Tales of a Colonial Policeman

@ex_colonial So, why didn't you head south and join the RAR or the BSAP? You never really answered that one.


I thought I had in post 384...
snip "I had had a great & very formative time in the NRP and for a fair chunk of that when I was on the border being virtually my own boss, looking after several thousand sq. miles of bush with a sergeant and a handful of constables, where everything from petty larceny, mundane traffic offences to witchcraft, cannibalism, ritual murder, armed mercenaries, marauding elephants, hippo's &crocodiles were things I had to deal with.
For me going into a force where I would have to start at the bottom, taking orders from people who probably had little or no experience of this sort of life didn't appeal.
The BSAP & RAR commission did sound interesting but having seen the speed at which my career in the NRP had gone from in early 1960 being a career for life, to where in 62 we were told we were no longer needed or indeed welcome, had probably made me cynical about the white mans future in Africa."
 
I thought I had in post 384...
snip "I had had a great & very formative time in the NRP and for a fair chunk of that when I was on the border being virtually my own boss, looking after several thousand sq. miles of bush with a sergeant and a handful of constables, where everything from petty larceny, mundane traffic offences to witchcraft, cannibalism, ritual murder, armed mercenaries, marauding elephants, hippo's &crocodiles were things I had to deal with.
For me going into a force where I would have to start at the bottom, taking orders from people who probably had little or no experience of this sort of life didn't appeal.
The BSAP & RAR commission did sound interesting but having seen the speed at which my career in the NRP had gone from in early 1960 being a career for life, to where in 62 we were told we were no longer needed or indeed welcome, had probably made me cynical about the white mans future in Africa."
You did and I apologize for not paying attention. Your time in the NRP was a tough act to follow.

Have you ever compared notes with former colonial policemen from other British African colonies?
 
Thank you @ex_colonial for your brilliant reminiscences. You have brought history to life, and there is superb material here for a film or even better, a series, about this fascinating time in Africa. It explains and educates, as well as entertains. Marvellous stuff
 
This photo shows the most boring of the tasks we had to undertake, the monitoring of public authorised political meetings. In this particular case you can see our landrover was parked right next to the platform where Kaunda (the first President after independence) himself is speaking. We parked that close so the mike on the recording equipment could be linked with their loud speaker system.
Despite Kaunda being born & growing up in the Bemba tribe, he always affected not to speak it and spoke in English which was then translated by one of his minions for the crowd.
The speeches were bloody awful, the usual BS about nasty white colonialist supressing the poor "hardworking" Africans and how it was all going to be milk, honey & unicorns when he got into power. Hmm.. not dissimilar from a certain "steptoesque" character leading HM's opposition today.
On that day as well they had a younger, seemingly fairly bright character speaking. He led off by saying now that they were getting their "freedom" the following year, everybody had to get stuck in and work to show the white man how to do it and they would be able to earn all the things the white man had!
After a few minutes of this the crowd started getting restless & even booing some of his words. Kaunda stood up quickly and interrupting him, thanked him for his thoughts and then went on to talk about something completely different but again with the usual BS about how they would all have the nice houses the white man had but of course with no explanation how this could be achieved. The magic money tree all these f**kwit politicians think grows in their back garden I suppose.
I always took the opportunity when everything was set up to stroll around the periphery of the crowd to gauge the mood and normally took the opportunity of buying bottles of coca cola for my lads. Making sure the speakers and the crowd saw me giving it to them. The recordings were there to use in court should there be any incitements to violence or sedition etc.
These meetings could go on for several hours, if it overran our shift we would radio in for a team to come & relieve us, ensuring this was done with as little disruption as possible but making sure the recording equipment was working.
I will post the photo on next post.
 
I've been thoroughly enjoying all of this, for some reason two or three of your most recent didn't pop up on my 'lerts, so I had a real treat getting several for the price of one.

Now I met the chap quite often in our mess in Bancroft and he seemed a decent chap, he never told me about his past, it was the other MU chaps who told us about it, but I did see the oak leaves on his Africa & Italy Star ribbons on his uniform.
That bit though, is a memory wrong 'un. MiD oak leaves from WWII are displayed only on the War Medal and its ribbon. Don't know why, but it's been a real pain with my family history research trying to find exactly when cousin Jake's Uncle Doofus actually got his MiD, when the NOK who could have got his actual records, won't.
 
That bit though, is a memory wrong 'un. MiD oak leaves from WWII are displayed only on the War Medal and its ribbon.
Or maybe ex_colonial's memory is correct and there's another explanation... Was asked to change regiments to save him paying high Mess bills? That's really plausible.
 
Or maybe ex_colonial's memory is correct and there's another explanation... Was asked to change regiments to save him paying high Mess bills? That's really plausible.
Yeah, that explanation did occur, but incorrect gong-walting circa 1960 would have been stupid to say the least, his would not have been the only chest-full in any Mess.
 
On a lighter note now. I had 4 different CO's in my time there, the first one in Chingola, Fitz was a good chap and seemed to like my work, I met him once in London after we had returned, he had gone into personnel management and finished up in Australia with an aviation firm, the second in Bancroft I hardly knew as he left just after I arrived. The third Rex, I didn't get on with, he took me off Border patrol for a while and back on shifts until the powers above and I think the SB Insp, insisted they needed someone full time on it as the situation re. Katanga & the UN was getting serious. He thankfully went not long afterwards on "long leave" and was replaced by a younger Chief Inspector, a Ken West, who fitted in quite well. He also was a bachelor and thus spent some time in the mess bar after work was over. When he announced he was going down to SA to marry his fiancé we decided to give him a good bachelor do in the Mess.
We first gave him a very good, very boozy, mess dinner and started to enjoy ourselves playing the usual silly games and getting him to drink even more. I had in the meantime got myself organised, going to a nurse I knew in the mine hospital and getting chloroform, all the ingredients to put one of his arms in a plaster cast & a selection of coloured antiseptics.
After one of the buk buk games was finishing & he was on the floor having collapsed I went around behind him and put a pad I had soaked in the chloroform over his face & he went out very quickly, with the pad of chloroform handy we all got to work, getting his mess jacket & shirt off, We then put a stockinet sleeve over his left arm (he was right handed), then as per the instructions from the nurse , a layer of padding & finally the plaster soaked cover. After checking he still had circulation in his hand & fingers we let it dry.
We then painted his body, from his waist to his shoulders, in alternating stripes of yellow (iodine), purple (genetian violet) and red (chlorohexidine). We then carried him back to his quarters and taking his shoes & trousers off put him on his bed in the recovery position, getting his houseboy and instructing to wake us if the bwana became ill.
I next morning despite still feeling rough from the booze, decided that a longish trip to a remote part of the border was a good idea and only returned late that afternoon to find that despite him being groggy from the mix of alcohol & chloroform, he had survived and gone to the hospital to have the cast taken off. He was more amused than angry at the multi colour stripes as we had ensured his arms, neck & face were clear and thus didn't have to worry when he married a week later but he did moan that he couldn't go swimming on his honeymoon in Durban. His wife who was also a nurse was impressed by our skill at putting the plaster cast on.
He was promoted later to Asst. Superintendent after his handling of a particularly long & bad spell of political violence & rioting in Bancroft which saw all of us being called out several nights a week for 3 or 4 months. It got to the stage on one or two occasions at weekends where we slept in our kit.
This wasn't anti European violence, it was just Kaunda's party UNIP crushing Nkumbulas party, the ANC just prior to the first elections for president. We, the NRP, were just piggy in the middle trying to stop them intimidating & killing each other. So basically like every other sub Saharan African country at the end of our rule where we had, for most of that time, prevented such excesses.
Ken West later went down to SA with his wife and formed a security company. He returned to the UK several years ago and sadly died last year.
 
Have a like too.

Love it when a plan comes together and the "victim" sees the funny side too.

You have to keep them coming, it is like when I was a youngster waiting on Tarzan on a Saturday morning, in black and white, for the next episode :)
 

ancienturion

LE
Book Reviewer
History in the making. Nice move getting the cola in for the lads. That's the little things that the smarter people notice and remember.
Unfortunately, in the post colonial days, there were very few of those smarter people around and those who were still alive were far too concerned with their own survival, eg Nyerere, Nkruma, Mboya. For good or bad, they were concerned with their own existence in a continent still ruled by the tribal doctrine.
 
You did and I apologize for not paying attention. Your time in the NRP was a tough act to follow.

Have you ever compared notes with former colonial policemen from other British African colonies?

IIRC only 2 one who had been in Nigeria post WW2 & one in Nyasaland. They had somewhat similar experiences re. witchcraft & superstition as I did.
I have met a few guys who were in HK as well, IIRC a lot more like UK policing with added Triads & an oriental flavour and apart from the New Territories, a bit claustrophobic with the high rises & sheer numbers. I doubt if I would have liked it.
 
I have met a few guys who were in HK as well, IIRC a lot more like UK policing with added Triads & an oriental flavour and apart from the New Territories, a bit claustrophobic with the high rises & sheer numbers. I doubt if I would have liked it.
You almost certainly would not. As a soldier I had a defined 2.5 year posting and was determined to go with an open mind and not to fall for 'they all look the same' or any of that stuff. I also had a fair bit of contact with the RHKP A/Insp and Insp ranks socially while I was there.

About half-way through I went on a course to Singapore and it was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders with no high buildings within sight of the camp. I just hadn't realised how much it had affected me. Also though I can today still recognise the difference between say, a Shanghainese and a Cantonese, essentially by the end there were just so many that if they were not people you knew, 'they all looked the same', in spite of the fact that I had a lot of time for many of the locally recruited soldiers.
 
(...) "I had had a great & very formative time in the NRP and for a fair chunk of that when I was on the border being virtually my own boss, looking after several thousand sq. miles of bush with a sergeant and a handful of constables, where everything from petty larceny, mundane traffic offences to witchcraft, cannibalism, ritual murder, armed mercenaries, marauding elephants, hippo's &crocodiles were things I had to deal with. (...)
This (with different wild life of course) is not that different from what men in the early NWMP (RCMP) in Canada or political agents on the Northwest Frontier in India in the 19th century said they liked about their jobs. They were on their own with huge responsibilities and help a long ways away if they couldn't handle it. They were expected to maintain peace and order based on their judgment, force of personality, and the prestige of their organization. A century later the frontier districts of Africa were probably the last places on earth where this was still the case.
 
This (with different wild life of course) is not that different from what men in the early NWMP (RCMP) in Canada or political agents on the Northwest Frontier in India in the 19th century said they liked about their jobs. They were on their own with huge responsibilities and help a long ways away if they couldn't handle it. They were expected to maintain peace and order based on their judgment, force of personality, and the prestige of their organization. A century later the frontier districts of Africa were probably the last places on earth where this was still the case.




My bold... You've hit the nail right on the head with that. The experiences I had in NR were a very formative part of my character. On my return to the UK I found I worked better when not hemmed in/hindered by lots of red tape or excessive procedures. Much later in my career I attended an 8 month long course ay UMIST on updating management skills, with an emphasis on the use of computers. One of the first days was spent with the dept. of industrial Psychology doing numerous IQ, aptitude & psychometric tests.
The results were interesting, I was in the top quartile of intelligence with an IQ of 148, an excellent problem solver BUT I was not amenable to rigid procedures and didn't suffer fools gladly. I was told that I should never apply for a job in any govt. dept. or a large highly structured company, I was better suited to small - medium sized companies where I could do my job with the least interference.
This was so true as shown in my career up to that point, thriving in some companies while becoming increasingly frustrated in others. It showed up later when one of the companies I had worked successfully for a number of years sold out to a part of BT. Despite me having in several cases better terms on purchasing certain products I was told I had to use the BT terms. I took voluntary redundancy rather than having to endure the stupidity of such a policy but not before writing to the MD of BT telling him the disparities. BT conservatively had probably 100 times the buying power of my former company and its terms should have reflected that but failed woefully.
It happened again when I was doing some agency work as a purchasing contractor and was given a 6 month contract with DEFRA sourcing a site for their new (at that time) computer based farm subsidy payments.
The first 2 weeks was spent going through reams & reams of regulations re. purchasing procedures both UK & EU. On getting the specifications they required a sit to provide I had whittled the list down to one company, the only one in the UK that could provide all of the specifications I had been given. When I sent the email to the DEFRA manager telling him that was the case, he nearly had apoplexy, that wasn't my brief, I was only there to provide a list of possible sites, it was his and various committees task to select the one, not me. I was then basically to sit at my desk for 5 months doing nothing in case he needed my expertise. As I needed the money, the pay was good, I took books to work or sat on the PC not working for DEFRA.
I found it hard to comprehend the sheer stupidity of such people. I had found my self working in the same large office as a few consultants for another company and got to know one quite well. He more or less confirmed that the task his company was doing could have been done in a fraction of the time and with half the people.
 
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Not long before I left NR, I attended a function where I met an African Doctor, before you ask he was a real one with a proper degree. He also happened to be an older brother of one of my brighter constables. I took the opportunity to ask him now that the British Govt. had given them independence and they were going to get their "freedom", why there was still so much violence and intimidation of people going on. He replied that we were stupid to believe that the Westminster form of democracy could work in Africa as the concept was unknown. For millennia they had a system where one man, the chief ruled with more or less absolute power with his circle of head men & advisors. Some were more despotic than others but that was what the people understood and it would not change in the foreseeable future.
My police also said they did not want us to go as when we did, tribalism would become rampant again & the politicians & their supporters would almost certainly be of one tribe and exclude others thereby creating inequality and grievances. The main thing they liked about us Europeans was that we were fair & didn't favour one person against another on tribal grounds just on if a man was a good policeman & did his duty well.
Sadly talking to some chaps who stayed on to train up the force and reading the book "no better life" I have mentioned earlier, this is exactly what did happen to the detriment of the force and of course in virtually every other field.
I remember dad saying that on one occasion, bearing in mind he'd spent a lot of time in NA/Palestine. Western lines never did work in terms of "independent countries" out there
 
It happened again when I was doing some agency work as a purchasing contractor and was given a 6 month contract with DEFRA sourcing a site for their new (at that time) computer based farm subsidy payments.
The first 2 weeks was spent going through reams & reams of regulations re. purchasing procedures both UK & EU. On getting the specifications they required a sit to provide I had whittled the list down to one company, the only one in the UK that could provide all of the specifications I had been given. When I sent the email to the DEFRA manager telling him that was the case, he nearly had apoplexy, that wasn't my brief, I was only there to provide a list of possible sites, it was his and various committees task to select the one, not me. I was then basically to sit at my desk for 5 months doing nothing in case hey needed my expertise. As I needed the money, the pay was good, I took books to work or sat on the PC not working for DEFRA.
I found it hard to comprehend the sheer stupidity of such people. I had found my self working in the same large office as a few consultants for another company and got to know one quite well. He more or less confirmed that the task his company was doing could have been done in a fraction of the time and with half the people.
I'm in sort of a similar position. I work 3 days a week for a certain government organisation at what I think is an obscene hourly rate. I actually do no more than 3 hours work each week, 4 when I'm "really busy". The rest of the time I spend developing my "looking busy" skill. Which in an office where people rarely speak to each other, isn't hard by any stretch of the imagination. TF for the internet. I've no idea how they justify my presence but with only 10 months or so to retirement, I reckon I can just about suck it up and endure it.
 
A further incident I remember.... The Elephant hunt!
One morning on entering the station I was told the CO wanted to see me before I disappeared into the bush. I knocked at his door to find the DC & another chap who turns out to be from the Game dept. It turns out that a herd of elephants has been raiding a couple of small African villages in our district, eating & spoiling all the maize & vegetables they have been growing in their "gardens", more like large allotments which the wife of each villager tends carefully. The village headmen are threatening to try to kill all the herd if they are not stopped. The Game dept. think there is a better solution, Elephants are a matriarchal group and if someone was to shoot the matriarch the herd would most likely leave the area and move elsewhere.
I along with another a/insp. are instructed to go, one to each of the villages being raided, find & shoot the matriarch, we are each given one of the local African game rangers as a guide & to point out the matriarch.
We each draw a .303 and 10 rounds of standard issue ammunition. I funnily enough already have a few "spare" which I have "acquired" on range days, a couple of which I have already cut the copper tips off to give them a more dum dum effect against large game if I spot any on the border rather than having a large Kudu run off if I haven't got the first kill shot with a jacketed round. I give my colleague a couple in case the jacketed rounds fail to stop the elephant if he happens on it.
Now even then in early '63 there were some slight concerns about falling numbers of elephants, indeed I had never seen any signs of these beasts in my perambulations along the border, so I had mixed feelings about killing one of these magnificent beasts and said so. The Game dept. official said that sadly If we didn't stop this herd the local tribe would either A) employ an unofficial African hunter as I had seen previously on the border or B) set traps which would kill or injure a lot more beasts, so ours was the lesser of the evils.
And as we all know now this is the case today where all over Africa the explosion in the population has decimated or exterminated almost all wild animals apart from in a handful of game reserves and even there poaching is still a threat.
To cut a long story short we both go on our way to each search our respective village & surrounding bush for the herd. I was allocated a village closer to my normal patrol routes and my colleague an area I rarely visited. After a couple of hours driving along a rough bush track we reach my village and I soon see the extensive damage the herd has done virtually every mealie plant uprooted & the left overs strewn around. The herd had also trampled down a lot of the other immature crops in their effort to get to the tastier, to them, bits. We follow the tracks on foot for several hours with still no sign and the ranger says these tracks are not fresh and we wouldn't find the herd that day, so we return to the landrover and drive back to the station arriving just after dark. There, much to my dismay I get the news my colleague had come across the herd & successfully despatched the matriarch causing the herd to stampede away. He had retired to the mess to celebrate. I joined him as soon as I could, discovering he had had to use 2 of my "adapted" rounds to finally stop the cow after the jacketed round had just made her angry.
The tusks of the animal were taken by the game dept. and after taking a few choice cuts of the meat for the rangers & police, the rest was given to the village for food. The game dept. later sent him the preserved foot of the elephant to use as one of these....
 

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