Selous Scouts


Together Only

This site honours the brave men of the Selous Scouts, the counter-insurgency Special Forces of the Rhodesian army.

In their very brief history  of just seven years, the Selous Scouts won a fearsome reputation as the best and most effective bush soldiers in Africa. The regiment acted as a combat reconnaissance force and accounted for 68% of all terrorists killed  in the Rhodesian War - whereas the Scouts only suffered 36 own casualties.

The initial Selous Scouts were formed on 1st January 1964 as an armoured car regiment of the Central African Federation of Southern Rhodesia (former Rhodesia,  now Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi), and were named after Frederick Courtney Selous (1851-1917) a famous hunter and friend of Cecil Rhodes. After the political failure of the Federation, the  regiment was disbandoned within the same year of its formation.

In the early 1970s it became appearant that terrorist infiltrations into Rhodesia needed to be answered by a specialised force of  counter-insurgency units. For this purpose General Peter Walls, then Chief of the Rhodesian Army,  appointed Major (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Ron Reid Daly of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, to form a regiment of  volunteers.

Reid Daly, (then 47) a Rhodesian born ex British SAS Serviceman fighting in the Malayan conflict, formed a highly trained combat reconnaissance and tracker unit that first saw action during Operation  Hurricane in 1973. The new Selous Scouts were officially formed in 1974.

Major Ron Reid Daly

inspirational leader and founder of the Selous Scouts

The Scouts´ mission was to infiltrate the local tribal population and the terrorist networks of ZANLA and ZIPRA in Rhodesia and  neighbouring countries.

( ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) - the military arm of ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) was headed by Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe. ZANU/ZANLA was supported by the Shona tribe in the northern part of Rhodesia and followed the communist politics of red China. ZIPRA (Zimbabwe Peoples Revolutionary Army) - the military wing of ZAPU (Zimbabwe African Peoples Union) was headed by Joshua Nkomo and supported by the Ndebele tribe of southern and western Rhodesia. This organisation was influenced and supported by the Soviet Union. As of 1974 ZIPRA stopped playing a major role in terrorist attacks on Rhodesia due to their many defeats at the hands of the Rhodesian security forces and the subsequent inferior numbers in fighting cadres compared to ZANLA. In 1975 ZIPRA and ZANLA merged and formed ZPA (Zimbabwe Peoples Army), led by an 18 head strong Central Commitee, which from then on led the attacks on Rhodesia. The political arms ZANU and ZAPU later also merged to form ZANU/PF. )

The Selous Scouts were recruited from volunteers between 24 and 32 years of age, with the highest motivation, tough guts, loyalty, deep professionalism,  maturity and intelligence. A thorough understanding of the meaning of responsibility was equaly as important as self-discipline. Being a loner and able to survive the rigours of the african bush, and on the other extreme, being  able to fully function as a team player was one of the do-or-die criterias that weeded out the rest from the best. Before the initial training programm started, the volunteers had to undergo a severe selection camp that lasted for  18 days. In the 7 years of existence of this elite unit only 15 per cent of the volunteers made it past the selection stage and were awarded membership into the ranks of the Scouts.  The selection  process was conducted  at camp Wafa Wafa, on the shores of Lake Kariba in the north of Rhodesia. Wafa Wafa, coming from the Shona language basically meaning -“WHO DIES DIES, WHO STAYS BEHIND STAYS BEHIND”.

The selection course of the Selous Scouts built up on what Reid Daly underwent as a British SAS operator, but was taken much farther than  that. No provisons were issued for the first five days of the course. The recruits had to live off the land. Then, on the fifth day, they usually were given a baboon carcass that was left to rot in the sun for three days. The  recruits had to prepare the maggot rotten meat and eat it. For the remaining 13 days they were given rations consisting of only one sixth of a mans usual daily intake. Recruits were forced to make the bush their own habitat. Eating  all kinds of animals and - in times of water shortage - even drink the water from the stomachs of dead animals. Later, in actual combat situations, Scouts were forbidden to shoot animals. During most selection courses 80 per cent  of recruits dropped out after just two days.

The infamouse Baboon

Reid Daly´s intention was to completely break a man in order to built him up again from scratch, according to the needs and requirements of the Selous Scouts.

Now training as a Scout could start. Infiltration techniques, weapon handling, parachute training (HiLo) and all other means of warfare of a Special Force Operator were trained. Special attention was given to perfectly operating  as so-called “Pseudo-Groups”. Selous Scouts operating in small teams (2-3 operators) behind enemy lines, seeming to be terrorists themselfes, therefore gathering vital information. These units were completely self-sufficient,  living off the land and re-supplying themselfes with arms and ammunition of terrorists killed. For that purpose every member of the Selous Scouts had to be fluent in at least one tribal dialect or language.

During the so-called “Dark Phase” - meaning being actively involved in a combat situation - the white members of the Scouts were not  allowed to shave to hide as much as possible of their white faces.

The combat strength of the Selous Scouts averaged at around 700 members, reaching its highest level in 1977 with almost 1000. As a regiment purely made up of  volunteers, the Selous Scouts were a true bi-racial unit. More than 80% of its members were black.

The tradition of blacks serving in the Rhodesian Army goes back a long time, with the famous RAR “Rhodesian African Rifles”, a pure black  regiment, being the most prominent one apart from the Selous Scouts. But also the BSAP “British South African Police” had a long tradition of black officers that sometimes went back over 2-3 generations within one  family.

In 1978 it was estimated that some 12.500 cadres of the ZAP were fighting against the Rhodesian Army. Independant sources, mainly UN officials and  organisations supporting the cause of ZANU/PF, estimated the casualties of ZAP amounting to one third in fatalities (kia) of the total of troops. Until the end of hostilities this number has risen considerably - but due to  censorship imposed by ZANU/PF, the real numbers will never be known. According to the then Government of Rhodesia, the Selous Scouts accounted for 68% of those killings with only 36 own casualties - hence having been the most  effective Special Force in history.

Training para-jumps in Platoon strength

Scout with tracker-dog in an Alluette III Gunship

Although there were many raids conducted by the Selous Scouts, the most talked about one will always be Operation Eland, carried out in August 1976 against a  ZANLA guerrilla camp in Pungwe/Nyadzonya in Mozambique. 72 Selous Scouts, amongst them a handful of Recces from South Africa, mounted 10 Unimogs and three Ferret armoured cars and drove calmly into the 5000 strong camp of ZANLA  rebels on the banks of the river Nyadzonya. As soon as the enemy realized who they had welcomed, the Scouts opened fire with everything they had - killing 1200 ZANLA troops  with only five own soldiers wounded.


 1. Kidnapping of (ZIPRA) terrorists from Francistown, Botswana, March 1974 (target A). An eight-man team comprising four European and four African Scouts was clandestinely infiltrated into Francistown to kidnap several  terrorists and bring them back to Rhodesia for interrogation. The raiders captured four occupants of the ZIPRA headquar­ters and drove them back across the border to Rhodesia without incident.

2. Kidnapping of ZIPRA  official from Francistown, Botswana, September 1974 (target A). Another team of Scouts (two Europeans and one African) was infiltrated into Francistown to locate and kidnap a senior ZIPRA official. After several false  leads and some reconnaissance, the team finally located their man and abducted him after a fierce struggle. He was then placed in the back of a car and taken across the border to Rhodesia. However, the team left behind  false passports, a radio transmitter, and weapons in a hotel room, along with an unpaid bill. One of the European members of the team had to return to the hotel where he paid the bill, collected the weapons and radio,  and departed for Rhodesia without incident.

3. Raid on Caponda, Mozambique, March 1975 (target B). Twenty Scouts staged an assault on a ZANLA staging base 55 km north of Rhodesia. They traveled to and from the target  on foot. After a 24-hour march, the unit came upon the terrorist base only to find it deserted. A cholera epidemic had broken out among the terrorists and the camp had been evacuated. The unit returned safely to  Rhodesia.

4. Mozambique, January 1967 (target G). This operation involved a helicopter-borne assault by 15 Scouts against a ZANLA transit camp that was destroyed.

5. Operation Traveler: Attack on Caponda base,  Mozambique, April 1976 (target B). This operation involved another attack on the ZANLA staging camp that was plagued by a cholera epidemic. The attacking force consisted of a 20-man patrol that marched into Mozambique,  attacked and destroyed the camp, killing seven terrorists and wounding 16 others. The raiding party returned to Rhodesia on foot, several of them having been injured.

6. Operation Detachment: Raid on Chigamane,  Mozambique, May 1976 (target C). This operation involved an attack on a ZANLA base 108 (km) inside Mozambique. Twenty European and African Scouts dressed in FRELIMO uniforms traveled in four military vehicles disguised  as FRELIMO vehicles. The ZANLA terrorist base was attacked and destroyed with rockets, mortars, and machine guns. The raiders returned to Rhodesia safely.

7. Operation Long John: Attack on Mapai, Mozambique, June 1976  (target D). This operation involved an attack on a ZANLA base in Mapai, 48 miles inside Mozambique, by 58 Scouts traveling in four trucks and two Scouts cars, all disguised as FRELIMO vehicles. Along the way, the  raiders disconnected telephone lines and sabotaged the railway line. The column was allowed to enter the terrorist base by an unwitting sentry. Once inside, sappers destroyed 13 Mercedes busses used to transport  terrorists to the border (one bus was spared and was taken back to Rhodesia as a souvenir). In addition, the insurgents’ entire armory was seized and brought back to Rhodesia before an air strike was called in to  destroy the base. Nineteen terrorists were reported killed and 18 wounded; one member of the raiding party was killed and a few were wounded.

8. Nyadzonya/Pungwe Raid, Mozambique, August 1976 (target E). This  operation involved a raid on a large ZANLA base 60 miles inside of Mozambique by a Scouts column comprising ten trucks and four armored cars, again disguised as FRELIMO vehicles. The Scouts in the first four vehicles  were also dressed in FRELIMO uniforms. They cut the telephone lines leading to the town where the terrorist base was located, then drove straight into the camp. They then opened fire on the unsuspecting insurgent  terrorists drilling on the parade ground, killing at least 1,184. Fourteen important ZANLA insurgents were captured and taken back to Rhodesia for interrogation. On their way out of Mozambique, the raiding party blew up  the Pungwe Bridge to prevent any pursuit and returned to Rhodesia safely. In a separate action, the covering team deployed to block the column’s escape, ambushed a Land Rover whose six occupants were found to be senior  ZANLA officers; all six were killed.

9. Operation Maradon: Attack on Jorge do Limpopo and Massengena, Mozambique, October 1976 (target D). This operation involved an attack against a ZANLA base at Jorge do Limpopo,  36 miles inside Mozambique. The strike force traveled a circuitous 350 to 400 km roundtrip route, and two reconnaissance teams (one of three and one of two men) were parachuted into Mozambique in advance of the column.  Upon entering Mozambique, the raiding party laid Claymore mines on roads and booby-trapped the rail line. Telegraph and telephone lines were also cut. The column then launched a succession of attacks, destroying a  FRELIMO garrison, derailing a troop train (and killing 36 of the terrorists on board), and destroying a large water reservoir, along with railway switching points and several enemy military vehicles. A senior FRELIMO  commander was also killed. On November 2, the Scouts returned to Rhodesia, having destroyed the terrorists’ logistical base of support. They disrupted communications between Jorge de Limpopo, Malvernia, and Massengena,  wrecked two trains, destroyed all motor transport in the area, and sowed landmines in various spots. This operation effectively undercut ZANLA’s operational capacity and weakened insurgent morale.

10. Operation  Ignition: Attack on ZIPRA, Francistown, Botswana, November 1976 (target A). This operation involved an attack on ZIPRA’s headquarters in Francistown by a team of Scouts. Its purpose was to destroy a stockpile of  suitcase bombs intended for use in Rhodesia. The raiding party used previously captured insurgent suitcase bombs to destroy the headquarters building and the stockpile of bombs, wounding five insurgents in the process.

11. Operation Aztec: Attack on Jorge do Limpopo, Mpai, and Madulo Pan, Mozambique, May—June 1977 (target D). This operation involved an attack on several ZANLA bases 138 miles inside Mozambique by a motorized column  of 110 Scouts disguised as FRELIMO soldiers. A railway line, the terrorist bases’ chief source of supply, was also destroyed. In addition, military vehicles and equipment were destroyed by Rhodesian Air Force air  strikes flown in support of the raiders.

12. Operation Vodka: Raid on Mboroma ZPA camp, Zambia, December 1979 (target location not known). This operation involved a raid on a ZPA prison camp 96 miles inside Zambia  containing 120 opponents of the terrorist organization along with some African members of the Rhodesian security forces. A team of 42 Scouts were parachuted into the camp after it had been softened up by an air strike.  Resistance was quickly overcome: 18 guards were killed and six were captured. Only 32 prisoners were freed, because the remainder were outside the camp on work details. In the evening, the raiders and freed prisoners  were airlifted back to Rhodesia from a nearby airfield.

13. Operation Petal I: Botswana, Mach 1979 (target F). This operation involved the kidnapping of Elliot Sibanda, a senior ZPA intelligence operative, by a team  of Scouts who crept across the border into Botswana and laid an ambush. Although badly wounded, Sibanda was captured and brought back to Rhodesia alive.

15. Operation Petal II: Francistown, Botswana, April 1979  (target A). This operation involved an ambitious raid to kidnap the ZPA southern command. The raiding party consisted of a small column of two armored cars and some other trucks disguised as Botswanan military vehicles  and Scouts dressed in Botswana military uniforms. The column crossed the border and drove to the house being used by ZPA and arrested its occupants. Before the victims realized what had happened, they were back in  Rhodesia

The end came with the end of Rhodesia. In 1978, white rule came to an end with the election of Bishop Abel Muzorewa as the first black Prime  Minister, and the name Rhodesia was changed to “Zimbabwe-Rhodesia”. However, the outside powers Soviet Union, China, Tanzania, Zambia and others who had assisted and funded the guerrilla groups, did not agree to this compromise.  Bishop Muzorewa was considered not black and red enough, so the guerrilla war continued after his election. With both sides becoming increasingly exhausted by the war, both physically and financially, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia  government agreed to a peace conference in London, which eventually led to a cease-fire and elections. However, despite well intentioned British army observers, these elections were nowhere near anything that could have been called  free and fair. In many tribal areas terrorist gangs intimidated and forced the local population to vote for ZANU/PF and so the leader of ZANU/PF Robert Mugabe was elected Prime Minister and the nation was renamed Zimbabwe.

On 18th April 1980, soon after ZANU/PF taking over the powers in the former Rhodesia, the Selous Scouts were disbanded without an official ceremonie by an Army HQ order.

Already back in 1976, when  operators of the South African Reconnaissance Commandos were fighting alongside the Scouts in Mozambique, talks commenced about incorporating the Selous Scouts into the SADF should Rhodesia fall. This now took place in 1980 when  most of the former Selous Scouts left Zimbabwe and joined the famous Recces. A lot has been written about the whereabouts of the Scouts within the Recces, but I trust the story of Reid Daly and Peter Stiff the most, which says that  the former Rhodesian SAS fathered 6-Reconnaissance Commando and the Selous Scouts formed 7-Reconnaissance Commando (soon to be changed into 3-Recces) in Phalaborwa, northern Province. Construction on this brand new army base  commenced as early as 1978, when it became evident that the Selous Scouts had no place in the future former Rhodesia. Still in 1980, 3-Recce Commando and 5-Recce Commando from Dukuduku base in northern Natal,  were merged to  form the new 5-Reconnaissance Regiment, stationed at  Phalaborwa.

The Selous Scouts´ regimental artifacts were smuggled out of Zimbabwe and taken to Phalaborwa, were they became the traditional foundation of  5-Reconnaissance Regiment. After the 1994 elections in South Africa, the regimental standard was hastily retrieved from the base and handed back to the founder of the Selous Scouts, Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid Daly.

 Unfortunately, the integration of the Selous Scouts into the SADF was not a smooth transaction. The former Rhodesian soldiers came from a British background, speaking English and were used to completely different drills and  traditions than their South African counterparts. The South Africans, on the other hand, still felt uneasy with everything British due to the Boer War. The language in the ranks of the SADF was Afrikaans, not English, and following  of the Dutch Reformed Church was a must. Although very close neighbours and partners in combat, the little things of everyday´s life made it difficult for many of the former Selous Scouts to stay in the ranks of the SADF after the  first year. Most of the members that left went to join the mercenary agency Security Services Transkei Pty Ltd of their former Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid Daly.  Others joined the Transkei Defence Force (TDF) and  only very few stayed on to serve in the SADF.

“Rededication Parade” on 17th February 1979 at the homebase of the Selous Scouts, Andre Rabie Barracks, Salisbury

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