Preserving History in a Time of Madness

As a lover of history, I see it as vital to keep our history, both good and bad alive and in the collective memory. Erasing the things that we consider as wrong or even evil is a mistake. Even now, you can see that the failure to teach things such as the failures Marxism through history is wrong. The things we disagree with the most should be studied in a way that is equally balance with things we believe in a collective society, or used to. Without information on the past and it’s results/ramifications is a route to disaster.

Famed South African, Mr. Eeban Barlow of the famed and now relaunched Private Military Company , Executive Outcomes eloquently discussed this on his Facebook page. With his permission, I will repost it here. From Ancient wisdom to today, people have not changed, only the technology. We are a species who easily forget yesterday.

PRESERVING HISTORY IN A TIME OF MADNESS As a country that has become focused on destroying and negating its history, there are still some who work hard at trying to preserve it. As Cicero (106BC to 43BC) taught us “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.” The good and the bad should never simply be swept under the carpet and changed to suit agendas as it shapes our future—and those who remain stuck in the past are destined to miss their future. Two men (Robert Forsythe and Mark Klein—their contact numbers are at the end of the posting), along with their team deserve a massive hat tip as they strive to make sure that our military history along with that of the Anglo Boer War is never forgotten nor simply ignored.

They are also great hosts and story tellers. A new developing facility known as Regiments is in the process of being created. Situated to the west of Pretoria in the Broederstroom area, Regiments will give a home to South African military and police forces that have been forgotten or neglected. Situated on an area where many Brit-Boer battles took place, it will give a home to these units that upheld constitutions and past members will be able to visit this facility to view their histories, see memorabilia, and attend functions that have now long passed. Talks and lectures will be presented by noted historians on these units and themed menus will be offered.

For more information, please contact Mark Klein directly. Kedar Heritage Lodge (https://kedar.co.za/) is a place where South African history and nature collide. It is built on a portion of Boekenhoutfontein, the historic farm that once belonged to President Paul Kruger and offers much more than just a venue for functions, weddings and conferences, or a day or weekend break-away. The land around Kedar is game fenced and populated with a wide variety of game, including eland, blesbok, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu, zebra, blue wildebeest, giraffe, and sable – making it a dream destination for nature lovers. It offers 66 African-themed stone and thatched rooms and suites, all of which are decorated with vibrant, hand-painted ethnic print fabrics and African artworks – reflecting many of Africa’s treasures. But the jewel in Kedar’s crown is not the renowned Paul Kruger Country House Museum, Kedar Spa in the Country, themed restaurants, a large swimming pool and private game drives where even black impala can be seen, but the incredible Boer War Museum.

It is a museum unlike any other and it was here that I learned a lot I never knew: There were many black people who fought with the ‘Boere’; there was a black Boer general; the Boere were saved by black people when they were attempting to withdraw from a larger British force; the British and Boere Freemasons would meet, discuss their masonry issues, and them shoot at one another the following day; the first South African athletes to partake in the Olympic Games were black men who fought alongside the Boere; the impact of the Russian involvement—along with others—on the side of the Boere, and more. Packed with uniforms, weapons, flags and histories of those partaking forces, the museum includes incredible metal sculptures made by Robert and Mark’s team. For anyone who wants to learn about the ‘forgotten history’ of the Boer War, Kedar is definitely the place to visit. It will be time well spent, and an experience never to be forgotten. After all, as Cicero taught us, it will bring us tidings of antiquity. For more information, please contact Robert Forsythe (+27 83 251 4448) or Mark Klein (+27 82 7770810). You won’t regret it.

The Proper Beginning of the War in Rhodesia

Greetings! I came across this post on Facebook. I’m not completely sure of it’s origins-I’d like to give credit to the Author of the book it came out of. If I find out, I’ll amend this entry.

The passage below describes what many believed to be the beginning of the serious battle for Rhodesia. Alot of observations about the coming war can be extrapolated. I add commentary of the things that stood out to me from a historical perspective. If you are not familiar with the Rhodesian Bush War, it is a good introduction to what kicked off larger scale military operations against the Communists Insurgents / Terrorists.

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The attack on Altena Farm occurred in the early hours of 21 December 1972, during the third phase of the Rhodesian Bush War. Altena was a tobacco farm owned by Marc de Borchgrave. Rhodesian intelligence, which had been monitoring ZANLA’s activity and preparations, grew curious when over a four-week period in November 1972 sources of information suddenly began to “dry up”, in the words of historian Alexandre Binda. “They sensed that something was afoot, but their superiors brushed off their fears,”

On the 21st December 1972 a group of ten ZANLA cadres led by Rex Nhongo attacked the white-owned Altena Farm near the north-eastern village of Centenary. Having established a presence in the nearby Chiweshe Tribal Trust Territory, a cadre of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) insurgents armed with AK-47s, hand grenades, and at least one light machine gun (most likely an RPD) trekked about six miles to reach Altena. Around three o’clock that morning, the guerrillas cut the telephone lines and laid a land mine in the driveway.

Nhongo undertook a reconnaissance of the farmhouse before the attack commenced. Each insurgent then expended at least two magazines of ammunition apiece at the structure. Hand grenades were also thrown, yet despite the damage caused to the structure, only de Borchgrave’s eight-year-old daughter Jane was injured.

Late on the 22 December, a troop from the Rhodesian Special Air Service, followed shortly by the Rhodesian Light Infantry, reported to the police station in Centenary. The land mine planted in Altena’s driveway was discovered, disarmed and removed. Borchgrave and his family were sent to Whistlefield Farm, which was owned by Archie Dalgleish and his family while their family home was being repaired. Having been alerted to the de Borchgraves’ new location through sympathetic farmworkers, guerrillas from the original cadre requested permission from ZANLA to carry out another attack. After ZANLA’s area commanders in Centenary had been consulted, a raid on Whistlefield Farm was planned.

At about one o’clock on the morning of 23 December, the insurgents reconnoitred Whistlefield Farm and shelled the structure with mortar fire. An RPG-7 was aimed into the bedroom in which de Borchgrave was sleeping. The rocket hit the window frame and lightly wounded the tobacco farmer, his nine-year-old daughter Anne, and de Borchgrave. The ZANLA cadres then retreated and hid themselves.

News of the second attack reached Second Lieutenant Ian Buttenshaw and Sachse around midnight, and they deployed immediately, but having discovered a mine near Altena they disembarked from the vehicles 1 kilometre from Whistlefield and made the final approach on foot. Anne was evacuated by helicopter as the RLI and SAS secured the area for the night.

The next morning, on 24 December 1972, two tracking teams arrived at Whistlefield to assist Buttenshaw and Sachse in a 360-degree search: one was from the SAS, and led by Ron Marillier, while the other was a British South Africa Police (BSAP) team including tracking dogs. The security forces searched for tracks while also investigating reported sightings.

The tracks of the ZANLA fighters were discovered on 27 December on the western side of the farm and the trackers asked Buttenshaw and Sachse to bring the vehicles carrying the heavy equipment around to meet them. On the way the truck carrying Buttenshaw ran over a mine with one of its rear wheels, causing it to detonate. Buttenshaw himself, who was sitting on the bonnet of the vehicle, was thrown clear but Corporal Norman Moore and Trooper Pete Botha, sitting in the back, were not as fortunate, taking the brunt of the blast. Captain Gordon Holloway, behind the wheel, and Trooper Rod Boden in the passenger seat went into severe shock but were ultimately unharmed. Moore, on the other hand, died two days later from his wounds, while Botha survived but lost both legs.

In their haste, Nhongo’s cadres had not attempted to conceal their tracks as they headed west, towards the Musengezi river—Buttenshaw’s pursuant RLI men therefore realised how quickly the guerrillas were moving and sped up their chase. They discovered a recently vacated guerrilla camp. “The fire was still burning and the food still warm,” Buttenshaw writes. “From the abandoned kit a hurried departure appeared evident.”

Support was summoned from the SAS, who were tasked to set up stops along the Musengezi to the west. Buttenshaw’s men reached the top of the Musengezi valley to see Rhodesian helicopters dropping the SAS soldiers at regular intervals along the river, as well as the ZANLA cadres, who were moving straight towards one of the SAS stops. The stop opened fire and killed some; the rest of the guerrillas scattered and ran. Buttenshaw’s RLI men were then withdrawn from the follow-up for a day and a half and placed in stop positions. The chase was temporarily taken over by the SAS under Lieutenant Chris Schulenburg before Buttenshaw’s men returned on 30 December 1972.

For the first time the Rhodesian Security Forces were faced with a seemingly insoluble problem … after carrying out their attacks the terrorists had not gone to ground in bush-camps in uninhabited areas where they could eventually be tracked down … neither had they gone to ground in inhabited areas where information from the local population to the Police or Special Branch had indicated their whereabouts.

This time there was nothing. No tracks … no information. Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid-Daly, writing in 1982, explains the effect of ZANLA’s subversion on rural Rhodesia. The effectiveness of ZANLA’s adopted Maoist tactics was demonstrated in particular by the element of surprise they were now able to use against the security forces, and by the ability they had achieved to melt seamlessly into the local population between strikes.

The rural black people in the north-east of the country were now, almost totally subverted and intimidated” by ZANLA and provided the guerrillas with food, shelter and manpower. Rather than having the tribesmen actively volunteer information about insurgent movements and locations, as had happened during previous infiltrations, the Rhodesian Security Forces now met an increasingly silent and sometimes hostile welcome from the rural blacks.

More farm attacks took place over the following weeks, during December 1972 and January 1973, leading the security forces to set up Operation Hurricane in northern Mashonaland. This counter-insurgency operation would continue right up to 1980. “It was the start of a whole new ball game,” writes Lieutenant-Colonel R. E. H. Lockley. “The war proper had started.

  • This article, as I stated was taken from a forum on Facebook.
  • It is interesting for many reasons. Rhodesia had dealt with other incursions of the now blatantly violent Chinese trained and backed ZANU party which would eventually be led by Robert Mugabe. It involves the Terr leader Rex Nhongo who should have been dead many times over, one time being in the sights of a SAS operator operating with Darrell Watt but the fleeing man had no weapon in hand. The discipline of the SAS soldier and the ethics they operated by were not to shoot and kill a person they were not completely certain was a belligerent and could be simply a scared villager.
  • The Maoist Doctrine of melding into the people rather than operating from fixed positions where they would be located made it difficult to track down the perpetrators of these types of attacks. Note-later in the war, as the war progressed ZANLA and ZIPRA did have camps which made it easier to take out large swathes of Communist Terrorists.
  • It gave birth and realization to the RSF’s need for internal intelligence through INTAF ( Internal Affairs, a force that looked after the native population ) and the BSAP ( the British South African Police ) , the National Police Force.
  • It became necessary for all of the forces of Rhodesia including the Army to get involved and find ways to track down Terrorists before they carried out attacks. Operation Area Hurricane was opened in the North Eastern part of Rhodesia which remained a very active route of infiltration until the end of the war.
  • Events like this started the minds of people like Lt. Col. Ron Reid-Daly to come up with ways of infiltrating the indigenous people and gain intelligence and gave birth to the famed Selous Scouts, masters of Psuedo Operations.
  • Finally, with this string of military grade attacks, Rhodesia had to put itself officially on a war footing if they were to save the country and protect its people.

God and the RLI

God and the RLI ….

A tremendous post about a chaplain in the RLI posted by Mark Adams. It originally was posted in Cheetah in 1980. I will be blogging and writing some articles on the RLI in the upcoming weeks and months

“Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?”

By Major (The Rev) Bill Blakeway

“Padre, do you want to go on Fire Force.” That question put to me by Lt Col Pat Armstrong, then O.C. of Support Commando, started my understanding and appreciation of what the RLI was all about.

I nearly had a heart attack when I looked at the stick board that evening and saw there in first wave, stop one – Padre! It was quite a serious stick – Cpl ‘Dutch’ de Klerk, ‘Ticky’ Millet, ‘Buzzard’ Dalgerous and yours truly. Fortunately, the only contact we made that day was with ‘Buff Beans’. But I shall never forget the almost paralysing fear as the chopper circled the target area. For me the moment of truth. I have recalled that “heavy war story” because that experience helped me to know something of what the members of the Battalion had to go through every time the siren went off. I don’t think it is possible for a Padre to begin to communicate with the Troopie unless he has been frightened with him.

My association with the Battalion started during 1974, whilst I was still a T.A. Right from the beginning, to me, there was something “special” about the Unit. It also became clear to me that there was a tremendous pride in the Unit by its members and like all regular army units, it was a “closed shop” to anyone on the outside. 1 soon realised that 1 would have to become a regular if I was to stand any hope of being accepted. It was during the first half of 1976 that the Chaplain General said “You are now officially Chaplain to the RLI get on and know them.”

It would take far more than this article and would be impossible to recall and record everything I would like to of these last six years. The Padre’s Hour for instance. You know that exciting period during the week when most of the ouens catch up on their gonk! I recall a few anxious moments when difficult questions have come up, like . . “Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?” If anyone thinks there is an easy answer to that one – good luck. All I could do was to help the troopie to see that the country had the right to both rule and defend itself, and that the Christian had a moral obligation to be involved in both. I would also like to say that during the whole of my association with the Battalion, I have not come across one man who claimed categorically that he is an atheist. They might not have been Church-goers, but they accepted the fact that there was “someone up there” looking after them.

My trips to the bush to visit the different Commandos – few Chaplains had the privileges that I had in this respect. To be accepted as part of the Unit. I remember incidents like Forbes Border Post with 2 Commando, hot extraction demonstration with 3 Commando – with me hanging from that bar and the chopper circling a couple of hundred feet up – when I could have been back home sitting having tea with the old ladies of the Church! Being one of six sticks, total 24, and being told by the O.C. that 75 to 100 enemy had been sighted – I didn’t stop shaking for an hour.

The occasional patrol clinging hopefully to the promises of the Log Enslins and Charlie Warrens of: “Dont worry, Padre, we will look after you.” Another moment that aged me twenty years was when the present CO Lt-Col Aust was 2IC. We were discussing the various para courses and he said: “Do you want to be para-trained?” As I was still stumbling over my answer he picked up the phone, spoke to the para school and asked them if the Padre could get on a course. I sat completely speechless as I heard him say: “Right, thanks, — three weeks’ time.” Once again, however, what a privilege to be accepted as one who has jumped with the Battalion – even if they were only fun jumps.

There have been the sad times …. having to go and visit N.O.K. of members of the Battalion and giving them the one message they were dreading. The happy times at the get-togethers and marriages. The proud moments. There is no doubt that to me, personally, the supreme moment of pride was on the 1st February, 1979 when the Statue of the Troopie was unveiled. To have been part of that magnificent ceremony will always be the most treasured memory that I will have.

And who of those who were there will ever be able to forget the Memorial Service on 12th September, 1979, and the funeral service for Major Bruce Snelgar, held at the foot of the statue. Or that final Wreath-Laying. Possibly there will be those who will read this and say “the Padre’s being carried away again.” All I know is that those who have served in the Battalion will know exactly what I am saying. They will understand the fierce feeling of pride that the men in the Unit, and its achievement, coupled with the memory of those of their number who did not return from the op area.
As the Padre remembers, he would also like to say “Thank You”. Thank you to the men of the green and silver, for your professionalism as soldiers, for your courage, for your loyalty to the cause for which you fought. And I thank you for your personal friendship.

Remember this, we’re going to be in that number when the SAINTS GO MARCHING IN!

From the October 1980 Cheetah magazine.

Great Video to watch

Hard to get a 10 minute video on youtube but here is is one. Note-This video is good. Though it shows some Selous Scouts- its mostly RLI / RAR men and inserts and an RAR song, it’s titled the Selous Scouts memories. Shows some of the terrain Rhodesian Soldiers fought in and the 4 man basic stick and their weapons. Some probably C squadron SAS HALO jumps, etc. Enjoyable, regardless of the title.

On studying Military History

We must be careful when studying conflict. There are so many things that influence the totality of war. I found this excerpt from a book that is on my ‘to read list’

Three general rules of study must therefore be borne in mind by the
officer who studies military history as a guide to his profession and who
wishes to avoid pitfalls. First, he must study in width. He must observe the
way in which warfare has developed over a long historical period. Only
by seeing what does change can one deduce what does not; and as much
as can be learnt from the great discontinuities of military history as from
the apparent similarities of the techniques employed by the great captains
v
through the ages….Next he must study in depth. He should take a single
campaign and explore it thoroughly, not simply from official histories,
but from memoirs, letters, diaries. . . until the tidy outlines dissolve and
he catches a glimpse of the confusion and horror of real experience…
and, lastly, he must study in context. Campaigns and battles are not like
games of chess or football matches, conducted in total detachment from
their environment according to strictly defined rules. Wars are not tactical
exercises writ large. They are…conflicts of societies, and they can be
fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting
them. The roots of victory and defeat often have to be sought far from the
battlefield, in political, social, and economic factors which explain why
armies are constituted as they are, and why their leaders conduct them in
the way they do…. It must not be forgotten that the true use of history,
military or civil… is not to make men clever for the next time; it is to make
them wise forever.

Required Reading and Listening

My awareness of the Rhodesian Bush War goes back to my impressionable years of puberty. On trips to Walmart, I would immediately go to the magazine section where they sold Soldier of Fortune magazine. ( oh how times have changed and dates me ). Some months there would be articles on the wars being fought in Southern Africa, usually concentrating on American ‘mercenaries’ who made the trip and joined the Armies of Rhodesia and South Africa.

One major contributor was a Captain Bob Mackenzie of the Rhodesian SAS. I didn’t know what that was but the stories were extremely scary and interesting to a 12 year old. I also remember the old recruiting poster of Be a Mann among Men with a Troopie and his trusted FN FAL and distinctive head gear. Though I can’t say that I remember the content of the articles, I knew how they made me feel as described above. Rambo was in the movie theaters and I imagined this guy was similar to him. The truth was not far off.

I eventually joined the US Navy at 17 and tried out for UDT/BUDS but failed the physical. The dreams faltered but I served my time on board the storied USS Enterprise which still retained the graffiti from the Vietnam Air War and learned the lessons that all young men should learn during their stint and after 25 years+, if I heard Attention On Deck, I would pop up out of my chair wondering what Officer graced us with his presence and often, what I had done to deserve a visit. 🙂

Fast forward a BA degree in Ancient History and some attempts to write a historical novel centered around the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD and the Romans consequently crushing it and destroying the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem. It had started with my Senior Thesis on the subject. During this time, Band of Brothers was raging and I loved it and spent a few years studying WW2 and my Grandfathers war and discovered facts about his job as a Reconnaissance ‘Shore Party’ during the Solomon Islands Campaign. I then became interested in studying the Vietnam War. I grew up with a father and uncle who served in the Marine Corps during that time. My uncle became a member of 3rd Marine Recon Battalion Company A.

My mind drifted back to the Soldier of Fortune magazine and at the time, it was still published in paper form and was on news racks. I came across a story about an American and his experience in Rhodesia, a country I had not heard of in years. My curious mind began to research this topic. The internet was in it’s infancy and little to nothing came of my hard work. Over the years, more internet material became available and as memoirs and histories became available I gorged as much as was available. I found a book seller in South Africa who had a library on the subject. I spent alot of time and money to learn about the war.

I had taken up writing and was 100k words into a WW2 novel when an opportunity to write about the Rhodesian war randomly came up through a contact with the editor of a new website. SOFREP.com…It was a website written by ‘Operators’ for Operators and curious onlookers. I told the editor that I wanted to submit an article to him on FIRE FORCE tactics and techniques used in Rhodesia. He broke his rule, in that I was not a veteran of any special operations force. He loved the article, admitting that he didn’t expect it to make the cut and I ended up writing close to 20 articles for them as well as publishing a book with MacMillan called Africa Lost-Rhodesia’s COIN Killing Machine.

Published in 2013, it still sells and has close to 150 reviews at 4.5 stars. I ventured into writing novels. My first, Task Force Intrepid: The Gold of Katanga earned some nice reviews and initially sold well. It follows an American run PMC who is contracted to take back a newly discovered vein of Gold in the Copper belt of Katanga. The villains are taken from the headlines, history and conjecture. I quickly followed with a novella called Highway to Hell. It was hurried but it provided some back story to my main Protagonist- Willem Kruger. His background may seem impossible to people but he is based on a composite of many many men, alot of which are still in the warfighting business all over the world.

Willem Kruger, of South African Boer heritage although his father went north for opportunity to farm, began his military career in 1979 by joining the elite Rhodesian Light Infantry after his farm had been destroyed and his mother, father and siblings had been killed by ‘freedom fighters’. He missed the execution through sheer providence as he visited his uncle and cousin who were professional hunters in South Africa. He excelled as a soldier in some of the most vicious battles and camp attacks towards the coming end of the nation.

His adventures take him on to South Africa’s Para’s for a short time and 5 Recce Commando which specialized in psuedo operations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. After the end of Apartheid and the closing down of many Special Force elements, opportunities came about to work as a private contractor. Forthcoming books will examine his experiences as well as a planned series on an American who came to Rhodesia and fought in a war he believed, rightly so, against communist expansion.

He now leads a multinational team of specialists in Africa on missions of importance to Governments and Industry.

The New Breed

Back to the title of this article, if you have no knowledge of the war or very little, you can pick up my guidebook for a primer on Amazon- Africa Lost-Rhodesia’s COIN Killing Machine.

For more in depth stories a man of immense talent has put out three books and a series of YouTube interviews which are spell binding and which I consider a Magnum Opus over anything put out currently. His name is Hannes Wessels.

The titles of his books are ‘A Handful of Hard men’, ‘We Dared to Win’ with Andre Scheepers and ‘The Fighting Men of Rhodesia’. For video interviews that helped inform his books, simply type in You Tube’s search bar, The Fighting Men of Rhodesia and sit back and be prepared to gain an understanding not just of the history and tactics of a counter insurgency war but an insight into men who often spent a decade or more DEPLOYED six weeks in the bush and 10 days home, year after year.

His material is simply the finest material out on Rhodesia’s war.

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As for me, after several years of parenting and consuming work, I am about halfway through my sequel to The Gold of Katanga. It’s title is Task Force Intrepid: Kivu Crisis. It is much broader in plot and action. I have learned alot over the years and decided it’s now or never. With the books and articles mentioned here, you have at least a couple of months worth of reading.

Look for more updates as things progress. As I stated, I attempt to take the readers on journeys into the past and present and potential future. I hope you will join me.

SOFREP reprints many of my articles.

Recently SOFREP has reprinted many many of my articles on Rhodesia. One that is missing is a story of a young idealistic American who made his way to Rhodesia to fight world Communism instead of going ahead of his commission with the USMC as he saw the war winding down and felt that fighting the wicked ideology was more viscera in Rhodesia. Enjoy

https://sofrep.com/news/an-american-odyssey-in-rhodesia-part-one/

 

 

The True Story of Executive Outcomes

To all, this is one of my most interesting interviews of all time since I started wrtiting for sofrep.com If you have the slightest bit of interest in Mercenaries, Private Military Companies, Africa or simply Military subjects in general, you must read this interview and buy the book by Colonel Van Heerden.

It comes in paperback and then in an affordable Kindle edition. You will not regret it and you will get the real story of Executive Outcomes.

https://sofrep.com/70594/interview-colonel-ret-roelf-van-heerden-executive-outcomes-somalia/