Monday, 18 March 2013

The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry - Alexandre Binda

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Army Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Canadian Army Journal ( Website for the Journal is:
Title: “The Saints” The Rhodesian Light Infantry
Author: Alexandre Binda
ISBN: 978-1-920143-07-7
Publisher: 30 Degrees South
Pages: 544

     In the annals of notable units throughout history names such as the SAS, Rangers, French Foreign Legion and the Long Range Desert Patrol are easily recognized as elites in their respective fields. Lesser well known but having more than earned their place in this illustrious company is the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). A Unit with a brief but noteworthy history (19 years from 1961-1980), the RLI was involved in all aspects of the ongoing asymmetric war between rebel groups such as ZANLA or ZIPRA and the Government of Rhodesia. Formed as a Regiment of infantry, numbers for the unit never exceeded battalion size (resulting in the troops name for themselves “The Battalion”).

     Following Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1964, the RLI was faced with the additional challenge of an international embargo that limited their access to weapons, equipment and ammunition. The RLI’s ‘frontier’ capability adapted to these challenges through innovative developments in doctrine and equipment. Examples of this include the RLI’s basic tactical unit a 4 man stick. This developed from the effective lift capability of its primary mobility platform the Alouette III helicopter. 

     As the war intensified and spread with the collapse of the Portagese colony of Mozambique in 1974, the Rhodesian forces were spread very thin trying to contain the cross border incursions. The operational situation demanded a high degree of speed and mobility. This led to the development of the combined –arms Fireforce concept which became the hallmark of RLI operations. Ensuring the maximum amount of concentrated firepower in the shortest time, this doctrinal development represented a significant step forward in the prosecution of asymmetric warfare.

     Alexandre Binda’s book The Saints is a comprehensive history of this illustrious unit. Replete with colour and black and white photographs and maps, the production value of this book is very high. Laid out chronologically by year, the book mixes firsthand accounts by former members with in-depth analysis of defining operations such as Op Dingo and Hurricane. Additionally, the development and history of the Unit is concurrently traced illustrating how external pressures molded and influenced unit structure and capability.

     A 90 minute DVD is provided with the book. The quality of the video is very high and includes not only commentary from numerous veterans of the RLI, but also a dynamic video description of Op Dingo, the culmination of the Fireforce concept put into practice. The video includes dramatic video of actual Fireforce operations underway. Previously unseen combat footage is also available on the DVD that provides depth and context to the narrative.
     Overall, a highly recommended and very readable book that brings renewed attention to the legacy of the Rhodesian Light Infantry.  An extremely proud Unit that served its nation and its people with distinction from the day that it was formed until the day the ‘ouens’ laid up their colours.

No comments:

Post a Comment