Monday, 15 February 2010

Rhodesia History Summary

Lest We Forget

I make this apology in advance: I am writing this summary almost completely from memory of what happened and apologize if there are any errors of fact herein. At the age of 84 years my memory must be suspect. I make no direct reference to any source or publication, hence there is no bibliography. I also apologize for some of the contents which may seem to be blowing my own trumpet after all these years. I include them simply because I sincerely believe that they were a small part of Rhodesia’s resistance.

Where does one start? Where does history start? For the purpose of this summary I have chosen to start at what I think to be a salient political event in the history of this southern African jewel: the 1890s’ so-called First Chimurenga after the chartered BSA Company had raised the British flag in Salisbury in 1890.

Cecil John Rhodes and his friend Leander Starr Jameson were prime movers in the establishment of Rhodesia. The country got its name from the former. The latter was the star (pun intended) of the failed and infamous Jameson Raid into the Transvaal Republic.

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The Rebellions/ First Chimurenga

Whatever is thought of the crushing of the Rebellions, both Shona and Matabele, the fact is that the white settlers established their right to govern by occupation as per the Rudd Concession and by conquest, means recognized by international authorities for centuries.

Moreover, the new white authorities brought peace to the country by preventing the annual raids by the Matabele tribe on the Shona peoples and the slaughter of young men and the abduction of young women. One could describe this as a Pax Rhodesiana.

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BSA Company Administration up to 1922

The Charter Company was the recognized authority up to 1922 but the British Government took more and more responsibility from about 1918 onwards. More and more land was sold to farmers as time went by. It was realized by the Administration that a gold bonanza was not to be and the emphasis changed to agriculture. Meanwhile the sleeping sickness problem was slowly brought under control and the war against malaria was also being won. The white population grew slowly.

It is common knowledge that the indigenous population in 1890 did not exceed 500,000 and was probably less than that. But the introduction by the whites to western disease prevention measures, coupled with the Pax Rhodesiana, changed that considerably. The black population grew quickly. Black readers all over the world please note: white colonial settlers did them much more good than harm.

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South Africa 1910

Was the Act bringing about the union of two Boer Republics and two British Colonies a MISTAKE? In my opinion it was a major political error and had adverse long term consequences for the whole southern African region. A federal solution, advocated by many in Natal, would have been a much better resolution of the political situation. But Generals Botha and Smuts, plus Alfred Lord Milner and his successors in office, were adamant that a UNION was the answer. John X Merriman of the Cape Colony also agreed. Another serious MISTAKE was that the needs and wishes of the Zulu and Xhosa kings and Paramount Chiefs were not sought and were totally ignored. This led to the birth of the African National Congress in 1912. But that’s another story. Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho were also not considered in the political equation.

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Southern Rhodesia 1922

In 1922 the British Government offered Southern Rhodesia the choice of responsible government within the British Empire or joining South Africa as a fifth province, also still then within the Empire. By a narrow majority the Rhodesians chose the former and in 1923 became a self governing state with a liberal constitution allowing universal suffrage with minor voting caveats and with a couple of legal aspects remaining with the British Government. Was this a MISTAKE? It is my considered and steadfast opinion that the vote would have gone the other way if South Africa had had a federal constitution. Fast forward to 1948.

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South Africa 1948

By manipulating constituencies’ voting numbers, the National Party won the 1948 general elections in South Africa. If the Rhodesians had voted the other way in 1922, this would not have happened. South Africa would have remained a dominion in the British Commonwealth, a status granted by the British by legislation in 1934, after major elements of the two main parties in South Africa fused in 1932. The concept of apartheid was a major political factor during the rule of the National Party. It was a rallying force for the Afrikaans community.

The Prime Minister, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, was caught off guard or bamboozled when the constituency boundaries were determined for the 1948 election. Moreover, expectations of many soldiers who had returned from the war in Egypt and Italy were not realized in the post war economic conditions. Smuts lost his own constituency of Standerton in the election. The National Party commenced its 46 year rule of South Africa and changed the country into a Republic in 1961. The opposition in Parliament finally dwindled down to one member!

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Southern Rhodesia in the 1930s

The 1930s were hard times for Rhodesians. In this they were not alone, of course. But without aid they managed their political, economic and social affairs very well. Many whites were unemployed. The Government went the infrastructure route and employed many of the unemployed as labourers building strip tarmac roads to somewhere. These labourers were paid one shilling a day plus rations. Strip roads were an innovation peculiar to Rhodesia. Many were not replaced until well into the 60s. In their time they were a boon to motorists. I think that there are still some remnants.

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Southern Rhodesia 1939 to 1945

Southern Rhodesia made a tremendous contribution to the British war effort – per capita more than any other Commonwealth country. In terms of manpower, the Rhodesians had to introduce conscription in order to stop the flow of volunteers into the armed services. This has been pointed out many times since to successive British Governments. I cannot recall that it was ever publicly acknowledged by the British politicians in office after 1960. In terms of other military assistance, the British were able to establish seven RAF stations in Southern Rhodesia. These were at Kumalo, Heany, Thornhill, Belvedere, Guinea Fowl, Induna and Cranborne. Hundreds of air crew were trained in a country far removed from Nazi bombers and speaking the same language.

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Southern Rhodesia 1953

During the period 1946 to 1952, Southern Rhodesia was slowly recovering from the effects on the economy of six years of war. The Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins, had for some time promoted joining with Northern Rhodesia (still a British Protectorate) to form Rhodesia. His dream was supported by Sir Roy Welensky who represented the interests of non-ethnic residents in Northern Rhodesia. There is no doubt that the mining wealth of the Copperbelt on the border of Belgian Congo was an attraction to the Southern Rhodesians but the overwhelming motive was political and hugely influenced by the idea of a massive hydro-electric power station at Kariba on the Zambezi, the border between the Rhodesia's. Britain jumped on the bandwagon, as she was trying to find a way to rid herself of responsibility for the northern Territories. The concept of a federation between Northern and Southern Rhodesia was made conditional by the British on the inclusion of Nyasaland. The people of Southern Rhodesia reluctantly accepted this state of affairs and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland came into being in 1953. A long trial period of ten years was agreed to, it having been accepted by all parties that the political adventure would be reviewed towards the end of the ten years.

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The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland 1953 to 1963

The coming into being of the Federation had almost immediate positive effects on the Rhodesian economy. The country entered a boom period and immigration from the United Kingdom and South Africa sky rocketed. The Army and the Air Force grew in tandem and were very well officered and trained. Southern Rhodesia had for years had an efficient civil service. It was somewhat large for the country at the time so was able to create an instant civil service for the Federation without any great problem. The police force in Southern Rhodesia had been going since 1890. It operated with the title British South Africa Police (BSA Police) and was a splendid Force, well trained, multi-racial and extremely efficient. Special Branch operatives covered the country. The Northern Rhodesia Police was also an efficient organization and I remember clearly that their communications section was particularly good. I have no reason to believe that the Nyasaland Police Force was any less efficient. The (British) Colonial Service provided the bulk of the northern Territories’ civil servants.

The Southern Rhodesians also had a very effective Internal Affairs set up. The Provinces were headed by experienced Provincial Commissioners and were divided into districts. District Commissioners ruled their Districts with great understanding for the multitude of black people who were within their boundaries. I believe that there were times when a District Officer was about the only white within a radius of 50 miles. The black messengers who served them were loyal servants of the country.

Nyasaland remained a problem. Black politicians, notably Hastings Banda of Nyasaland and Kenneth Kaunda of Northern Rhodesia, seeking power for the sake of black power, were vociferous in their demands for the disbandment of the Federation and for independence for Malawi and Zambia. The financial attractions of black civil services and personal aggrandizement were factors, too.

The review process started in 1959/1960 with Richard Lord Monckton as Chairman of the Royal Commission set up to determine the feelings of the various parties. Banda had been arrested and imprisoned early in 1959. British politicians, led by Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister, spoke with forked tongues. In January 1960 Macmillan made his famous “Winds of change” speech in the South African Parliament. I am not going to indulge in a blow-by-blow (pun intended) account of the reactions of all individual political role players. Sir Garfield Todd, an ultra liberal politician, succeeded Huggins as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. At one stage he was the only one in Government, his supporters in Parliament having deserted him. This forced him to resign. He was followed in office by Sir Edgar Whitehead, (a bachelor) and also a liberal. White Rhodesians became more and more disenchanted. Indeed, some became what the Afrikaners call “gatvol”.

In 1961 the Southern Rhodesia Government signed a constitutional agreement with the ANC’s Joshua Nkomo, the only black leader and politician of any note at that time. I think that the Commonwealth Secretary, who crafted the agreement, was Duncan Sandys. This development would have led to black majority rule in Southern Rhodesia about ten years later, with a strong opposition in place. The time frame was designed for black politicians to learn the art and practice of governance.

Leopold Takawira, the ANC’s representative in London, influenced by the Anti Apartheid Movement (AAM), objected and Nkomo flew to London to bring him to heel. The AAM and starry- eyed white liberals were successful in persuading Nkomo to renege on his agreement and the political fat was in the fire in Salisbury. The Dominion Party (all white) had been formed under the leadership of Winston Field and won the elections in 1962. This party later became the Rhodesian Front under Ian Smith. Before he died, Nkomo conceded that he had made a big MISTAKE in 1961. The opportunity for peace with some honour was lost.

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The Demise of the Federation 1963/ Victoria Falls Conference December 1963

The Monckton Commission, by a majority of votes, determined that the Federation should be disbanded at the end of ten years. This was vociferously opposed by the Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky and others. Black political leaders in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were equally vehement that the Federation should be disbanded and independence granted to their countries.

The Southern Rhodesia position was that the demise of the Federation was dependent upon the granting of full independence to her by Britain at least before or at the same time as independence was granted to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I believe that there is undeniable evidence that RAB Butler, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, gave verbal assurances that this would happen, on one occasion to Desmond Lardner-Burke and also at the opening of the Victoria Falls Conference to Field and Smith. Southern Rhodesia had indicated that it would not attend the Break-up Conference unless this assurance was given by Britain. The Rhodesians wanted this assurance in writing but Butler and Macmillan managed to fudge the issue and the Rhodesians duly attended. This turned out to be a fatal MISTAKE.

By that time the Rhodesians should surely have realized that the British Tory Government could not be trusted and the request for a written assurance should have been made an implacable demand. Nevertheless, Butler’s hypocrisy was a shame and an infamy. The Tories in Britain will ever be remembered for this perfidious behaviour. Rhodesia, demonstrably the most loyal ‘member’ of the British Commonwealth of Nations, was betrayed by the country that was responsible for her existence. Perfidious Albion as the French had previously accused the British. But it had become almost universally Politically Correct (PC) to support black political and financial demands in Africa and elsewhere. The truth was a sorry victim of political circumstance.

The Soviet Union made no secret of its support for black demands, unreasonable or reasonable. China likewise. Thus did Rhodesia become a political football on the world stage. What was worse was that Russia and China gave military and ideological training to hundreds if not thousands of black Rhodesians.

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Southern Rhodesia 1964 to 1965

At this point, I should mention that the senior officers of the BSA Police, the Southern Rhodesia Army (SR Army), the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF) and the head of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) formed an organization known as the Operations Co-ordinating Committee (OCC), a potentially powerful group of men, which had its first meeting in March 1964 to consider the strike at Wankie Colliery and dispatch a company of men to quell the disturbance.

In April 1964 Winston Field was replaced by Ian Smith as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. I am not aware that intimate details of this change have ever been made public. I suspect that the Party was hugely dissatisfied with the outcome of the Victoria Falls Conference as Field had not insisted on a written assurance from Butler that Southern Rhodesia would be granted full independence before or at least at the same time as independence was accorded to the first of the northern territories. Smith was (correctly) seen as the stronger character.

1964 was also an election year in Britain. The Tories were afraid that if they acceded to Rhodesia’s demand, this might scuttle their chances in the election. Northern Rhodesia was granted independence in October 1964 and became Zambia with Kenneth Kaunda as President. These political steps were in vain and the Labour Party came into power by a small majority with Harold Wilson as the Prime Minister. The two main parties both made it clear that majority rule in Southern Rhodesia was a condition for independence. I believe the majority of Tory Party ordinary members did not agree. The minority Liberal Party, then known as the Whigs, supported the main Party leaders in this regard. The Labour Party adopted the slogan NIBMAR – No Independence Before Majority African Rule. Not surprisingly, the electorate in Rhodesia became more and more anti the British Government.

Negotiations with Wilson continued in 1965 with both sides strongly maintaining their major standpoints. The verbal assurances given by the previous Government could not be used as strong political weapons against the Labour Party Government. Smith threatened a unilateral declaration which Wilson tried his best to parry, by appearing on Rhodesian television in an appeal to the people of Rhodesia not to support Smith if he carried out his threat. His largely white audience was in no mood to respond to an appeal for what would have amounted to political mutiny, or to have any thought of a political/ military coup. The UDI die was cast and was duly declared by Smith and his Cabinet at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1965. The timing was deliberate. It coincided with the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

The declaration closely followed the wording of the American Declaration in 1776. The US Administration was, however, not persuaded thereby and expressed support for the British Government. The Americans had a special relationship with Britain dating back to World War II. America was, I think, also the only “English”-speaking country outside of the Commonwealth. The last sentence of the Rhodesian Declaration was an expression of loyalty to the Queen of the Commonwealth. Every white Rhodesian that I know of certainly supported that, but many were against UDI.

The General Officer Commanding the Southern Rhodesia Army, Maj Gen John Anderson, together with three or four officers from Army Headquarters, hurried off in full combat uniform and armed, to interview the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and demand a warrant to arrest Smith for treason. He was refused even though the Governor was also anti UDI and anti Smith. Anderson consequently resigned and left Rhodesia. The Governor, who was the titular head of the armed forces, advised the military leadership to obey the Government but remain apolitical.

Anderson was succeeded by Maj Gen ‘Sam’ Putterill who was about as apolitical as they came at the time. After he had served his term as GOC, he became involved in politics and was quite a leading light in the Centre Party when it was operating as a weak political opposition in Rhodesia. This party lacked credible political significance and clout. Putterill was succeeded as GOC by Maj Gen Keith Coster who was elevated to Lt Gen not long after, as far as I can remember.

The OCC of late 1965 met secretly several times at night to consider its position and the unfolding events in the political sphere. I am not aware of any of its decisions but do know that the Director of Intelligence, Ken Flower, was very anti UDI. His influence in the Committee was exceedingly strong and remained so for all of its existence. Incidentally, Flower was born in Aliwal North, Northern Cape. His father, a Presbyterian Minister, officiated at my parents’ wedding in 1921.

Routine OCC meetings were also held and the proceedings properly minuted.

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Rhodesia 1965 to 1970

Gibbs remained in Government House for some time before he eventually capitulated and went back to his farm in Matabeleland. He was highly respected by all who knew him and was the first Rhodesian by birth to be appointed Governor. His office was taken over by a person entitled Officer Administering the Government.

Contingency military and other plans were made by the Rhodesian authorities. A State of Emergency was declared by the Governor prior to UDI and this was renewed every year until some time in the 80s. Petrol rationing was introduced in the face of an oil embargo. White Rhodesians were resilient and many adopted a defiant attitude. I remember a car sticker which read: ‘Wilson is a pawpaw’. Negotiations with Wilson (often just talks about talks) continued, directly and indirectly. British terms offered at the Tiger and Fearless talks were turned down. These talks were on British warships and were named after the vessels concerned. The Rhodesian Cabinet maintained that it could not make any more concessions regarding a constitution and time frame.

Wilson’s government established a radio station in Francistown, Botswana near Rhodesia’s south western border. This station broadcast anti Rhodesian propaganda and was certainly also a cover for a radio interception service. Some time in 1966 I was traveling by road from Bulawayo where I was stationed, to Salisbury. I noted that the Post Office final radio relay antenna was pointed directly towards Francistown and on my arrival in Salisbury related my concern to the Director of Signals (D Sigs) at Army HQ. D Sigs duly passed this info and concern on to the Intelligence authorities and a directive was sent out to all ministries and departments to request a land line when using the telephone between Salisbury and Bulawayo. I do not believe that it was a coincidence that the Francistown station closed down shortly after. Obviously, high frequency radio communications continued to be monitored but that could be done from a distance. Military users tried hard to be careful.

Wilson stated quite categorically that the Rhodesian question was solely a British responsibility. Nevertheless he hot-footed it to the United Nations to demand first oil sanctions and then comprehensive sanctions against Rhodesia. Rhodesians fought back and sanctions busting became a secret national campaign. In this, the country with its main co-ordinating authority being the Prime Minister’s office, was highly successful. Barter purchasers of Rhodesian tobacco, the finest flue-cured in the world, made tremendous profits as they were able to obtain it at bargain basement prices. The barter system was, however, successful and enabled Rhodesia to prosper despite sanctions.

South Africa and Portugal were highly supportive of Rhodesia in those early years. United Nations resolutions were ignored by those two countries. Sanctions could not work effectively when oil and other vital commodities could be imported from or through South Africa and Mozambique. Petrol rationing continued for many years in Rhodesia in order to maintain the nation’s ability to pay. Military aircraft for the RRAF were obtained from European sources but Army military hardware and ammunition were mainly obtained from South African sources.

This lifeline could, however, be cut off by the RSA Government and ultimately proved to be Rhodesia’s Achilles heel as will be related towards the end of this summary. Portugal assisted quite considerably but was beginning to lose the war in its African territories. There were two railway lines to the ports of Beira and Lorenzo Marques so Mozambique was of direct economic as well as military concern to Rhodesia. For some years the Guerra forces there could be contained north of the Zambezi. Some military help was secretly afforded by the Rhodesian Forces to the Portuguese effort. Rhodesian military authorities noted that there was little real passion in their neighbour’s frontline soldiers.

Military contingency plans continued to be made. I was the author of two TOP SECRET signal directives during those early years. In the second scenario I was the designated signal officer of a mobile headquarters which would co-ordinate guerilla war if necessary. Brig Keith Coster, the Chief of Staff, was the designated Commander. We did two dry runs to ensure that we had covered every reasonable scenario. I, personally, did not think that Britain would mount a military invasion of Rhodesia for two reasons: logistics and family.

However, Rhodesia had to take all necessary military and other precautions. Detailed plans were indeed made by the War Office in London and a double-edged invasion was planned – from the north and from the south west. I believe that the GOC of Britain’s Third Infantry Division personally interviewed the British Prime Minister and his Defence Secretary to inform them that an invasion was not on, for those very reasons. Kith and kin considerations would have resulted in mutiny in some British units.

In 1964 the first terrorist endeavour (by the ‘Crocodile’ gang) was mounted in the south eastern districts. This was rapidly suppressed by the BSA Police. In 1967 a large gang of nearly 100 terrorists entered the country from Zambia in the north west of Rhodesia. The 1st Bn Rhodesia African Rifles, supported by the BSA Police and the Royal Rhodesian Air Force was deployed and after a couple of weeks the invasion was defeated. A Joint Operations Centre (JOC) was established near Wankie. The operation was dubbed Operation Nickel. About 90 terrorists were accounted for. One of the insurgents to escape through Botswana was Chris Hani, an underground leader of the banned SA Communist Party and a member of the banned SA ANC.

This had a major political result. South Africa dispatched the first of a stream of SA Police companies to Rhodesia. These were eventually stationed at Victoria Falls, Binga and Chirundu. Their mission was to patrol the northern border along the Zambezi river and guard the two bridges across the river. As policemen they were not trained for military purposes but did pose a threat to would-be insurgents from Zambia. They also drove some military officers to drink.

High Frequency (HF) Single Sideband (SSB) manpack transceivers were used for the first time in Op Nickel. I had forecast a manpack SSB version ten years before and my prediction which had been dismissed by the senior Signals Officer in HQ CAC as Army HQ was known at the time, became reality in combat in Op Nickel. Two years previously, a senior Royal Signals officer visiting Rhodesia (May 1965) had stated in reply to a question from me, that SSB manpack was a “pipe dream”! For the South African manufacturers, who had proceeded on lines outlined by the Signals Directorate in Army HQ, this development was a financial breakthrough as the company was able to sell later versions of the radio on the world market. A solid working relationship with Racal was also established.

In 1968 another effort was made by terrorists operating from Zambia. This was an invasion in the Mashonaland north west area. Terrorist camps had been secretly established along a route in the Zambezi Valley and arms cached in several places. This major terrorist effort was also defeated and many insurgents were captured. A suitcase radio operating in the HF band was also captured together with cipher documents. All the components in the radio had their markings obliterated. The capture of this radio confirmed Russian involvement.

Political manoeuvres continued in Rhodesia. Various black parties were formed and banned and reformed and banned again. Many black leaders were detained including Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. Meanwhile the country continued to prosper economically despite the comprehensive sanctions. I can attest to the fact that ordinary people enjoyed fairly ordinary lifestyles.

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Rhodesia 1970 to 1972

In March 1970 the Rhodesian political hierarchy declared a Republic. I was on the verge of taking long leave to attend to the family’s estate, my father having passed away at the family farm in the Eastern Cape in September the previous year. In the light of my oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, I was against the move to opt out of the Commonwealth but was too concerned with other things to protest against it until well after the fact. My opposition was made known when I got back to Army HQ, to the extent that a leading Rhodesian Front MP was requested to explain the reasons in detail to me. I reluctantly agreed to serve on. My loyalty to my chosen country was steadfast.

In 1971 I was the Deputy President of the Army HQ Officers Mess in King George Barracks in Salisbury. My major responsibility was Mess functions and there were many in that year – a reflection of the normal way society was living. The Chief of Staff of the Army held monthly luncheons in the Mess at which leading personalities, frequently overseas visitors, were entertained. I organized and attended all these luncheons. On one occasion we had the pleasure and privilege of entertaining General Walker who was on an unpublicized visit to Rhodesia.

The Annual Officers Mess Ball held in September that year was a splendid affair. The décor was spectacular, absolutely stunning – we were helped considerably by the REPS, a society of amateur actors and actresses and other stage personalities in Salisbury. The theme, suggested by me, was Beau Geste/ Arabian Nights – a quasi-military theme appropriate to the occasion. A team of six ladies from the Salisbury General Hospital Nurses Home, dressed as harem girls, did the ushering!

In November of that year we held a cheese and wine party at the Mess to entertain the aircrew of the RAF aircraft carrying Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the British Minister responsible, who was on a visit to Salisbury to finalize and confirm an accord reached with the Smith Government. This accord had a major caveat: the agreement had to pass a test of acceptance by the black majority. Lord Pearce was eventually appointed to head a Commission whose task was to test this acceptability. Commencement of its task had been delayed by politicians and starry eyed liberals in Britain who opposed it. They played for time in order to organize opposition in Rhodesia.

Readers will note that the Tories had returned to power in Britain. I had a warm regard for Douglas-Home, in my opinion the only British Minister to understand the Rhodesian stance. I discovered many years later that he was, like me, a lifelong and staunch cricket supporter. I am sure that this was the reason for his balanced perspective. Ian Smith was also a cricket lover. He was a quiet man and an honest politician – a very rare animal.

Bishop Muzorewa, the President of the African National Council, was against it and was used by left wing politicians to organize vocal black opposition at gatherings held by the Commission to carry out its task. There was very strong evidence that the protesters who shouted “NO” were bused from one gathering to another. The Bishop’s supporters won and a golden opportunity for peace with honour was lost. I think the Bishop regretted this ‘political victory’ in later years. (He was detained for some time by Robert Mugabe in the 80s). It was a major MISTAKE.

Terrorists had made several incursions of a relatively minor nature and dealt with decisively by the Security Forces, during the period 1970 to 1972. The JOC system was tested and found to work well. Then on 21 December 1972 a group which had crossed over from north Mozambique, attacked a farm in the Mount Darwin area followed by a second attack on a neighbouring farm the next night. The bush war started in earnest. A JOC was formed at Centenary and then moved to Mt Darwin. The code name for this operation was Op HURRICANE. The JOC was subsequently moved to Bindura.

Terrorists attacked soft targets and did so for the remainder of the war.

I am not going to attempt to describe the Bush War to readers. Many accounts have been written and the progress of the war is fairly well known. However, I will make mention of some highlights in fairly great detail. At the time of the commencement I was Director of Plans (Army) at the Joint Planning Staff (JPS) in Milton Building where the Prime Minister’s Office was located. The farm attacked belonged to the De Borchgrave family. Mr De Borchgrave was a cousin of Arnaud de Borchgrave who was editor of Newsweek at that time and subsequently took a personal as well as a newsman’s interest in Rhodesia. I got to know him quite well in 1976 when I was Chairman JPS. We were on first name terms.

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Rhodesia 1973 to 1975

Operations in the north east of Rhodesia carried on for the next two years. By the end of 1974, the terrorist campaign in the Op Hurricane area had been to all intents and purposes defeated. But a major political blow befell Rhodesia. In September 1974 there was a bloodless military coup in Portugal. The new authorities there came to terms with Frelimo and pulled their forces out of Mozambique by May the following year. The long eastern boundary of Rhodesia was exposed. The Frelimo Government helped Rhodesian terrorists to regroup in the southern part of the country. 1975 was used to recruit young men from Rhodesia. Terrorist groups were formed and made ready for incursions into Rhodesia.

This was not the only bad news for Rhodesians. The South African Government took fright as their black terrorists could now presumably make incursions through the border at the northern end of the Kruger Park. John Vorster, the SA Prime Minister, aided and abetted by ‘Pik’ Botha his Foreign Affairs Minister, approached the so called Frontline States through Kaunda and suggested a political détente. Not obvious at the time, this was eagerly agreed to by the Frontline States and very reluctantly Rhodesia also had to agree. Vorster used military blackmail to persuade Rhodesia. Vorster arranged for a peace conference to be held in the SA white train which was parked across the Victoria Falls bridge. This was held to be a neutral venue.

Julius Nyerere, a failed Tanzanian Prime Minister, was the Chairman of the Frontline States at the time. His appointment as such was a source of great amazement to me. A committee was established to consider the military implications of the détente exercise and Nyerere was the Chairman of this committee. Lt Gen Peter Walls, the Commander of the Rhodesian Army, was a member. According to him, Nyerere opened the meeting by stating that it was to discuss terms of surrender. The meeting was a short one!

One of the conditions of the détente was that Rhodesia had to release all political prisoners, including Robert Mugabe, who escaped into Mozambique with the aid of some white ultra liberals and a left wing priest of the Roman Catholic Church. This Church’s role in Rhodesian politics was a thorn in the side of the Smith Government for the duration of the war.

Vorster also withdrew all 12 or 13 SA Police companies from Rhodesia. The détente exercise was a double whammy for the Rhodesian Security Forces. It meant that the long border with Zambia and the hugely increased length of border with Mozambique had to be patrolled by Rhodesian Forces. Call ups of Reserve Units’ personnel increased tremendously. This stretched the country’s economic ability to maintain its strength to about breaking point. Rhodesia’s political chances were almost reduced to nil by Vorster but fought on despite the unequal circumstances. I personally know of the twisting of Smith’s arm by Vorster when supplies of petrol and ammunition were deliberately delayed and not resumed until Smith gave in to Vorster’s wishes.

The political position in 1971/72 did not prevent a secret military understanding between South Africa, Portugal and Rhodesia. An organization named Exercise Alcora came into being. One of the major results was that Rhodesia had to change its successful military communications system at operational level to a system it had thankfully abandoned five years previously. A great deal of money and time were wasted and there was much frustration at the sharp end. This change of policy was another MISTAKE but was in the category of force majeure at the time. More anon.

This accord of course came to an end in 1975 but South Africa and Rhodesia continued to co-operate militarily in terms of the accord whose name was changed to Ex Oryx.

In 1978 Vorster was eventually succeeded as Prime Minister by PW Botha who had been the Defence Minister and understood the Rhodesian situation well. He restored political and military assistance to Rhodesia but his hands were somewhat tied internationally. Vorster became State President, a largely ceremonial position. In 1976 a fresh incursion in the eastern Districts led to another counter operation being mounted by 3 Brigade and Op Thrasher commenced in January. A JOC was established at the airfield near Umtali. This moved to the city not long after and Umtali became 3 Bde’s HQ.

The start of the Easter weekend that year was marked by the murder of two South African motor cyclists early that Friday morning on the main road between Fort Victoria and Beit Bridge. I had very recently become Chairman JPS responsible for the reporting of the incident by means of a ‘Security Forces Headquarters’ communiqué. I remember that the name of one of the motor cyclists was Alcock (my mother’s maiden name). The SA Police took almost all day to confirm that his next-of-kin had been informed so that I could release the communiqué which I duly did when confirmation came through. Then it turned out that this had not happened and we were horribly embarrassed. Our opinions of the SAP took a further hard knock. What an entry for me into the real fog of war!

A new JOC (Op Repulse) was formed at Fort Victoria which became the Headquarters of newly established 4 Bde. Not long after that another JOC was formed in Matabeleland code named JOC Tangent. Just about the whole of Rhodesia became an operational area in 1976. The war reached major proportions.

Let me depart from the main theme to include some personal details of the war. I include this partly to relate some of my own career for the information of my children and grandchildren. I also make an exception to my statement in the first paragraph of this summary. An account of my contribution to the military communications success is contained in my book Bush Telegraph which I co-authored with Lt Col Henton Jaaback, the last Commander of Signals in Rhodesia and something of a protégé of mine in his early military career.

Going back to 1964, I was then OC 2 Signal Squadron in Bulawayo. Our Corps organization had been bequeathed to us by the Director of Signals of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Corps of Signals. It was totally inappropriate and was a military organizational disaster if not comedy. I made strong appeals to Lt Col Denis Mathews, the Director, to have it changed. In this I was supported by OC 4 (L of C) Sig Sqn in Salisbury. A change was duly made, the first step to an organization that could provide the best communications service to the Army and thereby to the country. Squadron Commanders could at least exercise proper command and control of their troops.

In September 1965 Ex Long Drag was held in Mashonaland to test the operational ability of 1st Bn, Rhodesian Light Infantry (1RLI) which had been changed from a conventional infantry battalion to a smaller more mobile commando unit with increased fire power. I was appointed Senior Technical Umpire. I visited 1 Commando during the exercise to determine their signals situation. It was commanded by Maj. Bruce Campling who had been a student of mine on a Regimental Signal Officers Course in Federal Army times. He had then become the Regimental Signal Officer of 1st Bn, Northern Rhodesia Regiment (1 NRR) and had not forgotten what I had taught him about Very High Frequency (VHF) communications. The signal equipment of RLI at the time consisted of antiquated radios of British design not suitable for our purposes.

The infantry and C Sqn SAS had shortly before been issued with VHF Radios for ground-to-air communications. These radios had been manufactured by a struggling South African company and had four channels in the VHF aeronautical band. Campling, who was a close friend of mine, used these radios for normal ground-to-ground purposes and enjoyed 24 hour communications by deploying a manned relay station, which he shifted once or twice, on high ground. I included his achievement in my umpire’s report to Army HQ.

D Sigs read the report and set in motion a new signals deal for the infantry. His reaction to my report was doubly praiseworthy as he had just ordered a number of High Frequency radios for the same purpose. Using the VHF AM radios made it possible for the infantry soldier to communicate with Air Force supporting aircraft and with one another without carrying an extra radio. Further channels had to be obtained and were duly approved by the Director of Civil Aviation who was the authority for frequency allocations in the aeronautical bands. The A60 as it was called, mutated into the A60 MkII and the A63, a splendid radio which was well liked by all users in the operational areas. The struggling SA company prospered. (Eventually, a Rhodesian company manufactured a radio which operated between 122 and 142 MHz. I was one of the prime movers in this endeavour).

In 1967 I was posted to the Signals Directorate at Army HQ and proceeded to further the steps already taken to revise the organization of Rh Sigs. A new organization was eventually approved (it took a long time in those days to get through the red tape) and its basic structure was maintained, even when a fourth brigade was formed in 1976. A major renumbering (renaming) exercise was necessary then. The Corps also expanded in tandem with the Army.

During my five year posting I also managed to revise the Army Trade Testing system, another time consuming exercise. In November 1971 I was honoured with the award of the Defence Forces Medal for Meritorious Service (DMM).

After a short spell as OC 4 Sig Sqn in 1972, I was posted to JPS as a Lt Col and served there until December 1973 when I was posted back to the Sigs Directorate as Director. As such I was also Chairman of the Joint Signal Board (JSB). After a brief argument with the authorities to whom we were responsible (the OCC), we managed to reverse the decisions made earlier and the infantry soldier and his Air Force associates, mainly the helicopter squadron, again enjoyed superb communications in battle at the sharp end. I was the author of the paper we submitted to the OCC.

A system of integrated communications between the Army, the Air Force, the BSA Police and Internal Affairs at operational level was achieved. This was a great achievement not enjoyed by other military forces anywhere, as far as I know and facilitated the Fire Force concept and speed of casevac and hot extraction considerably.

I had earlier obtained my SA Army counterpart’s agreement. At the time this was Brigadier Georg Meiring with whom I had enjoyed a long association and friendship. He was later to become head of the SA Defence Force and later still Commander of the SA National Defence Force in the time of Nelson Mandela.

I was due to retire at age 50 in November 1975 but my appointed successor was still attending a staff duties course in South Africa and I was requested to serve on until end January 1976 so that I could hand over directly to him. Then in December there was a dreadful helicopter accident near Umtali in which the Chief of Staff, Maj Gen John Shaw and Col David Parker were killed. It was a sad blow to the Rhodesian Army and indeed to the country. As a result of losing two very senior officers I was requested to serve on for another two years as a colonel. I agreed and was posted to JPS, this time as Chairman.

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Rhodesia 1976 to 1978

As recorded above, 1976 was a hectic year for Rhodesia. As a result of the heavily increased incursions, the post of Chairman JPS (following a paper written by me at the request of the OCC) was upgraded to Brigadier level and the post of Deputy Chairman created. I then filled the latter post until the Combined Operations organization came into being in March the following year and became fully operational in July. Lt Gen Walls became the Supremo. In about March or April that year we received some extremely hot intelligence about a concentration of an estimated 5000 insurgents in Mozambique. A special meeting of the OCC was quickly called to decide on what action to be taken.

After a short discussion the JPS Chairman and the secretarial staff were asked to leave the meeting by the Director General of Intelligence, Ken Flower. What seemed to me to be an age later, the JPS staff members were recalled. This was certainly more than an hour. No minutes of those proceedings were taken. Flower had got his way which was to do nothing. It made me think. I recall that I was incensed at the time.

In August I became Commander Salisbury Area and served in this capacity until I retired in early March 1978.

1976 saw a tremendous escalation of terrorist activity. The south eastern border with Mozambique became the major battle field while incursions in other operational areas also increased as a result of porous borders despite the cordon sanitaire in the north east. It was determined that increased external operations into Zambia and Mozambique were the only viable reaction. The Selous Scouts which specialized in under cover pseudo operations had been raised a few years before. C Sqn SAS was increased in manpower and became a full regiment. The former made raids into Mozambique and the latter into Zambia. The world protested. The political fallout was a huge hampering factor and external raids had to be authorized by the Prime Minister personally.

Towards the end of the year, the US became involved. Henry Kissinger, after talks with Vorster, arrived in Salisbury with great pomp. To his credit his plan, with some alterations, would have worked. But Jimmy Carter won the US general election that November and Kissinger’s influence over world affairs waned considerably. The Geneva Conference the following year was chaired by a British nominee, Ivor Richard an ineffectual Chairman. This conference dragged on without any result and the Rhodesian representatives returned to Salisbury disappointed and disenchanted. Jimmy Carter’s role in the Rhodesian affair was one of supporting the front line states and ZANU PF. He was another “nigger in the woodpile”. Carter was aided and abetted by his UN Ambassador Andrew Young. The US Democratic Party 4-year rule was another disaster for Rhodesia.

As time went on, external political considerations became less and less a political/ military determining factor and external operations increased considerably. The Selous Scouts’ first major raid into Mozambique accounted for about a thousand terrorists although only 300 were claimed officially at the time. External anti Rhodesia media claimed that the casualties were civilian. Rhodesia was lambasted in external political forums. In March 1978 Smith, Chief Chirau, Sithole and Muzorewa reached an agreement whereby an election would be held to determine the popular opinion and for a shared power constitution. I regret that I cannot furnish proper details of this accord. For family reasons I regretfully returned to South Africa at Easter 1978 and in April began a new career with the Lion Bridge Group in Pretoria where I started at the bottom in one respect and near the top with no previous commercial experience in another at the age of 52.

I tried to follow Rhodesian events closely. I became something of a boffin in General Sales Tax (GST) which started two months after I joined the Group. I later became well versed in other tax aspects. As Company Secretary/ Accountant of up to 15 private companies I was a very busy person for some years until I retired.

Despite my busy life, I found time to write many letters to the press, mainly to The Star and the Pretoria News. I became well known in the ex-Rhodesian community (and elsewhere!) for my stout and unwavering defence of Rhodesia. I was also heavily involved in my Church’s affairs for many, many years right up until November 2009. Moreover, I served in Rotary for nine years and held various directorships in my Club.

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Zimbabwe/Rhodesia 1978 to 1980

However, there were incidents in the Rhodesian War that were common knowledge. Quite often there were howls of protest from the international media when Rhodesian Security Forces mounted external operations in Zambia and Mozambique.

On the political front Rhodesia morphed to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and Muzorewa won a handsome and very credible majority in the general elections in March 1979. Britain refused to recognize this election and another opportunity for peace with honour slipped by. This was another MISTAKE. Zimbabwe-Rhodesians soldiered on.

There were two unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Nkomo in Lusaka, Zambia. He was an extremely large and by that time portly man and his claim that he escaped through a small toilet window was laughed off by all. Meanwhile Mugabe had established himself as leader of the would-be insurgents in Mozambique. Tongarara had been assassinated in very strange circumstances. There were the two tragic incidents of Rhodesian civilian aircraft being shot down near Kariba. Nkomo, in Zambia, at first claimed responsibility and then denied it. There were survivors from one of the resultant crashes. These were civilians including women and children. They met a terrorist group and were murdered in cold blood. Rhodesians were incensed but the world said nothing. At the memorial service held in the Anglican Cathedral in Salisbury, the Dean, Father John da Costa delivered a withering sermon entitled “The Deafening Silence”. So it was. And it was also another shameful episode for the British Government.

Peter Lord Carrington became the Minister responsible when the Tories under Margaret Thatcher won the British general elections. Carrington was anti the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Government. I met him briefly once before I left JPS. He came across as rude, difficult and unwilling to listen. In 1979, talks led to another attempt to resolve the impasse. Major talks were held at Lancaster House late that year. Carrington led the talks and naturally could steer them in a direction favourable to the Patriotic Front, led by Mugabe.

The crunch came when Muzorewa was pushed into a corner when he had to agree or disagree to a British Governor being stationed in Salisbury. I have it on impeccable authority that a signal from Salisbury telling him not to allow such a move was delayed in delivery, it having been picked up soon after receipt by someone who had unquestionable direct access to the signal station. Muzorewa caved in that morning and the result was that the Patriotic Front was victorious.

Of course, I am not certain who delayed the instruction from Salisbury but I have my suspicions. The gentlemen who could have shed light on this aspect have gone to glory since. Think who was attending on the sidelines. I am certain that there was at least one and possibly two moles in the CIO and they were very, very senior.

Christopher Lord Soames immediately left for Salisbury and occupied Government House as Governor. His very quick departure sealed the fate of the talks.

In 1980 General Elections were once again held in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The agreement was that whites would have 20 seats, Nkomo would have 20 seats and 60 would in reality be open to contesting. In my opinion the results were predictable. In February I had spent a weekend in Salisbury to attend the Annual Dinner of the Rhodesian Corps of Signals, a splendid affair. I had spoken to three black citizens to canvass their opinions about the outcome of the upcoming elections. All said that Mugabe would win a majority of the constituencies actually in contention. He did. He won an outright majority with 57 seats in the proposed 100 member Parliament. Muzorewa’s dream of getting at least 30 seats went up in political smoke.

There was a large degree of intimidation before and during those elections. The British Governor sat tight and refused to take action even though he conceded that intimidation before the election was rife and serious. Black African Nationalist organizations have always been given immense scope. Muzorewa’s fate was sealed. So was Smith’s political fate. Zimbabwe came into being and misrule started slowly. Readers will be aware, some painfully, of the huge mess Mugabe has made of a once prosperous and peaceful country. My heart, which is still there, bleeds for the people.

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Zimbabwe 1980 to 2010

Several important events took place during this time. I do not propose to relate them in any detail but will mention three or four.

There was the shameful arrest and torture of six Zimbabwe Air Force Officers including Air Vice Marshal Hugh Slatter who served on my team as a Squadron Leader during my first posting to JPS. The officers had been accused of blowing up a number of operational aircraft at Thornhill near Gwelo, now Gweru.

There was the genocide in Matabeleland when many thousands of Matabele tribespeople were slaughtered. They were dubbed “dissidents” by Mugabe. The military group sent in to execute this exercise was commanded by Perens Chiri, Comd 5 Bde. Mugabe and his henchmen should have been hauled before the International Court of Justice at The Hague but the world looked on in relative silence. Political correctness at its very worst.

There was the referendum in 2000 which Mugabe lost. In order to try to regain popularity amongst the black electorate he then let his ‘war veterans’ loose into the white farming areas to force the white farmers to give up their land, which Mugabe then said had been stolen from the blacks. Some farmers and members of their families were killed in the process and many were tortured by drunken thugs including police personnel. Appeals to law did not help. Mugabe simply ignored Court decisions. The rule of law applied only when it suited ZANU PF. I

n South Africa, black politicians have upheld Mugabe. They have not grasped the nettle and unseated Mugabe as they could have done. For the first five years of his leadership Mugabe let things plod along while he was becoming accustomed to rule. The country prospered as sanctions were lifted. Some people were saying to me: I told you so. He won the first general election with a large majority. His head increased in size! He fairly quickly became a dictator using his authority to make constitutional and other legislative changes to give him more and more power.

I do not intend to take this account any further. Where do I end? History does not end. We are now in the category of current affairs. I have chosen to end at the hundredth anniversary of where I started. I just need to record that Thabo Mbeki, when President of South Africa years later, also let the people of Zimbabwe down by not grasping the political nettle. Instead he posed for the public media holding hands with Mugabe. The people of Zimbabwe have another long row to hoe.

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The Villains of the Piece

Who were the villains? There were many. I am sure this list is not complete:

Jan Smuts/ Louis Botha; Alfred Lord Milner;

Joshua Nkomo/ Leopold Takawira; some faceless ultra liberals;

Harold Macmillan/ RAB Butler;

Harold Wilson; John Vorster/ ‘Pik’ Botha;

Kenneth Kaunda; Julius Nyerere; Abel Muzorewa (in 1972);

Jimmy Carter/ Andrew Young; Ken Flower; Robert Mugabe;

Peter Lord Carrington; Christopher Lord Soames; Thabo Mbeki and the AU.

I have highlighted those whom I consider to be the greatest villains. I could be wrong.

I don’t think so!

Gordon Munro
A Scot by Descent, a South African by Birth, and a Rhodesian by Choice

PS. I am grateful to Brig David Heppenstall and Col John Redfern for jogging my memory in two respects which I had unintentionally omitted in my first attempt. At the same time I have made a few other minor corrections/ additions suggested by Brian Austin, Bill Sykes, John Redfern and Eddy Norris.

HTML clipboard Brief Summary of my Military Career in Rhodesia

I attested as a Sergeant in the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Staff Corps

I was a T/Maj at the breakup of the Federation. I was posted to Brady Barracks as OC 2 Sig Sqn and was there for three years.

In Jan 67 I was posted to Army HQ as GSO 2 (Sigs) and was there for about five years. During this time I attended Parts 1 and 2 of a Staff Duties at the SA Military College in Voortrekkerhoogte.

In Nov 71 I was honoured with the award of the DMM.

In Jan 72 I had a short posting to 4 Sig Sqn as OC.

In Jun 72 I was promoted to Lt Col and posted to JPS as D Plans (Army).

In Dec 72 I was posted back to Army HQ as D Sigs and served as such until end Jan 1976. I was ex officio Chairman Joint Signal Board.

I should have retired at age 50 in Nov 75 but was requested to serve on.

I then served as Chairman JPS until the post was upgraded in Sep76 when I continued to serve as Deputy Chairman until Jul 77. I was then posted back to King George VI Barracks as Comd Salisbury Area until my retirement in Mar 78.

As a postscript note that I had 3 1/2 years war service with the S A Artillery in WWII and also served with the 2nd Bn Transvaal Scottish after the war, ending up as adjutant.

Thanks to Gordon for a concise article on the history of Rhodesia

Gordon Munroe Writes:-
Vic Walker, having read my summary more carefully, has pointed out that Jock Anderson left in 1964. I googled him – something I have avoided so far – and found a short appropriate reference. Gen Walls refers to his sudden departure in 1964. So there must have been some other incident which prompted the request for an arrest warrant and it didn’t happen at UDI. I was in Bulawayo from 1964 to 1966 so don’t have personal knowledge of what happened at Army HQ.


At 17 February 2010 at 15:52 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Nick Baalbergen. Writes:-

Excellent article and certainly includes detail that us "younger folk" may not necessarily be aware of.

At 17 February 2010 at 16:45 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

John Moore Writes:-

Many thanks for forwarding Gordon Munro’s “History of Rhodesia”. It made interesting reading, and great to think that someone has taken the time and trouble to put his thoughts down in writing: I wish more people would do so!

I am sure there will be various comments on inaccuracies or otherwise, but my contribution to help “correct” the story is that Henry Kissinger never visited Rhodesia: Ian Smith was “summonsed” to Pretoria to meet him with John Vorster, who at the time had been putting pressure on Rhodesia by interrupting fuel supplies, saying there was “congestion on the South African Railways”. At the time we had barely two weeks of fuel.

After this meeting, Ian Smith flew back to Salisbury and that night announced in a nation-wide TV address that Rhodesia had accepted Majority Rule within two years.

At 20 February 2010 at 13:36 , Blogger Karl said...

A neat summary of a complicated subject. I taped Smith’s radio broadcast of the Kissinger proposals whilst at Morris depot. I still have it! For more interesting historical perspectives, check out this link-

At 1 July 2010 at 07:39 , Blogger Doug'O'Durban said...

I joined RH Signals, starting at Brady, in 1975, and found the coming years an exceptional time. I only left when Black Bob took over, but my 5 years in Rhodesia were the best years of my life. Thanks for this erudite, and interesting, article

At 11 February 2012 at 13:49 , Blogger toerag said...


At 9 November 2012 at 21:50 , Blogger Unknown said...

A small correction - the motor cyclists were gunned down on the Sunday night of Easter Weekend, 1976. I was in Fort Victoria at the time the Alcock party (I seem to remember 3 motor cycles) passed through. We declined to join them for the drive to Beit Bridge as it was late evening.

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