The first RLI contact took place back in 1966. HQ 1 Commando, Rhodesia Light Infantry (RLI) was based at Makuti with 1 Troop as reserve and the remaining Troops on border control. There was no operation on at all and lntelligence (SS) had no knowledge of any crossing. Just normal border control operations.
Capt. Dick Lockley was acting OC as Major Peter Rich was attending some rifle shoot or another (Presidents Medal?)
Dick Lockley was bored and besides which I was constantly beating him at cards so he decided to send me out on a night patrol (!) - I ask you.
I was to take six men from my Troop (If I could find that many sober) and patrol from the old Nyakasanga road until we either got lost or we dropped from exhaustion.
Bravely and innocently we set off. Cards, french letters, passports, 22 days rats each and a couple of rounds per weapon completed our preparations. We debussed at the old Nyakasanga Bridge where 2 Lt Garth Barrett's Tp was, theoretically, on ambush. They were all asleep. Feeling that our back-up was really secure we tottered off in something resembling file formation, down the road.
We moved very slowly because none of us could think very fast. We stopped every 200 yards or so to "look and listen". We looked dreadful so we kept on moving.
At 2245, about 3 miles from our debuss point, we approached a large baobab tree on the left side of the road. Barely had the words "Dick (Lockley) you're a Prick" passed my lips for the 92nd time when I saw a dark mass of figures in front of me. They were about 20 yards in front of me and partly obscured by the baobab tree. We went to ground on either side of the road and waited. Their leader shone a torch at me and I saw vaguely, and heard, terrifyingly, rifles being re-moved from shoulders.
Knowing there were no other Security Forces (SF) in the area I concluded they could only be the enemy or Game Rangers. Thinking they were Game Rangers, we hated Game Rangers, I opened fire.
A fairly mean fire fight took place with their green tracer going right over our heads. On the verey light being fired (can you believe it?) the enemy ran into the thick Jesse on the side of the road.
Leaving March and Foulds on the right side of the road to give us covering fire, I took the rest of the patrol in extended line searching the area between the road and the Jesse bush. The enemy commander had hidden behind the baobab tree and at about 10 yards opened fire with his AK. Boddington was hit in the arm and with great bravery and presence of mind we took cover amid shouts of "Dick you're a Prick!" I shouted to Marsh to fire around the baobab tree and, when he stopped, we ran up. We found the leader, one other body, 2 x SKS rifles, an AK, a Bamboo Bazooka and six packs. I also stole a Tokarev pistol (subsequently returned to BSAP Special Branch (SB) so that an SB man could have drinks on it for the rest of the war) a Tokarev holster and £42 cash.
Having cleared the area we returned to Barretts camp, woke up his ambush, told our war story and returned to Makuti camp. It was there that we told Dick Lockley that we hated him, hated SB and Game Rangers.
Early the following morning Lt Tom Douglas and his troop followed up tracks of three while my troop followed separate tracks of a further three. Lt Tom Douglas found one of the enemy left for dead, with a bullet through the mouth. The impediment in his mouth made him sound like a cross between P.K. van der Byl and an Irish Git. He was recovered to Kariba. The remaining five enemy were picked up at Kariba Township by SB within a week. This was only because SB were all on R & R in the Township at the time.
As a result of this contact - the first - the following points of interest arose:
Because there was no 'State of Emergency' at the time the BSAP did not know how to go about prosecuting the captured enemy.
I as the Troop Commander, was subpoenaed for murder and had to give evidence in Court to defend myself. This has got to be a first!
We received shotguns, veld-schoen boots and camouflage denims shortly afterwards. Lt Col Walls was CO and had the necessary "pull" to get these items off the production line.
Col T.G. Desfountain