Wednesday, 13 October 2010




In the first place it is very essential that we pay tribute to the B.S.A. Police Force for the great part they have played in the advancement of Manicaland. Their dauntless spirit and fearless acceptance of stressful periods have helped our land through times of adversity.

All this has stood them in good stead, and the Rhodesian community has always regarded the Force with great respect. Their competence undoubtedly emanates from discipline and the desire to preserve the tradition of the renowned B.S.A. Police Force.

Let us consider the formation of the B.S.A. Police. In 1889 when the newly formed B.S.A. Company came into existence, six hundred men were enlisted on a military basis for the protection of civilians under Lieutenant Colonel Pennefather. These men eventually became the nucleus of the Force. The first records published in the Official Year Book on the Colony of Southern Rhodesia offers the following . information as regards Manicaland during the period. 1924 - 1928.

There were two officers in the District Police of Umtali, nine N.C.O's, eighteen troopers and sixty six African Police. The town police had one officer, eight N.C.O's and twenty troopers and constables and thirty eight African Police. The Criminal Investigation Department for the whole of Rhodesia had four officers, twenty seven N.C.O's, six detectives, and forty one African Police. The rate of pay for First Class Warrant Officers on application was three hundred and eighty five pounds per annum. After three years, four hundred pounds prr annum. Second Class Warrant Officers three hundred and sixty pounds to three hundred and seventy five pounds per annum! A Sergeant-Major received three hundred and thirty six to three hundred and fifty pounds per annum, Sergeants three hundred to three hundred and fifty pounds per annum, Corporals two hundred and sixty to two hundred and eighty' pounds per annum and Troopers one hundred and fifty pounds, for the first year, one hundred and sixty eight pounds for the second year and after ten years two hundred and forty pounds per annum.

Apart from what has already been written about the B.S.A. Police, in its early stages and its outstanding contribution towards the making of the country of ours, I must say a little more about the B.S.A. Police's unbroken record of devoted service.

In 1896 Philip George Stockley became Sub-Inspector of Umtali District, while Randolph Nesbitt V.C. .became Inspector of Melsetter District, and on 17th December 1896 he became Inspector and took over command of troops in Umtali. However, Inspector Stockley was a keen sportsman, and he appears in a photograph of old Umtali cricketers of 1895. He was then a Lieutenant. Previous to this there seems to be no record of those in command in the early days. It was early in 1896 that we hear of the police having to deal with an unusual incident. A Hottentot named William Kuba, fraudulently collected tax money from the Africans in the Inyanga District, for which he was issuing written receipts. As he was known to be armed, it was feared he would resist arrest. A detachment of police led by Inspector John de Gray Birch was sent out to arrest him, and tho Native Commissioner,

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Mr. T.B. Hulley who was well acquainted with the district, also accompanied the party from Umtali. The rivers were in flood and the only method of crossing them was to swim over, alongside one's horse. However, de Gray Birch could not swim, and when the detachment arrived at the Odzani, a very formidable and swift running river when in spate, he determined, as he was in charge, to get to the opposite bank. After the party was secure on the other side all the bridles were joined together and de Gray Birch was tied round the waist to the end of the improvised rope, and was pulled across. This was managed with difficulty as in the process of being dragged, the party pulling at the opposite end had to run down the bank whilst doing it. Unfortunately, they ran into trouble as there was a tributary in their way and they fell into it. When all had recovered they grabbed hold of the reins once more and started pulling. De Gray Birch was still attached to the other end! He was eventually landed on the opposite bank, half drowned and in need of artificial respiration. Eventually, after reaching Inyanga, William Kuba's movements were secretly and suspiciously watched until one night the hut in which he lived was surrounded in the early hours of the morning when Mr. Hulley entered the hut alone and found William asleep with a loaded rifle and revolver next to him. Mr. Hulley drew his own revolver and said Come along William, we want you" and William replied, "Good God. Bassie, is dat you?" It transpired that William had been a farm hand on a farm near Grahamstown where Mr. Hulley had spent a good deal of his boyhood. Also, Mr. Hulley had taught William to read and write. This, unfortunately, enabled him to issue receipts for his illicit tax collection. He had hidden all the money and refused to reveal the hiding place.

He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment at the Cape Town breakwater gaol, but during the bubonic plague outbreak in 1902 he did such good work, that he was reprieved. Later it was learnt that he was once again in the Umtali district and the Magistrate's Court interpreter, Tom Dhliamini was detached to ply William with drink at to tell where he had hidden the money. Tom Dhliamini , after an absence of three days, appeared with a terrific hangover and ruefully admitted that Williams head was stronger than his own! Needless to say, by that time William Kuba had disappeared and he was not heard of again.

There is no doubt that during the rainy season as there no bridges, the police faced great difficulties when on patrols. The OC's insisted that the horses received every care. One trooper remarked that the powers that be were more concerned about their horses than they were of the men. The orders were that should a horse die through illness or drowning, or through an accident while on patrol, a detailed report was necessary and with the report must be the horse's hoof cut off from the animal, bearing its number which was branded on the hooves of all police horses.

On one occasion a trooper ran into difficulties whilst crossing a river in spate. On arrival at the river he was determined to fulfil his duties and get to the other side spick and span, so he undressed and after regulating the bridle and after crossing his stirrups and placing them over the saddle, tied his clothes on top. His horse first refused to plunge into the raging water, but after giving him a rap over the buttocks the horse jumped in and made for the opposite bank. The trooper, being a good swimmer, followed.

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Unfortunately for him, when he got across the horse refused to have anything to do with him, and whenever he approached the animal simply, put his head down and trotted off. The trooper was in a predicament, as not far off was the homestead he had been ordered to visit, and find out if the owner had any complaints to make. However, the young policeman, being a resourceful person, made for the bush whilst the horse, seeing the homestead in sight, trotted off in its direction. The trooper pulled off a few branches of greenery from the shrubs and with the aid of some pliable bark made himself a rough kilt.

When he knocked at the door the farmer's wife opened it and on seeing the ludicrous figure, gasped and shouted for her husband. He had managed to catch the horse in his back yard and seeing the uniform tied on the saddle he was alarmed and concluded the rider had been drowned. One can imagine his relief on seeing the harassed visitor at his front door. In fits of laughter, realising what had taken place, he opened wide the door, confronting the half-naked young man with the query, "Any complaints to make?"

It was very unusual for the District Police to travel on their own. They were allotted posts in the main centres and in remote areas usually a sergeant in charge with two or three troopers under him, and their half a dozen or so African police. Some of these distant posts were very inaccessible, especially in the rainy season, and right off the beaten tracks. When making patrols from their stations they travelled on horseback in single file, mainly along paths with a donkey or two following after them laden with their paraphernalia, and two or three African police on foot. At one time police horsesbecame scarce owing to horse sickness, and mules had to be used. One of the police members considered himself degraded as he was a noted horseman and immediately protested and wrote to his Commanding Officer. Finally he received a reply, which stated: "Do you realise that a Greater Man than you once rode a donkey?".

The police visited remote spots down the Sabi Valley and into Native Reserves where no white people had ever been before, and very often found native kraals unoccupied. The natives had ample time to hear of the approaching patrol and had, therefore, vanished into the hills, awaiting the departure of the intruders. However, in time the Africans gradually learnt that the police were there to protect them, and were not a threat to their way of life.

Whilst on patrol the farmers gave the police patrols shelter and assisted them in every way possible. On one occasion the police had to go round and summon farmers to appear in Court, a very unpleasant job for them. The reason for this was that the farmers refused to comply with Government regulations whereby farmers were obliged to pay to the Government a percentage of the African wages. This order was very distasteful to them, and they were determined to resist it with all their might. They immediately decided on 'passive resistance' as a method. The result was that the farmers were brought to justice and were convicted. Although the Magistrates were lenient and fines were at a minimum, the farmers refused to pay, and were convicted and sent to gaol for short periods. But the women were more affected than the men, and with tears in .their eyes, could not resist backing up their husbands. It all ended in a fiasco and the farmers got their way.

Before proceeding further lot us consider the police and their duties when New Umtali came into being. During the building of the

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Umtali-Beira railway Mr. Varian describes a man named Mr. 0'Flahertywho attempted to shoot a lion from a station shack, using goat as bait placed at the entrance gate. When it was Mr. Varian's turn to take shift he dozed, and when he awoke the lion had taken the bait and gone, much to Mr. 0'Flaherty's annoyance. However, afterwards, Mr. O'Flaherty left the railway and became warden of the Umtali Gaol. Never were prisoners so smart. He drilled and marched them in proper military formation, with shouldered picks and shovels. One side of the stream which bordered Umtali was being cleared for a park. The work was done with prison labour. Whilst engaged on this task an amusing incident took place. One afternoon after several months of unblemished record, at the end of the day's work there was no guard! He had taken far too much alcoholic drink. The two European prisoners in the party ordered the Africans to 'fall in' and marched them smartly back to the prison, carrying their warden with them! However, the Rev, Roxburgh took pity on the warden when he was out of a job and asked Mr. Varian to reinstate him. Fortunately Mr. Varian was able to do so and after this O'Flaherty never again defected from his duties.

In those early days in Umtali the police constables had weird responsibilities. For example, when Mr. Wood's sow and her litter spent the night in the gaol! Mr. Wood was obliged to walk to the Drill Hall to attend a Volunteer parade and found, on arrival there, that his sow and her litter of six had followed him It was too late to turn back and so he asked the police to look after them for the night. They obliged and locked them up in one of the cells.

Another responsibility was the ambulance. When an accident occurred, the ambulance was summoned immediately. This vehicle stood on the verandah outside the Charge Office. It boasted solid rubber tyres on its three high spoked wheels. Attached to the single front wheel was a long handle. The patient was placed in the stretcher and covered with a blanket. One policeman took the guiding handle attached to the front wheel, two other men, one on each side, did the pushing. The hospital was built on a kopje overlooking the town. This was supposed to be a safeguard against malaria, but proved uphill work for the police who were somewhat exhausted on arrival and willingly delivered their patient to the nurses.

A crime which occurred fairly frequently at that time was arson, when buildings were heavily insured. This usually happened at stores, and as the buildings were wood and iron with floor boards, they were very inflammable. In the case of' arson all that was required was paraffin, a few rags and a candle. The candle was lit under the floor boards with the rags around its base, then all you had to do was to get on your horse or in your cart and hurriedly make your departureand await results. On one occasion there was a rather naive individual unable to read or write, who owned a store some way out of Umtali. He pre-arranged that his African storekeeper sent him a telegram a day or so after he left. On receiving the telegram at the Post Office, he held it upside down and remarked in a loud anguished voice, "Good God,my store has been burned down". However, when the police investigated they found the store intact, and all his efforts to destroy the store had failed. The candle flame had blown out and prevented the rags from igniting] The result was that the owner was convicted. It was a serious crime and he was sent to gaol. This case more or less put a stop to arson.

Before ending this chapter lot us record notable characters and their activities which furthered advancement in the famous B.S.A. Police.

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As previously mentioned, George Stockley was the Sub-Inspector who was transferred from Old Umtali to New Umtali in 1896.

On the 29th November, 1896 the famous Randolph Cosby Nesbitt, who justly received the Victoria Cross whilst on the Mazoe Patrol, was transferred to Manicaland and stationed in Melsetter, but soon after that the authorities reconsidered their decision. It is recorded that he took over command of the troops in Umtali. He married Mary Susan Sanders, and in partnership with Mr. T.B. Hulley, the Native Commissioner and a Magistrate, bought a large portion of the Vumba then known as Scandinavia.

On 20th October, 1899 we first hear-of Sub-Inspector Cashel who was seconded from service with the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers to act as Adjutant and while so acting, held the rank of Captain. His next stop was when he was appointed District Superintendent in 1913. On the 24th November, 1914 he received further promotion and became Major R. Cashel and was appointed acting Camp Commandant, 2nd Rhodesia Contingent. He ended up his career as Lt. Col. R. Cashel and on his retirement, settled on a farm on the indirect route from Umtali to Melsetter, with magnificent mountain scenery, ample water and fertile valleys. This area was named after him.

The next personality we hear about is A.J. Tomlinson. He arrived in Rhodesia in 1894 as a trooper in Bechuanaland Border Police, He attested as a trooper in the Mashonaland Mounted Police in 1894. Their uniform in those days was a dark grey cord tunic and breaches with black field boot's and grey felt hat, the left-rim turned pp with a badge. In 1895 Tomlinson was unlucky and was involved in the Jameson Raid which we all know ended in disaster. In 1910 he was stationed in Umtali, and one day in September a telegram arrived asking him to command the B.S.A. Police, Coronation Contingent, at the Coronation of George V in 1911, which he did. The Rhodesian Herald described their uniform thus:' "Grey felt hat with brown puttees; the badge had a backing of red felt; blue tunics with gold chevrons. N.C.O's with gleaming, brown leather bandoliers, fawn riding breeches and white strapping's. Corporals and Troopers, white riding breaches; for Sergeants, W.O's and Officers blue puttees with bindings worn just above, black boots and spurs." The Contingent carried rifles and were described as very spectacular.

At the outbreak of the 1914 war Lt. Col. Tomlinson was in command of the First Rhodesian Native Regiment in East Africa. He was wounded when he was engaged by the enemy, and was outnumbered, and fought hard for over a week. In fact it was apparently touch and go as to whether he would heve to surrender or not. Eventually he was relieved by Col. Murray's column. After four months in hospital-in East Africa Lt. Col. Tomlinson was invalided home. He was greeted with admiration when his contingent arrived back and passed through to Salisbury. Lt. Col. Tomlinson, having previously returned to Salisbury, happened to be on the platform when the train arrived. He was immediately surrounded by a cheering crowd of returned comrades both black and white, a reception which can only be described as overwhelming.

Colonel Tomlinson was Acting Commissioner in command of the Defence Force from 1925 and in. 1926 he retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Finally we must not forget the African B.S.A. Police members who served in. tho Force. They, like their comrades, did noble work and in many instances we hear of them performing outstanding and notable deeds.

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Special commendation was awarded to A. Det. Luke C.I.D., which he justly deserved. He arrested a desperate criminal who was armed with a knife with which he made repeated attempts to stab Det. Luke. Later the criminal attempted murder, and escaped from gaol but was shot dead whilst doing so.

Sgt. Zachariah, Umtali District, was commended for his bravery. He saved an African women from death or serious injury from the wheels of a moving train, underneath which she had fallen, from the Umtali Railway Station platform. With complete disregard for his own personal safety he shielded the woman with his own body until danger had passed.

An African, Sgt. Mudadi, Umtali District; one night a shot was fired through the window of a farm house, shattering the window and passing between two Europeans who were occupying the room. After initial enquiries Sgt. Mudadi and an African constable were left at the homestead as guards. About midnight, acting on a-report received, Sgt. Mudadi with his constable and the farmer who was in possession of a shotgun) went to an unoccupied cottage some distance from the homestead. On entering the cottage Sgt. Mudadi noticed by the light of a touch an African hiding under the bed, and that he was in possession of a gun. Sgt. Mudadi snatched the shotgun from the farmer and fired a shot at the legs of the intruder. The African was slightly injured and an immediate arrest was made. The criminal was subsequently convicted of shooting on that particular night, and also on six counts of housebreaking.

Then there was Sgt. Mamvura who was a member of a team investigating a case of murder at Lesapi Valley Farm, and was left alone, concealed in the hut of the accused, to await his possible return. The accused returned late that night and suspecting a trap, set fire to the grass roof of the hut. Sgt. Mamvura gave chase but as he did so the accused fired a metal tipped arrow at him and then ran off. The arrow hit Sgt. Mamvura who, after pulling it out, pursued the accused until pain and loss of blood from the wound caused him to collapse. The following day a police search party arrested the accused who was subsequently sentenced at High Court, Umtali to a long term of imprisonment for culpable homicide and assault to do grievous bodily harm. The brave deeds of the B.S.A. Police Force are numerous, and both white and black deserve special commendation or devotion to duty and great courage and efficiency. However, as much as one would like to continue reminiscing about all the past history of the notable B.S.A. Police Force, we must end here.

FORMATION OF POLICE FORCE 1899 under Lt. Col. Pennefather

Philip George Stockley: 1896
Major Brown, Command Communications: 29.12.96
Insp. Nesbitt, Command of Troops: 29.12.96
Sub-Inspector Cashel:
Capt. A.J. Tomlinson: 7. 9.06
Sub-Inspector H.J.K. Brereton. 22. 4.11
Capt. R.H. Idderdale: 21.11.14
Major J.S. Ingham: 13.12.20
Major G. Stops: 10. 9.22
Capt. C.E. Pitt-Schenkel:
Capt. R. Hamilton: 14. 7.30
Capt. H.T. Onyett, M.C.: 15. 4.31
Lt. H.G. Seward: 20. 5.35
Capt. J.M.V. Parr: 8. 6.35

End of Page 60

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Capt. F.C. Edwards, M.M.: 7.5.37
Capt. Surgey: 2.10.39
Capt.. 3.B. Lombard: 10.2.43
Supt.. E.S. Streeter: 23.10.43
Supt. B.G. Spurling: 20.11.43
T. Major R.F. Derham: 16.3.46
Capt. R.S, Col. 0'Greedy: 19.12.48
Lt. S.E. Collins: 13.5.49
Capt.C.W.H. Thatcher: 18.7.49
Lt. S.V. Brewer: 20.12.51
Capt. J.C. Payne: 1,9,53
Major H.M. Shewell: 13.5.54
Capt. V. .Flower, M.B.E.: 17.4.57
Chief Supt. Spink: 3.6.58
Supt. Gaitskell: 8.6.59
Chief Supt. Sherren: 30.6.61
Asst. Commissioner White: 1.1. 66
Asst. Commissioner L.3. Jouning: 7.7. 68
Chief Supt. D.H. Sanderson: 13.4.70
Asst., Commissioner J.W.G. Cannon D.F.S.: 20.5.70
Asst. Commissioner W.A.H. May: 7.4.71
Asst. Commissioner T.W. Egleton: 1.1.72

End of Chapter
Click Here To Return to Index

Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the booklet made available by Neill Storey. Thanks Neill.

The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.

The family of the author have given permission for ORAFs to load this booklet onto the Internet.
Thanks top the family and special thanks to Heather Curran.

Thanks to
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail him

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