The History of the British South Africa Police 1899-1980

ISBN: 978-1920143-35-0
620 pages 
260 x 215 / 8½ x 10¼
750 colour & b/w photos, plates, sketches, maps

In 1889 Cecil John Rhodes was granted a royal charter by Queen Victoria to settle Mashonaland, in what was to become Southern Rhodesia. So was formed the British South Africa Company; its regiment of troopers raised to protect the occupying Pioneer Column dubbed the British South Africa Police, the BSAP. From the 1893 Matabele War, the 1896 Mashona Rebellion and the Jameson Raid, the Anglo–Boer War, through both world wars and finally to the bitter Rhodesian bush war of the 1960s and ’70s, troopers and officers of this fine regiment of policemen, both black and white, were proudly to the fore, in civilian and military roles … until the disbandment of the Force in 1 980 when the country became the independent Zimbabwe.

Incorporating Volume I: The First Line of Defense 1889–1903, by Peter Gibbs; Volume II: The Right of The Line 1903–1939, by Peter Gibbs; and Volume III: The End of The Line 1939–1980, by Hugh Phillips. Also with dozens of anecdotal contributions and accounts from ex-members, updated and comprehensive nominal rolls and roll of honour and Dick Hamley’s beautiful colour plates. Over 750 photographs–many of them previously unpublished. This never-to-be-repeated ‘coffee-table’ record of the history of a country is a must for former BSAP members, their children and descendants, and anyone with an interest in the unfolding developments in t he country now known as Zimbabwe.

The standard, hardback coffee-table edition will cost R650 + postage

Collector's Edition This re-formatted, updated and vastly expanded history of the British South Africa Police is also available in a leather-bound, limit ed (to 100 copies) edition and is signed by Hugh Phillips, Nick Russell and Bill Ellway (President of the Regimental Association). It costs R2,000 including postage. Please contact to reserve your collector's edition. We have a few copies left, but they are selling fast.


An old gold value indeed it is. Blue and Old Gold - The History of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) by Peter Gibbs, Hugh Phillips and Nick Russell, illustrated by Richard Hamley and published in 2009 by 30 Degrees South, is a magnum opus without compare on the history of colonial police in Africa. This single hard-covered volume absorbs two previous works, contains 57 chapters and three appendices and is well illustrated with sketches, maps and photographs in colour and black and white. Covering, in meticulous detail the 90 years of the force’s existence, it is a connoisseur’s dream and will be hard to emulate. Although the book has a scholarly approach, it is written in an entertaining easily-accessible style. We are given details of the formative years of the force with its hard-bitten band of colourful adventurers from all strata of society. The men who became the bedrock of civilian authority within the territory and who brought about the occupation of Matabeleland, men depended upon by that icon of imperialism, Cecil Rhodes – who sought the expansion of the British Empire and would-be builder of a railroad from the Cape to Cairo... The descriptions of the BSAP involvement in the infamous Jameson raid of 1896, the rebellions against the Imperial authority in Matabeleland and Mashonaland, all this and more will enthrall those interested in the interlaced tapestry of Southern African history. Sucked into the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902, the force subsequently saw service in both the First and Second World Wars; it played a significant role in the formation of the Federation of Rhodesia & Nyasaland; during the emergence of Nationalism in the late 1950s; while Britain was surrendering its colonies... The individual efforts of its members, regulars and reservists, male and female, black and white, both in the workplace and on the sports field, are vividly captured. Here the book shows the true mettle of the BSAP as exemplified by the indomitable presence of men like Corporal Percy Sillitoe (later Sir Percy Sillitoe head of MI5 ), Bill Bailey and Reg Seekings ex co-founder of the SAS who gave birth to the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (PATU) which together with the ‘black boots’, the BSAP Support Unit, were units formed from within, forged in the fires of external conflict and tempered by years of camaraderie. It also records the reminiscences of the Force’s earlier commissioners and the intimate revelations of the men and women, regulars and reservists alike, both black and white, who struggled fruitlessly against losing their country to forces of evil. The ‘final chapter’ probes the vacillating leadership at the helm of its last commissioner who was unable to make the meaningful decisions needed to keep the force afloat in the face of internal and external pressures. In relating the history of the BSAP, which was ‘on stage’ during all the dramas directed largely by politicians of various hues, the book provides a different (and controversial) view of the action and very frank opinions on the directors and actors as the action swept across the southern Africa landscape during those 90 tumultuous years. Criticisms? More maps of the earlier adventures, with place names and routes, would have helped the reader along. The plethora of photographs in the final chapters resemble a hastily-compiled family photograph album – a rush to meet the publisher’s deadlines perhaps? Nevertheless a thoroughly worthwhile piece of Africana which should inspire further research and fully deserves its prominent place on my bookshelf. Paul Naish – August 2011

One of the great colonial police forces along with the Canadian Mounties, the British South Africa Police (BSAP) carved out an enviable reputation for themselves in their 91 years of existence, before forming the nucleus of the Zimbabwe Police Force in 1980 when the former colony finally gained independence. In this handsome volume from 30 Degrees South, Blue and Old Gold: The History of the British South Africa Police 1889-1980, the Regiment, as past members of the force refer to it, gets the full treatment.
First and foremost it is important to point out that this publication is more an omnibus of existing works on the BSAP than a new history. This, however, does not detract from its value as, with the exception perhaps of Hamley's The Regiment, the other three works upon which this single volume is based have long been out of print and when available in secondhand book shops, fetch exorbitant prices. Of particular interest in this volume is the wide range of accompanying photographs, many of which are published for the first time. Hamley's ubiquitous colour plates, I say ubiquitous because they always seem to turn up in publications relating to the BSAP, have been supplemented by some new additions which appear to have been specially commissioned for this volume. Hamley published the first illustrated history of the BSAP in 1971 when The Regiment: The History and Uniform of the BSA Police appeared in black and white. In 2000 Covos Day published a revised edition in colour.
Listed among the three authors is Peter Gibbs, responsible for the original two-volume history of the BSAP published in the early 1970s. Called The First Line of Defense (1972) and The Right of the Line (1974), abridged versions of both volumes constitute the first two sections of Blue and Old Gold. The First Line of Defense covers the opening period of the Force's existence as a private police force under the aegis of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) that spearheaded white settlement. This section covers the period from the departure of the Pioneer Column in 1889 until the end of the Boer War fourteen years later. This period saw among other things the occupation of Mashonaland, the First Matabele War as well as the Jameson Raid and the suppression of two rebellions. The force then went on to assist the British in the Second Anglo Boer War.
The Right of the Line, provides the basis for the second section covering the period after the Second Anglo Boer War until the outbreak of the Second World War. This period saw what had in essence been a force based on a British cavalry regiment with a strong military role, transform into an efficient civilian police force. This is where Gibbs' history stops. With the war in Rhodesia intensifying and permeating every level of society, it is not surprising that a third volume was not forthcoming. In 2000 however, an Australian publisher, Something of Value, published a third volume by another of the authors, Hugh Phillips, to complete the trilogy started by Gibbs. Called The End of the Line 1939-1980, Phillips documented the BSAP's role during the immediate post-war years, UDI and finally the Bush War. This was also the first attempt at an omnibus edition as Philips used the opportunity to republish Gibbs' two volumes in the same work. A major flaw in the enterprise was legibility. With every page carrying far more than its fair share of text, reading was an ordeal reserved only for those with keen eyesight. Nevertheless, it disappeared quickly from the bookshelves to become sought after in its own right.
Enter Blue and Old Gold. This current volume goes some way to compensating for the faults of its predecessors. Printed in the same format and style as The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry and Masodja: The History of the Rhodesian African Rifles, Blue and Old Gold currently represents the best single volume history of the BSAP. A nominal role and role of honour in the appendices make the book even more appealing to those with a personal link to the Regiment. It is a fine tribute to all who served. Of particular interest to some might be a black and white photograph on pg 453 showing Superintendent Jack Broderick "checking the situation with Robert Mugabe's nephew, Philip Chiyangwa, on his long stop duties as a field reservist at a roadblock on the Mafeking road in Bulawayo during the volatile days leading up to the March 1980 election."
African Armed Forces
February 2010


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The BSA Police Senior Officer.

Images by Dick Hamley
author of
'The Regiment'