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This is the story of military aviation in Rhodesia from the romantic days of 'bush' flying in the 1920s and '30s-when aircraft were refueled from jerrycans and landing grounds were often the local golf course-to the disbandment of the Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF) on Zimbabwean independence in 1980. In 1939 the tiny Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF) became the first to take up battle stations even before the outbreak of the Second World War. The three Rhodesian squadrons served with distinction in East Africa, the Western Desert, Italy and Western Europe. At home Rhodesia became a vast training ground for airmen from across the Empire-from Britain, the Commonwealth and even Greece.
After the war, Rhodesia, on a negligible budget, rebuilt its air force, equipping it with Ansons, Spitfires, Vampires, Canberras, Hunters and Alouettes. Following UDI, the unilateral declaration of independence from Britain in 1965, international sanctions were imposed, resulting in many remarkable and groundbreaking innovations, particularly in the way of ordnance. The bitter 'bush war' followed in the late 1960s and '70s, with the RhAF in the vanguard of local counterinsurgency operations and audacious preemptive strikes against vast guerrilla bases in neighboring Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana and as far afield as Angola and Tanzania. With its aging fleet, including C-47 'Dakotas' that had been at Arnhem, the RhAF was able to wreak untold havoc on the enemy, Mugabe's ZANLA and Nkomo's ZIPRA. The late author took over 30 years in writing this book; the result is a comprehensive record that reflects the pride, professionalism and dedication of what were some of the world's finest airmen of their time.
The late Beryl Salt was born in London in 1931. She emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1952 to get married in Salisbury, where her two sons were born. In 1953 she joined the Southern Rhodesian Broadcasting Services (later the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation, the RBC). With a love of history she wanted to find out as much as she could about her new country. This interest led to radio dramas and feature programmes, followed by several books: School History Text Book, The Encyclopaedia of Rhodesia and The Valiant Years, a history of the country as seen through the newspapers. She also produced a dramatized radio series about the Rhodesian Air Force. In 1965 she left the RBC and spent three years with the Ministry of Information, following which she was a freelance writer/broadcaster involved in a wide variety of projects until 1980 when she moved to Cape Town. She died in England in November 2001.