Ron Reid-Daly was born on the 22nd September 1928 in Salisbury, Rhodesia. He attended Alan Wilson High School before joining the Post Office as a telephone technician, intent on making this his career. At school he excelled, in his own words, "at nothing that was not on the rugby field". His early ambition to become a farmer gave way to his sense of adventure and he signed up for service in the Rhodesian contingent of the Far East Volunteer Unit.
Lt Col Ron Reid Daly first became a soldier in 1951 when he volunteered to fight with 'C' (Rhodesia) Squadron of the British SAS, newly reformed to combat communist insurgency in Malaya This unit was destined for service in Korea but was diverted to Malaya to fight the Chinese communist insurgents. The Rhodesian contingent, led by a young Peter Walls, later to become commander-in-chief of the Rhodesian security forces, became "C" Squadron (Rhodesia) of the British Special Air Service regiment, highly skilled in counter-insurgency warfare.
After three years of active service in the Malayan jungles, Reid-Daly returned to Rhodesia "and a boring civilian life". Soldiering was now in his blood, and he joined the Southern Rhodesian Staff Corps, becoming an instructor at the School of Infantry. After this Ron Reid-Daly worked his way up through the ranks in the Rhodesian Army from trooper to become the first Regimental Sergeant Major of the newly formed Commando Battalion ;the Rhodesian Light Infantry in 1961 It was here that Reid-Daly came into his own, where his firm hand and disciplinary measures made him known throughout the army. The Regiment blossomed with Reid - Daly becoming somewhat of a legend. For his work and dedication to duty he was awarded the MBE. He was later commissioned and achieved the rank of Captain. Ron Reid-Daly was due for retirement from the Army in 1973 and he was under pressure from his wife to "settle down and get a proper job”. Later that same year Captain R.F. (Ron) Reid-Daly, (then O.C. Support Commando R.L.I.) was persuaded by General Peter Walls, his old friend and colleague from the Malayan expedition and the then chief of the Rhodesian Army, to stay on in continued serviced. Ron was to establish from scratch an elite Special Forces unit to combat the growing threat posed by communist supported guerrillas. Ron was subsequently appointed Commanding Officer of the new regiment which was named the "Selous Scouts" after the famous African hunter Frederick Courtney Selous.
The new formation would in reality be to recruit and train "pseudo terrorists" – preferably captured guerrillas who had been "turned" – to infiltrate their former comrades in the bush. The unit, said Walls, would be named the Selous Scouts after the legendary African hunter and tracker Frederick Courtney Selous.
“Uncle Ron” as he was affectionately called by many of his men passed away at home on the 9th August 2010 after a prolonged struggle with cancer and diabetes.
Digger' Essex-Clark joined the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps in 1951 and trained as an Infantryman with Keith Kemsley. Like Keith he followed him into the then SRAF in SSU2 in early 1952 but unlike Keith, who was a natural pilot, teaching Digger to fly was like 'teaching a rhinoceros ballet, his words: '...though I knew the steps. I didn't look very pretty. So I left to rejoin the 'grunts' to keep my feet or belly on the ground and my eyes on the bush rather than the clouds'. He then served as a platoon commander with 1RAR (Rhodesian African Rifles in Malaya and, inter alia, was the first company commander of 'A' Company 1RLI, (later to be 1Commando), and captain of the RLI first fifteen rugby team. He trained and took his company to operations on the Congo border in 1961. He later went home to Australia where he joined the Australian Army, was re-nicknamed 'The Big E', played Rugby for the Australian Combined Services XV, and a few months later was commanding a company of 1RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) in Vietnam where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the United States Bronze Star for leadership in action. He later commanded 9RAR; the Australian Army Infantry Centre; and the Army Staff College. He retired in the Rank of Brigadier and now lives in Canberra.
Digger is also currently Secretary of the RAR Foundation, a 'patriotic and charitable organisation' that supports the seven battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment; and a member of many Defence oriented organisations; and the Brumbies Rugby Union Club. ’Digger’ is also author of ‘the Maverick Soldier’
Served as CO 4 December 1979 to 31 October 1980.
Charlie Aust was born in Enkeldoorn, Rhodesia in 1942. He attended Rhodes Estate Preparatory School and Plumtree High School and underwent National Service training at the age of 17. This early period of military service ignited an inherent interest in the profession. In truth, the Aust family’s African military tradition would read as something out of the pages of Rider Haggard or Wilbur Smith. His maternal grandfather fought in the Matabele War and his great-uncle died with Alan Wilson at the famous ‘Last Stand’ on the Shangani River.
Charlie Aust attested into the Federal Army in early 1962 and underwent 15 months officer training at the School of Infantry in Gwelo. He was awarded the Belt of Honour for best academic results and the Sword of Honour. A three-year posting to 1RAR followed. In 1968, he commenced a three-year period of service at the School of Infantry as a National Service officer cadet instructor. This was followed by a Staff posting to HQ 2 Brigade in Salisbury where he served as GSO3 (Operations). In 1972, as a major, he joined 2 Commando, RLI, and took over command of the sub-unit as the concentrated terrorist war commenced.
Possessed of great tactical skill, and with a fine eye for detail (he is a gifted artist), he very quickly established himself as an outstanding Fireforce commander. Of his skill in this capacity Dennis Croukamp in his book, Only my friends call me ‘Crouks’, writes: ‘Not only did he have an uncanny ability to anticipate the terrorists’ every move, but he was able to re-direct ground forces to cut the terrorists off. He could encourage the ground forces to go that extra distance, pushing themselves to their limit and beyond. Most Selous Scouts pseudo commanders loved having the then Major Aust in the K-car directing the action and they considered him to be the best among many successful Fireforce commanders.’ For his work in this capacity, extending over three years, Lieutenant-Colonel Aust was made a Member of the Legion of Merit (Combatant).
Absorbed by the unique spirit and comradeship of the unit, he changed his parent regiment from 1RAR to 1RLI. In 1975, he commenced duties as a grade 2 staff officer at the Joint Planning Staff in Milton Buildings, Salisbury (the senior command’s forerunner to Combined Operations). This was followed by a return to 1RLI and an appointment as Battalion Second-in-Command. A year’s service as Commandant, School of Infantry followed. Highly talented and self-effacing he was greatly respected by all. He returned to 1RLI as Commanding Officer in December 1979. He remained in the post until the unit was disbanded in 1980 and, as such, was the last Commanding Officer. After eleven years in South Africa, Charlie Aust returned to the family farm in Matabeleland in late 1991. Ten years of productive development followed but came to an end in 2001 when the Mugabe government took over the property in concert with the nationwide ‘land grab’ policy. Charlie Aust now lives in England with his wife Pam and has two daughters and a son.
Following is a memorandum that Charlie Aust wrote on his appointment as CO on 4 December 1979. It goes a long way in demonstrating the kind of man he is:
With undoubted disinterest you will have noted that there has been a changeover of COs. I have taken over from Lt-Col. Bate. I want to tell you that I am extremely proud to assume command of the battalion. I cannot see/speak to you all and for that reason I am sending a written message. I should ask you to read it because it serves the purpose of putting over to you some of my thoughts and philosophies. This is important because what I think will affect every man.
I have always been a great admirer of the RLI trooper. I have never had any illusions about him, however, here are my hitherto unwritten laws:
A lot of people rely on us. Let not let them down. I personally have never been let down by an RLI soldier and I can’t believe standards have changed. In an effort to avoid the embarrassing stories told by past COs please try and recognize your CO as such and not as the Battalion groundsman. Description:
Let’s all get on with the job in the best RLI traditions. The best Battalion in the world? I believe it is, but let’s prove it to the world.