The Rhodesia Regiment
From Boer War to Bush War 1899-1980
Author: Alexandre Binda
242 X 168mm, 424pp,
plus 48pp of pics in b/w and colour, maps,
300(few left) copies of special limited numbered edition.
All signed by author
No's 1 to 50 richly bound in half leather, numbered 1 to 50 (very few left).
No's 51 to 300 case bound with dust jacket, numbered 51 to 300
ISBN/Bar code: 978-1-919854-42-7
242 X 168mm, 424 pp
plus 48pp of pics in b/w and colour, maps,
ISBN/Bar code: 978-1-919854-52-6
1st Edition - LIMITED EDITIONSOnly
300copies of a special limited edition, signed by the author, Alex Binda:-
Copies numbered 1 to 50 - Richly half bound in calf leather - Embossed with gold lettering.
Copies numbered 51 to 300 - Case bound hard cover - Complete with four-colour dust jacket
The Rhodesia Regiment fought for the Queen and then the King in the Boer War, the King in German West Africa, German East Africa, the Western Front and finally in the Salonica campaign during the Great War of 1914-1918, then for the King in World War II on all fronts on land, sea and in the air. During the 1960s until 1980, abandoned by their friends and former allies, they fought invading insurgent guerrillas who were well armed by Soviet and Chinese communists until Great Britain forced a handover of the country toZANU-PF terrorists led by Robert Mugabe who has since brought the country to a state of ruin.
The Rhodesia Regiment was raised in July 1899 to defend Rhodesia's border against an expected Boer invasion. The Regiment, under Colonel Plumer, 420 strong with eight guns, deployed to the border on 14 October, along with 80 BSAP. They were tasked to harry Boer Commandoes moving north. They clashed with the enemy at the Crocodile River Drift after which the Boers blew up the railway line and retired.
Mafeking was close to the Transvaal border between Rhodesia and Kimberley. On 12 October 1899 7,000 Boers converged on the town and placed it under siege. Baden-Powell with 1200 men was there and had organised defences. In January 1900 the Rhodesia Regiment under Plumer moved to relieve the town, but contacted Boers en route and weeks of fighting ensued. At the end of February the enemy withdrew and the Rhodesians pursued them to Lobatsi, fighting all the way. On 31 March the Rhodesians, after encountering tough Boer opposition, were stalled close to Mafeking. They were reinforced by 100 Queenslanders and a Canadian battery and this joint force relieved Mafeking on 17 May. The siege was over.
In August 1900 the staging post at Elands River in the Western Transvaal was besieged by 3,000 Boers. The garrison comprised 299 Australians, 201 Rhodesians, two Canadians and four British officers. Boer artillery bombarded the camp. They fired over 2,500 shells into the post. The siege was lifted after 12 days by Lord Kitchener with 10,000 men.
In November 1900 The Rhodesia Regiment was disbanded and its members joined Kitchener's Fighting Scouts and other units.
On 5 August 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany, some 486 officers and men were recruited for a reformed 1-Rhodesia Regiment to fight in German South West Africa. They arrived at Walvis Bay in January 1915 and formed part of General Botha's Northern Force which made a dash for Windhoek. In lightening succession they captured town after town. The foot-slogging Rhodesians made forced marches which are recorded in military history as among the fastest and longest ever. At Trekkoppies the South African/Rhodesian positions were bombarded by German artillery. The Germans mounted several bayonet charges, but they were repulsed by the deadly machine-gun fire of Royal Naval armoured cars. German artillery targeted the cars but they seemed impervious to shrapnel. The Germans launched infantry attack after attack, but each time were driven back. Defeated, they withdrew. The Germans finally surrendered the country in July 1915. 1-RR was disbanded, but many of its men went on to the fight in East Africa or on the Western Front.
In East Africa the Germans, under General Von Lettow-Vorbeck, proved themselves a tougher adversary than their SWA comrades. With only a handful of troops, mostly native Askaris, they defeated or outwitted every British force sent against them.
Recruiting for 2-Rhodesia Regiment for deployment there began in November 1914. In March 1915 it was deployed to the Kilimanjaro area as part of the 1st East African Brigade. Conditions in East Africa were ideally suited for guerrilla warfare and the enemy was seldom seen.
In February 1916 General Smuts, who brought with him South African reinforcements, was appointed British Commander. On 11 March 1916 1-East African Brigade attacked the German positions on Latema-Reata. After hard fighting the only troops in the Brigade who attained the heights and held them throughout a hellish night were the Rhodesians.
2-RR acquitted itself well but in the end it was defeated, not by the Germans, but by Malaria and other tropical diseases. By January 1917 it was unable to muster 50 men for combat. The Regiment returned home to Salisbury and was disbanded in October 1917.
Many Rhodesians volunteered for the British and South African Armies fighting on the Western Front. 73 joined the Kings Royal Rifle Corps which soon had enough Rhodesians to form a separate platoon (8-Platoon). Later this rose to two platoons. 8-Platoon fought at Loos, and incurred devastating casualties after going 'over the top'.
By 30 June 1916, the eve of the 'big push' on the Somme, South Africa's 3rd South Infantry Regiment had 90 Rhodesians in its ranks. By the next morning only ten had survived. The British intended capturing Longueval, but first they had to take Delville Wood. On 2 July the South African Brigade attacked. The troops seized a front of 1 300 metres and fought there until relieved on 18 July. Only 407 of the 4,200 South African and Rhodesian troops deployed there survived.
One of the KRRC's Rhodesian Platoons was completely wiped out at Nieuport in July 1917. In September 1917 more Rhodesian volunteers were utilised to re-form 'A' Company KRRC.
On 4 December 3,769 officers and men of the South African Brigade took up positions in trenches on Quentin Ridge. By 13 January 1918 when pulled from the line, its numbers had shrunk to 1,740 officers and men. The establishment of British divisions was reduced from 13 to ten battalions. This resulted in the disbandment of the 3rd (Transvaal and Rhodesia) Regiment. When the war ended in November 1918 the South African Brigade was still commanded by a South African general; but its battalions had shrunk to companies and only one remained South African in composition C the rest had British soldiers bolstering their ranks.
The 2nd Rhodesian platoon went with 3/KRRC to fight the Bulgarians in Salonica. The enemy were fierce fighters and the KRRC sustained many casualties. This finally led to the decimation of the Rhodesian platoon.
By mid 1916, over 40% of Rhodesia's white males were on active service, the largest percentage in the Empire, including Britain C 6% of Rhodesia's manpower fell during the war.
On 1 September 1939 Great Britain declared war on Germany. Southern Rhodesia followed suit two days later. Rhodesia's white population was over 82,000, of whom 10,000 volunteered for military service, which mirrored the situation in World War-I .
The problem facing the war planners, which was still vivid in their minds, was the appalling slaughter and casualties suffered in the trenches of the Western Front during World War I. Should they deploy 1- and 2-RR as complete infantry battalions? But what about if they were wiped out in a single attack? That would devastate the Colony. The decision reached was to attach Rhodesians of not more than platoon strength to a spread of British and South African regiments .
This explains how Rhodesians came to fight and die on all fronts and in all services against Nazi Germany, the Italians and later the Japanese during the war. The Rhodesia Regiment remained their parent regiment. The Southern Rhodesia Air unit seconded personnel to the RAF and the SAAF. The RAF honoured them by naming three squadrons as Rhodesia squadrons C 44 (Rhodesia) Bomber Squadron and 237 and 266 (Rhodesia) Fighter squadrons. Nearly 100 Rhodesians were awarded the DFC. More Rhodesian airmen were KIA than those serving in other branches of the armed services. In most military units in British Colonial Africa the majority of their officers and NCOs were Rhodesians. At least 373 Rhodesians served in the Royal Navy and 49 in the South African Navy. A Rhodesian sailor on HMS Repulse dived into the sea just as the vessel turned turtle in the South China Seas after being torpedoed by Japanese bombers.
No one could ever say that the Rhodesians didn't 'do their bit' in World War 11.
During the Royal visit of 1947 King George VI recognised The Rhodesia Regiment's fine service in two world wars by according it the prefix of 'Royal' and consented to be its Colonel-in-Chief. It still comprised two battalions. During the next few years the Territorial Army together with all its ancillary arms was formed. This included the Southern Rhodesia Artillery, the Southern Rhodesia Armoured Car Regiment, the Southern Rhodesia Corps of Signals, the Southern Rhodesia Corps of Engineers, the Southern Rhodesia Medical Corps and the Southern Rhodesia Auxiliary Air Force. In addition 1-RRR formed a three-inch mortar platoon and an anti-tank platoon. In due course a Support Unit and the Southern Rhodesia Women's Military and Air Services were formed .
On 1 September 1953 the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland was established. A Central Africa Command was established and Territorial forces from all three territories fell under the Federal Defence Dept. The Auxiliary Air Force became the Royal Rhodesian Air Force and was reequipped with jets. Later in 1955, the National Service Training Depot (Depot RRR) was established at Llewellyn Barracks and 3-RRR was formed in Northern Rhodesia.
During February 1954 2-RRR and other troops were deployed to Wankie in support of the BSAP because of a strike by African miners. It ended peacefully and was over in two days. This was the second strike action in which the RRR was deployed in support of the BSAP. This occurred in 1948 when the country's African labour force struck. That also ended peacefully.
In January 1959 African National Congress-inspired violence broke out in Nyasaland. Acts of lawlessness that the police were unable to deal with escalated. The Governor declared a State of Emergency and 1- and 2-RRR, sub-units and the BSAP were deployed there. Southern Rhodesia also declared a State of Emergency and banned the Southern Rhodesia ANC and those of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia in Southern Rhodesia. In Operation Spider the BSAP rounded-up members and placed them in preventative detention. The ANC was banned. Simultaneously Operation Sunrise began in Nyasaland and ring-leaders were arrested. Fire was opened on several occasions, notably at Nkata Bay, before order was restored.
The National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed in January 1960 to replace the banned ANC. Its violent policies matched that of the ANC and it was still calling for 'one man, one vote, NOW!'. The Federal Cabinet was faced with anarchy in the Belgian Congo, a flood of refugees following its independence and the prospect of enduring internal unrest. To meet its responsibilities it formed a whites-only infantry battalion (the RLI) and a squadron of the SAS. Ongoing politically inspired riots occurred in locations in Salisbury, Bulawayo and other centres. Both 1- and 2-RRR were deployed in support of the BSAP who fired on rioters on a number of occasions. On 24 July 1961, on the eve of a referendum to accept/reject a new constitution that had been agreed to in London by the British and Rhodesian governments and by the NDP represented by Joshua Nkomo, the party's head, politically inspired rioting broke out in Salisbury's black locations. The NDP had changed its mind and was back to demanding 'one man, one vote NOW!' 1-RRR was mobilised as a precautionary measure, but the BSAP dealt with the situation. The 1961 Constitution was passed by an overwhelming vote of the electorate .
In 1960 and 1961 Salisbury's 8- and Bulawayo's 9-Battalion of the Royal Rhodesia Regiment were formed. The latter was based at Bulawayo's Brady Barracks along with 2- and 6-RRR. The NDP later split into ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo and ZANU led by Ndabaningi Sithole, later by Robert Mugabe.
The Federation was dissolved on 31 December 1963. With Northern Rhodesia about to become Zambia 3-RRR was soon disbanded. Rhodesia continued to be the target of communist-backed black nationalists and troubles escalated. In April 1964 Ian Smith became Prime Minister. He engaged in prolonged negotiations with the British for Rhodesia to be granted independence, but he was unsuccessful. This led to Rhodesia declaring UDI on 11 November 1965.
The world was against Rhodesia and the UN adopted mandatory sanctions. Rhodesia continued with only the support of South Africa and Portugal. After the Federal break-up two new battalions were formed, 4-RRR for Umtali and 10-RRR for Gwelo.
There was a political deadlock which remained unresolved for the next 15 years. In December 1966 Smith attended 'settlement talks' aboard HMS Tiger off Gibraltar and later aboard HMS Fearless, but both were unsuccessful. The British demanded NIBMAR C no independence before majority rule. And so the political wrangling, and the war in the bush continued. At first counter-insurgency operations were conducted solely by the BSAP, then by regular units of the Rhodesian Army in cooperation with the BSAP.
In 1966 with the perceived insurgent threat from Zambia resulting from UDI, border control operations intensified and National Service was doubled to nine months. After their initial 42 months basic training, National Servicemen were posted to two Independent Companies, 1-Independent Coy at Victoria Falls and 2-Independent Coy at Kariba, to conduct border control operations. This freed the overworked and thinly stretched regulars for duties elsewhere. Later, as the war escalated, two more, 3-Independent Coy at Inyanga and 4-Independent Coy were established. The latter joined 1-Independent Coy at Victoria Falls.
When Rhodesia was declared a Republic in March 1970 the Queen's links with the Rhodesian Services were suspended and the Regiment dropped its 'Royal' prefix.
In December 1972 ZANLA (ZANU's military wing), unexpectedly changed tactics. Its Red Chinese mentors had taught them that they must get the rural population on-side before they could be a serious threat to the security forces. ZANLA set about subverting the local population in true Maoist fashion C which meant intimidating and murdering them. They attacked isolated white farms and homesteads and murdered tribes people who were not on-side. This together with the collapse of Portuguese power in Mozambique on Rhodesia's eastern borderC and its takeover by communist Frelimo C became the turning points in the war. The insurgency escalated and the Territorial Army began playing an increasingly important role in the fight to control it.
For the next seven plus years the nine battalions of the Rhodesia Regiment and its Independent Companies, together with other units of the security forces, fought long and hard against two heavily armed communist insurgent organisations, supported by Soviet Russia and Red China, who had infiltrated Rhodesia's operational areas. The security forces, and Rhodesia in general, got no assistance from a hostile world. Even South Africa, in the latter stages, ceased its reluctant military assistance. Rhodesia's porous borders with a hostile Zambia to the north, a hostile Mozambique to the east and a hostile Botswana to the south-west were impossible to control. The country was slowly being overwhelmed. This led to the Lancaster House talks in London where Rhodesia was sold out to a terrorist regime. The people of Zimbabwe are still paying a price for this.
The Territorial soldiers of The Rhodesia Regiment had fought long and hard against the enemy, inflicting major damage in the process. Towards the end, The Regiment's civilian soldiers faced military call-ups at six week intervals. During the years of war many were killed and even more maimed, but their fight brought honour to themselves, to Rhodesia and to the Regiment. A Regiment which sadly was destined to be disbanded ignominiously by the Mugabe regime when it assumed political power in 1980.
The Rhodesia Regiment was formed in 1899 to fight for Queen and country during the Boer War. It was the leading unit in the Relief of Mafiking. With an Australian unit it fought bravely and successfully against the over¬whelming odds of a major Boer force at Elands River. It was disbanded in 1900 but the 1st Rhodesia Regiment was reformed in 1914 to assist in the successful conquest of the Germans in German South West Africa, the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment was formed to fight against the Germans in the East Africa campaign commanded by the renowned General Von Lettow-Vorbeck.
When 2-RR was withdrawn from East Africa many volunteers from both Battalions volunteered to join South African and British forces on the Western Front. Many were KIA, particularly at the Battle of Delville Wood where only 407 of the 4 200 South African and Rhodesian troops deployed survived. Other Rhodesians were attached to the Kings Royal Rifle Corps where they fought on the Western Front and later in the Salonica Campaign. In World War II, with fears of the wanton slaughter of World War I still in recent memory, Rhodesia introduced conscription to combat volunteering, which had resulted in Rhodesia losing 6% of its male population. With The Rhodesia Regiment as their parent regiment, many thousands of Rhodesians were posted in small numbers to various British and South African regiments, the Royal Navy and particularly to Rhodesia Squadrons of the RAF, where more than 100 DFCs were won by Rhodesians.
The Rhodesia Regiment fought gallantly in the Bush War achieving much success against their terrorist enemies by inflicting heavy casualties on them, although they paid their own price in blood, losing more than 300 men during the course of the war. This time they fought for the survival of Rhodesia, their homeland without the benefit of allies.
Sociologically these losses were a heavy price to pay for a small white population of some 300,000, when compared to the British Army which over much the same period lost some 380 men from a population of 55 million during the Afghanistan campaign. Alexandra Binda was bom in Beira, Mozambique, in 1945. He attested into the Rhodesian Army in 1965 and joined the Pay Corps, but gained considerable operational combat experience between 1968 and 1972 as a Portuguese inteprreter with the Rhodesian Light Infantry and Special Air Service combat-tracker teams in support of the Portuguese Army in Mozambique's Tete Province. He was awarded a Military Forces Commen-dation (the Rhodesian equivalent of a Mention in Dispatches) for his operational work. During his 15 years service he was Paymaster for the RL1 and later the Selous Scouts. He was commissioned on 23 June 1979, but resigned in August 1980 following the advent of the Mugabe takeover.
Alex is a keen student of African military history and The Rhodesia Regiment: From Boer War to Bush War: 1889-1980 is his third major regimental history.
Alex has also written articles on military subjects for Lion and Tusk, the magazine of the Rhodesian Army Association, Books on Southern Africa.
Lion and Tusk, March 2013
I just received my copy of "The Rhodesia Regiment" and I am very excited to read it. I also have "The Saints" & "Masodja" and am amazed at the quality of information and photos. Thank you for publishing these works: I have had a keen interest in the Rhodesian War for decades. I am sure that this question has been asked, but will there be a book on the Greys Scouts? I would like to pre-order as soon as it is available if so. Thank you again for your excellent products!
John Comiskey, Pleasanton, CA, USA
I am enjoying the book very much but wish more men had contributed their stories like Neill Jackson and Don Price did. I would love to read Theo Nel's accounts.
I think my contribution to the Greys Scout book would have fitted in really well on page 294 of the RR book, when Ellie Hills was hit. A very good effort, Alex.
I have just received my RR book from SA, and, although I've only just started it, I am really pleased and a fascinating read. Well done !
I was delighted to see that Alex Binda had included my grandfather Arthur Redfern's account of the Siege of Elands River in 1900. I'm sure this book will stimulate the interest of men who served with the RR over the years, and their families. It is a valuable record of the service these citizens gave to Rhodesia over the years as conscripts or volunteers.
Col John Redfern