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Subject: Rhodesian Light infantry
BRH    1/27/2006 2:23:16 AM
In the mid 1970's when I was conscripted 1st Battalion Rhodesian Light Infantry, it consisted of four commando groups of around 100 men plus Base group. The fighting units were named 1 through 3 commando and Support commano. Support commando provied motar support, plus perfromed the same duties of the other 3 commando's. From it's inception in the early 1960's to time of Zimbabwe independence, it distinguished itself in contact after contact with the enemy. Initial training for this unit came from British military units such as the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Coldstream guards. At first it performed infantry duties, but as the civil war in Rhodesia heated up, the term Fireforce was coined. The unit became a rapid helicopter deploying shock force consisting 4 men per heilcopter. This four man group was called a Stick. Each Stick consisted a stick leader (NCO) plus a machine gunner, a rifle carrying trooper, and a rifle carrying semi-medic. The NCO carried the radio. The basic weapons were the 7.62 FN rifle, and the MAG belt fed machine gun. The preferred clothing was cammo shirt and green shorts with un-treaded black canavas shoes to help conceal tracks. Later in the war when units were deployed into battle by parachute some troopers jumped in the clothing described, while others wore cammo fatigues. Other points to note about the unit. Roughly one third was made up from other countries such as the US, GB and AUS. The typical US soldier was a veteran from Vietnam war and a very capable and liked soldier. American Officers were appreciated too due to there liberal use of ammunition. Battalion mascot was a Cheetah. Dress headgear was the a green beret. The green and white stripped staple belt worn only with cammo shirt and fatigues. The unit had exceptional marching skills and discipline was high, and this unit was a band of brothers. Hope this answers a few questions about this largely unknown group of fighters. One point to note, none of the fighters from other countries could be labled mercenaries. These exceptional soldiers went through the same basic training as the rest of us, recieved the same pay as us as far as I know. They were disciplined, tough, and part of our war.
 
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longrifle    RE:Rhodesian Light infantry    1/27/2006 3:29:18 AM
Thanks for posting that, I really enjoyed reading it. A couple of questions. You said you were conscripted in the mid 1970's. At what point did the RLI become a parachute force? Was the RLI volunteer after that? In the U.S. parachute forces are all volunteer.
 
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BRH    RE:Rhodesian Light infantry    1/28/2006 2:16:51 PM
Thanks for the response. The RLI became a parachute force about the time my tour was up, so I actually missed out on that part. I want to say it was in the 1975-76 time period, though I could be off some. You are correct about the RLI being an all Volunteer force. From time to time and more frequently as the war heated up, it's ranks would thin as tours came to an end and recruitment did not always keep up with the thinning. During those days every male was conscripted after leaving school. The majority would end up in one of the Territorial Regiments . From these regiments riflemen were selected for training to fill the depleted ranks of the RLI. Once selected I was not given the opportunity to opt out so one can say when parachuting was introduced both regular and conscripted troopers had no choice. It has been said the RLI parachute forces dropped into battle more times than any previous force in history. I have no numbers to support this, however when you consider anywhere up to four jumps a week it could be true. Other facts. Jumps were performed from about 500', no reserves. Troops were deployed by DC-3's and injuries took their toll. Another point, conscripted forces served a 2 year stint while regulars did 5 years. Once my tour was up my time was split up doing my civilian job and tours with one of the Regiments. This involved regular infantry work.
 
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Hugo    RE:BRH   1/29/2006 6:14:53 AM
BRH, were you born and bred in Rhodesia? I'd be interested in knowing whether Rhodesians felt as belonging to a Rhodesian identity or whether you felt more British. Sorry for being off-topic.
 
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BRH    RE:BRH   1/31/2006 12:40:50 AM
Hugo, I was a 5th generation born in Africa, two of those in Rodesia. I emigrated to the USA at 27, became a US citizen at the first opportunity. My Ancestors came from Island of Raasay , England, and the Nertherlands. I really felt no ties to the British and during those days of UDI and sanctions, most of us Rhodesains felt deeply Rhodesian but there some who felt strongly British. Of course understanding at the time the West was chipping away economically at one end while the Chinese and Soviet Bloc was banging away at the the other end, it was easy to dig your feet in and become very patriotic. Much the way some of us now feel in the West with the war on terrorisim.
 
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Hugo    RE:BRH   1/31/2006 7:59:10 AM
Interesting. I often thought that the Rhodesians must feel less African than say the Afrikaners in South Africa because most, if I am not mistaken, emigrated to Rhodesia around the 1950s. Clearly, you disprove that or are an exception. I imagine that you feel 100% US of American now but it must have been difficult to leave Africa - which of course was your home.
 
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BRH    RE:BRH   2/2/2006 1:18:46 AM
It might be unfair to say that all felt stongly Rhodesian or African, but most of my family and friends felt deeply rooted in Africa. There was a no doubt a mix. I saw 1st generations English born in Rhodesia that felt a stronger Rhodesian identiy than English, though there parents remained true English. Our culture was very powerful though. Losing my country was like a death in the family, but life goes on. During the war when someone was killed, everyone felt the pain and anger with the enemy. The feeling never goes away. The same emotions well up whenever we lose one of our men in the war in Iraq.
 
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BRH    RE:BRH   2/2/2006 1:19:02 AM
It might be unfair to say that all felt stongly Rhodesian or African, but most of my family and friends felt deeply rooted in Africa. There was a no doubt a mix. I saw 1st generations English born in Rhodesia that felt a stronger Rhodesian identiy than English, though there parents remained true English. Our culture was very powerful though. Losing my country was like a death in the family, but life goes on. During the war when someone was killed, everyone felt the pain and anger with the enemy. The feeling never goes away. The same emotions well up whenever we lose one of our men in the war in Iraq.
 
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Hugo    RE:BRH   2/2/2006 1:51:53 AM
BRH, a little off topic, but what do you tihnk of Afrikaner attempts to get their own country?
 
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BRH    RE:BRH   2/3/2006 8:13:29 PM
Hugo, I think it's a vain attempt. I think it is too late turn clock back. I doubt there will be any support from the western world and they cetainly don't have the strenght to create their own state through force. I think all they could do is form a cultural laager and shut the world out.
 
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Hugo    RE:BRH   2/5/2006 1:24:33 PM
I think that's quite probable but I also think that it'S autonomy or extinction for the Afrikaner. Regardless of how you feel about their chances - do you feel that a quest for autonomy on their part is justified?
 
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