|The Selous Scouts Regimental Standard on display in the 22 SAS Officers Mess.|
The Selous Scouts were an elite Rhodesian counter-insurgency unit formed in 1973 and were famed for their use of unorthodox tactics. Widely regarded by even the most nailsest of the nails as even more nailsy by a significant amount of ironmongery, the Scouts accounted for nearly 70% of kills inflicted on the nationalist guerillas of ZANLA and ZIPRA during Rhodesia's Bush war of the 1970s.
Unlike C Squadron of the Rhodesian SAS, who were predominantly used for reconnaissance the Scouts used very naughty techniques that were on the fringes of legality, but were best known for their almost supernatural tracking ability. Candidates were recruited from all services - including the BSAP (police). Most operators were captured guerrillas that had been 'turned' and whose 'talents' were exploited to the full.
The Scouts' selection process was legendary and would make modern Health and Safety advocates blanche in horror - particularly their bush food survival course: rotting baboon and antelope carcasses being hot on the menu, there being no rations issued. The course included a fifteen miler with a fifty-five pound load and drop out rate was high. Successful candidates were expected to learn Ndebele (Matabele) or Shona as a language.
Surprisingly, the Scouts numbered around three battalions' worth - quite large for such a specialised unit. Add to this the innumerable walts who claimed to have served and it numbers well in to the thousands.
'Uniforms' as such were a haphazard affair (the Scouts being given even more latitude than the notoriously ally RLI) - customised Rhodesian kit, camouflaged flying coveralls and shorts being particularly popular. On operations, the Scouts often wore a mixture of captured ZIPRA/ZANLA gear to enhance their appearance during infiltration of enemy encampments. Trainers, baseball boots and sandals - anything but issued footwear - were favoured to foil counter-trackers.
The Scouts were mixed race - though predominantly black, but whites often blacked their faces up to disguise the bleedin' obvious. Weaponry was either the ubiquitous FN FAL (SLR), GPMG or captured Soviet weaponry - again for appearance's sake.
The Selous Scouts were hurriedly disbanded in 1980 upon the transition of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. Shamefully, for one of the most decorated units in the Rhodesian Army it received no formal disbandment parade.