If I thought that getting historical background to Cordon Sanitaire defoliation efforts (see previous post) was challenging, I was wrong!

Trying to find anyone who has in-depth information on the electronic early warning systems installed on the fences was an even more daunting task. To be very honest I am not in any way convinced that what I have managed to find holds too much water and this is once again where I will be hoping that someone, somewhere reads this post, tells me I have written complete rubbish and puts things right. I can take it and no offence will be taken I assure you. We simply need to get this as factual as we can. There has to be Rhodesian Army veterans that actually installed and monitored the electronic side of things that can help here.

The following redaction comes from more than one source, the reliability of which has not been confirmed to me. From an intelligence source and reliability perspective I therefore have no option but to rate it as F/6 (Insufficient information to evaluate reliability. May or may not be reliable/The validity of the information cannot be determined) and should therefore by no means be quoted as being the way things actually were. Read on………..

For the sake of simplicity we will consider the Cordon to be 25 metres wide, fenced on both sides, and containing anti-personnel blast mines.

On the home side a system of electronic sensors divided into monitored sectors and wired to sector control boxes formed the basis of the early warning system. I have not been able to find any information as to what type of sensors (movement, vibration, broken electrical circuit, audio, etc.) were used, nor who was responsible for installing them (possibly the Rhodesian Corps of Signals (8 Signal Squadron)).  According to one source these control boxes were placed in bunkers close to the home side fence and manned full-time by troops waiting for an alarm to be set off.

Logic makes me think that a combination of activation triggers may have been used. Apparently the idea was that any penetration of the Cordon would be detected by detonations or some form of electronic sensor. My information claims that reaction to these events was primarily by vehicle and took place within 10 minutes of a signal being received. In addition to the vehicular response, artillery fire was also used to put down fire on ranged, pre-selected targets. I imagine this would be from 25 pounder howitzers or possibly 120mm mortars.

It is my understanding that the only parts of Cordon Sanitaire to be fitted with an electronic early warning system were the Musengezi/Mukumbura, and Nyamapanda to Ruenya minefield. Soon after these areas were completed a significant amount of false alarms were being recorded. This resulted in finding no enemy presence at the alarm trigger point. Due to the significant cost of ammunition being expended on these false-positive events, it was decided to curtail the rapid response on these areas in 1975. An ongoing Cordon Sanitaire review shelved the whole idea of an early warning system shortly thereafter.

And so ended the Cordon Sanitaire early warning system.

I do not know how effective these measures were as I never encountered them during my time serving in the Rhodesian Corps of Engineers. Personally I do not think the electronic system was as successful as the planners initially thought it would be and with the Rhodesian economy heavily burdened by sanctions and an ever-increasing defence budget there was little chance of any project surviving unless it showed significant success indicators (body count, infiltration mitigation, etc.).

I located the following on the issafrica.org website.  They seem to confirm in some ways parts of the foregoing:

EWS 1EWS 2EWS 3

I will continue to seek further sources to help unravel this interesting and little known subject.

Please also have a look at my website dedicated to Rhodesian and South African Military Engineers.  Please join us on the forums by using the following link:

http://www.sasappers.net/forum/index.php

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© Mark Richard Craig and Fatfox9’s Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Ones memory is a strange thing. Working on my next post I realised that I had forgotten to mention an important unit that contributed greatly to our safety during Cordon Sanitaire operations.  It would therefore be unfair not to mention them as they may well have saved my life on more than one occasion. These were the men of the Reserve Holding Units and Protection Units of the Rhodesian Army.

Here is their badge and stable belt (rhodesianforces.org):

542171492_o

RhodesiaDefenceRegimentNew

Their work was varied and important and it would be foolish of me in the extreme to try and write a better and more comprehensive account of these individuals than the one that follows.

I thank the author of ‘FIGHTING FORCES OF RHODESIA’ – VOL. 5, as posted in The New Rhodesian Forum.

THE RHODESIA DEFENCE REGIMENT

THE dark green stable belts of the Protection Units have taken on a new significance in the continuing war against terrorism. Over the years the Re-enforcement Holding Units and the Protection Units have quietly grown, and their deployment has become increasingly important in the defence of Rhodesia’s borders.

On January 1st, 1978, these units were combined to form an official regiment and took their place proudly alongside longer serving regiments of the Rhodesian Army. The Regimental Depot at which servicemen will be trained for the Rhodesian Defence Regiment is at Inkomo, just outside of Salisbury.

The embryo from which the new regiment has grown existed for many years, in the form of the Re-enforcement Holding Units. These were originally purely paper units which were formed at the beginning of 1973 to take on theoretical strength those Coloured and Asian personnel who had completed their Territorial service with the Supply and Transport platoons. Also included were the members of “Dad’s Army”, comprising the older age-group White personnel who had completed Territorial service with the Rhodesia Regiment battalions.

For several years members of the Re-enforcement Holding Units were called up for a short period, once or twice a year, and deployed in non-combatant roles. However, as the war escalated, the need for protection and guard troops increased the task of these personnel, and extended it to a more active role. As a result, in 1974 the Protection Companies were formed on a small basis, embracing the Coloured and Asian members. These two Protection Companies had a more mobile role than the previous Holding Units, and acted as escorts for army convoys transporting supplies and equipment to operational areas. They also guarded encampments and machinery where necessary. The situation remained at this level for three years. During this time, however, the strength of the Protection Companies had been increasing, along with that of the Re-enforcement Holding Units as a growing number of men completed their service with the Territorial Forces.

When the combined strength of the units reached approximately 6 000 it became obvious that such a reservoir of manpower could be more profitably deployed than hitherto, and the suggestion of forming a new regiment was put forward.

Thus the Rhodesian Defence Regiment was born, placing the Protection Companies and Holding Units on a properly co-ordinated and recognised footing.

Two battalions have been formed: the Number 1 Mashonaland Battalion, based at Cranborne Barracks in Salisbury, and the Number 2 Matabeleland Battalion, based at Brady Barracks in Bulawayo. The new regiment has its own Depot at Inkomo, near Salisbury, where the Coloured and Asian National Servicemen are trained, and where older serving members receive pre-deployment training.

These battalions are made up from four different categories of servicemen.

Firstly, there are the National Servicemen from the Coloured and Asian ethnic groups, who are required to serve eighteen months, as are their White counterparts in other regiments.

Secondly, there is the “K” Intake, comprising the 25 to 38 year age group of Coloureds and Asians who had not previously been subject to call-up. This category are now required to serve for eighty-four days. Half this period is spent in training at Inkomo and the second half on deployment.

The third category are the continously embodied volunteers. These are Coloured and Asian members who volunteer for a year of continuous service. At the end of that year they are free to leave or to sign on again for a further year. This arrangement virtually makes them regular members of the regiment. At present there is some discrepancy between conditions of service these continuous volunteers and those of regular members of the Army, but it is hoped that these will be equalised before much longer. As a first step towards achieving this, the first Coloured officer has already been appointed. He is a medical officer, with the rank of Captain, and it is hoped that this will lead the way for future suitably qualified members of the Rhodesia Defence Regiment to be accepted into the permanent force. The Rhodesian Women’s Service, from it’s inception, accepted Coloured recruits as permanent members of the force, and at present there are six Coloured ladies serving their country, several of whom are deployed at Rhodesian Defence Regiment Headquarters at Cranborne.

The fourth category is “Dads Army”, who are the older Whites of over 38 years.

Both battalions are structured to take into account the different tasks required of the companies. The National Servicemen, the “K” intake, and the continuously embodied volunteers are generally deployed on the higher priority tasks, whereas the over 38 year old category, who are liable for a shorter period of commitment than the younger men, are used for more sedentary tasks.

This does tend to result in the formation of companies of seperate ethnic groups, but plans are afoot to include an intake of over 38 years old Coloureds and Asians in the future, in order to create additional companies who would contribute effectively to the force. These intakes would be liable for the same commitment as their White counterparts and would be deployed on similar duties.

A recent innovation has been a pilot group of Coloured National Servicemen who have been given full combat training and then deployed in the field.

The Commander of the Rhodesia Defence Regiment, Lt. Col. Peter Grobbelaar, is extremely satisfied with the way in which the servicemen have adapted to training and given a good account of themselves.

Discipline is strict, as it should be with all effective forces, and Col. Grobbelaar pointed out that the Coloured soldier appears to have the natural aggression which is vital in all combat-troops. Other servicemen will undoubtedly follow along the same paths, taking on an increasing responsibility in the fight against encroaching communism. The step from defensive to combat role has not been particularly difficult since in recent years the members of the Protection Units were required to display a more aggressive role in the face of attacks by the enemy.

After a long period of semi-obscurity, the Protection Units and Dad’s Army have finally found their own identity in the Rhodesia Defence Regiment, with their own insignia and embellishments, and they are obviously bent on proving their worth.

Co-operation and consideration between the various ethnic groups have been excellent. On occassions where units of mixed ethnic groups have been deployed the members of this new and vital regiment have displayed a most responsible attitude in making allowances for the differences in diet and religious practice that must obviously exist. Problems have arisen on occasion, in supplying the required contents of ration packs (for example, a Moslem would require a different ratpack to a non-Moslem), but with the general spirit of co-operation that pervades the regiment, these difficulties have been ironed out.

There is no discrepancy in pay and general conditions between the different ethnic groups of the territorial strength of the new regiment.

Despite their newness, the Rhodesia Defence Regiment posses certain distinctive foibles, one being their own language. The RLI are famed for being incomprehensible to their ordinary listener, but the RDR certainly offer a challenge to the RLI superiority in this matter.

The story is told of the RDR private who, on seeing heavy artillery in the field for the first time, went and called his friend, saying, “Hey, Joe, just come outside and sight the size of this catie” (catapult).

The tale is also told of the radio operator who persisted in asking Control to “Bowl me the ages”. After a considerable pause and a great deal of head-scratching, Control finally realised that the operator was merely asking for a time check.

And, of course, all armies have their own clowns who never seem to quite know why they are there at all, and rather wish they were not. (No doubt the officers also wish they were not.) An RDR private appeared before an officer on a disciplinary offence. When he was given an opportunity to speak he proceeded to ramble on in such a vague and inconsequential manner that in the end the officer stopped him.

“Are you prepared to accept the punishment of the disciplinary officer, or do you elect to stand trial by court martial?” the troopie was asked.

To which the bewildered troopie replied, ‘I’d just like to stand down, sir.”

History does not relate his fate.

From ‘FIGHTING FORCES OF RHODESIA’ – VOL. 5.