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.
Copyright © 2009 RLI.ORG.AU. All Rights Reserved.
I joined the Rhodesian Woman Services after my fiancé, Sgt Peter White was killed. At his funeral I found that
just being with the Commando guys and talking with them gave me great comfort. That was when I decided that I would join
up. When I did join my request was that I wanted to be posted to 1 CDO, The Rhodesian Light Infantry. If that
did not happen I would leave. It helps to have friends in high places, as I knew the officer in charge of the RWS and also
Major Matkovich of 1Cdo. The rest is history.
I did not have an easy time when I first arrived at the CDO as they did not think that the RLI Commando was a place for a lady.
I also felt that they thought it was not cool to have a woman posted there. It took me ages to get used to the way things
worked in the army. We only did about five minutes of training in the RWS which was mainly Drill, Weapons, Military Law and
learning the rank structure. The worst part for me was having to salute. Ifound it very embarrassing.
We did not have any camouflage uniforms that were made for woman, so we had to wear what the guys wore and just make
do. We eventually got dresses, shoes and hats. I don't think that the instructors quite knew what to do with us, initially we had
no rank it was Miss or Mrs. Some of the woman loved playing up to the instructors, like resting their head on their shoulders
while they were trying to show them how to hold a pistol.
When I arrived at the Cdo, I found that not much had been done in the office and I set about getting the place set up according
to regulations, made sure all the amendments totheamendments of the Rules and Regulations were up to date, and also made
sure every guy had a will, etc. Quite a few of the foreign guys did not like to give any information as far as that went. I think
many had dubious pasts.
My best was getting all the medical things up to date. I would take great delight when they had muster parade in the
morning in dishing out Malaria tablets. I would have someone follow me with a bucket of water. I would have a cup and
a container of tablets and stand in front of each guy and make him swallow them. They could not object because the
Officer Commanding (OC) was standing there, watching. I also helped to give them their vaccinations at the camp
hospital. That caused a bit of alarm when I had to scratch their arm and blow the drops into the scratch. Then came the
TABT's (Tetanus, Paratyphoid A and B, and typhoid). Because they moaned so much I had to have mine first in front of
them, afterwards they took great delight in hitting me on that arm. I had one Colour Sergeant that was so petrified of
needles I had to get the medic to come to the Cdo with the jab and get an officer to order him to stand still. Well? I had to
tick all the boxes didn't I?
I hated using the radio as we had not been trained in voice procedure and I was petrified I would say
something wrong. They used to love trying to get me to have a conversation with them, but my main words were"roger" and
"negative". Once the OC asked me to order someflowers for his wife, which I did, and when I reported back to him, telling him I
had done it, he said "describe them for me". I declined.They loved to embarrass me. The one day I got a radio messageasking
me to send out 6 desert lilies. Not wanting to sound stupid Isaid "roger that", then proceeded to the CQ store to ask what the
hell was a desert lily? WeIl! Did they have a good laugh?
Some of my other duties included, getting the guys' cars serviced, sending flowers to wives and girlfriends and I was even
allowed to sit in the officers car park and run the 2lc's new car for a few minutes once a week. I also had the privilege of taking
their film spools in to be developed at OK Bazaars. Not knowing what was on them one particular spool I left to be developed
was picked up as usual when it was ready and I hung on to it for when the "particular" person (no names, no pack drill) that it
belonged to came back from the bush. What Ididn't know was that OK Bazaars (or any developing place for that matter)
reported stuff which they didn't think was appropriate to the Army. In the mean time I had a nasty visit from SB (Special
Branch). I didn't think that l could lie the way I did. They wanted to know if the photos belonged to me and who were the guys
in the photo's. I just said "No they were not mine. I work with over a hundred guys how the hell was I supposed to know all
their names." They pushed and pushed but I did not tell them the names of the people in the photo's. The pictures were of a
little machine that got attached to a certain part of the anatomy and a handle was "gaaiered"(Rhodesianism for "turned
vigorously"). I think you know what I am talking about!
Nothing was sacred as far as the guys were concerned. I was not allowed to be in a bad mood, or I would be
told, "Oh! It must be Red Flag day!" One day, a guy ran his hand up my legs and said "I see you haven't shaved today." I
was even mocked about my moustache. My reply to that was, "At least I can grow one." I was very shy when I joined and if I
had let them get to me my life would have been hell.
The one day I was ambushed by two Cdo Ouens on the front verandah and along piece of mutton cloth was pulled over my
head and tied at my feet and head, they then proceeded to drag me up and down the corridor finishing up in the shower
block under a cold shower - Excellent fun!
Another time I was working in the Cdo garden when one of them turned the hose on me, Padre Wood happened to drivepast
and saw this, swung into the Cdo drive and shouted at them demanding, "What are you doing to her?" Then he proceeded to
do the same thing. They thought that was great. I also had condoms put over the exhaust of my car, and as I left the back gate
and was driving down the road they exploded, I nearly ended up in a ditch I got such a fright.
When it was my birthday they blew up lots of condoms and would decorate my office with them, or I might find a frog pinned
to the bulletin board that was still doing breast stroke, or a dead bird hanging off my car aerial.
Yet I did get my own back in other ways though. I am sure they must have wondered why they had not heard from those
lovely ladies like Zilla and her python for a long while? Well everytime I got a card from them asking if they could come to the
bush and perform I would throw it in the bin. After all they had enough frustrations I just figured they didn't needanymore.
Padre Wood agreed with me too.
I really tried to make the Cdo garden nice and in order to stop the guy sparking the trucks on the grass at the back of the Cdo, I
would string wire between the trees that were growing there. Did that stop them? No! RSM Springer happened to walk past
one day and must have heard me muttering and said, "The only way you will keep those buggers off the lawn my dear, is to
plant some land mines."As I was saying before, I was quite shy and naïve. Once, before a couple of the Ouens went out to the
bush, I was given some pot plants to look after, you know, "Aag Dawn please man! Can you water these plants for us till we
get back?" Here I was thinking, "Aah! Isn't that nice? They are also interested in gardening!" Till I found out what the plants
Another timeI was walking along the corridor on the top floor of the Cdo blockand as I came round the corner there were a
group of thems moking a joint, I shouted, "What the hell are you doing?" and ran off. I believe one of the guys got such a fright
he nearly swallowed the whole joint.
I managed to get all my truck licenses mainly to have an excuse to go out to the bush because I loved it there and if they
needed anything I could take it out. My instructor, Stu Hammond, made sure that I knew every gear and lever in those
vehicles, especially the 2.5 (a two and a half ton bush terrain vehicle - also referred to as the Unimog) and the Land Rover. I
was put through all sorts of tests including taking a 2.5 up this steep hill and when it came time to drive down all the guys in
the back jumped out as they did not think they would survive the trip. Not like most of you guys if you had a civvy license -
you just drove round the block and got your Army one. I loved going to the bush.
I had my other office in the back of a 2.5 which I shared with another clerk. In some op area's we had a room that was used as
an office. It was quite a challenge initially, as they did not have ablution facilities for women. What I would do is get Dave Firth
to clear the men'sshowers first and then he would have to stand guard at the door .On this one occasion he did the clearing bit
but when I walked in I noticed that this one door was closed. Thinking maybe it was out of order or something I went in and
did what I had to do and as I opened my door, the one that was closed opened and this Air Force officer walked out. I don't
know who was more embarrassed. I could have killed Dave. When the WVS moved into the op areas, they builts howers and
toilets, but I don't think they liked me using their facilities, I was one of those rough RWS chicks and being withthe RLI was
When I did go out to the bush with the guys and they all stopped for a pee parade and watered the tyres on the truck, I had to
go into the bush with an escort - just in case of gooks. I had just got my trousers down round my knees this one time when
someone came charging through the bush shouting. I didn't need to go after that I got such a fright. Hilarious!!! I even had to
use a toilet at some munt hotel (I think it was on the way to Marewa) and all it was, was a hole in the floor.
I got to experience a lot of things in the bush. I was taught to Fire the 20mm cannon in the Kcar. When the guys heard it was
me up in the Kcar, they all took cover. Once, while deployed in Shabani, I was up in the Kcar again and we were flying round
this dam which had a large bush growing in it, but I couldn't quite get the sights lined up. I said to Flames, the chopper tech, "I
know, I will just aim the barrel in the general direction of the bush". He nearly had a fit as there was a munt (local villager)
fishing on the side of the dam. Anyway, they brought the chopper down and put a tin can on the LZ and made me line the
sights up properly.
That same bush trip we heard that we were going to be mortared that night and for some reason I was put in a mortar position
with one other guy. My only training on this event was the instruction, "Dawn, for shit sake! Make sure you drop the shell
down the tube the right way." I found out afterwards the guy I was with was gay, What a team!!!
The OC at that time was not chuffed with the time it took the guys to get ready for a call out, so he was doing some timing
runs. I asked if I could also do it and got the look - Anyway, after they had done a couple of runs, he shouted at me to get my
kit and get on the chopper. I didn't have any webbing so I had to borrow that and an FN rifle. Needless to say, the webbing
was so big it was hanging down around my knees. We took off and had to deplane and do a sweep line through the bush. Of
course, being gentlemen I was not the first off the chopper, was I? - And by the time it came for me to jump, we were quite
high off the ground, I jumped and ended up with my knees round my ears. Then, while we were sweeping through the bush,
one of the guys fell in this hole. That was me finished! I got the giggles and couldn't stop.
I tried not to have too much to do with the officers as the guys would give me a hard time. Again the same Shabani bush trip
this Air Force officer wanted to take me out to dinner in town, but he was so scared the guys would give him the gears so he
went and asked them for permission ...
I also used to fly in the Daks with them when there was a caII out, or I would always stand on the side of the runway and say
goodbye to them. If I was in the dak I never spoke to them until they spoke to me, it was very tense in there and each guy had
his way of dealing with what was about to happen. I would see these big eyes, face black with cammo cream, some would
hum to themselves or tap their foot, if they asked, I would adjust whatever was bugging them, then they would be out the
door and I would wave to them as they went down.
My closest encounter with a contact was near Crooks corner, we had landed on this runway and were waiting for the chopper
to uplift them, it was very hot and we were lying under the wings of the plane and I was a using water bottle as a pillow. Next
thing the choppers arrived and they took the Ouens off. I flew back to Chiredzi with the Dak right over the contact area, it was
I have been to quite a few of the op areas; Mt Darwin, Mtoko, Rutenga, Malapati, and loved going to all of them. It was in
Rutenga that I got tick bitefever. I thought my eye balls were going to fall out of my head, I was so sick. Ihad to go to the medic
for muti (medicine). Of course the bite had to be under my one bum cheek which meant I had to drop the trousers again. This
poor little guy that was helping the medic was so embarrassed. He also had to hold a blanket over the window so no body
could see in. That bush trip was quite eventful. We had one guy die from a fractured skull. One of the officers wanted to burn
down the TF (Territorial Force) bar because he was drunk and did not like their CSM, he had been very rude to me and Capt
Codyre wouldthrow stones at him when he patrolled around at night.
Coonie Marnaweck thought it would be great fun to hold the guys down and give them huge lovebites on their necks, he also
grabbed me and gave me one the size of a golfball .As you can imagine the guys were fed up as they were going back to their
wives and girlfriends in a couple of days. My then boyfriend had left the Cdo and was doing a call up with a TF company in
Bindura. I had to go to a court marshall there and was so scared he would see this thing that I put a hugeplaster on my neck.
He found out and was not amused.
When B-b-b-basil Dippenaar was with 1 Cdo he used to drive me insane. He would follow me around when we were in the
bush with a loud hailer and make all these rude noises. He had this one saying that used to get up my nose, which was "We
are getting up at the crack of Dawn". We were in the Mt. Darwin pub and he did it again so I threw a beer bottle at his head.
Lucky for him it hit the top of the door frame as he was walking out.
When I stayed in the bush I had my own tent. It was bright orange and blue. I loved it because I could zip up the room inside
and no creepy crawlies could get in, I had a thing about scorpions getting into my clothes. We were in Fort Victoria this on time
and the guys were bored waiting for something to happen. They had tied three tents together and had been sitting in the tents
burning cardboard. They thought they had put it all out and left the tents. A while later the tents caught fire and my tent was
right next to theirs. We all had to take cover as gas cylinders and rounds were going off and flying through the air, we couldn't
even get near it to put it out. The Air Force thought they would be quite helpful and try to put the fire out with sand bag inners
filled with water. They had a small plane and flew over the scene letting fly with the water bombs. The only thing was that they
hit my tent. I was so angry as it made a huge hole in it and I had mud all over my kit. They came round after to see us and with
sheepish looks asked if everything was ok. I gave them what for and told them they had to fix the tent, which they did. We lost
quite a few weapons in that fire.
I was often asked if I was scared when I went out to the bush? My answer to that was that nothing had happened to me so I
did not know what to be scared of. Plus, when I was with about 90 guys armed to the teeth, nothing phased me. All I needed
was my trusty Uzi and my 9mm - The only thing was that at target practice my groupings always seemed to end up in the
crotch area. It must be a woman thing.
I learnt quite a lot from the guys as far as how to do things in the army. Our RWS training left much to be desired. We
were only meant to take over from the guys in the office, but that never seemed to happen. I had a couple of exercises
with the RWS while I was in the Cdo which I had to go on. Anyway, the first was going out the back of New Sarum and
doing jungle lane, not that we knew what that was. On the way there, we were in the back of the trucks, when we got
ambushed, it was quite embarrassing really. The guys that ambushed us threw smoke grenades and fired blanks at
us, all I could hear were screams and things like, "Throw me my handbag", as the girls jumped out the side of trucks,
some onto the backs of other girls. They then tried to teach us the fundamentals of jungle lane, but this one Air Force
Sergeant kept throwing thunder flashes at us. He thought it was great fun. He got on my nerves so much I said to him,
"If you do that again, my instinct will be to turn round and shoot you."
The other exercise was not much better, we were trucked out to the SelousScouts area. Driving down the Lomagundi road,
we would get waves from the civvies as we went past them. Thinking that we were guys, their mouths would drop open when
they realised that there were birds on the back of the trucks.
We had to set up camp for the weekend. Now, if we had been told how to do this and many other things, we may have learnt
something. We were given bivies, radios, plus other kit which most of us didn't knowwhat to do with. And of course the
women officers had tents and stretchers, we, the rankers,slept on the floor. I found the whole thing to be a joke from start to
We had to do PT in burnt grass at 05.00 hrs,bearing in mind some of the women there were in their 40's and older. We had to
do drill and had this cocky little Sergeant that thought she was God. The one day we were taken out into the bush and told
when the driver slams on breaks we must debus and sweep through the bush. Once again the screams happen as the driver
slams the breaks on so hard, we all end up sliding into the cab area and once we were untangled leapt over the side. What
they didn't tell us is when you do asweep line you do have to go over the gomo (Mountain) not around it !
The first night there we had to do guard duty, none of us had done that either - Anyway, during the night this drunk Selous
Scouts soldier comes staggering along till he heard "Halt! Who goes there!?" His arms shot up inthe air in disbelief, probably
thought,"What the hell are these madams doing here"? Anyway - We marched him out of the camp much to his relief.
Then the best of all we had to do a route march. A route march is quite interesting when you don't know how to read a map.
We started near theBanket railway line, then we had to proceed to an undisclosed location and report to the people hiding
there. Now my map reading knowledge is to turn the map in the direction we are going and try and pin point features.
Apparently our team was the first to arrive at this hidden location. I know this because my mother was there and saw us, but
for some reason we kept on going, probably because we couldn't find them.
While we were doing this march, I hear our female officer shout "Takecover! Enemy approaching!" I thought "What the hell is
she talking about?" Anyway - About a km away are two munts (Locals) walking along a path, so I said to her "Ma'am, if those
were gooks (Communist Terrorist) we would have been dead long ago."
Then we had to pretend we were crossing this road and there were Land mines buried there. We had to slide on our stomach
with a stick and poke the ground to look for them. I can't even tell you what was going through mymind then. We had our Uzi's
with us but we were not allowed to put the magazine in. We had to carry it in our pocket. After half a day of walking it wears a
hole in the material. The radios didn't work properly because of the rock in the area. We could hear them but they couldn't hear
us, which suited me just fine. You know the part where I said I learnt things from the guys? Well when we where given the
radio and battery separate and expected to know what to do with it, that's when Icould say I knew what to do. It was getting on
into the afternoon and we still didn't find this place, I had enough. A Scouts girl and I told the officer that we were going to find
our way back to the main road and go to the Banket garage to phone for the transport to pick us up. We got to a dirt road that
ran parallel to the railway line and flagged down this old zephyr - and another embarrassing moment coming up - which
happened to be driven by an RAR (Rhodesian African Rifles) guy that was on RnR. To make matters worse, when he stopped
his car, we had to push it to get it going again and the cheeky bugger mocked us because we were lost. We arrived at the
Banket Garage looking like hell, if you can imagine filthy with camo cream and armed to the teeth. There were two youngsters
working on a car in the pits, when we said "Excuse me, do you think we could borrow your phone?" Well! The look on their
faces was priceless. They took us to the house next to the garage which was owned by their parents. They gave us a drink
and asked us if we wanted a bath, I even got the offer of using their mother's hairbrush. By this time the rest of the group had
arrived. The last embarrassment of the day was being picked up by guys from scouts and taken back to camp. Thank
goodness it was dark by then. Most of us ended up with the gastro's and had to be taken to the KG6 hospital for treatment. All
in all, it was a disaster.
By the end of my three years in the RLI I felt like I had been accepted by 1 Cdo - especially after hearing about a couple of
incidents when anyone said anything degrading about me. They were taken out in true RLI style. On a recent visit to
Johannesburg where I caught up with some of the Ouens from 1 Cdo, Huxy said to Glyn,"Dawn was one of the most
protected people in Rhodesia, including Ian Smith" And on that note I would just like to saythat it was an honour and a
privilege to serve with the men of 1Cdo RLI, we had sad times, good times and all in between. What a journey!
Dawn Losper 1 CDO:
The Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental
Assocation of Australasia