Old Cambrian Society

  OC Society
  OC Alumni
  OC News
  Events Diary
  Register Here
  Impala Project
  Where are they?
  Contact us

   Walter Robert Smith


Walter Robert Smith

House: Hawke
Year: 1936-1939

I joined Prince of Wales School together with my brother Cyril in October 1936, both having been at Nairobi Primary School. The school year started in September in those days. We were both in Hawke House and I had to leave the school in September 1939 as my youngest brother, Peter, had passed the school entrance exam at Nairobi Primary, and was due to come to Prince of Wales School. Our parents couldn't afford school fees for 3 boarders, and the Education Department told Dad that one of us had to become a day scholar. Dad refused to entertain this as it meant cycling over 6 miles from the centre of Nairobi, (he was the Caretaker at the Standard Bank of South Africa and we lived in the Bank flat), and his opinion was that I wouldn't be fit enough to study from 8.30am to 5.30pm after cycling, the majority being uphill!

Memories of the School:
  • As a 12 year old being away from home, and a boarder in a strange environment, as I remember, took some getting used to, particularly at the end of the first term when all new boys were expected to chew soap, get well and truly dunked in a bath of freezing cold water (having stood overnight), then run the gauntlet naked down a line of wet towel-wielding older boys who didn't spare the swings!
  • Learning to play rugby and being hard tackled by Jimmy Gledhill, maths master and coach.
  • Joining the school O.C.T.U. (Officer-Corps Training Unit) and the .303 rifle team, as I had been in Cubs and Scouts, and the school winning trophy .22 rifle team at Nairobi Primary School - all an eye opener, particularly using the .303 for the first time. I can still feel the kick in my shoulder!!
  • Capt. Nicholson (R.N. Retired) was the Headmaster and a strict disciplinarian, but was fair and well liked. I can still feel the six across the backside he gave me for saying "bloody" on the cricket field! After School:
    After leaving school, I worked in a garage for 4 months and then joined the East African Power and Lighting co. Ltd. (EAP & L) as an electrical apprentice on 1st Feb 1940. On reaching 18 years of age in Sept 1941, I was called up into the armed forces on 28th October 1941, and was discharged on 9th October 1946 having served with the 2nd and 13th Nyasaland (now Malawi) Battalions, Kings African Rifles, in Kenya, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India and Burma, 21st E.A. Infantry Brigade and 11th E.A. Division, chasing the Japs out of Burma!!

    After being discharged, I rejoined the EAP&L as an Improver Engineer on 4th Nov 1946, having been told that I was too old to complete my apprenticeship. In June 1949 I was seconded to Balfour Beatty Co. at Pangani Falls Power Station in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) where I met my future wife Sylvia, who's father was the Power Station Superintendent. The Station was being increased with 2 additional turbines, and I was helping with the construction of an overhead 33KV line to the main sub-station approx 8 miles away at Mnyusi. I think it was in May 1948 that I was transferred back to EAP&L and sent to their Mombasa Branch as a Low Tension and Service Mains Engineer. A lot of expansion and reconstruction was going on after the war.

    Sylvia and I were married in June 1949 and Glen was born in March 1950. In Sept 1952 I was transferred to the Nakuru Branch as Assistant Mains Engineer and remained there until Nov 1964, then transferred to Central Area, Nairobi, where I remained until leaving the service of the Company on 25th Jan. 1967. We left Kenya on 26th Jan. 1967, and emigrated to New Zealand to start a new life. Our prime reason for emigrating was because we could see no future job prospects for our three children after Kenya's Independence, due to deteriorating employment prospects.

    On arrival in Auckland, New Zealand, my first job was as an outdoor salesman, commission basis, selling household furniture to the housewife! This lasted for 3 month, but I wasn't very successful and so decided to return to something I knew and so joined the Auckland Electric Power Board (AEPB) on 10th June 1967 (decimal currency start day in NZ) and remained with them for 21 years, retiring in June 1988. My wife, Sylvia, wanted to get back to sunny weather, so we emigrated to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia in April 1989 and hopefully will remain here for the remainder of our lives.

    We now are proud grandparents of 9 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren! We've had our ups and downs over the years, but I don't think we would change anything.

    (Registered - 29th July 2007)

    David Smith with his 3 sons, (left to right) Peter, Walter, and Cyril
    and daughter Florence outside the Prince of Wales School, Nairobi - c.1936

    Kate Smith with her children (left to right): Cyril, Florence, Peter and Walter.
    Photo taken same day as above photo - c.1936

  • If anyone wishes to contact Walter, please e-mail webmaster@oldcambrians.com to obtain his contact details