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.”
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.