This is an account of the life of a Colonial Administrator whose career spanned almost the
last fifty years of the British Empire. I wrote it because I believe it is important to be able to
refer to real life accounts in order to fully understand historical events. I also have a personal
reason. William Leslie Heape was my father. As father and son, we belong not only to
different generations, but also to different epochs; He to the Colonial Period and I essentially,
to the Post-Colonial Period of this country's history. However, I believe my perception of
that earlier period has been considerably enriched by my knowledge of my father as a man of
his time. It is that knowledge, which I hope to share with you through this personal memoir.
The events described are chronologically accurate, but the opinions expressed about
historical events are my own, written many years later with the benefit of hindsight. I have
some personal knowledge of parts of his life, because I spent my early childhood with my
parents in the West Indies, but I have had to rely on my own research, and what my father
told me for the rest of the story.
When he first joined the Colonial Administration in 1919, W L Heape could not have had any
inkling that his career would span almost the last fifty years of the Service. The two World
Wars in the first half of the 20th century brought about a dramatic change to this country's
status as the most powerful nation in the world. At the end of the 1st World War, most people
still believed in the might of the British Empire. As he watched Marshall Foch on his irongrey
charger, with Admiral Beatty and Field-Marshall Haig on either side, riding at the head
of the Peace Parade in London in 1919, Heape's feelings of pride and elation at the sight of
this magnificent procession were never again equalled in his life. Nobody imagined that the
sun was setting on the Empire then. But after the 2nd World War, Britain found the burden of
ruling the Empire too great, and by 1960, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had decided to
grant independence to most of the Crown Colonies.
In the Nineteenth Century, an earlier generation of the Heape Family had taken advantage of
the opportunities to trade overseas, created by the expansion of the British Empire in the
Victorian era. Benjamin Heape, William Leslie's grandfather, went out to Australia as a free
man in 1839, and established a business in Melbourne. In partnership with his five brothers,
they purchased a sailing ship and traded in both Australia and China. Leslie Heape and his
elder brother Charles Heape were both attracted to a career overseas. Charles Heape went out
to India in 1910 and chose a career in commerce at the Calcutta Stock Exchange. He made
and lost several fortunes in the heady days of the British Raj. Leslie Heape, who was never
attracted to a career in business, applied to join the Colonial Administrative Service on being discharged from the Army in 1919. All applicants had to pass an interview and his first
interview was conducted by the redoubtable Major Ralph Furse. Having stated that he could
ride a horse, he was offered the job as Assistant Secretary to the Governor of British
Somaliland. That was beginning of 14 happy years in Africa. Serious illness in 1933 very
nearly ended his career in the Colonial Service. He was told that he could never return to
Africa, unless he had his wounded leg amputated. He refused to have further surgery, and had
no option but to retire from the Colonial Service. However, this forced retirement did not
mark the end of his Colonial Career. Sir Mark Young, the newly appointed Governor of
Barbados, offered him an appointment as his Private Secretary, and with that opportunity, he
began the second part of his career in the West Indies.
Heape was one of that brave generation of young men, who fought so courageously for King
and Country in the First World War. Many of his contemporaries at school including his best
friend were killed, and he was left disabled for the rest of his life. His courage and the high
moral values, which he learnt at Rugby School, helped him to overcome all the vicissitudes
that beset him throughout his life. His Housemaster at Rugby, G F Bradby, said of him; "He
bore a very high character, conscientious in the performance of all duties, cheerful and
reliable, with considerable tact in dealing with men, and able to come to clear and quick
decisions, in every way fitted for posts of responsibility and trust. " The Headmaster, the
Reverend Dr. A David also gave him a very good character reference saying, "Heape's
record here is excellent. He was cheerful, reliable and sociable, and will be a good man to
work with." Although he had served for a very short time in the Army, his Commanding
Officer, Brigadier-General Scott-Kerr, had the highest opinion of him, as a conscientious,
hard working officer, who had lots of initiative and was always willing to accept
responsibility besides being tactful and good mannered. General Scott-Kerr said that Heape
was always cheery and given to making the best of things under all circumstances. These
were his testimonials when applying to the Colonial Office in 1919.
Later in his career, many people commentated on his integrity and his concern for the welfare
of local people. The resolutions of the Executive Council of the Bahamas and British Guiana
for his work in both colonies was clearly expressed: Bahamas Resolution and British Guiana Resolution
He attended the coronation of King George VI in 1937, and was awarded the Coronation
Medal for his contribution to the community of Grenada. He was also justly proud to have
been made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George in
1942. The CMG (Latin motto "Auspicium Melioris Aevi" meaning 'Token of a better age') is
awarded for rending extraordinary or important non-military service overseas.
Leslie Heape was a straightforward Edwardian with a warm sense of humour. He was a fine
example of the traditions of the Colonial Service combining a strong commitment to the rule
of law with humanitarian values. He never hesitated in taking difficult decisions. His doctor, who had known him for the last 14 years of his life, told his wife that Heape was one of the
bravest men that he had ever known. He never lost his pride in the British Empire and the
era of Pax Britannia. He epitomized the British Colonial Administrator about whom, the
philosopher George Santayana writing his Soliloquies in England in 1922 said; "Never
since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will
be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls and
fanatics manage to supplant him."
His Early Life
William Leslie Heape was the youngest son of Herbert Heape and Edith Jessie Heape, nee
Agnew. His father was a barrister on the Northern Circuit, and William Leslie was born on
5th August 1896 in Manchester. He was educated at Rugby School, which he attended from
1910 to 1913. He then entered the Royal Military Academy, at Sandhurst in August 1914, his
father having signed the application form for his son's admission to the Academy on 29 June
1914. His father had to pay the sum of £150 for his son to go to Sandhurst. He received his
commission into the East Lancashire Regiment in December 1914, after only six months
Officer training. He was sent to France to join B Company of the 2nd Battalion of the
Regiment on 12th April 1915, and was severely wounded in the left leg at the Battle of
Aubers Ridge on 9th May 1915. His wounds became gangrenous in France, and he was
transferred to hospital at 17 Park Lane in London, where he was treated by the Australian
Surgeons Sir Douglas Shields and Sir Alfred Fripp. He had to spend more than a year in
hospital. He was then seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as an Equipment Officer in 1917,
and spent the remainder of the war working in the War Office in London. He was placed on
half pay when the war ended, as he was considered permanently unfit for General Service in
the Army. He was lucky to survive the effects of the Clostridia infection of the muscle tissue
in his leg, which developed into gas gangrene. As a result of his wounds, he suffered from a
permanently stiff left leg for the rest of his life. He could never run again, but he managed to
swim, ride horses and motorbikes, and drive a car with the full use of only one leg.
His Career as a Colonial Administrator in East Africa
Heape applied to the Colonial Office in 1919 and was offered a posting to British
Somaliland. He was still only 23 years old. He was excited by the thought of going there,
remembering the article he had read about the death of Captain Corfield in the Illustrated
London News in 1913. Later, he became convinced that Corfield had been unfairly blamed
for disobeying orders, and he took the trouble to send his version of the story to the Bodleian
Library fifty years later:
"I am recording this story as it was told to me, because the death of Capt. Corfield in
Somaliland had a not inconsiderable influence in my decision to accept a post in that
territory and in the words of Voltaire: "To the dead one owes nothing but the truth".
It happened this way; when I was a boy of 17, I saw on the platform of Rugby Railway station, a photograph of Capt. Corfield under the heading "British Reverse in Somaliland
Camel Corps Disaster". That was in August 1913. I read an account of the action and it
puzzled me. I became interested in the resulting political controversy, which nearly brought
down the Liberal Government of the time. The Colonial Secretary in reply to attacks from
the Conservative opposition, sheltered behind the explanation from the Commissioner of
Somaliland that Capt. Corfield had brought disaster on his own head by exceeding his
instructions and penetrating too far into the interior without adequate support. Two years
later, I was lying severely wounded in 17 Park Lane Hospital being entertained by stories
from the famous General Carton de Wiart, who had just come home wounded in action
against the Mad Mullah in Somaliland.
At the end of the war, when the Colonial Office offered me an appointment in that territory, I
accepted with alacrity and in 1919, I found myself serving directly under Governor Geoffrey
Archer, who as Commissioner sent Capt. Corfield on that fateful expedition in 1913.
Col. Summers was then commanding the Camel Corps and I very soon realised that he was
on very bad terms indeed with the Governor; they were hardly speaking. In due course, I
heard this astonishing story from someone, who claimed to have read Archer's confidential
dispatch to the Secretary of State in 1913.
The British were then administrating the coastal strip only and Archer was gradually taking
over the interior. He was in camp some way from lower Shweilk with Capt. Corfield and his
constabulary when Gerald Summers, then a young Captain of Indian Cavalry, joined them on
leave from the coast. Archer suggested to Summers that he should go with Corfield on a
reconnaissance and enjoy some shooting. The party set off and ran into the main force of the
Mullah. The friendly tribes ran away; Corfield was killed. Lt Dunn gallantly withdrew the
remnants of the Constabulary with Gerald Summers gravely wounded. It was then that
Archer sent off his confidential dispatch, which is alleged, blamed Corfield for the disaster,
50 years have elapsed. All concerned are now dead, but the dispatch is open to examination
to confirm the truth, if thought necessary. "
In 1909, His Majesty's Government had instructed the Commissioner of British Somaliland
to abandon control of internal affairs over the tribes in the interior of the country, and
concentrate on administering the three coast towns. This policy had resulted in disorder and
fighting between the Dervishes, commanded by the Mad Mullah, and the local tribes. The
Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Harcourt, eventually agreed to the setting up of a
small force of Camel Constabulary consisting of 150 men divided into two companies under
the command of Captain R C Corfield, for an estimated of cost £7,950. In 1912, the
Commissioner of British Somaliland, Mr H A Byatt, instructed Corfield to garrison the town of Burao, 90 miles inland of Berbera. On the instructions of the Secretary of State, Mr Byatt
specifically ordered Captain Corfield to avoid engaging a large force of the enemy. Mr Byatt
went home on leave in June 1913 and Geoffrey Archer took over as Acting Commissioner.
On 6th August 1913, Archer went to Burao to discuss the Dervish threat with the local tribal
elders. He was accompanied by Captain G H Summers, the Commanding Officer of the
King's African Rifles. It was reported that a large force of Dervishes had crossed the border
and were raiding cattle belonging to the friendly tribes. Archer ordered Corfield to
reconnoitre the area to gather intelligence, but warned him not to engage a large force of the
enemy. He instructed Summers to accompany Corfield.
On 8th August 1913, Captain Corfield, accompanied by Mr C de S Dunn, his second-in-command
and Captain Summers set out on the road to Ber with a small force of 116
constables and some friendly tribesmen to investigate the reports. Captain Corfield decided to
intercept the large force of Dervishes, estimated to be about 1,500 strong, to prevent them
from driving the stolen cattle over the border. A battle took place on the morning of 9th
August at a place known as Dul Madoba (the Black Hill), during which Captain Corfield was
The Acting Commissioner sent the following telegraph to the Secretary of State reporting the
incident, which was received in London at 9.10pm on 10th August 1913:
August 9th. Burao. The Camel Company, during a reconnaissance between Ber
and Idoweina, were severely engaged to-day by a dervish party, the strength of which is
estimated at 1,000 men, which was believed to have been advancing on Burao. I have
received no official report, but two Camel Company men bring news. I deeply regret to report
that Corfield has been shot dead and that Dunn is wounded. Sixty men of the Camel
Company are reported dead. It is clear that the Camel Company retreat was cut off and they
therefore zaribaed. The Maxim jammed. The losses both of dervishes and friendlies are
reported to be exceedingly heavy. Firing continues. The rest of the Camel Company cannot
move, twenty-five miles out, so I have no alternative but to proceed myself now with my
Indian escort of twenty men and such friendlies as I can collect and attempt to succour. I am
ordering the Indian contingent at Berbera to proceed to our assistance with a doctor in case
we make good our retreat on Sheikh. I am requesting the Resident at Aden to send 300 troops
at once to garrison Berbera. Please communicate your instructions to Powell - Archer.
All the correspondence with the Secretary of State concerning this incident can be found in
the report "Affairs in Somaliland" dated 1913. At the time, the British Press reported the
incident as a shameful reversal for British Armed Forces, and the Liberal Government of the
day was censured by their Conservative opposition for failing to provide a strong enough
military presence in British Somaliland to govern the country properly. The authorities laid
the blame on Corfield for damaging national prestige by disobeying orders, but to some people he was a honourable man of principle, who had paid with his life, and was wrongly
blamed. A polemic against the Government under the title "The People Without A Pillow"
was published in Blackwood Magazine under the pseudonym Zeres. This is the controversy,
which Heape was referring to. He was also right about the tension between Sir Geoffrey
Archer and Col. Summers as correspondence between Mr Stachey and Sir Masterton Smith
in London confirmed, (ref: CO 536/66 National Archives). Col. Summers succeeded Archer
As Governor of British Somaliland in 1922.
Shortly before he died, Heape also wrote down the following account of his arrival in
Somaliland in 1919:
"I was soon invited for an interview at the Colonial Office, and was seen by Mr Sidebottom
and Mr Furse. I explained that the War Office would release me at once and very soon
afterwards, I was instructed to see Mr Jardine, who was Secretary to the Government of
British Somaliland at the time. We met in the Colonial Office Library. He asked me about
my work at the War Office and whether I had had any experience of coding and ciphers. I
said "no" and told him about my work with the Highland brigade, which was entirely
administrative. He did not seem impressed and we had a desultory conversation. It was not
a good interview. Jardine was scholarly, mature and critical; I was young, confident and
brash. We did not like each other and I was told long afterwards that Jardine did not want
me. But I received another invitation, this time from the Governor of British Somaliland, Sir
Geoffrey Archer, who invited me to lunch at Jules. This interview went much better. It all
seems very odd now when one thinks of the complex procedure that built up for recruiting
officers for the Colonial service. Immediately after the First World War, however, the
Colonial Office were wanting recruits badly, and Governor Archer's opinion must have
outweighed Jardine's, because soon after my second interview I received an official offer,
subject to medical fitness, of an appointment as Assistant Secretary to the Government of
British Somaliland on a salary of £250 pa rising by annual increments of £20 to £500 a year.
I am not quite sure of the salary scale, but it was around those figures and at the time seemed
very generous to me. Somaliland! This was Corfield's country and I remembered the picture
of him I had gazed at in 1913. I also remembered the stories General Carton de Wiart had
told me in hospital about his Somaliland experiences.
It seemed an exciting country, as indeed it is. I thought a bit about Jardine, but I decided to
accept very quickly, and I may say now that I have never once regretted that decision. After
a very shaky start in Somaliland, Jardine and I eventually became firm friends in Tanganyika
However, my stiff leg nearly did for me. I passed my first medical examination and then I
was told to report for another examination. This time the Doctor informed me that I would
have to spend much time on horseback in Somaliland. He asked me whether I could manage to ride with one knee stiff. I had never ridden, but I took a chance and said, "Yes". The
Doctor accepted my assurance and I was finally passed fit. In fact, riding never did present
any difficulty. The Somali ponies generally had an easy action and no one attempted to post
at the trot. One simply sat with a relaxed back and jogged along, and in no time you found
that you could cover miles and miles without discomfort or fatigue. I kept the same sweet
tempered pony for all my ten years service in Somaliland and got a great deal of pleasure out
of riding, though I never was good enough to play polo. I rode mainly by balance and the
only trouble was the constant friction on the scar tissue on the inside of my damaged leg,
which eventually set up inflammation of the bone. To my dismay, I landed up on leave in
Queen Mary's Hospital at Roehampton again for a bone scrape. Since I left Somaliland, I
have abandoned riding for that reason.
I made a quick visit to my parents at Southport to tell them the good news. They were a trifle
startled, as they had no idea what I was going to do, but they were soon delighted when I
explained that I had secured a beginning of a worthwhile career. I travelled out by British
India steamer in a three-berth cabin with a newly joined Police Officer, also bound for
Somaliland, and another man, who was going out to Ceylon in some post connected with
Fisheries. We soon found out that he was drinking heavily. He had a mild attack of the D.
Ts. one night and we reported him to the Purser, who did his best to control his supply of
alcohol without success. The poor man continued to see things and we learnt later that he
shot himself in his cabin. Thank heavens he waited until we left the ship at Aden.
We spent one night at Aden in a ghastly hotel called Fishteins and embarked for Berbera the
next day in a 90 ton steamer named S.S. Woodcock, a cargo boat belonging to the firm of
Cowasjee, Dinshaw & Sons. The "Woodcock" carried an English skipper, but all the other
hands were Somalis and she was navigated and steered very competently by Somali Serangs.
We slept on the bridge with the skipper. We had an uneventful crossing and arrived at
Berbera next day. But the passage could be very uncomfortable during the South West
Monsoon, and during my ten years service in Somaliland, I experienced some very rough
passages between Aden and Berbera.
I think I must have made my first landing about November 1919, because I remember that the
Governor and Secretary were up at Sheikh. I spent my first night in Berbera as guest of the
District Commissioner R.R.H. Jebb. No one could have given me a warmer welcome."
Sadly, this is where Heape's own account of his life in the Colonial Service ends. Illness
overtook him in 1970 and he did not write any more, but he told my sister and I many stories
about Africa, especially after a good dinner. He served as Assistant Secretary to the
Governor of British Somaliland for 10 years from 1919 to 1929, and I think he must have turned down promotion to stay there, because he liked the life so much. It was certainly a
unique and fascinating part of Africa in those days. Richard Francis Burton and John
Hanning Speke were the first Europeans to explore the hinterland of Somaliland in 1854.
The wild tribesmen, who inhabited the country, attacked them. They returned in
1856 to look for the Great Lakes and the source of the River Nile further inland. They were
the first Europeans to explore the Horn of Africa and they discovered Lake Tanganyika and
Lake Victoria. Somaliland was teaming with wild animals in the early days and hunting was
the ulterior motive for most of the early European explorers such as Harald Swayne, who
surveyed much of the country in the late 1880s. In his book First Footsteps in East Africa
the explorer, Sir Richard Burton, described the port of Berbera in 1848 as: "the perfect Babel
with merchants from as far a field as Muscat, Bahrain and Bombay coming to the annual fair
there. Disputes between the tribes were settled by the spear and dagger. Long strings of
camels arrived daily, escorted generally by women. Groups of dusky, travel-worn children
marked the arrival of slaves from Harar". Berbera was certainly a colourful place in those
days. It became the seat of government in my father's time. The British had claimed part of
Western Somaliland around the trading ports of Berbera and Zeila when the Egyptians left in
1884. The port of Aden on the other side of the Gulf had been garrisoned with British troops
from India in 1839, and the market at Berbera supplied the garrison at Aden with meat.
Heape must have travelled out to Aden by British India Steamer in November 1919. I still
have his original passport dated 13th October 1919, with endorsements giving him
permission to land in Malta on 25th November 1919, and at Aden on 4th December 1919.
When he first arrived in 1919, Mr Geoffrey Francis Archer was the Governor of the
Protectorate, and Major A.S. Lawrence, who was Heape's immediate superior, was in charge
of the Secretariat. The country was divided up into five large districts for administrative
purpose, each district run by a District Commissioner. The three coastal districts were centred
on the ports of Zeila near the western frontier, Berbera in the middle and Khoria sixty miles
along the coast to the east of Berbera. There were two inland districts administered from
Burao and Hargeisa. In addition to the five District Commissioners and their Assistants, there
were two Officers in charge of the Camel Corps, as well as Public Works Department
officials, and Prisons officers. A high white wall shaded by carefully irrigated date palms,
mimosa trees, hibiscus and oleander bushes surrounded the European quarters at Berbera.
The dozen or so houses within the walls were all painted white. Each house had a large
veranda overlooking the sea. The largest buildings were the Governor's House and the Club.
The description of the European quarters at Berbera comes from Margery Perham's book
Major Dane's Garden.
Margery Perham travelled out to Somaliland by sea with her sister Ethel in 1921. Her
husband, Major Harry Rayne, was the District Commissioner at Hargeisa. They finally
arrived at Berbera on 24th January, three and a half weeks after setting out from England.
While waiting to continue their journey to Hargeisa, they were entertained by the Governor,
who invited them to a grand dinner on 3rd February. "Everyone was there" Margery Perham
recorded, and the meal was lavish, with twelve courses including buck, oysters, plum
pudding and champagne. It must have been on this occasion that my father's two pet lion
cubs bit the bare feet of the waiters, causing them to spill drinks all over the guests. It was
one of the stories he related to my sister and I. He got to know the two Perham sisters well,
while they were staying in Berbera, and there are several photographs of them in his
collection of African photographs. They eventually departed on the arduous seven-day
journey to Hargeisa, which meant travelling first by car, then by mule, and finally on ponies
with Ethel's two small sons. She described the journey up the escarpment in the vehicles as
terrifying, the slightest mistake in negotiating the hairpin bends would have plunged them to
Heape could not play tennis or polo, because of his stiff leg, but he acquired a naval sailing
Whaler, which he used to sail along the coast. He took Margery Perham and her
sister out sailing in his boat and she later wrote about a hair-raising sail in a cutter
to Zeila with a young man named Blaker in her novel about Somaliland. Margery Perham
wrote "Major Dane's Garden" soon after returning to England. This first experience of
Africa made such an impression on Margery Perham that she devoted the rest of her life to colonial affairs. She became the acknowledged expert on African nationalism, and was
appointed the Director of the Oxford Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Heape wrote to her
in 1970 to congratulate her on her broadcast The Time of my Life which he had listened to
on the radio. He mentioned having happy memories of taking her sailing in Somaliland, (see
letter Appendix 1) Margery Perham was a very important advocate in defence of the Colonial Administration.
While he was stationed in Berbera, Heape enjoyed shooting Sandgrouse at the nearby
waterholes, which he recorded in his Game Book. He particularly enjoyed camping out in the
bush with his Somali servants. He admired the Somalis, who he thought were
splendid people. Writing about the Somaliland Constabulary in Blackwood Magazine, the
author Zeres said this about them. "They are no respecters of persons, and the white man
neither overawes nor embarrasses them. Their manners are charming and their sense of
humour immense. They will treat their officers as racial equals off parade, and the artificial
servility of the Oriental is unknown to them. Further, they will chaff you and argue with you,
but since no disrespect is intended, nobody minds. They are honestly convinced that the
Somali is the finest fellow in the world."
Heape once said that the best Christmas he ever had was the one he spent with his bearer in
the bush in Somaliland. He was reading the novel The Cathedral by Hugh Walpole, which
had just been published in 1922. He had some luxuries from Fortnum & Mason, the famous
London Store, to make his Christmas dinner special. They specialised in supplying what they
called "Joy Parcels" to people serving overseas. He took out twelve boxes of rations from
Fortnum & Mason with him on his tours to Africa, one for each month of the year. The game
he shot added to his diet. He shot a great variety of game, and he brought home several
trophy heads of Antelope, which were displayed in my grandparents' home in Shropshire.
He could never bring himself to shoot an elephant. He had a beautiful Rigby Game Rifle,
which was equipped with a leather case and a brass funnel for pouring boiling water down
the barrel. He said how polluted the water in the bush became in the dry season. The wild
animals urinated round the water holes, which made the water taste foul. This is where
concentrated Camp coffee essences came in handy. The strong taste of chicory masked the
taste of the animals' urine. In 1919, the only practical way to move around the country was
on horseback. Heape rode the same quiet pony for many miles during the ten years he spent
in Somaliland. Riding with a stiff leg cannot have been easy for him, and eventually caused
infection in the bone of his wounded leg.
Approximately sixty miles due south of Berbera, the small government fort of Sheikh
occupied an elevated position on the escarpment. One of his first jobs was to take
charge of a gang of convicts, who were being employed to improve the road from Berbera up
to the fort of Sheikh. This involved constructing a road up the steep escarpment, suitable for
vehicles. He took several photographs of this road, which was little more than a goat track. The convicts broke the rocks by lighting fires round them and then pouring cold
water over the hot stones. It must have taken a long time to reach Sheikh. He was quite
proud of his achievement in improving this important road. Google Earth now shows a
tarmac road snaking up the pass to Sheikh.
Soon after arriving in the colony, Heape witnessed the bombing raids carried out by the
R.A.F. against the Dervishes' fort at Tali. The British had been fighting the Dervishes in
Somaliland for over 20 years. One of the local Sheikhs named Mohammed Abdullah Hassan,
known as the Mad Mullah, had raised an army of 20,000 Dervishes in 1899 to fight the
British, who he thought were destroying his Muslin religion and allowing the Ethiopians to
take over his country. Wars involving Muslins still plague Africa. The Mad Mullah was
finally defeated in 1920 with the help of a squadron of twelve de Havilland DH.9 bombers
from the newly formed Royal Air Force. Heape recalled an incident involving a dead man,
who had to be flown back to Berbera in the DH.9 Air Ambulance. It proved very
difficult to extract the body out of the observer's seat in the aeroplane, when the aircraft
landed at Berbera, because rigor mortis had stiffened the corpse.
The bombing of the Mad
Mullah's fort at Tali was so successful that Lord Trenchard later wrote, "an air force cannot
be built on dreams, but it cannot live without them either, and mine will be realised sooner
than you think." The victory over the Mad Mullah was the first of those dreams that came
true. Control from the air had been born. It would come of age in the 2nd World War. Leo
Amery, the Colonial Under Secretary described it as "the cheapest war in history". The
whole operation cost £77,000, which was far cheaper than transporting a Brigade of troops
over from India and resulted in much lower casualties. It was the first time the RAF had
been used to quell a Colonial rebellion (From Biplane to Spitfire by Anne Baker). Geoffrey
Archer was promoted as Governor of British Somaliland and received his knighthood in 1920
for his part in defeating the Mad Mullah.
Geoffrey Archer was a big man in every sense of the word. Being over six feet
six inches tall, he towered over everyone else. His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography gives a description of his long and successful career in the Colonial Service. He
was a keen naturalist and wrote two books, one on the birds of Somaliland and the other
about his personal memoirs. He was extremely knowledgeable about the country and its
people, and his experience in dealing with local tribesmen probably saved Heape's life once
when they were on tour together. During a journey on horseback together, they had to
construct a defensive stockade called a "Zariba" round their campsites each night to protect
themselves from lions and unfriendly tribesmen. Heape woke up one morning to see the
sunlight flashing on a ring of spears belonging to tribesmen, who had surrounded their camp
during the night. The situation could have been serious, had Geoffrey Archer not dealt very
tactfully with the Illaloes.
Various other letters from the Royal Archives at Kew throw light on Heape's life in Somaliland. When he first went out there, he was on secondment from his regiment and was
still technically a regular soldier. The War Office did not officially confirm his transfer to the
Colonial Service until 1921 as the following letter illustrates:
From the War Office
To the Colonial Office
26th September 1921
With reference to your letter of 6 December 1919, I am directed by Mr Secretary Churchill to
request you to inform the Army Council that he has approved of the confirmation of Lieut. W
L Heape in his appointment as Assistant Secretary, Somaliland after he has completed two
years service from the date of his first arrival in the Protectorate. Mr Heape's confirmation
will accordingly take effect from 4 December 1921.
I am, Sir, Your most obedient servant
H J Read
Heape remembered one event in 1921, for the rest of his life. He had to accompany Col. G H
Summers on an official visit to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Col. Summers was Acting
Governor of the colony, while Sir Geoffrey Archer was attending the Middle East
Conference in Cairo. The situation in the Ogaden Region of Abyssinia bordering with British
Somaliland had been deteriorating again. The nomadic tribes continued to carry out raids
across the borders. Captain Claude Russell, His Majesty's Minister in Addis Ababa, arranged
for Col Summers to meet the Abyssinian Governor of Harrar Province, Dejazmatch Imaru, at
a place named Jig Jiga about sixty miles across the border. The Governor's party included
Heape from the Secretariat, two officers of the Camel Corps, Major Lousada and Lt. Mackay,
and Major Pack commanding the Police. The party all mounted on horseback, left Gileli in
Somaliland on 16th July accompanied by a troop of the Camel Corps. The meeting with
Dejazmatch Imaru took place on 19th July, and was attended by Captain Russell, Mr
Plowman, the British Consul in Harrar, Colonel Summers and Heape. Capt. Russell opened
the proceedings on behalf of the British Administration. Dejazmatch Imaru gave a long
address expressing the desire of the Abyssinian Government for peace. Col. Summers wrote a
long report about this meeting to Mr Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State for the
colonies, on his return to Hargassia. The full text of Col. Summer's letter to Mr Churchill can
be read in Appendix 2. The Abyssinians feted my Heape, because he was wearing his Army
uniform. They respected him as a wounded warrior, and showered him with gifts, which
Summers made him give back to them. He was only allowed to keep a black silk cape, which
had been given to him by the General of the Abyssinian Cavalry. This cape is still in my
There is an amusing description of the Cairo Conference in Sir Geoffrey Archer's book
Personal and Historical Memoirs of an East African Administrator. Sir Geoffrey took the
two lion cubs with him to Cairo. They bit Mr Churchill on the knee, and nearly killed a pet
stork belonging to Lord Allenby. There is a picture of all the delegates with Mr Winston
Churchill, which he called "The Forty Thieves and the lion cubs".
The problem of keeping the peace among the nomadic tribesmen, who lived on the borders
between British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia, did not end with the defeat of
the "Mad Mullah" in 1920. Raids by tribesmen from Italian Somaliland against the tribes in
British territory continued to occur. During the time when the Mad Mullah had been fighting
the British, some of the Dolbahanta people had taken refuge with the Mijjertein tribe in
Italian Somaliland. When the Mullah was defeated in 1920, they returned to British
Somaliland with their livestock. The Mijjertein then carried out raids into British territory to
recover the livestock. In November 1921, the District Commissioner at Burao, Captain A
Gibb DSO met the Italian representatives Colonel Nicoasia and Signor Medici and an
agreement was reached for the Mijjertein to hand over some 1,100 camels, 250 cows, 1,300
sheep, 8 donkies, 3 ponies and 6 rifles by May 1922. The Mijjertein had obviously not
complied with this agreement and the Colonial Office in London became involved. This
incident developed into a "Cause Celebre" between the Royal Italian Government and the
British Government, involving correspondence between Mr Winston Churchill, Lord Curzon
and the British Ambassador in Rome, Sir Richard Graham. The problem led Summers to
seek advice from London.
The following letter written by Heape is part of the Annual Report for Somaliland 1924 held
by the National Archives at Kew.
From: Secretariat British Somaliland
To: The Royal Vice-Consul for Italy in Aden
6th August 1924
I have the honour to refer to the correspondence ended with your predecessor's letter of 1st
November 1923 and am directed by his Excellency the acting Governor to enquire when Sultan Isman
Mohamoud may be expected to carry out his share of the conditions of settlement agreed at Bundar
Ziaola in May 1922.
I am to add that at the present time many of the Mijjertein, Italian subjects are getting facilities for grazing and watering in the Protectorate and no obstacles have been put in their way. But if the
Sultan will not carry out his promise, a much more stringent control must be exercised, in the hope
that hardship caused to his people will induce in him a more amenable frame of mind.
I have etc
W L Heape
For Secretary to the Administration
His letter is part of a lengthy correspondence between the then Secretary of State for the
Colonies, Mr Winston Churchill, and the Governor of Somaliland concerning an incident in
the Ogaden Region in 1922. Disputes with Italy over the Ogaden culminated in the Abyssinia
Crisis in 1934, when Italy built a fort at Wal Wal 150km inside the border.
Sir Geoffrey Archer had levied a new tax on the tribesmen, which was very unpopular. It was
as a result of this that Captain Gibb was shot dead by tribesmen in February 1922. His career
in the Colonial Service was rather remarkable. Allan Gibb was born in 1877, the son of a
butler in private service in Edinburgh. He had been sent to Somaliland as a Sergeant
Armourer attached to the Kings African Rifles under Colonel Swayne in the first expedition
against the Mad Mullah in 1901. He was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery several
times, and later became a District Officer with the Administration. He was appointed as
District Commissioner at Burao in 1918. On 24th February 1922, Gibb was taking tea with
Geoffrey Archer in Burao, when he was called out to deal with a disturbance by tribesmen,
who were protesting against the new tax. He was shot dead when he confronted the frenzied
mob. He lies buried at Sheikh. His story was recorded in Blackwood Magazine in Tales from the Outposts.
This tragic event was the subject of a parliamentary question to Mr Churchill concerning the
Governor's request for the assistance of two aeroplanes to help in restoring the peace. The
Air Ministry had doubts about sending the aircraft, but two aeroplanes made the risky flight
from Aden to Berbera, and as recorded in Hansard, they were successful in subduing the
rebellious tribesmen. The RAF bombed Burao and a fine of 3000 camels was imposed on the
tribesmen for killing Captain Gibb. This drastic action illustrates the importance given to
maintaining law and order in those days.
Much of Heape's time was spent on dealing with legal problems. One of the more bizarre
problems he was faced with was having to construct a gallows to hang a convicted murderer.
The Home Office sent out instructions on the correct design, which he duly had constructed.
The only problem was that no one could be persuaded to act as hangman for a fellow
Muslim. In the end the murderer had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment and ended
up working in the Governor's garden.
Heape had to return to England in 1926 to be admitted to Roehampton Hospital for a bone
scrape on his wounded leg. Constant riding in Somaliland had caused inflammation of the
bone in his left leg. He was then attached to the Colonial Office in London for a short time
and while there, he joined the Metropolitan Special Constabulary on 9th May 1926 during the
General Strike. He was given a Driver's Permit by the Ministry of Transport and drove a
London bus. The strike lasted 9 days from 4th - 13th May and involved over 1 million workers especially in transport and mining. Heape was able to return to Somaliland later that
He spent almost ten years in British Somaliland, and was eventually transferred to the
Secretariat in Tanganyika in 1929. He travelled via Aden to Dar-es-Salaam aboard the SS
Llandaff Castle in May 1929. (Union Castle Line Passenger List) Tanganyika had belonged
to Germany before the First World War. Britain officially took over the government of what
became known as Tanganyika Territory in 1919 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
A League of Nations Mandate confirmed this in 1922 and after World War Two it became a United
Nations Trust Territory. It was administered by Britain until 1961. Heape was probably
sent there so that he could gain experience in a much larger organisation. The Territory was
governed by a Legislative Council presided over by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief,
Sir Donald Cameron, and an Executive Council consisting of the Chief Secretary, the
Attorney General, the Treasurer, the Director of Medical Services, the Director of Education
and the Director of Native Affairs each with his own department. The Territory was divided
up into 11 Provinces for administrative purposes. The Secretariat, which father joined as an
Assistant Secretary in 1929 was run by the Sir Douglas Jardine, the very same man who had
interviewed him in 1919. Heape was one of seven Assistant Secretaries. In 1930, the
Administration had a staff of 14 Provincial Commissioners, 32 District Officers, 86 Assistant
District Officers and 45 Cadets including one named J Tawney.
Sir Donald Cameron's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records that he
successfully built up the economy of Tanganyika, improving the harbour facilities and
extending the railway. He established departments of Labour and Native Affairs and
abolished forced labour and manual porterage. He refused to give priority to European
settlement and insisted that the Mandate had stressed the paramountcy of
African interests. He must have been quite a "clean broom," and a bit before his time in
regard to native affairs. Heape enjoyed working under Sir Donald Cameron and Sir Douglas
Jardine as the following letters illustrate:
Secretariat Dar Es Salaam
10 December 1932
My dear Heape,
May I express to you, on my own behalf and on behalf of all your colleagues in the
Secretariat, our great regret that for medical reasons you are not returning to us.
l can assure you that on personal grounds you will be greatly missed here by us all; but you
will have the satisfaction of knowing that the high standard of care and thoroughness that
characterised your work in the secretariat is daily in evidence, while your zeal in undertaking
and carrying out any duties, official or social, will not readily be forgotten.
I can only add that we all wish you every happiness in the future.
Yours very sincerely
D J Jardine
16th August 1935
Captain W L Heape served under me for some years in the Administrative Service of
Tanganyika Territory when I was Governor of that Mandated Territory. He served during the
whole of the time in the Secretariat and his work therefore came particularly under my
notice. I can cordially recommend him for Administrative post, for which he may be an
applicant. He is able and industrious and a man of high character; highly respected in Dar-es-
Governor of Nigeria
The following letter was written to my mother after my father's death by Jack Tawney, his
colleague in the Secretariat.
January 3rd 1973
Dear Mrs Heape,
I have seen the news of your husband's death with very real sorrow and would like to give
you my sincerest sympathy - a very genuine sympathy indeed, because I had so high a regard
for a man I first met nearly 43 years ago.
When I first went to Tanganyika in 1930 as a raw and brash cadet, I was for a short time
billeted on "Heapie" as he was known to all of us, as to his African "boy" Lemon. I also for
a while shared an office with him in the Secretariat.
At ten years older than myself, with his background as a soldier, who had suffered a great
deal, he was a man to respect, but at once he revealed himself as a splendid guide and friend.
He was a great example to me and to other young men, particularly those of us who were
lucky enough to be taken sailing with him in "Suzanne " and who learnt in addition what a
fund of humour and enjoyment of life he had to share.
Our ways parted - then years later when I edited "Corona" in the Colonial Office in 1950s,
there he was again swinging down Great Smith, as welcoming as ever, and from time to time
we met for lunch.
Then another gap until I came to your house on October 11th 1966. I know he had been hard
hit - I could not have believed I should find such friendliness, such confidence and courage.
My diary records: "I tried him sincerely, he was such a great refreshment and
encouragement to me. It was splendid to find him undaunted. This was a very happy
meeting." I know that many people could have written the same, with real affection.
Yours very sincerely
Just as he was making a name for himself in his new posting, disaster in the form of very
serious illness overtook Heape. He stubbed the big toe of his left foot on some coral, while
out swimming. It very quickly turned septic and he was admitted to hospital in Dar-es-Salaam on 25 May 1932. The letter from the Senior Medical Officer in charge of the
European Hospital stated that the superficial lymphatics of the left leg were inflamed and
there was slight general oedema and redness of the leg. On 28th May his temperature rose to
103.4 and he developed symptoms of acute septicaemia. He was injected with anti-streptococcus
serum on 28th, 30th, and 31st of May with apparent benefit. Severe
anaphylactic symptoms developed on 3rd June, accompanied by profuse urticaria. He was
pronounced critically ill. This reaction went on for the next five days. On the evening of
19th June his temperature fell to normal.
In his report, the Senior Medical Officer stated that the inflammatory reaction of a very
severe nature occurred in the seat of old war wounds, and in his opinion it was an open
question whether it would not be better for this limb to be amputated. This was to have
unfortunate consequences for Heape when he was sent back to England.
My father had very nearly died of the heart failure in Tanganyika. He told us the story about
how he called out to his nurse that he was about to die. "No you are not. God does not want
you yet" was her reply. She gave him a teaspoon of Brands Beef Essence, and he recovered.
He kept the Medical Officer's report and the correspondence from Dar-es-Salaam concerning
his illness for the rest of his life. The following letters and telegrams chart the course of his
illness and return to England in 1932:
To Mrs Lutyens (his sister)
From The Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office
31 May 1932
I am directed by Secretary Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister to inform you that he has received a
telegram from the Governor of the Tanganyika Territory reporting that your brother, Mr WL
Heape is seriously ill with septicaemia, but that he is not in any immediate danger.
I am to explain that this news, which Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister has received with much
regret, has been sent in pursuance of an arrangement by which, when an officer serving in a
Colony is seriously ill, the fact is immediately reported to the Secretary of State for
communication to the relatives.
In accordance with the normal practice, the Governor will at once report any change in your
brother's condition. If no change has taken place in the meantime, a further report may be
expected in about a week. Any reports that may be received will be forwarded to you at once.
I am to add that Mr Heape requested that this information should be communicated to you
rather than to his father, presumably in order that you might exercise your discretion in
passing on the news.
I am. Madam
Your obedient servant
G B Forester
Telegram Received 9th June 1932
Heape has now recovered from acute heart failure. He has high temperature at times.
Condition shows some improvement, but he is still seriously ill. Outlook more hopeful than a
few days ago. His name is off the dangerously ill list.
The Hospital Dar es Salaam
Dear Mrs Heape
It gives me great pleasure to write and tell you that your son's temperature dropped on the
morning of 13th June and since then he has been better, (the leg is improving)
Of course he is still feeling weak, but we are now hopeful that we shall be able to send him
home sometime in the near future, say in about a month's time; this is unofficial news.
He was very anxious that you should not be anxious about him all the time, but of course "the
Powers that be" had to let you know his condition.
Unless there is another relapse, I shall not write again as he will be writing himself.
I am so pleased and so are we all.
Francis M Plant
To: Mrs Lutyens
From: The Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office
With reference to the letter from this department of 18th June, I am directed by Secretary sir
Philip Cunliffe-Lister to inform you that, according to a telegram which has been received
from the Governor of the Tanganyika Territory, Mr W L Heape is leaving for this country by
Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company's steamer "Dunluce Castle" on 5th July. This
steamer is due to arrive at Tilbury on 4th August.
It is assumed that Mr Heape has been granted sick leave following on his recent illness.
I am, Madam
Your obedient servant
He must have been very happy to be going home, but he may not have realised that he would
never be able to return to Africa. When he got back to England, he went to convalesce with
his parents in Shropshire. In due course, he had to go for a further medical at the Colonial
Office in London. He was then told that if he wished to continue to serve in Africa, he would
have to have his wounded left leg amputated. This must have been a very difficult decision
for him. Once again, the terrible wounds he had received in the Great War were changing the
course of his life. He sought advice from Sir Douglas Shields, the eminent Australian surgeon,
who had treated his wounds in 1915. Shields advised him against having his leg amputated,
which proved good advice, because he never had any more trouble with it. But it meant that
he had to give up his chosen career.
He could not return to Africa, but he did not remain unemployed for long. Sir Mark Young
KCMG, the newly appointed Governor of Barbados, offered him an appointment as his
Private Secretary. Heape had to resign from the Colonial Office to take up this new
appointment, but he must have hoped that it would lead to better things. He was well
qualified for his new job having been secretary to the Governor in Somaliland.
Sir Mark Aitchison Young is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as a
sharp minded, intelligent, courageous, far-sighted, energetic, dedicated man, somewhat
austere in character, and very able. Heape got on well with Sir Mark Young, who described
him as an able assistant. They had both served in the Army during the First World War.
During the Second World War, Sir Mark was made Governor of Hong Kong, and was told to
defend the Colony against the Japanese for as long as possible. This he did with the utmost
stubbornness, and unlike Singapore, the Hong Kong garrison, under his leadership, earned in
Churchill's words, the 'Lasting Honour'.
His Career in the West Indies
Each Caribbean Island had its own unique character and ethnic mix of people. By the end of
17th century Barbados had become one of the world's largest producers of sugar. The
African slaves, who were brought to work on the sugar plantations, totally changed the
population of the island. In 1698, there were 2,330 white males and 42,000 African slaves, a
ratio of 18 slaves to every white male living in Barbados. In 1933, when Sir Mark Young
was appointed Governor, the white people made up only about 2% of the total population of
the island. Every colony had its own constitution and House of Assembly. The islands were
governed by Great Britain as Crown Colonies with the involvement of the local people
through partly elected Legislative Councils. The Governor controlled the colony on behalf of
the Government of the United Kingdom through an Executive Council.
There are photographs of Heape arriving in Barbados with Sir Mark Young in 1933. He wore a smart white uniform, as Private Secretary to the Governor. They are
pictured together inspecting a Guard of Honour on arrival, and driving to Government House.
He obviously made a success of his new appointment with Sir Mark Young. In 1935, a
position in the administration of the neighbouring island of Grenada became vacant. Sir Mark
must have put forward the name of his Private Secretary for the post. Heape's appointment as
Colonial Secretary and Registrar General of Grenada was published in the Government
Gazette on 15th October 1935. He was paid a salary of £800 per annum and provided with a
furnished house for a rent of £55 per annum. The Barbados Advocate Weekly Newspaper
published a long article on 12th October 1935 about the new appointment of Mr W.L. Heape.
The community of Grenada was very different to Barbados, far smaller and with fewer white
residents. The journalist, Clennell W. Wickham, questioned whether his Barbados experience
would be a handicap, because he would not find any 'exclusive' clubs for white people there
and he would be mixing more closely with the locals.
Grenada was part of the Windward Islands. The Governor, Sir Hugh Popham KCMG, resided
at Government House on the island of St. Lucia. The day-to-day management of Grenada
was left largely in the hands of the Administrator. The duties of the Colonial Secretary were
wide ranging. He acted as Administrator of the island, and was ex-officio Chairman of the
Legislative Council and Finance Committee. He was also Chairman of the Executive Council
in the absence of the Governor. He had to prepare the Annual Estimates for the island, and
these reports written by W.L. Heape are still preserved in Colonial Office Files in the National
Archives. He was responsible for carrying out some of the improvements, which had been
recommended by the Wood Commission. This was probably the most successful and
fulfilling period of his whole career in the Colonial Service. He attended the Coronation of
King George VI at Westminster Abbey on 12th May 1937, and was awarded the King
George VI Coronation Medal in 1937 for his contribution to the community of Grenada.
Leslie Heape married Anice Chandler in London in July 1937. They returned to Grenada
together. I was born in London in June 1938. My mother had returned to London without my
father for the birth of her first child. We both travelled back to Grenada by sea in September
1938. The start of the Second World War in September 1939 meant that we had to remain in
the West Indies for the duration of the war.
Heape was also responsible for the administration of the neighbouring island of St. Vincent
for a short time in 1935, which he undertook with enthusiasm. He kept the following press
cutting about his time on the island of St. Vincent among his papers:
The Acting Administrator
"It is very pleasing to note that during the last two months there has been built up very
cordial relations between Government and the people of this colony. It was on July 12th that
His Honour W.L. Heape arrived from Grenada to assume the appointment of Acting
Administrator of the Colony, and from the very beginning of his term he succeeded in
winning the confidence of all sections. It is true his manners are winsome - a splendid asset
in an Administrator of colonies like these - but winsome ways are not alone sufficient to win
public confidence in St. Vincent, and Mr Heape has been able to bring to play traits of
character that have so favourably impressed all classes that his appointment at any future date
as the substantive Administrator of St. Vincent will be hailed with genuine delight by all the
The members of the Civil Service realise that they must be hard working under Mr Heape;
but the Acting Administrator is himself a very hard worker and there is general conviction
that he is imbued with sincerity and honesty of purpose in his handling of the affairs of the
colony. Mr Heape sets the example of going to the office in time and working till after office
hours. He has travelled in various parts of the colony interesting himself in the question of
land settlement and other matters effecting the social and economic well-being of the people,
sometimes travelling on foot as recently at a visit to Coulls Bay with the object of finding
lands on which to settle a few distressed families.
The details of administration are numerous and the entire task onerous; and we offer our
hearty congratulations to Mr Heape on his succeeding to win, indisputably, the confidence of
this community during his tenure of the acting appointment. He goes back to his substantive
post of Colonial Secretary of Grenada in a few days, but he carries with him the love and
respect of a community genuinely grateful for the unstinted service he has rendered in so
short a time.
In spite of Clennell Wickham's misgivings, Heape got on very well with the local people of
Grenada and St. Vincent. He was well liked by the people of Grenada too. They named a new
house at the Grenada Boys' Secondary School after him, and when he left the island in 1940, an article in the local newspaper praised his deep sense of his public and private
responsibilities and keen desire to serve their country and the Empire. Both my parents
enjoyed the life there.
A far more challenging appointment lay ahead for my father. He was posted to the Bahamas as
Colonial Secretary in May 1940. Sir Charles Dundas was the Governor of the colony at the
time. Sir Charles had been a popular administrator in Tanganyika in the 1930s and they
probably knew each other.
The Bahamas has had a long and chequered history ever since Columbus first made landfall
on the island of San Salvador in 1492. It was not an easy Colony to govern, because of its
constitution. The House of Assembly, made up of twenty-nine members elected by the white
business community on New Providence, had very wide powers under the constitution. They
did everything in their power to protect their dominance over the mainly black population of
the colony. They ensured that practically all economic activities benefited New Providence and
that the outer islands, where most of the black population lived, were left undeveloped. The
Governor had the difficult task of keeping the House of Assembly in check through his
Executive Council, on which Heape served as the Colonial Secretary. Although the Governor
had a right of veto over any proposed legislation, it was never easy for him to persuade the
House of Assembly to carry out the wishes of the Colonial Office in London. In other words,
the life of the Governor was no sinecure, and it was not a popular posting.
It was as a direct consequence of the war that Duke of Windsor was suddenly appointed
Governor of the Bahamas. Sir Charles Dundas was posted to Nigeria, leaving Heape as the
Acting Governor of the Colony. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor arrived on 17th August
1940. It was Heape's responsibility to organise their reception and welcome them to the
Island. There are pictures of him with Duke and Duchess arriving in Nassau Harbour. Heape is also shown standing behind His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor as
he was being sworn in as Governor by the chief Justice, Sir Oscar Daly.
My mother was also a member of the welcoming party for the Duke and Duchess that day. The
local New-Herald Newspaper reported that Mrs W L Heape, wife of the Acting Governor, set the
fashion by bowing to the woman for whom the Duke had given up the throne. Other officials then
followed her precedent. The Duchess had not been awarded the title of Her Royal Highness, and the
Palace had stipulated that women should therefore not curtsy to her.
As Colonial Secretary, Heape had to work very closely with the Duke of Windsor for four years. It
was to prove a period of re-adjustment for them both. The Duke referred to the Bahamas as a third
class British colony. He was very unhappy about being sent there. He was unfamiliar with Colonial
Office procedures, and Heape had never had any dealings with Royalty. In a letter to the Secretary
of State for the Colonies, the Duke admitted that he came to the Colony without previous Colonial
Administrative experience and completely green to Colonial Office routine work. He said that
Heape had been of the greatest assistance in putting him wise over many things concerning
procedure in the Colonial Service. Their teamwork had been good, because he had been glad to
learn from Heape, and he had been able to teach him things, which Heape would find useful in his
As Colonial Secretary, Heape had to act as Governor of the colony whenever the Duke was
absent. The Duke was on holiday in Canada in October 1941 when a hurricane hit
the Bahamas. Winds of 102 mph were recorded in Nassau, killing three people and
causing considerable damage to property. The local paper 'The Argus' reported that
the streets of Nassau were strewn with debris including wreckage of boats from the
harbour. The Colonial Secretary was thanked for the prompt and effective
measures he took to obtain first hand knowledge of the people's needs, and for
sending relief to the stricken out islands. The Duke was away from the colony on
four occasions during 1940 to 1942. Heape also had to sign his name as Colonial
Secretary on the banknotes. A rare 4/- Bahamas Banknote bearing the signature
W.L. Heape sold for $748 on the Baltimore Auction in 2012.
As well as the clique of local white businessmen, known as the "Bay Street Boys", there were
a number of other rich businessmen living in the colony, attracted there because Income Tax
was not levied in the Bahamas. One man in particular was the Swedish Industrialist Alex
Wenner-Gren, who owned an estate named Shangri-La on Hog Island and the largest private
yacht in the world called the 'Southern Cross'. Among his many business activities, Wenner-Gren had interests in the Swedish armaments manufacturers Bofors and Saab, and he was
purported to have had dealings with the Nazis before the war. The other immensely rich man
living in the Bahamas at that time was Sir Harry Oakes, who had made his fortune in gold
mining in Canada. He had moved to the Bahamas and taken British citizenship in 1935. He
had been created a Baronet for his philanthropic work in Britain and the Bahamas, where he
was a dynamic investor in property. He had stimulated the local economy by developing the
Oakes Field Airport and the British Colonial Hotel in Nassau as well as the Golf Course and
Country Club. He was the colony's wealthiest and most powerful resident in 1940. One of the
local businessmen, who had close dealings with Sir Harry Oakes, was the property developer
and speculator Harold Christie, who had made a fortune during the Prohibition era in America.
Sir Harry owned various properties on New Providence including a holiday house called
Westbourne, which he leased to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor while Government House
was being made ready for them. The Duke and Duchess socialised with both Alex Wenner-Gren and Sir Harry Oakes. It was after attending a cocktail party given for the Duke and
Duchess on board Alex Wenner-Gren's yacht that my father came home very depressed
about the progress of the war. Wenner-Gren was openly saying that Germany was bound to
win and that the Allies did not have a hope. My father suffered a sleepless night, because he
felt that the Swede knew what he was talking about. My mother was more philosophical. She
said, "Right will triumph in the end" and her instincts were proved correct.
W L Heape was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1942 for
his services to the Empire. Two other events in June 1942 were to prove very significant for
both my parents. There was a very serious civil disturbance in Nassau on 1st - 2nd June and
my sister was born there on 4th June. The riot by large numbers of the black population was
because of a dispute over the wages being paid to the local labourers working on the site of
two new airfields on the island. The US Government was responsible for constructing these
airfields, as part of the War Effort. Work on the Project had started on 20th May. The local
unskilled labour force was paid at the local rate of 4/- a day, which was far lower than the
wages being paid to the American employees working on the site. The Bahamas did not have
any Trades Union legislation, and there was no formal way of settling a major labour dispute.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor sailed to America aboard their yacht "Gemini" on 28th
May and left my father in charge as the Acting Governor. On 29th May a letter demanding an increase in wages was received at Government House from the local labourers. Heape
responded by agreeing to set up an Advisory Committee to look into the matter as soon as
At 4pm on Sunday 31st May a large crowd of workmen gathered outside the Contractors
Offices and were informed that their complaint would be dealt with as soon as possible. The
crowd had started to leave, but a younger element stayed on. Captain Sears, the second in
command of the Bahamas Police, with four constables tried to arrest their leader, a man
named Green. The crowd surrounded the policemen and Captain Sears drew his revolver. The
crowd then dispersed and it was agreed that work should be resumed on Monday morning.
However, at 7.30 am on Monday morning the General Manager of the Project informed the
Authorities that the men were refusing to work. The forces of Law and Order available to the
Government were very small. They consisted of a Police Force totalling 150 policemen
commanded by Lt. Col. R Erskine-Lindop, and a company of the Cameron Highlanders made
up of 5 officers and 130 men commanded by Col. A. Haig. There was also a Bahamas
Volunteer Defence Force of 146 members under Capt. W. D'Arcy Rutherford. The Police
had no modern equipment such as tear gas for controlling crowds.
Heape, acting as the Governor, instructed Col. Erskine-Lindop to send a force of policemen
to the Main Field to report on what was happening. Capt. Sears and four policemen went to
the scene and reported that the crowd of striking labourers were heading into town. The
crowd were armed with machetes and sticks, and were obviously intent on causing trouble.
Heape then instructed the Commissioner of Police to send a force of Police and Army to
prevent the crowd from coming into town, but the Commissioner decided to keep his men at
the Police Barracks until it could be ascertained which route the crowd would take. Heape
also instructed him to contact Colonel Haig at once and consult him about controlling the
At 9 am. Col. Erskine-Lindop turned out his men at the Police Barracks and personally
ordered them to load their rifles. He also requested assistance from the Military and Col. Haig
ordered a platoon of Cameron Highlanders to go to the Police Barracks. The crowd by that
time had started to damage some cars. The Commissioner also called out the Stipendiary
Magistrate, Mr F. Field. The Police then proceeded to the Central Police Station in the Public
Square at the south end of Bay Street. The Attorney General, Mr E. Hallinan, then addressed
the crowd from the steps of the Colonial Secretary's Office. He told them that the American
Authorities had thought it might be necessary to bring in their own labour force to work on
the Project, but the local workers had done so well that it had not been necessary and he
appealed to the crowd not to spoil the good impression they had made. His words did not
have the desired effect on the crowd, who were then asked by Col. Erskine-Lindop and Capt.
Sears to leave quietly and some of them threw down their sticks in a heap. Although the
Police remained in square, some of the crowd then started breaking shop windows in Bay Street. At about 0945, Col Erskine-Lindop led his men down Bay Street, where the
crowd attacked them and he was struck in the face by a bottle. The crowd ran into the side
streets and alleyways and started to pillage the shops. At 1015, Heape requested
assistance from the military, and Col. Haig ordered a platoon of soldiers to proceed to the
scene. They were told not to fire unless absolutely necessary and they unloaded their rifles
before joining the police. The police had only fired two shots up to this point. By about 1100
Bay Street west of Rawson Square was quiet.
But that was not the end of the rioting. Shortly before noon, trouble broke out again in Grant's Town, and the crowd started breaking into bars and looting. A large angry crowd had
gathered at the Cotton Tree Inn, and it was decided that the Riot Act should be read. A
Company of the Cameron Highlanders accompanied by the Commissioner of Police and the
local Magistrate proceeded to the scene in order to read the Riot Act, and was immediately
stoned by the mob. One of the soldiers was badly injured. At some point, the police opened
fire and two rioters were killed. The crowd became very hostile and started to attack the local
Police Station. The three constables in the Police Station managed to escape, but the Police
were subsequently criticised for abandoning Grant's Town. By this time the crowd were very
drunk on the liquor that had been looted from the local bars. Trouble broke out again on
Tuesday 2nd June, and two more local shops were looted. Heape, acting as the Governor,
imposed a curfew. The curfew was still in force on 4th June, when The Duke of Windsor
returned to the Colony, but the rioting had stopped and the men had started to go back to
work on the Project. The Duke revoked the curfew on 8th June and made a broadcast on 30th
June, addressing some of the grievances expressed by the workers. But that was not the end
of the matter.
The white businessmen of Bay Street were determined to blame the Government for failing
to prevent their properties from being damaged by the rioters, and the members of the House
of Assembly appointed a Select Committee to look into how the Authorities had dealt with
the riot. In particular, they blamed Heape, as the Acting Governor, Eric Hallinan, the
Attorney General and Col. Erskine-Lindop for the way they had handled the disturbance. The
Select Committee had the power to call officials to give evidence before them. They
demanded that the three Government Officials should be summonsed to appear before the
House to account for their actions. This would have had very serious consequences. The
Duke sent an urgent cable to the Secretary of State in London asking for advice.
Mr Beckett, at the Colonial Office, stated that unlike Southern Rhodesia and Ceylon, the
Bahamas had no written laws about the powers and privileges of the House of Assembly. The
House had been in existence for 200 years and in 1817, they had imprisoned the Attorney
General for misrepresenting them in connection with the Abolition of Slavery. The last time
anyone had been brought before the House was in 1845, when the Editor of the Nassau
Guardian had been summoned for misrepresenting the proceedings of the House. Questions about the Riot had also been tabled in the House of Commons and the Secretary of State For
the Colonies, Sir Oliver Stanley, had been informed. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill
was also consulted. Mr Beckett advised The Duke of Windsor against his proposal to refuse
to allow his Officials to appear before the House of Assembly. London suggested instead
that he should send the Colonial Secretary to wait upon the Speaker of the House, and explain
the position fully to him, pointing out that the Government intended to hold a full and
impartial enquiry headed by a retired Colonial Judge. They emphasised the impropriety of
having a constitutional row between the House and the Governor at such a time, and
suggested using courtesy and tact to smooth matters over. Heape must have been successful,
because the House of Assembly accepted the appointment of Sir Alison Russell KC to
conduct a Commission of Enquiry set up by the Governor. Two local Bahamian residents, Mr
Herbert McKinney and Mr Herbert Brown were also appointed to sit on the Commission to
represent local interests.
It had been a serious civil disturbance. Eight people had been killed and forty-six wounded.
There had been considerable damage to property, and although the rioters had refrained from
attacking civilians, it was feared that social wounds had been created, which would not be
forgiven or forgotten. There were deep-lying causes of discontent among the poorer
labouring classes, which had to be addressed. This involved persuading the House of
Assembly to pass unpopular legislation.
Sir Alison Russell KC was flown out from England via the USA, and the Commission of
Enquiry was convened in Nassau on 5th October 1942. It ran for 33 sessions, and took
evidence from 99 witnesses. I obtained a copy of this report, and I have quoted from it
extensively. There was one final comment in a telegram to the Secretary of State in London
dated 15 February 1944. The Duke must have sent this telegram, which concerned claims for
damages caused by the rioters. The figure quoted was £15,000, which was a considerable
sum in those days. The House of Assembly approved a figure of £11,800, but it does not say
who settled these claims. The telegram went on to say "So far little, if any, dissatisfaction,
which speaks well for the judgment and impartiality of the Tribunal. Payment of these claims
may be considered last chapter of unfortunate event, which if it had been rightly handled in
the beginning, could have been easily suppressed at the start and never developed into a riot.
Hopes there will be determined effort to ensure no more unrestricted hooliganism and
destruction will ever be allowed again. " This was clearly at odds with the findings of the
Heape, acting as the Governor at the time, was in the direct firing line for the criticisms of
many local businessmen for his handling of the situation. However, although the Police were
blamed for withdrawing from Grant's Town and not acting quickly enough to prevent the
rioters entering town, the Enquiry found that Heape's actions had been fully justified. The
Report did not criticize him for his handling of the riot. My father said that when the findings of the Commission were published, the Duke called him in and threw a copy of the Report
across to him saying, "Well Heape, you have been let off." Bearing in mind that my father
had been standing in for the Duke, this was not a very supportive remark. The Riot was the
catalyst that eventually lead to legislation being forced through the House of Assembly to
improve the lot of the black majority of the colony. It also resulted in Col. Erskine-Lindop
being transferred to Trinidad. Heape and Hallinan both requested new postings too. Eric
Hallinan was appointed Chief Justice of Jamaica. He eventually became Chief Justice for the
Federation of the West Indies and was knighted. Heape was offered the appointment as
Colonial Secretary in British Guiana.
It had been a very unsettling time for everyone, but life had to go on. The Imperial
Government were demanding that the social reforms recommended by the Commission of
Enquiry should be implemented as soon as possible. The House of Assembly strenuously
resisted any such reforms. Sir Oliver Stanley, the Colonial Secretary in London, wrote a long
letter to the Duke advising him that the Imperial Parliament at Westminster would revoke the
Bahamas' Constitution, if the House of Assembly continued to block the reforms. 1942 ended
in impasse, which continued to reverberate well into 1943. What a contrast this was with
Heape's time as Administrator of Grenada and St. Vincent, where he had had such good
relations with the local people.
One of the locals, who supported the Duke and did much to soften the hostile mood of Bay
Street, was Sir Harry Oakes, who had provided much of his personal fortune to finance
improvements for the Colony. Sir Harry had recently been beset by family problems. In May
1942, his eighteen-year-old daughter Nancy had eloped with a man named Count Alfred de
Marigny. Sir Harry and his wife had not approved of their marriage and had a difficult
relationship with both their daughter and her husband. Alfred de Marigny was partly French
and came from the island of Mauritius. He was a 30 years old divorcee, and had had
numerous affairs with other women. He was a brilliant yachtsman and spent most of his time
enjoying himself with the fast set on the island. The members of the Establishment in Nassau
did not like him. The Duke of Windsor was particularly annoyed with him for being
disrespectful at some official function. Early in the morning on the 8th July 1943, the Duke
was wakened by his ADC Capt. Gray Phillips with the startling news that Sir Harry Oakes
had been brutally murdered.
It was a particularly gruesome crime. His friend Harold Christie, who had slept the night in
another room close by, discovered Sir Harry Oakes's partly burned body in his bedroom at
Westboume. Someone had murdered him during the night, and tried to set fire to the body. It
had been raining heavily and Harold Christie, who was staying the night with Sir Harry after
a party, always maintained that he had heard nothing. The Duke of Windsor was horrified by
this awful news, which had very serious implications, because of Sir Harry's prominent
position in the community. He tried unsuccessfully to suppress news of the murder. The local Police had little expertise in investigating such a crime. Col. Erskine-Lindop was about to
depart for his new post in Trinidad, and was reluctant to take on the case. His deputy Major
Lancaster did not have the necessary experience. The Duke took the initiative. He decided to
contact Miami City Police in America, and request the assistance of Captain Melchen, the
head of the Homicide Department, who had guarded him during his recent visit to Miami.
Captain Melchen accompanied by a fingerprint expert, Captain John Barker flew over fi-om
America that afternoon and took over the investigation from the Bahamas Police. The Duke's interference in the case proved to be disastrous.
Captain Barker made a complete mess of taking fingerprints from the scene of the crime, and
at the subsequent trial, he proved to be an unreliable witness. Alfred de Marigny was arrested
within two days, and charged him with the murder of his father-in-law. Many local people
suspected him. The committal proceedings against de Marigny opened on 16th July before
the local magistrate. The Attorney General, Eric Hallinan, prosecuted the case for the Crown
and Godfrey Higgs, who was a local barrister and a leading member of the House of
Assembly, represented de Marigny. The establishment were very much involved, and the
case attracted a great deal of public interest. What was termed "the trial of the century"
opened on 18th October before the Chief Justice of Bahamas, Sir Oscar Daly. Lady Oakes
testified against the accused, and Nancy came to defend her husband. The Duke and Duchess
of Windsor did not attend the trial. They left the island on 18th September for their fourth
tour of America. Heape was left in charge once more.
When called to give evidence, Harold Christie told the court that although he had been asleep
in a room close to the scene of the crime, he had heard nothing during the night. A series of
witnesses gave evidence about de Marigny's poor relations with his father-in-law. The
prosecution's case hinged on the evidence of a fingerprint of the accused, which Barker
claimed to have taken from a Chinese screen in Sir Harry's bedroom. The case collapsed
after Barker's evidence was proved to be unreliable. Melchen and Barker contradicted each
other in court, and both men proved very unsatisfactory witnesses. The Judge's summing up
of the case took over five hours, but the jury could not agree on a verdict, and Alfred de
Marigny was acquitted amid wild scenes in the court. The jury recommended that de Marigny
and his friend de Guimbeau should be deported from the colony forthwith. This left Heape
with a problem, because the Government refused to let them be flown back to Mauritius by RAF Transport. The outcome of the case had repercussions for the Duke, who was blamed for
interfering. The case received an immense amount of publicity especially in America. It
became a 'Cause Celebre' and was still being written about forty years later.
After the trial, my father took us all on holiday to the High Hampton Country Club at
Cashiers in North Carolina. He needed a holiday. It was the only one he took during the war.
I remember a long journey in the sleeper compartment of a train. I had been given a gold
pocket watch, which my father had hung above my bunk. It was stolen during the night while I was asleep. The Country Club was very comfortable and my parents were able to relax and
enjoy the change of scenery, after all the tensions of the Bahamas. We did not stay in Nassau
long after our return. Father was appointed the Colonial Secretary of British Guiana on 7th
British Guiana, now known as Guyana, was not strictly part of the West Indies. It is situated
on the mainland of South America. The original colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and
Berbice on the north-east coast of the continent were settled by the Dutch in 17th century,
and not formally ceded to Britain until 1814. British Guiana then became a British Crown
Colony until independence was granted in 1966. Guyana lies near the equator and has a hot
and humid climate with two wet seasons. Malaria was endemic in parts of the country, and it
was not a particularly healthy place to live in.
I do not remember whether we flew from the Bahamas to British Guiana, or went by sea.
There was a high risk of being torpedoed by a German submarine at sea. We must have
arrived in the Capital, Georgetown, in December 1943. My Father wrote the following letter
to the Duke of Windsor soon after we arrived there.
Colonial Secretary's Office
Your Royal Highness
I hope you will forgive me for being so long in thanking you for getting my dogs here.
They arrived very fit and have settled down immediately and both my wife and I are most
grateful to you for your great kindness in taking so much trouble about it. I have, of course,
written to Alexander. All my heavy baggage arrived safely without breakage. It was a
splendid job and I don't know what we would have done without the help of the Royal Air
Force Transport Command.
We are settling down. The work is most interesting and completely different; for
instance, today we start Legislative Council, and I am sitting in that body from 12 to 4 every
day for three weeks.
Everybody has shown great kindness to us and given us a most cordial welcome. His
Excellency has taken both Ann and myself on a flight for about 3 hours over the interior,
which is a wonderful sight from the air starting with the intensely cultivated sugar and rice
field on the alluvial plains, then wide stretches of savannah country which catches the rain,
forms a sponge and is drained by thousands of canals into the sugar and rice fields: then further back dense forest and further back still high mountains. The whole problem of this
country can be summed up in irrigation and drainage.
I have not been able to get around yet, but tell Harold Christie that I don't hope to be able to
give him any good news about our hospital from what I have seen up to now. It is very big,
but just as badly designed as the Nassau one. It has good equipment in some Departments.
The climate now is delightful and I use a blanket at night. We have a large airy and
comfortable house, on very simple lines and entirely different from Nassau of course. I may
be able to give you some interesting information later, but this letter is to thank Your Royal
Highness and the Duchess of Windsor for all the kindness you have shown my wife and
myself, and for enabling us to complete our house with the two dogs. We are very well and
happy and the children are in splendid form.
With best wishes to Your Royal Highness and the Duchess of Windsor from us both. I
will be writing to Gray and George soon.
I have the honour to be.
With humble duty.
Your obedient servant
Sadly, our two dogs did not live for very long in British Guiana. Both of them succumbed to
tropical diseases within two years.
Heape acted as the Officer Administering the Government for a considerable part of his time
in British Guiana. He served under two Governors. Sir Gordon Lethem, who was the
Governor of the colony in 1944, was replaced by Sir Charles Woolley in April 1947. Heape
was acting as Governor in 1946 when General Eisenhower visited the colony. There is a
picture of my mother sitting on General Eisenhower's right side at the dinner given for him at
Atkinson Field Airport, near Georgetown on 11th August 1946. They are obviously
talking to each other, and I wonder what they were talking about. My father is seated two
places to the left of the General.
British Guiana was administered in much the same way as the other Crown Colonies. The
executive functions of the Government were controlled by the Governor's powers to veto
legislation proposed by the Legislative Council. The Colonial Secretary had a seat on the
Council, and as he told the Duke, a great deal of my father's time was involved with this. In 1938, the Moyne Commission had recommended widening political representation in British
Guiana to encompass more elements of society. One of the differences in British Guiana was
the racial mix of the population. After slavery had been abolished in 1837, large numbers of
indentured Indian and Chinese worker had been introduced to work on the sugar plantations.
Their descendents proved more difficult to control. One man in particular, named Cheddi
Jagan, who was the son of an Indian plantation worker, campaigned for workers' rights, and
was a headache to the Authorities during my father's time.
There was a long strike by the workers on the Sugar Plantations in 1948. The workers were
angry about being paid what they regarded as starvation wages. They were paid a weekly rate
similar to the hourly rate paid to manual workers in America. The local Directors of Bookers
Brothers refused to offer them any increase. On one occasion, Heape personally had to stop
rioting workers from coming into town by standing on a bridge over a canal with a senior
police officer, and ordering the crowd to turn back. There was a serious incident at an estate
named Enmore on 16th June 1948. The Police opened fire on the crowd of workers trying to
gain access to the factory, killing 5 of them and wounding 11 more. Questions were raised in
the House of Commons about the incident. Sir Charles and Lady Woolley went on leave to
Canada shortly afterwards leaving Heape in charge. There is lengthy correspondence on the
files between British Guiana and London, some of it signed by Heape as the Officer
Administering the Government. A Commission of enquiry was eventually set up to hear
evidence from both sides. Cheddi Jagan represented the British Guiana East Indian
Association. He had extreme left-wing views. W.S. Jones the Director of Booker Bros,
McConnell & Co put up a strong case for the employers. Sir Charles Woolley was instructed
to mediate between the two sides. Once again an incident during Heape's career became
front-page news in London. The question of compensation for the families of those killed in
the riot was also a major issue, which he had to deal with. Jagan achieved national standing
because of his support for the Indo-Guyanese section of the population. He founded the
Peoples Progressive Party in 1950.
The following telegram from Cheddi Jagan to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in
London and a letter from the Colonial Secretary to the British Guiana East Indian association
are copied from the Colonial Office file CO 111/796/5 held in the Royal Archives at Kew:
Cable and Wireless Ltd
Central Telegraph Station
Moorgate, London EC2
15 June 1948
CD2 DGRB34 Georgetown BG 61 14 1540
NLT Secretary of State for Colonies, London
Strongly protest Deputy Governor refusal interview deputation striking Sugar Workers from
my constituency two thousand of who assembled in Georgetown June 8th stop. Tabled motion
in Legislative Council May 7th for enquiry into Sugar Industry stop. Strike continues in seven
Estates into eighth week stop. Suggest Commission Enquiry Trinidad investigate problem
Cheddi Jagan MLC
Colonial Secretary's Office
Georgetown, British Guiana
2nd September 1948
British Guiana East Indian Association
With reference to the negotiations which have recently taken place regarding the
resumption of work on the East Coast Sugar Estates, I am directed by his Excellency the
Governor to inform you that he has been in consultation with the proprietors of the Estates as
to the terms for the resumption of work and I am to enclose for your information a signed
duplicate of a letter which his Excellency has now received from Mr. W.S. Jones on behalf of
the proprietors. This letter contains the assurances, which his Excellency feel sure will be
acceptable to the Association and his Excellency sincerely trusts that in the light of it your
Executive will take immediate steps to secure a general resumption of work.
Apart from the above assurances I am to inform you that his Excellency will cancel
the present Proclamation affecting the above estates immediately there is a general
resumption of work on these estates and a normal atmosphere prevails. Similarly all Police
will be withdrawn from the Sugar Estates except for normal police work in the district as
before the strike.
Furthermore, Government weighers, i.e. sworn weighers, will be appointed as soon as
possible to weigh all canes going in to the factory on scales which will be tested from time to
time by the Local Government Department. Two representatives of the workers will be given
every facility to inspect and check the scales at all times.
His Excellency has taken all possible steps to assure the early appointment and
arrival of the Commission with wide terms of reference to enquire into the conditions in the
I am also to confirm the assurance given to the representatives of the East Indian
Association by his Excellency that after the resumption of work and before the Commission of
Enquiry submits its report, any representations which the East Indian Association may wish
to make on behalf of the workers on the East Coast Estates will, on receipt by the
commissioner of Labour to whom they should be addressed, be submitted by him to the
representatives of the proprietors of these estates for their consideration.
I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant,
(sd) W.L. Heape
The correspondence on the files clearly shows what a difficult time the British Government
had in administering British Guiana in the period leading up to independence. Sir Charles
Woolley was called back to London to discuss how political representation could be offered
to all sections of the community. The franchise had to be widened to achieve this, but there
was a danger of the colony falling into the hands of the wrong people. The perceived threat
was that people with communist sympathies would take control of the Legislative Council.
This is exactly what happened in 1953 as a result of the first elections following the changes
to the Constitution. My father had responsibility for the government of the Colony on several
occasions when Sir Charles Woolley was away during 1948 and 1949. (see Memo to
Secretary of State Appendix 3)
The achievement my father was particularly proud of was his involvement with the
successful eradication of malaria from most of the populated parts of British Guiana. This
experiment had great benefits for local people, particularly young children. In July 1944 two
eminent scientists, Prof. John Simonsen, the Director of Colonial Scientific Research and Sir Robert Robinson visited British Guiana. Heape was Acting Governor at the time and he
entertained the visitors at Government House. During the course of the evening, Prof
Simonsen mentioned a new insecticide called DDT, which had been used by the military in
Burma to control malaria. 90% of the population living in the coastal belt of British Guiana
suffered from the debilitating illness. The next morning Heape contacted Dr George Giglioli,
the Government Medical Officer in charge of Malaria Research in the colony, and arranged a
meeting with the two visiting scientists. DDT was then a top secret chemical. With the help
of Prof Simonsen, permission was obtained from London to carry out trials to control the
malaria carrying mosquitoes in the swamps and canals on the sugar plantations. The trials
carried out later that year by Dr. Giglioli were an outstanding success. I doubt if all this
would have happened had my father not grasped the opportunity.
One dramatic incident occurred in Georgetown, while we were all there. On 23rd February
1945 a large part of the town was destroyed in what became known as the "Great Fire". The
fire was started in the Booker Drug Store by alcohol leaking out of a pipe. Thousands of
gallons of alcohol stored in the building exploded, causing the fire to spread rapidly into the
centre of town. The fire raged for five hours destroying many of the historic Colonial
buildings including the Assembly Rooms, the Post Office and the Administration Office. The
local Fire Brigade were not equipped with long enough hoses to reach the top of the high
buildings and had no foam to deal with chemical fires. Many of the houses were built of
wood, including the house we lived in. Fortunately the fire did not reach our part of town, but
my father decided that we should move out of our house until the fire had been put out. We
took shelter in the Bishop's Palace, which was built of stone. We all went back to England
shortly afterwards, and I was left in the UK when my parents returned to British Guiana.
My Father eventually asked to be sent home in 1950; he was then 54 years old, and my
mother's health had been giving some cause for concern. He was also keen to see our family
re-united again in England. I had been living with my grandmother on my own since 1945,
and had seen very little of my father. When he returned to England, Heape continued to be
employed by the Colonial Office as a Temporary Principal at Church House in London. He
served on a panel of senior officials, who were responsible for selecting people for the
Colonial Judicial Service. The Rt. Hon. Sir Sidney Solomon Abrahams, PC, KC was also a
member of the panel. Sir Solly was an eminent lawyer, who had been Chief Justice of
Tanganyika and Ceylon. Like his younger brother Harold Abrahams, Sir Solly Abrahams had
also been an Olympic Athlete in his youth. He had a great sense of humour, and my father
got on very well with him. Sir Solly played a major role in the decision to suspend the
government of British Guiana. The People's Progressive Party won a majority in the election
for the Legislative Council in 1953, and Cheddi Jagan was elected Leader of the Council. The
PPP were considered to be a communist inspired organisation bent on subverting the
Government of the Colony. There was increasing racial tension between the African and
Indian sections of the population. Anti-white feelings were also growing fed by propaganda put about by Jagan's party. The PPP had called for a General Strike by the workers in the
Sugar Industry in August 1953. The economy of British Guiana was heavily dependent on
sugar, and the future of Bookers Brothers was at stake. Declassified MI5 files now reveal
how closely the British and American Authorities were monitoring the situation. After secret
consultations with the Governor, Sir Alfred Savage, Prime Minister Winston Churchill
decided that drastic measures had to be taken. The British Government took the
unprecedented decision to suspend the constitution of British Guiana to prevent a communist
takeover of the colony. On 9th October 1953, a Company of Royal Welsh Fusiliers landed in
Georgetown. Jagan and his American wife Janet were placed under house arrest. The
Constitution was suspended until 1957. Jagan went on to become the fourth President of
Guyana after independence.
After returning to England, my father rented a house near Woking and commuted daily to the
Colonial Office in London. Jack Tawney, who he had last seen in Tanganyika in 1932, was
also working in the Colonial Office at that time. They often met for lunch together. I
remember going to Woking station with my mother to meet my father off the evening train.
He finally retired from the Colonial Service in 1958 having undergone a serious operation.
He had served his country for 39 years. My parents then bought a house in Dorset, where my
father enjoyed 14 more years in retirement. He died on 29th December 1972, and his ashes
are buried in his parents' grave in the churchyard at Caynham near Ludlow in Shropshire.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
WILLLIAM LESLIE HEAPE, CMG
2ND BATTALION EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT
AND ROYAL AIR FORCE 1914 - 1918
COLONIAL ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE 1919-1958
AND HIS WIFE
ANICE HEAPE NEE CHANDLER 1902 - 1992
My parents employed the same West Indian couple as their personal servants throughout the
whole of Heape's career in the West Indies. Conrad and Rachael MacIntyre followed my
parents from Grenada to the Bahamas and then to British Guiana. Conrad was their butler and
Rachael became my nurse. My sister and I grew up playing with their children Michael,
Monica and Joseph. When my sister met Michael in London years later, he told her that her
father had once said to them "Work hard at school and the world will be your oyster. You
will be able to travel and do different things in life". All three children took his advice, and
left the West Indies when they grew up. Michael became an engineer and Monica a nurse in
UK, and Joseph worked for the United Nations in America. Heape was well liked by the
local people in the West Indies. They respected his integrity, and recognised that he had
done his best for them. Years later, when he was working in London, Heape met several West
Indian immigrants, who recognised him. The way he walked, swinging his stiff left leg, made
him instantly recognisable. On one occasion, as he handed in his ticket on the tube, his hand
was shaken vigorously by the West Indian ticket collector, who remembered him with
affection. One Guyanese man actually took the trouble to visit Heape in Dorset after he had
retired. David Rose had been serving in the Police Force in British Guiana. He may have
been the policeman, who stood with Heape on the bridge to prevent the rioters from entering
town. He became Sir David James Gardiner Rose, GCMG CVO MBE OE and was the first
Guyanese politician to be made Governor General of the colony. He was tragically killed by
falling masonry in London on 10th November 1969, shortly after visiting my parents in
Dorset. Sir David is buried along with other famous sons of Guyana near the Seven Ponds
Monument in the Botanical Gardens in Georgetown.
Heape was extremely proud of the British Empire and of the Colonial Administrative
Service. He was furious about Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's speech
in Cape Town in 1960, and horrified by the speed with which the Conservative Government
abandoned the last Crown Colonies in Africa. When Heape first joined the Colonial Service
in 1919, the Colonies were not costing Britain so much to run, but by 1960 it was obvious
that the costs of administering the Empire outweighed the benefits. Macmillan became
known as the architect of decolonisation. Independence was granted to British Somaliland in
1960, Tanganyika in 1961, Uganda in 1962, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1964.
I joined the Northern Rhodesia Police in 1959, and witnessed one small incident connected
with the process. Northern Rhodesia was then part of the Central African Federation
comprising the former self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia and the British
Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This Federation was established in 1953
with the aim of creating a multi-radical, self-governing society in Central Africa. It ceased to exist in 1963, because the African Nationalists demanded a greater share of power than the
white minority in Southern Rhodesia were prepared to grant them. Political unrest broke out
in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1959, and a Royal Commission, led by Sir Walter
Monckton, was appointed to advise the British Government about the future of the
Federation. I had been posted to Kasama in the Northern Province. I remember Sir Walter
Monckton coming to see the Provincial Commissioner in Kasama. I was controlling the
traffic that day, and as Sir Walter's car approached, an old African on a bicycle came riding
down the road towards me. I signalled to him to stop, but his bicycle did not have any brakes
and he could not obey my command. Luckily, the cyclist and the car did not collide. My
career in the Police might have ended then and there if they had done so. I resigned from the
Police in 1962, because it was obvious that Northern Rhodesia was going to be granted
We both witnessed the end of the Empire with great sadness, and my father once told me that
he could no longer listen to the patriotic song "Land of Hope and Glory." Now that the sun
has finally set on the British Empire, it is more important than ever to speak up for the
Administrators of that proud Empire, most of whom did their best to discharge their duties
Written in 2013 by Colin Heape.
Appendix 1: Letter to Dame Margery Perham
Appendix 2: Col. Summers Report
Appendix 3: Correspondence about British Guiana
My family helped and encouraged me to write this account of my father’s career in the
Colonial Service. My sister Faith Guthrie contributed many of her memories of the stories
father told us, and her husband John Guthrie provided me with several useful suggestions.
My wife Jane read and corrected the script. Two other people made particularly helpful
contributions. Bob O’Hara undertook most of the research in
the National Archives at Kew on my behalf. His knowledge of the Military, Colonial and
Foreign Office Records enabled him to find all the important letters and documents, which
have provided such a valuable record of the career of W L Heape. My good friend Hywel
Griffiths also gave me a great deal of assistance. Hywel was himself a member of the
Colonial Administration in Northern Rhodesia. He had the unique experience of speaking to
an African Tribal Chief, whose father. Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba Tribe, met the
famous Explorer David Livingstone in Northern Rhodesia in 1870.
Finally, my grateful thanks to Neil Pearson the Artist and Illustrator
http://www.neilodesign.co.uk for preparing the text and having the book printed.
|Summary of Colonial Service
From The Colonial Office List 1951:
HEAPE, William Leslie, C.M.G. (1942) - b. 1896; ed. Rugby and
R.M.C. Sandhurst; on mil. Serv. 1914- 1918 (severely wounded 1915).
Asst. Sec., Som. Prot. 1919; attached to C.O., 1926; resumed appt. Som.
Prot, 1926; Asst. Sec. Tanganyika Ter., 1929; P.S. to Gov. Barb., 1933;
Col. Sec. & Regisr.- Gen. Grenada, 1935; Ag. Admin., St. Vincent, 1935;
Col. Sec., Bah., 1940; Ag. Gov. on several occasions; Col. Sec., B.
Guiana, 1944-50; O.A.G., for periods 1944-46; Temp. Prin., C.O., 1950.
by Tim Tawney (Tanganyika 1958-1964)