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June 2007

Army School Inspectors
Army Schoolmasters
Calthorpe Car
Captain Trunball Warren
Royal Artillery
Royal Hibernian Military School
Royal Military Asylum
SS Pemberton
Sir Percy Sillitoe

Army School Inspectors
6 June 2007

[Editor's note: The first inquiry regarding John and Bridget Little originated from Neil Lindstrom of New Zealand. See previous corresp. - below]

Neil, I must assume that as your grandfather was born in 1875, then his father will have been about 27 (to marry whilst a soldier, permission had to be had from the commanding officer of the unit. If younger than 25, permission was rarely given. This places your GG Grandfather in the year bracketing 1845-1849, just outside of the available records. I have access to records from 1849-1851 and 1853-1859, plus the census for the RMA 1840-1901. I have not been able to find a trainee schoolmaster with the name of LITTLE. As he will have married after 1839, then a marriage certificate should be available via the St Catherine's indexes at the PRO. This will indicate his regiment at the time of his marriage. With this information you will be able to check the muster rolls of this regiment to discover more. If you have details re your GGF, date of birth, names and regiment, I may be able to direct you a little further with your research

Peter G

9 June 2007

Neil, First, some details of John and Bridget Little. I have the death certificates for both. John died 4 June 1891 and Bridget 16 September 1881. The place of death in each case was Kingsward Road, Moseley(?), Kings Norton, Worcester. The (?) indicates difficulty deciphering the handwriting. John was described as "Retired Inspector of Army Schools" and as an "Army pensioner". His age at death is given as 69 years which puts his birth date as about 1822. Bridget was described as a "Widow of Sub Inspector of Army Schools". Her age was 69 years giving a birth date of about 1820. The informant of the death in both cases was Mary E. Little, probably the daughter of John and Bridget. (Interestingly, our mother's name was Mary Elizabeth Little). I found a listing for a J. Little – Army Schools – Army List August 1885) at www.1837OnLine, (now The John Little we are looking for would have been a pensioner by then, but I have no idea whether or not he would have been on such a list in that case. The site was expensive to access and I took no further action. Agnes (Nail's sister) gave me a copy of a Family Tree she obtained from Ernie Little of Victoria, Australia, dated 11 January 2003. (Neil's note: I did not know this.) This gives the birth of John as 1846 and of Bridget as 1849 and a marriage date of 1866, all taking place in Ireland. The children were just listed as "son, son, daughter, son". I wrote to Ernie Little but got no reply. Assuming the marriage date was correct then they must have left for Canada soon after. I have not been able to confirm that Earnest Augustus (EAL) was born at sea but a query on the internet elicited a response that there is a record of EAL being baptised in Montreal, June 1866, and an Arthur Edmond Little in 1867. The 1886 year of birth of EAL ties in with the ages he gave on the three marriage certificates I have. To Sarah Jane Postings, 1892, Rose Elizabeth Barrett, 1895, and to Mary Storie, 1907. (Neil: I didn't about the first wife.) As you can see from these rather scrappy notes there are some facts and anomalies to be sorted out. For instance, from the death certificates of John and Bridget their ages at the time of EAL's birth they were 42 and 46 respectively and there were still tree more children to come! I just hope I am not confusing two separate Little families.
          (Neil: Do you have any comments?)


Army Schoolmasters
30 May 2007

Hello, My great-grandfather is recorded as having been an Inspector of Army Schools in the 19th Century. His surname was Little. My Grandfather, Ernest Little, was born at sea on the way to Montreal. He seems to have been a bit of a  black sheep, perhaps working his passage to New Zealand in the 1875(?)  He is thought to have come from Ireland, and we are inclined to think that his father, the inspector, might have been an English civil-servant stationed in Ireland. We have never been able to define what an Inspector of Army Schools' duties were ... for the children of Army personnel, or for the military themselves. Your interesting data is the first time we have found a lead. Do you have any suggestions that might help us delve further?

Neil Linstrom
New Zealand.  

30 May 2007

Neil, Yes, your inquiry sounds interesting and there are possibilities. We might well have your g-grandfather's name on record [that depends on how far my colleague has got in transcribing the registers and records]. I am passing your inquiry to Peter Goble who is working on the documents of the Normal School. You may expect to hear from him shortly. Meanwhile, this subject being of immense interest to us, if you have any further information, photographs or records on your forebear we should appreciate copies of them for our records.

Art Cockerill

31 May 2006

Neil, I must assume that as your grandfather was born in 1875, then his father will have been approx 27 years old (to marry, a soldier had to ask permission from his commanding officer and, if younger than 25, permission was rarely given. This places your GGF between 1845 and 1849, just outside of the available records. I have access to records from 1849-1851 and 1853-1859, plus the census for the RMA 1840-1901. I have not been able to find a trainee schoolmaster with the name of LITTLE. As he will have married after 1839, then  a Marriage certificate should be available via the St Catherine's indexes at the PRO. This will indicate his Regiment at the time of his marriage. With this information you will be able to check the muster Rolls of this Regiment to discover more. If you have any details re your GGF, date of birth, names and possible Regiment, I may be able to direct you a further with your research.

Peter Goble

1 May 2007

Thanks for your emails, both. I have asked my sisters who live in the Wellington if they can throw more light on this subject. It appears that the g-g-f's name was John Little as shown on his son Ernest Little's marriage certificate as being a sub-inspector of Army schools in Ireland. John Little's wife was named. Bridget. Ernest Augustus Little is now said to have been born in Montreal in 1867. We had understood him to have been born at sea while his parents were on the way to Montreal. Then we discovered that Ernest Little may have come to NZ as an assisted immigrant in the late 1800s. My mother, his first child, was born in 1896. There is a family story that Ernest Little's brother was a clergyman at a boys' school in London during WW1. A second child, Sidney, was a soldier in WW1. If I find further information I'll forward it to you. Thanks again for your interest and helpful suggestions.


1 June 2007

Neil, I have had a response from the Nat Archives, Kew. Bad news I'm afraid. It is too difficult for them to find the 20 landscape pages for July and December of each year 1859-1868, within the 20 minutes allowed,  and employing a researcher to do the task is too expensive. I cannot continue with this next ledger. Should you wish to pursue the matter the ledger is WO143/48 Normal School Letter Book.


Calthorpe car
24 June 2007

Sir, I am a vintage car enthusiast and Calthorpe car owner and have found the entry shown below entered on your web site. I am always on the look out for information and details relating to Calthorpe and was wondering if it would be possible for you to put me in touch with Mr Goble?

Steven Lines

Calthorpe car web site entry: 14 September 2006: Miss Colthup, I am transcribing the admission ledgers of the RMA from 1803 to 1926. Two CALTHORPES were admitted. Details in the ledger are attached as a PDF file. I would be interested in any further information that you hold re these two boys. My main interest is in the CALTHORPE Car, my father had one and I have several photos. I am hoping that these two boys may well have been involved in the 1920-30 era in creating this classic motor car.

Peter Goble

24 June 2007

Steven, You've reached across the Atlantic in your quest for information on the Caltorpe car. I've passed your enquiry on to my colleague, Peter Goble. I've no doubt he'll contact you. In any case, you now have his contact info on the cc line.


Captain Trunball Warren
25 June 2007

I am a Scout Leader with the 35th/37th Toronto Scout Group in downtown Toronto. We are investigating our Group’s history because 2007 is the centenary year of Scouting in Canada. In one of our boxes of historic documents I came across a memorial service card for the late Captain Trumball Warren who was killed in action during WWI. I have no idea what, if any, connection he had with our Scouting Group so I did a Google search on his name and came to your site. I do not know if you are interested or not, but I scanned the Service Card and have attached it as a pdf file. Please feel free to do as you wish with it. If you know of any connection between Capt. Warren and Scouting in Canada I would be pleased to hear from you.

Kevin Saloranta
35th /37th Toronto Scout Group

26 June 2007

Kevin, Thank you for the Order of Service copy for Captain Warren's remembrance service. I regret to tell you that I cannot offer you any information regarding Captain Warren's connection with the scouting movement in Canada. Two of his letters written from the Western front were included in the Mavor collection, in two bound volumes, collected, collated and bound by Prof. Mavor of U of T. The collection is now in the possession of his descendent. All I can tell you about Captain Warren, apart from his service in the 46th Highlanders, is that he obviously came from a well-connected Toronto family and that he served on a board of directors before enlisting for military service. To investigate his connection with the Canadian scouting movement, I'd suggest a check with, first, the 48th Highlanders of Toronto, who should have the regimental records in their museum. Secondly, it is a fair assumption that the Toronto newspapers of the day would have an in memoriam notice of his death, probably published somewhere between May and July of 1915. [He was killed 15 April 1915.] If notice of his death was published, it is fairly certain it would contain his connection with the city as well as other biographical details. The University of Toronto library and City of Toronto library would be a good places to start. Sorry I cannot be of more help.

Art C

Royal Artillery
4 June 2007

John Chapman, a Gunner in the Royal Artillery was my wife's gg Grandfather, born c1823 in Leicestershire. He married a Sarah Adnams around 1846-50. They had a son, William J Chapman, born c 1851 in Halifax, N. America. In the 1861 census he and the family are back in the UK in Woolwich. Presumably he was on a posting to Canada with the RA around 1851. In the 1871 census, Sarah Chapman was married to a Henry Stokes, so I can only assume that John Chapman died or was killed sometime in the 1860s. Would you have any information on J. Chapman's army career etc. or be able to point me in the right direction?

Brian Harding.

4 June 2007

Brian, Thanks for the contact. Unfortunately we concentrate on the boys admitted to the two Military Schools. It may be helpful in your research if you enroll to the British Regiments list at Yahoo. There are many members and there must be at least one that specializes in the Royal Artillery. There are also the muster rolls at the National Archives. You could try RG42, also at the National Archives, Kew

Peter Goble

Royal Hibernian Military School
17 June 2007

Sir/Madam, I am researching the move of the RHMS in 1924. Due to enemy action, the admission & discharge ledgers were destroyed in 1942. I have examined WO143/27 RHMS Alpha Index Discharge ledger circa 1840 to 1918; WO143/26  RHMS Alpha Index Discharges after September 1924 including DYRMS discharges 1906 to 1958; WO143/78   RHMS Chronological admissions 1847-1877; WO143/79   RHMS Chronologic admissions 1877-1907; WO143/70   DYRMS Alphabetic Index admits 1907-1958 including RHMS admits 1924

I also have a copy of a last parade state of some 250 boys. These were admitted to the DYRMS on the 5 Sept 1924 including 12 who it seems must have stayed there for the summer holidays, being admitted in July. There is no mention in PROCAT, in the WO143/70 section of a Alpha Index ledger covering the period 1907 to 1958. For some reason, the RHMS is mentioned in PROCAT under WO /43, but this segment covers the War office correspondence to approx 1860.

The next logic approach to this problem may well be in the War Office files in the 1922-1925 era covering the build up and subsequent move to Dover in 1924. As a retired soldier, I am well aware of the need of the Military to construct a mass of data, Nominal Rolls, passenger lists, troop movement and the planning needed to move some 400 boys, staff & equipment from Dublin to Shorncliffe. There may well have been some mention in Mansard during those years. Can you help in locating a possible source of information re the move of the School? I have been in contact with the Bursar of the DYRMS, I have been informed that there are no records of the boys being there, all was sent to the Archives pre 1942. Your help with this problem would be appreciated.

Peter Goble

21 June 2007

Mr Goble, Thank you for you enquiry concerning records of the movement and disbandment of the Royal Hibernian Military School. A brief search on the National Archives online Catalogue using the search term "Royal Hibernian Military School" has brought to light only the following reference: HO 267/346  Royal Hibernian Military School: army funds not to be used to replace with other institution 1922 Dec-1923 Jan. A search for "Duke of York's Royal Military School" within WO 32 produced the following references:

WO 32/13508 ARMY SCHOOLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS: Duke of Yorks Royal Military School (Code 34L): Formation of Upper School 1923
WO 32/13509  ARMY SCHOOLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS: Duke of Yorks Royal Military School (Code 34L): Review of Upper School 1926
WO 32/14796  ARMY SCHOOLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS: Duke of Yorks Royal Military School (Code 34L): Revision of Royal Warrant 1924
WO 32/14797  ARMY SCHOOLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS: Duke of Yorks Royal Military School (Code 34L): Appointment of Director of Military Training as a Commissioner 1927.

It is possible but by no means guaranteed that these records might contain material on the transfer of the RHMS etc. as the cataloguing does not always reflect the complete content of the piece but rather sometimes either the first item or the largest or most significant item. I would suggest that you examine the catalogue for record series WO 32 War Office: Registered Files and for WO 143 to see if it is possible that relevant records or information might be contained in other documents such as reports or minutes for the years in question.

Although it is entirely possible that a number of records were created in relation to the RHMS it is also possible, given the requirements of records management, that these records were not amongst those selected for preservation and do not survive.

Neil G Cobbett
Reader Information Services Department

27 June 2007

Sir, May Mackenzie at Shropshire Records passed your enquiry to me at the KSLI museum (across the road!). We are the museum of the 53rd Foot (Shropshire) Regt. from 1755, the 85th Light Infantry from 1759, the KSLI to 1968 and also of the Shropshire
Yeomanry, Rifle Volunteers, T. A., Militia and Artillery. Generally, we do not have personal records - for post 1924 they are still in closed MOD archives in Kentigern House, Brown St., Glasgow; for pre-1924 (as I'm sure you know) surviving personal files are in the National Archives under WO.97 (pre 1913) or WO. 363 or 364 for 1914-18. However, we do have a small run of attestation books for c.1925-40 which can sometimes offer a few sentences or facts.
In these cases, we really need the soldier's regimental number- they are filed by number. I managed to find Walsh - the hard way - and to give you some idea of how brief the details can be, his full entry is simply: Walsh, Cecil Vincent. Enlisted 1.8.31, Regular service. [Battalion not stated but probably 2nd]. Discharged from KSLI 25.3.1937 on transfer into Army Education Corps. Regtl. number 4031516.

Peter Duckers, Curator
Shropshire Regtl. Museum.

27 June 2007

Peter,  Thank you for your response. Although minimal, it proves to be a direct line from the Hibernian Military School to the Army Education Corps. Your supplying his Army number and transfer date are certain an unexpected bonus. Thank you. My interest in Walsh, is that he was the last of the Royal Hibernian Military School boys to leave the School in 1931. We, that is Art Cockerill and, I are preparing an article for the DYRMS web site covering the last days of the school, this will also  link directly to our current project, the Corps of Army Schoolmasters & The Army Education Corps. The Army Education Corps records pre 1890 are extremely poor, I work hand in glove with the Curator of the Adj General Corps Museum, and have a copy of their Schoolmaster data base to 1950, but many names are missing, including Walsh. However I hope to be able to follow this new lead.  I will keep you informed of my discoveries and forward details of any subsequent article that we produce, also, details of all the KSLI connections at both schools.

Peter Goble

Royal Military Asylum
4 June 2007

What a thrill to find your web site with all the information and especially the pictures of the D.Y.R.M. School. My Father and my Uncle went to the School. My Uncle Arthur Michael Keegan joined 3-January 1896 to 7-Sept 1899. His registered Number was 10839. He returned to civil life. My Father Bertie James Keegan, joined the School 9-December 1898 to 2 July 1903 his Reg. Number was 11239. I have obtained the School documents for both of them. My Father joined the Royal Field Artillery at Portsmouth on the same day he left the school, 2 July 1903. I have a small collection of badges and buttons to the School of which I am very Proud. We are 5 Generations in the Military starting with my Grandfather  (That's correct) who served, and was wounded at the battle of Inkerman, in the Crimea, with the 88th Foot The Connaught Rangers, and after served on the staff of the Permanent Militia, 21 years 59 days. Discharged as Sgt-Major with the 3rd Admin. Bn. Durham Rifle Volunteers. This is why Grandmother Keegan was able to enroll the Boys in the D.Y. School. I am looking forward to hearing from you and once again Thank You for all the information.. Do you have any artifacts from the school?. If you wish I could send you photo copies of my collections. Hoping to hear from you soon  

Bern Keegan  

26 June 2007

I am seeking more details regarding my great-grandfather (John Sharples) putting two sons (James and Jonas Sharples) in the RMA September 8, 1860 than was contained on the .pdf file on the website.  Any suggestions?

John Rusing

26 June 2007

John, You have as much detail that is available at the National Archives. Your next step is to write to Lt Col R Say: Bursar: The Duke of York's School. Dover. Kent. CT15 5EQ. Ask if there is any detail re your relatives in the school archives. You will need to enter as much detail as you know. Names, Parents. Father's Regiment. Date of Admission & Discharge, and most importantly, your relationship to the two boys. i.e.. My Grand father and Great Uncle. I think that the school closes for the Summer Holiday on the 7th July. I can't guarantee that there are records existing, but enquirers to 1823 have been fortunate.

Peter Goble

SS Pemberton
5 June 2007

(Continuing corresp) Peter, many thanks for your extra help. I will let you know what we turn up, particularly if it is Pemberton linked. We feel sure that this Sarah O'Malley is our ancestor, arriving 14 May 1849 in Port Phillip Bay (now Melbourne & a mile or so from where I live between the lake & the sea). I have been advised by a local Portland expert that she took the brig. Raven to Portland Bay from Port Phillip Bay (where some of the girls found work) to take up a position with James Allison, Law Clerk, Postal Master, etc. His father was Edward Allison who was Superintendent Surgeon on the Shackamaxon; the family settled in Portland & James' sisters ran a school. You are right, Sarah & the two Bowen/Bohan girls were not in the RHMS contingent. They were from Queen's District & Roscrae Tipperary, & all had to have been in the workhouse for a year to qualify for the passage - no free rides for those poor girls!

The Forlorn Hope has proved helpful for another ancestor, so I will return to it when I have finished this semester's assignments for a Master in Library & Information Management - I've only been in a library, the Victoria Barracks' Melbourne Library a few months - what was I thinking? Kindly, Professor Trevor McClaughlin has provided several email/web leads & his book Barefoot & Pregnant? so I'll be letting you know what I discover; also for your records as a clue for those who come after us! There is apparently an Australian Irish Famine Orphan newsletter for relatives & interested parties, but I haven't had a reply to my email yet.

Debra Vaughan

PS You might like to search Irish Famine Orphan Memorial Williamstown, Victoria to see a commemorative photo. Have not yet been able to see it myself, but it's just around the Bay from me.

Sir Percy Sillitoe
2 June 2007

Hello, I am a retired Chief Superintendent of Police having served in the Northern Rhodesia Police prior to Zambian Independence and in Hong Kong from 1965 to my own retirement in 1996. I am now the guardian of a Chinese Temple and garden - previously a Hakka nunnery - in Hong Kong SAR, China. I have read your correspondence with Nicholas Sillitoe of Norway concerning his grandfather, Sir Percy Sillitoe. I am interested in leaning more of Percy Sillitoe's life in Africa as the record shows that he served in both the BSAP and the NRP. The records do not show that he had a Bemba consort, a son who served with distinction in the KAR [?] and grandchildren who retain his name in Zambia. I have a friend who knows at least one of these Zambian grandchildren very well and I have seen some of the correspondence between them on the subject of Sir Percy. Can you tell me any more about Percy's early life, and most importantly, whether Nicholas in Norway knows about, or wishes to know about his relations in Zambia. I must admit that I have not yet read either your book or Percy's.

Ron Clibborn-Dyer

4 June 2007

Hello Ron,

As you have read the correspondence with Nicolas Sillitoe, there is no point in my revisiting it. What you write of Percy's Sillitoe's Bemba consort is news, but it comes as no surprise to me. Before I continue I must note that I wrote the Sillitoe biography more than thirty years ago (1977), so I now write entirely from memory. I have no knowledge of Nicolas Sillitoe's interest in his grandfather's life, early or otherwise for the reason already given. In my view, Sillitoe was a good man, a successful policeman, an imaginative and a dedicated public servant. His grandson wrote asking for information. This I was willing to provide, but his petulance led me to discontinue the correspondence; a pity as there was more to tell.
      That said, and to now make public what was known and speculated thirty years ago, it is a matter of significance that might be hard to quantify. You need to acquire a copy of the biography to understand the detail regarding his medical problems, for example. This is available on the secondhand book market for about $25. There is much in the book for anyone with an inquiring mind to discover and speculate.
      For instance, in his autobiography, Cloak with dagger, Sillitoe said that while stationed at Victoria Falls he contracted rheumatic fever in one knee, which swelled to the size of a football and was excruciatingly painful for weeks. An itinerant priest gave him a supply of aspirin, which helped quell the pain. Following weeks of agony, the swelling subsided and he was able to continue on 'his appointed rounds'. What he didn't reveal - and what struck me as anomalous - is that rheumatic fever affects all the joints: ankles, knees, elbows et al. So, if Sillitoe's problem wasn't rheumatic fever, what was it? I consulted a number of medical friends and authorities [long before Google came into existence]. Dr. Jack Leeson [Thank you, anyway – Doctor] provided the most convincing explanation. If Sillitoe in a physically active youth suffered an injury, which he did from a kick in some sport, the cartilage might have been damaged. Had he later contracted an infection, bacteria being washed out in the blood stream could have lodged in the cartilage of the bruised knee and settled in for a long stay. We know Sillitoe suffered increasing pain in his knee throughout his life, which eventual turned to cancer of the bone from which he died. It was a convincing argument. The editor agreed, but we decided not to pursue this because, at that time, the trashing of well-known public figures was rife. According Richard Sillitoe, Sir Percy's second son, his father kept four large photographs of Bemba maidens on the mantelpiece and declared them to be of artistic value and would not allow them to be removed. They certainly were handsome young women, each one posed in the same place, which was in the doorway of a grass hut. Propped against door frame was a bicycle, presumably a police constable's machine. Close inspection of the photographs confirmed that all four shots were taken at the same dwelling. This led to the conjecture that Sillitoe not only had a healthy artistic interest in photography, but enjoyed a relationship with one or more of his Bemba friends.
          Now please tell me what you can about his descendents in Africa. Most interesting. I look forward to hearing from you.

Art C

4 June 2007

Art, I am sorry to hear that Nicholas Sillitoe was not mature enough to handle the information you were prepared to give him. I assumed from your correspondence that you already knew of Sir Percy's African family. Amazing what the head of MI5 could keep secret for so long! Since I wrote my first message to you, I have learned from African grandson Harry, through a mutual friend, that as a result of my sending Nicholas' web-site to the African family, contact has now been made between the African Sillitoes and the English ones. Apparently Nicholas had asked them to have a DNA test, but when the African grandson Percy, went to UK last year [2006] to attend a wedding, he met with English granddaughter Sue at a very typically English afternoon tea. She found the Sillitoe likeness so striking she said a DNA test was not necessary. She was described as being very gracious to the young black Percy and the afternoon ended with hugs and kisses. I will ask if Harry, my friend's Sillitoe correspondent, will allow me to send you his email message which explains how Sir Percy's son was treated after his birth, sent to a good school and urged to keep the name Sillitoe. It would be interesting to know if any of the photographs on Sir Percy's mantelpiece were of his Bemba consort.

As to Percy's swollen knee, I would be inclined to keep a very open mind on the cause of this. There are still many strange afflictions that one can get in Africa, which are completely unknown to modern medicine. I myself caught a strange form of malaise whilst on sick leave in Nyasaland recovering from Yellow Jaundice. On returning to Lusaka - all my joints seized up and I developed a fever. It was never properly diagnosed then, but it eventually cleared up. I later discovered on the internet that I had contracted a bout of O Nyong Nyong - a mosquito-born malady, which has since been shown to have been prevalent on Lake Nyasa when I was there. As for things that may result in cancer - a good friend of mine was bitten on the hand by a cobra and had to have brain surgery to survive. He much later died of Brain cancer. The itinerant priest who gave Percy the aspirins may well have been one of the many Roman Catholic White Fathers who were present in the two Rhodesias, quinine would have been amongst their medicine chest goodies. The ones that I met all carried a small box with two little black or grey stones wrapped in cotton wool. These if applied to a snake or insect bite would adhere to the open wound and could absorb the poison and save the life of the victim. I still have one such stone in my possession - what it is made of I have yet to discover. Polio was also a hazard in Central Africa - and an ex-NR Police colleague of mine is on crutches and calipers to this day as a result of that.

Ex-members of the BSAP in what was Southern Rhodesia and those of us from Northern Rhodesia are proud of the record of Sir Percy Sillitoe - his rise to head of MI5 is quite an epic story. Its a pity that his liaison with an African woman was regarded as such a taboo that it was necessary to keep it hidden all his life. My colleague, Tim Wright who wrote the History of the Northern Rhodesia Police was also unaware of Percy's African family although he did hear of the African family with that name whilst in NR. There is an entirely new story to be told about the history of the many descendants of some of the early white men in Africa and their often secret liaisons with African women. Some to be proud of and others to be ashamed of.

Ron C-D

5 June 2007

Ron, Fascinating news! Thanks for an interesting and absorbing read. Percy Sillitoe's African family is astonishing news to me, quite new and, I'm sure, to many familiar with his life. His African descendents share the same experience as the African descendents of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and principal author of the American Declaration of Independence. Only within the past few years have they been acknowledged as equal descendents of that remarkable man.

It's lovely to know that Sillitoe's African grandson Percy met with his English relative, the granddaughter Sue and found ready acceptance in that branch of the family. As for Nicolas Sillitoe's asking for DNA proof of paternity descendancy, that strikes me as well in keeping with his nature as I've read it, but the less said on that topic the better. Sillitoe was a public figure. Public interest in the minutiae of the lives of people of his stature goes with the territory. You and I share with many an admiration for his life and accomplishments. I have yet to come across another police chief who was not only the scourge of criminals large and small, but as dedicated to the welfare and interests of those who worked under him. [Can you imagine any police chief today committing criminals to a mental institution until they agreed to go straight? I laughed when I got proof of this Sillitoe solution to the rampant criminality in Glasgow during the 1930s.]

I should be very much interested in an account of Sillitoe's African son's growing-up experience. It would make a wonderful story, especially if photographs and related material on the African branch of the family were available. It is an important story, a compelling one and should be made public, for Sillitoe was much admired in his day. Mind you, I think he got sucked into - what today we would call – a corporate scam. I refer to the De Beers diamond-smuggling investigation he headed after he left MI5. It's not generally known that Fleming's only non-fiction work, The Diamond Smugglers, was part of the De Beer's dodge to protect its monopolistic interests. Also, of course, it was Sillitoe who inspired Fleming's second Bond novel Diamonds are forever. In the biography I dealt with the investigation in some detail, pointing out that Fleming's map of diamond-smuggling routes was bogus and his account one of creative reporting, but it failed to grab the attention of the national press.

Regarding Sillitoe's 'rheumatic' knee, you might well be right in your open-minded explanation of the possibilities. My attitude towards it is as non-judgmental as it was thirty years ago. In any case, the decision not to speculate as to the most probable cause of his wonky knee was the right one.

You mention the photographs on the mantelpiece of the Sillitoe home during his lifetime. I have no knowledge of the identity of the young women photographed. I'm familiar with some of the tribes of East African, but not those of Zambia or Zimbabwe. The photographs were supplied to me by Richard Sillitoe, who died a couple of years ago in Hamilton, Ontario. I returned them to him with the other documents and letters he had supplied. I've no idea what happened to them when his estate got into the hands of the executors. We kept in touch for a few years. He died a bachelor as far as I know. He had no known relatives in Canada. Richard struck me as a lonely and troubled man, in an out of security-related jobs like a Jack-in-the-box. Nor was his childhood a happy one. He was a well-mannered, gracious, pleasant man and very likeable.


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