On this #Remembrance Day across the Commonwealth and within Britain itself, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year the fallen soldiers of World War 1, and other wars are honored with parades, with poppies, with moments of silence and with respect. But for the forgotten soldiers of Southern Rhodesia, there is no official commemoration. The irony is that many good men - both Black and White died for their King in that horrendous war.
Small band of pioneers made their mark on the Western Front
Southern Rhodesia in the early 1900's was still a new nation, and numbers of men were not large. In fact, when the first world war broke out in 1914 it was still under the administration of the British South Africa Company. They were a small band of pioneers and still settling into building the nation that started off as a dream in the mind of Cecil John Rhodes, but the colony's wartime contributions became a great source of pride to the country that later became Rhodesia and is now known as Zimbabwe.
Across the world small remnant bands of aging "Brothers in Arms" come together to remember their dead soldiers from the First World War, from Malaya, from the Second World War and from their own war. But you won't hear the Queen mention them, nor the leaders of other countries who remember their dead today. They did their King and country proud over forty years before Rhodesia became a dirty name in world politics after Ian Smith unilaterally declared Rhodesia an Independent country in 1965.
Many Southern Rhodesians paid their own way to enlist
Immediately after the declaration of war Sir William Milton sent a wire to the UK Government saying that All Rhodesia stood... ready to do its duty, " and they did. Many of the young men paid their own way to travel to England and enlist for the war. Many of them fought on the Western front where they were renowned for their marksmanship. Others served with the Royal Flying Corps, and the Rhodesia Regiment, the Rhodesia Native Regiment, and the British South Africa Police served in the African theater of the conflict, contributing to the South-West African and East African campaigns.
Forty percent of the male population went to fight for the King
Southern Rhodesian troops numbered 5,716 white men - in the region of 40 percent of the white male population of the country. More than 1500 of them served as commissioned officers. 2,507 black soldiers enlisted into The Rhodesia Native Regiment and 350 of them served in British and South African units. Over 800 Southern Rhodesians of all races lost their lives on operational service during the war, with many more seriously wounded.
Gallant soldiers - black white lie in the fields of the dead
The bones of both black and white lie today under the sands of the East African savanna, the deserts of Namibia, the clay of far away Europe. As reveille rings out to sound the last call on Remembrance Day remember them. They left their homes, their families, their country and their hopes and dreams to fight for a King. But in the palaces and revered places, in the cathedrals and churches, only a few will say a prayer for them, or whisper "Rest in Peace, Gallant Soldiers."