Dick Beck's memoirs cover the whole of his interesting and eventful career. In the
war of 39-45 he became an Army Air Observation Pilot and served in the Italian
campaign. After demobilization in 1946 he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge
and then after graduation entered the Colonial Service.
In 1951 Beck, by now married, sailed for Cape Town en route for Northern Rhodesia
where he served principally in rural districts although over two years were spent on the
Copperbelt at Chingola. In 1964 he decided not to remain in the country after it became
independent Zambia and took the retirement terms offered. There followed a period of
three years as Principal of a Church School in Jordan. After that he returned to
Cambridge University where he worked on the Local Examinations Syndicate and later
became Proctor and then Senior Proctor before retiring in the 1980s.
There was much excitement in his life and involvement in significant events. Apart
from low level flying over the German front line in Italy in 1944-45, he was in Jordan
where the Six-Day War began. When he was Senior Proctor at Cambridge he had to
deal with the worst of the wave of student riots. Most notably in 1964 when he was
Commissioner at Kabompo in Northern Rhodesia he suffered very serious knife wounds
inflicted by a man involved in an inter-tribal dispute.
It is clear that Beck was always conscientious. One marvels at the care and
craftsmanship of the two district tour Reports which are appended in full. He is an eloquent defender of the benevolent paternalism, which was the policy of Northern
Rhodesia, but, like all men in the bush, he criticizes the incomprehension of central
government. In political matters he deplores the speed of change and has little good to
say about the quality of most of the emerging political leaders. He was probably right
not to stay on after Independence.
Many readers of this review will probably be principally interested in the African
chapters but the whole of the book is well worth reading despite an occasional tendency
towards prolixity. Dick died a few years ago and his widow. Cicely, is to be
complimented on the trouble she has taken in preparing the book for publication. It is
well illustrated and altogether fascinating.