Alnwick Probus Club, August meeting

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UGANDAN MEMORIES: The Alnwick area is home to people with an astonishing diversity of talent and experience. In recent months Alnwick Probus Club has had local speakers covering subjects from bell ringing to the history of forestry, and from air traffic management to Harry Hotspur.

The August meeting of the club brought more surprises when Derek Barnes, a member and resident of Alnwick, spoke of his experiences as a senior police officer in the Ugandan Police Force during the 1950s when Uganda was a British Crown Protectorate.

Derek had experienced life in the Middle East immediately after the Second World War when he was in the British Army.

On his return to the UK he found office life in the capital very mundane and answering an advertisement in a national newspaper he joined the Ugandan Police Force where he eventually rose to the rank of Senior Superintendent.

He described a beautiful verdant country where all manufactured goods had to come into the country by rail, bananas and cotton grew prolifically and wildlife such as leopards and flamingoes were abundant.

Uganda is about the size of England and Scotland, and during the 1950s travel was by car on dirt roads, although a railway line did go down through Kenya via Nairobi to Mombasa. Consequently communications were slow and often perilous.

While Derek was in Uganda, Mau Mau were terrorising adjacent Kenya and he slept with a revolver under his pillow.

Most of his duties dealt with traffic control, murder, which was common, and for a while settling refugees fleeing from the chaotic, abandoned Belgian Congo.

He described a prosperous country which he left in the early 1960s on independence. Sadly conditions deteriorated under the murderous regime of Idi Amin, when many fine colleagues of Derek where eliminated. Fortunately things have since improved and Uganda now has one of the most stable administrations in the African continent.

The September meeting of Alnwick Probus Club will hear a talk by Gordon Castle Escape to Berlin.

Any prospective members should contact Bill Bland, 01669 620572, or at bland.thropton@tiscali.co.uk