This Sceptred Isle: Empire would like the listeners to respond to how the British empire has affected them. Can you please answer the following question set by the programme:What part has the British Empire played in your family history?
Please note: that your comments may be published on the website but without your address. Radio 4 may also contact you with a view to including you story in a future programme after Empire has ended.
I am the third generation born in India, my Great grandfather was Dutch and my Grandfather was English, we are the 'product' of the East India Company of which I am very proud - my family and I returned to England in October 1948 and have enjoyed our life in the Mother country enormously
The Rundalls have always been military men. My grandfather was in India. My father joined the 2nd Dragoons (Queens Bays) in the Boer War and WW!. He was "the first shot mounted in the first cavalry charge." He thought he'd been hit by a stone thrown by a horse's hoof. After thecharge, he found a bullet in his uniform. It had entered his neck, missed the blood vessels, hit his spine and exited through a different wound. He had two scars to show the transit of the bullet. In 1917, I think on the Somme, he was gassed. He was too badly damaged to continue to fight and for the rest of his life (to the age of 84) his extensive lung damage interfered with his work. He raised rabbits and chickens for food, but the killer smogs of the fifties made him very ill. He always loved horses and on his discharge paper he was described as a "an excellent horseman."
My Father was in the Dogra Regiment, Indian Army, from the end of WWI until partition in 1947. We spent time in India during WWII and had an interesting life, partly in Jaipur, while he was a P O W in Rangoon. His Grandfather Ross Lowis Mangles won a V C in the Indian Mutiny. Our childhood years in India must have effected our lives quite considerably as we grew and our characters developed.
Mrs. J. C. Price
Having joined the BEF in September 1939 and serving in France until Dunkerque, my father was then sent to Iceland and the Faroes. Having been a grocery manager before the war, he was sent to NAAFI for the duration of the war.Subsequently, he went to Nigeria with NAAFI in 1947. I have a photo of him with colleagues outside the District Manager's Office, Nigeria District on the back of which he has noted names:Sgt. McClory, S/Sgt. Walton J, Sqns. Haynes A. Mr. R. A. Gatacre, Mr. H. Baxter, Mr. G. Pearce, Sqns. Leitch D, Mr. P. Jenkinson, Mr. D. D. Williams, and Mr. D. Leatch taken on 20th March, 1947. He subsequently served in Korea in 1951/3,being interviewed by the BBC on Christmas Day 1952 for the transmission home supposedly to describe his function of getting supplies up to 38th parallel, but, because of a throat infection and lost voice not actually being heard.He was the first serving soldier to land on British soil at Northolt within minutes of the Armistice being signed. Unfortunately on compassionate leave since my mother was dying.He was greeted with a huge welcoming committee and bouquet!Thereafter he served in Aden in 1961/62 before being transferred to Nairobi, which he left after independence in 1964. He certainly saw "The Empire"!
I am connected to the British Empire through an ancestor on my Grandmother´s side, George Findlater, who won the Victoria Cross on the North West Frontier in India. During the storming of the Dargai ridge on 20th Oct 1897, and after heavy fighting, the Gordon Highlanders together with the 3rd Sikh Regiment were ordered to advance. Findlater, who had been shot in both legs, continued to play the bagpipes to spur on the troops. He evidently played the scottish tune "the Cock of the North" and was thereafter known as "Piper Findlater" in newspaper articles back in Britain.The ridge was taken by the British troops and George Findlater was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. According to my Grandmother he was the only recipient of the VC allowed to receive the decoration from Queen Victoria in a sitting position because of his injuries. My Great Grandfather also had connections with India through his philanthropic interests. He donated money to set up an orphanage for abandoned Anglo-Indian boys in Kalimpong in Northern India. The orphanage was founded by a Scottish Missionary friend of his - Dr Graham. The Dr Graham Homes still exist today and one of the houses is named after my great grandfather - William Paterson. My father visited the Home in the 1960´s while he was High Commissioner for South India in Madras.
James T Day
My family has been conected with the British Empire since Francis Day joined the East India Company in 1632 and subsequently founded the city of Madras (Chennai) in 1639. Since that date at least five generations of the Day family were employed by the East India Company and I have extensive information on all of them, including some interesting letters written by two young Eurasians to their father in England from Bencoolen, Sumatra during Sir Stamford Raffles time, 1823-1828. These letters touch briefly on the opium trade, which another great-grandfather was involved in as a young Lieutenant in the Navy in the 1842 China War.
I have two Empire connections. 1) I am a direct descendent of Sir Walter Raleigh on my mother’s side. We have authenticated copies of the family tree. 2) My mother’s family was in Kashmir for several generations. My great great grandfather, Dr Amesbury, published a series of books on bone surgery and my grandfather was co-manager of the silk factory in Srinagar. My mother grew up in Srinagar and Gulmarg between 1913 and the early 1930s. I gather this was at roughly the same time as M.M.Kaye’s family and Joanna Trollop’s mother. My father’s family were in Karachi, where my paternal grandfather worked for the Karachi Port Authority.
My father was a British telecommunications engineer in the British Mandate of Palestine. He built the region’s first automatic telephone exchange in Jericho before the war. He took longer over the Haifa one because the Germans bombed it before it was finished. In addition to his official job he was also part of a team gathering intelligence on the feasibility of post-war partition but I suppose that wasn’t empire business because he had to report back to the Home Office not the Colonial Service Officially speaking the Mandate was not part of the British Empire, but between 1940 and 1943 the British treated Northern Palestine as if it were. Haifa was declared a strategic area. Germans were removed from their homes, Empire troops were stationed in the citrus and olive groves on the coastal plain and in the pine wadis on Mt Carmel. British troops were trained there Italians and Germans bombed the place as if it were part of the empire and Empire troops used it as a base for the invasion of Syria. Even when Britain wasn’t at war, everyone seemed to regard Palestine as part of the British Colonial system. Administrators exchanged posts in Palestine for promotions in the colonies and vice versa. The Palestine Police force was considered the training ground for the elite of the colonial police services. Because its was the geographical location of the great literary epic that united so many colonials, ie the bible, the British Palestinian government service attracted a larger than usual proportion of Christian fundamentalists. My father was a true believer in the theory that God had raised the British to their eminent position in the world to serve His purpose. The myth of the White Man’s Burden was higher here in Palestine than in any colony and, as children, my siblings and I had this myth drubbed into us daily. Like many middle-class British children who returned to England from the colonies and did not go on to public school, I received a culture shock. Ordinary people in England did not regard themselves as at the top of the social pile. Their values were at odds to the ones I had regarded as given truths. Like many others I have never regarded myself as a true member of the society I live in, and have always felt myself an exile from the land of my childhood.
Dr Arshad kamal khan
My grandfather served in the British Indian Army and was with the Younghusbands Exp. Forces in Tibet in 1904. He later served in Br. Somaliland and Uganda. My father Abdul Hameed Khan, ,joined the Colonial Police Force in Tanganyika in 1929 and was instruemental in establishing the CID. He was the first Asian to be promoted to the rank of Suptd of Police and was awarded the Police medals for his services. He retired in 1961.I have quite a rich collection of notes of his service and the list of the english officers with whome he served.
One of the lasting legacies of the British Empire in Ceylon was the introduction of radio. Broadcasting on an experimental basis was started in Ceylon by the Telegraph Department in 1923, just three years after the inauguration of broadcasting in Europe. Gramophone music was broadcast from a tiny room in the Central Telegraph Office with the aid of a small transmitter built by the Telegraph Department engineers from the radio equipment of a captured German submarine. The results proved successful and barely three years later, on December 16, 1925, a regular broadcasting service came to be instituted. Edward Harper who came to Ceylon as Chief Engineer of the Telegraph Office in 1921, was the first person to actively promote broadcasting in Ceylon. He launched the first experimental broadcast as well as founding the Ceylon Wireless Club together with British and Ceylonese radio enthusiasts. Edward Harper has been dubbed the ' Father of Broadcasting in Ceylon.' The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in Colombo, to this day, is one of the finest radio stations in the world. It also happens to be the oldest radio station in South Asia - Radio Ceylon ruled the airwaves in the Indian sub-continent in the 1950s and 1960s. Millions of listeners tuned into Radio Ceylon. My late father, Vernon Corea, joined Radio Ceylon as a Relief Announcer in 1956 - he enjoyed a 45 year career in public service broadcasting with Radio Ceylon/Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and also with the BBC - he presented the popular 'London Sounds Eastern' program on BBC Radio London - produced by the late Keith Yeomans. Vernon Corea was also the Ethnic Minorities Adviser to the BBC. Radio has now come of age in Sri Lanka with many modern commercial radio stations. The state run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation is going on from strength to strength. It would not have been possible without the pioneering efforts of Edward Harper who came to Ceylon in 1921. We were blessed with this gift of 'radio.' As a young child growing up in Ceylon I used to listen to the BBC World Service - the finest news service in the world - in times of trouble we actually tuned in to hear what was happening in our own country. Radio was part of my childhood and it was my father's passion. Radio Ceylon pioneered public service broadcasting in South Asia. Many young Ceylonese talents - Karunaratne Abeysekera, Nimal Mendis, Des Kelly, Clarence Wijewardene,Mignonne Fernando and The Jetliners, Annesley Malewana, Desmond de Silva were discovered by Radio Ceylon. Radio enriched our lives in Ceylon.
I am Scottish, but my mother was born in Argentina to an Australian father who had emigrated there and a South African mother whose family had fled there as a result of British brutality in the Boer War. My mother had to learn Afrikaans as well as English and Spanish as her mother refused to speak English. Three of my mother's Australian uncles served voluntarily with British forces in WWI, one of them died. One of her aunts was a military nurse in France from 1915 and again in the Falklands in 1939. They all seemed to think of themselves as sort of British although Australian-born. My mother got a British passport because her father was Australian. I stayed in lodgings for a while in the Fort William area in the 1960's run by a man who had taken part in the Amritsar Massacre in 1919, and in all honesty I have to report that he was totally unrepentant.
George N. Sylvester
I am a second generation born in Ghana. My grandfather, F. G. Sylvester was English and settled in Nigeria where my father was born.My grandfather died before I was born and my father passed away when I was 3. I lost track of my English ancestry. My name gives me away as a Ghanaian and living in a patrimonial society makes the question "where do you come from?", a difficult one to answer.
As an infantryman, my grandfather, nervously entered a shadow -filled farmhouse seeking out militant Boers, and suddenly came face to face with a man holding a rifle and the barrel was pointing towards grandfather! Grandfather's trigger finger was ready and a shot was heard that was closely followed by the sound of a mirror smashing piece by piece in the path of grandfather's feet . Along with this anecdote of shooting at his own reflection in a mirror, grandfather brought home souvenirs such as a native African shield and spear.
Wessel van Rensburg
My great great grandmother (Ouma Strydom) died in a concentration camp in South Africa. Her husband and son (my great grand father) was sent into exile in Ceylon. He joked to my grand mother that he got his education overseas (meaning Ceylon).
My grandfather Sir George White VC held Ladysmith contemporaneously with Baden Powell holding Mafeking. I always find it disappointing that Mafeking is always mentioned as is Kimberley but seldom Ladysmith. Even Ladysmith Day in February has disappeared from the calendar. Other names invariably mentioned include Roberts and Buller. Buller was 'resigned' in disgrace and it was he who suggested that White might like to surrender Ladysmith. The book "Thank God We Kept the Flag Flying" is the quote from White on the Relef of Ladysmith.
Love the series wished I'd had this at school. I've recently fond out my grandfather served in Egypt & Salonika in WW1 in the RFC BUT can't find factual evidence to proove him being their any ideas. Today you told about this time 63/90. brian
My family is one of the few Anglo-Indian families still around a member of the family having emigrated there in 1802. My father and his brothers and Sister together with my older cousin were the last to be born in India. due to the violence they were faced with after independence they left India in 1953. They found things little better here since Anglo-Indians were scorned in both countries despite being the product of both.
My Uncle Stan has told me many times how he sailed to the UK from Jamicia in 1960 on a Dutch Ship 'The Begona' ? a luxury cruise liner. He and his six room mates all went different ways only two of them are still in contact with each other and when they get together they constantly talk about who was who and who went where. thier story is not quite the same as some others iv'e heard with ships on thier last legs taking on warter etc.
DAVID BOYES FORD
Both my great-grandfathers came out to Brazil in the late 1800´s. One was sent out to start the first British Bank in Brazil (Bank of River Plate) and my other Grandfather was sent out by Platts Engineering to set up the textile industy in the State of São Paulo . They were both keen sportsmen and formed the first football team in Brazil together with their friend Charles Millar who is now considered the founder of the game in Brazil. Rudyard Kipling, when he visited Brazil in the 1920´s, stayed with my Grandparents and we still have the visitors book with his signature.
I was part of the end of the British era in Ceylon - lived there for 3 years with my father who worked for the Admiralty at the Naval Base in Trincomalee before leaving the country is 1956 at the age of 8. I have vivid memories of life there as part of the British community (and my fathers legacy of photographs to support the memories) We were also friends a tea planter family - the Patersons - Hubert (The Silent Giver by John Simon))and .Charles whose family originated from Alloa, Scotland in the 1800's. Return visits to Sri Lanka in 1999, 2003 showed a much changed country fom my youth! Although some evidence of British Occupation still exist including our former home - now occupied by the Sri Lanka Army. Also still in evidence the Cinema, now called 'The Nelson' showing Bollywod films. I remember it as the Fleet Cinema and seeing 'The Wizard of Oz' there in a thunderstorm - the building was and still is constructed of corrugated iron - you will understand that we did not hear much of the soundtrack! Visiting again in April 2006.
This is my fathers retirement notice. He died in Jersey, Channel Islands, in 1978. Retirement as British Consul at Gore, 1942. Retirement Of Capt. A.H.A. Alban First Commander To Occupy Axis Territory From the 'Sudan Star' of 29/8/1951 Captain A. H. A. Alban, D.F.C will be sailing from Port Sudan about the end of the month on final leave after thirty years of service with the Sudan Government. He was posted from the Royal Field Artillery to the Egyptian Army in August, 1921 and with the rank of Bimbashi was seconded for duty with the Sudan Government and appointed as 2nd Inspector (as the rank of Assistant District Commissioner was then called) in the old Mongalla Province. He was there for nearly seven years before being move to Upper Nile Province where he served until 1942. During that period he took a prominent part in the re-organisation of the Nuer which followed their revolt of 1927, and his imperturbability and firmness, always tempered with good humour, did much to help change their attitude towards the Government from one of hostility to friendliness. He laid the foundation for Native Administration and development on tribal lines, and was a keen supporter of education, sending a steady stream of boys to the Nasir Mission School. The capture of an Italian post at Tirgol on the Abyssinian frontier in June, 1940 by Upper Nile Police under the command of Captain Alban was the first occasion since the outbreak of war that troops under British command had occupied Axis territory. In November, 1942, Captain Alban was appointed His Britannic Majesy's Consul at Gore in Western Abyssinia, the post from which he is now retiring after a long and distinguished career of loyal service.
Asif Masood Raja
i am asif masood raja . when i came in to my senses i start hearing the story of my grandfather muhammad zaman of 1st battalion 123rd outram's rifles who gave his life in 1st world war fighting with the enemies of british empire in palestine. we didn't know anything more about him. it was told to me that british government gave a piece of land and some money to the widow of my grandfather mean to my grandmother. i was very curious about that . i was anxious to know more about my grandfather who was then subadar in army. so i started searching on internet and then i came to know about his grave that is in cairo egypt. when i found something about him. i was very much excited that after 87 years of his death, me his grandson found his grave location. i told to my father , he was also very happy. now i'm trying to search about the medals his widow received on his behalf. but till now i ve not found any link which could tell me the awards given to his widow for his sacrifice for british empire.
Andrew Morris Moodie
This is an introduction to an account of a weeks work of an Assistant District Officer in the Colonial Administrative Service in 1948.It is inspired by the fact that I met a lady born in 1965 who asked me what my first job was. When I said that I had joined the Colonial Service this meant nothing to her- she was quite unaware of the thousands of administrators, educationalists, foresters, engineers, lawyers, agriculturalists and doctors who had given their lives between the wars, and later, to work in places all over the world, a process of recruitment which was greatly expanded in the period just after the second world war. Many of those recruited served in the Forces; some had joined the Forces from school. others from the Forces and university.Some of those in Administration (younger ones of around 22 or 23 ) had attended a Colonial Office course for a year or so covering Criminal Law, Tort, Contract, Evidence, Anthropology, Local Government, Colonial History, Native Language, Geography and the crops of the area. The ethos of the course at the time centred on a training which would provide scaffolding within which democracy, government and local government services could gradually be constructed.For most of this post-war group, including myself, there was no life-long career but a highly satisfactory wothwhile experience of no more than ten to fifteen years. We left to find new jobs and new careers but with some regrets that on Independence we left with our work unfinished, especially when elementary but rapid progress was being made in terms of our ideals.
An ancester on my Mother's side was born in India. Mum always told us that one of her family was ' Indian.' We thought just a story been passed down through the family, but when researching my Family History I found the anchester, Ann Beckwith, born in Madras in 1803, She married Joseph Bodycot who was serving in the 17th Foot Reg. in India. They had a child born in Bengal and two others born in the West Indies. My Mum never knew any of the details, just what had been passed down through her family. It is difficult to get information about the Eat Indies,I have been lucky with most of it. I need to go to London when I have the time, the records are kept there. The last place I found Ann was on the 1881 census, She was in the workhouse in Leicester. My Mother had been told that Ann was the daughter of a 'Chifton.' This I think was a 'fairy-tail' but it was good to find that not all of it was.
The part the British Empire played in my family history began when my Mother's fiancée was killed in the trenches in the 1st World War. An elder, married sister invited her to visit India and in the 1920s my Mother went out P&O with, what became affectionately known as, "the fishing fleet" of young women going out looking for husbands. She met my father on the quay side; he had been sent to meet her by her sister – and joined the British Raj. I was conceived early in 1931. Often during the Raj the firstborn was taken home to England to be born and I was born at Norland Nurseries in London. My younger brother was born 16½ months later, in Lahore, then in India, where my father was Director of Post & Telegraphs. He, my younger brother, after the 2nd World War joined the Royal Navy, but had difficulty getting a British Passport because he was born in Lahore. We had bi-annual home leaves of several months and also substantial local leaves. My early memories are of tea at the Viceroy’s in Delhi, P&O boat passages through the Suez canal to and from “home” with deck rigged swimming pools, deck chairs and beef tea and rugs round knees crossing Biscay and glamorous dinners at night with glittering gowns, jewels and men in evening dress, holidays on the French Riviera, my ayah and her devotion, my brother falling into the canal opposite our bungalow in Lahore and being saved from drowning by a passing Indian on a bicycle. In accordance with the Raj custom, my brother and I were taken home to prep boarding school in Paignton at Montpelier School. When war broke out in 1939, my mother bolted home from India, catching the last boat train out of Paris and the last ferry back across the Channel, to take charge of us. She took us first to Canada, where we stayed with another of my mother’s sisters (she was the youngest of twelve) in Toronto and boarded for a year at Upper Canada College with a short spell at St George’s in Vancouver while she prepared to cross the Pacific to rejoin my father, who had stayed with his job in India. We left San Francisco late in 1941, stopping for a week in Honolulu, leaving a week before the attack on Pearl Harbour. So that on 7 December 1941, we were in Manila Roads. Our ship’s, the SS President Grant, captain beached all his passengers and altered course for Australia. We three spent 3 years one month and a day interned by the Japanese in STIC internment camp, starved and nearly died. If there had been no Raj, my father would not have gone to India after fighting in the trenches in the 1st World War, my mother would not have met him and I would not have been a “guest” of the Japanese.
I was born and living in Xian, China, in 1942. My parents were anxious for my safety as the Japanese were encroaching. My grandfather was interned when on a visit to Shanghai. Though a missionary my father joined the Chinese Military Mission as a liaison officer. As a Major he could get my mother and I to the comparative safety of British India. We flew over "The Hump" to Delhi. My lips turned blue from lack of oxygen and, on landing initially near Calcutta my mother was told there were Japanese firing near by. My sister was born in Poona in Feb. 1944. India was still part of the British Empire of course, but interestingly while I have a full British passport, my birth being registered with the British Consul, my sister does not, owing to subsequent changes in the law which deprive her of this. We had to prove that our four grand-parents were all born in Britain at this time as our mother and father were both born in China of missionary parents, To get away from the heat of the plains my mother took us to Kashmir where she was able to teach Art and Needlework and I had my first pony-ride. We stayed on a house-boat with another missionary friend. Back in Delhi, I have a slight memory of collecting broken bits of glass bangles in the school playground. My mother told of the occasion she found a deadly snake coiled and asleep in the cradle with my baby sister, who she snatched safely away! As the war drew to a close, we sailed home on a troop ship, our mother as an army officer's wife having priority over other civilians.
George E Kroussaniotakis
Though not family, Michael Sutton was a very close and good friend. He was a Senior Labour Officer in Tanganyika. By 1957 talk of Independence had started but no one, including the leading Africans, such as Nyerere thought it was imminent. However agitators, mostly from the U.K. had managed set up trade unions and then to call disruptive strikes. On one such occasion on a sisal estate near Tanga, violence erupted and the police were called in. Police methods in those days could be very rough. A river separated the rioting workers from the police with a connecting bridge. Michael heard of this and dashed up to be present. He stopped the police from advancing on the bridge. Instead he crossed the bridge completely alone, armed only with his trusty pipe stuck into his long socks! On the other side were about 2000 agitated workers. He spoke to them in Swahili, using some words from local dialects (Michael spoke at least six of these). In less then half an hour everything was calm. The workers returned to work and the police were called back. Just one instance to show the calibre of some of those who administered the Empire.
My uncle served in India in the Indian Army from about 1918 to 1947, when he retired to South Africa with the rank of Colonel. My father also served in India in the army from about 1930 till he died in 1942 (of TB), with the rank of Captain. I was born in Malaya (then a British colony) in 1935, and spent my childhood in India, leaving it when my father died. My father was stationed at Peshawar on the North West Frontier, near Afghanistan, but because of his illness we spent a lot of time in Kashmir, where he was on sick leave. The British had a fairly comfortable life. My father had a car, and in Peshawar we had a big house with lots of servants. In Kashmir we stayed in houseboats on the Dal Lake, or in tents in the Sind Valley, where my father fished for trout (there was even a trout nursery). There was little evidence of the war, although Singapore had just fallen to the Japanese, and the Japanese were threatening India from Burma. In April 1942 my mother and I took a good air-conditioned train to Bombay, where we could look out over the harbour and see three or four large British warships moored there. Then we sailed back to the U.K. in a P & O liner, round the Cape of Good Hope (the Mediterranean was not open to passenger liners, because of enemy shipping).
I was born in London. My parents were born in St. Lucia, the island in the Caribbean that changed hands between the French and British until the French were finally defeated. St. Lucia is full of French names and the language is French patois despite the fact that it was a part of the British Empire. I often envy those of you who can talk about their ancestors in such interesting detail. The discovery, at the age of seven, that my ancestors were stolen from Africa as slaves was a disturbing and painful one and it happened during a lesson about the Commonwealth at primary school. That was my first knowledge that my last name was most likely the name of a slave owner and not of my African ancestors. I have no idea of which part of that vast continent they came. Think of every black child who will one day realise these facts at some time. No one wants to admit this sad effect of the Empire on people today and in the future but just as the world can identify with the Jewish Holocaust, I wish the world could recognise the consequences of the slave trade on people like myself.
I probably come from one of the more unique groups - people who fought not to leave the Empire. My ancestors were United Empire Loyalists. They were made up of those from the American colonies who remained loyal to Britain and George III. Many were supportive of the arguments made by the rebels, like Jefferson and Franklin, but felt that more local self-rule could be achieved within the Empire, and that a full separation was not necessary. They left as refugees to Canada, where they were each given title to 200 acres of land to begin anew. Lord Dorchester also ensured an Order-in-Council that the male or female descendants of the Loyalists, in perpetuity, would be able to affix the letters, "U.E." after their names. Today, there is a society that governs this, and researches lineages, but many still use it. In terms of etiquette, it is on a par with a "Q.C." for a barrister and solicitor.
My father was in the Colonial Service as an Assistant District Officer, a District Officer and Acting Resident in Nigeria between the years of 1947 and 1957. My mother married him and joined him in Nigeria in 1949. My sister was five years old when we returned home to Britain and I was only two and a half and yet we feel as though we know the last years of Colonial Rule in Nigeria intimately because we have been brought up listening to dinner party stories beginning "When we were in Nigeria...." This has led to the nickname "The When -wes" which we use as a collective noun for assembled ex-colonial families.My parents returned home relatively early from Nigeria because they did not want to send us to boarding school, which was the fate of most of our contemporaries. We often met these scared young people at the airport, put them up for the night and then deposited them at the relevant boarding school. It seems strange that even now there are many 50 -somethings whose childhoods were both enriched and blighted by the colonial service. I suppose my parents were there at a time of transition, when the locals were being trained to take over after the British left, which is not an aspect of colonialism that is often discussed.I spent my teenage years ranting about the injustice of Imperialism, much to my father's annoyance, but I am slowly beginning to see both sides of the coin. The hospitals, roads,schools and the administration of justice perhaps outweighed the impudence of entering another country and presuming to rule it. My father who is now in his early eightees would have a great deal more to say on this subject and I am hoping he will contribute to this site.
I have 3 comments about how the Empire affected my family & I. Firstly, my ancestors came from Britain's oldest & most ill-treated colony, Ireland. Secondly, I grew up in what was then the colony of 'Southern' Rhodesia, where my family had farmed since 1895. Most of our farm staff were Matabele & when Mugabe was handed the presidency by an extremely naive British interim government, 99% of them moved south, to 'racist' South Africa. That might explain why they weren't massacred by Mugabe's North Korean trained 'elite' troops. Thirdly, I recall a conversation I had with some Palestinian businessmen in a restaurant in East Jerusalem back in the mid-1980s. They concluded their description of their countries sad fate by saying "Of course, you know how to solve the Palestinian problem?" I shook my head. "Bring back the British" was their only half joking reply! Yes, colonialism had many faults but the biggest fault was the over-hasty & ill-conceived way in which Britain gave up its colonies, like dropping hot cakes. The 'democrats' they usually handed power to were usually (though not always) far worse than any of the former Governors. As for those who stupidly claim that British rule was all bad, just bear in mind the classic 'What did the Romans ever do for us' sketch from 'Life of Brian.' (Then again, the sort who scream about evil colonialism (who usually live in evil London rather than their own ex-colony) doubtless wouldn't have the sense of humour to enjoy that film!)
My mother's family went to India with the British Army in 1832. They remained there serving in both the British and Indian Armies until 1947 when they were advised to leave. My Uncle served in the Police force and during the 1930's was assigned to guard and protect Ghandi, Nehru, and Jinnah at various times. My great grandfather and granfather as civil engineers were involved in the construction of the extensive Indian railway network.
My great Grandfather married a Scottish Doctors ladies maid at St James Church Sydney, when he was serving with his regiment , presumably on the penal settlemnts in the early 1860's. His name was John Shepherd
My father was born in Calcutta India in 1909, the son of an English mother and his father was John MacNab Shircore a man of Armenian descent whose family had settled in India in the 16th century. My father always told me that they had done so to help found the banks which assisted the East India Company. My grandparents marriage certificate states that John Shircore was the Manager of a Jute Concern, Naranganj. My father was sent 'home' when he was three and a half to be cared for initially by his mother's sister and then boarding school. He was indeed a 'Raj orphan'. The voyage of six weeks made any trips home impossible between school terms. Then when Dad left college his father lost most of his money in India, and he was left here to fend for himself during the Depression. When my mother met him in 1936 she found a pile of unopened letters at his 'digs' and on enquiry he said "they're all from my mother -and they all say the same thing". When you think about it they were from a mother to her son and neither of them knew each other. So so sad.
My family connections with India go back five generations. My father, a Lt. Colonel in the 1st Gurkhas being the last to leave, in 1947. I am particularly interested in finding out more about my great grandfather, General F.H. Rundall C.S.I., R.E., who was Inspector-General of Irrigation and Deputy Secretary to the Government of India (1871-1874). I managed to obtain a fascinating paper of his, published in the Royal Geographic Socity's journal, in which he castigates the British Government for spending so much money on railways, when, in his opinion, the opening up of India's water systems would deliver more from famine in the long run. He was a disciple and colleague of General Sir Arthur Cotton K.C.S.I., an ardent advocate of irrigation and opening up the rivers of India and who is admired to this day in that country. India remains important in the life of my family. My wife's father was an Indian doctor and we have many Indian friends. My uncle, Dr Norman Bor (a past Assistant Director of Kew Gardens) was an authority on the grasses of southern Asia. My aunt, Eleanor Bor, was the author of an amazing book about their life together in India, entitled 'The Adventures of a Botanist's Wife ' . I believe this book, now sadly out of print, would be a brilliant choice for Woman's Hour!
One thing this series has taught me is that, for good and for bad, the British Empire was an amazing force in shaping world history. It was one of the few, if only empires to be consistently democratically elected governments by the people for the people. The British Empire is not something to be ashamed of. Yes it did have undesirable exploitation of certain people, but also treated some very different people on equal status. We may of lost our empire but we did it our way and kept our dignity. I am an unashamed Empirest, something the political correct brigade wants us to ashamed of. Learning about the Empire has made me more of a multi-culturalist than I ever was before. Tom Brewerton (19)
My greatgrandfather and his brother emigrated in 1852 from Ireland to Australia - the brother joined the Victoria Police and commanded the capture of Ned Kelly in June 1880. My grandfather , born in Tasmania, emigrated to Argentina and married my grandmother who had gone there as an Afrikaner to escape from the effects of British brutality to women and children in the Boer War. Three of my greatuncles, all Australian, chose to serve voluntarily with British forces in WWI, as did one of his sisters, who was a military nurse in France from 1915 and again in the Falkland Islands in 1939. My mother had dual Argentine and British nationality, but despite having lived most of her life in Scotland, had a difficult time in 1982 and lost touch with her close Argentine relatives after that. I imagine that has happened to many other Anglo-Argentinians. I find it poignant to think that while my greataunt travelled from Argentina to Port Stanley to nurse the wounded from HMS Exeter after the Battle of the River Plate, I have Argentinian first cousins who for all I know could have been killed fighting against my British kinsmen in 1982.
I was a District Officer in Kenya 1952- 1962 through the period leading up to independence. My two children were born in Mombasa. Those ten years were the most interesting and memorable of my life.
Having been born and raised in Gibraltar I often have to answer questions about why I want to remain British, as if being British is something that has been forced upon me. When talking about the Empire we tend to forget that not all 'colonial' people were in fact colonised. I am the descendent of people who settled in Gibraltar from Malta, Genoa, Spain, Portugal and even Austria. Having chosen to live in Gibraltar their children were brought up British and Gibraltarian. My family has been British for 300 years and yet I still have to explain to friends in the UK why I am British. We are proud of being British because we cannot be Gibraltarians without being British. We are the product of Empire, but of an Empire that has created a people who see no problem in being bi-lingual, mutli-cultural and British at the same time. This is a side of the Empire people should be made aware of too.
My ten times great grandfather, John, was the father of Sir Richard Whitbourne, a minor 'Worthy' of Devon. John was a yeoman farmer from Bishopsteignton, close-by Teignmouth, who also fished. The only son by a first marriage, Richard (1561-1635) was apprenticed to a merchant-adventurer of Southampton. He first sailed to Newfoundland in 1579 and was there again in 1583, when he witnessed Sir Humphrey Gilbert taking possession in the Queen's name. He served against the Armada under Lord Admiral Howard, who commended him for his particular help. He spent the next thirty years cod fishing off Newfoundland. Under duress, he helped two pirates, Peter Easton & Henry Mainmaring, when they sought pardons from King James. In 1615, he held the first ever Court of Admiralty in North America, enquiring into abuses rife within the English fishing community in Newfoundland. He was appointed governor of a failing Welsh colony there, but found it to be beyond hope. Believing that much was awry with the way settlements and the fishing industry were developing in the island, he wrote a book setting out how matters might be improved and he presented this in person to King James in 1619. The book was approved by the Privy Council and a copy distributed to every parish in England. He advised would-be entrepeneurs on the setting up of plantations in Newfoundland but retired after suffering further depredations by pirates. His death 'beyond the seas' at the age of 74 remains a mystery. His story is told in a book 'Crosses and Comforts Being: The Life and Times of Captain Sir Richard Whitbourne (1561-1635) of Exmouth in Devonshire'.
My grandfather moved to Kenya in1899 at the age of 11 to join his brother who had been recruited in Lahore as a skilled carpenter involved in the manufacture of the woodwork found in carriages (he was not an indentured labourer). Both brothers later became involved in the development of the Powys Cobb Estate in Molo. My father and his three brothers were born in Kenya their business evolved into being involved in turn key projects in East Africa such as Kilimanjaro Airport, Dar-es-Salaam University, the 7 Keshew nut factories in Tanz., KAF airport base in Nanyuki, the diversion of the Sabaki River for provision of water to the Coastal areas, containers bases at the port of Mombasa etc. Involvement with the British High Commission as Correspondants in Nakuru, hosting guests from the BHC, Air Marshall Arjan Singh, Hardit Singh Malik and other notable dignatories. A handback book with all the stories has been published for the benefit of the families future generations - wonderful background of hard graft, character, success beyond imagination, values to live our lives by...
My grandmother was born in India, seeing England for the first time only after her marriage in 1903. I loved her stories of her Indian childhood and her father, who was either a fantasist or a runaway Eton schoolboy, but who had on his chest the hoofprint of a horse, a trophy gained during the Battle of Sebastopol. My grandmother's life after marriage was even more colourful, including a spell living with my grandfather in pre-revolutionary Russia. My own father, though not in imperial lands, certainly had the Empire spirit of exploration. Born in 1903, in the early 1920s he went to South America and worked there as a telegraph engineer until he retired in 1960. During the war, he worked for an intelligence-gathering secret 'operation', sending information on German Fifth Column activities in Latin America to Washington. We still have the copy of Wuthering Heights, marked with pencil marks, which was his code book. What does Empire mean to me? It means I have no particular sense of English-ness. I think it leads to both a hunger for knowledge about the world beyond one's own doorstep, and a sense that you can be at home anywhere you choose to be.
My ancesters left from Derry in 1773 for Baltimore in time to sign the Declaration of Inde-pendence (Braxton & Thornton). All is documented in "Annals of a Family" (including my name!). BBC Carlisle had a fascinating documentary called "God's Frontiersman" some years ago about this influx of Ulster Scots - wish it was re-run.
Phillippa Kelly nee deLautour
An antecedent of mine Francis deLautour was a French trader living in Madras in the mid to late 18th century, He married an English woman from Bath called Ann Hordle. He was aged 52 and she 34 at the time. They had several children who were sent to England for their education. During their stay in Madras the French revolution happened and my antecedent as a member of the French aristocracy lost all his family and property in France. He built up a good trading company in India and went into partnership with a person called Arbuthnot. His wife and children went back to England, but he was barred from going there for many years due to the political situation. He finally was able to retire to England when he was in his 70s. His grandson, my great great grandfather went back to India where he became a supreme court judge. My great grandfather was born there, he studied medicine in London and after marrying emigrated to New Zealand in the 1870s. His two brothers also emigrated to New Zealand and now nearly everyone with the surname deLautour lives or is connected with New Zealand and there are occasional reunions held. On my mother's side her grandparents were from Ascot - Under - Wychwood and her grandmother was one of the "Ascot Matyrs" Several of that group emigrated to New Zealand and I speculate that the money they got from Queen Victoria and the Agricultural Workers Union by way of compensation after they were pardoned helped them on their way. So here I am living and working in Korea, having inherited, seemingly, a need to roam. However, I am a New Zealander through and through. I will always return there and I have enormous respect for those people who have left their homeland for good for what ever reason.
I was born in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) where my father worked for a trading company.I have a distinct memory of my time there although some is clearly imagined as my family returned to the UK when I was three years old! My grandfather was a tea planter in Assam and my great grandfather was a ship's pilot in India having gone out there in the 1880s. After my aunt died recently I came across a journal which my great grandfather had kept of his time in India. He went out to Calcutta in 1883 and was there introduced to Madeleine who became his future wife. Madeleine was Anglo Indian we believe though the journal referred to her as being of "Italian" appearance ( no doubt an expression of the cultural reality of the time).The journal describes my greatgrandfather's assiduous courting of my greatgrandmother and the social life of Calcutta during that period. It becomes more dramatic when my great grandfather describes an argument he and the rest of the crew of his boat had with the Captain of the ship. The dispute arose over shore leave and why it was being denied to some members of the crew. The eventual result of this was my great grandfather being sentenced to one month in prison. The journal describes in detail his experience in the jail: in particular witnessing two floggings and being attacked by an inmate. I have allways felt an affinity with India and Sri Lanka through my family links but to read about this through the writings of my great grandfather was fascinating.
My dad, born Sunderland area, in 1906, enlisted in the Royal Artillery, aged 16 or so, and served 7 years in northern India, parts of which became Pakistan. He was never outwardly racist, but in the 1950's I remember 2 carpet-sellers - the 1st Sikhs I'd seen - came to our door and dad delighted in seeing them off with a half-jovial tirade in Punjabi. 'Tho' not then even a teenager, I regretted that dad hadn't invited them in to talk over 'the old days' in their homeland. From what dad told me & my brother, he had admiration for the Indians who worked with the RA & had a girl-friend whom he intended to marry and bring to England (in 1932) but was dissuaded from it by his CO, with warnings of ostracism. In the late 1960s, I was a steward on a private yacht & spent a short time in Antigua. I enjoyed talking to local folk in their own habitat whilst privey to seeing how my employer (the other half of 1%) lived. Later, as a 'resting' actor, I found myself 'temping' with a bunch of Caribbean guys in a sweet factory. they ostracised me with their patois until I faced them with it &, assuring them I understood their attitude to whites, invited the angriest to hit me "if it'll make you feel better". He shook my hand instead, and the patois was dropped while I was with them. Happy days.
Jayesh A Patel
My grandfather travelled from British India to Kenya around 1920 to work on the railway from Mombasa to Uganda in East Africa. All his childern were all born on the various railway stations along the line. Leaving the railway he settled in a small town of Molo near Nakuru, Kenya were my father took over the family buisness, and that is were I was born. The area was known as the White Highlands there was segregation between whites Indians and Blacks this is my abiding memory. My father fought for Kenyan independence on behalf of the local black popultaion but he also maintained a good working relationship with the colonial rulers and administrators of the time. After independence in the 1960's I as an Indian was the first to be allowed to attend the local exclusive European school at the age of 7. My father fearing a basklash from the newly independent Kenyan blacks left for India in 1969. He retained our British citzenship and later moved to the UK as an economic . Having learnt the British way of life in Kenya integrating in the UK was not too difficult except for the intense racisim we as a family experienced in the early 70's. In England we retained our Indian culture against this hostilty. When the Ugandan Asians came they celebrated Diwali in our school and I was fearful that such an open display of Indian culture would cause more hostility. They also were given Vegetarian meal option at school. Today I am proud of my heritage and background which many British people are embracing as multiculturalism. I thought I would never see acceptance looking back colonialto my past.
After the war, and the death of my Grand Father my Gran decided to make a fresh start and left England to settle in what was then Southern Rhodesia. I think that after the years of war and the harshness of day to day living she found the promise of sunshine, no food rationing and a thriving,and indeed growing economy too good to pass up.
I was born and raise in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) and my mother and father were both born in British Guiana a former colony of England. The Guyanese culture as well the other English speaking Caribbean culture is very similar to that of England. You know cricket is big; hot cross buns is a must around Easter, Boxing Day for me, even though its been fazed out now, eating scones, etc. I went to England in 2002, to study Journalism in Manchester, and having lived in the US for some eleven years now, it was great to visit the place, experience the culture that has influence my life and will forever influence me. The delete button on my computer is a bit worn because I have to hit it to correct my words so that the spell checker doesn't mark it has wrong. Oh and one other thing the British Empire has played in my family's history. My great-great grand father came from Madeira, Portugal, my great-great grandmother was a child on an indentured servant ship from Madras, India, my other great-great grandmother came from China, and my great-great grandfather was a slave from Barbados. And that's only on my mother's side of the family. Even though the introduction of slave and indentured servants was another holocaust of its time, but because of it I am here today. A decedent of all those great-great grandparents who came to British Guiana, either to improve their lives, as I've been told by my grandmother, and the others who were forced to Guiana, I am now living in the US another former British Colony to improve my own life.
Born in Calcutta (founded by british), migrated to Uganda (british protectorate), taught history of empire (how good it was for us, the ruled), taught English and how superior it is to my language, Gujarati), expelled from Uganda by Amin (trained by british), came to Leicester and faced racism, learnt more about the West and the real history of the empire. I collect books on the raj, am intersted in the role of british women in imposing racism in 18th and 19th centuries in India.
My grandfather was posted to India in the late 1800s as a bandsman with the British army. He married my grandmother, a girl from Goa of mixed English, Portuguese and Indian descent, at St Mary's, West Ridge, Rawalpindi in 1902, and moved on to work with the railways, travelling around a great deal. My mother was born in Rawalpindi, her sister in Lahore and her brother in Saharanpur. All three boarded at The Lawrence School, Sanawar. I'd guess there were few mixed-race kids then - my uncle was known affectionately as "darkie". Ties with India were severed before partition and the family returned to England. They called it "home" even though they had never been there. My mother, who had worked as a governess to military families, was unable to find a comparable job in London. She joined the P & O Shipping Line as a stewardess on the India and Far East Service, where she met my father, then deputy purser. I grew up in the post-war fading days of Empire, entranced by stories of India. In 1983 I left England for Hong Kong and have "stayed on" working as an English transcriber with the judiciary. Ten years ago, on a trip to India, I walked across the hills from Kasauli to my mother's old school - much as the children would have done in those far-off days. Sanawar is now a school "for the sons of rich men" but is immensely proud of its heritage. The chapel has become a museum - a treasure trove. I found my mother's name among the 1917 list of candidates for confirmation - still in its frame on the wall. In a dusty corner lay a pile of honours boards. My uncle had been "Best Bat 1921". Of eight sisters, my grandmother had been the only one to come to England. Somewhere, I have an Indian family whom I'd dearly love to meet.
Dennis Patrick Leyden
My great-great grandfather in Ireland was (as best I can tell) a prison governor. He died and his children scattered to various parts of the Empire - Great Britain, Australia, and the US. The one who went to Australia served in the British army in WWI as did one of his nephews (who was killed in France), and my great-grandfather (the one who went to the US) was killed in the 1916 New Jersey Black Tom rail yard explosions as a result of German sabotage (an explosion that, while resulting in relatively few fatalities, was in terms of physical damage and press somewhat similar to the World Trade Center attacks). But for the Empire, I probably would not exist today, and certainly neither would the US. I'll leave it to others to judge whether both these outcomes, on net, are good or are bad.
As a Kenyan, I am now aware, after the broadcast of a programme on the atrocities committed by the British military forces against the people of Kenya, particularly the Mau Mau, during the struggle for independence. Kenya attained full independence in December 12, 1963 after 75 years of British rule. Numerous factors contributed to the attainment of independence least of all the violent Mau Mau revolt lasting seven years from 1952 to 1960s during which thousands of African Kenyans, mostly the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic community, and a handful of whites died. Although the Mau Mau uprising was crushed and fizzled out after the capture of its ‘commander’ Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi in October 1956, the repercussions of this violent rebellion had far-reaching consequences for the freedom struggle. Although its impact on the struggle cannot be fully determined and is largely a matter of conjecture, many posit that it did indeed accelerate the decolonisation process especially after the atrocities committed by the colonial forces against the African natives came to light. Even though proponents of white supremacy and imperialists considered the struggle against white domination and battle for justice, human rights and equality a ‘terrorist’ threat to the status quo, essentialist Mau Mau discourses maintain that it was a freedom struggle seeking to correct injustices of colonialism and the desire by the excluded majority Africans whose rights had been trampled upon by the colonial British empire.
My story concerns my paternal grandfather and the Country in question is Cyprus. In the 1940's he volunteered to joined the British army and ended up fighting the Nazis in Greece. He was captured very soon after and was a prisoner of war for four years. The level of suffering he encountered was quite horrifying At the end of the war he was taken to Liverpool. This must have been at winter time because he could not believe his eyes when he encountered dense fog for the first time. He said when he stretched his arm he could not see his hand. What a strange country to live in he always said.In 1974, he was once again a prisoner of war in Cyprus as a result of the inter-communal conflict and Turkey's intervention. This time I was beside him in prison. I was only 15 and I remember him saying that it was inded a very peculiar world as in the 2nd world war he helped defend Greece and now the Greek Cypriots were imprisoning us.My Turkis Cypriot uncles joined the British army too and fought in Suez 1956, Korea 1955 including serving in the British forces in the Cyprus crises 1955-1960.
"It is a joy to listen to and yes, learn even more about our wonderful British Empire " - It is sad that people refer to it as "wonderful" when it was a scourge to most of the people (except for the British) - the slave trade, racism / apartheid, loot & plunder of countries, rape & torture, brutal suppression of rebellions made much of Asis & Africa "third world" countries.. This is like the Germans saying "We love to hear about the wonderful Nazis & their contribution"
Both my brother and I were born in East Africa (Dar es Salaam and Tanga respectively). My mother was a Polish refugee who arrived in East Africa via the Ukraine and Persia. Unfortunately she lost most of her family douring the war and ended up at a convent in Mombasa where she worked as a secretary. She met and married my Dad who was a port manager for the Landing and Shipping company. His contribution was recognised by an MBE in the 1950's - presented by (I belive) Governor Twinning. We spent over 25 years in Tanzania/Kenya - happy times and left in 1965 when the company was Africanised. I was only 5 when we left but my brother was at school in Arusha and he remember more. We left for South Africa and the social divide of Apartheid was shocking. Soon after my father died. Cancer and I'm sure a desperate sadness of having to leave East Africa contributed to my fathers death when I was aged 7.
As a tri-cultural migrant, I find it wrenching to try to separate myself into my putatively constituent parts—Iranian, British, and today, American. My passports have a no less difficult time remaining valid, solid, and trouble-free. I am not sure if the sum exceeds its parts, but my mutt-like history makes itself felt in my life each and every day. From dawn to midnight, I greet others à la English and Persian and American, bizarrely multi-accented, protean, and suspect to all whom I encounter. Yet, somehow I wind my way through this rich, sometimes brutal, often dynamic American life, and extract what air I can from the smoggy cultural rainbow that is Los Angeles. I do what I do, and I am what I am, a tripartite cosmopolite who must practice politeness, ambition, even love in multiple cultures, and live and work according to the sometimes contradictory injunctions of a stitched-up suitcase of ethical, social and political values. Mothered in Iran, I was drilled into adulthood in Thatcherite Britain, and struggled into maturity in a catholic yet culturally supremacist United States. In Iran, I was the odd middle-class boy-star destined for adoption by a still-admired post-imperial Britain, a native double-informant in-the-making. In Britain, I was the wog, the foreigner, and the exotic. In the U.S., I am either nobody in particular or a prospective terrorist. My rub-up with Englishness has given me tools, bent and broken ones, but tools nonetheless, to map my way through the multidimensional minefield of a globalized world. So far, I have managed to survive in several languages and cultures in part because Britain rubbed my young face in piles of imperial worldliness. For that, I give thanks, since you ask.
Ana Astri O'Reilly
I am going to attempt to describe the influence of the British Empire in my country, Argentina. Believe it or not, it played a key role in our Independence from Spain. In 1806 Sir Home Popham blatantly disobeyed his orders and decided to attack Spanish colonies in South America (because Spain was weak as a result of the Napoleonic Wars) and therefore increase commerce between the colonies and Britain. The forces were led by General William Carr, viscount Beresford. The long and short of it is that the invading forces were repelled not only once but twice, because in 1807 Lt. Gen John Whitelocke had been appointed leader of an expedition to the River Plate to rescue Beresford and establish a British stronghold there. The victory of the local population (everybody fought hard, soldiers, men and women) made them realise that they did not need Spanish rule any longer, that they were mature enough for self-government. In 1810 emancipation from Spain was declared, followed by Independence in 1816.
I was born and brought up in India, but feel a strong sentimental attachment to Britain. My parents went to Edinburgh in the late 50s for higher surgical training after their basic medical education in India. (Incidentally my grandfather too had his advanced surgical training in Edinburgh in the early '20s). My parents met for the first time in Edinburgh. They lived in different parts of the UK for about 4 years and got married after they returned to India. British gramophone records, novels, photographs, Christmas cards, etc, were a big part of my childhood. My parents often spoke to each other in English. They have fond memories of their years in Britain, and kept in touch with their British friends. After high school I was introduced to the BBC World Service by a friend, and it has been a major presence in my life ever since. I am glad that British culture has been such a major influence in my life, and feel that it has made me a better person. Now, after living in the US for 10 yrs, I see the British as being one of the most refined and restrained peoples of all.
My great-grandfather left Lyme Regis in 1890 at the age of 19 to work for a British trading company in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). A few yeards later he purchased some land near Kandy in Sri Lanka and created a Rubber Estate. Over a period of some years he built up an estate of over 500 acres. He married a woman from Goa (we believe she was half Indian and half Portugese although little is known about her as she died after only a few years of marriage) and they had one son called Bertram. Bertram ran the estate after his fathers death. Bertram had 2 sons and a daughter, all born and subsequently educated in Kandy. One of these was my father who came to England when he was 16 and rarely returned to S. Lanka. However, his elder sister took on the running of the estate after her father died until most of the land was taken in the land reforms of the mid 1970's. However, she still lives in the Bungalow built by my Great-Grandfather in the late 1890's and I believe she must be one of the last "British" Esate owners still alive and living on the original estate all be it without much land. This family heritage has only resulted from Britain having an Empire and I believe it has given me a much broader view on life as a result. As a child, my father only give us snippets of information about Ceylon and his childhood. It has only been since being an adult that I have been able to explore our family history and to visit Sri Lanka. I believe we have been incredibly fortunate to have this background, both personally and as a nation.
All my grandparents/great grandparents arrived in Australia from England as free settlers. I still consider myself English. Schooling during the 50's we had our Headmistress and majority of other teachers come out from 'the old Country' or 'home' . We certainly were taught all about the Empire in our History lessons. Empire Day on 24th May was celebrated with traditional folk songs and a fireworks display in the evening. During the early 80's my family decided to move to England. Holidays had never been long enough for us previously. We had four children and discovered just one of these were ever taught British History from 1066! All would have dearly loved to have been taught this on their curriculum. Is it any wonder so many youngsters these days do not have any idea of our historical background? Congratulations BBC on this wonderful web site. It is a joy to listen to and yes, learn even more about our wonderful British Empire
My grandfather went to Guatemala as a parson with his three sons. Then he went to Jamaica. One son became a parson and returned to England, one became a successful businessman in Jamaica. My father worked in the Treasury before returning to England to read for the Bar and then went back to Jamaica. He became a magistrate and my sister and I were born there. He became a judge and moved first to Guyana (then British Guiana) then to Zanzibar, back to Guyana and finally to Nigeria. There I met my husband who was a District Officer and we remained in Nigeria until l963. My sister married and lived in Kenya until her husband retired to Scotland. I think I can say that my family history was formed by the Empire. My father served under five monarchs and was proud to have done so and to have served the people of the various countries in which he worked --- as was my husband who served under both the British and Northern Nigerian administrations.
I believe the empire has shaped my family history and more so for my daughter. I was born in Merton, South London and consider myself English but in a roundabout way. My mother is South African of Scotish and English decent. Scotish from my great grandfather who went to South Africa during the Boer War and stayed there after. The English is from Durham which is actually from Irish immigrants from Thurles. My Father is from Shropshire and probably has Welsh ancestry. But my daughter has even more to thank the empire for her grandparents. As well as my parents being English and South African her other grandparents are from Gibraltar and Barbados both of whom came to Britain to live.
For me, growing up in England in the 1940's the British Empire was wholly embodied by my grandfather (RSM Sydney Steer, Scots Guards). He told me fascinating tales of his service in the Boer war and between 1905 and 1915 at Gresham's school Holt, Norfolk, he trained officers (among whom John Reith, who was later to become Governor-General of the BBC). He later went on the serve on the Western Front after the death of his son, (my uncle), on the field of battle. My grandfather to me, represented the England of the Edwardian era with Empire intact and would remain that way forever. He instilled in me the feeling of pride I have for my country. Whenever I hear the term "British Empire" the years melt away and I see myself sitting on the floor at his chair, listening to the stories of my dear grandfather.
I was born in British Guiana now Guyana, my father’s family came from India and I am the 5th generation from the same family. It always puzzled me where in India my father’s family came from which made us very disconnected with India. Last year I visited India and I couldn’t fit in where I was bombarded by the people who thinks I speak the same language and it is the same in England which I have to explain I am from a West Indian background. 1. I would like to know where in India my family came from. 2. I feel I am very much parts of the British Empire which I am carrying along with me for the rest of my life having to explain my background everywhere I go to people.
I'm disgusted by your programme. Where is the critical discussion of Britain's colonial past? Colonization resulted in the invasion and occupation of great areas of the world, slavery and suppression of the people who lived in the occupied areas. There is certainly nothing to be proud about. It is not an innocent episode in world history. This is the time for a humble and realistic look at how British Colonization affected world history.
My forefathers came down from the highlands of Buner, 100 mile north of Peshawar city of North West Frontier Province, Pakistan during British Raj. They migrated because of low agriculture productivity that had lead to famines. In low lands of Mardan they settle in village Kotarpan from where the mountainous range of Buner and Swat begins. But the problem was still there mostly the plain land remained fallow because of poor water resources. Our ancestors tried to install Persian Wheel that irrigated some fields but most of the land depended on rain waters. But soon the British government embarked upon a mammoth project for providing irrigation water to the fields of Mardan and Swabi districts. The project was unimaginable for the locals. Britishers drilled tunnels in mountains and diverted waters of River Swat through these tunnels. Besides a long network of canals, branch canals, water channels were dug out in not-so-plain landscape. The two main canals watered two Districts: Mardan and Swabi. Our fields too got water and we started earning rich harvest. The farmers in general grew prosperous and our family finally settled there. Owing to rich harvests due to canal waters many men in our previous generation got educations and then got good jobs. Our family is now financially well-off and most men and women are educated. Definitely this change occurred because of the positive change in their income and that was only possible because of the British government daunting challenge to water our fields. We still water our fields through those canals dug out buy British Raj. My grandma, who is no more in this world now, always paid rich tributes to ‘Peerangian’ (The Britishers).
I am a 6th generation Singapore Chinese. My great, great, great grandfather arrived here in the 1820s from China soon after its founding by Stamford Raffles. We were "Straits Chinese" who settled permanently in the colony, unlike the majority of Chinese who intended only to work here temporarily. The Straits Chinese were also known as "The Queen's Chinese" (for Queen Victoria) because of their affinity for all things English, including the English Language. My great great grandfather was a Commissioner of some sort; my great grandfather worked for Guthrie's, my grandfather was a manager in the pre-war NAAFI, supplying the British military before the Fall of Singapore. My father studied in the Presbyterian Boy's School here and was present at the school assembly when the school became the first local school to be overrun by the communists during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s (targeted because it was obviously pro-English!). When my dad was asked to hand over his British-issued Identity Card to the communist guerrilla, he stoutly refused! My wife is a descendent from Hoo Ah Kay (Whampoa), who was the first Asian elected into the colony of Singapore's Legislative Council in 1869 and who was even awarded the CMG by Queen Victoria in 1876. He also served as Consul in Singapore for Russia, Japan and China. Did the British Empire affect my family history? Most definitely!
My father brought the family over to hong Kong in 1981 as he got a job in the Civil service over here. My family before me had imperial links with Uncles and aunts in India, Burma, Malta and Nigeria. When I watched the British flag come down in 1997 I was very concious of being one of the last of long line of colonials. I am also guilty of 'staying on' and pining for the old days!
My grandfather was a navel officer in Hong Kong, and in Singapore. My mother as a 15 year old waved to the troops sent to defend the Empire from her train home from boarding school in Cameron Highlands. On one of the last ships to leave Singapore before it was invaded, after the war she returned to Malaya and married a planter who was caught up in the Malayan Emergency. I was born just as the sun set on the empire and the British were packing up to leave.
I am always having fun with the natives of Wembley, because I am a product of an English father and a Finnish mother, but was born in Calcutta, India. My father moved us to Pakistan when I was six because there were riots in India when the Brits left. Then, at the age of seven, the Indo-Pakistan war started and we found ourselves on a boat to England. We ended up in Wembley 52 years ago when there were very few 'foreigners' in this area. I've subsequently lived and worked in more lands than many folk know exist in the World, sired four children and have three ex-wives (first an Australian and then two Japanese lasses), the most recent of whom still gets on very well with me and lives in a suburb of London! Once upon a time, I wrote the "East of Java" each week for the 'real' Punch while living in Japan. (There's more where this comes from!!) Love the idea of this series. Keep up the good work! Cheers, Mike
I am a Chinese, and I haven't listened to this program before, but from Film, I have some knowledge about this. In fact, almost all the countries in the world have the same phase about the Empire, and the different rule affect different countries, so we have todays multiform cultures.
The first branch of my family arrived in Jamestown in 1619, one year before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock (members of this expedition constitutes, a second branch of my family). For about 150 years my family were loyal subjects of the crown. However in the 1770s, they became partisans for independence. The branch of my family in Boston, the Adamses were in the thick of it. Samuel and John Adams (later the second president of the United States) were involved in organizing not just their own communities in New England, but elsewhere. Both men signed the Declaration of Independence. In Virginia, my ancestors joined the Continental Army and were later given land out west when the congress was unable to pay their salaries. I can without question credit the British Empire, such as it was in the 18th century as the making of two branches of my family. They became what they were by rebelling against it.