Logo of Rhodesian Ex-Services Association


Gif file containing coat of arms and seals from Monomatapa, Lobengula and flags and emblems of Rhodesia, Rhodesia and Nysaland, the Army and Airforce and Flame Lily flower

Rhodesian Ex-Services Association

Rhodesian veterans after ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017


The association's key purpose is that of commemoration in Sydney on ANZAC Day.
The laying of the wreath and participation in the march represents the Fallen as in ‘Lest we Forget’.
The luncheon and drinks are a celebration and remembrance of those not with us.


Membership is open to former serving members, family, descendants and relatives from Forces that were domiciled in Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia during conflicts and include campaigns as a member of the British Commonwealth. Campaigns were held during the Boer War, WWI, WWII, Egypt, Cyprus, Kuwait and Malaya - often alongside ANZAC units.

Descendants from two generations of former service members were invariably drawn into the Rhodesian Bush War from the 1960s and through the 70s.

Activities of the Association and Volunteers

Rhodesians have marched at the Sydney ANZAC March since 1980 thanks to ongoing local liaison with the NSW Returned and Services League. Ryk Dabrowski has been leader since its inception. He continues as President and maintains affiliations.

Steve Bennett supports him with Communications, Public Relations and is webmaster of a Rhodesiana website. Rick Hughes manages social media which presently involves the Facebook page and new members can join by clicking on this link here. Alison Jones maintains contact through emails.

The present venue that has been used for lunch after the march is not conveniently located and does not fully meet expectations so Mike van Blommestein is looking for an alternative for next year. There is also a drive to increase participation at this event and to boost the number of family members and descendants that attend. Mike is steering the Growth Strategy and is advocating more of a community approach on ANZAC Day. When suitable venue options have been located there will be consultation from the membership and endorsement or changes will be made to the proposals that are drafted in this report.

It is proposed that contents in this report are posted on a website for Rhodesian Ex-Services Association. Information is provided for members and of a general nature for the public according to Public Relation needs as they evolve over time. History is being rewritten so articles pertaining to relevant events will be posted and with good Googlability will become references in the future. It is important to emphasize that the Facebook group and Emails are used for private communications with and amongst Members and this is where most traffic is expected.

The rules as set by the RSL each year must be complied with and they will be posted every year. Descendants may march within the Rhodesian Ex-Services Association squad and will be towards the rear of the squad. They will be identified by the former serving member's medals that they will wear. The maximum number of descendants that can march has been capped at 30. There is a restriction of one descendant of each former serving member within Australian units on each occasion.

Preferred dress for men is a dark suit or dark blazer. Headdress as per original issue or replica but camouflage gear is discouraged by the RSL.

The Australian Government has posted these notes about medals:
• You might see veterans wearing their medals on important commemorative days, such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
• Both female and male veterans wear their medals over their chest on the left-hand side of their uniform.
• Widows, widowers, and other relations of veterans may wear their relative's medals on the right.
• A veteran with medals on both sides may wear their own medals on the left and those of a relative on the right.

It is strongly advised the RSL Medal Protocols are complied with: Miniature Medals
• The only time these should be worn are on occasions when evening dress or a dinner jacket is worn at a dinner or evening function.

Wearing of non-official medals
• The RSL actively discourages the wearing of non-official medals at RSL and other ceremonial or commemorative functions. If Commemorative Medals are worn, they should be positioned on the right breast and not mixed with Service Medals or Decorations.

The Awards and National Symbols Branch of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet further states:
• "Over a number of years some ex-service organisations have created and distributed ‘commemorative’ medals to mark Particular periods of military service. These medals have no official status.
• You should be aware that the government has created a number of official medals that commemorate certain events.
• Only those medals, decorations and honours, which have been created under the prerogative of the Crown, have official status. Such medals should be worn in accordance with The Order of Wearing Australian Honours and Awards on the left breast either on an official uniform or civilian dress.
• Official medals worn by relatives of a deceased veteran should be worn on the right breast. Ideally, unofficial medals should not be worn. However if they are worn as the occasion demands, they may be worn on the right breast.
• This advice is based on official protocol and practice".

Fraudulent Wearing of Medals
• No person, with the exception of a direct descendant of a deceased service man or woman, may wear medals which have not been awarded to him or her personally. This also applies to the wearing of miniature medals and medal ribbons.
• Fraudulent wearing of medals attracts penalties under Federal regulations and also attracts subsequent penalties under the RSL Constitution.

For the benefit of Rhodesians, the General Service Medal (RGSM) and Zimbabwe Independence Medal (ZIM), long service medals, and those for bravery are official medals and are worn by the holder on their left chest.

A ‘Commemorative’ medal from the UK is the ‘Rhodesian Independence Medal’ with the green and white ribbon on behalf of Rhodesian Army, Rhodesian Air Force and British South Africa Police Associations. If it is worn on ANZAC Day functions in Australia it is to be worn on the right chest. A medal was struck in Perth to commemorate attendance at ANZAC Day marches.

The ‘Rhodesia Medal’ is an official medal that was awarded to British, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Kenya members of the Independence Monitoring Force so Rhodesian Security Forces are not eligible.

Rhodesian service in British Commonwealth

Anglo Boer War

The young colony had not celebrated its tenth birthday before it was called upon by Britain Chart showing units of Rhdesian forces that fought in Boer Warto send troops to join its Colonial Force before the Anglo-Boer War broke out. Colonel Baden-Powell with experience of combat in Africa was tasked to raise a force to the north. A total of 1,700 Rhodesians volunteered for 12 months which turned out to be in the early and second phase of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. This small contribution was nevertheless 15% of the settler population at the time.

Colonel Plumer commanded the 'Rhodesia Regiment' (RR) and initially remained together with some of the Police at Tuli on the northern Transvaal border where there were numerous engagements over six weeks from the force of 1,700 Boers. RR casualties may have numbered seven. By December the Boers had moved south so Plumer proceeded towards Mafeking. Colonel Nicholson of the BSAP, with a force of 350 that was mainly SRV had moved as far south as Palapye on the rail line which had to be protected. In January 1900 Plumer had reached Gaberones and harassed Boer forces around Mafeking. 7 officers and more than ten men were killed at this time. On 17th May the Boers were driven from the confines of the town. Colonel Robert Baden Powell with his staff at Mafeking during the Anglo Boer War

Plumer occupied Zeerust, then Ottoshoop and Polfontein and finally Rustenburg on 10th June.

In the interim, Colonel Hore was holding off sustained attacks to the Eland’s River defence between Rustenburg and Zeerust, with a force of 500 that included 150 almost equally RR with SRV, and some BSAP; plus 100 NSW Bushmen, 140 Queensland Mounted Infantry and 5 Victorian Bushmen. Hore had learned that Boers numbering 2 000 were in the immediate neighbourhood so didn’t move from his fortified position when instructed to proceed to Mafeking. Carrington then Baden-Powell failed on consecutive days to break through to the garrison. Attacks continued until 15th August. On 16th the Boers had stopped firing and this was when Lord Kitchener arrived with a fresh force. RR casualties were 4, SRV 2 and BSAP 2 despite the veracity of the shelling. Baden-Powell is in this photograph with his staff at Mafeking but after Eland’s River he was removed from any combat command.

While RR was operating to the east of Rustenburg and north of Pretoria, Colonel Spreckley, commanding SRV, was killed with 4 men on 22nd August when 100 British prisoners were freed and 25 Boers captured.

Rhodesian units were disbanded in September 1900 when their twelve month commitment to Britain had ended. Plumer had earned the distinction of being promoted to General.

Australia sent 16,000 and 282 died in action or from wounds sustained in battle, while 286 died from disease and another 38 died of accident or other unknown causes. Canada sent 7,000 troops and approximately 270 died. Britain had to send many more before the Anglo-Boer War ended in 1902.

World War I

Once again after World War I had broken out, the British called for volunteers. The Battle of Delville Wood in July 1916 in World War IIRhodesia Regiment was resurrected as 1st Rhodesia Regiment and deployed against German troops in South West Africa then most made their own way to fight in Europe after success. However, in terms of fighting manpower, Rhodesia's main contribution to World War I was in the trenches of the Western Front. A platoon of Rhodesians with the 2nd Battalion, Kings' Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) took part in the big push on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On the Somme battlefield itself, Rhodesians with a South African brigade were at Delville Wood. They took the wood but the brigade, originally numbering 3 155, had been reduced to 619. Later in 1917, a Rhodesian platoon in the KRRC fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, near Ypres in western Flanders. The Western Front continued to receive Rhodesian troops right up to the end of the war, including veterans from the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment's campaign in East Africa.

The Rhodesia Native Regiment was formed and platoons were based on tribal lines because of the mixture of Wayao (from Nyasaland) with local Matabele, Mashona and Kalanga. They were led by White Officers. They were sent as 1 RNR to Zomba then spent time in German East Africa. A second African regiment was formed after recruiting from the mines so half of this force came from Nyasaland. They were sent to join 1 RNR in East Africa, both became 2 RNR, and they pursued the retreating Germans into Mozambique.

Chart showing white and black contingents that were sent from Rhodesia to World War IChart showing Rhodesian casualties in World War I by race

World War II

Despite the ineptitude of the British command in the Somme in WWI, at the outbreak of the Second World War there was no lack of volunteers as the next generation of Rhodesians stepped up. The main problem for the authorities was not so much in getting soldiers, but in persuading men in key occupations to stay at home. By May 1940, some 1 600 settlers had already gone abroad and enlisted with various British and Commonwealth Forces. Out of a population of 66,000, some 26,121 were in service with 8 390 deployed outside. 2 409 were in the Air Force.

Service was given to East Africa, North Africa (El Alemain and Tunisia), Dodecanese, Italy, Balkans, Greece, Britain, Norway and western Europe.

The Rhodesian African Rifles regiment was modelled in May 1940 on the Rhodesia Native Regiment of World War I. The majority of volunteers were unexpectedly from Mashonaland as the Matabeles that had been so militant prior to colonialisation were more reticent to join. 1RAR was trained in Kenya then proceeded to Ceylon and Burma.

Chart showing strength of Rhodesian forces in World War II by raceChart showing casualties of Rhodesians by race in World War II

Post World War II

After World War II, Rhodesian Vampire and Canberra squadrons were detached to Aden and Cyprus between 1958 and 1963.

In 1961 during the Kuwait crisis Royal Rhodesian Air Force Canadian C4 Argonauts transported British troops.

1 Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) carried out guard duties during 1952 in the Canal Zone in the Middle East.

"C" squadron, Rhodesian Special Air Services (SAS) served with British "A' and "B" squadrons in Malaya from 1951 to 1953.

1 RAR served in Malaya from 1956 to 1958.

There is a detailed report on the history of Rhodesian forces, click here.

Rhodesian Bush War

The leader of Rhodesian Nationalism was Joshua Nkomo who became president of the newly formed African Congress in 1957. After becoming the National Democratic Party, it was renamed the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) in 1961. Recruitment and training for the insurgent campaign started in 1963. The first White civilian casualty was a forestry worker who was stabbed to death on 4th July 1964 at a road block near Melsetter one evening on the Eastern border. Two of the perpetrators were hanged.

More than a year later, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was proclaimed so Chart of casualties during Rhodesian Bush War each year of civlians and opposing forcesdespite media claims to the contrary, hostilities including sabotage predated UDI.

A few ZANLA gangs crossed together near Chirundu in 1966 and there was a contact with a Police unit at Sinoia after an attempt to blow the powerline nearby. Another gang based in Zvimba murdered a farmer and his wife in their isolated home a month later in May. The Police managed the follow-up operation but after this the 'Rhodesian Security Forces' (RSF) became the government's primary instrument for conducting counter insurgency operations.

The following incursions by ZIPRA with ANC were mopped up by the RSF and this was the status quo while Rhodesia remained in the British Commonwealth until it became a Republic in 1970.

Despite combined operations directing RSF operations, the Police remained as the largest force with 56% of the strength in 1979 while the Army only made up 41%. The small Air Force had fewer than 150 pilots.

Chart showing opposing froce strength during Rhodesian Bush WarChart of composition of opposing forces during Rhodesian Bush War

In 1979, the RSF strength was close to 70,000 but many of these Chart showing composition by race of Rhdeosian defence personeel during Rhosedian Bush Warwere reservists so the equivalent number on a fulltime basis was just over 45,000. The only occasion that there was a full mobilisation was for the election that Bishop Muzorewa won in 1979 when a total of 60,000 were deployed.

50.6% of RSF across the police, air force and army were Black. Coloured and Asians reservists were combined in the Rhodesia Defence Regiment but they contributed to fewer than 3% of the total.

The tradition of natives bearing arms for Rhodesia that had commenced in 1919 continued for another 60 years. Guard Force and The Ministry of Internal Affairs provided defence to the Black communities. Their contribution is recognised from casualties of 26% of total Rhodesian defence casualties from 23% of total defence strength. The total Black contingent involved in the defence of Rhodesians and infrastructure was 58%.

Casualties of opposing forces and civilians during Rhodesian Bush War by raceChart illustrating casualties from air force, army and police in Rhodesian security forces plus gurad force and internal affairs during the Rhodesian bush war

White personnel made up 46.6% of RSF strength but they accounted for 54.0% of the Chart of classification of cause of death by Roodesian Security Forces during Bush Warcasualties because of their more combative role. Almost 50% of RSF casualties were inflicted by the enemy and 30% were accidental. The remainder were due to natural causes and illness. A new segment was opened in this analysis called 'Murder' because of the number of cases. When serving members were on home leave, several were murdered - most notably Internal Affairs and uniform Police. A few Selous Scouts were murdered as they slept by a turned former CT who was on guard duty.

A more detailed report can be viewed here.

All Rhodesians that served their country and the British Commonwealth during conflict are honoured and remembered in Sydney on ANZAC Day with the ANZAC allies.

Lest we forget

It was inevitable that many of the young Whites that reported for mandatory National Service after completing their education were descendants from two generations of former Commonwealth Force veterans. In 1978 young Blacks were also called up for National Service so they served alongside the 10,000 regular Black serving members of the Rhodesian Security Forces for the next few years.Medals from three generations of Rhodesians in the Bennett family

The webmaster enlisted for National Service in July 1974 and after one year was called up in the Territorial Army through until June 1980. He is the third generation to wear Rhodesian uniform in conflict.

After graduating in 1942 his father joined the 17th Rhodesian Field Battery that was sent to Italy in World War II. The battery came under the New Zealand Division, then in the Eighth Army, and they joined the Monte Cassino barrage of 2,000 guns along a 30 kilometer Gustav Line front from 9th May 1944. Fighting ensued progressively heading north through Italy until most Germans surrendered when trying to cross River Po. This was one day short of one year since 17th Field Battery started firing 25 pounders at Monte Cassino.

This gunner's father had survived as a Prisoner of War in Germany but suffered progressively from emphysema from gases used by the Germans in the trenches of western Europe during World War I.

The sharing of the experiences of our forebears and former soldiers in arms is an integral part of the ANZAC celebration and our role is to share them with the next generation. The responsibility falls on fewer of us every year to acknowledge and celebrate the sacrifices that have been made by those before us.


Anglo Boer War/Unit information/South African Units/Rhodesian Regiment.

Australian War Memorial/Articles/Australia and the Boer War, 1899-1902.

Bennett, Steve, 2022. www.rhodesians.co

Marshall, Tabitha, 2022. Canada and the South African War (Boer War). The Canadian Encyclopedia, 26th May, 2022.


Photographs from previous years

Photographs from 2017 with acknowledgement to Richard Craye and Tony Gooder for sharing and their permission:

Rhodesian flag leads Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 posted on www.rhodesian.com.aunoneRhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 posted in www.rhodesian.com.au

Australian reserve member with Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 posted on www.rhodesian.com.au

Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in 2017 in Sydney on www.rhodesian.com.au

Rhodesian veteran calls out the time during ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 on wwww.rhodesian.com.au

Steve Bennett Rhodesian Army Medical Corps with Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 on www.rhodesian.com.au

Greys Scouts with Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 on www.rhodesian.com.au

Greys Scout with Rhodesian vetreans in Sydney 20177 ANZAC Day March on www.rhodesia.com.au

Rhodesia Regiment veteran in ANZAC Day March in Sydney on www.rhodesian.com.au

Rhodesian veteran Greys Scouts in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017noneRhodesian African Rifles Independent Company with Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 on www.rhodesian.com.au

Artillery with Rhodesian veterans in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 on www.rhodesian.com.au

Rhodesia Regiment on ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017

Rhodesian veteran in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2107 on www.rhodesian.com.au

Rhodesia Regiment veteran at ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017

Vetran from Rhodesian Artillery in ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2107noneRhodesian veterans after ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2107 photo by Richard Craye

Some of the Rhodesian veterans after ANZAC Day March in Sydney in 2017 posted on www.rhodesian.com.au


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