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We would like to chronicle for posterity individual's service memories and experiences that otherwise
may never be recorded outside of commercial publications.
There are no restrictions and you may like to remember a time or place or a fallen mate, we owe it to
our children to pen our experiences and there is no greater honour we can give those that fell than
ongoing life in our memories.
This section may be accessed by young formative minds or old incurable ones and potential authors
are urged to omit detail or personal references that may shock or offend.
A degree of plausibility and fact, although although not essential, is encouraged and the insertion
of asterix where descriptive expletives are required would be appreciated.
In an effort to maintain the tellers flavour, editing will be limited to correcting outrageous spelling and
grammatical errors typical of soldiers narrative.
Late 60's somewhere in the north of the country;
PO Gray Branfield and his AC were patrolling by Landrover and while negotiating a dry river bed were ambushed
by a number of CT's.
Gray miraculously was able to continue to drive the vehicle through the fusillade, at some point he felt a thump in
his back and noticed his leg up over the AC's lap, wondering what the f...... that was doing there.
The Land Rover continued some way down the track and then succumbed to it's injuries at which point they took
stock of there own. The AC had a finger shot off and Gray said that was because he had put his finger in the food
the previous evening, PO Branfield had been shot through the side and after later surgery required a Colostomy
bag which he maintained he could never get matching shoes for.
Kanyemba 1969, B Coy 1RR, Angry Black.
We were doing 5 day cross graining patrols on the Valley floor, myself Nigel Sweet ( front man for the Blackjacks of
Marlborough / Mabelreign fame ) Peter Cremer and a Corporal who's name eludes me but was also Mabelreign, ex
Ellis Robins I think.
About midday we came up a little rise and walked right on top of a black Rhino just to our right, fortunately for us he
was pointing the other way and only the occassional flick of the tail distinguished him from the surroundings.
He was very close and without a word we all instinctively knew that flight was imminent and started to quietly
disrobe, somebody dropped something and the enormous beast was bearing down on us at an incredible speed.
I made for a Mopani sapling to my left and went up Like a Canadian lumberjack, Nigel passed me on the other side
of this pitiful little tree with his rifle in his hand and the express train passed just under us head down and very
Peter and the Corporal in the mean time had chosen a straighter route and we could see two trails of high speed
dust with the odd bit of clothing emerging.
Nigel and I began to laugh hysterically at the scene. The Rhino who had in the meantime stopped about 20 metres
away, zeroed in on the sound and charged in again but hit one of his own territorial dung piles on the way and went
down in a large very undignified heap. This sent us apoplectic and nearly brought us out of the tree.
I thought that someone had shot it, but it rolled around for a while and then got up and stalked off with tail straight
up almost embarrased.
After a while we regrouped on a nearby log and I think had the inevitable dixie of tea to settle the nerves before
Chabarra Hills Mid 70's, C Coy 1RR:
Cpl Fred Simoncelli went to a Kraal early at first light after hearing shots the previous evening, his command of the
language was excellent and ellicited that an attempted abduction had occured and very soon picked up tracks.
The follow up went to early morning in a very heavily grassed riverine area where smoking cigarette ends and the
odd steaming sadza snake were found.
At this point it was decided to call in FireForce which duly arrived and asked Fred to put down smoke to which he
replied he didn't have any. The reply came back to use an Icarus, Fred sent it up into the Choppers instead of into
the ground and the most terrible expletives were heard across the net as they peeled away from this menace and
he was told to get the F... out of there by Baldy (?) the K car Commander. All was forgiven evidently at a later
meeting at the Mt Darwin Pub.
RLI, Congo / Northern Rhodesia Border, early 60's:
Ernie Walters was a cook with the regiment in the early days and hailed from the British Army. He had a complete
set of false teeth top and bottom and a wicked Londoner's sense of humour. His favourite trick to the uninitiated
was to fish around in the stew and pretend to find the gnashers in it and say " I bin lookin f'dem "
C Coy 1 RR, Mtoko early 70's:
Malcolm Smith and Billy Matthee tragicallly killed in separate night actions, regularly still see your young faces
in the clearest detail. Never forgotten.
3 Commando Fireforce, early 1979
By Mike McDonald
I was 3 Commando MA3 medic at this time doing Fireforce out of Beitbridge. We had a Rhodesian K-car crew with
South African G-car crews. On this particular callout the K-car orbited atop the contact centre as usual. The G-cars
for some strange reason did little individual orbits each at 2, 6 and 10 o'clock position to the K-car instead of the
usual one big orbit. As usual orbiting counterclockwise so the chopper's machine guns face inward toward the
contact area but meant the pilot was turning into his blind spot. This brought the choppers paths more inward
toward the contact area. This day we had a real cheeky bunch of terrorists who kept firing at the G-cars. I was
sitting across from the chopper gunner exposed by the door. Many bullets kept cracking the air by my face
constantly but we couldn't see the shooters as it was forested below. I've never received so much ground fire
before in a chopper. Finally I get really pissed off and bugger the no firing rule from the G-car because of bouncing
around empty casings, if I see these gooks I'm going to blast away at them. Everyone is focused on the ground
looking for these gooks. Something makes me look up. I see our flight path at the 6 o'clock position and I see the
flight path of the chopper at the 10 o'clock position. I instantaneously do the math and see we are on a 'collision'
course. I slap the chopper gunner's leg and point to the oncoming chopper. He screams into his radio mouthpiece
and both choppers do a hard right turn. Both choppers pass each other belly to belly twenty yards apart! Too damn
close! Amazing the soldiers behind the pilots didn't fall out. I believe I saved the lives of 12 men, 8 RLI soldiers and
four aircrew by three seconds. The next Fireforce callout we were back to one big orbit! The South African
aircrews were a little different from their Rhodesian cousins but they did risk life and limb for us many a time. One
good thing riding in a South African chopper on the way back from a contact we would fight for the extra headset
so we could listen to Radio 5, a South African rock music station.
Snakes and Gogos
By Mike McDonald
In the first week I joined RLI we went out to Mazoe for training. On the first day I was napping in my bivvy after
lunch. I was awoken to find a huge baboon spider inches from my face. The next thing I remember I was
outside the bivvy beating this 'deadly poisonous tarantula' to death with my water bottle. There was a couple of
guilty looking RLI Rhodies sniggering nearby, welcome to Africa. On my first bush trip with 3 Cdo we stop by
this small base near Buffalo Range. There are some African soldiers toasting mopane worms on a grill over
coals. My RLI corporal shows me this procedure then asks me to eat one. Smartass me says I'll eat one if you
do. This darn Corporal pops one into his mouth and eats it. Damn, so I had to eat one too.
Support Cdo had a trooper nicknamed 'Snake'. In the bush he was always turning over rocks etc looking for
snakes on his patrol breaks and often finding them. At Grand Reef Fireforce base there was this big mamba.
Snake would chase the mamba from the berm to the airstrip trying to catch it. The mamba would get cranky and
chase Snake back to the berm. This happened back and forth several times much to the amusement of lots of
Support Cdo onlookers; I don't think he was able to catch the mamba. Legend has it that Snake whilst early
into a several day deployment into Mozambique caught a world record size cobra but had to let it go due to
military operations. Watching television recently a herpetologist from South Africa was being interviewed, he
looked hauntingly familiar like Snake. This snake expert even said he handled snakes in the army in Angola
clearing them from bunkers etc. "If that's really you Snake congratulations having a career in your beloved
At Grand Reef I was nearby when a cobra went into the 3 Cdo's batmen's tent when they were all inside having
an afternoon siesta. All the screaming batmen exited the tent immediately only one by the doorway! Aye if only
we had it on video An Afrikaner 3 Cdo trooper killed the snake and skinned it. Only one batman slept in the tent
that night because of a cobra's reputation of hanging around in pairs. On one extremely quiet day a very bored
3 Cdo soldier caught a chameleon and spent several minutes chasing the batmen around with it. Good thing
batmen weren't armed or they would have shot me
One time Support Cdo was camped by the sports club of Ngundu Halt north of Beitbridge. At dusk the Recce
Troop sergeant had a hell of a dramatic time killing a big cobra in his tent with a shovel. He was in quite a rattled
state afterwards. I was sharing a tarp bivvy with the company clerk there. He had the 8 to 10pm radio watch in
the signals truck while I did the 10 to midnight. At the end of my radio watch upon returning to our bivvy I found
him sleeping about 30 yards away in the open. I thought whatever, crawled around our very dark bivvy crashed
in my sleeping bag on the stretcher. I asked him the following morning why he slept out there and he said huge
snake crawled into our bivvy!! I was quite angry with him for not warning me.
In Essexvale during troop medic course training I caught one of those huge locusts with a body the size of my
index finger and big powerful back legs. I strolled over to the late Englishman Tpr. John Connelly pulled open
his t-shirt and dropped it in. He mumbles "Now what have you done McDonald", pulls open his shirt neck and
sees this brute as it starts kicking against his chest. He screams his head off, jumps around, drops his rifle, rips
off his webbing, rips off his chest webbing and finally pulls off his t-shirt all in screaming jumping hysterics. Aye
if only we had it on video. Why do Rhodesian and South African men find it extremely hilarious to see an
Englishman freaking out over a gogo inside his shirt? Later that evening by my posy (sleeping place) I place my
rat pack on my lap for dinner, I open the box and find this big black scorpion running around inside. My rat pack
sails thirty feet into the air and curses fly toward John who his laughing his head off in the next posy over.
What RLI dudes do when bored? Speaking of scorpions I'm sure I sat on one once at night. I was sitting for
about 30 seconds when this fierce pain stung my right butt cheek and I jumped about 3 feet in the air. The next
day I had a red welt about 8 inches in diameter on my right butt cheek, I let it heal itself.
In Llewellyn Barracks I find a newly hatched six inch long baby cobra/mamba. It still has its egg tooth. Sadly a
poisonous snake has no place inside a military base. All I can find is a six inch flimsy stick to try to pin it down
to catch it. This little snake was quite a lively cheeky devil rearing up, flaring his hood, hissing and trying to bite
me. Nearby is a truck packed full of African National Servicemen watching this crazy man playing with a snake.
After several minutes, it was quite tricky I'm able to pin this snake down and grab him behind his head. I hold
him up wriggling for all in the truck too see. Then the RLI streak of humor takes over and I lob him slowly and
high into the back of this truck full of African soldiers. All but two debus immediately, hey good ambush training
for them. The biggest of the group big tough Sam stands there frozen, trembling and crying. The smallest of the
group calming kills the snake with the butt of his weapon. Aye if only we had it on video. In a bush camp once
the batmen called me over to kill a puff adder. I just caught it and carried it a couple hundred yards outside of
camp and released it. Maybe it will bite some terrorist scouting out our camp.
With 3 Cdo we were operating out of Grootvlei airstrip way down in the southeast. This area was very bad for
ticks. Every day I would take my boots and socks off there would hundreds of these tiny mites between my
toes. Never had this problem anywhere else. Nearby was Mabalahuta base by Gona re Zhou Park. Everyone
knows the infamous Mabalahuta ants there. We often heard the screams of first time visitors who unwittingly
actually sat on the long drops where thousands of these little brown monsters would rush out between the
planks and bite simultaneously. SAS guys poured gallons of diesel on their campgrounds to fight them. Our
guys would put foot powder or grease on the legs of their stretchers to stop them at night. If the corner of your
sleeping bag touched the ground, a column of them would run up it and you would find them all over your face
in the middle of the night. I eventually just usually found the cab of a truck to sleep in. I have no idea how the
resident game rangers put up with them. As a commando MA3 medic I twice treated soldiers who had a painful
ear filled to the brim with earwax. Both times syringing flushed all the wax with a big tick.
With Support Cdo the day before R&R I loaned my can of Mercurochrome spray to an RLI Aussie prankster.
They pinned down this handsome RLI NCO, pulled down his shorts and sprayed red all over his one-eyed
trouser snake and surrounding area. We don't know how he explained it to his girlfriend on R&R.
The Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental
Assocation of Australasia