Air Marshall
Norman Walsh
Eastern Cape, South Africa
DiedFebruary 14, 2010(2010-02-14) (aged 77)
Queensland, Australia
CitizenshipRhodesian, Zimbabwean
Alma mater
Known forBeing the First Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe
ChildrenColin (son) and Lesley (daughter)

Air Marshal Norman Walsh was a senior officer in the Rhodesian Air Force and the first commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.[1]


Norman Walsh was born in 1932 or 33 and attended Queen's College in South Africa where he completed his education in 1949.[2] Walsh then moved to the neighbouring British colony of Southern Rhodesia and joined the Southern Rhodesian Air Force as an officer cadet.[3]

Air Force career

Walsh flew Hawker Hunters during his earlier Air Force years.[4] As a middle-ranking officer, he commanded No. 1 Squadron [5] before switching from fast jet to rotary. He took up command of No. 7 Squadron [6] in 1968, flying the Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter.[3] While in command of No. 7 Squadron, Walsh saw action during the guerrilla incursions from Zambia into Rhodesia. He and his squadron were involved in performing helicopter evacuations of wounded Rhodesian infantry, flying in other infantry to attack the guerrillas and providing direct machine gun fire to support ground troops. During these actions, Walsh's helicopter sustained hits from the guerrillas but he was able to continue flying. Walsh was also carried out forward air control duties, directing air strikes from Rhodesian Percival Provost.[7] Walsh was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia (BCR) for conspicuous gallantry shown at this time.[3]

Walsh finished the 1960s as Officer Commanding the Flying Wing at New Sarum Air Force Station, now Manyame Air Base.[8] In the 1970s, Walsh held senior appointments in the Rhodesian Air Force. Walsh was the Station Commander at New Sarum from 1975 to 1976.[8] He was Director of Operations at Air Force headquarters from August 1976 to 1977 during which time Walsh was the senior air force officer directly involved in the execution of Operation Dingo. At the end of his tour he was appointed an officer of the Legion of Merit for service as Director of Operations and other previous command and staff tours.[9]From 1978 to 1980, Walsh was Director General Operations and during this time the Rhodesian Air Force was renamed the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Air Force. Walsh was appointed Chief of Staff in 1980, taking over from Air Marshal Frank Mussell.

Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe

In 1981, after Robert Mugabe had become prime minister, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Air Force was renamed the Air Force of Zimbabwe and Mugabe offered command of the air force to Walsh which he accepted.[10] Walsh's priorities were the recruiting of new personnel from the former guerrilla fighters and replacing outdated aircraft with up-to-date types. Key to this second priority was the acquisition of eight British BAE Hawk jet aircraft to operate in the strike fighter role which were to replace the antiquated Hawker Hunters of No. 1 Squadron. In the summer of 1982, Walsh personally led the British Aerospace ferry team which flew the new aircraft from Great Britain to Zimbabwe.[3]

On 25 July, just 10 days after the Hawks arrived in Zimbabwe, four of the eight ordered Hawks were damaged in a sabotage attack at Thornhill Air Force Base. Saboteurs had cut through the perimeter wire and placed time-delay bombs in the aircraft engines. Eight Hunters and a Cessna aircraft were also attacked. Central Intelligence Organisation agents arrested senior air force officers who had been involved in procurement of the Hawks. After torture and beatings, confessions were extracted from Walsh's personnel and after nearly a year of international pressure the men were brought to trial at the High Court in Harare. Following a lengthy hearing they were all acquitted but were rearrested by Central Intelligence Organisation agents as they left the court building.[11] It was not until international pressure had been applied for several more weeks, that the officers were released. Walsh resigned his command as soon as he could[3] and in July 1983 he was replaced by Air Marshal Azim Daudpota who commanded the air force on loan service from Pakistan. [12]

Later Life and Death

After resigning, Walsh left Zimbabwe and emigrated with his family to Australia, where he died at his Queensland home on 3 August 2010 at the age of 77. He was survived by 2 children.


  1. "The Rhodesian Air Force". 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. "In Memoria". Queen's College. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Air Marshal Norman Walsh". The Daily Telegraph. 22 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  4. Cooper, Tom (2 September 2003). "Central, Eastern, & Southern Africa Database: Mozambique, 1962–1992". Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. "Rhodesian Air Force No 1 Squadron". 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  6. Maughan, Monty (2010). "Monty Maughan Odyssey · 1962 – 1980". Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  7. Binda, Alexandre. The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry. 30° South Publishers. pp. 86, 88. ISBN 978-1-920143-07-7. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Rhodesian Air Force New sarum". 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  9. "Rhodesian Air Force Honours and Awards". 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  10. "The Rhodesian Air Force". 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  11. "Zimbabwe: Court Overruled". TIME. 12 September 1983. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  12. Jongwe, Fanuel (31 August 2008). "Zimbabwe rival parties return home with no sign of deal". pub. Retrieved 4 September 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)