Saturday, December 03, 2005


I have worked so hard today. Reorganizing the amazing Gokwe story. I can’t be arsed writing about today, because all I did was wake up, drink coffee, write, then drink beer, write, smoke joints, drink beer and open the window to shout at the postman to ask where my Giro was.

So, I decided to let you all have a little sneak at the past. This bit hasn’t been edited yet…it is 1977 and We are Men of Men.


I then spent the next few weeks at Gokwe police station. Now I was doing my own thing. I had my own desk and went out constantly on one day general enquiries. Well, one weekend, I was free. Steve, my room mate, was duty Patrol Office. Then a call comes through from Simchembu - the old RioTinto prospecting camp on the Mapungola hills overlooking the Sengwa river and basin - real Batonka country. Gokwe village and the camps almost equal altitude made UHF communications rather good. They needed some supplies and Steve Doe was to go out in a Landy and sort them out.

It was Saturday, brilliant sunshine and I had nothing to do. Steve assured me we would be there and back the same day. Just a short 230 mile return trip down a rutted and potholed dirt ‘road’, through a tsetse fly zone, a national park, insurgent’s tourist resort and back in time so I can have a vodka, lime and lemonade at the local Gokwe ‘Alcoholics ‘R’ Us’, White members only ‘Sports’ Club. (I was still a Coke and Crunchie geek in those days. This would change dramatically soon.)

I wasn’t too sure about all this, but I felt a bit sorry for him. The other Patrol Officers hated the hapless twat and regularly worked him over after the obligatory consumption of weekend beer and fired up testosterone levels.
So I went along. We would take one of the open backed ‘Landys’ and 2 Constables. They sat in the back. Of course, should we run over a landmine we may stand a chance in the cab, due to the reinforcement. Anyone in the rear would become flying biltong.

There was a constant transport problem. Most of our Landys had number plates starting with 13. Landy 1313 was used for local rounds only. This was due to the fact that it had only 2 forward gears. First and fourth. This meant you shot off at an alarming rate and when your ear tuned into the fact the engine was about to explode, you shoved it into 4th. By that time you had to reach the bit of down hill road below the police station before the jolting Kangaroo jerks of the near stalling engine made you sea sick! I would be taken for a ride as assistant gear stick. Reverse only worked if someone held it in place with some degree of force. My Boss had of course sent 1313 in for repairs to our local overworked mechanic, but parts were refused till we were down to 1 gear. I suppose turning up at investigations in reverse would make a hella of a figure of true Rhodie entrepreneurial skill.

There was one special Landy. Number plate 873 had a white top and was okay till Steve got hold of it. Steve was the opposite of King Midas. All Steve touched, turned to crap.

So there we are, brumming along, cicadas chirping away, friendly, happy, smiling, waving natives as weaved erratically in the soft dust layer. Steve playing happily with the yellow knob for the best 4 by 4 by far we had. Me sipping close to boiling point Coca Cola, (still only 5 cents a bottle) feet up on the dashboard to avoid the heat from the engine. Rifle well jammed between door and seat. Ready in minutes should we come under fire. No need for any supplies. Lunch at Simchembu and back for dinner.

We must have been about 7 miles into Chizarira, one of the remotest and unknown national parks when trouble started. I got a feeling that Steve might have been blind and was too vain to wear glasses. For the next thing I know, we are in a deep ditch and I nearly choked on a Coke bottle. The poor saps in the back managed to stay in as we ploughed to a stuttering halt.

AND now? Steve went into one of those wailing whinging apologies that had made him so popular as a rugby ball. Seems he was keeping his eye so well on the heat gauge, that he hadn’t noticed we were about to go into Titanic mode. Plus, we were overheating.

Was I scared?

Not at all. The place where we ‘pranged’ was as safe as Fort Knox. Nature had supplied the best Anti Insurgent weapons in the world. Man eating lions and the fastest winged giant injector of ‘Sleepy Bye Bye’ disease. What had ten minutes before had been,

‘Gee, check out that pride of ‘Shumbas’ man, and those poor bastards in the back are getting well bitten’ was now,

‘We well fucked!’

Of course I didn’t know if they really were man eating lions. I knew they smelt fear stirring bowels for miles and homed in on it like white sharks.

The two Constables correctly and freely volunteered to walk back to the nearest village and accost assistance. Sounded good to me. No desire to walk in 34c blazing sunshine playing hide and seek with some overgrown hungry pussy cats. Besides, neither of us P.O.s could speak the local lingo!


We suffered. To keep those evil Tsetse flies off our blood we sat in the cab with closed windows till the Cokes exploded. Just as we reached the stage to qualify for the health warning ‘More than 5 hours in a Sauna is bad for your health’, help arrived.

A span of ‘Mombe’s’ appeared. At least 6 cows. They had wooden handmade yokes and ropes weaved from bark. In a few moments the Landy was back on the road. I am not sure if Steve gave them any money for that. I didn’t. It was my day off and not my fault we now 5 hours behind schedule.

Do you remember that song,

‘Things…can only get better’?

Try, ‘Things can only get worse’. They did.

Blind Steve sets off again and after a short while informs me that she on heat. For once he wasn’t referring ad nauseum to his 15 year old girl friend in Que Que. Nope, 873 was on heat, we 50 miles from Simchembu and in ‘badlands’. The Landy had to be stopped to cool down and we needed to report in.

UHF radio was useless here, so I had set up the TR48. These heavy things bounced serious radio waves of the stratosphere. I know they real ‘heavy waves’ because it was standard Rhodie radio initiation torture to get the new recruit to hold the antenna whilst sending. This resulted in 2nd degree burns, a short burst of urine and the hilarity from the in doctored superiors. The antenna tended to be useless, so it was stretch out the wire aerial time.

After reaching 608 (Gokwe) to pass on that we would be late, there was a short debate as how to get the aerial down after I had tied stones to the ends and expertly threw them over very high trees?

The wire was strong. The trees were strong. The lions were even stronger and we had no wire cutters. In fact; we had nothing really. No Coke, no food, and in 3 hours no sunlight. Taking cue from the great Frederick Courtney Selous, eyesight loaded with adrenalin, (as maybe I was the only one with even the slightest notion of our predicament,) I shot the stones with 2 shots. Nearly blinded a Constable with splinters but, we on the move.

By now I’m singing, ‘Things can only get Worser’ and they did.

873 was in a bad way. We couldn’t dare open the radiator cap and what for! We had no water, never mind the machine! Light fading fast and there is an abandoned Bedford supply truck stuck on the only bridge, blocking the way up the escarpment. I am supposed to be at ‘Alcoholics ‘R’ Us’, supposedly having a really good time by now.

What happens next is a true account of the rape and pillage of a 4 cylinder Leyland land rover engine named 873.

It was the dry season; the temp gauge is in the serious red zone. The Constables in the back are threatening mutiny. I want to shoot Steve and know I would be acquitted in a military tribunal. This is the really ‘badlands’, people die here! Copper coated lead instant air conditioning projectiles spring to mind.

Custer’s last stand? Alan Wilson and the Shangani patrol? Can I think of any more examples of idiots getting their free ticket to the after life?

Steve shoved the screaming dying Landy into low gear drive, put her into first, and tore its guts out, first through the river bed, then all the way up that escarpment. Freedom fighters as far away as Lusaka in Zambia could hear the din as we; the dust encircling the dying African sun, the last bit of steam pouring out the bonnet, turned up at base camp.

The occupants were really backward. They didn’t understand that I was just a hitch hiker and stuffing up 873 wasn’t my idea. It is not my fault the Bedford truck broke down. Seems some over zealous driver thought riding the clutch down hill till it hit the bridge is good for its plates. Wrong. They seized.

‘That means we are sending a ‘stick’ of 5 men to protect it.’ This announcement came from Inspector Drey.

He had an office at Gokwe police station. The man was rarely seen. Smoked a pipe like Sherlock Holmes. A bachelor, over 30 and his demeanour was really scary. Big ‘main manne’ of Special Branch.

Not to worry, all this meant due to lack of available ‘eyes’ I had to do guard duty for 2 hours between 2 and 4 in the morning.

Er.. sorry, but, this is supposed to be my weekend off! This is definitely the last time I am going out for a little ‘pleasure’ drive in the bush and not getting paid for it!

No impression of course, but dinner was a treat. Very rare actually considering it was categorized as Royal game, the stunningly beautiful Sable antelope. The saviours of the realm and protectors of the law were short of a fresh joint, and a Sable walked across the scopes. Very nice! The huge piece of roasted meat was extremely dark coloured and strong tasting. (Of guilt?) Still, I should be grateful for small mercies. A rather alarmed voice had just reported over the radio that a pride of lions had decided to take up camp under the Bedford for the night. Hah hah hah. It’s a hard knock life!

It was quite a large camp. Well set out. A good old Rhodie 44 galleon drum boiler supplying hot water, shower much appreciated. Sand bags encircled the place and at 2.00 am I sagged over them. By 3.00 am I have serious hallucinations fever and seeing aliens with glowing red eyes from the direction of the pitch black bush.

Sunday broke. Another hot and lovely day. A perfect time to do a Mazoe patrol stunt and fight our way back to H.Q. Only difference, the 1896 pioneers had horses, we got a cracked cylinder head.

We had taken enough water to get us to the base of the Charama plateau before 873 gave up. Feeding her tortured radiator constantly before she blew her top, it worked. At the base of the last obstacle was a water tower with a huge hose.

Then Steve did a strange thing. Leaving the engine running, lifting he bonnet he whacked the radiator cap off with a lump of wood and proceeded to give the steaming dying beast a bath.
The hose end was designed to feed water trailers, not radiators. Anyway, loads of steam later, we stagger back home.

We get debriefed by the Boss. I still protest it was my weekend off.
There’s a problem with responsibility for killing 873.

I get asked a simple question.

‘Did P.O. Doe leave the engine running at Charama when he refilled the radiator?’

My mechanical abilities were undoing a girl’s bra one handed whilst snogging. What kind of question was this. I lied, thinking I save Doe’s ass.


In the ensuing yowling from Steve, I realised I hadn’t been the perfect witness and tried to change my story. But, the damage was done.


The amazing story of the Mazoe Patrol you can find here:

The slaughter of Major Allan Wilson and the Shangani Patrol, see:

The massacre at Little Big Horn, Custers last stand, see the historical archives under: White Colonial American Fuck Ups, Volume 2057.

The pictures: aged 19 in both. That’s me on the left of 873 and the other is me perched at the edge of Charama plateau.

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