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I recently bought one of the splendid sets of Badges from the U.D.I. period of Rhodesia - this ended in 1980 when the old Government gave-up and it became Zimbabwe. I will post these as an 'anchor' to allow us to discuss the ninety year history of the Country - I intend only to give a very brief history to get things started. We have many members of GMIC who lived through the turbelent years - and indeed, whose families were early settlers - if they have the interest, let them enlarge on the history for the benefit of future members.

I caution the rules of the Forum - do not become political, or, not more then necessary - and then only in a non-confrontational way. I will state my position now - the shameful betrayal by the British Government of their own Colony, has to be one of the great disgraces of British politics. Having said that, I will not make any further references. Please 'flesh' out the history, the military campaigns, and any personal experiences - with enough interest this could become a long running and very informative post.

Brief History : Cecil John Rhodes set-up in 1890 the British South Africa Company and established his own Police Force for the Company - this was later to become the famous British South Africa Police. The first expedition - in 1890 - was the Pioneer Column to establish possible places to settle. The BSA Company Police with regular troops made-up this column. There are two main tribes in the area settled - the Matabele - who are 1st. cousins of the Zulus - and the Shonas who lived in the area known as Mashonaland. Mugabe is a Shona and they have dominated the Matabele since the great massacre carried out by his North Korean troops in the 1980's - they estimate well over 25000 people.

The original area of Rhodesia included - what is today - Zambia and Malawi. Originally Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The population of white immigrants never exceeded 250,000 at a maximum - despite this they supported Britain in the Boer War ; with several Regiments in the 1st. World War, and in WW2 sent troops and squadrons to support our Airforce. That has to be the briefest of histories - so, now over to you. Make as many threads as you wish - on any subject within our overall category. This can happen over time - but, make them interesting and historically correct.

The following badges are a selection from the last period in Rhodesian history - known as U.D.I. ( Unilateral Declaration of Independence)

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During the 1970's and 1980's, I acquired a fair amount of "time on the ground" in Zambia and southern Africa and saw the political and military divide running along the Zambezi from both sides. The Zambezi River was roughly the dividing line between African and ANC related states to the north, and minority led and dominated governments southwards.

Northern Rhodesia as it was known until 1964, during the early exploration and colonial period was often called the White Man's grave because of the numerous diseases (malaria, blackwater fever, bilharzia, sleeping sickness to name the most common diseases which were often lethal during the early years) in addition to the not so friendly critters, made being posted as a CO, DO, or police officer out of the UK, a less than popular assignment. The higher elevation of much of Southern Rhodesia resulted in a generally healthier climate than north of the Zambezi.

Prior to Zambian independence in 1964, western goods from the outside world were imported via the rail road from South Africa and through Southern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia declared "UDI" or unilateral declaration of independence from British rule not the same year. South Africa supported the new Rhodesian Republic and shipped a wide variety of goods, raw materials, and the like northwards across the Limpopo; Britain's position on UDI was that it officially didn't happen, while imposing sanctions but doing little else to re-establish direct rule.

For a few years, north-south trade continued, but eventually ended with Zambia closing borders to the south and looking towards it's northern neighbors for new commercial routes, Chinese trade, and also the establishment of ANC and terrorist bases in the county. The political situation turned into a undeclared war across the borders, and inside the "Rhodesian Republic" the internal security situation began heating up considerably. During this period, having a South African visa, entry stamp or related South African stamps (security stamps, police checks, etc) in your passport could result in being denied entry into many "African" states.

The UK's official position that "Southern Rhodesia" continued to exist and there was no "Rhodesian Republic" remained the Foreign Office's POV until 1979/1980 when the Ian Smith led government more or less ran out of steam, and with South African support falling off. South Africa at the time was also busy with events in South-west Africa/Namibia and the "incursion" into Angola. Britain's "failure" to actually do something overt regarding Rhodesia is linked to economic considerations of the time, particularly the state of the British economy at the time, and the situation in Northern Ireland. At the time, the feeling was that Britain had some major irons in other fires that required tending, and there was a feeling that doing something wrong could make the situation much worse, while doing nothing might keep the status quo pending a better time to do something further down the proverbial road.

In Zambia, getting military souvenirs wasn't easy and items couldn't be bought in public stores. Americans were discouraged from visiting Rhodesia at the time, although it was possible to go there. Considering the political and military situation there, one had to ask whether the reasons were good enough to run the risk of running into some of the potential problems foreigners can run in war zone situations. Armed whites were usually associated as being part of the Smith led government or one of it's supporting organizations. I didn't get any "brass" although I wasn't really looking for any at that time. I saw quite a bit of Rhodesian "brass" in South African military and coin collectors shops during that time period (I specifically recall one shop in Jo/burg during 1979). I did find a few WWI and WWII vets that served in East Africa, and found several of them more interesting than the usual material centred collector things.

Mervyn, is there any particular direction(s) you want this thread to take from here?

Edited by Les

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Les - thankyou for such an excellent synopsis of the situation at the end of UDI - exactly the sort of details I hoped would emerge, but, with a personal background. I hope you will be able to go into more detail.

I don't think it wise that we try to set directions - the history has been written about many times. What I was hoping for was personal experiences ; historical items ; militaria and above all family histories. If we can follow those general ideas - with side tracks as necessary - then I think this will turn into a very interesting thread , and with genuine history.

I have managed to obtain a good map that shows the boundaries of Rhodesian - and also, the neighbouring Countries. There is no time limit - just keep adding.

Salisbury (now Harare) was the capital and is also the centre for the Shonas. Bulawayo was the centre for the Matabele.

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I never intended - or, thought - that this thread would 'blossom' immediately. I think it will develop over - perhaps - years and will eventually become a ref. for a forgotten Country and it's people.

Meanwhile, here are two relevant medals. The one with Cecil Rhodes head is the Rhodesian General Service Medal. They were named, issued following a set period of time for service - and are now very sought after. The 'Independence' Medal of 1980 marked the handing over of Rhodesia to become Zimbabwe. This one - quite rarely - has a miniature. Although many of the old family members received this comm. medal it was not popular.

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I never expected this post to attract immediate attention. Rather, I thought ex Rhodesians would add when they thought it helpful. Unfortunately, it has gone down the pages and has become overlooked. However, I have just purchased an exceptionally rare item from the 1965 - 1980 U.D.I. period.This is worth adding and may attract some more threads.

This can be classified as one of the more important Civilian items (I stress this as against Military medals etc..). Made on the day UDI was declared only 6 of these large plates - or, chargers - were made. The photo above it, shows Ian Smith signing the plate. The original owner bought two of the six and has decided to sell this spare one. Beautifully framed, I am showing a picture of it in the shop to give a scale.

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Mervyn

I was serving in the Zambia Army as a contract infantry officer when the Rhodesian rebellion (known as UDI) started, so perhaps I may offer comment from that perspective.

(In the UK through Soldier magazine the South African, Rhodesian and Zambian armies all advertised vacancies. I was totally naive about how time-warped white public opinion then was in southern Africa and I applied to all three. Luckily for myself and my young family the Zambians were fastest on the ball, and our life did not get bogged-down in a losing situation further south.)

Your thread title asks a question, but then you jump in with both feet and use the phrase: the shameful betrayal by the British Government of their own Colony.

I am pretty sure that history shows that the British government, which had to consider its responsibilities to all sections of the Rhodesian community, offered suitable terms. Twice the Royal Navy provided a venue for meetings, but the white Rhodesian spokesman never seemed to have the authority to settle the issue.

One got the feeling that there were manipulators behind the southern African political scene who had their own profitable agendas.

What I never understood from a military perspective was why the Rhodesian army did not recruit far more Africans. Surely the expansion of the Rhodesian African Rifles into a couple of infantry brigades would have both helped the security situation and shown the world that this was not just a 'white settler' military operation?

I like reading about military operations in southern Africa from the 1960s onwards, and I find the late Ken Flower's book "Serving Secretly" interesting. He doesn't tell the full story, but he mentions a couple of intelligence failures. Firstly he says that the Rhodesians didn't know how much pressure military cross-border operations (thanks to a lot of South African help) were deteriorating relations between the Mozambique government and the insurgents. Secondly the Rhodesians (or at least the decision makers in Salisbury) seem to have been unaware of the strength of support for the insurgents in the rural areas when elections were held. Those were bad intelligence failures.

However, in the end Rhodesia was discarded by its sustainer South Africa who had her own situations to resolve in Angola and South West Africa. The chaps who had fought in the Rhodesian bush on both sides of the fence then had to watch the behind-the-scenes manipulators looting the country as railway loads of cattle etc headed south.

With hindsight we can see that the collapse of white-settler power in the Belgian Congo (and in Algeria further north) started an inevitable chain reaction.

When Portugal had its revolution and abandoned its colonial policies then South Africa and Rhodesia could only fight rear-guard actions.

Now that I live in Portugal I take a lot of interest in Portuguese anti-insurgency operations in Africa. Not much is known about them but they were pivotal to Rhodesian survival.

I will end by saying Mervyn that when ex-Rhodesian organisations and web-threads devote more time and space to commemorating the black and coloured chaps who fought and died for Rhodesia, then a more healthy and less biased attitude will prevail, to the benefit of all.

Harry

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Harry - exactly the type of reasoned and knowledgeable reply that I hoped would be added. I must justify my Heading - which is most certainly a question for all opinions. However, it would be wrong in such a setting if I did not state my own views.

You are right to mention the African population who fought on the side of the Colony. Unfortunately, the collapse was so quick that I don't think adequate provision was made for their future. Vietnam had the same problem at the end. South Africa has recently taken-in over 1,000,000 Zimbabwean people who are looking for a more peaceful future - and they will be an asset.

I hope both yourself and Les will have time to add to your excellent observations.

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I am sure that most Rhodesians and Zimbabweans who have now settled elsewhere in the world will agree that Rhodesia was a success for 80 years, while Zimbabwe failed after 10.

Brett

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Some time ago I was speaking to a decorated French Vet who served a Few tours in Algeria.

he said an interesting thing.... of course, back in the day he saw it differently...

He basically said, The French fought in Algeria, but Algeria had the RIGHT to independance.

In retrospect he feels that French withdrawl was the only realistic and fair solution, a minority White rule was not defendable.

He further went on to say, that the Algerians have Fcked everything up, top to bottom... unfortunate, but once again, their right.

I know a lot of folks dont see it that way... but white rule in Africa, nice as it was to grow up in cape town in the 70s and 80s... was not a long term solution....

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Mervyn,

A very interesting, thought provoking but possibly controversial question.

I saw many years of service in the South African army and had the opportunity to visit, train and operate in many countries and their armies all over the world.

I also had the privilege of visiting the Algerian Military on a exchange visit.

The bottom-line is that the military support the government of the day and then become an extension of the political approach of that specific country.

I am not convinced that Rhodesia did not focus on recruiting "African" members and I am of the opinion that we are simplifying this statement.

Tribalism played a major role in these efforts as it still does on the continent.

There were many "Africans" serving in units such as the Selous Scouts, IA and the BSAP and not only the RAR.

When it comes to Africa, we should not forget the Berlin Conference where Africa was divided into countries within the sphere of influence and requirements of the european countries involved.

I am back in South Sudan and the repercussions of the Anglo-Egyptian rule and approach are still being felt here today.

I strongly recommend Thomas Packenham's excellent book "THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA"

Regards,

Will

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Thankyou both for comments. Slowly - but surely - we are building this thread-up. Perhaps, now that it has been brought back we

may have further opinions. The title was posed as a question to allow all with an interest to contribute. Mervyn

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hi mervyn interesting question i did not live in rhodesia but spent all of our holidays there in the late 60s and through the70s until independance my father worked for saa and certified rhodesian civil aircraft and my middle brother served with the bsap support unit until the end, rhodesia was always doomed to fail due to the creeping independance of countries further north and the later withdrawel of support of south africa basically becoming a country alone i was always surprised later how robert mugabe a very clever man could totally destroy his country many people who live outside africa dont realise how dominant tribalism is in africa as shown by how mugabe dealt with the matabele after independance just after 1980 my brothers unit was involved in anti poaching operations in the wankie area and at the same time integrating former freedom fighters into the bsap he noted at the time the matabele in the area were petrified of mugabes win as shown by later actions by his forces this is a common theme in most african countries in the end both options have failed i always remember a full page story on the back page of the jhb star newspaper in 1980 with a photo of the rhodesian light infantry memorial with 1 caption underneath "'why""

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Mickey - thankyou for adding your family history sad, but very interesting. I find it hard sometimes to put a time scale on

all of these events. The first exploration expedition was in 1890 and from that point until 1980 when power was handed over

to Mugabe was only 90 years. Yet in that time a complete Country's infrastructure was established and the inhabitants fought

in 3 major wars - Boer; WW1; WW2.

Under Brit. Badges and Uniforms I have started a thread on Matabele weaponry. I added some historical events - there is one

final post of native axes to be added. Mervyn

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I see some very guarded language and defensive or attacking positions on Rhodesia and I do find it sad from an emotional point of view that all those regiments, people and history, with the passing of time fades fast. I can only comment on my thought process an deliberation I went through before serving in the SADF. Firstly I di d not ask to be a white South African, but was. As such and not being of a heroic nature, I considered myself born on the white South African side. I knew black people hated us for what was done to them under apartheid, but as a 17 year old, I was pretty sure I had done nothing wrong to be threatened, and have my family threatened because of our skin colour. I was face with three possibilitys. Leave SA as a refugee, serve 6 years in detention barracks as an objector or serve in the defense force. I have NEVER regretted my decision. If I was born in 1930's Germany I would have fought for them. Politically right or wrong I did not like being told I was a white oppressor of a 40 million strong black race. I was 17 and my interests were Sex and parties. As Rhodesia has faded, with the history and traditions, we too shall fade, but at one time and one place in the history of this world, I made my choice, made my stand and gave everything to preserve the only life I knew. We were 17, you could not kill us or harm us, my decision may be unfashionable now. But am I proud... yes!!

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Which reminds me of a meeting I had some 15 years after independence with a black captain of industry, who was shot in the neck during the Soweto riots of 1976. In a top management workshop he asked me if there was anything I regretted about serving in the racist, fascist army that suppressed it's own people. The room went quiet and I replied " yes, there is one thing" and never being one to apologies for anything I have done in life, I said" yes, I regret we didn't win, I really do." We lost the business two weeks later. oh well.

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