The British Empire Library

A Copper In Calabar: Experiences Of A Student, Soldier And Policeman In South And West Africa 1920s-1950s

by Harry Brun

Courtesy of OSPA

K V Arrowsmith, MBE (Nigeria, Uganda, Hong Kong 1949-69)
This book is an autobiographical account of the author's earlier life. He writes in a stimulating and entertaining way, and one gets much pleasure in reading his varied reminiscences.

Harry Brun was born in South Africa, but he does not give the date of his birth - in fact he gives few, if any, dates in his book. The first chapter describes in some detail his interesting and unusual family background. Both his parents were British, notwithstanding the fact that his father "was born in Japan, his father in Madagascar and his grandfather in India". His mother was English, and "her family included distinguished and blue-blooded persons of all sorts".

We have a description of his early days from kindergarten through to the end of his schooldays. Aged nineteen he joined the Royal Halberdiers in England as one of "the first post-war batch". A sizeable portion of the book describes his time with the Halberdiers and their association with the navy.

It is not until we are halfway through that we arrive in Nigeria, Brun having succeeded in being selected for the Colonial Police Service. His first posting was to the Railway Police. In carrying out his duties he travelled in style. He had the use of an Inspection Coach. "It was a complete railway coach fully fitted out as a travelling home and office. It had a balcony, lounge, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and servant quarters. A box wagon was coupled behind to carry the officer's car." This lifestyle was too good to last, and he was transferred to Enugu, the HQ of the Eastern Region. After a leave he was posted to Calabar. From there he was sent on detachment to Uyo Division to deal with a very serious outbreak of Ju-Ju and killings by Leopard Society members. I found this the most interesting part of his book. It ends with a description of life and work in Port Harcourt, and his final job in Nigeria - as Bulk Distribution Supervisor for an oil consortium.

During his years in Nigeria, Brun had a vast number of amusing, grim and frightening experiences, which he describes very vividly. While he was concerned by the ever increasing evidence of bribery and corruption as the country was approaching self-government, he recorded the fact "that no case of corruption or wrongdoing was ever alleged, let alone proven, against a British Police Officer in Nigeria".

British Empire Book
Harry Brun
Woodfield Publishing Limited
1 84683 128 8


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