Peter Walls

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Lieutenant General George Peter Walls
G.L.M.; D.C.D.; M.B.E.
General Walls.jpg
Nickname(s) Peter
Born 1927
Southern Rhodesia
Died 20 July 2010(2010-07-20) (aged 83)
George, Western Cape, South Africa
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army (1940s)
Rhodesian Army (c. 1950–80)
Zimbabwe National Army (1980)
Years of service ??–1980
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit Black Watch
Rhodesian Special Air Service
Rhodesian Light Infantry
Commands held Combined Operations Headquarters of the Military of Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe
Battles/wars World War II
Malayan Emergency
Rhodesian Bush War
Relations Eunice (wife), three daughters and a son

Lieutenant General George Peter Walls MBE GLM (1927[1] – 20 July 2010) served as the Commander of the Combined Operations Headquarters of the Military of Rhodesia, and later Zimbabwe, from 1977 until his retirement on 29 July 1980 during the Rhodesian Bush War.[2][3] In his latter years, he lived in exile in Eastern Cape, South Africa.[4]

Military service[edit]

Born in Southern Rhodesia, Walls was trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in England,[1] and fought for the British Empire in the Second World War. After the war he served in the Black Watch, in which on 16 March 1946 he was promoted from Cadet to Second Lieutenant.[5] Resigning his commission, he joined the Southern Rhodesian Army as a corporal and commanded the all-Rhodesian "C" Squadron of the Special Air Service in Malaya during the Rhodesian participation in the Malayan Emergency. He became the commanding officer of the Rhodesian Light Infantry in November 1964. In December Brigadier Rodney Putterill reproached Walls for letting his men wear paper hats at a Christmas dinner with the words, "RLI for UDI." In 1972 Walls became the General Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Security Forces, and in 1977 he became the Commander of Combined Operations, the head of the Rhodesian Army.[3][6]


Main article: Rhodesian Bush War

On 3 April 1977 Walls announced the government would launch a campaign to win the "hearts and minds" of Rhodesia's black citizens.[7]

In May 1977 Walls received reports of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) forces massing in the city of Mapai in Gaza Province, Mozambique. Prime Minister Smith gave Walls permission to take out the base. Walls told the media the Rhodesian forces were changing tactics from contain and hold to search and destroy, "adopting hot pursuit when necessary." On 30 May 1977, five hundred troops passed the border and travelled 60 miles to Mapai, engaging the enemy with air cover from the Rhodesian Air Force and paratroopers in C-47 Dakotas. Rhodesian Security Forces disclosed that they had eliminated 32 ZANLA fighters and lost one pilot. The Mozambican government disputed the number of casualties, insisting it had shot down four Rhodesian aircraft and taken several troops prisoner, all of which Minister of Combined Operations Roger Hawkins denied.[8][9][10]

Walls announced a day later that security forces would occupy the settlement until they had eliminated ZANLA's presence. Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, condemned the incident on 1 June and Rhodesian units withdrew. The American, British and Soviet governments also condemned the raid.[8]

Walls said in September 1978 that there is "no single day of the year when we are not operating beyond our borders."[11]

On 4 November 1978 Walls claimed that 2,000 Patriotic Front militants had been persuaded to defect. This figure has been placed at closer to 50.[7]

Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) militants shot down The Umniati, a Vickers Viscount, the second civilian airliner to be targeted by them, with a SAM-7 missile on 12 February 1979 in an alleged attempt to assassinate Walls. The missile killed all 59 passengers, including Lieutenant Spike Powell. Walls and his wife were aboard a second Viscount which took off 15 minutes later, landing safely in Salisbury. Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) leader Joshua Nkomo, who appeared on British television laughing about these incidents, said Walls was responsible for the passengers' deaths because he is the "biggest military target."[12] The Smith administration responded to the attack by bombing ZIPRA bases in Angola and Zambia.[13]

The Rhodesian government offered amnesty to all militants on 18 March 1979, printing and distributing 1.5 million leaflets entitled "TO ALL ZIPRA FORCES". The leaflets were signed by Prime Minister Ian Smith, the ZANU founder Ndabaningi Sithole, United African National Council leader Abel Muzorewa, Chief Jeremiah Chirau and Walls. Defectors were offered clothing, food, suffrage, and medical care. In April 1979 Walls ordered the Selous Scouts to train, organize, and support militants who defected to the Rhodesian government as part of Operation Favour.[7]

Authorities began negotiating a ceasefire with ZANU and ZAPU on 23 November 1979. After one of the negotiation sessions, Walls termed the insurgents' request for status equal to Rhodesian military personnel as "nonsense... If anybody shoots at us we will stop them from shooting any more." Patriotic Front spokesman Edson Zvobgo replied that "we are legal forces, we have equal status" and threatened "severe retribution" for those who would deny the guerrillas equal status.[14]


Upon coming to office Prime Minister Mugabe kept Walls as the head of the army and put him in charge of integrating ZIPRA, ZANLA, and the Rhodesian Army. While Western media outlets praised Mugabe's early efforts at reconciliation with the white minority, tension soon developed.[1]

On 17 March 1980, after several unsuccessful assassination attempts Mugabe asked Walls, "Why are your men trying to kill me?" Walls replied, "If they were my men you would be dead."[15]

BBC news interviewed Walls on 11 August 1980. He said that he had asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to annul the 1980 general election prior to the official announcement of the result on the grounds that Robert Mugabe, the ZANU candidate, used intimidation to win the election. Walls said Thatcher had not replied to his request. On 12 August British government officials denied that they had not responded, saying Antony Duff, Deputy Governor of Salisbury, told Walls on 3 March that Thatcher would not annul the election.[2]

Minister of Information Nathan Shamuyarira said the government would not be "held ransom by racial misfits" and told "all those Europeans who do not accept the new order to pack their bags." He also said that the government was considering "legal or administrative action" against Walls. Mugabe, returning from a visit with United States President Jimmy Carter in New York City, said, "One thing is quite clear—we are not going to have disloyal characters in our society." Walls returned to Zimbabwe after the interview, telling Peter Hawthorne of Time magazine, "To stay away at this time would have appeared like an admission of guilt." Mugabe drafted legislation that would exile Walls from Zimbabwe for his life and Walls moved to South Africa.[4][16]


Whilst a temporary major in the Southern Rhodesia Far East Volunteer Unit (Staff Corps) he was awarded the MBE in recognition of his service in Malaya.[17]

Walls was the only recipient of the Grand Officer (Military Division) of the Rhodesian Legion of Merit. He was entitled to the post-nominal letters GLM.


The Herald, Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper, reported on 20 December 2000 that Walls had secretly returned to Zimbabwe and was seen fundraising for the Movement for Democratic Change. Obert Mpofu, ZANU-PF party Deputy Secretary for Security, said he saw Walls near the Victoria Falls. Walls denied the accusation, saying, "It's total utter bloody rubbish. I haven't been out of the Eastern Cape this year, except to go to Johannesburg once. I haven't been in Zimbabwe since I left in 1980. I have no connection with any group whatsoever in Zimbabwe." The Daily News later reported the government had confused Walls with Peter Wells, an English agronomist who visited Harare to assist poor farmers with water management.[4]

Four men beat and stabbed Walls' son, George, at 10:30pm on 23 February 2001 in Harare. The men, who identified themselves as veterans of the Bush War, stopped Walls' car and demanded to know his father's location. They insisted Peter was hiding in Zimbabwe and began to kick and punch him, cutting his face with a stick and stabbing him in his right thigh.[18]

British General Walter Walker described Walls in The Bear at the Back Door as a:[19][20]


Walls collapsed and died on 20 July 2010 at George Airport in South Africa. He and his wife, Eunice, were about to travel to Johannesburg to meet up with family for a stay in their time-share in the Kruger National Park. He is survived by his wife and by four children from his first marriage.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b c -2010 Walls: "We will make it work" Time magazine and CNN
  2. ^ a b Kalley, Jacqueline Audrey. Southern African Political History: A chronological of key political events from independence to mid-1997, 1999. Page 711-712.
  3. ^ a b Peter Abbott and Philip Botham. Modern African Wars (1): Rhodesia 1965-80, 1986. Page 11.
  4. ^ a b c Zanu-PF's Walls 'manhunt' backfires Dispatch
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37544. p. 2038. 23 April 1946. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  6. ^ Wood, J. R. T. 'So Far and No Further!' Rhodesia's Bid for Independence During the Retreat from Empire 1959, 2005, p. 244
  7. ^ a b c Rhodesia Psychological Operations 1965-1980 Psychological Operations
  8. ^ a b Kalley, Jacqueline Audrey. Southern African Political History: A chronological of key political events from independence to mid-1997, 1999. Page 224.
  9. ^ Smith Takes a Dangerous New Gamble TIME magazine and CNN
  10. ^ Getting ready for war TIME magazine and CNN
  11. ^ Preston, Matthew. Ending Civil War: Rhodesia and Lebanon in Perspective, 2004. Page 65.
  12. ^ Again, death on "Flight SAM-7" TIME magazine and CNN
  13. ^ Sibanda, Eliakim M. The Zimbabwe African People's Union, 1961-87: A Political History of Insurgency in Southern Rhodesia, 2004. Page 196.
  14. ^ "It Seems Like a Miracle" Time magazine and CNN
  15. ^ Raymond, Walter John. Dictionary of Politics: Selected American and Foreign Political and Legal Terms, 1992. Page 557.
  16. ^ A soldier faces his critics TIME magazine and CNN
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39839. p. 2405. 28 April 1953. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  18. ^ Ex-Rhodesian army chief's son attacked The Daily Telegraph
  19. ^ Strachan, Hew. The Politics of the British Army, 1997. Page 178.
  20. ^ Walker, Walls. The Bear at the Back Door.
  21. ^ Peter Walls, General in Zimbabwe, Dies at 83
  22. ^ Lieutenant-General Peter Walls