Why We Came Back For More

Mike Simpson

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Flying with the Police Reserve Air Wing (PRAW)
Or..Why We Came Back for More

By Mike Simpson

I was BSAP Air Wing (PRAW) Matabeleland Province. Boss P B trained me as a Reccie Pilot and I don't believe I have to express my feeling or my story as to the rest of my history. Just look now. I did get political with Smithy and the RF and lasted all of eight months representing Bulawayo South before Bob changed the rules. I was flying for a Fencing Company here in Edenvale and that was the last time I saw Boss P B. He was selling a security system at that time. Most of my collection of books on Rhodesia have been signed by most of the bosses of that time' I must get PB to sign his book as well, (besides I was guilty of breaking Boss PB's back landing a Provost.

Talking of the Provost, I must tell you my story of that great little aeroplane. I gave a Provost to the SAAF Museum but it was crashed by an ex Rhodesian Pilot. My 3rd Bulawayo Air Scout Group had that Provost for years and after independence Mike Coley moved it to SA for me. Last saw it in a dump at Swartkops. My first ride in a Provost was from Centenary to Mukumbura with young Robbie Wilson. On my first tour to Op Hurricane and stationed at Centenary Robbie was tasked to change the Provost stationed at Mukumbura. The W/C gave permission for me to go on the flight. What a great moment in my life.

It goes like this. The first evening at the FAF, This young man come to me and says, 'Are you Mr. Simpson'. In total shock, I say Yes. 'From Francistown'. Yes. 'Well my name is Rob Wilson, John Wilson's son.' I was staggered. This man in front of me is the same 'kid' that I taught to ride my BSA 350cc motor cycle on the mine dumps in Francistown. Much to his Mothers disgust. It just gave me a sense of great pride to see this man, now a pilot in the Rhodesian Air Force. I was a Civie Instructor at the time and to watch Robbie fly the Provost was a lesson in my life. I had never seen a pilot fly an aircraft like that to prove to me that he had arrived.

I flew with his father John at WENELA (Africair) and again what another total Gentleman. His mother made wine from all sorts of things and I can remember drinking a Rose Petal wine that she had made (Rose Petal). Had a pleasant taste all of it's own. A truly wonderful family. Last saw John Willie at the Falls flying tourists around, back to were he came from before he joined Africair. I was at the Falls two years ago and the Wilsons had gone and Robbie's little memorial plaque that was in a garden in the town had been removed.

Boss PB taught me Reccie and I impressed him in just one flight. He took me up in a Cessna 185 and Norman Maarsdorp was a newly qualified JP and was ordered to be on this flight. I sat behind Boss PB to work out of the left window. Norman was in the front seat next to PB. We went to a land mine scene and followed tracks. I managed to find the camp and the ground force were called. It ended in a contact and Boss PB made me a Reccie Pilot. One problem. Air Sub Lt Maarsdorp, been on the outside of all the turns for about four hours flying and Puked. Got to know Norman well after that. Another great Pilot and person.

I lead a Reccie Team with the likes of Peter Markerison, Buster Brown. and Ollie Knight, Doctor Knight and Mark Knight's Uncle. In the early day we would fly all over the country in all the different Op areas and when the Fire Forces were formed had great fun doing that bit. Calling a strike and later making an attack plan. Had the pleasure of actually calling a full strike east of Beit Bridge on a ridge of kopies. Its started with the Cans and then the Hunters and was cleaned out by the Alouette's and the troopies from One Independent Company, Commandered by my great friend Major Don Price. Watching the Alpha's out the Cans, the Golfs and 30mm from the Hunter or the 20mm from the Alouette's is one of my most pleasant memories and dreams to this day.

I wish I had the balls to write a book. As a PRAW Pilot we did so many different things in all the different theaters of the Rhodesian conflict. We got to know so many guys in all the different forces. The only thing that kept us all together was all the wonderful Pubs in each and every place we went to. How can I forget the Purple PRAW Darts team. We got a reputation like a Quick Draw Six Shooter from the cowboy days. Everywhere we went someone wanted to challenge us as our reputation had gone before us. Buster Brown was a Rhodesian Champ then. At Rutenga it ended up in a punch-up with the DC and his clerks or darts team just because we beat them.

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