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The RLI … killing machine extraordinaire

Few, if any, regiments have left their mark on the history of modern warfare as did the Rhodesian Light Infantry. Raised on 1 February 1961 the RLI first evolved into a commando unit then became involved in mundane border-control duties in the Zambezi Valley. Later as the bush war intensified the RLI was to evolve into a ruthlessly efficient ‘killing machine’.

This book chronicles the military evolution of the RLI from the peacetime soldiering days through to the constant high-intensity combat of the final years. Initially comprising volunteers from South Africa and Britain the RLI was always under strength until 1976 when the percentage of national servicemen serving in the RLI was dramatically increased to meet ever-increasing operational demands. The historical record will show how these young men, led and commanded by an outstanding combination of tough and battle-hardened non-commissioned officers and a skilled and aggressive officer corps, inflicted massive damage on the ZANLA and ZIPRA insurgent forces. 

The ruthless efficiency of the joint Air Force and RLI Fireforce operations where the RLI was deployed by helicopter and later also by parachute was to account for the deaths of in excess of 12,000 insurgents during the course of the war at a rate of 160 enemy killed for every one of their own lost: a truly remarkable record. Throughout the war the RLI never ceased to learn, adapt and evolve militarily and as such provides many important lessons for students of modern warfare in how a small military structure making the maximum and creative use of the limited resources available can achieve so much with so little. Disbanded after the political settlement on 31 October 1980 the RLI marched into history.

Gone but never to be forgotten, this is the story of “the incredible RLI”.

366 PAGES WITH 300 B/W PHOTOS, ILLUSTRATIONS & MAPS

Published: July 2013