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Terry and Kathy and their two sons.

Michael (standing) and Timmy

England 1964

I still used to see Hector from time to time and one day he asked me if I would like to drive his “Toppolino”. It was quite ancient when he had it, but he had managed to keep it on the road quite successfully, possibly because of the facilities which were available to him from the MES workshops. I drove the little “heap”, but while I was changing gear the bloody gear-stick came off into my hand. Hector was not in the least perturbed, he grabbed the stick from me and, waving it around, shouted a couple of “ride ‘em cowboys” and then calmly put it back into place. What liberties one could take in those days!

When we left Kamptee we were transferred to Bolarum, just outside Secunderabad. There I met an old friend, Reggie Parks, whose father was in the RIAOC [1] . We had first met in Quetta before the war. We became firm chums again and each day we used to ride out together on our bikes. Sometimes it was just riding aimlessly or visiting this girl I had met at a dance. Her mother used to invite Reg and myself to lunch or to “spend the day” but, try as I could I never made any headway with her and naturally dubbed her as a “snooty” bitch. Mostly at other times we went to the Secunderabad Club for a swim. It was a really relaxed time. Reg joined the army and came to England where I met him again in 1953. We have remained friends over all these years though we don’t see each other too often nowadays. But in fact, Reg is my longest standing friend, over 60 years now.


Our first house in Bolarum was a veritable palace with some forty or fifty rooms. Most of them were never used and just remained empty other than for occupation by some of the servants who Dad had allowed to stay in them. The grounds were of about eight acres and contained an enormous well which was equipped with steps which spiralled down its wall and into the now-stagnant waters fifty feet below. Its occupants were a family of snakes, and in holes where there had once been bricks, a couple of kingfishers had made their nests. I wanted to examine the nests for eggs but the crafty birds had built them so that they were out of normal reach when you were standing on any of the steps.

The “giant” well in the garden of our house in Bolarum — 1947

Me seated on the steps of the well.

One day, our inside bearer came rushing into the house shouting “Sahib, sahib, sahib.” At least that is what I thought he was shouting. Actually, he was saying “saap [2] , saap, saap.” And in one of the many godowns there, to be sure, was an eight foot crinket. I equipped myself with a stick of the “regulation” shape — according to the prescription of the McCann brothers, it had to be about five feet in length and have a six- or seven-inch stump of a branch at its end. I had used one before and so there was no difficulty in finding one.

I re-opened the door of the godown with the bearer standing outside trembling with fear. “Muth maaro [3] , muth maar daalo [4] , sahib.”, he pleaded with me as I approached the snake with the stick held forward.

Generally speaking, Indians do not like to kill or hurt or see living creatures killed, but to see the cruelty with which they treat their own beasts of burden, buffaloes, cows, camels and elephants, you would never know it. I had never really seen a crinket completely cornered before and was surprised to see this one raise itself in an attacking stance, fully four or five feet up, and balance on the remainder of its body. I swung at its head and it dropped into a defensive position whereupon, I quickly jammed the forked end of the stick onto its neck and the job was complete. I only had to grab it firmly behind the head, ignoring its body entwined around my arm and the peristalsis in its muscles, take it outside and chop its head off.

I had wanted to make a belt of its skin and so I carefully skinned it and laid it out to dry for a day or two, amply covered with saltpetre. But it began to stink to high heaven and even though I put lots of “Aqua Velva” shaving lotion on it to try and get rid of the smell, I had, eventually, to dump it and forget about the belt.


When we lived in the “palace”, Dad started to bring lots of novels back to the house. They were specially printed editions of “Penguin” and other well-known publishing houses which were for the Forces. I could polish off a novel each day. My special favourites were the detective novels of Peter Cheyney and his ‘tec, “Slim” Callaghan, who always encountered the most beautiful women during the course of the novels.

The women were often clad in thin silk kimonos when they came to the door to meet him and wore “mules”, sexy slippers, which they would slowly slip off when they curled up on the settee in their living rooms.

But, most of all I admired the tough and cool style of “Slim” Callaghan himself who used to have a quick shower and then “splash some eau de cologne into his hair while he downed four fingers of whisky. He smoked a cigarette, carefully extracted from his gold cigarette-case and, looking into the mirror of the dressing-table in his bedroom, watched the smoke curl up into his nostrils as he slowly let it trickle out of his mouth.”

Sometimes “Slim” would blow a smoke-ring and so I learned to blow smoke-rings too. Whenever he was in London and needed to pass some time waiting around, he would go into a news theatre and look at some cartoons and the Path news. I decided that I would do that when I got to London. Then he would get into his open-top Bentley and roar off to his next appointment, again, more often than not, with some beautiful woman by his side. I must have read every single one of Peter Cheyney’s novels, some of them more than once.


Our second house in Bolarum was newly built and of a flat modern design. We had four bedrooms, a lounge and a dining room plus the usual servants’ quarters in the grounds, and a magnificent garden surrounding the place. The maali, who had a smattering of English and a wife who was also a gardener, was very proud to say to Dad, “Sir, I am a good maali and I will look after your front-side. My wife will look after your back-side.”

That reminds me of another howler that happened in Abu. One of the princes, — not one I must tell you, of the several who had been educated in English public schools, — had once been at a prize-giving ceremony in the town. At the end of a speech which he gave in somewhat broken English, he thanked the sponsors for inviting him to dish out the silverware.

“I am most grateful to you for your kind invitation and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And because my wife cannot be here today, I thank you from her bottom too.”


From Bolarum, Dad and I often went to the Secunderabad Club on our bikes for a Sunday morning ride and then a swim. After that we used to come home and Dad would sit sunbathing in the front garden in his shorts. I remembered that prior to going to England as far back as 1938, Dad had commandeered a room in the house in Quetta, which was next to the dining room. Nobody went in there except Dad and each day he would do a series of exercises designed to get some weight off and tighten up a bit of flab. Now, nearly ten years later, it was quite obvious that he was trying to get himself into shape again and get a tan as well. The time was fast approaching when we would get our marching orders from India.


Some weeks later the movement orders came. Dad and the family were due to leave in 1948 and I was to go ahead immediately he had secured a passage for me. A peon was despatched to Madras to get me a passport and on Indian Independence Day, the 15 August, 1947, my movement order came through.

It was the custom for most of the military and their families to go to the Embarkation Unit in Deolali Camp for allocation of passages. Normally, there was a delay of two to three weeks in the Camp before one’s passage came through.

But when I arrived in the Camp I met up with an old friend whom I had known in Abu. Roy Stevens was a Lawrence College student at the time and had been in Bangalore when Sean and I had gone there in December 1946. In addition, there was another lad of the same age as we were, also the son of an Indian Army officer. We were all billeted together and hoped to be on the same boat bound for England.

Living as men without our parents was a great life. We were now seventeen years old and like so many university students in their first year, we felt we were the “tops”. The camp was like a holiday camp ; all our meals were prepared in the camp kitchens and served to us in the dining hall. We had some travelling allowances and felt we could indulge our fancies. There was a movie in the town nearly every day and in addition we would spend hours and hours on the billiard and snooker tables in the camp at night.

We met a young officer who was a good snooker player and started enjoying his company for a game or two. He worked in the camp radio studio and when he asked if we would like to “get a programme of your favourite music together and come and present it on the radio yourselves…” we were very pleased. We put a show on each afternoon and took it in turn to do the “presentations.”

After a month or so, our parents began to wonder why there was such a long delay in getting us shipped out, and complained bitterly to the camp commandant and the RTO [5] . The delay had been because we had got ourselves jobs as disc jockeys on the local radio and it had been taken for granted that we were in no hurry to leave. It only took a day or two after a series of parental complaints before we were allocated space on a troop ship bound for England.


For all its filth, poverty, corruption and the many other “distastefuls”, I love India. Most of the other blokes whom I have met since I left and who were there during the dying days of empire, love it profoundly too. They, like myself, have this deep-seated feeling that it is really part of our heritage and we must not easily and perniciously cast it aside.

Unfortunately, we ex-pats are a dying breed. At Independence, having been told that we were not wanted in India, we all took off in different directions. Some came to the UK, others went to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Africa. Still others went to other parts of the then Raj. It was a mass forced exodus in such a short period and unlike any other “ethnic-cleansing” ever undergone. No, we were not murdered, but no pretence was made of the fact that anyone who was not “Indian” and, particularly if they had British connections, were unwelcome. Life in parts of the country became very difficult for many, especially women, not a few of whom eventually, almost of necessity, married locally and took to wearing saris.

Of course, we are welcomed back as tourists, but it is almost impossible to live there permanently. In order to enter, we still have to get limited-stay visas and get out before they expire.

In 1947, my father had said to me. “Mark my words, son. Independence is a sell-out to the rich and corrupt. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. The politicians say they want ‘self-determination’ for the populace, but what they really want is to get their hands into the cash-till. In their thieving and corrupt hands the country will go backwards and not return, even to its present level of development and democracy, before the end of the century.”

Fifty two years after Indian Independence, it is now nearly the 21st century.

How right you were, Dad.

Mum and Dad 1971

Mum aged 94

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[1] Royal Indian Army Ordnance Corps.

[2] Snake.

[3] “Don’t hit it.”

[4] “Don’t kill it.”

[5] Railways Traffic Officer.


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