'The Political Soldier'
GRAHAM GILLMORE had been a member of the National Front since 1981. He held several Branch and Regional positions, and was a candidate in the 1983 General Election.
In this article he gives a fascinating insight into life in various Armed Forces in Southern Africa.
An article written by Graham, on South Africa's 44 Parachute Brigade appears in the January 1986 issue of The Elite.
Graham Gillmore (right) in Zangongo.
NF murals have decorated the walls of captured F.A.P.L.A. barracks.
MY INTRODUCTION to Africa came while serving with the Grenadier Guards. We had gone to Kenya on a six week training exercise, in order to give us experience operating in different types of terrain. We travelled far to desert areas, hacked through thick jungle, froze in the snows of Mount Kenya and navigated mile after mile in the more common bush land.
Valuable military lessons were learnt by the all-white Guards battalion but, more than that, it showed us at first hand day-to-day life in a black African country.
In 1977 I left the British Army and flew to Rhodesia where I had applied to join the army and had been accepted into the Rhodesian Light Infantry. With hindsight my decision to serve Rhodesia was right; if I had not gone I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.
Up to this point I had no personal contact with the National Front, I had voted for the Party but had not joined them, nor did I know any members.
Once in Rhodesia and working in Support Commando, R.L.I. I met some NF members, notably Ian Trayner, among the many non-Rhodesians in R.L.I. Ian had an excellent reputation for courage in action: he killed a vast number of terrorists and was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia on 10th January 1981 for gallantry. Tragically he was killed only a few months later.
With British and American Government's help Rhodesia fell to the Marxists and a great country ceased to exist in April 1981. I returned to England and it was now after reading a National Front News that I joined the Party and became active in the Hammersmith and Fulham Branch.
In November of the same year I again flew to Southern Africa, this time to join the South African Army where I had heard that a pathfinder company was being formed at 44 Parachute Brigade from foreigners who had left the Rhodesian Army at the end of the war. I was accepted into the company as a sergeant with radio communications as my specialist skill.
Most of the men who made up the pathfinders were old friends who I had worked with for years. There was no single reason for any of us joining the South African Army, it was a mixture of opposing communism and seeking adventure. Everyone's personal circumstances were different and political beliefs were not always the motivating force; we had all tasted the excitement that comes with danger.
From the start there was keen interest in the National Front, I was in contact with the Hammersmith and Fulham NF Branch Organiser who kept me up to date with the Party's news and well stocked with literature. Apart from myself there were two other ex-NF members and they straight-away rejoined.
The bulk of the pathfinder company were British, Rhodesian and American, but we also had many men from Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as some from Germany, France and Belgium, some of whom had political ties. The rest looked with interest at our literature and wanted to learn as much about us as they could.
Training in the early months of 1981 prepared us fpr vehicle operations into Angola in search of communist backed S.W.A.P.O. terrorists. The men also developed a political awareness that resulted in thirteen new memberships for the Party.
On patrol in Angola
We started our training on the banks of the Limpopo River which is the northern border with Zimbabwe. From there the men had to pass a two week selection course held in the Drakenburg Mountains in Natal ― this ensured only the toughest were accepted into the pathfinders. We then deployed in South West Africa with our fighting vehicles to prepare for active service.
This work took all our energy and it was not our place to influence the politics of South Africa so we quietly maintained a loyalty to the National Front and got on with our job.
We had one funny moment while on operations in Angola during Operation Protia in August 1981. On the night of 25th August we had a very successful contact with a convoy of F.A.P.L.A. (Angolan Army) in Russian vehicles. We inflicted heavy casulties on them and captured all their vehicles with no injuries to ourselves. The following day we moved back to the town of Zangongo to have a rest, a meal and a good clean up. We set up in part of the F.A.P.L.A. barracks and during the course of the day graffiti and great artistic murals appeared on the walls some were personal attacks on President dos Santos and others were more general to the Angolan people; prominent were National Front slogans and artwork. At last light we moved out on operations thinking no more of the barrack block.
The South African authorities were bringing news reporters to Xangongo to show that contrary to claims of atrocity they were in fact giving the local population food and medical treatment. However the sight of the F.A.P.L.A. barracks did not fit this image so they had to delay the reporters while bulldozers bashed down the offending building.
While attacking the town of Chivemba a few days later my vehicle was blown up and I spent the next three months in Military Hospital in Pretoria; during my stay there the pathfinder company was disbanded. I returned to London and the Nationalist struggle, as did a few of my comrades, others stayed in South Africa either as civilians or in the forces.