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2 Indep Company - 3 Platoon

Northeast Border Area - Operation Hurricane +/- May 1976 - 31 January 1977

We were not allowed to take cameras with us into the army but, at some point I, decided to take one with me. My grandmother had a small, silver, German instamatic camera and she let me borrow it. I took a few shots and they are the square, black and white onces below. I only took two rolls of 12 each so there are not many.

I found a few typos and corrected them and will look for more. In time, I will also add some more photos of other odds and ands I still have.

Note: These are my photographs and may not be used anywhere else by anyone without my permission.

Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

This was the view looking north-east from the water tower where we did guard duty during the day when we were in camp. Our schedule was usually 4 days out on patrol and four days in camp. A flash-eliminator on the end of an FN is protruding into the bottom of the photo there.

I went on a patrol where we climbed that mountain in the distance looking for terrs. I have a letter I wrote home from the side of that mountain and in it I did a cartoon drawing of what the guinea fowl looked like as they flew past us at high speed.

The pole sticking out of the tree was the antenna of our TR-48 base radio. This radio put out such a powerful signal the antenna would burn you if you touched it when it was transmitting on high power.

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Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

The camp had been attacked a few days before we got there and it had been defended by black district assistants who were stationed there. These guys were not much good against the terrs - but once we got there the terrs avoided the place like the plague and stuck to their usual targets - unarmed women and children.

The terrorists had mortared the base during the attack but only one bomb landed in the camp itself. The tarp on the roof, you can see there being held down by concrete blocks, is where the bomb came down through the roof.

We had terrible, old shiny rifles - as seen here in the photo. During our training we had been told we would test-fire our rifles before every patrol - but this had never happened since we went operational with 2-Indep.

We had a contact earlier on this stint and, of the four guys in the stick, 1 rifle & the Bren jammed. The CO then decreed that we should all test our rifles and a number, including mine, jammed almost every shot. The clerks, cooks and administrative staff stationed at our company base, had kept all the new rifles for themselves - because they were constantly subject to inspenctions by the PF morons over them at the commpany base. You see, they wanted the nice rifles for themselves for inspections, and had issued us with the old junk. After this contact, where our guys lost more than half their fire power , those of us with old junk, like mine, were able to return them to the company base and be given one of the new rifles! (Kind of makes sense when you are in a war and your life depends on your rifle). It really irritated me to find out that I had been patrolling for almost two months not knowing that the old rifle I had been issued was a piece of junk and did not work reliably.

Finally, I got a beautiful, new, black FN with a nice pin post at the front. It was so new the "S" and "R" were still white and the "A" red. I had never seen such a beautiful new rifle. It became my pride and joy. When I test-fired it, it worked fine.

The legs in this shot above are not mine. You can also see the anti-tracking "takkies" we used to wear on patrol. (They had smooth soles). We patrolled in short sleeved shirts and shorts and got very tanned.

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Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

Looking west towards the clinic and the Mavuradonna Mountain range. The terrs had shot up the clinic. I patrolled as far as the eye can see to the west - and more.

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Pachanza Clinic

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

That is my FN rifle, my pride and joy, propped up against the wall while I took this shot. I just loved that rifle. All of those black holes are bullet holes and the windows werre broken by bullets too. Yes, the terrorists attacked an unarmed clinic, destroying medical facilities, built by the white government for the black people living way out here in the country. How very brave of the terrorists to attack this.

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Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

This was the entrance to the enclosure at the protected village where we were stationed for quite a while. Again, you can see the radio antenna on the tree to the right. We were stationed here for a number of stints in this area. I remember being here and hearing a distant explosion, then radio chatter stating that someone had accidentally detonated their claymore mine. In our stick I was always the one to setup the claymore and I'm glad I never made such a mistake.

As far as I remember, once we went operational, we only had one accidental discharge and that occurred when we were south of Bumi Hills. I still remember who did it but will not note his name. It was war, we had loaded weapons, and these things happen. Thankfully no-one was injured.

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Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

This shot is looking north west towards the Mavuradonna Mountains. There was an airstrip at this base and it was immediately outside and paralle to the fenc you can see there. It is a pity that this is black and white as, at the time of this shot, there had been a lot of rain and the bush was green. There were low, gray rain clouds here and the mountains disappeared up into them.

When I add my Google Earth shots of this region you can actually see the remains of Pachanza and the airstrip from space.

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On Patrol

Protected Village (PV) between Pachanza and Dotito:

Four of us were stationed here for a few days to protect the black people who were building their huts in the village. They slept here at night, guarded by us, and went out to tend their fields during the day. The terrorists would often attack PV's at night - but only if they knew for sure that the military was not there. During my whole tour of duty in the Northeast, not once, was any village where our guys were stationed attacked. In every case, only villages guarded by black district assistant men were attacked.

We chatted to many of the black people in this village and I still remember a we had with about three young black guys our age. We asked them what they were unhappy about in the country and what they would like to change. Sometime, when I get a chance, I will recount the conversation and link it to here.

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Breakfast

Protected Village (PV) between Pachanza and Dotito:

In this photo from left to right, Tom Whitney - (stick commander, carried FN), Norman Hill - (carried heavy barrrel FN), Tony Price - (carried FN) and out of the picture, me - (carried FN).

We patrolled the region in what we called "Sticks" of four guys, looking for groups of terrorists who travelled in groups of 30 to 40 strong. We could never understand why the local population could not grasp the following:

The special branch in this region told us that the local people thought we were weak and ineffectual. You see, much like Iraq today (as of me writing here on 2008-04-17) our strategy was to win the hearts and minds of the people. We were kind and decent to them and did all we could to protect them from horrifically vicious and brutal attacks carried out by the black terrorists. For example, they would come into a village at night, accuse a family of collaborating with the army, then literally dismember them alive, tearing off body parts like ears, lips etc., with pliers or cutting them off with knives, the husband, being the likely victim. His wife might be forced to eat some of his body parts in front of her children. The terrorists would then destroy their livelihood by disemboweling their cattle or hacking off their legs whilst they were still alive, and often, as a coup de grace, they would tie up the whole family with barbed wire, throw them in a hut, and burn them alive. They would then tell the other people in the village that these people had collaborated with the evil whites and that this is what happened to whomever they decided was a collaborator. So, how do you win a war when you are dealing with such brutality?

We were dealing with simple, farming people, who just wanted to live in peace on their little family farms. They were absolutely terrified of these brutal savages. They could not, however, seem to correlate the fact that only four of us young white boys at a time, would go out searching for groups of 30 - 40 terrorists. They could not seem to grasp that the terrorists avoided us like the plague yet attacked them, their own people. They could not see that when four of us boys ran into 30 or 40 terrorists, the terrorists usually came off very badly each time. The local population thought that, because we were kind and decent to them, trying to win their hearst, that we were weak. So, what were we supposed to do? We could not go around beating up and killing women and children just to show them we were strong and didn't do that.

The army organized demonstrations to show the people that our weapons were strong - and I participated in a number of these. We put up barrels of water, rocks, etc. and blasted them with our rifles and machine guns, accompanied by many oohs and ahs from the people - but it meant nothing. They were still too afraid to tell us anything as, by doing so, their lives were at stake. The army even resorted to doing the following to try to get through that we were able to kill the terrorists when we caught them. Often, after a contact, the dead bodies of the terrorists would be collected together and placed in a large rope net.  A helicopter would then pick up this net and fly to many of the local villages, landing in each one, to show the people that we had killed the terrorists who had attacked them.

Alas, all to no avail. When you know that you and your family are likely to be literally ripped apart if you say something, you say nothing...

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My Tools

My Tools:

 

This was my equipment:

FN 7.62 mm rifle: 1,760 ft/sec, 17 tons /sq inch hitting power.

Claymore mine: I set up every night in ambush.

Magazines: Five of them with full metal jacket rounds and tracer every 4th bullet.

Phorphorous Grenade: I carried one of these.

High Explosive Grenade: I carried one of these

My backpack and sleeping bag are behind.

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Pachanza

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

This is back in Pachanza again. When we arrived at Pachanza it was staffed by a goup of black men known as District Assistants, (DA's). Their job was to guard the back farmers and their families who slept there at night. The three black men here were DA's but, unfortunately I only remember the name of one of them, at front right with his bren gun, Thadios Charles. The black man with the stove was the DA's cook. He ran and grabbed his stove for the group shot while the rest of us grabbed our weapons. (For the sake of my photograph, we are breaking a cardinal safety rule here - since the guys are pointing their rifles at me for the photograph. A basic safety rule is that you never point your rifle at anyone unless you intend to shoot them, not even in fun. We decided however to do it here so I could take the photograph).

When we left Pachanza Thadios asked if he could write to me. (I had told him I was leaving the country to go to university in South Africa when I finished my service). Well, he and I corresponded for about a year or two after I moved to South Africa. I never smoked but he did and asked if I would send him some cigarettes every now and then. Over the two years I sent him a number of cartons of Benson & Hedges. Eventually he stopped writing and I do not know what happened to him, he might have been killed. It was ironic however to me that, here I was, a white infantry soldier, made out by the world's media to be a terrible racist, yet a black man, I met in the middle of nowhere, in the war, liked me and we wrote to each other.

I hate the media with an absolute passion for their utter abuse of power, their irresponsibility, their political agendas and unbalanced and distorted reporting that I came to see first hand when I served as a Rhodesian Infantry Soldier.

The guys in our platoon are:

Back: Vaughn Appleton, Tom Whitney, Swannie Swanepoel

Front: Bin Jenkins, Chris Robertson & Beb Othitis (Thadios Charled, district assistant).

 

Thadios Charles

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

Thadios asked if I would take a photo of him too, which I did. I sent it to him and I wonder if he is still alive somewhere in Zimbabwe today since he was about my age...

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Cooking Lunch

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp:

We were back from patrol here and a group of us cooked lunch together. We had actually received some fresh rations here for a change and were cooking our version of meatballs, you can see them in Tony's plate, and one in Gali's hand about to be dropped into the mess tin on the gas cooker. My good friend Howard there was breaking an egg to drop in the mess-tin on his gas cooker.

In this photo from left to right:

Howard Benkenstein, John Morgan (at the back reading something) Tony King, and Gali Galanakis.

In base camp most of us slept on camping stretches we bought at civilian camping stores. You can see them some on the veranda behind us. The one at an angle against the wall behimd the guys there was mine. At night, when not on guard, I slept out here on the porch with my stretcher against inside of the low wall at the edge of the veranda. Just beyond the second stretcher is a door and our TR-48 base radio was in that room. I am pretty certain that the two people behind John playing darts were our platoon commanders, Lt Mo Jackson & his side-kick sergeant whose name I don't remember.

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The Guys

Pachanza Platoon Base Camp - Packing to Leave:

We were at the end of this tour of duty and packing to leave Pachanza to go home on a pass. At the time we did not know that this was the last time we would be here. As you can see we had a very well-used dart board. When we were in base, if not on guard we read books, played darts, cards and chess, wrote letters home, etc.

I remember one book I read, "The Arrangement" by Elia Kazan. I hated it and that is why I remember it.

People in this photo are from left to right: Charlie Brownlee, Tony Kiny, John Morgan, (holding a coke) Bin Jenkins, Jobie Burton, Swannie Swanepoel, Dave Scott & Doug Scott (deceased).

 

On Patrol

On Patrol - January 1977:

This was January 1977. It was close to the end of my service and I took my grandmother's camera with me out on a patrol. It is a pity the film was only black and white as it had rained a lot and the bush was very green. Those clouds behind us were dark grey rain clouds. These guys were all good friends and I patrolled with them a lot. We were on a patrol here and I asked them to stop and stand together for a quick photograph.

From left to right: Aiden Pretorius, Justin Whitcroft & Chris Robertson.

You can see what we wore when on patrol, camo shirts or T-shirts and camo shorts - (Aiden & Chris) which were actually camo trousers cut short, or in our green PE shorts - what Justin is wearing. I usually wore these too as I had not cut down my camo trousers. You can see too that Aiden had a home-made fore-grip added to the stock of his FN. Chris carried the Bren and he also had a non-army issue backpack. They were all great guys and Justin was one of my closest friends in my platoon.

Chris's dad was a surgeon and when my grandmother fell and broke her hip he operated on her. Rhodesia was a small world.

Take a look at Justin's right wrist and you will see a white bandage on it and here is the story: A few days before this patrol we held a demo at a protected village to show the people that ourweapons actually worked. Justin and I participated in this demo along with other guys from our platoon. Justin took a turn firing the MAG, a belt-fed 7.62mm machine gun that fired at 600rpm. The gun's barrel gets extremely hot after firing a number of rounds and it has a carrying handle on top that swivels. He was holding the gun, and I was standing next to him. Somehow, as he swung it around, the handle flipped unexpectedly and the hot barrel was flipped over onto his bare right arm just above his right wrist. I remember hearing a hiss and I saw a puff of smoke come from where the barrel landed on his arm. He received a bad burn from the barrel and this was the bandage the medic put on after treating it. It must have been pretty painful.

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Mount Darwin

End of a Patrol:

This was the view from a Protected Village (PV) looking towards Mount Darwin. We had just finished a patrol and were waiting here to be picked up.

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PV

Protected Village - January 1977:

This is inside the PV where the DA's lived. The DA's were armed & guarded & protected the villagers who came back to the PV by sunset each night to sleep in relative safety. Each family built a hut around this "fort" and slept there overnight as a means of protection from the terrorists.

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PV

Protected Village - January 1977:

The guys sun bathing here at the PV while we were waiting to be picked up at the end of a patrol. Chris has his civy radio there. Our military radio is on the ground between Chris & Aiden. Chris used to carry his Supersonic so we could listen to it at times like these. Aiden is reading the book "Crash Project." I remember reading it too. I also read 'The Arrangement" by Elia Kazan - and I hated it - but had nothing else to read.

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PV

Protected Village - January, 1977:

Me in the middle there, the photo being taken by Justin with my camera. On the ground in front of me, between Chris & Aiden you can see our military comm radio. It was one of the new small ones we received and was great.

I really enjoyed patrolling with these guys. They took it seriously and we got on well together. Aiden was a great stick leader too. I have wondered for years what happened to him.

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End of a Patrol

End of the Patrol Back at Our Base:

Early 1977
Back at base camp again after the patrol in the previous shots. You can see a phosphorous grenade on my left shoulder. I have my dogtags round my neck there and they are here inside my house hanging on the wall, sweat stains and all, with my army photos and Rhodesian flag. Between Chris & Aiden, on the front of the 2/5's bonnet you can see "Twice" painted. This was because this particular vehicle had, on two occasions, run over land mines, been blown up, repaired and brought back into service.

In the photo, from left to right, me, Chris Robertson & Aiden Pretorius.

When I got blown up, I was on a truck like the one seen behind my head, a 4/5 with no roll-bars.

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MAG

Me with the MAG:

Chris Robertson with me here. I was 19 and I wanted a shot of me with an MAG. I did not carry this on patrol.

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MAG

Me with the MAG:

Another shot of the two of us in our platoon base camp. We were stationed at a PV here south of the company base at Dotito.

Howard

My Good Friend at Dotito - January 1977:

This was my good friend, Howard Benkenstein, at our company base at Dotito. We must have gone in for a resupply. I patrolled many, many miles with Howard and he usually carried the MAG. You can see that he had sewed large pockets on the front of his shirts and he used to keep our maps and so on in them. He was a great guy and, after having lost contact with him about 30 years ago, I found him this year (January 2013) on Facebook.

Road Home

The Happiest Day of My Life - 31 January, 1977:

This was the day of my release from service to return home in order to start my university degree two weeks later at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. During the latter part of 1976 the Rhodesian government had decided to hand out country over to the terrorists we had been looking for and fighting and, when Ian Smith announced our capitulation, my mom and dad decided that was it and, not matter the hardship, we would leave. I started at Wits two weeks after this shot. I went from being blown up by a mine and running the risk of being killed every day in the war zone straight into one of the most liberal, left-wing universities in South Africa. There was no time for post traumatic stress syndrome and it was a major adjustment for me...

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Please Note:

Everything expressed on this site is my opinion and, the photos, images and drawings, except where noted, are my work and may not be used anywhere, by anyone, without my written permission.