In May 1951, askaris of the 3rd (Kenya) Battalion King's African Rifles were told they were going to Malaya for eighteen months to take part in the fight against communist terrorists. Some of them must have thought that a life of bliss awaited them as 'Malaya', in Kiswahili, means 'lady of easy virtue'. The feeling of euphoria they had at the thought of entering Paradise on earth evaporated soon after they arrived in the Far East and found that tented camps in remote jungle locations was the nearest they were going to get to Utopia.
It was difficult trying to explain to askaris what the 'emergency' in Malaya was all about. In the early '50s Africans were not as well educated as they are today, there was no television or visual aids to explain what the country and people looked like and the wazungu's (white officers' and NCOs') attempts to describe a troopship drew wondrous looks. Except for those who lived near Lake Victoria, very few askaris had seen a large expanse of water - rivers and streams were familiar to them (but only in the wet season) and a dug-out canoe was their only perception of a boat.
I was in charge of the advance party of 3/KAR when we left Nanyuki in September 1951. The first part of our journey took us by train to Nairobi where we changed to the overnight express which carried us to Mombasa. The 'Empire Ken' was there to greet us and I for one was not impressed. Seven months previously, I had travelled on her from Massawa, in Eritrea, to Mombasa. A more uncomfortable ship would be hard to find. She had a list to port and everything you did, from drinking soup at one end of the bowl, to climbing uphill in bed when you wanted to turn over reminded you that life was lived permanently on the slant.
Already aboard, was the advance party of 1/KAR, from Nyasaland, who had travelled up from Beira and were also destined for active service in Malaya. It was not often that our askaris had the opportunity to meet fellow soldiers from so far afield but, despite a language problem, it was not long before they found ways of communicating with each other.
It was decided that askaris of 3/KAR should occupy a block house near the stern of the ship. I am sure the original design of the ship did not include this strange looking appendage but it suited our lads admirably as they had a commanding view of everything that lay before and around them. We sailed late that afternoon and the decks were full of askaris taking a last look at their homeland as we moved slowly down the channel from Mombasa harbour to the open sea.
I attended breakfast the following morning and was amused to see the askaris' reaction to British food. Instead of their normal ration of posho (crushed and boiled Indian corn), they were offered porridge, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread and marmalade. They took the lot and came back for more! Later, I inspected the troop-decks and ablutions and was not pleased with what I saw. European style lavatories were something they were not used to - and they were filthy. I spoke to the senior African warrant officer and told him I would return in half an hour to inspect them again. Thirty minutes later, I carried out my second inspection and found little improvement. The African Platoon Sergeant Major looked uncomfortable when I asked him for an explanation. "Back in camp, effendi," he said, "that work is carried out by wachura (sweepers) - it is not the job of askaris to safisha choo (clean latrines)." I understood the reluctance of askaris to undertake such chores but I was not prepared to give way. I ordered the African warrant officer to summon three NCOs and all four followed me down through the troop decks until we reached the bottom of the ship. "If those choos are not spotlessly clean in half an hour and remain that way until we get to Aden, I will move the askaris down here," I said. The sight of waves breaking over the port holes was enough to set the NCOs running back to tell the askaris what would befall them if they did not clean the lavatories. We had no trouble after that.
A few days out from Mombasa, we arrived in Victoria Harbour, Mahé, in the Seychelles. In those days the only contact Seychellois had with the rest of the world was the occasional ship that brought mail and essential goods. Another ten years were to pass before an airport was built and another ten or fifteen before the start of international tourism. I took a few photographs from the deck of the ship but it was not until 1998 (47 years later), when my wife and I spent six weeks travel writing in Mahé and other islands in the Seychelles, that I was able to fully appreciate them.
It was another three days before we reached Aden, that barren outpost of the Empire which still served as a link between east and west and the whole of the east African seaboard. We tied up at Steamer Point from where we could see the jumble of shops, offices, market and go-downs which made this one of the wealthiest ports in the world. We said farewell to the 'Empire Ken' and began getting used to walking with both legs on level surfaces again.
We were told it would be another four days before the troopship 'Dilwara' would arrive from Liverpool to take us to Singapore and that we would be accommodated in Kor-Maksar transit camp. With typical RAF efficiency (the Royal Air Force ran just about everything in Aden), we were driven off in RAF trucks.
I had just finished my lunch in the Officers' Mess when a waiter told me I was wanted on the phone. Expecting a call from the camp commandant or some such person, I was surprised to hear the voice of my ex fiancée's mother. Her daughter and I had become engaged a few days before I left the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers in Asmara seven months previously and, except for a week, which she and her mother spent in Nanyuki (the latter as a chaperone), we had not had an opportunity for getting used to each other in our betrothed state. Obviously, I did not measure up to her standards as she ditched me when she returned to Asmara. This did not affect the friendly relationship I had with her mother and she decided to pop down to Aden (her husband was the Chief Executive of Aden Airways) to see me and do some shopping. We arranged to meet that evening and she arrived at 6pm in the company's limousine (driven by an immaculately dressed chauffeur) and whisked me off to the company's bungalow high up on a mountain peak. Aden is an appallingly hot place at any time of the year but the cool breezes that caressed the bungalow from its elevated position made living in this treeless wasteland almost acceptable. Mum (I still found it hard to call her anything else) had invited some friends around for a party and it was approaching midnight before I was driven back to Kor-Maksar.
We arranged trips for the askaris to the shopping centre, known as The Crescent (built to resemble the elegant early 18th century crescent in Bath). They also visited Crater, the main habitat for thousands of indigenous folk who lived cheek by jowl with their neighbours in suffocating conditions. On the way back to Kor-Maksar, we stopped at the top of the pass and inspected the many regimental badges carved into the rock by previous units who had the misfortune of being stationed there. Football and volley ball matches kept the askaris fit and worked up their appetites to enjoy the same food provided for the Aden Protectorate Levies whose camp was nearby. I continued to enjoy a good social life with Mum and wondered if my luck would extend to a delay in the arrival of the 'Dilwara' This, unfortunately, did not happen, and the elegant single funnelled, brilliant white troopship of the British India Company, with signal flags a-flying arrived on time at Steamer Point.
Mum and I had said our good-byes on the quayside, but when I went aboard I found her talking to the OC Troops, an ex-Indian Army Lieutenant Colonel who was completing his last two years military service at sea. It seemed that they knew each other from pre-war days in Karachi. The other officers of 3/KAR began to wonder how my ex-potential mother-in-law seemed to pop up when least expected. They had seen her in Nanyuki (she stayed on for an extra week when the aircraft returning to Asmara with her daughter was full), then she appeared in Aden in a chauffeur driven limousine and now she was chatting to the OC Troops. My friends were too kind to ask me what was going on but they must have wondered if she had any intention of meeting us in Colombo, our next stop. There were enough officers and NCOs to look after the askaris, so I accepted the Colonel's invitation to have a pink gin with him and Mum in his cabin.
For the first time in my life I was given a cabin of my own which was club class compared with other occasions when I had travelled by troopship. The askaris accommodation was superb as well. Instead of clumsy beds and airless troopdecks, the 'Dilwara' provided 'standee' bunks, which folded when not in use, and plenty of cool, fresh air.
Each morning, the OC Troops held an inspection of soldiers on the promenade deck. On the first day out from Aden, askaris of 1 and 3/KAR paraded as if they were on a Governor's Parade back home in their respective countries. True, they had had plenty of time to wash and iron their drill uniforms but they would have been immaculately turned out even without the facilities afforded them in Kor-Maksar camp. While aboard the 'Empire Ken', they could be seen hanging their drill out to dry on the ship's rails and using the deck as a giant ironing board for their charcoal irons. Makaa (charcoal) was as important as boot polish and Brasso to askaris and the African Warrant Officer had made sure that an adequate number of sacks had been put in the baggage van before leaving Nanyuki.
The OC Troops (remember, he was an old Indian Army hand) walked through the lines of British soldiers who had embarked at Liverpool and suffered nearly three weeks of sea sickness and sun burn. They had washed their uniforms and had tried to iron them in the crowded ironing rooms, but they looked like scarecrows compared with our askaris. His blood pressure was at bursting point when he reached our lads but he soon cooled down and started chatting to them in some Indian dialect (they could not understand a word, of course). After the parade was dismissed, the Colonel took me and the officer commanding 1/KAR advance party aside and told us that he wanted us to march through the lines of British soldiers the following day to show them what 'proper' soldiers looked like. We were horrified at this idea, especially as he intended giving a public rebuke to the British squadies for their slovenly turnout. We voiced our protest and when I asked him if he would have humiliated British soldiers in front of Indians, he realised he had gone too far. "Alright," he muttered. "But I still want you to march your askaris off through the ranks of the British soldiers - I'll leave it to them to see what 'proper' soldiers look like."
And so it was. We did not tell the askaris why they had to slow-march in open order through the ranks of sunburnt, white kneed, British soldiers who had less than six months service. Many of them were destined to join infantry regiments in Korea and would soon become seasoned soldiers.
The OC Troops asked if we could put on a show of African music and dance for cabin passengers. OC Advance Party 1/KAR, both African Warrant Officers and I put our heads together and decided it could be done. 1/KAR had brought drums with them but we in 3/KAR had to improvise with ghee cans of various sizes from the galley. These turned out to be good substitutes once they were cleaned, painted and strung with rope. The Bos'n gave us access to the sail locker where there was enough rope (to be shredded), metal rods, feather dusters and canvas to make arm and leg ornaments, head decorations, spears and shields. Boot polish tins, polished until they shone like mirrors - with things to rattle inside, were strapped to askaris' ankles and provided that essential ingredient for the rhythm of African dance.
We in 3/KAR were proud of the dancing ability of our askaris of the Kamba tribe. While most other tribesmen were content to leap in the air like a herd of Springboks, the Kamba had a vast repertoire of acrobatic dancing which set everyone's feet tapping. Lest the bulk of passengers aboard ship thought they were being left out, we performed a dress rehearsal for those that were accommodated on the troop decks. None of the squadies had seen anything like it before and from the cheers they gave, our lads felt confident to perform their show to the 'upper crust' audience the following evening.
Before the show started, I gave the following warning to the audience: "The performance you are about to see has one ingredient missing - women. Back home, the wives and girl friends whistle and encourage their men folk to become outrageous in their movements. Eventually, excitement becomes so intense that dancing stops and passion takes over." I went on to say that our soldiers were usually well behaved but: "If things get out of hand, will those young ladies in the front and second rows please get up and move to the back." The audience did not know whether or not to take me seriously and some of the young ladies looked apprehensive when the dancers appeared dressed in their finery.
The programme comprised KAR marching songs, drum beating and dancing (including some leaping in the air to satisfy the Northern Frontier tribes). The Kamba warriors, as usual, stole the show and brought to an end a magnificent performance by brandishing their shields and spears and rushing towards the young ladies in the first and second rows (the dancers had been primed). There were squeals of alarm mixed with much laughter as the young ladies acted their part in the evening's fun. It was a great success and both the Captain of the ship and the OC Troops congratulated the askaris on an excellent show.
My orderly, Kiplele arap Kindurwa, of the Kipsigis tribe, asked me why he could not get bubbles out of his soap when he showered. I told him that maji ya chumvi (salt water) was useless as far as ordinary soap was concerned and that if he wanted to lather himself, he would have to use tap or drinking water(maji ya kunywa) in the wash basins. Kiplele pondered for a few moments on this little known aspect of shipboard plumbing and then asked: "Why don't they use maji ya kunywa in the shower?" I told him that fresh water was in short supply but there was any amount of the other stuff. "Look around you, Kiplele," I said, pointing through the port hole. "As far as you can see there is maji ya chumvi and, what's more - it goes down about ten miles." Kiplele had another question to ask: "How do they get the maji ya chumvi into the boat, effendi?" I expect he had some notion of a team of sailors 'baling in' (as opposed to 'baling out' - something he experienced with his own dug-out canoe). "They draw it up through a hole in the bottom of the ship," I replied. There was one of those long drawn out utterances that Africans use when they hear bad news. Ahhhhhh-la, exploded Kiplele, and then questioned me about the hole: "Where is it? How big is it? Who looks after it?" His idea of boat building, limited as it was to hollowing out tree trunks, did not include a purpose-built hole and the fact that I had told him that maji ya chumvi went down ten miles to the seabed, made the matter much worse.
From that moment on, Kiplele lost his zest for sea travel. The matter of the hole and the thought that he might be putting the ship in danger of sinking if he used too much salt water was uppermost in his mind. I would catch him looking into the sea trying to find something he could put his feet on if the worst should happen, but it was no good. He was not happy until he marched down the gangway in Singapore docks.
We called at Colombo, the capital city and main port of Ceylon, now called, Sri Lanka. We were not allowed to go ashore so we spent time watching the changing pattern of ships, old and new, as they went about their business in the great harbour. Bum-boat men in their colourful rowing boats crowded around us as soon as we dropped anchor. It was a new experience for askaris and many of them wondered how these voluble boatmen made a living when they allowed their wooden carvings, leather goods and suchlike to be inspected by ships' passengers. Baskets on ropes went up and down for passengers to inspect - some may have gone missing, but that is a risk all bum-boat men must take. By the grins on their faces and their invitations to return, it was clear they were satisfied with their side of the bargains.
We moved out of the calm serenity of Colombo harbour to catch the strong westerly winds which had followed us from Aden. The force of these winds caused a substantial swell on the surface of the ocean and I can remember looking towards the land as we sailed south, parallel to the coastline, and seeing huge fountains of spray as the waves spent their force at the base of tall cliffs.
It was at this stage of our journey that the ship's radio broadcast the news that the High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney, had been killed in a road ambush on 6 October 1951. It seemed that he and Lady Gurney were travelling in their official Rolls Royce to Frazer's Hill, a popular watering hole in the Cameron Highlands, when one of the escort vehicles broke down. As they had only a few more miles to go, Sir Henry ordered his chauffeur to carry on, leaving the other vehicle to assist the one that had stopped. An ambush party of Chinese terrorists, commanded by the notorious Su Mah, had been waiting for a suitable target for a few days and were just about to pack up and return to their jungle base, when along came a vehicle flying a Union Jack.
The first burst of machine gun fire shattered the windscreen and killed the driver. Sir Henry, attempting to draw fire away from his wife, opened the door and tried to sprint across the road, but he was killed before he reached cover.
The implication of what had happened caused shock waves throughout the ship and those of us who were bound for Malaya were in a sombre state at dinner that night. We must have passed the news on to the askaris but I cannot remember their reaction. I suppose they accepted it without comment as everything was a new experience and the death of the Bwana Mkubwa Sana (Big White Chief) was regrettable but not the end of the world.
One thing that we British officers did not appreciate was that the murder of Sir Henry Gurney was a turning point in the war. General Sir Gerald Templer was appointed the new High Commissioner and, under his dynamic leadership, the fight against communist terrorism was developed to a fine art. The King's African Rifles were among those who became experts in this type of warfare.
A few days later, the 'Dilwara' nosed her way around the southern tip of Johore and entered the approach lane to Singapore harbour. Major General A.G. O'Carroll-Scott, General Officer Commanding Singapore, came aboard soon after we tied up and greeted both advance parties (us in Kiswahili). Then came the press reporters and cameramen eager to get the first comments and pictures of African soldiers who had not been seen in this part of the world since 11th (East African) Division took part in the Burma campaign in World War Two.
That was the end of the first voyage; another 18 months would pass before askaris of the two KAR battalions would find themselves in Singapore again waiting to embark on the 'Lancashire' (1/KAR) and the'Dilwara' (3/KAR) to return to our respective countries.
In June 1953, a few days after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11, the 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalion KAR took over from us. Rifle companies made their way by sea, road and rail to the Far East Land Forces Training Centre at Kota Tinggi where we were accommodated while in transit.. I travelled from Kuantan (Bn HQ) on the east coast of Malaya in a LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) with the Drums Platoon, Orderly Room staff and a considerable amount of baggage. I expected to be in Singapore the following day but the Chinese captain dropped anchor only a few miles from the shore. He spoke neither English nor Malay but I gathered he had no maps and was unwilling to hazard his ship among the many offshore islands when darkness fell.
With nothing else to do, I assembled my fishing rod, attached a wooden sprat and cast the lure into the depths of the South China Sea. During the time I was on the east coast, I spent many hours fishing the estuary of the Sungei Kuantan and, on one memorable occasion, had used a tiny air-sea rescue blow-up dinghy to catch whatever was on offer in front of the Nan Yang Hotel on the waterfront at Kuantan.
I was sitting, rather uncomfortably, in the dinghy - which was smaller than the average bath tub, when I heard a hissing noise. I thought I had sprung a leak but when I turned around to investigate, I came face-to-face with a sea snake. The snake circled me a few times then dived, only to appear at a new quarter. My friends sitting on the balcony of the hotel (which we had requisitioned for Battalion Headquarters) could not understand why I was going around in circles and thrashing the water with my rod.
The great grandfather of that snake must have heard about my sprat because I felt a gigantic tug on my line and my rod bent almost in half. I played with my yet undisclosed catch until its head appeared on the surface. It was only then that I recognised it as a much larger version of what had confronted me outside the Nan Yang Hotel. I had no wish to haul the snake aboard and would have cut the line if it had not been for my sprat which had served me well for a long time. While I was contemplating my dilemma, I saw the Captain waving his arms and struggling to ease his massive frame down the gangway from the wheel house. He clambered over the mountain of baggage and made it quite plain to me that I must get rid of the snake.
Chinese will eat all sorts of land-based snakes but for some reason or other will have nothing to do with sea snakes - especially brilliantly coloured ones like the one on the end of my rod. A number of askaris had come to see what all the excitement was about and, as far as they were concerned, any snake - land or sea based, was something to be avoided. The problem was sorted out by the snake itself. It spat out the sprat and disappeared below the waves.
An hour or so later, Corporal Macheru - the Officers' Mess cook asked me if I would take a look at the No. 1 burner he was using to prepare curry for our evening meal. The No.1 burner operates when petrol is vaporised after being pumped through a perforated hot metal collar. Even though it looks and acts like a flame thrower, it is quite safe providing it is not put under too much pressure. If that should happen, a brass stud on top of the container blows off.
It was the pressure gauge that worried the cook; the needle was well into the 'red' and he knew not what he should do. I had never even noticed there was a pressure gauge on a No.1 burner and as I was trying to catch up on the technology of field-cooking appliances, the brass stud departed with a sound like a pistol shot. The by-product of pressure release was a sheet of flame which shot about fifty feet into the air from the hole left by the stud. The Chinese Captain was till mopping his brow following the incident with the sea snake when he saw the bows of his ship go up in flames. For the second time in an hour he eased his massive frame down the gangway, stumbled over the baggage and confronted me as I was wondering how we were going to cook the curry without a No.1 burner. The long and short of it was that we had to use the crew's cooking facilities, which further damaged relations between me and the Captain.
Late in the afternoon the following day we arrived in Singapore. I suppose the Chinese crew were as glad to see the back of us as we were to see the back of them.
During the 18 months 3/KAR had been in Malaya, askaris had no leave other than changes of scene when they spent a few days with their friends in other rifle companies. Quartermaster's convoys to collect stores in Kuala Lumpur were popular as were numerous visits to the British Military Hospital in the nation's capital for a course of masindano (needles - to cure gonorrhoea and suchlike). But while we were waiting in Kota Tinggi for the troopship to arrive, company commanders arranged shopping trips for askaris in Singapore.
Four-ton trucks carried them down the main road from Mersing to Johore Bharu where they stopped at the police station to hand in rifles for safe keeping (Singapore was not affected by the Malayan 'emergency'). Then it was across the causeway (still waiting to be properly repaired since the Japanese invaded Singapore in January 1942) and on down the Bukit Timah road to the centre of the metropolis. The joy of being let loose in a bustling city full of things to buy was a tonic to our lads who had saved up to buy presents for their wamke na watoto (wives and children). Their delight was short-lived however, for when they returned to Malaya via the causeway, they were stopped at the Custom's Post where packages were opened and duty demanded on most items. A near mutiny occurred and the askaris were still in a rebellious mood when they returned to Kota Tinggi.
It was not long before Colonel Jack Crewe-Read, the Commanding Officer, heard what had happened and made use of the 'hot-line' to Government House in Kuala Lumpur. The High Commissioner, General Sir Gerald Templer was appalled and gave instruction that askaris would be refunded within twenty four hours.
With three days to go before we embarked on the 'Dilwara', one of our askaris went missing. He was seen walking towards the village of Ulu Tiram (adjacent to Kota Tinggi). For an askari to stay behind in Malaya when the rest of the battalion returned to Kenya was like a swallow opting to stay in Britain through the winter. He had to be found, even if it meant turning out every available man in the battalion. This was done, and, by the grace of God he was located in thick jungle squatting inside a basha he had made for himself. He was shackled to a tent pole until it was time to board the 'Dilwara' in Singapore docks.
It is not unusual for Africans to act in strange ways and the bug which disturbed his mind was still active long after we put to sea He refused to eat and eventually was forcibly fed. The (prison) cell on the 'Dilwara' is as far forward as you can go and is triangular in shape. The rise and fall in that part of the ship is quite alarming and the continuous roller-coaster effect eventually wore him down. By the time we arrived in Mombasa he was back to normal.
The 1st Battalion KAR sailed for home on 9th April 1953, two months before 3/KAR. The High Commissioner, General Sir Gerald Templer came to Singapore to see them off but, alas, was unable to say farewell to 3/KAR in person. Instead he sent a letter to Lieut Col Jack Crewe-Read which read: 'I am disappointed that I cannot come in person to thank you for all you have done since you started operations in Malaya last year. Kenya can surely be proud of what you have done to contribute towards fighting communist terrorists in Malaya'.
On 3 June 1953, the General Officer Commanding Malaya, Sir Hugh Stockwell, sent a signal to the battalion: 'I want ten more communist terrorists eliminated before you go'. 3/KAR obliged by killing 11 making the total number of kills 71 (the fastest eliminating rate for any battalion in Malaya during an eighteen month period of service).
Other statistics published by the Straits Times on the eve of our departure are as follows: 163 food and arms dumps and 270 bandit camps destroyed. Senior members of the Malayan Races Liberation Army killed included: four District Committee Members, one Branch Committee secretary, one Political Commissar, Commander of 8 Independent Platoon and Wong Chee, State Committee member for Trengannu (killed by No. 6 Platoon 'B' Coy 3/KAR, the highest ranking terrorist ever to be killed in that state).
'B' Coy 3/KAR conducted a six week patrol, which was part of a combined operation with 1/10th Gurkha Rifles, in the state of Trengannu when askaris killed four terrorists. The length of this patrol was claimed as a record.
Two askaris were killed and five men wounded (including two officers). One officer was murdered by an askari who was later found guilty and executed in Pudu Gaol, Kuala Lumpur. For long and distinguished service, Warrant Officer Platoon Commander (WOPC) Kiberen and WOPC Kitur, both of the Nandi tribe, were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal respectively. The Commanding Officer, Lieut Col J.O. Crewe-Read, was awarded the OBE.
Captain Williams, a Welshman from Cardiff, was still in command of the 'Dilwara' , but the OC Troops had retired and was replaced by a jovial fellow who kept very much to himself. We were the only unit aboard and he had no-one to command; our own CO was quite capable of doing that. We still had morning inspections on the promenade deck and the rest of the day was spent in fitness training, English lessons and shooting at empty beer-cans over the stern of the ship. During the afternoon, askaris busied themselves washing and drying their jungle green uniforms and pressing creases with charcoal irons on the foredeck.
Colombo looked familiar when we arrived. Bum-boats were soon alongside and a brisk trade was done with askaris who knew this would be their last opportunity to take home presents from the far east. Captain Peter Harding (later to become Major Peter Harding-Rolls) knew what he wanted and sped off in a launch in search of a special present for his girl friend. He returned an hour later with a broad grin and a pouch full of sapphires.
It took just over a week to cover the last lap of the journey to Mombasa and there was a feeling of euphoria as we relaxed in the balmy weather.
We played deck games, horse racing, liar dice and bridge. We found sunny alcoves where we could read and snoozed to the sound of wires singing in the rigging. We danced - at least some of us did, as British wives were with us again, and we had a fancy dress party. We revelled in the delicious food served aboard the 'Dilwara' and we drank gin and whisky at ridiculously cheap prices. We talked a lot about what had happened over the last eighteen months and we discussed the situation in Kenya. The Mau Mau campaign was at its height and we knew that once our askaris had taken leave, there would be another war for us to deal with, perhaps worse than the one we had left behind in Malaya.
At first light on the day of our arrival, the deck was lined with askaris anxious to catch their first view of Africa - low lying and shrouded in mist. Slowly, the 'Dilwara' steamed past the two marker buoys at the entrance to the approach channel and made its way past the many attractive white homesteads on each bank to a berth in the harbour. General Sir Cameron Nicholson, the General Officer commanding East Africa (known affectionately as 'Cammy Knicks') came aboard and said he wanted to speak to the askaris. The African Regimental Sergeant Major introduced the GOC on the Tannoy system with the words: "Sikolozeni watu wote. Bwana Mkubwa Kabisa nataka kunena wewe" ("Listen in all men. The Commander-in-Chief wants to speak to you")
There was a long pause and then our Lord and Master greeted us with: "JAMBO." We were home at last.