"Fighting Vehicles and Weapons of Rhodesia 1965-80" - book reviews


Best of its Type

In a number of areas, this A4, 152 paged book is sure to be a winner. Fighting Vehicles and Weapons of Rhodesia 1965-80, by Peter G Locke and Peter DF Cooke, is the best of its type to be published to date. It covers the amazingly wide range of armoured vehicles, including those using the railway system that were put together in Rhodesia during the years of conflict. There is also a section that deals with the selection of weapons, both conventional and rudimentary, that were produced in Rhodesia. These include mortars, a number of machine carbines, and a strange collection of weapons that fired a 12-bore shotgun cartridge and whilst claimed to have been effective, had rather a rough finish.

Put together, the collection of odds and sods that are dealt with and dealt with in detail by the authors, comes as a big surprise. Generally, the black and white photographs are good and the text is explicit. It covers in detail the history and development of the vehicle. As an example, there are four pages devoted to the Kudu/Ojay, with 11 photographs and a small box detailing the manufactured components used, specifications and the number of the type that were built. In this instance the stated figure is some 1,300 of 10 marks, including the railway version.

Towards the end of the conflict, Rhodesian industry was reaching the stage when it was able to produce vehicles designed to meet specific military requirements. Kew Engineering of Gwelo designed and started production of the Mine-Protected Combat Vehicle (MPCV), and by the end of the conflict had produced sixty. Based on the Unimog chassis and power-plant, the MPCV was designed to carry ten men, never taken into service by the Rhodesians, but was later used in an operational role by the Zimbabwe Defence Force.

The main section of the book is supported by appendices that show the Order of Battle of the Rhodesian Armoured Corps and other units, and another dealing with the development of the Zimbabwean Defence Force, from which a good idea of the present order of battle can be gleaned. Finally, there is a good Glossary of Technical Terms and Slang. This is one book that is going to find many readers worldwide.

Peter MacIntosh
African Armed Forces
Johannesburg South Africa, February 1995


One of a Kind

That thunderous explosion that came without warning was one of the dreaded features of the Rhodesian bush war. In this book the authors chronicle the incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness of Rhodesians in developing the unique vehicles designed to combat that scourge of modern warfare, the land mine. It also deals in its later chapters with the local manufacture of various firearms, and ambush devices, other munitions and communication equipment. Here again the most innovative designs or even replicas of other weaponry were used to subvert the arms embargo and reduce our reliance on imported material

What is termed "the rhino mentality" symbolised the tough and resilient attitude adopted by this doughty band of people to face and overcome all challenges. There is a concise summary of the country's history and an introductory background detailing the progressive phases of the bush war. However, the greater part of this informative book covers the action taken against the mine threat which destroyed irreplaceable transport, disrupted communications, discriminately killed and injured soldiers and civilians and had a profound impact on morale. For ease of concealment these mines were usually laid in unmetalled roads. As a result, an extensive programme of tarring important rural routes was part of the defence mechanism.

The history of the numerous types of mine and ambush protected vehicles that were created is treated depth. Protective measures were applied to standard vehicles such as the Land Rover and Bedford and Mercedes trucks. At the same time wide variety of special vehicles progressively appeared on the scene, generally used the monocoque principle and involved the deflection of the potentially lethal explosive. The names given to them reflect Rhodesian's natural affinity with their wildlife. We had the Rhino, Hyena, Leopard, Puma, Crocodile, Kudu and Cougar. A description of the design features of each vehicle is given, together with the developers and manufacturers. Particular mention is made of the Pookie. , the very successful mine detection vehicle that was produced. The most important point of all, however, is that they saved countless lives or prevented serious injury. An unusual highlight has been recorded that sedated baboons were used to test the effectiveness of each prototype. There were no casualties amongst these volunteers' except one perforated eardrum.

The whole of this section of the book contains excellent photographic illustrations of every model. The weapons chapters cover the pistols, carbines, sub-machine guns, shotguns, mortars and rocket launchers produced by Rhodesian inventors and entrepreneurs, some of which served the country well and in particular helped to arm the civilian population. Anti-ambush devices were many and varied and a number were put into use by farmers an others without any official approval. Nevertheless, they served their purpose. Several types of mines of novel design were manufactured, together with items of demolition equipment. A significant article deals with the highly successful Agricalert system which linked farmers especially to their neighbours and to the nearest Army or Police post.

All in all, this book is one of a kind and is highly recommended to all those interested in this proud nation's ability to overcome obstacles and meet the challenges.

Former Deputy Minister, Rhodesian Government
South Africa, March 1995


A Goldmine

I've been looking forward to this book for years, and I havn't been disappointed. If you like armoured cars, buy this book! The text is informative, the photos are excellent and the information is a goldmine. The modellers out there will be scratch building Rhinos and Kudus and Pumas like crazy.

David Haugh
Armored Car Oregon USA, #27 Jan-Feb 1995


Rare Look

Produced after 3 years of research by the authors into the Bush War, also known as the Second Chimurenga War of Liberation. This war is generally regarded as starting with the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965 and ending with the peaceful hand-over of power through monitored elections in 1980. It was a guerrilla and counter-insurgency war that grew in the last two years to a total war in which the Rhodesian government forces targetted economic and infrastructural points in neighbouring countries. Martial law covered much of the country and all white men over 17 were called up. This war was little seen by the outside world.

The Technology: Although a number of books have been published about the war itself, none have been devoted to the technology developed by Rhodesians to prosecute the war. They developed a wide range of mine-protected and armoured vehicles, anti-ambush devices, firearms and munitions, all done in a vacuum of international sanctions.
Fighting Vehicles: Light passenger vehicles were mine-protected to prevent loss of life from mines laid on back roads, and were used by govt departments, civilians, farmers, as well as the Army and paramilitary Police. Larger armoured vehicles were made for more conventional warfare.
Anti-Ambush devices: A bewildering variety of these were developed to oppose ambushes laid by guerrillas against farms & vehicles. Most involved shotgun cartridges or muzzle-loading canisters arranged so that a lone driver could retaliate in the event of ambush.
Firearms: At least 7 different types of sub-machineguns, pistol-carbines, and combat shotguns were designed and manufactured. At the peak of the war, men and women went about their daily business on the farm or in the vulnerable towns toting a sub-machinegun.
Munitions: A number of mines, including wooden box, pressure, AP and non-detectable, were made and used by the thousands. This book is a rare look inside Fortress Rhodesia and the strange vehicles that evolved.

AFV News Ontario Canada, Apr-Jun 1995


Bush Battle Wagons

THE prize for the year's most obscure title must go to the fruit of Wellington desk-top publisher Peter Cooke's unusual obsession: the -Bush War+ that led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, and specifically the even more ingenious means the combatants found to kill each other or defend themselves. Cooke has joined forces with Zimbabwe historian Peter Locke to produce the remarkably detailed and copiously illustrated Fighting Vehicles and Weapons of Rhodesia 1965-80, whose bizarre and sinister contents are signalled by the cover picture of an armour-plated car bristling with anti-ambush guns: underneath all that weaponry is the unmistakeable shape of an Austin Cambridge.

Evening Post Wellington NZ, Sat 29 April 1995


Fascinating Reference

The war in what was then Rhodesia lasted some fifteen years and few people in southern Africa were unaffected by its progress and outcome. Peter Locke and Peter Cooke have written a rather different book about this conflict - they concentrate on the tools in use rather than the causes or moral implications. Beginning with an overview, Fortress Rhodesia and the background, Bush War, they go on to the main section, Fighting Vehicles which describes the many and varied vehicles employed by the Rhodesian security forces, most of which, leaving aside the British-made armoured cars inherited, were indigenous designs built on available chassis. Crafted totally from scratch, and on a very limited budget, the results were often as good as anything produced by major industrialized powers. Some of these vehicles were converted to rail operations, enabling them to patrol vulnerable tracks. Circumstances demanded that vehicles damaged by mines, a common enough occurrence, be repaired if at all possible, and there are pictures here of mine-protected vehicles awaiting rehabilitation. Some of them were so badly mauled that any sane insurance assessor would have written them off without even a second glance.

The section on firearms covers semi-auto carbines, pistols, and SMGs. There appeared to he no problem with the supply of rifles and general purpose machine-guns, but the sudden demand for arms for the civilian market was met with typical colonial ingenuity. Some pistol production was attempted (the ill-fated Mamba was conceived in Rhodesia) but attention was concentrated on the manufacture of pistol carbines+ and sub-machine-guns; same thing really, but the latter fired full-auto. Most of these devices are illustrated and they displayed a high level of mechanical ingenuity. Even those weapons turned out on a limited basis in back-yard workshops showed considerable style. Some, such as the GM15/16, later known as the SANNA 77, Well made and sold in South Africa. The authors report that this gun was (based on the excellent Czech M25) failed to perform as well as expected, leading them to suggest that wear and tear evident in captured originals may have been inadvertently designed into the copy. I had the opportunity to fire the Kommando, one of the pistol carbines illustrated, in Cape Town some 20- years ago. Loaded in error with 9mm Short ammunition, it went full-auto, the low power of the 9mm short preventing sear engagement after each shot.

Rhodesians were never short of humour, even at the worst of times, and this comes over well in the Mine-Protected Wheelbarrow, a heavily sandbagged, camouflage-painted wheelbarrow with a 30-calibre Browning MG attached to a tripod mount above the front wheel! This device actually saw use at some outlying police posts. Some of the anti-ambush weapons developed strain ones credulity - the Spider was a 24-barrel 12-bore shotgun, the barrels radiating from a central point. It was mounted on the roof of your car, pick-up truck or lorry and fired by means of a rotating han le within the cab. The effect must have been truly awesome.

In addition to weapons and vehicles there are chapters on Mines & Munitions and Miscellaneous Technology which includes radio equipment, bullet-resistant glass, minefield techniques and dummy artillery pieces. Particularly good are the potted histories of Rhodesian Regiments, the Protective Forces and the British South Africa Police. There is a comprehensive glossary of technical terms and slang current in the forces during the period. Fighting Vehicles & Weapons is soft covered, square backed and contains 154 A4 (210x300mm) pages printed on good quality paper. There are about 600 photographs [362! - Ed] and many drawings. On the whole picture reproduction is remarkably good, all the more so when one considers that the original material was not always of the best quality. There is an excellent index, very necessary in a publication which is bound to serve as a fascinating reference work for years to come. This book is a must for fighting vehicle and weapons buffs.

Keith Dyer
Man Magnum Durban South Africa, May 1995

[Top] ["Fighting Vehicles and Weapons of Rhodesia 1965-80"]