David Le Breton was the last Secretary, Treasurer and Journal Editor of OSPA. In the March 2017 copy of the Overseas Pensioner he wrote:
In March we celebrated the completion of 25 years of working from the premises in Tonbridge. It had been my first task as the incoming Secretary - to find new premises to replace those in Hove where OSPA had been based since 1979. That period is longer than any other part of my working life (since 1954). We were joined by two of the people who were there at the start in March 1992 - Roberta Rayner, who was my Personal Secretary, and Topsy Worton, then named Topsy Jimenez, as the Membership Secretary. These roles are now filled by Alison Hamilton and Andrea Wilson. Also present were Jane Mata, the former Administration Secretary for the Benevolent Society, Charles Cullimore, (Council Chairman) and his wife Val, my own wife, Patricia, and Charles Kinloch, who was our landlord, being the Senior Partner of the Estate Agents, Ibbett Mosely. With Roberta and Topsy I was able to recall some memories of our early days, learning together what OSPA's activities involved and how to perform them in a new environment. We had to learn how to use OSPA's first computers, though without email or Internet search facilities. OSPA only became digital with email in 2000, and the website was created in 2003.
In its 57 years OSPA had had only four Secretaries, namely:
When David Le Breton was taken on
in his early thirties by the Foreign
Office in 1964 it was in the face of
particularly fierce competition.
Although he had ten years under his
belt in the Overseas Civil Service, he
was nonetheless up against hundreds
of former British administrators
freshly relieved of their roles in the newly independent former colonies,
Yet his kindly, reserved, softly spoken
manner and level-headed intellect
honed by an education at Winchester
and Oxford - and not forgetting his
fluent Swahili - stood David in good
stead. He was ready, like the late
Queen who was only five years his
senior, to dedicate a life to service.
David spent the bulk of his career at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. An initial, albeit brief, period in Zanzibar during its 1964 revolution was followed by three years in Zambia, where he helped to set up the British high commission. Over the next two decades a series of postings, largely overseas, included Anguilla, Kenya and the Gambia, where in 1981 he reached the position of British high commissioner. The only non-Commonwealth country in which he served was Hungary in the early 1970s during the Cold War. In 1978 David was appointed CBE for his commitment to service through a period of political instability and intimidation in Anguilla.
For David, who was born in 1931 and raised in Kenya, it was Africa that was home. His father, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Le Breton, had arrived in Kenya in 1921 under the soldier- - settlement scheme, and ran a remote farm on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon. His mother, Elisabeth (nee Trevor-Battye), was the daughter of the Victorian explorer Aubyn Trevor-Battye.
At the age of six David was sent to a boarding school in Kenya, and on to Kenton College, Nairobi. In 1944, at 13, he was placed on a convoy of ships travelling north while his mother waved from the docks, not to hear from him for six weeks. He spent a couple of terms at Bryanston School, Dorset, before starting at Winchester. With little natural talent for sport and a bewildered attitude to English culture, David did not find Winchester easy and later rarely referred to his education there, The school suggested he apply to Oxford to read PPE and he won a place at New College. After graduation, anticipating a career back in Africa, he completed an additional year's Colonial Service training at Oxford, joining the newly styled Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service a year after Queen Elizabeth's coronation.
He spent three years as an administrative district officer in three remote districts of southern Tanganyika before moving to Dar es Salaam, where in 1959 he became the private secretary to the governor in the run-up to independence and beyond.
In 1958 David met Patricia Byrne, newly arrived to teach English at a secondary school in Dar es Salaam. They married in 1961 and raised three children: Christopher, an environmentalist who predeceased David in 2021; Caroline, an artist and interior designer; and Sarah, a former international development worker.
Although retirement came in 1987, David continued to work for a further 32 years, He was secretary of the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association and Benevolent Society, a post he would hold for 26 years and during which he kept the British government accountable in accepting responsibility for the payment of pensions of several thousand former Colonial Service members. He also applied his executive skills to local government as a district and parish councillor and to protecting the English countryside through the CPRE, the countryside charity. Beyond that his interests were planning travel and visits to family from Brazil to Zimbabwe, Asia and New Zealand, adding to his library on African and colonial affairs, and wielding his African panga machete in his garden.
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