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Rhodesian BSAP police uniform

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hi it has the second pattern support unit badge which was worn from 1978 to 1980 , section officer rank epaulettes,the support unit was a purely counter insurgency police unit made up companies ie golf, juliet ,Charlie etc if I remember correctly the different companies wore different colour lanyards my brother served with the unit during the 1970s I never saw him wearing this type of uniform only cammoflage very nice cheers

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  • 11 months later...

Having come across your threads on Rhodesian, colonial, and SAP uniforms, I’m happy to answer a couple of your queries.  I served in the BSAP (and the successor force ZRP) , in both “Duty Uniform” and “Support Unit” Branches, from 1978 to the end of 1981, leaving as a Section Officer (S/O).


The shirt is a standard issue Police Grey Shirt worn with khaki shorts (as shown) or with “Trousers, Riot Blue” – “combat” style trousers in Navy Blue worn in Riot uniform and as “Drill Order”.  The slightly “mottled” material is of a type used in the 60’s and early 70’s, although it could well have been worn later in the 70s.  By the time I attested into the BSAP (1978), the shirt material was different more uniform grey, although it was of the same overall colour and style.

There are, though, a few “issues” I would have with the way in which it is presented.

Rank badges are those of a Section Officer.  I would comment that the irregular spacing of the bars is strange – and not what I would expect of a uniform prepared by the “Ordnance Depot” tailor. Standard of uniforms and turnout in the BSA Police was always expected to be immaculate.....and "God Help You" if it wasn't!  Bars were worn with brass “backing plates” under the epaulette.  Depending on circumstances - for example on "Riot Standby" duties - khaki “slip-on” rank slides (printed in black for O/Rs and embroidered in blue for commissioned officers – Inspector and above) would frequently have been worn instead of the anodised bars and shoulder titles.   

The badge on the left shoulder, a Bateleur Eagle, is the second pattern badge for the Support Unit Branch of the BSAP.  It appears genuine, and is correctly placed on the shirt. (The first pattern S.U. Badge, which is comparatively rare, was a side-on silhouette of a Bateleur).  “The Unit” was an independent branch of the force, with a full time COIN role.  By 1978/9, following a reorganisation from smaller "Troops" of approximately 30 men, it comprised 12 x independent infantry companies (ironically, for political reasons, re-designated as “troops” in 1980) which were virtually identical in strength, organisational structure, role, training, and equipment to an Army infantry company.  There was also a half-company-sized “Mounted Troop”, with the “fighting” units being backed up by a HQ Company, Provost Company (base security and “MP” role) Training Troop, and MT, Medical, and other support elements.

Each company had a distinctive lanyard, in company colours.  The black lanyard in the photograph is that of Headquarters Company.

The medal ribbons are incorrect for the uniform.   As viewed, they are (from Left to Right) the Police Reserve Long Service Medal and the Rhodesia General Service Medal.  The ribbons are upside down – the RGSM has “precedence” over the PRLSM (i.e. it should be be to the centre of the photo, and (viewed from Left to Right) the colours of the RGSM ribbon are Red (Army), Blue/Gold/Blue (Police), and Light Blue (Air Force).  The rank badges are for a Regular S/O – who would NOT have been wearing a medal issued only to Police Reserve members.  

The "cloth belt" with the shorts is COMPLETELY wrong.  It is the belt from the short sleeved Summer Uniform tunic (as per your ZRP Superintendent’s uniform).  It was ONLY worn with this tunic – and NEVER  with shorts.  The removable buckle was also worn on the "cloth belt" of the "No' 2 Dress" (winter uniform) which was virtually indistinguishable from the British Army's khaki "Service Dress".

The shorts would have been worn with a web belt (blackened and polished with boot polish in the case of Support Unit members) or the standard issue brass-buckled leather belt (black in the case of the Support Unit branch, brown in the case of “Duty Uniform” Branch, Technicians (e.g. Signals) and any other uniformed members of the force.  All leatherwork for S.U. was black, for others branches brown - which accounted for the unit's nickname of "The Blackboots". Commissioned Officers (Inspector and above) wore a “Sam Browne” with cross-brace over the right shoulder instead of the “other ranks” leather belt.  Throughout the 1970s, up until the installation of the New Zimbabwe government in 1980, standard working dress for Support  Unit was standard Rhodesian Security Forces camouflage, when we switched to “Riot Blues” (Grey Shirt/Blue “combat” trousers.  The grey shirt and shorts dress order was worn by Drill Instructors in the Support Unit and Uniform branch training depots, and also by Uniform Branch members in “Districts” (rural areas).


My late father (a former wartime British Army officer and later, in the 1970s, a regular officer in the Rhodesian Army) served as commander of the Riot Police detachment in Dar-es-Salaam in the 1950s. I had his uniform, a KD Bush Jacket and shorts virtually identical to the photo you posted, until it got stolen from a “secure” bonded warehouse (along with other items of my own uniform & militaria collection) when we moved from Zimbabwe to the UK in 2000.  The two pip insignia denoted an “Inspector” (standard UK police rank structure) in the REGULAR police.  My father was a “reservist” and I remember him saying that his rank designation (with the same insignia) was “Lieutenant”.  Full-time “Regular” officers in the Tanganyika Police wore the white-metal badge with the giraffe on a peaked cap (I think black, as per the neighbouring Kenya Police).   The Riot Police wore this same badge on a Navy Blue Beret. I remember the manufacturer was “Kangol”, who (I believe) are still going.

The Bush Jacket & shorts were worn with blue-topped khaki "stockings" (long socks)......a standard practice among Colonial Police Forces which we also followed in the BSAP.  Alternatively, in the BSAP, leather leggings were worn with drill boots by junior ranks.

Edited by bsap10535
Omissions & grammar!
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