Bush War memoir

2008-10-08 00:00

THE past few years have seen a slew of books about the Rhodesian Bush War and — following on from that — Zimbabwe’s sad decline from the great hope of a post-independent Africa to a bankrupt pariah state shunned by the Western world.

Adding to the list, author Anthony Trethowan’s coming-of-age memoir describes his experiences, first as an ordinary policeman going about his rounds and then, as the war finally reaches the remote bush station to which he has been posted, as a member of Ground Coverage, a British South African Police intelligence gathering unit.

Like many of his generation, Trethowan appears to have had few misgivings about answering his government’s call-to-arms, his thirst for action earning him the grudging respect of his adversaries who nick-named him “Babaleka” — “he who runs hither and thither”.

As more and more guerillas continued to pour into the country and as the war ground its way towards its inevitable conclusion, Trethowan was to find himself increasingly tied up in these counter-insurgency operations.

Told without bitterness in a straightforward, unadorned style, Delta Scout is primarily a book about events and anecdotes. It does not offer much in the way of analysis (besides a potted history at the start), nor is there any real attempt to see the war from the other side but within its narrow compass it does provide an honest and at times moving account of what life was like for a young foot soldier caught up in a military maelstrom.

THE past few years have seen a slew of books about the Rhodesian Bush War and — following on from that — Zimbabwe’s sad decline from the great hope of a post-independent Africa to a bankrupt pariah state shunned by the Western world.

Adding to the list, author Anthony Trethowan’s coming-of-age memoir describes his experiences, first as an ordinary policeman going about his rounds and then, as the war finally reaches the remote bush station to which he has been posted, as a member of Ground Coverage, a British South African Police intelligence gathering unit.

Like many of his generation, Trethowan appears to have had few misgivings about answering his government’s call-to-arms, his thirst for action earning him the grudging respect of his adversaries who nick-named him “Babaleka” — “he who runs hither and thither”.

As more and more guerillas continued to pour into the country and as the war ground its way towards its inevitable conclusion, Trethowan was to find himself increasingly tied up in these counter-insurgency operations.

Told without bitterness in a straightforward, unadorned style, Delta Scout is primarily a book about events and anecdotes. It does not offer much in the way of analysis (besides a potted history at the start), nor is there any real attempt to see the war from the other side but within its narrow compass it does provide an honest and at times moving account of what life was like for a young foot soldier caught up in a military maelstrom.

Anthony Stidolph

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