Some explanation of terms used is probably a good thing here:
- ouens – (oh-wins) blokes, men, lads etc
- Callsign – (Context 1 – original) The numbers or letters allocated to identify a unit on the radio network
- Callsign – (context 2) slang reference to a unit or sub-unit by using their radio callsign
- Sitrep – Situation Report
- RLI – Rhodesian Light Infantry
- Net – A radio NETwork
- Ops room – Operations Room
- OP – Observation post (sometimes in the context of OBSERVED)
- NTR – Nothing to report
- “…roger so far?” – have you received up to this point?
To the story…
I have a theory that this is when the term flat dog escaped from in-house use by the ouens of 1RLI and into the general population of Rhodesia and, ultimately, into the world at large.
I was a young signalman, probably some time in 1965/66(?) and on ops room radio duty at HQ 2 Brigade. (The term used for deployed troops then was BORDER CONTROL.)
Although the war at that time was pretty low key with relatively few incidents it was to hot up considerably in a fairly short time. This however was a quiet, lazy weekend and everything was pretty routine and everyone – in HQ and in the bush – was suitably bored but doing their duty.
I am not sure who the duty ops officer was – I suspect it may even have been one Capt John Peirson?
In any event the callsigns were sending in their sitreps. The RLI callsign in the bush was on the net as callsign 5C (Five Charlie) and the duty RLI signaller at Chirundu, in the Zambezi valley, was Terry Miller.
Terry, who was in the RLI signals troop, spoke the callsign as FIIIIVE Charlie (drawing out the five) so you always knew when he was on duty!
He was sending his sitrep and it was the usual boring stuff:
“…patrol here, patrol there, patrol this or that river and OP on that position…” and so on. It was all NTR or, maybe, “…observed movement at XYZ…” – pretty mundane stuff. From time to time an exciting report would come in on a callsign that was scattered by elephant or some other incident involving wild animals.
Eventually, after yet another “…..roger so far” duly acknowledged by me “Roger, over”…
“Fiiive Charlie callsign 15 – incident – shot one flat dog at grid 123456 over”
“Seven, Roger out” (I can’t for some reason remember our callsign at HQ but Seven comes to mind!)
I passed the report to the duty officer – I think the Bde Comd was there as well as another person so there were about four of us in the ops room.
The duty officer had heard the last transmission and been checking code word and nickname lists and came over to me and asked me if I had any idea what this code “Flat Dog” meant.
I did not and was asked to get 5C to clarify.
“Hello 5c this is 7 over”
“Fiiive Charlie go!”
“Seven, we don’t have a code Flat Dog are you able to use plain over?”
“Fiiive Charlie, FLAT DOG is a crocodile, over” comes Miller’s voice.
For a moment, in the ops room, you could have heard a pin drop then the laughter started.
The rest, as we all know, is history but I wonder if anyone else from that era in Rhodesia has a comment around this?