We had these two Kikuyu houseboys from the moment we came to Kenya, they were very faithful to us and would always look after me, often accompanying me along potentially dangerous roads. Benson the cook had never wanted to attack us, but was made to do it by the Mau-Mau. It can’t have been anything else as he didn’t steal anything.
About a week previously an African had knocked on the door and asked me to help him. I asked Benson if he would take him to the office and get some help for him, and he said ‘No’, so I took him. We had an arrangement with Benson that if he wanted a lift into Mombasa on a Sunday we would take him on our way to Mass and back. One day Benson asked my father if he could have an advance on his wages which happened all the time. This time however he wanted more than usual and my father agreed. Benson made his own way back, and the following morning the attack happened, and when the police questioned Benson he had no money on him, so clearly he had passed the money on to someone. At we think that at this point he was given instructions on what to do. The Mau-Mau had a terrible hold on these people, because their wives and children were still upcountry and of course could be easily threatened with death.
It was in the early morning. Benson the house boy had called my mother into the kitchen on some pretence or other, and when he got her into the kitchen he attacked her with a ‘panga’ (a long bladed knife like a machete). Following this, he went into my bedroom and attacked me in bed, hitting my leg. I covered my face with my hands, which is how my hand was damaged. There was no phone in the house, but there was one in the office, about 100 yards away. Somehow I got up and made my way towards the office, and came across my mother who had the same thought. The Africans in the office were terrified and didn’t know what to do. I managed to get on the phone to the head office in Mombasa and they sent the ambulance. Two of the staff at the head office came by car, arriving before the ambulance.
The damage to my left hand was quite complicated, as all the bones in the back of my hand were broken, and most of my fingers. My thumb was badly cut off, and the surgeon said that he would ‘sew it back on and see what happens!’ I had very limited use of my fingers until an operation I had in England some years later in about 1964 when they transplanted a tendon into my hand to give me better dexterity. Up to then I could only really use my fingers like a claw.
My mother was badly injured in her right hand (she was right handed), as she was covering her face and had terrible facial injuries particularly to her nose.
After the attack Benson tried to commit suicide by pulling all the electricity cables off the wall to electrocute himself, he survived but burnt his hands very badly. He was arrested and tried, it was an awful ordeal for all of us. I was 16 and had to stand up and testify in court. At first he was sentenced to death by hanging as it was treated as a Mau-Mau crime, my mother broke down in tears in the court, saying she didn’t want that. However, later it was dealt with as a civil crime and it was commuted to a life sentence. He would have been released by independence some years later, perhaps earlier.
The PWD found us a house near the hospital which meant we could walk to the clinic. So we moved from the flat in Tudor.
When I was in hospital in Mombasa there was an elderly lady in the ward, Mrs Webb, her son Peter came every day to visit her. We were in hospital six weeks, during that time my mother and I got to know her pretty well. Knowing that I was left handed and injured in my left hand, Peter said that if when I left hospital and found it difficult work, to let him know and he would see if he could help.
It was a little while after leaving hospital that I contacted him and he got me a job at Smith McKenzies, where he was the accountant. I started work in the postal section, opening and sorting letters and ensuring they went to the correct department. Some time later when my hand had improved, they put me on the telephone switchboard. It was one of the old ones, where you physically connected people’s calls with cables. Then I got a job as a secretary working for the East African Railways and Harbours (EAR&H), although I couldn’t do much typing. I had a good reference from Smith McKenzie’s.
I had a serious boyfriend, Peir in Kenya, a Danish chap, when I was 18 or 19. He was working in Mombasa and we used to go dancing at Nyali Beach Hotel, every Wednesday and Saturday until we returned from Kenya when I was 20 in 1957, when my fathers contract had expired.
After I had been working for Smith McKenzie for a year, I moved to Uganda for a while. Tony was working for a chap, who was running the Enfield Cable’s franchise, and then they took on the Perkins Diesel franchise and they wanted someone to run that. I was still quite limited in what I could do because of my hand, but this was basically ordering spares and getting them out to who ever needed them. I was there for about a year before I moved back to Mombasa and got a job as a typist with East African Railways and Harbours for about a year before we left Kenya. I was working with a girl called Barbara Bailey, who because Brian’s girlfriend.
Here is some cine film that Tony took of Murchison Falls, in Uganda.
My father had just done four years non stop in Kenya, and my mother and brothers wanted him to take a break, so we returned to the UK by boat, going the long way around the cape, it took six weeks. I didn’t have a camera in those days, so my brother Tony lent one to me for the trip.
Since we didn’t have our own home in England, we intended to live with my mother’s sister although it would be rather cramped. So we took the long way home, which was six weeks by sea, around the South Cape of Africa on the SS Kenya Castle.
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