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Book review: Selous Scouts

“Selous Scouts” is the fourth in a new series on African conflict, “Africa@War” and unlike the other three volumes in the series that look at specific operations, focusses on a uni, the Rhodesian Selous Scouts regiment.

“There can be no doubt that the Selous Scouts Regiment fast-tracked into legend”, writers author Peter Baxter, “and in doing so drew attention to itself in a manner most unbecoming of a covert reconnaissance unit in the in the special forces stable of any army. In fact, in the words f British historian and journalist David Caute, commenting in his 1983 book “Under the Skin”, about the decline of white Rhodesia, the Selous Scouts were “upstarts in a hurry to describe themselves as legendary.” Baxter replies that the Selous Scouts “were an elite regiment, and bearing in mind that the legend has survived three decades beyond the existence of a regiment that was operational for a mere six years, there can be few who could effective argue against that.”

Baxter argues that the principal weakness of the Rhodesian army and security system in general was its limited size. The response was the “fire force”, a formidable combination of air and ground forces that could close with, and destroy guerilla groups. The rub was finding them. This would be the task of the Scouts.

“The successful symbiosis of the Selous Scouts and Fireforce was undeniable, and remained in deadly use until the war ended. In simple terms, a Selous Scouts call-sign would be deployed covertly … afer which the team would move either to an observation post, normally situated on high ground, or into an insurgent operational area posing as an incoming [guerilla] group.”

A fascinating primer for those interested in counter-guerilla warfare and the Scouts.

Peter Baxter
Africa@War Volume 4
Selous Scouts, Rhodesian counter-insurgency specialists
30o South Publishers

64 pages
Illustrated, some diagrams
No index
No bibliography

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