The British Empire Library

The Winds and Wounds of Change: 1961 to 1965 Part 3

by The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Michael Shaw (District Officer, Tanganyika, 1959-62)
Like the author I was also a District Officer in Tanganyika - at much the same time and I was a predecessor as ADC a couple of years earlier at Government House with the Governor Dick Turnbull. So we have much in common and I found the book a delight. It "smelled" just right. There were so many things I recognised and long-forgotten names kept jumping off the page at me. There was Ralph Windham, the Chief Justice, clearly better known to the author, but I remember Windham talking about his time as a magistrate in Palestine when he was kidnapped and held hostage against the lives of two Jewish terrorists sentenced to death by the British authorities. As he was bundled into the back of a car the kidnapper sitting on his head "was whistling a tune from Beethoven's Pastoral symphony so I knew I was in civilised hands". Somehow the British negotiated his release and then hanged the two terrorists. He was a lucky man.

There was Dick Pentney, the enthusiastic Headmaster at Minaki School who I had known as a master at Sedbergh when I was a boy there. He disappeared again from my life and I fear died early. And Edmund Capper, the Provost at the Anglican church in Dar who often used to come for supper at GH after Evensong. Alas he was persuaded subsequently to take the job of Bishop of St Helena. It was not his scene at all (any of us could have told him) and he threw his hand in there after only a few months. There is also John Fletcher- Cooke who as Chief Secretary told the group of DOs fresh off the boat from the UK in July 1959 "you may have heard talk of Uhuru, but I can guarantee that you will have a job here for your lifetime". I reminded him of that two years later!

And Peter and Pat Johnson whose son later became a Security Guard at the FCO in London. His colleagues there were quite surprised when I told them I had once held him as a baby in my arms in Tanganyika.

Like most of us Eberlie much preferred up-country work as a DO to that in Dar, and you can see why. An assignment in the capital was not why we joined the Overseas Service. He made the most of it but his heart was upcountry.

The author gets Dick Turnbull's mordant humour rather well. Some found him sarcastic but actually it concealed a rather sensitive and perhaps slightly insecure person. (His poor eyesight contributed to that - without his glasses which he would never wear when in full fig uniform he was almost blind.) "X was always very fond of his wife," he said of one colleague, "and none of us could see why." Speaking to him on the phone some months after Lady T had died he said, "I expect you have heard that poor old Beatrice has snuffed it." The insouciance was concealing real pain. And of course Turnbull went on to Aden later where Eberlie joined him and we wait for the author's next volume on that period of his life. Turnbull as Governor was very close to Nyerere, though the contact more or less ceased after he had left Tanganyika.

I was sorry to hear Turnbull had sold his bicycle. As Governor he would set off In the early morning with just his ADC and perhaps also his daughter and ride for miles through the African parts of the city. No security concerns in those days (and it was only after Turnbull had left that the big fence was put round State House. Until then it was wide open.)

I have never really understood the benefits of HMG's encouragement of newly independent states to accept a short interregnum of a Governor- General before allowing what they really wanted - a full Republic. The description of Turnbull's year as Governor-General is painful to read even now. He sat there waiting to be consulted, but no one ever came to consult him, and Turnbull and his ADC eked out their time with pointless petty protocol and with a government that could not wait to see them go.

Eberlie paints very well the decline in relationships after Independence, the demoralising sudden departure of so many experienced expats, the sad lowering of standards and the hurt to many to realise they were not actually wanted any more. It came as a surprise to most of us, but perhaps there were straws in the wind. For example Reg Keight (noted in the book as the British Council Representative) gave a dinner party before Independence to which he had invited Oscar Kambona, one of the new ministers (who incidentally had been recently married in St Paul's Cathedral in London.) A jolly evening suddenly cut short when Keight said to the male guests at the end of the meal "Shall we go and see Africa"? To this Kambona replied "that's all you Europeans ever do - urinate on Africa." We must have missed what was going on under the surface.

Even now the UK relationship with Tanganyika/Tanzania is far less warm and cooperative than with the other countries of East Africa.

The book is very much for those of the period. The general reader may find it much too detailed and tire of the many names being thrust at him or of some of the more mundane housekeeping details which we are offered. But Eberlie does explain it is for two different audiences. So if you were out there buy it and relive your past. If you were not, then borrow it and read it much more selectively.

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