The Civilian Viscount tragedy.
Civilian Vickers Viscount VP-WAS, Hunyani, flight RH825 was shot down by ZIPRA insurgents on 3 September 1978 . Thirty eight passengers and crew were killed on impact. Ten survivors were murdered by ZIPRA insurgents. Miraculously, there were 8 survivors. Viscount Hunyani crashed in the Hurungwe Tribal Trust Lands. A full account of this tragedy is recorded in Battle For Hurungwe.
Hurungwe fell under ZIPRA’s Northern Front operational area which had three regions; Northern Fronts 1, 2 and 3. Northern Front 3 was divided into 4 zones and Viscount Hunyani crashed in Zone 1. A ZIPRA command team first recced Hurungwe before deploying sections of 6 men to mobilise the people, recruit locals and occupy the ground in 1973/4. They then started their guerrilla warfare campaign. (A full breakdown of ZIPRA's command structure, strategies and tactics is in Battle For Hurungwe.)
The continued escalation of the war had taken another dramatic turn. ZIPRA seemed capable of striking the Viscounts at will. Military cross-border raids, primarily into Zambia and Mozambique, increased as did Security Force casualties. The conscription age limit was increased and call-ups for all the forces continued. Rhodesians were losing heart. Emigration figures rose sharply and the number of men available for call-up dwindled. The tide of the war was turning, but not in the Rhodesian's favour.
There are a number of controversies that have arisen over this Viscount tragedy. Some of these include:
Was Air Rhodesia warned about the possibility of an attack and precautions they could take?
What was Viscount Hunyani's flight path and crash site location?
How many ZIPRA sections were there in the area of Viscount Hunyani's crash site? Who were they and where were they located?
Was the ZIPRA Strela Section ever contacted and eliminated by the Security Forces?
What was the international response to the tragedy?
Did ZIPRA insurgents have the capacity and weaponry to strike the Viscount and indeed any Air Force aircraft?
The answers to these questions and others are in Battle For Hurungwe.
Vickers Viscount VP-WAS, Hunyani.