06 Sep 1975: 73553505N Rifleman Leon Johannes de Wit Scheepers from 2 SAI was part of a group of patrols that were clearing all the islands down-river from Calueque Dam. During this process, he accidentally fell into the Cunene River and drowned before he could be rescued. He was 18.
06 Sep 1977: 72338411PE Corporal Thomas John Lewis Jones from 1 Kavango Battalion SWATF was killed when the Bedford truck in which he was travelling on the Rundu / Bagani Road, left the road and collided with a tree some 60km west of Ondangwa. He was 21.
06 Sep 1977: 01575786PE Commandant Johannes Petrus Human from Sector 70 Headquarters SWATF was killed in a private motor vehicle accident. He was 49.
06 Sep 1978: 75541946BC 2/Lieutenant Andre Leon Opperman from 32 Battalion was Killed in Action in Southern Angola when his patrol came under concentrated mortar, automatic weapons and RPG-7 anti-tank rocket fire after his patrol walked into a SWAPO/PLAN ambush close to Chana Omalapapa, North of Beacon 28. He was leading the patrol when he was shot at close range by an insurgent using a Soviet PKM machine-gun. He was 19.
06 Sep 1979: During an external operation in Mocambique, code-named Ops Uric, a SAAF Puma helicopter, Serial No. 164 carrying 3 SAAF Crew Members and 14 South African Nationals, all members serving in the Rhodesian Armed Forces, was shot down near Mapai in Mocambique. Approximately 5km from the target area, the low-flying helicopter armada overflew a small satellite air-defence base that had been abandoned by most of the defenders as soon as the initial Hunter strikes had attacked the Brigade HQ at Mapai earlier that morning. When the helicopter flew over an enemy ammunition dump in error, a lone Frelimo soldier, armed with an RPG-7 rocket launcher who had remained at his post, fired his rocket towards the massed aircraft just as they drew level with his position. The RPG-7 Anti-Tank Rocket entered through the open rear sliding door on the right side of the last helicopter in the nearest formation and exploded immediately behind the pilot’s seat, simultaneously igniting the fuel in the extra fuel tank situated directly behind the pilot as well as the explosives that were being carried on board. The stricken Puma 164 rolled immediately to the right and plunged into the ground, exploding on impact in a huge ball of flame and oily black smoke. All on board perished in one of the greatest single tragedies of the Rhodesian Bush War. The bodies were never recovered but the mass graves were eventually located in an expedition into the area on 13 April 2009 and memorial stones and a memorial cross were erected over the graves of all these casualties. The casualties were:
19 Squadron South African Air Force:
1 Commando Rhodesian Light Infantry:
1 Squadron and Directorate Rhodesian Corps of Engineers:
06 Sep 1980: 71536924BV Rifleman Alfred Gordon Smith from the Kimberley Regiment was killed in a military vehicle accident at Sishen. He was 58.
06 Sep 1985: 81196776PE Private Pierre Botha from 61 Base Workshops died in an accidental shooting incident at the Base. He was in the weapons armoury when a round was fired and the bullet ricocheted off a workbench and struck him, killing him instantly. He was 20.
06 Sep 1986: 81005514PE Lance Corporal Frederick Johannes Klaasen from Air Force Base Waterkloof was killed in a private motor vehicle accident in Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria. He was 20.
06 Sep 1987: 83249417BG Lance Corporal Melvin Ashley Beneke from 1 Parachute Battalion Pathfinders was Killed in Action during a contact with enemy forces at the Lomba River in Southern Angola during Ops Modular. His patrol walked into an ambush and he received a fatal gunshot wound to the head. He was 19.
06 Sep 1988: 76900380SP Sergeant N. Kibanguka from 32 Battalion was killed in a military vehicle accident. He was 35.
1976 – DA Cannias Muchakabarwa, Regular, died from gunshot wounds, Mudzimwa Kraal, Mutema TTL, Chipinga, Op Thrasher (VN363742). He was normally based in Chiweshe, but was at home on R&R, where he is also buried. He was 25 years old. Source: Death Notice.
1977 – SO Kenneth Wood "Ken" Standers, CPU, BSAP, was killed in an ambush at the age of 23 (b. 2 September 1953 in Bulawayo). Ken was the Stick Leader of the PATU Stick ‘Baliff Blue 3’, deployed in the Dhlamini area of Tjolotjo, on foot patrol when they received Information that there were some terrorists in a nearby village. The stick skirmished through the village to find they had fled. The stick picked up the spoor and started tracking. They had gone about a kilometre when they walked into an ambush in thick bush. The stick hit the ground and returned fire, calling for backup. The firefight was short lived as the ambushers ran without even being seen. Ken was very silent during the exchange of fire; he had been behind van Blerk who was the lead scout. When they called out to him, they got no response. He had died some ten yards away having been hit twice.
1978 – Cpl Anthony William “Tony” Lynch, C Sqn, SAS, was killed when ambushed by Zambian troops while returning from a patrol north of Sinazongwe Harbour in Zambia. He is buried in the Warren Hills Cemetery, Harare
1979 – Gd Rodgers Chitupa RHQ Echo, Op Grapple, died on active service.
We honour with reverence every single life lost in Rhodesia’s bush war of the 1970s, but on 6 September 1979, Rhodesia suffered its largest number of casualties in a single action. Fourteen members of the Security Forces and three members of the South African Air Force tragically lost their lives when the helicopter they were in, Puma 164, was shot down at Mapai in Mozambique during Operation Uric. Their bodies were never recovered.
Since then, a dedicated Rhodesian expedition, led by Neill Jackson, has visited the site of the crash to give all 17 occupants of that helicopter disaster a formal salute and farewell.
And our South African brothers-in-arms who crewed Puma 164:
Rus in Vrede, manne – ons sal julle slagoffers altyd in ons harte bewaar met volle eer: