Rhodesian Security Forces
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Emblem of the Rhodesian Army.
Service branches
  • Rhodesian Army
  • Rhodesian Air Force
  • British South Africa Police
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs Guard Force
Related articles
HistorySecond Chimurenga

The Rhodesian Security Forces were the military forces of the Rhodesian government. The forces were disbanded at the attainment of independence in 1980 when the country became Zimbabwe. It was replaced by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

The Rhodesian Security Forces consisted of:

The Rhodesian Security Forces of 1964–80 traced their history back to the British South Africa Company armed forces, originally created during company rule in the 1880s and 1890s. These became the armed forces of the British self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia on its formation in 1923, then part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland military in 1953. After the break-up of the Federation at the end of 1963, the security forces assumed the form they would keep until 1980.

The Rhodesian Security Forces remained loyal to the Salisbury government after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain on 11 November 1965. Rhodesia's independence was however not recognised by the United Nations and Britain itself. The RSF therefore fought on behalf of the unrecognised government against the guerilla armies of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) during the war of liberation.


The majority of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers were disbanded in 1920 for reasons of cost, the last companies being disbanded in 1926. The Defence Act of 1927 created a Permanent Force (the Rhodesian Staff Corps) and a Territorial Force as well as national compulsory military training.[1] With the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers disbanded in 1927, the Rhodesia Regiment was reformed in the same year as part of the nation's Territorial Force. The 1st Battalion was formed in Salisbury with a detached "B" company in Umtali and the 2nd Battalion in Bulawayo with a detached "B" Company in Gwelo.[2] Between the World Wars, the Permanent Staff Corps of the Rhodesian Army consisted of only 47 men. The British South Africa Police (BSAP) were trained as both policemen and soldiers until 1954.[3]

About 10,000 white Southern Rhodesians (15% of the white population) mustered into the British forces during the Second World War, serving in units such as the Long Range Desert Group, No. 237 Squadron RAF and the Special Air Service (SAS). Pro rata to population, this was the largest contribution of manpower by any territory in the British Empire, even outstripping that of Britain itself.[4]

Southern Rhodesia's own units, most prominently the Rhodesian African Rifles (made up of black rank-and-filers and warrant officers, led by white officers; abbreviated RAR) fought in the war's East African Campaign and in Burma.[5] During the war, Southern Rhodesian pilots proportionally earned the highest number of decorations and ace appellations in the Empire. This resulted in the Royal Family paying an unusual state visit to the colony at the end of the war in thanks to the efforts of the Rhodesian people.[citation needed]

The Southern Rhodesia Air Force (SRAF) was re-established in 1947 and two years later, Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins appointed a 32-year-old South African-born Rhodesian Spitfire pilot, Ted Jacklin, as air officer commanding tasked to build an air force in the expectation that British African territories would begin moving towards independence, and air power would be vital for land-locked Southern Rhodesia. The threadbare SRAF bought, borrowed or salvaged a collection of vintage aircraft, including six Tiger Moths, six North American Harvard trainers, an Avro Anson freighter and a handful of De Havilland Rapide transport aircraft, before purchasing a squadron of 22 Mk. 22 war surplus Supermarine Spitfire from the Royal Air Force which were then flown to Southern Rhodesia.[6]

In April 1951, the defence force of Rhodesia was completely reorganised.[7] The Permanent Force included the BSAP as well as the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps charged with training and administering the Territorial Force. The SRAF consisted of a communication squadron and trained members of the Territorial Force as pilots, particularly for artillery observation. During the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s, Southern Rhodesia contributed two units to the Commonwealth's counter-insurgency campaign: the newly formed Rhodesian SAS served a two-year tour of duty in Malaya starting in March 1951,


  1. Wilson, Graham Cap badges of the Rhodesian Security Forces Sabretache, June 2000
  2. p.46 Radford
  3. [1] Template:Wayback
  4. (Gale 1973, pp. 88–89); (Young 1969, p. 11)
  5. (Binda 2007, pp. 41–42, 59–77)
  6. Moss (n.d.); Petter-Bowyer (2003) p. 16
  7. Extracted from 'The Development of Southern Rhodesia's Military System, 1890–1953 by L. H. Gann, M.A., B.LITT., D.PHIL.'