On one level this book is an important collection of memoirs by a distinguished
servant of the Crown on the latter part of his career. It covers the fourteen years from
the author’s appointment in 1957 as the last Governor of Northern Nigeria, followed
by special mediating appointments in the final days of colonial trusteeship - The
Imperial Twilight of the book’s title - in Aden and South Arabia, the South Pacific
and the Trucial States. These were vitally important years both for the United
Kingdom and for the territories being brought to independence. The problems were
immense and the responsibility for guiding the new countries to independent
nationhood as peacefully as possible lay heavily on colonial administrators.
Sir Gawain’s wise and objective account, with its expert analyses, insights and
description of attitudes, illustrates with scrupulous fairness, and by no means
uncritically, the many positive aspects of the imperial record.
The general reader will find much to enjoy in this highly readable narrative. Life in
Government House, the official round and ceremonial occasions, particularly in
Nigeria, are vividly and entertainingly described. A practised hand is seen in the many
telling thumbnail sketches, not only of the Great and the Good, but also of the less
good and the local people, traders, officials and workers whom the author met in or
out of the line of duty.
Sir Gawain tells his story with humour, realism and profound knowledge of his
theme, yet with an enviable lightness of touch.