A Troop ARU (Mashonaland Central). Commander Tony Edwards in beret.
As the war became more intensive Intaf was placed under increasing pressure to conduct its administration operations in the districts of Rhodesia. Many of Intaf’s staff were ambushed by the enemy. One of the enemy’s favourite weapons was the anti-tank land mine and these were planted throughout the rural areas. Many Intaf personnel detonated such mines and several were killed or injured. As the enemy gained a hold on the more remote areas the local population became even more subverted. The enemy tried to replace the Rhodesian governmental administration with their own version. The armed forces were strained to the limit in the bush war and due to their numbers were physically unable to cover the entire country all the time. It was due to this fact that the fire force concept was developed in an effort to try and spread their forces. Inevitably they were unable to be in every place all the time.
For this reason it was found necessary to establish a much more specialised type of unit within Intaf to deal with the restoration of administration in those remote areas that had become dominated by the enemy. The purpose of the ARUs was to conduct offensive operations to get such remote areas back under the control of the government.
A number of Intaf regulars were selected to undergo extra training at Llewellyn Barracks in Bulawayo. This training included undergoing the army (Infantry 44) Training Officers course. Once this training was completed they were given the responsibility of raising eight Troops of men to deploy operationally. A rigorous selection process was done from within Intaf at Provincial level and extensive specialist counter insurgency training was done.
All ARU troops used the call sign Gypsy and their troop designation. A Troop’s call sign was Gypsy Alpha and so on. The use of the call-sign was introduced by DO Bryn Price, the first commander of C Troop.
ARU Training. ARU training was of necessity much more intensive that the rest of Intaf. The training centred around counter insurgency (COIN) tactics. Each Troop underwent selection and training at Chikurubi Training Centre and then went on to do specialist COIN training. An essential part of the training was the revision of the traditional role of the District Assistant in Intaf and basic paramilitary subjects such as drill and weapons handling. Due to the fact that the ARUs were intended as an offensive unit to restore administration in those areas that had been dominated by the enemy each Troop needed to be able to look after itself in any circumstances.
The implication of this was that the ARUs deployed in areas where the enemy thought that they controlled the people and the administration. Obviously the enemy was not going to take what they considered an “intrusion” by the ARUs lightly and the result of this was that in many areas there were fierce clashes. This required a well trained unit to deal with such dangers.
Field-craft such as immediate action drills, anti-ambush drills, weapon handling, use of Troop support weapons, camouflage and concealment, first aid, basic tracking, map reading and navigation were essential segments of the training. Thus the ARUs became Intafs elite arm. The ARU Troops used a very mobile strategy which was designed to allow them to operate independently of each other at times and then when a more concentrated force was required the Troops could be deployed together operating on the same lines as an infantry company with the Troops forming platoons. Often the Troops would come under fire while on operations and their aggressive training allowed them to deal with such situations effectively. On occasion the Troops required air support for casualty evacuation and the same system the army used was applied.
Structure. Each Troop was approximately thirty-three men strong and was commanded by a District Officer or Senior District Officer. The Troops were deployed at Provincial level and were capable of aggressive actions to restore the administration of the rural areas. They were often deployed by themselves as autonomous units but also deployed along side army units and accounted for several of the enemy. Several men who had served in the RAR and RDR volunteered and joined the various Troops.
The troops generally consisted of an HQ element consisting of the commander, a second in command, the Troop Sergeant / Sergeant Major, a signaller and a medic and three sections of ten men commanded by a corporal who had a lance corporal as his second in command. This allowed flexibility to sub divide the sections into sticks of four men for deployment to obtain better coverage of the ground.
Equipment. Each Troop was equipped with a Land Rover, a Leopard MPV, 2 x 5/7 ton Puma personnel carriers and a water bowser. Weapons included G3 or FN rifles for each member. Each section was issued with either a 303 Bren Gun, Browning 303 machine gun or a 7,62mm MAG. Each troop also had a number of FN semi automatic shotguns on hand. These were used with SSG ammunition in a counter ambush scenario. Personal equipment was exactly as per the army scale of issue.
Commanders of the ARUs in order of date of appointment
A Troop - Mashonaland Central - Ken Tuckey, Tony Edwards
B Troop - Mashonaland East - Dudley Wall
C Troop - Mashonaland West - Bryn Price, Mike Donachie
D Troop – Manicaland - Louis Clarke or Larry Snyder?
E Troop – Victoria - Charles Hosking
F Troop – Midlands - Dave Robertson, Liam Cullen, Geoff Hurrell (from mid 1979)
G Troop - Matabeleland North - Rod Tourle
H Troop - Matabeleland South - Danie Scholtz
GENERAL DEPLOYMENT INFO (More to come when available)
Belingwe ops. B, C and E Troops were deployed at the same time to the Belingwe area when the situation deteriorated there. The Troops worked alongside Rhodesia Regt companies and the BSAP. The ARU Troops effectively provided an extra company sized force for the operations.
F Troop. Geoff Hurrell joined Midlands ARU around April 1979 when Liam Cullen was the commander. They were based in Matibi 2 together with Victoria ARU under the command of Charles Hosking. The gooks kept out of our way in spite of Matibi's reputation except for plenty of landmine incidents which were aimed at us but managed to blow up two local buses and a grain transporting truck. When F Troop left Matibi during June a foot patrol was deployed along the road 10 km from the main Beit Bridge road and found a mine that had just been planted which was lifted. F Troop redeployed to Gokwe and were based between Chireya and Nembudzia until the end of hostilities. Liam Cullen was withdrawn in July and Geoff Hurrell was appointed commander of the unit but without a 2/IC. F Troop worked very closely with SB and had a fair amount of contact with the enemy. This was despite the fact that the area was unofficially known as an R and R area for the enemy who were supposed to keep a low profile.
F Troop had elements of Pfumo re Vanhu attached to them in both Matibi and Gokwe when they deployed there. Pfumo re Vanhu's performance left a lot to be desired. The big clean up happened at Nembudzia when all the SFA's were taken out. I am sure you remember the incident. We were sent on R and R just before it happened and I expect it was because the powers that be were not sure how we would react considering our ties with them.
The ARUs all wore the Intaf cap badge and each Troop except for one had their own cloth shoulder badge. Most shoulder badges were black printed on khaki and consisted of the Provincial title on top of an emblem and the letters ARU underneath surrounded by a border as follows:
A Troop - Mashonaland Central. Imperial German eagle with a skull and crossbones in its claws.
B Troop - Mashonaland East. An Owl looking sideways on. Note that this ARU had a first pattern badge that featured an owl facing frontwards with the letters ARU
C Troop - Mashonaland West. A leopard’s head looking straight ahead.
D Troop - Manicaland. An Imperial German eagle.
E Troop -. Victoria. A Scottish lion. Note that this ARU had a first pattern badge that was black printed on red cloth and featured the title Victoria Province ARU and had the cap badge emblem on it.
F Troop - Midlands. Cartoon character "Hot stuff" in colour wearing an Intaf hat and carrying an FN rifle. Red border.
G Troop - Matabeleland North. No badge known.
H Troop - Matabeleland South. Badge was on red cloth and had the letters ARU above a Matabele shield with crossed spear and fighting stick and the motto Insukamini underneath.
Uniforms. The ARU's wore the standard Intaf uniforms to begin with. Several members wore an army camouflage combat jacket instead of the Intaf khaki issue. Shortly after, all ARUs were issued with standard camouflage kit in keeping with all arms of service. The DC of Mudzi district formed a special reaction unit and the members of this team wore a chest title black printed on green with the letters MRU. This was an unofficial badge and is featured on the same page as the various titles which were worn.
B Troop ARU Medal Parade at Mutemwa Base, Mtoko. Troop Sergeant Major Svonde (ex RAR) receiving his Commendation for Bravery from Provincial Commissioner Lionel Leach (obscured)
Newspaper report on the establishment of the ARUs. C Troop is being inspected by Air Vice Marshall McLaren the second in command of Combined Operations. (DC Alex Bundock is behind the AVM and DO Bryn Price MSM on the left) and E Troop on parade in the distance.