Thursday 17 March 2011

Rhodesian Navy Puts to Sea

A party of Rhodesian Sea Cadets left last week-end for a training voyage in the cruiser Euryalus, sailing from Durban. Here is an account of life in the Sea Cadets when they are not at sea, as told by one of them, a young Salisbury man.

Rhodesian Sailors
Sea Cadets packing in Salisbury last week for their training trip in the cruiser Euryalus.
Left to right: Petty officer D. L,Woods, Able seaman C. R. Morris, Leading seaman G, F.Strong,
Able seaman E. H. Armitage, Abie seaman R. J.Stevens and the stores clerk, Leading writer GL E. C. Collins.

Oh yes, Rhodesia has a navy - or perhaps it would be better to say the Colony has a flourishing Sea Cadet unit in which are the only active representatives of the Senior Service in this part of the world.

The First Division Rhodesia Sea Cadet Corps prides itself on carrying out a training programme in seamanship which is equal to that of the Royal Navy. Indeed, when Capt. R. Selby, R.N., captain of Her Majesty's Dockyards at Simonstown and during the war captain of Mashonaland's adopted ship, H.M.S. Mashona - saw the paper set for the able seaman's examination which the Unit held on May 13, 1952, he told the ratings that it was "well up to the Royal Navy standard." And 20 Rhodesian lads, many of whom had never seen the sea, passed the stiff examination with flying colours.


Who are the ratings of the First Division Rhodesia Sea Cadets Corps? Some are employed, some go to school; some are Territorials seconded to the Sea Cadets for further instruction; some are doing their school cadet training in the unit; some have definite ambitions to go to the Dartmouth Naval College or to the South Africa's nautical college - "General Botha". Others, older, are learning seamanship in case . There are 60 ratings, commanded by Lieutenant S. Burn, R.N.V.R. who re-organised the unit in 1950. The military aspect is not over looked; Staff Corps instructors take care of that. Square bashing and rifle drill are all part of the training for these future Rhodesian sailors.


The Sea Cadets become the envy of many Rhodesian youths when their annual training cruise comes along. They don't go to Inkomo Camp but to the South Atlantic for their training. Three or four weeks are spent annually by ten ratings aboard the flagship of the South Atlantic Fleet. In 1950 it was H.M.S. Nigeria and in 1951 it was H.M.S. Bermuda. Don't misunderstand that word "cruise". Their training is no pleasure trip - they literally work their passage. But these ratings return to the unit in a better position to understand the theoretical instructions which they receive and are more independent and responsible than before they went.


In the 1951 cruise aboard H.M.S. Bermuda it seems that Vice-Admiral (as he then was) Sir Herbert Packer took particular notice of the Rhodesian Sea Cadets who were aboard his flagship. For when he paid a goodwill visit to the Colony in 1951, he spoke to the Sea Cadets and told them of his real pleasure at the manner in which they had carried out their assorted duties aboard his ship. He was sufficiently impressed to grant the ratings who went on this Cruise permission to wear the cap tally of H.M.S. Bermuda in the future - the ratings had served in his ship and proved themselves worth representatives of that fine cruiser. On various occasions when a nautical air is required at any function the Sea Cadets assist.


They formed a guard of honour for Admiral Sir Herbert Packer when he opened the last agricultural show in Salisbury. They again presented a token guard of honour when the Governor, Major-General Sir John Kennedy, opened Lake Mcllwaine - he afterwards expressed his appreciation in writing. The practical side of the unit's activities has in the past been carried on at Mazoe Dam, where picnickers would see the white-capped ratings rowing or sailing and, seemingly, never satisfied with the strength of the breeze. Recently their activities have been transferred to Lake Mcllwaine, where a "base" has been obtained through the Defence Department.


And what sort of fleet has Rhodesia's navy? There is a 14ft. dinghy, a 27ft. Admiralty whaler and three sailing yachts. Now the unit wants another whaler, more yachts and a motor launch. Last month London saw some of the Rhodesian Sea Cadets in the Coronation celebrations. So even in Rhodesia, so far from the sea, it is still possible to join the Navy and see the world.

End of Article

Extracted by my daughter, Denise, from the newspaper "The Sunday Mail Magazine Section" , July 12, 1953) Thanks DeniseNo financial gain is intended from producing these memories.
Apologies for the low quality photograph.
Thanks to:-
My son, Paul Norris, for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail me on


Tony Viegas Writes:-

 I read with interest the Article in the recent Newsletter about the "Rhodesian Navy".

 Attached are 2 photographs of me in Summer and Winter Uniform taken in 1967/68, at the tender age of 13 or 14, when I was a Sea Scout at HMS Matabele.

The Sea Scouts gathered on a Friday evening at Brady Barracks in Bulawayo. We were taught semaphore signalling, Morse code, the different types of rope knots, and many other Naval matters.

 The Sea Scouts were part of the annual Armistice Day Parades.


Further Information received from Craig Fourie

Fished out this old cap i found in a Bulawayo antique store in 1992


Thanks to Craig for sharing this information with ORAFs.

Rhodesian Navy - 1974A contingent of Rhodesian sea cadets recently visited Pretoria on a promotion course. All four are sons of railway men and from left to right they are:—

A. Soule, 15 years; A. de Barros, 15 years; E. van Staden, 16 years and J. Crilley, 13 years.
Source. Rhodesia Railways Magazine dated February 1974 which was made available to ORAFs by Craig Fourie. Thanks Craig.


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At 25 May 2013 at 14:20 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Des McLindon Writes:-

I was in the unit between 1962-1967.Lived at Hillside and used to cycle once a week to the unit.People must have thought it strange to see matelots in the streets of a landlocked country.What triggered this was seeing an article from 1952 with cadets on a RN warship,included in the names are H.E Armitage,he was a PO when I was there.I also have a newspaper article showing cadets at the lake,including photos.The Co LT Hignell died only recently in Australia.The traing did me some good as I ended up in the MN for 22 years the became a pilot retiring this year.Good days

At 31 May 2013 at 14:18 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Cliff Potter (RhAF) Writes:-

At 31 May 2013 at 14:19 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

James D.N. MacKenzie SAM - Southern Africa Militaria (

Very interesting, did not know that Rhodesia had Sea Scouts.

Amongst other badges, and medals, I collect cap tallies and am interested to find out what was on your tally, "Sea Scouts", "Rhodesian Sea Scouts", "H.M.S. Matabele"?

I cannot make it out in the photos. I would also love to get a better scan of the photos so that I can see the tally clearly, if at all possible.

You would not have one of these still? Or know where I can find one?

At 31 May 2013 at 18:08 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Dave Jackson (RhAF) Writes:-

I grew up in Bulawayo and there was a children's home for boys called "St Josephs" on Cecil Ave in Bulawayo that had a similar program - we called them the "Fish Pond Sailors" .. :-)

At 7 June 2013 at 10:13 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

John Britton (RhAF) Writes:-

In reply to Cliff Potter, if it was the Wooden shack at the bottom of the Drill hall, that was TS MASHONA the sea cadets "ship on land" i was a member of those guys as you could do Army cadets or Naval at school.

At 7 June 2013 at 10:15 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Dave Hughes (Umtali) Writes:-

I must say the bit on the Sea Cadets brought those dear fellows well and truly back into my mind. So sad that we used to ridicule them as we did. Quite a number of Umtali boys endured the Sea Cadets then went on to the General Naval College in Gordon’s Bay. I know a number of them went on to be very successful in the Merchant navy. I remember meeting up with a chap who was, and had been the Captain, of a massive oil tanker for many years. Last I heard he was a director of the shipping company that owned the tankers and was resident in the South of France !!

However, I can’t help but recall the occasion at Cadet Camp at Inkomo. We were all marched to the edge of the dam to see the sea cadets in action. They were proudly showing off a raft that we were told they had built the previous day. They then proceeded to load a “field gun” onto the raft. The gun looked like an old ships canon and mounted of very rickety looking and spindly wagon wheels. Once on board the lads paddled their way across the dam to the jetty on the far side. They unloaded the wheeled weapon and then using ropes they began to haul the weapon up the steep slope away from the dam. After quite some time the good lads lost their footing and as they all tumbled the weapon took off backwards down the hill at a very exciting speed. Just before the jetty it hit a bump and became air born. It flew over the jetty coming down in the middle of the rather flimsy raft. A Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb could not have been more effective ! The canon disappeared very rapidly while bits of plank and old motor tubes floated around on the surface . (I guess that is flotsom as it was floating ?) Of course, the gathered cadets broke down with hilarity and the poor “Sea Sprouts” had a difficult job of ever re-inventing themselves !

At 7 June 2013 at 10:31 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Frank Fynn (RhAF and RhArmy) Writes:-

I think age is catching up on some! I don't think these were Sea Scouts but SEA CADETS, definitely the Salisbury group behind the Drill Hall were Cadets as a couple of the kids lived next door to us in Montague Ave in 1966. I think they were from Ally Willy and they had the choice of RRR cadets or Sea cadets! They wore the outfits as shown. Best regards, Frank.

At 7 June 2013 at 10:34 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Francis Heron (RhArmy) Writes:-

Your article about the Rhodesian Navy brought back some old memories. I personally was not involved, but our Personnel Manager at the Farmers' Co-op Ltd., where I worked, a Mr. Ray Hignell used to coach a batch of Sea Cadets at Mazoe Dam for many years. They had a 'whaler' based there, with which they used for training etc. Unfortunately, my friend Ray has passed away, otherwise he would have been delighted to furnish you with more details. It was his best extra-mural activity

At 7 June 2013 at 10:35 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Tony Viegas (RhAF) Writes:-

Dave Jackson is absolutely correct regarding the boys from St Josephs. St Joseph was a reformatory school for boys, and the mojority of the HMS Matabele Sea Scouts were in fact boys from St Josephs Reformatory School.
I will attempt to send you a better copy of the 2 photos so as to assist James Mackenzie. As far as I recollect there was no identifying badge on the sailors cap. The cap merely had HMS Matabele.

At 10 June 2013 at 18:23 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10 June 2013 at 20:21 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Reg Catterall Writes:-

Re: St.Josph's House for Boys: Hillside, Bulawayo.

I beg to differ re the House being a reformatory. It was a house for boys from broken homes.
The Supt. was Eric Curtis and the Matron his wife Ida Curtis. The Sea Cadets were commanded (?) by Lt. George Thomas.
The Curtis' returned to the U.K. where Eric died a few years ago and Ida passed away about 18 months ago.
Want any more ???

(I find it difficult to understand why it takes a error to get people to act . Such a shame.Eddy Norris)

At 17 June 2013 at 11:04 , Blogger Unknown said...

I worked in The Rhodesia Children s Home in Salisbury, where we had babies in the Nursery. We looked after girls and boys; however when the boys attained 11 years of age they were sent to St. Josephs in Salisbury.

However not because they were delinquents, the rationale being that the boys needed to be in an environment suitable boys, sports and not in an environment which did not provide that

St Josephs - Salisbury was an austere place..and the dormitories were like barracks.

At 17 June 2013 at 18:19 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Frank Fynnn (RhAF and RhArmy) Writes:-

St Josephs was originally for the Fairbridge boys who came out after WW2. Right the later boys were not there through any fault of theirs. Many of them were in the RLI and other branches of the army and served with distinction. They were certainly a tough bunch but good guys too! The Fairbridge boys who came to Rhodesia were sent by their parents and also became great Rhodies!

At 20 June 2013 at 17:06 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Alan Bradnick (RhAF) Writes:-

I have read with interest the bits of news about the Sea Cadets in Salisbury. Having read this I thought I would give you some info about the Sea Cadets in Bulawayo. Here it is very strong and is well supported. They call themselves HMS Matebeleland. They have youngsters from every walk of life, and it is commanded by Peter Rollason, a very well known character in Bulawayo. He has written a book, Title: A Man In His Time. I have nor read it as yet, but I will do. These Cadets are used for all sorts of local duties. My daughter put on a play at the Bulawayo Theatre, and they were ushers at the theatre. They are used for a variety of different duties. I have been trying to contact Peter to get some more info about their activities and will update you when I do, if there is an interest in these young boys.

My daughter has just told me about one of the youngsters who was made redundant from Ascot clothing, and part of his severance was an industrial sewing machine. He set this machine up in the Cadet's HQ and makes all their uniforms as they can't get these here.

I will be in contact with more info,

At 20 June 2013 at 17:09 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Alan Bradnick (RhAF) Writes:-

Just an update on the sea cadets in Bulawayo. I at last got into contact with Peter Rollason last night. He tells me that the Sea Cadets in Mashonaland pasked in about 20 years ago as there was no one to run it. A lot of their equipment was sent to Bulawayo. The Bulawayo Sea Cadets were formed in 1953. I have been invited to their parade on Saturday morning where Peter will give me a lot more info. Will advise you on Monday.

At 25 June 2013 at 14:44 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Alan Bradnick (RhAF) Writes in a email to James:-

I received an email from Eddy to which was a request from you to advise what cap tally the cadets wore. Please excuse my ignorance, but I am not quiet sure what yo mean by tally. I was given a booklet which I will scan and send to you. Unfortuneately, I am not very proficient on this computor so I have to wait for my grand daughter to come into my office so that she can do it for me.

I spent a very interesting couple of hours attending the cadets parade on Saturday morning. They were in full winter dress, and the caps they wore were the standard Sailor's cap, with the name of their ship on the band. I said in my original email to Eddy that they were HMS MATEBELELAND. This was incorrect, known as TS MATEBELE. TS stands for Training Ship. This branch of the cadets were first established in 1953, and their commandinfg oficer is LT. COMDR Peter Rollason. He is 84 years of age, and there is no chance that this branch will disperse if anything was to happen to him as he has trained 2 officers to take over from him. These boys and girls come from all different walks of life, and can only join when they are 15.5 years or older, and can stay indefinetly. I was most impressed with there discipline, and their turnout.

At 18 July 2013 at 09:57 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Bob Jones (RhArmy) Writes:

I served in HMS Mashona in Salisbury and was fortunate enough to be selected along with 10 other guys from around the country to go on a 2 week cruise on HMS Bermuda. Beira - Madagasgar - LM. We were all asked what Branch we wanted to be in and I opted for Quartermaster (not like the Army Quartermaster - the Navy one is a helmsman etc) Two of us opted for it and we were given an exam at the end and awarded a silver Bosuns' Call. What a wonderful time. I had the good fortune to meet an ex matelot from HMS Bermuda who had been on the ship at the same time and we had a very nice chat and reminisce about it all.

At 10 September 2015 at 10:40 , Blogger TT Onions said...

My Dad Richard High ran the Sea Cadets in Kitwe, Zambia (TS Kafue) during the 60s and 70s. There is a UTube video of them as a guard of honour for President Kaunda in 1970:
I have a phot of the TS Mashona TA Kafue Shield if anyone is interested. My Dad is now 89 and lives in the UK.
Sharon High (now in Australia)

At 28 November 2017 at 05:15 , Blogger Unknown said...

My father, Bill Neale was part of TS MASHONA with Richard High as his senior officer. He was then made a Lt Commander and ran TS MASHONA when Dick High Left. I was the senior cadet and taught, with my dad, the pupils at Louis Mountbatten school, until we left Zimbabwe in 1984. My father passed away two months ago.
Sandra Neale (now in England).


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