Plumtree – about 1977

When I was attached to the Rhodesian Armoured Car regiment as RSI / Acting Signals Troop Commander the regiment did a deployment to the Plumtree area.  I don’t actually remember the time of year but I think it was  late winter…?

In Salisbury the vehicles were loaded onto a special military mixed freight/passenger train. The trip took a day and a night and we all slept on the train while it travelled through the night. A good time was had on the train (some had a better time than others…).  On arrival in Plumtree and unloading we harboured up in a base camp just outside of the town.

I recall that during the deployment all HF communications went for a ball of chalk countrywide due to some spectacular sun spot activity and I had to institute some innovative measures to maintain communications. For me, however, that was not the most memorable part of the trip – it was something seemingly mundane yet something not many get to experience.

The Rhodesian Army ensured that its troops were well fed and when deployed with a headquarters element that had a decent caterer we ate the most marvellous meals made from the excellent fresh rations supplied. On this trip, as with many others, it was discovered that there was plentiful game around and one of the local farmers gave us permission to shoot a kudu to increase our already generous meat rations.

Several men went out on the hunt vehicle – a doorless Land Rover. I heard later that the person who had proclaimed himself the MAIN HUNTER fluffed his shot- Steve “FRANTAN” van Niekerk, who was driving, snatched his service rifle from its clip by the driver’s right leg and with one left-handed snapshot brought down the kudu.

The cook soon had the beast hung, skinned, cut up and into the freezer truck.

Next morning breakfast at the senior NCOs and officers’ tables consisted of the usual coffee, toast, eggs, bacon, sausages and little medallions of kudu fillet in a delicious sauce. No matter the heavy government crockery and cutlery – this was not just a meal but the stuff of safari legends that, as I observed to the chap next to me, people would travel far and pay big money to experience.

Us soldiers? Well, we were at work of course!

I should add that the troopers and everyone else in camp benefitted from this venison bonanza – not just the officers and NCOs.