Sir Richard Gordon Turnbull had spent most of his professional life in East Africa. He had made his reputation with his uncompromising attitude to the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya but had also gone on to help Britain leave the Tanganyika mandate. He was therefore felt to be qualified and suitable to help deal with the delicate decolonisation process in Aden in 1964.
British policy was that, following a merger of the colony of Aden with the feudal sheikhdoms of the protectorate, the new federation would become independent in 1968. But the political parties, buoyed by militant anti-British sentiment in the Arab world, set about disrupting this arrangement through a campaign of violence and intimidation. Turnbull, himself a target for assassination, concluded that the only way to halt the crisis was to suspend the constitution. Subsequently he was to feel let down by the Foreign Office, who appeared to him more concerned with how the UN might react to the imposition of direct rule. The visiting UN mission in April 1967 did indeed accuse Turnbull of being consistently unco-operative, and after several rows in Aden they angrily departed. It was with relief that Turnbull left Aden in May 1967, to be replaced by Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, though his integrity prevented him from expressing his deep sense of betrayal, particularly by the foreign secretary, George Brown.
He went into a well earned retirement and died in 1998.
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