Book Review of the Rhodesia Regiment History by Brigadier (retd) G. de V.W. Hayes CBE

RHODESIA REGIMENT 1899–1981

by Peter Baxter, Hugh Bomford, Gerry van Tonder

Rhodesia Regiment 1899–1981 is a wonderfully written and marvelously illustrated history of that famous colonial unit, The Royal Rhodesia Regiment.

From its origins in 1899, to protect the frontiers of Southern Rhodesia against Boer invasion, to final disbandment in 1981, following independence and the creation of Zimbabwe, the story of the Regiment is told in fascinating and meticulous detail.Any military historian will find it an invaluable source of material especially on the prolonged period of the Rhodesian Bush War (1964–1979), about which surprisingly little is widely known or documented.

The Rhodesia Regiment’s association with the Green Jackets, specifically the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), resulted from a chance meeting between two passengers on board a ship sailing from Cape Town to Southampton in late 1914.One of them was Captain John Brady of the Rhodesia Regiment, heading to Europe with a small party from his regiment to join the fight against Germany. The other was the 16th Marquess of Winchester, who was to persuade Brady that the best chance of getting to the Front was to join a British regiment. He recommended the KRRC.Subsequently the Rhodesia Platoon, 3rd Battalion KRRC, served with distinction, and John Brady rose to command of 4th Battalion KRRC.

In WWII, Rhodesia Regiment battalions focused on home defence,but volunteers again fought alongside riflemen in the KRRC, most notably in the Western Desert theatre,but also in many other regiments and almost every theatre of that war, thus earning ‘Second World War’ as an overarching and unique battle honour.The book contains many well-written and absorbing details of actions in which members of the regiment fought in both wars as brothers-in-arms with the KRRC.

Any regimental history is the result of diligent work by dedicated individuals.This book, relating the eighty-year story of the Rhodesia Regiment, covering native uprisings, the Boer War, two World Wars, the Malayan Emergency and finally the Rhodesian Civil War, was researched and compiled over seven years by a core group, helped by some 400 contributors.They have done an outstanding job and recorded the history of a regiment justifiably proud of its achievements.

It is sad that the crisis in Rhodesia and the eventual declaration of UDI severed links with the KRRC and stripped the Regiment of its ‘Royal’ endorsement.It is also sad that with the creation of the Zimbabwean Defence Force, the Rhodesia Regiment ceased to exist, fading away with discreet laying up of colours ceremonies across the country and little recognition of the achievements and sacrifice of many in the service of Great Britain.

However, as the authors record, whilst it was found inappropriate to have a territorial force named the Rhodesia Regiment in the nascent Zimbabwe Defence Force, in order not to lose the initials ‘RR’ the Regiment was renamed the Rifle Regiment in the last few months of its existence.Thus, the rifle regiment alliance made in 1914 with the KRRC was remembered until the end.

Just as the Rhodesia Regiment was proud of these links, so the KRRC valued the alliance, forged in battle, withtheir Rhodesian comrades-in-arms.The Chairman and Trustees of The Royal Green Jackets Museum are most grateful to the authors for donating a copy of the History to the Museum library.

Brigadier G. de V.W. Hayes CBE
Board of Trustees
The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum
Peninsula Barracks
Romsey Road
Winchester
Hampshire
SO23 8T

Brigadier (retd) G. de V.W. Hayes CBE

Vere Hayes was commissioned in December 1965 as one of the last two officers commissioned into 2nd Green Jackets (Kings Royal Rifle Corps). Shortly thereafter, he joined that Battalion in the Far East when it became 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets.

In a military career spanning 37 years, Vere Hayes served in many different theatres including on active service with his regiment in Borneo, and later on several tours in Northern Ireland as a junior officer, company commander and commanding officer.

On the general staff, he was chief of staff of an armoured brigade and an armoured division in Germany, and in 1993 chief of staff to the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia. He held several training appointments in his career, including at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and the Army Staff College. He completed the Army Staff College and the Higher Command and Staff Course and he is a member of the Royal College of Defence Studies.

His last military appointment was as commander of the British Military Training Team (BMATT) in Zimbabwe between 1998 and 2001, teaching peacekeeping skills and the role of the military in a democratic society to the armed forces of many countries throughout southern Africa.