John Robert Foran, Australian soldier Rhodesian Army 1976

Australian soldier Rhodesian Army

John Robert Foran was born in Australia, but fought in the Rhodesian Bush War.

He joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry in 1976,  married a local nurse, & later returned, with her,  to live in his native land.

The Rhodesian forces attracted conscripts from all over the world.  I have often wondered why anyone would leave their peaceful, secure homes to fight for a small country far away in Africa.  A newspaper from the time tells John’s story, John Foran, when he carried the title of Australian soldier Rhodesian Army.

What follows is taken from an article by Frank Robson, done in Brisbane done around 1980.

Reasons for leaving Australia & joining the Rhodesian Forces

John agreed with the anti communist stance of the Rhodesian authorities of the day & he craved adventure & excitement.  He certainly had a reputation for being a bit wild, having run off to join the circus as a 12 year old boy.  This period of the bush war is referred to as the intense period. (USA or UK links to the book)

The interview doesn’t clarify which was the stronger enticement, but the pull was strong enough for him to quit his cab driving job, & join a war that he never had to fight.

How exactly did he join from Australia?

John contacted the Defence Minister in Salisbury, sold his cab, picked up his one-way air ticket in Sydney  & was on his way to war within 3 weeks.

Service Details

John joined the Rhodesian army in April 1976.

On arrival in the country, he completed a training course which lasted 18 weeks.  John joined 4 Troop 1 Commando, Cranbourne at the end of October the same year.

He served 36 months as a lance corporal with a crack Rhodesian airborne army unit.  (Presumably the RLI)

26 January 1977 was the date he saw his first action.  It was also the day a terrorist lobbed a grenade at his feet on a hillside north of Mtoko.  Three giant steps & a dive saved his life, but left him with shrapnel injury wounds in his back, & “the first taste of fear in his mouth. ”



John made 18 operational jumps into terrorist controlled areas, sometimes with guns trained on him from the ground.  This, & the injuries he sustained suggest that he had extensive combat experience, but other than mentioning fighting “hand-to-hand” with terrorists in the bush, he described only his first contact in detail.  He does say he stared death in the face 4 times.

These are John’s own words, quoted after he returned home.                 “We’d been doing a sweep down the hill looking for ZANLA terrorists when I noticed footprints going up the hill we had been descending, so I turned around without telling the others, & went back up.  I was standing in a depression near the top when this bastard threw the grenade at me.  I just flew into a dive & escaped with minor wounds.”


Shot in the neck, sustained shrapnel injuries in the arm & back


John fell in love with the girl who nursed him back to health in Rhodesia, & returned back to Queensland with her as his wife.

Extra reading:   RLI Late bush war years

Sources:  Newspaper article by Frank Robson, Brisbane, family members, Cheetah Mag Sept ’79 .  With special thanks to M Hughes & family

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