Saturday, June 22, 2024


 Dear Readers,

          Damp, green forest rises to a bamboo jungle and from there the heath rises to the white capped peak of Mount Kenya.

          The snow glistens for a moment in the failing light. The tropical sun drops suddenly behind the earth and there is no lingering of the brilliance that is day. A peaceful, brooding silence hangs like a cloak over this the grandest peak for a thousand miles. Somewhere in the jungle an elephant trumpets his defiance while a leopard slinks forth to kill.

          These animals were perfectly at home here but for a White man during the Mau Mau uprising it was very different. He heard a twig snap when silence reigned. He saw a bush move when there was no wind. Fear was all around him.

          Deep in a thorny thicket four bearded men sat around a smouldering ember, because, as the sun went down the 12 000 foot altitude began to chill the jungle covered slopes. In the failing light a man left his companions swinging a stick as anybody might do with a walking stick. This was his confidence booster because his attention was now divided.

          Abruptly the tangled undergrowth gave way to an orderly cypress plantation. Beneath these crowded trees the light was far worse than the dusk itself.  Here a multitude of shadows follow one another into illusion after illusion.

          This man was no stranger to these woods. The path was scarcely visible yet he followed it unerringly for some distance until he came to a track used by the trucks that fetch the timber. This he chose in preference to the winding path.

          The man’s bare feet made little sound as he walked on the damp earth. He was nervous. His eyes could not penetrate the failing light and he knew that to anyone in the shadows he was as obvious as movement is to the adder’s eye.

          He was a hundred yards or so from the end of the wood when he noticed that the trees ahead of him leaned over to touch each other above the track, throwing a dark shadow across his path. On the edge of this shadow a small bush broke up the black outline on his right.

          He swung his comforter more vigorously. This shadow worried him like an evil spirit yet he had to pass it to continue on his way.

          At four in the afternoon a small patrol left the Regati police post to ambush terrorists on the paths they commonly use when they came down from their jungle hideouts to raid the crops in the Kuku Reserve below.

          On this occasion the patrol consisted of two white officers and four black askaris. To cover as much ground as possible the party divided into two groups of four and two.

          The largest group went off to set an ambush on a path in the Reserve while an officer and an askari disappeared into a cypress plantation. There the two of them made straight for the track used by the timber lorries where deep shadows from the trees above provided the perfect setting for an ambush. A small bush helped to draw attention away from any forms lying underneath it.

          The officer lay facing the snow capped peak while the askari guarded the other approach. It was not long before the Black man was asleep. As though sensing he was all alone his white companion moved restlessly above his Bren gun. It lay half under him, with its little black button resting smugly on “automatic.”

          The silence whispered to the dull grey light while the forest creaked with a myriad of scary sounds. The White man saw a shape that was not there. He heard a noise that was his own breathing. His senses ran off with his mind and naked terror dominated his will.

          Waiting to commit murder when he might well be slaughtered while he waited was an almost superhuman strain which was bound to break this man when darkness came.

          A soft noise crept into the silence. His mind now thought this was another trick. Nearer and nearer it came. Suddenly the officer looked up and there only a few yards away stood a bearded apparition.

          The Bren came up in one dreadful arc while the Black man braced himself to die.

Mount Kenya at 17 000 feet

          In a flash the trigger jumped the bolt which for some unknown reason seemed less eager for the kill. At this moment when a piece of metal hesitated the bearded man came to life and disappeared among the trees.

          Hours later the White man told the story to the others at the Police post of how, if the “bloody gun hadn’t jammed, I would have cut my first Mau Mau to pieces.”

          Alone in his bed that night a wave of relief swept over this young officer, only just out of his teens, and he thanked God that the Bren gun did jam. In the darkness he realised that the slaughter of an unarmed man would have left a bloody stain on his mind for life, especially as a gun like that, fired at point blank range, would have left that Mau Mau man terribly butchered.



P.S. The Kenya Emergency or Mau Mau Revolt was described as “one of the British Army’s bloodiest and most controversial post-war conflicts.” The Mau Mau led an extremely violent rebellion against British rule that included terrible atrocities in which it slaughtered its own people. The majority were members of the Kikuyu tribe. Only a mere 32 white settlers, mainly farmers, were murdered during the eight years of the rebellion, while an estimated 1819 Kenyans were killed for refusing to take the Mau Mau oath, or for merely accepting colonialism. Their most notorious massacre was in 1953 when they ordered everyone in the village of Lari into their huts and set fire to them. Those who tried to escape were hacked to death with machetes….Wikipedia



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