Mike Subritzky

BATTALION OF THE DAMNED
NZATMC – AP Lima: 1980 Rhodesian War

March Battalion March!
March the long African day,
sing me the freedom songs,
as we die bravely on,
March the Battalion of the Damned.

Battalion of the Damned
This photograph shows the Battalion on Parade about a month before they were annihilated: Photograph ©Copyright 1980: The Subritzky Collection
Stolen away as children in 1976 –
to the training camps of the North
where the comrades taught us
the songs of revolution
and the weapons of the cause.
We were like rows and rows
of fresh buds of young mealie corn
nurtured and green in the
early sunlight of an African dawn.

March Battalion March!

We trained hard –
under the harsh discipline
of the sjambok, and the bullet
in the back of the head at midnight.
We learned in the camps
there was no place for pity
or surrender in the guerrilla war.
We were like rows and rows
of unripened mealie corn
strong and slender in the
burning sunshine of an African day.

March Battalion March!

We marched South in 1978 –
to wash our bayonets in the
blood of Smith’s men
in the Tribal Trust Lands of home.
In contact and running firefight
we cried and died
as the helicopter soldiers
of the Rhodesian Army sought
us out in relentless pursuit.
We were like rows and rows
of shattered and strewn mealie corn
devastated and torn in the
splintered lightening of an African storm.

March Battalion March!

At wars end in December 1979 –
we camped at Assembly Place Lima
with the New Zealand Peacemakers.
Tired and victorious we rested at Mhadlambudzi
where we sang songs of revolution
and cleaned our weapons after battle.
We were like rows and rows
of sun jaded mealie corn
lethargic and spent in the
afternoon glow of an African sunset.

March Battalion March!

In April 1980 –
we advanced from our camp at
Essexvale to fight against Mugabe’s men at the
Bulawayo. Ambushed by remnants
of the Rhodesia African Rifles
our lead armour was struck
by rockets and then the gunships
fell upon us, with their frightening
sound and endless cannons.
We fell like rows and rows
of ripened mealie corn
harvested in blood and bullets in the
red gloom of an African twilight.

March Battalion March!

How we died that day –
there at that dusty ambush
outside of Bulawayo.
800 Regulars and 200 Guerrillas.
The lifeblood of our entire Battalion
is now but a ghost from another African war.
Our bones lie like rows and rows
of skeletal mealie corn stalks
stark and silent as we lie here, in the
moonlight of an African night.

March Battalion March!
March the long African day,
sing me the freedom songs,
as we die bravely on,
March the Battalion of the Damned.

In memory of the 1st ZIPRA BATTALION Zimbabwe Peoples Revolutionary Army. Formed: 1976 from Rhodesian children stolen by Joshua Ngkomo: Operational: 1978 – 1979 Tribal Trust Lands of Matabeleland: Annihilated: April 1980 on the outskirts of Bulawayo: Average Age: 16