Disarmed & Wounded: How to Crash Land a Disabled Helicopter Alongside 27 Terrorists Firing AK47s & Win? Ask a Rhodesian!

“We of the RAR used to laugh at your soldiers.
To us they looked like boys.
But they have showed us how to fight.
They have the faces of boys, but they fight like lions!”

“Pugnamus Amo Leo”
– To Fight Like Lions

“The incredible Rhodesia Light Infantry. The Incredibles!”

by Sally-Ann Lowe (source and quotes – Dr J.R.T. Wood’s Counter-Strike from the Sky, 2009)

Disarmed and Wounded: How to Crash Land a Disabled Helicopter Alongside 27 Terrorists Firing AK47s and Win? Ask a Rhodesian!

On a mercy mission bush flight to attend a Black civilian wounded in crossfire during a contact that morning between Rhodesian soldiers and Red China’s proxy army (Mugabe’s ZANLA CTs – Communist Terrorists), thirty-three year old Rhodesian Flight Lieutenant Victor Cook’s Alouette III helicopter began its descent from the safe height of 9,000 feet, heading down towards the treetops of the savannah near central Rhodesia. On board with Victor were his technician cum gunner and a Rhodesian Army medic.

Disgracefully, it was not an uncommon practice for the CTs to use the traditional rural villagers as their human shields when the opportunity arose.

Just as the Alouette reached 800 feet above ground all hell broke loose! Twenty-seven CTs opened fire on it. The helicopter ‘was rocked by a volley of 7.62mm Soviet-made rifle rounds.’

Unknown to Victor, as he continued his descent toward the treetops, he was about to fly directly over their CT base camp in a small clearing surrounded by trees. Bullets flashed from this clearing below as twenty-seven AK47’s fired up at him. Although he felt the rounds hitting his helicopter, Victor was initially unable to identify their position.

As the hail of bullets hit their mark, Victor Cook was wounded in both arms and severely wounded in his right foot. Another two bullets directly hit the body armour of his technician, Finch Bellringer, rendering him semi-conscious. More bullets hit home and severed the Alouette’s tail-rotor shaft. Although uninjured, the medic was in a state of shock.

Still unable to pinpoint the enemy’s position, Victor attempted to evade the attackers by plunging down to treetop level – out of the frypan and straight into the (line of) fire! An onslaught of bullets greeted him, far more fiercely than before. Yet worse was to come:

I felt the controls going, there was vibration. I realized I had to force-land. The fire got fiercer. I picked a place to land. Then I lost tail-rotor control. The chopper swung violently. It would have started cartwheeling. I pulled it up on its tail to knock off forward speed. The speed came down but we continued to yaw. Still I was quite pleased with what was happening as I had a semblance of control. I touched the power but could not hold it down on to its tail. I managed to pull the nose up a little.”

Throughout this ordeal to control his stricken aircraft, the attack and shooting continued on relentlessly. Finally, he at last sighted his attackers and estimated there were approximately the same number as a rugby team.

As he descended into his forced landing, right ahead of him he observed a group of about 5 CTs standing and firing straight at him. Victor made an instant decision:

I aimed the aircraft at them deliberately. We thumped down nose first and I lost sight of them.

Image: Controls of an Alouette III Helicopter

Due to the force of the impact when landing, a part of the control column broke off, still held in his hand, as they hit the ground. Victor was thrust forward and struck his jaw on the stub of the control stick. This had the consequence of stunning him and his chin was deeply gashed.

Despite all, this formidable pilot kept his presence of mind. The Alouette was still running and he made the decision to continue to let it idle on in the hope of fooling the terrs into assuming that he and his passengers were still alright and ready to counter-attack.

Flight Lieutenant Victor Cook – Completely Disarmed Yet Stunningly Dangerous!

He knew the CTs would be upon them any time now and quickly reached under his seat for his Uzi submachine gun to prepare to defend. The Uzi was useless. It had been struck by a bullet! Unphased, Victor reached over to grab the medic’s FN. It too was useless. The whole barrel had been bent due to the impact of the crash landing.

He now realized he was totally unarmed in the face of imminent massive attack.

His eyes scanned the area around the chopper. He saw a live CT lying on the ground near the chopper. On the other side of the terr lay his AK47 on the ground. Here was a weapon Victor must possess, and quickly. It meant the difference between life and death for him, his technician and the medic. He grabbed the AK and shot the enemy with his own lethal weapon. He later had no recollection as to whether they had struggled over it.

A Communist ZANLA (later ZANU-PF) Terrorist with his AK47 and gang.

Now rearmed, Victor shouted to the medic and Bellringer to run for the high ground. As he made for the high ground he realized they were not following. He shouted once more:

Let’s move!”

“I can’t move!” replied the wounded Bellringer.

Quickly Victor and the medic grabbed Bellringer and together they dragged him to higher ground. Just as they had done this the pilot then spotted the terrorists advancing in the bush just 100 metres away.

With his adrenaline pumping, making him still oblivious to his wounds, he ran forward and fired a magazine from the AK at them. He then saw other movement, bolted to another position and ripped off another burst. Cook positioned himself between the enemy and his crew.

‘Then I went out further and did a few circuits of the chopper. The movement disappeared and I moved from tree to tree and rock to rock. I was in a good strong position.’

At this point Victor was ‘bloody angry’ at the terrs for forcing him down. In fact he was so angry he began to give chase. Most inconveniently, he kept tripping and couldn’t understand why. Only then for the first time throughout the ordeal did he look down at his ‘tripping’ foot and realize it was badly gashed right through to the exposed bone!

After that I didn’t feel so aggressive,’ he admitted.

Instead Victor helped the medic create a makeshift drip stand for Bellringer. He later praised the medic orderly,

He was a star. At no time did he abandon his patient.’

The Cessna Lynx

Meanwhile, the Rhodesian soldiers that had requested aid for the Black civilian wounded in the crossfire, had heard the Alouette crash and all the firing. They had immediately radioed to the Fireforce bush base for assistance. Within 50 minutes a ‘lynx’ (twin engine light aircraft Cessna) appeared into view of the downed Alouette and its crew. Immediately following was Fireforce, helicopter-borne infantry of the highly regarded RLI.

Relating the story, Victor recalled:

Flight Lt. Victor Cook

There were four brown jobs [a stick of 4 Rhodesian Light Infantry]. They were a beautiful sight!”

Victor Cook, his Alouette technician, Bellringer, and the medic were quickly evacuated and the four RLI soldiers immediately began tracking the enemy.

For his astonishing gallantry and actions, Victor Cook was awarded the Silver Cross of Rhodesia.

A humble man, Victor never felt truly deserving of it:

Not when you see what the browns do. Those RLI guys, they are all Silver Cross material!

– Flight Lieutenant Victor Cook

Rhodesia Light Infantry Even Held in Awe by the Tough Hardened Soldiers of the RAR!

The reputation of the RLI soldiers was renowned. The RAR (Rhodesian African Rifles) similarly held them in the highest regard. Let a Black Rhodesian soldier, Platoon Warrant Officer Herod, E Company, 1st Battalion RAR, have the last word on the RLI soldiers:

“We of the RAR used to laugh at your soldiers.
To us they looked like boys.
But they have showed us how to fight.
They have the faces of boys, but they fight like lions!”

– Platoon Warrant Officer Herod
RLI FireForce – Some as young as 16 years.
The Hon.Ian Douglas Smith February 1968 on the 5th birthday of the RLI: “The incredible Rhodesia Light Infantry. The Incredibles!” Lieutenant General Peter Walls February 1975: “Thank God for the RLI!”
They said it for everybody.
Though they fought like lions, the RLI mascot was a cheetah, ‘Trooper Saint‘, lithe, light and lightening fast!
Why the men of the RLI chose the amazing Cheetah as their mascot! [Editor: I do not even like driving that fast!]
RLI FireForce Scouts by G Car Taking Off
The RLI’s characteristic deployment was the Fireforce reaction operation. Captain Chris ‘Schulie’ Schollenberg, left, later went onto the highly admired Selous Scouts.
Trooper Hannekom Wayne.
Smuggled out of Mugabe’s clutches, the RLI Memorial statue resides in Britain.
The RLI Medical Response Unit were invaluable to the troops and, as above, local villagers.
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2 Responses

  1. AnnE says:

    Referring to the photo of the exhausted young RLI man resting against the tree trunk with his eyes closed, his name is Russell Philips and he won the Silver Cross medal while serving. He died in July 2020, may he Rest in Peace and condolences to his family.

    Here is his story linked to Hannes Wessel’s website:


    “In September 1977 he was the Lance-Corporal in charge of a section of four men sweeping a rocky outcrop in search of the enemy when an officer pursued a ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) guerrilla into a cave. On hearing firing Russell ran to investigate only to discover that the officer had not re-emerged. Suspecting he was wounded within he crawled inside …… “

  2. Linde says:

    Like a guiding star, Rhodesia’s heroic legacy will shine ever more brightly over the entire West as the Communist Revolution deepens into night. Respect and honour to Rhodesians throughout the world.

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