Note: This is part of a series. Read part one here. 

D Squadron’s tactical HQ was initially set up at Buffalo Range, a very busy base of operations for the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the SAS. Set in the southeastern part of Rhodesia, the terrain varied greatly from the borderlands to the north. There were no lush mountains and thick foliage. It was dry and sparse. The AO was called the “Russian Front” by the Rhodesians. One might assume that it was dubbed such due to the presence of the Russian advisors helping the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). But in fact, it was the dry humor of the Troopies hearkening back to World War Two’s most dreaded and deadly front for the Germans. The Eastern or Russian Front had a lonely, deadly reputation. Punishment or falling from favor with one’s higher chain of command elicited a posting to the literal Russian Front.

It was here, in Mozambique, that the Recces would be assured of contact with the enemy and would progress as a unit against communist-trained terrorists, very similar to the ones they were to face in the future along their northern borders, most notably in Angola and Mozambique during the Border War.

Within a short amount of time, the SAS intelligence liaison officer brought them indoors for the brief and revealed a map of their assigned area. It seemed rather large to them. How would it be possible to effectively control such a piece of real estate? The border alone, north to south, was 150 kilometers long. It seemed a folly to expect 55 men to cover, let alone control, this wide area. At that point, I am certain that many men wondered if a voluntary departure could be had. There were a small number of men who would later request posting back to South Africa, and it would be granted.

The men of the reconnaissance regiments were professional soldiers. They knew that to better learn their profession, they would have to take any and all situations and find a way to dominate. Besides, if their SAS brethren were doing it, surely they could do it as well.

The Rhodesian intel officer informed them that they would be chaperoned on their first mission to get a lay of the land and useful procedures that the SAS had developed during their operations. However, after that, the Recces would be running their own show. Their insertion methods would cover all of the training that they had received. Static-line drops, helo inserts, and even HALO jumps for sensitive missions that required absolute stealth when dropping near known strong points.

Although these operations were vital to the development of the Recces’ history and capabilities, it was classified top secret until 1983, years after the Bush War ended. On the surface, South Africa wanted to maintain some neutrality and distance from the much-maligned Rhodesian government.

Records for these missions come mainly from the writings of Peter Stiff in the book “The Silent War.” He details this period through interviews with the men and a tiny handful of memoirs by those who participated.