Sunday, December 13, 2015

Anne Spoerry and the Mau Mau

Text: The Ghosts of Happy Valley by Juliet Barnes, pp 248-249

More unexpected Mau Mau stories emerged when I was doing some research for John Heminway, who was writing the biography of Dr Anne Spoerry.   She'd always been revered in Kenya as the legendary 'flying docor', selflessly involved in humanitarian work in Kenya until she died in 1999.  Then Heminway's article for the Financial Times had caused waves of shock and disbelief.  He'd interviewed Dr Louise Le Porz, who'd known Spoerry in Ravensbrueck.  Spoerry had been sent to this concentration camp in 1944, under the supervision of Carmen Mory, who became Spoerry's lesbian lover.  Le Porz revealed a very different side of Spoerry, a woman who'd murdered and tortured hundreds of Jewish women.

Heminway wanted to see Spoerry's first Kenya home near Ol Kalou.  We found the house - a small and Spartan affair.  She'd lived there in the 1950s, then moved to Subukia in the early 1960s - where she learned to fly and became the fearless flying doctor who would land anywhere in the bush to help sick and injured people of any race or creed.  What we weren't expecting was the rumours of her cruelty during the Mau Mau.

Back in the 1950s many white settlers inevitably became frustrated with British policies, as had earlier politically minded figures, including the 3rd Baron Delamere and Lord Erroll.  And now, during Mau Mau, a few angry settlers sometimes took matters into their own hands.  Ol Kalou, it seems, had its share of such farmers, with whom Spoerry could rub shoulders with ease.

A week later I drove to Wanjohi, where Solomon had arranged for me to meet and interview - in a secret venue - several maimed Kikuyu elders to whom Dr Spoerry remained a hated name.  One old woman wouldn't see me at all: she never wanted to set eyes on another white woman.  The old men were victims of torture, which they claimed had been perpetrated by Spoerry and her Kikuyu assistant in her Ol Kalou clinic.  One was missing an eye, another had bullet wounds, a third had a badly scarred leg.  They told worse stories of fates that had befallen other Mau Mau fighters, many of whom hadn't survived to tell their tales of castration and lethal injections.  My informants still remembered who'd been good to their African staff - and who hadn't.  Morgan-Grenville had been generally liked, Delap too, but Fergusson, it seemed, was not.  He was part of the group of white people, they said, who met with Dr Spoerry regularly.

Feeling I needed to hear some validation of such stories from the 'other' side, I found an elderly memsahib, who was initially reluctant to talk about it and didn't wish to be named.  She remembered Spoerry 'very mannish, but a character.  And she got on with everyone up there - especially the men.'  Anne Spoerry had regularly met up with some oft he local men at settlers' meetings in Ol Kalou during Mau Mau, while the wives went for a drink and a curry at the Ol Kalou Club.  'My husband walked out,' said my informant, ' he told me he couldn't handle the shocking cruelty, it was so bad.  They were very cruel to get information out of the Mau Mau.  They killed terrorists by putting gas masks on them.'

page 284 re murder of Earl of Erroll
One puzzling detail emerging from several books is that Walter Harragin, Attorney General, also the chief prosecutor presiding over the entire affair, took little notice of the curious case of Hugh Dickinson, an adoring friend and avid admirer of Diana's.  'Hughsie Daisie', as Diana called him, had allegedly been allowed into her bed, albeit occasionally, since the early 1930s.  An officer in the Royal Signals (as, interestingly, was the male agent Trzebinski describes in Operation Highland Clearance), Dickinson secured himself a posting to Kenya to coincide with the arrival of the newly married Broughtons; this puzzled his family as it made no sense career-wise.  He met the newly-weds in Mombasa, taking custody of the marriage contract between Broughton and Diana: this stated that she was to get 5000 pounds a year for seven years if the marriage was annulled due to her meeting a younger man.  Dickinson moved into the Broughtons' guesthouse in Karen, which he used as a pied-a-terre when he was in Nairobi - virtually every weekend.

In court Dickinson acutally lied, saying he'd been at the coast with septic toe at the time of the murder.  In fact, it turned out, he'd been sent to Nairobi to recover from this affliction - Kenya's muggy coastal climate is hardly conducive to the rapid and clean healing of wounds.  That the court was oblivious to this lie is puzzling, especially as Dickinson was hardly a reliable witness, having previously embroiled with the Broughtons back in England in two insurance frauds - paintings and pearls - engineered by Sir Jock himself.

Connolly and Fox interviewed Dickinson at the London Savoy in 1969.  ...He lied to Connolly and Fox too, saying he was in Nyali in hospital after a cactus spine had poisoned his foot.  But Fox picked up Dickinson's slip in the witness box.  Dickinson had told Harrigan he'd been in hospital (at the coast) from around 17 January for about a month, but then told Morris he'd last seen Jock and Diana, he thought, on the last day in January - when they most definitely hadn't been at the coast.
Fox writes in White Mischief: 'Dickinson did seem nervous when the murder was mentioned.'  He'd dined out on it that Christmas, though, according to Fox's informant.  He claimed to all present he knew who'd one it but was sworn to total secrecy.  'He had not done it himself, he said, neither had Broughton, although Broughton, he said, had engineered it.'  He claimed he'd been offered 25,000 pounds for the story he refused to tell.
Monty [Brown] sat at his father's old desk on the worm leather seat of a Uganda Railways chair, which Monty himself had rescued from the old Maktau Station.  He showed me a copy of an unpublished memoir by the late writer and historian Arthur Wolseley-Lewis, who points out that on the night of Erroll's murder, Hugh Dickinson had been staying around the corner from the Broughtons, with Wolseley-Lewis's aunt, Molly Parker.  She confirmed that Dickinson returned that night in the small hours.  'So why on earth should he stay there when he had a guesthouse on the Broughton plot?'  Monty asked.  'Because he wasn't meant to be officially in Karen at all!'  Wolseley-Lewis believes that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI6 and which focused on foreign threats) recruited the Broughtons and Dickinson; Erroll, a known Fascist at the time the British were attacking the Italians in Abyssinia, was also Assistant Military Secretary to the East Farican headquarters and thus 'was a great security risk'.  Dickinson himself pulled the trigger and drove Erroll's body to the murram pit, then walked back.  His exceptionally muddy shoes were noticed by Molly Parker's servant, who had to clean them.  Wolseley-Lewis believes that Diana, even if she was on the payroll, probably didn't know Joss was going to be killed and had genuinely fallen in love with him,  naturally arousing some jealousy on the part of both Broughton and Dickinson.  The murder was actually a hushed-up disposal of a popular man who'd done much for the colony.  Thus, Wolseley-Lewis believes, much was made of the playboy side of Joss and all his affairs, and 'many red herrings were dragged across the road intentionally.'
Monty gave me another perspective on Errol Trzebinski's informer, Tony Trafford: he was seconded to British Intelligence in 1940 (his father had also been in the Intelligence Service) where he would have been enjoined to keep the Official Secrets Act ['Susan Melanie' = Diana Broughton or Alice de Trafford and 'James Gregory' = Hugh Dickinson or Dickie Pemborke?]
5 11 1940 Diana and Jock Broughton married in England
12 11 1940 arrive in Kenya
24 1 1941 Erroll murdered
27 9 1941 Suicide of Alice de Trafford
5 12 1942 Suicide of Jock Broughton
1943 Diana Broughton marries Gilbert Colville.
page 74-75
When Erroll was murdered, Alice came under suspicion.  Her 'houseboy' had apparently found a revolver on her land, by a bridge under a pile of stones.  The car in which he'd been shot reeked of Chanel No. 5 - her perfume [....]
Alice wasn't arrest this time: she'd supposedly been in bed with Dickie Pembroke when the murder took place.  Pembroke, a young major, was apparently obsessed with Diana Broughton, who thought him boring - probably just as well considering the several complicated love triangles raging.  Evidently Pembroke didn't mind a roll in the hay with another attractive female, while this conquest might have amused Alice, who hated Diana.
Alice frequently visited Sir Jock Delves Broughton in jail, taking supplies and books.  Many of her friends said she never got over Joss's death, believing this intensified the unhappiness that shadowed her remaining years.  According to her letters Alice was still visiting Erroll's grave just before she died.
Trzebinski details the story of Joss's assassination.  "Operation Highland Clearance' involved two agents one a blonde woman from South Africa [...] 'Susan Melanie' (doubtless a false name) and her colleague 'James Gregory', took instructions from Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE).  Following instructions from Cairo and Nairobi, the female agent pretended to be broken down on the road she already knew Erroll would be driving at that lonely hour.  After he'd stopped to give her a lift, the rest was easy.  Plenty of people, Tzebinski points out, believed his killer was a woman and it wasn't difficult for MI5 to cleverly engineer the whole episode so that it looked like a crime of passion.
The police handling of evidence after this carefully managed, top-secret assassination was too poor to be accidental.  Even Broughton's baffling behaviour can be explained, Trzebinski thought, as it's possible he was also in on the whole thing - and of course very few documents to do with Erroll survived either.  SOE Cairo's files were burnt in 1945.  There were further eliminations, including 'Susan Melanie' herself.

[My solution:  Diana arranged an assignation with Erroll so that his return along a certain road could be guaranteed.  Alice de Trafford 'Susan Melanie' and Dickie Pembroke staged the breakdown to flag down Erroll with Pembroke doing the hit.  Hugh Dickinson then followed in the unbroken down car to transport everyone away.  The roles of Dickinson and Pembroke being reversible]

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