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Major Nigel Henson (RLI), book review

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Nigel Henson, is a highly regarded RLI Officer, with much recognised combat experience and was the countries longest serving Fire Force Commander. Here is his review of Battle For Hurungwe.

"During the Bush War conflict in the 1970's, I was accustomed in my role as an Army Commander in the Fire Force to meeting new faces on a daily basis as we traversed the country in response to calls by deployed Security Forces for our assistance.

I met John Padbury three or four times during the course of my travels, the first time when we were based on a forward airfield at Montesuma Farm, a short distance south of Karoi in December 1978. Apart from the irregular forces under Padbury' s control, there were few other intelligence gathering agencies in the area and ZIPRA were dominant in the area.

Padbury came to see me as soon as we arrived and we went on indications in a PRAW aircraft together with an African male. Flying north for about 10 minutes, the man indicated with certainty an area of supposed enemy occupation. I was initially skeptical of this as experience had taught me that very rarely were these indications fruitful. However we deployed the Fire Force to the map area plotted and were soon after in contact with a ZIPRA gang , eventually eliminating most of them.

This was a pattern set to repeat itself over the next few days, and I developed a healthy respect for Padbury and his unconventional methodology that were responsible for our success. This modus operandi was repeated afterwards when we were again deployed to Karoi Country Club following the downing of Viscount Umniati in early 1979.

I have read with some interest this book and compliment the author on his meticulous research, not only during its compilation, but also for the professional and innovative manner in which he executed his duties nearly 45 years ago.

The author's views on the conduct of the conflict and the political climate will not necessary find resonance with many of those involved, for the passage of time will have only entrenched their views.

I too have expressed much disquiet about these issues in my book and in other media, for the paucity of long term planning on both these fronts merely added to the burden that those in the field were expected to shoulder.

Nevertheless. those seeking to explore further the many issues that dog opinion today will find this book fertile ground to till.

A good read! Well done!"

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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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