"People at home thought it was all play and no work. Actually we
did much more work than most people at home."
- Colonel John Hainsworth
Running Your Little Empire
I went out to this remote district -- it wasn't so very far from Delhi, actually. It had a very old fashioned district commissioner, and we lived just as they'd lived any time in the last hundred years. We didn't even have ice, because he kept eight horses in his stable and he said, "By not sending for ice from Delhi, I can afford to keep another horse." We didn't have electricity, so we had the old-fashioned flapping punkahs, and the food was absolutely intolerable. It was quite rough.
And I certainly shan't forget my first hot weather. The hot weathers in the north of India were really blistering. And of course later on, after World War II, gradually air conditioners came in and the whole standard of comfort for the European in India completely changed. But the very hot weathers really were absolutely grilling. And you did your normal day's work. There were some districts where they had this arrangement of going in at the crack of dawn and then knocking off for a siesta for three hours in the middle of the day, but I never did that. I started at the normal time and worked through. By about four o'clock you were nearly dropping with fatigue.
You started as a Third Class Magistrate. You tried very small petty cases, and you spent a lot of time learning the language and the law. And your Deputy Commissioner would take you round with him on tour. The Deputy Commissioner was supposed to try and see as much of his district as possible by showing the flag, being the man on the spot, the man on a horse who'd talk to people, talk to the headman, look at things -- a certain amount of inspection of police stations, inspection of schools, looking at any kind of agricultural improvements being carried out, hospitals -- but mainly talking to the people. A wonderful experience for a young man to be taken around like that, picking up as much as you could.
There wasn't really a tremendous amount of court work -- just petty cases. Then after six months you passed a language exam and then you became a Second Class Magistrate, or even a First Class Magistrate after about a year. And then the next step normally was you got a subdivision when you were really a very young man, with only perhaps a year or two years' service. A subdivision was a part of a district where you were a sort of miniature Deputy Commissioner -- that is, district officer -- subject of course to your Deputy Commissioner. But within your area, which might be a couple of tahsils -- a tahsil is a revenue district -- you'd have various small towns or municipalities, which were very badly run and you had to try and keep them in order to some extent, see that there wasn't too much corruption and so on. You did that for perhaps the next four or five years.
And then in my time promotion was very rapid. Twenty years before it had been so slow that you didn't become a Deputy Commissioner until you'd got about eighteen years' service. In my time, owing to the war, World War I, there hadn't been as much recruitment, and you got your first district when you'd only got about seven years' service. And there you were, out on your own, total responsibility. And the nice thing about it was, the Chief Secretary, the secretariat back at headquarters, they didn't bother you, you didn't bother them. As much as possible they left you to get on with it. Certainly this was the case in the Punjab. In the Punjab we had the tradition started by the Lawrences, Sir Henry and Sir John, who started the first Punjab administration. Sir Henry used to say to his young men -- he'd send them out to some remote district and he'd say, "Now go out, settle the district, see that there are no rows." And you would get on with it. I went out to the Jhelum district in the Punjab in 1932 as Deputy Commissioner, and that was a district of three thousand square miles, with about a million inhabitants. And that was a small district. It was a wonderful district in many ways, because it was almost free from political troubles. Generally speaking, my district was one where you could really do a bit of old-fashioned administration, not merely keeping the peace, doing the revenue administration, and doing all the development work. But I wasn't bothered with much else, so I could give far more time to the old fashioned type of touring and attending to development, trying to bring in better agricultural methods, better seed, reforestation, prevention of erosion. All these things were very much things a Deputy Commissioner could do if he had the time. And I could make the time, but there was so much to do in a district in India that one really never stopped working. It really was a very, very hard life in a way. It wasn't too nice for your wife, because you didn't see much of her. I used to work every evening, after dinner and right up to about eleven o'clock when I was too tired to do any more. And I'd start again at seven o'clock the next morning, always knock off a bit at four or five o'clock in the evening to play a game of tennis or go for a ride or something like that, then start working again. And that's the way it went on.
The only relief really was your touring, because when you were riding round, you had these fellows riding beside you and you were talking to them the whole time, but that was fun. That was nice. And you were out in the fresh air. The headmen of the villages, you used to have about twenty people riding along with you, humeh rakab, as they used to say, that is, "stirrup to stirrup." You'd call them up one by one. You'd have a couple of chaps and you'd say, "Right. Now you come along and ride with me and tell me what's going on here." And you'd discuss all the things in that particular area of the district. And of course they'd talk far more freely. You couldn't talk to them in an office or a court room like you could out there. That was the real joy of it. That's how you'd find out what was going on in the district. I used to do a fortnight on tour in every month in the cold weather, and a bit less in the hot weather.
I had three years at the Defense Department, and I made friends with a lot of soldiers and liked them very much, and I became very good at dealing with generals, I thought. I used to call them Sir and be very polite to them. And then, at the end of that time, they said would I like to stay on with the Government of India, and I said, "No, thank you very much, nice to be asked but I really want to go back and have charge of a district." I thought this was an essential part of one's life.
And then I went off to Garwahl in November of 1936, which I reckoned was the best job in India, because in Garwahl you had no roads, no railways. There were telegraphs, but you weren't very near them, fortunately, so you were really on your own. Even in normal times you've got a great deal of camping going on most of the time. We were making maps, cultivation maps for the whole district, showing every field, and who owned every field. This meant I got an extra three months camping -- nine months camping every year. This meant that I was practically always in camp, moving around, in tents. And really, if you like walking in the mountains, as we did, it was an ideal existence. You could always say in answer to practically any letter the Government sent you, "Owing to the poor state of communications in this district, your letter arrived too late to do anything about it." And you could really do almost anything -- within reason.
And I liked the people very, very much indeed. I was really very fond of them. They always believed you could put their trouble right, whatever it was. We were marching every day in the district, fifteen or twenty miles a day, and all the way along the road you would have people coming up and saying, "Come and look at my field, put this right for me, do this, or do that for me." Sometimes you found a case had gone right up to the High Court and had been decided wrong all the way up, because nobody had been to look at the thing and seen it on the spot. We made a complete record of every field throughout the whole district. It was twenty-one days' march from one end of the district to the other, five thousand square miles. That was quite a lot of ground to cover.
India was administered in quite a different way from other parts of the Empire in that the European element was very thin on the ground. And when I was operating in the Indian Political Service, and in Meerut, for example, with the Indian Civil Service, all my subordinates were all Indians, and therefore I had to work through them. And when I was in Nasirabad, on the borders of Sind and Baluchistan, the only cases I tried were murder cases, land cases, or water cases. It was an irrigated area, and stealing water could lead to a lot of problems. But my staff, which were all Indians, Extra Assistant Commissioner, Tahsildar and Niab Tahsildar, dealt with all the burglary or small cases. I only dealt with the serious cases. And I had the authority to sentence people up to sixteen years, for murder. And I used to try several murder cases a month, under tribal law.
But the other thing we had to do was to assess revenue. You assessed it physically. You looked at a crop, and the Government's share of that was ten per cent, and you said the yield of this field is so many maunds, which is the unit of weight you used. Eighty pounds, I think a maund is. And if there was a dispute about it, then you roped off a small area and you actually harvested the crop and weighed it, and that was the way you took the final decision. But surprisingly, after a certain amount of practice, you could look at a field of wheat or rice or millet, the three main crops, and you could form a fairly accurate assessment of what the yield would be. And then as I became Director of Food and Civil Supplies, we set up a collecting point to buy all the food, and we deliberately tried to cut out the banias, the moneylenders. So when I bought the food grain from the zemindars, the growers, I paid them, not their agents. They were paid personally, so if they wanted to repay their loans, it was up to them, but the banias didn't collect it. And as I said, I fixed a buying price, and then we sold them on ration at the selling price.
But the other thing we did was we used the opportunity to improve the yields. We got some good strains of wheat, or rice for that matter, and gave them to selected growers, zemindars, and then you bought the crops back from them at a premium, and you stored that specially, separately, and then you redistributed it. And by using nationalized industry, using that government authority, in a very short time you could improve the output quite considerably by distributing fairly widely. And it wasn't done all that scientifically, but it improved the yield. And I introduced potatoes and things like that. We were responsible for everything -- this was one of the advantages. You were responsible for law and order, for collecting of revenue, for education, for agriculture, the whole damned lot. You were the chap running your little empire.
I lived in Jacobabad, and when I used to go on tour, I used to drive over very early in the morning to my office at Jhatpat and collect any mail or anything that was going on, then get into my car and drive off, and I'd spend several days out in the blue -- desert country there. And this driver of mine had a habit of going down to the local coffee shop, which was about fifty yards down from my office. And often I used to come out of my office raring to go before the sun got too hot. And I'd have to wait a few minutes for my driver -- five minutes or so while they went and collected him out of the coffee shop. And one day I went out there and he wasn't there, and I was only going off to another place and it was an easy drive, so I decided I'd go without him. So I said, "Oh! I can't be bothered to wait for him." And the chap said to me, "What'll you do to him?" And I said, "Oh, lock him up." And when I came back three days later to Jhatpat, they said, "What shall we do with your driver?" And I said, "Well, what about him?" They said, "He's in jail." And they'd locked him up for three days. Now this is where things can be taken literally. The jailer happened to be there when I made this comment, and they went and picked him up. And I might tell you he was never late after that.
Very shortly after I got to Araria as a subdivisional officer there was communal trouble. By communal trouble of course what we meant in India was trouble between the Hindu and the Muslim. In Araria subdivision there was quite a considerable minority of the Muslims. The majority was Hindu but you had pockets of Muslims. Often in one village there would be intermingled perhaps a dozen or so Muslim families and three or four dozen Hindu families. The trouble was that both of these communities were very intransigent about their religious affairs. One of the difficult situations which was endemic, always cropping up, was when you had a Muslim festival such as Bakari 'Id. Bakari 'Id is a festival at which the Muslims have to sacrifice some animal, preferably a cow or a bullock. The reason that they prefer to sacrifice a cow or bullock rather than a goat is that the cow or the bullock confers seven times as much religious merit as does the sacrifice of a goat and it doesn't cost seven times as much. The cow of course is sacred to the Hindus, so the sacrifice of any form of cattle was absolutely anathema to Hindus and this is the crux of the matter that starts trouble brewing.
Now in this particular village, Jumla, Bakari 'Id was due and I got information from my police thana -- police station -- in the area that there was serious trouble brewing, so I had to go along there. I interviewed the Muslim side and got the point of view that they had to sacrifice some animal on this particular occasion. This was one of their religious facts that just had to be done, the sacrifice of a bullock brought seven times as much merit as the sacrifice of a goat and it only cost about two or three times as much, so there was no other way of doing it. I tried to persuade them to sacrifice two or three goats instead of the one bullock. They said, "Well, if you can get a camel for us, that would be splendid because a camel confers seven times more merit than a bullock does." But of course in northwest India it would be easy enough to get hold of a camel, but in Bengal camels were just not available and to get a camel over from the northwest wouldn't be feasible in the time, so that one was a non-starter. It was quite interesting, really, the discussion that one had. They were quite ready to consider propositions like this, but it always came back in the end to, we're afraid it just has to be the bullock.
Well, I did my best to persuade them not to sacrifice a bullock. I was camping in the area. I brought my tents and was camping in the area at the time to see this thing through. On the morning of Bakari 'Id I got a lorry load of armed police there, about half a dozen to control the situation. That's about all I had, whereas the Hindu surrounding villages numbered in the thousands, you see. Well, sure enough, about four a.m. on the morning of Bakar 'Id we got information through the police that in fact they had slaughtered this bullock and so trouble was definitely on. Well, trouble was on because the surrounding Hindus had already got wind of this and they began to gather in their thousands. Literally we had a confrontation of something like three thousand very irate Hindu villagers brandishing their lathis and generally being pretty arrogant and very, very angry, ready to do battle with these Muslims who had slaughtered the bullock. Pretty well all day starting at about five a.m. these eight or ten policemen and I were arguing with them that this is a fait accompli now. The bullock had been killed. We'd do our best next year to see it didn't happen but this was done now and there was no point in creating further trouble. And of course I was parlaying with the leader. I went forward to talk to them but it was really almost like a field of battle. You had this mob of about three or four thousand Hindus ready to attack the Muslim village where this terrible act had been perpetrated, the slaughter of the cow. It went on pretty well all day long. We had nothing to eat all day, we were out in the grueling sun, and finally it got to the stage where I had to order the police to load up and aim at the leaders of the mob. We got to this stage and then the mob decided enough was enough. Before any shots had been fired they agreed to call the thing off.
Touring was something rather special. One toured in great state. When I was on survey I went out with two horses, an elephant and three bullock carts full of luggage. We'd sleep in tents. A whole retinue of servants. Every day you'd leave camp round about just after breakfast and you'd rejoin your tents in the next camping site and find the tents set up, everything there. If you were there for tea, your tea was there. If you were late, the bearer would appear with whiskey and soda.
Now most of one's time one spent on tour. When one went on tour usually you camped. You took your tent. In India in those days the tents were really quite luxurious. A tent would be almost the size of a large room. You'd have hanging partitions and a little bathroom. As far as amenities went there was very little difference from the kind of bathroom you had at home. You had a tin tub that the bearer would fill with buckets of warm water. Camping really was quite civilized. One had all the amenities as soon as one arrived at a site and the tents were put up. Of course there would be separate tents for the servants. You'd have a regular little encampment. The sahib's tent would be quite a large and luxurious affair. All these carpets put down, all brought along by the entourage, sometimes by elephants, sometimes by horses. One frequently actually held court at one's camp. Furniture would be brought as well, tables and chairs and so on, so one had at camp all the amenities that one had at home. One spent quite a lot of one's time out in the open air. Most of one's touring was done in the cold weather, which is the ideal weather of the Indian subcontinent because it's bright sunshine, quite warm in the day, quite cold at night.
As a subdivisional officer you were literally in charge of the administration of the area. Practically everything: you're chairman of this, chairman of the school board, chairman of almost everything that there is in addition to having magisterial work. You hear the evidence all day long in court and then you've got to write up your judgments in the evening. A pretty strenuous existence really. Then of course you do a lot of touring. I bought myself a horse fairly early on. They imported a number of walers from Australia, and they prevailed upon all of us young civilians to buy these horses, which was a very good thing of course because it gave us much more opportunity to get around the country, because you couldn't go by car to most of the places. You had to tour about the whole of your subdivision to keep contact with everything that was going on apart from dealing with specific cases such as land disputes, or someone being knocked over the head with a lathi. All sorts of things would arise and you'd have to get around. You'd always take your food with you. We had what we called a tiffin carrier, sort of tiers of little containers. You'd have your soup in one and your chicken or whatever it is in the next one, your vegetables in one, your pudding in another one.
It was strenuous but a highly interesting life. You felt you were doing a really worthwhile job. The administrator in those days, well, they used to call him mabap, which means Mother-father, that you were the mother and father of these villagers. A good district officer could make a tremendous difference to the life of the inhabitants of the area that he worked for. Not so much by what he did himself but in instigating others to do things, encouraging, for instance, small irrigation projects, having wells sunk to get extra water for the villagers. If you were really keen and interested you would get other people because the district magistrate was considered such a big shot that people fell all over themselves to do what he wanted them to do. He carried a lot of influence in that way. He was a tremendous power for good or evil.
There was a much better subject, a very brilliant young man. I don't see why I shouldn't give you his name even. This was Penderel Moon who was a fellow of All Souls, now Sir Penderel. He came out about four years Junior to me and he was an absolute rebel, an absolute rebel, and yet the most marvelous deputy officer. Now when he was a very junior subdivisional officer, he was trying the most notorious bad man, who always got off one way or another. And it was quite obvious that Penderel had got him pegged. The police had actually managed to collect some people who would give evidence against him in his latest murder. Penderel was trying this case, and the man then petitioned the High Court for the case to be transferred to another court, because he said he quite obviously wasn't going to get fair treatment. The High Court then sent a telegram down to Penderel Moon saying, "Stay proceedings." The case was going to be transferred to another court. And a pleader came and planked that down, "There, sahib, the High Court has ordered stay of proceedings." Penderel took one look at it, threw it aside, and went on and tried the case, took it to its conclusion. And my word, a rocket came down from High Court. And Penderel replied, "I thought it was a bogus telegram." And it might have been. It could easily have been forged, after all.
And I remember another very nice story about the same man. Now this subdivision where this occurred was in my district of Jhelum. Later Penderel Moon was transferred as Deputy Commissioner of Multan, a very big district. In this subdivision there were two poor peasants who were in debt to a money lender. There's nothing uncommon in that. But the money lender had a clever idea that he'd put a bit of pressure on them to pay up by bringing a false case against them, a criminal case. Too easy. He got some fellow Hindu friend to accuse them of beating him up. He maintained that they'd been on a visit to Multan, and they'd beat him up there. Now the point about this was, even if you couldn't prove it, it didn't matter, because these fellows were going to have all the trouble of traveling from Jhelum to Multan, about eighty miles, very expensive for two poor fellows, to answer a charge about which they knew nothing, and they'd be put to a lot of expense and a lot of trouble, and probably the case would be postponed -- you could always get a case postponed for some thing or other -- so they might have made three trips before they even found out what the charge was. They didn't know what to do. They'd never heard of this man. They'd never beaten anybody up in Multan. So then they thought, "Ah! Moon sahib has gone to Multan," you know, as Deputy Commissioner. "We will go to Moon sahib." They went down to Moon.
Now Moon was a man who kept open house, any time of the day or night. He was a bachelor. Any time of the day or night, anybody who had a cry of complaint, a petition, could come see him. I don't know how he did it, but he did. They arrived that evening, went straight to the Deputy Commissioner's house, and said they wanted to see Moon sahib. They were at once shown in, because his orderlies had orders that they'd got to show anyone in. Moon heard their story. They said, "Sahib, we don't know who this man is. He's brought a case, says we've been to Multan and beaten him up." So he said, "Well, right. Come down to the courtroom tomorrow morning, mingle in the crowd, and don't show yourself or do anything but just mingle in the crowd until I call you personally."
And he went down next morning, Penderel Moon, and he got hold of this petty little third class case from the court of some Third Class Magistrate, transferred it to his own court, and then sent out his orderly to call up the complainant. The complainant came up, and Moon says, "Ah, so these two men came and beat you up did they? All right, come out into the courtyard and identify these two." And he said, "No! No!" because he'd never seen them, and he realized the game was up. And Moon then and there on the spot fined him two hundred rupees for false complaint, called up the two chaps, and handed them each a hundred rupees. Well that was what we liked to call British justice. That was a lovely story.
1934 it was, January 15th I think it was, in Calcutta. I was still secretary to the Agent there and I'd had lunch, an office lunch in a public restaurant, the normal way of doing things. I came back at about two o'clock, a normal afternoon's work, except that I was on my own. My Agent, the General Manager, was out for the afternoon because he was seeing the Viceroy off at Howrah station. Now the Viceroy used to come down every winter and spend about a fortnight in Calcutta, an official fortnight there. He used to open up Viceroy's House, meet everybody, entertain, go round about, show his face. Nice weather in the winter in Calcutta. On the 15th of January he was due to go back in the Viceroy's train and that was due to leave Howrah station about half past two.
I came back from lunch and at a quarter past two; I suddenly felt a bit seasick. I thought, that's queer, I had a very ordinary lunch, I didn't drink anything, no late night, it was all quite normal as far as I could see. After a few seconds I suddenly saw a clock -- I had an old fashioned clock with a pendulum, standard office clock, the little pendulum you could see through a little window underneath. That had stopped, it stopped at a quarter past two. I thought, that's strange and then I suddenly realized everything was moving. I thought, "Ah, well, it's an earthquake. Now it's the first earthquake I can remember. This is interesting." Then it went on, so I thought, "This is rather strange." I thought earthquakes were rather sudden and that was that. Either the house fell down or you were all right. Outside -- this was on the first floor of the office building, a great big building; it had a first floor and there was a verandah along the whole of this floor with the offices all taking off the verandah -- and outside I could hear the most frightful hubbub. I put my nose outside and the whole of the office staff were making their way to the stairway out to the courtyard and out into the open street. They were all absolutely panic-stricken, they were rushing. So I thought, "Well, that's rather silly, it can't go on any longer and we're all right so far."
So I went into the next office to mine. Next door to me was the railway policeman, and he was standing sort of looking at his clock, which had also stopped, and he'd reached about the same stage of my thinking. What do we do next? How long is this going on? Now, do we get out with these people, or do we be British and stay here?
We eventually said, "Well, look here, let's get out," because the ground was still shaking, the whole building was swaying about. And we walked in the crowd, fairly sedately downstairs, and out into the main street of Calcutta, a street called Clive Street, a great wide street with a wide pavement on either side and a row of trees dividing the pavement from the road. We got out there and it was still shaking and you could see the buildings, you could see them all swaying in different time according to the heights. A minute or two after that it stopped.
Well, we realized there'd been a real earthquake. I mean this wasn't a minor shake, it was something really serious, so I beat it back to my office. One of my jobs was that all the accident reports from all of the railway used to be collected every morning and brought in and were on my table when I arrived. I used to go through them and anything that was important I used to pull out and show to the General Manager. I had on my wall a huge map of the whole system and a lot of little flags. Rather military. Within literally five minutes of getting back, the first accident telegram came in. It was from a place called Jamalpur, which said that the station had torn down, and that the workshops had collapsed, and there was general trouble. And the line was blocked and no trains could run through Jamalpur. So I marked this up with a pin. That was the first; they came pouring in after this. After about half an hour one could see exactly where the earthquake was simply by looking at these pins.
The great thing was, now what do we do with the Viceroy? Half past two, his train was due to depart. They rang up from Howrah and said, had I got any information for the General Manager? I said, "Well, the only thing I've got so far is that it appears to be all on the main line." The East Indian Railway ran from Calcutta to a place called Asansol. There were four lines up to there. Asansol was a huge area, center of the coal fields, a really big junction. From there two lines branched out. The Viceroy's train was going to go over the direct route, and it was quite clear from the first report when they asked me for it that all this damage was so far appearing on the outside, old line, not on the direct line. They said, "Right, we'll go to Asansol, check again when we get to Asansol." Asansol was all right. By the time they got to Asansol, it was clear that all the damage was up on the Ganges Valley, so they went on eventually, quite all right up the rest of the line.
That year I went on leave. When I came back I found myself posted to Jamalpur. Well, I thought, this is fine, there's going to be a good job there. Jamalpur was the locomotive shops for the East Indian Railway, the main locomotive workshops where we built our own locomotives, the whole thing. Nothing imported. Up to that time all railways out there used to build their own. This workshop was simply flattened. The whole of the railway colony there more or less completely flat. My job really was rebuilding this place, rebuilding the workshops, rebuilding the colony complete. I had three and a half years solid slog on that. Of course, an absolutely marvelous job.
There was such a vast amount of work that was done in India, it's unbelievable. Some of these vast irrigation works which were carried out are immense. To go back to the railways, you've got bridges there that historically are the biggest bridges that were built at their own time, long before many other places even thought about it. That was all done by British engineers.
I headed for Dehra Dun, which is one of the headquarters of the Survey of India, and so they taught me how to make maps. I spent a very pleasant month or so learning how to triangulate and that kind of thing in the jungles and hills round Dehra Dun. And then when they reckoned I knew enough, I and this other chap were sent off into the Himalayas. And that was extremely enjoyable. Slightly dangerous -- two of our chaps were killed. One fell down a crevasse, and one more or less died of exposure.
My next job of any size was in Southern India. I did a triangulation there. That was entirely different type of country. Fairly dense tropical jungle, full of snakes. I think I saw quite a lot of snakes there. I never actually got bitten, but I certainly saw quite a lot. Tigers, everything. That lasted for one winter. In the Survey of India you had the pleasant arrangement that you did all your field work in the cold weather, which was nice, and in the hot weather you went into a hill station or somewhere where it tended to be a bit cooler. And the maps and things that you'd been surveying in the field during the cool weather you then drew up, or you did the calculations and things in the cooler place in the hot weather.
Then they posted me up to northern India, to Murree, which is a hill station, where we had the party which concentrated on air survey, mostly air survey of the Frontier. And that used to have the excellent system of spending the hot weather in Murree, where it was nice and cool, and the cold weather on the Frontier where it was much warmer. And we cooperated with the Air Force. They took photographs and we made maps from them of the more or less inaccessible areas on the Frontier under tribal rule.
You spent a lot of time out of doors in India. That was one of the pleasant things about it. And a lot of time in camp. The camps were very enjoyable. Depending on what you were doing you might be fairly standing or your camp might be moving around. And it was always rather pleasant if you were perhaps doing a triangulation, you might be one place for a day and then you'd move on somewhere else. You'd probably go and observe from the top of a hill somewhere, and you'd come back to an entirely different place. And in the meantime your camp would have moved. A fairly primitive means of transport. Bullock carts, usually. And it was always rather pleasant to arrive at a place you hadn't seen before and find your camp all set up. Your bearer with a hot bath waiting for you and a bottle of whiskey on the table, or your tea made. It was a sort of "moving home".
The native people would report it if a tiger had been taking their cattle. Then the forest officer would have to be responsible. Each part of the forest was divided into what they call blocks. If there was a dangerous tiger, of course, he was responsible. A maneater or one that was really being a nuisance to the villagers, he'd have to go and deal with that, but otherwise if there was just an ordinary, mild, common garden tiger they'd know it was in a certain block and there were always people wanting to come and shoot a tiger. They'd be allocated that particular block.
When I was in the Santal Parganas I got the news from a local planter who lived fairly far out. This chap was another indigo planter who like many British people out in that part of India had settled down to zemindari work -- the equivalent of a farmer. They had large tracts of land which they used to cultivate. There was a bear worrying the villagers. This particular one had come in from the outlying area and I think several children had been mauled by the bear and the villagers were most anxious that something should be done about it. So he contacted me as Deputy Commissioner to see if I could arrange anything. So I went out there -- this was a place very much out in the wilds really, very poor roads to get to it. I had a jeep in those days so that I was able to cope with pretty rough tracks. So I got out there in my jeep and I stayed the night with this chap. He had a very nice bungalow out there. The next morning we got the local Subinspector of police to come round with a couple of large bore guns. I had my own rifle of course and this chap also had a gun.
So we set out in a party to try to round up the bear. The villagers knew where it was roughly. It had got into a small patch of jungle not far from the village, very thick, scrubby jungle on a fairly steep sloping hillside with a bit of fairly clear ground around. They said the bear was definitely in this bit of jungle. So we tried to scare it out with noises, beating the bushes with lathis, but to no avail. Eventually we sort of surrounded this clump of jungle, getting closer and closer in. I saw what looked like a sort of dark patch. It was obviously the bear but I couldn't make out which part of the bear it was. I thought, well, we've got to flush him out somehow, so I gave him a shot and he came roaring out. Instead of running away as one would have expected, he charged me, came straight at me.
It was quite a frightening sight actually. Pretty big creatures these bears. They stand, I suppose, over six feet high; they run on their hind legs waving their front paws; the paws have claws as long as one's fingers, razor-sharp claws. They slash at you with these claws, which is their method of attack. I suppose he'd been wounded only fairly slightly; it hadn't impaired his action at all. He was clearly very annoyed and he came out roaring with these big slavering jaws and long teeth. It was quite a frightening sight. Very fortunately I had another barrel and I gave him a second shot and this knocked him down -- didn't kill him but it knocked him down and he rolled over down the hill and then we were able to close in and give him a final quietus. It was quite an exciting experience. I had been particularly invited in by the villagers to try to cope with this local menace.
I had two maneating leopards in the last district I was in, Garwahl in the Himalayas. The trouble with these leopards is they're scavengers and if they pick up a dead body they sometimes get a taste for human flesh. When I got to Garwahl I found there was one leopard that had been operating for nine years without anybody doing much about it and I spent an awful lot of time after that one. I didn't actually shoot it. I shot several leopards when I was trying to get it. I spent an awful lot of time sleeping in villages and sitting up in trees at night.
The trouble was, you see, the Himalayas run in sort of horizontal ranges and you're on the top of this one and then a fellow over there says, "We've just seen the leopard." You've got to go all the way down and back up to someplace else. You can't just pop across.
In periods of three or four days, out and back again, I suppose I was after it for three or four months. When I finally got it, I'd shot two or three without it being the right one. I finally got this one but I didn't shoot it, I poisoned it, because I was using every kind of method I could to get it. You've no idea what terror they inspire. Nobody would leave the door open at night anywhere in the village. There's no sanitation at all, so that anybody taken short in the night didn't dare go out and you could smell the smell of human excrement in that village.
I remember one village I was in. This one I did shoot. This one wasn't a very established maneater. It killed a boy. In the hot weather they used to sleep out in sort of kraals on the mountainside and watched their goats. This boy went out of the kraal in the middle of the night to urinate and the leopard caught him, killed him and ate him. They said that the leopard used to come every night and scratch at the door. Certainly it did happen that leopards used to try to claw their way into houses and they did go into houses and kill people. Well, I slept in this village two or three nights. It was a terrifying experience. I sat up in the village one night and I didn't hear anything and finally I tied up a goat and the goat was killed and I managed to shoot it.
That one so far as I know only killed one person. The other one must have killed or mauled dozens of people. Actually it was operating over an area of fifteen square miles so you never knew where it was. In one night he attacked eight people. It was a very stormy night and I think he got away with one of them. The others were mauled, managed to fight him off. I had great excitement with that one, a very interesting evening. I had a goat killed and I was sitting up over the body of the goat. I was up in this tree over a nullah. I suddenly looked down and I saw this leopard lying just like a cat underneath in the bright moonlight, a most lovely sight. I got my rifle down and I shot the leopard, hit it in the lungs or something, and it went off out of my sight. I didn't know if I'd killed it or not and it gave a roar. My torch went out when I fired the shot -- the shock of it -- and I was trying to get the torch back into operation. And then I suddenly heard an extraordinary noise from behind coming up this watercourse and an enormous dog hyena came up under my tree and he started to howl, the most devilish, awful, frightening noise I've ever heard. I thought to myself, "I'd better shoot this hyena," and I was just going to get up my rifle, and he suddenly gave a sort of roar and charged something further that I couldn't see. The leopard by this time was dead, though I didn't know it was. He rushed at this leopard, caught it in his jaws and he was shaking it like a rat. The most amazing sight. Then he heard me and pushed off. A most eerie noise, his hyena yell, like a ghost in hell.
Then I went on and shot another one which I had quite a bit of excitement with because I had to follow it up for a couple of miles across the hillside. Then I got nearer again to the maneater near a house where it had killed a boy earlier on, so I went and sat up over these beasts outside the house and my torch let me down. I knew the animal was there. I could hear something. I got down off the tree and I poisoned the kill and I went up to bed and we found him dead later on.
There was a very sporting effort by one of the officers of the local regiment. He and his brother sat up. One of them went to bed on the verandah, the other one sat up over him. It was a very sporting effort.
Well, you see, these were all the troubles a DO [district officer] had on the job. I didn't want to sit down and have people in my district eaten! However, I got a very nice lot of skins, made a coat which a niece now has, and I tell her if anyone complains of her wearing leopard skins to tell them that they weren't shot except in a good cause. That's the last thing I did before I left India. I was determined to get rid of this animal.
Two Great Armies
The brighter Indian Army officers were excellent, and the ones who really took to work on the Northwest Frontier, the hard, lean men you would see out with the Khassadars and the Tochi Scouts and so on, they were magnificent fellows. They got very kean on their regiments and on their particular type of men. And the Indian Army really became a magnificent body, the largest volunteer army in the world.
We had to do most of our soldiering in the winter. One used to be in camp probably for two months. We used to go to camp with all arms, maneuvering and so on, and we very often used to march there. Then we used to go on to our shooting camp, where we used to fire the guns, practiced. So those had to be fitted in in the winter. You didn't get these generals coming down from the hills in the summers. You were left very much in peace. Furthermore the summer tended to be leave time. People were very generous about leave. In a small unit with five or six officers, there were probably two on leave in England. One might be climbing Everest or shooting up in the hillside. Another one, married, was up seeing his wife in a hill station. Then a military course, a course of instruction in one of the schools. You were usually down to one officer out of about six in the summer. And the service wives were sent away, too -- not that there were very many of them. And about a quarter of the service were in the hill stations, not to recuperate but to freshen up. And so one was down to very small numbers. And it was a marvelous experience for a young chap, because he found himself doing absolutely everything. You know, he was the battery commander. All the problems fell on his shoulder, and he was kept very busy.
We Indian Army officers always used to talk about our men when we met. Somebody would say, "What are you?" And I'd say, "I'm a Gurkha." I wouldn't say, "I'm a British officer," I'd say, "I'm a Gurkha." And he'd say, "What's he?" "Oh, he's a Sikh." Then we'd get together and talk and regularly everybody said, "Well, our chaps are the best," and we'd try and say why and so forth. But you'd find Sikhs, officers of Sikhs, say that they're the best troops, the best people in the world, providing you work them twenty-five hours a day and kick them in the teeth regularly once a day without any justification. Otherwise they'll be intriguing. You've got to make them drop in their tracks. "Well, why don't you go to transfer to Mahrattas?" "I? Good God, I don't want to serve with anyone but Sikhs!"
That is the tradition of the Indian Army. You do get involved. You get drunk with the men and they carry you back to bed. The British Army officers to some extent and certainly American officers are always amazed at the contrast between the iron discipline of the Indian Army and the extreme freedom other ways. But the reason, as Philip Mason points out -- I think he points out -- is that there was such an enormous gap, inherent gap, between a British officer and a raw recruit, an Indian recruit -- the one could never become the other in the early days -- that you could let your hair down far more because there was no possible chance of the guy taking advantage of you, and certainly they never did. You see, you're not expected to marry before you are about thirty, because you have to devote those ten years to playing football with the men, going out shooting and taking them with you, whatever -- hunting, snipe shooting, checking the Himalayas, whatever. At night when we'd finish -- not every night but twice a week -- I'd go up to the lines and have a rum in the canteen with the soldiers, or Gurkha officers would take us to their mess and we'd sit around and drink rum and eat little pakoras, curried meat patty things, and quite frequently I'd finish up getting pretty soused, but we had to be on parade the next morning. And the next morning -- we might have been falling down drunk the night before and singing indecent Gurkha songs with the Gurkha officers -- but my subadar would greet me with no trace of a smile on his face and salute and report the parade state -- the whole thing cut off.
When I was young and just joined the regiment, in the first deshera, any new British officer had to cut off a goat's head with a kukri. Somebody was holding the goat's hind legs, he was nice and stretched. And you made a mighty swipe and if you didn't get it off in one, the crowd rushed in and used to get the blood out and smear your face with it.
We joined in all their religious ceremonies. There is a great slaughter time which involves the sacrifice of a buffalo. The buffalo is tied to a pole in the middle of this rectangular place and the head is cut off. The bleeding carcass was dragged around and then a priest would collect the blood and put some rice in it and he used to come to all the officers, put it on their foreheads, and pray. It was a very religious and moving ceremony. All at the side of this rectangle was a bamboo enclosure with a proportion of the arms of each company, all the officers' swords and their medals -- one of ours had a VC and that was terrific -- and the blood used to be sprinkled round there. It was asking blessings on the arms for the next year and I don't see anything wrong with that at all. There are many ways up to the mountain, aren't there, aren't there?
Each regiment and corps had its own recruiting area that it got its recruits from. And every now and then you got sent on a recruiting tour. That was quite fun. You went around to all the villages, examining the recruits. And you always had a doctor with you. The drill was you went through the recruiting area, the various villages. And there were always far more recruits than you could possibly recruit, so you took the best. And they then turned up at the training battalion. And it was quite extraordinary to see the way they changed from being rather shabby, ragged peasants into soldiers -- a sort of transformation. It took six months to make them look like soldiers. Their training actually went on longer than that.
The Punjab has the Himalayas behind it of course and there is always the possibility of going up on a little bit of leave or something. I was subdivisional officer in a place called Dalhousie fairly early in my first couple or third year of service, and people used to come in and say there was a panther that was killing, or a leopard that was killing their goats, or they might come in and say there were bears which were destroying the crops and was there anybody who could come and shoot them? And one night I went with an orderly in order to be up at dawn to see if I could shoot one of these bears that was causing destruction of the maize crop. I passed a little house on the edge of a village. We were walking along a sort of contour line around the mountain in the moonlight. To my astonishment I heard a man apparently drilling a platoon of British troops in this silent place. He was in fact teaching his small son whom he wanted to get into the Army. "Left, right, left, right, halt, about face." We walked on into the moonlight and I thought, "Well, this is remarkable."
The Frontier was inhabited by a lot of very turbulent people. They had to live, these people, and they lived by raiding and pinching other people's goods. That had to be combated. So a large part of the Indian Army and a whole lot of irregulars were constantly keeping what they called watch and ward. There was five hundred miles of Frontier and we had fifty-five thousand regular troops in that area as well as armed police and irregular forces. For years nothing would happen and then everything blows up.
The Frontier extended from Chitral, from the Pamirs, to the Arabian Gulf, about five hundred miles. We reckoned that if the whole Frontier rose as one they would have half a million fighting men. But they never did of course. Just pockets of them here and there. Some of them never uprose and some were always a pain in the neck. They did give the Indian Army a tremendous experience. It was marvelous for the junior officers and the men. It was the grounding of soldiering.
I suppose the natural thing is, the soldier always disagrees with the administrator. They have different viewpoints. Like when we have a war in the Northwest Frontier, the Political Agents come on, and their job, their interest lies with the enemy because that's the people they live among. The Political Agent is there to keep the tribesmen cool and calm and happy. They wouldn't be any good if they didn't associate themselves with a tribal point of view, but when we're out there getting men killed and disemboweled and castrated on the mountain, we don't think it's funny.
I'll tell you a story now. I've forgotten where it was now. There were all these political officers running about. There was a bit of a fight and a bit of a beat-up and Lord knows what else. At the end of the day when we were back in camp, the political officer came back and came into the mess and he said, "I think the boys fought very well indeed." He wasn't talking about our troops, he was talking about the bloody Pathans!
I'll tell you one thing about the Afridis because I knew them very well. They were full of feuds, interfamily feuds, intertribal feuds. They were terrible. There was a lot who lived right at the very top of the Afridi country, very high up and they were troubled because they had no saint of their own, no shrine of a holy man. So they invited a holy man to come stay with them and they murdered him and they made a great big huzzah. So then they had somebody to pray to. That was nothing. It's true.
We had an Afridi subadar in the South Waziristan Scouts called Khan Boz. He was known for shooting all his cousins in feuds. His nickname in the Scouts was the Pashto for "Cousin." He was a frightful boaster. When he went on leave he had to take an escort with him; he had a false beard which he put on. He could never go on leave on a direct route, he had to get to his home by some circuitous route and travelling by night, and he thought nothing of it. It was their way of life.
Razmak was seventy-five miles beyond the administrative border, and so you had to be very careful there because you were just in the middle of the tribesmen. They were no respecters of anybody and if they found anybody wandering off course or doing anything silly, you didn't get away with it. We used to have to go out on what was called column every month, which was really showing the flag. We went out about a week at a time, the entire brigade, four battalions plus the artillery and the sapper company and the whole lot, leaving a small garrison behind to look after the camp. You covered a distance of anything up to seventy or eighty miles through the mountains. As you went through, the advance guard had to put pickets up on to the mountains to be quite certain that the column couldn't get sniped at. There was one lovely occasion. We had to do this all year and it always rained in the summer. June was a bad month, just poured with rain up there then. There was one occasion when one of my platoons had to form a picket and we were soaked to the skin. He'd been out three days and the blankets, the bedding, everything was absolutely soaked. It was entirely uncomfortable. Rain was still teeming down and we were going along on this column and we had to go up and bag the heights. When you got up to the top of the hill you had to quickly get the stones, all the stones around you, and make what was called a sangar. You couldn't just lie out in the open or chaps would come and have a pot at you, so you had to be protected. You had one fellow looking out that way, one looking out that way and two this way the whole time. You always had two spare, resting, and then you changed them around.
Well, two chaps one awful wet day sitting in the sangar waiting their turn to go on guard, rain teeming down, soaked to the skin. And one says to the other, "Say, Jock, if you was to win the Derby sweep, what'd you do with the money?" "Oh," said his pal, "I'd buy myself out of the Army and go home." "Ah no," says the other, "I wouldn't. I'd buy up the whole of this effin' country and I'd put it out of bounds to British troops!"
Gurkhas always got on well with British soldiers. Always. How the devil they spoke I don't know. You'd see the two of them squatting by the roadside, pulling out a cigarette. "Cigarette, Johnny?" "Cigarette, Tommy?" And they'd smoke. What the deuce they spoke about I don't know.
The Northamptonshire Regiment we looked after very well on one particular column. When it came to Christmas time in Razmak -- Razmak was an enormous, great garrison; they say it's the largest monastery in the world, about ten thousand men, no women at all -- the senior Gurkha officer came up and asked if they could take over all the guards and pickets of this Northampton battalion at Christmas time, which was accepted. There was a great friendliness. They were always in our canteen because they liked the rum, and our men were in their canteen because they liked the beer. But no British soldier was ever put up for being drunk because the Gurkhas always took him back and put him to bed. Then when it came to deshera time the Northamptons came and said they'd take over our guards. Yes. That was pretty marvelous. When the Northamptons left they were given a presentation kukri and in return they gave us a silver honorary member's card making us honorary members of their mess forever.
The British soldiers led a much more sophisticated life in India than they did at home. They were more important people and in fact the British soldier in India was quite a personality. In England of course a British soldier cleans all his own boots and buttons. Spit and polish everything. But there he didn't. It was infra dig for a soldier to do all these menial things. He was a fighting man and he had a menial chap in the shape of an Indian bearer who he shared probably and paid some pittance to. In fact he even used to get shaved in bed in the morning before he woke up. The barber used to come round the barrack room with an ordinary open razor -- most of the chaps in the same room mucked in and they paid him. And he would come round and by the time the soldier woke up, he was shaven. He jumped straight out of bed, put his clothes on, jumped on his horse and away he went, quite likely having had somebody else to get his horse cleaned and saddled for him. So for a time the British soldiers thought this was wonderful, but it palled after a bit because there were no girls, no white women. Although they took up with some of the Indians, this was very much discouraged, and not a lot of them did, I don't think. They got reasonable leave, but they got bored. They played hockey and cricket, but they missed the sort of life the soldier leads in a military station in England. His ideal station is a place like Aldershot, which is absolutely full of soldiers, and women, and shops, and cinema. They didn't get much of that in India.
There was absolutely nobody of the troops' class for them to meet at all. Nobody. Nothing was ever done about it. They had nothing. They had the bazaar women to go with, and they always got venereal disease and what have you. And they had a very rough life on one and sixpence a day, or whatever it was they got paid, hardly anything. It was terrible. I don't know how they ever existed or how they stuck India. A very different life from the one we led.
They Lived in the 16th Century: Managing the Princes
In India the tradition of reverence for the ruler was felt very strongly. Obedience and obeisance given to these rulers was a thing of tradition. It wasn't put on or feigned.
There were a great number of princes. They ranged from the Nizam, who was bigger than any of them, down to little, small estates whose civil service consisted of one policeman and perhaps one schoolmaster. There were six hundred of them. They were guaranteed in their position by the British Crown. After the Mutiny, Queen Victoria guaranteed the princes in their position so they enjoyed an extraordinary system of security and tenure, enjoying the protection of the British Crown. If you enjoy protection to that extent it does tend to make you a little arbitrary. We had to preserve a very nice balance between maintaining them in their position and at the same time getting them to behave in a responsible way and spend enough of their money on their subjects and not the most of it on themselves. Some of them were very responsible, very good indeed.
There were eccentrics. One I knew well whose passion was writing and producing his own plays. He held that his plays were of far greater artistic and educational value than all the schools in his state and he was liable to use the education budget entirely to produce his plays. Every village had a playhouse. It didn't necessarily have a school. His actors and troupes used to put on plays for the villages but he didn't spend any money on reading and writing. There are people who would argue perhaps he's right, but we couldn't quite take that view. He wasn't an unpopular maharajah, he was very much liked. The agitation against him came from the politicians in neighboring British India.
There was another extraordinarily good maharajah who had a very fine administration, wonderful roads and schools and communication, hospitals. He had the unfortunate thing that his oldest son -- he was the heir apparent -- fancied himself an amateur doctor. He was liable to go into the hospitals where they had some appendix cases and would operate himself -- to his father's infinite chagrin.
The princely states varied in size, in economic viability, in administrative efficiency. Mysore, for example, which is in the south of India, the Maharajah of Mysore was one of the most enlightened rulers you can possibly imagine. He had enormous educational programs for the people, road programs, health programs, and so dealing with him was no difficulty. Others, like Jaipur, Bikaner, not so large or as wealthy as Mysore, but very, very advanced in all of their thinking and operations. On the other hand, right down at the other end of the list were small, small, little enclaves -- they weren't really states -- where they just couldn't do anything. But the concept that is sometimes created that the maharajahs lived a life of luxury, totally secluded from their peoples is not a correct view. The majority of them were very, very enlightened rulers, concerned with the welfare of the people, but in what we would call a benevolent despotism. There were virtually no democratic processes in these states, let's be quite frank about it, but that doesn't mean there were ruthless tyrannies. Many of the maharajahs were the most enlightened people, concerned with the welfare of their people.
I was posted to Chamba as Dewan, or Chief Minister. The Rajah of Chamba had died; he left a small son and you had a minority. Always with a minority someone had to rule the state while he grew up and was trained. In Chamba there were a series of Dewans -- which means Chief Minister -- for a number of years and I was the last. The way I arrived there was a very strange and unusual thing. The road did not go into Chamba, the capital.
The last bit I had to do on horseback. It was a hill state up in the Punjab. Just before you reached the town you had to go right down hill to the river and then you had to go up the other side to where there was a flat maidan, an open playing field, and lined up there were all the state officials. There was the Rajah to greet me and his private secretary (whom the Viceroy had made him appoint to look after his money affairs). The Rajah introduced me to all these people and at the end of the line -- this is something that has always fascinated me ever since -- there were four young men. I shook hands with the first two, and the Rajah suddenly pushed me back. "Mr. Shattock, you can't shake hands with those last two." I was mystified. I bowed and they bowed. Late that evening I said to the private secretary, "Would you please tell me why I was allowed to shake hands with the first two of the young men and why not the last two?" And his answer was, "Well, you see, the first two were the sons of the recognized concubines of the late Rajah. The last two were the sons of the unrecognized concubines." I said, "Such a subtlety is beyond my understanding."
I spent six months in Indore doing odd sorts of jobs, making friends with the maharajah and his entourage. One of the jobs I had was in charge of an opium factory at Neemuch, which was about a hundred and sixty miles from Indore. No railway there, go by road. We went to this place, which was a ghost town. It was originally built as a cavalry station many, many years before, at the turn of the century; then they discovered there wasn't sufficient water for the animals, the horses. General Ochterlony had his headquarters there at one stage and they had a Eurasian chap running this factory. He was the only chap there, and he ran Ochterlony's house -- which was a big building with a corridor going down one side for his Muslim wives and a corridor going down the other side for his Hindu concubines -- as a club -- it had a tennis court which we used to use there occasionally. But he ran it as a club because he got things at a discount by calling it a club. Although General Ochterlony had died about a hundred years before, the local people still revered him. In fact there was a little plaque to say that he lived there, and there were flowers, wreaths and thing, still there to the day that I was there. There were two opium factories, I think, in India because in those days you could still be registered as an addict and you could still get opium.
There was a state which was about a hundred miles away from Indore, no other communications except by road. And they had a guest house which was on the river, and I went down there on a visit. And this place was really right out in the wilds, miles from any civilization. And the maharajah who ran this particular place prided himself on being able to give you any drink that you'd care to name. So there was a competition. You'd sort of name the rarest drink that you'd ever heard of and they'd have to fix it. That was number one. But they entertained us on the river. And this was 1937, beginning of '38. And we had two barges on the river, one in which the banquet was served, and it was a first class meal of umpteen courses, and wine, and drinks because he'd provide any drink you'd like to name. And the barge next to us was where the band was, playing to us. I mean Nero in Rome just wasn't in it. But this was the pageantry that we went under.
It was pathetic in many other ways. The Resident's wife wouldn't let me go to one state. She regarded me as young and innocent, and she wouldn't let me go because it was one of these states which was in disfavor. The maharajah had gone a bit haywire, and he'd got tired of girls and he'd turned his attention to boys, and she thought this would be bad for me, so I wasn't allowed to go there. There were all sorts of stories about his behavior.
When I was higher up in Central India, one day we were going to inspect. I set out to inspect a jail and when we got to the jail the door was locked. And so we rattled on the door -- the ruler's officials were with us, you see. A voice said, "What do you want?" "The officer sahib has come. We want to come in and inspect you." He said, "Wait a minute, the key is down in the bazaar. One of the prisoners has taken it. He's buying food." And then a man was seen just running from the bazaar with a lettuce under one arm and a loaf under the other. He ran up and opened the door. When we went in and -- the ruler was there with us; he didn't seem a bit abashed -- and after the inspection was over, I said, "Where's the inspection book?" It was my duty to write a note. They produced it and I turned it open and looked at it and the last entry was one from the ruler himself which said, "I see the jail is empty. It must be half full before the inspecting officer arrives."
The Nawab of Rampur ruled a little state which used to be the old Rohilla kingdom. The family of the last Rohilla chieftain were given this state, the remains of the Rohilla state of Rampur. My father, when he was Commissioner, was also Political Agent of the Nawab and we were very fond of the Nawab's family and he was very fond of us. Whenever I wanted to have a rest I used to go there. The Nawab used to say, "Come and spend a weekend." I used to go to the palace and he used to say, "Just make yourself at home, anything you like," and I used to say, "Well, if I can have a horse to ride in the morning that will do very well." One time I went there and somebody had told the Nawab that I liked pig sticking, so we had great fun. He turned out the whole army -- which consisted of a platoon of Gurkhas and some very wild and woolly Pathan cavalry -- and all the Nawab's elephants -- and we beat the palace gardens for pig. It was very, very dangerous because when you were galloping after a pig you suddenly looked round and one of these wild sowars with his pagri between his teeth and his spear was just behind you. It was great fun.
The Nizam's whole palace was built on deep, deep cellars which were filled with gold and precious jewels. And one room would be full of emeralds. This is the story; how true it is, I don't know. And another would be full of diamonds, another would be full of rubies and so on, and this room full of gold. He was supposed to be the richest man in the world.
The Nizam of Byderabad was the richest man in the world -- but incredibly mean. He was a very, very funny little man. Very autocratic. And if you went there to dinner -- he used to have dinner parties every few months or so -- and he never used to have proper domestic arrangements, in a way. He lived very simply himself, so if he had a dinner party, he used to put the thing out to tender, and you'd get a very indifferent meal served by rather poorish looking servants, not dressed in proper beautiful clothes, as most of the others would be. And the Nizam would be sitting in the middle of the table, flanked by his most important guests. And the wine used to go round. If it went round more than once, or at the very most twice, you'd see the Nizam gesture. You weren't allowed to do any more.
He had a very enormous harem, reputedly about three hundred, including daughters and things. And they weren't allowed to come to dinner. But after dinner, when the ladies retired into a sort of drawing room, about three of these miserable daughters used to be produced to mingle with the guests. And we used to feel so sorry for these girls, because they were frightfully badly dressed -- in cotton saris and cotton stockings. Flat, black strap shoes and black stockings and cotton saris. And here was this man who, if he put half of his money on the world market, there would have been a crisis.
And every year they had to have this parade. It was rather like feudal England, where somebody had to provide a certain number of troops. And my stepfather, being adviser to the state forces, every year this parade had to be held. And it was quite amusing because in fact it was a fairly lighthearted affair in a way, because most of the things that were produced weren't really able to go to war. They were probably all scratched up from nowhere much. You had camel carts and camels pulling guns, and all sorts of very antiquated affairs. A few trained troops, proper ones, but the main body of it was very feudal, and going back many years -- elephants and camels pulling things along, and a rabble of sort of supposedly soldiers. Because you had to produce x number of able bodied fighters, as it were. And in order to do this, you didn't probably keep them under arms all the year round. You just got them on parade one day a year -- except for a small nucleus of well-trained state forces. But this parade was quite an eye opener, all rattling along in the dust.
My father was what was called Agent to the Governor General in what was then RaJputana. There was a state called Bikaner and the Maharajah used to give Christmas shoots one had to experience to realize what life was in imperial India. It was absolutely fascinating. I was just a young man and I was given a week's local leave. I went there by train from Calcutta to Delhi -- it was a twenty-four hour train journey and then one had to change trains and go to a place called Bhatinda, where one changed trains again to the Bikaner State Railway. Very cold, northern India in December. My luggage went into the compartment and it was bitterly cold and I was running up and down the platform about three a.m. And I finally went up to the guard and asked, "When is this train due to start?" And he said, "Your honor, this train is waiting for you." I wanted to keep warm.
Having got to Bikaner, it was a unique experience because he used to have a house party of about sixty people. I arrived Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day there was a vast party for these European guests with Father Christmas arriving on a white elephant preceded by the state band. This sort of thing was fabulous.
Then the whole house party was moved out after Christmas about twenty miles away to a place called Gajner where there was a lake and three days' shooting, everything arranged absolutely perfectly. Two days of grouse, one day of duck.
The Nawab, who used to be a well-known cricketer, had met an Indian girl in Switzerland. They knew each other well but still had to go through a native marriage ceremony, and we went to the wedding and we went to the celebration afterwards and the Nawab was there with his Begum but he had his Negro mistress at his feet. It so incensed my Resident that we got up and walked out. Oh, he was quite eccentric. He used to play bicycle polo with his Political Agent in the courtyard of the palace every afternoon. The Political Agent had to sit on a bicycle and play bicycle polo with the Nawab. In Central India they still used to keep up the odd custom after an important wedding of firing a gun when penetration had been effected on the first night of the honeymoon. They'd all got their little eccentricities, but they were all quite sort of -- scratch them and there was still quite a bit of uncivilization and fierceness under most of them. Given the chance they could be very despotic.
We went to stay with the Nawab of Rampur. No sooner had we arrived at the palace when an elephant trundled up to a sort of verandah, completely laden down with flowers. My mother was absolutely charmed because she said she'd been given a lot of flowers in her time, but she said she'd never had an elephant load before.
The great thing was the Governor's Cup, which was a cup presented by the governor in person. And I well remember a wonderful time when Kashmir wanted to win it. And he had bribed every single jockey -- except the rider of a roaring outsider, whose name was Bushbooze. And of course I didn't bet Bushbooze. And the race started, and it was run beautifully, but instead of Kashmir's horse, which was called Jai Bawani II -- he was all set to win, you see. But Bushbooze's jockey hadn't been squared, so he went -- whoosh! -- straight through and won! The next year it was dropped correct, and Kashmir won, because he didn't make that mistake twice.
C. was a very fine shot. This was [later] the maharajah who shot a thousand tigers. We went and stayed in his state and they all shot. The whole family. There was nothing else to do really. We thought it was dreadful, until we went and stayed in the state. From his capital there were five roads radiated out and each member of the maharajah's family went out every single night and shot on these things. The maharani went on one -- she was a Nepali woman -- the maharajah went on one, his two other sons went on two other roads and C. had another road. When we stayed there we went out on C.'s road and there as we went along were spotlights and little platforms -- I'm sorry to say with goats tied up to them to attract animals. But we came to the conclusion it was much better to do that than to sit at home and drink and perhaps have women. There was nothing else to do. They weren't great readers, no music, no television. So we thought it was really more healthy for them to go out shooting the odd deer.
I went there once when the maharajah opened some buildings and I had to sit next to him driving along in a car which was painted like a tiger lined in red plush. And then the maharajah was bowing to that side. Everyone was saying, "Maharaja! Maharaja!" And I was bowing to this side and pretending. Oh, it was such fun, it really was so amusing.
A friend and I were asked to stay in one state before the visit of the Governor. We went along to see that everything was all right. The bathroom was about the size of this, lovely, all tesellated, the floor, and the bath and the basin. But no outlet. You lifted up the plug of the bath and the water just swished over the whole place. Your clothes would be floating about. We did say to the rajah -- this was the royal guest suite that we occupied before the Governor came -- "You know, you really ought to have a pipe attached." But he never did.
The maharajah of S. gave me five panther skins for a coat. I had them made up by a nice furrier in London -- in Wimpole Street or someplace like that -- and she said, "How do you manage to get panther skins like this?" And I said, "I know a maharajah who shoots eighty during the cold weather. He shoots twenty a month and he just sells them to the Marwaris. He doesn't know what to do with them." So I said, "But I can get you dozens of skins." She said, "Yes, I'd love to have them." Do you know, this maharajah sent me eighty skins, all cured in all these packing cases and I was going to ship them to London. He was going to make money, he was quite keen to sell them. War broke out just then and I had those eighty skins in the house in these packing cases all during the war. Every now and then I had to put all these skins all around so they didn't get damp or motheaten or something. Wasn't it a shame? In the end one of our boys [in the school for princes] -- his father, who had something to do with skins -- he actually wasn't a maharajah -- took over the skins and bought them. That very nice maharajah gave me all the money for my medicine for the villages. He was awfully nice.
I was Assistant Political Agent in South Waziristan. The people of South Waziristan were very poor. It was a very mountainous, rugged, very poor, arid country. They were also very warlike, very good fighters. They spent most of their time fighting each other, stealing each other's livestock. When they weren't doing that they were stealing livestock and girls and things from across the border in British India and the Political Agent's problem really was to try and pacify the tribes. When people are stealing each other's livestock because they're hungry the main problem is to find a better means of livelihood. So one of our main problems was to try and make peace between the various subsections of the tribe; secondly, to stop them from raiding British India, but mainly to provide an economic basis so that they could do without raids. We did everything we could to improve their agriculture. We taught them how to grow all sorts of things that they'd never heard of before like apricots and peaches. We tried very hard to get them employment in British India. We worked very hard to get them contracts with the government. We tried to recruit them into various government services. We did everything we could to raise their standard of living to the point where they didn't have to steal each other's cattle and didn't have to raid into British India and tried to maintain law and order while we were doing it. We also paid them subsidies, of course.
When I was in Lora Lai District I was the Assistant Political Agent and we ran an area which was umpteen square miles with borders with Sind and the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province.
Very wild country, not near railheads or anything like that. The Khetrans were the tribe that lived on the Punjab border. The old tribal chief had died and his son had taken over from him. His son had been educated at one of the chief's colleges in Lahore and had come back with very modern views about how he should manage his tribe, which didn't get on very well with the tribal leaders. There was trouble in the tribe there. One of his uncles was visiting me in Lora Lai. Every morning the tribal chaps used to come around; we always had open houses for them. He said to me -- I'd been up to their area, knocking heads together, saying they really must get on, none of this internal strife, fighting, in fact. He said to me, "Oh, if any of these chaps are giving you trouble, just let me know and I'll deal with him for you." Bump him off in fact. I had to say to him that I couldn't really take advantage of that offer.
I'm sorry to say that two or three weeks later I had to lock him up. There wasn't much in the way of resources, revenue in the area. Baluchistan was very rugged country where if you had some water, you'd have an oasis and you could grow wheat and food grains and you could run a few goats and sheep. But it was a pretty subsistence-like existence. But you used to have mail lorries, mail contracts, and they were a good source of revenue. Most communication was by roads, there were no trains. Some rival had got the mail contract and he didn't like it, so he'd shot up the mail lorry.
Earlier on in my Fort Sandeman days I had been on leave in Kashmir. When I came back on a different route, which brought me to Lora Lai, I had to do the trip from Lora Lai to Fort Sandeman -- this was about a hundred and twenty miles or so. I was going up by the mail lorry, which went up two or three times a week, and the Zhob Militia chap said, "Oh there's one of our lorries which has been down in Lora Lai. You can hop a lift back on that, because it's done its journey, it'll be going back empty. Come back on that." When I went to catch the Zhob Militia lorry, the driver said, "Oh, there's something gone wrong with it, the ignition." This, of course, was a put-up job, which I knew, because he wanted to use the lorry himself and make some money out of it. However, I said not as we can get it fixed and we got it fixed and drove back. Driving in that part of the world you had to sign out whenever you left one of the townships and they sent a telegram to the other end. Then you had to sign in at the other end. I went off in the Zhob Militia lorry and got in to Fort Sandeman. Then we discovered that the mail lorry was late and hadn't come in. In fact, that mail lorry had been shot up. What they did, in fact -- part of the area was a pass you had to go through, twisty road -- they put a whole string of boulders across the road around a corner so the lorry or car would come around the corner and have to stop. They just loosed shots into this lorry, killed a couple of people. And that was the lorry I should have been on.
That sort of thing happened quite frequently. We didn't mind if they shot themselves up, but if they shot up one of the Indian Political Service's, then we took prompt action. There was one chap who was in Quetta and Political Agent in Fort Sandeman later on who was assasinated by one of his levies, who said that he hadn't been promoted and the Political Agent was foolish enough to say he never would be promoted, so the chap drew a pistol and shot him. We lost one or two people, but usually by accident, because they shot the next car that was coming around the corner and if you happened to be in it, that was too bad.
I was held up by a gang once. They thought I was the garrison engineer, who was paying road gangs. When they discovered I was Assistant Political Agent, of course they let me go. I don't know what they would have done to the garrison engineer. They might just have taken the money from him and let him go on. We were right out in the blue and saw these people down at the bottom. I had a couple of chaps, levies, with me in the car. They said they were hostile, but the blunt fact of it was we were on a narrow track; it would have been difficult to turn and go back and, anyway, I said, "To hell with this. My area, I go down." I went down and stopped and talked to them. They were a hostile gang, in fact, but they let us go, they knew who we were. We lived with that sort of thing all the time. Just took it as part of the job.
Baluchistan, which had a population of two and a half million and an area the size of England, Scotland and Wales put together, was administered by twelve administrative officers. We did it because the tribes were quite happy for us to do so. If the tribesmen had not accepted our guidance and our advice and our instructions, you would have needed several divisions of troops to do what we were doing.
1. The Passage to India | interviews
2. Running Your Empire | interviews
3. Life in the Bungalows | interviews
4. Imperial Diversions | interviews
5. Never the Twain? | interviews
6. No More India to Go to | interviews