Fireforce Ventures is the only company in the world producing tactical ripstop kit based off an original of wartime Rhodesian Brushstroke, based off an minty unmolested David Whitehead Textiles Ltd. bolt manufactured circa. 1978-79.
It's a bold claim, but we know our history and have the evidence to back it up. The pattern itself was derived in many ways from the earlier Denison patterns, first utilized for Airborne and Special Forces in 1941. The Denison Smock pattern made perhaps it's most dramatic appearances in the latter years of the war when British Airborne troops dropped into Normandy and Holland wearing the unique camo. Southern Rhodesian soldiers fighting under the British flag during WW2 and the Malayan Emergency regularly utilized the pattern to great effect.
As war loomed on Southern Rhodesia's borders during the period of post-war decolonization, the plucky African colony started to identify the need for better kit. Southern Rhodesian soldiers assigned to protect the colonial frontier during the period of the Congo Crisis found their olive drab fatigues lacking when contrasted with the dramatic backdrops of Southern Africa. The need for a better camouflage pattern was quickly identified and the Mashonaland based company David Whitehead Textiles Ltd. led the charge
.The late Rhodesian artist Di Cameron was put on the job and developed the first of several "Rhodesian Brushstroke patterns". The 1st Pattern, Rhodesian Brushstroke was developed with huge design inspiration from the hand painted Denison smocks. Utilizing similar natural brushstrokes, it sought to create a standardized and repeating 3-colour pattern for mass production.
Photo: Members of "C" Squadron, Rhodesian Special Air Service, during the time of Rhodesia's involvement in the Malayan Emergency. The troopers seen in the photograph are wearing the iconic Denison Smock.
Photo: Members of the Rhodesian Guard Force circa. 1978. These Guard Force men are all wearing the 2nd Pattern, Rhodesian Brushstroke with a significant degree of "bush wear" given how faded they are. It is important to note, that the bush fade gives more of a khaki hue. Note as well the private purchase "Fireforce Vest".
The brown, green, and khaki shapes began to take shape with this 1st pattern. Perhaps of most importance to this pattern's development, the distinctive khaki "lightening bolt" first appears over the brown blob. However, the colours were extremely saturated and produced somewhat of a red hue. Against the lighter backdrop of the Rhodesian Bush, the aggressive colours needed to be significantly subdued. What resulted next was an experimental pattern known popularly by collectors as Arid Rhodesian Brushstroke. The extremely rare pattern featured the lighter shade of brown and lime green over a sharp khaki base. A small number were trialed by members of the newly formed Rhodesia Army during the period of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Again, the pattern was founded lacking, and additional tweaks were needed.
This tweaking resulted in the development of the legendary 2nd Pattern, Rhodesian Brushstroke. Featuring distinctive green slivers overtop of brown islands on a khaki base, is remains in our opinion, the best camouflage pattern in existence. It was used extensively by the Rhodesian Security Forces from 1970 onwards as the Bush War intensified, with the early British styled trousers finding their way to front line troops. By 1976 during the height of the Bush War, the pattern almost completely superseded the originally issued olive drabs in the battlespace. Many uniform variations, including British style three-tooth pocket uniforms, flap pocket field shirts, trousers, jumpsuits and a wide array of hats.
These issue uniforms were manufactured indigenously due to international sanctions against the Republic of Rhodesia. Locally manufactured uniforms were produced by Statesman, Panorama, or David Whitehead Textiles. There were additional uniforms imported from South Africa via a company known as Gama, which sometimes bore sanitized sizing labels for prevent tracing. The wide acceptance and use of the pattern also led to the development of many copycat patterns by the Rhodesian cottage industries, most notably Fereday and Sons in Salisbury (which now operations at Fereday Newlands in Harare). These copies were often times utilized to create tactical vests, chest rigs, short-shorts, and t-shirts, with fairly irregular hand painted patterns in the style of Rhodesian Brushstroke. Given how prominent the cottage industries of Rhodesia were, the mish-mash of issued "greens" and private purchase kit in Brushstroke patterns were a common sight.
After the Rhodesian Bush War, many of the original bolts of Rhodesian Brushstroke fabric and supporting production documentation were lost to former employees of David Whitehead Textiles and members of the Rhodesian Security Forces fleeing the country. In addition to the surviving original bolts were some of the aftermarket copycat fabrics, and some production seconds from David Whitehead Textiles. Most prominent were those distributed abroad via individuals such as Johan Niemoller. Copycat fabrics featured either the distinctive red hues of the 1st Pattern Rhodesian Brushstroke with a very poor quality fabric printing process, or Adler-Sacan/Adro which featured fantasy tags and thicker Brushstrokes while retaining the correct colours.
The new Zimbabwe National Army sought to immediately distance themselves from the former forces of Rhodesia, and quickly adopted a drab olive uniform, in addition to a distinctive Zimbabwean Lizard Pattern. By the 1990s, the Zimbabweans would slowly re-adopt a copy of the former Rhodesian Brushstroke with the added twist of superimposing their browns over many of the green shades. This new Zimbabwean Brushstroke Pattern effectively created a fourth dark brown-green colour over many of the former slim green brushstroke features. While completely illegal to export out of Zimbabwe as this pattern is now the active
Over the past few decades, various companies have attempted to market an approximation of the most prominently used 2nd Pattern, Rhodesian Brushstroke. In reality, they were either selling the blatant copycat post-war patterns, or some variation of the Zimbabwean pattern. It was only through the contacts we've made over the years with former members of the the Rhodesian Army/SADF and former David Whitehead Textiles Ltd. staff that we've discovered the truth about this pattern.
We know what the "real deal" looks like
We have in our collection examples of the 2nd Pattern Rhodesian Brushstroke, Zimbabwe National Army Brushstroke, Adler-Sacan/Adro Brushstroke, Niemoller "Red' Brushstroke and several other unique original examples. Each one of these patterns are beautiful in their own way, but nothing beats the glorious 2nd Pattern Rhodesian Brushstroke. It was this pattern during camouflage tests conducted by the United States Marine Corps in 2000 that topped the charts alongside the likes of CADPAT and Tiger Stripe. It was also Rhodesian Brushstroke that inspired the khaki elements of the eventually developed woodland MARPAT pattern, which remains in issue today.
It is based off of careful research and digital colour tests that we have deduced the differences between the many copycat patterns. We have often been accused by less than savoury characters as being distributing one of the many post-war copycat patterns, or even worse, Zimbabwean Brushstroke. To put that rumour mill the rest, we took some solid photos back in the summer of 2019 comparing our pattern with a mint condition David Whitehead Textiles Ltd. fabric bolt.
All photos were shot with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with a SIGMA DC 18-250mm lense. They were photographed under identical overhead white light conditions on a 24 by 24 inch portable table. They were all taken on the same day, by the same photographer. No filters, edits have been made with exception to the cropping of the photos to fit a 2000x2000 canvas on photoshop. No black magic, no makeup, no colour changes, this is what Rhodesian Brushstroke really looks like!