Stand-To Rhodesia! A Rhodesian soldier of the Great War
For King and Empire.
Britain’s most loyal ally!
When the call came from the mother country Rhodesia was never found wanting.
A Rhodesian Bugler from World War II
The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
The Great War 1914-1918
The Second World War 1939-1945
The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960
Rhodesia was a young country with a small population yet, despite having no military conscription, she contributed a greater proportion of her manpower to the cause than any other part of the Empire including the home country.
Britain’s subsequent behaviour towards Rhodesia was an unfitting reward – to say the least!
The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 ~ Plumer’s valiant Rhodesians
No less than 1500 men out of a then total population of 12 000 volunteered for service.
When the war broke out Col (later Brig-Gen) Plumer was put in command of the Rhodesian Forces.
The mustering of Plumer’s volunteers at Bulawayo. Colonel Nicholson (mounted centre right) is seen reading instructions to the men. The mounted troopers in front belong to the British South Africa Company’s force (BSAP).
Archetypal Rhodesian – In April 1900, Lieut Smitheman of the Rhodesian Regiment succeeded in crossing Boer lines into the besieged town of Mafeking. He subsequently returned with valuable intelligence for Col Plumer.
The Empire’s Call To Arms – The Departure of the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, 1914
The 1st Rhodesia Regiment leaving for the Front in 1914. A large crowd of well-wishers is seen at Salisbury station cheering them on their way. (Photo by F.C. Bellamy)
Lieut A.E. Kennedy and some fine boys from “The Shamva Mine” in the 1st Rhodesia Regt..
Are We Downhearted?
A popular officer, Lieut A.E. Kennedy (C Company)
A section of the 1st Rhodesia Regiment. Photo by F.C. Bellamy
The 1st Rhodesia Regiment was raised in October 1914 and departed from Salisbury on 14th November. The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment was raised in November 1914 and departed on 9th March 1915 on an extremely long, arduous and severe campaign in German East Africa.
The 1st Rhodesia Native Regiment was formed in 1916 consisting of 54 European officers and NCOs and 458 natives. The 2nd Rhodesia Native Regiment was formed in 1917 with a strength of 54 European officers and NCOs and 563 natives.
Rhodesia and the Great War 1914-18
When the Great War broke out Rhodesians were among the first to volunteer for service, and many proceeded to Europe at their own expense to join the Colours. Rhodesia’s contributions to the war – in men, money and kind – were on a great scale. Over 60% of Rhodesia’s manhood aged between 15 and 44 were voluntarily under arms and many others who volunteered were not accepted due to their vital administrative roles or being unfit. In total more than 6 000 Europeans left Rhodesia on active service. The roll of honour contains the names of 732 Rhodesians who made the supreme sacrifice. The volunteers were awarded 421 British decorations among which were two VCs, 58 DSOs and 144 MCs. They also received 25 Croix de Guerre among others from France. As well as serving in Europe they also played their part in the conquest of German South West Africa (now Namibia) and the extensive campaign in German East Africa (now Tanzania). Among notable casualties who lost their lives in the East African campaign was Capt. Frederick Courtney Selous D.S.O. who was killed in action on 4th January 1917. Selous was a famous hunter and explorer and was the chief guide to the Pioneer Column in 1890. The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, the largest in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was named in his honour.
Rhodesians volunteered in large numbers to help fight the Nazi menace.
.Rhodesian gunners in action in Italy 1944.
Rhodesians in most of the units in the Sixth South African Armoured Division are distinctive in their bush hats. These two official War Office photographs (above) are fine action studies of Rhodesians serving guns which were in the act of shelling the enemy in Central Italy.
Target for to-night. Rhodesians who are flying Lancasters of the Rhodesia Bomber Squadron, examine a map of the target to be attacked. Left to right: D. Palmer (Salisbury), H Taylor (Salisbury*), T.H.W. Grimmelt (Bulawayo), A.C. Smythe (Bulawayo), and P. Vickery (Bulawayo).
(* Trevor Timmers, who subsequently worked with Havvy Taylor at Gourock Ropes and Canvas, has kindly advised that the wartime caption, as originally posted, stating Taylor’s residence as Bulawayo was incorrect.)
Another Score Is Marked Up.Rhodesians somewhere in England mark up another score: another raid has been successfully carried through, and the result is marked up on the big bomber.
Pilots of the Rhodesia Fighter Squadron walking to their machines. On the extreme left is their leader, S/Ldr. A.S. MacIntyre of Salisbury.
Rhodesian airmen know a great deal about Typhoons. Here are seen pilots and members of the ground crew of the Rhodesia Fighter Squadron posed in front of a typhoon fighter.
Badges and Legends of the THREE RHODESIAN SQUADRONS
No. 266 (RHODESIA) SQUADRON.
A Bateleur Eagle volant. Motto: “Hlabezulu”
(which may be translated as “The Stabber of the Sky”).
The Bateleur Eagle was adopted as it is common all over Southern Rhodesia and is known for its acrobatic propensity.
No. 44 (RHODESIA) SQUADRON.
On a Mount an Elephant. Motto: “Fulmina Regis lusta”
(which may be translated as “The King’s Thunderbolts are Righteous”).
The design is based on the seal of Lo Bengula, the chief of the Matabele on the conquest. The seal shows an elephant which, as used by the Squadron, suggests the weight of their attacks.
No. 237 (RHODESIA) SQUADRON.
A Lion passant guardant charged on the shoulder with an Eagle’s Claw and holding in the Forepaw an Elephant’s Tusk.
Motto: “Primum Agmen in Caelo” The design is based on the Crest of the British South Africa Company.
The fact that this unit was originally a unit of the Southern Rhodesian Air Force is commemorated by the introduction of the Eagle’s Claw, the Southern Rhodesian Air Force having used the R.A.F. Eagle and a Lion as their Badge.
One of Rhodesia’s most famous sons was among the brave volunteers. Ian Smith was at Rhodes University in South Africa and broke off his studies to volunteer for the Air Force. He returned to his country of birth for training and was commissioned as a pilot in No. 237 Squadron. He joined the squadron in Iran in 1942 where it was stationed against a possible German advance via the Caucasus. The squadron then moved to Egypt and whilst there a faulty throttle lock nut on his Hurricane fighter caused him to crash on take off. He sustained severe injuries especially to his face as his safety harness snapped. Plastic surgery fixed most of his injuries although subsequently his eyes often appeared imperfectly aligned. Not deterred, in 1944 he rejoined his squadron, now based in Corsica and re-equipped with Spitfires, and was engaged in escorting USAF bombers as well as numerous strikes against German positions in Italy. During one sortie over the Po Valley his plane was hit by flak and caught fire. He baled out and managed to evade capture by the Germans who were hunting him. He joined a group of Italian partisans and took part in some of their sabotage raids against the Germans. Eventually he crossed the Alps on foot over a period of several weeks to regain allied lines in France. When the war ended he was finally stationed in Celle, Germany after which he returned to complete his degree.
Fighter Pilot, later Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith
Rhodesia helps in the fight against the communist menace.
The Governor Bids Farewell to Far East Volunteers Friday February 16 1951
Inspection Before they Leave for Malaya
“In the name of the King, and in the name of the Government and the people of Southern Rhodesia, I wish you God speed, good fortune and a safe return,” said His Excellency the Governor, Major-General Sir John Kennedy, in an address to the Colony’s Far East Contingent during an inspection at King George VI barracks. Lady Kennedy accompanied the Governor to the parade. On the inspection His Excellency was accompanied by the Prime Minister (Sir Godfrey Huggins) and the Commander Military Forces (Brigadier S Garlake). All present were impressed by the smartness and efficiency attained by the contingent in so short a time. On parade were six officers and ninety-three men under the command of Lieut. G P Walls some of whom had reached a high state of efficiency in only a few weeks.
His Excellency the Governor, Major-General Sir John Kennedy, takes the salute at the march past of the Far East contingent: “C” (Rhodesia) Squadron Malayan Scouts, February 1951.
A High Standard
Addressing the contingent after the inspection, His Excellency said: “Ever since your contingent was formed I have been keeping in close touch with the progress of your organisation and the progress of your training. The reports I have had have been excellent. I am told that there are good grounds for believing that this contingent is well up to standard – to the Rhodesian standard.
Now that is saying a great deal. The Rhodesian standard is a pretty high one. It may be rather hard for you to realise how high it is. I would like to tell you this – I knew all about the Rhodesian military tradition long before I knew anything else about this country. It was a tradition which was started in the days of the Pioneers. And it has grown in the course of two world wars, till it is known all over the Empire to be second to none.
It is a fine thing for soldiers to have a tradition like the Rhodesian tradition behind them. When you are called upon to make sacrifices, as you will be; when you find yourselves in tight corners, as you often may; you must remember that you have this tradition behind you, and that you must not let it down.”
“ You are going to fight for freedom” continued His Excellency. “In this century two great wars have been fought and won to preserve mankind from a new form of slavery. The reason for the third worldwide struggle is just the same – to keep freedom and defeat communism, which is another word for slavery.”
“It is our great hope,” said Sir John, “That the free nations will be able to prevent another world war by showing determination not to tolerate aggression. This is the policy you are going to help to carry out. There can be no doubt that it is a wise and right policy.
The Governor then took the salute at the march past, which was led by the band of the RAR.
Rhodesians in Malaya
Seen at Selarang Barracks, where the Scouts are resting, Major Walls said that the toughest thing about jungle operations was keeping oneself to a high pitch of enthusiasm after long spells of slogging through the undergrowth without firing a shot.
Corporal Victor Visagie, 23, of Salisbury, who was a fireman on the Rhodesian Railways, said: “The jungle is like nothing you see in the tarzan pictures. Leeches are a constant worry, and it is always raining.” He found it difficult to remember when he was really dry in the jungle. “It is a heartbreaking job trying to clamber muddy, slippery slopes with a 60lb pack on your back. But I suppose I enjoyed it,” he added.
Rhodesian Scouts: No 13 Troop aboard the Tegel, March 1951.
~ “C” (Rhodesia) Squadron Malayan Scouts was later reconstituted as “C” (Rhodesia) Squadron SAS. ~
Back row l-r: Johnson, Mcdonald, Thane, Swift, Smith, Visagie, Moran. Middle row: Edwards, Jooste, Slaven, Harris, Delaney, Forms. Front row: Turner-Dauncy, Wermouth, Lt. Dill-Russell, Wait, Francom..
(Cpl VE Visagie was killed in action on 23rd April 1952).
With grateful thanks to Gwen Raikes who supplied the above information on the Rhodesians in Malaya (now Malaysia) which first appeared in The Bulawayo Chronicle.
“C” Squadron (Rhodesian) SAS in Malaya 1953 (UK government photograph)
From 1956 to 1958 the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) also undertook a tour of duty in Malaya where their 2IC, Lt-Col Frank Fitzgerald, is quoted as saying: “Our African soldiers are ideally suited to jungle warfare … far superior to the British and Ghurkha troops.” Sadly, Corporal Tavengwa, and Privates Joseph, Hunyani, Manuel and Mjikijelwa were killed whilst serving in Malaya.
The experience gained in fighting the communist insurgents was later put to good use when Rhodesia herself became the victim of communist aggression. Unfortunately by this time world morality had changed and the generous help that Rhodesia had offered to her friends in earlier times was not reciprocated.
Rhodesian Forces Memorial Service 2020
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many restrictions have been placed on normal activities around the world during 2020. As a result the usual annual Rhodesian Forces Memorial Service held in South Africa has been restricted to essential personnel only. However one upside to this is that the 2020 service has been recorded for online viewing.
A selection of stirring Rhodesian Marches
(which I digitised from my own LPs)
These Askari marches are seldom heard outside Africa and, today, maybe not often in Africa either?
Nkhwazi – the Northern Rhodesia Police Band directed by Assistant Superintendent C.W.G. Hey, A.R.C.M and being their Regimental March. The Fish Eagle (Nkhwazi) was adopted as the national emblem of Northern Rhodesia in 1927 and was retained by Zambia after 1964.
Poyamba (First) – played by the Rhodesia Corps of Signals Band under their Director of Music: Capt. F. Sutton A.R.C.M. and composed by him in 1956 as the Regimental March of the 1st Bn. King’s African Rifles in Nyasaland (now Malawi).
Tilikuyenda (We are marching) – Rhodesia Corps of Signals Band. Scored by Capt. F. Sutton and being a collection of Askari tunes adapted by W. Stutely, Bandmaster of the 2nd Bn. KAR and adopted as their Regimental March.
Sweet Banana – Band of 1st Bn. Rhodesian African Rifles under their Director of Music: Lieut. K.R. MacDonald L.R.A.M. and arranged by L.P. Smith, D.C.M., This march is well known among Rhodesians. Shortly after the Regiment had been raised in the early part of the 2nd World War, a detachment of Askari was detailed to Natal, South Africa, to escort Italian prisoners of war. Their amazement at the abundance of bananas there was the origin of this march. It was adopted as the Regimental March of the RAR shortly afterwards.
Kum-A-Kye – The Regimental March of the British South Africa Police recorded at the Little Palace Cinema, Salisbury in 1964 under their Director of Music: Supt. M.A. Sparks M.B.E., L.L.C.M., A. Mus. L.C.M. who also arranged this piece.
Kum A Kye: A Short History by Stephen J. Barry of the BSA Police Band 1973 – 1981.
The tune Kum-a-Kye is based on an old American camp fire folk song ‘The Chisholm Trail’ where the end of each verse is along the lines: Kum a Kye ai yai come an ai yai yippy tippy tai. Each person would then add a verse. This trail was used between the 1860s and early 1880s to move cattle from San Antonio, Texas to Abilene, Kansas where they were loaded onto rail wagons to continue the journey to the east coast. The cowboys would sit around the campfires in the evening adding ditties to the verses as they made them up.
It is believed two of these cowboys from the civil war era later joined the BSA Company Police and accompanied the 1890 column into Rhodesia. The tune continued to be sung around camp fires and local words and verses added over the years.
In 1939 the Bandmaster Max Sparks, then a Sergeant, arranged the tune so the band could play it. The band committee, consisting of Depot Commandant and 2 other officers from PGHQ, would meet from time to time and have the bandmaster wait outside until they called him in if they wanted to discuss an item with him. It was then adopted as the BSAP Regimental March.
I am grateful to Steve Barry for his leads which have enabled me to assemble the following further information including one of the earliest known vocal recordings of the original American song:
The Chisholm Trail was a major trail used in the post Civil War era to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas, where cattle were only worth about $2 a head, to Kansas railheads for onward shipment to Chicago and the East where they could fetch $40 a head! The portion of the trail marked by Jesse Chisholm went from his southern trading post near the Red River, through Indian Territory in Oklahoma, to his northern trading post near Kansas City. There were feeder trails from various points further south in Texas. During its heyday, between 1867 and 1884, some five million cattle and an equal number of mustangs were moved along the trail – the greatest migration of livestock in world history. The hazardous trip took anywhere from two to three months as the drives crossed major rivers including the Arkansas and Red Rivers, as well as travelling through canyons and low mountain ranges. In addition, the drovers or cowboys also had to be concerned about Indian attacks, outlaw cattle rustlers, and cattle stampedes.
The cowboys learned to sing when herding cattle so that their compatriots would know where they were; thus, avoiding driving stampeding cattle at fellow cowboys. They also sang just to keep themselves awake during long dreary night rides and watches. “The Old Chisholm Trail” was very popular with cowboys, who would make up their own verses for the song. Some sources claim there are literally thousands of verses to the song. Typically, the two men on guard would circle around with their horses on a walk, if it was a clear night and the cattle were bedded down and quiet, and one man would sing a verse of a song, and his partner on the other side of the herd would sing another verse; and you’d go through a whole song that way…
The song, itself, actually dates back to the 1870s. It was one of the most-popular songs which cowboys sang during the heyday of the cattle drives between Texas and the cow towns of Kansas. History tells us that the song is based on an English lyrical work which dates back as far as 1640. The words, of course, were modified to fit a cowboy’s life – as, in turn, they were modified by the men of the BSAP. One of the earliest known vocal recordings of The Old Chisholm Trail (Kum-A-Kye) sung by Frank Goodwyn in 1939 is held by the Library of Congress.