Anna's Tale Chapter 1

Anna's Tale Chapter 1 Anna's Tale Chapter 1

Status: In Progress

Genre: Non-Fiction


Status: In Progress

Genre: Non-Fiction


A young girl grows up in a war-torn country. She is adopted by her uncle after her father is killed and her mother falls to pieces thereafter. Later she emigrates to France with her new family ...


A young girl grows up in a war-torn country. She is adopted by her uncle after her father is killed and her mother falls to pieces thereafter. Later she emigrates to France with her new family ...

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Author Chapter Note

The Early Years

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: November 30, 2017

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: November 30, 2017





Chapter 1:


Author’s Note:


This chapter contains the account of actual events that occurred during the so-called Rhodesian Bush War. In no way do I attempt to justify the politics of the day, and the racist motives behind the policies of Ian Smith’s government. However, my sympathies lie with the civilians who lost life and limb during the war. As is so often the case, conflict is caused by either religious, ideological, or political differences, but it is the people - and all too often the innocent - who suffer the consequences. This first chapter is dedicated to them, and serves as a reminder that there are no victors in war - no matter how just and righteous the cause may be - only degrees of loss and suffering.


I admire those who stand up against the ravages of injustice and discrimination, and I applaud those who will defend against these with their lives. The contents of the rest of the book will prove that. History is filled with tales of valiant men and women fighting against tremendous odds, to free themselves from the shackles of slavery and oppression, for example: The French and Russian Revolutions. I have always said that the war in Rhodesia was brought about as a result of greedy colonialism, just as the Armed Struggle was in reaction to the evil called Apartheid. There were indeed those who gave their lives to rid the country of racism and discrimination, and rightfully so. But then I need to ask the question: Where is the valour in murdering innocent people? Or the justification in raping women, and killing and maiming children?


It is the duty of every man to defend his family, no matter what the cost. Regardless of his ideology, political view, or religious beliefs, if anyone comes into his home and threatens the ones he loves and cares for, it is his right to protect them. And what can be said of those who seek to excuse the slaughter of the defenceless by clothing it in the uniform of ‘political reform’? Are they heroes and role models for generations to come? Far from it! By their actions, they prove themselves to be little more than bullies and cowards. As someone once said: ‘You are no hero when you kill a child, and you cannot cry ...’ And it is these against which much of what has been written in chapter 1 is levelled ...




















Anna Freling was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, in 1968. Her father, Eugene, had moved there from South Africa seven years before, having been charged with the establishment of the regional branch of Johannesburg Consolidated Industries. His father was of German descent. Originally from what was then known as South West Africa, old man Freling had moved to Johannesburg when he was in his early twenties, and married Annette de Villiers, a young woman whose family were among the French Huguenots, and owned a fruit farm in the small town of Franschhoek, in which a monument stood in honour of these French settlers.


Eugene studied Geology at the University of Cape Town, where he earned his honours degree. Soon after that, he began working at J C I, where he was respected as a dedicated employee. Within just three years, he had become a manager, and then was given the opportunity to spearhead operations in Rhodesia. His younger sister, Marianne, moved soon after him, having completed her nursing diploma in Johannesburg. She started nursing at the Bulawayo General, a state run hospital in Rhodesia’s second largest city, and married Doctor Alexander Fromont, one of the physicians who worked there as well. Doctor Fromont was born in France, and came to Rhodesia in the early sixties.


A few months after Eugene had settled in Rhodesia, he met Ursula Burgess, and after a rather lengthy engagement, they were married in 1966. Two years later, Anna was born. Her brother, Marcus, was a year and a half younger than she was, and Kimberley was just over a year younger than him.


Rhodesia was always a beautiful country. Huge granite domes and boulders rose out of msahsa and mukwa trees, the former with their delicate pink leaves during the early spring. In the far north, there were massive baobab trees, that looked like they had been planted upside down.


As a child, she remembered her parents taking her to the Mermaid’s Pool near Dombashawa. The family’s first real holiday together was spent at the Wankie National Park, where Anna saw her first real elephant. They had gone out on a game drive, and stopped at one of the watering holes. After a while, they saw huge grey forms lumbering through the bush on the far side, and soon a whole herd came down to the water to bathe and drink. The sight was so fascinating that Anna did not want to leave. Her father took many photographs, and Anna would often take down the album they were in, and page through them with great enthusiasm and fondness.


The year after that, the family went to Kariba, at that time the second largest man-made lake in the world. They stayed at the newly-built Caribbea Bay resort. Apart from going fishing, and catching a glimpse of the huge and legendary Tiger Fish, the most memorable part of that trip was viewing the dam wall from a platform some distance away. Torrents of water roared through the sluice gates, and made such a noise that one had to shout to be heard. It was as if the ground upon which they stood shook beneath their feet.


One of the goldmines owned by J C I was the Madziwa Mine, near the town of Bendura in a district known as Shamva. There were in fact three mines in close proximity to one another, only two of which were still operational. The one that had closed down was Dodge Mine, that had been opened just before Madziwa by a local company. The holding firm ran into financial difficulties, and the mine was forced to cease operations. The third was a smaller mine. It was called Roof Mine, and was privately owned by a consultant that had worked for J C I to begin with, but ventured out on his own.




Although Eugene Freling did not entirely agree with the political system in place at the time, he was shocked by the brutal murder and torture of innocent civilians by those who labelled themselves as ‘Freedom Fighters’. By their actions, they more often than not proved themselves to be little more than terrorists. One such incident actually took place at Roof Mine itself. Just before that fateful night, there had been an attack on Madziwa Mine as well, but Eugene was not there to witness it.


In October of 1976, he was overseeing some work on a new section of the mine. A few days later, one of the workers came into the mine office, a shocked expression on his face. He said: “Did you hear what happened at Roof Mine?” When those present shook their heads, he explained: “They say there’s been a huge rockfall. Thirteen miners were killed, and the owner has been forced to close down.”


It turned out that it had not been a rockfall at all. One of the mine workers, the foreman in fact, had sabotaged the mine by planting explosives underground. They had just begun working in what was called the ‘Old-Timer’s Shaft’ - the remains of a previous working that was not completed - when the explosion went off. The tunnel, that was meant to join this part of the mine with the new working, collapsed. Most of the miners were able to escape, but alas, thirteen of them were crushed under tons of rock. A few months after that, Roof Mine was closed down, only to open once more some five years after the war ended.


By now, what had started in the sixties as a border conflict, had escalated into a full-scale war. More and more civilians suffered at the hands of those who claimed to be fighting against the regime of Ian Smith and his party, and yet it was the farmers, their wives and children that bore the brunt of the cruelty. It was the labourers, herdsmen, and peaceful folk who found themselves tortured and butchered. Often it was they who fell victim to anti-vehicle and anti-personnel land-mines that killed and crippled so indiscriminately.


While their husbands were fighting in their defence, the farmers’ wives were trained to defend themselves and their families, as were those children old enough to carry a weapon. The number of farm attacks had grown steadily, and they occurred closer and closer to the towns and cities. The local Guard Force, made up of volunteers from the area, was not large enough to offer protection to the whole community, so the residents were encouraged to fend for themselves. A communication system, called Agric-Alert, was established that put farmers in contact with each other, and was linked to the nearest police station or military base.


As has been said before, Eugene Freling did not support the political powers of the day, but neither could he condone such acts of terror as had become almost a daily occurrence. This was especially poignant when it involved a member of his own family. His sister Marianne to be precise. She and her husband had spent the weekend visiting one of Alex’s colleagues, who was the district surgeon for the Plumtree area near the border between Botswana and Rhodesia. They were on their way back when the front tyre on the driver’s side of the Toyota station wagon they owned blew. Alex got out of the car to replace it with the spare wheel. He had only just finished, when he heard gunfire suddenly erupt from the bush on the opposite side. He rushed back and leapt into the vehicle, trying to escape, which he succeeded in doing.


But alas, for his wife it was too late. One of the AK47 rounds had gone through the passenger door, and struck her in the side, in the middle of her ribcage. She was still breathing, albeit laboured, when the shooting stopped, but Doctor Fromont knew that she was in grave danger. They were too far from the nearest town, which was Bulawayo itself. Plumtree was closer, but that would mean turning back and standing the danger of being ambushed again, and travelling at any great speed along the strip-roads was perilous in and of itself.


Desperately, Alex encouraged his wife: “Annie!” The nickname he gave her, “Don’t give up. Hang in there!”


But he knew that he was fighting a losing battle. By the time he had reached the outskirts of the city, she had lost consciousness. His beloved Annie died just as the car pulled into the casualties of Bulawayo General. She and Alex only had one child. His name was Argen, and he was six months younger then Anna. Her death impacted the whole family, especially Anna, who had been named after her. Her brother, Eugene, had been contemplating joining the army, as he was too old to be enlisted. The tragic death of his sister prompted him to take action.


He joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry in January of 1977, and was stationed at Chikurubi, where he began his basic training. One of the best days of Anna’s childhood was when she and her family attended her father’s passing-out parade. Even though this meant that he was going into active service from there, she could not help but feeling so proud of her hero.


Anna was nine years old at the time, and had already heard many stories from her classmates at Widdicombe Primary School, of either their own fathers or members of their family who had fought in the Rhodesian Bush War. Even though some of these ended tragically, there was always a sense that they were fighting to protect their loved-ones against the terrorist onslaught. So when her father marched in front of her, she felt as though her heart would burst with pride.


In February of that year, an attack took place that shocked the whole nation. Mosami Mission was a peaceful place run by the Jesuit Order, and in the care of Brother John Conway, an Irishman from County Kerry. He had been working in Rhodesia for twenty three years, during which time his dedication to children orphaned by the war, and devotion to helping them, became somewhat legendary in the local community. Many of the inhabitants of the Marewa district loved him, and often came to him for help, which he was only too glad to render.


With him was Father Martin Thomas, who taught English to the people in the area. Father Christopher Shepherd-Smith was born in Kenya, and studied Social Welfare before joining the Order. He was well thought of in the community, as was the case in many of the other parishes in which he worked.


There were four nuns at the Mission: In charge was Sister Mary Wilkinson from Lancashire England. Her colleagues: Sister Magdala Lewandowski, Sister Ceslaus Steiger, and Sister Maria Schneider - all of which were from Germany - had devoted their lives to serving the people in the area.


On Sunday the sixth of February, just after the morning service, the peaceful mission became a place of horror. A group of terrorists attacked the compound in which the missionaries lived. Two of the three male priests were gunned down, while Brother Conway was killed execution style. He was made to kneel down before his killers, one of whom asked: “Where is your God now?” Before shooting him in the back of the head. As terrible as these deaths were, at least they died relatively quickly. The four nuns were not given such a luxury. They were repeatedly raped, Sister Steiger succumbing to such brutality, after which they too were shot, their bodies left in a pool of their own blood.


When the emergency services at last arrived on scene, they were faced with the horrible truth, that not even such gentle and loving people as these, had been spared from the terror that had swept into the land from neighbouring Mozambique to the East, and Zambia to the North, with thirty thousand heroes to try and stand against them, and that under the continuous barrage of criticism from the rest of the world. One of the investigating detectives from the B S A P, the Rhodesian police services, was a personal friend of Eugene Freling. His name was Paul Barnes.


On Monday the 7th of August, terror struck once again, this time in the very heart of Rhodesia’s Capital. The central Woolworths store was as busy as ever during the middle of the day. The store manager received a call from head-office, saying that they wanted to review the sales figures from the previous three months. He kept a journal in the top drawer of his desk in the office on the first floor, and went to retrieve it. Opening the drawer was the last thing he did. An explosive device went off that obliterated almost half the building, killing many people, and maiming countless others, whose only crime was that they were in the wrong shop at the wrong time. And for that, they either lost their lives, or were never the same again. The international press tried to play the whole incident down. They reported that only eleven people had been killed and fifty six injured. Truth be told, even to this day, no-one really knows how many lives were lost that day.


One of the policewomen that was on the scene later recalled someone grabbing her on the shoulder from behind. When she turned around to see who it was, she saw one of the shop workers with a hole in his back with a metal spike jutting out of it, and one of his arms hanging by a thread. A second bomb went off in the Chancellor House, but this time something went wrong, and the explosion took place before anyone had come in for work.


Later that year, during the August holidays, Eugene was granted a two weeks pass so that he could be with his family. They decided to spend this time at the Victoria Falls, somewhere Anna and her siblings had never seen in real life before. They stayed at the Vic Falls Hotel, and went on numerous walks along the path that led them through the rainforest, caused by the constant spray from the roaring Zambezi River plummeting down the gorge.


The trail began near the statue of David Livingstone, the first European to discover the Falls in 1855. It meandered past the Devil’s Cataract, and then through the thick jungle which opened in places to allow visitors an uninterrupted view of the spectacular falls, called ‘Mossi-ya-Tunya’ in the local tongue, which means ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.


Although the Falls themselves were a sight to behold, Anna seemed to be even more fascinated by the vine and moss covered trees in the rainforest, and asked her father to take pictures of them. These she kept in a special album as mementoes of that holiday.


A few days after their return from holiday, something happened that once again brought even more suffering to the people of Rhodesia. On Monday the 4th of September, Flight Eight-Two-Five, a four-engined Viscount aeroplane affectionately named ‘Hunyani’, took off from Salisbury airport, on route to the Victoria Falls with fifty six people on board including the flight crew. As it flew over Karoi, a Strela-2 heat-seeking missile was fired at it, destroying the starboard wing. The pilot attempted an emergency landing, but the aircraft ploughed into a field just west of the town.


The crash instantly killed all but twelve of the passengers and one of the air hostesses. A further three died soon afterwards, their injuries being too severe. Two of the survivors, a medical doctor and his teenage son, went for help because the others were too badly injured. When they returned, they found that the terrorists responsible for the attack had found the crash site first. All but three of the survivors who had stayed behind were dead. The three had hidden away in the nearby bush. The men who remained at the site were shot and killed instantly, while the women were first raped before they suffered the same fate as their male counterparts. These included the hostess, whose arm had been all but ripped off during the crash. Her name was Dawn Peters. Her daughter, Shirley, was at the same school as Anna. They knew each other, although they were not close friends.


A few days later, one of the leaders of the so-called ‘Liberation Movements’ contacted the local broadcaster’s ‘Today’ programme, and boasted about his forces’ ‘Heroic Deeds’. He even laughed about the tragedy. He later denied that his people had murdered the civilian survivors, and told the international press that the plane was a military aircraft, and that the attack was against the Rhodesian Army. He even implied that it was the Rhodesian Forces themselves who had raped and murdered their own people.


On the 8th of September, a service was held at the Anglican Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints, in Salisbury to honour the victims of the Viscount attack. At the memorial, the minister in attendance stated: “Nobody who holds sacred the dignity of human life can be anything but sickened at the events attending the Viscount. But are we deafened with the voice of protest from nations who call themselves civilised? We are not! Like men in the story of the Good Samaritan, they passed by on the other side ...The ghastliness of this ill-fated flight will be burnt upon our memories for years to come. For others, far from our borders, it is an intellectual matter, not one which affects them deeply. Herein lies the real tragedy!"


In response, talks between the leader of the group of militants and Ian Smith, which seemed to have been making progress before the Hunyani was shot down, were immediately discontinued. The Rhodesian Armed Forces planned two counter-attacks, which would be called ‘Operation Green Leader’ and ‘Operation Snoopy’. The first was aimed at a ZIPRA guerilla base near Westlands Farm in Zambia, the second targeted New Chimoio Base, a ZANLA camp in Mozambique. The latter was not as successful as the former because the local government deployed armoured tanks and troop carriers to aid the ZANLA forces. New Chimoio was destroyed, but many of the guerillas based there were able to escape before this.


Operation Green Leader, on the other hand, was more successful. There were three targets, all within twenty kilometres of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. A squadron of fighters, under the command of Squadron Leader Chris Dixon, took control of Zambian International airport.


This is a record of what he told the controller at Lusaka tower: “Lusaka Tower, this is Green Leader. This is a message for the station commander at Mombwa from the Rhodesian Air Force. We are attacking the terrorist base at Westlands Farm at this time. This attack is against Rhodesian dissidents, and not against Zambia. Rhodesia has no quarrel - repeat, no quarrel - with Zambia or her security forces. We therefore ask you not to intervene or oppose our attack. However, we are orbiting your airfield at this time, and are under orders to shoot down any Zambian air force aircraft which does not comply with our request, and attempts to take off.”


Westlands Farm was just sixteen kilometres north-east of Lusaka. The other two camps that came under attack were: Camp Chikumbi, nineteen kilometres to the north, and Mkushi Camp, all of which were attacked almost simultaneously, while the Zambians agreed not to get involved.


In later years, both the leaders of the two movements claimed that the Rhodesian forces slaughtered innocent civilians during the attacks rather than aiming at military targets, mere allegations that the international press reported as fact instead of investigating for themselves. Some historians claimed that the attack took the lives of ‘three hundred and fifty one girls and boys’, implying that those responsible made little or no attempt to discriminate between civilian and military targets.


But Operation Green Leader left the Freling family devastated. Anna’s father was one of the Rhodesian soldiers killed during the attack on Westlands, now called ‘Freedom Camp’ by those who occupied it. Eugene, a gunner in his squad, was badly injured in the attack, and an Alouette gunship was called upon to evacuate him. His comrades had loaded him into the chopper, which was about to take off, when it was fired upon by an enemy guard tower. It crashed, killing all of its occupants, Gunner Eugene Freling included.


At the base at Chikurubi, where Eugene had been stationed, as was the case throughout the country, a joint parade was held to honour those who had fallen in the two operations. These parades included members of the famous Selous Scouts, the Rhodesian Light Infantry, the Air Force and Special Air Services, as well as members of the Rhodesian African Rifles, one of the oldest and most honoured battalions in the war. Two days after the parade, Eugene’s body was laid to rest at a private funeral, with only friends and family present.


At the funeral, Alex Fromont read a letter that had been written by his brother-in-law just before he left to participate in Operation Green Leader. What chilled all of those present was that it was almost as if he knew that he was not going to survive the mission. The letter read: ‘To my beloved family. If you are hearing this, it means that I have perished in the line of duty, a duty that I carry out without any regret or questioning.


Even though I still do not agree with the political situation in this country, or many of the policies of its government, and will not defend it in anyway, I once pledged that I would lay down my very life to keep innocent people safe from the onslaught that threatens us all. More especially, I have done so for you, my friends and family, whom I hold very close to my heart. I do not ask you not to mourn my death, because I know that would be too much to expect. What I ask is that you remember that I love you all deeply.


To my darling wife, be strong for me, and for the sake of our children. To my children, your daddy loves you so much. I am sorry that I will no longer hear your laughter, or be there to comfort you when you are hurting, especially now. I only regret that I will not be there to watch you grow up, to see my daughters get married, and my son find a life-partner - May she be as precious to you as your mother is to me.


Wherever we go once this body has been reduced to dust, I hope that I will be able to watch over all of you from there, and that we will be reunited on the other side. Until then, I remain - Yours always - Eugene.’


Although Anna had always known that this day might come, she was still devastated by the loss of her beloved father, her hero. She also could not help but notice a change in her mother. It was as though a light had gone out, leaving a dull blank look on her face. Ursula had always been slim, to the point of being thin, but now she looked gaunt. She tried her best to be strong for the sake of her children, but it soon became obvious that the strain was getting to her.


On the night of Tuesday, December 12th, Ursula had taken the three children to the Rainbow Cinema in Hatfield to see a film. As they were on their way back to their home in Mount Pleasant, Anna exclaimed, pointing out of the window: “What’s that?”


When the others looked up, they noticed a strange glow in the night sky. It would flare up, and then die down slightly. Behind it was a dark black cloud, as though a storm was brewing, but it never came. At that time, neither the radio station nor the television was on all night, so they only discovered what had happened the following morning. It was reported, that the previous night, the central fuel depot had come under attack.




At the time, there was severe petrol rationing as the only source of fuel came from the ‘Back-door Pipeline’ via South Africa. Thus it was feared, that if the depot had been damaged, or even destroyed, this would cripple the whole country, including the military. Fortunately, however, the RPG 7s that struck the depot only hit a waste tank, and the flames were extinguished before any further damage could be done. It was touch-and-go to begin with. The heat was so intense that nobody could come within one hundred metres of the blaze, and the water from the fire-hoses turned to vapour long before they reached anywhere near the inferno. For the next week or so, the whole city could see the pall of black smoke. Cars and houses were covered in sticky black soot as well.


On the 12th of February 1979, it was as though history had repeated itself. Another civilian aircraft was shot down, another Viscount had been targeted. Flight RH827 was on its way to Kariba. The plane, called ‘Viscount Umnyati’, had been specially chartered to fly the wives of the soldiers at Chirundu, just north of the dam. They had hoped to be sent on some well-earned R N R, but their pass was cut short. In an attempt to compensate, the army arranged for their families to be flown to Kariba, where the soldiers could spend the weekend with them.


Alas, this never happened. About halfway into the flight, there was a huge explosion, this time at the back of the fuselage. The entire rear of the plane was blown off, and the crippled craft plummeted to earth. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that there were no survivors, given what had happened to those of the previous attack. Among those killed in the attack was a close friend of Ursula’s, whose name was Daniella Ryan. They worked together. Daniella had even been a bridesmaid at their wedding, and happened to be Anna’s godmother.


The loss of her husband, and now her best friend, dealt a terrible blow to Anna’s mother. She had always felt somewhat insecure around other people, and would try to relax, using alcohol as some form of confidence booster. Now she took to the bottle in a big way. Not only that, but she also abused the prescription medicine her doctor had prescribed for her after Eugene’s death. This in turn led to an addiction to Valium.


The local authorities began to suspect that something was amiss when Ursula forgot to collect her children from school one afternoon, and a friend had to bring them home. When they arrived, they found their mother passed out on the lounge floor. Fearing the worst, Anna contacted the emergency services, who arrived on scene soon afterwards. To her relief, Anna was told that her mother was alive, but had accidentally overdosed on her medication, and slipped into unconsciousness. When she was revived, Ursula felt extremely guilty, apologising profusely to her children, and vowing that it would never happen again.


But her determination proved short-lived. One morning, the headmistress phoned one of Anna’s neighbours, and asked her to find out why the children had not pitched up for school. When the woman knocked, she found the front door wide open. Upon entering, she discovered that Ursula was seemingly unconscious on the sofa once again. Her three children were still in bed, oblivious to the fact that it was nine o’clock in the morning. The house was a shambles as well.


This was the last straw. The child welfare services ordered Ursula to attend a rehabilitation centre, which she did, and for a while seemed to have pulled herself out of the pit she had fallen into. But one afternoon the neighbours heard someone crying hysterically in the yard. Soon thereafter there was a knock on their door. It was Anna, and she was in a terrible state. She urged them to come and help her because her brother Marcus had fallen out of a tree and injured himself.


As they made their way back to Anna’s house, the neighbour asked: “Where’s your mum?”


The reply came as a shock to her. Anna answered: “She’s asleep on the couch, again.”


They arrived at the home, finding Ursula just as Anna had said, but she was not just asleep, she had passed out. Next they attended to Marcus. He was sitting on the veranda, supporting his right arm with his other hand. He was very pale, and had a look on his face that told the woman straight away that something was wrong. She contacted the local ambulance services, who responded very quickly. In the meantime, she tried to get Ursula to wake up. When she eventually did, and heard what had happened, she burst into tears, and again vowed that it would never happen again. But alas, somehow her words seemed more than a little empty.


It turned out that Marcus had broken his wrist, and his arm was put in plaster. A few days later, an official from the child welfare arrived with a notice. It informed Ursula, that since she had failed the terms of her probation, the authorities were left with little choice but to take her children and put them into foster care, pending further investigation. It was then that Anna realised just how far her mother’s condition had deteriorated. Ursula hurriedly packed four suitcases full of clothes, one for each of them, ordered the children to get into the car, and attempted to escape with them. Thankfully she had not gone very far when she ran a red light, and was stopped by a policeman. The officer became suspicious when he saw the luggage thrown in the boot, and the fact that the children were obviously scared.


Ursula was charged with attempted kidnapping, even though they were her own kids, and her three offspring were taken from her, this time for good. She lost custody of her children, was handed down a five year suspended sentence, and was told that she could only see her children under supervision by another adult.

© Copyright 2019 Tristan Biggs. All rights reserved.


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