David Buchanan

David Buchanan (N.R.P)

I have experienced a mild catharsis recalling my memories – thanks to you, therefore some of what I write may seem not relevant and long winded but, here goes!

D.O.B. 1934 No brothers or sisters

P.O.B.Near Colchester Essex on a farm on the outskirts of Thorrington.  I lived on the farm for11 years with my widowed mother and her parents  Much of this period was WW II, exciting for a youngster whose imagination was fueled by the war Tarzan and Sanders of the River type films.  Family stories of the exploits of my Grandfather as a ship’s engineer on the West Coast of Africa and the intention of my late father (RN) to take up a position at a Nigerian Power Station (but for the war) planted the seeds to go to Africa sometime in the future.

Aged 21 years

Moving on to 1955, I had completed 3 years in the British Army when I saw a recruitment advertisement placed by the Crown Agents for Asst. Insp. of Police N Rhod.  The conditions of service offered an annual salary of +/- British £600, various allowances, 6months leave every 3 years, free passages and 3weeks annual leave, plus a pension at age 45.  At the time I was earning an equivalent salary in the army and I felt that this was an opportunity not to be missed.  I was not academically minded and was a poor scholar at the various schools I had attended.   Army life for me was attractive and at the same time exciting as I had served in Berlin during the Cold War.   I expected something similar in N. Rhod.

1956 – 1960

Service in Lusaka Kafue Broken Hill.

The first month as a recruit was spent at the Mobile Unit Bwana Mkubwa – no transport, minimum free time and endless drills and the only entertainment being ‘the bar’. I was able to compare the army to the NRP – the former had a more enlightened approach to training, while the latter seemed very regimented. There was little or no contact with the African or European population with the exception of ‘Karamoja” – a  form of rugby  with the Constables.   Looking back I probably did not appreciate the methods of the Mobile Unit and its raison d’etre.  The Commissioner of Police had served in Palestine and had experienced the problems caused by shooting rioters dead, resulting in Commissions of Enquiry. The Mobile Unit were highly disciplined and used pick-helves and metal shields to break up rioting crowds Rifle fire was the last resort and every bullet had to be accounted for broken bones were acceptable, but not dead bodies!!!

The next step was as an intake with a squad to Lilayi Police Training School 13 miles outside Lusaka. More drilling parades, horse riding and inspections.  Visits to Lusaka once a fortnight and supper at the Majestic Café. Minimal contact with the civilian population.  I bought my first car – a Studebaker Champion which made visits to the capital easier.

First posting to Lusaka Central Police Station Charge Office, after  passing out from Lilayi.  Three shifts under the control of an ‘experienced’ Asst. Insp.  This was the first stop for Africans and Europeans requiring help and a Constable was on duty to translate for those not speaking English.   Only once or twice in my 10 years service did I come across a European officer who was fluent enough in the local dialect able to conduct  an in depth interrogation with an African

Suspect.  The learning of a local language was also a problem, as without passing the Lower level language examination promotion to Inspector was not possible. The language selected by the police was Chinyanga – believed to be simpler as it had a less complicated structure than other dialects The Provincial Administration  Cadets attended language classes in the UK prior to a NR posting (One up for the PA!!)  Two years later I passed the language examination at both lower and higher level but never used them.

One of the more exciting duties was the beer raids on illegal compounds situated on the outskirts of Lusaka in the bush. Often this beer brewed in 44 gallon drums was more popular with the Africans, being stronger and cheaper than that sold in the Municipal Beer Halls. A criminal element also developed in these compounds.  For fun the beer was tipped over so it flowed around the huts (after Constables had sampled the beer).


African males who could iron and do laundry were a necessity as the khaki drill uniform had to be starched and ironed to ensure smartness.  Sam Brown belts, boots and chin straps also had to be polished. Beside keeping the single quarters ablution blocks clean and ready for inspection, other jobs were found for the servants such as car cleaning. Servants acquired English names such as ‘Whisky – Neat’ ’Tombola’ and ‘Penis’ – never their tribal names which were difficult to pronounce. Female servants were engaged as ‘Nannies’ (if there were young children). The average wage for a ‘houseboy’ was about British £5 per month plus ‘scoff’  – mealie meal and ‘boys’ meat. A kia was provided at the rear of the married quarters – a common feature being the ‘long drop’ with a cold shower above.   It sounds primitive, but in comparison with an African Village hut was a step up.  Servants came from all over – Patrice (Ndola) came from the Belgian Congo whilst ‘Willie” was an ex P.C.s cook.  Patrice would clean but never cook whilst Willie never cleaned. A ‘Garden Boy’ was also employed who also had to see that there was ample wood for the stove (in the bush).

Aged 24 years

In 1958, after service in Kafue as a traffic officer, I transferred to the Special Branch.  Kafue was a ‘railway town’ populated mainly by single South African males plus a sprinkling of UK born and Continental men (plus wives). The town consisted of a garage, a hotel, several Indian owned shops, a beerhall and a Railway club. Much of the social life revolved around the hotel and Railway club, where there were tennis courts.  There was no racial integration at that time. The owner of the hotel was from the Cape who had emigrated to avoid problems with the coming apartheid system but was accepted as being ‘white’; J and his wife were good friends but unfortunately they were both killed in a car accident.

I returned to Lusaka and felt that I could make a permanent home in NR to the extent of taking out Federal Citizenship without relinquishing my British nationality. The concept of Nyasaland Southern Rhodesia and NR forming one country was promising, particularly in the face of countries gaining independence to the north “Partnership” (between the races) was the slogan. I felt optimistic.

At this time the African Nation Congress (ANC) was the principal African party calling for ‘One man One vote’ and ‘Majority rule’ led by Harry Nkumbula as President and Kenneth Kaunda as General Secretary. About this time a new name for NR was proclaimed – initially ‘Zambezia’ and almost immediately “Zambia”. Shortly the ANC split into two, with Nkumbula leading the ANC and Kaunda the Zambia African Nationall Congress (ZANC) – ZANC surged ahead whilst Nkumbula lapsed into alcoholism.  It was a busy time for SB but exciting.

Social Activity

Social activity in Lusaka was much more varied than that in Kafue – two cinemas, Amateur Dramatics, Police Club, Multiracial Club, several hotels and bars and general socializing. I recall Scottish Country Dancing, Snooker Tournaments, Tennis and casual relationships with married women – there were very few single girls, so coupled with financial constraints, competition made progress difficult.  As the African politicians became more vociferous the European Liberals wanted faster change, one being Harry Franklin, a member of Legco I recall.  Right Wing Europeans put forth their views and a paper called the Gothic Gazette came out weekly as a tabloid.

During 1958 I was posted to Broken Hill, Central Province and my beat was Chisamba, Mumbwa, Mkushi and Serenje.  I found this work in the bush amongst rural Africans rewarding as I now had a rifle and could hunt small game for the pot (and for my detectives).  I made good friends away from Broken Hill as I was only there one week in the month.    I was usually accommodated by the PA or the Officer i/c NRP in the rural districts.  For them I was able to claim subsistence allowance.

At this time ZANC was pursuing a policy of violence and was determined to crush all opposition.  The Governor Sir A Benson  called ZANC akin to ‘Murder Incorporated’ and proscribed the organization.  He issued Restriction Orders on the ZANC leadership, who now had to remove to remote areas far from the line of rail.  Kaunda was restricted to Kabompo in the North Western Province (about 400 miles from the Copperbelt). This area was unpoliticised, as was the next  district Balovale.   Within a short time Kaunda had remerged as President the United National Independence Party (UNIP) and established rural branches in Kabompo and Balovale with the aid of financial backing (for vehicles and paid officials ) from who knows where.  Rural areas fell under the sole control of the PA and there was no NRP presence.  The PA were confident that their District Messengers were capable of administering the law (such as cattle dipping).  These men were from a bygone era,  very loyal but unsophisticated.  This situation did change, but by that time it was too little too late as UNIP became very dominant  all over the country.

1959 (Aged 25 years

I had completed my first 3 year tour and was now entitled to 6 months paid leave.  Long leave was granted I imagine to compensate officers who had served in unhealthy stations and this period would enable them to recover their health.  I was lucky as NR for me was a healthy place and I had not contracted any of the ‘nasties’, such as malaria tick-bite fever or bilharzia. I was fortunate to meet my wife, Pat, and we married towards the end of my leave, being eligible for married rate passages back to NR.  The next posting was Ndola.   A  brand new house was allocated to us at a low rental with basic heavy furniture.  We had brought much with us on the boat with the exception of curtains, carpets and refrigerator.  Patrice was engaged as a house boy and stayed in our employment for the next three years.  The house on Bedford Crescent was approximately 4 miles from my office.   Still being on an Asst Insp salary grade, money was always short –  car HP was more than the rent.  Pat went back to teaching and I passed the language examination – promotion to Inspector at last!!  We made lifelong friends in Ndola through the Tennis Club and Card evenings, but as we did not live in the Police camp we moved in a different circle.  TV had just begun and I recall Saturday evening watching ‘Little House on the Prairie’.


My work mostly related to UNIP, but occasionally there was Close Escort duties to perform for visiting politicians such as Sir Roy Welensky and during September 1961 President Moise Tshombe of Katanga (Belgian Congo). Tshombe was scheduled to meet the Secretary General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold at the Provincial Commissioner’s home in Ndola to discuss secession Lord Alport was also present.  The PC’s house was situated on the brow of a hill and one had an excellent view of Ndola and the forest area towards Mufulira. A/Supt Alec Ness was in charge of the Close Escort.  The presence of SB at the PC’s house was  only Close Escort of the dignitaries.   At times Alec and I looked towards Mufulira casually scanning the skies for Hammarskjold’s aircraft.  One was spotted, in the sense that the red and green wing tip lights were seen.  I recall it was a particularly dark night, except when forked lightning struck particularly in forest area. No particular notice was taken of the one aircraft and we were told to stand down, as it was believed Hammarskjold’s aircraft had been diverted away from Ndola.   Tshhombe and his family departed – on his arrival some time earlier when he had driven from the airport to the PC’s house Tshombe had been cheered enthusiastically by the group of Belgian refugees who saw him as a hope for their future in Katanga.

When I look back on this little piece of history and the consequences that have evolved in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a result of Hammarskjold’s death and Tshombe’s murder one wonders ‘What If’.

There have been several explanation for the aircraft crash ranging from pilot error, sabotage shooting down by a Fouga jet of the Katangese Airforce etc.   I have two explanations:  firstly that the aircraft was struck by lightning and secondly the pilot mistook the sodium lights along the Ndola main road (Broadway)  for the Ndola Airport runway lights and began the descent too soon.  The petrol tanks would have been low in fuel and very volatile. The aircraft hit the top of the forest trees and the wing tanks ruptured bursting in a fireball.   A visit to the scene showed the aircraft parts spread over a large area and all severely damaged by fire. Three Commissions of Enquiry were held but non were conclusive in the cause of the crash.  The politicians had a field day promoting their own theories as to the cause of the crash   Approximately two weeks ago our local Times newspaper published a short report stating that the Hammarskjold crash enquiry might be reopened.

Aged 34 years

Moving on to 1964, after 6 months overseas leave we were posted to Balovale (now Zambezia).  This was a most pleasant place to be as it was 500 miles from the Copperbelt and superiors about 150 miles away.  They made sporadic visits – mainly to enjoy the tiger fishing on the Zambezi River .   There was a NRP launch with an outboard motor and the fish were good sport.  Another activity was visiting the Guarda Fiscal at Caripande on the Angola border and visits into Angola courtesy of the Portuguese Army. The civil war in Angola was a few years away but the rumblings had started.   The tribespeople on the NR side of the border were very traditional and good people; I liked them.  We had another child  also born in Ndola  Then, after 18 months of rural bliss, a posting to Kitwe. There I realized that Independence that coming October was a reality.   Federation had been dissolved at the end of 1963 and Kaunda was the new Prime Minister.  He came to Balovale shortly before we left and was flying on to Mwinilunga.  His aircraft was reported overdue and I had visions of him being lost in the bush –  The District Officer was nearly out of his mind with worry   However it was all much ado about nothing!!!

I was determined to take the opportunity to accumulate capital with the enhanced payments for those transferring to the Zambia Police.  I was now a Det.Ch.Insp. earning a good salary and could look forward to retiring sometime in the future when I decided.  I then intended to stay on in Zambia, starting a business or farming in a small way. Alternatively I could return to UK and buy a  smallholding or village post office.  We proceeded on leave in March 1966 and expected to take up a posting to Livingstone on our return Rhodesian independence had occurred  in November 1965 and my hopes were that some form of cooperation between Rhodesia and Zambia was possible as the two countries were economically intertwined.  In July 1966 I was informed that I, together with 13 other mainly SB officers, had been ‘Retired in the Public Interest’ and I could not return to Zambia – some I believe were taken into custody and put over the border.  This caused a serious problem for me and my family – to say the least I was devastated.

Many officers who had elected to stay on now resigned, leaving large gaps in the police structure.  I don’t think that I fully understood Africanization and the Africans’ desire for immediate promotion in the Police and Civil Service generally.  We were fortunate in having our capital intact, but planning for the future eluded me.  My mind perpetually returned to the past and what I had lost.  It took me about 10 years to overcome this problem and the ability to think back realistically.   I also spent more on alcohol than I should have done and my health has suffered as a result.  But eventually life turned for the better, I had a good job and then bought a  small holding.   I worked hard for 10 years and had a stroke of good fortune with a subdivision of the land.   Animals and the growing of vegetables are wonderful ways of calming the soul and milking a cow is very relaxing.   I still think about the times in NR and I have found it better to control my nostalgia by avoiding re-unions.

The question I ask myself is this – was it the right decision to go to NR ?  On balance the answer is in the affirmative as I came to develop an affinity for the country  and its people.  I will always wish them well but remain sceptical with regard to the motives of Zambian politicians, so would not visit even if I could (being a PI).

My wife Pat tells me her father intended to emigrate to Kenya in the 1930’s and she intended to take up a post in S. Rhodesia in1954.  When we became engaged to be married several friends and relatives advised her of the dangers of going to Africa and the unpleasant relationship between Africans and Europeans in NR   She found the opposite to be true.