British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by W. L. Barton
Which Colony?
Operation Anvil
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.

Which Colony?
Alan Lennox-Boyd
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 place:

“We have met before haven’t we?’’

"Yes Sir" I replied.

“Which Colony?”

"Kenya Sir."

“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.

Kenya Map
1955 Map of Nairobi Region
Colony Profile
Audio Interview of Colin Herbert Imray Superintendent of Kenya Police 1948 - 1957.
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 71: April 1996


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