February 7, 2010


The evil smelling little Renault 4 taxi dropped me off at the main bus-stop next to the car-park behind the Bulawayo City Hall….our mustering point.  There were a few sad-looking individuals there already, many of them saying their goodbyes to family and friends.

We were mostly eager to get on our way, away from the city.  Wanted to get it all over with so we could go home again.

They had come to fetch us in that old stalwart of the Rhodesian Army vehicle fleet, Bedford RL’s…..the ones with the big bubble-like noses.  There were also what seemed far too many grim-looking people in uniform shouting and ushering us onto the vehicles.  The tailgates were down and we chucked our few belongings on board as ordered and clambered up into the wet cargo areas of the trucks like robots, heads banging on overhead frameworks, feet slipping on wet metal.

Two stone-faced and extremely well turned out Corporals accompanied each vehicle.  For some reason they were in their drill kit, hobnail boots with gleaming toe-caps and putties.   The creases on their twill shirts and shorts starched and ironed to razor like sharpness.

The rain had eased a little but the old tarpaulins that covered the back of the trucks were full of holes or in some cases ripped……this ensured most of us had a second shower, or in some cases probably the first for the day.  There was no way to escape from the dripping …..it only made the mood more depressing.

As if on cue, the drivers and escort, who up to then had stood at the back of thier idling vehicles, now lifted up the heavy tailgates and slammed them shut, making sure the two locking latches were in place……not easy as most of them were bent out of shape and alignment.  They then climbed into the doorless cabs, the driver double clutched and slipped the RL into first gear……and our convoy began to move off.

On the way the Corporals said very little.  They too were obviously pissed off with the wet journey and were more than likely plotting their revenge against us civvies……seeming to look in my direction more than what I deemed necessary.

The trip out to Llewellyn was fairly uneventful except for the whipping one would get from the madly flapping canvas and loose ropes that were meant to hold the tarpaulins in place.  The seats were hard cold steel, and my arse was soon numb and my feet went to sleep……the exhaust fumes from the Bedford 6 cylinder being sucked into the back of the vehicle by the vacuum caused by our forward movement……stinging our eyes and throats.  The whirring of the wheels on the road and differential whine on an RL are somewhat hypnotic, and this having been well mixed with an overdose of carbon monoxide caused my head to start nodding like one of those dogs my mate had in the back his Cortina GT.

We  tried to make small talk with one another to stay awake, fear of the unknown making it difficult to forge any kind of friendship for now.  The best one could expect to get was someones name and a shivvery, cold, wet handshake.

Rhodesian Army Bedford RL

Rhodesian Army Bedford RL