Military History: A Rare and Gritty Look at the Rhodesian Bush War

first published on February 6, 2019 by

Rhodesian governmental forces square off against nationalist guerillas at viciously close range in this UK documentary released in the late 70s. Graphically detailing the Rhodesian Bush War – also known as the Zimbabwe War of Liberation – and offering a rare and gritty look at the little-known conflict.

Journalist Nick Downie embedded with Rhodesian governmental forces in 1978 and brings a raw and uncompromising look at the brutal Rhodesian civil war, which lasted from roughly 1964-1979. The relatively obscure conflict was fought between the colonialist white minority ruled Rhodesian security forces, the Soviet backed Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), and the communist Chinese backed Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA).

The Short clip details the dramatic events of a well-coordinated Rhodesian operation utilizing air envelopment with a heliborne assault, airborne paratroopers, and Close Air Support (CAS). The troops are inserted into the nearly impenetrable bush and quickly generate intelligence on a nearby small rebel camp. The video proceeds with the troops engaging in a series of short, but ferocious gun battles fought at alarmingly close range resulting in fatalities on both sides.

It then continues with the all to familiar frustrations of counter-insurgency warfare, as the troops enter a small village with a suspicious number of military aged males. While firefights continue to erupt in the surrounding fields, the troops search the huts and attempt to determine friend from foe amongst the villagers. Finding evidence of collusion with the rebels, the men in the village are detained and flown out of the area via helicopters. The short documentary then concludes with an impactful and timeless digression of Nick Downie’s thoughts on the psychological tolls of veterans of such counter-insurgency wars.


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