Tales of Colonial Policeman in Northern Rhodesia

Mobile Unit

This is a photo of part of the Mobile unit encampment we had in Bancroft at the time, 2 platoons who were accompanied by their Company commander, a Superintendent who had quite an interesting history.

Allegedly he had joined one of the Guards Regiments, the Grenadiers IIRC, as a boy soldier in the early 30's and when war broke out he had risen to Sergeant. He was part of the retreat to Dunkirk and was commissioned in the field for his outstanding actions. Went on to serve in N. Africa & Italy, gaining a couple of MiD's in the process, finishing up as a Major. At Wars end he was asked to transfer to another regiment to avoid the high Mess fees normally encountered by Guards Regiments in peacetime. Rather than move to, in his eyes, a lesser regiment he resigned and joined the NRP. Now I met the chap quite often in our mess in Bancroft and he seemed a decent chap, he never told me about his past, it was the other MU chaps who told us about it, but I did see the oak leaves on his Africa & Italy Star ribbons on his uniform.

He had quite a reputation with the mobile unit chaps and was quite a serious drinker but got stuck in when we had to deal with the numerous riots we had not long before I left.

When we had a lull in the troubles our CO thought it would be a good idea to send out the MU constables on beat patrol to flood the African township with uniforms & thus discourage some of the political intimidation/murders which had been going on. That was not one of his best ideas. The MU had not really been trained in "normal" police work, drill, musketry, pt etc yes, crime prevention & detection NO.

The first night they went out we were flooded with dozens of arrests, with these lads rolling up to the station dragging a protesting African with them. "What's the charge constable?" "He has not shaved, polished his shoes, talked to me in an insubordinate way" etc. etc. All things they would have been punished for in their unit but not for the civvies.

We changed the system straight away. No MU constable was allowed out on patrol/beat unless accompanied by one regular police constable. That seemed to work and things did quieten down a little on the intimidation front after this happened unfortunately it only lasted a few weeks.

Tales of Colonial Policeman in Northern Rhodesia

Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV and Film

by Stephen