Overseas Service Pensioners' Association OSPA

Courtesy of OSPA

by R.J. Searle (District Officer, Ulanga and Rufiji Districts; and Game Warden, West Lake Range, Bukoba, Karagwe, Biharamulo, and Ngara Districts, Tanganyika 1959-64)
(attended the Farewell Event on 8th June with my daughter and two guests: David Suckling, once ADC to Sir Edward Twining when Governor of Tanganyika, and subsequently In the same capacity in Nigeria to Sir John Rankin, then Governor of Western Region, and Dorothy, his wife, whose father, Bryan Abbott OBE, was a Permanent Secretary in Western Region, Nigeria. I had hoped three other friends would join us: Tony Colville, Kenya Administration; Alan Forward, Uganda Administration, formerly PS to the Governor Sir Walter Coutts; and Bill Hay, Tanganyika Administration and the last DC Bukoba, but distance and infirmity proved too much.

The Event was an immense success and reflects great credit on OSPA as a whole, but in particular on David Le Breton. My prediction that it would be graced by either Her Majesty, or the Prince of Wales, proved correct. The timing too was propitious as it ruled out the presence of politicians.

Perhaps I was not alone during the formal proceedings to find my mind wandering and thinking of those I had known. It is no disrespect to those who addressed us - especially Lord Hennessy, who gave what amounted to a thoughtful and generous eulogy for our collective service in the Empire. However, I was conscious throughout of absent friends standing behind me, and as it is the last service, in this context, I can do for them I must write about them now.

Michael Dorey, District Commissioner, my first boss. A quite brilliant administrator and a man of considerable moral and physical courage. A clerk in Scottish Widows, Edinburgh, from school, on the outbreak of war joined the Royal Navy on the Lower Deck and ended as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer on a destroyer in the Indian Ocean. One day when the Game Ranger and his scouts were away on safari, armed only with a shotgun, he hunted down and killed a lion which was terrorising the village where the District Headquarters was based. A Geordie, Michael returned to his roots after some years in the Inland Revenue for which he was awarded an OBE. We kept in close touch until he died.

Alan Rees, Game Ranger and linguist. One of the best elephant hunters of his time in Africa - with his .429 Westley Richards and devoted scouts. The hardest man I have ever known. I went on safari with him in the Selous Game Reserve once when, from the outset, he made clear if I could not keep up he would leave me behind. Set a fearsome pace from first light and only rested at the sun's height in the shade, standing - he never sat down. Nor did he drink anything from dawn to dusk, which my medical friends tell me is physiologically impossible when covering distance on foot in the tropics. Three weeks in, on another safari into the Reserve, he was struck down by amoebic dysentery: and walked out. At the end, he selected trees from the bush, had them pit-sawn into planks, and built a yacht, which he sailed with his wife round the Cape back to England. Having taught himself astronavigation he only knew his calculations were correct when they first sighted St Helena. On arrival off Devon he was boarded by Customs who damaged his stanchions and demanded VAT before they could land. Retired to Portugal.

John Young (JY) District Commissioner, bachelor. A man of independent means (rumour was he owned a shipping line) - and thought. Racked with fever from continuous service in the unhealthiest posting in the Territory. He had spent the war years on Coastal Defence duties in the same area, and stayed - immovable. Highly respected as an 'Mzee' (old man), and for his long- standing relationship with the family of a powerful 'mganga' (native doctor). He had brought out a 1934 Rolls Royce Cabriolet, a singularly unsuitable conveyance for a land with few roads, all unmade, and was cut off three months every year when the river flooded. He refused to allow any Christian Missionaries into a District overwhelmingly Muslim - from slave trading days. Retired to Australia where he owned property and land.

Johnnie Hornsted, Elephant Control Officer - with his .500 double - at a time when elephant herds were causing serious damage to crops east of the Selous. Said to have served in the LRDG in North Africa and had driven in the East African Safari Rally. An excellent mechanic. He bought JY's Rolls, immobile for many years, got it going, then towed and winched it through the bush, in the rainy season, south into the neighbouring District where he was based. It took two days - the last 9 miles, 7 hours. There were many stories about him. Before he joined the Game Department, lacking a shotgun, he made one, and took it to be registered at the local District Office. The official who examined the weapon only became suspicious of its provenance when he could not find a maker's serial number. Reunited at the last with a long-lost love, and made off with her to South Africa.

There were others. No one will ever hear of them, or what they did, but these were men apart and I am proud to have known them.

Peter Hennessy's peroration brought my musings to an end. He concluded, in terms, and modestly, that perhaps he had not done full justice to his subject. So the servants of Empire departed. We will never gather together again. Looking back, over what has suddenly become a long life, I see clearly now. We were in Tanganyika for barely five years yet that has been the greatest part of my life. Nothing I have done since comes close.

Pictures from Event
Pictures from Event
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 114: October 2017


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