Not innocent but certainly naive

My father, Sergeant Dispenser David Pierce RAMC, who taught me consideration for others.

Looking back on my life I realise how naive I really was aged 22. I do mean naive because I certainly was not an innocent.

My naivety was more a lack of information on issues that maybe I should have been more aware of.

I had a lucky escape over South Africa because if I had gone out there I would have seen first hand how the white supremacist government treated the non-white citizens. At that stage I would have protested vociferously and would probably have spent time incarcerated in a South African prison (one for whites only of course).

Although there had been a growing anti-apartheid movement in this country since the early 50s it did not really make much of an impression in North Wales.

A lot of the reporting was based on demonstrations against South African sports teams visiting this country and vice versa.

At the time this would have been covered in the sports pages and, apart from rugby, sport did not really concern me at that time.

If it had been an issue over musicians boycotting SA, as happened in the late 1970s and the 80s (think Paul Simon and Graceland), I might have taken it more seriously.

As it was my views on people, whether black, white, yellow or brown, were mainly based on my father who saw everyone as equal.

When he talked about his wartime experiences in the RAMC, part of which included time on troop ships going from Dublin up the east coast of Africa, he talked about “the soldiers” or if he was talking about African troops then he did not say “African” but used their country as a form of differentiating between them.

Thus he talked about English, Senegalese, Kenyans, Sudanese or South Africans when talking about troops from that region.

He had a lot of time for these coloured troops and I never heard him use the term “black” or “nigger” or any of the other derogatory terms used to denigrate people who are not white.

He did not call himself a socialist and, as far as I am aware, he was never a member of any political party, yet his beliefs, which he demonstrated in his way of life and his attitude to others, made its mark on me and has remained with me ever since.

At this point my knowledge of Africa was mainly gleaned from books and stories by people such as H Rider Haggard.

His stories mainly covered the latter years of the 19th century and the pre-war years of the 20th century.

Many were based on his character Alan Quatermain who was a mixture of HM Stanley and the great white hunters of that era.

Quatermain was what would then be called “a good egg”. He treated native Africans, especially Zulus, as “noble savages” and would often side with them against the colonial government and the Boers.

Even to this day I am torn when watching Zulu between supporting Stanley Baker, Ivor Emmanuel and the South Wales Borderers (actually the 2nd Warwickshire) or the Zulus who just wanted these people out of their country.

I normally sing along with Ivor and Co. to the martial sounds of Men of Harlech but still have admiration for those men who ran towards the Briish lines wearing very little and carrying cattle-hide shields and a short stabbing assegai.

My reading of Haggard not only introduced me to Africa but also to that part of North Africa which has bewitched so many of us – Egypt.

After all Ayesha – or She* as the character is commonly known – was said to have been an Egptian princess who stepped into the Fountain of Youth and was condemned to live for eternity leaving her beloved behind as he would not face the dangers of the Fountain with her.

*Ayesha has come down to us as “She Must be Obeyed”, especially when Rumpole of the Bailey talks about his wife.

Having enjoyed so many adventure stories as I was growing up in North Wales I was about to start my own adventure by leaving home and heading for a foreign land – Essex.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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