London Bath Bristol and Rhodesia
After returning to the UK with some capital, my parents invested wisely in some long lease London properties in Belgravia – first in Chester Row and then in Eaton Terrace – followed by Lyncombe Hill in Bath – and whilst living in the properties, they devoted their energies to improving, redecorating and modernising each until they had enough money circa 1964/65 to buy my mother’s dream home – Acacia House, Chew Magna Near Bristol (in Somerset)
This was a large house with spacious cellars and many bedrooms, with it’s own grounds, and orchard, sloping down to the local small river. I remember the purchase price was £9000 and for my mother. this was what she had been waiting for since the end of the War – her own country house in the UK.
However, the dream was not to last. Money was still tight, and my father had secured a job in Bristol working for Harveys, and my mother had a job working as PR Officer for GB Brittons – a shoe manufacturer with a factory near Bristol. But she was not at all happy with her life at the time and had started drinking – to such an extent that she lost her job and was hospitalised for a period.
Following this experience, her sister Iris, who had also “upped sticks” to Africa with her family after her husband (Bam) had died – suggested that she come out to Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) to recuperate. To cut a long story short – after a few months my mother told my father that if he wanted to see her again he would have to sell the house and come to Rhodesia – which he duly did in 1970 (or thereabouts).
Whilst I never lived in Rhodesia for long (my longest trip was 3 months) I did get to know and love the country, and I had the chance to make a number of trips because I was no longer in the RAF, and therefore in charge of my own destiny.
My parents now lived in Salisbury (now Harare), and did the same thing as they had done so successfully in London – “doing up” one house and then moving to another. My father managed to get another Pensions Department job (I know he falsified his age to qualify) and they were much better off financially with better facilities and servants than in Uganda, and my mother’s drinking was under control.
Rhodesia had a different climate to Uganda and had a different topography – with some highland areas. Like Uganda, it had Game Reserves and lakes and was a wonderful place to live if you enjoyed sporting activities and the outdoor life – which I did! Two of my cousins lived there at the time – Robin (Iris’ second son) and Jackie (daughter of my mother’s third sister Rita). Robin was in the property business and had a horse ranch just north of Salisbury, and Jackie was married to Chris Dunn, a local farmer and professional jockey. It was where I learnt to ride, which culminated in taking one of Robin’s racehorses (Brigadier was the name of the horse) round the local Salisbury race track at full gallop. I am certain that Health and Safety would not have approved, but I loved the experience.
In 1965, Rhodesia had declared UDI under Prime Minister Ian Smith against the wishes of the UK Government. In 1970, it declared itself a Republic. Whilst my parents were there and during my visits, there were incidents of insurgence and armed conflict: most of the “white” males were involved in the Army – and at least two of my previous colleagues at RAF Cranwell – Ian Rodwell and Richard Calder 96 D – were actively involved in the Rhodesian Airforce.
I have many fond memories of Rhodesia, but with Independence in 1979/1980, my parents returned to the UK.
And that was the end of my life in Africa, although I have since visited or holidayed in South Africa and North Africa.