7 Squadron Diaries - 1962 to 1974
|Recompiled from the 7 Squadron, Rhodesian Air Force, diary by
Eddy Norris, for the period 1962 to 1974, and for use on our
Rhodesian Heritage Blog. ORAFs understands that the history from
1975 to 1980 can be found in the book, "A Pride of Eagles."
1. No. 7 Squadron was officially born on the 28th. February, 1962, with the promulgation of RRAF Orders, Issue No. 3 of that date, Squadron strength at that-time was 2 Pilots, Sqn, Ldr. Dowden, DFC, Commanding Officer arid Flt. Lt Earp-Jones, who had completed a Helicopter conversion course in France. The Squadron Technical Officer was Fg. Off. Wood who had four technicians under him - Snr. Tech. March and Cpl Techs. Atwill, Kelly and Brown. Aircraft strength was nil.
2. However, 5 more Pilots, Flt. Lts. Taylor Nettleton and Cooke and Fg. Off's. Barnes and Piggot were undergoing a conversion course in the SAAF and were due to join the Squadron towards the end of May. A further 3 technicians, Chf. Tech. Harries, Cpl. Tech. Steele and and Cpl. Haddon were under training with Sud Aviation in France and were due back towards the end of March. The first aircraft were expected to arrive at the same time.
3. On the 27th March at 1315 hours, a UAT DC 6 freighter arrived at New Sarum carrying the first 3 Alouette Mk 111 aircraft of the 5 ordered for the RRAF. The aircraft were in a dismantled state, and assemble commenced on the 28th March, the first aircraft being completed at 1600 hours the following day. At approximately 1630 hours, Sqdn. Ldr. Dowden and Flt. Lt Earp-Jones lifted 501 off the apron, the first flight of a Helicopter in the RRAF. No. 7 Squadron was airborne at last.
4, The second aircraft was test flown on the 4th April and 2 days later Fg. Off. Piggott reported for duty. Having previous experience on Helicopters, (and plenty of it), his course with the virtually y only been a type of conversion. On the same day the 3rd aircraft was completed and flown.5. Most of the flying at this stage wis demonstrations for Police and Army Units, and flying VIP's including the Governor General of the Federation, Lord Dalhousie, Large numbers of RRAF personnel were carried during routine GF Training and by the end of the first month 307 passengers were carried and a total of 69,10 hours were flown between the 3 aircraft.
6. The only operational equipment possessed by the Squadron was the cargo sling and strop and numerous sorties were flown both for training and demonstration purposes. All flying was confined to Southern Rhodesia during this period.
7. Politically inspired unrest in the African Townships of Highfield, Harare and Mufakose broke out during the night of the 13th/14th May, 1962 and at first light 2 aircraft were called out to assist Police Patrols of the townships. Of the 3 Pilots, one was attached to the Police control Ops. Room, while the other 2 carried out Recees, with Police observers on board. By the 16th of May all was quiet and the Squadron stood down. Helicopters are a success proclaimed the Press and No. 7 Squadrons first operational task was completed.
8. The remaining four Pilots had joined the Squadron by the 31st May, although Flt. Lt Taylor returned to the SAAF shortly afterwards to complete an instructor's coarse. He was appointed Flight Commander and Squadron QFI on completion of the course.
9. Work commenced in earnest on increasing the flexibility of the Squadron and discussions took place with the BSAP regarding LZs at all Police stations in Rhodesia, the carriage of Police Tracker dogs, fitment of Police radios to the aircraft and the possibility of dropping tear smoke from aircraft. The BSAP appeared to have taken a far greater interest in the possibilities of the aircraft than the Army at this phase of the Squadron's life.
10. The 13th of June saw the Squadron's first deployment out of Rhodesia when an aircraft was sent to Lusaka and Ndola for enplaning and deplaning drills and then positioning at Mkushi on the 15th where it was joined by a second aircraft for the Squadron's first participation in an Army Co-op exercise. On the 20th June one aircraft was sent to Nyasaland to participate in an exercise with the KAR.
11. By the 20th June, aircraft were flying to Police Stations in the Mashononaland area to photograph newly constructed LZs, taking down details such as fuel stocks, accommodation, medical facilities etc. which were then entered on an LZ indexed card. This practice continued until the squadron had complete data covering every official LZ, in the Country for easy reference by any Pilot being sent to any particular LZ.
12. Now that the Squadron had an instructor, continuation training and standardization flights were carried out. A training square had been marked out and whitewashed in Seki Reserve, soon to be followed by a second one.
13. During June, Police radios were fitted to the aircraft and trials carried out. At first, only one person in the aircraft could use the Police set which was independent of the normal radio and had only one mic/tel lead, This was later modified to feed into the normal intercom system and Pilots could listen out to both sets at once, although transmission still has to be selected to one or the other. More Police LZs were being built and photographed and LZs were to be cleared at Farms and Country Clubs throughout the Country which were used as Police Reserve Patrol bases.
14. Night flying trials were carried out to evolve the most satisfactory flare path, and numerous systems were tried out until the current standard 'T' of torches or flares 5 paces apart was agreed upon. The dimensions were passed to the Police and Army so that the Squadron is able to operate anywhere at night with the knowledge that the ground party will have laid down an acceptable flare path.
15. By July, the Squadron departed from SAAF training and decided to explore the feasibility of Instrument Flying. After experimentation, a canvas screen was fitted to obscure the right hand seat pilot's vision without obscuring that of the centre seat safety pilot. This proved sucessful and became standard practice. Pilots are now instrument rated on the Helicopter although actual IMC flying is not permitted as aircraft is not fitted with a standby instrument system.
16. The remaining 2 aircraft arrived on the 6th July and were soon assembled. The Squadron was now up to establishment.
17. Low level oblique photo recce waa an added role for the Squadron with the mounting of an F.24 electrically operated camera in the rear doorway. This a proved quite successful but was never used to any large extent.
18. In August, the Squadron carried out its first actual casevac when an injured mountain climber on an outward bound course was flown from the scene of his accident to Salisbury General Hospital by Sqn.Ldrr. Dowden. Over the ensuing years, the Squadron has lifted out hundreds of casualties ranging from serious illnesses in remote areas to battle casualties during counter insurgency operations. Casualty evacuation is considered as one of the most important roles and is an inestimable morale booster for troops engaged on active service. Squadron aircraft have landed in forward areas while fighting was in progress to uplift dead and wounded back to casualty clearing posts within minutes of their being hit.
19. Between July and September, 1962 many Arm and Police Co-op sorties were flown, and trooping drills practiced with both elements.. Police dogs were trained in emplaning and deplaning with their handlers. The Squadron flew in displays at Agricultural shows throughout the Country.
20. In September, nationalism reared its ugly head and on the the Squadron was put on readiness, one aircraft being despatched to Bulawayo. The following day the Prime Minister announced the banning of ZANU and the Squadron was operational again. Over the ensuing weeks, recces were flown over African townships and leaflets were dropped. 'Flag Waves' were carried out through African Reserves around Salisbury. During the period aircraft were detached for short spells at Chipinga, Gwelo and Enkeldoorn to assist Army and BSAP at local trouble spots.
21. In spite of 13 Operations in progress, routine training was carried out at base, and projects were put forward to increase the uses of the Helicopter for security force cooperation, the most important being the introduction of a rope descent system for deplaning troops in difficult terrain. However, this was shelved with the introduction of the hoist equipment.
22. When the Katanga crisis flared up at the end of December, an aircraft was sent to the NR Katangese border to assist the Army in border control and was followed two weeks later by a second. Both aircraft had returned to Salisbury by the 26th January, 1963 when it was considered that there was no further threat to the Federal border.
No. 7 Squadron, commanded by Sqn. Ld.r Dowden DFC – Aug 63
Cargo slinging a Steyr Puch FASOC vehicle – 8 Aug 63
23. Welcome news was given to the Squadron on the 17th January when it was announced that 3 further Alouettes had been ordered for the RRAF. These were due to arrive later in the year.
24. Exercise 'Brown 'Water', the last major Federal Any exercise saw 3 aircraft back in Northern Rhodesia from the 20th - 27th February to practice anti-terrorist operations in wet weather.
25. March 1963 saw the first of the only 2 serious accidents suffered by the Squadron, both of which strangely enough happened to the same aircraft, and in both cases the Squadron Warrant Officer was aboard. In this case the aircraft apparently entered the vortex ring state on an approach to a playing field at Macheke and landed extremely heavily, breaking its back. No one was injured.
Alouette 501 (Flt Lt Taylor) – 21 Mar 63
26. 1963 was important far the unrest caused by the impending dissolution of the Federation. There was much speculation as to the future of the RRAF, and the possible dispersion of the forces to the 3 territories. When dissolution did occur, although a few of the technical personnel took advantage of the opportunity to exploit their Helicopter experience in the more lucrative civilian field, no aircrew showed any inclination to change their lot which speaks for the morale of a busy Squadron during an uncertain period.
27. In June, three aircraft were sent to Umtali to assist in the hunt for mass murderer Leopold Geoffrey Smith, returning 3 days later when Smith handed himself over to the Police.
28. The long awaited arrival of the additional aircraft occurred on August 6th. These were of a slightly improved modification standard main differences being all transparent front cabin, doors and a larger transparent lower centre panel in front, improving visibility. Hoist equipment was standard fit though subsequently all aircraft were modified to accept the hoist, giving the Squadron yet another role.
29. Squadron establishment was increased to ten Pilots with the arrival of Flt.Lt. Smithdorff and Fg. Off's. Hofmeyr and Becks in October 1963, having completed their helicopter conversion with the SAAF. Flt.Lt. Smithdorff was also appointed a QHI with Flt.Lt. Taylor.
AVM Bentley and his family on an informal visit – 10 Sept 63
Alouette 501 in Lake MacIllwaine (Fg Off Becks)
Alouette 501 on first flight after rebuild – 4 Feb 64
RLI deplaning at the hover – 24 Feb 64
30. Squadron Leader O.D. Penton was appointed to succeed Squadron Leader Dowden with effect from 1st January, 1964. At 0001 hours that day, during a magnificent New Years Eve Ball, it was announced that Sqn. Ldr. Penton had been awarded the AFC - a great day for the Squadron. He left shortly afterwards for his conversion course with the SAAF.
31. In March it was announced that No. 7 Squadron was to be affiliated to Fort Victoria and that this would be effected at a civic ceremony on the 6th June.
32. Sqdn. Ldr. Penton returned from his SAAF conversion in 'March, the first Pilot not to complete an Alouette 111 conversion. This was accomplished locally by Flt.Lt. Smithdorff and set a trend to be followed by later postings to the Squadron, culminating in all through conversions by the Squadron without previous experience of the Alouette 11, which, though pleasant, was not considered essential. At the same time, the Squadron lost Flt. Lt. Earp-Jones who was appointed Station Intelligence Officer.
33. In May, 4 VR Officers were posted to the Squadron to assist as observers, forward area Helicopter controllers and administrators. They were never fully exploited and by 1967 their services were withdrawn. Altogether, all officers being redeployed in other sections of the VR - lack of continuity, certainly not lack of enthusiasm, probably being the major factor.
No. 7 Squadron formation in figure ‘7’ – 20 Mar 67
34. The much looked forward to affiliation with Fort Victoria took place as planned over the 6th/7th June and an extremely pleasant time was had by all. Social sporting activities were undertaken against the Citizens of Fort Victoria, and on the Sunday, following a Church parade, the Squadron spent a pleasant day at Lake Kyle.
35. Terrorism and anti-terrorist operations, first became part of the Squadron life with the murder of Mr. Petrus Oberholzer by a gang of Africans on the night of the 4th July, Initially, one Helicopter was called out to assist the BSAP investigation and was based at Nyanyadzi. Two days later, a further 3 Helicopters were sent to Nyanyadzi, supported by a forward air support operations centre (FASOC), Although on this operation the Helicopters had no success in catching the actual culprits, the use of the aircraft in bringing in large number of suspects and relatives of the wanted men for interrogation and also taking teams of detectives to kraals in remote areas proved invaluable in gathering a great deal of information very quickly. The aircraft were withdrawn from the operation on the 13th July. 36. HQ RRAF, in August, instructed the Squadron to carry out an evaluation programme into the feasibility of night hovering over water using both natural and artificial visual references, with a view to using either a rope or hoist descent onto a point, possibly a boat.
37. When the Minister of Law and Order announced the banning of a further 2 political parties, the People's Caretaker Council and the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Squadron was again called in to provide support to ground forces to prevent incidents of intimidation and violence in the townships. Operations were carried out from the 26th August to the 3rd September.
38. A milestone in the Squadron history was achieved on the 4th September when the Chief of .Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Bentley, presented Sqn. Ldr. Penton with the Jacklin Trophy at a formal parade at RRAF, New Sarum. In his address, the Chief of Air Staff commented on the wide range of operational duties and exercises the Squadron had carried out with the Police and the Army, and commendable professional approach, coupled with considerable enthusiasm and imagination, with which their training had been coupled.
39. During the first half of 1965, aircraft from the Squadron were called out on numerous occasions to assist the Police and Army in quelling politically inspired acts of violence in the rural areas and also were involved in operations aimed at the recapture of various political prisoners who had escaped from detention.
40. A further 2 Pilots joined the Squadron in June having completed an Alouette 11 conversion with the SAAF. Flt. Lt. Harvey and Fg. Off. Dixon had only flown 5 hours dual in the Alouette 111 and the rest of their conversion to type was to be carried out by the Squadron QHIs. This was to set a pattern for future Pilots who were to train with the SAAF and the culmination was that Pilots would not undergo any Alouette 11 training at all, the complete conversion to Helicopters and subsequent OCU being carried out entirely by the Squadron.
41. In October, the Squadron had the dubious honour of carrying the 2 African Nationalist Leaders, Mr. Joshua Nkomo of ZAPU and the Rev. Ndabaningi Sitholi of ZANU, to Government House where they were to confer with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, during the ill fated Independence talks.
42. On the 9th November, aircraft detached to Gwelo, Kariba and Wankie. It was obvious at this stage that relations between Rhodesia and Britain were extremely strained and this move was to help prevent any possible outbreak of violence by extremists in these areas, Aircraft were in position when the Prime Minister, Mr. Ian Smith , announced the assumption of Rhodesian Independence on the 11th November, but despite the outcry overseas, there were no local incidents.
43. At this stage, it had been decided to fit the aircraft with some form of defencisive armament and the FN 7.62 mm MAG was chosen. This was fitted onto the port running board adjacent to the rear door. A reflector sight was fitted to the gun and the Squadron technicians were trained to operate the gun. After many representations to HQ RRAF, those technicians who qualified were issued with an Air Gunners Badge and became an asset in the times that were to come.
44. In January 1966, a significant personnel changeover took place. Flt. Lt. Taylor was posted off the Squadron and was replaced by Flt. Lt. Petter-Bowyer, also an instructor. Sqn. Ldr. Rogers came to the Squadron sa a supemumary officer, prior to joining officially in February, when he was to to take over command from Sqn. Ldr. Penton who was promoted and appointed Officer Commanding Flying Wing at New Sarum. The 2 new Officers were the first to be wholly trained by the Squadron.
45. Flt. Lt. Piggot, another founder member of the Squadron, was posted off the Squadron in March and was replaced by Flt. Lt. Barnes, another founder member who had completed a ground tour at H.Q. RRAF.
46. 1966 now took an ugly turn, and a trend set in which was to last well into the future. A heavily armed gang of 7 terrorists had infiltrated into Rhodesia, and had penetrated as far as Sinoia. On the 27th April, one aircraft had been called out to assist in rounding up the gang whose presence had been betrayed by an informer. Two days later, when the position of the terrorists had been established, a further 3 aircraft were called out, one of which was armed with the MAG.
47. When they were flushed, the gang resisted heavily, and a running battle ensued during which all 7 were killed, one being killed by fire from the Helicopter. There were no casualties to Security forces and everybody hoped that any future incursions could be dealt with as quickly and effectively. This was not to be the case.
48. On the night of the 17th May, a European farmer and his wife were shot to death in the doorway of their isolated farm house near Hartley and the discovery of their bodies sparked off the biggest manhunt in Rhodesia.
49. Aircraft from the Squadron were soon at the scene and assisted the Army and Police throughout the operation which ranged from the Hartley area to Kanyemba until the last member of the gang, also of 7, was arrested near Mtoko early in November.
50. The operation was further complicated by the deployment of additional forces to the Karoi area where three Europeans had been found murdered on their farm. This, however, proved to be a domestic murder and an African servant was arrested. Also, while the operation was progressing in the Kanyemba area, two gangs of terrorists crossed the Zambesi in that area but became lost and ventured into Portuguese territory where a number were caught by locals and handed over to the authorities. 7 Squadron operated freely into Portuguese territory carrying our own Army and Police and also elements of the Portuguese Army who assisted in rounding up the remainder of the gangs.
51. Infiltration of groups of terrorists continued until almost the end of the year, with numbers of up to 12 in each group. entering the country at various points around the border ranging from Mambali in the Kezi District, Binga, Chirundu and as far north as Kanyemba. One particular group penetrated as far inland as Nkai where their murder of a local Headman was the first indication of their presence. In all cases. Helicopters were used to assist ground forces in the capture of terrorists and the recovery of arms and ammunition.
52. During 1966, a further 2 Pilots were converted to Helicopters wholly by the Squadron, Fg. Off's. McLean and Slatter. A further Pilot, Flt.Lt. Nicholls was partially trained here, having completed the Alouette 11 course with the SAAF. However, the Squadron lost another founder member, Flt. Lt. Cooke and an early member, Fg, Off. Becks to other duties.
53. At the end of the year, all terrorist activity appeared to have ceased and the Squadron was able to concentrate on routine training, and on further projects to increase flexibility as a result of lessons learnt during operations. All technicians received further training on the MAG and classified as Air Gunners, some very good scores being achieved on the range.
54. A signigicant development in the operational equipment of the Squadron with the fitting of a self contained pressure refuelling system devised by Flt.Lt. Petter-Bowyer, operating on pressure drawn from the engine. A drum of fuel could be emptied into the fuel tank in approximately 5 minutes as against the 20 minutes required when using a hand pump, obviously an asset in the heat of operation.
55. Another Pilot, Flt. Lt. Grier, joined the Squadron in Mayy having completed an Alouette 11 course with the SAAF and commenced his conversion to the Alouette 111 just in time for the 'season' to start.
56. In June aircraft were again called out on anti-terrorist operations in the Chirundu - Makuti area. These continued to follow the pattern of previous operations until August when things took a change for the worse, What started as a normal operation in the Wankie area soon assumed alarming proportions when it was realised that up to 100 terrorists were involved, including members of the South African "African National Congress".
57. This operation, which lasted until September, saw the Helicopters, aided by Helicopters of the South African Police from Katima Mulilo extremely busy providing top cover, flying in ammunition and supplies and carrying out dead and wounded from Wankie to point 222 on the Botswana border, A number of terrorist killed during the operation were attributed to Helicopter fire.
58. During this period, Fit. Lt. Sinithdorff was posted as OC the training squadron at Thornhill. Fg. Off. Slater became qualified as an instructor, his training combining with that of Fg. Off. Jones, who was also wholly converted by the Squadron.
59. By the time 1967 ended, the Squadron wag committed to maintaining aircraft semi-permanently based. at Wankie and Kariba on border control duties. Sqn. Ldr. Rogers, having commanded the Squadron for a hectic but satisfying two years, was posted to command No, 5 Squadron, and Sqn. Ldr. N .Walsh commenced what promised to be an equally interesting tour as Officer Commanding.
60, During the first ten days of January, a further two groups of terrorists were mopped up, one near Katima and the other near Makuti. It is probable that the propositioning of aircraft at forward areas contributed to the speedy conclusion of these operations.
61. The Squadron underwent a fairly quiet period, notable mainly for the new Squadron Commander completing his conversion and the award of the Jacklin Trophy for the second time. Another Pilot, Pilot Officer Thomas, was sent to South Africa for an Alouette 11 conversion prior to joining the Squadron in May. However, the fact that border control is not infallible was severely brought home in April when our forces, following up tracks discovered by a Game Ranger on the Angwa River at the base of the Zambesi escarpment, encountered a large group of terrorists in a base camp that was extremely well organised. Helicopters assisted in giving top cover to the ground forces and marked the position of the base camp with white phosphorous smoke when Vampires were called in for an air strike.
62. It soon became obvious that this had been an extremely well organised infiltration and Squadron members flew many hours assisting in the location of other base camps and in the rounding up of the groups of terrorists who had scattered in all directions following the air strike. Wounded and dead of both sides were flown to casualty clearing posts and a vast amount of terrorist arms, ammunition and equipment was flown out from base camps captured by Security Forces, Again, a number of dead and wounded terrorists were attributed to fire from the Helicopters. The operation was terminated towards the end of May and the Helicopters reverted to border control duties.
63. From the first of the large scale operations in August, 1967, No. 7 Squadron had been assisted by Helicopters and crews of the SAP who continued to assist us on border control duties on a rotational basis. This had the effect of releasing 7 Sqn. crews from the border areas for essential routine training and administration duties back at base.
64. The termination of operation "Cauldron" was not destined to be the end of terrorist activities for 1968. Although June was relatively quiet, enabling Squadron training to be concentrated on, July saw the Squadron involved in three more operations within Rhodesia; Operations "Griffon" localised in the Kariba area, "Mansion" confined mainly on the Gwaai/Zambezi confluence and "Excess" in the Kanyemba area. All three operations, although relatively short in duration, were hotly contested by the terrorists. However, with the security forces still at a high peak following "Cauldron", the terrorists stood no chance at all. "Griffon" and "Mansion" were destined to become "classic" operationsstill used as examples for counter-insurgency training. Two years later, many members of the Squadron were to receive swards for their efforts during 1967 and 1963, with Squadron Leader Walsh receiving the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia for action in operation ""Griffon" and Flying Officer McLean the same decoration for his part in the opening stages of operation "Cauldron".
65. Notwithstanding the fairly frenzied activity within Rhodesia, the Squadron also provided four aircraft for an operation code named "Tripper* which provided airborne support for a neighbouring territory not yet equipped with Helicopters against terrorists. This type of operation was to continue until early 1971 when the territory concerned became self-sufficient in helicopters.
66. Two new Pilots, Flt. Lt. Du Rand and Fg, Off, Roberts were posted onto the Squadron in August, 1968, With the exception of four further external operations, each of a weeks' duration and employing four crews, 1968 drew to a quiet conclusion. Not until 1973 was the Squadron to see such frenzied activity as had been experienced in the first half of 1968.
‘Electric’ Dog Trials with Flt Lt Petter-Bowyer – 28 Nov 68
67. January, 1969 saw the first fully experienced helicopter pilot from another Air Force join the Squadron. Flying Officer Briscoe, who had operated, with the Squadron as an S.A.P. Pilot during operations "Nickel" and "Mansion" joined the RRAF. and was immediately posted to the Squadron. In March, Flying Officers Griffiths and Hill joined the squadron to replace Flight Lieutenants Hofmeyr and Barnes who were posted to Headquarters and 6 Squadron respectively. Both Pilots had been on the Squadron since shortly after its inception and were extremely experienced. The establishment of the Squadron had now been raised to 14 Pilots.
68. April saw the promotion of Sqn. Ldr. Walsh to Wing Commander and his posting to O.C.Flying Wing at New Sarum. The Squadron was extremely sorry to see him leave after what was probably the most rewarding tour of any Squadron Commander, but could only agree that his new post would benefit all the Squadrons on the Station. At the same time, one of the squadron's first fledglings came home to roost - Squadron Leader Nettleton one of the original Pilots was appointed to be the new Squadron Commander.
Presentation of ‘1000 Hour’ tie pins – 14 Nov 69
69. In November 1969, another milestone in the Squadron's history was passed when Henry Ford, of Rhotair on behalf of Sud Aviation presented 1,000 hour diamond tie pins to Sqdn. Ldr. Nettleton and Flt. Lt's. Barnes, Briscoe, Harvey, Hofmeyr and Smithdorff and was in turn presented with a Squadron crest in appreciation of toe support he has given the Squadron since it was formed.
70. Fg. Officers Meikle and Penton joined the Squadron at the beginning of November and immediately commenced training. They were destined to replace Flt. Lt's. Dixon and Harvey who had been notified of their postings to No's. 2 and 4 Squadrons respectively. Apart from a number of external operations and routine exercises, 1969 proved to be an uneventful year, but the situation was to change rapidly in the new year
Presentation of Air Gunners’ Badges – 30 Apr 70
Alouette III LZ practice – 22 Apr 70
Air to air of Alouette III – 22 Apr 70
71. On the 2nd January, two aircraft wore called out to support security forces in the Wankie area on what was to become known as Operation "Teak". This was followed later in the month by another infiltration in the Kanyemba area which led to Operation "Birch". At first these operations, followed by abortive hit and run raids on Kariba and Victoria Falls airports and the capture of terrorists in the Matopos, gave the impression of 1968 starting all over again on a much wider front. This, however, proved not to be the case and in fact turned out to be the last serious attempt at infiltration by ZAPU up to the time of writing. The Squadron was involved in all the operations and on Operation "Birch", during one follow up, actually dropped troops so close to the enemy that contact was made almost before the aircraft engine noise was out of hearing. Luck was still with us. On subsequent operations one aircraft landed so close to the enemy that one terrorist, after his capture, was able to describe the Pilot and Technician to the extent of being able to read what was written on the back of the Technicians bone dome - aptly enough, the inscription read simply "I'm Mad!
72 In March a further two Pilots, Fg.Officers Cook and Phillips joined the Squadron for their conversions. The Squadron was also involved in a typically unusual task, this time for the Post Office, in establishing the necessary height of two towers for the micro-wave link between Salisbury and Umtali. This was achieved with the aid of flashing mirrors, the aircraft descending in the hover over the respective sites until visual contact with the mirror was lost. A cord suspended from the aircraft to the ground was then out at the right height.
73. May and Juno saw the posting off of Flt. Lt. Slatter and the posting on of Air Lt. Wrigley respectively, both, postings to and from No. 6 Squadron.
74. On the first of July, Squadron Leader Nettleton and Flight Lieutenant Hill were killed in the Squadron's first fatal accident. The Accident, which occurred as they were approaching to land after an I.F. Sortie, remained unexplained despite exhaustive enquiries involving M. Coffignot and M. Brunelin of Sud Aviation, With the death of Sqn. Ldr. Nettleton, the Squadron lost one of its most dedicated Officers, and with that of Fit. Lt. Hill, one of its most cheerful.75. Following the death of Sqn. Ldr. Nettleton, Sqn. Ldr. Grier, another former squadron member was appointed to command the Squadron. Only a short refaml and O.C.U. was required to bring the boss back to operational status.
No. 7 Squadron commanded by Sqn Ldr Grier – 5 Aug 70
76. In August, the new permanent army border control base was completed on the top of Rushinga Hill. The Squadron was how committed to one aircraft permanently based at Kanyemba and Rushinga on border control duties, with SAP aircraft normally manning FAF 1 and FAF 2. Crews were normally changed over on a weekly basis by Trojan and Dakota on the shuttle and weekly Mt. Darwin meeting runs.
77. The Squadron was able to lend a hand to our sister 1.S. Squadron during September when two aircraft, returning from night flying practice, were diverted to the Sinoia area following a Mayday call from Air Lt. Baynham who was flying to Salisbury from Kariba with an injured Game Ranger aboard when his engine failed, The helicopters were on the scene very shortly after the Trojan's extremely lucky forced landing in the dark during which no injuries were sustained and conveyed the Trojan crew and casualty to Salisbury, This feat was repeated the following month when another Trojan, this time during the day experienced a similar engine failure, also from Kariba and again with a casualty aboard, although this time only one aircraft was used.
78. During November, the first protracted external operation involving the Squadron commenced with four aircraft being based at Chicoa on the Zambezi, This operation was to continue until February, 1971 when all aircraft were withdrawn.1971
No. 7 Squadron Detachment to Kutanga Range – 1 Mar 71
No. 7 Squadron Air Gunners – 10 Mar 71
RLI trooping and rope descent – 23 Mar 71
Trout stocking in the Chimanimani mountains – 25 Mar 71
79. During January, an accident resulting in Cat. 4 damage to one of the aircraft occurred at Chicoa. A contributory factor to the incident was considered to be the lack of academic practice on the part of the pilot concerned, and in fact for the Squadron as a whole, and in mid February all aircraft were withdrawn to base for a period of consolidation flying.
80, At the beginning of the year, Flt,Lt.'s Smit, Cronshaw and Air Lt. Law joined the squadron for conversions, the Squadron losing three long standing members in Flt.Lt, Nicholls and Air Lt.'s Thomas and Briscoe shortly afterwards. Flt, Lt, Harvey was attached to the Squadron in February to help relieve the workload incurred on operations and this attachment became a posting some weeks later. Unfortunately, Flt. Lt. Smit's O.C.U. was unsuccessful and he was posted to 3 Squadron.
81, The Squadron establishment was again increased and four more Pilots, Air Lt.'s Munton-Jackson, Paintin, Baynham and Watt duly arrived for conversion. Another unsuccessful O.C.U. occurred in the case of Air Lt. Paintin who also left to join 3 Squadron.
No. 7 Squadron commanded by Sqn. Ldr. Grier – 8 Jun 71
82. Generally, the year was a quiet one, notable exceptions being a, short operation in the Mukumbura area following an incident in which an RLI vehicle struck a land mine just across the river, where the Rushinga Helicopter carried out the initial casevac On the next day a follow-up operation was commenced resulting in a large base being located and a short, sharp contact at last light, This operation was then handed over to Portuguese Forces and our own units withdrawn.
83. The second operation took place in the Rushinga area during August/September when it became evident that a Frelimo group had entered Rhodesia on a punitive raid. Four aircraft were initially deployed on the operation, reducing to three after the first week until the operation was terminated on the 9th September.
84. Normal border control operations continued throughout the year with aircraft being deployed periodically to Kariba and Kanyemba and, from the onset of the rains, to Binga, A number of routine Army co-operation exercises were held and during one of these an RLI recruit fell from an aircraft in flight and was killed. This incident was later presumed to be suicide. It was also during this year that rope descents were re-introduced as hoisting was considered too slow in operational areas. However, this did not prove over successful when a few soldiers were injured falling off the rope, and rope descents were restricted to regular soldiers only.
85. In April, an experienced Helicopter Instructor from the Royal Air Force, Air Lt. Annan, joined the force and was posted to the Squadron, and in November Air Lt. Roberts rejoined the Squadron having left in February for a spell as Station Adjutant, Air Lt. Cook was posted off to fill that position.
86. Social highlight of the year was the annual affiliation visit to Fort Victoria in June during which all members of the Squadron participated in either Hockey or Soccer matches against the local Ladies and gentlemen, followed by a Mayoral reception and informal dance, During the year, the Squadron Pilots were hosts to Officers of the 1st Battalion Rhodesia Regiment, the Rhodesia Light Infantry, Artillery and Special Air Services at a social get-together in the Officers Mess, New Sarum.
87. The Squadron undertook to defeat a team from No. 2 Commando RLI at Rugby in August, but were unsuccessful in their endeavours. The after match festivities unfortunately had to be cancelled as the Commando were involved in rehearsals for the Salisbury Show.
Mrs. Gordon Nettleton unveiling the plaque at
the swimming pool – 3 May 72
No. 7 Squadron commanded by Sqn Ldr Grier – 20 Jun 72
88, On the 14th January, 1972, aircraft were deployed to Bulawayo, Gwelo and later Umtali to assist the Police in quelling African unrest associated with the presence of the Pearce Commission. While on a positioning flight from New Sarum to Shabani on a similar task, Air Lt. G. Munton-Jackson and Flight Sgt. P Garden crashed and were killed.
89. At New Sarum, in addition to the normal 1 hour standby aircraft, two further aircraft fitted with tear smoke dispensers were on standby, the readiness state for these aircraft was varied between 15 minutes and one hour dependent on the situation in the city. Although various recces of African Townships were carried out during the period of unrest, extremely poor weather conditions kept the aircraft on the ground for most of the time. All Aircraft were recovered to base early in February.
90. A number of operations were carried out during the year in support of ground forces, the first notable one being the activation of Nyamasoto Airfield in the North Eastern Border area, similar to the operation in the Rushinga area during the previous year. Four aircraft were deployed for the duration of this operation in support initially of the SAS and then the RLI. It was of particular value in that relatively new crews were able to acquire operational experience in the company and under the guidance of more experienced crews, During one of the contacts an this operation a helicopter technician was injured by fire from a terrorist.
91, During the year, Flt, Lt. Woolcock and Air Lt.'s Paxton and Porter were posted to the Squadron, which also gained another ex Royal Air Force Helicopter Pilot, Air Lt, Smart, who had also seen service with the Sultan of Oman's Air Force.
92. On the Social aide, the Squadron was able to visit Fort Victoria again during the year, being accommodated in private houses for a pleasant weekend of friendly sports matches culminating in a Braaivleis. Also of note was that at the end of the year, the Squadron having been charged with the running of the Officers' Mess Xmas Draw, succeeded in raising the largest sum of money towards prizes that the Mess has known.
93. Routine training throughout the year included an operational shoot held in the Kariba area, also a Squadron competition was instituted to be held on an annual basis. The competition tests the skills of Pilot and Tech. as a crew, and a trophy was donated to the Squadron by Mr. Holland of Cocoa Cola to be presented to the winning crew.
94. This year was the Squadron's turn to present a symposium to the force, and the subject chosen was Counter Insurgency. A lot of effort was put into the symposium by teams working in rotation on return from operations, and the general consensus of opinion was that the symposium was highly successful (as a result of "special effects", the audiences were guaranteed not to nod off during the presentation).
95. In September, the Squadron at last moved into modern accommodation built into the side of the hangar, having literally lived in boxes for most of its existence.
No. 8 Squadron members in front of SAAF Puma
96, Flt, Lt, Woolcock and Air Lt, Penton were selected to attend a Coin course held at the School of Infantry during November; and reported the course to have been of good value to members of this Squadron.
97. Towards the end of the year, terrorist activity became apparent in the Mtoko area and one aircraft was deployed to support operations there. This particular operation terminated fairly quickly and not exactly satisfactorily when it was concluded that the terrorists had returned to Mocambique. However, although it was not known at the time, events were being noticed in the North East following this operation that were to have far reaching consequences.
98. Four days before Xmas, a European Farm was attacked in the Centenary area, followed by a second attack on a nearby farm two days later. By New Years' Eve, five aircraft had been deployed to Centenary on what had become named Operation "Hurricane" , This was to become by far the most serious and Widespread operation in Rhodesia and it soon became obvious that nearly the entire North Eastern sector of the country had been subverted by ZANU terrorists. Very few Squadron personnel were at home over the festive season, and as the New Year commenced, it became apparent that the situation was not likely to improve for some time to come.
99. By early January it was obvious that the situation on the North Eastern Border was extremely serious and the Squadron was heavily committed to the operation. The Squadron's position was even further taxed by sporadic landmine incidents in the Victoria Falls area.
100. At the beginning of January, Sqn. Ldr. Grier was posted to a Staff Course and was succeeded by Sqn. Ldr. E.R. Wilkinson, who was posted in together with Air Lts.' McGregor, Caldwell and Rowe. To ease the situation, all these pilots were sent to the Helicopter Conversion Unit at Ysterplaat for their basic flying course, and five previous members of the Squadron were brought back strength. Sqn. Ldr. du Rand acted as Squadron Commander during Sqn. Ldr. Wilkinson's absence and with Flt. Lt.'s Dixon, McLean, Thomas and Briscoe no time was lost in carrying out a quick familiarisation and deployment on the operation.
101. During February, while operating out of Rushinga on the Operation, Air Lt. Smart and Sgt. Smithdorff were killed when their Aircraft crashed just east of Gungwa on the North Eastern Border. After an extensive air and ground search which lasted five days the wreckage was discovered by a Police Reserve Air Wing Aircraft.
102. By March, terrorist activity saw squadron aircraft deployed as far afield as Karoi and Wedza, as well as what had now became our normal contribution to operation "Hurricane". The two above mentioned sections were perpetrated by Frolizi infiltrators which for the first time included coloureds. It is noted that these two groups were quickly accounted for and to all intends and purposes this has spelt the end of Frolizi as an effective organisation.
103. The Squadron's "Happy Wanderers" returned from South Africa and commenced their advanced flying and operational conversion in mid April. They had been joined down South by Flt. Lt. Wrigley who completed a short course on the Alouette 11. All the new pilots were operational by early June, by which time the attached pilots who had designated themselves "8 Squadron" had all returned to their units.
104. The acquisition by the Squadron of another qualified helicopter pilot in June brought our strength up to 18. Air Lt. Thorn, who joined us from Kenair, the Rhodesian Commercial Helicopter firm, although a Rhodesian himself had originally trained with the Royal Navy and brought with him some valuable experience. After Alouette conversion and O.C transparent.. he was operational in August.
105. Six SAP helicopters with their crews were added to the Helicopter effort in July, but the scope of the Operation by now was such that this had no effect in alleviating the Squadron commitment at all; and in fact our own effort was spread further afield to accommodate operations across the border. The SAP aircraft remained in the field based at Mount Darwin and Centenary until the end of the year and have been very such part of the operation.
106. An informal Parade was held at the Squadron in August, when 10 new Air Gunners were presented with their badges by D.G.S.S. In his address, D.G.S.S. announced the impending arrival on the Squadron of 20 mm armed "Gunships". He also told of the possibility of Gunners in future undergoing full courses to qualify as brevetted Flight Engineers, A prospect greeted with much enthusiasm, following the Parade a celebration was held in the Sports Club at which Mr, Henry Ford presented 1000 hour tie pins to Flt.Lt.'s Wrigley, Roberts, Phillips and Annan and Air Lt, Penton. Another squadron milestone was passed at the same time when Flt. Lt. Harvey received his 2000 hour tie pin from M. Ford.
107. Four members of the Squadron were able to motor to Fort Victoria to attend the inauguration of the new Mayor of the town during the same month. Operation commitments precluded the use of aircraft for this occasion, and in fact apart from a monthly newsletter sent by the Squadron, Fort Victoria has had little contact with us during the year. However, the Lions Club of Fort Victoria sent the Squadron a cheque for $50.00 which we divided between the Pilots and Techs, the Pilots buying a radio for the Crew room with their share.
108. Two Technicians, F.Sgt. Mackie and Sgt. McCullough became the first Techs to achieve 1000 hours on Alouettes during the year. Sud Aviation have up to now not made any recognition of Tech flying, but Mr. Ford of Rhotair is currently investigating an award for them.
109, Alouette 11's were introduced into Squadron service during October, and by the end of the year 10 pilots had been converted to type. By this time these aircraft were only being used for continuation training and courier work, although more aggressive tasks for them are to be introduced in the new year.
110, Following a casevac involving 2 Air Force drivers who struck a land mine, Sqn. Ldr. Wilkinson and Sgt. Woods were returning to their base when they attempted to land to assist a convoy that appeared to have problems. The aircraft contacted wires on approach and crashed. Although the aircraft was extensively damaged and the occupants, including an Army Medic injured, by the end of the year both Sqn. Ldr. Wilkinson and Sgt. Woods were back at work, albeit not yet in a full flying capacity.
111, Although our Aircraft have been hit by ground fire on numerous occasions and one technician wounded in the arm, it was not until December that a pilot found himself at the receiving end. while dropping an Amy stick following a sighting of terrorists on the Mazoe River Air Lt. Rowe and Sgt. de Beer's aircraft was hit by 2 rounds, one passing through the floor and the other through a Rotor Blade. Air Lt. Rowe was wounded through the right leg and arm, losing the use of both. By a combined effort he and his tech succeeded in landing the aircraft some distance away from the scene without inflicting further damage. Air Lt. Rowe subsequently being casevaced to Salisbury. By the end of the year he was recuperating on sick leave.
112. Not all of the action haa been on the debit side, however, and during the year squadron crews have notched up quite a few successes. The most spectacular being a joint action featuring Air Lt. Paxton with Sgt, Collocott and Air Lt. Porter with Flt. Sgt. Stead. In conjunction with 2 sticks of R.L.I, these 2 crews accounted for a total of 26 terrorist and supporters killed during contact in October. During the same month Flt.Lt. Harvey and Sgt. Holland engaged 3 terrorists seen on a hill feature following an Army contact, killing one and wounding one who subsequently escaped. The dead terrorist was identified as a much wanted gang leader responsible for the attack on Ellen Vannin Farm. By the end of the year most pilots had been involved in contacts and strikes of varying measures of success, with Air Lt. Baynham leading the field by far in frequency of contacts.
113. During the year the Squadron often had oacaaion to fly nunerous visiting dignitaries around the operational areas, in addition to carrying our own President, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers on their visits to the troops around the border. Needless to say, all such flights have taken place without incident.
114. Before concluding with the sheer statistical olde of the year's activities, it must also be recorded that during 1973, four Officers were awarded Permanent Comissions, these being Air Lt. Phillips, Law, Penton and Flt.Lt. Roberts, and that in May, Air Lt.'s Phillips and McGregor were promoted to Flight Lieutenants.
115. 1973 was by far the Squadron's busiest ever, and the breakdown of figures is as follows:-
Total hours flown for 1973 - 7210.55 (3683.40 in 1972)
Troops and Passengers carried - 35,629 (15,019 in 1972)
Man/Duty days spent in the Field - 5,489 (2994 in 1972)
Major accidents - 2 ( 1 fatal)
Incidents - 25
Average serviceability - 92.63%
116. As 1974 begins, there does not appear to be any likelihood of a reduction of effort on the part of the Squadron as far as operations are concerned, but a major effort is anticipated in reducing the number of incidents, eliminating the accidents and further increasing the Squadron's effectiveness by all concerned.
117. The old saying "Next Year Will Be Better" could be proved and disproved by the events of 1974. Operationally, the Squadron has gone from strength to strength and its effectiveness in Anti-Guerrilla Warfare is undisputed, but this has been at the cost of numerous personal and administrative problems, particularly the long suffering Flight Commander trying to regularise the change overs of crews and aircraft in the Operational area.
118. Two now pilots joined the Squadron from No.4 Squadron in January, and Air Lt.'s Litson ana Simmonds became the first AB initio Helicopter Pilots to train on Alouette 11's actually in Rhodesia. The technicians also had an increase with the posting in of Sgts.'. Stewart (far a second tour), Rochat and Britton, although the Squadron lost F/Sgt. Mackie, the first Tech to attain 1,000 hours on Alouettes to H.Q.
119. A furtner two pilots joined us in February, Air Lts. B1ythe-Wood and Aitcheson, also froa 4 Squadron. Sqn.Ldr. Wilkinson was cleared for flying again, and for a short time it looked as if for the first time in ages the Squadron was "fat", but the crunch soon came. The Squadron was advised of extra commitments. Although our Aircraft have been hit by ground fire on numerous occasions and one technician wounded in the arm, it was not until December that a pilot found himself at the receiving end. while dropping an Amy stick following a sighting of terrorists on the Mazoe River Air Lt. Rowe and Sgt. de Beer's aircraft was hit by 2 rounds, one passing through the floor and the other through a Rotor Blade. Air Lt. Rowe was wounded through the right leg and arm, losing the use of both. By a combined effort he and his tech succeeded in landing the aircraft some distance away from the scene without inflicting further damage. Air Lt. Rowe subsequently being casevaced to Salisbury. By the end of the year he was recuperating on sick leave.
120, T'he first month of intensive operations had aircraft operating from FAF's 1, 2, 3 and 4, Musengezi and Rusambo, and in March over 800 hours were flown by the Squadron. This month saw the beginning of concentrated helicopter effort which was to lead the highly successful "Fire Force" concept. In the early times, most strikes were pre-planned and led by fixed wing strikes which, though extremely spectacular, achieved very little in the way of kills as by the time the troops were on the ground, the enemy had generally fled. Those sorties very rapidly names "Lemons", and the Squadron was to fly many of them.Commitments to Operation "Hurricane" which amounted to a prolonged maximum effort. What this meant was that in effect the Squadron at base would cease to function, the Squadron Adj. being about the only remember remaining to handle the admin and continuation. Crews would be returned to base periodically but would be on R and R for short periods only, and all Salisbury type Stand-By's would fall. way. This was to last three months.
121. It was on one of the most intensive days in April when during the third strike of the day on a large Ter complex that the helicopter force was horrified to see the No.2 Canberra of the bombing force explode in mid sir, with the wreckage falling right into the middle of the camp amongst those of its bombs that had not exploded in the bomb bay. The crew, Air Sub. Lt. Goddard and Air Lt. Airey were killed. Fit. Lt. Harvey and Air Lt. Porter recovered their bodies as soon as the troops had secured an LZ. The successes on this strike resulted in one Terrorist and one female follower killed!
122. Brighter days were on the horizon, however. Back at Inkomo, trials were being completed on the 20mm Cannon, and a new chapter in the Squadron's History was about to begin. In March, Sgt. Thomson rejoined, the Squadron, and early in April, Air Lt's Litson and Simmonds became operational, followed in May by Air Lt's Blythe-Wood and Aitcheson. The training machine wound down and all pilots were now available for Hurricane. At the end of May however, the Squadron said farewell to Flt.Lt. Woolcock who left the force to pursue a civilian helicopter career.
123. In June, the technicians efforts as Air Gunners and Crewman finally achieved recognition when. H. Q. approval came to replace the metal sleeve worn Air Gunners Badge with the general Aircrew Brevet. At a parade outside the Squadron, which was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Fort Victoria and three Councillors', 3 Sqn.Ldr. Wilkinson presented all the experienced Air Gunners with their new Brevets. This ceremony was followed by the Commander presenting eight newly qualified members,M.Sgt. Dartnell, Sgt's Whittal, Jarvie, Britton, Graham, Rochat, McCabe and Upton with their Brevets, after which all retired to the Sports Club. It also became apparent that not all operational casualties are necessarily painful as within three month, Air Lt's Blythe-Wood, Simmonds and Rowe had entered the lists of Matrimony, and Sgt. Rochat became engaged It must be recorded that Air Lt. Rowe's s wedding demonstrated that the Squadron's team spirit was of the highest order.
124, By the middle of the year, the Fire Force concept was starting to pay substantial dividends. Reacting rapidly to immaculate intelligence, the Fire Force consisting usually of four or more troop carrying helicopters led by the 20mm aircraft, dubbed the "K", would proceed to the scene of the report. Use of a Trojan of No.4 Squadron to provide noise cover usually resulted in total surprise, and the terrorists were literally surrounded before they knew what was happening, with the "K" car overhead delivering accurate fire and Provosts in close support. The name of the game was rapid reaction, and the squadron, in conjunction with the Ground Forces, in particular the R.L.1., has developed this to a fine art.
125. Prior to the collapse of Mocambique the Squadron bad been regularly employed on anti joint ZANU/Frelimo Operations, and it was on one of these that a further two tragedies occurred. Following the disappearance of a 4 Squadron Trojan flown by Flt. Lt. Weinman SAC Durrett, a massive search and rescue operations was mounted with helicopters being based at Mague. Two Hunters employed on the search reported that a missile had been fired at them, and shortly afterwards a second search Trojan, flown by Air Sub Lt. Wilson and Sgt. Andrews, in company with another aircraft flown by Air -Sub. Lt. Todd was shot down. Air Sub Lt. Todd witnessed the crash and it was confirmed - Strella had arrived. troop carrying helicopters were deployed to the scene, and the wreckage of the missing Trojan together with the bodies of its crew were located a short distance from the second aircraft whose crew were also dead. The bodies were all recovered.
126. Research carried out at the CSIR has resulted in all our aircraft being repainted in a special non-reflective paint and heat diffusing shrouds being fitted to our engines. However, by the end of the year, no further missile incidents had occurred although ZANU are reported to be in possession of the weapon.
127. Although the combined Ground/Air Assaults have resulted in the death and capture of many terrorists, this has not been without cost to us, and many of our aircraft have suffered damage, and one South African Pilot, Lt. Francis was shot in the knee, although he managed to land the aircraft safely, Air Lt. Caldwell flying it out, having deployed in the casevac aircraft. Lt. Houghton and his engineer suffered shrapnel injuries and burns when their aircraft was hit and destroyed while on the ground during a contact near Madziwa by an RPG rocket. Flt. Lt. Thorn and Sgt. Britton in the "K" car successfully suppressed further enemy fire and the crew were quickly rescued by another helicopter. On another occasion Air Lt. Watt and Litson and Capt. White were carrying out a routine trooping mission when they came under heavy fire from a large number of terrorists. All aircraft were hit, Capt. White's aircraft taking the brunt, bullets severing his tail rotor control cables and holing his fuel tank. He managed to return to his base and carried out a successful roll on landing, on the airfield. There were no injuries to of the crews, or passengers. During another contact a Rfn. Visser who was sitting in the right hand front seat of a Troopship flown by Fit. Lt. Harvey was shot through the right upper arm and body, the bullet continuing through the cabin and out of the open starboard side without touching anything else. Without doubt, the luckiest of all was Air Lt. Caldwell, who was embarking troops at a forward base when a rifle grenade exploded in the cabin, causing extensive damage to the rear bulkhead and injuring its carrier. Air Lt. Caldwell was uninjured.
128. Operation "Hurricane" was not the sole concern of the Squadron throughout the year, however, a border control crews still had to be provided at Wankie and Inyanga. In September, Air Lt, Paxton and Sgt. Warren were involved in the recovery of.the body of a Hang- Glider pilot who crashed into the cliff face of World's View at Inyanga. Conditions were particularly tricky at the time and the crew carried out a magnificent job in conjunction with the Army Medic, Sgt. May,in carrying out a successful hoist recovery. Air Lt. Paxton and his tech Sgt. Collocott from a previous operational contact had two days previously been awarded the Military forces Commendation (Operational).
129. Also in September, a large scale head-on Rail collision at Trelawney saw a squadron aircraft deployed in conveying Fire-fighting equipment to the scene. Support for the Rhodesia Railways has always been a role of the Squadron, but Air Lt. Caldwell and Sgt. whittal hold the honour of being the first crew to be used in anger.
130. Numerous Technician changes took place between June and September, Sgts. Warren, Tubbs and Archer joining the Squadron for the loss Sgts'. Pawson and Cuttler. Non operational additions to the Squadron Domestic Personnel also occurred in September when Sgts;. Rochat and Morris became proud fathers. On the Pilot's side, Air Lt. Todd, who is the son-in-law of Mr. Henry Ford, joined the Squadron and commenced helicopter conversion.
131. The Pilot'a strength was further reinforced in October with the posting on of Air Lt. Baldwin and Syslo, Air Lt. Baldwin coming from No.1 Squadron and Air Lt. Syslo a new addition to the Force with previous service in the U.S.M.C. in Vietnam. Aircrew and aircraft wise, the Squadron was by now the largest in the Air Force and yet that did still not seem enough. Early in November, Flt. Lt. Penton rejoined the Squadron for a spell.
132. November, 1974, was the 21st Anniversary of the 'Municipality of Fort Victoria; this also coincided with the tenth year of affiliation to the Squadron, and accordingly whatever effort could be spared from operational duties was amassed for the joint celebrations. On the 9th November four aircraft flown by Sqn. Ldr. Wilkinson, Flt. Lt. Wrigley, Flt. Lt. Harvey and Flt .Lt. Law set off for Fort Victoria, with the ground party, wives and girl friends travelling by bus and private cars to rendezvous at the Fort Victoria Sports Club where a small Flying Display was to be held. Heavy rain did not prevent the display from being presented on time, and a thoroughly enjoyable weekend which included a Civic lunch, Ball and informal Cocktail Party was under way. Sqdn Ldr. Wilkinson presented the Council with a specially commissioned painting of a helicopter deploying troops which was accepted by the Mayor, Councillor a Alan Heasman. In return, each member of the Squadron received a set of gold cuff links embossed with the Coat of Arms of Fort Victoria.
133. On a more sober note, the Squadron Commander received a personal letter from the Commander of the Air Force in November congratulating the Squadron for its efforts throughout current operations, and particularly drawing attention to the loyalty and goodwill of the Squadron wives. This gesture was highly appreciated by all, and must surely be a first for any Squadron in the force.
134. As the year drew to a close, a dramatic turn of events took place, the results of which are subject to the same crystal ball gazing much beloved of the Flight Commanders. After a number of abortive starts, on the 11th December, the Prime Minister announced to the world that negotiations with nationalist and terrorist organisations had reached the stage where, to create a climate conducive to constitutional and settlement talks, a ceasefire on both sides was to take immediate effect! While the rest of the country rejoiced, the Squadron was fully employed, initially in assisting the dissemination of leaflets and information teams, in addition to maintaining a state of preparedness should the ceasefire not be honoured by the terrorists. This latter soon proved to be the case, and Christmas and New Year saw Squadron members deployed across the entire operational area to contain widespread infiltration attempts by terrorists determined to ignore the exhortations of their old time leaders in Rhodesia.
135. It was business as usual for No. 7 Squadron when 1975 was ushered in, but the New Year finds a Squadron far more effectively prepared to deal with whatever future events have in store for it.
End of Diary
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The following was received from John Hill, a member of the BSAP, to support this article. Thank you John.
John Hill( Gomo BSAP 6017)
Thank you for this history item.. so many of them bring back vivid memories of incidents that I was either involved in or had intimate knowledge of.
John Barnes [school & family friend] and Ian Harvey were my favorite 'jockeys'. For whatever reason they seemed to turn up at the majority of incidents where chopper support was called either by myself or others.
A couple of comments...
Item 46. Along the way this gang walked through my front garden. I was stationed at Karoi and was the ad hoc jailer or lock-up keeper. The prisons had a brand new house in the bush to the north of the police camp but had not yet started building the prison. I was allowed the use of the house as I had 2 baby boys and the BSAP had no housing! Our dog made a heck of a noise one night and I went out and saw nothing. Called the dog in and went back to sleep. Next morning, found signs of a large group of people having passed through the vlei at the bottom of the garden. Put it down to a bunch of drunkards going from a neighbouring farm to the local African township.
It was only after the Sinoia 'shootout' that we got the whole story. We found out that the gang had encamped at our local rifle range for several days en route to Sinoia. Thank the Lord, neither I or any of our local shottists had gone near the range during that time. Had we done so, the battle might have been 'Karoi' and we might not have been alive to tell the tale today!
As a total bye the bye and unrelated to the incident, I received a commendation from the Director of Prisons for the beautiful garden I and the prisoners had developed around this house!
Item 49. I was one of the follow up team chasing the gang through the Karoi area. I was unknowingly close enough to them to have them discuss whether they should kill or capture me. They decided to leave me alone as either way I would be a lead to their whereabouts. At this stage, I decided I was on a wild goose chase and gave up looking for 'nebulous terrorists' and wandered off the ridge where we all were and went hunting in the Dete valley a little further along in the Miami TTL! I was accompanied at the time by a lone African constable and one of the local chief's sons of about 14 years, who allegedly had seen the gang the previous day. A local farmer had picked up an AK round on his farm road near his house gate a couple of days earlier so the child's report seemed to have substance. However, at this time we had not been introduced to terrorist type ammo and were not aware what the strange round actually was. Our weaponry? My SMLE MK IV, the AC with my .22 long rifle and the child with a native axe! All was not lost as far as we were concerned as we killed a fat reedbuck in the valley and went home very proud hunters!
Alex du Plessis also BSAP Karoi & a local stick of PATU headed by Mike Bailey, brother of Bill Bailey the Sinoia BSAP OC of the time, went to a spot in the wilds of Kanyemba a few days later following a 'revelation' by our local tracker who was a spirit medium. There they met another medium, a female, who led them to the gang who were preparing to exit to Mozambique. A contact ensued and some were killed or captured and some made it over the border. One of the escapees was shot by Alec at close range with an Uzi and was hit by all the rounds in the magazine. [Alec was not a marksman for nothing!] He was patched up by a local medicine man and recovered.
He was, in fact, the last of the gang to be apprehended. This occurred at least 2-3 years after the incident. The man decided that he had had enough of being a terrorist and, once he had regained his health, deserted the terr group he was with and made it to Macheke where I was now member i/c.
One of my ground coverage agents came and told me I needed to come with him a a certain farm in the district as there was 'someone I would be interested to meet' working there. Macheke has a common border with Mtoko and the farm concerned was close to this border. Macheke was not in the 'war zone' then so off I went, unarmed, with my agent. The man, busy making his bricks, was pointed out to me. I spoke with him and the rest is history. I arrested him in the usual fashion of the day, searching him and his possessions, then telling him to sit in the landrover unfettered or guarded. Special branch in Marandellas took him over, 'turned' him and sent him off to do undercover work for them.
My farmer friend was totally brassed off. The man was his best brick maker and it was very hard for said farmer to find another man of similar talent in the area! This affected his readiness to process a bumper tobacco crop!
Item 50. When the helicopter arrived to help with the follow up of the farm murders, there was no designated LZ but there was a patch of open veld opposite the Member i/c BSAP's house. Member i/c - Bill Ellway, I think it was, had a couple of large dogs who objected violently to the appearance of this strange metal animal on their territory. Before anyone could stop them they attacked the tail rotor. One dog was killed and the rotor [and, of course, chopper] put out of action until spares and tech could be brought out from Salisbury. Unkind words were uttered on both sides but all was well in the end! Pilot involved not remembered but it could well have been Ian Harvey.
Not mentioned in the log is the 1963/64 rainy season activity by the squadron, although there is the picture of 501 in a very full looking Lake McIllwaine Not sure of dates, but the Gwebi flooded, burst its banks and swept away the rail causeway at Darwendale. A train carrying explosives for the Mtorashanga & other mines up the dyke derailed and landed on its side in the flooded plain between the Gwebi river & Darwendale village. John Barnes was sent out to help us and also to patrol the Gwebi & Hunyani river banks as there were fears that people might have been washed away. The strength & width of the water was deemed enough to keep any possible thieves away from the explosives and John did not stay long at Darwendale itself. We recovered the explosives several days later using the prisoners from the cells at the Police camp as porters to carry them across the flooded plain.
Looked like a scene from 'Safari' or 'Out of Africa'! Rail traffic only resumed a long time later with RMS running extra journeys to provide deliveries in the Lomagundi area.
Never heard if John found any 'floaters'! If he did, he was kind enough to blow them into someone else's territory!
Best regards and thanks for all the hard work you do.
Gomo BSAP 6017