Mike Garnett aged 25 (Jan 1964) Panitola Tea Estate with babus, sirdars and chowdkidars.

Garnett - Mike

Mike lives in Romsey, Victoria, Australia

I arrived at North Lakhimpur (Lilabari airfield) in early 1960 to commence a career in tea.   I travelled on the same ship to Bombay with Roy Church who became assistant to Peter Castle at Joyhing and I became assistant to Kim Dodwell at Harmutty.    We belonged to the Jokai (Balmer Lawrie) company.

You may be interested to know that an elderly planter (manager of Seajuli) was Tom (or Tam) Fairfield a pre-war planter.   During the war he organised his plantation labour force to help construct the road that became known as Ledo Road – or Stillwell Road which basically ran from east of Digboi into Burma.   Tom’s wife I think was Margaret – they were a nice couple, probably Scottish.

The Club was about eight miles from North Lakhimpur township, within the bounds of Dejoo tea plantation.    Peter Castle (Lucinda) and Kim Dodwell (Jean) served during the war with a Gurkha regiment.   Jimmy Strang was manager at Dejoo, he served in the RAF during the war.   The superintendent was Bob Gregory and later, Harry Jay.   One of my fellow-assistants was Nick Nicholson on Doolahat who did his national service in the army.    Duncan Hay was also at Harmutty – I think he was born in Calcutta.     Jimmy Foster was manager at Koilamari.   North Lakhimpur district was a small group of estates – the names of other planters that I recall were Jimmy Gilchrist (Cinnatolia) and Andy Tracey (Silonibari).  

On the South Bank (of the Brahmaputra) the two superintendents for Jokai at this time (early 1960’s) were Joe Lyss (Bokel) and Stu Campbell (Panitola - ex-Fleet Air Arm pilot).  The company employed a tea taster Nick Barham who had held a national service commission.   When China invaded India over the Himalayas (1962??) he offered his services to the Indian army but was not accepted.   I and many others from the North Bank, were evacuated during this time – via air force transport out of Tezpur.   

Sadly, every name that I have mentioned above are no longer with us.

Kind regards Michael Garnett (known as ‘Mick’ in Assam)