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   Stanley Bleazard


Stanley (Stan) Richard Bleazard

Nickname: Bletso
House: Grigg/Rhodes/Scott
Years: Jan 1945 - Dec 1948
Two dim oil lamps glowed faintly in mist at each end of the railway platform at Maji Mazuri station. In total darkness between them, I sat quietly waiting on my battered tin trunk. It was cold and I began to shiver. There was no sound, not even a dog barking in the sawmill's labour lines across the valley. Absent also, the occasional scream of a hyrax from nearby forest, with which I always associated home. Just the customary brooding silence that can sometimes pervade a long African night. The minutes hung, leaving nothing to record their passage, until my guardian audibly rummaged his coat pockets. A match flared as he lit a cigarette. Without interest, I watched it glow each time he sucked in the smoke he craved. When he finished, he sent the end tumbling away onto rail ballast, where briefly it continued to glow.

The familiar tinkling of bells, coming from the control desk in the station office, told us the train was on its way. After about ten minutes, the steam locomotive's bright headlight bored through the mist briefly as it emerged from a cutting, in the distance toward Equator station several miles away. Shortly after, I heard the Sikh station master step from his office, his chaplis shuffling in the cinders of the platform's surface. I felt sure he would be carrying a metal hoop that he would somehow, without seeing properly, exchange with one brought by the loco's driver.

Faint at first, then strongly from just beyond station limits, the Garratt's siren blasted warning of its imminent arrival. The mist that way began to visibly brighten. Turning into the final straight, the loco's beam suddenly exposed the three of us in brilliant light. Blinking, we turned away in response. Underfoot, I distinctly felt the ground shake as the juggernaught approached and rushed passed. The moment darkness resumed a blast of heat from the loco's firebox hit us. The screech of iron shoes grinding against steel wheels jarred my teeth as the driver applied brakes to every carriage. Finally the train stopped with a shudder. The Ticket Examiner flashed his torch at us to show me to my reservation. As usual, at 0300 hours I was the only person to board.

Struggling to shove my trunk through the entrance doorway, I twisted my thumb on its beastly metal handle. Most compartments were still lit, so it was easy to find mine. Entering, I greeted two glum looking young fellows who only grunted a response. The Garratt's siren sounded and we were soon moving. I was hardly settled when shouts of 'Rabble' emanated from somewhere at the end of the corridor. Such address was of course unusual and, ignorant of its meaning I at first ignored it. I felt people were rude making such a lot of noise at this hour. Not many seconds elapsed, however, before I was forcibly seized by a couple of ruffians, manhandled to the far compartment and persuaded to introduce myself to several other aspiring thugs. The air inside was full of smoke and it stank of beer. From their intense questioning, I was soon aware that they wished to find grounds for unfair criticism, or any reason at all to mindlessly berate me. Much of this was demeaning, especially aspersions about my heredity. Having exhausted their verbal assault on me, they then demanded I sing for their entertainment. Not well gifted with this facility, my various attempts brought only displeasure, which brought on physical abuse to encourage me to perform better. What followed need not be recorded in detail. Fortunately my vilification did not last because more pupils boarded at Sabatia, the next station. With my tormentor's attention momentarily diverted, I escaped and made as fast as I could to the furthest end of the train. I spent the next hours until daybreak squatting with difficulty in an oriental style toilet. That was how the journey for my secondary education began, which turned out by comparison to have been typical experience for most of us.

First impression of the Prince of Wales School for boys was of the hierarchy under Acting Headmaster (Bush) Forest. Under directions from Masters, Prefects supervised all activities and virtually ran everything except tuition in class. Most seniors set a good example of behaviour, and attitude especially. Excellence in sports was most admired, perhaps to some extent to the detriment of academic achievement. Many seniors needed to shave and most seemed desperate to join the military before the war ended. Some really fine young men that did enlist were dead in months.

Authorised to cane miscreants, Prefects certainly instilled a sense of discipline. At the same time, they inculcated a wonderful sense of school spirit, initially by us 'rabble' sticking together to avoid the extended initiation and bullying performed almost exclusively by misguided individuals a year or so ahead. They made the first year miserable, even for day scholars. Seniors with a sense of action and leadership, and there were many, coached juniors into performing better, not just games and sports, but just about everything to do with school living. Caught smoking, one had the option of a caning from the Headmaster. Invariably the cuts were taken from a Prefect, even though they were believed to be much harder. Byron Georgiadis (Head of School) gave me five of the best for being caught on suspicion of smoking. It stung like the blazes but unfortunately did not break my habit. By chance and determination I quit without regret fifteen years later.

From the second year I enjoyed school life and activity to the full, though I did no work at all until my final year. Responding to good tuition in the last three terms, especially from (Dudu) Duff, (an Australian, who taught maths and science) I got a reasonable Cambridge Certificate. It qualified me for University but when I applied I found all places were being given to returning Servicemen. I wish now I had paid more attention to study, especially to English and History. Most teachers in my time can only be described as excellent. Potts, who taught English and Latin, had a crafty method for schooling Kenya youth. Not above chastising buffoons, louts or anyone inattentive, he would call on the class to decide the degree of punishment to inflict for any misdeed. Very soon there was competition among the boys to see who could bring into class a cane that best suited Potts' requirements, and to oft repeated shouts of "Flog him, Sir", some unfortunate individual provided the rest of us with a marvellous spectacle of a public beating. There was nothing at all serious in this. Just as soon as class was finished the matter would be forgotten. None of our vintage could ever forget (Mzee Kobe, so named because of the pith helmet he invariably wore) Atkinson, a man very much liked and respected, (not least for the occasional sighting of his two pretty daughters). Here was a man of guts who led by example, both in class and out. Despite an often quite severe speech impediment, he managed to communicate very well. Pupils sitting in the front row got used to avoiding showers of spit from his stuttering. A new student (1948) from Virginia USA named Ron Maddox produced his first essay typewritten, (naturally he was nicknamed Yank, and of course the only position vacant for him was at the front). Kobe reviewed his text in reasonably favourable terms, then informed Yank he would get no marks for it until he submitted a hand-written copy. A minor altercation ensued, whereupon Kobe exploded into a state of almost apoplexy. Delivering a word about every ten seconds, each one appearing to suddenly spew from deep within his chest, he had everyone's attention riveted on Yank, who he informed in no uncertain terms, could not under any circumstances use his machine for examinations. Yank retreated a couple of steps from the barrage of saliva and finally submitted (but it took several weeks before Kobe could read his handwriting).

Yank later started a weekly school newspaper entitled 'The Commentator' and he persuaded me to be sports editor. The majority of students, I told Ron, would prefer to spend ten cents to buy cigarettes rather than read anything. Using the Bursar's duplicating machine to produce copies for sale, the first edition flopped badly as predicted. Undismayed, Ron doubled the number of copies of the second edition, but this one did hardly better. From then on, however, every edition sold out. What became curious was that we never saw anyone reading our paper. Weeks later the mystery was solved when we learned all copies ended up at the 'heifer boma' and other schools for girls.

I represented school twice in triangular Athletics Tournaments, in 400yds relay. Alliance High won both times. In the annual five-mile cross-country race I finished within the first ten three years in succession. I played side drum in school band: Front row, l-r, Mike Tremlett, Ham O'Hara, Hendrik (Jock) Krause, Self, Dave Ommaney; George Outram euphonium; Frank (Stiffy) Mercier considered himself the star bugler; Eric Balson base drum; Drum Major Alf McIntyre (cousin); Band Master (Dudu) Knight. We performed before HE the Governor, Sir Philip Mitchell 1947, who took the salute at the Cadet's passing out parade.

Having played and enjoyed all sports, particularly hockey and rugby, upon leaving school, suddenly these healthy activities were sorely missed. Headmaster P Fletcher got me a position as a technical learner with EAPost&Telegraphs Department. The work was interesting and I continued studying and gained some City & Guilds of London Certificates. The aggressive attitude of many newly arrived personnel from UK, who filled most of the middle cardre of the Department, was strongly socialist and union minded. I found working under such people sometimes intolerable. Moreover, the local press at this time ran a long series of hurtful letters describing my generation as dissolute Kenya youth. Like Reggie Destro before me, transfers to country areas gave us the chance on weekends to follow our instincts for the great outdoors, mine with safaris to Yatta and Kasigau and later in Uganda to Karamoja and Chambura. These were some consolation.

With the outbreak of the Mau Mau rebellion, conscription 1953 to active military service in Kenya Regiment re-affiliated me with old school comrades. As compatriots, we were eager to defend our country from an evil that our Colonial Government by neglect had allowed to unnecessarily escalate, from a minor secret cult to tribal rebellion. We patrolled prohibited forests to seek and destroy gangs of Mau Mau, where by day they hid from Government, emerging as darkness fell to raid settlements, murder white farmers and many of their own people unwilling to support their cause. Sometimes we captured prisoners. Curiously, they all told us Jomo Kenyatta was their leader, which he vehemently denied at his trial. The real leader of Mau Mau was of course the cunning and evil Dedan Kimathi, and we came upon ample documentary evidence showing how he intended to run the country after his take-over. Had he succeeded, the result would have been catastrophic, with intolerable tyranny and utter chaos, and a great deal more blood let than in fact was shed putting down the insurrection. This aspect alone has never been sufficiently extolled and I am personally proud of my efforts to prevent it. Commanding Officer Col. Guy Campbell thought well enough of me to promote me Lieutenant. My service ended with me handing over my shoulder pips to Sergeant Chris Nicholas, who promptly let them fall from his hand in disgust. In fact he needed them soon enough.

At my third attempt I got the position of Warden in the Kenya Game Department 1960. For the next five years I was based in the Northern Frontier at Marsabit, then briefly at Wamba. During this time I learned to fly, the cost of 'ab initio' training being subsidised by Joy Adamson's Elsa Foundation. They were easily the finest years of my life. I retired from my position of Deputy Chief in the interests of Africanisation 1970, then worked in Tsavo National Park for several months as Pilot/Administrator under David Sheldrick at Voi. I applied and obtained a similar position in Zambia where UN/FAO with host Government planned to developed a wildlife utilisation project over three years in the Luangwa Valley. This area has important National Parks that enclose varied habitats that sustain abundant wildlife. If I was fortunate to work here, fate awaited me one day when a propeller blade sheared in flight from our single engine, necessitating a forced landing. Hollywood could not have portrayed the resulting situation better. With no clearing anywhere, we crashed into miombo woodland and my sole passenger and I received quite serious injuries. Mine needed further surgery in London. News of my accident having already reached her, at my mother's doorstep in Kent she greeted me thus: "Stan, you are a proper bloody Jonah!" I never did figure exactly what she meant.

At completion of the Luangwa project, I obtained a position in neighbouring Malawi as Deputy Chief Game Warden, where President Banda insisted forming a Department of National Parks and Wildlife. It is a great little country that I was sad to leave in 1979.

For the next five years I flew commercially to all parts of Kenya and neighbouring countries from Wilson Airport, mostly freelance, accumulating almost 4500 hours of flying. Corruption became all-pervasive in Kenya during this time, and when I observed aero engines being casually repaired in the dust outside on the tarmac, I figured it was time to leave the country. I was never going to accept an aircraft being treated like a matatu.

By good fortune I obtained Permits for myself and two daughters to enter Australia in 1984. I attended night school in Perth while doing various jobs, eventually qualifying for work in the travel industry until 1990.

Leaving Swanbourne Senior High school, my elder daughter Bonnie took an apprenticeship, qualified as a Chef, then married Andrew Crew. They have two boys, Cameron and Liam. Younger daughter Brenda took a BSc (Environmental Science) at University of Western Australia and has worked in several positions from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Albany in the south of Western Australia.

Escaping the concrete jungle 1991, I purchased an established 80 acre tree farm (Tasmanian Bluegums) that I worked for five years. This became another joyful period until a serious bout of pneumonia put paid to heavy physical activity.

I retired back to Perth where I have tried to write books. So far only one has been published. It is a collection of memoirs from 17 contributing Game Wardens, co-edited (via Internet) with Ian Parker in Kenya, entitled An Impossible Dream, ISBN 1-904440-20-7. It is available from Librario, 14 Harrow Close Inn, High Street, Elgin, Moray, Scotland UK IV30 1BP or see

Have I had a good life so far? You bet, thanks to fortunate opportunities (bahati na sibu) that came my way and the lifelong comradeship of fellow travellers from a fine institution.
Did I receive a good education at the Prince of Wales School? By the standards of the day, I believe I most certainly did. However, many factors that helped mould my character and develop my personality, such as inter-personal skills, were learned by default from activity in the environment outside class. Other qualities learned this way included respect for self and others, manliness, originality, independence of thought and action. Much of the curriculum of study we followed was of no use in subsequent careers. We were taught nothing of skills for life that would have better prepared us for the road ahead. I believe tuition should have at least included a comprehensive overview about the personal relationships that we would need to form, and we acquired almost no practical knowledge to successfully manage personal finance (is it so difficult to learn to read a Balance Sheet?). Sadly, I note that even today such topics and many other important life skills are only lightly touched upon and not fully embraced at High Schools.

Image of Stan Bleazard 1946
Stan Bleazard (Rhodes House) - 1946

(Registered - 14th July 2003)

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