Delta Scout was the call sign for Tony Trethowan’s Ground Coverage ‘stick’ during the Rhodesian bush war of the late seventies. This is the story of an ordinary policeman, a young man who signed up with the British South Africa Police as a raw 18 year old and who was to serve eight years with that fine force. As a young Patrol Officer, he was to experience rural life in remote stations in the bush of Matabeleland. He embraced the experience and learned Sindebele within a few months.
The book is richly interspersed with anecdotes of wild frontier life—of rowdy prospectors, obstreperous farmers, maverick hunters and bizarre eccentrics. He deals with a wide array of crimes and incidents—from murder, tribal suicide, sorcery, robbery and drunkenness to horrific vehicle accidents. But as the bush war intensifies, Tony finds himself more and more involved in paramilitary operations. Ground Coverage was a BSAP intelligence-gathering unit— operating literally ‘on the ground’ in the rural areas.
Known by his enemy, Nkomo’s ZIPRA guerrillas, as Baleka, or ‘he who runs hither and thither’ because of his propensity for rapidly covering vast areas, alone in his beaten-up police Land Rover, the second part of the book deals with the author’s conversion from civilian policeman to full-blooded counter-insurgency operator in an African guerrilla war. Told with a sensitivity and pathos that is rare in military memoirs, Delta Scout is a brutally honest, compelling account of innocence lost.