Gordon Shaw Choppertech

Choppertech 1976-80: A Gunner's Reflection of Fireforce Operations in Rhodesia - Gordon 'Beaver' Shaw

This book covers the author's and other crewmen's experiences in No 7 Alouette Squadron as helicopter Technicians / Gunners who flew numerous operational sorties in Alouette G and K Car gunships on Fireforce operations during the Rhodesian Bush War. The Alouette III helicopters were extensively used within Rhodesia as well as on external operations into Zambia, Botswana and Mocambique. Beaver served during latter stages of the war - 1976-1980, and has the unique distinction as being the only gunner during the bush war who is credited with a successful Air to Air contact when he shot down a Botswana Defence Force Islander plane, using the K-Car's 20mm cannon during a hot extraction of Selous Scouts troops who had just attacked a ZIPRA base in Francistown.

In this book, Beaver Shaw sifts through mounds of log book entries and other information that he has gathered from friends over many years. He has added his flying logbook entries as they appear in his logbook as a reference and guide to his book. He writes his book as he remembers it, and has used words and phrases that they used during the war days; and therefore he will not apologise for any of the wording and for not being politically correct. This book may offend some and may bring back many memories for others…. Good or bad, these fortunately or unfortunately, were the days of war and this is a book of his days…. fighting a terrorist war! Warfare from unprotected helicopters. Choppertech is a book that lets facts speak for themselves, showing ultimately that the truth is no less amazing than fiction and that the scars never heal.

Foreward from the book.......
Someone asked me the other day, "Hey Don, did you know this guy Gordon Shaw? I think they called him Beaver. He was a blue job, a chopper tech. Did you know him? Did he see any action?" I do know Beaver Shaw and I did have the pleasure to operate with him!

My mind wanders off and I remember........Fireforce, a call-out, the wind in my face, the speed we were moving over the ground towards the target area.....and....... "One minute out," came the words from the pilot. We pulled up and the command, "Smoke! Now!" filled my headset. I lobbed the smoke canister out the open door and we banked sharp left, the blades chopping the air in a clatter of noise; there was that brief second, when time seemed to stand still as we waited for something to happen. Then it came............

The chopper tech barked into his mouthpiece, "Roger, Gooks 10 o'clock......left, bank left, bank left now! K Car is firing!" Dum-dida-dum, the sound of the 20 mm cannon firing, dum-dida-dum and the action was on! You talk about an adrenalin rush, something to shove you to the edge of your seat, exciting stuff, all of this and more, much more! A time to pray, a time to laugh, sometimes to cry. All of these emotions come to you at different times in an airborne Fire- force assault. The experience is something once never forgotten. It is exhilarating, exciting, fast, often frightening but always, always..... magic!

In the contact described above I have recollections of glancing to my left as we circled the contact area. The tech, K Car gunner, was crouched kneeling and firing the 20 mm gun with deadly effect. His crooked smile, calm demeanor and self confidence steadied and calmed my nerves as the battle unfolded! There are flashes of green and orange on the ground followed by the roar of incoming enemy ground fire. The Perspex shatters just to the left of my head and I am stung by the plastic and shrapnel which suddenly fills the cock-pit slams into my shoulder! It feels like a hefty punch and when I touch my shoulder it's wet, sticky and hot. Apart from that I am fine and there is no time to worry about this now as things are happening and fast! The floor between my legs bursts upwards like thin silver paper being torn as rounds crash through the aircraft floor and green hornets whizz around I duck and feel vulnerable and stupid all at the same time as there is nowhere to take cover! Nowhere to hide or dodge the bullets! I look to my left once more.....the tech is still smiling, still firing and once more I relax. Beaver you biscuit sort them out, bud! You go Boy!!

So the battle continues. The para Dak runs in over the target and deploys just off to the west. The paras seem to be ejected from the aircraft but then they steady to float and swing down towards the ground and the enemy below. All the time the K Car circles and the team watches; flashes all over the place and men running. Suddenly a billowing mushroom of white smoke makes us zero in on a contact taking place below. The radio crackles to life, "Contact, contact! Stop one we have a contact!" Beaver adjusts his position and shuffles left or right on his knees behind his gun, taking in the situation He looks, aims and a split second before firing he advises both the K Car team and the troops below, "K Car firing!" and the 20 mm once more spits out its deadly load. There are yellow-white flashes and then a plumb of smoke as he makes a direct hit on a gook scrambling for cover behind a baobab tree. In an instance the gook disappears, vaporized. Everything is in slow motion now and the 20 mm spits again......Duda-doom....dud -dum!

Back in camp and safe on the ground I swing out of the chopper and onto terra-ferma. The chopper tech walks around and claps me on the shoulder, "Great stuff, Ishe! Wasn't that outstanding?" The pilot, Chas, unclasps his mouth-piece, "Good work, Beav! Spot on shooting, mate well done!" Chas and I saunter back to the Ops room for a debrief and some hot tea. For us the show is over for a while anyway. But for Sgt Beaver Shaw and the other chopper techs like him it has only just begun. He must now get to work and work quickly as there is no time to waste. The next call-out could come at any moment and he must re-arm, clean his gun to avoid stoppages, check everything on the aircraft, refuel, re-grease, check all oil levels and seals, all joints and blade tips as everything must be 100 % before the next siren blast signals another call-out!

Later that evening in the troop's canteen the lads relive the battle. Stories are told and retold.The drinks flow but eventually, rather quickly actually, the lads are finished, expired, too much adrenaline has been pumping; one by one they peel off but before they go each and everyone says , Hey Beav...thanks bro you were magic up there, man. You made that 20 mil sing boet.....thank you Beav, thank you!" There are high fives all around. Eventually only a few of us are left and we reflect one last time on the day's action and punch-up! The swirl of the last swallow and one last look at the dying fire. "Good night you all.....good job Chas and great shooting Beav. Cheers everybody. See you tomorrow." So ends a normal Fire Force day; what will the morrow bring?

Sgt Beaver (Gordon) Shaw was one of those dedicated chopper techs, a true professional who loved every minute of his work and calling. As a gunner both in the G Car and K Car he was unparalleled; apart from being a deadly shot with an uncanny knack of knowing the gooks next move before it happened he was also a great guy and a superb airborne soldier who always remained extremely modest.

I met Beaver in 1978 when he was posted as part of Fire Force Delta to Beitbridge where I was OC 1 (Independent) Coy RAR. The area was tough, dry and very hot in both meanings of the word - temperature wise and gook action. Beaver worked with me as tech/gunner in the K Car on many a call-out and I can honestly say I was always impressed by this quiet often shy young man in olive green overalls. For me he was and will always be one of the Blue Job's (Air force's) unsung heroes as during his time with 7 & 8 Squadron his accurate shooting accounted for hundreds of gooks killed. He spent day after day doing what I described in just one action, never bitching, whinging or finding fault in anyone....just quietly doing his job!

Beaver went on to be actively involved in almost every operation where choppers were deployed as well as airborne assaults into Mozambique like the raid on Chimoio in Operation Dingo. In fact the list of his deployments is staggering.

Beaver also accompanied pilots into neighboring hostile (enemy) countries on "hot extraction" missions playing an important role in rescuing soldiers from life threatening situations and bringing them back to safety. Tasks the normal soldier never spoke or heard about but which were very real. Again, chopper techs like Beaver were never praised for their part in these highly dangerous airborne mercy missions; to this day they remain unsung heroes!

Beaver's memoires, "Chopper Tech" is a must read for both military historians and civilians alike. It is a wonderful record from a totally different perspective of the Rhodesian war and our fight against terrorism.

I am honored to have been asked to write a foreword for this quiet totally unassuming and modest professional ….. Sgt Gordon (Beaver) Shaw.

Major Don Price BCR
OC 3Cdo

Soft cover A4 size. Includes many photos and drawings, approx 47 pages of photos.
Hard cover A4 size, Leatherbound limited edition limited to 100 copies, produced after the publication of the softcover.

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