The Zambezi Valley Convoy Run
Dave Parker, the Commanding Officer of the RLI was based at the Joint Operational Command (JOC) at Mount Darwin in 1975.
The fire-force base was across the road and we had just returned from a battle with some dissidents. It had been a long dehydrating fight, so I decided to have a couple of drinks at the JOC with Gawie Venter. He was a South African helicopter pilot in the Rhodesian Air Force and a wonderful character.
Anyway we consumed a fair amount and very late in the evening, became exceptionally rowdy. The senior Air Force man, a Wing Commander, came to remonstrate.There was a tree just outside the pub and Venter, at this juncture was hanging from one of its branches going “Ba-hoo, ba-hoo” at his superior, rather like a baboon protecting his mielie cob.
We dispersed and very early the next morning I was summoned to have breakfast with Colonel Parker. Not surprisingly I had breath like a diseased hyena and the back of my head felt like it had been hacked off with a cheese grater.
“Morning Sir,” I murmured to the CO.
“Morning, Scotty, have some breakfast.”
The thought of a greasy egg slipping down and blending with last night’s beer would no doubt create an explosive amalgam which would not be deemed safe for those in my close proximity. I very politely declined, “No thanks, Sir.”
When the Commanding Officer insists, you have no option but to accept with alacrity – and enthusiasm!
He then briefed me as to my task for the rest of the week. I was delegated to be the commander of a convoy of vehicles doing a re-supply run into the Zambezi Valley. Five days sitting in the scorching sun on the back of a lorry playing nursemaid to a bunch of trucks. The ultimate degradation! That cured me of any misdemeanours with the hierarchy in the future.
The salient point is that at no time during the breakfast did Dave Parker ever raise his voice beyond a conversational tone. On no occasion after the incident did he ever mention it again or hold it against me. It was done and finished and I didn’t feel jeopardised. There was no malice and I was still going to give him my best. That is effective disciplining!
I’m not sure what happened to Gawie. Think he had to fly his helicopter back to Salisbury – upside down...