Robert Leslie explores unique unit in Rhodesian war

Robert Leslie has released the first book about the Selous Scouts. Photo: Lauren Strode
Robert Leslie has released the first book about the Selous Scouts. Photo: Lauren Strode

In the early 1970s, Robert Leslie had a chance encounter with a patrol of Selous Scouts.

This inspired a 20 year journey to write a book about these scouts and the role they played in the Rhodesian War.

“I come from Africa and I spent quite a few years up in Zimbabwe which was Southern Rhodesia and I worked out in the bush,” Mr Leslie said.

“All of a sudden out of the bush these eight figures just emerged. I wasn’t quite sure what they were. They were very heavily armed. I thought that these were actually terrorists and my crew were absolutely petrified. But they just walked past us and went into the bush.”

Butcher Bird is the first in a trilogy and focuses on the Selous Scouts.

The books are fictional but based on true events.

The scouts were a regiment formed from the regular army that was used to infiltrate terrorist camps and report back to the Rhodesian High Security.

It was a mix of black and white soldiers.

In order to integrate themselves into the terrorist camps, the fair- skinned soldiers painted their skin with stains and dyes to make it a darker colour.

They even went as far as using tinctures to darken the whites of their eyes.

“They were credited with some extraordinary results,” Mr Leslie said. 

“Over the course of the war they were directly or indirectly accredited with killing about 70 odd per cent of all terrorists that died in the Rhodesian conflict and the Selous Scouts only lost 40 men.”

When Robert Mugabe took power in Zimbabwe, Mr Leslie said the scouts were disbanded.

‘There was no recognition for what they had done, they simply disappeared from all records.”

Butcher Bird can be purchased online at several sites and Mr Leslie said he hoped to bring the book to Highlands stores.