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Book review D/S/O Lawrie Mabin

I first met the author John Padbury in 1969 when we were both young recruits at the BSA Police, Morris Depot. We became good friends which was enhanced by our love of rugby. John and I played for the Police, the former reaching considerable success at a young age when he played for Rhodesia Under 20 for two consecutive years. Like everything else he undertook in life he gave 110% commitment and enthusiasm. Our careers and lives followed similar paths in the CID and Special Branch and later as neighbours in Cape Town, South Africa. We remain firm friends today forty three years on.


I was honoured when John asked me to write a review of his book ‘Battle For Hurungwe’, particularly in view of the fact that he knows I do not agree with some of the political views he expresses in the book. What I do know is that John spent many years compiling this book. His attention to detail and the manner in which he has compiled all the information is commendable.


The book covers John’s earlier days whilst he was stationed at Rusape, initially with the CID and later with Special Branch, involved in gathering intelligence on the ever increasing infiltration of ZANLA insurgents from Mozambique. He soon gained the reputation of being an outstanding SB operator and was well respected both amongst his colleagues and the military. His use of the ‘mujibas’ was very successful and his success rate using the Mujiba system became legendary. John’s success can be attributed to many long days, weeks and months in the bush, his knowledge of the local customs, their language and persistence with the job at hand.


John spent the latter years of the war in Hurungwe Tribal Trust in the North West of the country. Here he was again very successful in training locals and captured insurgents to gather intelligence and also to protect themselves. These trained personnel were called Security Force Auxiliaries. The use of Auxiliaries was very unconventional and, although proving to be successful, was not popular with some of the military and Police. John experienced a lot of frustration in implementing his successful Auxiliaries in Hurungwe. Unfortunately I believe John’s ideas in Hurungwe came too late and if implemented a few years earlier could possibly have changed the outcome of the Rhodesian war.


On 8th June, 1978 John was awarded The Silver Baton Special Commendation by the Commissioner of Police.


I recommend ‘Battle For Hurungwe’ for anybody who was involved in the war in Rhodesia and for that matter anybody who is interested in counter insurgency.


Lawrie Mabin

Ex BSAP Special Branch

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Book Review Neil Petrie

Battle for Hurungwe, by John Padbury is essential reading for those interested in the Rhodesian conflict, irregular warfare and national strategy. It is a personal but professionally produced work cov

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