IANS 1 dining in night at the mess Chikurubi Training Depot. Photo from Tim Marsden
IANS 1 men based at Mtoko. Visit by President du Pont (in hat). DC John Saunders in tie and jersey at centre.
This information was supplied by Ken Crook, verbatim. It is a reflection of his time with IANS 1 -
Memories are almost all visual, and as per the normal route of senility names escape me. Other than Larry Roberts, our squad leader who as I mentioned was ex US Marines, I can only recall Cpt Tarr, OC Bundock, Bill Chambers, Wilde who seemed to be rather well versed at causing explosions and was a member of the national shooting team. There was also one other T.O., a rather tall dark haired chap that was younger than the others and was only seconded to the training arm for a limited period, he in fact departed during the latter stages of our training.
Our early days at Chikurubi were spent at the double, and included inspections every morning followed by entire rooms being punished with second inspections on the parade square shortly after, this included all kit, lockers etc. I seem to remember someone being injured carrying lockers and this process being stopped. It was hell only being issued with one pair of boots which were used for skirmishing during field craft, and the polished ready for the next morning’s inspection. I read the figures posted but thought we were three squads of around 20 in the first intake.
Memories include the early morning 5 am group skinny dips, we were run in squads to the pool and swam a length before wrapping our towels and running back to the barracks to prepare for inspection. Early guard duties using axe handles, we had not been issued with rifles until later in the first weeks. Punishment digs were quite common, the cadet was ordered to dig a grave 6 feet by 4 feet and then inform the officer who would ceremonially cast a match box into the grave, before leaving the cadet to return the site to its former state.
Once the initial training was over and we had passed out, we returned to Chikurubi for further training in language and customs, at this point we were relieved of the old bush hats and issued with our shoulder flashes and red berets. One morning we had all been trucked into town (Salisbury) for some event and I remember the crowds that gathered to see these soldiers all in their cherry red berets. I don't think anyone knew who we were, and questions we asked suggesting all sorts of options including were we foreign forces, and I had some fun suggesting to a passing infantry private that we were new MP’s. I also remember the intake of IANS 2 breaking from the Parade Square and running towards their barracks, upon passing us and seeing our shoulder flashes they ground to a halt, snapped to attention and made the weeks of almost endless abuse worth every minute by giving us our first salute. As they were not sure of our rank and identity I am damn sure one or two wags amongst our numbers made suggestions, or gave orders that were quite out of place.
It was at this time that the T.O. that I can’t identify was due to leave, and the final night of his duty many of us were in the mess for a few drinks. I, with four other cadets, was working behind the bar serving the 10c shorts (not a single measure was poured :) and we decided to revenge the rather cruel way that this officer had treated us during inspections. We all chipped in several dollars towards a pint beer glass of mixed spirits, which once poured I carried to where he was seated with DC Alex Bundock and the other officers. I snapped to attention and requested of DC Bundock that the officer in question received our gift in thanks for his efforts in training our intake. I remember the glint in DC Bundock’s eye, he looked at the T.O. and said it would be very rude not to accept such generosity, to which the T.O. replied that he was no longer a training officer and so would decline. DC Bundock rose to his feet, looked at his watch, and in his most formidable voice ordered the T.O., on the basis that he had five minutes remaining of his duty, to accept and drink the glass whilst standing on a mess table. I remember the T.O. in question draped over vegetation behind the mess, making terrible noises, and as a mark of the man, DC Bundock informing him that his rank and position had now lapsed shortly after the drinking and that he had no right to order or conduct any reprisal. There were moments when I thought that his wrath may have been my demise.
Based on our language training we were finally allocated to a DC’s area for posting to a PV. I was sent to Concession, and then on to Chiweshe TTL. I remember the truck ride, all seated on the floor of an open sand truck, and the chatter that lasted all the way to beyond Glendale, and then broke to a wall of silence the moment we left the tarmac road and progressed onto the sand of the bush roads towards the TTL. Somehow this was no longer training, the sweet potatoes planted in this soft surface could from here on in deliver far worse pain than any Chikurubi punishment.
My first year in the TTL was spent in the southern area of Chiweshe at 18, the home of Chief Negomo, opposite the Forrester Estates. I was stationed with a chap who was a regular with Internal Affairs, though still a cadet. A protracted period of being alone on station seemed to have left the chap with a personality that was at best idiosyncratic, and I am sure he was driven to frustration by the exuberance of a rookie. We saw all sorts during that period, from the demise of station 10, A cook managed to leave the stove unlit, and upon his return fearing the wrath of his officer, he attempted to re-ignite the oven. They used to be on the top of a small hill, a wooden building housing the armoury and munitions for that station. We were about to begin our parade, I had started to inspect the lines of DA’s when the largest explosion and subsequent small arms fire tore into the evening air. We of course stood to, not knowing what was to come and wondered what sort of task force of terrs were launching the most extreme attack, perhaps of the war. I don't think they ever found the cook, or any part of him, FN barrels were distorted in the heat of the fire. It was several days before anyone could return to the site for fear of stray rounds, and stories circulated of guys diving off the hill top to avoid the event.
On another occasion we had been left the mine proof vehicle of the local development officer and received a call from another Keep in our area asking for assistance. It transpired that a DA had had an accidental discharge at the gate and shot a local. When we arrived at the station we saw hundreds of locals lining the walls of the protected area and had to accelerate in as menacing way as possible to make them part and allow us into the raised earth walls of the station. This was a very angry crowd, they wanted the hide of the DA responsible and all we could do was form a ring around the central building and in a show of armed force. All six cadets (one other vehicle arrived) and a handful of District Assistants negotiated his hand over to the police. Funny when you look back, but at the time three magazines of twenty rounds did not seem much against several hundred angry locals carrying bricks, machete's and poles. I did wonder why they gave us IS riot drill training at Chikurubi.
Other situation changing incidents included the group of
bandits that cut their way into a nearby village and assassinated a Chief who
had made pro Govt. comments; we were from then on permanently protecting our
local chief. Incidents of hand grenades fitted to gates with trip wires meant
frisking down the gates every morning prior to opening up and mine patrols.
This was grim, dark cold winters mornings trying to feel your way round wire gates
was not a favourite.
At the end of the first year I returned to Chikurubi to end my tour of duty, and spent a month or two in town only to be issued with call up papers, which on arrival at Chikurubi were described as indefinite. This time I went off to Madziwa and was there for several months before handing over to Guard Force. I returned to Chiweshe after this and saw out my last days back in the same station where I had begun. A few months back at what had become home I caught Malaria and after a few weeks in Bindura hospital was returned to Salisbury, not fit for duty. Who ever said the quinine in tonic water would protect.
Though my memory for names is atrocious, my recall of people
and the interactions is still quite vivid, despite the grey hair. If anyone
from that time cares to get in touch I would love to hear from them, Jeremy
Owen-Smith, Alan Underwood, Shakespeare, (the bard at arms).
By the way really surprised to see my face at the far right of the image where Don Yardley inspects IANS 1 at their passing out parade, I did not even remember anyone with a camera!
If I can dig up any old photos from Chiweshe I will forward to you for the site.