Saturday, April 26, 2008

Security Measures for the Retreat

The 70's in Rhodesia saw unrest and terrorism from several guerilla groups, ZANLA, the military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and ZIPRA, the military wing of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU).

The situation they faced is possibly one that we might face after TSHTF. Armed groups roaming the countryside attacking isolated farms and homes is a realistic possibility. Here is how the Rhodesians dealt with this threat. What worked then, will work again.

This article is a reprint of the original, used with the authors permission.

Rhodesian Farmers Defensive Arrangements

I knew many Rhodesian farmers and have visited many farmsteads over the years. At every farm, defensive arrangements were made up to suit their particular situation and infrastructure. The following would be a general overview:

1) Most farmers fitted hand-grenade grills to the outside of all windows. Doors leading outside were likewise security grilled.

2) Many farmers built thick walls about a meter in front of bedroom windows to stop bullets, but particularly to deal with RPG 7`s. Beds were never placed against the outside walls of a farmhouse.

3) It was usual to have a designated safe room within the farmhouse that could be defended until support arrived. Sometimes this was a central corridor that allowed the farmer to move into other rooms to attack those outside through the windows. In the loft or ceiling over the safe room, some farmers laid sand bags to deal with possible mortar attack.

4) Every farmhouse in a given area was linked by a radio system called “Agric Alert”. This allowed radio contact with other farmers who formed their own defence units, usually under the umbrella of PATU (Police Anti-Terrorist Unit), which would react to a call from one of their neighbours for assistance. Another means of alarm raising was the use of a signal rocket - The Agric-Alert system was not done away with after the war, such was the lack of trust in Mugabe`s promises. It performed admirably as well when dealing with criminal activity such as stock theft. The alert system arranged for all farmers to check in with each other at a given time in the morning and evening as a means of monitoring their status.

5) Around all farmhouse gardens were erected security fences with barbed wire (or razor wire) and which often had simple alarm systems built into them. Some I believe were electrified, if not before the end of the war, certainly afterwards. Within the fence boundary, every farmer usually had a couple of large dogs. The dogs were fed their largest meal in the morning instead of the evening, in order to help keep them awake at night. Other farmers had geese or ducks, which made excellent guard “dogs.” Gardens were kept deliberately trim so as to keep clear fields of view and fire etc. The farm houses also had outside flood lighting erected in such a way as to blind those outside the fence, but not to interfere with the vision of those within the farmhouse.

6) All farmers and their wives were armed with an assortment of weapons, and most farmers were trained military men. They had at least one assault rifle, usually an FAL 7.62, assorted shot guns, .303 hunting rifles and so forth. It was also not unusual for wives to carry Uzi`s around with them, or other equivalents such as the Rhodesian Cobra. All members of the family were trained on the various weaponry available to them, including the kids. In one famous incident a child successfully fought off the attacking terrorists after both of his parents were wounded. The main defensive weapons were at all times within immediate reach of the adult farmhouse occupants, and were placed next to the bed at night.

7) Some farmers used mine protected vehicles, as a favourite of terrorists was to landmine the driveway outside the fence. A great deal of time was spent looking at the dirt roads for freshly dug earth points and so forth when driving around the farm.

8) Some farm gardens and particular points external to the fence were wired with home-made claymore like devices strategically placed in areas where attackers were likely to take cover. In a few instances farmers deliberately erected “cover positions” for the terrorists to use outside the fence, which were then blown up upon attack. A particular favourite was a section of plastic piping filled with nails, nuts, bolts, screws and so forth. I witnessed tests with these and the tubes cleared large areas of their intended aiming point of all bush cover and leaves from trees etc for about 30 meters into the bush. By placing a number of figure 8`s in front of these tests, it was apparent from the strike patterns that not one of them would have walked again had they been terrorists.

9) Some farmers also hired soldiers on leave to guard their premises at night. Usually these were men looking for extra “beer” money. They were called Bright Lights, and often ended up in fire fights with the terrorists, where they came as a nasty surprise to the terrs when the latter were expecting a nice soft hit and run. Like all farmers in an area, Bright Lights would participate in the support of other farmers when the situation required.

10) Good relationships with farm labour, particularly the house staff, very often warned of problems before they occurred. All of us who grew up in the country have fond memories of those employees who took care of us as kids, and who often placed themselves at great risk for doing so.

The author of this article was a member of 2 Commando in the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

Many thanks to him for the permission to reprint this informative article.


  1. Great article! Thanks for posting it. BTW, do you happen to know of any other articles or books on the subject of Rhodesia and its war? I've read one other article and it was fascinating. Folks in this country could learn a lot from Rhodeasia's experience with thieving Communists/tribalists (I guess that's redundant).

  2. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I found it had lots of good ideas.

    Here are a few websites to check out:

    The Wikipedia article on Rhodesia

    Embassy of Rhodesia

    Kevin's Rhodesian Information, & Links Page

    Rhodesia and South Africa: Military History

    Welcome to The Rhodesian Forces Web Site

    Do a Google web search on Rhodesia for a ton more info.

  3. Excellent post... I wondered when someone would bring up the Rhodesia defense tactics... The improvised claymore or flower pot charge was one that was still taught when I was in the army.

  4. THIS is gold to any real survivalist. Excellent and thank you.

  5. Thanks to Scout for posting my article, and to the others for your comments.

    >"BTW, do you happen to know of any other articles or books on the subject of Rhodesia and its war"

    See They have a book listing too.

    >"The improvised claymore or flower pot charge . . "

    We also made "plate" charges using standard farming plough discs. On one operation in Mozambique the plate went clean through an old steam locomotive and derailed it.