Hewitt explains that Kenya Cowboy, the title of his book, was the name given to the
1,000 or so men recruited outside Kenya and rushed in to reinforce the existing
police force when Kenya was faced with insurrection, generally known as the Mau Mau
uprising. The 'cowboys' were given just six weeks training before appointment as police
inspectors. Recruited in Britain, the author was in his mid-twenties when he arrived in
Nairobi in the Autumn of 1953 having spent eight years in the Fleet Air Arm. He is by no
means the first policeman to take us through the forest in pursuit of Mau Mau.
One recalls, particularly, hunting for Kimathi with Ian Henderson whose name features
in this book too. But unlike Henderson, Hewitt was a new boy to Kenya so starts as an
outsider with an outsider's perspective on events.
The author went from London to Nairobi and up to Gilgil for training with what he
describes as "a multifarious bunch of recruit sub-inspectors of police" which included
"ex-military services personnel, bank clerks, public school boys and ex-Palestine
police". Accommodation and living conditions were basic. The course included law
studies, weapon training and Swahili instruction. Hewitt remarks in passing that no-one
in his intake failed the course.
His descriptions of hunting for Mau Mau, of encounters with and of their capture are
straightforward and positive. He is in no doubt that Kenyatta was the leader of Mau Mau
and principal villain. Hewitt was in the thick of it but he emphasises that there was no
rough handling of prisoners by his men and his descriptions of encounters bear that out.
Nothing gung-ho. He deals with Operation Bullrush, the highland clearances around
Lake Naivasha, at some length and quotes authoritative contemporary critics' reports of
'Bullrush' as a "farcical and an unmitigated waste of money, materials and effort, not to
mention the drubbing to British prestige". Most 'campaigns' have a 'charge of the Light
Brigade', 'fall of Singapore' or similar episode best forgotten. In the 1990s, 40 years
after the 'battle', European settlers living near Lake Naivasha recalled Operation
Bullrush with hunched shoulders and pained expressions.
Hewitt has respect and sympathy for the white settlers with whom he comes in contact
when investigating claims for losses suffered when cattle were stolen or maimed by Mau
Mau. Indeed, he dedicates his book to "those spunky, indomitable pioneer settlers who
were to find their precarious paradise in the White Highlands of Kenya".
En route through his book the author touches on the major issues of the time including
the murder of Europeans in their homes, the massacre of the Kikuyu inhabitants of
Lari village and formation of the Kikuyu Homeguard.
This is the third edition of the book; the first and second editions were published in
1999 and 2001. The author admits his book is a 'potpourri' and in addition to 15 chapters
it includes an author's note, an introduction, an epilogue and postscript which discuss
events in Kenya since the period covered in the main text, glossary of Swahili words,
glossary of army and police abbreviations and eleven appendices. Unfortunately there is
Following service in Kenya the author served with the Colonial Police Service in Cyprus,
Nyasaland and Papua New Guinea before diplomatic missions in Sierra Leone, East Berlin
(GDR), Guyana and Portugal. He and his wife now divide their time between London and
Northern Cyprus. Kenya Cowboy, both book and author, provide food for thought.