With thanks to John Trigg


The belt came in two variations – the standard leather side-strap version as illustrated (which was far more numerous and widely worn by Patrol Officers and above), and a version with flat plate buckle (similar to the buckle used by RhACR) on which was mounted a chromed BSAP cap or helmet badge (usual finish being brass). These “special” belts were worn by a very select few senior officers (ranked Superintendant and above) within the Unit – well above the operational Company/Troop level. The black colour derived from the colour of our leather-work – black boots, cap-straps and leather belts – which distinguished us from the Duty Uniform branch and uniformed “techs” who wore brown leather. Indeed the Unit, and it’s members, were commonly referred to as “Blackboots”.

Interestingly the Support Unit Stable Belt could best be described as “unofficial but tolerated” –this strange status is best appreciated after a short “brief” on the Unit itself. The extent to which it was “tolerated” went so far as a stable belt having been worn by at least one of the recipients in a Medals Parade presided over by the State President.

The Support Unit was a separate branch within the BSAP, commanded (initially) by a Chief Superintendant, although the post soon became an Assistant Commissioner’s “billet” and eventually that of a Senior Ass. Comm. As the war in Rhodesia progressed, the Support Unit expanded massively, and it’s role became almost entirely military. In 1979 we fielded 12 operational Companies (approx 115 men) in a COIN Infantry role – virtually identical in size, organisation, role, training, equipment, and every other respect to an Army Infantry Company. Troop Commanders were Inspectors or C/Inspectors. We used the term “Troop” instead of “Platoon” – these being commanded by S/Os or Senior P/Os. Additionally we had a half company-sized “Mounted Troop” who operated as mounted infantry much as the Army’s “Grey’s Scouts” Regiment. The “teeth” of the unit were backed up by a HQ Company (Security & “Provost” duties), Training Troop, MT section, Armoury, etc eventually accommodated at an exceptionally well-equipped purpose-built barracks just outside Salisbury. To all intents and purposes, the Unit comprised two Battalion’s worth of well-trained “regular” infantry troops, in a country where the vast majority of available manpower were conscripts or reservists.

Whilst we were nominally members of the Police Force, the Unit’s almost exclusively military role rankled with no small number of hidebound professional Policemen and Staff Officers at Police General HQ and as a result, relations between “parent” organisation and it’s “child” could be fractious and strained. The Support Unit adopted a number of “variations” to standard Police Uniform as distinguish ourselves, and to enhance morale and helping to reinforce a unique identity. In addition to the black leatherwork, working dress in barracks (in addition to operational deployments)was standard Rhodesian SF Camouflage, we had a “Martial Eagle” patch worn on the left shoulder, and woven lanyards were worn in distinctive Company Colours. The black Stable Belt was another such initiative, and although it was never officially issued, or (as far as I know) any “official” batch produced, members were encouraged to acquire and wear them. My own was dyed, with the “donor belt” having started off in Rhodesia Regiment colours. A proposal from our HQ that we be allowed to adopt a black beret instead of the normal Police Peaked-Cap was resoundingly “vetoed” by the Commissioner of Police!

With thanks to John Trigg

Back to Previous Page

Back to Home Page

Home Page