Mercenary or Soldier ?

I guess at some time or other most military minded people around the world would have heard or read of an ex service man from their country saying he was going to Rhodesia. Wrongly most simply assumed that they were going to become a mercenary and earn the phenomenal high wages that most books often mention to its reader. However, upon arrival in Rhodesia they enlisted in the government’s military service, where all received the same wage as other enlisted ranks. All Rhodesian ex service personnel are very proud of the fact that they did employ mercenaries.

However, there is the possibility that some did go to Rhodesia to join guerrilla groups who the Rhodesian government was fighting at the time. Some may have also gone to neighbouring countries where attacks upon Rhodesia were being launched, with Mozambique being the main culprit. Most guerrilla groups are poorly trained when they first take up what they call the cause, and most rely upon mercenaries (some call them advisors) to help train up there forces.

The following is a copy of the Rhodesian Army's Recruitment Poster

International military strategists consider the Rhodesian Army to be the finest anti-terrorist force of its kind operating in the World today. In our fight against Communism, unconventional tactics and specialised units have been introduced, providing the Army with men who are experts in their fields. The Rhodesian Soldier is a man of dedication and determination who believes implicitly in the stand his country is taking against international communism. In our Army it’s not spit and polish that count but men who use their skills to the best advantage. Our Recruiting Centre in Salisbury receives letters from all over the world written by men who want to join us in our battle against the communist-inspired foe. If you feel that you have skills which will be of value to us in the RHODESIAN ARMY, write to:            


P. BAG 7720,

NOTE: The Rhodesian Army does NOT engage mercenaries. More information can be obtained from the above address.

From Hugh Bomford

Secretary of Rhodesian Services Association Incorporated
Registered Charity CC25203
Postal Address: PO Box 13003, Tauranga 3141, New Zealand
Web: www.rhodesianservices.org

Hugh has also added

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about Rhodesia. A regular private soldier got something in the region of Rh$300 per month - hardly the sort of money that someone would lay down their life for if  it was just the money they were after. As a territorial I got Rh$120 (approx) per month and because I was off work every 6 weeks for 6 weeks my employer had to make up the difference from my pay which was around $180 per month - considering that my employer had to employ 2 people for every position similar to mine it was a hell of a drain on the country. Territorial soldiers in NZ have to do their 3 week per year in their own time - no back up from the employer. Different times and different ideals. In Rhodesia we just got on with it. In today's society everyone would be moaning and protesting. We had discipline and a reason (which as it turned out was false hope that the world would see it our way).

There are of course differing definitions of 'mercenary' and as you point out on your website. Mercenaries are to the way the general public sees them - the likes of those who served in the Congo, Angola etc - adventure and fortune seekers - not real soldiers. Tony Rogers is author of a book by similar title to yours and poses some useful arguments over the word as I recall.

From Hugh Bomford


At the risk of offending some people, I'm afraid that I have re-assessed my views as to whether Rhodesia used mercenaries during its conflicts. It’s quite evident that Rhodesia did recruite from many countries around the world, especially if you note the many nationalities that are now writing about their time spent in the Rhodesian military. I guess it boils down to each individual’s interpretation of the legal definition of a mercenary. However, this also allows me the opportunity to add some very interesting information regarding soldiers who left their own countries to help Rhodesia confront its enemies.

Terry Aspinall