Basic Training……the metamorphosis

May 16, 2010

It has been well recorded that the Rhodesian fighting man/woman were the finest counter-insurgency force in the world at the time and the training we received from day one was designed to ensure that this reputation was never sullied.  It was hard and relentless, both physically and mentally.  I must mention here that I have never been a small chap of politically correct weight.  Those who know me will understand what I mean.  I have had a lifelong battle with excess lard and this did not do me any favours during basic training.   I really suffered, as did many of my fellow trainees.

However I soon discovered that I had a high level of mental stamina and an above average walking endurance with extremely heavy loads.  This was to prove of great benefit to me in the future.

Walking anywhere was considered taboo during basic training and would immediately incur the wrath of our instructors, who appeared to take their greatest pleasure from grinding the less physically adept more than the rest.  There were three of them in A Company……and at the time were all evil men according to me.  I remember their names and faces to this day but I do not see any value to mention them here.  I fully understand they had a difficult  job to do but they did seem to wobble along that thin and somewhat blurry line between constructive battle competence/discipline training and sadistic bullying rather frequently.  Perhaps this was all part of the grand plan to make us survivors in combat…..I don’t know….. but apparently it worked as I am still here to tell the tale so I have forgiven them a long time ago and in some ways I probably owe them my life many times over.

Basic Training doctrine in the Rhodesian Army had one purpose……to train every recruit to be an infantry fighting platform as their primary function.  Even though many of us would later specialise in one of the many and diverse branches of the military machine, each and every one of us could therefore also form part of a fighting infantry section, or “stick” as we called them.  With this as the objective much of our time was spent carrying out weapon drills by day and night, days and days of musketry training on the range, section battle drills, bayonet fighting, grenade throwing, map-reading, bush-craft, and a myriad of other black arts and skills that we would need to see without being seen, and kill without being killed.

So between all the boot-polishing, beret shaping, uniform starching, parade ground work, bed-packs, barrack room inspections, guard duties, PT and vehicle debussing drills we actually did some interesting stuff too.

I am not going to spend much more time on the intricacies of Rhodesian Army basic training techniques.

One thing is for sure though and that is that I was extremely happy to have had my request for transfer after Phase One Basics to the Rhodesian Corps of Engineers approved.  The truth is that I did not see myself as an infantryman full-stop, and coming from an engineering background the Sappers seemed the way to go.  I have never regretted it to this day and my next installment will cover the 8 or so weeks that the Rhodesian Army spent turning me into a Combat Engineer.

Llewellyn Barracks
Llewellyn Barracks (Alan Roberts)
Llewellyn Barracks from 14,000 ft:

A) Main Entrance to Llewellyn

B) The parade ground: where many painful hours were spent

C) The sports ground: with rugby posts that we often had to run around during drill on the parade ground

D) The abandoned air strip: around which we had to run most mornings before breakfast

E) The rifle range: now abandoned….you can see the stop-butts just left of the “E”

F) Number Three Guard: where I also spent many painful hours

Passing-Out Parade-Depot, The Rhodesia Regiment
Passing-Out Parade-Depot, The Rhodesia Regiment

2 Responses to “Basic Training……the metamorphosis”

  1. Served in A company, Intake 28, 25th June – 6th November 1959, number 4 Platoon – miss Rhodesia and all terribly, I have been in Australia since 1965. Now aged 73, I still miss everything.Our platoon commander was Clr.Sgt P Balfed – anybody out there in at the same time? would love to hear from you.

    • fatfox9 said

      Welcome Tom. Great to have you on-board. I think we all miss Rhodesia terribly so understand fully how you feel. I believe there is a significant presence of ex-Rhodesian Army personnel in Australia. Have you hooked-up with their organisation? If I can help you with contact details please let me know.

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