Questions in the House of Lords Lord David Steele tabled questions for the government in the House of Lords on Tuesday (July 18) asking why the MOD is continuing to withhold 11 pages of a file detailing a massacre by British troops that was featured on our programme. Listen to House of Lords question and the government response.
A file: War Office 32/16103 makes very disturbing reading. It reveals how on the 17th and 18 th of June 1953, soldier's of the British Army's, King's African rifles slaughtered twenty two Kenyan civilians. They were rounded up, on two separate groups, taken into a forest near the town of Chuka in the central Kenyan highlands and then shot or bayoneted.
The incidents happened during the height of the Mau Mau insurgency. Yet these men, far from being Mau Mau members, were actually members of the British Colonial Home Guard. One of the dead, who were simply left to lie where they fell, was just 12 years-old.
A Company of the The 5 th Battalion of the King's African Rifles were commanded by the now notorious British officer, Major Gerry Griffiths. Griffiths, who was also a Kenyan settler, bore a deep grudge towards the local Kikuyu tribe after blaming one of them for killing his horse. He even went as far as offering rewards for shooting them. He told his men that should they happen to kill a Kikuyu who was employed by the government or a civilian firm, they could always stick a panga knife in his dead hand to make it look like he was a Mau Mau fighter.
Griffiths was as aquitted of murder at his first court-martial, but found guilty on 2 counts of GBH and 3 counts of "disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind" at his second court-martial (see PRO file: WO 71/1221), but neither he, nor any other British soldier has ever been tried or convicted for the slaughter in the woods. Records held in the Kenyan National Archive in Nairobi show that the British government did compensate the families of the 22 victims in what they described as " blood money ". That was supposed to mark the end of the matter
Until now the file that details this story has been kept tightly closed. Half a century later, 11 pages remain secret despite repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act and continuing protests from the Kenyan government. Document's Mike Thomson investigates why.