Rhodesia’s 9/11.. a Memorial Service for Umniati

12th February 1979, flight RH 827, a remembrance day for those that lost their lives.

A monument nestled among the acacia, remembering those that lost their lives in two ungodly like acts of terrorism, committed against innocent civilians in the then Rhodesia. Two civilian Viscounts, manned by highly trained people, transporting those that felt at ease, home to loved ones.

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A few survived the first atrocity, did they expect to hear a condemnation from the rest of the world? Of this I’m sure I’m right, they did. Did they hear the slightest word? No, they had to sit and witness the leader of the political party being allowed to smile and brag of his success on the TV. This hosted by the very country that enjoyed the assistance of fighting men whom aided them in their war against Germany.

The deed, committed by those that thought the war would end by changing their format of attack, lost their own lives by the hands of the dedicated elite, sent out to track them.

Should the lives lost in the ensuing crashes be remembered in any other way than that of a monument in their memory? Should they be remembered differently from all the others who lost their lives either in battle or as casualties of war? No, but this monument acts to reminder us of those that lost their lives, trying to make a better country for its citizens.

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A war of peace, one to bring a country wrought with ideals of power sharing, such as to suit all its citizens. Condemned to have to fight for what was right because politicians in other countries, including their own mother country, felt differently. A country, their mother country had claimed as their own, without thought or compensation to the occupants so many years ago, Rhodes the hero for acquiring it. Who was right?

The war was lost, and the result is there for all to see, a country once blessed with prosperity, now a doyen of how not to do things. A poor country where nearly 50% unemployed, staring starvation in the eye. A country where those that do not agree with the reigning power lose their lives, “agree to vote for the power of the country”, or suffer the consequences. Is this what third world countries envisaged when they pressurised the Rhodesian Government into submission? Is this what they thought the result would be?

Well the crowds gathered at the Monument again today, to remember those that went down in the second Viscount. It was blown out of the sky by a sam7 missile, fired by the enemy, without a care or thought as to who might be aboard. 59 died that day, the 12th February 1979, all civilians, we shall remember them…

The Benoni High School Pipe Band and Choir, aided the crowd by singing the two hymns “Amazing Grace” and “Abide with me”. The Emcee was the ever chirpy Mike Westcott, and the service was led by Lt Col The Rev. Bill Dodgen.

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The Choir sang…………

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And the Pipe band played….

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The drums were beaten … raising the blood pressure in all that listened and remembered.. that day so many years ago…

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The service was ended with the laying of wreaths…..

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And the roll of names… WE WILL REMEMBER….

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A short sample of what we had to listen to… wonderful…

Rhodesia’s 9/11 Attack, a Memorial and Unveiling of the Monument.

I’m not going to get all political, but I am going to be serious.

A disaster that happen 34 years ago, almost to the day, and follow by another, 5 months later, was commemorated with the unveiling of the memorial to those that lost their lives. Sunday past, the 2nd September 2012, saw this memorial unveiled in the gardens of the South African Voortrekker Monument. Civilians, shot down in cold blood, who were flying on civilian aircraft from Lake Kariba where they’d been on holiday. Terrorists using Sam 7 missiles targeted two Air Rhodesia Viscounts, and shot them out of the skies. The one had survivors, some remained by the downed plane, while others went to seek aid. Those that stayed behind were bayoneted and shot by the terrorist group that had fired the missile. Unarmed civilians killed in cold blood. This has been referred to as Rhodesia’s 9/11. The main plaque on the memorial has this statement on it…

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I lost friends on both planes and it was a shock when it happened… They say all is fair in love and war, but that has no meaning to me when it comes to innocent civilians, women and children. These terrorists where tracked and captured, every single one of them that were involved  in the disasters..

The worst of it was that not one other country, except for South Africa, condemned the atrocity. No Church leaders, not the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, not a sole. Governments, none, we were alone in a battle against this type of terrorism, but being at the memorial, witnessing those that were there, such pride still felt by all 450 there. Seeing old soldiers wearing their medals, berets and jackets adorned with their units badges proudly, I realised that the Rhodesians spirit will never die. If we were called to arms, to do it all over again, I’m sure we would.

The old Flag was lowered to half mast, the pipes played their tune and the ceremony began…

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The prayers said, the hymns sung, the memorial unmasked, and the consecration done… to read the names and ages of all those killed in this atrocity, brought tears to many. Wreaths laid by family members and thoughts of lost loved ones, brought a deadly silence to the proceedings..

“We will remember them.”

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A good friend of mine and a published poet… wrote a poem about the proceedings and with his permission I post it here… my love for poetry probably began when I started to read his poems.. his book is available from Amazon… and here is his special poem for the day, and for this I thank him…

THE VISCOUNTS MEMORIAL

Piper’s mournful lament drifts on heat and rising haze,
‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Abide with me’; unto God we gave the praise,
The ‘Green and White’ flew at half mast; host Angels bid it blow,
Their gentle breath on our dear flag, caused many tears to flow.

Today the Highveld lay silent, a vacuum void of sound,
Monument Hill so quiet; baked red parched barren ground,
African Camel-thorn Acacia, indigenous to this land,
Stand as silent witnesses to Viscounts Memorial grand.

Two Granite stones bear the names of loved ones now passed on,
We have promised to remember them in the morn and setting sun, 
Those who survived Hunyani; troubled families seeking rest,
Come to honour the dead; civilians, and Rhodesia’s fighting best.

It stands now to remind the world of the depths that men can sink,
Showing man’s inhumanity to man; and just how the evil think.
This memorial stands not only to recall Rhodesia’s hurt, or pain,
But to remind a once proud nation …we would do it all again.

By Alf Hutchison after the unveiling of the Viscount Hunyani and Umniati 
Memorial in Pretoria on 2nd September 2012.