13 January 2018

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All-Day meeting - The President’s Display featuring Rhodesia - Richard Berry FRPSL 


It was a great pleasure for me to give the first of my President's displays to the Society.  What I chose to display was the very first showing of my Rhodesian military collection. The collection focussed on the period 1978 to 1982 but also gave me ample opportunity to include much else.   Unusually it was an all day display. There are few opportunities in philately to show so much material let alone be able to talk an audience through it. 

The display comprised the following rounds:

Prologue: Rhodesiana (and Zimbabweana) showing mostly non-military material to set the scene. In this I was aided by Cliff Gregory from our Society reading some Pindar (in the ancient Greek) and one of my many guests Mark Bailey telling us all about a rock (bornite) from Zimbabwe I'd bought along to emphasise that the few years of postal history I'd brought to show paled into insignificance with that of the history of a two billion year old rock! I was also able to show in the prologue round many items from the collection of Tony Golding who had been the last Consul for Rhodesia in Mozambique. 

Round 1 introduced the collection proper. It covered the key influence of the Radford family on my display. To give a little more background Mike Elliott (one of my guests) had just over two years ago introduced me to Cobie Adriansee and through her to Lyn Radford. Lyn had in her possession some envelopes from the estate of her father-in-law. The father-in-law was Brigadier Keith Radford who had served in the Rhodesian Army.

The accumulation of material was mostly in a large wooden trunk rammed full with envelopes. 

There must have been upwards of 1,000 Rhodesian security forces envelopes in the trunk along with many additional commercial envelopes. There were in addition a few small folders with some written up sheets and other items. It looked interesting and I took a chance that when I combined the material with my own material that I'd be able to find a story to tell. I wasn't disappointed. So two years later here I am.

Anyway I digress so back to a brief description of the first round. The first part of round 1 gave me the opportunity to show some material from WW2 to Zimbabwean independence. I broke the material into various significant periods and showed where possible material relating to Brigadier Radford and his wider family (including his two sons) who fought in the bush war. One of the sons was Lyn's late husband and material relating to him was with Lyn's permission on display. 

The second part of the first round was a deconstruction of the military covers to be shown later into their constituent elements such as postmarks, cachets, mail types (inward outward...), periods etc. This would aid understanding of what I was going to show in later rounds. 

Round 2 introduced the more detailed study of the central functions both governmental and military that controlled the Rhodesian security forces. These included the Departments of Defence and Security Manpower and military functions such as Combined Operations (COMOPS), Army Headquarters, and the various Brigades and Districts; then onto the Regiments and other unit formations. The well known front line formations were shown including the Rhodesian African Rifles, The Rhodesian Light Infantry, The Rhodesian SAS, Selous Scouts and Greys Scouts. Support units such as engineers and signals were shown to close round 2. 

In Round 3 more support units were shown including medical, military police and unusual cachets including one for the Ammunition Repair Depot. Also in this round was possibly my favourite cover being that of 1 POU (Psychological Operations Unit). A study was then shown of the MPO system including the variety of labels and cachets used by both the Rhodesian and Zimbabwean armies. The final part of this round related to Zimbabwean army battalions. I've never seen anything written about these and most in attendance had never seen suchlike before - a virgin field for research!

The final round saw more Zimbabwean units being shown followed by examples of covers from security force units other than the army. The British South Africa Police were followed by the Air Force, INTAF (Internal Affairs) and the Prison Service. These were all entities that national servicemen could be posted to.  The other section shown in this final round was internment in the Second World War

I enjoyed giving my first President's display and it was good to have a full room bolstered to a degree by my guests who I'd like to now acknowledge: 

Friends from the Council of the "Royal": Peter Cockburn (Vice President), Ben Palmer, Mark Bailey and Michael Elliott. 

From the Rhodesian Study Circle we had Richard Barnett. 

From my family: Brenda (must be rare for somebody to bring their mum along. It was the first time she'd ever been to one of my stamp displays and there were no stamps being shown! She kept me in line by barracking me!), Elizabeth (my wife) and Tiegan (my daughter who kindly acted as my dismounter). 

My honoured special guests were of course Lyn Radford and her sister Cobie. They had seen parts of the collection previously whilst I was pulling it together but not the final full exhibit. At times I think it brought back too many memories for Lyn and Cobie. I think this maybe unique opportunity to have in attendance guests so closely involved with much of the material in a display absolutely made the day. I had to be on my best behaviour throughout and at times I'd be the first to admit the emotional impact of showing the collection with people who had been so closely involved with Rhodesia and the material being shown visibly got to me. Thank you for your forbearance!

From your Hon Secretary: regretfully I arrived late for the meeting due to rail problems and so was not there for the start, so I am grateful for this synopsis provided by Richard.  What I can say is that overall this was a definitive collection - never before have I seen such a detailed display of material from Rhodesia / Zimbabwe the likes of which we are not likely to see again.  Where do I start - well there was a selection of 1975 campaign labels - such as “Dead men tell no tales”, “How was I to know he was a spy” and “Victoria Falls if you Talk”; three of very many.  He showed mail from different branches of the Rhodesian security forces; there were not many army units during WW2 as a great many personnel served in the RAF.  Richard showed a few WW2 Rhodesian military mail covers, including a Rhodesian artillery battery in South Africa.

As Richard had mentioned the majority of his display related to material from the late Brigadier Radford during the period 1975-80 and included various photographs, including one of the Brigadier.  There was also a wealth of material from the Rhodesian Ministry of Defence and Army HQs.  The Brigadier had written to various units, starting at Brigade level, asking for a potted history of the unit and a return cover with various unit and postal markings.  Richard thinks he has all that the Brigadier received back  - at Brigade and District level, battalions of the Rhodesian African Rifles, Rhodesian Light Infantry, Rhodesian SAS, Selous Scouts, Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment, artillery, engineers and signals units through to the Zimbabwean army cachets.

The display also included a selection of material, with photographs, of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) and its specialist and support units, succeeded by the Zimbabwean Republic Police (ZRP).  Richard also showed material from the RAF - there were some 10,000 RAF personnel trained in Rhodesia and he showed examples of mail the training school for instructors as well as other RAF WW2 mail, including airgraphs, with various postmarks and cachets; this included mail from RAF Moffat and No 21 SFTS at Kumalo.  This led to as selection of mail from the different squadrons of the Rhodesian Air Force.  Other WW2 items came from Germans and Italians in Internment Camps 2, 3, 4 & 5.  There were also examples of Prison Service mail and from Internal Affairs (Intaf) which included the Tribal Trust Land Protected Villages Guard Force which came into being in 1976 and District Commissioners 1977-80.

For the second half we had lots more brown or buff envelopes with a continuation of units and battalions of the Zimbabwean Army. This included base workshops, army medical corps, military police, ordnance depots, army pay corps, Legal services, Rhodesian chaplains, Army Data Processing Unit and much, much more.  All such mail carried either Rhodesian or Rhodesian Army Official Free cachets.  Soldiers were given blank labels to give to families to enable them to send back free mail.  There were at least 15 different varieties.  There were Official Free circular handstamps and MPO labels in green, yellow, orange and white from MPOs 1-4; mail from Zimbabwe Infantry Battalions (31, 32, 47, 48, 51 & 52) and from 1981 onwards when new numbering system appears to have been introduced (401, 402 & 403 Infantry Battalions).  Once Zimbabwe came into being a number of Rhodesian army unit names disappeared, simply subsumed into Zimbabwean battalions, some of which can be traced as they used the same bag number or they used the same battalion number.  Units used the Rhodesian army shield but circa 1979/80 the word “Rhodesia” was removed to leave just “Zimbabwe” or the name was entered in manuscript on the various cachets used.  Lastly we were shown a couple of LP records by a John Edmund who was a trooper in the Rhodesian Light Infantry as well as a musician, but regrettably we didn’t have the means to play any of them !.  All-in-all this was a fascinating display and both mine and Richard’s write-up do not do adequate justice to the range and scope of material shown - not to mention the ribbing he got from his to mum to speak up from time to time - whole heartedly backed up by the rest of us and something we shall remind him about in the future!!!  Well done Richard.

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