Rhodesia war


When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of World War I in Augustsettler society in Southern Rhodesia[n 1] then administered by the British South Africa Companyreceived the news with great patriotic enthusiasm.

Starting immediately after the outbreak of war, parties of white Southern Rhodesians paid their own way to England to join the British Army. Most Southern Rhodesians who served in the war enlisted in this way and fought on the Western Fronttaking part in many of the major battles with an assortment of British, South African and other colonial units, most commonly the King's Royal Rifle Corpswhich recruited hundreds of men from the colony, and created homogenous Rhodesian platoons.

Troopers from Southern Rhodesia became renowned on the Western Front for their marksmanship, a result of their frontier lifestyle. Though it was one of the few combatant territories not to raise fighting men through conscriptionproportional to white population, Southern Rhodesia contributed more manpower to the British war effort than any other dominion or colony, and more than Britain itself. The Rhodesia Native Regiment enlisted 2, black soldiers, about 30 black recruits scouted for the Rhodesia Regiment, and around served in British and South African units.

Over Southern Rhodesians of all races lost their lives on operational service during the war, with many more seriously wounded. The territory's contributions during the First World War became a major entry in many histories of the colony, and a great source of pride for the white community, as well as for some black Rhodesians. It played a part in the UK government's decision to grant self-government inand remained prominent in the national consciousness for decades.

When the colonial government unilaterally declared independence from Britain init deliberately did so on Armistice Day11 November, and signed the proclamation at local time.

Since the territory's reconstitution and recognised independence as Zimbabwe inthe modern government has removed many references to the war, such as memorial monuments and plaques, from public view, regarding them as unwelcome vestiges of white minority rule and colonialism.

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The Zimbabwean cultural memory has largely forgotten the First World War; the country's war dead today have no official commemoration, either there or overseas. The settlers were split between those who backed continued administration by the Chartered Company and those who advocated responsible governmentwhich would make Southern Rhodesia a self-governing colony within the British Empire. Reserves existed in the form of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers, an all-white amateur force with a paper strength of 2, intended for mobilisation against local uprisings.

Few doubted the Volunteers' enthusiasm, but they were not extensively trained or equipped; though perhaps useful in a Rhodesian bush skirmish, most observers agreed they would be no match for professional soldiers in a conventional war. In any case, the Volunteers' enlistment contracts bound them for domestic service only.

When Britain declared war on Germany at Greenwich Mean Time on 4 Augustthe British Empire's dominions and colonies automatically became involved as well.

rhodesia war

Word of this reached the Southern Rhodesian capital Salisbury during the night. In the words of the historian Peter McLaughlinthe Southern Rhodesian settlers "seemed to out-British the British" in their patriotic zeal, [15] so it was to the frustration of many of them that the Company did not immediately commit to any martial action. While it sent supportive messages to Whitehall, the Company felt it could not raise any kind of expeditionary force without first considering the implications for its administrative operations; as a commercial concern, it was possible for the Company to go bankrupt.

Who would foot the bill for war expenditure, its hierarchy pondered: the Company itself, the Rhodesian taxpayers or the British government?In the sepia-toned photo, two white soldiers patrol on foot over brush and rocky ground. Lean and bearded, they carry what appear to be Belgian rifles, and they wear an unusual uniform — cloth jungle hats, short shorts and tennis shoes — associated with a military unit that was disbanded nearly 40 years ago.

Not long after Rhodesia ceased to exist, it became morally untenable to mourn its disappearance. As the rest of the world woke up to the injustices of Western colonialism and its system of white-minority governments, the Selous Scouts and their cause became taboo.

But late last year, the image of two Scouts began to circulate on Instagram, part of a social-media resurgence of Rhodesia as a source of inspiration. Photos of soldiers marching through grassland and rivers, special-forces units jumping out of helicopters and civilians posing in front of their homes with rifles collected hundreds, sometimes thousands, of likes on posts seeming to offer tribute to a hardened and forgotten cadre of Cold War-era bush fighters.

The online movement also caught the attention of opportunistic apparel marketers who started selling Rhodesian-themed T-shirts, posters and patches, among other collectibles.

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Nostalgia for Rhodesia has since grown into a subtle and profitable form of racist messaging, with its own line of terminology, hashtags and merchandise, peddled to military-history fans and firearms enthusiasts by a stew of far-right provocateurs.

In conversations and email exchanges with The New York Times, some prominent social-media figures and companies selling Rhodesia-themed merchandise denied trafficking in white-power messages, or said they had done so unwittingly. But outside observers of this Rhodesia revival cite a far more disturbing inspiration for it: Dylann Roof, the American white supremacist who killed nine black parishioners in a Charleston, S.

Roof, who was sentenced to death last year, had penned an online manifesto, which appeared on a website called The Last Rhodesian, with photographs of himself wearing a jacket with a patch of the green-and-white Rhodesian flag. Demand for Rhodesian-themed apparel has since increased. If such symbols and slogans, for a North American audience, lack the instant shock effect of a Confederate or Nazi flag, that is part of the point. The online apparel company FireForce Ventures, whose website is registered to the Canadian Army reservist Henry Lung, offers reproduction Rhodesian flags, recruiting posters and various patches of the Rhodesian security forces.

Southern Rhodesia was established in as a British colony named for Cecil Rhodes, who made his fortune in consolidating diamond mines. By the s, as much of Africa rapidly decolonized around it, the colonial government faced pressure from London to hold free elections and accede to majority rule. The colonial government refused. In it renamed itself Rhodesia and broke from the United Kingdom with the express purpose of maintaining white rule. He has built it, and he intends to keep it.

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Many of the fighters received weapons from China or the Soviet Union. The battle for perception is playing out again now on social media, which pro-Rhodesia accounts or commenters are using to rewrite Rhodesian history in gentle tones.

Rhodesia’s Dead — but White Supremacists Have Given It New Life Online

On Jan. The photograph is well known.Paul Moorcraft looks at the struggle to maintain white supremacy in what is now Zimbabwe, a hundred years after Cecil Rhodes' pioneers carved out a British colony there. Ian Smith. In September Cecil Rhodes' pioneer column trundled into Mashonaland to establish Fort Salisbury and the new colonial state named after its founder: Rhodesia. In the s the first settlers brutally suppressed a series of 'native rebellions' or Chimurenga the Shona word for 'resistance'as the indigenous peoples called their defence against alien invaders.

Thereafter, white Rhodesians fought a number of wars on behalf of the British Empire and then indulged in a traumatic civil war that lasted fourteen years and took over 30, lives. The bitterness remains, not least among the many — often partisan — writers who are struggling to explain and explore the war's many facets, some still shrouded in secrecy.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive. Please email digital historytoday. Skip to main content. Google Tag Manager. Rhodesia's War of Independence. White Gold. Menstruation and the Holocaust. Get Miscellaniesour free weekly long read, in your inbox every week.Rhodesia was the de facto successor state to the British colony of Southern Rhodesiawhich had been self-governing since achieving responsible government in A landlocked nation, Rhodesia was bordered by South Africa to the south, Bechuanaland later Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique a Portuguese province until to the east.

In the late 19th century, the territory north of the Transvaal was chartered to the British South Africa Companyled by Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes and his Pioneer Column marched north inacquiring a huge block of territory that the company would rule until the early s. Inthe company's charter was revoked, and Southern Rhodesia attained self-government and established a legislature. The decolonisation of Africa in the early s alarmed a significant proportion of Rhodesia's white population.

In an effort to delay the transition to black majority ruleRhodesia's predominantly white government issued its own Unilateral Declaration of Independence UDI from the United Kingdom on 11 November The government of the United Kingdom supported Rhodesia's transition to a multiracial democracy.

The UDI administration initially sought recognition as an autonomous realm within the Commonwealth of Nationsbut reconstituted itself as a republic in However, a provisional government subsequently headed by Smith and his moderate colleague Abel Muzorewa failed in appeasing international critics or halting the bloodshed.

By DecemberMuzorewa had replaced Smith as Prime Minister and secured an agreement with the militant nationalists, allowing Rhodesia to briefly revert to colonial status pending elections under a universal franchise. It finally achieved internationally recognised independence in April as the Republic of Zimbabwe. Rhodesia's largest cities were its capital, Salisburyand Bulawayo. Rhodesia developed an economy largely dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, and mining.

Its largest exports were chromiumtobaccoand steel. International sanctions put increasing pressure on the country as time went on.

rhodesia war

The unicameral Legislative Assembly was predominantly white, with minority of seats reserved for blacks. Following the declaration of a republic inthis was replaced by a bicameral Parliament with a House of Assembly and a Senate.

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The Westminster system was retained, with the President acting as ceremonial head of state, and the Prime Ministerheading the Cabinetas head of government. The official name of the country, according to the constitution adopted concurrently with the UDI inwas Rhodesia. This was not the case under British lawhowever, which considered the territory's legal name to be Southern Rhodesia, the name given to the country in during the British South Africa Company 's administration of the Rhodesiasand retained by the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia after the end of company rule in The war and its subsequent Internal Settlementsigned in by Smith and Muzorewa, led to the implementation in June of universal suffrage and end of white minority rule in Rhodesia, which was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia under a black majority government.

However, this new order failed to win international recognition and the war continued. The country returned temporarily to British control and new elections were held under British and Commonwealth supervision in March ZANU won the election and Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on 18 Aprilwhen the country achieved internationally-recognised independence.

The origins of the war in Rhodesia can be traced to the colonisation of the region by white settlers in the late 19th century, and the dissent of black African nationalist leaders who opposed white minority rule. As a consequence many Rhodesians, white and black, were concerned at the possibility that decolonisation and native rule would bring chaos, as had resulted when the Congo became independent.

Though Rhodesia had the unofficial support of neighbouring South Africa and Portugal, which governed Mozambique, it never gained formal recognition from any country. Most white Rhodesians viewed the war as one of survival with atrocities committed in the former Belgian Congo, the Mau Mau Uprising campaign in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa fresh in their minds.

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Many whites and a sizeable minority of black Rhodesians viewed their lifestyle as being under attack, which both had considered safer and with a higher standard of living than many other African countries.

Although the vote in Rhodesia was open to all, regardless of race, property ownership requirements effectively denied the franchise to most of Rhodesia's blacks. A further eight seats were reserved for tribal chiefs. Amidst this backdrop, black nationalists advocated armed struggle to bring about independence in Rhodesia.

Resistance also stemmed from the wide disparities in wealth possession between blacks and whites. In Rhodesia, Europeans owned most of the fertile land whilst Africans were crowded on barren land, [26] following forced evictions or clearances by the colonial authorities.

Each group subsequently fought a separate war against the Rhodesian security forces, and the two groups sometimes fought against each other as well. Inevitably the Bush War occurred within the context of regional Cold War in Africa, and became embroiled with a number of conflicts in several neighbouring countries as well.

The conflict was seen by the nationalist groups and the British government of the time as a war of national and racial liberation. The Rhodesian government saw the conflict as a fight between one part of the country's population the whites on behalf of the whole population including the black majority against several externally financed parties made up of predominantly black radicals and communists.

The Nationalists saw their country as having been occupied and dominated by a foreign power, namely Britain, since The British government, in the person of the Southern Rhodesia, had indirectly ruled the country fromwhen it took over from the British South Africa Company and granted self-governing status to a locally-elected government, made up predominantly of whites. Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front party was elected to power in and unilaterally declared independence on 11 November to preserve what it saw as the self-government it had possessed since The minority Rhodesian government believed they were defending Western values, Christianity, the rule of law and democracy by fighting Communists; however, they were unwilling to compromise on most political, economic and social inequalities.

The Smith administration held that the traditional chiefs were the legitimate voice of the black Shona and Ndebele population, not the ZANU and ZAPU nationalists, who it regarded as dangerous, violent usurpers.

Seven Nation Army can't stop Rhodesia

In — the Smith administration attempted to blunt the power of the nationalist cause by acceding to an "Internal Settlement" which ended minority rule, changed the name of the country to Zimbabwe-Rhodesiaand arranged multiracial elections, which were held in and won by Bishop Abel Muzorewawho became the country's first black head of government.

However, unsatisfied with this and spurred on by Britain's refusal to recognise the new order, the nationalist forces persisted. Ultimately the war ended when, at the behest of both South Africa its major backer and the United States, the Zimbabwe Rhodesian government ceded power to Britain with the Lancaster House Agreement in December The British government then held another election in to form a new government.

Britain recognised this new government, headed by Robert Mugabe, and the newly independent and internationally recognised country was renamed Zimbabwe. Black Rhodesians made up most of the government's Security Forcesbut some units were all-white.

Rhodesia's War of Independence

The army was always a relatively small force, consisting of just 3, regular troops in While the regular army consisted of a professional core drawn from the white population and some units, such as the Rhodesian SAS and the Rhodesian Light Infantrywere all-whiteby —79 the majority of its complement was actually composed of black soldiers.

The army reserves, in contrast, were largely white and, toward the end of the war, were increasingly being called up to deal with the growing insurgency. The regular army was supported by the para-military British South Africa Police with a strength of about 8, to 11, men the majority of whom were black and supported by between 19, to 35, police reservists which, like their army counterparts, were largely white.

The police reserves acted as type of home guard.The Guerrilla war in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia is at the same time both a classic counter insurgency situation, yet unique in the methods employed against the insurgents.

The author, a freelance cameraman and former soldier having served in five campaigns, three times in the counter in surgency role, and twice as a guerrilla commander spent six months in Rhodesia in filming the conduct of this campaign.

rhodesia war

In his opinion, any professionally trained guerrilla force operating in the Rhodesian bush could have brought the country to its knees literally years ago. This article outlines the methods employed in COIN duties within Rhodesia, specifically describing an operation by one of the elite Fire Force units of the Rhodesian Army. According to government sources in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as it is now called, there are some 12, nationalist guerrillas operating inside the country.

The fact that this force was unable to carry out its avowed intention of disrupting the recent elections - a fairly modest military task - is just one indication of the astonishingly low calibre of Mugabe and Nkomo's troops. On the face of it, Salisbury is confronted with an insoluble military problem.

Rhodesia is roughly one and a half times the size of Britain, with nearly miles of hostile border. In the North there is the Zambezi river and Lake Kariba; to the East, the frontier with Mozambique is rugged and mountainous, and to the West lie the deserts of Botswana.

None of these entry routes can be sealed, nor the guerrilla supply lines cut, and Rhodesia itself is ideally suited to rural guerrilla warfare.

Agriculture is vital to the economy. Production has nearly trebled since UDI, and Rhodesia is now completely self-sufficient. Economically, politically and militarily, the farmers are an obvious and easy target.

A determined attack against these men and their families would deal a crippling blow both to the exchequer and to white morale, while an orchestrated campaign of ambushes on the winding roads would rapidly bring rural life and commerce to a standstill. To police the miles of border, and inhibit the activities of 12, guerrillas dispersed in small groups over an area ofsquare miles, the Rhodesians can field only some 25, men at any one time.

Of these, a mere are full time soldiers. By all the normal military equations, this increasingly bloody little war should have been decided several years ago. That it continues is remarkable, and it is worth examining the tactics and organisation of the opposing forces.

Economic sanctions have deprived the Rhodesians of most of the paraphernalia associated with modern counter-insurgency campaigns. They are desperately short of helicopters, many of their aircraft are old and out-dated, and much of their equipment is locally made.

The vast African heartland is patrolled almost entirely by men on foot, and the war has become very much a matter of individual military skill, fought at close range under the leadership of platoon and section commanders. Lack of gadgetry has forced the Rhodesians to concentrate on basic infantry expertise, and to rely heavily on improvisation and initiative.

On the whole this has worked to their advantage. One of the myths about Rhodesia is that it is a white man's war. This does not include the so-called 'auxiliaries'. These hastily trainined volunteers owe their allegiance to one or other of the internal black leaders, and are deployed in the Tribal Trust Lands, where, contrary to expectation they have proved reasonably effective.

They now number about 10, and although such a large body of armed and loosely-controlled politically-minded individuals may one day pose considerable problems, at the moment they are a useful adjunct to the hard pressed security forces.

It is interesting to note that of the 35, Africans actively engaged in military operations inside Rhodesia, two thirds are fighting for, and are loyal to the present government. An unusual feature of the Rhodesian' methods is the emphasis on long-range patrolling, and the comparatively few men employed in static guard duties. One of the virtues forced on them by lack of material has been this reliance on the basic infantry skills of bushcraft, tracking, concealment and observation.

The vast majority of the security forces, be they young conscripts or middle-aged farmers doing their call-up, spend their time walking quietly through the bush, looking for signs of guerrilla activity. The normal patrol consists of six men, and in the event of a 'sighting' or a contact they can call on assistance from the regular army.

The Rhodesian Army's best troops, and most of its helicopters, are concentrated in four mobile strike-units dispersed around the country.The war and its subsequent Internal Settlementsigned in by Smith and Muzorewa, led to the implementation of universal suffrage in June and the end of white minority rule in Rhodesia, which was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia under a black majority government.

However, this new order failed to win international recognition and the war continued. Neither side achieved a military victory and a compromise was later reached. The country returned temporarily to British control and new elections were held under British and Commonwealth supervision in March ZANU won the election and Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on 18 Aprilwhen the country achieved internationally recognised independence. The origin of the war in Rhodesia can be traced to the conquest of the region by the British South Africa Company in the late 19th century, and the dissent of native leaders who opposed foreign rule.

Britain's unwillingness to compromise led to Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence UDI on 11 November Although Rhodesia had the private support of neighbouring South Africa and Portugalwhich still owned Mozambiqueit never gained formal diplomatic recognition from any country. Although the vote in Rhodesia was constitutionally open to all, regardless of race, property requirements left many blacks unable to participate.

Amidst this backdrop, African nationalists advocated armed struggle to bring about black rule, primarily denouncing the wealth disparity between the races. Cold War politics played into the conflict. Each group fought a separate war against the Rhodesian security forces, and the two groups sometimes fought against each other as well.

Ian Smith further expounded this by portraying the conflict as primarily anti-communist in nature. Having previously witnesses the communist redistribution of resources after the Mau Mau RebellionRhodesians refused to allow the majority-rule policy to come into effect. In ignoring other contributing factors to the conflict, Smith and the RF were able to strengthen ties with the West, however, Britain remained neutral.

The division between the communists and anti-communists caused the fighting to spill over the Rhodesian borders.

Neighboring African nations, supported primarily by North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, utilized communist material support to begin launching guerrilla attacks on the RF. The United States took the official position that it would not recognize Rhodesia as an independent sovereign. However, many American soldiers who had seen combat in Vietnam quickly joined into the Rhodesian Front. The RF created advertising campaigns in order to attract soldiers from Western countries, and the RF amassed a force of nearly 1, soldiers that were highly trained in special forces and guerrilla warfare, bringing the total RF military force to over 10, men.

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