The British Empire Library

A Pied Cloak: Memoirs of a Colonial Police (Special Branch) Officer

by Derek Franklin

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by J.J. Burns (Malaya, Tanganyika and Lesotho 1949-1976)
At the age of 16 in 1947 Derek Franklin achieved his boyhood ambition when he was accepted into the Merchant Navy as a Cadet. His career as a sailor, whilst spiced with excitement and occasionally danger, came to an end in 1951 when he was called up for National Service. The next two years found him soldiering with the 1st Commonwealth Division in Korea and Japan.

Obtaining his release from the Army, he made a successful application to join the Kenya Police and by the beginning of 1954 had undergone a short training course and had started a Police career which was to span 28 years.

Much has been written about the clandestine exploits of the Kenya Police Pseudo Gangs which operated so successfully against the Mau Mau, but little has been recorded of their efforts against the Somali Shifta who operated within Kenya's Northern Territory. The author makes amends for this omission and his story starts with a graphic account of a successful night attack on a Shifta encampment some miles inside Somali territory. He devotes the whole of Part I of his book to his Pseudo Gang's activities in that area but makes light of the harsh conditions under which they operated and of the sustained physical and mental efforts required to achieve success.

There follow further accounts of his Pseudo Gang's operations directed against the Mau Mau in the White Highlands and the forests of Mount Kenya. Finally, and with many amusing anecdotes, he describes his work on the borders of Ethiopia before taking up his final post as the Divisional Commander in Eldoret. He was the last expatriate officer to hold that command.

The occasional periods he spent in Special Branch HQ in Nairobi, invariably on surveillance operations or counter-espionage work, plus his wide experience in the field, assured him of continued employment overseas, and in 1967 he was recruited as a Superintendent in the Bahrain Police SB. However, four years of Middle East intrigue proved to be sufficient for him and in 1971 he returned to Africa.

His first appointment was in the Lesotho Mounted Police as the Deputy Director of Intelligence and his second as the Deputy Head of SB of the Botswana Police. Apart from one abortive coup attempt by an opposition political party, and some lively exchanges with members of the South African Security Service personnel, his time in Lesotho when compared with that of Kenya was relatively peaceful.

Perhaps the most notable event during this period was the well-deserved award of his MBE. His time in Botswana from 1976 until he retired in 1981 was, once again, peaceful and obviously to his liking. Perhaps the ideal way to complete some three decades of selfless service.

Derek Franklin's story is a tale of adventure and personal success and told with modesty and humour. I found it enjoyable reading.

British Empire Book
Derek Franklin
Janus Publishing Company


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