The bookshelf of personal memoirs by those who served in Africa in the years before
Independence, particularly if they were District Officers, constantly needs enlarging.
Among the most notable titles thus far are Douglas and Marcelle Brown's extensive
compendium of particular personal experiences. Looking Back at the Uganda Protectorate, Recollections of District Officers (1996), and Alan Forward's 'You have been allocated Uganda' - Letters from a District Officer (1999) - as if written to an
academic friend in Britain from his arrival in 1955 till Independence in 1962.
Patrick Walker's Towards Independence in Africa adds significantly to the mix by being
shaped as the autobiography of another Uganda District Officer all the way from his
birth till Uganda's Independence. Nearly one third is devoted indeed to his up-bringing -
born in Malaya in 1932 where since 1914 his father had been an official of the
Federated Malay States, till in 1935 the family moved to Kenya on his father becoming
Chief Accountant of the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours. There the family
lived at No 1 Ngong Road where young Patrick and his always 'white' friends played in
an adjacent field still well outside the bounds of the then Nairobi. As was common
amongst his kind, he was sent, aged 6, to a local boarding school, then to a British Public
School (King's Canterbury), and finally to University (Oxford, Trinity College and a
He was determined never to go 'abroad', and with his father's support did the rounds of
several insurance companies until he realized that 'Insurance' was never going to be his
forte. Along with getting married that brought the default position for many 'colonial'
children of his kind to the fore. In 1955 he joined the Colonial Administrative Service.
His generation did so at a unique moment. With the ending of the Second World War in
1945 they were no longer required to bomb Germany, convoy merchantmen, command
artillery. Unlike some of their seniors they knew that sooner rather than later it would all
come to an end. But in the meanwhile there were positions open to them which as still
young men called to the full on their energies and their liking for adventure.
District Officer numbers in Uganda doubled in the 1950s, and along with a multiplicity of
technical officials came to constitute what historians have called the 'Second Colonial
Invasion'. In his sustained autobiographical format, and especially in much his longest
chapter on his first appointment to Teso District - 70 pages in Chapter 7 - Walker gives an
especially graphic if familiar account of the melange of involvements which this entailed.
Reaching Teso's headquarters, Soroti, he called on the District Commissioner; was soon
inducted into the role of an ADC, and among sundry other things given charge of the
administration of Soroti township. Over the next two and a half years his routine was
punctuated by visits by two successive Governors, a summons to assist in curbing some
rioting in neighbouring Tango District, the fruitless chase of some cattle raiders from the
adjacent Karamoja District, and the hosing down of a tax revolt in Teso District itself.
All the while he was also engaged with his bride in making a home out of a previously
condemned house, recruiting servants, learning the intricacies of shopping; and suffering
illnesses, not least in their baby son.
There were always two highlights. First that stock-in-trade of colonial administration:
'Safari' - touring for several days with a county chief and his subordinates to make all
sorts of inspections - most memorably it seems of deep pit latrines; act as the
administration's eyes and ears, and push several government policies. Over nine pages
Walker spells out the details here in a way which is not always done. And then the
second: the Club, which by way of the customary evening drink, many a dance, and all
manner of sporting occasions was crucial to the bonding of the District's tiny colonial
community. Before leaving Teso Walker eventually fulfilled his ambition to climb the
adjacent Soroti Rock, and had his first experience of the local demands posed by a
national election and its sign that the colonial era's endgame was on its way.
His second posting was to Ankole which unlike Teso had a hereditary ruler; no longer
'actual ruler' but revered even so. Routines were familiar, but there were three variants.
Walker was given charge of a resettlement scheme to oversee the replanting of villagers
from an overcrowded area into new surroundings. Then with the Congo being plunged in
mid 1960 into precipitate independence there was first a flood to be succoured, first of
Belgian refugees and then of Tutsis from Rwanda. In the end, however, everything
turned on two further national elections, and with the second came Uganda's
independence in 1962.
With that, new careers needed making. Walker went to MI5; became its Director-General
1988-92, was knighted in 1990, and served as Trustee of the Leonard Cheshire Homes
on retirement. Memories of those brief halcyon days remained, however, engrossing as
this book once again testifies.