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Old Africa books

Old Africa books are well-told stories in the same tradition as the shorter pieces

our readers have come to enjoy from the pages of Old Africa magazine.

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Old Africa magazine seeks to tell the story of East Africa’s past through well-written stories and vintage photographs. Founded in October 2005, the first issue featured a story about the Royal Navy’s ill-fated attempt to launch a naval presence on Lake Rudolph (now Lake Turkana) and an account of the Kedong Massacre. Since then the magazine has published stories and photos from Kenya’s diverse ethnic groups – African, Asian and European – to preserve East Africa’s history. 

The Wrens in Mombasa in World War II

The Wrens in Mombasa in World War II The Mombasa of today is so different from the Mombasa of the Second World War that it is worth having a look at what the town was like previously. One of the best people to describe it is an officer in the Wrens who was posted to Mombasa, arriving in a Short Sunderland flying boat with blinds carefully drawn as it flew through neutral Portuguese East Africa. Mombasa was brightly lit with well stocked shops, so different from the England of the day. Wrens were housed in the Lotus Hotel, run by Mrs. Lotus Johnson. They were part of a detachment for the Eastern Fleet, which had recently retreated to Mombasa from Colombo. The Lotus Hotel had been commandeered for the Wrens and was comfortable apart from the ankle attacks from Mrs. Johnson’s mongoose. The Allidina Visram School was also commandeered for a headquarters for the Eastern Fleet and in a temporary banda in the schoolyard was set up the Cypher Office manned by the Wrens and FANYs, with Jack Nixon, Roger Hardman and Tony Holloway, in charge. These men and the FANYs were all local Kenyan people. Among the Mombasa FANYs were Susan Ridley, Rhoda Ransome, Cynthia Bellhouse and Bunty Goodall.                            Wrens in Mombasa The Wrens got about on bicycles because there were only a few rickshaws and taxis were rather expensive. Azania Drive from the Likoni ferry round to the Florida was shut off for harbour defences with concrete gun posts manned night and day. The golf course was not in action and the Florida degenerated into a...

Who was Freddy Ward?

Who was Freddy Ward? The name Freddie or Freddy Ward crops up so repeatedly in the early land dealings of East African settlers that it is worth finding out about the man behind the name. Like many of the early white settlers, Hamilton Frederick Ward fought in the Boer War (in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Irish Guards, where he reached the rank of Major) straight after he left Eton, and developed a love for Africa. He came from a military family – his grandfather was Vice-Admiral James Hamilton Ward, from Viscount Bangor’s family, and his father Robert Frederick Ward was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy who died young, when Freddy was eleven (he was born on 3 September 1880). His mother Rose was left to care for Freddy and his younger sister Mabel, and in 1891 we find them living in a hotel in Bournemouth. As soon as the Boer War was over, Freddy Ward organised a shooting party to travel to East Africa in 1904. He made a second trip in 1905, and fell in love with the country. He managed to get himself seconded to the King’s African Rifles in April 1906, as a lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, from which he resigned in 1908. We first really hear of him in 1905 when he joined other colonists to protest against the death sentence of a white man for murder – Max Wehner, who had shot and killed a man he had hired as his guide to a hotel in Nakuru. Eventually the sentence was overturned by the Privy Council. Ward tired...

The Sandbach Bakers and Kenya’s First Dairy

The Sandbach Bakers and Kenya’s first Dairy One of the first white settlers to be given land in Nairobi was Frederick Baker. He was granted 1,600 acres in Muthaiga by John Ainsworth, the Sub-Commissioner, on condition that he supplied Nairobi with dairy products. Who was Baker and why had he come to East Africa? He was not a young man, having been born in in Bunbury, Cheshire, in December 1849 to Thomas Baker, a draper and grocer, and Eliza Sandbach, and he arrived in Nairobi in 1901 with his second (or, possibly, third) wife Marie Vera, usually known as Queenie. This lady may have been born in 1856, the daughter of George Salmon, a master butcher in Stoke on Trent, but that person is supposed to have died in 1897 and before that was known as Mary Maria. The wife who accompanied Frederick to East Africa in 1901 was Maria Vera and claimed she was twenty years younger than her husband, whereas if she had been born in 1856 she would have been only six years younger. It is possible that she was indeed Maria Salmon and added Vera to her name, and lied about her age to her new husband. Frederick’s first wife Alice Oliver had died in September 1887 and he had married Mary Maria Salmon in 1888. He had been a cotton cloth agent in Stretford, Lancashire (some said he went bankrupt). He took to East Africa with him his wife and his son Guy, a former shipping clerk (born in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, to his first wife Alice Oliver in October 1882). Marie was the...