|Kumbe! Sgt Russell bado anapullrank!
Sunday 9th June, at KRA HQ off Ngong Road
A memorable day. Everybody who had been at Turtle Bay and in Tsavo East was there, plus other overseas visitors and local members all planning to participate in the up-country leg. Old friendships were revived – sometimes after initial problems of recognition! Local associate members were there, plus friends and relatives of members. Really a wonderful turnout – over 220 people in all.
Traditionally the Reverend Michael Harries conducts our annual Remembrance Day Service. Happily Mike was also available to lead our Thanksgiving Service on 9th June. His messages, as always, were well thought out and he read an appropriate piece called The Soldier. At the close of the service our Chairman, Edwin Bristow, thanked some of the many people who had worked tirelessly to make the Re-Union for the Regiment’s 65th Birthday such a success.
And the serious drinking and socialising began!
There were plenty of photo opportunities. Eight former members of B.Coy, marshalled by Sgt Major Coulson – old habits die hard! – posed for quite a good one. The Regiment ladies, and the Clubhouse staff, performed even more valiantly in the kitchens than usual. And the Bar takings must have been by far an all-time record. Few people left much before dusk – with many serious assurances of keeping in touch! That would be another worthwhile achievement.
The Ark, Monday 10th June
We met at Muthaiga Country Club in the morning or at the Aberdare Country Club at Mweiga, in time for lunch. Predictably, Kenya time was the order of the day. We hopped into busses for the safari to the Ark. In the forest we were surprised that the busses took us past the turn off to the Ark, and we were delighted when we stopped for a very well organised sundowner in a clearing facing Mount Kenya. The mountain itself was not well visible due to cloud cover but the plains between the Aberdares and Mount Kenya were. A delightful, unexpected, interlude.
Once at the Ark, we found our rooms and the main game viewing areas. The mountain showed itself. Elephants came and went – in numbers. We also enjoyed seeing Bush Buck; Buffaloes; Duikers; Baboons; Genets; several bird species including Crowned Cranes and Knob Billed Geese; and some people saw a Leopard. Great dinner; splendid bar; bit of sleep; good breakfast; and off again! The Ark was a great idea.
Wow! Baridi sana, usiku! Many of us must have lost sight of how cold we had been sleeping on the forest floor, often drenched through, at much higher altitudes, almost fifty years ago. Or, in the moorlands at around 11000ft, waking up with frost on our hair! We did not, then, have ladies to keep us warm!
At Ol Pejeta, all creature comforts were there. But at little over 6000ft above sea level, it was really cold at night. Perhaps the cold comes down off the mountain? Clearly, we are not as hardy as we once were. Ol Pejeta was exclusively ours – and was a happy choice. Wendy, Dieter and their staff fed us wonderfully well; the Ol Pejeta staff could not be faulted; and the Bar Tent run by Mike and Jock was strategically situated.
The first evening we had a singsong. Fortified by an excellent braai, provided by Gilfred Powys and Farmers Choice, and some of Kenya Breweries best; we were led into song (!) by Geoff and Kathy Nightingale and then by Brenda Rowe, with her guitar. Song sheets were distributed. Great fun was had, but Pavarotti and Domingo have no cause for alarm!
We enjoyed excellent game drives; Reticulated Giraffe could be seen around the Ol Pejeta Camp; and visitors as well as locals were thrilled by Long Tailed Widow Birds in flight.
Was that Cricket?
Was it meant to be? Twenty odd guys and girls besported themselves on the Ol Pejeta lawn. Lofty and Pete Reynolds respectively captained the two sides. Did hitting the ball into the swimming pool score extra? It happened quite often and seemed to be intentional! The ladies were as good as the fellas – but that was no cause for self-congratulation! Players and spectators all fell about. Some attempt was made to keep score. But the bar was the real winner!
Not Quite Bisley!
The British Army Training and Liaison Support, Kenya, (BATLSK), with whom the KRA in Kenya have enjoyed a warm relationship over several years, organised a range competition in Nanyuki. They provided the SL-80 rifles with very accurate scope sights. Firing was at a fixed distance – but we cannot recall what it was.
Two teams from BATLSK competed, and one of them – with a very good lady soldier showing the way – came out on top. KRA entered teams from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Kenya, and our best shot was Fiona Elliot – a young lady from Auckland, daughter of Marion and Ken.
THE FINAL DAY
Definitely a highlight, among highlights. RQMS Geordie Ridley of the Grenadier Guards, a serving soldier in uniform, reminded us of the difference between left and right, as well as the importance of straight lines. And we were inspected by our own Major Rogue Barkas– who of course was instrumental in training most of us at KQVI Barracks in Salisbury, and at Lanet. He spoke to each one of us and remembered almost everyone. Perhaps, a special word with Mike Tetley, our most distinguished member. A pleasure for all of us, and a bundle of fun.
Another World War II veteran, the oldest of the Kenya Regiment as such is KR512, Jock Dawson. He spoke to us, later, of his induction in 1938 (in the second batch of 500 recruits) as well as his and Enid’s pleasure that the 65th Birthday Re-Union had taken place, and that they were part of it.
The famous Hootenanny group, who have been entertaining Nairobi audiences for over thirty years, travelled up to the Nanyuki Sports Club to entertain us on our last evening together - with their good fun blend of Ballads; Country and Western; Rock; and Golden Oldies.
Some people danced, energetically, around one end of the swimming pool, and nobody fell in. What fun! A fitting finale. Robert Foster publicly thanked the members of Hootenanny and paid tribute to Peggy and Rogue Barkas.
Those of us who stayed on in Kenya were joined for this rather unique and very well planned programme by former colleagues, and their ladies, from the Antipodes; from South Africa; Botswana; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Canada; Arizona; Florida; Hawaii; Minorca; Portugal and the United Kingdom. The ties that bind! What a testimonial to an institution which, in theory, ceased to exist almost forty years ago.