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I speak of Africa

West Africa

During the 1920s and 1930s The Times published several special numbers dedicated to particular events or to individual countries or colonies. The purpose of this British West Africa number was ‘to present a picture of Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.’ Its articles cover a wide range of topics, from history, trade and health to religion, education and agriculture.

A training workshop, as depicted in:The Times British West Africa number, October 30th, 1928. London: Times Publishing Company, 1928 [FCO Historical Collection FOL DT497 TIM]A training workshop, as depicted in:The Times British West Africa number, October 30th, 1928. London: Times Publishing Company, 1928 [FCO Historical Collection FOL DT497 TIM]Given the several articles describing the different opportunities that ‘offer themselves to prospective candidates’ in the colonies, be it in the Civil Service, commercial companies or in the Royal West African Frontier Force (the WAFF), it seems that this publication was also intended as a recruitment tool for the ‘right type of youth,’ namely ‘one who will not unwillingly surrender himself to depression on the one hand or temptation on the other.’

However, the paper warned that even though, ‘both in the Civil Service and in commercial life there were prizes to be won and the opportunity to give loyal and unsparing service to West Africa and the Empire, the life was a strenuous one [and] there were times when loneliness and possibly hardship would be the lot of the man who had chosen to face it.’

One such hardship was the ‘necessity for continued separation from children and home’, a topic, which is also discussed by Daphne Moore in her article ‘Women in West Africa: life in town and bush’. In the article, Moore, who was the wife of Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore, the then deputy chief secretary in Nigeria and later governor of Sierra Leone and Kenya, gives an insight into the life of the wives of civil servants in West Africa. Commenting on the food available, she mentions that ‘tinned food plays an important part in the daily diet’ and that ‘fresh milk is unobtainable.’ As far as servants are concerned:

[a] small domestic staff consists of a cook, a steward and a gardener ; a larger one includes a second boy, a ‘small boy’ and a cook’s mate. The steward and second boy are indoor servants, the small boy is a general factotum who does most of the house-work, carries golf clubs, fields balls at tennis, and receives the blame for anything that goes wrong; and the ‘cookoo matee’ is usually retainer and apprentice to the cook by private arrangement.

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