dells and lovely nooks here which would take a lot to beat’.  Umtali, of course would move once more before the end of the century.

 By the end of 1891 developments indicated that Bowden intended settling in Umtali.  A new site for the town had been selected and surveyed, and he displayed a commitment to its future by requesting a stand in Second Street.  He also showed an interest in prospecting in the Penhalonga valley but did not avail himself, as a Pioneer, of the right to a farm.  He could not afford the costs involved in surveying the land. Instead, he obtained grants of land, ‘squatting’ on a piece of ground near the town.  He built a mud hut and christened his modest construction, ‘The Hilton’, because it was there that he hoped to establish a hotel.  The plan was to take advantage of the town becoming an important staging-post between Mashonaland and Mozambique.

 Conditions for Bowden’s return from Fort Salisbury in February 1892 were hazardous because there was a strong driving rain at night and drizzle during the day.  He was at one point thrown from the post-cart in which he was travelling, a subsequent ‘Roll of Pioneers’ recording that he died as a result of being ‘crushed by a wagon near Umtali’.

The first cricket match in Umtali

The day after Bowden’s arrival at Umtali – Saturday, 13 February – he was on the cricket field.  The towns-people would not entertain any thought of his missing the game.  It was, after all, the first match to be played in Manicaland and it was quite something to have the famous Surrey cricketer playing.  The contest between the Chartered Company and the Rest of Manicaland was staged in the main street.  There was no matting – simply bare earth.  A few weeks earlier on Boxing Day 1891, an athletic sports meeting had been held at the same venue.  The proud comment was made in the Cape Argus that ‘Umtali streets are not Threadneedle streets; we are not hard up for space in Manicaland’.

 Captain Lyndhurst Winslow, the former Sussex player, led the Rest of Manicaland side which included several members of the Pioneer Corps, namely Bowden, Arthur Puzey, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Tulloch, George Logan and William Clinton.  The Chartered Company batted first but their innings was a disaster.  After being 25 for 4, they collapsed to be all out with no addition to the score.  Robert Talbot-Bowe, batting at number five, was left 0 not out, and there were four ‘ducks’.  The side batted two short because players had slipped away for a few minutes, not expecting the innings to disintegrate the way it did.  Captain Winslow and the Reverend Sewell captured three wickets each; Bowden, keeping wicket, recorded a stumping.

 Captain Winslow, who opened the innings for the Rest of Manicaland, was the only player to stay at the wicket for any length of time.  He scored 33 out of a total of 63.  Bowden was clearly not well – ‘it was observed that he was in bad form’ – and batted at number six.  He was bowled for one, swinging wildly at a delivery from Talbot-Bowe.

 In their second innings, the Chartered Company fared better, reaching 51.   Bowden sent down a few deliveries.  It was an ordeal for him but he plucked up his last vestige of energy to take four wickets (all clean bowled).  Winslow claimed three and Sewell two.  This left the Rest of Manicaland fourteen runs to win the match.  Logan and Puzey knocked off the runs without being parted to give their side an easy victory by ten wickets.

 The effort involved in playing the match probably affected Bowden’s condition although it was thought that he would feel better after some rest.  Sadly, this was not the case.  On the Monday, his condition deteriorated alarmingly.  He had an epileptic seizure and was conveyed to the hospital. The news spread quickly in the small town and there was great concern.

 ‘His temperature rose to 107,’ wrote Nurse Rose Blennerhassett, ‘and he passed away very peacefully on the fourth day after his admittance. On account of the heat it was necessary to keep the doors and windows of the room, where he lay, wide open, and a man with a loaded revolver sat there all night to protect the corpse from wild beasts.’  She continued:

 Next day he was buried, the whole community attending his funeral. With great difficulty, owing to the scarcity of wood, a coffin had been made out of whisky cases. It was covered with dark blue limbo. A card, bearing his name and age, was nailed to the lid. Beneath it we placed a large cross of flowers. The remains were carried across the compound to a bullock-cart, and the melancholy procession started. We lingered to watch it wind across the plain, until it disappeared from view, and then with sad steps returned to the wards.

The ‘For Queen and Empire’ cemetery at Old Umtali

The grave markers which have been ripped up and thrown over the wall at the ‘For Queen and Empire’ cemetery 

Bowden died on Thursday, 19 February 1892. The District Surgeon, Dr JW Lichfield – a fellow Pioneer – signed his death notice, recording the cause of death as epilepsy.  Subsequent sources have linked his death to the fall from the post-cart, exhaustion, alcohol and sunstroke.  It took time for the news to become known.  A local farmer, Lionel Cripps, did not, for example, hear of the cricketer’s death until Friday, 27 February, noting in his diary, ‘Poor Bowden died in Umtali’.  The news was brought to Cripps by the recently-employed ‘Paddy’ O’Toole VC who had been in the town collecting supplies.

 In Cape Town, Cadwallader did not want to believe the news.  Perhaps too much rested on Bowden’s return to South African cricket.  As a result he created unnecessary anxiety by cabling a message overseas that ‘from statements by gentlemen who recently arrived in Cape Town … there is happily reason to view the reported death of Mr Bowden with a great amount of reserve.’

 Bowden left a sum total of £1 15s 6d, which was held by the Master’s office.  His real assets were worth more as they included the farm he was entitled to as a former member of the Pioneer Column.  His father pursued the right to secure the farm and used his influence to obtain the services of Dr Jameson, the country’s administrator. It mattered little because Jameson was quickly tied up in his infamous Raid of 1895.  The rebellion against the government of Paul Kruger also caused John Bowden to switch attention to another son, Frank, one of the soldiers who participated in the ill-fated invasion.  Frank was taken prisoner at Doornkop and repatriated to England where he was called to the trial in London.

 It was a stressful time but the fervour of Frank’s devotion to Rhodesia was not undermined by such ill-fortune.  On his return, he joined the British South Africa Police and resumed the task of following up details related to his brother’s estate.  His father had requested that a farm be selected in the most favourable locality with the intention being to sell it at a good price. Lawyers representing him obtained land in Matabeleland and carried out his request.  As a result, on 13 December 1901, JH Kennedy signed the ‘Account of the Administration and Distribution of the Intestate Estate of the late Montagu (sic) P Bowden’.  Bowden left his father £36 9s 4d and his mother £36 9s 3d. 

The plaque on the Mozambique border which commemorates the first visit by Cecil John Rhodes to the country that would bear his name


ORAFs records its thanks and appreciation to Jonty Winch for sharing this story with ORAFs.
Thanks also Neill Storey who "bent Jonty's  arm" to write the story for us. Hopefully we can persuade Jonty do a few stories for us.

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Some Rhodesian Theatres (1911)

 (By our Special Correspondent)

 Source - The Bioscope, December 14, 1911

Bulawayo is well catered for by the two handsome bioscope theatres now open there, namely, the "Empire" and "Patersons Popular  Picture Palace." . The Empire, situate on Main Street, and managed by Mr. Lago Clifford, well known in South African theatrical circles, is leased from the proprietors by Messrs. Clifford, Asserjohn, and Co, and is a thoroughly up-to-date and well- equipped theatre. With a handsome vestibule, of which are situated the bar, restaurant, and cloak-rooms, the theatre, both by day and night, is inviting and cosy in appearance, but particularly so when the glow of the numerous electric lights casts its glamour over it. The red upholstered seats contrast richly with the blue and gold draping; of the private boxes and various doorways, and it is not surprising that the 500 seating capacity is often severely taxed; but, no matter how crowded, cool comfort is assured by the sliding roof.

The electric current is provided by a private generating set, and a "Saxonia" machine projects a fine picture over a 95 ft. throw. Except when the boards are occupied by a theatrical company, picture shows are given every night, including Sunday, and a matinee on Saturday afternoons. In addition to the theatre, a roller rink alongside enables Mr. Clifford to meet the more strenuous wishes of his patrons, and, all round, the Bulawayo public can have no cause for complaint that amusements are lacking while the "Empire" stands.

Mr. W. R. Paterson, at the "Popular Picture Palace," provides that test of keen competition for public patronage which stimulates continuous improvement, and ensures the provision of "the best" to the public benefit. Larger than the Empire, the Palace can seat 800, and is equally well equipped to meet all the requirements of a full theatrical company. The 110-volt generators provde an abundance of light, and a " Butcher No. 12 " throws a 20 ft. picture over the 85 ft. from lens to screen. In addition to pictures, Mr. Paterson constantly supplies attractive vaudeville turns, and full companies, as occasion permits. At the time of my visit, various improvements were under way and others being considered, while arrangements were being made for an entire change of pictures every evening of the week, a project which, if effected, would undoubtedly tax the resources of all the film-hiring agencies of the Rand . In addition to the Bulawayo Palace, Mr. Paterson is proprietor of the Palace in Salisbury, where competition is of the keenest, and he deserves and receives a full measure of public support at both places.

Gatooma, a small town of some 400-500 people, on the the Bulawayo-Salisbury railway line, has also Its bioscope theatre, and I was fortunate in meeting the proprietor, Mr. Dixon, in the train. The "Rose bioscope," despite many difficulties, is reported on cheerfully as doing "very good business." The town residents afford a liberal support during the week, and at week-ends the influx from the mining properties in the district crowds the little theatre to the doors. Once again an "Empire No. 12" holds sway, and electric current is provided from a generator on the adjacent premises of an engineering firm.

Umtali, 170 miles down the Salisbury-Beira line, has a show provided at the Cecil Hotel, at present worked by a gas plant, pending the arrival and installation of an electrical equipment, which, I understand, is now en route. Here, also, Messrs. Butcher's installed their machine, and there can be no doubt that it must pay manufacturers to have "live " agents in South Africa.

At Penhalonga, Mr. H. Perrem has closed down his show, pending the arrival of his electric outfit, which he anticipates will be working early in December.

Far North, in the heart of what, but a few years ago, was "Darkest Africa," Mr. N. George exhibits 8,000 ft. of film per week to the residents of Elizabethville, Karauga, Belgian Congo, and, I am advised, has no cause to regret his enterprise.

Salisbury the capital of Rhodesia, with a population of about 4,000, has no less than four bioscopes shows in keen competition for public support. Chief among them is the Palace Theatre, not yet fully completed the property of Mr. Paterson, of Bulawayo. With a seating capacity of 800, and, as at Bulawayo, fully equipped for the accommodation of full theatrical companies, and with a bar and tea lounge attached, Mr. Paterson can boast that it is Salisbury's only "theatre." A Pathe machine, and the silver screen, are here preferred, and shows—unless a company occupies the boards are given every night. While incomplete, it is hardly wise to criticise the appointments, for the leather-upholstered seats on order, which will oust the present wooden chairs, will in themselves make a vast difference to the cosy appearance of the theatre.

The Market Hall Bioscope is also in a transition stage, the work of redecoration having just begun, but the proprietary syndicate pins its faith to showing the finest pictures in the town, and the public largely endorses the view.

The Posada Rink and Bioscope is under canvas which has seen its best days, and was. I am informed. the first show in the town, when fancy prices were obtainable, and handsome profits could be made. The " Empire No. 12 " here again holds sway, and a very clear, bright picture is provided, the evening being divided between rinking and pictures. The probability is that the advent of the rainy  season will necessitate closing down.


Extracted by Eddy Norris

ORAFs records its thanks and appreciation to the author, the publishers and printers for the use of their material. No financial gain is made or expected from this article.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

 Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives

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Saturday, 15 March 2014

Captain Scotty Fraser remembers the DC-6 conversion

  By Mitch Stirling (Air Rhodesia)

After a great deal of arguing and wrangling and heated words amongst the various heads of department, including the general manager, our operations division managed to achieve success.

We had won our point ─ which was to hire a DC-6 aircraft to use on our London route. After all, Hunting Clan were using them into Salisbury.

Hunting Clan at Salisbury

Egypt and England were not on speaking terms at this time, therefore no aircraft, even slightly connected with the hated British, were permitted to over-fly Egyptian territory ─ be it ever so remote and sand infested! To comply with the Egyptian warning that they would shoot down any aircraft violating their territory, all airlines operating in the overseas routes between Benghazi and Khartoum had to fly a dog’s leg to some mythical sand dune in the middle of the Sahara desert to avoid Egyptian territory. This extended leg, coupled with built- in head winds at 12 000 ft (which reached 100 mph and more), caused grave concern for the crews of the relatively short-range Vickers Vikings and Viscounts then in use on this profitable route. A Douglas DC-6 could easily carry greater loads over a greater distance, so we in operations could not understand what all the fuss and bother was about.

The general manager finally conceded defeat but said to me, ‘Seeing that you have championed this American aircraft throughout our discussions, you and the selected crews who are to fly this aircraft had better get your south ends off to Rome, as I have hired a DC-6B from Alitalia and have arranged conversion courses to begin ASAP’.

The lucky ones selected looked forward to a three month’s stint in the Eternal City. However, it was not all dolce vita. We had some formidable technical knowledge to absorb before we so much as set eyes on the aircraft. Furthermore, apart from bon giorno, come sta, and quanta costa, none of us knew much Italian. And the Italian instructors suffered the same disadvantage, as far as English was concerned. We had to acquire a precise knowledge of hydraulics, pressurisation, fuel system, water methanol injection and a complex electrical circuitry, as well as BMEP (Brake Mean Effective Pressure – a measure of engine performance which was something heretofore unknown to us!)

All this, through the medium of the Italian language, was too much for us and we revolted. So, some American- accented English translators were engaged who had learned their English by watching Hollywood movies: some remarkable translations occurred!

The voluble Italian instructor would, with much expressive gesticulation and arm waving, explain in great detail the inner workings of this complex ship only to have the translator lose all the vital bits in his ‘cotton pickin’ American accent. It was an impossibly LONG course!

Meanwhile, our lads got to know Rome, mainly the popular watering holes like the Quirinale, the Da Meo Patacca and the Hole in the Wall. The younger chaps lived it up at Pipistrello. Two of the lads, Tony and Frank, somehow obtained a Lambretta scooter which they put to good use on days off. One was the owner/driver and the other, being the senior, was the navigator who mounted himself on the pillion seat and gave a running commentary on traffic density and on which way to go. Many were their hair-raising exploits. Being used to driving on the left back home, they often fell foul of the law when they came to an interchange. Tony would endeavour to turn left whilst Frank would scream it was a senso unico (ie a one way). Thereupon Tony would do the very thing one must never do in thick Italian traffic, and that is change your mind, because Antonio in his Cinquecento Fiat had to swerve to miss them by a fraction of an inch as he too had been forced to change his mind, and nearly his sex! Now you have a hazard, with dozens of irate Italian drivers all sounding their horns simultaneously and swearing vengeance on the stupid gringo.

We were all finally presented with large ornate certificates which stated, in superb Italian, that the under-mentioned individual had successfully completed Alitalia’s training syllabus and was now proficient to fly the DC-6B. At last we would get to grips with this mighty monster. Don’t forget that, at this time, the DC-6 represented as modern and efficient a means of transport that could be found anywhere in the world. Jets were still in their infancy and not available to little bush airlines out in the sticks. To us, she was beautiful, specially painted in our livery.

We soon all got the hang of the DC-6 as the flying instructors were far more fluent in English than the classroom lecturers. They had been used to getting all their air traffic instructions in English, as it had been declared the universal language of aviation. The only exception to the bilingual instructors was the chief pilot. He was Italiano solomento and he insisted on flight testing each one of us personally.

The day arrived when we were called upon to demonstrate our skill and dexterity at the controls of Mike Tango (I-DIMT was the registration, India-Delta India Mike Tango). As time was running out, old Solo Mio, as we called him, filled Mike Tango with 100 octane fuel, took on catering in the galley and away we all went. One took one’s turn in the driver’s seat alphabetically.

Tony, being high up on the alphabet kicked off in the left seat, or captain’s seat, with a learner first officer in the right and a learner flight engineer in a kind of folding jump seat between them. Old Solo Mio leaned over the engineer’s shoulders and monitored Tony’s starting, taxiing and handling abilities. After a thorough engine test, we got take-off clearance and away we went, out over the Mediterranean to Alitalia’s training area, high above the normal airways system.

Here each of us in turn was required to do steep turns, stalls, incipient spins and recovery, engine cuts and prop feathering and fire drills. Old Solo Mio had to be satisfied that, if disaster struck, the pilot would manfully stay put and deal with the emergency … and not jump out the adjacent window!

We had been airborne for a few hours and, as it was warm and stuffy in the back of the ship, and what with stalls and steep turns going on, it was easy to become nauseous. I did, anyway, and asked for a glass of water. I was handed a bottle of aqua minerale, only as a second choice to wine. A good Italian never drinks water. Well, I took a good swig of this bubbly juice and then looked for somewhere to put an open bottle of soda water down. There was just nowhere, so I drank the lot, just before being called to the sharp end to demonstrate my proficiency at handling Mike Tango.

All went well through the normal training syllabus and I managed to sort out all the problems that old Solo Mio threw at me and he seemed quite satisfied. Then he suddenly shouted out ‘Decompression Explosif!’ over and over again. This means that the aircraft, which is pressurised and normally flies at about 20 000 ft, has sustained a rupture of sorts and was losing its 4∙5 pounds per square inch. This situation is very dangerous to all on board because, in exceptional cases, one’s blood could boil, with fatal results. The drill is to get the ship down to below 12 000 ft as rapidly as possible. So I went into action: throttles back, oxygen mask on, stick hard forward, mixture control to rich, pitch to fine … and hope for the best. We were going down in grand style, but unbeknown to me old Solo Mio had instructed the first officer to open the discharge valve a fraction, after he had shouted ‘Decompression Explosif’. He had told Mickey in his best English, which was inevitably misunderstood, and Mickey opened the valve to its full extent! So we really were decompressing, RAPIDLY. This caused complete confusion, because everybody’s ears popped and the cockpit filled with mist. 

Above all the noise, I distinctly heard old Solo shout ‘Down, down, down’!

OK sport, I thought, if you want more down, you shall have it. So I gave the stick another good shove forward. Everybody lifted out of their seats, while trying to grab something solid to hang onto. But still I heard him shouting ‘Down, down, down’. So I gave the stick another hefty shove and we were now well past the vertical going down in real earnest, with the altimeter unwinding … like a runaway clock. But still I heard ‘Down Down Down!’ in a frantic scream from old Solo Mio.

I looked round at him in utter disbelief. He was puce in the face. His eyes were bulging and he was pointing towards the roof shouting ‘DOWN DOWN!’

He had mixed up his English and had meant to say ‘Up, up up’ all the time! I rolled the aircraft till we were in a more normal descent path and pulled out of the most spectacular dive a DC-6 has ever been in. We had exceeded the Vne (Velocity Never Exceed) limits by a wide margin. It says a lot for the DC-6 that she suffered no ill effects.

Old Solo Mio, on being told of his faux pas, called it a day and it was then up to me to take the ship back to Rome.

But meanwhile, all those little bubbles in the aqua minerale, which had been quite happy to remain in manageable, if minute, size whilst under 4∙5 psi in my tummy, had now joyously expanded to many times their normal size when we lost pressure. So I became the first pregnant male pilot in history and, I may add, it was most uncomfortable to say the least. However, I managed to land without divulging my delicate state.

We all learned to love that grand old lady and flew happily around Africa and Europe for many years.

Tony Beck and Scotty Fraser in cockpit

Embarking at Salisbury

Compiled and edited from the original by Mitch Stirling and John Reid-Rowland. They suggest that the names of the other crew members in the story were: Tony Beck, Frank Flote and Mickey Delport. Old Solo Mio must have been the redoubtable Captain Conti, Alitalia’s chief pilot. 

With thanks to Larry Ridler for the splendid Hunting Clan photograph of the DC-6 at Salisbury.

Thanks to Mitch for sharing this article with ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives

Ref. Rhodesia aviation

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Thursday, 6 March 2014


 A forgettable moment in Rhodesia’s history.

 Lewis Walter (Intaf)

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was established, with much trumpeting, in 1953.  This set off waves of enthusiastic development aimed at the country’s future.  Waves which eventually, some years later, washed up on the shores of Rusape, a small town easily passed un-noticed on the road from Salisbury to Umtali.

Rusape rejoiced in a Town Management Board, which  immediately leaped into action.  Something momentous was needed to mark this historic event – and what more important than to replace the time honoured “Mafeking Mail” with a more modern sewerage system.  For the uninitiated, the so-called Mafeking Mail consisted of a wagon drawn by some long-suffering mules and manned by an enthusiastic and jolly crew of “Zambesi Boys” whose mission in life was, at about 3 a.m. daily, to travel down the sanitary lanes replacing soiled buckets with sparklingly fresh buckets for the next day.

A story, no doubt apocryphal, is that on one occasion the toilet was occupied.  “Morning Madam” called out the operative cheerfully as the buckets were deftly exchanged, and the cavalcade proceeded on its way.

But I digress.  The decision of the TMB was that by a certain date, all bucket systems were to be replaced by septic tanks.  This was enthusiastically hailed by residents of the town, and procedures immediately set in motion.  The government houses in the village were conveniently paired, and for reasons of economy it was decided that one septic tank would be provided to serve each pair of houses. In one case, the house of the Postmaster (Federal Government) was paired with the adjacent Native Department Mess (Territorial Government). Pits were dug, contracts entered into, and all proceeded well.

Proceeded well, that is, until some obscure minion in the Treasury discovered an equally obscure regulation which forbade the sharing of facilities between Federal and Territorial establishments, without high-level approval.  Clearly, it was unthinkable that the Postmaster (Federal) and the Native Department Mess (Territorial) should share the same septic tank. Letters were written, telegrams flashed, but to no avail – no valid reason could be found to override the regulation.

Stalemate.  However Rusape rejoiced in the presence of two diligent Members of Parliament – one Territorial and one Federal - who farmed in the area.  Messrs. Barrett and Straw if I remember correctly.   They became embroiled in the saga, and eventually in desperation unearthed funds which enabled the provision of two separate septic tanks – one FEDERAL and one TERRITORIAL – to serve the needs of the postmaster and those of the Native Department Mess.

The necessary motion was passed, and work resumed immediately.   Very shortly the TMB was able to host a reception to celebrate the completion of its project. 

The unthinkable had been averted  - Federal officials, who considered themselves superior, did not have to share a septic tank with Territorial officials.  And, more important, Territorial officials, who KNEW themselves to be superior, did not have to share with the Feds !

Native Department Mess, 1950s. 
Brian May on motorbike, and my dog Shumba in foreground


Thanks to Lewis for sharing his memories and photograph with ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please send them to Eddy Norris at

The following comment received from Stephen Clarke exceeded the permissible amount of text allocated, therefore it is added as an addendum. Eddy Norris

Stephen Clark (UJS, Chancellor, UBHS 1947-1955) Writes:-
The Septic Tank saga evoked happy memories for me.  Herewith a short reminiscence of my exploits as a six-year-old in Umtali [Mutare].

My sincere apologies for all those who suffered at the time....

The Mdenga Patrol

The story of the Rusape cesspit saga recalled a series of escapades of the 1940s, in which I played a unforgivable part.

Give idle times, idle minds are led to devious ways.  This applied no less to myself and my friend Ray, who oft-times found ourselves of an evening pondering what fun and games we could enjoy.  

Sometimes, fully armed for the quest,  we crept between the stilts underneath the wooden houses of old-time Umtali [Mutare].  These bricked stilts were built to lift the home above the level of marauding termites which might otherwise eat the entire house.  This left a large space underneath, for the full length of the house above.  It was usually neglected, dusty  and unthought-about.  Of an evening, an unsuspecting house-holder might be enjoying a quiet relaxation by the radio, perhaps, or even savouring an early evening meal.  Suddenly, through the floorboards, a heavy pounding would emanate upwards from the space below, rending the tranquillity.  This was done with the end of a broom handle, or somesuch implement.  It could induce firstly, panic, then howls of rage.  Frustration would soon follow, as we had long since escaped the wrath and indignation to hide behind a bush or wall out of range of the apoplectic resident we had disturbed.  We saw otherwise gentle folk jump up and down in torment.  Such hilarity!!

Tying a stone to a door knocker was, perhaps, the next daring exploit we undertook.  Pulling and releasing the string from behind a bush, etc, and then witnessing the perplexity of the innocent drawn to the door, late in the dusk, by this unexpected arrival at the front door.  A couple of turns at this would usually elicit howls of invective and an eon’s worth of threats and incantations to the Gods for the blood of the invisible oppressors.

As most of the roofing materials used in those days were a combination of wood and corrugated iron sheeting, what better orchestration could be found in the silent eventide than the combination of strategically hurled handfuls of gravel; tossed high into the sky, to fall and then roll, bounce and slide with horrendous noise into the guttering.

Oh, what fun we had!

But the most devastating prank of all was to watch for any unwary and discomforted soul who was forced under the cover of darkness, to visit the pikanini kyia [‘P.K.’ to all veterans] at the end of the garden.  The lane along the back gardens not only provided the route path for the ‘Zambesi Boys’ cited in Lewis Walter’s tale of Rusape.  But these lanes also provided the means of ambush for those digestively-challenged souls who nervously trod the darkened path.  Unbeknowingly, this path led straight to two small boys quivering with excitement and anticipation in the dark shadows beyond.  The sounds of occupation of these small premises were unmistakable….. The lifting of the latch, and the closing of the creaking door. The squeak of the rickety hinges on the seat above the squalid bucket and the thud as it was propped against the back wall.  The creak of the scrubbed board as the weight of the visitor was distributed upon it.  Maybe, came the sound of a sheet of paper being torn from the nail on the side.  Then, perhaps, a sigh of relief and anticipation might escape into the darkness and solitude of this haven of peace.  And then ….. 


Small hands grasped eagerly at the under edge of the hinged flap between the bucket and the lane.  Lifted as high as it would go, the flap was opened.  And then, with as much strength as could be applied, the hinged flap was hurled downwards against the back wall of the outhouse.  The resounding crash and concussion might well lift the unwary and enthroned captive several feet into the air, in surprise and shock!!  Shrieks of mirth emanated from the lane.  Then the hammering of feet on the pebbles as they sped away in a delirium of ecstatic fulfilment was all that this unfortunate, interrupted soul might hear as it sought to re-gather dignity and calm once again.  

What did we do without television?!


Rob Burrett Writes:-
 This is one of the few remaining metal license disks on the little houses on the sanitary lanes in Suburbs, Bulawayo.

Ref. Rhodesia

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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Operation Enterprise - The Battle for Salisbury


6th – 20th April 1979



I was the BSAP Special Branch Officer based at Enterprise Base, situated at the Enterprise Club, 20 km from Salisbury on the Shamva Road, from early 1978 until the end of the war.
I have written an account of what I believe is one of the most underreported operations of the Rhodesian War, Operation Enterprise, which came to be called “The Battle for Salisbury”. It was conducted to save the Capital City from serious insurgency and the resulting damage that would have occurred, and ended being arguably the most successful internal operation conducted during the war.

My recollections are based on some notes I located, personal memories, and the assistance of several people involved in the operation. My thanks to Tiny Coupar, Alan Shout, Rod Marsh, Keith Samler, Ashley Staunton, Hans Sittig, Ian Pringle, Rick Van Malsen, Brian Steak, Ian Bate, Skippey Skipworth-Michel, and others who wish to remain nameless, and some who if I have forgotten, I apologise.

I am obviously the “Enterprise Special Branch Officer” in the narrative, not because I do not want to be named, but the story seemed to flow better like that written in the 3rd person. I also stress that I will without doubt have left out many occurrences, probably got some wrong, but my idea is to stimulate further input from other participants in this operation so a fuller and more accurate picture can be formed.
Eddie Norris has kindly collated the text and the pictures for this to be released on ORAFS.

We look forward to your contributions.

Mike Norton 9046.


The basic and fundamental desire of a “liberation movement”, certainly the military wing of any such movement, is to capture the capital and unseat the government of the day.

This was  in the plans of the Zimbabwe National Liberation Movement (ZANLA) hierarchy during 1978, and was evidenced in notes and  publications  found on killed and captured ZANLA  insurgents  inside Rhodesia, and from external raids made into Mozambique by Rhodesian forces.

It was during one of these external raids, Operation  Dingo, that the first evidence of a specific force aimed at carrying out actions within Salisbury and its immediate environs was located. Up till then, attacks and subversion had been carried out in areas remote from large cities, and Salisbury had not been affected to any great extent. The information was a little vague at that point, but note was taken by the intelligence gathering fraternity, specifically the Terrorist (T) Desk of the Special Branch (SB) of the British South Africa Police. (BSAP) The role of the T desk SB personnel was one of intelligence gathering on ZANLA , from overt and covert sources, recovered documents, eavesdropping, captured weapons, and captures themselves. Most of these SB men, and a few women, were posted into the operational areas where they worked, often in splendid and dangerous isolation, with other branches of the Rhodesian security forces and civil administration.

Within the secure third floor of the Railway Avenue Police Station in Salisbury was the Registry of T desk, where information gleaned was collated to enable an assessment to be made of the threat posed by any particular insurgent group in an area. This information could then be passed to SB men in the field, who with their Military counterparts made plans to eliminate the threat by whatever means available. The collation was done manually by dedicated ladies in the main, working on a cardex system, each card carrying information related to either an individual insurgent, weapon, or group, which was updated as new reports came to light.

Further detailed documents relating to the threat to Salisbury came to light after a successful security force contact with ZANLA insurgents at Mayema Hill, in the MSANA Tribal Trust Land (TTL) in May  1978.

 These documents mentioned a “Salisbury Section” within the ZANLA Chaminuka and Nehanda sectors of Rhodesia, whose orders were to specifically subvert the local population in the TTLs close to the Capital, and establish corridors where further insurgents could move in. They were also to attack white farms surrounding the capital and lay landmines on the roads to disrupt normal traffic, disrupt schooling and break down civil order in these areas.

But particularly, they were to counter the new threat to ZANLA in this area, the advent of the Security Force Auxiliaries (SFA).

Rhodesian Security Forces were, in early 1979, stretched to the limit in trying to contain what was a rapidly escalating conflict on all the borders with the exception of the small one with South Africa. White emigration had denuded the numbers within the Territorial battalions, and despite an increase in number of the white Officered, black troops of the Rhodesian African rifles, and the BSAP Support Unit, there were never enough troops to go round.  For all intents and purposes, TTLs from the Mozambique border in the north and east of Salisbury were liberated areas where civil order had disappeared, and ZANLA were in control. Where there had been some white farming areas in Mtoko and Mrewa, these had been abandoned. The small villages and towns of in that same area were still functioning and held by  security forces based there, and it was from these that  forces made periodic forays into the surrounding TTLs to  tackle ZANLA insurgents.  For a while these forces re-took the areas, but in truth they only held that ground while they were standing on it. All too soon, they were moved to other areas to do the same thing.

To the south of Salisbury, sporadic forays were being made by the insurgents into the farming areas and villages of Featherstone, Beatrice, Norton, and Salisbury South. One of the earliest of these was an attempt to blow up the wall of Lake Macillwaine, the primary water source for the capital, in October 1977. A group of 14 insurgents made the mistake of feeding at the farm compound on Gilston farm, and were reported to the Beatrice police station. A follow up involving PATU and Support Unit lasted for several days, but did not locate the insurgents. It was later discovered that the follow up did cause the insurgents to abandon the attempt on the Lake, and disperse into the Mhondoro TTL.

Up in the north, outposts such as Mukumbura, Dotito, Rushinga and Marymount were local fortresses, occasionally visited by large troop deployments of Special forces, the Special Air Service,(SAS) the Selous Scouts and the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) on their way to destroy enemy camps in Mozambique in a belated effort to stem the tide of insurgents from their rear bases.

At the same time the white Rhodesian Government was trying to reach, another, settlement with black political leaders, this time the moderates , Bishop Abel Muzorerwa, Ndabandigi Sithole, Chiefs Jerimah Chirau and Kaiser Ndeweni. Muzorerwa and Sithole had been part of the original liberation movements, but had been sidelined by the cunning and viscous Robert Mugabe, now the leader of ZANU (PF).

Chiefs Chirau and Ndeweni were there to make up the numbers in an attempt to reach an “internal political Settlement” and gain recognition for Rhodesia from the rest of the world. Muzorewa’s United African National Congress (UANC) and Sithole’s ZANU did have genuine, if limited, following inside the county. These two saw the opportunity to save their political skins by being part of this settlement attempt that was planned to reach its zenith in April 1979 with the first ever all race national elections.

Both Muzorerwa and Sithole claimed to have following within ZANLA, and publically called for insurgents to desert ZANLA and join to join their parties. A few did, very few, so another plan had to be made for these two politicians to save face and show that they had their own ‘forces’ on whom they could call on the combat the insurgents, alongside the Rhodesian Security forces.


The SFA were born.

The first small groups of SFAs were made up of captured, and turned insurgents and a few that had genuinely surrendered and been given amnesty.  They were trained by SB personnel, armed with the same weapons as the insurgents and deployed into the TTLs under the control of a white SB or Army officers who lived remotely from the group, normally in a security force base. However these initial numbers of SFA were so low that further manpower was required.

Black youths, unemployed in the city townships were recruited in numbers, hastily trained by members of the Rhodesian special forces in secret locations, and let loose into TTLs where their particular political master supposedly held sway, armed to the teeth with captured communist bloc weapons.  The leaders of the SFA groups were genuine former ZANLA insurgents, but the real key to the success or failure of a SFA group was its white controllers. These men came from all branches of the Rhodesian security forces, many had served in foreign armies before arriving in Rhodesia, and all had to be tough as nails.

On the 13th August 1978, a horrified white Rhodesian public watched on the TV news, Comrade Max, the leader of the SFA group in the Msana TTL, rally his troops in the company of an AK wielding Bishop Muzorerwa. The dreadlocked Comrade Max swore to make the Msana TTL free of ZANLA bandits for his leader, the Bishop. He declared he was the new District Commissioner (DC). It was too much for many white Rhodesians; they could stomach shortages, call ups, but seeing this apparent  rabble let loose was the last straw, and more emigrated.

In fact Max and his SFA had been at Nyawa Business Centre in the Msana since March 1978 under the top secret Operation Favour, run out of the Selous Scouts Fort in Bindura . The overall commander of the Special Branch element attached to the Selous Scouts was Chief Superintendant Mac McGuiness. This group of SFA was one of the pioneer projects run under Operation Favour, and funded from secret coffers where the South African Military contributed generously in funds and equipment. Many of this initial group were equipped with the South African made copy of the AK, the R6.

The SFA continued to be expanded, and moved into the Chinamora and Masembura TTLs , and the controllers continued with their difficult task of trying to turn a rabble into something of a fighting force. By the end of 1978 there were 70 SFA at Nyama in the Msana TTL, and 280 in the Chinamora and Masembura TTLs in two bases, one near Domboshawa   and the other at the northern end of the Masembura TTL, at Makumbi Mission.   Dave Nixon and Bill Prentice were the respective SFA controllers in those areas and had the SFA patrolling the TTLs where contacts with ZANLA were becoming common. Unfortunately most of these contacts were long range 30 minute ‘battles’ where many rounds were fired by either side and minimal casualties sustained.

Information did come to light that the ZANLA   insurgents were very concerned that their control over these areas was being lost, and by dint of this their planned attacks in and on the capital were in jeopardy. They pushed more insurgents into the area, many hastily trained, to try to wrest back control. The insurgents also brutalised the local tribe’s people, carrying out mutilations’ and murders on a large scale to try to subjugate the population. The SFA camps were attacked frequently, mostly ineffectually and road ambushes and land mines were frequent. At one point all five of the SFA armoured personnel carriers in the area were out of commission, damaged in some form of attack, and a bright yellow roads department truck was the only available transport.

The SFA also had discipline issues, and on occasion were not above theft, robbery and murder if it suited them. Or they did as little as possible for the war effort unless they were cajoled and pushed by their controllers into action.

The Chikwakwa TTL, adjacent to the semi liberated Mangwende TTL, and on the boundary of the Shamva and Enterprise farming areas did not have a SFA presence. The reason was that a SB Officer in T desk had created a “phantom tame Insurgent” presence in that area, and convinced his superiors that a group of 40 turned insurgents were operating there under his control. This enabled him to collect from the secret funds allocated to Operation Favour, along with the equipment required, and use it as he saw fit. The group of 40 simply did not exist. It was a sad failing in a normally efficient and secure T desk to allow this to happen without some form of verification being done.  The attacks on the farms adjacent to the Chikwakwa, and on the one Internal Affairs Keep, should have alerted someone to the fact that the TTL was a free for all for the insurgents. This scheme was to last some months before it became obvious that there was no SFA or Turned Insurgent presence in that area, and much harm was done to farmers during that time.

The scheme fell apart when the Selous Scouts decided to mount a Pseudo operation in the Chikwakwa, and the “tame insurgents” was ordered to be placed on a farm in the Shamva farming area. Nobody arrived at the farm.

The Selous Scouts operation over 10 days was very difficult, the operators found it impossible to infiltrate the Salisbury Section, and their secondary role of observation posts was negated by the Chikwakwa being a flat long piece of land. The Selous Scouts SB officer operating  with this callsign  confirmed that there was a large presence of insurgents operating in the area, coming and going to the Mangwende TTL.

 Realisation of the seriousness of the threat was finally appreciated in January 1979, when a chance briefing by a SB officer to the Minister of Justice, Hilary Squires, during an operational area visit set an enquiry in motion.  Through the Old Boy channel the Prime Minister, Ian Smith came to hear of the threat to Salisbury. Questions were asked as to why T Desk was not taking the information submitted by the SB operators in the area to the North and East of Salisbury seriously. The information clearly showed the increasing risk to the capital from the Salisbury Section, now expanded in numbers and designated a Detachment, with plans to do evil deeds in and around the capital.

A report to JOC Hurricane, and to COMOPS by Chief Superintendant Dennis Anderson of SB JOC HURRICANE, in his hand over report to Superintendant Keith Samler in March 1979 was very clear on the threat posed to Salisbury.  Keith reinforced this when he became the SB representative at JOC HURRICANE at that time, and Salisbury T desk were ordered to do a security briefing to COMOPS on the security situation to the North and East of Salisbury. This report, was diametrically opposed to Keith’s one, and in a tense COMPOS meeting the T desk report was questioned and Keith was requested to produce a further threat report to be acted upon.

The OC SB Salisbury and Mashonaland, Assistant Commissioner Jock Waugh was posted out of SB in March 1979. And in his place came  Chief Superintendant Dan Stannard, from his post as OC CID Homicide, in a move that was to prove pivotal for T desk, and the country long into the future.


The most powerful weapon of the war, the Fire Forces, moved from area to area all round the country.  Often the aircraft, Alouette III helicopters, some of them gunships with either 20 mm Matra cannons, or four barrelled Browning machine guns, were called in to participate in external raids leaving the interior of Rhodesia defended by what was left, which was often not very much.

Rhodesia was under international sanctions, and obtaining the materials to sustain the war was difficult, and sometimes impossible. “Sanctions busting” was carried out by enterprising individuals who formulated clever ruses and smoke screens to obtain what was needed by sleight and deception, and there is no doubt some of these enriched themselves in the process, but it was ‘needs must’ at that point.

The truculent South African Government pulled on the choke chain of supplies whenever it felt they wanted the Rhodesian Government to move in a particular direction that suited them. The South African military had good relationships with the Rhodesians, and on many occasions assisted Rhodesia without the express knowledge of their political masters.

All this went on in the background for the personnel tasked with defending the Capital; they had a serious job to do with whatever they could lay their hands on.

Certainly when it came to areas close to Salisbury, most of the permanent troop presence was made up of BSAP Support Unit, Police Anti Terrorist Unit (PATU) and Internal Affairs and Guard Force personnel.  The area fell under the Joint Operational Command (JOC) Salisbury Operations (SALOPS), a totally BSAP JOC. Represented on the JOC were the Support Unit, the BSAP uniform branch, both of the city and the districts, CID and SB. Assistant Commissioner Ian Hogg, Chief Superintendent Mike Leach, Chief Superintendent's Dan Stannard and Dave De Burgh-Thomas and Chief Inspector Chris Looker were some of the personalities on the SALOPS committee.

The Police Reserve Air Wing (PRAW) was made up of civilian Pilots who were called up in PRAW, each with an allocated observer, and utilised civilian light aircraft, often their own, for their duties. Initially PRAW served as a courier service, but by 1978 many had acquired special skills in aerial reconnaissance, and air gunnery. The bulk of the aircraft were Cessna 206 and 182 aircraft, but there were some Mooney’s, Aztecs and even a Piper Cub.  Some of the Cessna aircraft were fitted with either MAG or Browning Light Machine Guns, firing out of the removed left rear door, the gunner sitting on an ammo box while he fired using a rudimentary deflection sight. These aircraft were used in support of ground call signs and proved very effective in, if nothing else, slowing insurgent groups down, and allowing pursuing troops to catch up. They did achieve some kills from their air gunnery and provided much needed air support when the Helicopters were not available.

PRAW Aircraft

One particular area where the armed PRAW was very effective was when working with Motor Cycle mounted PATU in open TTLs and farming area. The Motor Cycles made follow up very quick, and guided by the orbiting PRAW, many successful contacts were made and kills obtained. One somewhat desperate attempt was made to give the PRAW more teeth in the shape of bombs, but after much hair raising trial and error, and a few operational bomb runs, the project was abandoned. A few aviators had other tricks up their sleeves, grenades in glass bottles which shattered on contact with the ground, resulting in the grenade exploding, firing Icarus flares, with the parachute removed, as a basic rocket to set kraals huts alight, were some of these.

The Pilots and Observer/Gunners did way more than their fair share, and were dedicated to their task. Gerry Cleveland, Nigel Seward, Buster Brown, Hamish Harvey and Ian Pringle among the pilots and Paul Chappe led the band of observer/gunners.

Internal Affairs and Guard Force were positioned in constructed keeps within the TTLs, supposedly to carry out the civil administration in the area, but in reality they provided a static target for the occasional attack from the insurgents.

Each European owned farm had a radio system, the Agric Alert, that allowed the farmers from inside their fenced and fortified houses, to communicate with the local Police Station on a 24 hour basis, and radio checks were done every morning and evening. Any failure to call in resulted in a response being sent out to the farm to check on the inhabitants as the telephone system was unreliable. When farm attacks or incidents occurred, the Agric Alert was a vital life line to call for help and alert the entire district to the incident, and anxious listeners could hear all the sounds of battle on the radio, often operated by one of the children as mother and father fought off the attack while help was on its way.

Some farmers employed “bright lights”, armed farm guards recruited initially from Police reservists from “bright lights”, Salisbury, but by 1979 most of these farm Guards were permanent fixtures, sometimes recovering wounded soldiers, or older men without a military commitment, and foreigners, soldiers of fortune who came to the war for many reasons, some of them not honourable.

One British bright light, by name of Gary Bostock had an argument with an auxiliary Constable from the BSAP, over one of the ladies in the farm compound, and shot the Constable dead with his rifle. Bostock was arrested, prosecuted, and astonishingly found guilty of Culpable Homicide, although he was clearly guilty of murder. He was deported, back either to his MI 6 handles or the IRA cell he came from. An American, a genuine Vietnam special forces Veteran, Master Sergeant Eric Hudson started out as a farm guard, but then joined PATU and was a very effective operator. That was until he was discovered in a compromising situation with one of the Police Reserve Women, a farmer’s wife. He was finally caught recording the serial numbers of the Helicopters and the Matra cannons. His CIA controller owned up, and Hudson (if that was his real name) was deported, his work done.

One of the missions of the insurgents was to drive farm labour off the land, making farming in this highly productive, but labour intensive industry impossible. Most farm compounds were fenced, and some guarded by armed  guards, mostly ex soldiers or policemen, an extremely hazardous occupation at the best of times. One of the tasks that fell to these men was to walk the farm roads daily looking for signs of land or anti personnel mines and tracks of insurgents crossing the properties. They were armed with G3 rifles or old .303 bolt action rifles and shotguns, and they were a very important deterrent to the insurgents attacking the labour force, and the farm itself. Farmer Ashley Staunton, of the Grove Farm, almost adjacent to the Enterprise Club had unarmed farm guards who were located at the main gate of the security fence to his house and sheds. If the guard on duty was aware of a presence of insurgents in the farm compound he would dress in a yellow or blue overall, as opposed to his usual green one. This would alert Ashley who was able to contact Enterprise Base for a reaction stick.

Ashley had been involved in the beginning of the nationalist uprising, when it was still in protest form. During the late 1960s he was came across a white man being marched in front of a mob of his farm labourers, their clear intention was to beat him. As it transpired, the nationalists of the time were putting out a story that white men were kidnapping black children and sending them to the Congo to be made into sausage meat! This white man had stopped near a bridge on the main Shamva road to pick wild mushrooms, and had asked two passing young black boys to help him. They ran off screaming that they were being abducted to be sausage meat, and the labour force had reacted. Ashley intervened and the white man was freed.

The Rhodesian Government granted funds to farmers for their security fences, and most of these were erected by a Salisbury company called Salwire, under Managing Director Ted Willis. Ted lived on a small farm with the Enterprise district, and was a stalwart Police reservist, when he was not arranging for the erection of fences all over the northern part of Rhodesia.  To supplement the fences, many explosive devices such as Addams Grenades and explosive filled plough discs were erected along the fences, and were able to be remotely detonated by the farm occupants.

It was discovered that one of the best deterrents to cutting, or approaching close to the fences was a hedge called Mauritius Thorn, which when fully grown along the fence, made an impenetrable barrier.

Ted was a prankster of note, and one of his tricks was to fire an Icarus Rocket into the Enterprise Special Branch Officers bathroom, while the incumbent was enjoying a once in a while hot bath. The choking smoke some drove the naked officer out of the bathroom, and past the startled Police reserve women radio operators to his office/bedroom. Revenge took a while, but one day Ted was going off duty after dark in his land rover, and when he moved the gear lever out of reverse to start the vehicle, a soft hiss emanated for the dashboard where a green smoke grenade had been secured, the pin linked to a wire on the gear lever. It would have been easy for Ted just to abandon his land rover via the driver’s door, had a wooden jam not been placed in the outside door handle after he had climbed in. By the time Ted clambered out of the passenger door he was a little green in more ways than one. Naturally he set about planning a further attack on his opponent.


OPS tent , Enterprise Base. Op Enterprise

Enterprise Base was established at the Enterprise Country Club in March 1978, when the first overt act by insurgents was carried out in the Enterprise farming area. This was an ineffectual ambush on local farmer Oscar Suzman as he drove home from Salisbury late one afternoon. His vehicle was hit twice in the trunk area, and it was well after dark before a  PATU stick arrived from Goromonzi Police Station.  Clearly the Enterprise area required a base of its own, as Goromonzi was situated a long way south on difficult roads, and the Enterprise Club was a logical choice.

The clubhouse provided a large area for accommodation, ablution, and feeding troops, within a security fence, and the club manager’s house made an ideal base for the BSAP and SB personnel, as well as a radio room with VHF communications and an Agric Alert. Additional prefab accommodation was constructed for the African staff members, along with a holding area for prisoners. Bunkers made from railway sleepers were placed at strategic points in case of an attack on the base, with sandbagged roofs to prevent damage from mortars.

Two of the stalwart black members of the BSAP contingent were Detective Sergeant Norbert Chibaya, and Constable Alec Munyoro. They were an essential link in the process of interrogation of locals, mujibas and captured insurgents, and their in depth knowledge of the area, gained over their long service at Goromonzi and  Enterprise detected initial untruths being told to them by the captives. Sgt Chibaya had several excellent paid informers in the field, which provided reliable information resulting in many contacts and kills.

He detected that the affable Enterprise Club cook, one Pattison Gono, was in fact an informer for the insurgents, passing troop strengths and snippets he heard while serving meals to the Police members and drinks to the troops. Using this knowledge, Chisiya begun to feed false information via Pattison to the insurgents, which resulted in groups of insurgents being ambushed when they were directed to areas where troops were, rather than were they were not. Working with the dirty tricks department of SB, civilian radios containing homing devices were surreptitiously placed in stores and the insurgents directed to them by leaking Pattison the information that the store had a resupply of goods and would be worth robbing. This also led to a few contacts and kills. One arms cache located after one of these contacts was “doctored” with AK bullets filled with high explosive, and one insurgent was located a few days later with the breech block of his AK imbedded in his face, when he fired his SKS rifle in a farm attack.

A detailed hand drawn map of Enterprise base was recovered from a dead insurgent, showing the defensive bunkers, where the troops billeted and vehicles parked. It also showed that there was a clear intention to attack Enterprise, with an 81 mm mortar position shown on Swiswa Hill, about 3000 meters away. Enterprise defences were strengthened.

Rob Tasker RIP, Keith Samler , BSAP SB, John McVey playing golf at Enterprise Base during Operation Enterprise.

The golf course, and cricket and rugby field provided space for visiting troop’s vehicles and a landing area for helicopters, for which fuel was stored in one of the squash courts. Access to the tar road was a short 400 meters of dirt road, and  this was cleared  every morning to guard against the placing of landmines.

Bivvies in the trees next to the Golf Course, Op Enterprise

Enterprise base fell under the operational control of SALOPS, and had in its area the Enterprise farms, and the North and South Chikwakwa TTL. In practical terms the eastern Msana TTL was also part of the area, as it was adjacent to the farms and easily accessible. Bindura whose actual area Msana fell into was only too happy to have Enterprise operate there, and seconded the area, as did Borrowdale the eastern Chinamora TTL.

The troop’s contingent was made up of PATU, many of them farmers from the area, their numbers boosted with the release of men from their army commitments if they lived in an operation area. This was essentially to provide self defence, and brought into the PATU sticks much expertise from the RLI, SAS, Selous Scouts and territorial regiments. Vital elements were the older Police reservists who carried out the driving and escort duties, and the women reservists who manned the control room. PATU sticks from Salisbury, and other areas not regarded as fully operational, were posted in to supplement the manpower numbers.

As the Enterprise Farming area was relatively wealthy, and had farmers with influence in high places, the base was equipped with 18 scrambler motor cycles and two armoured troop carrying vehicles, both with mounted Browning Machine guns.  The local PATU men could choose their weapons from the issued FN rifles, to AK 47, RPK and RPD light machine guns and 60 mm mortars, it was personal choice and most of the Motor cycle operators chose the communist AK and RPD as being shorter and lighter than the FN, they were easier to carry on the bikes. Many of the farmer’s wives and older children were given captured Chinese SKS carbines for home defence, and were used on many occasions. All these communist bloc weapons were somewhat illicit, but a blind eye was turned in order to provide practical firepower to the people that needed it.

Contacts with the enemy occurred at least on a weekly basis, with kills generally one or two insurgents, until a day in May 1978 when the base scored its first real success. Following a spate of landmines and farm attacks in the north of the farming area, particularly on Rob McManus’s Rutope farm, and resulting from intelligence gained in the field, an observation post (OP) was placed on Mayema Hill in the Msana TTL. On day 7 the OP had established that a group of 11 insurgents were based in the kraals at the base of this substantial granite hill. This OP had done exceptionally well, led by Mike Cullinan, they had resorted to drinking their saline drips when their water ran out, but stuck to their task. Plans were made to attack these insurgents, but neither Fire Force nor PRAW were available at that point, so three PATU sticks with SB personnel walked into the area at night, and started sweeping through the Kraal line at first light.

Contact was made almost immediately, with 2 insurgents killed, when by sheer luck an full fire Force worth of Helicopters, flying without troops, on their way to FAF 5 at Mtoko called in, and using the PATU and SB contingent on the ground as ground troops, with one BSAP SIS (SPECIAL INVESTIGATION SECTION) stick, led by Jerry Lancaster, a kill of 10 insurgents was achieved with only a flesh wound to a Police reserve Vehicle escort man. The wounded man was no other than James Huggins, the younger son of Lord Malvern, Sir Godfrey Huggins, one time Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.

The PATU men, local farmers including Henry Birrell, Bux Howson, Louie and Ephriam Volker, Glenn Dixon and Andy Hartell were complimented by the chopper crews for their aggressive and brave conduct.

By early 1979, Enterprise was a very active base defending its own area and the surrounds of eastern Salisbury. The radio room was run by the Women Police Reservists’ during the day, they were in the main farmers wives, Cathy Volker, Beryl Staunton, Libby Norton, Sandy Dixon and Margret Hayes to mention a few.

The vital element of radio communication was assisted by two relay stations, one in the Chinamora TTL on a large granite outcrop and was designated Lima Alpha. LA. The other was within the Enterprise farming area, on Colga Farm, and called Victor Alpha, VA. These were manned by Police Reservists, who had received training in radio communications, normally four men at a time, and on 24 hour standby for a week. LA was extremely difficult to access, even with a four wheel drive vehicle so resupply was often flown in by helicopter, or dropped from a PRAW. VA was accessible by vehicle, and consequently an additional two men were allocated there as camp guards. The camp was surrounded by rolls of razor wire, and protected by claymore mines as well. Doug Stodart, Jeff Staunton, Stan Cary, Mick Taggart and others carried out this task with skill and dedication.


One of the first and major successes of the Salisbury Detachment was a rocket and small arms attack on the Salisbury fuel depot in Southerton on night of   11th       December 1978. This was a devastating blow for Rhodesia, financially, militarily, and morally. It was proof that the insurgents could and would act within the city limits, and could cause serious damage, and it was very clear that the Salisbury detachment had in its ranks determined and specifically trained men.

The evening after the fuel depot attack, a BSAP roadblock at the junction of the Mtoko and Shamva road on the edge of the Umwinsidale suburb of the capital was broken by a Datsun pick with a canopy. The roadblock was caught napping and the vehicle got through unscathed and carried on towards JURU Township in the Chikwakwa TTL. The driver however, made a turn onto the Atlanta  road in the Enterprise farming area, and an alert farmer, Dave Stobart, noticed the vehicle and its odd behaviour, and fired on it. The vehicle returned to the main Mtoko road, and headed once again in the direction of Juru Township.

The occupants on the last farm before the TTL and Township, Owen Connor and his 16 year old son Kevin, were contacted by Enterprise base on the agric alert, and asked to ambush the vehicle, which they duly and very bravely did. The vehicle was hit several times, but continued on for about 200 m from the ambush before coming to rest in the ditch.

Once first light came, the vehicle was approached and copious blood stains were located from the front and rear of the vehicle, and under the canopy were located two AK 47s and a British made 3,5 inch rocket launcher with three projectiles. These weapons and the escaped wounded insurgents had been part of the group responsible for the attack on the fuel depot two days before. Also recovered was a satchel with a notebook, updated the day previous, and carrying details of the personnel of the Salisbury Detachment. 

Another significant event for the capture of one Jeffrey Murerwa, the owner of the ambushed pick up vehicle, in Juru Township on the edge of the Chikwakwa TTL the day following the ambush. Jeffrey denied he was an insurgent, but admitted to driving the pickup and knowing full well the purpose that his passenger had hired him. Quiet and steady questioning over the next day revealed that Jeffrey knew a large amount about the Salisbury Detachment, and a clear picture of the threat to the Capital City emerged.

Jeffrey defected to the Rhodesian side. He didn’t have much of a choice, and was installed as the Enterprise Base spare driver and dogsbody. He was highly intelligent, and was of great assistance with local knowledge of the area, and the personalities who were routinely picked up and interviewed to establish any changes in the insurgent presence or plans. He was loaned in January 1979 to a section within Special Forces Headquarters, the Q cars. The Q cars operated modified and armoured bread delivery vehicles, and ranged about the TTLs supposedly on a delivery run, and waited to be approached by insurgents, or be ambushed.

When either event occurred, the insurgents received a nasty surprise when the roof hinged open and 4 Light Machine guns opened up on them. One Q car had a spectacular success in January 1979 when they duped a group of 9 insurgents from the Salisbury Detachment and several Mujibas (local boys running with the insurgents as messengers and scouts) and managed to kill 7 insurgents and 3 mujibas. The documents from these kills in the Northern Chikwakwa TTL added to the building intelligence picture.

 After this incident, the Q car cover was obviously blown in the area, Jeffrey was returned to Enterprise and the Q car went to another area painted another colour.

January also saw a dramatic increase in the numbers of insurgents in the area to the north east of Salisbury, farm attacks, store robberies, destruction of herds of cattle and landmines. The insurgents were being funnelled into the area from the Nehanda sector, from Mozambique through the mount Darwin and Madziwa TTL route, and from the Chaminuka sector through Mtoko and Mrewa. It was of note that even though the sector boundary between the Nehanda and Chaminuka sector was basically the Shamva road, the Salisbury detachment members operated across both sectors.

The local population in the TTLs suffered badly, the insurgents were concerned they were losing control of the area, and thereby their chance of attacking Salisbury, and carried out many atrocities on the locals, in particular in areas where the SFA were seen to be gaining ascendency. Attacks on farms and road ambushes were commonplace, as were the indiscriminate landmines, often claiming busses filled with locals as victims.

An ambush carried out in the Hatcliffe area of Borrowdale on the 13th January 1979 resulted in the death of 15 year old schoolboy Colin Tilley, and the wounding of his parents. Walls Hill Ground Coverage Base in Umwidsidale was ineffectually attacked during the same month, both attacks well within the city limits.

Special Branch Officers from Bindura and Enterprise had been submitting detailed Top Secret reports of the intelligence gained from documents, captures, locals, informers to T desk in Salisbury from the middle of 1978 relating to the threat to Salisbury, but a few individuals at T desk seemed determined to ignore this intelligence, included in which was a warning of their intention to attack economic targets within the city.

At 0930 on the 8th February 1979 a District development Funds truck was ambushed just north of the Mtoko road on its way to the Chikwakwa Keep loaded with provisions and escorted by 5 District assistants. The truck was immobilised, the driver along with one DA killed, and three DAs captured by the Insurgents. One fled the scene and luckily was located on the main tar road by passing SB personnel from Enterprise. An immediate follow up was instituted, using 8 PATU men from Enterprise on their Motorcycles.

Tracks were located from the ambush and followed towards the Nyadiri River where the insurgents intended to cross into the Mangwende, which by then was a rest and recuperation area for them as security force personnel seldom ventured into this liberated area. On this occasion the bikes caught up with the insurgents and a contact ensued, with one insurgent being killed by the PATU men, and one of the captured DAs showed great bravery  and initiative by using the distraction of the contact to wrestle an AK from an Insurgent and shoot him dead. The other DA fled and were located by the Bike sticks shortly afterwards.

It was by now late in the afternoon, but the insurgents could still be seen in the river line and sporadic contacts were ongoing. A request for Fire Force had been made at the initial contact, and a K Car and two G cars arrived, with a very arrogant fire force commander on board. He flew up and down the river a few times and told the PATU men they were shooting at nothing, and that he was going to return to his base. As the K car turned over the river, it received a sheet of tracer, with two bullets through the front Plexiglas of the helicopter. The K Car commander was obviously wrong about there being no insurgents in the river line.  The K car put down some 20 mm cannon into the area of the firing, and then the commander told the PATU men to ambush the area overnight, and as it was getting dark, the small fire force was now going back to base. The PATU tracker, Andy Hartell told the fire force commander to get stuffed, and that he would carry on the follow up as he saw fit, and was not going to waste time with pointless ambushes as the birds had now flown.

More importantly, the Insurgent the DA had shot was a platoon commander from the Salisbury section, Happy Trigger, and he had a detailed note book on the Salisbury detachment which was to prove vital in the establishing of exactly what the threat posed by this detachment.

The note book carried the following information.
Salisbury Sub Detachment .Chaminuka  (Names were aliases, called chimurenga names)
Commander:  Masweet Kunaka
Political Commissar:  P. Nziyo
Security Officer.:  Martin Mazarura
Medical Officer:  Norton
Salisbury Section.:  Sabotage.
Section Commander:  Muhumbira Kupisa
Political Commissar.:  Roy Shupo
Security Officer:  Pondai Mabunhu
Logistics Officer:  Tendayi Nyika
Medical Officer:  Montgomery Moto. 
Platoon Commander:  Happy Trigger - Bob Bouncer - Manesi
Insurgent strengths were listed as follows:  Chaminuka Sector.
Mangwende TTL.  North:  240 Trained Insurgents
Mangwende TTL. South:  170 Trained Insurgents
North Chikwakwa TTL:  30 Trained Insurgents

South Chikwakwa TTL
12 Trained Insurgents                                                                             
Nehanda Sector.
Msana TTL:  170  Trained Insurgents
Chinamora TTL:  90 Trained Insurgents
Salisbury Townships :  20 Trained Insurgents

There was a long list of rifle serial numbers allocated to individuals, a list of ordinance which included TM 46  land mines, 51, Mortar bombs 123, RPG rockets 34, British rocket 8 ( the 3,5 Inch rocket launcher) and 12300 bullets, obviously 7.62 mm intermediate AK/RPD rounds.

There was also comment on plans for the section to attack schools, cinemas, restaurants, power stations and homes of prominent Rhodesian individuals in Salisbury.

This information was related to T Desk and Comops post haste, and the seeds for Operation Enterprise finally germinated. SB Bindura and Enterprise were ordered by SALOPS to produce an intelligence briefing for an Operational orders meeting to be held on the 4th April at KGV1 barracks at 1800 hours. Someone in the hierarchy had finally taken notice of this threat that existed under their very noses.

The Selous Scouts were deployed in a reconnaissance Pseudo role into the South Western Chinamora TTL and into the Northern Mangwende where the areas were frozen, and they began to feed back confirmation that the area was swarming with insurgents with evil intentions on the Capital City, and the upcoming elections.  The SB element of the Scouts, along with their intelligence officer added their contribution to the picture.


At 1800 hours precisely on the 4th April, the briefing room at KGV1 Barracks, Army Headquarters, filled up with  Officers from the Army, Air Force, Military Intelligence, BSAP, Special Branch, Central Intelligence Organisation and Internal Affairs. The RLI, RAR, Selous Scouts and Rhodesia Regiment, and Rhodesian Artillery and Engineers were all represented, and looked intently at the annotated map that was the centre piece to the briefing.

The security classification placed on the Operation was TOP SECRET, and measures to limit compromise similar to an external raid were put in place.

 The Selous Scouts intelligence Officer and  Superintendent Keith Samler of SB JOC Hurricane led the intelligence briefing, detailing the threat posed by the Salisbury Detachment and detailing recent activities, and the activities that were likely to occur if this threat was not eliminated. There were many startled faces around the room, hardened Soldiers who now realised that their homes and families faced a clear and imminent danger. The detailed locations, strengths, weapons, clothing of the Salisbury detachment were indicated, and their modus operandi was discussed at length.

Colonel Ian Bate, OC of the RLI then took over and advised he was going to give the preliminary Operational orders, which would set about the mobilisation of the necessary troops and Air Force element for OPERATION ENTERPRISE, to commence on the 6th April, under his command from the RLI Tactical Headquarters to be set up at the Enterprise club on the morning of 7th April. He also advised that a final detailed operation orders would be given at 1500 on the 6th April to company commanders, Air Force, BSAP and Special Branch elements at the same briefing room.

The force levels were to be formidable.

RLI Tactical HQ with the Mobile Resuscitation Unit, MRU, Rhodesian Medial Corps, would position at Enterprise

A jumbo fire force comprising 2 K Cars, one with a 20 mm Matra cannon and the other with the 4 barrelled .303 Browning “Dalmatian”, and 8 troop carrying G cars would be based at Enterprise, with 1 Cdo RLI providing the troops. One platoon of 1 Cdo RLI would provide the parachute element for the Dakota based at New Sarum Air Base in Salisbury, where two Cessna 337 Lynx Ground attack aircraft would also be available. A jet element of aging Vampires would be available.

Two armed PRAW aircraft would be available from Charles Price Airfield, with one positioning daily at the airstrip on Frascati Farm, in the northern part of the Enterprise farming area. Rhodesian Corps of Engineers were to position a Pookie mine detection vehicle at enterprise with an infantry support element for mine clearing.

Company strength of Rh. Artillery operating in an Infantry role, and 5 companies of the Rhodesia Regiment were to provide the ground troops to be deployed in a series of Observation posts in the Msana, Masembura, Chikwakwa and Mangwende TTL. 2 Troop Selous Scouts,  would be deployed into the Chinamora TTL, and in the Eastern Mangwende TTL which was frozen for them to enable them to operate in their Pseudo role. The HQ element being based at the Borrowdale Country Club, within the Salisbury city limits and an operational base was quietly established at Mermaids Pool, the once popular resort that featured a fine rock slide into the pool. The Msana TTL was immediately adjacent to the resort, enabling Pseudo call signs to move in and out without risk of compromise.

 5 BSAP Patu sticks would operate out of their base at Enterprise into the Southern Chikwakwa TTL, along with their tracker element. They would be under the command of Section Officer Keith Norton. One additional SB officer was to be allocated to assist the resident SB officer at Enterprise, and Detective Patrol Officer Tiny Coupar was allocated this job.         

Elements of the SFA from Msana and Chinamora TTLs would be attached to some of the troops, as their local knowledge would assist the troops in detecting if the behaviour of the locals indicated and insurgent presence.    The SFA would not be informed until the operation was under way to preserve security. 

Colonel Bate made it clear that the infiltration of the Observation Posts on the night of the 6th April was critical to the success of the Operation. The area concerned was ideal OP country, with many granite kopjes’ and hills, but that also made a night walk in from distance problematic.

The briefing adjourned, and all elements retired to their respective bases to plan and prepare for the upcoming operation. Stores and ammunition were drawn, vehicles allocated, aircraft prepared, fuelled and armed. SB officers pressed their intelligence sources for any last minute information and changes in the insurgent numbers and location.

At 1500 hrs on the 6th April, Colonel Bate with his adjutant Lieutenant Gordon “Jug” Thornton, and RLI Intelligence Officer Captain Brian Streak carried out the detailed briefing for the deployment of the allocated troops, including their OP positions, drop off points, walk in routes, and the full gambit of radio call signs, sitrep times and Fire Force call out procedures. By 1800 the show was on the road.    
Early the following morning, the RLI Tactical HQ and part of 1 Commando, RLI, under the command of Lt Rick Van Malsen, moved in on the Enterprise Base, specifically the area adjacent to the Squash Court, in the trees that lined the edge of the 5 th fairway on the golf course. The Mobile Resuscitation unit set up behind the squash court, where it could be connected to piped water and electrical power. Corporal Skippy Skipworth-Michel , Rhodesian Medical Corps, secured the tent awnings and checked the equipment lists, preparing as the Medics always did, for the worst.

 The troops spread out along the tree line, set up their bivies and dug shell scrapes where MAG machine guns were positioned in a defensive perimeter.  The mess tents and kitchen were unloaded and set up and the admin clerks set out all the maps, radio communications and telex link.

The Air Force Control Tent set up alongside the cricket and rugby field, with their tall aerials dwarfing those of the RLI Operations Tent. Drums of Avtur fuel were laid out on the field ready for the choppers to guzzle up, and a pile of reserve drums was set up on the edge of the field for future use.

Lt. Colonel Ian Bate arrived with his HQ team of Major Pat Armstrong, Adjutant Lt Jug Thornton, Intelligence Officer Lt Brian Streak, and the all important Regimental Sergeant Major Ken Reed. The RLI Doctor, Major Cliff Webster and his medical staff manned the MRU.

At about 10 am, some of the Alouette 3 helicopters arrived and settled on the field, the balance where waiting to bring in some further RLI troops, including 1 Cdo Officer Commanding, Major Fred Watts, from their Cranborne  Barracks outside Salisbury Airport, where the balance of the Commando troops waited with the Dakotas to be deployed in the parachute role. The pilots were a mix of experience and nervous newcomers, with a few South African Air Force pilots, thrown in. They were in Rhodesia under the secret Operation Polo, South African Military assistance to the security forces. Wing Commander Rob Tasker was there to settle in the communications and logistics, and left the “drivers’ to check their aircraft and weapons with their every busy technician /gunners. Flight Lieutenants’ Bud Cockcroft, Nigel Lamb, Pete Simmons, Air Lieutenants’ Ian Henderson, Alistair Thorogood and Dave Shirley were among the early arrivals. The K cars set off for the large dam on Frascati Farm to calibrate their weapons, firing at a “floating rock” in the middle of the dam.

The technician/gunners carried out their endless maintenance tasks on the choppers,  working tirelessly to ensure every chopper was ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

The Observation Posts were called up, their positions checked and verified, radio channels tested and a relay station, manned by the Corps of Signals flown to the granite Kopje called Domborembudzi, just inside the Mangwende TTL to provide additional coverage for the radio channels.

Some of the OP s reported interesting walk ins to their position, at least two had fleeting contacts with insurgents in the dark, some were a distance from where they should have been, but all were  set up and looking for signs of insurgent activity.


Major Fred Watts was scarcely airborne at midday from Cranborne barracks when the operation frequency crackled into life with a Selous Scouts OP reporting a sighting of 15 insurgents in the Eastern Mangwende TTL . By the time he landed, and rapidly changed out of his town uniform into his bush camouflage, the position of the insurgents had been pinpointed, and a line of approach for the 7 choppers settled on. A lynx was ordered airborne, and the para Dakota was put on immediate standby for callout if required.

It was eleven minutes flying to the target, and the OP s talk took the Fire Force directly over the insurgents position, where the K Car immediately engaged them, while the G cars positioned the STOP s , each comprising 4 soldiers, in position. Each stop was in radio contact with the K car, and the elaborate,  deadly chess game begun.

The Lynx aircraft put in a ground attack in the insurgents position, using the twin .303 Browning front guns and dropping Frantan with deadly accuracy. Some insurgents returned fire at the choppers and the troops, while other fled, or tried to snivel into the cover of a small river line. Steadily the K car guided the stops through the river line, clearing ahead of them with the high explosive 20 mm cannon shells. The stops winkled out those insurgents hiding in the river line, their MAG machine guns taking a toll on the insurgents that had not been knocked down by the K Car, and making sure the ones that were down were dead. Two insurgents surrendered to STOP 2, one wounded in the legs, and they were lifted out by G car as quickly as possible.

After about four hours, and a re- sweep of the contact area by the stops, there were 13 dead insurgents, 15 weapons ranging from a RPD Machine Gun, to AKs and old SKS rifles. A RPG 7 rocket launcher and several grenades were also recovered, along with the usual packs and the inevitable notebook normally carried by the section commander. Bodies were left where they lay, the local TTL population would bury them in days to come.

The Stops were recovered by the G Cars and flown back to Enterprise, where Lt Rick Van Malsen had been dealing with another sighting by   a PATU stick in the Southern Chikwakwa. They had 6 insurgents visual and had watched them go into cover in a vegetable garden near a kraal line. It was too late for the Fire force to deploy to this sighting, so Rick called up the second Lynx and asked the PATU stick to indicate the target to the Pilot for him to put in a rocket and Frantan strike. The strike went in at last light, and tracer was seen being fired at the Lynx from the area of the garden where the strike went in. Rick ordered three of the PATU sticks in the area to base up together and be ready to sweep the area of the strike at first light the following morning.

The two captures were met on landing by SB details, who hooded them to hide their identity and whisked them to their office for immediate interrogation. The wounded one was taken via the MRU for Doc Webster do attend to, which was done quickly as his wounds were mainly shrapnel from the K car cannon shells.

The weapons and documents were collected from the incoming G cars, and brought to the SB offices.

Captures were the lifeblood of current intelligence; from them the size of the group, their intentions, the individuals in the group, and the whereabouts of other groups can all be obtained. The captures are in a state of shock, expecting to be summarily executed, or tortured, and once they find out they are not, generally they spill out their story within a short time. Both the captures were cadres, (trooper) and had been armed with SKS rifles. Their section leader was Manesi and the section had been 19 strong, so the kill/capture of 15 was very good result and a testament to the high number of stops available on the ground at the time.

The unwounded capture was reunited with his weapon, without any bullets, and his pack, and taken off by SB/Selous Scouts liaison officer  to be placed on the ground with the Selous Scouts that had called in the fire force on him that afternoon. He would be “turned” to the Rhodesian cause, and used to authenticate the Selous Scouts call sign in the area as “survivors’” of the contact looking for assistance from other insurgents. This would hopefully lead them to another group’s area, where they could set up another OP and talk the fire force onto them as well.

The immediate intelligence gained from the wounded capture was discussed and planned on in the evening Mini-Joc  meeting held in the Operations Tent, where changes in call out procedures for the fire force were made to cope with the high number of callouts. Fred Watts would head out to the first call out with all the choppers, and once the stops were down on the ground, the K car with Fred commanding from, and one G car would remain in the contact area and the other K car and 7 G cars would return to Enterprise for Rick van Malsen to deploy in to the next sighting. The ParaDak could also bring in fresh troops as required to the contact areas.

The SB personnel continued to link up weapon numbers with individual insurgent names, all noted in the section commanders notebook, to establish who had probably been killed. Manesi, the section commander’s weapon was there, so it was likely he had been killed along with most of his men. This information was all collated into a situation report, Sitrep, prepared on a well worn typewriter. The main events of the day were reported to the JOC Hurricane and SALOPS, by a radio message given on the scramble radio frequency. The detailed sitrep would be sent to T desk, Salisbury by the next SB individual going that way.

Once it had been digested by the SB hierarchy, the ladies in the registry would pick out the detail, and make changes to existing cards on known insurgents, or establish new ones where required along with weapon numbers and other relevant information. The weapons went to the BSAP armoury where ballistic tests were carried out by armourer experts such as Supt Don Hollingworth. Weapons were matched to other incidents and often a pattern emerged showing where the individual insurgent had fired the weapon previously. This may have been in another contact, a murder of a local, a store robbery or farm attack.

One of the SB/Selous Scouts liaison officers from the  Scouts “fort” in Bindura arrived to take the wounded capture to the fort where he would be further  medically treated, and turned, and probably join the SFA in the Msana within a short time.

Fresh intelligence was gained from a good SB source, a black businessman who lived in Salisbury but had shops in several of the TTLs. He always gave his information when contacted by telephone by his SB handler from Enterprise. He had news of a group of insurgents living near Tsati School in the Chinamora TTL, incidentally about 5 minutes flying time from Enterprise. It was the Selous Scouts area, so this was passed to them on secure radio channels, for them to confirm the presence either on the ground or from OP. If contact was made with this group, and kills occurred, the informers reward was R$ 1000-00 per kill, which could amount to a tidy sum.

At around 10 pm, just when exhausted men were turning in, a call came from SALOPS to advise that the main SFA base in the Chinamora TTL was under heavy attack. The SFA were fighting back at an aggressive attack from some 80 insurgents, who were using rifles, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. The attack continued until around 3 am, when the insurgents broke off contact, having tried to breach the south wall and being repulsed with casualties.  Two SFA casualties were reported from inside the base, wounded, and everyone waited for first light. The SB and SFA liaison officers in the base contributed greatly to the defence. Hans Sittig and Dave Nixon were tired men the following morning.

Day 2 dawned with the SFA doing a clearance patrol of their camp perimeter, where they located 4 dead insurgents, a lot of blood spoor leaving the area, some 6000 cartridge cases, mortars, and a 75mm recoilless rifle with ammunition. Luckily the insurgents had not been expert in the use of this weapon; otherwise the end result might have been very different. The insurgents had broken into groups and had headed back into the area of the Msana and Chinamora where the OP s were situated for OP Enterprise.  COMOPS made sure this attack, and the defence, received the attention of the press, to give the image of the SFA in general a boost.

The first contact of the day came from the three PATU sticks tasked to sweep the area of the late evening Lynx strike, when they received a good “rev” as they approached the area. Taking cover and returning fire, they called for fire force, which was duly dispatched in the shape of one K car flown by Air Lieutenant Ian Henderson with Major Fred Watts as ground commander, and 4 G cars with stops on board. A lynx was scrambled from New Sarum and arrived over the scene at the same time as the choppers. As the K car came into the orbit, heavy fire was directed at it from the tree line near a kraal, and Ian called in the lynx for a strike with rockets and front gun. Stops were dropped, and joined up with the PATU sticks in sweeping towards the area of the strike.

The insurgents and some civilians broke cover and headed toward the Nyagui river, on the Mangwende TTL boundary some 2 km distant, firing as they went. The K car knocked several down, and the stops and PATU put in their contribution. One insurgent was cornered near a large gum tree, and was using it for cover from the K car, shuffling around the big trunk to keep away from the K car cannon. A PATU stick was moved up to get this fellow from the ground, but before they did, he gave the K car a full magazine from his AK, and Ian had his eyebrow lacerated by a piece of shrapnel. Blood poured out of the wound, and he was hard pressed to swing the K car away, and land in an open field before the swirling blood cut off his vision completely. The PATU stick chased down and killed the insurgent a short distance away, and went across to the landed K car to find that Ian had been bandaged up, and was ready to fly again.

By now the scene had wound down, and weapons and equipment were being recovered, SB details arrived by land rover, and took over the weapons and packs as the stops emplaned again and flew back to Enterprise. One trooper had been shot in the foot, and hobbled to the G car under the care of his stick medic.

 With the help of the PATU sticks, the contact area was swept and more weapons and packs located. 11 insurgent bodies and weapons were found, 5 bodies of mujibas, some with stick grenades in their pockets, and four civilians, two of them women had been killed in the contact. Civilian deaths are inevitable in this type of warfare, sadly.

The other half of the Fire force had reacted to a sighting in the Msana TTL, where an OP from Rhodesian Artillery troops had a group of 7 insurgent’s visual moving east along a river line. Due to the wind direction, they heard the approaching choppers and bomb shelled into heavy cover below a large granite kopje, where the OP lost sight of them. The choppers scoured the area, and eventually spotted two of them in dense tree cover and the K Car fired on them. The insurgents kept moving as the cannon shells were exploding on the tree canopy, so stops were dropped to cut them off.  Stop 2 chased after them and drove them into stop 3 and 4, who killed them. The stops then swept back over the area and located a youth hiding in some sense bush, he surrendered and was captured.

The youth was handed over to SB when the choppers returned to Enterprise; he admitted he was a mujiba, and that he had been with six insurgents that morning. They had been part of the attack on the SFA base last night and were heading back to join the rest of their section at Machaponda School. This information was passed to Col Bate, and he ordered one of the OP s in that area to move overnight closer to the school and observe. The mujiba was held in the stockade for the meantime.

At the Operations meeting that evening, Col Bate advised that there were three potential “scenes” brewing for the morning, one with the  scouts in the Mangwende, and two others in the Chinamora TTL, where OP s were hoping to confirm Insurgent presences after first light.

Once it was dark, and callouts were not possible most of the troops retired to the club bar where they proceeded to reduce the alcohol stocks dramatically, but by about 10 pm all was quiet as everyone rested up for another day ahead.

Day three dawned with the OP s quiet, waiting for the sun to fill the shadows so they could look for the insurgents in their hiding places. Many of them went to ground at night in huts, and the OP had to wait until they emerged into view. The chopper crews serviced their aircraft and did running repairs while the troops wandered over for breakfast while they waited the siren for call out. The hard working signallers and clerks in the operations tent update troop movements and sent sitreps, ration and ammunition requests as required.

A member of the Rhodesian Intelligence Corps, RIC, called in just after breakfast to advise on the planning for upcoming first all race elections, due on 17th April. 1000 polling stations were to be placed and manned country wide, and the biggest call-up of territorial and reserve military, police reserve, internal affairs, and guard force was being made to try to ensure that the people could vote in the rural areas free of intimidation from the insurgents. It was a big ask.

To top that, Bishop Abel Muzorerwa, a member of the current transitional government and leader of the UANC party was to make a campaign visit to the Chinamora, Msana and Chikwakwa TTLs in three days time. He was going to fly by “loaned” South African “civilian” helicopters to various business centres, and vehicles were to be allocated to ensure the local population attended the meetings, and were protected from insurgent attack. This task fell largely to the Uniform Branch of the BSAP, but troops would be moved to these areas as well to provide early warning and protection.

Mid morning was interrupted by a thunderclap explosion typical of a landmine, normally a TM 46, just to the north west of Enterprise Base, and the response party located a road department mine protected 7 ton truck lying at the grid that led the gravel Denda road onto the main Shamva tar road. In the opposite ditch, luckily still upright was a Peugeot sedan with a very surprised looking local farmer and PATU man, Peter Howson standing next to it, rifle in hand.

Peter had coincidentally been driving past at the exact moment that the roads department truck had hit the mine, and the blast had thrown his vehicle into the ditch, luckily with minimal damage. The Roads truck had the front wheel blown off, but the mine protection had saved the three man crew, save for their eardrums.

Rhodesian Engineer Corp were summoned with their Pookie mine detecting vehicle, and a sweep of the gravel roads in the vicinity was carried out. A message was put out on the farm agric-alert radio network for farmers to be extra vigilant for landmines on their roads. Within a few hours, the Pookie had located another mine, on the access road to Chabweno farm. A farm vehicle tracks could be seen passing over the mine, but just missing the pressure detonator, a lucky escape for that individual. The mine was lifted and recovered by the engineers.

The first OP to call in with a sighting was in the Msana, but were looking across into the Northern Chikwakwa where they reported a group of 10 -12 insurgents in a kraal line, appearing to have settled under the mango trees. The area around was open sandy fields, so it was decided that one K car with 4 g cars with stops would react to this sighting, and the para dak would drop additional troops to the north east of the kraal to cut off escape that way. The dak could drop 16 troops from low level, and this was easy landing country, not the rock and tree strewn areas the paras often had to jump into.

Off went the aircraft, and as the K car pulled up over the target, the paradak trundled in and spilled its men out onto the ground. The stops were dropped, and it looked like the insurgents were totally encircled. The OP had not seen them move from the mango trees, but when the sweep line arrived there, no sign of them. They had to be in the huts and small brick houses, and the troops were ordered to search them, a job they hated. Some civilians were found, but no one armed, so the K car Commander told the troops to search again. This time, one of the stick leader felt the hairs on his neck stand up as he entered a house, but again he could not see anything. The insurgent holding on to the rafters in the dark roof of the house moved, and made a sound, and suddenly all was clear. The stick leader fired up at the noise, and received a burst of fire back that hit him in the forearm, luckily a flesh wound. He staggered out of the hut and yelled, in the roofs, fire into the roofs, they are hiding there.

Once the dust had settled, several houses were ablaze from the tracer, four insurgent bodies were located, and five weapons. It was likely that the fifth insurgent had died in one of the blazing huts, but the others had somehow escaped the attentions of all the troops and the K car. Parachutes were collected, and the troops flow back in relays to Enterprise, from where the paras went back to barracks by truck. The wounded stick leader was patched up by Doc Webster and his medics, and was back in the fray.

One of the BSAP “crocodile” armoured vehicles radioed in from the Shamva road near Lions head, a prominent granite hill, advising that they had been ambushed in the cuttings near to the hill, but they had returned fire and suffered no casualties. One K car, with 2 G cars reacted, loaded with stops made up of RLI base staff, the rest of the men were out on one of the callouts that had come in during the day, and the para dak had been called into action again. A second jump for the day for some of the parachutists. Stick Medic Trooper Chris Norton jumped twice that day, and a world record of three jumps into contact in one day was established by Corporal Des Archer of 1 Commando RLI.

Trooper Chris Norton, my late younger brother, stick medic with 1 Cdo RLI during Op Enterprise.
He was mainly used in the para role.

My late father and brother. BSAP SPECIAL RESERVE Warden Terry Norton (Mount Pleasant) and
Trooper Chris Norton. (1Cdo RLI. 1979)

Police reservists Ted Willis, Jack Wheeler, Norman Carle and Don Bulloch talked the K car onto where they had been ambushed, and the stops swept through the area, locating one body, an AK and a 60 mm mortar. There was also blood spoor leading off to the TTL, but as it was late in the day, a follow up was not possible. Ted and his men were very pleased with their efforts; Norman had been manning the mounted Browning .303 machine gun, and had sent back heavy fire when they were ambushed. All their practise with, and care of the browning, had paid off, and a few well deserved beers were consumed that night.

The Ops meeting that evening highlighted the fact that the insurgents were definitely more aggressive, and despite the high force levels they showed no sign of leaving the area.  The incidents of landmines had increased and the SFA camps reported being fired on at night. The body count was now 31 killed and 2 captures, not bad going considered that probably meant at least double that number had been wounded. Security force casualties had been only wounded.

By day 4, a pattern was emerging, early morning saw scenes not cleared up overnight sorted out, and at least one vehicle would hit a landmine in one of the TTLs. Once the sun was up and the OP s could see into the areas that had been in shadow, tentative sightings came in, and were confirmed by mid morning. The fire force would head for the most promising sighting, and most of the G cars would recover back to Enterprise, load more Stops and head out for the next scene assisted by the para dak, and the second Lynx. Fred Watts and Rick Von Malsen, with the pilots and gunners, were getting in some serious hours in the air.

A civilian bus hit a landmine on the Denda road in the Chinamora, with many casualties, and Guard force vehicle hit another in the Mangwende TTL. A Guard Force member from the keep in Chikwakwa was found shot dead near the gate of the keep. He had evidently sneaked out into the nearby kraal the previous night to find some beer, and had been caught by the insurgents there and executed. The entire fire force was called up to the Bushu TTL, in the Mount Darwin area, to a sighting of a big group of insurgents with heavy weapons. Despite a day of searching, nothing was located, and worse still, two confirmed sightings were reported by the Enterprise OP s, but could not be reacted to.

By now Operation Enterprise was flavour of the month, and many high ranking officers made liaison visits, it had never been easier to visit the “sharp end”, a mere twenty minute drive from Salisbury, and they could rub shoulders with the fighting men. The hierarchy of SB T desk suddenly tried to make out this Operation had been their idea, despite their voiced scepticism in the beginning, and demands for updated reports came thick and fast. At one point the three SB members on the ground, run ragged with attending and documenting the contacts, attacks, murders and landmines told T desk to take a hike, the reports would come when they could find time.

The fire force commander were becoming very adept at making a plan to get as many scenes attended to as possible, sometimes lifting Observation Post troops by G car and deploying them as stop lines, using every able man in base, cooks were not exempt, and utilising the paradak to its fullest. The Selous Scouts had infiltrated the Chinamora TTL, and were passing back accurate information as the insurgent presence in that area, but requesting no offensive action until they had set the targets up comprehensively.

On the night of the 10th, Colga and Strathlorne farms, both on the boundary of the Chikwakwa TTL came under attack with small arms, mortars and rockets. Some damage was done to the homesteads, and a tractor was set alight at Colga. The labour force were routed from the compound and fled into the surrounding bush and agricultural land. The farmers, their wives and their “bright lights” returned fire, and set off Adams grenades located on the perimeter two meter diamond mesh fence. Reaction in the form of Police reserve and PATU went to the farms, using predetermined “safe routes” which avoided the primary roads that would almost certainly be mined or have ambushes laid on them.

PATU tracker, Andy Hartell had established a good relationship with the dog section of the BSAP, and called out the duty member with his dog, and was on tracks at about 3 am, in the dark, with the dog on a long leash. Andy had used this tactic successfully a few times already, and surprised the insurgents he was following at first light, when they thought the follow up would only be starting. On this occasion he, the dog and handler and a patu stick surprised the insurgents where they were resting up near the Nyagui river crossing. They killed one insurgent and two mujibas  in the initial contact, while the others fled across the River into the Mangwende TTL. The choppers were all busy, so the information was passed the Grey Scouts, a mounted unit now operating in that area. With their high mobility on their horses, they located two further insurgents within two hours and killed them as well.

The MRU was being kept busy with wounded civilians, some children, who were being brought in from contact sites. They did their best to repair the damage and sent the severely wounded ones to Harare Hospital for further treatment. The civilian’s didn’t always survive, and became another casualty statistic. RLI Padre Bill Blakeway was often on hand to council soldiers and civilians and tried to ease the pain of this war.

The farmers were a brave lot, but on occasion they were foolhardy. Some would push their luck returning well into the late afternoon from Salisbury, and driving at breakneck speeds on the Salisbury to Shamva road that passed through a part of the Msana TTL. A Shamva farmer  did that, and was ambushed close to the Lions head cutting and was killed in the ensuing crash that occurred when his car was hit by several bullets. An OP on the edge of Lions head hill witnessed the ambush, but could do nothing as it was almost dark. Police reserve reaction sticks from Enterprise recovered the farmer’s body, and he became another loss to his family and farming colleagues.

Keith Norton had arranged for Bishop Abel Muzorerwa to have captive audiences at three business centres the next day, and Colonel Bate made suitable arrangements for any insurgents that might wish to disrupt these meetings to be spotted and dealt with. As it transpired, small crowds of largely  press ganged locals listed to the bishop make  promises to stop the war, either by defeating Zanla or reaching a peace deal with them. It would be the first time all these people had been presented with the chance to vote, and there was a quiet keen interest in this aspect of his address. The Bishop hopped from one meeting to another is his “loaned ‘South African registered Bell Jet ranger, complete with bodyguards.

The call outs continued through the day, with three confirmed sightings being reacted to, but as these were all smaller groups, the kill rate was only 7, with two wounded mujibas being captured in the Msana. They were duly interrogated by SB, and both confirmed that the leadership of the Salisbury Detachment had gone into the Mangwende to collect fresh men and equipment, and were expected to return in two days time.

Colonel Bate contacted the Selous Scouts and the Grey Scouts in the Mangwende,  and advised them of the information, it would be ideal to locate the leadership and eliminate them there.  The PATU sticks were alerted to ambush known river crossing points from the Mangwende TTL for the next two days.

Day 5 was quiet, and the troops, pilots and technician/gunners hung around until a game of volley ball started. Then someone produced a rugby ball, and pretty soon a fierce game was on the go on the rugby field, two of the choppers having to be moved to free up the field. Others took to the more sedate game of golf on the 9 hole course that surrounded the Club, and the really lazy ones went to the swimming pool.

The siren finally went at 1600 hours, a call out by an OP near Lions head again, with a group of 5 insurgents visual in a river line.  Lt Rick Von Malsen was the designated first wave K Car commander for the day, he and Major Fred Watts alternated to try to ease the pressure, and Major Pat Armstrong filled in where necessary. Rick had to be lifted by the K Car from the eighth fairway where he was about to finish his putt.

The talk on to the target was spot on by the OP, and three of the insurgents went down to the cannon in the initial minute of the contact. The other two were trapped, and put up fierce resistance from good cover in the river line.  The stops on the ground closed on the two insurgents, and in the ensuing contact Trooper Keith Prowse was wounded by shrapnel from the K car when the gunner fired too close to his position. Luckily a hefty tree branch took most of the shrapnel, and Keith was only wounded in the lower leg. One of the insurgents was killed by the stop, and the other badly wounded and flown back to the MRU for treatment just as it was getting dark.

The insurgent was very badly wounded, and Doctor Cliff Webster had to amputate a forearm and a leg above the knee, and did his best to stabilise the very ill man for most of the night. A SB detail did his best to get some information from him during moments of lucidity, but all he could really establish was his name. He was Redman Nyika, and he died in the early hours of the morning from his wounds.

A call in the morning of day 6 to the SB registry showed Redman Nyika as a section commander in the Salisbury Detachment, and as usual the note book he carried and the weapon numbers gave the identity of his fallen comrades. Sometime later three of the AK rifles were matched to the ambush of the Shamva Farmer  and to some extent, justice was done.

The SB personnel at Enterprise tried to get to every contact, ambush, farm attack, civilian murder as they possibly could, either by air or road, to gather as much information in the shape or cartridge cases, documents and interrogations of civilians that had been involved in, or near the area of the incident.  Most Police Stations had ground coverage details, uniform members of the BSAP who carried out intelligence gathering in support of the Special Branch were also in spanned to assist in the small Kunzwe TTL, close to Goromonzi.

It was following a visit to a contact scene in the Kunzwe, where a PATU stick had ambushed a store and killed two insurgents and three mujibas in the act of robbing the store that Goromonzi  GC detail  Section Officer Alan Shout and Patrol Officer Pete Wessels were lucky to escape with their lives. They were on their way back to the Police station from the scene when they were ambushed by a group of 9 insurgents, their truck was immobilised, Alan had his FN rifle hit and rendered useless, but under covering fire from Pete and two Constables, managed to extricate themselves from the ambush.  By the time a Fire Force arrived the insurgents were long gone, having tried to torch the truck with little success.

On the quieter days sport carried on at Enterprise, the rugby had become a sort of never ending match, some squash and tennis rackets had been loaned by local farmers, and golf was often on the go. The local farmers, and club members from Salisbury, played their Saturday sport in the mornings, so they could return home during the early afternoon to avoid the ambushes that generally occurred in the late afternoon.

On this particular Saturday, there were a fair number of golfers, and the bowls green was a hive of activity. A regular golf four ball of elderly, but stoic ladies always played together and hacked their way round the course, generally cursing their black caddy’s for their poor form. When they reached the 4th hole, one stout lady struck her ball into the bunker close to the MRU, and strode towards the bunker to play her next shot. She adjusted her glasses as she approached the bunker, as protruding from the sand was a black arm and a leg. Somewhat nonplussed for a moment, she decided attack was the best form of defence and struck the appendages with her golf club, knocking them over. Her caddy dropped her golf bag and fled, and very soon the MRU had four irate ladies looking for the culprit. Not a medic was in sight, but cries of mirth emanated from many areas, including the Ops room. Redman Nyika limbs had been put to misuse.

Not to be outdone, Air lieutenant Alister Thorogood flew his chopper low over the bowls green “in error”, spreading the bowls far and wide and lifting a few skirts above some aged knees. He landed a good distance off and took a circuitous route back to his tent. Flight Lieutenant Bud Cockcroft got an earful from an irate farmer’s wife after he had tested his choppers guns on her dam, close to the club. Her prize Egyptian Geese made an excellent moving target to practise on.

Corporal Dave Masoccoi was somehow attached to the SB element of Enterprise as a supernumerary, having been injured in a military vehicle accident, and his forte was arranging “entertainment” for the Club bar. He had contact with various strippers and ladies of ill repute, and once a week would organise a “show” for the troops at the club. He would collect the “ladies” from Salisbury in an armoured Hyena vehicle, and sneak them into the clubhouse where the show would be launched.

On one occasion he recruited the famous Zilla, a well known stripper whose party piece was a large python. On this occasion the python was not involved, just Zilla removing her clothing in the middle of the large hall at the club, with lathering troopies, and officers, ogling on at her. He minder, a large bouncer type man was seated off to the side collecting the R$2 fee from the watchers. In residence at the club was a small terrier type dog called Jack, who was extremely curious. Just as Zilla had removed all her clothing, and was gyrating on the floor to the beat of some music, Jack sauntered up to her, smelled her nether regions, and sneezed violently. The watchers collapsed in gales of laughter, many crying with mirth. Zilla and her minder took the opportunity to make a break back to the Hyena for Dave to return them to Salisbury, and none of the watchers minded the show being cut short, Jack had made it for them.

On another occasion Dave was approached by 3 ladies who were topless barmaids, and wanted to come out to Enterprise to do their thing. Dave duly collected them and they appeared behind the bar, clad only in bikini bottoms. The bar was five deep, and they were greeted with an appreciative howl, that became a little muted when the assembled masses had a good look at them. They were definitely ladies, not girls, and one had a pronounced hunchback! However as the beer went down their beauty became enhanced and a late night was had by all.

In the early hours of the morning, Dave headed back to Salisbury in the Hyena with the barmaids and made an error of judgement as he turned onto the Shamva – Salisbury road, and flopped the Hyena into the ditch and onto its side. Luckily the ladies had been in their seatbelts, but Dave rolled around a bit, and was dazed and confused when assistance arrived from Enterprise, in response to his somewhat garbled radio message.

The ladies were returned to their lodgings, and Dave was taken to the casualty at Andrew Flemming hospital to be checked out and have a few stitches. The Hyena was righted and no-one was the wiser, they were extraordinarily tough vehicles.

Dave was waiting in one of the casualty cubicles to be examined when the duty Sister came in, and asked him how he was. He mumbled something and put his hand up the Sisters dress, and received a resounding slap for his trouble. He lapsed off to sleep, finally succumbing to a long night of beer, a vehicle accident, and a good clout. He was back on duty two days later.

Dawn again brought the advice of sightings, and breakfast was wolfed down while waiting for the inevitable siren wail signalling the fire force call out. The Pookie was out sweeping the roads for mines, and the administrative staff carried out their tasks to ensure all items required to keep the TAC HQ fully functional were available. Some troops changed over, some going on courses, some on leave or R and R, and were replaced by fresh men to fill their posts.

The Selous Scouts working in the Mangwende and Chinamora had established the pattern of several groups of insurgents and Major Pat Armstrong, acting OC while Colonel Bate was in Salisbury for two days, decided a visit was needed to the Selous Scouts command post at the Borrowdale Club. He and Captain Brian Streak, and the Enterprise SB officer climbed aboard a G Car and headed for Borrowdale Country Club, flying over the up market residential areas of Glen Lorne, Helensvale and Borrowdale. It was the weekend so many of the inhabitants had already taken to their pools on this hot day, and Ian Henderson flew low enough to have a good look at the girls waving at the passing helicopter. The war really was close to Salisbury.

 A plan was made to strike two of the targets identified by the Scouts a little later in the day. One was in the Mangewende, again near Domborembudzi hill, and the other was not far from the Domboshawa Business centre in the Chinamora. Pat was going to split the fire force and attack both targets at about the same time, additionally utilising the paradak and three vampire jets on the larger Mangwende target, said to number 30, and the Lynx on the 10 insurgents in the Chinamora. Fred Watts was to be in the K car for the Mangwende, and Rick Van Malsen in the other.

At about noon both Fire forces headed off, and first contact was made by Rick and his men in the Chinamora, a shorter flying distance away. The Scouts information and talk on was spot on, and within two hours six dead insurgents, five mujibas and two civilians were dead and three brick houses had been razed to the ground. Seven weapons were brought back to Enterprise, along with packs and the notebooks. One insurgent had a good supply of dagga cobs on him, and this was distributed clandestinely among the troops for use after hours. The notebooks showed this group had been resupplied in the past few days with weapons, mines and extra personnel fresh from Mozambique , having routed in via Marymount Mission, the Chiwese  and Masembura  TTLs. The extra landmines and Mortar bombs had to have been cached somewhere, and this information was passed to the Scouts for their follow up. It was a great pity there was not a capture to interrogate. During the contact, the northern suburbs of Salisbury were clearly visible from the K Car and the closest fuel was actually at New Sarum Air Base.

K car pilot Nigel Lamb pulled the K car, with Fred on board, into the orbit over the Scouts Mangwende TTL sighting and instantly saw sprinting figures below them, heading for rocky cover near the base of Domborembudzi Hill. The cannon opened up immediately, and Fred set the stops down and called in the Paradak to drop four more sticks in open ground to the west of the contact area for uplift by the G cars. This was an easy drop for the Paras, open fields, little wind, a decent height of 600 feet above ground.

The K car was taking fire from the ground and Fred called for the Vampires, the Pilots were sitting in cockpit readiness at New Sarum Airfield. It took them all of 9 minutes to reach the contact area, but only Vampires Voodoo one and three called in, voodoo two had failed to start its Goblin Jet engine. Once Fred had his stops set in place, he called for the Voodoo section to Strike the rocky area with their front 20mm cannons and squash head rockets. The ancient aircraft swept in and laid down devastating firepower over the area, but were still followed out by return fire from the ground. Fred moved some of his men into a sweep line and reset the stops ready for the breakout. He called in the Vampires for another strike, this time from East to West to suppress the return fire as the sweep moved forward.

The two vampires called in heading back to New Sarum for refuel and rearm, and Voodoo two called in airborne at last. Fred chastised him for being late for the party, but the easy tone from the pilot advised Fred that he had had trouble getting the woodworms to hold hands. The Vampires airframe is made largely of wood. Fred was grateful to have the vampire in support, circling above the contact, ready to act when required.

Slowly the sweep line moved forward, winkling out the insurgents and mujibas, with the K Car cannon softening up the area as they moved. The body count mounted, and then a casevac was called for,  a troopie injured by grenade shrapnel. The G car flying in for the casevac was fired on from some brick houses about 1000 meters north of the contact area, and Fred called in Voodoo 2 to strike the houses while two other g cars moved some troops to the area. The strike was on target, and two insurgents were hauled out of the houses, very dead. The sweep line met with several pockets of resistance and suppressed them, and the stops knocked down a few fleeing insurgents and mujibas. Fred had the troops re sweep the area and collect up equipment to a suitable landing zone and back loaded the men to Enterprise, from where the paras were trucked back to New Sarum to prepare for another jump.

This time the SB members had the luxury of a G car to clear up the contact scene, with the assistance of one stick on RLI men, and eleven weapons were recovered along with usual paraphernalia. One folding butt FN rifle was among the weapons, a very unusual find as was the one dead insurgent wearing a rice fleck uniform common among Frelimo (Mozambique) troops. The wearer was quite light skinned and certainly was not from the Shona tribe that made up the bulk of ZANLA. The FN was given to the RLI troops; it was a prized weapon for parachutists. Once again no prisoners had been taken, unfortunately.

As the SB and RLI men walked back to the LZ for uplift, and alert troopie spotted a shiny item in some rocks, and using a long stick prodded the area to find loose soils and some AK bullets. A further look showed an area about two meters square that had obviously been dug up recently. It was time to call in the expertise of the engineers as this looked awfully like a cache of some sort. Before long two sappers arrived with their long steel rods and old bayonets and prodded the area for any mines or other surprises. Having pronounced it clear, the soil was shovelled away to reveal an old door covering a substantial hole in the ground. Out of that came 4 landmines, 6000 rounds of AK ammunition, 5 RPG 7 rockets and 9 stick grenades, a decent haul indeed. A G Car was loaded up and flew the spoils directly to the Scouts fort in Bindura  for use by the Pseudo call signs in the future.

A good days work overall, and the beers tasted good that evening.

Early the following morning relay station LA requested a resupply of water and radio batteries, and pilot Dave Shirley and his technician loaded up and headed for the mountain. On the return flight they came upon a bizarre sight of a man standing in the middle of a gravel road within the Chinamora TTL, waving his arms frantically at the chopper, and then lying down face first in the middle of the road. Dave went into the orbit around this individual, who repeated the performance. The area around him was clear, so after a few orbits Dave landed and his tech leaped out, rifle in hand and grabbed the man and hustled him to the helicopter.

A few minutes later, the chopper was met as it landed at Enterprise by SB personnel who took the usual precaution of hooding the man and taking him to be interviewed.  He readily admitted he was Sub Detachment security Office, Salisbury Detachment, by name Martin Mazarura, and he had had enough of the war. He had been in five contacts in the last few weeks, in the last one two days previously he had just escaped with his life and had a perforated eardrum from cannon fire, and many pieces of shrapnel in his arm and neck. He had hidden his rifle and pack and decided to surrender and was in the process of walking to the SFA base at Nyawa School when the chopper had flown over.

Within a short period SB were able to confirm that 60 reinforcements had been brought into the Msana alone, along with a lot of kit and equipment, with orders to once again attack the SFA bases, and detach three small groups of three experienced insurgents to begin attacks in Salisbury. Large amounts of equipment had also been brought by porters into the Eastern Mangwende TTL to shorten re supply time. Another 70 insurgents had been brought into the Southern Mangwende TTL with instructions to increase attacks in the Marandellas , Goromonzi and Arcturus areas. Six Frelimo soldiers had been among the reinforcements, and they were trained in demolitions. When Martin was shown the rice fleck shirt, he confirmed that those were worn by the Frelimo men.

The insurgents tasked with the attacks in Salisbury were led by Big Brain Chiwanda, who showed up on SB T desk records of being a Zanla veteran who had been operating in the Nehanda sector since 1976. He was regarded as hard core.

ZANLA high command had issued an order to all the insurgents in the country to ensure that the upcoming elections were to be disrupted at all costs.

Colonel Bate  and Superintendent Keith Samler were briefed on the latest information, and requested that the company of Grey Scouts that were leaving the Southern Mangwende be replaced with at least two platoons of the same unit to keep the pressure up in that vital area.

The SB and BSAP stations in the capital were warned to be on the alert for incursions and attacks within the city, and to make use of all means to prevent these wherever possible.

BSAP Special Reserve “Womble” Terry Norton, who patrolled his home area of Mount Pleasant with other “wombles” from the area were briefed to be on the lookout for unusual activity and vehicle movement which might be  Insurgents moving to targets in the city. These “wombles”, older men, did night patrols and were armed with personal weapons, mostly handguns with the odd rifle and shotgun thrown in. A sort of Dads Army, as of the Second World War, a war in which many of them had participated in various roles.

The rest of the day remained reasonably quiet by Enterprise standards, one call out to a group of fast moving insurgents just south of Bindura that resulted in one insurgent   and three mujibas killed, two of them female.

Later in the afternoon we received a visit from a Major from the army Psychological Operations unit. They advised us the powers that be had been persuaded to initiate a series of sky shouts over the operational area from the next day, where the insurgents would be advised to surrender and receive amnesty. The operation personnel of Op Enterprise though this was not a good plan and a waste of resources, but orders were orders.

They then advised that Martin Mazarura was not to be handed over to the Scouts as per usual, but was going to be used in these shy shouts and paraded around to try to encourage his comrades to surrender.  He was to be handed over to the Physops personnel as soon as his in depth interrogation was complete, not later than the following day. Martin was not best pleased when he was told what he had to do, but had no choice.

One piece of immediate intelligence was forthcoming from Martin, the Chabweno Farm Store, next to the Shamva road was going to be robbed for its provisions by a section of insurgents from the Chinamora in the very near future. As the Chinamora was a frozen Selous Scouts area, Rick Passaportis was requested to use some of his Territorial members, acting in a conventional military role, to ambush the Denda Road from the Chinamora into the farming area as this was the likely route the insurgents would use.

Martin made another short trip with SB personnel to recover his AK rifle and pack where he had cached it.

The store robbery happened sooner than expected, that very night just after midnight. The gunfire from the ambush was heard clearly from Enterprise base, and shortly afterwards the call sign  radioed in advising they had sprung the ambush on armed insurgents and porters, and withdrawn a short distance in case of a counter attack. They were still covering the road where they had initiated the ambush, and knew they had scored hits from the screaming and moaning from the area.

At about 3 am, three mortar bombs were fired from the TTL in the general direction of the ambush, but John advised they were way short of their position. At first light a SB team linked up with the ambush party and swept through the contact area. Two wounded women porters were taken for treatment, leaving three dead insurgents, two dead mujibas, and three dead women porters. The goods from the store lay strewn around the ambush site, and what was not covered in blood was recovered. Four weapons were recovered, two new AKM rifles, one SKS and an ancient PPSH sub machine gun. Documents on the insurgents indicated they were part of the reinforcement party from the Mangwende TTL.

The biggest call up ever of all security forces, including men up to 60 years old had started to try to ensure that every polling booth, some 1000, would have adequate protection and enable the local population to vote wherever possible. There were some areas where it was not possible to place a polling booth, the locals were living wild in the bush and had abandoned the kraals, most of which had been burned down. Military law was in place in most of the countryside.

The booths had to be in place by the afternoon of the 16th April, and vehicles were moving out to the designated areas. One struck a landmine in the northern Mangwende, one was ambushed in the Chinamora, and the fire force reaction to this killed two of the attackers.

The sky shout went ahead, an Air force Islander aircraft equipped with large speakers and amplifiers carried Martin Mazarura around the TTLs extolling his former comrades to surrender and receive amnesty. In his former area of the Msana and Chinamora he named the insurgents individually and called on them to join the SFA. The aircraft was fired on three times, and an abortive fire force callout was made on one area.

Mujibas captured in the following days who had heard the sky shout with the insurgents named, advised that the stature of that particular fellows named increased in the eyes of the locals and his comrades, and not one surrender occurred in the Operation Enterprise area.

The radio net and relays were exceptionally busy with the polling booth call sign checking in, and everyone held their collective breath for the anticipated attacks on the booths overnight. In the end two booths came under long range mortar and small arms fire in the northern Chikwakwa, fire was returned and the insurgents broke off the attack. Neptune farm was attacked, again, but the attack was beaten off by farmer and PATU man Henry Birrel, his wife, small children and a bright light. A tractor was set alight and some maize stock burned. The motor cycle sticks reacted and killed one insurgent and two locals in the follow up.

Neptune Farm

And then the locals did turn out to vote, slowly at first, but then in increasing numbers as they grew more confident that the insurgents were staying away. Certainly in the area of Enterprise, only one half hearted attack occurred on a polling station, in the late afternoon, and the roving motor cycle sticks chased the insurgents into the dusk across the Nyagui river into the Mangwende.

The second day of voting went ahead, with less voters, and no disruption from the insurgents. The daily national sitrep gave many incidents of attacks on polling stations around the country, but in proportion to the numbers, a small amount indeed. Voting was reported slow but steady in most areas.

Now media celebrity Martin Mazarura arrived at the polling station at Enterprise Club, and in the glare of the cameras cast his vote, and extolled his former comrades to do so as well. Some later reports came in that a few insurgents did go and vote, having cached their weapons and mingled with the SFA.

Call outs from the Ops continued and the fire force deployments carried on. The paradak and Vampires were in action again twice that day, and a Police Reserve Auxiliary constable, riding escort in a police 7 ton truck was killed when it struck a boosted landmine in the Chinamora TTL. The Internal Affairs keep in the Chikwakwa was mortared at last light, one bomb landing inside the sand walls and lightly wounding two Guard force members. Saratoga farm was fired on from long range during the night, fire was returned and a Lynx dropped two illuminating flares, after which no further firing happened.

The polling booths recovered to their central collection points, again with few incidents, and when counting was complete, an astonishing 62% of the eligible voters had cast their ballot nationally, with the UANC of Bishop Muzorerwa winning the bulk of the votes. It was a severe physiological blow to the insurgents, but the war carried on.

Information passed to the  Scouts operating in the Chinamora and Msana TTL a few days previously about a group operating near  Chishavavudzi kraal had born fruit, their op had the group visual in a V shaped valley close to the kraal and called for fire force at about 1300 hrs. K Car one with four G cars headed for the scene, a mere four minutes flying time from Enterprise Base. Major Fred Watts was in the K car; Lt Rick Von Malsen was already at a scene in the northern Chikwakwa TTL where K Car 2 and the rest of the fire force and the para dak were in contact with another group of insurgents.

K car 1 pulled up over the valley and immediately engaged the insurgents as they bomb shelled in all directions up and down the valley, which had a small river line and patches of heavy cover. The stops were positioned to cut off escape, and two stops formed up into a sweep line, slowly moving down the valley winkling out the insurgents who had gone to ground. Cpl Nicky Van Niekerk BCR, was in charge of the sweep line with two of his troopers being Ronald Geldenhuys and Paul Young. It took several hours for five insurgents to be accounted for, and the shadows were lengthening when the sweep line killed another insurgent. Fred was overhead in the K car, which was on red light indicating that it had to refuel shortly, and ordered Nicky to reverse his sweep to ensure the area was clear before the G cars came in for uplift of the stops and captured weapons.

The K Car had just landed on the rugby field at Enterprise when Nicky’s voice came through on the radio, “I have been hit, Boss” followed by frantic calls from the other call sign in the sweep line calling for the K car as they had encountered further insurgents and had three serious casualties on their side.  They advised that they had killed the two insurgents who had opened up at point blank range at them with an RPD machine gun, knocking down the three wounded soldiers.

The partly refuelled K car took off again, closely followed by G Car amber 3 flown by Flight Lieutenant Colin James, with STARLIGHT Major Cliff Webster on board. Fred got overhead in the K car, assessed the situation and talked amber 3 onto the area where the wounded men where, now indicated by a day glow panel laid out by the troops. Colin went in at treetop level and landed in an incredibly tight landing zone, disgorging Dr Webster and his equipment.

The troops indicated the three casualties, the stick medic tells Dr Webster that Geldenhuis is dead; Van Niekerk seems still to be breathing, and Young still partly conscious. Doc Webster gets working on Young as fast as he can, with drips and morphine to try to keep him alive despite the heavy blood loss from his chest wound. Young is in severe hypovolemic shock, and his survival is touch and go. Colin James had shut the G car down and is assisting where he can while his tech/Gunner keeps a wary eye over his twin Browning machine guns. Doc Webster slithers over to Van Niekerk and confirms he is dead, as is Geldenhuis who had severe chest wounds rupturing his liver and spleen.

Further firing comes from the stops as they clear any thickets for insurgents, and Young is loaded in the G Car and Colin heads directly for the Andrew Fleming Hospital in Salisbury, luckily only 10 minutes away.  Trooper Young is soon under the care of the casualty staff and into theatre for surgeon Dr Graham to carry out emergency surgery.

Dr Webster waited at the casualty, hoping his skills in the field have done enough to save Trooper Young, and is mightily relieved some hours later when Dr Graham comes out of theatre and tells Dr Webster and Young’s parents that he will survive, mainly thanks to the immediate treatment in the field by the stick medics and the further treatment by Dr Webster.

It is a weary Doctor and G Car crew that fly to New Sarum Airfield at first light for fuel, and back to Enterprise to continue the war.

The other G Car pilots flew into the evening dark to recover the bodies and the stops, but it was a subdued camp that night as everyone wondered who might me next to make the supreme sacrifice.

The Scouts  made  a request for the SB officer from Enterprise and Major Pat Armstrong to urgently travel to the Selous Scouts HQ at the Borrowdale club to discuss further information his men on the ground have in regard to insurgents that have gone into Salisbury itself. It is almost dark so Pat and the SB Officer drove in Pats white Renault five staff car to meet at Borrowdale, where over a couple of beers, the information from the Selous Scouts on the ground is married with what is known about insurgent leader Big Brain Chiwanda and his gang. The scouts have found out that one of the targets is Bothashof School in Southerton, the Liberty cinema in Rezende Street, and General Wall’s house in Alexandra Park. This information is passed to the duty SB officer for SALOPS for action.

It is late when Pat and his companion return towards Enterprise, Pat driving flat out as it is now properly ambush time, while his SB colleague hangs his AK out of the window as a puny defence. The little Renault has barely stopped behind the Ops tent, when gunfire and tracer emanate from the area of Chabweno store, for the second night in a row. The Scouts stick has ambushed the store itself, and a small group of insurgents had arrived moments before the little Renault had driven past the store. The insurgents dived for cover as the store was swept by the vehicle lights, and as they stood up after their surprise, the Scouts opened fire. Under the glow of an Icarus flare fired by the Scouts, a SB reaction vehicle from Enterprise recovers one badly wounded insurgent and his AK from the store veranda, and establish that the three insurgents had come to murder the store keeper as they surmised it must have been him that informed the security forces of the store robbery. Unfortunately, despite Doctor Webster and his medics, the insurgent is too badly wounded and dies.

Pat Armstrong and his passenger, and the storekeeper, have a lucky escape.

Early morning and a patrol of Grey Scouts call in from the Southern Mangwende, hot on the train of a group of insurgents moving north east towards the Kunzwe TTL. They recon they are not more that 30 minutes behind them, and the group number 40. Fire  force is scrambled, the paradak gets airborne with the Lynx and heads for the area. The Lynx is soon over the Grey Scouts and ranges ahead of them to try to locate, or slow down the insurgents. A short distance ahead of the patrol, the lynx comes under fire from a granite outcrop, and turns live in the dive with guns blazing to drop a frantan on the area. As the Lynx climbed out of the strike, further heavy ground fire is directed accurately in its direction and the pilot reports the aircraft has been hit and the rear engine is losing power, and reports heading for New Sarum to land.

The fire force arrives and the K car attacks the outcrop with the cannon, while the G cars drop stops and the para dak places the paratroopers in an area of fields about two kilometres away, waiting for the g cars to pick them up. Heavy return fire is still coming from the outcrop, and two Vampires, called in by the Lynx, stooge above waiting for work. Rick Von Malsen calls them to strike the outcrop with their 20 mm cannons and rockets. The Vampires also receive return fire, and Rick notices that some of the fire seems to be of heavier calibre and some of the tracer is red, not green. He calls the Vampires in for a re -strike, and the return fire now slackens, and the stops move forward to clear the area, firing into likely cover as they move forward.

Three bodies are dragged from the outcrop, and Rick asked the stops if they are sure there are only three, to which they reply in the affirmative. The reason for the heavy return fire then becomes obvious; there are two RPD machine guns, and one MAG machine gun, the same as used by the Rhodesian forces. That explains the red tracer, and realisation dawns that this was a rear guard group, holding up the security forces to enable the rest of the insurgents to move on. Rick immediately puts the Greys back on the follow up, and they set about casting for fresh spoor towards the Kunzwe TTL, a difficult task in an area where there are many cattle, used often to obliterate tracks by driving the cattle over the spoor. The MAG was subsequently identified as one taken from a 1 Independent Company RAR when a stick was over run in the Inyanga area about two months before. Two of that stick were killed and the Mag, the radio and one FN rifle taken. The security forces don’t always win.

A PATU Motor cycle stick also had a contact with one insurgent and two local men killed in a kraal line. A liner of AK ammo and two stick grenades were located in one of the huts and they were burnt down. The armed PRAW with Gerry Cleveland flying and Paul Chappe on the gun assisted the PATU stick, but one bike had to be towed back by stick mechanic Glenn Dixon with his powerful scrambler. The other rider, Nico Boer, had ridden into a donga that had about a meter of water in it, and the bike would not start after that. All in a day’s soldiering.

On their way back to Enterprise, this same stick saw several women running away from a small river line, and diverted to check it out. One of the women was caught by the bikers, and admitted there was an insurgent washing in a substantial pool in the river when they saw the bikes and took off. The pool is quickly surrounded, but no sign of the insurgent can be found, until Johan Venter, ex Sergeant in the RLI, noticed a slight ripple under the large lily pad floating on the surface of the pool. He threw a grenade into the pool, and with a huge swirl a man virtually flies out of the pool and onto the bank, clad only in underpants, where he scrambles up the bank and grabs an AK from under some reeds. The PATU men overcome their surprise and he is cut down in seconds. Wry wit Ian Ross comments that that has to the first time an insurgent has been shot on the wing!!

The  Scouts in the Chinamora were withdrawing for a few days to regroup, and some troops from the Rhodesian Artillery regiment arrived to be deployed into that area. They had been given some hasty re training in the infantry role, and were given a final briefing at Enterprise on their deployment. They were to operate in strength, a patrol of 12 men with two SFA attached for local knowledge.

The patrol was led by Lieutenant Ron Hyslop with Sergeant Ron Goatley and Gunner Rob Marsh carrying the MAGs. Alex Jack, Alan Cretin, Dumpy De Beer and Jean Darne were also riflemen in the patrol. They were given a point about 12 km from their drop off point on the Shamva road to reach and establish Ops. After about 3 hours walking, the patrol was alerted to something afoot by dogs barking ahead, and when they approached the kraal area, they were challenged in Shona, and a burst of AK fire was directed at them. The patrol withdrew about 100m and put together a plan to assault the kraal, started by a rifle grenade being fired at the kraal.

Heavy fire was returned, and Rob Marsh went to ground and triggered his MAG, it fired one round and stopped, the belt had twisted. He rectified this and got the gun going, laying down heavy fire while the insurgents fired back in his direction, trying to find the MAG. Some mortars were fired at the patrol, who eventually won the fire fight and the insurgents stopped firing. The patrol withdrew to a small hill and based up for the night, but not before a donkey went clattering by in front of them. Ron Hyslop gave the order not to fire, as this was probably a ruse to find the patrols position.

The next morning, they swept the contact area, finding an unexploded mortar bomb, that had it not been a dud, would probably have killed Rod Marsh, Jean Darne and Ron Goatley.  Many insurgent firing positions were found, but no casualties, just some local kraal dwellers cowering near their huts.

After a short break, the patrol was deployed again for 3 days, Ron Goatley was in command of one patrol with Rob Marsh the MAG gunner again, and Ron Hyslop headed off with his men, including two SFA men in their ragged kit with AKs to the edge of the Chinamora TTL close to the farming area.

During the night they based up near a small hill, and at dawn the following morning one of the SFA got up to relieve himself, and was shot dead, with heavy fire directed at the rest of the patrol, hitting and killing Jean Darne as well. Suddenly the firing stopped, and someone called out in English, obviously a European. The patrol returned the call saying they were army.  A local PATU stick had been based up in the same area had heard the movement during the night, and when they saw the SFA and his AK assumed there were insurgents and opened fire in their usual aggressive and accurate manner.

Somehow an error had been made, and the two patrols had been allocated the same area. The PATU men were mortified, but the mistake was not theirs, it had been made by whoever made the deployment plans. An officer inexperienced in infantry deployments made the tragic error. Jean Darne’s fellow artillerymen attended his sad funeral, with his wife in a terrible state after his death.

The same officer nearly had a further tragedy on his hands two days later, when another artillery stick, with Rob Marsh in it again, were ordered to cross back to Enterprise from the farms to the north after dark. They were next to the Shamva road, about to cross when a convoy of trucks with  Scouts on board came down the road. The sticks cowered in the ditch and luckily were not seen by the convoy, who would have blasted them to smithereens with their vehicle mounted armament.

A mujiba running a written message was caught by the motor cycle PATU in the northern Chikwakwa,  and brought in to SB. The note was from Political Commissar Roy Shupo to the Salisbury detachment commander Masweet Kunaka complaining of the  high casualties the insurgents were taking due to the thousands of Rhodesian troops and hundreds of aircraft  up against them. He also complained that the locals were not under control, and the SFA were a big problem. It seemed Operation Enterprise was having the desired effect.

The mujiba had unfortunately been caught in the view of some locals, so other than check out where he was to have handed the letter to another mujiba, he was of no use in finding the insurgents. The cell system used by the insurgents made sure that a mujiba was not aware of the location of another group other than the one he was with, and in this case, the group he came from was sure to have moved after they dispatched him on his errand. His was able to confirm that the insurgents were having a lot of problems with their wounded, who he said were numerous.

Enterprise received some high level visitors in the form of  Winston Churchill, British Conservative party Member of parliament, and  the Grandson of the famous British Wartime prime Minister, along with Louise Gubb, a senior reporter with Associated Press. The visit had been arranged by Rhodesian front MP Andre Holland as a fact fining mission, and the party were escorted around the base by Chief Superintendent Keith Samler. The attractive Louise received close attention, and even stayed for a few beers in the club bar later.


The SB Officer from Borrowdale , Hans Sittig advised that  an insurgent had been reported in the staff quarters of a suburban house in Borrowdale, and a reaction stick from the BSAP had located him, and in a brief fire fight killed the insurgent. He was identified as a member of the Salisbury detachment, and his section commander was Big Brain Chiwada. An RPG 7 rocket launcher and new AKM rifle were recovered.

On the same afternoon, SFA Liaison Officer Dave Nixon was ambushed by an estimated 9 insurgents while driving his Landrover with two SFA members through the Chinamora TTL. The two SFA are killed but Dave miraculously escapes the 28 bullet strikes on the vehicle and manages to drive out of the killing zone of the ambush.

A midday callout came from the  Scouts still deployed in the Northen Mangwende of a large group of insurgents moving east in the northern Chikwakwa TTL, heading towards the Nyagui river. They estimated the number at 30, and Fred Watts decides to take the entire fire force, paradak and lynx onto this target. An excellent talk onto to the crossing point on the river line soon has the fire force and twelve stops in contact with this group. The Lynx puts in two strikes, and is relieved by a second aircraft that stooged over the area, waiting for targets.

The stops moved carefully in the river line, making steady progress and kills, and then at last a capture, unwounded for a change. He is flown post haste to enterprise SB and placed under interrogation.

The stops re sweep the contact area, and count 17 insurgents, 7 mujibas and 2 civilians dead, and climb back into the choppers for the ride home in the gathering dusk. One trooper has a bullet wound to the arm and two paras have ankle injuries from their drop. One G car has been hit 4 times, and the blades make a distinct whistling sound as a result of holes in the blades. A blade change will be done later that night by the toiling technicians.

The scouts OP calls in again, they can see Insurgents basing up near to a kraal about 800 meters below them, it is now too dark to deploy the fire force, but the Lynx volunteered to put in a strike, and climbed into a high orbit for the scouts to talk him onto the target. There is a prominent tin roofed hut he can use as an indication point, and goes in live in the dive, guns blazing and drops a frantan on the target, a quick turn and he lets loose all his rockets on the second pass. With a wing waggle, the Lynx heads off for new Sarum, and a cold beer and warm bed.

Back at Enterprise, Captain Brian Streak tallies the confirmed kills at 103, a special number and certainly the most successful kill rate for any internal operation. That means another 300 or so have been wounded and put out of action during the operation which must be a serious blow to the insurgents in the area.

His Intelligence clerk also points out that the contact plotting board shows that 95% of the contacts took place within the area identified in the initial briefing. Intelligence at its best, and a commendation to the SB men who worked those many days to ensure the intelligence was correct and up to date.

The capture is Platoon Commander, Salisbury detachment, Bob Bouncer and he has a long story to tell. He has been in the area since October 1978, and was part of the group that attacked the fuel tanks in Southerton, and was in the pickup ambushed by Owen and Kevin Connor on the Mtoko road next to Juru Township. He received shotgun pellets in the leg, some pellets were still there, two other occupants of the pickup were wounded, and he believed one had died later in the Mangwende. He had also been in the attack on the SFA base in the Chinamora, and then in several contacts with the fire force. When captured he was following an order for the Salisbury detachment to move back to the Mangwende TTL for re grouping and re-supply as the detachment had been decimated, and morale had collapsed when they saw the locals voting in numbers.

Bob’s original platoon had been 23 strong, 9 had been killed, and 7 wounded, and that was about the same for most of the insurgent sections within the Enterprise area. He was obviously very demoralised as well, and was ideal for deployment with the Scouts to try to locate what was obviously going to be a significant gathering of insurgents in the Mangwende.

 The Scouts SB liaison Officer arrived to collect Bob, and insert him with the Scouts operating in the Mangwende TTL.

And as fast as it had begun, Operation Enterprise came to an end, but not without a call out to the Msana where a further four insurgents were killed, and not to be left out the PATU sticks were ambushed on the trucks bring them back to base. They de bussed, charged the ambush site and killed a further two insurgents and two locals. All the other call signs, OP s, and troops were all recovered back to base, and 1 Commando RLI, the choppers and air force personnel made ready to leave the next morning for R and R.

The Enterprise club ran out of beer that night, celebrating the biggest success of any internal operation ever, and many of the troopies were already wearing the yellow “100 club” t shirt that had been specially printed. The final tally was 110 killed.

It was a feeling of abandonment that the BSAP, SB, PATU and Police Reserve members of Enterprise Base watched the convoy of trucks move out, with smiling faces ready to forget the war for a short while. The armada of choppers lifted off, turned south, and were soon gone out of sight leaving  empty drums on the rugby field that would need adding to the large pile waiting for trucks to collect them. The small trenches and shell scrapes had been filled in, but the grass was brown and dry where the tents had stood.

For the local troops, it was bask to covering the Enterprise area as best they could as the insurgents would be back, that was for sure. The immediate battle was won, but the war would go on.

The war did start again, in a small way during   May, with two ineffective farm attacks and a landmine that destroyed a civilian bus just next to Juru Township, where local white farmers from the immediate vicinity gave first aid and transport to the injured, despite the danger of being ambushed. The Motor Cycle sticks ranged far and wide in their determination to keep the Chikwakwa TTL clear of resident insurgents, as a sort of buffer zone. The SFA in the Msana and Chinamora TTLs were patrolling again, and did seem more motivated and actually secured a few kills. The effects of Operation Enterprise were still being felt by the insurgents.

Big Brain Chiwanda and his urban group carried out an attack in Salisbury on the 4th July. They attacked the house of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop in Gun hill, mistaking the house for that of General Walls a short distance away. Superficial damage was done and Police reacted to the attack, but the insurgents had fled. The attack was witnessed by near neighbour and Rhodesian cricketer Duncan Fletcher, who came to his front door in his sleeping shorts and his Uzzi submachine gun to see what the commotion was about. One other neighbour received a burst of AK fire when he also peered out to see what was going on.

Three days later SB Officer Hans Sittig, reported that Big Brain and some of his men had been killed in a contact with PATU in the Christon bank area, near to Mazoe Dam.

Enterprise Base was made full use of again in July 1979 when the RLI Tac HQ and a jumbo fire force returned for another operation in the area, Operation Mulligan.

 It was on the 14th July Mrs Yvonne Mulligan, when wife of the farmer on Strathlorne Farm, was abducted late in the afternoon by mujibas carrying hand grenades. She was a large woman so progress into the Chikwakwa with her was slow, and the Motor cycle stick on duty followed the spoor as soon as they could. The main tracks lead North West, which they followed until dark. In the morning they discovered that this was deliberate plan to lead them in the wrong direction, while Mrs Mulligan had been moved across the Umwinzi River into the Chikwakwa.

The Chikwakwa has little natural cover, being heavily populated, flat and sandy so two PRAW aircraft patrolled endlessly over the area in an effort to keep the insurgents from moving Mrs Mulligan. The Motor Cycle sticks set about looking for a needle in the haystack, Mrs Mulligan could have been hidden in any of the thousands of huts and houses, so they needed to find somebody who knew where she was, which was easier said than done.

SALOPS had been kept fully in the picture, and pressed hard for extra resources, a company of BSAP Support Unit were hastily recalled from their battle camp, and deployed into the Northern Mangwende TTL, and immediately started bumping into small groups of insurgents in broad daylight. This was truly a liberated area, and one of the PRAW flew across to give them some kind of top cover in the fleeting and long range contacts that went on until dark. Known crossing points were ambushed by PATU and the Support Unit that night, but other than one ambush sprung on unknown persons with no result, nothing happened.

SALOPS advised late in the day that some assistance would be arriving very early in the morning and that the recovery of Mrs Mulligan had been given top priority by Comops, morale of the farmers and white population in general was at stake as no doubt the insurgents idea was to get Mrs. Mulligan to Mozambique where they would treat her well and use her for propaganda for their cause.

Help arrived in the morning in the form of the jumbo fire force, 2 K cars and 8 g cars, with RLI Tac HQ, the MRU and 3 Commando troops. It was like Operation Enterprise all over again, Colonel Bate was in command, Major Bruce Snelgar was the OC 3 commando and was the fire force commander, Lieutenant Jug Thornton was the Adjutant , and  Captain Brian Streak the Intelligence officer.

Among the pilots were Ian Henderson, Alistair Thorogood, Dave Shirley and several Op Polo, South African, pilots on the G cars. By 7am all was ready for whatever callouts came. Flight Sergeant Willem Joubert was the technician /gunner on K2.

The hard work put in by the PATU and Motor Cycle sticks paid off, Bux Howson and his men captured a mujiba armed with two stick grenades in a kraal line, and from quick questioning on the ground, he admitted he had been with the abduction party for Mrs Mulligan, and they had moved her in a wheelbarrow and a bicycle to the area of Chipangura Kraal where she had been handed to a group of 25 insurgents. That was now so 36 hours ago, but it was a start. The Enterprise SB officer was flown across in a G car to collect the mujiba, and he was asked to re tell his story while Colonel Bate and Major Snelgar made plans. The mujiba also gave out information of another group of insurgents at Gwamura kraal, about 3 km away from Chipangura kraal, numbering 20.

The plan was to split the fire force, half to Chipangura and the other half to Gwamura. Major Snelgar was in the K 1, and Colonel Bate ordered the Enterprise SB officer into the command seat of K 2, and away went the force. It was only 8 minutes flying time when both fire forces reached their destinations and deployed their stops around the kraals. The kraals were mainly brick houses, with a few grass structures in between them, and there was not a soul to be seen.

As stop 6 approached the houses at the northern end of Gwamura kraal, with K2 in the orbit overhead, a fierce volley of fire was directed at them from the windows of one of the brick houses and troopers Mike Elsaesser and Bruce Mckend were knocked down instantly. Gunner Flight Sergeant Willem Joubert fired a long burst from the four browning machine guns into the hut and the fire slackened.  More gunfire was directed at K 2 from another hut, as well as one without a roof, and K2 started to sustain hits. Willem raked the huts with the guns while Ian Henderson lowered and tightened the orbit of the K car. Bodies started falling out of the houses, some stayed still and others ran, with the stops doing their best to stop the breakout on the ground. Willem fired at another insurgent who was firing controlled bursts at the K car from the southern end of the kraal, and he rolled over.

Bruce Snelgar in K1 at Chipangura kraal called to say that the kraal there was empty, and he was uplifting his stops to come across and assist, and at that moment K 2 took further hits. Orbiting above was PRAW Copper 47, pilot Hamish Harvey, who broke into the radio net to tell K 2 that there was a fire in the K2 engine area, Both Willem and Enterprise SB officer could see the flames, and Ian shut the fuel flow, and tried to get into an autorotation, but K2 was too low and took further hits on the way to a controlled crash in a sandy field. The SB officer had been hit by bullet fragments on the side of his head and was bleeding profusely when the three crew scrambled out of the downed chopper, lying half on its side with the tail boom severed by the now smashed main blades, and gratefully into a G Car that landed within minutes to collect them. The G car pilot, a South African was on his first bush tour, and had to be directed to follow the main Shamva tar road to Enterprise and the MRU for K2 s crew to be patched up.

Ian Henderson, who had injured his hands, was so incensed by being shot down; he travelled back to the contact scene with one of the op Polo South African pilots and joined the sticks on the ground.  Major Snelgar noted this and had Ian flown out again immediately with a severe dressing down as to why a valuable and expensive trained helicopter pilot should come back into a contact scene on the ground in a role he was untrained for.

Major Snelgar took over the contact and consolidated all the stops to contain the breakout from the kraal, from where there was still heavy fire coming at the stops and the K car from several of the houses and the nearby gardens, but soon the experienced troops had the situation under control and begun winkling out the insurgents. Stop 2 heard the insurgent K2 had shot at the south of the kraal shouting he was wounded, but could not get to him yet as there was still fire coming at them from the area.

As the Enterprise SB man was temporarily out of action, Captain Brian Streak , as intelligence officer was flown in by G car from Enterprise to get immediate information from the wounded insurgent as soon as possible. When Brian was landed, along with three other soldiers, the G car nearly placed them on top of an insurgent armed with an RPG 7, and some hectic flying took place to set them down a short distance away.  The wounded man had not yet been secured, and his stick and one of the stops had to assault the position and eliminate two other insurgents before they got to the wounded one, who had a bullet wound to the groin. He was rapidly patched up while Brian questioned him and established that this group numbering 26, had been surprised by the fire force and had not been part of the ones that had received Mrs Mulligan, but he was aware that she had been taken to Chapangura Kraal, and immediately transported overnight into the Mangwende TTL. The bird had flown. A G car took Brain and the capture back to Enterprise for further interrogation and medical treatment.

Brian advised Major Snelgar of the information and it was decided that as Mrs Mulligan was almost certainly not in the kraal, the Lynx would be brought into the battle to soften up the opposition, who were fighting doggedly as they were essentially trapped in the kraal line area. The Lynx carried out two strikes, one with rockets and the other with frantan, but return fire continued. K1 had to refuel, and left two G cars holding the fort while Alister Thorogood flew K 1 to Frascati Farm, 4 minutes away to refuel from drums stored there.

A second Lynx was requested, this time armed with two mini golf bombs, a lethal air/fuel bomb that has a devastating blast effect on any structure. K1 one got airborne again, and moved the stops back from the kraal far enough for the safety area of the golf bomb, and called in the lynx for one strike. After the thunderous detonation of the Golf bomb, there was no return fire, but to be sure Major Snelgar had him drop the second one in the area of the vegetable gardens. The RLI did not want to lose any more men on this scene.

A Company, 1 RAR, who were operating in the Mangwende trucked to the main Mtoko road in the Chikwakwa TTL and were uplifted by G car to bolster the troops on the ground. Russell Fulton recalls contacts all over the place with the K car and Lynx very busy until the light ran out.

It was now too dark to complete the sweep, so the stops were instructed to ambush the area overnight, with one stop guarding the downed wreckage of K2. The two bodies of the RLI men were lifted out and the choppers returned to Enterprise Base for the night.

Brian had established from the capture the likely route the insurgent group with Mrs Mulligan would take on their way to Mozambique, and over midnight oil a plan was set to work from the Mozambique border back in an effort to locate the abductee. Once the troops had been recovered from sweeping the contact scene in the morning, the fire Force and Tac HQ would relocate to Mtoko Airfield to conduct this operation.   To add to a sad day for the RLI, the sitrep reported the death in action of Trooper S.M Dwyer in another contact.

First light saw K 1 over the kraal again as the troops cleared houses and collected weapons and equipment from there and the gardens. There were many bodies, mostly either burnt or smashed by the bombs, but from the 22 weapons recovered, including the RPG 7 and it was clear that most of the group had been eliminated.

The fire force, Tac HQ and the MRU moved on to their next task in locating Mrs Mulligan, which came to nothing as the insurgents had been well organised in moving her very quickly to Mozambique, where she was, as expected , used to promote the cause of the insurgents. She was returned to Rhodesia by the International Red Cross, in December 1979, sold her story to Scope magazine and she and her husband immigrated to South Africa during 1980.

The 3rd of August brought the death of one of the stalwart motor cycle PATU warriors, Ephraim Volker , when his scrambler motor cycle detonated a landmine with its front wheel as he was returning from a successful sweep of part of the northern Chikwakwa. His stick has chased down and killed two insurgents with the help of the PRAW with Ian Pringle flying, and this was a very sad end to a fine soldier, and farmer. It was most unfortunate for the small width and weight of a motorcycle tyre to detonate an anti vehicle mine, and the bikes avoided roads and tracks from then on. Ephraim wife Kathy, a regular Police reserve radio Operator and Medic at Enterprise was inconsolable.

Dirk Geldenhuis, the father of Trooper Ronald Geldenhuis, who had been killed in action on the 18th April during Operation Enterprise, continued his call ups with the PATU stick that came to Enterprise and on the 14th August his stick was in OP near Swiswa hill in the Msana TTL. They spotted a group of 8 insurgents near Mutanarurwa School, and fire force was available out of Bindura manned by Support Commando, RLI.  The fire Force deployed, and six of the insurgents were killed, along with some mujibas and civilians. Ballistics later linked two of the captured weapons to the contact where trooper Geldenhuis was killed, so his father had exacted some revenge.

Enterprise base carried on in winning their little battles, mostly on their own, and occasionally with help from fire forces that became increasingly occupied in stemming the external threat to what was now Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Some of the help sent in by Salops where poorly trained part time Police reserve men, who did not lack courage, but were outwitted by the experienced insurgents. One Medical Student and his stick made the fatal mistake of not moving their night position after they had brewed up for supper and were overrun at night, with one student killed and another seriously wounded.

Sometimes the help was impressive, but not so useful. The Armoured car regiment were rehearsing for external operations and did a sweep down the northern Chikwakwa TTL, 9 Eland Armoured Cars abreast, and bumped into a small group of insurgents.  Several 90 mm shells and much machine gun fire managed to kill one and utterly destroy three brick houses. Major Winkler, the American in command, found the exercise” mighty fine.”

The PATU sticks had to now deploy in strength, at least 8 men as the insurgent groups became larger and bolder. In one of the last offensive actions of the war a ten man stick on bikes located a group of 12 insurgents in Gahani kraal, and a fierce contact was fought out in the banana and mango trees surrounding the kraal. With the men on the ground was SIS veteran Gerry Lancaster, SAS Corporal Tony Caruthers –Smith, RLI Corporal Nico Boer, PATU men Owen Connor, Andy Hartell, Henry Birrell, Louie Volker, Glenn Dixon and Doug Fingland. A lynx was available from Mtoko to assist and did several strikes which helped the sticks achieve a kill of 10 insurgents, and the capture of a long standing very senior member of the Salisbury detachment. Montgomery Moto, who was the Detachment Medical Officer.

He was taken immediately to the  Scouts fort in Bindura and handed over to SB for in-depth interrogation. By now it was too late in the war for him to be used with the Pseudo call signs so he just hung around the BSAP holding cells in Bindura until one day he walked out and, as was discovered later, rejoined the Salisbury Detachment and reported with some of them to the Bushu assembly point after the ceasefire.


A mujiba arrived at Enterprise Base on the morning of 30Th December 1979, with a note addressed personally by name to the SB officer at Enterprise. The note asked for transport of the comrades from Mumurgwi Business Centre, in the Msana TTL on the main Shamva road, to the designated assembly point in the  Bushu TTL, north of Shamva. It was signed by Masweet Kunaka, Detachment Commander. The SB Officer, with a four man Police Reserve stick, Norman Carle, Don Bulloch, Jack Wheeler and Ted Willis drove up to the Business Centre in an armoured truck. Very apprehensive and not knowing what to expect, Don having brought along his trusty MAG machine gun.

The truck stopped short of the business centre and the SB officer, AK slung over his shoulder, walked along the tar road towards the Business centre, wondering what the hell he was doing. He had told the men on the truck that if firing started they were to open up and try to cover his retreat. Out from under the eaves of a small store came two men armed with AK rifles, with embroidered hats and chest webbing with spare ak magazines. Masweet Kunaka introduced himself, and his deputy, and after some usual shona culture greetings, requested that his men be provided with transport to their assembly Point. When asked how many men, he casually said 230, and indicated they should come out from the stores and huts, which they did, and there were 230.

The SB officer waved the truck forward to come and join up with him, and it gingerly did, Don trying to make it look if he had not cocked his MAG. Many of the curious insurgents walked to the truck, and pointed at the MAG, with comments such as big gun, terrible machine, chigwagwa (shona for machine gun) they were clearly in awe of this weapon. Realising the situation was not tense; at least so far, the police Reserve men dismounted and had insurgents crowding round them asking questions about the MAG in particular. Most of the insurgents were young with a few older men here and there, and most of the weapons looked old, with a lot of SKS rifles among them.

The SB officer, with Masweet listening in, called SALOPS via relay VA to request trucks to uplift the insurgents, to which SALOPS replied trucks accompanied by New Zealand Peacekeeping troops would be send from Bindura. During the wait one entire months worth of SB Enterprise float was spent on buying every coke in the business  centre, which was consumed by the more senior of the insurgents, once the SB officer and Police reserve men had chosen one at random from the cases and consumed it. The insurgents knew about poison being used in some instances in cool drinks.

The SB officer and Masweet discussed many things, the end of the war, what the future held, who would win the election, and their own experiences during the struggle, where they came from and many other topics that you would not imagine would be discussed by men , who 12 hours before were intent in killing each other. The SB officer learnt that he was called “ Mrewa” by the locals, and the insurgents, as the Shona language  he spoke was typical of the dialect in that particular area.

The trucks arrived, with two land rovers each carrying 4 New Zealand soldiers in each, along with two ZANLA liaison officers clad in green uniforms. After much greeting, the trucks were loaded and the convoy headed off into the gathering dusk towards Shamva. It was a somewhat bewildered truckload that trundled their way back to Enterprise and a much needed cold beer.


Enterprise base kept operating until the end of April 1980, but with reduced manpower as the area quietened down, but it was not all over yet. Normal farming activity had resumed, and much rebuilding had to be done, especially to the farm labourers housing that had been reduced to ashes on many farms.

The biggest threat now was retributions being carried out by the ZANLA comrades, supposedly being restricted to camps, but in reality moving about fully armed. Grazeley Farm, on the Enterprise –Goromonzi boundary was purchased by ZANU PF and somewhere around 100 “comrades “were placed there. They occupied the farm buildings and set them  up as a fully defended military camp.

Reports started to come out that it was a re-education centre, where the comrade’s enemies were taken and basically tortured and slaughtered. BSAP Goromonzi, led by S/O Keith Norton organised an armed patrol to investigate a report of murder there, and had to withdraw under heavy machine gun fire from Grazeley Farm. A plan was made with the PATU sticks to take the farm out, with help from the air force, but word leaked to the BSAP hierarchy, who ordered that NO action was to be taken.

During late January 1980, Farmer Geoff Staunton went to his farm store to investigate a report of men taking goods from it during the afternoon, and was confronted by 5 fully armed Zanla comrades. They were assaulting the store keeper, and when he remonstrated with them, they beat him senseless with rifle butts. Enterprise Base troops reacted, Geoff was taken to hospital, and the comrades were followed to the area of Grazeley farm, but the troops were ordered not to proceed by Salops. Geoff died two days later of his injuries. His wife Beryl had also been a stalwart of the Police reserve ladies in the control room.

In February 1980, Farmer Louie Volker, his wife and wife’s mother were murdered by comrades on their farm Mashona Vlei close to Grazeley farm. It was a full farm attack by 8 comrades who fired some 700 rounds at the house and occupants, and escaped back to the untouchable Grazeley farm.

One farmer did manage to do some damage to the comrades, he rigged his workshop with grenades and when 3 men arrived and opened the door, two were killed and the other fled. The BSAP report recorded that ZANLA men had broken into the workshop and one of the grenades they were carrying exploded, killing them.

Two internal Affairs men from Mudzi drove down the Mtoko Road in a drunken state shooting at any black people along the way with a mounted machine gun, killing and injuring several. They were followed by an Air force helicopter and eventually stopped and arrested in Mrewa. The stress levels had started to seriously tell on many people.

The Grazeley Comrades indignantly demanded the BSAP investigate a land mine they located on the access road to the farm one Sunday morning. The local BSAP refused, and ignored an order from Police general headquarters to carry out the investigation.

Intimidation before and  during the Election was wide spread, and Enterprise SB along with the District Commissioner Goromonzi, Peter Lombard produced an extensive report detailing many instances of brutal and blatant intimidation carried out in the area, including two murders. It was ignored by the authorities, at that the time under the British Governor, Lord Soames.

A few days before the election, Police reservist Robin MacIntosh visited the BSAP armoury in Salisbury, ostensibly looking for ammo belts for the mounted Browning machine gun on one of the Enterprise trucks. There was much nervous anticipation about the election outcome, and rumours of coups and attacks on farms and bases if the result went the wrong or right way, depending on your viewpoint, abounded. Robin managed to secretly load 5000 rounds of ammunition and calmly drove out with it and major bolster to the defence of the Enterprise district and its farmers.

An irate BSAP officer from the armoury arrived at Enterprise the next day, demanding the arrest of Robin and the return of the ammunition. He went away without Robin or the ammunition, the mood of the Enterprise men was not going to tolerate desk bound store keepers at this point.

The election came, and went. Nervous tension was piano wire tight on all sides, but as history has recorded a degree of calm slowly descended in the area. As security improved, the farmers handed in their communist weaponry and retained their issue FNs and other Police weapons, and went back to their normal activities. The Enterprise Club slowly returned to its proper function, and almost as a response to the relief of the war being over, the club blossomed. Golf, cricket, Rugby, Bowls, Tennis and squash thrived as the locals took the energy they had spent on fighting the war, and released it into their leisure activities. The bar continued to do a roaring trade, but with a more genteel patronage.

And so the locals got on with life, the members of the base who were not local, drifted off slowly, some continued to come to the club for years afterwards, others went back to their homes and jobs in Salisbury and other towns and cities, but whenever two or more of the Enterprise base members meet again, the discussion turns to Operation Enterprise, and what would have happened had the Battle for Salisbury not been won?


Thanks to Ken for sharing his memories and photograph with ORAFs.

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