Rhodesian Light Infantry

by Daniel Russ on September 3, 2017

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As empires began to delaminate after World War II, Africa fell into a long series of colonial expulsions. Here, indigenous people from around the continent began bucking European invaders and demanding governance under their own purview. In 1965, Rhodesia declared its independence and knew that the new national government needed an army. The Rhodesian Light Infantry was a battalion sized commando force designed to keep local rivals from grabbing power in the new national government, in particular, the new nation needed a counter against the Zimbabwean National Liberation Force.

 

They were known as the Saints and the Incredibles, because they moved with such force and shock and discipline that they gained fame and fear in Central Africa. The RLI used FN-FALs and H&K G3s primarily firing the NATO 7.62mm round. The RLI were all trained to assault targets from the air and so the entire battalion was a parachute regiment that successfully ended the political ambitions of Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara ZANLA leaders.

 

Oddly the RLI welcomed mercenaries and many US mercenaries travelled with and fought for the RLI. Among the foreign forces that fought with them were SAS, and French Foreign Legion veterans. The RLI was active from the moment the country declared independence. So the battalion patrolled constantly and often called in airstrikes from squadrons of Venoms and Canberra jets, and the battalion moved n helicopters from the Allouette to the Bell Boeing Long Ranger.

The RLI was disbanded in 1961 as borders and  national powers changed; it soon became a part of Zimbabwe.

 

 

 

Rhodesia’s army during the 1970s was one of the best trained in the world, going up against a very poorly trained but well-equipped insurgent force. The security forces in Rhodesia maintained an overall kill ratio of about eight-to-one in their favour throughout the guerrilla war. And the highly trained Rhodesian Light Infantry achieved kill ratios ranging from 35-to-one to 50-to-one. The Rhodesians achieved this in an environment where they did not have close air and artillery support … nor did they have any significant advantage over their Soviet-supported opponents. The only thing they had going for them was their superior training, and the advantage this gave them added up to nothing less than total tactical superiority.

Lt-Col Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, 1996[22]

 

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