The Rhodesian Bush War: A Rhodesia Herald Chronology
A few months ago Lewis Walter, former Under Secretary for Internal Affairs and good friend, let me know that he was in possession of two of the late District Commissioner John
White’s notebooks, and that he felt that I would benefit more from the contents than he would. By this time I had become fully aware that John White had undertaken an enormous amount of research into the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1970s, with an obvious emphasis on Internal Affairs. He wished to publish a book on the subject. John’s children, Rory and Jane had previously very kindly forwarded to me what was effectively John’s unfinished work, including large numbers of photographs. Now these notebooks. Lewis had the books delivered to my brother Jo’s home in the Cape, from where he took them with to Kabul, Afghanistan, where is doing consultancy work. A British work colleague of his then brought them to the UK, ultimately mailing them to me. I had no clue as to the contents, only assuming they were notes relating to his Internal Affairs project. I did not realise up until then that the two A5 notebooks held all the notes John had made in his own handwriting, often in pencil, of material he had found in the Rhodesia Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers. The notes are presented as a chronology of events and statistics covering the period from December 1972 and the attack on Altena farm, Centenary, to the beginning of April 1980 when Robert Mugabe became the leader of the new state of Zimbabwe. What follows is a direct transcript of his notes. John must have spent many hours looking through newspapers to end up with this vital information. This document encapsulates key military and political events, with an emphasis on war statistics, particularly that of the casualties on all sides. It provides a graphic insight into Rhodesian life of the 1970s, as curfews, convoys, protected villages, landmines, murder and terrorist attacks and bombings became an everyday fact of life. The ebb and flow of the conflict as politicians sought to find a settlement is evident, as is the dramatic escalation of hostilities as the decade drew to a close. For the researcher, an immense amount of very important information which would otherwise be unavailable in the absence of access to the newspaper’s archives.
What must be borne in mind is that this information is all from a newspaper, albeit the main one in Rhodesia at the time. The dates shown are those of the edition itself, so stories will always refer to a past event. It will be very evident to the reader that Government did not always make everything that was happening available to the public. Finally, this paper is acknowledged as the work of the late John White. I am merely the custodian of this treasure chest of information. Please click HERE to open the file