Sir Richard Gordon Turnbull

Sir Richard Turnbull joined the colonial administrative service in 1930 and went on to make his name and career in Kenya. He did particularly well at containing the Mau Mau revolt as minister for internal security and defence. He helped to begin the process of preparing settlers and the local population alike for an independent Kenya, but on terms that demanded security and safety for all the communities affected.

It seemed an odd choice to select the architect of the defeat of the Mau Mau to the senstive United Nations mandate of Tanganyika. He had been earmarked to go to British Somaliland but seemingly at the insistence of the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Alan Lennox-Boyd).

It instantly became clear that Turnbull intended to co-operate with the Tanganyikan African national union, and his reputed initial greeting of its leader, 'You and I have important work to do together, Mr Nyerere', became an integral part of his approach. Turnbull was committed to ensuring a smooth and swift transfer of power, a process which in retrospect has been hailed as exemplary in the history of decolonization. His warm personal relations with Julius Nyerere continued long after he left Tanganyika, where he stayed on at Nyerere's request for a year beyond independence as governor-general. Turnbull left the colonial service in 1962, but returned to duty in Aden in 1964 to try and help that troubled colony make a peaceful transition to independence.

Tanganyika | Tanganyika Administrators


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by Stephen Luscombe