Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Rhodesians,


I trust that you don't mind me referring to myself as a Rhodesian, even though I never actually lived permanently in the country. I first became aware of the Rhodesian struggle during the run-up to UDI in 1965, and as a patriotic Britisher identified fully with my Rhodesian kith and kin. As a result I joined the Anglo-Rhodesian Society shortly thereafter.


I was not alone in this pro-Rhodesian sentiment however, for there was undoubtedly far more support for the Rhodesian cause among ordinary British citizens than most people in Rhodesia actually realised. I remember well that the giant slogan "Up Rhodesia" had been painted on a wall in Dock Road just outside Chatham Dockyard, and on a bridge over the A2 between the Medway Towns and London the painted phrase "Support Ian Smith" became so well known locally that the bridge came to be known colloquially as the "Support Ian Smith" bridge!


The first time that I actually set foot on Rhodesian soil was in 1974, when I was following Willie-John McBride's British Lions on their tour around Southern Africa. My colonial mindset had earlier caused me to fall in love with South Africa and its lifestyle, but once I reached Rhodesia I realised that it was a very different - and I would assert an even better country. My total support for the Rhodesian people started at that moment.


My happy and exhilarating experiences from this tour of Southern Africa convinced me that I should emigrate to the sub-continent, where already my Imperial heart was really lying. It was a toss-up whether I would settle in Rhodesia or in Natal, but as I had friends living in Durban, and I must admit the lure of the sea, it was the latter which I eventually decided upon. Even so, however, my affiliation with the Rhodesian nation and people never faltered.


Many of you may remember the famous tour of Rhodesia in 1976 by a group of, then, young members of the Anglo-Rhodesian Society who wished to express their complete solidarity with their Rhodesian kith and kin. I was a member of that party, although by that time I was already based in South Africa. I hitched up from Durban to Salisbury (an experience and a half in itself, which I could give another full talk about!) and arrived just in time to meet the other four members of the party who had flown in from Britain at Salisbury Airport. This tour had a similar positive and inspirational impact upon the other members of the party, and although I had to say goodbye to them at Beit Bridge in order to hitch back down to Durban, the rest of the party were interviewed on RTV after they arrived back in Salisbury, where their message to the Rhodesian people was basically "don't listen to the media - you have far more support at grassroots level in Britain than you realise".


As soon as my South African work permit had been granted I joined the infant Save Rhodesia Campaign, and quickly worked my way up to become Organiser of the Durban Branch. Here again is a story that I could give a complete enthralling talk about - which indeed I did at a Springbok Club meeting a few years ago. I won't go into detail about the endeavours of the SRC therefore, suffice to say that it was under the auspices of the SRC that I made my third visit to Rhodesia in late 1978 as part of the organisation's "Vote NO" campaign in the run-up to the vital January 1979 Constitutional Referendum. Alas, as we know, the Rhodesian people voted "Yes" at this referendum, still undoubtedly labouring under the misapprehension that they didn't possess sufficient outside friends - not even from South Africa, in spite of all the massive support which the SRC had obtained.


After I was forced to leave South Africa and return to the UK in 1990 I was most encouraged and enthused to learn about the Rhodesians Worldwide organisation which was keeping the Rhodesian ideal alive. I joined up with RW almost a soon as I re-settled, and indeed founded the East Kent Branch, and although I no longer hold any office in this branch (devoting most of my energies to the wider-orientated neo-Imperialist Springbok Club) it continues to flourish, now under the title of the Kent Branch, and indeed is one of the most vibrant branches in the country, with a significant number of youngsters attending all their monthly braais, most of whom have never even set foot in Rhodesia.


I hope therefore that I have established my bona fides, and have demonstrated why I think that I have every right to term myself a Rhodesian. I don't think I need to explain to you what was so magic about Rhodesia which made me wish to identify so strongly with the country, as most of you undoubtedly know far better than me from firsthand experience why it was indeed "God's own country".


Let us however look back briefly at the history of that great country. We gather here today to commemorate the 124th anniversary of the foundation of the nation of Rhodesia out of barren African wilderness in September 1890 by great visionary geniuses such as Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson and Charles Dunell Rudd - heroic figures all. The truly remarkable factor about the newly founded country is that within only a few short years it had built and established all the infrastructure of an advanced Western state - and don't forget that this was not only way before jet aircraft, the Internet and satellite navigation, but even in the days before the general use of the motor car, the typewriter and the telephone!


One most interesting fact in this regard was brought home to me personally by a client who commissioned me to trace the birth of her great-grandmother, who she maintained was the first White girl to be born in Rhodesia in 1895. My researches uncovered that this was not true however, as the first White child had actually been born in Salisbury just a few short months after the Pioneer Column had established the city in 1890, and that my client's great-grandmother had actually been born in a fully established maternity hospital. Imagine that, a specialist maternity hospital had been founded less than five years after the foundation of a new state!


In the years which followed the achievements of Rhodesia - or Southern Rhodesia as it was known for several decades - were phenomenal. During both World Wars Rhodesia supplied more volunteers to fight per head of population than any other part of the British Empire (and as a point of interest during our tour of the country in 1976 we met one old gentleman who ran a store near the Matopos who told us that he'd only been out of the country once in his entire life - to fight for King and Empire in Flanders during WW1!). Rhodesia became the bread-basket of Africa, the world's greatest supplier of tobacco, and produced some of the greatest sportsmen and women of the era, such as Colin Bland, Mark McNulty and Jim Redman - and all this from a White population which never exceeded 300,000!


It was particularly pleasing to see that today's commemoration has been advertised as celebrating "The Jewel in the Crown" - Rhodesia. That Crown, of course, was an even greater success story than Rhodesia alone, namely the British Empire - and of course it is the basic underlying aim of the Springbok Club to strive for a rejuvenated British Empire. It was my very great honour to be able to meet four times shortly before the end of his life another great heroic Rhodesian, the Hon. Ian Douglas Smith - a man who possessed the same visionary genius as Rhodes, Jameson and Rudd. The one thing which impressed me most about his speeches on all four occasions, and something which will remain in my mind for ever, was his optimism and confidence in the British people, particularly our younger generation. You are the people who built the greatest Empire which the world has ever seen he reminded us, and your youngsters of today - tearaways though they might seem at times - possess exactly the same blood and pioneer spirit as previous generations of Britons did!


Ian Smith was right. When I first toured Southern Africa in 1974 I was regarded as exceptional by most of the people who I knew, but now 40 years later back-packers from the UK are very common, exploring the most exotic parts of the world, most of them being former territories of the British Empire. In spite of claims by the "politically correct" brigade that British military power is a thing of the past, three times during recent years British forces have intervened in areas of former colonial power where the decent local populations were threatened by despots and/or terrorists, in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the first two of these (and to a lesser extent in the third) British officials were welcomed with open arms by the vast majority of the local population, though alas over-hasty withdrawals have enabled terrorists to re-establish their evil control in the latter two. The important thing to note, however, is that these interventions have confirmed that British forces are just as capable of establishing order in uncivilised lands during the twenty-first century as they were during the nineteenth.


In that land which we must unfortunately currently refer to as Zimbabwe the situation is just as chaotic and unpalatable as it was in those other three countries where the UK recently intervened. It is a land therefore which is crying out for a re-establishment of British control, as Ian Smith implied. The Chinese have stepped in to take the place of White colonialists - just as they have in most other African countries - but they are highly unpopular with the local populations, and furthermore there is no explorative colonial tradition among the Chinese, who anyway current face severe internal difficulties themselves. They therefore will not last. A leading member of the Springbok Club, Bruce Anderson, who sadly died at a tragically early age three years ago, retained good contacts in the current Zimbabwe, and he told me that once Mugabe died there would be a power-struggle in that land, but if a certain faction of the younger generation of ZANU-PF seized control they would welcome back White farmers and other skilled personnel, and that furthermore they would re-sell land to new White pioneers at knock-down prices.


I have no reason to disbelieve what Bruce told me. There are undoubtedly thousands of young Britons of today - currently only in their teens and twenties - who possess the same pioneer spirit as the members of the 1890 Pioneer column did and, dare I say it, those of us from the Anglo-Rhodesian Society who toured the country in 1976. It will be they, and not necessarily those with Rhodesian roots, who will be re-colonising that beleaguered land in the decades ahead.


I have already mentioned four great Rhodesian heroes and visionaries, Rhodes, Jameson, Rudd and Smith, but to them I would like to add two other names of true Rhodesian heroes - namely Peter Sladden and Mike Thorburn, who for the past over 30 years have been staging this annual "Raising of the Flag" ceremony in order to keep the traditions, culture and ideals of Rhodesia alive. Mugabe may have thought that he won in 1979, but he didn't, as those behind this ceremony, the Rhodesian Worldwide organisations and other similar bodies such as, dare I say it, the Springbok Club, prove. It is vitally important that all these traditions are preserved and passed on to the next generation of pioneer adventurers, so that the glorious history of the Rhodesian spirit is preserved and carried on.


Ladies and gentlemen, the "politically correct" brigade will undoubtedly decry today's ceremony and claim that we are merely the last of yesterday. I maintain, however, that we are the first of tomorrow.


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