The British Empire Library

Shadows on the Sand: The Memoirs of Sir Gawain Bell

by Sir Gawain Bell

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
Sir Gawain Bell, whom many will recall was the admirable last Governor of Northern Nigeria (1957-62), spent the first 25 years of his brilliant career in that corps d'elite among Britain's overseas civil services, the Sudan Political Service, with spells in Palestine (1938-41). the Arab Legion (1942^14), Egypt (1949-51) and Kuwait (1955-57). He first met the Colonial Service when, as a Sudan probationer, he spent a year at Oxford on the Tropical African Services Course together with some 70 Colonial Service members. His description of both Oxford in the 1930s ("we were the last of the Edwardians") and of the course for prospective administrators (they were encouraged to attend operations at the Radcliffe Infirmary "to accustom us to the sight of blood and severed limbs") is excellent. Important, too, for those with Sudan experience, is his account of provincial administration before the war and of the transfer of power soon after.

This is a modest, witty and fascinating autobiography, at once informative to the reader and important to the historian. Colonial Service readers who may be downcast bv the fact that the book ends at the moment of Sir Gawain's appointment to Nigeria will have their spirits raised by his promise that "of the events that led to this unusual assignment - a British Governor serving as such in an independent ex-colonial territory - I hope to write in due course". At least one advance order has already been indicated to the publishers!

British Empire Book
Sir Gawain Bell
C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd


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