British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Ruth Cutler
Missed Again
When I first went out to East Africa to join my parents in 1929, my father arranged for me to go up to the Army lines to learn to shoot. I was the despair of my instructor as I could not bring myself to pull the trigger with my eyes open. I noticed that he stood well behind me.

Later I married and went with my husband up-country, where we did a little shooting for the pot. We heard that nearby, geese and duck were plentiful, so I borrowed a 20-bore and was just firing at a low-flying goose, when the local doctor rose up from the reeds in front of me. Luckily, I missed them both.

My husband had to inspect a Mission School in the spot where, later, the British Government tried to start the Groundnut Scheme. The fact that the railway line was washed away every year had been overlooked. When we were there large trees abounded, and so did guinea fowl; they are quite hard to kill as bullets seem to bounce off their tightly-packed feathers and it really was not my fault when my husband ran in front of me as I fired the second barrel. Luckily, I missed again, but this made me very nervous as I felt that to shoot one's husband was bad enough, but to do so without a Licence was inexcusable. It had never occurred to me to get one but later, remembering, I sent our seven-year old son on his child's bicycle to the local post office to get a fishing licence, as we hoped to catch a few trout on holiday. Unfortunately, he was apprehended by an African policeman for not having a bicycle licence and looked at me accusingly. He now has grown-up children of his own but still remembers the trauma of the occasion.

When we moved to Mwanza, by Lake Victoria Nyanza, we had a lot of trouble with crocodiles and a shoot was arranged by launch to see if we could dispense with a few. Our combined forces managed to hit one who must have been asleep at the time as it never left the rock it was on and we were able to wade out and have our photograph taken with it.

Missed Again
Another move - to Tanga on the coast. About a year before War broke out there was a scare that a large German ship would call at the port. It was supposed to be full of soldiers who intended to land and capture the town which had been taken from Germany after the 1914-18 War and handed to Britain under mandate. Anyway, the men all went out on road blocks and the girl next door (just out from England) came in to sleep with me - and my gun! Just as well that, in the event, nothing happened. The ship just sailed away without any trouble. Could the passengers have heard about me and my gun and changed their minds to be on the safe side?

Small events sometimes change history - and I often wonder!

map of Nigeria
1947 Map of NE Tanganyika
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 62: October 1991


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