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Cap badges of the Rhodesian Security Forces.

In 1965, for reasons largely beyond the scope of this article, the then British colony of Southern Rhodesia issued a `unilateral declaration of independence' (UDI) and, as the self declared Republic of Rhodesia, set about going its own way. UDI was designed to ensure the continuing political and economic dominance of the white minority but resulted instead in a bitter and protracted war which lasted until 1980 as various African nationalist movements battled for control of the country.

The `Bush War' was fought between the Rhodesian Security Forces (RSF) on the one hand and the military arms of the two dominant African nationalist movements on the other hand - the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was represented in the field by the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) while the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) was represented by the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). Although Rhodesia received active political, economic and military support from the neighbouring Republic of South Africa for a period in the 70s, for most of the war, it was a purely Rhodesian affair.

While the Republic of Rhodesia adapted to economic and political sanctions in a way which can only be described, no matter what your political views are, as magnificent and the RSF attained a level of professionalism and military competence which was truly awesome, the war was never winnable for the Rhodesians and they were forced to the negotiating table in 1979. This in the end led to the dissolution of the white minority government and of Rhodesia itself and saw the creation of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

The aim of the article is to introduce readers to the cap badges of an army which ceased to exist in 1980. Only cap badges are dealt with in the article. While the RSF wore a vast array of other badges, badges of rank, trade and specialist qualification badges, appointment badges, unit badges, etc, these will not be dealt with. Similarly, the main thrust of the article is the post-UDI period and the period before 1965 will only be touched on.

The Rhodesian Security Forces

While the Bush War was originally low key and low scale, by the late 1970s, Rhodesia was a nation in arms. Almost every white male and a large number of females were actively involved in the war as members of the various arms of the RSF. Similarly, a large portion of the `loyal' African population was involved in the war in regular, part time or auxiliary arms of the RSF.

The RSF originally consisted of three arms - the British South Africa Police (BSAP), the Rhodesian Army and the Rhodesian Air Force. Later in the war, these were joined by the Guard Force, the field vedettes of the Department of Internal Affairs (Intaf) and Pfumo re Vahnu, the so called `Spear of the Nation'.

BSAP. The senior service in the RSF was the police force, the BSAP. The BSAP traced its origins to the local company police units, the Matabeleland Mounted Police and the Mashonaland Mounted Police, raised by the British South Africa Company in the 1890s to police and defend the Company's newly chartered territories. The two forces were combined into the Rhodesia Mounted Police in 1897 and became the BSAP in 1898. The BSAP saw active service in the Boer War and were awarded King's and Regimental colours in 1903. In 1909, the Southern Rhodesia Constabulary was absorbed into the BSAP as the town branch of the force. The BSAP saw service in both the First and Second World Wars and was awarded battle honours for service in the German West and East African campaigns of the First World War. In 1936, the Rhodesia Commissioner of the BSAP was named by legislation the Commandant-General of the RSF in recognition of the fact that the police constituted the largest body of trained military personnel in the then colony. This was to remain the legal situation right up until the end in 1980 although the actual day to day running of the war devolved onto the Chief of Combined Operations, an Army general.

The Rhodesian Army

The Rhodesian Army had its origins in the Rhodesian units raised for service in the Boer War, in particular, the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers (SRV). During the First World War, both white and black Rhodesians served in Africa and Europe in the 1st and 2nd Rhodesian Regiments (RR) and the Rhodesian Native Regiment (RNR), as well as 400 white Rhodesians who provided Rhodesian platoons for the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The volunteers remained active after the war despite the fact that the SRV were disbanded (for reasons of cost) in 1920. In 1927, a Defence Act was passed which established, for the first time, a permanent military force, the Rhodesian Staff Corps, and provided legislative support for part time service.

During the Second World War Rhodesians served all over the world in Rhodesian, South African and British units. A significant move was the raising of the African recruited Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) in 1940. This unit took the lineage and honours of the old RNR and as it was a regular unit claimed the distinction of being the senior regiment of the Southern Rhodesian and later Rhodesian Army. Battalions of the RR and the RAR served with distinction in Africa and South East Asia while Rhodesian artillery units served in North Africa and Italy. For its services, the Rhodesia Regiment received the title `Royal' in 1946.

The Rhodesian Army establishment was drastically reduced after the war, the Royal Rhodesia Regiment reverting to territorial status and the RAR representing the only regular conventional unit of the army. In 1951, a special force known as the Rhodesian Squadron, Malayan Scouts was raised for service with the British SAS in Malaya. This unit was the forerunner of C Squadron Rhodesian SAS which in turn became 1 (Rhodesian) SAS Regiment. An all white regular infantry battalion was raised in 1960, the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) and a number of other support units came into being. During the ill-conceived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953-1963, the various corps of the former Southern Rhodesian Army took the prefix Rhodesia & Nyasaland (e.g. the Rhodesian Army Service Corps became the Rhodesia & Nyasaland Army Service Corps). When the Federation broke up on 1 January, 1964, the various elements of the Federal army reverted to their former colonies. The following year, Southern Rhodesia declared UDI and became simply Rhodesia. From that time until 1980, the Rhodesian Army expanded dramatically with a number of new units added to the order of battle and an expansion of existing units, in particular the RAR which expanded from one battalion in 1965 to four battalions and the nucleus of a fifth in 1980. The units and corps of the Rhodesian Army, with the year of their establishment in brackets, during the UDI period were:

Rhodesian Staff Corps (1927)

Rhodesia Regiment (1929)

Rhodesian Corps of Engineers (1929)

Rhodesian African Rifles (1940)

Rhodesian Corps of Chaplains (1940) (formally established, had existed since 1925)

Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment (1941)

Southern Rhodesia Artillery (1st Field Regiment) (1941)

Rhodesian Army Medical Corps (1941)

Rhodesian Army Service Corps (1941)

Rhodesian Army Pay Corps (1954)

Rhodesian Army Education Corps (1955)

Rhodesian Corps of Signals (1959) (as Rhodesia & Nyasland Corps of Signals, became Rhodesian Corps of Signals in 1964)

Rhodesian Intelligence Corps (1960)

Rhodesian Light Infantry (1961)

Rhodesian SAS (1961) (as C Sqn, became 1 (Rhodesian) SAS Regt in 1978)

Rhodesian Corps of Military Police (1964)

Selous Scouts (1971)

Rhodesian Defence Regiment (1973)

Rhodesian Women's Service (1975)

Grey's Scouts (1976)

1 Psychological Operations Unit (1977)

The Rhodesian Air Force

The Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF) had its genesis in the Air Unit of the Rhodesian Staff Corps which was established in 1934 at Salisbury. The Air Unit was absorbed into the RAF in 1939 as 237 (Rhodesian) Squadron. Two other Rhodesian squadrons were formed in the RAF, 266 (Rhodesian) Squadron (bombers) and 44 (Rhodesian) Squadron (fighters). In addition, Rhodesia was a major contributor to the Empire Air Training Scheme and over 2,000 non-Rhodesian pilots and aircrew were trained at Salisbury during the war. At the end of the war, 237 and 266 Squadrons were disbanded and 44 Squadron was taken on the permanent strength of the RAF, the Air Unit reducing to a small training cadre. In 1947, the Air Unit was expanded and put on a permanent basis and in 1952 it became the Rhodesian Air Force, later the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRhAF). With the change in name, the RRhAF severed all ties with the Army and established its own uniforms and badges of rank and rank titles, all modelled on the RAF.

With UDI, the `Royal' prefix was dropped (but not until 1970) and the force became simply the Rhodesian Air Force. During the bush war, the RhAF, thrown largely onto its own resources as a result of international sanctions, achieved incredible feats of aircraft availability and operational success, including several cross border raids into neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia in which the Canberra bombers and Hawker Hunter fighters of the RhAF carried the war to the enemy in no uncertain terms.

The Guard Force

One of the mainstays of the internal security operations of the Rhodesian government was the Protected Village program. This was modelled on the hugely successful program carried out in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency which resulted in the insurgents being almost totally cut off from their support base, the rural populace. As the Protected Village program developed, the Rhodesian government realised that a static defence force was needed to ensure that villages were not overran or subverted by guerillas. In the earliest stages, reserve elements of the BSAP and the Army were used but this was a stop gap measure at best. To solve the problem, the government established the Guard Force as the fourth arm of the RSF in 1976.

The new organisation had its own Depot at Chikurubi and was commanded by a retired major general of the Rhodesian Army. The majority of officers and senior NCOs were former members of either the Army or the BSAP. Originally intended as a static protection force for the protected villages only, by 1978 the Guard Force had been deployed to protect outlying farms and a number of independent infantry companies had been raised to carry out counter insurgent operations in the North East Operational Area. Later, Guard Force units were deployed to protect urban key points, to patrol mine free roads and to patrol rail lines. Guard Force was fully racially integrated with both black and white officers, all African members were reportedly volunteers while white members were either national servicemen or Category D reservists. The Force had a number of notable successes in both static and mobile roles and morale remained high right until the end of the war.

Internal Affairs

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (Intaf) was responsible for the administration of the large Tribal Trust Lands and for the welfare of the rural African population. Intaf was also responsible for the actual establishment and operation of the protected villages. The Ministry of Internal Affairs was essentially an unarmed, non-combatant government administrative body. Members of Intaf, however, both white District Officers and African District Assistants, were seen by the guerillas as soft and valuable targets and it did not take the Ministry long to realise the need for a paramilitary arm.

A National Service Unit was set up in 1975 and white national servicemen began to be streamed into Intaf for their 18 months national service, specifically to be employed as `Field Vedettes'. At the same time, the recruitment of African District Assistants was stepped up, specifically to man the paramilitary unit. Initially involved in the defence of the protected villages, Intaf gradually handed this over to the Guard Force. Among other skills required of the white national service vedettes was fluency in at least one African language. Although organised and trained along military lines, the Intaf National Service Unit never lost sight of the fact that it was essentially a non-military organisation. Members wore khaki rather than camouflaged uniforms and military training stressed self defence, rather than offensive tactics and techniques. Nevertheless, the unit grew to be a sizeable military organisation with its own rank structure and engineer, signals and medical units, as well as a mounted unit (formed at Mount Darwin in 1977).

Pfumo re Vanhu (The `Auxiliaries')

In an attempt to placate world opinion and lift sanctions, the Rhodesian government engineered the so-called `internal settlement' in 1979 which saw the election of Bishop Muzarewa to the prime ministership. Flowing on from this was a general amnesty which saw thousands of disillusioned ZIPRA and ZANLA fighters return to Rhodesia. With very mixed feelings, the RSF incorporated these returned fighters into the order of battle, initially calling them Security Force Auxiliaries, later changed to Pfumo re Vanhu (`Spear of the Nation'). Uniformed and armed by the Rhodesian government, members of Pfumo re Vanhu were given rudimentary military training and deployed, as far as possible, to their former home areas to assist Guard Force and Intaf in the protection of their rural countrymen.

The least successful arm of the RSF, Pfumo re Vanhu suffered, despite the best efforts of the RSF, from poor discipline, inadequate training and low morale. Vilified by both their former ZIPRA and ZANLA comrades and the world press as turn coats and running dogs, at best the presence Pfumo re Vanhu elements in an area did no more than hamper insurgent activities. The force was dissolved without ceremony in 1980.

The Hat Badges

Badges of the RSF reflected Rhodesia's British military heritage. Not only did each corps or unit have its own distinctive cap badge, in a number of cases these badges were obviously a local version of the British one. With UDI, existing cap badges were modified by removing the Royal crown and replacing it with either the lion passant and elephant tusk from the crest of the Rhodesian Army's coat of arms or the so-called `Zimbabwe bird.' One exception to this was the Rhodesia Regiment which, unwilling to surrender completely its `Royal' status, kept the crown in its badge but moved it from the top of the badge to the centre.

Badges were produced from a variety of materials including brass, white metal, pure silver, chrome and anodised aluminium. Standard of manufacture ranged from excellent to very poor. All badges appear to have been fitted with lugs, none having so far been seen by the author with either sliders or pin and clutch grip fittings (this is not to say that these types of fittings do not exist). Of a wide selection of Rhodesian badges examined, only three have manufacturer's marks on the back, these being: Rhodesian African Rifles (`FIRMIN LONDON') and Rhodesian Intelligence Corps and Rhodesian Corps of Chaplains (both `REUTELER SALISBURY').

Rhodesian Staff Corps (Fig 1). Anodised aluminium, this badge was worn by personnel who did not have a badge of their own.


Rhodesia Regiment (Fig 2). Blackened anodised aluminium, also worn in white metal and silver (officers) by 6th Bn. Note the location of the crown.


Rhodesian Corps of Engineers (Fig 3). A very well made bi-metal badge, note the `Zimbabwe bird' which replaced the crown and the resemblance to Royal Engineers badge.


Zimbabwe Corps of Engineers (Fig 4). An example of a post-Independence badge. Compare with Fig 3. This is a very poorly made, caste badge.


Rhodesian African Rifles (Fig 5). White metal, extremely well made in the UK. Also worn in pure silver by officers and bandsmen. An attempt was made in the mid 1970s to develop a cheaper anodised aluminium version but this was unsuccessful as the troops hated them (naturally) and they were far too fragile. Manufacturer's mark on back FIRMIN LONDON. A small embroidered version was also worn on field caps - this version was embroidered either in white thread or silver on a square backing of rifle green over black (regimental colours).


Rhodesian Corps of Chaplains (Fig 6). Brass, well made - note resemblance to Royal Army Chaplain's Department. Manufacturer's mark on back - REUTELER SALISBURY.


Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment (Fig 7). White metal, very well made. This badge was worn on a black beret and, apparently following South African practice, was worn above a small enamel bar half red half yellow. 1 Rh Armoured Car Regt was the only RSF unit to follow this practice.


Southern Rhodesia Artillery (Fig 8). Brass, well made. Note resemblance to Royal Artillery. Badge was worn by 1 Field Regiment, Rhodesian Corps of Artillery. This badge was originally issued to SRhA in 1948, officially replaced in 1956 by a badge consisting of the seven flamed artillery grenade with the word RHODESIA on the scroll (not illustrated) but this badge was never popular and the Rhodesian gunners continued to wear the old badge and to style themselves by the old title right up until 1980.


Rhodesian Army Medical Corps (Fig 9). Gilt anodised aluminium. Very similar to RAMC.


Rhodesian Army Service Corps (Fig 10). Gilt anodised aluminium and red enamel. Poorly made beret sized - slightly larger size worn on caps.


Rhodesian Army Pay Corps (Fig 11). A very well made, two piece badge, brass and white metal. Again, note the similarity to the Royal Army Pay Corps.


Rhodesian Army Education Corps (Fig 12). Anodised aluminium, silver and gilt.


Rhodesian Corps of Signals (Fig 13). Bi metal, gilding metal and white metal, two piece construction. Separate crown of pre-UDI days replaced by separate `Zimbabwe bird' post UDI. Note similarity to Royal Corps of Signals.


Rhodesian Intelligence Corps (Fig 14). Anodised aluminium. Poorly made badge, manufacturer's mark on back - REUTELER SALISBURY.


Rhodesian Light Infantry (Fig 15). Anodised aluminium. Same size worn in matching pairs as collar badges. Also worn in pure silver by officers. Worn on dark green beret.


Rhodesian Light Infantry (Fig 16). Pre-UDI collar badge. Compare with Fig 15.


Rhodesian SAS (Fig 17). British style embroidered badges were authorised but most ranks preferred to wear bi-metal similar to Australian pattern. In fact, the author has it from three separate sources (one ex-BSAP, one ex-RLI, one ex-RhSAS) that the Rhodesian SAS wore Australian made badges purchased in Australia and smuggled to Rhodesia. Certainly, the illustrated badge, which came into the author's possession from a source Zimbabwe, is indistinguishable from Australian badges. Worn on tan beret.


Rhodesian Corps of Military Police (Fig 18). Brass, reasonably well made badge. Again, design is similar to Royal Corps of Military Police.


Selous Scouts (Fig 19). Anodised aluminium. Also worn in pure silver by officers. Reputedly designed by Selous Scouts' first (and only) CO, Lt-Col Ron Reid-Daly. Worn on a brown beret.


Rhodesian Defence Regiment (Fig 20). Chrome and enamel. A nicely made and attractive badge. RhDR was a static defence unit created in 1970s from former Reinforcement Holding Units.


Rhodesian Women's Service (Fig 21). Anodised aluminium. Based on Staff Corps badge.


Grey's Scouts (Fig 22). Anodised aluminium. Worn on grey beret. Grey's Scouts was a horse mounted infantry unit used for patrolling and quick reaction in inaccessible country. Also worn in silver by officers. Badge worn on a grey beret.


1 Psychological Operations Unit (Fig 23). Chrome. Reasonably well made but visually unattractive badge.


BSAP (Fig 24). Anodised aluminium. Also worn in brass and a larger size in both brass and anodised aluminium worn on helmets. This particular specimen is very poorly made and possibly dates from late in the war.


BSAP Commissioned Officer (pre-UDI) (Fig 25). Commissioned officers (Superintendent to Commissioner pre-1975, Inspector to Commissioner post-1975) wore a large embroidered badge on their caps. The illustrated badge is a pre-UDI version, the post-UDI version had the crown replaced by the `Zimbabwe bird'. On the post-UDI version, the Zimbabwe bird and lion are in gold wire, the wreath, spear and knobkerrie in silver wire.


Rhodesian Air Force (Fig 26). Anodised aluminium. This is the standard pattern worn by ORs as a cap/beret badge and by officers on the side cap; a right collar badge (identical design, smaller size) was worn as a cap badge by airwomen, Officers below Air Rank (Air Sub-Lieutenant to Group Captain) wore on caps a gilt metal badge on a wreath on a black padded background; the wreath and lion were embroidered in gold wire. Officers of Air Rank (Air Commodore to Air Marshal) wore an impressive badge of an eagle on a circular wreath with the lion and tusk above and the Zimbabwe bird overall, all embroidered in gold wire on a black padded background.


Guard Force (Fig 27). Brass, well made. The Roman figure `IV' on the sword hilt alludes to the status of the Guard Force as the fourth arm of the RSF. The Commander wore the same badge surrounded by a laurel wreath - this was embroidered in gold wire on a black backing (not illustrated). A brass version of the Commander's cap badge was worn on the right wrist as the badge of rank for Keep Sergeant Major.


Internal Affairs (Fig 28). Blackened anodised aluminium. A very, well made and reasonably sturdy badge. The motif is the intertwined letters [??] IA [??] above an African `snuff horn'. This badge, which was worn either on a red beret or on a red cloth backing on the left hand (turned up) brim of the slouch hat, was introduced in 1975. Prior to 1975, Intaf personnel wore as a badge the coat of arms of Rhodesia, anodised gilt, on a black backing.


Pfumo re Vanhu. Standard head dress for the `Auxiliaries' was a floppy brown bush hat. The badge worn on this was a green cloth shield with a black border and a black African spear head, upright in the centre (not illustrated).

All badges illustrated are from the author's collection.


Anonymous, 1996, Brief History of the Rhodesian Army

Arneil, A.J., 1987, Badges and Insignia of the Rhodesian Security Forces 1890-1980, Alec Kaplan & Son C.C., Germinston South Africa

Abbott, Peter and Botham, Philip, 1986, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series No. 183 Modern African Wars (1): Rhodesia 1965-80, Osprey Publishing Ltd, London

Reid-Daly, Lt-Col R. (as told to Peter Stiff), 1984, Selous Scouts Top Secret War, Galago Press, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Author:Wilson, Graham
Geographic Code:6ZIMB
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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