Contact in the Mudzi District: 15th April 1978
Much guerrilla activity had been taking place in Mudzi and we were deployed to a place known as Shinga. A Protected Village had been constructed there but had been attacked a number of times. Consequently many of the local people had fled and were living in the bush. Our job was to ensure their safe return. I conducted a recce of the area and picked up twelve villagers. Based on the gathered information I decided what my plan of action would be. For a few days we patrolled on foot in the vicinity of Tirihumwe village. Once this area had been covered I then wanted to deploy sticks of four men in various places in the area of Chota village. We patrolled Chota area in the hopes of making contact with the enemy and this hope was eventually fulfilled. Contact was made with a group of approximately ten guerrillas. They returned fire with mortars, machine gun and small arms fire. The contact was broken off as the guerrillas decided that discretion was the better part of valour. They bombshelled in various directions and disappeared into thin air, making our efforts to follow them up more difficult. On the same day an ADF vehicle detonated a landmine and two chaps were injured.
I was then given orders to deploy to Mrewa for a few days to conduct roadblocks that we did. From there a re-deployment found the Troop in Makaya on another guerrilla hunting trip. An off duty Guard Force lad was shot and badly wounded by the gang of guerrillas operating in the vicinity. We got to him in time and the Troop medic, an ex KAR fellow bandaged him up and got a drip going but to no avail. The fellow died anyway. We were then withdrawn. I gave the Troop a weekend pass and was able to go home to celebrate my brother’s birthday.
After the weekend B Troop went back to Shinga in Mudzi district on orders to round up the people who had not yet moved into the local Protected village. The policy may have been harsh but it worked. When patrols of B Troop found people they were brought back to the protected village and their huts burned down. This irritated the guerrillas no end as they were now being deprived of their logistics. This exercise lasted for a few days and then I decided to operate in a different sector of Shinga. The local villagers under close supervision of the gang of guerrillas had blocked off the main Shinga road with tree trunks, branches and furrows dug in the road. We cleared the road in a short while by ourselves so that we could get on with the job at hand.
A concerted effort was put into the task at hand and the Troop set off on another patrol. I gave orders and inspected everybody’s kit before we mounted our vehicles and proceeded on a very winding track flanked by granite kopjes and thick bush. I was driving the lead armoured Puma truck. There is a phenomenon in Rhodesia as far as gravel tracks are concerned. If there is a flat granite rock outcrop on the surface it automatically became part of the track. I approached one such outcrop and slowly passed over it. The second truck was some fifty metres behind and did the same. As I was about to increase speed there was a terrific loud bang. Right in front of me a tall plume of dust, earth and black smoke rose. Some of the soil landed on my lap. In unison sixty millimetre mortars opened fire in conjunction with RPG anti tank launchers and several small arms. The anti tank landmine had been detonated electrically by one of the guerrillas laying in ambush!
To put it mildly we were in a spot of bother. The cab of the Puma only has space for the driver - me. The rest of the lads were in the back. I could not go forward as there was now a ruddy great big hole in the middle of the road created by the exploded anti tank land mine. I could not reverse because the rear truck was standing stationary right behind us and everybody had debussed. The chaps were giving just as good as they were receiving. Several rounds hit the side of my cab. Although they did not penetrate the metal due to the angle of the armour plating they still had to go somewhere. The spent rounds went straight up into the air and then landed on my lap burning into my skin as I was wearing shorts. Now I had both hot metal and soil all over the place. Sergeant Major S was ensuring that the lads in the back of our armoured truck were placing well-aimed rounds into the immediate undergrowth. I did the same.
The terrorist who had detonated the mine electrically was dispatched quickly. He was wearing a blue T-shirt under a bunny jacket of sorts and took five or six rounds to the lower abdomen and legs.
Things were not looking too bright. The ambush was dragging on a bit and most of us were running out of ammunition. Sergeant Major S had always made sure that there was an extra crate of 7,62 ammo on board and he was dishing it out. The chaps who had debussed had suffered two casualties. Reuben Moyo was shot in the head and upper body and was in a very bad way. He had lost consciousness and the evidence of his plight was due to the fact that the one round had hit him squarely in the forehead. The other lad had a bullet wound to the foot. Lance Corporal William N sprang up from his concealed defensive position, ran to the truck picked up a spare box of ammo and started dishing it out too. One enemy round made a hole in the side of his shirt and another damaged the peak of his camouflaged cap.
Eventually the guerrillas realised that we were not going to leave the party first and they then withdrew. Our next trick was to do a little advancing of our own. Once the fire died down a sweep was done of the immediate area, chaps reloaded with ammo and I radioed for a casevac for the two wounded. An Allouette III helicopter was quickly on the scene. It had a medic and a curious British journalist on board who was shot and killed a few weeks later while deploying with an RAR company. He was making a video of the war in Rhodesia and some of the lads became heroes for a short while. The Greys Scouts were called in and followed up. They reported finding another three bodies. They had been wounded in the first punch up and had died later.
The vast majority of Rhodesian security force members almost always wore shorts in the bush due to the heat and the practicality of the need to move fast on foot on a regular basis.