Rhodesia's reluctant military rebel; Born January 15, 1917; Died September 28, 2007.

MAJOR General Sam Putterill, who has died at the age of 90, was General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Rhodesian Army when Ian Smith declared UDI in November 1965, and was technically a rebel against the Queen and the British Government.

After warning Prime Minister Smith that he could never go along with Smith's plan to turn Rhodesia into a republic in 1970, the South African-born GOC took early retirement. Putterill spent the rest of his life lambasting Smith from the country's political sidelines. In the late 1960s and early1970s he was a leading light in the Centre Party, led by a white commercial farmer called Pat Bashford and supported by the ex-colony's handful of European liberals. The party was small, but an irritation to Smith.

Rodney Ray Jensen Putterill (always known as Sam) was born in Harrismith, South Africa, and educated in Southern Rhodesia. He worked for an oil company in Northern Rhodesia but was persuaded to join the Rhodesia Army.

Putterill had a brilliant military career from1939 to 1945. He fought fascists in Italy, then communists in Greece. As with so many other Rhodesians and South Africans who studied British military tactics against communists in Malaya at the end of the Second World War, Putterill believed he and his men could "hold" the forces of Black Nationalism in Central Africa in the 1960s. As time showed, they could not.

The Centre Party always insisted that if the military, the civil service and white farmers had opposed Ian Smith and UDI in 1965, whites would still be working and planning a future for themselves and their children.

Like so many other men and women of high intelligence and basic integrity in Rhodesia in 1965, Putterill put his foot down, but only lightly and far too late. He and the Centre Party became irrelevant as Rhodesia turned into Zimbabwe in 1980.

Putterill and Smith died within weeks of one another - enemies in life but men who from different positions watched with horror at the way Robert Mugabe went on to ruin what was once called the Jewel of Africa.

Putterill is survived by his wife Isobel, and a daughter. By TREVOR GRUNDY