A tremendous post about a chaplain in the RLI posted by Mark Adams. It originally was posted in Cheetah in 1980. I will be blogging and writing some articles on the RLI in the upcoming weeks and months
“Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?”
By Major (The Rev) Bill Blakeway
“Padre, do you want to go on Fire Force.” That question put to me by Lt Col Pat Armstrong, then O.C. of Support Commando, started my understanding and appreciation of what the RLI was all about.
I nearly had a heart attack when I looked at the stick board that evening and saw there in first wave, stop one - Padre! It was quite a serious stick - Cpl ‘Dutch’ de Klerk, ‘Ticky’ Millet, ‘Buzzard’ Dalgerous and yours truly. Fortunately, the only contact we made that day was with ‘Buff Beans’. But I shall never forget the almost paralysing fear as the chopper circled the target area. For me the moment of truth. I have recalled that “heavy war story” because that experience helped me to know something of what the members of the Battalion had to go through every time the siren went off. I don’t think it is possible for a Padre to begin to communicate with the Troopie unless he has been frightened with him.
My association with the Battalion started during 1974, whilst I was still a T.A. Right from the beginning, to me, there was something “special” about the Unit. It also became clear to me that there was a tremendous pride in the Unit by its members and like all regular army units, it was a “closed shop” to anyone on the outside. 1 soon realised that 1 would have to become a regular if I was to stand any hope of being accepted. It was during the first half of 1976 that the Chaplain General said “You are now officially Chaplain to the RLI get on and know them.”
It would take far more than this article and would be impossible to recall and record everything I would like to of these last six years. The Padre’s Hour for instance. You know that exciting period during the week when most of the ouens catch up on their gonk! I recall a few anxious moments when difficult questions have come up, like . . “Come on Padre, how come you are talking to us about God when we have to go out and kill’?” If anyone thinks there is an easy answer to that one - good luck. All I could do was to help the troopie to see that the country had the right to both rule and defend itself, and that the Christian had a moral obligation to be involved in both. I would also like to say that during the whole of my association with the Battalion, I have not come across one man who claimed categorically that he is an atheist. They might not have been Church-goers, but they accepted the fact that there was “someone up there” looking after them.
My trips to the bush to visit the different Commandos - few Chaplains had the privileges that I had in this respect. To be accepted as part of the Unit. I remember incidents like Forbes Border Post with 2 Commando, hot extraction demonstration with 3 Commando - with me hanging from that bar and the chopper circling a couple of hundred feet up - when I could have been back home sitting having tea with the old ladies of the Church! Being one of six sticks, total 24, and being told by the O.C. that 75 to 100 enemy had been sighted - I didn’t stop shaking for an hour.
The occasional patrol clinging hopefully to the promises of the Log Enslins and Charlie Warrens of: “Dont worry, Padre, we will look after you.” Another moment that aged me twenty years was when the present CO Lt-Col Aust was 2IC. We were discussing the various para courses and he said: “Do you want to be para-trained?” As I was still stumbling over my answer he picked up the phone, spoke to the para school and asked them if the Padre could get on a course. I sat completely speechless as I heard him say: “Right, thanks, — three weeks’ time.” Once again, however, what a privilege to be accepted as one who has jumped with the Battalion - even if they were only fun jumps.
There have been the sad times …. having to go and visit N.O.K. of members of the Battalion and giving them the one message they were dreading. The happy times at the get-togethers and marriages. The proud moments. There is no doubt that to me, personally, the supreme moment of pride was on the 1st February, 1979 when the Statue of the Troopie was unveiled. To have been part of that magnificent ceremony will always be the most treasured memory that I will have.
And who of those who were there will ever be able to forget the Memorial Service on 12th September, 1979, and the funeral service for Major Bruce Snelgar, held at the foot of the statue. Or that final Wreath-Laying. Possibly there will be those who will read this and say “the Padre’s being carried away again.” All I know is that those who have served in the Battalion will know exactly what I am saying. They will understand the fierce feeling of pride that the men in the Unit, and its achievement, coupled with the memory of those of their number who did not return from the op area.
As the Padre remembers, he would also like to say “Thank You”. Thank you to the men of the green and silver, for your professionalism as soldiers, for your courage, for your loyalty to the cause for which you fought. And I thank you for your personal friendship.
Remember this, we’re going to be in that number when the SAINTS GO MARCHING IN!
From the October 1980 Cheetah magazine.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Coey arrived in South Africa and made his way to Salisbury swore into the Rhodesian Army. He was immediately put into the RLI's 19 week basic training that would introduce him to the Rhodesian Army and begin his journey. He was struck by the differences of the training and mostly the discipline that was a marked contrast to his time with the Marine Corps. He took to it well and understood it to be integral to the type of warfare that they were to be engaged in.
During that time he met many foreigners. In particular he met with another Marine who had deserted and fled to Rhodesia. He was none to impressed and felt he had enlisted for the wrong reasons and another Combat veteran of the Vietnam war whom he felt more synergy with.
The weeks passed and he performed well enough to be considered for SAS selection. He was excited at this prospect as he felt it would help him get to the sharp end of the spear and engage the enemy. 5 of the fifteen made it through his course and he then proceeded for the next six months on to specialist training. He was the third American to join the ranks and only two remained. The other having deserted back to the states.
At this time he had contact with a Mr. Brown , a journalist in South Africa. He submitted articles to him and was pleased that they were to be published starting with his 'Protest'. In many of the articles that were published he explained his world view on the reasons Rhodesia was fighting its war, those whom he felt were the true enemies of freedom and democracy and even some problems he felt the Rhodesian Government were not handling properly. Although this gave him some notoriety it didn't bode well overall for his standing in the army.
Foreigners were welcome to the cause but were also targets of suspicion. The Rhodesians were well aware of their precarious standing with the US and Britain since the declaration of independence as a British colony and the rising support of African nationalism in the halls of US power. Many instances of CIA incursions into the country didn't help the trust factor of Americans being brought into secretive units. He however finished his training and was a full member of the SAS.
In September of 1972, he found himself at a crossroads and began to express his disappointment on issues agreed upon by British Delegates and Ian Smith.
-Unimpeded progress of Black Majority rule
-Stationing of foreign troops
-An increase of parliamentary seats by nationalists
-Coupling the Rhodesian dollar to the Pound
He felt that these things were the exact opposite of the cause of independence and preservation of Western Civilization and that nationalism was simply a route for Communism to take over. His commitment vascillated but he pressed on in hopes of fighting off the Red Hoard.
When he was posted to his unit he found it hard to bond with the troopers. With front line units, it requires a certain mindset. Those living the lifestyle of possibly dying often live their lives on the edge in their free time to escape the stress. The old adage of 'you don't send choir boys to fight a war' rang especially true. Coey was a teetoaler and his mates might have taken his disinterest in the things young soldiers love as an afront.
He however did manage to perform well enough to go for Officer's Selection, which he was most excited about. His internal angst at a perfect ideology and an army that performed it caused some reluctance that was noted by the officers board. "You take life too seriously and you must project your personality and withdraw from your shell".
He continued on but was dismissed from the course for academic and temperament issues. He began to realize that some of his views were considered subversive to the morale of the Rhodesian Army. His articles had reached the ears of people in charge and it was deemed best not to have an officer making any contrary statements to official stances within its ranks. He was rotated back to the SAS and began aggressive patrols searching out terr camps. He determined he would not be deterred and not falter on his personal beliefs. He enjoyed this but was still not meshing with the men of the SAS.
Things came to a head in December of 1973 when his Major said he would no longer be going on patrols and his jump pay revoked. He stated that Coey ' just wasn't worth it '. It was a great humiliation that cause him to consider applying for a discharge but instead chose to go to the RLI.
Coey reassesed his purpose and goals and wrote this.
My purpose in coming to Rhodesia has been to fulfill my Christian duty of opposing Communism in two ways. First is to focus attention on the Conspiracy by refusing to be its pawn and by writing to expose it. The second is to actively fight Commuist inpsired terrorism in Africa by Military service.
Even though he had become a victim of his own ideology in the SAS and Officers course he was about to embark on what he felt to be his real mission and put actions behind his convictions.
More to come........