The insurgency in Rhodesia was becoming a problem. Lt Stan Mitty was approached to see if he was interested in a seconding as an adviser/instructor with their fledgling army air wing. Sounding like it was an interesting proposal as the Vietnam War had ended as far as Australia was concerned. Stan volunteered and together with Captain Brian Roberts, assigned to the Rhodesian military academy.
Stan arrived at the airport in Rhodesia, and he found Bob Samuels waiting for the same transport to the Academy. It was an old home week, despite the disparity in rank. Attaching to their army air wing, Stan was soon in his element demonstrating how valuable light fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were in the forward observation roles.
At the same time, the rebels became more active and started forming company strength detachments rather than using the small hit and run tactics that they had employed to date.
Stan was running the delivery shuttle for General staff when on an overnight stay the Firebase. The base came under attack resulting in several causalities and damage to his aircraft. While awaiting repair crew and injuries to the commander; Stan stepped in and filled the position while waiting for the reinforcements. The relief took several days, Stan organised the defences and clearing patrols finding evidence of improvised explosive devices radioed HQ for engineer assistance.
The relief column arrived with the mechanics and engineers. Bob was acting as an instructor with the engineers.
“G’day Bob, did ‘ya bring the beer?” Stan greeted him, “A little bit of excitement happening here, soon set them straight.”
“If I thought that things were that desperate, I could have thrown some of the aircraft bits out to fit some more grog,” Bob answered.
“Typical, I don’t want to walk home, that’s the whole point of being a flyboy,” Stan said.
“Okay, what’s the score? I have been clearing the road as I came. After a rest I will pull your chestnuts from the fire,” Bob asked.
“There is a Company strength rebel force sitting back in the hills over there. They gave the army a little touch-up, but the troops rallied and gave them a bloody nose. No serious causalities either side, we are now waiting until they build their courage up and have another go,” Stan described the situation, “We have dug in and set up defences.”
“I see the toy has the most protection,” Bob observed.
“Well if I’m to get it in back in one piece, I need a little warning of when to duck,” Stan pointed out. “In the meantime, they have the road around the hill mined, and there is a convoy on hold.”
“OK if you have the map and point out the area needing clearing with observation points?” Bob asked.
“Steve, would you be as kind as to bring the maps over?” Stan asked, waving at his sergeant.
“Bob Samuels, Steve Alberts, ah there we are,” Stan introduced them, then pointing to the pencilled notes, “Best guess that is where the ZANU camp is, the mines are along this road, and these are the points overlooking the work zone.”
“Yeah that hill would make an excellent mortar site, best that you have that isolated or occupied,” Bob suggested.
“I had planned a patrol after dusk, and if someone is watching perhaps we can catch them having a nap,” Stan said with Steve nodding, “From there it is also a useful vantage for us to watch for them coming down for a party.”
“Count me in there’s bound to be booby traps on the approach points if I find them perhaps I will move them a bit and give them a surprise,” Bob offered.
“Charlie was fond of doing that to the Yanks causing all sorts of fun,” Stan agreed, “Didn’t take long for the Aussies to return the favour, a fence is only as good as the guard watching it.”
The word had got around that Stan was on the warpath; selecting a fighting patrol, Stan led these out at last light to position them for the assault on the hilltop first swinging around to the rear of the target with Bob leading the way checking for IEDs as they went. As they were approaching from the enemy side, there were few of these devices; Bob disabled those found as he went.
Calling a scout using sign, Stan with his company crept closer to the suspected encampment, as they approached the smell of cooking was evident. Locating a vantage point, Stan observed the camp, and there were three occupants busily cooking a meal without bothering with a lookout. Then signalling another three men forward, Stan leopard crawled to the edge of the clearing and indicated to his native speaker to call them to surrender. The trio raised their hands as their weapons were out of reach, men moved forward and secured them, bundling them back to the main camp for secure confinement. Still, in patrol mode, the lookout was secured, and the mortar was re-aimed to the rear.
Bob indicated he was resetting the IEDs for their use, adding a few of his own to make life difficult for those ZANLA soldiers who may seek to join them. The captured radio was checked to make sure that it was not transmitting and set a watch listening.
Having made the lookout site more defensible with trenches and sandbags around the mortar, Bob and Stan cleared a pathway back to the main camp as it wouldn't be sensible not to have a backdoor available for retreat also allowing safe removal of the three prisoners. On returning to the camp, supplies were organised and sent back up to the lookout camp to ensure its security by clearing and digging the trenches to the next level.
Stage one is little more than a two-foot deep scrape with the spoil piled in front which you cover with ground litter. Stage two increases the depth to four feet with the occupant extending the ramparts around the sides and rear, at the same time your men cleared fire lanes by laying bushes over towards the foe thus reducing cover without being obvious.
On the way in earlier, an ambush site had been scouted to be manned if an enemy mounted an attack on the hill; this site was to set up a crossfire on the assailants. By midday, the unfriendly force showed that they had found out the hard way. They had set off one of the booby traps when bringing supplies up to the hill. This IED was a grenade in a tin can with a slack fishing line across the track; it made a bit of noise.
Once the team heard this explosion. Stan brought his ambush team in from the rear to cover a clearing on the approach to the hill. With two light machine guns and a half dozen riflemen to cover, they leopard crawled from the rear into position to wait for the inevitable charge to recapture the lookout. As a dozen armed men crossed the clearing, Stan signalled the ambush by shooting the lead scout. Then the machine guns at each end started working the fire along the file inflicting causalities as it went. This gunfire signalled the mortar to drop a couple of rounds at the end of the target area. This action was the time for Stan's ambush party to withdraw and set up another ambush closer to the enemy camp. This second ambush was to catch any enemy trying to encircle the original ambush site.
They didn't have to wait long as rustles in the underbrush and whispers betrayed a group forming behind the last ambush site, these being hopeful of catching Stan's men withdrawing from the site. Stan directed the grenade launcher to start firing into the mass as he waved his troops forward to overrun the remainder. After making one pass through the group, Stan reversed and grabbed a couple of his minor casualties, withdrew back to the main camp to recuperate and regroup.
After reloading and renewing ammunition, Stan called his NCOs in for a brief, "I believe we thinned them down, and they will have returned to their camp to regroup and lick their wounds. Leave a holding party here, and all able-bodied get ready we will chase them back to where they came from."
Stan had to restrain some of his men from charging out as no one wanted to miss out including those carrying wounds. Since the enemy thought that the last thing Stan would do was to chase, they were unprepared for the onslaught. Stan and his men caught them crossing into their lines hampered by carrying their wounded. After a short firefight, Stan and his men had captured the enemy base together with most of the remaining troops and their weapons with only a few escaping into the brush.
Usually, company strength versus company is not successful without serious losses on both sides, but the ZANLA force had already been trimmed and was in a bad way morale-wise. Stan's platoon moved the spoils back to the main camp; this was a significant pile of the equipment. The platoon held the captured men behind a barbed-wire fence; they were a forlorn group waiting for their fate.
Turning over the mine-clearing task to Bob and his crew, then setting patrols combing the area for militants, Stan was at last, able to concentrate on repairing his aircraft. A little frustrated because the work was being carried out by a repair party with the appropriate authority to sign that it was serviceable, being a pilot he was supposed to sit quietly out of the way, even though he was a senior aircraft technician. After completion of the repair and Stan carried out all the engine checks to certify the aircraft for flight, this he was able to do as he was a qualified test pilot.
The replacement officers arrived to assume command and were surprised at what had happened as there was only an exchange pilot left to keep a static defence.
Bob now had his work cut out mine clearing, finishing about the same time as the aircraft, so in the morning Stan hailed him, "Hey Bob want to save your corns and hitch a ride with me?"
"Haven't I been through enough yet? I suppose I had better I might miss out on some drinking time," Bob returned.
"Make an Aussie out of you yet, you have the right priorities, Okay, grab your gear, and we will shake the dust from our daks."
The aircraft went through the warm-up and testing routines before lining up on the road and taking off and turning towards the airfield. Stan lined his aircraft to land at the base airfield. He then touched down and taxied to the parking area where he secured the aircraft. "See you later in the mess tent, Bob," Stan said first going over to the maintenance office to sign off on the aeroplane and then stow his flight gear in the pilot's ready room. After which he proceeded to give his report to the adjutant.
"Anything new I should know about while I was gone?" Stan asked.
"Brigade has a push on upcountry, I suppose Colonel Brown will need a lift," Lt Ashbury replied, "Has much happened yourself, I thought you had engine trouble, and we had to send a repair team?"
"Yep could have fixed it myself if I had the bits, but we must keep the mechs happy," Stan said, "Had a little entertainment from the insurgents. Off to the mess for cleanup and feed, see you later."
When he walked into the mess, Captain Roberts hailed him, "Oy Stan, what have you done this time? Have you been involved in another stoush?" Roberts asked, "I am getting lots of flack about you getting your hands dirty; when this last exploit gets back to Australia expect another rocket."
"I am used to those, do you want me to stand back, allow them to wreck my plane and have to walk?" Stan laughed.
Roberts walked off, shaking his head as Bob joined Stan at the mess line while they waited for the meal. Senior NCOs and officers messed in the same place.
"What do you reckon? Survive this meal?" Stan quipped then asked. "Hear any dramas brewing?"
"There is some build up out to the South West," Bob suggested, "The intelligence indicates another company strength is moving towards us."
"Probably why they are sending the brigade that way," Stan said.
Stan was called over to HQ for a briefing on his new task, as he was walking past the Brigadier's office the Brigadier stepped out and indicated Stan to enter.
"Mitty, I have just read the report from your latest exploit; I thought I told you to stay out of trouble?" He demanded.
"Sorry Sir, I always try to do so but when my aircraft is in peril, and someone had to take charge to settle the threat," Stan replied.
"If you want to be a footslogger, we can arrange that; I am tired of receiving 'please explains' from your bosses; any more and you may have a ticket home," Brigadier Thompson stated.
"Perish the thought, I wasn't keen on the dust or mud in Vietnam and old age hasn't made me any happier with the idea," Stan replied.
"See that you keep out of strife, could you run Colonel Brown up to the firebase?" Thompson ordered.
"Your wish is my command, sir," Stan accepted.
"Better believe it, carry on," Thompson confirmed.
Stan went on to the staff room where he received the orders for the transfer tomorrow, with a relatively new pilot in command with Stan acting as the check pilot programmed to leave early and deliver the colonel to his base in the bush. There was strip prepared for the landing alongside the camp. Early next morning Stan walked to the aircraft, to find Pilot Officer 'Red' Neville going through the routine of preflight.
As Stan was also responsible for the aircraft, he also carried the preflight as well. "Not doubting you but it is always a good habit to maintain," Stan grinned when Neville noticed. As they were completing this, Colonel Brown arrived with his gear and hailed them, "Good morning, all set are we?"
"Yes, sir, threw in a little baling wire and chewing gum if something looks like falling off," Stan assured him.
"Make it a smooth trip then, and we should arrive in one piece," Brown laughed aware that Stan was almost obsessive-compulsive with the serviceability of his aircraft.
"Climb aboard, and we will get on the way," Stan said as he mounted the right seat, "Lieutenant Neville will be the captain I am just along for the ride."
"Okay, I am ready," Brown advised as he climbed in and strapped-in.
Red started the motor and taxied out to the warm-up area to complete the before flight checks. This routine finished he radioed for clearance, then aligned with the runway, and when cleared revved up and took off swinging around towards the brigade base, Sighting the base, Red lined up and descended, coming to a halt at the runway end where Brown's car was waiting.
"We will do a recce and drop a flag if we see anything," Stan farewelled.
"That would be a help, thanks for the lift." Brown acknowledged as he jumped out waving them off as he cleared the wings,
Once Col Brown was clear, Red revved up and taxied to the runway end, before commencing take off and starting the spiral outwards to carry out the recce.
"Swing up that way will you, there are some dust clouds," Stan advised.
Red turned the nose of the aircraft over towards the indicated spot, and as they drew closer, it became evident that a large number of vehicles were on the move. As they circled the convoy it was plain that they were unfriendly, they pointed weapons at them, and there was a streak indicating an RPG coming up towards them. The attackers had miscalculated the aircraft altitude. The smake trail fell well short dropping back down to the ground then exploding behind the plane.
"Well that certainly was unfriendly, what do you reckon battalion strength?" Stan commented. "Better write a note, Colonel Brown might want to know about this."
Stan then plotted the location and direction of the convoy writing the information on a note and placing it in the capsule attached to the ribbon, which was the delivery method of these messages. Arriving at the airfield, Stan threw the ribbon clear which spiralled down to the base where a land rover drove out and picked it up.
"Okay, the job's done, back to base and a rest, eh?" Stan commented.
"Yep beats walking or sleeping rough," Red agreed.
Arriving back at the base Red parked the aircraft and went into the ready room to hand the aeroplane over while Stan just stored his gear and went back to HQ to pass on the sightings. "Heads up there is a large force heading towards the firebase, Col. Brown may need a little help," Stan reported, "Here is a list of what I saw." Stan handed over the report.
"Hey Stan, come in," Brigadier Thompson ordered.
"What's up, sir?" Stan asked.
"Your ticket home has arrived," Thompson informed him, "It seems the last report was received, and they weren't impressed. I received a hint that perhaps you may be looking at early retirement."
"That's a bit rough after pulling all their chestnuts out of the fire for them," Stan complained.
"If you wish, there is an opening here for a pilot, Captain rank?" Thompson offered.
"I will think about that; I will get back to you," Stan advised.
Stan went back to the mess and sought out Captain Roberts, "Oy Brian, what's the word on my return to Oz?"
"The word is that you have stirred up all the feathers in the wrong places and the Powers That Be are after your blood," Roberts informed, "I did warn you."
"You did, though I didn't expect they would go the whole deal," Stan agreed, "However I do have an offer for here carries a promotion as well, bears thinking about."
"Well there is no chance back in Oz for that, I have a posting myself as a company commander, may I suggest that is because I didn't stir the pigeons," Brian advised wryly.
"Okay, rub it in, might see you around the traps sometimes," Stan laughed.
Stan walked over and found Bob, "It seems I upset the nobs at home, but as luck would have it, there is a job here for me," Stan said.
"Sounds good, so have I for much the same reasons, the difference being that old Blighty has decided to thin down the troops a bit starting with me," Bob stated, "Besides this government is on the nose worldwide, and both of our governments are trying to distance themselves."
"I am still thinking about the offer, there is a civvy helicopter job back at home if the worst comes to pass," Stan said, "Could be a bit boring but that's life."
"Let's see how the chips fall and then we can make a decision then," Bob suggested.
"Yep best, if my luck holds we will be in for a bit of fun before the week is out," Stan said.
"Oh god, I believe I need to be somewhere else," Bob suggested with a jaundiced air.
"Come on now it is only a rumour that I attract trouble," Stan grinned, "Perhaps if you stand close enough, the lightning will hit someone else."
"Even safer if you are in the next county," Bob finished, "However I am on my way up to brigade as they need extra engineer help."
"There is a large force approaching that camp and not friendly," Stan advised.
"I gather that's why I have an invite," Bob noted.
"Should be safe as I won't be there," Stan laughed, "I see you when you get back."
Bob stood up and waved as he headed out to his quarters to prepare. Stan finished his meal and went back to his bunk himself to read up on the sit-reps affecting the aviation detachment. We prepare for the buildup of insurgents by having the aircraft standing by for medevacs and ammunition resupply. "I think I had better get all the pilots briefed on this and then work out likely scenarios." Stan considered. He walked down to the ready room and hung a notice for the mornings brief indicating it was essential as the pilots tended to be a bit casual with their attendance. He was one of the worst offenders without much prompting. The next morning Stan was there with the senior pilot to emphasise the situation as hazardous and to expect sudden jobs into tight situations.
"When it is the most dangerous, for that is just when they most need you. In Vietnam, the boys on the ground cheered when they knew it was Navy helicopter coming, despite the dust, wet, dark or morning tea they would be there," Stan narrated, "The Army pilots flew small fixed-wing aircraft to deliver small stuff. They were also in trouble for fitting rocket launchers to their Porters which upset the Swiss."
"What about the Air Force?" One pilot asked.
"The pilots were keen, but their bosses had a big rule-book which they had to read before they did anything," Stan said, "Not that the pilots were happy about the situation. the difference being the most junior pilot in the Navy or Army are in command no matter who is their passenger."
"Still the situation we face is the insurgents knowing exactly where our forces are, so will pick the most suitable time place and bad weather to start their campaign," Stan advised, "The Met guys predict a storm front coming through in a few days, expect them to take advantage of that."
"I have put forward a wish list of capability and stores to be delivered. Then determine what the conditions are," Stan offered, "There is a convoy on its way with reinforcements that will need the route scouted for enemy activity. To this end all of the aircraft will be fitted with enough ordinance to harass the insurgents and give them something to think about, I wasn't too happy about having them take a pot shot at me with no answer."
This last gave them a bit of cheer up with the idea of stirring the enemy.
"The best tactics are either fast and low to pounce before they realise that you are there or snipe out of range of their RPGs. Best targets are the vehicles as they are essential for the quick movement of large groups," Stan advised, "This afternoon I will be taking a couple of Huey up to recce the road and see if I can spoil some drivers day."
"I am up for the wingman," Red offered.
"Send us a note if you spot a party going on and we will deliver some fireworks to liven it up," Squadron Leader Tompkins suggested.
"You're on wouldn't want to leave you out of the fun," Stan agreed, "Red, I will be ready to lift off in an hour."
At the time suggested Stan was finishing the pre-flights as the rest of the crew arrived and loaded their gear. The loadmaster and his offsider took their position manning the M60s in the doorways. When all were ready, and Red was running his machine alongside, Stan received clearance, they lifted off in tandem, before heading towards where he expected the insurgents would be gathering.
On the way, they overflew the convoy outward bound for Brigade camp receiving friendly waves. Using the radio, Stan informed the convoy commander, "I will stir up the road ahead; you will have no surprises."
"Rodger, leave a little for us."
The two aircraft thundered on with the news of their approach heralded by the blade thumps up to fifteen kilometres ahead. The warning translates to about two to three minutes warning of their approach, just enough time for a truck to run off the road for cover but not enough for the dust to settle. In the distance, dust clouds were arising on a side road cutting across our convoy path, so Stan radioed and said, "Bogies ahead, I will see if I can discourage them from being a nuisance."
"Rodger, convoy, wait out," The convoy commander replied.
As the helicopters converged on the sighting position, the target showed that they had spotted the aircraft by dispersing into the scrub and forming a defensive posture. Stan signalled Red that they should orbit at a hundred metres strafing at an opportunity. As they swung into the front of the area, some reaction occurred as several rockets rose to meet them.
"Ah, their aim is still off, the more of those they waste, the less to use on ground troops," Stan laughed, "Give them curry." The last to Red over the radio.
As they were traversing down the left side, the starboard gunner opened up and sprayed the column scattering the troops, a couple of small explosions and smoke plumes indicating that they had hit one or two trucks. Swinging the nose around Stan sighted on a pair of the trucks and then fired a salvo of rockets destroying them, Stan then he signalled Red to reverse down the same track to give the port gunner a run. After a few passes, Stan saw the success by a scattering of soldiers trying to run further into the scrub. Stan then radioed base to call the ground attack aircraft to finish the job of dispersal and destruction of the vehicles. "OK we leave the fixed wings to deal with these, and we go on and check the rest of the road." Stan radioed Red.
"I am with you; reckon about company strength?" Red responded.
"Yep. Radio that back to base and the convoy," Stan acknowledged, "Still plenty more out there."
They resumed their patrol and headed further along the road leading to the camp. There was no visible movement to intercept the convoy. Stan landed at the airfield to report what they had observed and to find out what areas they were needed to recce. Stan shut the rotors down, and the dismounted leaving the co-pilot to do the after-flight and strode over to the HQ tent. "Good day, sir,” Stan asked. "Gave a small mob a bit of a touch up at this spot." Stan then pointed at the coordinates on the map.
"About how many?" Major Jones asked.
"Company strength with about a dozen medium trucks I think I nailed about four or five of those and Red knocked over a couple as well, I expect there will be a few on foot after that," Stan assessed, "They may have intended to ambush your convoy."
"That is due to arrive in an hour, they radioed in that they had watched the fireworks and didn't think those will be a problem," Jones passed on, "Apparently there was only smoking wrecks left when they sent a small patrol to check. What you didn't get, the ground attack boys cleaned up."
"Always a pleasure to deliver to satisfaction," Stan acknowledged then asked, "Now what is the intelligence here; I can do a recce to pinpoint the larger force component?"
Referring to the map, Major Jones pointed to several high points scattered around the perimeter of the small hills overlooking the brigade camp. After viewing this for a few minutes, Stan made a face, "I have seen this setup before; it was a place called Dien Bien Phu. The French Foreign Legion decided to draw the Viet Minh into battle. What they didn't know was that the insurgents had acquired artillery from China, the Viet Minh then dug tunnels from the backside of the mountains. Once in position, these weapons blew the crap out of the French, with them subsequently giving up and withdrawing from Indo-China."
"Right I see your point if they have anti-aircraft and big artillery that we don't know about; that could be a problem. I will have a word with Colonel Brown," Jones considered the situation, pointed at the risk points, then directing, "If you could swing around these points and observe them for heavy vehicles. We should have sufficient warning and take steps."
"If they brought up enough anti-aircraft guns it would this place indefensible," Stan considered, "I will run a recce up behind those hills and see if anything is building up. The advantage we have up to now is that no larger countries were sending heavy stuff, as the only one capable, is our friend."
After refuelling the aircraft, the two took off again and swung around the hills keeping a safe distance from possible AA fire. Stan set the route to sweeping down one side trying to spot tyre tracks consistent with heavy artillery tow trucks. HQ knew that there had been a few heavy machine guns mounted on medium trucks while suitable for mobile Anti-Aircraft units. Not suitable for heavier sites due to counter attacks by ground-attack aircraft, being susceptible to scissor attacks. As Stan was well into his survey, he spotted some unusual tracks that he wasn't familiar with, leading up the back of the higher hills and as he came closer, several trucks swung into view with multiple machine guns mounted on them, which upon sighting them opened up sending gunfire towards them. "We are out of here," Stan ordered, "Before they get their eye in."
Stan fired a couple of rockets off as he said this to keep their heads down. Red had been following so had an extra few seconds warning and led Stan's helicopter back away from the hazard.
"Back to base and check up on the new tracks," Stan ordered, as they retreated to safety. Landing back at the airfield Stan shut down then did a walk-around of the aircraft and finding some bullet holes. "Damn extra ventilation probably why there was a little vibration," Stan observed, "That needs fixing before I return to base."
Stan then went over to HQ tent to report those sightings. "Heads up, they have some big toys, lend us your artillery ID photos so I can have a look," Stan said, then having the folder Stan soon narrowed the identification of the tracks to a disturbing few. "You have multi 22.5 cm rocket launchers coming up behind those hills," Stan pointed to the appropriate positions, "With heavy AA machine guns accompanying them. I counted half a dozen of each and had some extra ventilation before I made myself scarce."
"Serious news, your aircraft is hors de combat?" Jones commented.
"I can patch it up fairly quickly but haven't done a full assessment. Red's helicopter is untouched, but by himself; he would be vulnerable." Stan added. "I will need to signal base for some engineering assistance to patch my toy."
"I believe we have a small team here that would be able to get your Hughie off the strip and into cover, they then can start the repair." Jones supplied.
"If my assessment is correct the first target will be the airfield to prevent a large aircraft landing," Stan said, "I will do an assessment on my aeroplane and have a talk with the mechs." Stan went over to his plane to begin the in-depth survey as to what components needed repair or replacement.
All of the structure and components were intact with superficial damage to the skin, locating the aircraft techs, he conferred with them to describe the required battlefield repairs. As they had some sheet metal and the tools, the task was soon arranged requiring only a couple of hours work. The repair area had to be prepared first with a dugout with the spoil built up on three sides with the entrance protected by sandbags. Then with a camouflage net covering the top to make the aircraft less visible.
"Rightio Red, back to base, we mustn't have too many targets for them to shoot at," Stan ordered, "You can bring some ammo for my toy back with you tomorrow."
"OK, see you, boss," Red acknowledged with a grin, "Have fun here. I will have a pint for you tonight." The blades were soon turning as Red started and prepared for the return flight. Roaring to full power, Red performed a steep climb before clearing the field to minimise exposure to ground fire and disappeared from view.
By the time Red departed, they were towing Stan's Huey into its dugout, and the Engineers were busy placing the sandbags into position. This protection allowed the mechs to commence work in safety. The repair then progressed at a realistic pace, and the Hughie was approaching serviceable. Stan had lots of pain for not jumping in and helping.
Still, the mechs had completed the repairs in time, and Stan prepared to do the test runs. Then after pulling the sandbags aside, the Hughie was towed out to start the engine runs and flight trials. The runs were mainly to check for vibrations and as the controls were functional before so there were no dramas.
Stan merely ran up, lifted off into the hover and swung the aircraft around the compass to feel for vibrations and once he determined that all was well, landed and signed all the relevant paperwork to declare the aircraft serviceable. After completing the after-flight inspection, the Hughie was towed back into the dugout and camouflaged again.
Having everything covered up for the night, Stan adjourned to the firebase HQ to see the intelligence. Walking in, he located the tactical map and observed the latest updates. Major Jones seeing him advised, "Had a spotter plane up and confirmed your sighting of the rocket launchers. Might get a little lively overnight. Everyone is digging in and preparing as best we can, and we are garrisoning as many of the overlooking hills as possible."
"I would expect that the primary targets would be HQ, your mortars and of course, my toy," Stan suggested.
The camp was a hive of activity with all those remaining busily digging in and inspecting camouflage while this was happening several patrols left to scout enemy positions. Stan had found a likely spot so had the engineers scrape a hollow and set up a mini bunker to arrange his tent below ground level for the night. Standing back and taking a look to see his handiwork, he found that walking more than a few feet away that he couldn't see it. "Perhaps I need some signposts so I can find it again," Stan laughed to himself.
As expected, the enemy's barrage commenced as soon as night fell. The attacker's aim was off with most of the rounds falling harmlessly in the open areas. The base's mortars having been sighted-in, only had to adjust the aim slightly setting off the intruder's spare ammunition. This response made the balance of the enemy launchers nervous, and they ceased firing; however not before their positions had been noted, and clearing patrols had located them and destroyed a couple more complete with crew.
In the morning, Stan went to survey his transport only to find that of the few hits; it was his toy that had caught a blast, not a total wreck but one that would require extensive repairs from the shrapnel damage. "Damn I have to walk for a while," Stan said as he had a closer look and assessed the new damage. Having determined that a full workshop team would be required, and that wouldn't be possible until patrols dealt with the local insurgents, Stan went to the HQ tent to report and find what else had happened. As he walked into the tent, it was a hive of activity as each area delivered damage and causality reports.
"My Huey is damaged, I am on the ground for the near future," Stan reported, "Repairable back at the base."
"Sorry to hear that, with the last rocket launchers still out there it will be a while before it would be safe to repatriate it," Jones said, "B company commander was injured, apart from that only a bit of equipment damage."
"How about I sit in for him I am at a loose end for now?" Stan proposed.
"Eh? You're a pilot and a foreign one at that," Jones asked.
"Couple of phone calls will fix that, My old mob are looking for an excuse to get rid of me, and Brigadier Thompson has invited me to swap over," Stan informed him, "Colonel Brown can do the signup."
"I think I will ask him first. If he is that desperate I will let you know, did you run that stoush up the road?" Jones asked dubiously.
"I may have, the colonel knows all about it, Staff Samuels is looking for a job as well," Stan supplied, "Apart from being a top field engineer he is well experienced in similar tactics in several areas."
"Okay, I will pass it on, and get back to you soon," Jones assured.
It wasn't long before Jones returned and passed on the news, "Apparently the two bosses have been talking and are happy to take you on, follow me in, and he will put you through the ropes."
Stan followed back into Lt Colonel Brown's tent where he was waiting, "Okay here's the form and here is the acknowledgement of resignation from Australia. So sign here and here," pointing at the relevant spots, "You can do the ceremony any time, but if you are ready I will fill you in on the situation and who is in your new platoon."
"I am fairly up to speed as I have provided some of the intelligence and have carried out close contact in action in the past," Stan said. After an hour Stan had as much information there was available, he then moved over to the new platoon to familiarise himself with the men and section commanders.
It was a motley bunch mostly farmers on military reserve, some of them were involved in his last action and were happy to see him.
Speaking to Sergeant Steve Alberts, "Did old Jim catch another round?" Stan asked.
"Yep, I think he has an eye on one of the nurses, which is why he keeps heading for the hospital," Steve answered, "Seriously only bad luck, a bit of shrapnel got him in the leg so he should be back up here next week."
"What has the boss got you doing next?" Stan asked.
"Platoon strength patrol to remove stragglers from this sector," Steve explained pointing at the map, "We move out in about an hour to catch them on the hop before they think we can move."
"I will need some gear and my rifle then I will be ready," Stan said, "Show me the QM's tent and won't take me long as I travel light in an aircraft."
Once the store was pointed out, Stan moved over to the indicated tent. Stan requisitioned the light patrol harness to carry the spare ammo, soon decked out he rejoined the platoon HQ section ready to go out on the fighting patrol.
The patrol arrived at the staging area, one section spread out and commenced a clearing sweep through the planned hillside. HQ briefed the patrol that a large insurgent force would be present. The lead section was confident that the leaders would be back at their main camp, still sleeping. This negligence of the leaders left the ordinary soldiers waiting. Until then, they would be camping and just twiddling their thumbs.
It wasn't long before the patrol made the first contact. The lead section was moving line abreast and caught a dozen insurgents busy with breakfast. The standard procedure was to fire at targets as an opportunity presented in the direction of march, then to continue leaving the next section to tidy up, removing mobile causalities and weapons as they went. After clearing one area, the lead group would then go to ground and allowing the third section to patrol through, the second wave then dropped to the third position as they finished rendering safe the cleared area.
As Stan had assigned himself the third section as a rifleman and now took his turn patrolling through, he was moving across an abandoned campsite when a rustle alerted him to a figure behind a bush. Then firing instinctively Stan hit his man, a quick examination revealed that he had an AK47 with several magazines. Usually, the poor level of training of the insurgents meant that instead of taking out several of the section, he hesitated long enough to be spotted. It was also helpful for the defenders, that often the insurgents failed to maintain the weapons and they didn't fire when needed, thus keeping the field causalities to a minimum amongst the Government troops.
Arriving at the planned assembly point to regroup, the section commanders briefed Stan with the tally being twenty insurgents and their weapons were either eliminated or captured, with six wounded, Stan decided that as the sweep was complete and it was time to return to base camp.
After delivering the haul to safety, Stan reported the success of their operation, Combined with the results of the other two platoons, neutralising nearly a third of the insurgents and removed fifty rifles from the enemy.
"There is still another six rocket launchers serviceable out there. You can expect another barrage tonight," Major Jones advised.
The night's barrage began from different positions as they had learnt the lesson of the last night. The answering mortars soon quietened them down. This time rifle fire erupted as insurgents under cover of the rockets had infiltrated the base and were attacking the HQ camp. Stan rallied his platoon and counter-attacked, driving the hostiles back exacting punishment on them as they fled. Securing the invasion path, Stan carried out clearance patrols to ensure there were no stragglers or wounded friendlies.
In the morning, Stan went up to the headquarters to assess the damage and found that the HQ had received the brunt of the attack with most of the HQ company wounded and needed evacuation. As Stan had been at the centre of the intelligence, he reset the HQ and started liaising with the company commanders to facilitate countermeasures. As they had been dealing with their areas, they accepted the orders as coming from HQ and proceeded to carry out the details.
With Col Brown and Major Jones evacuated to base hospital with most of the Brigade HQ, Stan soon had the base back to normal organising several clearing patrols, and it wasn't long before the insurgents had had enough and withdrew with the ground attack aircraft attacking them until they crossed the border.
The word came back from the base that the two senior officers required long-term hospitalisation. Meaning that the current setup was to continue until HQ could send relief forces. This changeover would be delayed as the insurgents had mined the road, the clearing of which would take some time.
Stan arranged for Bob to take his engineer section out and start clearing the roads of mines with a platoon of soldiers either side to discourage ambush.
After the latest report was received, Stan also received communication in response promoting him to Major and appointed acting Lt Col in charge of the base. Once the full reins were in his hands officially, Stan organised extra patrols and cleared the remaining insurgents from the area. When Lt Col Brown returned to relieve, the area had been declared safe from major incursions with all of the heavy weapons either destroyed or captured. The surviving hostiles either captured or retreating. The mechanics had evacuated Stan's Helicopter by now to the main base for the major repairs required.
While this was ongoing Sub-Lt Smith, the acting adjutant came in and announced, "We have two officers on detachment wanting to join the force here."
"Wheel them in, and I will have a deco," Stan said as he did so two strange uniforms entered and introduced themselves.
"I am from Israel on secondment, Lt Saul Isaacs, would you mind if we stayed and observed your techniques?" Saul asked, not identifying his companion, who stood quietly listening.
"Strange place to meet, I suppose can't knock back friends, " Stan asked.
Saul asked, "I thought you were flying a chopper on secondment from Australia?"
"Unlucky shot stuffed it, and they raided the HQ, so I had to hold the fort for a while," Stan laughed, "And that accent tells me you are another Aussie."
"I am fine until I open my mouth and speak Strine; we are here to watch. Is there anything happening?" Saul asked.
"Going on a recce later just to clear the final remnants, I have included myself as I can know the actual situation," Stan said, "Yes a CO shouldn't join in the fun, but I am still learning and need to keep my ear to the ground."
So at the appointed time the fighting patrol assembled with Stan and his guests in the middle once organised they swung out to cover the area where the bulk of the insurgents had been stationed. The patrol swept through the close vicinity, found an occasional enemy, who the patrol uncovered and neutralised. A couple of times, Stan would observe the skinny Israeli disappear and then suddenly return without disturbing a leaf. This ability was something that Stan found disturbing as he had a good reputation himself with quiet movement, but this man had no trouble making Stan look clumsy. Once the patrol had returned to the base, the visitors disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. This patrol was the last action initiated by the base before Brown and Jones returned from convalescence to resume their duties.