The British Empire Library

Pink Stripes and Obedient Servants: An Agriculturist in Tanganyika

by John Ainley

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by R W Neath (Tanganyika 1949-62)
Having worked almost as many years in Tanganyika as the author, like him in the field as well as at Dar es Salaam headquarters, I had immense pleasure in reading this book. We went out in the same ship in 1949 and at subsequent periods some of the stations to which we were posted coincided. There are several books of memoirs from those (like me) who worked in the Administration, but very few from engineers, geologists, agriculturalists, who had the task of developing the country's infrastructure. This one is a notable exception because, against a broad background depicting what it was like to live in Tanganyika in the Fifties and Sixties, it encapsulates the career and experiences of an agriculturalist who clearly made a mark in his own important field. His story is well put together in good readable English. It could interest anyone, I believe, who served in Tanganyika, whatever their field or background, and who loved the country.

The "pink stripes" in the title refer to the old map colours whereby Tanganyika was shown as a Trust Territory of the United Nations administered by the British until Independence in 1961.

The author is an astute observer who adds to the interest of his tale with well researched snippets of history and where appropriate some useful statistics always clearly put and never overdone.

As for any of us, his career began with the long sea journey from England to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. His account evokes vividly the special atmosphere of places like Port Said and Aden where the ships always called, the reception and briefing one got at the Secretariat on arrival and the excitement of going up-country by train to one's first posting.

The problem of finding accommodation, especially when one arrived as a bachelor, getting involved in whatever social life there was (usually revolving around the Club), going on safari for the first time when one depended so much on the resourcefulness of one's cook for a meal at the end of the day, are all recalled. Whatever the hour, a government officer on safari could always be called upon to deal with a dangerous bush fire or cope with effects of a violent tropical storm. Unless he visited some isolated mission station, he might never speak a word of English for weeks on end.

Ainley was in Tanganyika at a time of fairly rapid change. Communications improved over the years, some places got electricity while the advent of radio, both local and from overseas, speeded up the political process. In 1958 and 1960 parliamentary elections were held, a precursor to the Independence celebrations of 1961 in which everyone got involved or had some role to play.

All these things are interestingly covered as well as developments in the post Independence period like the failed "villagisation", the Army Mutiny of 1964, the influx of so many 'advisers' from overseas with little real knowledge or experience of the problems which the country was facing.

Like so many in Tanganyika the author worked in interesting places and had a fulfilling career, and whatever jobs he did afterwards when he came back to England, it seems he missed so often 'the vast panorama of Africa with its endless horizons, blue skies and tropical sun', just as most of us do. A very enjoyable book.

British Empire Book
John Ainley
Ridings Publishing Company
1 86064 6425


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