by Hannes Wessels

Few who served in the Rhodesian military will be remembered with as much reverence and deep affection as Jock Hutton who died aged 96 at Maidstone in Kent on 12th August. With him when he passed away was Colonel Jerry Strong (BCR) who was the 2IC of the Selous Scouts under Ron Reid-Daly and the last Rhodesian to win the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst before Ian Smith declared UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) in 1965 and the country was expelled from the Commonwealth.

Jock was abandoned by his parents aged four and raised in orphanages in Scotland where he had to fight for a plate of food and a shirt to wear. Aged 16, he lied about his age so that he could serve in World War II. He joined the Black Watch then transferred to Airborne Forces in 1943 and parachuted into Normandy whereupon he was wounded almost immediately in the stomach. Evacuated back to Britain and hospitalised, refused release, he ‘escaped’ through a window and made his way back to France to re-join his regiment. On his return he fought in the Ardennes, at the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ and across Germany to the Baltic. After World War II he served in Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt and Java before arriving in Rhodesia in 1957 with his wife Doreen. He immediately fell in love with the country, joined the SAS and decided to make a new home for himself.

Mike Longuet-Higgins was with Jock on their selection. “Laden with heavy equipment and rocks, we were on a speed-march in the Matopos south-west of Bulawayo when Jock was observed by Jack Crutchley, the Training Officer strolling merrily along with the help of two young Matabele tribesmen. The one in front was carrying his pack which was full of rocks, and the other his webbing and pouches filled with bricks. Jock brought up the rear with his rifle. Jack saw the funny side of it and gave Jock credit for initiative.”

One of his first deployments was in 1963 when his detachment was parachuted into thick bush on the Congo border. This was subsequent to the exit of the Belgians at the end of their colonial rule which soon triggered civil war and murderous attacks on the European citizenry. Jock was part of the contingent sent to help evacuate them and bring them to safety. Forbidden, for political reasons, to cross into the Congo and engage the killers he and his compatriots were ordered to remain south of the border where they patrolled and waited to support refugees if they made it across the border.

“We were sitting in the rain in thick bush and not much going on but were hungry,” remembers Geoff Treloar. “We came upon a village and helped ourselves to a chicken which we cooked on a fire. The African owner was unamused and reported us. We were charged and hauled before Major Welch who kept laughing but found us guilty anyway. Jock argued in our defence that the chicken was just the ‘spoils of war’ but that was not well received. We were reprimanded and ordered to pay the owner the price of the chicken.”

Two years after the Congo debacle Ian Smith declared independence unilaterally, triggering a political crisis and a hostile response from the Labour government of Harold Wilson. All British citizens serving in the Rhodesian armed forces were ordered to resign or face possible charges of treason, while Wilson considered plans to invade the country. Jock, who held the left-liberal political establishment that then dominated the UK political landscape in contempt, wasted no time joining the ‘Rhodesian rebels’ and preparing for war.

In 1968, in response to hostile incursions from Zambia, Jock was part of the SAS deployment into the Zambezi Valley to interdict and track the insurgents before they made any further inroads into the country. For both sides in the conflict wild animals added to the dangers.

“It was the night following a big battle in the Valley,” remembers Darrell Watt. “Our morale was a little low having lost one of our guys and an SAS section was in a night ambush position not far from where I was when they heard one of the enemy wounded screaming in pain. They could hear the crunching of bones and knew a predator had this poor guy, but they were forbidden to move from their positions until dawn. But it was too much for Jock who announced he was off to ‘shoot this furry animal’ and went off to dispatch the lion.”

Aged 50, never one to miss a good scrap, Jock joined one of the most daring attacks in modern military history when less than 200 airborne troops from the RLI (Rhodesian Light Infantry) and the SAS attacked 10,000 enemy combatants at Chimoio in Mozambique. Jumping out of a Dakota that had flown over Normandy his fall was broken by a tree which snagged his chute.

“No problem for Jock,” remembers Darrell Watt, “He pulled out his 9mm pistol and started plugging away at the ‘terrs’ below from where he hung, off the branches. He said he saw a lot of ‘house-boys’ running very fast below him. He was such a tough guy, but also so kind and loyal. I loved him like a father.”

Former Selous Scout Captain Tim Bax remembers him as SSM (Squadron Sergeant Major) of the SAS: “Small in stature, he had the demeanour of a giant. He was tough as nails and fitter than most half his age. He had to be. He looked upon strangers with a jaundiced eye until he became satisfied with their character. If you spoke in riddles of political correctness, you were nothing but a ‘gobshite’ in his eyes. If you were straight up and down and told it like it was, he had your back. He always had mine. To me, he was simply ‘Wee Jock’, my friend, confidante, advisor, and mentor.”

Tim Bax and Jock
Tim Bax and Jock

After the end of hostilities in Rhodesia, Jock served for a period with the South African recces before returning to live in the UK. His last parachute jump was into Normandy at the age of 94 as part of the D Day commemorations.






21 thoughts on “Jock Hutton”
  1. This soldier had the true Rhodesian spirit. His eyes show he was sharp and took no nonsense. An honourable man. Thank you Hannes for painting such a good picture so that we feel we know him. Disobeying to kill a lion that was eating a terrorist whilst under orders not to move till dawn…..I love that!

  2. I was involved in the Rhodesian issue to a small extent. Part of my growing political awareness. Having volunterred from Int Corps in Malaya for SAS selection I was sent back to UK. I failed selection and while still at Hereford in the ops Room the CO Wingate-Grey called us all into the main Hall at Bradbury Lines( no longer there I am told) and given a lecture on loyalty to the Crown. As you rightly say Wilson was planning to use british troops till his senior officers said “no can do”. I smelt a rat because obviously the Rhodesia SAS and British SAS were brothers. I bought myself out and ended up in Rhodesia during UDI, leaving to go back to UK in 1969.

    The main parties took it in turn to try to trash Rhodesia (because we are faced with a party system which is a control system!!) but it is always the Tories who do the real dirty deed, as we found out also with the EC. I got embroiled in that campaign when I got back to UK.
    It was during the Thatcher/Carringyon era(sic) of 1980 that John Giles the Rhodesian lawyer was thown out of an upstairs window at Lancaster House, revealing that the New World Order will stop at nothing, As Dr. David Kelly also found out whern Blair was “in powert”

    From that experience I acquired the understanding to write my treatise “How Political Parties Corrupt Our Constitution”. If there are any Brits (with Rhodesian connections) left with a bit of fight(we are getting on) ,please do get in touch to me via my e-mail, I am in North Yorkshire.

  3. The BBC’s flagship radio, BBC4, this morning (15 August) included a report in its main 8am news broadcast on John Hutton’s death at age 96. Their report said:

    “John Hutton, known by his friends as Jock, was 19 when he served in the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion during World War Two. The MoD said the “courage and spirit” of Mr Hutton, from Stirling, “must never be forgotten”. In 1944, he parachuted into Normandy and descended to the famous Pegasus Bridge on D-Day. Mr Hutton replicated his descent in June last year when he parachuted into France alongside fellow ex-serviceman Harry Read. The pair jumped in tandem with members of the Army’s Parachute Regiment display team, the Red Devils, Mr Hutton did a similar parachute jump to recreate the French landings in 2014 when he was 89. The MoD posted on Twitter: “We are saddened by the passing of D-Day veteran John ‘Jock’ Hutton. “Last year, Jock touched the hearts of many, parachuting over Normandy at the D-Day75 commemorations. “His courage and spirit must never be forgotten.”

    Whilst this reporting is strictly correct, it was disappointing that the BBC chose not to mention that Jock was a Rhodesian who had served his adopted country with great honour. It seems that their exclusion of this significant aspect of Jock’s life demonstrates that the BBC practices a form of selective reporting which does them no credit.

    1. Julian this does not surprise me at all. No media outlook was more hostile than the BBC during the UDI years; in fact they led the media onslaught. To the point where they had a station in Botswana dedicated to broadcasting anti-government propaganda into the country. So much for being ‘balanced and fair’; they are a disgrace to journalism.

      1. Also to the point, the exclusion of Jock’s Rhodesian heritage in the BBC’s reporting is nothing short of cowardly. I suspect that Jock would have liked to be remembered for his Rhodesian service.

        1. The BBC will never find the guts to acknowledge a country and people they vilified was in a sense exemplified by a wonderful man like Jock Hutton. Don’t forget this is the same organisation that provided fame, fortune and sanctuary to a monster like Sir Jimmy Savile.

  4. Excellent obituary. Thank you Hannes. What a great man in so many ways.
    May I have your blessing for Chris Whitehead for publication in Rhodesians Worldwide magazine?

    1. Is Rhodesians Worldwide still full of Zanu Trolls and pommie Libtards??????? Whitehead not my favourite person😈😈😈😈😈

  5. Great article and scoop Hannes; this sort of piece is when you are at your best

  6. What a beautiful story.What excellent command of the language. Thank you.

  7. Thanks H, I love stories like this, about men who helped to shape us all into the best army this world has ever seen.

    I still have the hole in my left shin, left during my NS first phase at Llewellyn Barracks in 1975 by RSM Hutton’s stick boot toe cap, one sunny day while I was standing to attention on the drill square … I forget my indiscretion, but there was no slacking off when this guy was out and about – I swear he had eyes in the back of his pip!

    I was (probably correctly) sanctioned with a swift, powerful and decisive kick which caused a serious hole and an impressive mess of blood on the parade ground: I was not the first to suffer this ignominious fate. I had seen it before, watched with eyes like saucers – others had previously evoked the same displeasure I had injudiciously caused by fidgeting on parade.

    The worst part was having to listen to the quick staccato crunch of his approaching boots, wondering if it was your turn, wanting to flee, but having to wait for the hammer to fall. I did not cry out or move a muscle, as to do so would have attracted further pain. Jock was our revered and feared disciplinarian at Llewellyn…

    RSM Jock Hutton was THE consummate professional soldier, a giant of a man who was barely taller than my dear mother. RIP Sir, and I thank you for your service to us all – you are remembered affectionately with awe by this grateful ex-soldier.

    1. Hell John this made me laugh; I think many of us share similar memories of those moments of sheer terror! Happy to say I didn’t get the boot but knowing you I wonder if you were not struggling to hide your innate insolence and that caused Jock to use the toe-cap!?

      1. Oh, et tu Hannese? At this time of my exsistence I was this meek and mild (unstintingbedience was my middle name) fellow who had only just turned 18 a few weeks earlier – it took quite a few more years to hone the insolent side of my winning personality into its current razor sharp state!!!

        But I think Jock’s threshold for putting the boot in was quite low in any case – he was not a man who tolerated any BS from national servicemen gobshites… after that, when I saw this bloke I hid, aswe were all fair game.

        His job was done. Respect your senior ranks with no thought process required.He was just like any decent RSM should be – someone to avoid at all costs. 🙂

        I do not believe he was a sadist though, as like a lot of other regular staff, he softened considerably once we had finished our training.

        1. Well I bet you had a smirk on your face and that would have irritated Jock! I remain firmly in his camp on this; our close friendship notwithstanding.

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