Norman Walsh

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Air Marshal Norman Walsh OLM, BCR, ESM[1]
Air Marshal Norman Walsh.jpg
Nickname(s)Ming
Born22 May 1933
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Died3 August 2010 (aged 77)
Queensland, Australia
AllegianceSouthern Rhodesia Southern Rhodesia
Rhodesia Rhodesia
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Service/branchAir Force Ensign of Rhodesia (1970–1979).svg Rhodesian Air Force
Air Force Ensign of Zimbabwe.svg Air Force of Zimbabwe
Years of serviceto 1983
RankAm-rank.gif Air marshal
Commands heldNo. 1 Squadron
No. 7 Squadron
Air Force of Zimbabwe
AwardsOfficer of the Legion of Merit
Bronze Cross of Rhodesia
Exemplary Service Medal
RelationsMerilyn (wife), a son Colin and a daughter Lesley

Norman Walsh OLM BCR ESM (1932 or 1933 – 3 August 2010) was a senior officer in the Rhodesian Air Force and the first commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.[2]

Early life[edit]

Norman Walsh was born in 1932 or 33 and attended Queen's College in South Africa where he completed his education in 1949.[3] Walsh then moved to the neighbouring British colony of Southern Rhodesia and joined the Southern Rhodesian Air Force as an officer cadet.[4]

Rhodesian Air Force career[edit]

Walsh flew Hawker Hunters during his earlier Air Force years.[5] As a middle-ranking officer, he commanded No. 1 Squadron[6] before switching from fast jet to rotary. He took up command of No. 7 Squadron[7] in 1968, flying the Alouette III helicopter.[4] While in command of No. 7 Squadron, Walsh saw action during the guerrilla incursions from Zambia into Rhodesia. He and his squadron were involved in performing helicopter evacuations of wounded Rhodesian infantry, flying in other infantry to attack the guerrillas and providing direct machine gun fire to support ground troops. During these actions, Walsh's helicopter sustained hits from the guerrillas but he was able to continue flying. Walsh was also carried out forward air control duties, directing air strikes from Rhodesian Percival Provosts.[8] Walsh was awarded the Bronze Cross for conspicuous gallantry shown at this time.[4]

Walsh finished the 1960s as Officer Commanding the Flying Wing at New Sarum Air Force Station.[9]

In the 1970s, Walsh held senior appointments in the Rhodesian Air Force. Walsh was the Station Commander at New Sarum from 1975 to 1976.[9] He was Director of Operations at Air Force headquarters from August 1976 to 1977 during which time Walsh was the senior air force officer directly involved in the execution of Operation Dingo. At the end of his tour he was appointed an officer of the Legion of Merit for service as Director of Operations and other previous command and staff tours.[10]

From 1978 to 1980, Walsh was Director General Operations and during this time the Rhodesian Air Force was renamed the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Air Force. Walsh was appointed Chief of Staff in 1980, taking over from Air Marshal Frank Mussell.

Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe[edit]

In 1981, after Robert Mugabe had become prime minister, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Air Force was renamed the Air Force of Zimbabwe and Mugabe offered command of the air force to Walsh which he accepted.[11] Walsh's priorities were the recruiting of new personnel from the former guerrilla fighters and replacing outdated aircraft with up-to-date types. Key to this second priority was the acquisition of eight British BAE Hawk jet aircraft to operate in the strike fighter role which were to replace the antiquated Hunters of No. 1 Squadron. In the summer of 1982, Walsh personally led the British Aerospace ferry team which flew the new aircraft from Great Britain to Zimbabwe.[4]

On 25 July, just 10 days after the Hawks arrived in Zimbabwe, four of the eight ordered Hawks were damaged in a sabotage attack at Thornhill Air Force Base. Saboteurs had cut through the perimeter wire and placed time-delay bombs in the aircraft engines. Eight Hunters and a Cessna aircraft were also attacked. Although it was generally accepted that the saboteurs had been South African special forces, Mugabe ordered his Central Intelligence Organisation agents to arrest the senior air force officers who had been involved in procurement of the Hawks. In addition to Walsh, those arrested included his deputy and close friend, Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Slatter. After torture and beatings, forced confessions were extracted from Walsh's personnel and after nearly a year of international pressure the men brought to trial in the High Court in Harare. Following a lengthy hearing they were all acquitted but were rearrested by Central Intelligence Organisation agents as they left the court building.[12] It was not until international pressure had been applied for several more weeks, that the officers were released. With his men released, Walsh resigned his command as soon as he could,[4] officially leaving the service on 22 May 1983.[13] In July 1983 Walsh was replaced by Air Marshal Azim Daudpota who commanded the air force on loan service from Pakistan. Mugabe no longer trusted white officers and sought to replace them.[14]

Later life[edit]

Having been able to resign his position, Walsh left Zimbabwe, emigrating with his family to Australia shortly afterwards. Walsh died at his home in Queensland on 3 August 2010 at the age of 77.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "All military units 1967–1980". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  2. ^ "The Rhodesian Air Force". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  3. ^ "In Memoria". Queen's College. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Air Marshal Norman Walsh". The Daily Telegraph. 22 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  5. ^ Cooper, Tom (2 September 2003). "Central, Eastern, & Southern Africa Database: Mozambique, 1962–1992". acig.org. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  6. ^ "Rhodesian Air Force No 1 Squadron". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  7. ^ Maughan, Monty (2010). "Monty Maughan Odyssey · 1962 – 1980". ourstory.com. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  8. ^ Binda, Alexandre. The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry. 30° South Publishers. pp. 86, 88. ISBN 978-1-920143-07-7.
  9. ^ a b "Rhodesian Air Force New sarum". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  10. ^ "Rhodesian Air Force Honours and Awards". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  11. ^ "The Rhodesian Air Force". rhodesianforces.org. 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Zimbabwe: Court Overruled". TIME. 12 September 1983. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  13. ^ Geldenhuys, Preller (2014). Rhodesian Air Force Operations. Lulu.com. p. 283. ISBN 9780994115416.
  14. ^ Jongwe, Fanuel (31 August 2008). "Zimbabwe rival parties return home with no sign of deal". pub. Retrieved 4 September 2010.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
M Saunders
Officer Commanding No. 1 Squadron
4 May 1964 – 28 April 1966
Succeeded by
C Dams
Preceded by
J Rogers
Officer Commanding Flying Wing at New Sarum
December 1969–1970
Succeeded by
J Mussell
Preceded by
O D Penton
Station Commander New Sarum
1975–1976
Succeeded by
L Pink
Preceded by
Frank Mussell
As Commander of the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Air Force
Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe
1981–1983
Succeeded by
Azim Dauputa