The Rhodesian Vest, Fireforce Style (a YBH tale)

Rhodesian Fireforce troopies preparing to launch mission
January 31, 2022  
Categories: Learnin'

Today we have another story for you from YBH, The Most Interesting Man in Arizona. In it, he takes a quick look at the Fireforce Rhodesian Vest he recently received as a gift from a friend. We fleshed it out a bit, though not by enough to do much more than quickscope it. 

Rhodesian Fireforce vest

Rhodesian Fire Force Vest

Badass gift in brushstroke camo

In 1986 my dear friend Jim Kirmse and I traveled to South Africa with a group of paratrooper veterans from all over the world. After we did our training and subsequent jump in Bloemfontein/Tempe, we traveled to Cape Town. One day while walking around the city, Jim and another Jim and I found an awesome army surplus store called Sgt. Peppers. They had a ton of really cool stuff.


A “Saint” from the RLI (Rhodesian Light Infantry) on the tarmac in a sangar. As the Rhodesian historian (and veteran) of “Andy’s Gas Works” describes the Fireforce, “[T]o clarify the term ‘operational’ in the RLI context…Fireforce Para sticks were only dropped once contact had been initiated with the enemy by heliborne sticks and the K-car gunship…Exit the aging Dakota at 250 feet, spend a few seconds under canopy, elbows in, roll! Check yourself…where are those fucking terrs? Sort yourselves into an extended line…move…time and again! There were occasions that individual RLI sticks jumped into three separate actions in one day. Unbelievable records held by men who were mostly just out of their teens. Respect!” (@andys_gasworks)

We met the owner and he invited us to the upstairs room where various camouflage was displayed. Understand that at that time it was illegal to sell or wear camouflage in public in South Africa because of the ongoing Bush War in Angola. I picked up some Rhodesian brushstroke camo there. Then the owner told us there was another store down the street that had a Rhodesian vest (specifically a Rhodesian Fireforce vest) in the window on display. Unfortunately, we were running out of time and needed to get back to the hotel to catch our bus to go to our next destination.

Rhodesian Fireforce vest in the Rhodesian brushstroke camouflage pattern.

Rhodesian Fireforce vest in the Rhodesian brushstroke camouflage pattern.

Jim Kirmse slipped us and apparently went to the store and bought that Fire Force vest — and the cheeky bugger never told me!

Two years ago i was visiting with his son Michael at Jim’s home here in Tucson and I saw this vest hanging in the garage! I almost fainted…

Yesterday Michael gave me the vest. It is a cherished item. There is still dirt in the pockets that I am guessing is from somewhere south of the Zambezi and north of the Limpopo rivers.

close up of some of the pockets on a Rhodesian Fireforce Vest

Pouch/pocket on a Rhodesian vest used by Fireforce members during the Bush Wars

Interior of a Rhodesian Fireforce vest found in a South African store in the mid-80s.

Thank you Michael for this.


Troopies in Rhodesian brushstroke during the Bush War.

Troopies in Rhodesian brushstroke during the Bush War.

Tango Yankee Chip animated

An attitude of gratitude is never a bad thing.

Rhodesian Fireforce Vest

According to the Blogspot site Webbing Babel, Fereday and Sons of Salisbury, in the former Rhodesia, was the premiere maker of tactical equipment for Rhodie security forces during the Bush War. 

Fereday and Sons Rhodesian Fireforce Vest

Fereday and Sons was to Bush War era Rhodesians what First Spear, Grey Ghost Gear, Tyr Tactical, and other “tactical nylon” manufacturers are to the GWOT.


As that site puts it,

Due to the short comings with the standard issue webbing the Rhodesian forces began tailoring their own belts as well as taking the better constructed Warsaw Pact chest rigs of dead terrorists. Or buying from Fereday and sons in Salisbury, Rhodesia.

The Rhodesian forces had a lot of freedom when it came to equipment and clothing in the bush. Hence the bush shorts and gym shoes.

The load usually carried on a fire force mission was generally suited to carrying ammunition and water for short fire fights with quick supporter from aviation assets.

Fereday and Sons Rhodesian Fireforce Vest

Fereday and Sons Rhodesian combat vest manufactured in Salisbury, Rhodesia circa 1970s.Vest shows usual signs of combat wear and tear and has a few period repairs. Owner name and regimental number written on top back pack (sorry, no research conducted into history) along with the name ‘Mitch’ faintly with pen on the inner.


Top back back pouch has a square hole cut in it which I believe was used to accommodate a radio antenna. Made up of 6x FN magazine pouches and 2x water bottle pouches on front and sides and two utility pouches on rear with bag roll straps. No size displayed, but I would estimate it to be a size medium.

Fereday and Sons Rhodesian Fireforce Vest

Tango Yankee Chip

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About the Author

The Mad Duo are the most renowned, scholarly, door-kickingest action figures since...well, ever. They, their wretched minions and other abject flunkies are an improbable (and awesome) tale unto themselves. Read more about them here.


  1. Slot888

    Thank you for being the greatest gift God could have ever blessed me with. Thank you for touching my life and adding new colors to it. Love you, best friend.

  2. ZEKEDOGG3871

    @STEVEN – perhaps your comments on American youth are a bit misguided. My children were taught to work hard, shoot straight, and disregard idiots like you. We are better than you even if we have downfalls due to ease of lifestyle. Some are lazy, but that could be said of your Queen Mother as well….Prince Charles? really?

  3. Steven

    Sorry to hear about your Bru not being able to come; but his Children that are cherished members of your family thought of you first when it came to gifting this piece of history to you. Moreover his children are probably Hardcore anti-communists and you should strategically place them at campus coffee shops and frozen yogurt shops around the colleges you live in. Whenever one of the little turd American spoiled kids who openly profess their love for Socialism because mommy and daddy paid for a gap year/study abroad; where their precious Testy and Ekaterina were enjoying sitting around for an entire year eating French onion soup, and sleeping with the beautiful local girls and guys….all because their evil rich capitalist oppressor parents happened to send them to Europe for a year- And not so they could become socialist consequently. They don’t really understand Socialism because they were living in a socialist country or socialist area that fully excepted the tenets of capitalism that’s making their stay enjoyable. But they need to do is go to spend a year in North Korea or China.

    I’m sure your homey‘s children are adults now most likely, however as some of the unlucky people who have seen the true evils of communism face-to-face, they would really be perfect to sit there as reality trolls.

  4. Yancey Bret Harrington

    Baie Danke Ken… you are the go to subject matter expert on these photos…

  5. Ken Gaudet

    The troopies were RLI at the end of the War…March 1980..looks like Support Cdo

  6. Yancey Bret Harrington

    Thank you so very much… it was a bittersweet memory to get this vest this last weekend. While I would much rather have my dear friend Jim to share this story with, I have his children, and they gifted me this vest. Thank you for allowing me to continue this story.

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