"In those days we had no water laid on and our water was in big, cool
rooms. Everything was dark and we had all our water put into great big
mutti vessels which evaporated, so we really didn't suffer very badly, I
don't think. And paraffin oil lamps, which gave you a beautiful glow in
- Merryel Hatch-Barnwell
Life in the Bungalows
On the Verandah
Major-General William Odling:
These bungalows in nearly all those Indian stations were very similar.
Very thick walls, very deep verandah all around, with usually two big
rooms in the center --
one a sitting room and one a dining room --
rooms indeed. And a room at every corner was a bedroom. And the corner
rooms had --
the whole lot had French windows --
and the bedrooms had what we
called a ghuslkhanah, that is to say a bathroom, which was really a dicky
sort of annex. Of course there's no water laid on. And you'd have what we
called a thunderbox. It was just a bucket inside a seat which you squatted
on. Now when you had a bath you had to give a little bit of notice,
because they had to boil enough water in kerosene tins which held two
gallons, I think. You had a couple of those boiled up, and this was done
by the bhisti, who was the water carrier. He'd get the water out of the
well and he'd boil it up on some sticks, some cow dung, and put it in your
bath when you wanted it. And your thunderbox was emptied of course by the
sweeper, because he was untouchable, and nobody else would be near it. And
that was all there was in the bathroom. But of course to run the water out
of the bath you had to tip it --
there was a little curb around where the
tub was. You tipped the water out and it ran out through a hole in the
wall, which was a very convenient place for snakes to come in. They liked
coming in because the ground was usually damp, because the water had run
out and it was shady and nice and cool. And this was always a bit of a
We had a mess which generally speaking had no sleeping
accommodation at all. We didn't live in the mess, but you had your meals
there. Then around the mess, every house stood in its own grounds very
much. And in this garden, which was more or less a jungle, you kept your
horses and all the servants. And they had cabins, if that's the right
word, and there were stables as well. Well now, leaving the mess for the
moment but going to the next house, where you might be living, or the next
but one, there'd be four bachelor officers, one in each corner. And almost
certainly the two central rooms wouldn't be occupied at all. And you would
have your own bearer, who was your number one servant. And then you would
have a groom, called a syce, for every horse. And you would share the
bhisti, this was the water carrier. You'd share the sweeper. You'd share
the gardener, the mali, who would just keep a few plants going down the
drive and that's about all. You would share a chowkidar --
that's a night
watchman, who slept all night, but he allegedly was in league with all the
thieves, a sort of insurance. Sometimes people really got hold of a tough
sort of night watchman, an ex-Gurkha or something, and he very often got
killed. It happened in our mess. He was beaten up really badly because he
wasn't in with the thieves, he was an honest man. And then all these
people would have a wife and two or three children and maybe a
mother-in-law and so on. It came to quite a lot if there were three or
four young officers living in one of these bungalows. I did a count one
I think it came to sixty-seven or something like that, living in
And you had some horses, too. You were entitled to two
horses, and you probably hired one or two horses from the government as
well. When I really got pigsticking [wild-hog hunting] out in this place
Muttra, I never had less than five horses. I used to have the tent club
[wild-hog hunting organization] camel in my garden, too, and then we were
given a camel and the camel was pregnant, and then we had three camels.
And in the garden there was a well, and you might hire a
couple of bullocks once a week to irrigate the garden, and some people got
mad keen on gardening and gardens did very beautifully. And we used to
take a lot of trouble over the mess garden, all of us. There was a great
big well and a great bucket made of skin, a sort of iron rim round it. A
shallow well and a ramp and these animals would work the thing by
themselves. They didn't have to be driven, they got used to it. And when
the bucket came up, the chap used to give a call telling them to stop, but
as they got to the bottom of the ramp, they couldn't go any further and he
just pulled the thing onto a flat table, so to speak, and of course the
bucket collapsed, because it was made of leather, and then it ran off into
a channel. And you got it all round the garden just like you irrigated the
fields. You used the water for your bath, too. And all these sixty or
seventy people who were in your compound relied on the well, too.
You had electric light. You had fans in every room, but
they don't really keep it cool. They just move the air. We used to sleep
out. You'd take a bed out into the garden. And then when the rains came,
we then slept on the verandah. If you took a chance and went outside, then
the chowkidar used to come round when it was raining and help you bring
your bed in. But I used to have two beds. I used to have one made up in my
room and one out in the garden, and I reckoned I could get from my garden
bed to my indoor bed without really waking up. It seemed a sensible thing
to do. But if the chowkidar helped bring in about three beds, you're
pretty wet by the end of it, and you'd woken up, and then you had to carry
the damn thing in. And of course in the hot weather you just wore some
little sort of loin cloth --
no bedding, no pajamas, no nothing, and
absolutely, your bed was wringing wet with sweat. In the winter it was a
different thing. Then you would be inside with a blanket.
We lived in this very old bungalow, which was one of the
original ones, and it had very, very thick walls --
mud. And mud floors. And
you had these, what they call chittai, which was rush --
woven, by the men. You got them to come and do it. And they made a fitted
chittai carpet, really, exactly the shape of your room, or rooms. I mean
all the rooms were the same. And otherwise you had more or less ordinary
English furniture. You took your own pictures, and china, and silver, and
glass, and linen, and those sorts of things. But the actual furniture you
hired. In Kohat we hired our furniture in the bungalow, which was a big
bungalow. It had two double bedrooms and dressing room and bathroom, that
sort of thing. And a large sitting room, then a small bedroom, a dining
room, and of course a kitchen at the back, separate. And you had these
wide verandahs, which of course were meant for keeping the house cool in
the summer. Because the heat in Kohat during the hot weather was something
around one hundred twenty. Very, very hot. But in the winter, beautiful
climate, very cold. I mean ice and snow, and you wore just the sort of
clothes you would wear in England.
Brigadier John Dinwiddie and Lady Daphne Dalton:
Brigadier Dinwiddie: The Persian carpets were brought down on
camel into India for sale. They penetrated as far down as the Punjab,
Lahore, or even farther, selling these carpets. That would happen during
the cold weather. And they'd go back to their highlands when it started to
get hot. Often they had a residue of carpets they hadn't been able to
sell. That's when the cunning British officer or his wife went into
action. They had to sell. They came into Quetta and Peshawar with things
like that, all along the Frontier. That was the killing ground.
Lady Dalton: They'd come around to your house and produce all
these carpets and lay them out and you'd sort of pick out the ones you
liked and then you'd start haggling. They'd start off and you'd offer them
half and you'd never get quite together. They'd say, "Why don't you keep
it for a few days," and lay it down on the floor, very trusting. Off
they'd go and a few days later they'd come back and you'd start haggling
all over again. Eventually you'd come to some sort of an agreement.
We went to a place called Ahmadnagar for our first station. We were only
there for a year. A small place, all very interesting to me. The first
night, there was no bungalow for us, and we slept in this tomb bungalow.
It had been a Mohammedan tomb but it was converted into a little tomb
bungalow. I never knew the history of why it had become disused, but they
turned it into a bungalow, for touring officers and people going through.
How one lived in India in those days --
one would have expected in a place
like Patna, which was the headquarters of the province, more of the
amenities of civilization. One of the things that surprised me when I
first went out there was the fact that there was no actual sewage system,
there was no plumbing. In the bathroom you had what was called a
thunderbox and this was cleared out by a sweeper who took it away and
emptied it into a cess pit. You had a tin tub for a bath and they would
bring in cans of water heated over a fire somewhere and empty these cans.
There was no running water. This was even in Patna, let
alone in the outback and the areas like the districts and the
subdivisions. This was in headquarters. When I first arrived I stayed with
the Chief Secretary. Though it was the most palatial and beautiful
bungalow, beautiful grounds and beautifully kept, here was this complete
lack of what one would have thought almost the basic amenities of
civilization. No central water supply, not even a bore hole well and
Of course they had electricity; in the districts usually
you didn't have electricity at all. You had pressure lamps, petrol lamps,
that was the normal system of lighting, all by paraffin. You had pull
punkahs [for fans] with a rope going over a pulley and a little man
pulling the rope back and forward; usually he used to attach the rope to
his toe and just sort of drift off to sleep and that was the means of
keeping cool. Let alone air conditioning. There weren't even electric
fans. Life was fairly primitive in those days. Surprisingly enough one
didn't miss these things because you weren't used to them. You accepted
the way of life that was there. And this was in 1937.
Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:
When we first went out to India we had hand operated fans known as
punkahs. And the boy whose job it was to work these was called the punkah
wallah. And his job was to pull this curtain; it was hanging from the
it would go the width of the room --
and it was made of cloth. It was
on a framework, and by pulling the rope and letting it go, pulling it and
letting it go, you automatically disturbed the air. All houses of any sort
of note would have this and they had the punkah wallah. He occasionally
went to sleep and had to be roused by the sahib, waking up with a start
and sweating, and the chap would hastily wake up and pull his punkah.
Lady Daphne Dalton:
When we were in this place in Rajputana, Nasirabad, it was extremely
hot. And although we had electric fans --
the bungalow was quite modern --
couldn't really keep cool in the daytime. What we had was, the back doors
they were like French windows, right down to the ground. And fixed
up against the outside of these doors were two screens made of a
special sort of grass, woven like a blind, which was let down right across
the doors. And then you employed a little boy with a can of water, and he
sat on the verandah and his job was to splash water on these grass mats
hung over the doors, and the wind blew through these and cooled the room
down degrees really. They were known as cuscus tatties. Every now and
then in the middle of the very hottest part of the day, suddenly one would
get terribly, terribly hot and stuffy and you'd realize the little boy had
dropped off and was no longer throwing water over these things. So you'd
give a loud shout, or rattle something, and he'd start off again. It was
quite a nice smell, a sort of a hay kind of smell, which was rather
pleasant, and it also made things much, much cooler.
The other thing that one had, of course, was scorpions --
plenty of those --
and praying mantis and the rather attractive little
lizard things that run up and down --
geckos. Quite useful --
they used to
catch flies. They were quite nice. In those old bungalows in Meerut, when
I first went to Meerut, most of the bungalows had these sort of thatched
roofs, and they had these sheets. Instead of having a ceiling, you had a
white sheet to fit the ceiling, and all sorts of creepy crawlies. You'd be
sitting there and you'd suddenly see something between the sheet and the
roof, the ceiling, running along the top. Probably something quite not
dangerous at all. But it kept the creepy crawlies from actually dropping
through the thatch on to the floor.
Brigadier John Dinwiddie:
The Prince of Wales visited India in the Cold Weather of '21 or '22 and he
went all around India and eventually he arrived in Rawalpindi. There was
very little mod cons there or anywhere. He stayed in the Commissioner's
house and there were no pulls and let-goes there on the w.c. All the
bungalows in India mostly have flat roofs and so some bright chap had a
tank of water taken up to the roof, water pumped up into it. When the
prince pulled the chain, that picked up a little red flag on the roof upon
which the bhisti [water carrier] then stepped forward and poured a bucket
Of course food was a problem when I first went because I had no
electricity and no refrigerator. I had a curious thing that was run off
kerosene. It didn't work very well. Anyway, the great thing was that I
wasn't far from the main railway line from Madras to Tuticorin or
Travancore. So I would send the car and bearer once or twice a week to the
station where the train stopped and he would get hold of a lot of ice from
the dining car of the train and bring it back and it would keep this going
for a few days. It was an elaborate bandobast [business], but it worked.
Catherine Oliver Gardiner:
My mother got me the most expensive and beautiful evening clothes. Her
idea of India was balls and Viceregal Lodge, that sort of thing. But of
course my husband was a soldier and went into railways. Directly we
arrived we were moved upcountry to a place where I was the only white
woman. Dick was in charge of a vast mileage of track. We had a superb
bungalow but not one stick of furniture, and we couldn't afford to buy it.
So my evening dresses were no good at all. I had to get into riding
trousers and an old shirt! But I realize that I saw an India that very few
white women saw. I made friends with the doctor. She was colored but had
Portuguese blood, a wonderful woman. She took me in tow. I suppose she
thought, "Ignorant little thing, she ought to be taken round and shown a
few things." That gave me a love of India, not seeing the sort of
superficial life of the cantonments.
What the Europeans put up with and did, on the whole --
what the memsahibs
was wonderful. Because you don't have stoves and all that sort of
thing to cook with. You have a big brick wall built up about four feet
high. And it has holes in front and holes on the top. And you put in wood,
you cook with wood. And you have a tandoor, that's a big round thing. And
they make your bread and everything, and soups and everything. But you
don't have a Hindu cook, because he won't cook beef. He won't touch beef.
And a Mohammedan won't touch pork.
Friends of mine at home, my own relatives, thought we just
lived at ease and did nothing. But it was a very busy life for a memsahib.
A memsahib, if she wanted to keep fit and keep her husband
fit, she had to supervise. You had to boil all your own water and see it
boiled, and your milk. And you had to bottle it. And you had no
frigidaires, no ice, no nothing. You bottle the water and cool it,
wrapping linen round. You have long tables with all your drinking water.
And your milk you put in a pingeri. A pingeri is like a frigidaire. No
frigidaires, no electric light. You may have a table lamp if you're lucky,
or you may have hurricane butties. And you never go out when it's dark
without a hurricane butty, because of cobras and kraits and what have you.
And you go and inspect your kitchen once a day. That is enough.
You have a lot to do in your bungalow, if you want to keep
well, supervising all the food. And I had a garden. I was fond of
gardening. You have a mali, a gardener, of course, and he has coolies to
help. And this place where we were the only two white folk, we had five
years there, and we kept our own cow, and our own sheep, and our own
chickens, and geese, and duck, turkey. You have a big compound, and all
the servants and their children, you see that they are cared for properly.
They're rather sweet. The political side of life doesn't interest me too
much. I did Red Cross work there, I helped with the hospitals. And with
all those servants and all their children, and your husband, and your own
compound and the animals, it's quite enough to do. It involves much more
work than in England, where it's nothing running a house, because you've
got all the modern conveniences. This is why it fascinated me, the
pollutedness of the place, and yet you did everything every day, you did
the same every day.
I was in India during the War Years, so in a way it had changed quite a
lot from the earlier days. But the standard of living was extraordinarily
high. And having lived since in Borneo, and Sarawak, and places like that,
the one thing that struck me was the high quality --
and I mean this in its
narrowest sense --
of women who went out to India that they trained the
servants to such a degree of perfection --
table laying, housekeeping,
silver, glass, cutlery. Because it was extraordinary.
The standard of European living was high in its
in the big places, like Delhi and so on. Of course when
you're in the outback, the standard was appalling. But what I'm saying is
that the quality of woman who went out and trained these servants was
and you go a long way back, to past the Mutiny --
a woman who
was at home had been used to servants and a standard of living, because
you cannot train a servant unless you know how to do it. And it says (a)
for the memsahib a great deal, the original memsahib, and (b) for the
Indian, who had adapted so wonderfully. And in some of the hotels, even
when I first went out, for instance the Hotel Cecil in Simla, they could
turn out a meal with the sort of food from Fortnum and Mason's. But that
was when I first went out in '40.
Lady Daphne Dalton:
Another interesting thing was the domestic side of life --
the daily seeing
your cook sort of thing. He did all the shopping --
the meat, the fish,
the chicken, the vegetables, the fruit --
out of the bazaar, where he went
every day, probably on his bicycle, to do the shopping. And then he'd
come back and produce his account book, which you would go through and
then you would order what you wanted for lunch, or dinner, or whatever it
was. And then if there was something special he would go and get it. And
quite likely your bearer, who was the head servant, would be present at
this session, in the dining room usually, and the cook would come in, all
very clean and smart, and the bearer would be at your elbow --
on your side. Then you'd have a polite argument with the cook --
spent too much money buying a chicken or whatever. So then you'd chop off
a few pice or whatever, knowing full well that the same price would be
back the next day in some other guise. So it was a sort of good natured
kind of wrangle. Then you'd order your meals. Most of the cooks spoke
enough English to understand what you wanted. But the remarkable thing was
that most of them would never have touched any of your food. So that when
you said, "Well, that pudding wanted a bit more sugar," or "The meat
wanted some more salt," or whatever you said about it, they wouldn't have
a clue as to what it ought to taste like, because they would never taste
it. So it was really quite remarkable, because some of the cooking was
really high class. Very, very good indeed. As good as anything you'd
expect to meet in a good hotel in England.
Then after your arrangement with the cook, you'd go and
inspect the kitchen, and the sort of cook's boy, who'd be the kitchen maid
in this country, he'd be on parade as well, all very clean and tidy. And
you'd inspect all the cooking pots --
turn them all upside down and look
inside and everything. And then you'd walk out and say, "Thank you very
much," and that would be that for that day.
You had to learn the language even as a woman, or you missed so much
otherwise. It was essential. I had a munshi to teach me, but he always
taught me along military lines, because that was what he was used to. He
would say, "Go to the adjutant, and tell him that number three company has
mutinied." And all I wanted to know was how to say, "The meat is tough."
My mother in law was absolutely marvelous. When I went out there, she told
me that she had taken three children all round India in trains and things,
and they never were ill. In those days it was a question of no injections
for any of these things. She said the one good rule when you had children
out there, for milk, you had to get hold of a good cow and the man who
brings it has got to first have a bowl with water and soap and he's got to
scrub and wash his hands. Then he milks it into your utensil with your own
bearer within one inch of it, because for two pence he'd pour some
dirty in, you see. Then it's brought in and then it's boiled. I think she
was amazing. I went to quite a few jungly places and we moved about and so
I didn't have the children with me. But I'd have been scared, I think.
Of course you had your servants and there was very, very little for a
woman to do, unless you used your own initiative and got on and learnt the
language or took an interest in the hospitals or something or other. It
was up to you to do it and you could do it, but not all the women who went
out were prepared for this. Then you get the rather silly memsahib
attitude that is put over so much now. Just the social life and silly sort
of bickering that went on, that sort of side to it. I think it was a very
difficult life for British women in India.
The climate --
you didn't have all the things you have now
like air conditioning. You had fans. Way back you had punkahs, then you
had fans, and now of course there's much more. But it was a difficult
life, a very difficult life. And then they were separated from their
family. And they were waited on hand and foot. You couldn't do otherwise.
It wasn't possible to do housework. It would have upset the whole strata,
because one chap's allowed to do one thing and another's allowed to do
another. And the whole system would have collapsed if you'd interfered.
So what you could do was to interest yourself in the arts.
And a lot of them did a lot of painting, music, but they did have to make
their own interests. And those who had not got the capacity for doing that
naturally got into trouble, and caused trouble. There was an awful lot of
exchanging husbands, and that sort of thing, just because life was very
I was only there a comparatively short time, and all the
time I was there --
we weren't married, you see --
I was in Government House
with my uncle. And there was a lot you were expected to do. And you were
expected to go and visit the hospitals. And then, though I was only out
there a year, I took Urdu lessons. We got in a lot of sport, of course, we
rode every morning. And then you played a lot of tennis, and also in
Karachi where we were, there used to be sailing. But in between that there
was a tremendous lot of entertaining which we had to help my aunt with.
Not the actual preparation, but we were supposed to be there to talk to
the people, and make them feel at home, and that sort of thing.
But we were made to understand that it wasn't just our
lives, there were the Indian lives as well, that we were lucky. As I say,
we had the right background. People who came out from home without any....
You got quite a number, especially among the women I would say, who never
were happy in India. If you went out there with an open mind, what scope
you had. If you only took interest in birds, for example, you had
wonderful opportunities. But some people went out with suburban minds,
closed to everything except the little life of the station. The average
man always settled down better because he had a job to do, and mostly the
women didn't. And they missed their kind of social life. They used to let
the Indian servants get on their nerves. After all there was a certain
amount of peculations and fudging of accounts, and it bothered them, I
suppose, and they used to get very irritable. We all got irritable, of
course, with the Indian, I'm afraid, from time to time, but on the whole
we got on very well with them. You'd have thought that any memsahib going
out there would have been very happy to have so many competent servants.
Bit of a nuisance having to keep so many, you had to pay them all, but one
man wouldn't do another man's job, so you had to have about seven. You had
your bearer, your khitmagar, your dhobi, your sweeper, your mali, your
syce, then an ayah for your children.
Most of the men went out and they found the job
fascinating. It's a fascinating country to work in. And for sport, too,
for that matter. They took to it well. There were quite a number of the
memsahibs who never really became anything other than English housewives
in the wrong place. But a lot of them did very good work too.
Health, of course, made it difficult. Now my own mother,
who was the most saintly woman I know, never really took to India, never
liked it, because, I think, she had this awful business of not only bad
health herself --
Madras being a very bad climate --
but also being absolutely
devoted to her husband, absolutely devoted to her five children. She was
always separated from one or the other. She got to hate that journey to
She got to really dislike India, just dying to get home
and be with her family again. That I suppose was very typical. There must
have been a lot of very, very good women who didn't get on with India
because of all this separation.
The people looked nice, and they were always well groomed, because even if
you had a brood of children, you got up in the morning and the ayah had
done all the children and you sat down to breakfast. So you had time. The
average memsahib was a well-cared for, well-groomed person.
When people live so far from home, away from their roots,
and away from their families, and away from the sort of things they've
grown up with, I'm quite sure they do things that they'd never do if they
lived in the area where mother was, or their sisters, or somebody who'd
say, "Look, you can't do that!" And life in a way was different because
if a mother walked out, if she just took off and left children with the
ayah, ran away with somebody who took her fancy, well there was an ayah
there. There was a house there, it was furnished, there were servants,
food was cooked. Well, if somebody like me thought to run away in England,
I couldn't run away because I couldn't just leave the children with
nobody. So it all in a way was easier than it would have been in other
places which had a different sort of living arrangement.
In my time children in India were very soon sent to England for their
education. There were some people who tried to keep them out there with
governesses, but it was generally not thought a good idea. Of course the
servants were very good to them, they were charming to them. I've heard
people sneering at what they called "back of the verandah" education,
meaning just keeping them on and letting them have local people. I think
the general feeling was they wouldn't be equipped for getting on without
being sent to England. What was obvious was the strain particularly on the
mothers of losing them and then perhaps having the division between
wanting to be with her husband and wanting to see her children. I think it
was particularly hard on them. And then in some cases --
you know how
children are --
at a certain age they'd go away for a while and when they
come back they don't want to know you, they've forgotten about you. That
did persist and created a lot of tensions.
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
The theory was that you had to send them [children] back to England when
they were getting about eight. Of course in those days you couldn't send
them back for a holiday or anything, because it took nearly a month to get
by ship. So when you were out there you stayed. And so most families
had to face the awful decision of whether to stay there with your family,
or send the family home to school and either leave them parentless in
England, or else you'd be familyless in India. This was a great difficulty
for many parents.
It was the theory that it was the thing you had to do, and
whether it was a baseless theory or not I don't know. Of course it was
difficult to get very well educated in India. And once a girl started to
get up in her teens, certain hazards began to present themselves. Well, at
least they were thought to present themselves --
whether they really were
there I doubt very much. I don't think in fact that Indians really had
quite the sort of lustful natures that they were sometimes credited with.
But it was really the education. It was difficult to get a child educated
out there. You could get a governess, but that wasn't really very
It was an unsatisfactory feature of life in India, this
awful problem of what to do when the children started to grow up. Possibly
it would have been more sensible to keep them out longer than most people
did, and have them with you. But they had to come home sometime, and if
you entered the educational stream much older than your fellows, that made
life difficult for you.
I think if you were born of parents who lived in India you more or less
accepted that when you were six or seven you came back to England and you
were educated in England. You expected not to see your parents except when
they came home on leave from the age of seven until about the age of
eighteen or whenever your parents retired. Maybe if they weren't retired
by the time you were eighteen, you perhaps went out and joined them, or
you did if you were a girl, say. I know that my mother felt strongly about
this and in fact she did come home every six months just to see us, so she
always used to come home on her own in the summer holidays and we would
rent a house in Cornwall for a month and then go to my grandparents. And
then the other two holidays --
well, a couple of them we came here to this
aunt when she came home from India. One of them we spent at school, which
was really dreary. We were lucky because my father had leave every three
years, but there were some children whose fathers only had leave every
four years, so they only saw their parents every four years and they spent
the rest of the time with all sorts of strange people. Rather like Kipling
in that story of his. There were quite a lot of people who advertised to
have children whose parents were abroad. But of course one used to always
get this weekly letter and I was considered very lucky at school because
my father wrote as well as my mother, so I had two weekly letters. But
mostly it was the mothers that wrote.
My grandfather brought his three children back to England
when his wife died and first they went to his mother and then he and his
mother had a disagreement; he took a house in Inverness Terrace in London
and she said it was very unsuitable, and they had a disagreement and she
refused to bring up the children, so instead he hired a sort of
governess-housekeeper and she lived with the children for a time until he
retired. But I think my two aunts and my uncle and my father had rather a
dreary sort of upbringing with this governess. Although she was very
conscientious and she wasn't unkind, it was cheerless. You accepted it
Douglas Fairbairn and Agnes Fairbairn:
Agnes Fairbairn: The children pick up the language very, very
readily from being with the servants. My eldest boy, Alistair, didn't
speak English to my youngest, Mark, and I said, "Alistair, why don't you
speak English to Mark?" and he said, "But Mark doesn't understand
English." I came home with them, brought them home for the first time on
board ship. On board ship there were some very sort of snooty memsahibs.
We were all sitting looking at this film for children on the boat, a film
called "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and Mark was very excited beside Alistair
and he was saying in Hindustani, "Alistair! Alistair! Look! Look! Poor
Cock Robin's dead."
And all these memsahibs were looking at him. And then
when he came home the family had not seen him, of course, and they wanted
to hear him speaking Hindustani, but he knew there was something wrong by
then about this language nobody else spoke. They tried so hard to get him
to speak it. One day upstairs Mark shut himself in the bathroom and he was
jabbering away at Hindustani all by himself.
Douglas Fairbairn: I remember meeting the family. I'd flown
home just before VE Day and I met them at Tilbury Docks when they came off
the ship. My little boy --
he was only about three and a half --
running up to me with an absolute flood of Hindustani. He said to me,
"Well at last here's somebody who will understand me."
Behind the Bungalow
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
One had an awful lot of servants in my childhood days. My wife and I had
far fewer servants when we went out. I'm trying to think how many servants
my father must have had. Let's see, this was at the end. We had an English
nanny. You only need an ayah for a very small child, so I think we had got
rid of the ayah by then. We had a bearer, who is the head servant. And a
khitmagar, who's the kind of number two to the bearer. And one or two
these were the people who would do the washing up and that kind
of thing. And a cook, certainly, and I should think we had an assistant
cook, but I can't remember. Then one or two sweepers --
of course the
sanitary arrangements were fairly primitive. There was no water borne
sanitation in those days. And one had one's own dhobi, the chap who did
the washing. And at least two gardeners. And a syce --
two perhaps --
after the horses. My father had a driver for his car. It was a fairly
You tended to have your own personal service for
everything, because it was the only way you could be sure of things being
hygienic. We had our own cow, and our own chap to milk the cow.
The servants lived in things called godowns, which were
always separated by quite a distance from the house. And the kitchen,
where the cooking was done --
that was also separated from the house.
Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:
Lady Dalton: In the British Army life our servants weren't dressed
extravagantly at all. They were dressed in white coats, and white
trousers, and a pagri, which they always wore, of course. And then, if you
wished, they could wear your own, say, a regimental belt, a cummerbund,
and the regimental crest. But they were all just in white coats.
Sir Charles Dalton: No shoes, of course, and no socks. Bare
feet. It was an insult for them ever to put on shoes in our presence. And
anyway they didn't want to, because it was natural for them not to. But if
they did have them on for some reason, they would take them off before
they came into the house.
Lady Dalton: But of course, the higher up the social scale and the
more rich you were, the fancier your servants' dresses. Some of the Indian
princes' servants were beautifully turned out, in all sorts of extravagant
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
They had a very good system there, whereby all the thieves, and the
fraternity which produced the chowkidars --
which in English would be night
they all belonged to the same sort of caste, and jat, and so
provided you recruited your chowkidar from the same jat the thieves came
from, you were perfectly all right, you see. But if you went into the
wrong union, you were in trouble.
You also had a night watchman, to guard everybody in that station, a night
watchman. And they were criminal tribesmen from the jail. And as long as
you had a criminal tribesman then you never lost anything. Anyway, the new
padre said he couldn't have a criminal tribesman. It was against all his
ideas. And so, he didn't have one. And when he got up the next morning,
they hadn't a stitch of clothing in their bungalow. And there are very
high trees, and the whole of their clothes were decorating the top of
these high trees. And so he had to have his criminal tribesman, and they
were happy ever after.
We had a chowkidar, and he had a wayward daughter. And I happened to
notice that the postman and various people spent a long time leaning
against the chowkidar's door. And one day our bearer came and said the
chowkidar was keeping a bad house in the compound and that it was not
right. If he wished to keep a bad house, he must go down and have a house
in the town and it was not right. And so we had to get rid of the
chowkidar. We then got one who called himself a police chowkidar --
our fascination arrived with an alarm clock, which we thought was the best
Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:
Sir Charles Dalton: We found one of the best things about life in
India was the dhobi --
the washing arrangements. One got hot of course and
dirty and one wore a different set of clothes every day --
white drill or
khaki drill or whatever uniform --
it was all drill, and washable. Except in
the cold weather when you had a very light sort of gabardine serge jacket
and trousers. But the rest of it was all washable, and all your other
clothes and underclothes and sports clothes and things were all washable
and were washed every day. And you didn't have to have very many, because
you always got them back the same day. It was very destructive to buttons
and things, because their method of washing things in the East was
walloping them on stones in the river, or the equivalent in their godowns.
But it was fairly effective, and beautifully ironed, and literally it was
the same day service, and not too expensive. And if you were an important
person you used to keep your own tame dhobi --
who did nothing else. It was
rather like you kept a cook.
We were always advised before people went out not to have
a lot of expensive uniforms made for them in London at a London tailor,
but to have one good example of each thing they wanted and use that as a
pattern and have everything else made on the spot. I think that's true of
most Oriental places --
they know what's wanted in the country better and at
a fraction of the price.
Lady Dalton: If you wanted any sewing done you had a durzi
who used to come and sit on your verandah all day and literally sit on the
floor and make anything you wanted copied. He even went as far --
the story anyway --
they copied the patch in somebody's trousers. They were
wonderful. They used to wear no shoes and when they were threading their
cotton they would put the cotton through their toes.
Sir Charles Dalton: The man who worked the leather was of
very low caste. You know the caste system in India was very important to
them. And you were either high caste or all sorts of levels. And the
lowest man of all was the sweeper --
the man who emptied the buckets from
the house. He was untouchable. He swept the floor as well. But one of the
lowest above him was the man who worked in leather, because leather came
from the cow. And the cow was sacred, and shouldn't really be killed. And
why the fact that it was sacred meant the man who worked in its hides was
low caste I'm not quite sure. But it was so. They very strictly kept to
their caste system.
Lady Dalton: A lot of very low class people were got at by
missionaries and made into Christians, but were very much considered to be
not very much good --
by anybody. But sweepers, very, very low class, were
converted to be Christians, and they thought in their simple way that
because they became Christians they would get a lift up out of their very
low caste. But in fact I don't think it really worked terribly well.
We had one quite funny thing in Kotagiri, where I had a
a woman. And I was going to have a little sort of party and I had
some nuts, cashew nuts or peanuts or something, which had to be roasted. I
gave all these orders and everything and went out of the kitchen. Then
quite by chance I happened to walk round back of the house later and there
I found the sweeper with her dustpan, which was used pretty well for most
things, I suppose --
the floors to say the least of it. There were my nuts
all being rattled around in this thing previous to coming to the table. I
nearly had a stroke.
Major-General William Odling:
I took my bearer once to a pig sticking competition with a friend of mine.
And his bearer had gone sick or something. And we drove back, with my
chap, and it was a long way and we stayed the night. We had all our camp
kit with us because we'd been out there four or five days. And we asked
this chap if he'd got anything to eat for us and he said no but he'd fix
it if we'd stop in the next village. And we bought a loaf of bread and
some butter and a chicken which somebody killed and put in the back of the
car. And that night he produced a dinner which was about four or five
courses. We had chicken soup, chicken liver on toast. We had roast chicken
or boiled chicken. And then we had some other kind of chicken at the end.
It was all very simple, and you can see that life was extremely cheap
living like this.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
That was another funny thing. There's a terrific amount of
entertaining, naturally, in the cantonments, and as bachelor
you were asked out, and then there came a time when
you felt you had to return the hospitality. And there came the time when
four of us sharing a bungalow in Peshawar said, "Look, we've had a lot of
hospitality. Let us throw a dinner party." So we called our bearers in,
and of course they loved it. We said, "Look, we want dinner, and we're
inviting twelve people." We had one big sitting room which we shared and
we said, "Right, bearers, make this the dining room." And then we turned
out the largest of our bedrooms to get furniture. Again you said,
"Bandobast karo" to get what you wanted. He'd salaam, and off he'd go and
Well, of course living on your own and feeding in the
mess, you didn't have any silver or forks or spoons. But when the time
came, the table was beautifully laid. Well, we had the CO and his wife,
and we had various other people. And as the dear ladies sat down, one
turned across the table and said, "I think I recognize the salt cellars."
And another one said, "Yes, the candlesticks are rather familiar to me."
Well, of course, the bearers had gone all round the cantonment and
borrowed everybody else's bits and pieces. But they all went back the next
But the real joy of it all was, we were lingering on
rather a long time at the table. It was the peak of the party, going very
well. And we saw the bearers hanging round. So I was the senior, so I
said, "Hamid Khan, what's the matter?" He came and he salaamed and he
said, "Please, will master and master's guests go into the sitting room?"
I said, "Oh, well, we're enjoying ourselves." We were drinking our port or
whatever. He said, "I know, sahib, but we want the sheets to make the
beds." It was marvelous the way they could improvise.
Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:
Sir Charles Dalton: The thing I remember about parties, in a more
civilized place, say in Delhi, where you were having a quite a big dinner
party, and you would ask people from different houses, different bungalows
in the station --
you'd ask the station commander and so on. And you'd all
meet, and you'd all go in to dinner, and suddenly one of these people who
were your guests would recognize their own silver --
or their own plates.
And nobody ever asked anything. There was a sort of freemasonry amongst
the servants. And if the sahib --
the Dalton sahib --
hadn't got enough knives
or forks for the numbers involved, he would just go round and say, "Your
sahib's coming to dinner tonight. May I have four forks?" And it was taken
for granted. Nobody ever lost anything. They were returned tomorrow
morning. And you certainly found yourself eating off your own plates.
Lady Dalton: There was a tremendous sort of camaraderie, really,
among the servants and everything.
Rev. John Debrett:
You got very attached to your own bearer or whatever. Of course I was very
young. I remember moving heaven and earth to try and get some sort of
attention from a specialist for my bearer's eyes, because he had
cataracts. And I even got him down from Razmak, which is right up on the
Northwest Frontier. I managed to organize a trip for him right down to
Bombay to see a specialist. I arranged this trip for him, and I even paid
for it, which was quite something in those days on a second lieutenant's
pay, to get him down to see this specialist. And I had a very nice letter
back from this specialist saying that he'd seen him, and that he
appreciated the fact that I'd sent him down, and so forth, but he couldn't
do a great deal about it. But looking back on it now, you see, I'd moved
heaven and earth for that chap, who was an Indian, because I knew him, and
he was a friend of mine. And yet, at the same time, I could have this
antipathy to Indians in general. So I really hadn't thought the thing out
at all. I was twenty-two.
Well, this Bhur Bhor Singh was a Sikh. Bhur Bhor Singh's father had served
my grandfather. My father was one of four boys, and Bhur Bhor Singh had
grown up with them and played with them. And then he went into service
with my father and he had served my father all his life until my father
retired, and then he went down to Bombay with my father when he left for
England. He went on board and he knelt down and he kissed my father's
shoes. And he cried. It was just that there was absolute and complete
devotion. He'd have done anything --
for any of us. He would have
gladly thrown me to the jackals if the choice had been between me and my
little brothers. Of course boys were regarded as little kings, little
princes. Chota Lat Sahibs --
the little lordships.
Bhur Bhor Singh was everything to us. He was my father's confidant
and friend and he was our playmate. I can remember knocking off his
turban. That for a Sikh is rather serious; there's something sacred about
that; there's a topknot with a comb in it. He pulled the comb out and then
he got rather upset, so we kissed him and hugged him and told him it was
all right. Once when my parents were both out to a dinner party and I
couldn't sleep I remember Bhur Bhor Singh kneeling beside me by the bed
and gently rubbing his hand up and down my spine and helping me to go to
sleep. My father would have trusted him with anything. The other servants
were all just nameless --
the khansamah and the masalchi.
Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:
There was another thing about India really, from the man's point of view.
He was always accompanied by his personal servants. I suppose that my
personal servant, Nuz Mohammed, was the best friend I had in India. He
defined himself as my sort of nursemaid. He looked after me, loaned me
money if I was short, would steal it from me if I wasn't. And we had a
very friendly relationship for many years. All his family worked for me at
times. They used to turn up.
In Murree one day I was suddenly being waited on by a
stranger. I said, "Who are you?" He said, "I'm Nuz Mohammed's brother." I
said, "What's happened to Nuz Mohammed?" "Oh, there's a warrant out for
his arrest." I said, "What's he been doing?" "Cutting wood in the reserved
forests and the forester caught him." I said, "What's the good of going
underground? He's bound to come out sooner or later." "Oh no," said the
chap, "he's waiting until you go out to camp, then he'll join you." So
when I went off to camp Nuz Mohammed came. There was no dishonor to having
the police after you. It was assumed I was against the police the same as
they were. Avoiding the police was the national sport.
I can remember in a crowded railway station in Bengal,
thousands of people on the platform both sides. I suddenly saw Nuz
Mohammed with a large pole in his hands, a sort of cudgel, beating some
wretched Indian on the head standing on the railway line between
platforms, the train due to come in any moment, beating this man. I didn't
intervene. I saw it from some distance away. The stationmaster went out to
intervene and Nuz Mohammed hit him on the head, too. So I said I must go
round and find out what was going on. And Nuz Mohammed said this man had
said something offensive about his sahib. That was me. I hustled Nuz
Mohammed away. He was that sort of person, you see, very loyal.
At the end, in Delhi, in 1947, he was with me and of
course being a man from the hills --
north of Rawalpindi --
he was very
contemptuous of the people of Delhi, who were going around killing
Muslims. He was Muslim too. I suggested, "You mustn't go out, you'll be
killed." However, he was not to be stopped. Eventually I had to put him on
an airplane and send him off to Pakistan. I went into the plane to see him
off. He said he was very embarrassed and I said, "Why are you
embarrassed?" He said, "I'm sitting here, sahib, and the memsahib keeps
coming and offering me cups of tea." The stewardess.
My father went on tour and old Dher Khan was a tremendous
character with his wonderful pagri sticking right up in the air, and he
was a great sort of boaster. He said he would guard us well and he guarded
us well and truly because he brought his bed into our dining room. My
mother and I went off to a party and there he was, sound asleep, snoring.
We crept by our guard and we got in, and the next morning he told us
robbers had been round and he shouted at them. Wonderful, really.
Diana Debrett and Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
Diana Debrett: When my father was in camp, and we were alone,
my mother had quite a bit of money and she hid it somewhere. And we went
off somewhere, and we came back and it had vanished from where she had hid
it. I think she hid it in one of those enormous almirah things one had.
And she said, "Oh, it's gone." And the bearer came along and read my
mother a lecture on leaving money about and produced the whole thing. He
had gone round the house and he'd found all the places she'd hidden it and
he collected it. And he handed it back with a rocket.
Major-General Edge: Well, there's the other classic
which I think is true --
of the chap who had a cook he'd had for a
long time. And the system was that you asked your cook to do all your
shopping for you. And he did all the shopping, and he presented you with a
bill. And it was well understood that he always added a percentage for
himself, so that he got that much more. And one knew this was happening.
But this particular chap had had this servant for a long, long time, and
he thought it wasn't right that there should be this element of mistrust
in their relationship. So he said to him, "Look, Khansamah-ji, I know
perfectly well that you always add on a bit to the bill, and then you
charge me for it and put it in your pocket. But that's not very nice
between friends, is it, to have this situation? So if you would tell me
perfectly honestly how much you expect to make over and above your pay,
I'll put your pay up by that amount. And so if you could just work it out,
we'll come to an agreement, and then we'll be absolutely fair and square
about it all." And so the khansamah was a bit surprised. He said, "Yes,
Sahib. Well, I always reckoned to make another fifty rupees a month above
my actual pay." Says, "Well, put your pay up by rupees fifty. And you
promise to make all your accounts absolutely honest." "Yes, sahib, all
right, I'll do that. That's fine." And so they went on like that for a
bit. And he noticed this chap getting sadder and sadder and sadder. And
finally he said, "Well, what's the matter, Khansamah-ji? You look
miserable these days." He said, "Sahib, I'd like you to reduce my pay by
fifty rupees, if you would. It's taken all the excitement and interest out
We criticize them --
well, I don't know that we criticize
but we're merely pointing out the fact that everybody's honesty has
a kind of limiting level. So why criticize your khansamah for adding on a
Brigadier Richard Gardiner:
If you could get a good set of servants they were absolutely marvelous.
And they'd follow you all over the place and they became completely part
of the family. Literally. Usually, if you were an Indian family [i.e.,
British family in India] you'd find one bearer sort of following on and if
you went away for five or six years and the next member of the family came
out he'd pop up again and be taken on. Extraordinary.
Normally what happened if you went out for the first time,
whoever was looking after you --
in a unit probably the adjutant or somebody
like that -- he'd say, "Look, I'll look up the list of servants we have on
our record and I'll send one or two around. Have a look at their chits."
They all have a packet of chits [letters of recommendation]. The only
trouble with the chits is that so many are forgeries. They sell them one
to the other, you see. Some of them, if you look carefully, you spot that
there's a sort of code in them. The really clever people write a code into
the chit if he's a really bad servant and if you're clever enough you spot
this code and realize that the chap's an absolute villain. Usually then
the bearer finds the rest of the servants. The Indian servant system was
second to none. It was master to master and master to master and master to
son. They were so faithful, they honestly were. Very, very faithful. They
live in your compound, your bungalow area. They were so reliable too. If
you went home on leave they used to go off and either get a temporary job
or go home. But they'd be back at the ship's side on the day. There was no
question of saying, "I wonder if he'll turn up." He was there.
Major-General Sir Charles Dalton and Brigadier John
Sir Charles Dalton: When we first went out to India we were given
the name of a man --
Mohammed something --
who was a very good bearer and was
free. So we wrote out ahead and said we would engage him. And in due
course he was on the quay at Bombay, and told us the ropes. We'd never
been to India before, and he knew we had a baby, and everything was
organized very well. We went up country to Nasirabad. He stayed with us
for about three or four months --
perhaps it was six months --
and one day he
said he must go home. He lived right away up in Kashmir, and it took a
long time to get there and he wanted leave. And he never came back. And we
discovered he had gone back to his old master. He'd never meant to stay
with us. He belonged to somebody else, but he hadn't let on to us. We
always slightly had it in for the other chap. We thought he knew, probably
all the time. When he came home on leave he probably said to Mohammed,
"Now, don't forget, you're my bearer, and I expect to find you at Bombay
whenever I come back." He quite likely was being paid by the other chap --
Brigadier Dinwiddie: The best story I ever heard concerned the
Chatfield Commission. Just before the war this was a thing that took place
in 1938. They'd seen the war coming and were trying to get some
modernization, buying more modern weapons for the Indian Army. Amongst the
staff sent out to India was a Guardsman who'd been BGS of Eastern
Brigadier General Staff, Eastern India. He went back to England
where he was made a major general and he was on this staff --
Commission. The originator of it all was Auchinleck, who went to meet
them. He flew out to the Middle East to meet them and then came on by ship
to Bombay. All very hush-hush. No one knew anything about it. Standing on
the dockside when the ship docked in Bombay was this old Guardsman's old
bearer and he said, "Oh, Sahib, I heard you were coming. Will you take me
Sir Charles Dalton: This extraordinary bush telegraph. How
did they know that you or I or anybody else was coming back from leave? It
was a wonderful piece of intelligence. If you are in India and you come
home on leave, without doing anything about it, you'll find your bearer on
the quayside in Bombay. Nobody knows quite how this works, but it happens.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
I sent my bearer a Christmas present, and he wrote back to thank me. And
you see these chaps, what they usually do is, most of them couldn't write.
They can't even write their own names. But I'd sent him a Christmas
present, and in due course he wrote back to me --
a wonderful letter --
ended it like this: "And may the great almighty God, which gentleman your
honor much resembles, grant you health, wealth and a long life."
"Quite a Fantastic Thing":
Protocol and the Social Whirl
It was terrific fun, a lot of it. Most British like dressing up, you
know. There was a lot of that, and a lot of ceremony, a lot of protocol,
particularly in a place like Simla. The detractors called it snobbery,
and it was, I suppose.
Lady Daphne Dalton:
Life in a cantonment for a young girl was very gay. Because you were
quite probably the only unmarried female about the place. There might
have been one or two others, but really very few compared with the amount
of men, officers. There were four or five regiments, you see. Quite a
lot of the officers of course were married, but the young ones weren't,
the subalterns weren't. So you really had a very, very social life. And
these Weeks --
Polo Weeks and things that you went to --
you made friends all
over the place. And you were asked to stay, just as you would in England.
You know, you go and stay in a house party. And there was riding and
dancing and polo. A regiment would probably be the host, in a particular
cantonment, and lay on all sorts of entertainment for their guests. One
Week we went to we had a progressive dinner, in which you had your courses
in different houses in the cantonment and you had to get between one and
then the next the best way you could --
soup in one bungalow, and the fish
in the next, and the meat in the next. But it was all really good
light-hearted fun really.
And then there were people like the governors of the
provinces, who usually had house parties for various functions. Dances or
shooting, or whatever. There was a lot of social life, which was great
fun. I was a quite good rider, and that in itself produced quite a lot of
extra sport in the sense that you were asked to ride ponies for people or
you were asked to ride in a show or go out hunting or whatever. The
shooting was a lot of fun at the weekends.
Ivan Ellis Jones:
After my first tour, Christmas week we were invited in --
all the new
Assistant Commissioners --
to spend the week at Government House as guests
of the Governor at Lahore. They had a Week with a capital W, which means
tournaments and dances and so on. I was rather surprised when I found the
invitation waiting for me. I was also surprised to be told to "bring your
own bedding." This wouldn't surprise anyone who understood any
traditions, because you had a great valise --
canvas roll --
into which your
bedding went, your blankets and sheets and pillow and so on, and this
could be rolled up and struck. For example, in traveling on the railway
this was unrolled when evening came. Although at Government House as a
rule they were wealthy enough to provide bedding, we were in fact being
housed in tents --
extended accommodation. People carried their bedding
around, which was a normal thing.
This was my first introduction to official society --
provincial headquarters type. His Excellency and all that kind of thing.
I arrived in a small hired vehicle drawn by a horse and I arrived outside
of Government House. The man didn't know the correct way and so I arrived
at what was the back, instead of arriving at the place where there would
have been plenty of people to greet me. There was nobody but a sentry
there who took no notice of me whatever. Perhaps he saluted me and I kind
of stumbled up the stairs and found my way in without anyone hindering me.
And staggering on I eventually saw a room where a number of people were
sitting having drinks, most of them in riding clothes of some kind, and I
eventually went in there rather blinking and I said, "Excuse me, I wonder
if anyone can tell me where I'd find Major P." --
the Military Secretary to
the Governor. At this point an elderly gentleman got up. "Oh, you're
looking for old Douglas, are you? I'll find him for you." So I had begun
my visit there by sending the Governor to look for his secretary!
Simla's Government House was beautiful. They'd throw open the doors and
the lackeys would come down in their uniforms and the Gurkha soldiers
looking like angels out of heaven --
almost like pictures, they were so
still and beautiful with their brown faces and their immaculate uniform.
And the doors being thrown open by the flunkeys, and the Viceroy coming
down and everything, and everybody in their splendid clothes. It couldn't
be better. And I was only visiting India and I'd got a blue felt hat on
this time, and a little old silk dress and some green shoes. They were
all the clothes I had, and somebody'd asked me. I thought, "Well, I'm not
going to say no," but I hadn't any money to buy clothes. And they were
saying, "Oohh!" And picture dresses and picture hats, just like something
out of a film. And I heard them say, "Well, it took about three months
and cost nine hundred rupees." And I was dazzled. I thought, "It's
wonderful to look like that and to be able to buy things like that." And
I looked and I thought, "Oh, this is incredible!" It was so beautiful,
and the people were so clear-cut as they are in the Indian light, you know
that clear-cut sound and clear-cut vision. And I thought, "This is
gorgeous," and there I stood.
And the Viceroy came down the stairs, and he looked at all
that. And they made a pathway for him, and they all curtseyed. And he
walked through this split, and everybody said, "Ahh!" Longing. And he
walked right across the room, and he came straight to me. And he said,
"What are you doing here?" And I said, "Oh! Well, I'm on a holiday,
actually." And he said, "Are you enjoying it?" "Yes," I said, "It's
marvelous." And he said, "Well, you go on enjoying it, too." And I
thought, what a nice man.
Lady Daphne Dalton:
The Viceregal Ball was --
in the winter --
held at Viceroy's House and it was
quite a fantastic thing. The Indian princes wore their most beautiful
clothes and jewels by the ton. Quite fantastic. The colors! All the
officers were in uniform mess kits, some red coats, some yellow.
Fantastic color in this wonderful setting. The bodyguards lined the
stairs up to the ballroom. The Viceroy's ADC's wore dark blue tailcoats
with pale blue facings, so you knew straight away who the ADC's were.
The Resident and his wife went on leave and D.F. took over and acted for
them. I went to Mhow to take a promotion exam and met a number of people
there and I phoned up Mrs. F., the Acting Resident's wife, and I said,
"I've met a number of people here and I'd like to throw a party for them."
She was very keen on this. She said, "Oh, what would you like?" And I
mentioned caviar, thinking of these little biscuits with little bits of
caviar on them. The party was to be around the swimming pool at
fairy lights and so forth. She organized all this for the night
when I came back. To my horror I discovered the caviar in fact were in
blocks of ice hollowed out with whole helpings, which I was paying for.
It was a grand party. But the relationship between a very junior and a
very senior person was always very friendly.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
I must tell you another lovely story. This happened in the Sind. The big
club was called the Sind Club, it was quite famous throughout India. On
one occasion, for St. Andrew's Day, the Sind Club decided they must,
because there was quite a Scottish contingent there, they must have a
dinner. Well, they went to the Scottish regiment. "Can you lend us a
band and your piper?" The Scottish regiment said, "We'll lend you the
piper, certainly, but we can't lend you the band because we're having our
own St. Andrew's Night dinner." So they went to the other British
regiment and they were doing something else and couldn't loan their band.
So eventually they got the band of the Goan Society. Well the Goan
Society had a very good band, and I must say their bandmaster was a very
nice little man called Mr. Gomez, tiny little man. The president got hold
of him and he said, "Now, Mr. Gomez, when you play I leave it entirely up
to you what the music should be. It's St. Andrew's Day, as you know, so
pick plenty of Scottish tunes. And at the end we drink the toast to His
Majesty the King Emperor. So that'll be 'God Save the King.' Now the
American ambassador is present, that's number two, so you would play the
American anthem. The next one is the French, so play 'La Marseillaise.'
And there's also the Belgian charge d'affaires. It'll be in that order,
so no difficulty. And you want to practice the anthems, get them
absolutely right. Thank you very much."
Well, what the president forgot to tell him, which was
most unfortunate, was that when all the toasts were drunk, the president
rapped the table and called, up standing, for the silent toast to our
patron saint, St. Andrew. Well, they were in the big dining room with all
the windows open --
it was very hot --
and the band was on the terrace
outside. Well, they had the loyal toast for the King Emperor, then the
American anthem. It went beautifully. Then suddenly to Mr. Gomez's
horror chairs were pushed back and he saw everyone standing and waving
their glasses. "Let me see. King Emperor, American ambassador.... It's
not right." And just as they were about to put their glasses to their
lips to drink the silent toast, there blares out: "For he's a jolly good
fellow, For he's a jolly good fellow."
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
In British regiments you had a British mess sergeant. But the servants
were all Indians. Many's the time I've been dining with friends in an
Indian regiment, and the old mess havildar comes and it was the same
drill: curtain pulled aside, and the old man would stand there, gold
medals on his chest, with his mess havildar's uniform on. "Sahib huzoor,"
he'd say, which means Your Highness. "Khana teyyar hai!" Dinner is
ready. And then he'd depart.
And then you went in to dinner in strict order of
seniority. The colonel would lead the way and go to his place, and the
second in command would pass up the table. And the majors would go and
they would sit where they wanted, as senior officers. And then the
subalterns. And there was on occasion a most undignified scamp around the
table, as the last two subalterns through the door were left two empty
places on either side of the CO.
Sunday evening was the only informal night, because you
wore mess kit every other night, and then on Sunday night you could wear a
dinner jacket. And that was a moveable feast. You'd come in at any time,
but if you went after nine o'clock you didn't get any food. So anytime
between eight and nine, you could come in and have dinner, go, or stay and
read the paper, do whatever you wanted to.
But we had the most amazing dinners in those days. It was
always the same. You had soup, you had fish, you had chicken, usually, or
game. Then you had the main course, meat. Then you had pudding. Then
you had a savory. Then you had fruit, and then you had coffee. My, how
we did it I just don't know. Be it the hot weather or the cold weather,
it didn't matter a bit. And day after day, the same thing. I mean there
have been times when I've sat at the mess table for a solid two hours or
more, aching to get up and go, but oh, no, you couldn't.
The officer's mess, you see, it was the home of the
regiment. And you had your customs. Some were very funny, perhaps, some
darned stupid. But it was all built on tradition. And most of them
really were homes. You could always sense a good regiment when you went
into the mess, what the atmosphere was like. It was quite incredible.
Major Christopher York:
Dinner was always a very formal affair in mess kit, which first of all was
always a stiff shirt and a wing collar, and a black tie and
which is the tight trouser. Then you had a white Eton
the short jacket you sometimes see waiters wearing --
regimental buttons on, and a dark blue weskit, also with regimental
buttons. Once a week we would have a guest night and the regimental band
would be playing outside. We had a lot of lovely silver and we always
drank whatever the main drink was out of silver goblets eight inches high.
At the end of the dinner the Royal Dragoons had a particular privilege
derived from the time that we once had a monarch that sailed with us
somewhere on a ship. You can't get up in a ship because the decks are so
low and he gave us permission not to rise to drink the Loyal Toast because
he knew that we were loyal. That tradition carries on and the band played
"God Save the King" outside on the verandah. We took no notice at all
inside and went on talking and drinking. But we couldn't smoke until
after the band had played "God Save the King." We used to have guests
from the Indian Civil Service or some other regiment or the brigadier.
That happened once a week.
H. P. Hall:
When I first went up to Fort Sandeman, although it was a frontier
no electric light, no laid on water, no women --
you used to change
into full mess kit, with stiff shirts, every night. But literally, you
had to put on a stiff shirt, a stiff collar, a black tie, and a full
regimental mess kit. In fact you worked it out with your bearer. You
were dressed by your bearer, valeted, and you got so expert at this that
you could come back from playing a game of tennis or something or other at
the club, and you could hop into a bath which was all laid out for you. A
tin tub, no taps or anything, but the water at the right temperature. And
you'd have a bath and the towel would be handed to you, you'd dry yourself
rapidly and you'd be helped into your clothes, and you'd put your socks
and shoes on --
you never put your own socks and shoes on --
and you'd be
dressed. And you could do it in about five to ten minutes like that. And
you'd hop off to the mess for your dinner.
One did have a feeling very quickly that there was something you'd got to
avoid being overcome by --
this sort of slipshod sort of dirtiness, having
everything comme si, comme ca. I mean we were really fussy about being
punctual, and we were very fussy about wearing the right clothes for
specific occasions. I think it did accentuate that sort of thing, the
determination not to be [overcome by it all].
You had to sort of keep up a front and maintain your
standards and dress for dinner in the jungle and so on, and I have
actually done that. I have actually once put on a dinner jacket in the
jungle because it was in my very first camp I was at, and only on
Christmas night. We did it on Christmas day and we were in the jungle.
But usually we in my day used to wear just a jersey and a dressing gown
very often in camp. But still it was traditional. It was putting up
fronts and it was partly because one wanted to preserve one's standards
and not sort of go down hill, but also it was because we were one
whatever it was, six hundred thousand --
and you had to sort of keep
Sir George Abel:
When I was secretary to Wavell, the Tibetan government sent a legation --
think it was a conventional thing to do. They sent one to each Viceroy
once to pay their respects and ask that their good relations with India
should remain the same. They came from the north over the Himalayas, you
see. Always under pressure from the Chinese. They came to Delhi and
their conventional clothes are a round, sort of velour hat, a homburg, a
round felt hat. Then they have white trousers underneath a long black
coat and their hair is kept long and they plait it, wind it round their
heads and put the hat on top and they wear the hat indoors. And six of
them, or eight of them, turned up. A deputation of leading Tibetans to see
the Viceroy, and he received them according to tradition in the Durbar
Hall, which was a place like a great lake of marble with huge pillars
round the sides. And there were members of the bodyguard standing up
against each pillar with lances in their hands and huge turbans on their
heads. White britches and black boots. This was a very formal occasion.
Indeed everybody frozen and these eight little men in the middle to make
their presentation to the Viceroy, which consisted of a silver tea pot.
On these occasions they also have a white shawl which they put across
their arms, and they bring it out and it's sort of a ritual gift. And
they all have these white shawls over their hands, and one of them had the
silver tea pot in his hands, and they walked across this lake of marble,
as I said, people looking all around, bodyguard there, Viceroy on the
throne. And they got halfway across and the man who'd got the silver tea
pot dropped it on the marble with a clang. Total silence. We thought,
"Oh, no, the whole party's broken up, what's going to happen now?" None
of them smiled, none of them cried out. They just halted and stopped.
The man who dropped the tea pot put it back on his arm. They walked up
and made their presentation to the Viceroy and so the formal part of the
thing ended. And it was rescued by the extraordinary calm of these
characters, who looked right out of this world. Nobody'd ever seen
anybody looking like this before.
This was to be followed by a luncheon party given by the
Viceroy. Now I was at the party and I knew no language that I thought
these strange characters from the other end of the world would know. And
I wondered what would happen if I sat next to one. Sure enough, I sat
next to one of these senior members of the Tibetan government and I
thought, "Now, shall we try French, or shall we try Hindustani, English or
what?" And I thought, "Probably we shall have to mumble in our food and
say nothing." And then this man next to me --
he'd taken his hat off, he'd
still got the plait round here --
he turned to me and said, "I was at Rugby.
Where were you?"
Major General R.C.A. Edge:
Did Fergus Innes tell you the story about his father's dress uniform?
When his father retired from being Governor of Burma, he came back to this
country, and being a Scotsman he thought he would realize as many of his
assets in cash as he could. And he thought, "Well, I shan't need this
full dress uniform any more, and I'll flog it." So he took it up to Moss
Bros. and offered it to them. And they looked at it and said, "Well, it
is in beautiful condition, but of course you must realize that it's not
very often that we get any requests for the full dress uniform of the
Governor of Burma. I'm afraid we can't offer you very much for it, but
we'll give you ten pounds." So he thought, "Well, ten pounds is better
than nothing." So he took the ten pounds, handed over his best dress,
went home, and a month or two later one of these enormous envelopes --
the royal household seal on it --
appeared in his letter box, saying that
Her Majesty commands you to attend a levee at Buckingham Palace/St. James
Palace on the occasion of your handing over your duties as Governor of
Burma. So he thought hard, and he said, "Well, I'll have to go and hire a
uniform." So he went back to Moss Bros., and he said, "Well, I've got to
attend a levee as Governor of Burma, and I wonder if I could hire the
uniform." And they said, "Well, you must realize that it's not very
you know we keep these things in stock, but it's very expensive to
keep them in stock, because there's not much demand for them, and I'm
afraid they arerather expensive to hire. The fee will be ten pounds."
And he was so impressed by the perfect justice of it that he paid up and
hired his own full dress back.
It's an instance of the persistence of the Victorian tradition, in that
you had also to pass an exam in riding to enter the Indian Civil Service.
I had ridden as a child, because most people brought up as I was in
Ireland did. One went down to Woolwich Arsenal to the Gunners and a
Gunner major took you on a course on a horse that was like a circus horse
actually. That emphasis persisted the whole time. I went out in '31.
The tradition of having to go out on tour, to meet the people and camp,
that persisted for a long time.
The panoply was all there. These things don't die
quickly, you can't wind them up overnight. I remember my own first Deputy
Commissioner in Sialkhot --
I was Assistant Commissioner --
deploring the fact
that one of my colleagues had taken Modern Greats instead of Greats, the
classics, at Oxford. It was part of a tradition carried on not only in
India, but all over the colonial Empire.
British culture in India was always at least thirty years behind the
at least thirty years, and in some places far more. And this is
really natural when you come to think about it, because the sort of tone
of British society in upper India --
I don't know about Calcutta and Bombay,
but in the U.P. and Punjab and Delhi --
it was all official, and so the sort
of ruling lights were people who had been thirty-five years in India, and
their sort of outlook on life and society was very much what it had been
when they left Oxford. And we did all leave Oxford very immature. You
know, you go to a boarding school without any girls and then you go to
Oxford, and in those days they had segregated colleges and it was a very
segregated life, indeed. Well, that's one point, you see, it was very out
of date. And servants, you see, also had very often been trained [by an
earlier generation]. Certainly in my very early days I stayed for part of
the summer with a man who was about ten years older than myself, but his
parents had been in India, and he had inherited his parents' values and
his parents had retired before the First World War, actually, so their
life style had been old fashioned, by English standards, when they went
home. And their bearer had been trained by them in the early days and his
training went back to a sort of pre-Edwardian period. And they would lay
a table in a sort of late Victorian, or early Edwardian sort of style. A
great deal of life and the outlook on life was very much out of date.
But against this, of course, there was also what I regard
as the ADC's Room element, which is quite a different sort of little
world. The Governor had two ADC's, who were always very smart young men,
from fairly expensive regiments, sometimes cavalry regiments, sometimes
the rather good British regiments, and their ideas about life were really
quite different from those of most of the Anglo-Indian people who
surrounded them. And there would be favorites who would be entertained at
Government House. And this was more marked in Delhi, I think, than in the
provincial capitals, but the feeling was there, both in Lucknow and Delhi.
It was this sort of more up-to-date, young thing element in the ADC's
Room, and if you're in a place like Lucknow, you've also got a British
cavalry regiment, you see, who had money, who had been in London, who were
much more up-to-date in every kind of way. I spent one summer in the
cavalry regiment at Lucknow, and I lived in their mess, before I was
married, and I saw a lot of them, and I really enjoyed it very much. It
was great fun. It was a complete change. They were very nice, but they
did really despise all that sort of Anglo-Indian society all round, and
most of the Indian cavalry --
even the cavalry regiments. So there was a
gap in this facade of old fashioned, Victorian Anglo-Indian culture.
The Warrant of Precedence
It was all rather absurd, but you had this Warrant of Precedence laid
down. It was all down in black and white. Well, I suppose when the
memsahib gave a dinner party, she was so anxious not to offend anybody,
she just looked it up. For example, the Deputy Commissioner in his own
district ranked superior to the Brigadier in military command of the
station. But one was careful to treat one's elders and betters with due
deference, even though one was technically superior to them. You find
that all in Kipling, don't you? Everybody knows exactly what everybody
else's pay is and what their place is in the Warrant of Precedence. Yes,
it was all rather absurd. A very formal society, I suppose. A very
friendly one, also.
Now my mother used to tell a story. The lowest of the whites were the box
wallahs. Now a box wallah is a peddler, a man who sells. So anybody in
trade was a box wallah. They might entertain him perhaps. The most
junior subaltern would really speak rather contemptuously of him. Well,
the story goes that in a club one day one lady said to another, meaning to
insult her, "Good evening, Mrs. Mappin. Or is it Webb?" Mappin and Webb
are the big goldsmiths, silversmiths, in London, so just by saying, "Or is
it Webb?" she's as much as saying, of course, "You've been in trade." The
most damning thing. Mr. Webb would have been wealthy compared to poor
Mrs. Whoever Was Doing the Insulting. It was quite crazy.
In my days, when I went out in 1934, Calcutta, although no longer the
capital, was still the commercial capital of India, and if you saw the
wealth of the commercial nabobs, as they called them, and the way they
lived, you just can't believe it. They lived extremely well.
There was this social distinction in Calcutta --
difficult thing to put your finger on. We were the ICS and they called us
the heaven born. To be quite frank about it, that's what they called us.
Then they had the commercial people, and they were called the box wallahs.
Now you could have, and indeed we did have, in these big companies in
Calcutta a young boy of my age, twenty two, twenty three, shall we say? I
go out in the ICS, I've already got a degree from a university, I've been
through this heck of an examination, and you got there. Now on the other
side of the line is a young boy of twenty two, English boy, who had no
university education, but he comes out as a clerk in one of the bigger
European companies. He would be earning at least three or four times as
much as I was. But these boys could not get into the clubs. Whereas I
could go to almost any club, these boys had to set up their separate
clubs, where they could go and move. It was a social fact of life.
When I was posted up country, here was one of the largest
districts in Bengal. The Deputy Commissioner was the guy in charge. My
boss was an English ICS officer, he was in charge of the whole kapootz,
literally. Rajshai was a very important district, and we had an English
ICS officer, I was there as his assistant, we had an English IMS officer,
we had an enormous jail where there was an English superintendent, we had
a very, very active English missionary set up. Round the corner we had
the Bengal Zemindari Company, one of the biggest British commercial
operations in jute in that area, because Rajshai was a jute growing area.
Entirely manned by Europeans. They were enormous, thousands of acres of
land, but it fell within our jurisdiction. Here we were in charge of the
whole bang shoot, law, order, revenue, everything, earning say a thousand
I'm only using illustrative figures now --
a month, and here was
the English commercial man earning four, five, six times the amount of
money, living in a house which you just cannot believe, and yet we
couldn't talk to each other.
Only last year I met someone who is now an ambassador, and his wife was
telling me they'd been in India recently and the Delhi diplomatic business
now was a total enclave. So all their houses were together. When we were
in Delhi, we were in tents. And all their houses were in a diplomatic
enclave, so they all lived in this little village all together. And she
said to me in all seriousness, and this was two or three years ago, she
said, "And you know the Indians are such snobs. You could never imagine
the snobbery that goes on in that enclave in Delhi." So before I could
stop it, I said, "Oh, we did teach them well, didn't we!"
Snobbery existed to an enormous degree in the English
society in India. There is no question. Protocol was built on this sort
of thing, from the Viceroy down to the Political Service, the ICS, through
the Political. The ICS were the cream of the Indian services.
The Army used to call us ICS officers the heaven born. They used to think
we were a bit stuck up, because we didn't have the time, perhaps, to go
enough to the club. To tell the truth, going to the club and sitting
round with round after round of drinks was just a bit of duty you carried
out perhaps once a fortnight. You'd far too much to do at home. You
wanted generally to work. You didn't want to sit round chatting, so they
possibly thought you were a little bit stand-offish. And we were
intellectuals and all that, and they usually weren't, and we spoke the
languages a lot better than they did.
I don't remember any feuds among the Europeans. Just a
few unfortunate cases where somebody had gone off with somebody else's
wife and that sort of thing. We were certainly in the Punjab a band of
brothers. We inherited the tradition of the Lawrences, where they really
were a band of brothers. They were tremendously cohesive.
You felt above all that you were members of the Indian
Civil Service, which we all felt was the greatest service in the world.
But within that you were very much a man of your own province. I would
say that the Punjab had a tradition of being very much the good district
officer type, the open man who knew his people, liked that sort of work.
The United Provinces perhaps much the same, tremendous people for sport
and all that. Madras frightfully hard working. Very good people, and
they had enormous districts in Madras. The Collector, as they used to
call the district officer in Madras, had a most colossal district and he
had a tremendous amount of work.
You never transferred from one province to another. You
transferred from your own province to the Government of India, or you
could transfer altogether, leave your province and go to the Foreign and
Political Service, which was made up roughly half of Indian Civil Servants
and half of Army men. And we used to say --
rather naughty of us, it was
very untrue --
we used to say it was made up of civilians who won't work and
Army men who won't fight. Most untrue, but they did have a cushier life.
The Residents in an Indian state had a very comfortable life indeed.
I went out of every door last, because my father was nothing in India.
And I was nothing. I was nothing at all. I was next in caliber to the
Anglo-Indians [Eurasians]. Father had to be something --
or you had to be
something, but usually father. So that when I'd been there a week, my
friend said, "There's something I've got to tell you. I'm sorry about it,
but you must know." So I said, "What's that?" She said, "You must not
walk out of doors before people more senior to you." So I said, "But what
is my status?" And she looked very embarrassed and said, "You haven't got
one." So I said, "Well, I go out of every door last?" She said, "Yes."
So for those two months I went out of every door last, and as I said, I
knew everybody's behind better than anything else in Simla. And that also
came to using the lavatory, which were thunderboxes, and I had to go and
use the lavatory when everybody else had finished. It made me quite
hysterical with laughter at times.
People were very obsessed with status. They'd built the
whole pattern of Indian life on protocol. Nobody stepped out of line,
except the American girl who was at a party I was at. And we were all
waiting to use this one thunderbox, which was this sort of Welsh tin
like a commode --
we were all waiting to use that. And I was in my
usual place at the back of the room. It didn't matter what your need was.
You still waited till the senior ladies had gone first. And she suddenly
looked round at all of us waiting, and she said, "Well, I dunno," she
said, "I'm bustin' and you'll all have to wait."
The snobbery was absolute. The integrity was equally
absolute. You didn't have British officers doing anything but a splendid
job. They did a wonderful job. The establishment of law and order and
lack of corruptibility --
as an Indian will tell you today if he's
gave something they can never lose, which was wonderful. But the
snobbery! I think myself that they were very cruel, even to people like
me, who were nobody. I remember going to a senior lady's house --
husband had been knighted by that time --
and I had one of my two pairs of
new shoes. And I went to her house with these people who were Foreign and
Political Service and quite acceptable socially --
in Simla of all places.
And she never even said good afternoon to me, nor did she speak to me
once, nor did she say goodbye to me when I left. I was, socially, totally
And she told the story that she'd got some very, very
priceless little mats for her finger bowls. You see, the bearer would
have cleared all the plates and things. And you would then lift your
finger bowl up and put it on your right, over the mat. She had these
priceless old mats. And one girl got so terrified that she took a helping
of stem ginger and cinnamon onto her precious mat. And she got in such a
state about it that she ate mat, ginger and the lot!
Sir Alec Ogilvie:
As a young bachelor --
heaven knows how this custom survived as long as it
at the start of the cold weather in Calcutta, the nice weather from
mid-November, every single married couple home of any seniority had a
little calling box at the gate with their name on it and it was our duty
as a young bachelor to go round and drop a visiting card every year. And
what's more you wouldn't be asked to a meal unless you'd done that. Now
that faded out very quickly in the forties.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
[Dropping cards] was very much the thing to do. When you arrived in the
station as a newcomer, within the first week you had to call on your
commanding officer --
if he was married and his wife was there; if he was a
bachelor, you met him in the mess and didn't bother. The first thing you
had to do, within twenty-four hours, was call on your own brother officers
in the mess and you left your cards. The times were from around drinks
time until eight o'clock. You would go and call. You had to shoot your
cards, one for the CO and one for his lady. The senior subaltern would
always tell you who were the people you had to call on. There were the
married officers of your own regiment, the commanding officers of any
other regiment that happened to be stationed there, plus the chief
civilian. He might be an Indian or he might be British. Still, you went
to call. But you had to be careful. If he was a Mohammedan, you didn't
call on his wife, you merely left your card on him. If he was a Hindu,
then you called on both. And he might be in, in which case he'd receive
you, give you a drink or ask you to tea or something. And then invariably
in the course of time you'd be invited to dinner. Oh, the etiquette was
There's one lovely story that will amuse you. A very dear
brother officer of mine, he was an idle old thing. He didn't go call on
the CO or the CO's wife. Well, the CO's wife was a very domineering
person and when we'd been there about six weeks, the mess had a reception
after church on the mess lawn. And Mrs. McC. spotted us both and she said
to him, "Come here, Mr. S. Now will you explain, please? I gather you
have been in this station for nearly two months. Why have you not been to
call on me?" And he said, "Mrs. McC., I do apologize, but I do assure you
the road to your house has been paved with my good intentions."
Fortunately, she had a sense of humor.
The Indian cantonment is like a village dropped down into a great city,
and you lived within it. Your social life is it. All the officers' wives
do things together. And this is the narrowness of it. You have your
supplies, you have everything. So you don't live in the country, you live
in this little separate world.
I would think the military were the most self- contained,
because you had this cantonment thing. The short time I spent in the Army
in Poona, it seemed to me terribly self- contained. It was an Army
major's wife put to look after me. We were very poor, because my husband
was in the Political, he'd been called back to the Army, he was
twenty-six, and his rank didn't entitle him to a married allowance. And
he couldn't be regarded as single because he was married. And this woman,
N., was a fearful snob. We had no money at all. And we had all these
servants to keep. And I was pregnant, which turned out to be twins, so
basically we were very, very poor indeed. And N. was given the task of
looking after me. She was a major's wife, and my husband had known her in
his regimental days before he joined the Political. So she was given this
job of shepherding me around and looking after me and so on. Well, she
was the most terrible old snob.
You had to keep whiskey in the house, because when people
called they had to be given a drink of whiskey. Why they couldn't have
been given a drink of something else I have no idea, but this was the
pattern. You had to have this whiskey in your cupboard. We bought one
bottle a month, because we had no more money. And you called on
everybody, all the senior people, people living round you, and you were
supposed to exchange cards, leaving a certain number of cards for husband
and wife, and then they would call. And they drank with you and you drank
with them, and you'd establish this courtesy of returning calls. Well, of
course it wasn't any use us calling on people, because we hadn't any
whiskey when they came back. So we got this bottle of whiskey, and we
were terrified lest anybody called on us, lest they wanted a drink.
Because when it was finished, it was finished. Because we hadn't any
money to buy another bottle. If we survived the month, we were clever.
And so N. was given the job of looking after me. So she
summoned me to her house one morning, and I was given this interrogation.
How many people had I called on? And she wanted the names. How many
people had called back on me? And she wanted the names. And she kept
peppering me with these questions. And I soon tumbled to the idea that I
was up against something very tough, that I had no idea how you coped with
at all. I didn't live like that at home at all, although I had come from
an ordinary middle class family. And every question she asked me I said
"no," and I thought, "Well, in the end, the penny will drop on this thick
skinned woman that she's going to get nothing out of me." Had I called on
So and So? No. Had So and So called on me? No. Had I done this? Had I
done that? No. No. No. And this went on for quite a time. And she
finished up by saying, "Have you got a fridge at home?" And I thought,
"Now that is getting too much." Oh, she told me she came from the biggest
seat in Northumberland, which made me feel much smaller and meaner than I
did when I arrived, and I went on with all this "no, no, no, no." And
when she got to "Have you got a fridge at home?" I couldn't work that out.
So I'd had enough of her, and so I said, "Yes, two." So I thought that
should shut her up, and I said, "Now, I'm going home." I wasn't going to
tell her I was pregnant and we hadn't got tuppence. But she must have
known what our pay was, because it was known to everybody.
But I got it back on her, because we were in the Signal
School with all the subalterns there, and I said to the subalterns, "I can
tell you something about N. you don't know." And they said, "What's
that?" I said, "She's got the biggest seat in Northumberland." And she
had. She was about that wide. We all howled with laughter. And they
went about saying, "She's got the biggest seat in Northumberland."
Lt. Col. John Masters:
You did feel after a time that you were a member of a closed society which
the others didn't know. You started of course with your knowledge of the
language and everything that you learned you built up. You learned
Gurkhali. I learned Gurkha songs, Gurkha customs. And then in the
evenings you'd meet some other regiment out on maneuvers and you'd be
swapping. You'd learn about Sikh customs over some whiskey in a tent out
in the middle of the Punjab desert on maneuvers.
And then there were stories, particularly about
characters, famous characters of the Indian Army. Everybody knew somebody
whose name I've forgotten, but he was a Commissioner, very high ICS
officer who'd never get to be a Governor because he was an alcoholic.
He'd wake up in the morning first thing and have a full tumbler of gin
with fruit salt in it, and that was his breakfast. He'd eat nothing but.
And he was always soused. But nobody moved in that division without his
knowing it, and you know he'd suddenly wake up and send a letter or
telegram to his DC saying, "How many of the Such and Such tribe moved into
your area yesterday? I believe three of them are wanted for murder." And
the DC didn't even know himself that they'd come into his district.
And there was a man who was a great sex pot and lover. He
is reported to have come down to breakfast one day rubbing his hands and
saying, "Mother and daughter before breakfast."
And everybody knew ghost stories of the Indian Mutiny,
mainly Indian Mutiny ones. Cries and screams on May the 10th, which is
the day the Mutiny broke out. People were herded into a church and set
fire, and then right on through the years, a century later in the church
they would hear screams and see flames reflected on May the 10th. And
these stories are very common. A ghost, the guard commander. The field
officer of the week goes around and turns out the guard, and he finds it
rather slow, and he goes to fill in the book and he finds that it's
already been turned out. And the sentry says, "Well, a sahib I didn't
know came up on a horse." And this is the ghost who turned out the guard.
There are a whole lot. They are practically all connected with the
Mutiny. Or some of them pre- Mutiny.
There is definitely an overall lore. The British- Indian
society was so small and so tight-knit that after five to ten years, there
wasn't a person you didn't know by name and reputation. And a lot of the
women, too. I mean you'd hear news of some lady down in South India who
was know as "the passionate haystack" and so on. Oh, there was definitely
I think one did exchange more stories in India because you dined out quite
a lot. It was your life. You had no cinema. You'd no television. You'd
nothing. And therefore I would say that there was an exchange of stories.
And of course there has always been a lot of stories told about senior
people. I mean this is the sort of thing they --
I hear them still today.
"Remember old So and So."
Roy Metcalf, Indian Army, later Indian Political
Oh, yes, it was a marvelous country for eccentrics. Well, you see, it was
so virtually due to right because we were the ruling class. The ruling
class. I had a Resident in Central India who used to go riding around
early in the morning. People would sleep out in their gardens frequently.
He would take his horse over the gate and over their beds and out again.
And the first time I met him officially --
I was his undersecretary, and the
secretary would go in in the morning with whatever had to be discussed,
you know, and it would be my turn, you see. And I tapped on the door.
"Come in." I went in and I didn't see anybody. And a voice said, "What
have you got for me, Metcalf?"
I said, "Oh, something about coal" or something. He said, "The hell with
coal." I said, "Where are you?" He said, "I'm here."
He was under the desk carving a wooden boat. He had a big desk. He was
under the sort of well, carving away at a wooden boat. In the end he
fetched up as Governor of Somaliland no less. But they weren't quite so
eccentric in my time as they had been years previously. But there were
still quite a few eccentrics around. It lends itself to eccentricity.
Provided you stayed within the law, there was nobody who would say
anything about you.
My Resident in Central India, when he had a reception or
something like that, which he was always having, he'd creep up behind
somebody, stand behind them and give them a good old kick in the backside,
see? They'd turn around to see the Resident. They couldn't possibly be
kicked by the Resident.
Lt. Col. John Masters:
Oh, it had its rules, yes, but a lot of rules didn't apply to the
British officer in the sense that you could do just about anything and get
away with it because who would arrest you? Who would say nay, except your
own rules, the rules of the governing society, you know. It's not done to
do so and so, but one time or another India was wild enough so actually
everybody did whatever he was supposed not to do.
One of my friends was a South African Jew in the Rajput
Regiment who used to smoke a cigar all the time. He was a quarter-miler.
He held the India record. His name was E. He'd walk up to the start of a
track meet with this large cigar in his mouth, puffing away. Just as
they'd settled down on the starting deck, he'd put the cigar down on the
track and then go voom around and break the record. And when the war
began he was in Tibet, in Ladakh, in Little Tibet, in a monastery as a
monk. He was a lieutenant in the Rajputs, the 2nd or 7th Rifles. When
the word reached him about the war, he set off at once and traveling by
the fastest means available to a yellow-robed monk with a shaven head and
everything, he reached his battalion just as it was passing through Sibi
Junction. He came into Sibi one way and there was the battalion across
the platform. So he walked across the platform and took command of his
company in this monk's robe, saffron on his forehead, and no one thought
He'd served in Assam at one point and he was very fond of
tradition. And in my father's time an Indian would not pass you with his
umbrella or parasol up. He'd lower it passing you on the street anywhere,
and also he would not raise an umbrella or something next to you in a
public conveyance. Well this guy E. was crossing the Irrawaddy on his way
to the Assam Military Police, where he was serving to earn more money to
pay off his debts. In the Assam Police you got more money and you
couldn't spend it anywhere. And an Indian raised his umbrella right in
front of him and E. threw him into the river, which is about five miles
wide at that point. So they had some trouble fishing him out. The captain
of the boat took his name, and the police report was made out, and finally
E. got the official censure of the Viceroy of India for his behavior. And
he sent it back with a very polite note saying, "Could I please have this
on vellum, as I want to have it framed."
In the Punjab we had a few eccentrics. We had one who I'm afraid
was eccentric because he'd hit the bottle too hard, and he was extremely
lazy toward the end of his time. But somehow he seemed to know what was
going on in his district and kept everything from turning over all right.
He never did a stroke of work. And he used to start his breakfast with a
glass of gin, that sort of thing, and he had periodical bouts of DT and so
on. He should have been thrown out. And we had another remarkable
character who was really very eccentric, who worked awfully hard but at
the wrong things. Never did any work he should have been doing. He was
frightfully bothered by his health. Stories about him used to go round,
how he got out of the train coming into Lahore to see a specialist and
walked on all fours across the platform because his heart couldn't stand
walking upright. I don't know that that's true. These stories used to go
round at the clubs.
There were plenty of odd characters. One I remember in particular
was a High Court judge's wife who used to appear at the club with nothing
on but a python around her neck. She had a pretty lurid reputation.
There was a certain Resident of the Eastern States whom I didn't
get on with very well --
and he and his wife were on tour with me. When you
went on tour, you see, the Political Agent of that group came with you.
And the Political Agent of this particular group of states was rather
a bit unusual --
an army officer. He [had] a small mustache,
brushed back like an army officer. Not much patience with ceremonial.
And his wife was a lady who also was rather modern and had no patience
with authority or her superiors either. When we arrived there this
colonel [the Political Agent] met us at the train and he said to the
Resident, "Do you mind if our tiger cub comes too?" The Resident looked
rather astonished and said, "Oh, put him in the other car." The Resident
and his wife and the Political Agent went in one car and I came behind
with the tiger cub and his keeper.
When we got to the guest house of this place there was an
entrance hall with a lot of chairs in it, you see, and the Political Agent
said to the Resident, "You sit there, sir." The tiger had gone away by
now with his keeper. And I sat down facing the door and the Resident and
the Political Agent sat with their backs to the door. He offered us a
drink and we began drinking, and presently to my horror there was the
tiger out and he was stalking. The Resident had his back to him all
unconscious of this. I sat there transfixed, and presently if the tiger
cub didn't take a flying leap and land on the Resident's head!
Pandemonium. It was one time when I really was sympathetic with this man.
The result of that was they retired upstairs --
it was a two storey. They
even sent for a carpenter and had a door built at the top of the stairs,
and the tiger cub and I and the Political Agent and his wife were left
At that time --
it was from Calcutta that we came and there
were a lot of shootings and assassinations in Calcutta at that time --
we all had bodyguards and I had a very nice fellow as a
bodyguard. I had arranged that he should sleep outside my room. And the
next morning --
I fortunately had a mosquito net tucked under the
I woke up in the morning and I said, "What's that funny
scratching noise?" To my horror it was the tiger. He was doing this all
around my mosquito net. So I called "Ahmed! Ahmed!" to the bodyguard.
He said, "Yes, sahib." So I said, "Come quick, there's a tiger." He
said, "What?" Laughing, you see. He came round the corner with his
pistol held ready and he took one look at the tiger and fled! Eventually
he went away. Honestly I think he was only a playful tiger cub but he
became very objectionable. He used to run after the servants and tear
their trousers. Eventually they had to get rid of him.
H. P. Hall:
I went off to Delhi and I met all the brass of the Indian
Political Service. I went through these various interviews with really
the top people in the Indian Political Service, the top men. Then I had to
go down to Viceroy's House to have lunch with Lord Linlithgow, the
Viceroy, because he was the chap who had to do the final decision. We had
a general chat.
When I got back to the hotel where I was staying, the
manager was in terrible excitement. He said, "Oh, the Private Secretary
of the Viceroy has been on to the hotel. He wanted to see you. He's
sorry he missed you and he's sending a Viceroy's car for you." So, one of
the viceregal cars drove up to the hotel, with a crest, et cetera, on the
top. This made my name with the hotel, of course. I said to the hotel
manager, "Who's the Private Secretary to the Viceroy?" And he said, "It's
a chap called G.L., but he's on leave and it's one of the ADC's who's
acting as Private Secretary."
So I drove down back to Viceroy's House in this car and
was met by one of the bodyguards and shown up into the Private Secretary's
office, which was a very nice office indeed, and greeted this chap, who
didn't say what his name was. And I was assuming that he was an ADC to
the Viceroy, one of the ADC's --
there were several of them --
Private Secretary. Private Secretary to the Viceroy was a very important
chap indeed. This chap, as far as I was concerned, was just an ordinary
human being. So, in fact, we had a very frank discussion. I also said I
wasn't necessarily certain I was going to join the Indian Political
Service. It was a question of job satisfaction. It seemed to me that the
sorts of jobs they did were likely to be more satisfying than the Army in
peacetime. And I went away.
Later, after I'd joined the Political, we went to visit
one of these little states miles away, not far from Jhansi, on an annual
tour, and we stayed in the palace there with the maharajah, in the guest
house. Linlithgow and his entourage were paying a state visit to this
particular state. He came on his own special train, hundreds of people.
They were going to have a state banquet for Linlithgow, the Viceroy, and
his party. I looked at the list of guests --
the Resident, his secretary,
and myself were on tour there --
and who should be on the guest list but
this ADC, the chap who was supposed to be acting as Private Secretary when
I visited the Viceroy's House. They came to this dinner party --
juggling shows and all the rest of it --
and we were all sort of put in a
circle and introduced to the Viceroy. I saw this chap and greeted him as
a long, lost friend. And when they had the juggling things, I said, "You
don't want to watch this, do you? I know where there's a private bar.
We'll have drinks and watch the thing going on." We spent the evening
together chatting away. I still thought he was an ADC and he asked me
stories about various people, and I told him exactly what I thought of
various things, because I thought I was talking to somebody who was sort
of equal, at least slightly more than equal but not all that more than
They caught their train at midnight, the Viceroy's train
went off, and I hopped a lift into Jhansi, went to the club, and bought up
a few bottles of Australian champagne. The next day we were being joined
by the Governor of the Central Provinces. When we were on the train, we
had our own coach. The Resident had his own coach which was divided into
a sort of dining room and a sitting room and a bedroom and another smaller
dining room and a couple of compartments for the staff. The Governor of
the Central Provinces had his own coach attached to the same train. The
Governor and the Resident and others had lunch in the Resident's car, and
he was the host, and the junior staff had lunch in our staff dining room,
but we had champagne, because I'd brought it from the Jhansi club. That
was one- upmanship. The Resident's secretary said to me, "I didn't know
you knew G.L." I said, "I've never met him. I've never met him at all."
He said, "You spent the whole evening with him." This was the Private
Secretary to the Viceroy!
Well, years later, Sir G.L. became Permanent Secretary to
the Commonwealth Relations Office and I met him at one of these parties
and I told him this story. I explained that when I was having all these
bloody chats with him at this maharajah's palace, I didn't know who he
was. Do you know, he wasn't amused at all.
"Never Eat the Fish at Moghul-Serai":
Danger, Disease and Death
I can remember at Moghul-serai the stationmaster's wife; she was
an awfully nice woman. She said to me, "Never eat the fish here."
Because somebody she had known had been up and had eaten some fish on
Sunday, and she said, "She ate some fish and by tea time she was dead."
I've always remembered: Never eat the fish at Moghul-serai.
When I went out to India in 1933, there were about fifty of us or
so, and when I came home on leave in '37, thirteen of those people had
been killed already. And this was before the war.
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
You can't transplant yourself from northern Europe to Southern
Asia without something happening. India was a place which created
tensions. No doubt about that.
I think, going anywhere other than the village you've been
born in and brought up in created tension, and so if you go to a very
distant land, it creates rather more extreme tensions. And if you add to
that the generally speaking total imbalance between the males and the
females of the European society, that creates tensions. And the climate
itself. I mean, this country is a soft climate, without extremes, and so
everybody tends to be reasonable. But in India, it's extremes. I mean
either it's parching dry, or else it's absolutely belching with rain.
Either you're scorching on the plains, or else you're literally freezing
to death in the Himalayas. It's a country of contrasts. And this affects
Major-General William Odling:
Jolly hot, jolly hot. We lived in the most tremendous discomfort.
In the hot weather it was frightfully hot. A lot of people found they
really couldn't sleep till about one o'clock, and then there was a fashion
to have your main parade of the day before it got too hot, so that was
very often at five, meaning getting up, you know, before then. Then we
probably took the afternoon and slept. Whether this was a good thing or
not, we younger people always rebelled against it because we could sleep
at night. It seemed that there was a lot to be said for parading when it
was hot and sleeping when it was cool. We did have fans, but there was no
air conditioning, no fridges, nothing like that at all. So we were often
The glue on the sticky part of an envelope was always
curled right up. If you put on a piece of clothing, the one next to your
skin was always hotter than you. It was quite a strain. Then about the
twentieth of June, the monsoon came --
unless it failed, and that only
happened perhaps once every twenty-five years. The monsoon came and one
got a tremendous amount of rain, lovely hot rain. You had the most
tremendous urge to rush out into the rain, naked or nearly naked. It was
such an immense sort of relief. Then you were in another climate, damp as
damp. Mushrooms used to spring out of your shoes. The most incredible
change. I'm not exaggerating about this.
Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:
Another thing that I remember very well when I first went to India
was the extraordinary feeling before the monsoon broke. About the first of
April was the beginning of the hot weather and it got hotter and hotter
from then until about the middle of June when the monsoon broke. And you
got very bad tempered and very irritable in this hot weather. And then you
smelt the rain on the wind. You got news that it had arrived someplace in
the south of India and you counted the hours almost. One day you went out
and you smelt this thing. You get it sometimes in this country after a
long drought, where the ground gets wet and you get quite a distinctive
smell out of the wet ground. And this was absolutely wonderful. And your
compound, the area outside your bungalow, which was arid, dry, dusty, and
absolutely yellow, nothing living at all --
within a few days, literally
days, we had let the grazing of our compound to a local farmer for a few
rupees. The grass was growing, and you could almost see it growing, in
what had been sand, apparently sand, after this tremendous drenching that
it had had. And then for about six weeks or two months life was quite
pleasant. The rains were very, very heavy to start with, but they
gradually let up and then you had a gradual return to the hot weather
again. But it was the most wonderful feeling at the first onset of the
Rev. John Debrett:
There were stations and stations in India. You had a station like
Poona, which was absolutely marvelous --
what was it, four thousand feet up?
Anyway, very nice, surrounded by hills. And there was plenty going on. But
of course what one overlooked was the fact that most of the British in
India served in horrible little stations on plains, where you looked out,
and you could see absolutely flat country for a hundred miles. Not a
feature on it. Plenty of dust. And really there wasn't a great deal to
recommend it at all.
We always had a certain number of suicides. Not in the hot
weather, more in the rainy season. When you got about twelve inches in one
weekend, everything steamed. Everything you possessed became mildewy. Oh
yes, you had those curious things called sigheri baskets. You had a little
charcoal stove and an enormous sort of wicker work thing like a dome. And
you'd light your little --
or a servant would light your charcoal stove
thing and he'd put this over the top, and he'd hang all your clothes round
it. All your leather things, all your shoes, got green mold. And they
could do it between Friday and Monday. If you didn't use your riding boots
Saturday and Sunday, Monday they were all moldy.
And then you got all those insects. Awful little flies,
drive you nutty.
Major-General William Odling:
Before I went to Muttra I happened to meet somebody who was there.
There had been a tremendous wangle to get to Muttra, because it was the
cream of the pigsticking. I said to this chap, "Just give me some idea of
what I'll find when I get there," expecting him to say, "Oh, you'll be
pigsticking from this month to that month." He just said, "Well, there's
only one tip I can give you. Don't get appendicitis after ten o'clock."
And he was right. I told you the place was uncomfortable. It was very
primitive, and we were very short of everything, and we couldn't have
afforded any more anyhow. The whole thing was run on a shoestring. On the
other hand, the training was frightfully good.
We had this terrible sojourn in this place, Jacobabad. We were
there about eighteen months. I had three small children, that was what was
so terrible. My husband got a book on it, so I said, "Oh good, let me read
it." And it said: a terrible place, the temperature was the highest
anywhere in the colonial Empire, and the nights were more terrible than
the days! And I spoke to one or two people, a couple who had just come
back, and I said, "What's it like?" And she said, "It's absolute hell. I
don't want to talk about it." And so I thought, "Well, this is terrible."
Then I spoke to an Indian chap about it, a Hindu, and he said, "Oh, it's
fascinating. There's a Persian wheel there." So I said, "A Persian wheel?
What's that for?" "The water." And I said, "Haven't we got any water?"
"Oh, no." And then he said, "You've got a blindfolded buffalo, and he goes
round and round and round."
Well, it was so dreadful. We hadn't a fridge. We hadn't
meat. We hadn't milk. We hadn't vegetables. They had to come down three
hundred miles and at a certain time of the year you could get them down
and after that they just went putrid, you see. When I got back I couldn't
talk about it for a long time. They've no right to post families to places
like that. It was criminal. I mean, you got up in the morning, you died in
the afternoon, you were buried at night! Because you went bad so quickly.
And when I got back, I said to one or two senior
very pleasant people, and I'm sure it's they were right and I was
wrong. And I said, "We've been in that terrible place. We've had a
dreadful time." And she said airily, "Oh, we've all had these sort of
things to put up with," and went off.
There were some people in India who escaped all the
horrors. Always, everywhere. And they are quite in a way unrealistic. I've
heard people say in Quetta, "This is our spiritual home." And I believe
but I'm not certain about this, that those people lost a child in the
earthquake. Well, nowhere would be my spiritual home where I'd lost a
child. But then that's me.
In India you became a bit more of what you were. It might
be good, it might be bad, and it might be even indifferent. But whatever
you were, you were caricatured. It wasn't always nice. I don't like the
person that terrible place in the desert made out of me. It made a
different person, but it wasn't always the person I particularly wanted to
be or admired, but certainly it changed me, made me a fighter.
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
It was a very unsettled way of life. We once counted the moves we
made during our married life --
I think it was thirty-nine. But we didn't
mind moving. Everybody wasn't like that, of course. People who were in the
Secretariat in Delhi, in the ICS, some of them would have one house in
Delhi and another in Simla, and they'd live in it for years. But service
people moved around a lot. And the Survey of India of course moved almost
more than anybody. It meant that it wasn't very easy to have a beautiful
home, with beautiful furniture. You never bought any furniture. You always
hired furniture wherever you went. And you just made yourself as
comfortable as you could with that, but you could make yourself quite
comfortable. Even when we were in tents it was quite comfortable. But
there was a sort of temporariness about everything in India.
In a small place all the bungalows were government
bungalows and they were allocated. But in places like Delhi, bigger
places, you might get a government bungalow or you might hire one
privately from somebody. Or you might even buy one. Some of the
if you were in the Secretariat, you tended to be fairly static.
But the ICS, although they had a very nice house in the headquarters of
their district or division or whatever it was, they had to do a lot of
touring too, because they had to go all round in these areas, and they
were pretty vast areas. And the district which was the ordinary
responsibility of the more junior officer would be the size of a small
country. And he had to be continually going round to hold court in the
various provincial or district centers. So they did a lot of traveling
too. But I should think probably the Survey of India must have done more
traveling, and wider traveling, than anybody, because we were responsible
for the whole of India. I think I saw almost all of India during my
fourteen years out there. But you got very used to traveling. One of the
things about coming back to this country was that it took a bit of time to
condition yourself to the idea that you were going to stay put anywhere
for any length of time. I think it is noticeable that people whose parents
have served in India had inborn into them a wish to travel more than most
people. Both of our children have it.
Then came the hot weather and up your wife and family went to the
hills. You could not keep children down there, and your wife and family
went to the hills, which, incidentally, made it really impossible for you
to live without the maximum overdraft your bank would allow you. You were
absolutely dead broke, because you had to keep them all up in a separate
establishment in the hills, while you were running your own establishment
As the district officer, you very often had visitors. Your
Commissioner and his wife would probably come down and stay with you for a
week perhaps. Perhaps one or two people from headquarters, or you got a
visiting VIP wished on to you. All of this, I remember, was also a
considerable strain on your finances, because we had no entertainment
allowances. All this came out of our own pockets. Any sort of
the Viceroy's Earthquake Fund, or Tuberculosis Fund --
to head the list of subscriptions in your district. So we were always
It really amuses me to see the way young men, certainly
since the war, have been sent out to India or parts east, businessmen,
provided with a house, fully furnished, crockery, curtains, soft
furnishings, car, everything all provided. We had nothing. When you became
a district officer you were certainly provided with a house; you had to
pay ten percent of your pay for that. No furniture of any kind, so you
either had to hire your furniture down at the bazaar or you had your
wretched sticks of furniture that you carted around the country every time
you were transferred. We really lived quite hard, I must say.
When my husband first went out, before I married him, he was
stationed in Bombay. And he stayed with the T.'s --
he was an executive
officer; Bill was only an assistant. And the first night in Bombay he put
his trunk at the bottom of a bed in a hostel, and that was his first
night. He thought, "Good gracious, what have I come to?" And Mr. T. said
he must go in a hotel, and Bill said, "I can't afford a hotel." Before
that period they weren't dependent on a salary, they had their own
incomes. Well, after the war [World War I] all we people were poor. And so
Bill went to live with Mr. and Mrs. T., and Mr. T. said, "Oh, you must
join the Yacht Club and the Bombay Gymkhana, and so on." And Bill said,
"I'm not joining any club, sir. When I've paid you and my laundry, I've
My husband was transferred to Poona after being in Bombay
a short time, he and his friend. There was a government bungalow supplied
them. They had to pay a tenth of their salary for it, it wasn't free. And
they had these boxes for tables and chairs, a very primitive life. Of
course to hire furniture is expensive. And you wouldn't want to buy
furniture because you're on the move. Now for business people it's a
Major Christopher York:
The colonel of my regiment was reputed to have left India after
the previous tour owing the bank more than his total income. What you did,
you see, you wanted to buy a polo pony and you hadn't enough money, so you
borrowed it. Very cheap, incidentally --
it was a hundred pounds for quite a
good pony. The trouble was, at twenty-four percent per annum, if you
didn't repay it, it became more and more expensive.
Major-General William Odling:
There were an awful lot of things to buy when you got to India,
and some people got in debt and never got out of it, because the rate of
paying off your debt --
they were prepared to charge you two per cent a
month. I'm a rather prudent sort of person, so I never got into debt, but
some people got into debt and never got out of it.
There were great stories about this. Aden used to come
under India. You weren't allowed to be dunned for debt if you were on
parade, if you were in uniform. They weren't allowed to serve a writ on
you or whatever. And there are stories of people going home to England at
the end of their time, and knowing they weren't safe till they'd passed
Aden, and not going ashore at Aden but walking up and down on the troop
ship dressed with a sword and everything, because they then could not have
a writ served on them. I should think it was a rare occasion, but it
allegedly has happened.
Ivan Ellis Jones:
I remember pressing a torch on a guest. He was going to his
bungalow just around the corner, said he didn't need it. I lent him a
torch and he actually came on a snake right in the middle of the room.
There were certainly areas badly infested with the krait, which is very
poisonous. I know one valley people didn't go into at night. They said a
krait could jump up as high as a horse's head. Very fatal. And up in my
little bungalow in the Salt Range --
it was infested by snakes. One found
them on the furniture and things like that. We had devices like rough
stone laid around the house to discourage snakes from climbing in. One was
always careful sleeping in summer --
out of doors, you know. One picked up
one's slippers and clapped them together to make sure there was nothing
there. There might be a scorpion. But a guest of mine did, while he was
having his bath, see a tiny baby cobra come out of the wall and go into
his slipper. I've seen a chap practicing polo suddenly see a cobra rear
its head up and he decapitated it with his stick.
Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:
Sir Charles Dalton: We used to go out into the countryside,
nominally to shoot snipe, and the odd duck. And one place in Rajputana,
from Nasirabad, we shot these florican, which were sort of bustards. They
weren't very good shooting. They jumped up and down in the undergrowth.
They literally jumped up and then they ran. They didn't fly much. And one
day, just after the rains, the bag was three cobra, and one florican. So I
hastily sent back to England for my leather gaitors, which I had worn as a
young officer. I had never thought to take these things out, but walking
after these florican, if you weren't wide awake, you were suddenly
confronted by a cobra, who sort of sat up like that and looked at you,
great big brute. And I thought it would be wise to have something covering
my legs. I don't think many people were actually bitten, because there
wasn't enough undergrowth at that time. But they came out of the ground
with the rain.
We had one nasty incident later on. It was in Delhi, right
in the city, in our bathroom. In those bungalows in those days you didn't
have a fixed bath like we have here with water that you turned on. You had
a little hovel in the back of the house with an open tin tub in it. And
the bhisti, the water carrier, his job was to bring the water from the
well in the compound and empty it into the bath, and bring some more
water, hot water, from where he'd been heating it on a little coal or
paraffin stove, and make your bath. He came into the bathroom from the
outside door and then shut the door and shouted, and you came in from your
house from the other door into the bathroom and had your bath. And my wife
got into the bath one day, having done this process, and suddenly saw a
krait, a very small and very deadly snake. It was behind the door, wasn't
Lady Dalton: Yes, between me and my bedroom, so I had a problem.
Because I was completely stripped, I had nothing on. And it was rather
difficult to get the bhisti to come back and kill the snake, with me
sitting in the bath all wet --
and naked! However, eventually, I shouted and
screamed for help, and the thing slithered away --
enough for me to get out
of the bath and go into my bedroom. And I then got the man to come, and he
managed to kill it.
Sir Charles Dalton: They used to come up through the little
drainhole from the mud floor of the bathroom and get in that way. And one
was always told to look out for the danger of them being curled round the
electric light switches on the verandah. You came in, you'd been out
somewhere, the club or something, and you came in to turn the switch on,
and it had been known that the krait would be curled round the switch.
They're really deadly.
Your bath was a zinc tub. And they had kerosene oil tins, one tin
of hot water and one tin of cold. And one day we had two friends at this
same place staying with us. Bill had gone to have his bath, and he had
some work to do. We three were discussing what was a tomato, a vegetable
or a fruit. And we didn't agree, so I said, well, I'd go look in the
dictionary. Of course your homes were all on stilts, up steps. They don't
go straight off the ground because of cobras and other wild animals,
leopards and what have you, jackals, wolves, tigers, lions. Anyway, when I
went into Bill's office, I was going to get the dictionary. And just
coming out there was a cobra. But it must have come through Bill's
bathroom, because it's all very primitive. Each one has their own
bathroom, with a thunderbox. And a pipe to let the water out. And over
that outlet there's a wire netting cover, and the sweeper must have left
it off. And thus the snake got up there. These were all the little
Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:
At one stage we had a mongoose, because they're absolutely dead
knots on snakes. And if you had a mongoose in your garden or in the house,
they're so quick and they go for snakes immediately. And a lot of people
kept mongeese for this purpose. Actually, I believe the plural of mongoose
is mongooses. Anyway, they're delightful animals.
We actually got a mongoose --
it was owned by a snake charmer
around the Gateway of India --
and it was fascinating. We brought it home.
It lived in a bag. And they're curious --
they're not wild, and yet they're
And it used to live in the ceiling. Your ceilings there
are not ceilings like this, they're ceiling cloths. So you can see the
little foot marks every time anything walked across. You'd stretch it
tight, and it's whitewashed. And it's not until something walks across
or the monsoon. Of course during the hot weather all your wood
shrinks, and the first monsoon, everything falls through, and you have to
go round your bungalow, it's going, "Plink, Plink! Plunk, plunk! Ploonk,
ploonk!" All around, all these things, all dripping. Our mongoose used to
sleep somewhere up in there and it used to come down in the evening. She
had a passion for chocolate. She used to sit on my father's shoulder, and
if he was eating chocolate, she would go absolutely berserk.
And another thing she used to do, which was very naughty,
was to hide under the sideboard. And when we had a dinner party, and the
servants were serving, she used to come and she'd nip their heels. And
you'd hear them going on and suddenly going, "grumble, grumble," saying
something. And you knew Ricky'd been out having a nip at them. She was
She wasn't in the least interested [in killing snakes,
though]. I remember on one wonderful occasion the chowkidar came round and
said there was a krait. So we thought this was a splendid occasion. So we
gathered up Ricky, who'd come on the scene, and we went round and we said,
"There you are, Ricky. There's a nice snake, you see." And she looked at
and then somebody came out of the godown, and so she sort of sat
behind him and she looked at this and him! She didn't want to know.
Major-General R.C.A. Edge:
Cobras were sociable snakes --
still are, no doubt. They liked human
company. But did I tell you about Nanny? She got into her bed, tucked her
mosquito net in, and then discovered that she was sharing it with a cobra.
She had great presence of mind. I mean she would have had to have had
something to have brought up us children. So she just lay there and waited
for the cobra till the cobra thought it preferred to have its bed to
itself. And she just waited for it to find its way out. She was a
remarkable woman, my nanny, but she was given to sleepwalking. My father
used to do a lot of camping, and we used to camp partly in tents and
partly in inspection bungalows. Well, we were encamping --
we always went in
camp some time in the middle of the winter --
a deer hunt or a Christmas
camp or something. And the camp is usually centered on one of these little
bungalows, inspection bungalows. But the children --
and Nanny --
we were all
in a tent. And we woke up one morning, and Nanny looked for her slippers,
and she couldn't find ones. And then she noticed that her nightie had got
mud marks on it. We thought perhaps a jackal might have come in and
removed the slipper, but how did the mud marks get there?
And every day, when my father was out inspecting coal
mines, we used to go and have a picnic. And on the evening before this
event, we'd walked down this path, right through the jungle for about a
mile, and we'd noticed tigers' pug marks on the path. And this had
evidently preyed on Nanny's mind, because she'd gone off down this path
during the night, and when we were going off down to the river the next
day, about --
oh, a good half mile from our camp --
we found her slipper
wedged under a stone! She'd been going to kill the tiger to protect her
young, you see. She was a very faithful servant. She was a tough old
thing, Nanny was.
Used to be one or two maneaters around. A lot of quite
interesting stories about tigers. One --
I knew him quite well --
he was a
policeman in the next door district. He was out in his district about May,
I suppose; it was quite warm, a beautiful moonlit night, so he was
sleeping on the ground outside his tent. He wakes up and there's a tiger
standing over the top of him. Just like that. Luckily he was scared so
stiff he didn't move and after some time the tiger just moved on. But it
turned his hair white. That's a true story.
I was sitting on the ground with a tree behind me and we
had some beaters out. We were after tiger. Four of us. And there wasn't
much, just a sort of clearing in front of me, and suddenly I see a tiger
looking at me. I thought, "Well, that's no good," because he'd got his
head like that and you can't shoot him here. Luckily he turned his head up
and I shot him in the neck. I didn't want to wound him because there were
all sorts of beaters around. A wounded tiger is an absolutely terrifying
thing. I was young then. We used to do some awfully silly things.
he was the young policeman --
and myself. There used to be a well
known maneating tiger around that neighborhood the whole time I was there
and nobody ever got it --
called the langra, which means "the lame one."
Somebody had shot him in the leg. And we got information in from these
local shikaris --
they made a living out of that sort of thing --
that he was
about eighteen miles away down the railway line. So we nipped out one
afternoon, got the local train, and we were led to a sort of great big
thicket. Martin got one side and I got the other and we started to heave
stones in. When I think about it, I think I must have been mad because it
was in there all right and it broke out roaring its head off and went
sideways. But if it had come straight at one or another of us we might
have been lucky and stopped it but probably not. We thought nothing of it
then. I can remember sitting out in the middle of the night on a
an Indian rope bed --
waiting for a panther to come along. I must
have been absolutely crazy. I don't believe in shooting now, but it didn't
occur to me not to shoot anything in those days.
Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:
We decided to go up into Bihar and were staying in forest
bungalows in a very jungly area. We very nearly ended our career because
we arrived at a forest bungalow in the late evening and we walked in. The
bungalows always have a night watchman and a cook. We couldn't see any
sign of the cook, so we decided he must have gone. We made our own food
and everything, went for a walk in the gloaming through the forest, went
back and spent the night with the windows all open. The next day we
started off for the next bungalow and I suddenly saw a man in a ditch by
the side of the road with a rifle. I spoke to him and he was American. I
said, "What are you up to?" And he said, "I was after the maneating
tiger." I said, "Which maneating tiger?" He said, "Oh, the one who took
the cook from the forest bungalow."
I stayed in another bungalow once in Bihar that had no
door. There were arches in a plinth about four foot high. No doors, just
arches. We were just about settled down for the night when a large chap
with nothing very much on except a thing around his waist appeared and
informed me that he was from the local Superintendent of Police. He spoke
English. He said, "I am the police darogha. I have a message for you." I
said, "Yes?" "Royal Bengal tiger is operating." I said, "What do you mean,
it's operating?" He said, "It's a maneating tiger and it's killing people
around here." Royal Bengal tiger is operating. A lovely way of putting it.
So we became quite alarmed then because we had no doors to this thing. So
we spent a rather troubled night but we weren't operated on.
I got back to have a bath and I put my arm out into my towel and I
must have had a scorpion on the towel. I started to rub myself and I got
stung. I knew there was nothing much I could do about it. You can't do
much about a scorpion. My orderly said, "Oh, Sahib, I'll pray it out of
you." I said, "Go ahead, do what you like," but it didn't work. I knew it
wasn't serious but that I would feel it, they said, for twenty-four hours.
Literally I would feel the poison going all around my veins. You could
feel it running round. I went to the office and I was working. I sweated
through three suits of clothes during the day and I went for a swim the
next morning twenty-four hours after I'd been stung and it went like that.
The other time was rather funny. I was going to church, I
think it was in Gorakhpur and Kay was in bed, ill or something, and my
bearer had put out a suit of clothes which I hadn't worn for a long time,
a light summer suit. I was just putting the trouser on and by Jove I was
stung on the bottom I leapt in the air and shouted and Kay was roaring
Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:
We as a family were all lucky during our years out there because
we didn't really get any of the normal things you can get. We did get
malaria. I had malaria quite a bit. In fact my health was wrecked by
malaria. But friends of mine died from malaria and enteric. In Bengal I
took the place of a chap who had just died of cholera. What other diseases
were there around then?
I of course had fourteen rabies shots. I was out there for
three months and had to have the anti-rabies injections because the family
that I was staying with had two dogs and one [bit a] child under
You had to be very vigorous and tough to live. If you go and look
at the European cemeteries in India, they're full of people who died
before they were twenty. If you survived twenty, you stayed alive. They're
full of people who died very early in life. It was a very hard climate for
Europeans. The place was full of malaria. You could never sleep without a
mosquito net. The place was full of bilharziasis. There were Baghdad
sores, terrible thing, great holes in your skin that wouldn't heal,
dysentery all through the hot weather. Cholera. You had to be tough, you
had to take care of yourself.
That was the time of the terrorist movements and I only got in
because one chap was assassinated and made another vacancy. They rather
observed the rules of sport. It wasn't done to shoot young officers; they
were very selective in their shooting, nothing like terrorists here who
throw bombs about. They would go after somebody with a definite reason.
Anybody who was prominent and popular with the local chaps was liable to
be shot at, and of course anybody who went to Midnapore. It was a matter
of tradition. They got three in succession. The fourth man was a very
tough chap indeed. I mean we used to, when the District Magistrate gave
away the prizes --
it wasn't done to have a body guard at a prize giving, so
we young probationers used to be required to sit there with a gun in our
pockets. Never had occasion to use it.
One of my tasks in India before we left was collecting lists of
cemeteries. You could wear yourself out and spend about twenty years over
that. They were rather sad. First of all, "Here lies So and So, lady of
Captain So and So," and then the baby. You'd find these little cemeteries
dotted all over the country.
On some of the tombstones one looked at, when one was
listing them, were fascinating inscriptions. One was "Nelly, Nanny to the
children of Captain So and So," and then underneath, a rather cryptic
remark, "She preferred death to dishonor." You never knew whether it was
Captain So and So, or just who it was! And then there was another rather
humble grave, with the name of the man who was lying there. "He was
he was in the railways --
"He was killed by the two-up [train]."
And above that was carved a little engine.
Another story which I used to hear about but which was not a
personal experience was of a young Englishman who was posted to one of the
very, very remote stations going up into the Khyber Pass, where there were
the Pathans of course. Their idea of getting to heaven was to kill an
infidel. And he was the only white man there and he had a small native
staff. He used to play the violin. He used to love evenings to play the
gradually the Pathans used to come down to listen to him. And they became
quite friendly until this priest told them that if they wanted to go to
Paradise they must kill this infidel, so they did. They murdered him. They
murdered all the staff except one who had gone up the hillside to get
water and he lived to tell the tale and he told.
The deaths I remember. Little Tommy Rushton. He got up. He was
playing in the garden in the morning, at eleven. He was buried at six that
night. It was as quick as that. And one doctor said cerebral malaria, the
other doctor said polio, and they went arguing and arguing, and the poor
parents never knew. And he was buried in a downpour, where the grave was
full of water. They just dropped the coffin into a lake. And mother
insisted on going --
a nice delicate little woman. I knew why she went,
because she wanted to see the end of it. And the chap who sprinkled the
water on the coffin --
[the container] was labeled tomato sauce. Now, that
sort of thing, it takes some forgetting. And when you saw and heard that,
you thought, "Is mine going to be next?"
There was a very remote district called Muzaffargarh, far from
anywhere, the back of beyond. I've never seen the place and never want to.
And the Deputy Commissioner there was taken very ill with a fever in the
hot weather. And his wife was despairing. There was no European doctor
there. There were no Europeans of any kind there in fact. Well, in the hot
weather you have to bury a man pretty quick. No ice out there. So his
Extra Assistant Commissioners put their heads together, these Indian
magistrates, and they said, "Well, the first thing to do is have a coffin
made." So they got hold of a carpenter and they said, "Make a coffin."
Well, next morning the man, as very often happens, he got up and he felt
better, and he had his bed carried out onto the verandah to get some
little bit of fresh air that you could get in the early mornings. As he
lay there, what did he see but the man working. And he said, "Who are you
and what's that?" And the man turned round and said to him, "The box has
come for Your Honor."
Which reminds me of long ago, the story of John Lawrence
when he was despaired of. This was in about 1840. He was very ill with a
fever, and the Civil Surgeon rode all the way out from the nearest
cantonment, a long ride. He came out, and he said, "I'm sorry to tell you,
Mr. Lawrence, that you won't live till morning. I'm afraid I've got to go
now. I'll be back in the morning. I can do nothing more for you." And off
he rode. And John Lawrence, as he lay there, said, "Well, that bottle of
burgundy I was saving up for a great occasion. There it is. I'm damned
well going to drink that." He sent for his bottle of burgundy, and he
drank the whole bottle of burgundy. Next morning when the doctor came
back, John Lawrence was sitting there at his desk in his shirt sleeves
working. And, funny enough, I've heard the same sort of story from
Calcutta, where bottled claret or burgundy drunk right off like that has
cured a man who was despaired of with a fever. Anything can happen.
You know those nights in Jacobabad in the Sind Desert were very
long. It would get pitch dark at six o'clock. And if you're alone, or if
you're on your own --
and my husband used to go on tour --
and there were two
murders a month. It was non-British India where you could murder, you see,
with impunity, it didn't matter. I mean, it was just a murder. Night comes
down, and it comes down like that. One minute it's broad daylight, and the
next second it's pitch dark. There was a long, long evening. And you
hadn't books because you couldn't get books. It was the same in Borneo and
Sarawak, that great loneliness, that desolation of the spirit.
Lady Daphne Dalton:
This bungalow that my stepfather had as his CO's quarter was the
bungalow which the Ellis family had lived in --
Ellis had been a commanding
officer in Kohat as well, previously --
and the tribesmen from the hills had
come down into Kohat. Nobody quite knew how they got in, because there was
a wire fence all the way round the cantonment, and the gates to go in and
out of. But anyway they did get in. And they kidnaped the daughter, Miss
Ellis, having murdered Mrs. Ellis. And they took the girl off into the
hills and kept her for a certain time. But in fact this was recorded in a
program on the wireless recently. I heard it. And eventually a brave
woman, who I think was a missionary or something similar, went with a
small expedition to track down this girl and they got her back eventually,
But this bungalow that we were living in was the one that
she'd been kidnaped from. And in fact, it wasn't surprising that you could
do that and not get heard at all. It was rather a creepy sort of bungalow,
because a servant would come into the room, and you'd find him standing
behind your chair, and you hadn't heard him come in at all --
of the matting on the floor. And they wore no shoes of course, only their
bare feet. And the walls were so thick that it completely deadened any
sound at all. Well, it was a little bit of a creepy house in a way. Not so
much that you knew what had happened in it. But it was this business that
you couldn't hear anything in it. And it had very, very wide verandahs so
that the rooms were a bit dark. No windows really, just doors. But it was
a creepy sort of house.
But we had a lot of interesting things. We used to go over
to Peshawar, which was the nearest big place. And in order to go there, I
think partly due to this kidnaping business, and a certain amount of
unrest on the Frontier, you never could go over without somebody in the
car with a rifle. You couldn't go unattended. In my case, it could have
been a young officer accompanying us if we went over to do some shopping
or something. Or my stepfather with a gun. But you couldn't go alone.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
Some of the old mess buildings really were rather uncomfortable.
I'll never forget in Cawnpore. That was a very nasty, dreary place. I
hated it. And I had a bungalow which I swear was haunted, which I shared
with three other officers. There always was a very nasty atmosphere about
it. And it was known that all the bungalows in that particular part, in
that particular little road, they'd been burnt down. And they were all
thick thatch roof. And they were mutti walls, very thick, to keep out the
heat. But you only had to throw a match about the place and the whole
thing would tear off. And I think some very nasty things must have been
committed there during the Mutiny.
And another thing you had to do. It was rather a sprawling
place, Cawnpore, and there's a saddle and harness factory which also made
small arms ammunition. And the battalion and I had to provide the guard
for it. Well, in order to get to it, when you had to turn the guard out
once by night and once by day, you had to go down a nasty ravine which was
called the Massacre Ghat, which is where they ambushed the survivors from
the cantonments and set upon them and killed them. And then those who got
away from there got into boats, and when they were out midstream they shot
them up from the banks. And uhh! My golly, but that's a nasty place. And
the orderly officer is supposed to go down that way to turn out the arms
factory guard and come back again. However, I always used to insist that
the orderly sergeant and the orderly corporal came with me, going down
All that anyone could tell me about the bungalow's history
was that oh yes, it was very nasty. It was very interesting --
every bungalow has its compound, and in the edge of it you have the
servants' quarters, where all your servants lived. There were no servants'
quarters in that one. They lived down the road a bit, away from the place.
I felt very uncomfortable there.
Saugor was a big Mutiny station and we had our little club there
and we had one of the few Englishmen left on the railways. The railway
administration was nearly all Anglo-Indian [Eurasian]. He was off
somewhere down the railway line because there'd been an accident or
something. And his wife was in the club in the evening. She was looking
very ill and white and finally said, "I can't go back to that bungalow. I
must sleep the night with somebody." And it transpired that in the Mutiny
in that very same bungalow the wife of the Englishman was on her own and
her Indian ayah had come in. "Memsahib, memsahib, get out, get out." But
she didn't get out in time and she was killed. And this had also happened
to her the night before. An Indian ayah had come to her the night before.
An Indian ayah had come to her and said, "Memsahib, memsahib. Go, go." It
so scared her, she wouldn't go back to that bungalow.
Now my colonel, he was a pretty hard headed sort of chap.
He came into the mess when he was living on his own in his bungalow --
was just across the road --
and his wife was away. He came into the mess one
morning looking white as a ghost. Breakfast and he wouldn't talk to
anybody and he wouldn't talk to anybody at lunch and he wouldn't talk to
anybody that night. And it appears that in the middle of the Saugor
was a sharp hill. That was in the days when it was quite a big station.
There was a brigade of British Horse Artillery and they
used to occupy our mess. I don't know what was going on but about eleven
o'clock or midnight one of them said he'd gallop his battery over that
hill and down again and there'd be no trouble. Took a bet on it. And he
did. He turned out his battery in the middle of the night and they
galloped off and up the hill and down the other side. He killed about
three horses and about four men and he went back to what was then my
colonel's bungalow and slit his throat. And my colonel swore that there he
was haunting the place, slitting his throat. And he was white as a sheet
for about two days. He swore it was haunted.
And the same when I was in the Eastern States. The
Resident for the Eastern States had his headquarters in Calcutta in
Hastings House, which was the original house of Warren Hastings. Warren
Hastings committed suicide and he was supposed to haunt this Hastings
House. And my boss's predecessor, his wife was so upset about it that in
the end she got in a Roman Catholic priest to exorcize the ghost with
bell, book and candle. Whether it's true or not I don't know.
Colonel W.A. Salmon:
In India church parades in the Army were very definitely parades.
Ever since the Mutiny, British units would go to church carrying their
arms with them and their rifles were always loaded, because when the
Mutiny broke out, two regiments were pretty well wiped out because they
were ambushed while they were in church. As the chaps came out the sepoys
just shot them. Ever afterwards a British unit would go to church with its
rifles and its magazines charged. They had all the troops in the pews with
their rifles right beside them. The officers had swords.
Henry E., now he was surgeon to the Viceroy, and he was not a
funny man at all. He didn't tell any funny stories. He was quite pompous
in a way. Very nice, but he wasn't a man who told frivolous stories about
ghosts. And he knew I liked reading and listening to stories, and I said,
"You must have had some funny experiences, Henry." And he said, "Oh yes."
He said, "I have. I've seen a ghost, you know." And I don't see Henry E.
talking about a ghost, because he'd got about twenty-four letters after
his name. He's a very famous doctor. And he wasn't a jokey man. I said,
"What did you say?" "I said, 'Buzz Off!'" And this was like him. You could
just see this small, reedy, spare little man, saying "buzz off," as if
that was the way you dealt with a ghost. And he asked the Resident's wife,
and she said, "Oh, yes, we all see her, but nobody takes any notice."
1. The Passage to India | interviews
2. Running Your Empire |
3. Life in the Bungalows |
4. Imperial Diversions |
5. Never the Twain? |
6. No More India to Go to |