The British Empire Library

Tattered Battlements: A Fighter Pilot's Diary

by Tim Johnston

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by R.N.B-P.
Tim Johnston entered the Colonial Administrative Service in Nigeria in 1936 as a cadet and eventually, after serving as the Secretary to the Premier, ended up as Deputy Governor of Northern Nigeria in 1960. From 1961-65, he was Director of the Overseas Services Resettlement Bureau. The book he wrote and had published as by 'A Fighter Pilot' in 1943 has now been revised and republished with an introduction by the air historian, Chaz Bowyer, and with additional material on the D Day and after operations in Normandy, hitherto unpublished and found amongst his papers after his sadly early death in 1954. Many of those who knew and admired Tim Johnston will wish to know of his book, as it is the background to so much of his action and thinking in Nigeria. The initiative of the fighter pilot is matched by the initiative of the District Officer and the Resident, trying out new ideas and theories: aluminium canoes, windlasses to wind up water from deep wells, windmills, ploughing of the fadama by tractor. Tim Johnston in fact was never one to stay still. He was fertile with ideas. Sharwood-Smith in his autobiography But always as Friends writes that the success of the new constitution preceding self-government in Northern Nigeria would very much depend on the personality of the Secretary to the Premier, the man to whom the British civil servants would look in times of doubt and difficulty. Tim Johnston was the man chosen for this post and he was someone everyone could trust. "He was able and forceful and would always say and do what he thought was right." If he had a fault it was perhaps that he might have been, for those days, too inflexible.

The short appreciation reprinted at the end of the book from the Brasenose College magazine mentions two of his books: A Selection of Hausa Stories which he compiled and translated, and (published under the name of Hugh Sturton), Zomo the Rabbit. But he will have made his own mark by his History of the Fulani Empire of Sokoto, published in 1967. He was also the part author, with David Muffett, of Denham in Bornu. As David Muffett says in his introduction to that book, Tim Johnston's untimely death in 1967 "deprived African scholarship of one of those most remarkable and invaluable of all historians, the gifted, dedicated, and informed amateur" .

All Tim's friends will be glad to be able to read of his actions, thoughts, even his philosophies, during his service with the RAFVR.

British Empire Book
Tim Johnston
William Kimber & Co Ltd


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