The Republic of Rhodesia had it's origins from November 11th, 1965, when they declared their independence from the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Ian Smith declared on that momentous day: "We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization and Christianity and in the spirit of this belief, we have assumed our sovereign independence." By March 1970, the Rhodesians had severed ties to the British crown entirely as a de facto republic.
With all her citizens in mind, both black and white, they fought the scourge of communistic terrorism in a vicious Bush War. They did this while keeping age old tribal feuds at bay, maintaining the highest standard of living, and strongest economy in Africa. They built railways, roads, cities and civilization in a region of Africa that had been desolate since the collapse of the Great Zimbabwe in the 15th century. They did this all, in less than 100 years. The claim that this story is about "white supremacy", is historically illiterate at best, and viciously racist at worst.
The Rhodesian Security Forces were organized in 1964 shortly before the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of 1965. Remaining loyal to the independent Salisbury, they fought a vicious counter-insurgency war against communist rebels lead by Robert Mugabe and Joseph Nkomo. From the very beginning, they were a multicultural force, incorporating many hundreds of different tribes, sub-tribes, nationalities, religions and political views. However, they became an international pariah, and a symbol of colonial oppression in Southern Africa. As a result, several international sanctions were passed against them by the United Kingdom and the United Nations. The world scorned and sanctioned them as a force acting to fight black Africans to prop up racist ideals, but this could not be further from the truth.
This narrative of "white supremacy" is historically wrong, as well over 80% of Rhodesian Security Force personnel were made up of native African Shona and Ndebele troops in the Army and Air Force. Every single one of these black African soldiers and airmen were volunteers, some of whom had seen service fighting for the British in the Far East during the Second World War, and the Malayan Emergency. They recognized that the communist terrorism of Mugabe and Nkomo, would target and repress non-compliant Africans as harshly perceived colonial oppressors. They had seen the exact same chaos happen in the Congo, Mozambique, and Angola. They knew that they had far more to lose under an "African nationalist" government that answered to personal kleptomania, and Chinese/North Korea interests. Their worst fears became reality when Robert Mugabe's North Korean trained 5th Brigade massacred 30,000+ Ndebele in the early 1980s. This event became known as the "Gukurahundi", a Shona word for "the rain that washes away the chaff". The scars from this genocidal campaign are still felt in Zimbabwe's society and economy today.
The Rhodesian Army had fought a highly motivated enemy, armed by Communist China and the Soviet Union respectively. They did so on a shoestring budget. Regardless of the politics, they fought admirably in exceptionally difficult circumstances. To this day, the vertical envelopment tactics of the "Fireforce" from which our company draws our name, is studied at the highest levels of academic military theory. The story of the Rhodesian Army is one that should be studied, and memorialized regardless of your politics. Fireforce Ventures recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women who fought so valiant during this tumultuous time in world history. The true story of their endurance and brotherhood lives on in the memory of Rhodesians around the world. To this day, the sacrifices of the Rhodesian Security Forces continue to be recognized by Canadian organizations such as the Veteran's Transition Network and Royal Canadian Legion. Beyond the sometimes racially charged politics, is the tragic history of a vicious civil war that continues to impart important lessons in military history for our modern age. It is a story and history that Fireforce Ventures believes deserves to be told in our current climate of political polarization.
As a company, we owe this little rogue state in Africa a debt of gratitude for being the spark that set us on this journey of coming to understand . We echo the sentiment of the Rhodesian Light Infantry "Troopie" statue in Hatfield, England:
"Greater love hath no man , than this that a man lay down his life for his friends - In reconciliation and hope for peace in Zimbabwe"
A special thanks to the Rhodesian Security Forces veterans who worked in conjunction with us to better understand the history of the products we sell, and our many Facebook stories of "Men Among Men":
- "Bushman" or "Mr. M" - our owner and commander-in-chief, Rhodesian born and bred (Rhodesia Regiment, Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scout attached posting, Rhodesian Air Force)
- Michael Peirce - American veteran (Rhodesian African Rifles, Rhodesian Armored Car Regiment)
- Larry Jenkins - Canadian veteran (Rhodesia Regiment, British South Africa Police, Zimbabwe National Police)
- Dave Hughes - Canadian veteran (Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment)
- "Ronnie" - Ndebele veteran exiled after Gukurahundi, anonymous for security reasons (Grey's Scouts, Zimbabwean National Army Command)
- "Warrant Officer M" - Shona veteran and legend in his own right, still living in Zimbabwe, anonymous for security reasons (Rhodesian African Rifles, Selous Scouts, Zimbabwe National Army 1 Parachute Regiment)
- "N" - An old warrior and friend, anonymous for security reasons (Rhodesian Light Infantry and too many other units to name)
- Joseph Columbus Smith - American veteran and great source of information (US Army, Rhodesia Regiment, Rhodesian African Rifles)
- Hugh Bomford - Rhodesian Services Association, and dedicated friend of Rhodesian ex-servicemen (Rhodesia Regiment)
- "A.M" - Canadian veteran, anonymous for security reasons (British South Africa Police, Police Anti-Terrorism Unit)
- And many many more!