The British Empire Library

A Slice of Life

by Ludvig L. Lumholtz

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by J. G. Storry (Southern Rhodesia 1953-1980)
On 17 May 1934 No. 3385 Trooper Lumholtz joined the British South Africa Police in Southern Rhodesia. He had left his native Norway to seek his fortune as a farmer in South Africa, but decided the harsh conditions of the South African veldt were not for him. A chance meeting with someone similarly minded set him on a career he might not otherwise have envisaged, and from which he only retired 22 years later, going on to join the Grain Marketing Board, where he was employed for a further 20 years, before retiring to Cumbria, where he now lives.

This is a highly personal account, which takes the author's life from first joining the Force to the tragic death of his first wife in 1947. For the first four years he served in the District Branch in the Midlands Province, based in Gwelo. Then, after leave overseas, he joined the C.I.D. and was transferred to Bulawayo.

From an historian's point of view, the next five years are probably those of greatest interest, not merely because the author explains in detail the precautions taken in anticipation of war being declared. Mr. Lumholtz, by the very nature of his duties at the time, was personally involved and this is probably the first account of the Colony's preparations for the coming conflict ever published. There was no Special Branch then, but the activities of the author and his colleagues quickly established a sound basis for one, collating intelligence on the activities of enemy aliens in Mozambique and South Africa, as well as within Rhodesia itself, throughout the early years of the war.

A transfer to Umtali was shortly followed hy marriage to his first wife. Beryl, whom he had met while on leave in the Cape, and whom he plainly adored. Apart from anything else, marriage took the edge off more humdrum work than he had grown used to during the heady days in Bulawayo. The end of the war brought a spell of overseas leave and it seems the realities of wartime Europe came as a nasty shock. For, apart from the importance of his duties and the long hours spent carrying them out while stationed at the border town of Umtali, life had been far from unpleasant during those years.

Those who have lived in Rhodesia for any length of time will recognise many of the names mentioned, even to the unfortunate nickname acquired by the author's Sergeant Major Hughes Hall in the '30s. There are, however, one or two inaccuracies; for example. Sir Edgar Whitehead was not ousted from office hy Ian Smith, but by the Rhodesian Front under the leadership of Winston Field winning a general election in 1962 and, being a successor to George Dobell, it is within this reviewer's personal knowledge that Cashel Police Station did not boast the luxury of having married quarters in a bungalow behind the Charge Office - they were all part of one long building, with the early morning radio schedule clearly heard in the bedroom next door! Be that as it may, memory plays tricks and these lapses do not detract from an entertaining account of life in a more carefree Rhodesia than many experienced some years later.

British Empire Book
Ludvig L. Lumholtz
The Pentland Press


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