The Guard Force was the fourth arm of the Rhodesian Security Forces. It consisted of both black and white troops whose initial role was to provide protection for villagers in the Protected Village system. Its headquarters were in North Avenue, Salisbury. Its training establishment was based at Chikurubi in Salisbury.
During the latter stages of the Bush War they provided a role in the protection of white-owned farmland, tribal purchase lands and other strategic locations. They also raised two infantry Battalions and provided troops in every facet of the war in each of the Operational Areas. It was a large component of the Security Forces, with a strength of over 7,200 personnel.
The guard force cap badge was a castle on top of a dagger, below the castle was a scroll reading ‘Guard Force’
The British Financial Secretary of State advised the Governor of Southern Rhodesia on 11 May 1942 that between 1933 and 1939, Britain had received 55,000 German and Austrian refugees. Further, since May 1940, 63,000 refugees from the Continent and an additional 47 000 British refugees from the Channel Islands and Gibraltar had also been received.
As a result, Britain’s capacity to absorb refugees had been overwhelmed and the country was therefore seeking alternative locations as a matter of urgency. More territories under the British Empire on the African continent were expected to alleviate pressure on Britain by participating in the new scheme.
Following this communication, Southern Rhodesia received the first batch of 1,000 Polish refugees in January 1943, 500 of whom were accommodated in Marrandellas and Diggleford and another 500 in Rusapi (now Rusape). The camps established were expected to house about 500 refugees each but, by November 1944, a total of 6,831 refugees were in the colony.
The declaration of war against Germany on 3 September 1939 by Britain triggered off the internment process, as the former was accompanied by a proclamation, whose message was repeated in the colonies newspapers: Warning all enemy subjects within the colonies to register details of their birth, passport and property owned, surrender all arms, ammunition and yourself to the Member-in-Charge of the nearest police station.
Following this announcement, internment on the African continent proceeded apace. In Tanganyika, 4 000 Germans in the Iringa region, were quickly rounded up and dispatched to the Union of South Africa. Their women and children were destined for Southern Rhodesia.
On the night of 3-4 September, the Department of Ministry of Justice and Defence,
through the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and army, moved swiftly on all ‘Starred Germans’, capturing 508 who were then gathered at Chikurubi Prison. After a few days interrogation, many were released on parole leaving 52 men and a woman under restriction. These were moved to a temporary holding camp and former primary school in Hartley, 100 kilometres west of the Salisbury, where they were joined by 64 aliens from
At this time, the first selected site in Salisbury, east of KG VI Barracks, was still under construction. It became ready on 12 October, when it was opened as Internment Camp No. 1 (General).
The British Empire Service League (BESL) was originally formed in Rhodesia in 1918 as Comrades of the Great War. The BESL was also present in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The league, established by Lord Haig in the Dominions, was a counterpart of the Royal British Legion that was established in 1921 to support Service men and women, ex-serving personnel and their families.
In October 1945, Camp No.2 (Tanganyika) was closed. In November, internees were transferred to the Norton Internment Camp. By early 1946, single men from South Africa were also transferred to Norton. In May 1947, the German internees were deported to Germany.
In 1941 internees from Abyssinia and Somalia, and refugees distributed to three additional camps. 1,500 internees were located at No. 5 at Fort Victoria. In April 1942, A Company of the Rhodesian African Rifles escorted 887 internees from Durban to Camp No.5 by train.
Camp No.5 was affected by poor policing and was under-staffed and a review determined that the conditions were appalling and resembled a penal settlement. No recreation activities had been organised and there was nearly 51 attempts of escape by the inmates.
At Fort Victoria, the Italian Chapel of St Francis of Assisi was built by the internees during the years 1942 to 1946. The paintings, murals and ceiling in the Apse are the works of an Italian civil engineer interned at Camp No.5.
In 1941 interness from Abyssinia and Somalia, and refugees distributed to three additional camps. 1,500 ‘presumed Italian artisans’ occupied No. 4 in Umvuma where a complete workshop had been provided.
In 1941 interness from Abyssinia and Somalia, and refugees distributed to three additional camps. Camp No.3 was allocated 2,000 people and was located on a 3,000 acre farm five miles south-west of Gatooma. Camp No. 3 used excessive reliance on internees to police themselves resulting in a series of successful escapes.
After the war, the farm was converted to the Cotton Research Board Training Institute.