Cohn Everard was a National Service subaltern in the Somaliland Scouts in 1950/51;
I recall him as a hvely, articulate young man and had often wondered what had happened
to him and his contemporaries. In his case, he returned to civilian life and tried working
in the City for a while, at the behest of his father. He did not enjoy the experience and
by November 1952 he was back in Hargeisa, then the capital of the British Protectorate
of Somaliland, to begin the first of three two-year contracts with Desert Locust Control
(DLC), which was operating in the Protectorate and those parts of Ethiopia still under
His description of the country, his companions, the threat of devastation to grazing
and crops from the locust plagues are accurate and fascinating, particularly when he
describes the life-cycle of the locust and the processes of attacking it at its most vulnerable
stage. During his time with DLC the techniques developed from reliance on reports by
patrols and the laying of bait by hand, to aerial reconnaissance, aerial spraying and the
use of a spraying mechanism attached to the exhaust pipe of a Land Rover. In conjunction
with improved insecticides, DLC became not only highly technically efficient, but also
able to operate in ways which were less obtrusive and therefore less provoking to those
who feared for the safety of their stock from bait they believed to be harmful.
He provides a series of fascinating insights into the steps towards independence in the
British Protectorate and in the Italian Trusteeship Territory of Somalia; processes accelerated
by the United Nations from a twenty-five to a ten year time-frame. He illustrates some
of the problems of operating a humanitarian and essentially non-political organisation in
a country where democratic principles are relatively new on a national scale, and where
Ministers are uncertain as to the limits of their powers.
In Uganda for four years before Idi Amin took power, he shows that potentially
happy and rich country drifting into chaos. There and in Nairobi he traced the evolution
of the East Africa High Commission into an East African Community which, with
Everard's help, negotiated a Treaty of Association with the European Economic
Community. His experiences in the field of procurement led to his appointment
(in 1968) as Chief Supplies Officer for the East African Community. From Nairobi
he developed his career by being appointed to the International Civil Aviation
Authority (ICAO) as a section head in their Technical Assistance Bureau, where he
found himself working in Montreal in winter, with an outside temperature of -22* C.
Again, his work was mainly with Third World countries, helping to develop their
In a busy life, his knowledge of the Somali language led to him being suspected as a
spy; a Colonial Governor recommended him for the Overseas Civil Service, he danced
(late at night) with an Ethiopian District Commissioner to 'God Save the King' on a
78rpm gramophone, and he successfully bribed the large lady who ran a hotel switchboard
so autocratically that she ejected the hotel manager bodily. The eponymous
Guardian Angel who protected him throughout takes many forms, including that of
Mohamed Abdi (a Somali Supervisor), a force that deflected a lion so that it only overturned
his camp bed, and circumstances that led him to change to another aircraft shortly
before the original aircraft failed.
There are times when one would like to know more; for example, who was the
District Commissioner who, "in an apparent state of deep distress and audibly sobbing"
called on him to restore order near the Somali coast? Many others are given similar
cloaks of anonymity; but it is a well-told story of a full and useful life which has greatly
benefitted the people of the Third World.