In August 1954 I returned from home study leave and was re-posted to the District Hospital
at Kilifi, on the Coast of Kenya.
I had only a few weeks there before being posted at ‘immediate’ notice to take over as
M.O. at the Manyani Mau Mau Detention Camp, where an epidemic of typhoid fever had
broken out. There were 18,000 detainees in the camp and we had 400 cases of typhoid raging
and spreading through it.
I was given six weeks to control and clear up the epidemic! At the time Alan Lennox-Boyd
P.C., C.H. (Lord Boyd of Merton) was our Colonial Secretary and was under great political
pressure in Parliament because of the epidemic. He had advised the Governor that he intended to visit the Colony and would visit the Camp, so hoped that things would be under control.
When first posted to Manyani there were no antibiotics in our medical cupboards, so
priority lay in tracing the cause and spread of the epidemic. Luckily for me I had a wonderful
Health Inspector posted to the Camp, one ‘Tubby’ Lewis, and together we solved the
epidemiological puzzle, but many cases were succumbing to the severe disease and treatment
was very basic.
Suddenly a new ‘wonder’ drug Chloromycetin, the first of the antibiotics, appeared on the
scene and Sir Evelyn Baring, our Governor, gave the D.M.S., Dr Famworth-Anderson, authority
to purchase the drug from the U.S.A. It was known to be very effective against typhoid fever.
It cost 1 dollar a capsule. The dose of treatment was 8 capsules daily for 5 days, at a cost of 40 dollars
per case. As our Medical Department budget provided for approximately 5 dollars per capita per
annum, difficult decisions had to be made as to the priority cases.
The day came for Alan Lennox-Boyd’s visit and he arrived with H.E., the D.M.S. and
other senior officers. We had tea in the mess and then he turned to H.E. and the D.M.S. and
stated that he wished to go round the camp in my company, for he needed clear answers to
many questions he wanted to put to me! H.E. and the D.M.S. were invited to join the group,
but at a distance and were not to treat the tour as an inspection!
So the Colonial Secretary finally left, apparently relieved and hopefully satisfied.
Approximately 14 years later, I was then a Reader in the Department of Tropical Hygiene
at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Lord Boyd was The Chairman of
the Board of Management, and was accompanying Her Majesty The Queen Mother on a visit
to The School to open the new T.U.C. Centenary Institute.
Tea was to be served in the Library to give Her Majesty the opportunity to meet with
selected students and staff. As they moved into the library through an avenue of assembled
people. Lord Boyd caught my eye and smiled in recognition. Later during the informal walkabout,
our eyes again met and he walked towards me, when the following conversation took
“We have met before haven’t we?’’
"Yes Sir" I replied.
“Ah yes of course. Manyani Detention Camp 1954. Right?”
Fourteen years before we had met for about two hours. How many Colonies and how
many others had he met and talked with since?
What a great skill he possessed and a moving experience for me.