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Guard Force (Rhodesia)


Dec 16, 2021

The Guard Force was an arm of the Rhodesian Security Forces. Coming under the Ministry of Defence it was organised on similar lines to, but separate from, the Rhodesian Army. The Guard Force was set up from 1975 (and formally established on 1 February 1976) to provide security to protected villages. These had been established by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to separate black rural civilians from guerillas during the Rhodesian Bush War. Guard Force units took over security duties from Ministry staff.

Former arm of the Rhodesian Security Forces
Guard Force
Active 1 February 1976–May 1980
Disbanded May 1980
Country  Rhodesia
Allegiance  Republic of Rhodesia (1976–79)
 Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979)
 United Kingdom (1979–80)
 Zimbabwe (1980)
Branch Ground Forces
Type Static defence
Garrison/HQ Salisbury, Rhodesia
Equipment Lee-Enfield


Heckler & Koch G3

Engagements Rhodesian Bush War
First Commander Major General G. A. D. Rawlins (1976–1977)
Second and Last Commander Brigadier W. A. Godwin (1977–1979)
Military unit

From 1977 the Guard Force was reformed, becoming more pro-active. Rather than an entirely static rural force it carried out patrols and ambushes and guarded key urban points and lines of communication. Infantry battalions were introduced in 1978 to better suit its new role. By the end of the Bush War in 1979 it numbered 7,000 men. The Guard Force became redundant with the transfer to black-majority rule (as Zimbabwe) in 1980 and was disbanded.

The Guard Force was criticised as poorly trained and had low morale. Its white recruits came from classes of national servicemen and elderly reservists who failed to qualify for more prestigious duties. The men received lower pay than the army.

. . . Guard Force (Rhodesia) . . .

During the Rhodesian Bush War the white minority-led government resettled large numbers of black citizens into “protected villages” to isolate them from Zimbabwe African National Union and Zimbabwe African People’s Union guerrillas (as in the July 1974 Operation Overload).[1] The protected villages were initially guarded by personnel from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which had been augmented with white national service men, who employed black district security assistants. By 1975 it had become apparent that the department lacked the capacity to provide ongoing security to the protected villages whilst also planning the resettlement of large swaths of the country into new villages. The Guard Force was established to assume the security role.[2]:94

The Guard Force was modelled on the predominantly black Kikuyu Home Guard who had served to guard local areas in Kenya during the 1950s Mau Mau Uprising.[3] The Guard Force was multi-racial with black and white personnel serving as officers and enlisted members, though the majority of its personnel were black.[4]:81[5] The unit took over half of the Ministry of Internal Affairs allocation of national servicemen and also absorbed many of its district security assistants as guards.[2]:95 The Guard Force focused on former black members of the Rhodesian African Rifles for recruitment to positions as local commanders.[4]:81

The first recruits were brought into the Guard Force in August 1975 and were trained by former Rhodesian Army personnel at the Interior Ministry’s Chikurubi training base, which became the unit’s new depot.[2]:95[4]:81–82 The Guard Force was officially established as part of the Ministry of Defence on 1 February 1976 with a headquarters established at Salisbury.[4]:82[2]:95 The Guard Force was initially given only one duty, the security of protected villages. Guard Force’s jurisdiction did not extend to all villages, some, as in the Chiweshe Tribal Trust Land, remained under the guard of the Interior Ministry.[2]:95

The average protected village housed 4,000 people in a fenced area measuring 4 by 4 kilometres (2.5 mi × 2.5 mi). In the centre of the village was the “keep”, a concrete bunker surrounded by a defensive earth wall. The keep’s garrison consisted of 20 men but as few as 12 were often on duty owing to leave and sickness.[6] The villages were widely dispersed and each keep was often commanded by a non-commissioned officer. Junior officers sometimes had command of forward command posts, controlling several keeps. Above the junior officers were group headquarters under a commandant.[4]:82 The first commander of the Guard Force was Major General G. A. D. “Andrew” Rawlins, who had been brought out of army retirement.[4]:81 Non-commissioned ranks were unique but similar to the army. The lowest enlisted rank was that of guard, above them were junior corporals, keep corporals, keep (or guard) sergeants, keep (or guard) senior sergeants, keep sergeant majors and keep (or guard) warrant officers in two classes (I and II).[4]:82 The Guard Force was initially equipped with obsolete Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles but later received worn out FN FAL automatics from the army and eventually brand new Heckler & Koch G3 rifles.[7]

. . . Guard Force (Rhodesia) . . .

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