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The Territorial or conscript units of the Rhodesian Army have their origins in the First World War
and some may argue as far back as the Boer War in a vaguely representative form.
Compulsory conscription was introduced in the early 60's and initially required a four and a half
month service period, this was later increased to nine months, eighteen months and then two
years as the security situation deteriorated and more manpower was required.
A basic training period of 18 weeks was followed by deployments to 1 and 2 Independent Rifle
companies or selection to regular units such as the Artillery and Signals.
As hostilities wore on Territorial conscripts were eventually deployed to Regular combat units
such as the RLI to complete their commitments.
After initial service period Territorials were committed to an ongoing obligatory service to one of
the 10 Territorial Battalions formed. Initially this may have required a period of service of six weeks
every two years. In the final stages of the conflict commitment periods of six and eight weeks every
six or eight weeks were required.
Eventually voluntary conscription was extended to the indigenous population with spectacularly
disastrous results. Rhodesia began to flounder under the weight of the conflict. Desperate and
dubious internal political associations designed to gain international recognition were formed.
Reportedly the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger eventually met with South African
politicians. By threatening to artificially lower the Gold price and disrupt the South African
economy, managed to convince the South Africans to close their borders to the flow of goods and
materiele, thus forcing the Rhodesians to the negotiating table.
Territorials countrywide were summoned to the Battalion HQ's and informed that the country had
Fuel and Ammunition for 90 days and the Kissinger proposals had to be accepted. The country
was then committed to the inevitability of Black majority rule.
Civilian men and women of all races and persuasions, from all walks of life, on a regular and
ongoing basis had been able to make the transition fom civilian pastimes to combat environments,
invariably with a transition period of only a few days. To them largely went the more mundane
tasks. Although with the worsening situation great things were expected from these partime units,
often undermanned, equipped and supported in comparison to their regular counterparts.
It is unlikely that the Territorial contribution to the Rhodesian bush war will ever be satisfactorily
chronicled or acknowledged. The considerable role of honour bears testimony to the ultimate
sacrifice made by many. To have been part of this valiant collective effort is indeed the only claim
that can be made by most members of long forgotten Regiments, but is in itself an accolade to
committment and sacrifice of the highest order in the finest traditions of soldiering.
The Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental
Assocation of Australasia