The British Empire Library

Every Road Leads Back Home

by Dora Hutchings

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
A generously-minded publisher has allowed Dora Hutchings to spread her "autobiographical travelogue" of eleven years in the colonies over six hundred closely printed pages. She accompanied her husband, S. E. (Edgar) Hutchings of the Colonial Prisons Service (who was awarded the George Medal for his bravery during the prison riot at Ussher Fort in February 1948) to the Gold Coast in 1946 and then, in 1952, on to a mid-emergency Singapore. Once again, in June 1955, her husband found himself in the middle of another prison riot, this time in the Ipoh Detention Camp. It was during those difficult Malayan days, isolated from the residential area, that Dora Hutchings became "bored beyond all reason" and, turning to her diaries and letting her mind "wander back", she felt that "here was the solution to end all boredom".

She gives us some interesting observations and recollections, but much, too, that is too slight in content and too light in composition to allow sustained enjoyable reading. One is left feeling that Mrs. Hutchings's publisher would have done her a better service in her determination to write it all down "as one memory after another returned to me" had he insisted on a book of half the present length. Infuriatingly, there is no Contents page and no description or dates to identify any of the 146 (sic) 'chapters'. The lack of an index to all the names mentioned masks the numerous valuable references to such other notable members of the Colonial Prisons Service in Ghana and Malaya, like O. V. Garratt, C. H. Wheatley, J. Burton, T. Robinson and H. Ashe. On the other hand, there is a considerable value to those interested in the work of the Colonial Service in having a first-hand account by a Service wife. "Without being directly involved", claims Mrs. Hutchings, "a wife is closer to her husband than anyone else, especially when danger threatens his path of life, so in the vantage position I was able to see, hear and understand far more than anyone else of each event as it happened". And let us not forget that without such bold writers and without such imaginative and supportive publishers, there would regrettably be even fewer personal memoirs available to us eager readers of the inside story of the Colonial Service.

British Empire Book
Dora Hutchings
Anchor Pubhcations


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