Tales of a Colonial Policeman

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.


Nah. If you spend time in Africa you'll quickly observe that the menfolk in most African societies do absolutely f* all work, let alone carry stuff on their heads. Its the women who should have skulls 3" thick if it were due to physiological reaction to weight; they do all the heavy lifting.


Actually, I was just about to respond to e_c's comment about breaking the baton. I've seen probably two or three dozen incidents where an African bloke received a blow to the head that would have hospitalised or killed a European, but had little effect other than to get a wince from the owner of the bonce.

I won't go into my own, er, first hand, experience of this topic, but mention that my mother was a trained nurse and fairly often went to give first aid to locals who'd had misadventures. This was extremely common, given the fights in the local village, or the endless roadkill from dusky individuals walking or sleeping on the roads in the pitch black African nights.

One chap I recall was brought to the door (he was walking and talking just fine) with a machete stuck across his skull - a bit like an African version of the Sword in the Stone. It was stuck so firmly, that his buddies had to hold him down on the step and lever the blade out. Mother washed and dressed the wound, and he seemed fine after that. I reckon his skull was so thick that he had minimal brain cavity.

In the market one day, and we were horrified to see a bus sweep in too close to the stalls and hit a chap who was bent over tending to his trinkets. The bus's bumper hit him smack on the head at about 30mph; there was a loud bang, and the poor guy was catapulted down the road. We went to give aid, and were expecting him to be thoroughly dead. However, apart from having much of his skull exposed by a split scalp, he was just stunned and a bit unhappy. We took him to hospital and (we) stitched him up, and he was back with his trinkets the next day. Still didn't give us a discount, though....
 
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.


The women did, most African men considered things like working in their gardens growing millet, maize etc. and carrying water or stuff from the market, to be woman's work. Traditionally the men were the hunters & warriors, sitting around while their women worked around the village. Young boys guarded the cattle.
Unless an African was employed and paid by the Europeans, I rarely if ever saw one do any work, it just wasn't in their psyche, I have seen women walking back from the fields/gardens/forest with massive loads of vegetables/wood on their heads with babies slung in a blanket on their backs and the men just carrying their axes giving them no help at all.
Which reminds me of another little incident. When I had moved to Bancroft & was on Border patrol, the CO called me into his office one day & asked me to liaise with the Forestry officer who had a major problem. He took me out to a large plantation of young Mopane trees had been planted by the Forestry department to provide a future supply of an attractive hardwood which because of its popularity had been almost eliminated by over felling mainly by the Europeans. But because it also attracted a particular moth which laid its eggs on the leaves which in turn produced loads of green caterpillars it was felled by African just to get to them which they cooked & ate with relish. this is a photo of them called Mopane worms...



We found about an acre or so of trees of about 10' -15' high which had been cut down and about 6 or 7 Africans busily picking the caterpillars off the leaves & putting them in sacks to take to sell in the local markets. There were half a dozen or so sacks already full.
We arrested all of them and took them and the full sacks back to the station in our 2 landrovers, the Forestry guy had brought his vehicle with 2 of his African rangers.
All those arrested were given about 1 month in prison to try & discourage this feckless destruction.
My 2 constables were delighted when the Forestry guy gave 3 of the sacks to us to distribute amongst all of the African Police on the Station. Good nyama Bwana, lovely when fried/grilled with nsima (a thick maize porridge eaten as a staple by most tribes in NR).
Quite a few insects were eaten by the Africans , Sausage flies (a type of flying ant).





Locusts were also in demand



Remember all these could be found wild at certain seasons and were full of proteins being a useful supplement to the Africans diet.
Indeed at certain times of the year swarms of insects were to be found around every light at night and some constables on their beats could fill their pockets with those that had dropped to the floor.
If one was daft enough to leave ones door or window open at night and leave the light on you found insects covering everything inside. The only remedy was to get a bug spray use it liberally, turn the light off shut the door and go into the mess for an hour or so have a beer & go back & literally sweep out all the corpses.
Another delicacy I was asked to shoot when it was spotted on patrol was the cane rat, seen below...


Again good "nyama"

Kapenta, a small dried fish was also popular with the Africans. It normally stank especially when being cooked.



I resisted the temptation to try all of these foods with the exception of nsima, which I found very bland almost to the point of being tasteless. Biltong & "braais" (braaivleis ) were another matter altogether.
One of the most popular occupations and something because of the predictable seasonal weather you could plan months in advance.


This brings me onto another Post Mortem I had to attend. An African man in his early 20's had been taken to hospital with severe stomach pains & subsequently died. Being a "sudden death" I was detailed to attend and investigate.
When the ME had opened up his stomach, again with me smoking like a chimney to smother the smell, he called me over to look at the contents which were bits of partially digested meat, nsima and leaves with a lot of blood, the stomach had bled extensively. We found out later, after the contents had been analysed by the hospital laboratory, the leaves had contained a poison a bit like the oxalic acid found in Rhubarb leaves. This had led to the stomach bleeding extensively and ultimately his death. On investigation & interrogation of various friends & family members present at the meal including his mother who had prepared his food that night. He had bought some vegetables in the market including a cucumber like vegetable which had some leaves with it and he had been the only one to eat the leaves as there were only a few. It was those that had killed him. After all the various statements & ME reports had been examined & witnesses questioned the Magistrate decided it was an accidental death caused by eating toxic leaves!
 
It took me a little bit of digging to find it, but that's why I am a Gallery Guru and you're not.



Mrs Belini Maloni GM

I see Michael Mataka on the extreme right of the photo, obviously after independence as he was the Commissioner then!
 
...One chap I recall was brought to the door (he was walking and talking just fine) with a machete stuck across his skull - a bit like an African version of the Sword in the Stone. It was stuck so firmly, that his buddies had to hold him down on the step and lever the blade out. Mother washed and dressed the wound, and he seemed fine after that. I reckon his skull was so thick that he had minimal brain cavity...

One of our medics told me of an incident where a bloke had wandered into the hospital where they did their training in the A&E department (GaRankuwa) with an axe stuck in his melon. He was also completely pissed.

Being a Saturday night, things were usually bloody hectic so they stuck a drip in him as he didn't appear to be about to expire, then seated him on a bench to wait for a gap in the chaos to be properly examined. Few minutes later a nurse went to fetch him, only to find him missing. They carried on dealing with the rest of the charnel house and a couple of hours later the bloke wandered back into A&E with his drip bag balanced on the axe in his melon, now even more pissed.

Turns out he'd been bored waiting so had popped out and found a local shebeen for a few more chibulis before making his way back to A&E to be attended to. According to our medic they removed the axe and sutured the wound, bound his head in a bandage and checked him in for a day or two under observation before being discharged from hospital. The skull like concrete story is no myth.
 
It took me a little bit of digging to find it, but that's why I am a Gallery Guru and you're not.



Mrs Belini Maloni GM

I think the woman inspecting the female police is Betty Kaunda the first Presidents wife..

 
This mzungu too. Cercle Nautique in Buj does them in seasoned flour then deep fried, served with a bowl of mayo and a bowl of finely chopped habanero peppers. Lush...

I think the nearest I have had in the UK is whitebait, deepfried!
 
These were dried so quite crispy. Guess the mayo and pili pili masks the fishy flavour a bit but I found them OK.
 
Other sudden deaths/suicides I was involved in...

The first was in Chingola, where we had a call from a woman one evening to say her husband had shot himself. I was sent round ASAP to check what had happened. I got there was shown onto the back stoep to see this guy lying there next to a chair with a .22 rifle next to him. I checked him quickly and despite him having a bad wound to the side of his head was still breathing but unconscious. I got the woman to call the Station again to get them to send a doctor or ambulance asap, while I tried to stop the bleeding.
Looking at the scene it would appear that the chap had got his rifle and while he was sat down on a chair put the muzzle up to the side of his head but in trying to get to the trigger & pull it, the muzzle had slipped upwards a little and the butt & trigger mechanism downwards a little, this was exacerbated when he pulled the trigger, causing the bullet, instead of going through his temple in a strait line, to commence just below his upper jaw line & exit slightly to the right of centre of his upper skull, taking a piece of his upper jaw bone, a few teeth, a small piece of skull & messing up a piece of his brain. He died in hospital a few hours later without regaining consciousness.
The sick jokes in the mess later were about his poor marksmanship.
I dealt with a few suicides, none of which were pleasant and some downright bizarre. A nasty one first … in Bancroft a young chap in his 20's, who had been diagnosed with a slow but progressively debilitating fatal illness either MS or Motor neurone disease, I cant remember which exactly. Anyway he realised it was beginning to affect him and had tried a couple of time earlier to end it all, first by an overdose which his family had discovered and got medical help before it was fatal and then with CO2 fumes in a car which again his family discovered & halted. However third time was lucky, well fatal for him. One day we got a call from his family that he had disappeared in the car in the middle of the night. Everybody suspected he was going to try again and a huge search was mounted by us & all his families friends, we were looking for over a week when a report came in from an African who had been cycling on a little used track about 12 miles into the bush that he had seen a car with a dead Mzungu in. Fortunately I wasn't on duty and one of my colleagues had to go to find the chap had run a hose pipe from the exhaust through a partially closed quarter light window and successfully gassed himself. This was in late November, traditionally called suicide month in NR because it was v. hot & getting humid prior to the rains breaking. My colleague saw to his horror that the body was already in a very bad state of decomposition & covered in huge fat maggots & flies. The mine fire brigade were called & covering their noses smashed the door open & literally hosed the maggots off him & managed to get his rotting body into a couple of plastic bags where it was taken for a very quick autopsy & buried the same day. The magistrates findings unsurprisingly enough was "suicide while the state of mind was disturbed".

Another nasty one not long after right on the border with Katanga, was when an African noticing a vile smell went to investigate & found a body of an African hanging from a very high tree. I went out as I was the Border patrol officer and found this tree just inside NR with this African hanging by the neck from a branch about 30 odd foot up the bloody tree. It wasn't just stinking, fluid & bits were dropping off it. I called the CO on the radio & he came up to see and said f**k that I'm calling the magistrate & ME here & we'll sort it out on the spot. We had already checked to see if there were any Africans from any NR villages missing & their were not, so he was probably from Katanga but it was in our jurisdiction.
The Magistrate & the ME came a couple of hours later. Meanwhile the CO had got a couple of prisoners from our stations holding cells to dig a pit big enough to bury the body beneath the tree.
It took less than a minute for the inquest where it was found that an unknown African Male believed to be from Katanga had committed suicide by hanging whist the state of mind was disturbed. One of the prisoners was given a knife, told to climb the tree & cut the rope. The body dropped with a squelch into the hole & soil hastily shovelled over and a stone placed there as a marker should it need to be disinterred.
The last one I'll mention again was while I was on Border patrol. I was called to a small town called Konkola only about half a mile or so into NR. where there was a small mine which was only being kept open & serviced by a skeleton crew to keep it usable. We had a small sub station there run by a Sgt & 6 constables who reported into me.
A body of a man had been found hanging just outside the town near small path. I went and to my astonishment found this poor bugger hanging by his neck BUT the cloth he had used as a rope had stretched & his knees were touching the ground, never mind his feet. WTF is going on here I thought, was it a murder, had someone forced him to do it? I called CID, telling them the circumstances and they turned up pretty quickly, again they were puzzled. The ME had also been called and we carefully undid the cloth. The wife of the dead man was interrogated & it turned out he had been depressed having just lost his job on the partially closed mine. The ME had checked the marks caused by the cloth on the neck & they were consistent with hanging & not strangulation. No other marks of attack or defence had been found on him during the PM, so it was recorded as "suicide, while the deceased mind was disturbed". But I still think to this day how bad did things have to be to cause you to literally strangle yourself that way!!
 
Other sudden deaths/suicides I was involved in...

The first was in Chingola, where we had a call from a woman one evening to say her husband had shot himself. I was sent round ASAP to check what had happened. I got there was shown onto the back stoep to see this guy lying there next to a chair with a .22 rifle next to him. I checked him quickly and despite him having a bad wound to the side of his head was still breathing but unconscious. I got the woman to call the Station again to get them to send a doctor or ambulance asap, while I tried to stop the bleeding.
Looking at the scene it would appear that the chap had got his rifle and while he was sat down on a chair put the muzzle up to the side of his head but in trying to get to the trigger & pull it, the muzzle had slipped upwards a little and the butt & trigger mechanism downwards a little, this was exacerbated when he pulled the trigger, causing the bullet, instead of going through his temple in a strait line, to commence just below his upper jaw line & exit slightly to the right of centre of his upper skull, taking a piece of his upper jaw bone, a few teeth, a small piece of skull & messing up a piece of his brain. He died in hospital a few hours later without regaining consciousness.
The sick jokes in the mess later were about his poor marksmanship.
I dealt with a few suicides, none of which were pleasant and some downright bizarre. A nasty one first … in Bancroft a young chap in his 20's, who had been diagnosed with a slow but progressively debilitating fatal illness either MS or Motor neurone disease, I cant remember which exactly. Anyway he realised it was beginning to affect him and had tried a couple of time earlier to end it all, first by an overdose which his family had discovered and got medical help before it was fatal and then with CO2 fumes in a car which again his family discovered & halted. However third time was lucky, well fatal for him. One day we got a call from his family that he had disappeared in the car in the middle of the night. Everybody suspected he was going to try again and a huge search was mounted by us & all his families friends, we were looking for over a week when a report came in from an African who had been cycling on a little used track about 12 miles into the bush that he had seen a car with a dead Mzungu in. Fortunately I wasn't on duty and one of my colleagues had to go to find the chap had run a hose pipe from the exhaust through a partially closed quarter light window and successfully gassed himself. This was in late November, traditionally called suicide month in NR because it was v. hot & getting humid prior to the rains breaking. My colleague saw to his horror that the body was already in a very bad state of decomposition & covered in huge fat maggots & flies. The mine fire brigade were called & covering their noses smashed the door open & literally hosed the maggots off him & managed to get his rotting body into a couple of plastic bags where it was taken for a very quick autopsy & buried the same day. The magistrates findings unsurprisingly enough was "suicide while the state of mind was disturbed".

Another nasty one not long after right on the border with Katanga, was when an African noticing a vile smell went to investigate & found a body of an African hanging from a very high tree. I went out as I was the Border patrol officer and found this tree just inside NR with this African hanging by the neck from a branch about 30 odd foot up the bloody tree. It wasn't just stinking, fluid & bits were dropping off it. I called the CO on the radio & he came up to see and said f**k that I'm calling the magistrate & ME here & we'll sort it out on the spot. We had already checked to see if there were any Africans from any NR villages missing & their were not, so he was probably from Katanga but it was in our jurisdiction.
The Magistrate & the ME came a couple of hours later. Meanwhile the CO had got a couple of prisoners from our stations holding cells to dig a pit big enough to bury the body beneath the tree.
It took less than a minute for the inquest where it was found that an unknown African Male believed to be from Katanga had committed suicide by hanging whist the state of mind was disturbed. One of the prisoners was given a knife, told to climb the tree & cut the rope. The body dropped with a squelch into the hole & soil hastily shovelled over and a stone placed there as a marker should it need to be disinterred.
The last one I'll mention again was while I was on Border patrol. I was called to a small town called Konkola only about half a mile or so into NR. where there was a small mine which was only being kept open & serviced by a skeleton crew to keep it usable. We had a small sub station there run by a Sgt & 6 constables who reported into me.
A body of a man had been found hanging just outside the town near small path. I went and to my astonishment found this poor bugger hanging by his neck BUT the cloth he had used as a rope had stretched & his knees were touching the ground, never mind his feet. WTF is going on here I thought, was it a murder, had someone forced him to do it? I called CID, telling them the circumstances and they turned up pretty quickly, again they were puzzled. The ME had also been called and we carefully undid the cloth. The wife of the dead man was interrogated & it turned out he had been depressed having just lost his job on the partially closed mine. The ME had checked the marks caused by the cloth on the neck & they were consistent with hanging & not strangulation. No other marks of attack or defence had been found on him during the PM, so it was recorded as "suicide, while the deceased mind was disturbed". But I still think to this day how bad did things have to be to cause you to literally strangle yourself that way!!

And now, on a lighter note........

Off piste, but it does amaze me the way some people commit suicide....... under trains, off viaducts....... how can they hate their lives, to end it in such horrific pain ?

One I knew personally, was this 40 year old hippy, very nice, well- travelled, crap customer, only the absolute basic bodge, but I'd go round, do a 10 minute job, then spend a couple of hours listening to her travel stories.

She rang up one day for a small plumbing job, and as chance would have it, I was booked in to a job just up the street.

As it happened, my job took a couple of hours longer than estimated....... I went up the street, to find police everywhere.

She'd hung herself and was found by her 10 year- old daughter, and I don't believe it's a pretty sight.
 
And now, on a lighter note........

Off piste, but it does amaze me the way some people commit suicide....... under trains, off viaducts....... how can they hate their lives, to end it in such horrific pain ?

One I knew personally, was this 40 year old hippy, very nice, well- travelled, crap customer, only the absolute basic bodge, but I'd go round, do a 10 minute job, then spend a couple of hours listening to her travel stories.

She rang up one day for a small plumbing job, and as chance would have it, I was booked in to a job just up the street.

As it happened, my job took a couple of hours longer than estimated....... I went up the street, to find police everywhere.

She'd hung herself and was found by her 10 year- old daughter, and I don't believe it's a pretty sight.


Talking of lighter notes, you may recall my descriptions of the horrors of the state of the bodies and the resultant abysmal stench. One way to avoid this, especially if the incident had happened on the border of two jurisdictions was to get there first & ensure the body was found in the adjacent jurisdiction. This was easy in the two stations I was stationed, Chingola & Bancroft which were separated by the river Kafue, a tributary of the Zambezi.
There was a favourite spot for suicides there, in this instance, the bridge which went over the river at a place called the "hippo pool", where funnily enough hippos could occasionally be seen. This then flowed under the aforesaid bridge to a small set of rapids. When a car had been reported abandoned at the bridge and a suspected suicide might have taken place , the station first getting the call would rush someone out to the spot & start searching the banks on their side of the river, downstream of the bridge for any body that had washed up. Remember this was the tropics and bodies would rise to the surface quite quickly, often within a day, unlike the UK where because of the comparative colder conditions gasses would take longer to form thus lifting the body to the surface.
If the body was found on "our" side of the river a long piece of stick would be found and the body pushed away from "our" bank until it lodged on the opposite side. Someone would be left to guard the spot while someone else called the adjoining station to inform them of the good news. We ALWAYS waited until they had collected it, thus avoiding the nasty job of clearing it up. I believe from colleagues based at Livingstone & Kariba, similar tactics were used on the Zambezi on the S. Rhodesian border with the BSAP getting the dirty jobs. It was a lot more difficult there as the valley is over 300' deep and involved a difficult scramble to get to the bank of the river.
 
Same 'dead man shuffle' happens on occasion in the channel, where corpse is pushed out of whichever inlet it occupies - to be carried up-channel with the currents (aka long shore drift).

Sussex loss is Kent's gain.

Allegedly
 
Other sudden deaths/suicides I was involved in...

The first was in Chingola, where we had a call from a woman one evening to say her husband had shot himself. I was sent round ASAP to check what had happened. I got there was shown onto the back stoep to see this guy lying there next to a chair with a .22 rifle next to him. I checked him quickly and despite him having a bad wound to the side of his head was still breathing but unconscious. I got the woman to call the Station again to get them to send a doctor or ambulance asap, while I tried to stop the bleeding.
Looking at the scene it would appear that the chap had got his rifle and while he was sat down on a chair put the muzzle up to the side of his head but in trying to get to the trigger & pull it, the muzzle had slipped upwards a little and the butt & trigger mechanism downwards a little, this was exacerbated when he pulled the trigger, causing the bullet, instead of going through his temple in a strait line, to commence just below his upper jaw line & exit slightly to the right of centre of his upper skull, taking a piece of his upper jaw bone, a few teeth, a small piece of skull & messing up a piece of his brain. He died in hospital a few hours later without regaining consciousness.
The sick jokes in the mess later were about his poor marksmanship.
I dealt with a few suicides, none of which were pleasant and some downright bizarre. A nasty one first … in Bancroft a young chap in his 20's, who had been diagnosed with a slow but progressively debilitating fatal illness either MS or Motor neurone disease, I cant remember which exactly. Anyway he realised it was beginning to affect him and had tried a couple of time earlier to end it all, first by an overdose which his family had discovered and got medical help before it was fatal and then with CO2 fumes in a car which again his family discovered & halted. However third time was lucky, well fatal for him. One day we got a call from his family that he had disappeared in the car in the middle of the night. Everybody suspected he was going to try again and a huge search was mounted by us & all his families friends, we were looking for over a week when a report came in from an African who had been cycling on a little used track about 12 miles into the bush that he had seen a car with a dead Mzungu in. Fortunately I wasn't on duty and one of my colleagues had to go to find the chap had run a hose pipe from the exhaust through a partially closed quarter light window and successfully gassed himself. This was in late November, traditionally called suicide month in NR because it was v. hot & getting humid prior to the rains breaking. My colleague saw to his horror that the body was already in a very bad state of decomposition & covered in huge fat maggots & flies. The mine fire brigade were called & covering their noses smashed the door open & literally hosed the maggots off him & managed to get his rotting body into a couple of plastic bags where it was taken for a very quick autopsy & buried the same day. The magistrates findings unsurprisingly enough was "suicide while the state of mind was disturbed".

Another nasty one not long after right on the border with Katanga, was when an African noticing a vile smell went to investigate & found a body of an African hanging from a very high tree. I went out as I was the Border patrol officer and found this tree just inside NR with this African hanging by the neck from a branch about 30 odd foot up the bloody tree. It wasn't just stinking, fluid & bits were dropping off it. I called the CO on the radio & he came up to see and said f**k that I'm calling the magistrate & ME here & we'll sort it out on the spot. We had already checked to see if there were any Africans from any NR villages missing & their were not, so he was probably from Katanga but it was in our jurisdiction.
The Magistrate & the ME came a couple of hours later. Meanwhile the CO had got a couple of prisoners from our stations holding cells to dig a pit big enough to bury the body beneath the tree.
It took less than a minute for the inquest where it was found that an unknown African Male believed to be from Katanga had committed suicide by hanging whist the state of mind was disturbed. One of the prisoners was given a knife, told to climb the tree & cut the rope. The body dropped with a squelch into the hole & soil hastily shovelled over and a stone placed there as a marker should it need to be disinterred.
The last one I'll mention again was while I was on Border patrol. I was called to a small town called Konkola only about half a mile or so into NR. where there was a small mine which was only being kept open & serviced by a skeleton crew to keep it usable. We had a small sub station there run by a Sgt & 6 constables who reported into me.
A body of a man had been found hanging just outside the town near small path. I went and to my astonishment found this poor bugger hanging by his neck BUT the cloth he had used as a rope had stretched & his knees were touching the ground, never mind his feet. WTF is going on here I thought, was it a murder, had someone forced him to do it? I called CID, telling them the circumstances and they turned up pretty quickly, again they were puzzled. The ME had also been called and we carefully undid the cloth. The wife of the dead man was interrogated & it turned out he had been depressed having just lost his job on the partially closed mine. The ME had checked the marks caused by the cloth on the neck & they were consistent with hanging & not strangulation. No other marks of attack or defence had been found on him during the PM, so it was recorded as "suicide, while the deceased mind was disturbed". But I still think to this day how bad did things have to be to cause you to literally strangle yourself that way!!
Interesting re suicide rates going up with the change in season to humid and wet. I believe the same phenomenon exists in the NT of Australia. "Gone troppo" I believe is the term.

Urban Dictionary: going troppo
 
A lot of my duties were very mundane and could have happened to any bobby in the UK BUT there were many differences in the situation & culture which one had to learn quickly to do the job correctly and sometimes to survive.
Traffic patrol was one where 90 odd % could be found in the UK. On my first station Chingola, I was told by Johnny to take one of the Rover 90's up to a junction off the airfield road, this had a largish estate of European housing and all vehicles had to use the Jcn, which incidentally had a stop sign on it, before joining the airfield road. The main road was a good double carriageway leading down a slight hill and around a few gentle bends into the town center & Mine just over a mile away with no housing or buildings on either side of it until about 100 yds from the town center. But it had numerous little trackways probably 5 or 6, leading from small African villages/settlements crossing it going in the general direction of the mine and light industrial sites. This was the Problem, especially at night, an African would be happily pedalling his "Njinga", bicycle, mainly without lights, along the track & shoot, without looking left or right, across the road irrespective of other vehicles, causing lots of accidents quite a lot of which were fatal. As a result the speed limit was 30 mph. One scene I went to, the Traffic Inspector estimated from the extensive damage to the victim, bike & car had been doing approaching 80 mph!! My job was to check on & try & dissuade people from speeding on that particular road.
The favourite time was in the morning just after sunrise when a lot of Europeans would be driving down to work in the mine or town center. I found if I parked about 30 - 40 yds east of the jcn on the airfield side I had the rising sun behind me and unless the car coming out of the estate stopped and checked carefully he wouldn't see me. and more often or not these were the people who would then speed down into town. I would then follow at a safe distance and often a slower safer speed, but watch them pull away and follow them into their place of work and give them the ticket for both speeding & failing to stop, giving them a lecture on the reason for it. Very few were happy and it might have made some be a little more cautious and saved an Africans life, I'll never know.
Another thing that is totally different from the UK is that in NR there were virtually parallel justice systems. The overall British justice system with mainly laws adopted from the British legal system administered by Resident Magistrates & high court judges and enforced by us. Then there was the Tribal laws & customs administered & enforced by Tribal chiefs in their legally defined tribal areas. In the Towns we also had a thing called the Urban Native Courts, where minor chiefs & their head men dealt with tribal disputes which didn't come under British Law.
My first experience came when an African Woman walked into the station with a massively bruised eye. My Sergeant questioned her and explained to me she had been hit by her husband for not having his meal ready when he came back from working on the mine. I was all for going out and arresting him for assault when my Sgt stopped me and said no Bwana it was a case for the Urban Native Court. They settled such disputes. After contacting the CO who whilst agreeing if a European had done it the man would have been arrested, agreed with the Sgt and said it was the African way!!
A funny sequence to that followed a month or so later. One of my Constables a happy cheery fellow who always seemed to have smile on his face started turning up on shift looking as miserable as sin. I didn't question him but after he had gone on to his beat, asked my Sgt why. He burst into peels of laughter explaining that he had been a bit of a ladies man & had been enjoying the favours of a woman married to a man working on the mine, going to her house when the man was working and one day the man had returned early and caught them at it. Had then gone to the UNC and complained, the verdict was that my constable had to pay the man compensation which was the "bride price" he had paid to her family when they had married. About £30, which was the value of about 3 cows or about 6 weeks pay for my constable at the time. She then had become my constables wife. The happy ending is that some months later my constable had the same thing happen to him & got his cash back turning him back into the happy go lucky chap he was before.
A little word on the practice of "bride price". In the African Languages of NR there were no words for LOVE, it and LIKE were the same. There was no word for WIFE, it was "my woman". When an African wanted to marry a girl it wasn't for "love" as we Mzungu's knew it. It was because he wanted a woman to cook, clean & have children. Depending on the tribe & custom at the time the price would be in cattle from 2 - 5 being the norm, each beast costing about £10. A man kept as many women as he could afford to buy & keep.
On my second station Bancroft I was very surprised to get a formal letter from one of my constables which began "Bwana Williams, I love you very much", going on to ask me if I could lend him some money towards buying a wife from his village costing him about £40 as she was very strong. :)
I was able to lend him £20 which he paid me back at £5 per month.
I tried to explain that we didn't pay for a wife but normally if we wanted to marry a woman we went to her father and rather than haggle over how many cows she was worth, explained to him that you had a job paying you £x per month and would be able to buy as house worth £y etc and that you would look after her well. Marrying for love had no concept to them.
 
Last edited:
Thanks @ex_colonial for sharing your memories with us and the others for chipping in with more background. Being a child of the sixties I missed the twilight of the empire. The closest we got to it was the Saturday matinee and indeed the jungle drums would be beating ominously in the distance. The hero would tell us that the natives were becoming restless and the heroine would become increasingly worried about the situation. Just when it looked like she was going to breakdown the District Commissioner would drop by. He would appear in a perfectly pressed uniform and Sam Browne to tell all that he'd heard the drums and had sent a couple of chaps up to take a look at the situation as well as sending a runner in the opposite direction to the main garrison. We all knew the runner would never make it and one of the "chaps" would end up in the cooking pot but in the end it would all work out.

Please keep the tales coming. I'm an addicted reader.
 
Just waiting now for all the old oyibos to tell of the bodies in the Lagos Lagoon. It could get quite stiff with them at times.

My brother managed a hotel in the Gambia at one time, on the beach in the capital, Banjul. Close by, just behind the beach was the main city cemetery; it was not a beach to go jogging on after a high, stormy wash. You could break a leg on an arm.
 
The skull like concrete story is no myth.
I love this thread, it’s like a snapshot of a time and a place I have no knowledge of.

But. The thicker African skull actually is a myth.

There is no medical evidence to support African skulls being thicker than any other race. None.

And even if someone did develop some form of stronger bone they would not pass this acquired characteristic on to their descendants. Evolution and human reproduction doesn’t work that way.

You can turn a ten stone weakling into Charles Atlas but you ain’t changing his skeletal structure.

So more dits about colonialism but no rewriting biology. Purleeze.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top