Tales of a Colonial Policeman

All this talk of film stars reminds me. Our Force actually did have a real film star. One Michael Mataka, He starred in the 1954 film "Duel in the Jungle" as Vincent the head/chief porter.

It starred Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain and David Farrar, filmed on location mainly in N. Rhodesia around Livingstone where the Forces training school was at the time. The producers in their wisdom decided to use Mataka, who just happened to be the chief African instructor at the time instead of an American negro star.
He was very successful and actually went back to London to finish off some of the studio shots and was offered a contract by them, which he turned down to return to his career in the NRP. He was already an Inspector when I arrived and went on to be the first African Commissioner at independence only to resign in disgust when Kaunda banned all opposition parties a couple of years later.
Several Police were used as extras in the film and the uniform used was the same with CAP replacing NRP on the shoulder flashes. I never met him but chaps I knew did serve with him and said he was a great bloke, from his appearance in the film @ about 47", quite a good voice as well!
 
All this talk of film stars reminds me. Our Force actually did have a real film star. One Michael Mataka, He starred in the 1954 film "Duel in the Jungle" as Vincent the head/chief porter.

It starred Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain and David Farrar, filmed on location mainly in N. Rhodesia around Livingstone where the Forces training school was at the time. The producers in their wisdom decided to use Mataka, who just happened to be the chief African instructor at the time instead of an American negro star.
He was very successful and actually went back to London to finish off some of the studio shots and was offered a contract by them, which he turned down to return to his career in the NRP. He was already an Inspector when I arrived and went on to be the first African Commissioner at independence only to resign in disgust when Kaunda banned all opposition parties a couple of years later.
Several Police were used as extras in the film and the uniform used was the same with CAP replacing NRP on the shoulder flashes. I never met him but chaps I knew did serve with him and said he was a great bloke, from his appearance in the film @ about 47", quite a good voice as well!
Looking forward to watching that Sunday afternoon.
 
Loving the anecdotes on this thread @ex_colonial I’ve known some interesting people and heard some compelling tales from the old and bold, including service in many far flung places in the twilight of empire, yours compare well.
 
Loving the anecdotes on this thread @ex_colonial I’ve known some interesting people and heard some compelling tales from the old and bold, including service in many far flung places in the twilight of empire, yours compare well.
It's quite sad that the opportunities for adventure for kids today simply aren't there.

I've spent a lot of time up in the NT in Aboriginal Affairs and you can still the remnants of Colonialism but these are disappearing, which is probably a good thing.

However, the scope for a bit of adventure seems to be disappearing, also.
 
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Was the stick an official part of the dress uniform?

Yes a silver mounted "Swagger Stick" was part of our Uniform, rarely carried as they were not very strong and would break if used to thump someone. They were carried on occasions like the wedding I was attending that day and then only to make the arch for the happy couple. We were issued Swords only if & when one became Asst. Superintendent's.
Our African NCO's were issued with silver mounted bamboo cane swagger sticks which were a lot more robust than ours and would occasionally use them to whack an unruly person around the backside.
We were all issued with the standard Truncheon which was carried in a special pocket sewn into our shorts, a bit like this one..


However I discovered these were sometimes not up to the job. Late one evening 2 of My constables had brought a couple of Drunken Africans into the station for being Drunk & disorderly. Unfortunately about 4 or 5 of their mates had followed them into the station & when they were told to leave it all kicked off with them attacking the 2 arresting Policemen and myself. I immediately drew my baton & struck the one attacking me on the side of his head.... no effect, I hit him again in the same place with all the force I could muster..... "Oh shit" I thought, as I found the useless thing had broken in half diagonally leaving me with a jagged end in my hand with him still attacking me, I poked the chap in the face with this, giving me enough time to get to the other side of the charge counter where I grabbed my "riot baton", basically a pick handle with a rough handle & strap on one end.
Using both hand I brought this down on his head... relief he went down like the proverbial sack of s..t, using this I then set about some of the others until we had all of the aggressors in cuffs, fortunately with no serious damage to us apart from the odd cut, scratches, bruises and I bloody nose. The others looked a lot worse.
Fortunately the magistrate gave them all 14 days prison for the offence of assault on Police.
As an aside a few months later I was in charge of crowd control at a football match in a local stadium. I had gone for a walk up to the top of one stand to check all was well and as I went to descend the steps who should I see coming up looking at me intently but my old friend who I had smashed about the head in the station. "Oh shit" I thought, this could turn very nasty, there were about 1500 - 2000 Africans at the match with myself, 1 Sgt & about a dozen Policemen all armed with riot batons. None of whom were near me and he started talking to me, "Bwana, do you remember me?" "Yes, very well" I responded, gripping my baton very firmly behind my back & being ready to use it quickly in order to shut him up. When he started apologising saying he had been very drunk and it would never happen again.. To say I was relieved was a huge understatement!!
 
The demise of Pringle....

As you might have guessed its not his real name, after he was posted to Chingola after Passing out from training school a month late due to his stupidity he was put into my shift, proving to be of little use. His frankly dangerous behaviour at the mess dinner, it was compounded by several further instances of his folly.
The first was one late afternoon, where a couple of members of another mess decided to come and raid our mess & appropriate (steal) some of our mess souvenirs. These souvenirs took various form, an old Belgian Congo road sign, the bow & arrows, used in the "darts match" which had been brought back by an Inspector after his secondment to Nyasaland, a Policeman's fez from Nyasaland, various other bits & pieces normally hung around the mess.
The first we were aware that a raid was going on was when our barman ran out of the mess shouting thief, thief, after the 3 other mess members had fled taking a couple of our souvenirs with them. I and a couple of other mess members including Pringle came out on to the stoep in various states of undress only to see the strangers jump into their car & start to drive off. Pringle in the meantime had gone back into his room and grabbed his pistol and started aiming it at the receding car. Fortunately another inspector had grabbed him & stopped him shooting.
The next incident involving him was after he had got involved with a 40/50 yr old married woman we called the "merry widow" because of her reputation not just in our mess but the whole of Chingola.
Pringle fancied himself as a bit of a thespian and had joined the local "Am Dram" group and joined the Theatre club where they would hold productions of various plays from Noel Coward & any that took their fancy. It was here they had met, he being desperate, as most of us were, for female company, ignored the fact that she was almost old enough to be his granny and one night he had brought her back to his room. At about 1. am when we were all asleep we were woken up by a thunderous banging on his door, we went out to find the merry widows husband accompanied by a private detective complete with a flash camera confronting the partially dressed Pringle & his equally deshabille female companion & taking lots of compromising photos.. After we had stopped pissing ourselves with laughter at this, the woman dressed & left to go with her husband and quietness descended. He was named as co- respondent in the subsequent divorce.
Mind you our force did have a reputation for this activity. On a neighbouring station Kitwe, some 5 or 6 junior Policemen were named as co respondents in one notorious divorce. I found out when on my ship the RMS Windsor Castle going back to blighty where I had befriended a lovely S African Surgeons wife who was travelling to England with her 2 young children to join her husband there. That she had been warned by a couple of other S. African women on the ship to watch me, as we NRP men had a very bad reputation for seducing married women.
And before you ask, no I didn't, I would have liked to but she was too busy with her children at night. I had to stay celibate until a German Au pair, who joined the ship at Madeira and who obliged me :).
The last nail in Pringle's career was when in an effort to impress some of the Am Dram crowd, he had taken several including a few other Policemen, not me as I was on duty that evening, over to a posh hotel in Kitwe for a champagne dinner as it was his birthday. Only to bounce the cheque on the hotel. He was given the option to resign & leave the force immediately or face a court martial for bringing the force into disrepute and probably still get canned.
He resigned, he hadn't even been in Africa for a year!! IMHO he was never cut out to be in that position and probably as well he went before either something bad happened to him or he caused something bad to happen to someone else.
 
Wilson wanted to send British troops, but then he found out who they'd support.
The detachment at Lusaka lost five to my knowledge who went South. I had trained with two Rhodesians, one of whom was killed in a motorbike accident in 1980, the other lives near Jo'burg. I had a wife and brat at home so was not tempted.
 
@ex_colonial

Now I recall you once telling me an anecdote about a woman, a crocodile, and the George Medal?

Indeed I did. John Maxwell, he came to Chingola just before I moved to Bancroft. He was ex RAF Police born I believe in Merseyside and seemed a nice enough bloke if not a bit of a "know it all" . Funnily enough I remember being in the Mess one evening when he was present and we were discussing Croc attacks and how no water in that part of Africa was sure to be clear of them as all of the locals had told us. In fact even when we went to a local swimming hole, believed to be clear, we always took at least one rifle and had someone stand guard after we had thrown a thunderflash into the pool to try & at least get any possible croc's to show themselves. This was in a small pool fed by a spring, not on the main Kafue which we knew was full of croc's.
The other thing discussed was that the only vulnerable spot on a big croc were the eyes.
Anyway he had been on Farm Patrol and found a spot on the banks of the Kafue with a pleasant sandy beach on a bend. On the 10th Dec 1961 he went there for a swim. The farmer had previously told him he let his kids play on it occasionally and agreed it would be ok if John went for a swim.
On that day John swam to a rock about 20 yds from the beach and pulling himself up on it started sunbathing whilst watching the 2 young children, about 9 & 11 play in the shallows next to the beach when he saw a most unusual sight a log floating "upstream" towards the children. It was a 13 foot croc, without hesitation he dived off the rock swam to the beach and got the 2 children up to safety on a slight bank when the croc grabbed his leg & started dragging him into deeper water. He remembered the chat about the crocs eyes & managed to jab his thumb into one of them, on which the croc released him and he started to try & get back to shore. But the croc wasn't finished it came again and stated dragging him further out, in despair he jabbed his thumb in the other eye on which it released him. By this time he was next to the rock he had been sunbathing on and just managed to cling on, both his legs had been mauled & bleeding profusely, the children's cries had been heard by a local African woman Belina Malomi , she despite the croc still thrashing around after its eyes had been gouged out waded out to the rock & dragged Maxwell ashore. She then helped him make a tourniquet for the worst damaged leg and the farmers 14 year old daughter, the farmer & his wife were away on business, helped him to his car & drove him to the Mine hospital in Chingola .
One leg was so badly mauled it had to be amputated below the knee and he was transferred to Roehampton to be fitted with an artificial one. I, amongst others visited him in hospital before he went to the UK. On the 10/4/'62 both he and Mrs Mallomi were gazetted for the George Medal.
Chingola District Police also had a collection for Mrs Mallomi and on the 24/12/'61 she was presented with a brand new bicycle at a full dress parade at the Chingola district Police camp to thank her for her bravery.
He returned to duty on his recovery and was seconded for the rest of his tour to Sir Roy Welensky's personal bodyguard.
Most of us thought whilst he was incredibly brave, he should never have been swimming ALONE & without an armed lookout in the Kafue.
The following day the Game department went to the farm and shot the croc, which had lost its eyes thanks to Maxwell. It measured just over 13 feet long!
 
The same as this one on my avatar pic, fully shown here..
If I wasn't so modest I'd say she had good taste :)


You're lucky you have big feet requiring large heavy boots. You'd get airborne in anything stronger than a light breeze with those ears. Detecting mouse farts at 200 yards no problem though.
 
Thank you for the detailed explanation, It reminds me of a reported conversation between a British Lt Col Cross, the British attache to Cambodia in 1968/70 and the Russian ambassador there. The Russian said. " When the British leave their Colonies they tend to leave a seat of Government, an administration and a Judiciary, some hospitals and schools. When the French and the Belgians leaves theirs, they just leave the Desert that they found on arrival" He went on "That's why there's a war in Vietnam today" I think the Vietnam war would have come anyway, but better French handling of the situation during their 100 years or so of occupation, may have sorted it? I have no idea how long the Belgians were in the Congo.
Not earlier than 1836 (ISTR that's when Belgium was founded) and there's probably a link to the French. Ex C , damned interesting thread.
 
Please keep the dits coming, and its about time Ravers put more of his tales on Arrse

Well just for you and all those other nice chaps who seem to appreciate my posts on the NRP, and I have to emphasise that to the best of my memory, and I'm not senile yet, these are ALL TRUE..

State of emergency and an ambush.

In the middle of 1961, just after I had taken over the shift from "Johnny". Kaunda had threatened the British Govt on the, to his way of thinking, slow progress on the Independence talks and threatened, and these are his actual words " To make Mau Mau look like a tea party".
Towards the end of July there was a massive outbreak of lawlessness, mainly in the Northern Province where Kaunda had his tribal power base but spreading to the copperbelt where I was stationed. Over 30 schools were burnt down, 20 bridges on minor roads destroyed and hundreds of supporters of the other main political party attacked, some being killed. For the first time on the copperbelt his supporters had tried to use explosives stolen from the copper mines. As a result a state of emergency was declared and police reserves called up! One afternoon I was called into my CO's office where the special branch officer was talking to him. Apparently an attempt had been made to blow up the main power line which came up from Kariba and supplied not just our town but the others further north. It had been unsuccessful BUT the explosives were still in place on the pylon and SB had had information that a further attempt would be made that night to finish the job and I was to take a patrol & ambush the spot about a mile or so south of the town. I was to take myself, armed with a Stirling smg & my pistol, a sergeant with a riot gun & parachute flares & ten constables, four, the best marksmen shown by their annual musketry scores, to be armed with .303's. and to set up ambush near the site to arrest or shoot anyone who tried to re initiate the charge. Prisoners were to be taken if possible but not on any circumstance to allow the demolition of the power line.
I picked my team, all good chaps I had worked with before. We were taken by a circuitous route to near the site just before dusk in the hopes it wouldn't alert any watchers. Just after dark, making no sound we positioned ourselves on a large termite mound some 50 - 60 yards away just inside the tree line where we had a good view being hopefully concealed behind it so as not to alarm anyone trying to set it off.
I would give the signal to fire parachute flares by touch, the sergeant was right next to me and by whistle to either charge in and arrest or to shoot any possible malefactors.
We settled down to wait at about 7.00pm, now anybody who has been to that part of central Africa knows that July is still in their cold season. At about 4,000 - 5,000 foot above sea level it can & does get f**king cold at night, not freezing but after the warmth of the day & sitting/lying not moving, it certainly feels like it despite all wearing their pullovers & greatcoats.
After a totally quiet night, the SB officer turned up next morning just as dawn was breaking to tell us the men who had set the charges had been arrested & confessed just before midnight.
I wasn't happy WTF hadn't he come to tell us, saving us 5 hours of freezing our b**locks off. "Ah well he could have had more accomplices" came the response.
Somewhat of an anti climax, no chance of heroically fighting off terrorists intent on blowing the lines down and going back to the mess for tea & medals. just a quick trip back to get a hot breakfast & a warm bath :-(
 
Yes a silver mounted "Swagger Stick" was part of our Uniform, rarely carried as they were not very strong and would break if used to thump someone. They were carried on occasions like the wedding I was attending that day and then only to make the arch for the happy couple. We were issued Swords only if & when one became Asst. Superintendent's.
Our African NCO's were issued with silver mounted bamboo cane swagger sticks which were a lot more robust than ours and would occasionally use them to whack an unruly person around the backside.
We were all issued with the standard Truncheon which was carried in a special pocket sewn into our shorts, a bit like this one..


However I discovered these were sometimes not up to the job. Late one evening 2 of My constables had brought a couple of Drunken Africans into the station for being Drunk & disorderly. Unfortunately about 4 or 5 of their mates had followed them into the station & when they were told to leave it all kicked off with them attacking the 2 arresting Policemen and myself. I immediately drew my baton & struck the one attacking me on the side of his head.... no effect, I hit him again in the same place with all the force I could muster..... "Oh shit" I thought, as I found the useless thing had broken in half diagonally leaving me with a jagged end in my hand with him still attacking me, I poked the chap in the face with this, giving me enough time to get to the other side of the charge counter where I grabbed my "riot baton", basically a pick handle with a rough handle & strap on one end.
Using both hand I brought this down on his head... relief he went down like the proverbial sack of s..t, using this I then set about some of the others until we had all of the aggressors in cuffs, fortunately with no serious damage to us apart from the odd cut, scratches, bruises and I bloody nose. The others looked a lot worse.
Fortunately the magistrate gave them all 14 days prison for the offence of assault on Police.
As an aside a few months later I was in charge of crowd control at a football match in a local stadium. I had gone for a walk up to the top of one stand to check all was well and as I went to descend the steps who should I see coming up looking at me intently but my old friend who I had smashed about the head in the station. "Oh shit" I thought, this could turn very nasty, there were about 1500 - 2000 Africans at the match with myself, 1 Sgt & about a dozen Policemen all armed with riot batons. None of whom were near me and he started talking to me, "Bwana, do you remember me?" "Yes, very well" I responded, gripping my baton very firmly behind my back & being ready to use it quickly in order to shut him up. When he started apologising saying he had been very drunk and it would never happen again.. To say I was relieved was a huge understatement!!

I had one of those batons in the maze in the eighties(never used it) anyway we were advised to lose them and were given one of a lighter wood,the wood in the baton above was the equal to steel, health and safety gorn mad I tell ee.
 
Murders & post mortems...

The first murder I was involved with on a very tenuous basis, I drove the vehicle taking the perpetrator to Ndola.
This involved a 40 odd yr old European woman beating her 8 year old son to death.
This woman's husband had died leaving her with a severely handicapped son, IIRC he was a downs syndrome child & terribly ESN and after the husband had died she had had a lot of trouble with the son playing up. One day she had enough & beaten him to death with a rolling pin.
She phoned the police to report it and the shift officer went to the house with a CID inspector. The woman let them in and took them to the childs bedroom to find that she had already washed him, bandaged his head & put him neatly in bed, cleaned up the blood etc before she had phoned us.
She was cautioned & arrested and taken by the CID man to the station for questioning, the shift officer remained at the house to await the MO.
Apparently the woman had said in response as to why she had done it, that she didn't want the child to suffer any more and thought it was better if he was looked after by the angels!
The news of this tragic event went around the station like wildfire and everybody was curious to see her.
She looked to be a normal middle aged woman, quite smartly dressed but who seemed to have a strange & difficult to describe look on her face, almost as though she wasn't there but responded when talked to as though one had interrupted a day dream she was having.
A special hearing was held at the magistrates court that PM which was most unusual and after listening to the arresting CID man & the MO, it was felt by all that she should be transferred to a secure hospital asap where she could get treatment and I was detailed to be the driver of the transport to take her to the Ndola hospital, she was escorted by a female police inspector from the control room helped by a woman pc.
She was later found not guilty of murder because of diminished responsibility and sent to a secure mental hospital for treatment.
Virtually everybody who had contact with her agreed it was the best thing and I think it was just a huge sadness that circumstances had caused her to do it.
Normally it was CID who investigated murders but when I moved to Bancroft later and occasionally when the political violence was at its worst when the predominantly UNIP (Kaunda's party) were killing off opponents from the ANC (Nkumbulas party), we could and occasionally did, have 2 or 3 dead bodies turn up after a bad night of violence and the officer in charge of the shift had to investigate and go to the court. Almost invariably with no suspect being found. People were so terrified if they did see anything they just shut up in case they were next.
I did get to go to the odd post mortem. As a "newbie" in Chingola within the first 2 weeks I was told to attend the PM on a "sudden" death. It was an elderly African who had died overnight with no history of illness. Johnny warned me before I went to buy some cigarettes to take with me, I didn't normally smoke so was a bit surprised and asked why? He grinned & said "you'll soon find out", I did. The first thing that happens is that the medical examiner examines the undressed body on the table minutely for any marks and you are asked to witness & make a note of any seen in case it has a bearing on the death. The body is cut open from chin to crutch and the outer layer of skin & muscle pulled back, stomach, & guts opened up and contents put into jars, ribs cut open & heart & lungs examined.
It is during the last few procedures that the smell starts, god its revolting, no matter how fresh the corpse it is always bad. It was then I started the smoking, indeed I virtually didn't stop puffing huge quantities of smoke out, lighting one fag off the other in order to try & smother the smell.
The ME then cuts the scalp open pulling the skin down over the face and then gets a small circular saw and cuts the top of the skull off. The brain is removed & examined. All irregularities are noted & put into his report which then goes to the investigating officer.
The ME made an interesting comment when doing the last skull cutting, he told me that in his experience African Skulls were nearly twice as thick on average than a European's skull. Which might explain why the chap who attacked me in the charge office broke my baton.
 
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(...) The ME made an interesting comment when doing the last skull cutting, he told me that in his experience African Skulls were nearly twice as thick on average than a European's skull. Which might explain why the chap who attacked me in the charge office broke my baton.
Did the Africans there carry loads on the tops of their heads? If so, it might be related to that, as bone responds to stress the same way that muscles do, by getting stronger. For example I have read that archaeologists can tell if a medieval European skeleton belonged to a longbow archer by the distinctive signs that years of practising this induces on the skeletal structure.
 

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