Larry Brown

Please click on blue headings to go to the story

Era of Mail Order

1950 Earthquake

Reminiscing Sir Occo

Bill Addison's life by Larry Brown

A Glossary of Hindustani-Urdu &Hindi

Exploits of Frankie R

The story of Sirocco

My Path to Tea

Music Makers

Hill Stations of British India

Elephant Man Articles

Burma evacuation stories




August 10 2010


THE most complex retail business of late nineteenth-century Calcutta, establishments which were to dominate the modern retail sector, were the de­partment stores. Although every one has closed its doors, many Calcuttans still remember the names or recognize their converted, subdivided buildings: Francis, Harrison and Hathaway; Hall and Anderson; the Army and Navy Stores; Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co. In their scope and outreach these shops rivalled those to be found in cities of the same size in Britain, Europe or the United States.

The city's leading hotels, while they provided many services and housed a number of businesses, did not always own and run all of these. Their retail areas were perhaps more like arcades than department stores. The shops from which department stores rather literally evolved were the drapers' and mercers' shops. We know from trade directories that shops like Francis, Harrison, Hathaway and Co., which was described as "first class drapers" in 1864, had a large staff of 11 European assistants in 1880. (By the end of the century there were at least 40.)

This was the first shop to adopt a 'departmental' organization, which was formalized in the 1890s and repeated at the branch shops in Simla, Lahore, Darjeeling and Allahabad. Inciden­tally, in 1880 one of the leading assistants in Hathaway's was Mr. E. White­away who ten years later was the partner of Whiteaway, Laidlaw, occupying numbers 5 and 6 Chowringhee and employing 38 assistants.

Two other employees of Hathaway's were to become equally famous in Calcutta's retail trade. In the early 1890s P. N. Hall and William Anderson set up together in a modest partnership selling suitings at bargain prices from a small shop on the Esplanade. It seems extraordinary that within a few years their business was a serious challenge to Francis, Harrison, Hath­away and Co.

Indeed, Hall and Anderson's was the first business to call itself a 'general departmental store,' thus reflecting the forward-looking, entrepreneurial spirit of the two men. (Hathaway's and Whiteaway's continued to call them­selves drapers and mercers for some years.) Hall and Anderson's had, ini­tially, departments for furniture, china and glass, cutlery, stationery, out­fitting and dressmaking, millinery, drapery and footwear.

The Army and Navy Stores was a much later, and rather different, arrival on the Calcutta scene. This was a colonial branch of a company formed in London in 1871 as the Army and Navy Co-operative Society by a group of military officers to act as general dealers for society members. The object was to supply needed consumer goods at the most reasonable prices. The society grew steadily and received many requests to serve the needs of the forces and administrative services in India. The first Army and Navy Store was opened in Bombay in 1891. (Pos­sibly the   decision   to locate it on the opposite side of the country was influ­enced by the strength of the existing stores in Calcutta.) The second branch in Karachi (1892) was designed to serve the extensive troops engaged on the North West Frontier. By the turn of the century, however, it was clear that more permanent could only be found in Calcutta where a store was opened amid some fanfare in 1901.

The early department stores dealt first in imported items for household and personal use but they were quick to take advantage, like the artisan retailers, of the availability of skilled or trainable Indians. So all the shops developed some lines for local produc­tion, again, like the smaller shops, relying largely on imported materials. Much of this production was sub­contracted. For instance, Hall and Anderson had saddles, riding equip­ment and jockey caps made by firms like Morrison and Cottle (saddlers). One reason why the stores required such large premises was that in those days workshops were part of the retail premises. Whiteaway's was one of the first to market goods under its own brand name of "Whitelaw."

All of the stores dealt in mail orders and produced elaborate catalogues. The most famous was probably Hall and Anderson's Lai Kitab. One hundred thousand of these were sent out annu­ally not only to many points in India but   to   Burma, Ceylon, the Shan States, Aden and Mesopotamia. 'Spike' Milligan, the   now famous English comedian and author, who was born at Ahmednagar in 1918, his father being a corporal with the Indian Army, recalls how eagerly he awaited the Army and Navy Stores catalogue: "It used to arrive three months before Christmas which was just enough time for you to rush through it and order things for Christmas. A large part was devoted to the military services and I remember this complete page on how to go to a military picnic. ... I found it more interesting to look through this book than the Boy's Own Annual..." (From Plain    Tales   from    the   Raj, edited by Charles Allen.)

It was not just the Christian holidays of Christmas and New Year which were exploited by the department stores. They shared in the trade associated with Durga puja and other Indian festivals. There were 'puja' sales of all kinds. The concept of a 'sale day' was essentially introduced and promo­ted by the department stores, as for instance Whiteaway's "Rupee Friday" when many things could be purchased for only one rupee.

Catalogues and mail orders, however, were not sufficient to cope with the growing demand for the goods of the department stores and most of the shops established branches. Whiteaway Laidlaw became an enormous chain, throughout Asia and Africa.

 March 25 2010
We are very grateful to Larry Brown for this story from the Wide World magazine --and I quote Larry's words as how he came to have it.

An old friend here in Shillong has given me the contents of his old tin trunk. This 
trunk was full of old books dating from the early 1900's and numerous "Wide World" ??
magazines from the late 1940's to the late 60's. What a treasure trove!!!

In these magazines are many stories about India as well as other countries in the
 world. I have attached just one, by Kingdon-Ward, on the 1950 Assam Earthquake. 

       Published 1950


Return to top


April 28 2009
Thanks to Larry we can enjoy him reminiscing and these bits of memorabilia about Sirocco and it's old employees

Larry writes:
As you know I have a great connection and a great affection for Sirocco-the place that started me on my journey to tea. A number of other people feel the same way and get together once a month in the Park Hotel in Belfast-the Convener and prime mover is Terry Mills who, in the late 1950's, was the Resident Sirocco Engineer at various times in Ceylon, South India, and East Africa where he was based in Malawi. Their gathering is called the "Dinosaurs Club" and I know many of the members.

Picture # 1

From time to time many of the Sirocco employees were given various mementos-one of them being packs of Playing Cards on which was depicted a "Sir Occo" in Arab garb denoting the hot wind that blows across the Sahara. On Ebay a single card sells for $9.00 and many in the Dinosaurs Club have the full complement of 52.

The second photo was taken in the Drawing Office-Elliot, Tommy, me and Billy Stewart later went to India-Billy Stewart to Duamara with Warrens and me to Namdang with the Makum(Assam)Namdang Tea Company.

The third is of Sirocco as it was. The Developers were supposed to retain the Sirocco Works facade but there was some confusion and the instruction was not relayed to the wreckers-they did, however,agree to keeping the chimney, on the banks of the River Lagan, intact.

Picture # 4

Picture # 3

The tearing down of this facade was recorded by a pedestrian on the nearby Queens Bridge who fortunately had a camera and presence of mind to record the event. This photo was kindly given to me by Terry Mills.

Photo #5

The still standing chimney has a backdrop of the two giant cranes, Samson and Goliath, now silent, at Belfast's Shipyard, Harland and Wollf, where the  'Titanic' and many of the other great White Star liners were built. 

Picture # 6

The "Yard" as it is known throughout Belfast, has also died. Sirocco and the Yard are now quiet but the Lagan still flows serenely on to the Belfast Lough.

Picture #7

Lastly, members of the Belfast Historical group sift throw the rubble of the 'Old Glassworks' the site of which Samuel Davidson founded the Sirocco Engineering Works that supplied tea machinery to the world.  


Return to top


                                               October 16 2007

The Life of Bill Addison as put together by his 
old friend Larry Brown
Please click here to see


October 3 2006


words to be found in Kipling's work
kindly supplied by Larry Brown to assist those with 
poor memories like the editor
Thank you Larry
aftaba water pot with spout and handle
achcha, accha all right? , good
admi (cu.aadmi) man, men
aiste slowly
Allah kerim! Allah be merciful!
almirah wardrobe, chest of drawers
Angrezi English
anna one sixteenth of a rupee
ap (cu. aap} polite form of "thou" (used to equals or superiors)
archarji (cu.acharyaji) teacher, priest
arre Oh!
asil calm
asli nahin not real
atta flour
ayah nurse-maid, or lady's maid
babu (1) Hindu gentleman (respectful), (2) Hindu merchant or Clerk (derogatory)
Babuji term of respect and friendliness
babul thorny mimosa with aromatic yellow flowers
badmash (cu.budmaash) rascal
Badshah King
bagh garden
bakshish gratuity, hence "buckshee"= free (Army sl)
Bahadur honorific title, lit. "brave"
Bahkshikhana Pay Office
bahut accha very good
(cu. bahoot achcha)  
baitoe (cu.bhaitoh) sit, wait
baja musical instrument
balushai sweetmeat
bander-log monkey people
bandobast organisation
bap (cu.baap) father
barasingh Kashmiri red deer (lit. 12 horns
bashaw lord or master
bat (cu.baat) speech, talk. Language
bat words, matter (pr. "bart")
batcha child
bazugar acrobat, tumbler
Belait anywhere foreign but to British troops it meant England
Belaiti English or European (hence "Blighty")
bhai / by brother
bhang (pr. bhung) expensive drug derived from hemp
bhils marshes or ponds
bhisti water-carrier orig. "man of Heaven"
bohin / bahen sister (pr."bain")
(cu. bahain)  
boli speech
bhoosa hay, also sawdust
bukh talk
bukhshi army paymaster (?)
bul-bul nightingale
burra important, great, large
bundobast, bandobast agreement, arrangement
burruf / barf ice
bursat (cu.barsaat) rains (monsoon)
bus enough, finish (usually said twice)
bus hogia finished, ended
bunnia money-lender, or corn merchant
bund embankment
bundook rifle, shotgun
bustees flimsy huts, squatter colony
butcha,batcha child, infant
buts Buddhist images
byle ox or bullock
caster discharged Army horse
chabuk whip
chae tea
(char=Army sl)  
challan consignment
chamar of low caste/
from "chumra" a shoemaker
chandu opium
chaprassie uniformed office messenger
charpoi string framed bed
chatti earthen pot, porous to keep water cool
chela young disciple, orig. household slave
chik slatted blind
chil, (cu.cheel) a kite (bird)
chillam a hookah
chirag clay lamp
chit, (cu.chitty) note, letter/promissory note
chiton dress
choga loose upper garment
choop,chup silent, still
chor thief
chota small
chota hazri early morning tea/ breakfast
chowki toll or police station (hence sl."chokey")
chowkidar watchman,guard
chubara, chubutra garden pavilion
chudder veil in front of a woman's face
chunam lime, plaster
chuppar thatch
chuprassi messenger
chumars, low caste leather-workers
(see chamar)  
chhut-ti/chuti,chhuti leave, dismissal
cicalas cicadas
coolie, cooly hired labourer
consumah 10 million
dacoit armed robber
dak post, mail, journey
Dak bungalow rest house
dandy Himalayan hammock like litter
darogah village constable
dasturi commission on a transaction
degchies cooking utensils
dekko to look
deodar coniferous tree, sacred to Hindus (Cedrus deodara)
dewanee madness
dewas Godlike image
dharzee/durzee tailor
dhoti loincloth
dhow single-masted Arab sailing vessel
dil heart
din religion, also day
Diwan Chief Minister
diwan type of sofa
Do two
doab land between two rivers
dom low caste cleaner
dooli bamboo stretcher, light palanquin
doomb fat-tailed sheep
duftar office
dun flat area in hills
Durbar public audience
durwan gate-keeper
durwaza door
durwaza bund door shut (not at home)
dushman enemy
dustoorie "commission" payment
ek one
ek dum at once, immediately
ekka/ecka a small one-horse carriage
fakir religious beggars
farash carpet-layer
fareib fraud / trick
ferao scarlet woodpecker
ferash date tree
Ganga / Gunga River Ganges
gariwan driver
also ghariwala  
ghat, ghaut landing steps on a riverbank, also mountain pass
ghee clarified butter for use in cooking
ghora horse
ghur, (cu.ghar) house
ghuzul bath
ghuzulkhana bathroom
goglet cattle-driver
gram pulse for horse feed
gurrum hot
guru leader/teacher/holy man
Hakim doctor or judge
Hajii one who has made pilgrimage to Mecca
haramzada scoundrel
hathi elephant
hazri breakfast
Hazur/Huzoor Your Excellency
hitherao come here!
hooka/hookah pipe for smoking through water/ alt: hubble-bibble
hookum order / command
hoondi bill of exchange
howdah framed seat carried by an elephant
hubshi orig..Ethiopian/negro
hulwaies confectioners
humara my, mine
hushiar clever, intelligent
iswasti for this reason
izzut, (cu izzat) honour
jadoo magic/sorcery/black art
jaghirdar landowner
jaldi / juldi / juldee "quickly"
jaldi karo "do it quickly"
jampannie rickshaw puller or sedan chair carrier
janwer, (cu,janwar) animal
jao "Go"! (rude!)
jaroo broom
jehad Holy-War
Jehanum hell
Jemadar leader /Second rank of native officer
jemadar-sais head groom
jezail Afghan long-barrelled rifle, fired from a forked rest
jharan duster / dish cloth
jheel/ jhil swamp or lake
jhool horse blanket
kabab skewered meat
kabarri second-hand furniture shop
kaddoo pumpkin
Kaiser-I-Hind Empress of India
kala black
kala juggah dark corner, "sitting-out" alcove
kala pani black water (to leave India)
kam work
kamra room
kanats canvas enclosures
karo do
kazi Muslim law officer
ke- marfik in this manner
kench, (cu.khainch) "pull" !
khajur date (fruit)
kerani a writer
khana food/ meal
khansama/ consumah House-steward / chief table servant
kheyl clan or tribe
khitmagar/ kitmutgar table servant
khitab book (or title)
khiwasti ? how ?
khoota. (cu.kutta) dog
khoti house
Khrishna Hindu God
khubber news
khubber kharkuz newspaper
khubbi ever
khubbi nahin never
khud precipitous slope
khushi nice, pleasant (hence sl."cushy")
kichree kedgeree
kilta basket container
kitna? "how many, how much?"
koi hai? is anyone there?
koil, (cu.kooyal) singing bird
Koran the holy book of Islam
kos a distance of about two miles
krait small brown/grey venomous snake
kubberdar, take care/ look out!
kukri Gurkha knife
kul tomorrow or ! yesterday
kutcha of poor quality/ second class
Kutcherry court-house
lal red
lakh 100,000
Lala title of respect for a Hindu
lama a Tibetan word for a religious superior
langur a long haired monkey
lao bring (imperative)
lon red powder
lotah brass pot
larai war or battle
lathi 5' bamboo stick, metal tipped
lunkah cheroot
machan a bamboo platform for shooting from
madrissah school / college
maharaj honorific form of address
Maharaja Ruler of an Indian State
mahout elephant driver
mahseer a game fish
Mai Ganga Mother Ganges
maidan park or open space
mali, malli gardener
Malik tribal headman
maro / marrow a deliberate hit
massala spice mixture
massalchi dish-washer
matranee, (cu.mehtranee) wife of a sweeper
maulvie learned man
maund a weight (80 lbs)
mehrbani please
mehtar a sweeper, but in origin - a Prince
mela festival
Memsahib Sahib's lady
Mian Muslim title of respect
Minars minarets
mistri carpenter / mason
mofussil country districts
motamid lawyer's clerk
muchli fish in general
muezzin Muslim caller to prayer
mullah Moslem religious teacher
munhi prayer
munshi clerk/ language teacher
munsiff low grade Native judge
mussuck,masak goatskin water-bag
musth madness, distemper of elephants
mut drunk
mut don't
mynah Indian starling which can mimic
nag snake
nahin no
naib deputy
naik corporal
nat juggler
nauker-log servants (pr."logue")
naulakha nine lakhs
Naulahka, The "the nine-lakh necklace"
nautch formal dance display
nickle-jao "get out!"
nimbu lime
nimbu pani lime juice
nol-kol kohl-rabi
nukshan, (cu.nuksaan) injury, damage, destruction
nullah bed of watercourse, usually dry
numdah a felt rug
nuzzer ceremonial gifts
octroi Municipal tax
"Om mane padme hum" an incantation meaning "the jewel is in the lotus flower"
oont camel
ooplah dried cow-dung for fuel
pagri see "puggaree"
pahari hillman
palanquin litter carried on the shoulders of four men
pan, (cu,paan) folded betel leaf containing other ingrediants for chewing
panch five
pani water
pechi, (cu.peechay) behind, at the back
peg measure of spirit, usually whisky
pice, paisa 1/12th of an anna, gen. Money
pipal fig-tree
poshteen Afghan fur lined coat
puggaree turban worn by servants, also cloth band around topee
pukka first class, proper, orig. "cooked" and so - "thorough"
pummeloe large citrus fruit
pundit a learned man, (later specifically referring to native surveyors working beyond the border in the '[great game'
Punjab Land of the Five Rivers (panch = 5)
punkah a suspended, swinging fan
purdah curtain, veil, seclusion of women
purdahnashin take to the veil
pyjammas pair of loose trousers tied round the waist
rabi crops sown after the rains
raj rule
Rajah ruler
rajbahar main irrigation channel
raj-mistri head carpenter/mason
Ranee wife of a Rajah, Princess
rath enclosure wall
reh salty, barren soil
rezai a quilt
Rissaldar native captain in a Cavalry regiment
rupee standard unit of currency
ryot tenant farmer, peasant
Sahib "sir", "master"
sais, syce horse groom
Salaam a salutation - peace
Salaam alaikum Peace be unto you
sambhur large deer
samp, sanp snake
sari women's dress
seer unit of weight (2lbs)
sepoy native private soldier
serai stable, or a caravanserai
shabash well done, bravo
shaitan Satan, devil
shamiana tent
sher a tiger
shikar a hunting expedition
shikari professional hunter
shroff moneylender
sirkar government
simpkin corruption of "champagne"
sinnit braided cord
sitar Indian stringed instrument
sowah, (cu.sawah) mounted orderly
stunt assistant (Collector)
stupas buddhist monuments
Subadar the most senior native officer in a company of Sepoys
sub chiz everything
sudder chief,,main
sungar stone breastwork
sunnyasi Hindu religious mendicant
suttee ritual of widow-burning
takkus tax (probably derived from Indian pronunciation of the English word 'tax')
taleb Pay
tamasha a show, excitement
tambo tambourine
tar, (cu.taar) telegram, literally "wire"
tat country bred pony
tatties screens kept wet for coolness
teapoy, teapoi small tripod table
teen three
tehisldar native tax-collector
terai wide-brimmed hat, probably an Anglo-Indian colloquialism
thana jail, police station
thano pull (imperative)
thug member of gang of murdering robbers
thugee practice of the thugs
ticca gharri hired four-wheel carriage
tiercel male falcon
tiffin lunch
tik hai?, (cu.thik hai?) all right?
tikkah ornamental mark on forehead
tonga two wheeled carriage
tulwar a large curved sword
tum thou, you (used to inferiors)
tunda,(cu.thunda) cold
uttr, (cu.attar) perfume
vakil lawyer
Vedas sacred writing of the Hindus
Vinar, (cu.veena) string sitar like instrument resting on two gourds
wallah suffix - person e.g. Tonga-wallah
wuh that one
wullie-wa a spiral of blown snow - probably derived from a sailor's expression for a violent squall
yaboos breed of small, hardy Afghan horse
yogi an ascetic
Zamindar / Zemindar land owner
Zennana women's quarters

Pr.= pronunciation  
Sl.= slang  
Cu.= near current spelling  
Orig.= originally.  


June 10 2006

The Stories below are on this page due to the kind efforts of Larry Brown. He was assisting the Editor who was trying to locate Chris Doutre-formerly of Karballa Tea Estate in the Dooars  Chris was found and passed on these two tales to Larry for us to enjoy.

The Exploits of Frankie R

In the Dooars there was an assistant Frankie R---a. He was very popular and frequently gave large  parties.At one such party he was showing off his hunting falcon to a lady but it scratched her and  drew blood. Frankie muttered that he would fix the damn bird. He went into his bungalow and reappeared  carrying a stick of dynamite, tape and a long length of fuse. He taped the dynamite to the falcon's leg, lit  the fuse and launched the bird. It soared high into the sky and the anticipated outcome was watched in awe by the guests.  However.....with no prey in sight the bird descended- and alighted on the bungalow thatch roof-yes, both the bang and the resultant fire were spectacular!!

This same Frankie R had a pet female leopard which greeted him every day,when 'kamjari' was finished, at the bottom of the bungalow steps. The leopard and Frankie would have a  playful wrestle after which Frankie  would go into the bungalow. However.....on one occasion  when he indulged in the usual play, the leopard  started to attack him. While fighting off this aggressive 'pet' he noticed that it was a male leopard that presumably had become interested in Frankies pet for other reasons. Frankie's wrestling became frantic and was interspersed with "Bearer-Banduq Lao,jaldi,jaldi" The male leopard after a short time did  run off leaving Frankie to attend his cuts and bruises.

Thereafter the playful wrestles continued only after the leopards sex was determined!!

(the above stories told by Chris Doutre-Karballa Tea Estate and we thank him)

This story was told to Larry by Mohan Vohra in Calcutta a few years ago:
Mohan came from Delhi and his mother had made sure that he was adequately provided for and a giant trunk accompanied him to a garden in the Dooars. When the manager (as was the norm---an irascible Scot)  saw the finery he (presumably) thought that the new Delhiwalla should be brought into the real world. The manager therefore gave the brand new bike that had been allocated for the new assistant--to the dakwallah! The dakwallah's old bike was given to Mohan. After a few days,Mohan,with temerity, approached the manager. "Sir,I have no bell on my bike"
(manager) "Why do you need a bell?"
M. "To warn people,Sir"
Manager: "Tell me,can you whistle?"
Mohan replied "yes sir"
Manager: "Well that's settled,just whistle!"

(Larry tells us that Mohan is hale and hearty - and prosperous-he has a 'bought leaf factory' in Assam, and a packing facility in South India)  
We thank Mohan for his story
Return to top


The story of Sirocco and it's founder 
and a personal story of growing up in Belfast, the Sirocco experience, and joining Tea


Belfast was a highly industrialised City. Some of the industries were giants even by world standards. Harland and Wolff's was the largest single shipyard in the world-The Belfast Ropeworks ranked largest in the world. The same was said of the linen industry. Belfast also had a large aircraft factory, Short and Harlands, where many fine types of aircraft were made and 20,000 people were employed.

To read more of this story with pictures, Click Here

Return to top


My path to Tea

I remember as a 15year old walking down the long tunnel at Sirocco to the Works Managers Office where I was to be interviewed by Mr Cleland for a start with Sirocco leading, to an apprenticeship. My Mum accompanied me, the interview went well, and I was to start as an office boy the next week in the works office on  the grand sum of 23 shillings and sixpence per week.  I had a lovely time in this office and met many of life's characters. Tommy  was a works clerk and he was a great womanizer-and a great drinker! He could polish off a shot glass of ‘Banda'(the trade name for a meth type fluid used in carbon sheet printers) like the cowboys did in the old films!

I had free rein of the Works delivering jobs material sheets to the various departments and I quickly became familiar with the whole of the Sirocco Works and many of the people who worked in these departments. At that time Sirocco had a workforce of 1500.

Among the older lads, body building was a big thing and many of these aspiring Charles Atlas's strutted their stuff and made known to all, their healthy, bulk building, high protein diets. Some would make a great show of cracking half a dozen raw eggs and one after the other swallow them. Ugh!

One of the 'strutters' worked on the Machine Shop Gallery. He was known as 'Big Hugo'.  Every morning, at 9am, he would stand at his machine, flex his muscles, glance around to see his admirers, and with quick flick remove the aluminium top on his bottle of milk.  He would down the ½ pint without swallowing. This was a ritual he followed for many months and everyone was accustomed to it. However....someone...who remains unknown to this day...substituted Hugo's bottle of milk with Coolant fluid... which looks just like milk. For everyone on the gallery that day it was total silence, eyes down awaiting the explosion! It happened and he threatened death and unending torture to many of his co- workers that day!

After a year in the Works Office I was accepted as a first year apprentice and had my first hands on experience on building tea rollers, then Driers, then Heaters eventually covering the whole range of tea machinery as well as Fans, Dust Collectors and Pneumatic equipment. I diligently filed brass battens so that they fitted flush with the rolling tables. 
To this day I remember the names of the battens: Swordfish, Boomerang, Scimitar-and Talwar. Many years later in India I would learn that a Talwar was a sword.

Yes, in my first year I was sent for the bucket of Blue Steam, the Long Weight (Wait), ("Is that long enough for you, Son") and the rubber hammer for glass nails! I think 'striped' paint was also on the list.

When the Tradesmen went on a one day strike-their war cry was "we'll do no more till the 44" (i.e. reducing the 48 hr working week to 44 hrs)

All the apprentices left behind had a lovely time and many, including me, learnt to drive the overhead cranes. Some caught up on their 'foreign order' jobs like boring out motor bike cylinder blocks or skimming heads to increase compression. Some of the more accomplished even taught some of us how to blow fire. (mouthful of kero, compressed lips, blow a fine mist, touch with a flame-Whoosh!) When the Tradesmen returned the next day they were asked by many of the apprentices, if they would consider more one day stoppages later in the year! After some time in the Fan Research Department I went to the Tea Machinery design Section of the Drawing Office.

From there I would get the call to tea - two offers were put to me-one for Nyasaland and the other for India, with the Namdang Tea Company-I am glad I chose the latter.

The Directors of Sirocco had me up to the Conference Room where I was given a glass of Champagne. Mr Maguire, the Chairman, and Directors Campbell Brown , Bertie Browne and others all waxed lyrical about the good times in India and how I was following in the footsteps of the founder, Sam Davidson.

Like many, the journey started with the Anchor Line's Caledonia, out of Liverpool


  I  made friends with two young Bankers from National and Grindlays who had been for training in the UK before proceeding to their respective Countries. Nazir Chinoy was from Karachi and Ravi Madhok from Delhi. One young fellow we had befriended was Idris, and as it later turned out this was Prince Idris, whose father, King Idris of Libya, was deposed by Gaddaffi some years later!

I heard the first Hindi spoken by a planter, Ralph Twist, who ordered soft drinks for myself and George Barrie-"Bearer, ek,do,teen mithapani lao" I was very impressed.

While the ship was berthed overnight in Karachi, Nazir invited me to spend the night at his parents house in Karachi-It was palatial and I also had my first taste of the throngs of people, the colours, the sights and sounds. I was introduced to Nazir's niece and she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I fell in love in an instant! I kept in touch with both Nazir and Ravi for many years after. Ravi would often pen a little note on my deposit 
slips if he came across them in the bank!

When I was interviewed in London, I was given lists of things I would need plus little tips on travel etc., One of the lovely little notes for new Assistants was penned by Natalie Kilburn, the wife of Jack Kilburn, who was a Company Director.

It went like this: Luscious Fruits and Salads Green, Harbour deadly germs unseen, The Traveller in the East Must Not, Eat anything-unless it's Hot.

(unfortunately there was no advice about water!)

The train journey Bombay to Calcutta would have been wonderful-except I drank the water. I spent most of my time in the toilet. When I got to Calcutta the Sirocco staff there had organized a curry welcoming dinner.

I spent most of my time in toilet.

At Mohanbari I was met by Simon Penney and Austin Rufus. On the way to Margherita I marveled at the skilled driving of Simon who anticipated the movements of every cow on the road. A steady 60mph without any braking! I had never seen Bananas growing or Paddy fields or Buffaloes or such a variety of the large wading birds. Everything was new and exciting.

On Namdang I was to act as Chowkidhar at the Bara Bungalow. The Manager, John Phillips and his wife Marion, had proceeded on leave and the Acting Manager was Chris Gathorne. When I left Belfast my elder brother, an extremely keen and extremely good fisherman and shooter gave me his old Belgian 12 bore and said that if I ever came across any Junglee Murghi's to shoot a few and collect the feathers from the 'Murgha' as they had brilliant plumage. He would then use these to tie some Salmon Flies. After a few weeks I noticed that there were quite a few of these birds congregated round a shallow pond just below the Bara Bungalow. I brought the gun down one Sunday morning-clapped my hands-they didn't move-I shouted-they didn't move. I threw a stone and they rose as one and I got five. I later took them to Chris who was delighted and said that he would get his wife, Pam, to cook them and have a few people across. After the niceties were exchanged he asked where I had shot them-I told him and Chris visibly wilted. "Good God, Marion has been hand feeding those birds for the last 10 years" It was one of the best kept secrets in Tea-the food was enjoyed by many!!

Namdang Factory Bungalow

Namdang was ideally situated-throw your leg over the boundary fence and you're in NEFA. A few hours into the hills and you are in Singpho villages, then further on into Burmese villages. I had good friends in Margherita /Namdang many of whom I am still in touch with. and when we get together the stories of what we got up to and the many colourful characters we met are the usual topics. Some stories about Peewee.

One of the ones who was loved by all was Peter (Peewee) Bursnell, who was manager of Margherita and later Acting Superintendent of the Makum, Namdang Company. He taught us many old Army songs and a lot of us could sing along with him when he broke into song in the Club: "Sussex by the Sea": "You've heard of a 
place called Benghazi" "Down in Kent, down in Kent" "Ups and whops a lousy tanner in 'er 'and" and more. A story that Bill Addison told me was that when Peewee was on one of his home leaves he told his Mother that a number of his planter friends would be around for lunch and in Assam they often called him by a pet name 
'Laura' and she should do the same. I think the lunch gathering exploded when his Mum asked him to "pass the gravy to your friends, Laura!"

Below is a photograph of the Margherita Bara Bungalow, taken from the koi-hai site.  When I saw it, it evoked so many memories of the good times we had there-it also brought back memories of escorting Peewee back home from Digboi Club. Sometimes, if it was an exceptionally good evening, we would all stay on at Digboi Club. Peewee would be downing the Rums from a beer glass. His companions were also seasoned drinkers. Invariably Peewee would be a bit 'wobbly' as he departed and he was helped to climb into his jeep. He set off in first gear and stayed in this all the way back to Margherita-the engine block had a red glow!! He was followed in a car which usually had four assistants from Makum or Namdang or both.

On arrival at the bungalow it was 'an arm each or a leg each' (Peewee was a big man) En route to the bedroom we were usually greeted by "Cavers" Peewees Boxer dog, named after a friend of his.

No matter what condition Peewee went to bed he was up at 5.30am the next morning, clear eyed and alert.


         Margherita Tea Estate: Bara Bungalow. Peter Bursnell was the Manager there for a number of years and later Acting Superintendent of the Makum(Assam)  and Namdang Tea Company

The Margherita district had it's share of characters and lovely people. I will treasure the many memories I have of these larger than life colleagues and friends.

In the 'old days' when Peewee and his friends had a cricket match down the line,he would phone the Margherita Stationmaster who said he would have the train ready for the required time. Peewee and friends then drove the train!! Between stations, the train stopped at the cricket venue and as the cricketers got down, the engine driver would enquire "What time shall I bring the train, Mr Bursnell?" A byegone era indeed!!

Little fella left behind in a drain at Bogapani-Bottle fed overnight and reunited with his Mum the next morning!

At Bogapani prior to the AC conversion the main switches were held in contact by a stout bent bamboo. The whole panel glowed red and one could have toasted bread there. There were 10 steam radiators using exhaust steam from an upright Bellis and Morcom. The steam for the engine was from a Babcock and Wilcox Lancashire boiler. A weight was often hung on the boiler safety valve in order to keep the radiators happy!! These are things I did not learn at Sirocco!

I am very happy that I have had the opportunity of being a Sirocco Man and a Tea man and having met and enjoyed the company of so many lovely people over the years. My experiences with Sirocco and in Tea are as clear in my mind as if they happened yesterday. It was Samuel Cleland Davidson who gave me these opportunities.

Return to top

February 13 2006
From Larry's archives--helping to tickle the memories --thanks Larry

Gentlemen: on Drums,Terry Morris, Pengaree T.E. Sax, Peter Baxter,WM's Bordubi 
Tea chest bass, Eric Singh,Makum Co Dirk T.E. Guitar: Jimmy Pariat, WM's Bordubi.
(their signature tune was "WHEN")

December 27 2005

Hill Stations of British India

Larry informs us of  a selection of digital books from the Universty of California  press. It's slow reading but very 

The contents, which also contain some old photographs, are:-

The Hill Stations of British India.   Climate and the colonial 
condition, Landscapes of Memory   Nature's children
Home in the hills     Nurseries of the ruling race
The Pinnacles of Power   The intrusion of the other,
Arrivals and Departures    Conclusion

It can be accessed at

Return to top

December 19 2005

This is the story of Gyles Mackrell known as the "ELEPHANT MAN" kindly sent in by Larry Brown

The film above is about Gyles and his efforts as well--the copy of the newspapers is to set the scene--more correspondence will be added later--Editor

Below are two Newspaper cuttings 

Return to top

Here are some of his correspondence --to be continued later

December 10 2005

-This is a collection of stories about the escape 
from Burma into Assam in 1942
we have to thank Larry yet again for all his work


It seems curious that there has been little or nothing published about the trek out of Burma by the many -probablyin the hundreds -exPatriates, who were not as lucky as the employees of the Burmah Oil Company. Having initially, and sadly only comparatively recently,limited my amateurish researches into the accounts from members of the Society, fortunate circumstances led me to accounts from others, from employees of the Burma Corporation, Steel Brothers, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, and the Burma Forest Department, including one or two from  Anglo-Indian subordinates.

Finally a chance meeting with the Curator of the South East Asia collection of the British Library led me to accept an invitation from the Library as the catalogue, under "Burma Evacuation 1942", listed some twenty items. The use of the word "item" is rather misleading as under each sub-title would be added such notes as "28 items". "1 box" or "5 folios". There  was obviously scope for a month of visitsrather than merely one day. Host of the items covered reports from members of the Burma Civil Service including those of one or two who had been at some time Warden of the Oilfields.  The Warden at the time of the evacuation was, I think. T S Atkinson. Sadly. he died while assisting refugees in the Hukawng Valley. The first item I saw was a hard-covered volume covering some two hundred closely-typed pages. compiled by Philip A W Howe. who at the time was Forest Manager for Steel Brothers, based at Prome. Steel Brothers had chartered a vessel to take their staff from Rangoon on or about 19 February but when Howe drove to Rangoon with his wife to let her join the ship. he found it had sailed. Luckily he found a company launch which in turn was able to locate the ship. Howe returned to Prome until 27 March when units of the 17th Division reached the area. Howe met Major-General Cowan.  The Divisional Commander. to whom he offered his services as liaison officer. This offer was immediately accepted and he was enrolled (somehow the necessary forms appeared to be available. and followina a medical examination) as a Captain of the Burma Reserve of Officers. 
Also on more than one occasion he met General Slim.  Surprisingly. with his Morris car, he was able to join the Divisional Headquarters on the retreat through Allanmyo. Taungdwingyi and Mandalay to Shwegyin on the Chindwin, eventually landing 
up at Tamu. He was able to take his Indian sweeper all the way to India. and started off from Prome with his two dogs. One he handed over to a small Artillery detachment, which was later apparently completely overwhelmed but the dog, much to Howe's surprise, turned up several days later with another group of soldiers, However both dogs at different stages disappeared and could not be found.

Captain Howe's record was extremely readable and it is a pity it was never published.The next group of papers included accounts by members of the staff of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company -two Skippers. the Chief Engineer and an Anglo-Indian Supernumerary. Captain Coutts on the mail steamer "Nepaul" sailed from ltyaunghla on 14 April, (the "D" signal had 
been given the previous evening) with nearly 4000 evacuees on board. It arrived at Kyaukmyaung, a station north of Handalay, on the 18th, disembarked the evacuees, and proceeded to Katha, further north, where he left the ship and returned to Mandalay.  There he answered a call from the Chinese army to take the Chinese hospital ship "Assam" (another of the Flotilla's mail steamers) to Katha. He found the conditions appalling.  The decks were littered with sick and wounded, and the stench and filth indescribable. With a scratch crew he set off. He reached Katha and Bhamo. If he had refused to go the Chinese Colonel might have caused trouble (many of his officers displayed pistols). The "Assam" could clear one of the well-known defiles only by inches. Captain Coutts left the ship at Bhamo and was lucky enough, after a tough journey to Myitkyina, to board one of the last planes to leave late on 4 May, landing at 10pm at an airstrip in India. He eventually reached Calcutta on  8 May R... with what I stood up in, a shirt, shorts and shoes, no socks. I've lost everything,  including my passport and all my papers" (a sentiment that many others could also express!). Capt H J Chubb's note dated Calcutta 20 May, recorded the movements of the mail steamer "Siam", of which he was in command, from leaving Rangoon on 10 February with evacuees to Mandalay, until he handed over command of the ship, going down with enteric towards the 
end of April. During March the ship made several voyages up and down the river in the neighbourhood of Nyaunghla, frequently with oil-flats loaded with a variety of cargoes, once (optimistically) conveying two flats of crude from the Palanyon oilfield to the small refinery of Yethaya. Returning to Nyaunghla, seven road rollers and several concrete mixers were loaded on an oil-flat for Sagaing, intended for use on the Tamu evacuation road. The ship returned to Hyaunghla to be fitted out as a hospital ship -picking up at Mylngyan 73 country carts, 146 bullocks and 970 bales of hay for Allanmyo, but these were discharged at Mvaunghla as by then Allanmyo was occupied by the Japs. At Nyaunghla, 571 casualties were taken on board and departure was made to Mandalay. "... Passing Chauk, the Burmese section of the town was on fire..." After the discharge of the wounded at Sagaing, the crew deserted but Captain Chubb left with a crew of Sikh soldiers and hospital orderlies for Myingyan.

"... Actually the ship left with four on deck including the Commander..." Due to lack of steam. it was necessary to anchor frequently and it took two days to reach Myingyan. where Captain Chubb went down with enteric fever. Another Skipper was transferred from a nearby vessel and the "Siam" eventually reached Katha early in May. whence Captain Chubb was able to reach Myitkyina. from where he was flown out on the day before the Japs bombed the airfield and prevented further flights. 
The "Siam" was sunk at Katha. 

Mr Hutchinson. Chief Engineer of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company somehow made his way to YenangYaung. and mentioned boarding there the  SS "Webbo". This was the double-decked twin screw steamer which took me and many others  from Chauk to Yenangyat late on 19 April. I do not think Hr Hutchinson was then on board; the information I had was that the skipper whom we had on board  had no knowledge of the river and was an evacuee from Hongkong or Singapore. 
At some stage he transferred to the stern-wheeler .Shillong" on the Chindwin. ferrying troops from Shwegyin to Kalewa between 5 May and 10 May. Then due to the "Shillong" being out of action. he transferred to a similar  vessel, the "Sind", which. after ferrying 1200 troops on 11 May, was scuttled at nearby Settaung. Hr Hutchinson eventually arrived at Tamu, where he reported finding ponies.

The Anglo-Indian supernumerary Paxton. whose account was among those seen, was with Captain Coutts on the "Assam" (mentioned above) When Captain Coutts decided to proceed from Katha to Bhamo and recorded: "... I put Supercargo Paxton at the Rheel and he steered her through the Defile like a professional". Supercargo Paxton unfortunately was unable to board a plane at Mvitkvina and took 26 days to reach India, covering an estimated 614 miles. 

A Mr Millar, somewhat surprisingly in wartime, was working in the far north of Burma as a member of a party of researchers connected with Frank Kingdon Ward, the well- known botanist from Kew Gardens. 

He led a party of some 300 people from Fort Hertz, which they left on 11 May. via the Chauktan Pass. Progress was very slow. so he decided, with a few others. to leave the main party, hoping to secure help. They arrived at Margherita in Assam on 6 June. He recorded that of the 300 who had started out.  one third had died. but an eight-month old child had survived. He also recorded that three aircraft had been lost searching for the party.

Another item seen was a loosely-connected series of manuscript notes and official letters from the India Office to and from the Burma Office established at Simla. Among these, the following facts are of particular interest:- The exPatriate roll in Burma in 1931 (the last census) was over 10,000, and presumably in early 1942 the figure could be much the same.
My memory of events in 1942 is hazy. Some of the clearest are so bizarre that I sometimes wonder if they are not figments of my imagination. Did an RAF fighter pilot tell me in the Club one night that so long as they were at Magwe we had no need of blackouts and so on -just four days before I stood at the Power Station gates and watched them go past -AA guns, lorries, jeeps, going North hell for leather?

I saw little of what went on at the fields, somehow or other. I had gone from the Electrification Department spare parts to Acting Power Station Superintendent. Alan Duncan went sick, I believe, in the last few days and Gilbert Vickers. his No.2, had gone off on the escape route preparations some time before. We were running with four of the five machines standing idle. with 35 pounds of guncotton on each of them. wired to the station battery and a switch in an ARP dug-out. There was a 70lb charge, with asbestos shield to protect it from heat, ready alongside the machine we kept running till the end. 
Leslie Keay and I (he had come back after the Syriam demolition) were in that dug-out when (14 April?) Dalgleish's bungalow was bombed.

The day after the Yenangyaung "denial" we got orders to shut down and prepare for instant demolition. I assisted Captain Scott (who stayed in my bungalow) to put the charge (and the last detonator) on the last machine, but before we could start flooding oil round the boilers, we were ordered to get ready to start up again. The rest of the day we hung around, getting conflicting reports of starting up and blowing up, Finally we were ordered to leave it so that the charges could be tired. This involved going back up to the battery room and closing the switch there -a long and rather eerie walk along the switch gallery overlooking the machines with their charges, with pigeons cooing and a faint hiss of steam from the last boiler, One of the chaps stayed at the door with a whistle to warn me if bombers were heard approaching,

Afterwards my car wouldn't start and we ended up all piled into two cars. We crossed the Pin Chaung at about 6 o'clock. I was told there was a road block on just after midnight. so the Japs were not far away!  

With regard to our escape, I certainly had my rifle at least till we got off the launch because Mervyn Jones and I "rode shotgun" on the launch for two or three trips. We brought one IBP engineer back as we considered he needed medical attention. He died before the final evacuation. His name escapes me, though I knew him quite well, 

Where exactly I handed over my rifle and ceased to be Corporal Probert (and Mervyn ceased to be Lieutenant Jones) I am not certain. It was probably at Kalemyo, and I think it was here that I, and others~ left the Bain route and followed a road into the Chin Hills, which had been walked by Bob Tainsh and was considered suitable for small parties.  My ancient map ot India and Burma suggests that this was probably the starting point, as I seem to remember we walked for ten days. passing Fort White and Tiddim~ covering about 140 miles.

The route was well supplied with Public Works Department rest houses (not generally equipped for more than one or two people -we were 7 or 8). There were steep climbs and Jimmy Dawson (maohine shop) who, assisted by Leslie Keay, was our cook (I think on the grounds that his father was a butcher) suffered from mountain sickness early on, so one night Leslie and I did the cooking. We discovered one property of rice not previously known to us. We started with what we thought was enough rice in a cooking pot, and ended up with two pots, full, and a bucketful besides!

Anyway, once we were on our way, the whole trip was quite enjoyable and none of us got malaria, the common lot of people following the main route. 

Probably the reason for this was the one cause of disappointment. We visualised a day's walk and a stream to bathe in at the end, but the reality was that every day consisted of a steep downhill walk to a stream. followed by a steep uphill walk to a village and rest house, with less risk of malaria on the hill tops as compared with the valleys. The villagers were friendly and helpful and we had porters to carry our luggage and stores! A nice walking tour in fact. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The group included Blagrave Deane (the oldest -supposed to have a heart condition). Bradshaw (Government geologist). Mervyn Jones (civil engineer)~ Dawson (workshops engineer), Keay (electrical engineer). and Taylor (fields engineer). Deane used to tell us to go on ahead and that he would follow at his own pace; to our surprise (at first) he would stroll up at the end of the day's walk about 20 minutes after us! Later in the war, he was one of the survivors when the 55 "City of Cairo" ~as torpedoed.

Incidentally~ although I had parted with my Army rifle. I carried Bernie Everett's No.2 sportin. rifle ( a .275 Mauser, I think) and a few rounds of rather nasty-looking soft-nosed ammunition which he had asked me to carry out for. him. I had, of course, to leave it in India when I was sent on to Abadan. There  I finished up as Shift Engineer in a big boiler house -to use a Bernie Everett expression. the space between the top of a boiler and a tin roof, with 125 degrees Fahrenheit outside~ was "cosy"!   I used to swallow up to 8 salt tablets per shift!
Dick Probert


In the early part of April 1942 Digbol Management Instructed me to proceed to Dimapur to "meet and greet" oilfield personnel evacuating out of Burma. With hindsight I doubt very much if they had any clear idea as to exactly what was involved in this operation and still less how the people concerned were actually going to reach Dimapur. I was accompanied by Charlie Reid and we set off in a station wagon with a Burmese driver. We drove to Tinsukia and took the train from there, arriving at Dimapur the following morning, Dimapur was much the same as my recollection of it, having been there briefly 
two and a half years previously. There was no sign of any evacuees. On this occasion we could not use the Dak Bungalow as it was occupied by the Army and was the headquarters or the Brigadier, Royal Bngineers, who was in charge of local operations. Charlie Reid reported sick almost as soon as we arrived at Dimapur and was sent back to Digboi with suspected dysentery. Later he was replaced by Charlie Eadie. I had authority to draw from Chunilals, the Company's Marketing Agents in Assam, whatever funds proved to be necessary for the operation.

I did have one piece of good fortune inasmuch as I recognised a member of the Brigadier's staff, an ex tea planter who was now a Captain in the army. We had travelled on the same ship in 1935 when going on leave and we did one or two trips together while on leave. Through his good offices, I was allowed to listen to the evening BBC overseas news on the radio in the Dak Bungalow. When I heard on the radio that the Burma oilfields had been destroyed, I knew that the personnel must be on their way out. I decided, therefore, to go up the road to see how far I could get, in an attempt to contact them.

At that time the Hill section between Dimapur and Kohima was operated on a gate system, with one-way traffic. It was necessary to arrive at the gate by a specified time. After the traffic from the other direction had passed through, the gate was opened and one proceeded in the normal way. On going up the hill. I noticed on the side of the road that one or two tea planters were stationed with their coolies and were busy digging away at the side of the road with a view to widening it to allow two-way traffic. I must say I took my hat off to the planters as there they were, removed from the comfort of their tea garden bungalows, living in bashas perched on the side of the road with absolutely no mod cons whatsoever and quite some distance from any amenities.

I eventually arrived at Imphal and made my way to the evacuation camp which was run by the Indian Tea Association. with Mr and Mrs Blenerhasset in charge, I introduced myself and explained the purpose of my visit. They advised me to proceed to Palel, where another tea planter had his camp, and to see what could be done from there. Palel was the end of the road. After that there were only tracks leading over the hills. I arrived at Palel and introduced myself to the tea planter, whose name unfortunately I have forgotten. and he invited mo to stay with him in his camp.

At that time. stationed in Palel. there was an Inspector of Police together with a number of constables. These were not local police but had been imported from elsewhere to handle problems connected with the evacuation. I explained to the tea planter that I was anxious to get as far on as possible in an endeavour to meet the people coming out of Burma Fields and that my idea was to seek permission to go over the road which the Army was busy constructing between Palel and Lokjoha. His advice was to contact the Staff Captain based in the area. who would be able to put my request to the authority concerned.

This I duly did. The Staff Captain was in telephonic communication with his superior officer each evening. I went along as requested and after the Staff Captain had dealt with his business, he put me on the line and I found myself addressing the Colonel in charge of road operations. I explained to him that I was desirous of securing permission to drive over the road to Lokjoha with a view to getting beyond there to try arid meet the personnel coming out from the Burma oilfields. His first reaction was a complete refusal. saying that he did not want any civilians on the road while construction was in progress. I persisted. however, saying that I had my own transport and was travelling light and could leave at any time which suited the army operations. After giving the matter further thought he agreed that I could go over the road the following morning, leaving at daybreak and getting over the road before blasting operations commenced.

The following morning I duly left and drove to Lokjoha over the road under construction. It was rather rough going in places but we made it and arrived on the bluff overlooking the camp at Lokjoha. The camp itself was down at the bottom of the bluff. On the hillside two bulldozers were working. These were operated by Army personnel who were busy grading the bends which would take the road down the hillside to the camp. I then met a Major. Royal Engineers, who was in charge of local operations and again. having introduced myself and explained the reason for being there, I asked what the prospects were for continuing to Tamu. There was no road from Lokjoha to Tamu but there was a bridle track. He advised me to wait awhile.

Shortly after this conversation. a jeep came in from the Tamu side. In it was Vaid Natsingh of the Natsingh Oil Company of Burma. accompanied by an American driller who was driving the jeep. The jeep was full of their gear and luggage which they proceeded to dump at Lokjoha. They had the intention of ferrying more of their gear from the Tamu side to Lokjoha.  However. the Major stepped in and said they could make one more trip, after which he would confiscate the jeep for use by the Army and, indicating me. he said they could give me a lift into Tamu. I went back to the station wagon, got my bedroll and dumped it and myself in the back of the jeep. We set off for Tamu, arriving there without incident. They kindly dropped me at the camp and went on their way. I went into the camp. There were one or two people milling about. but no sign of any evacuees.

I was wondering what my next move would be because the next camp was Kalemyo, but how to get there was a problem because I had no transport.

However, this problem was solved because a little while after I had arrived at the camp in Tamu, the first convoy from the Burma oilfields arrived. This was good news indeed. The convoy inoluded the Nursing Staff, Sisters and Nurses from the Nvaunghla Hospital, apart from most of the people whom I had known from my time in Burma Fields. After exchanging news, I had the idea of attempting to move out ahead of the convoy by walking back to Lokjoha and proceeding from there. However, just about at that time word came into the camp that the Major was prepared to give me and one other a lift from Tamu back to Lokjoha that evening. I looked around for Alan Reid but he had gone off to have a wash or something, so my eye then alighted on my old friend and colleague Alec Macfarlane, known throughout the company as Mac. We dumped our gear in the back of the jeep and were driven back to Lokjoha, arriving there just as it was getting dark. This was a great boost and we spent the night in the camp at Lokjoha. During the day a mule train had arrived and the ground was more or less covered by sleeping mules. I remember picking my way very carefully between them in getting back to the basha in which we spent the night.

The following morning, I went back to the station wagon where the Burmese driver was very pleased to see me as he had spent a rather rough night. The local soldiers had kept poking about in the station wagon looking for loot. All they managed to remove were the light bulbs from the headlamps. I had with me some whisky which I carried for emergencies so I took the bottle and contacted the Major who had been so helpful. I gave him half of the whisky that was in the bottle. Being a Scot I think he quite appreciated the gesture.

We got into the station wagon and set forth back to Pa1el. Mac wanted to try and get on as quickly as possible in order to contact his family in India, so I drove him into Imphal and handed him over to the care of the Indian Tea Association. I then went to the Post Office and sent off a number of telegrams which I had been requested to do by the people in the convoy which had arrived at Tamu on the
previous day.

On my way back to Palel my mind kept reverting to the empty wagons coming back from Lokjoha to Palel and I kept wondering whether it would be possible for the Burma oilfields people to be conveyed from Lokjoha to Palel in them  I mentioned my ideas to the tea planter and again his advice was that the Staff Captain was the right person to  approach in the matter. I did this and after I had explained my ideas to him, he said that the only one with the authority to sanction such a scheme was the Brigadier.  He was in communIcation with the Brigadier each evening and he would put me on the line to enable me to put my request to the Brigadier. Having introduced myself and explained what I had in mind, the Brigadier's immediate response was an emphatic refusal to countenance the idea. I went on to say, however. that the people concerned were not evacuees in the ordinary sense of the term, but perhaps were better described as saboteurs. A number of them had gone down to Southern Burma and destroyed the Company's main refinery just outside Rangoon, and then returned northwards to the oilfields, where they had carried out an extensive denial programme
Furthermore these oil technicians were urgently required in the MiddIe East or Assam to assist in the maintenance of oil production. Whether it was this latter part of my plea or not which swayed him, the Brigadier. after further consideration, agreed that the oilfields people could be transported in the contractor's trucks running empty from Lokjoha to Palel. Having thanked all concerned, I returned to the camp in a much easier frame of mind having achieved the answer to the problem of getting the people from Lokjoha to Palel. I had been concerned with the fact that from Lokjoha to Palel was a two to three days. trek over rather hilly and rough country and to achieve the sanction for the contractor's trucks to br1ng them from Lokjoha to Palel was quite a big step forward
The following day the first convoy arrived at Palel and the local police turned up trumps. They soon had a brew going and most of the people in the convoy had a mug of hot tea. I had two or three Company trucks at Palel and the people in the convoy. after their mug of tea, were transferred to these trucks. We drove them into Imphal and handed them over to the Indian Tea Association,

The system appeared to be working quite smoothly; convoys arrived on most days and received the usual treatment. In the Palel area, there was an RAMC unit which had been transferred from the Middle East, They had two ambulances and the officer in charge kindly offered the use of these ambulances, should we be pushed for transport space, provided, of course, that the ambulances were not required for medical duties, In addition to the two ambulances, they also had two camels which presumably had been used for carrying stretchers. In any event, these two camels stood very disconsolately on the rather bare hillside above Palel. looking completely out of place and very fed up with life,which didn't improve as the Chota Barsat (Little Rains) showed every sign of commencing.

One day in Imphal  was told that Mervyn Jones was looking for me. When I eventually contacted him he explained that he wanted to hand over his revolver. Mervyn had held a commission in the Volunteers in Burma and had come out wearing his army service revolver. By the time he reached Imphal it was somewhat of an embarrassment. I took the revolver from him rather reluctantly, wondering what on earth to do with it. My only thought was to hand it in to the police station but shortly after taking it, I encountered a Superintendent of Police who had been transferred from elsewhere in India to help with the unusual circumstances of the area at the time. I asked him if he would care to have this revolver. He was delighted to have it and said it was just what he was looking for. So thatwas that.

A little while later I again heard that Mervvn was looking for me. When I contacted him he explained that since seeing me previously he had accepted a Viceroy's commission and would therefore like to have his revolver back. Alas, I had to tell him that it was in the hands of the Police. 

One day, while we awaited the arrival of the next convoy, word came into the camp that a vehicle was stuck somewhere down below the camp. Accompanied by a police constable, I went down to have a look at the vehicle.

It appeared to be a 15 cwt 4-wheel drive truck. There was no one in the driver's cab and the back of the vehicle was covered with an awning somewhat similar to the covered wagon type in Western films. When I went to the rear of the vehicle and opened the awning I found myself looking down the barrel of a shotgun. This was held by a young Anglo- Burmese girl who was seated in the back of the truck. After getting over my astonishment, I explained to her that there was no need for her to carry a gun now that she was in India and I persuaded her to hand it over to me, On inspecting what proved to be a pump gun, I found that the magazine wasfull and, to my horror, she also had one up the spout. I handed the gun over the Police and we managed to get the truck out of its problem and on its way.  Of course, in the convoys there were not only Burma oilfields people but also members of the Police, forestry officers, and on one occasion quite a number of Irrawaddy Flotilla personnel, all of whom had joined in the Burma oilfields evacuation.

Once the numbers in the convoys dwindled it was time to fold up the exercise. The last two people to arrive at Palel were Bob Tainsh and a photogeologist, whose name I have completely forgotten. They had not come over the Tamu-Lokjoha route but had walked over the hills. Which route they followed I'm afraid I can't remember. I transported them to Imphal and then on to Dimapur where they proceeded to Calcutta.

During April, more or less on a daily basis, a Japanese reconnaissance plane came over Imphal, keeping an eye on what was happening down below. The day after we left Imphal the Japanese bombed the town, causing casualties and a lot of damage. However, it could be that their prime object for the attack had already left, for, unbeknown to me at that time. General Wavell had been in Imphal doing a recce of the progress of the various works that were then going on. I knew this for a fact because as my train from Dimapur to Tinsukia arrived in that town, I was surprised to see alight from the train ahead of me General Wavell, who was met by the Company.s Installation Manager and taken away to be given breakfast. He had obviously left Imphal on the same day as we did, i.e. the day before the bombing took place. It was somewhat of an anticlimax to return to the office routine in Digboi after the time spent in Kanipur with the excitement of meeting so many different people, almost constant movement. as well as living more or less from hand to mouth which. incidentally, had the 
result in my losing about half a stone in weight.
On reflection, it was all worthwhile, knowing that in the long trek out from the Burma fields to the railhead at Dimapur, the Company staff's actual walking had been limited to approximately ten miles between Tamu and Lokjoha.