Tag Archives: bamenda

Ivan Steadman RAOC 1957-59.

24 Jan

My name is Ivan Steadman and I have just finished reading Alan’s book which I found especially interesting.
I am just a couple of months younger than Alan and I did my National Service with the RAOC from April 1957 to April 1959.
I am contacting you because, as a result of the plebiscite in Cameroon that you mention, it was necessary to change the currency in the former British Southern Cameroon. The old Nigerian pounds shillings and pence had to be collected in and the CFA franc given out on exchange.
I had been out of the army for over three years when I was one of about a dozen volunteers, all employees of Barclays Bank, who went out to Cameroon to help with this task.
I was there from March to July 1962 and I spent a couple of months in the villages around Bamenda, a month in the villages near Mamfe and the rest of the time I was in Buea. We were split up into teams of two English bankers and two French bankers alone with a local cook, driver and boy. We had two or three vehicles per team. When we drove north, we went up to Kumba and then we crossed the border into the French Cameroon where the roads were a lot better! We could usually make the journey from Buea to Bamenda in a day.
Around Bamenda we were given a schedule of villages to visit and, typically, we spent about a week at each one. We had to find our own accommodation at each village and, occasionally, this meant us living in mud huts but we always chose ones with corrugated iron roofs! Substantially, we lived off the land, so we got a lot of our food from the local markets which, rather confusingly, we’re usually held every eight days rather than weekly. Unlike your experience, we all kept healthy and none of us Europeans even had a stomach upset. This must reflect great credit on our cook. I was appointed chicken buyer for my group. Some of them were very scrawny but the cook used to feed them on maize and it was uprising how quickly they fattened up. Although living conditions were very basic I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon and one very quickly learned how to look after oneself!
Before going out we had a briefing in London and we were informed that there might be terrorist activity in the areas we would be visiting. We did not give too much weight to this and, I am happy to say, we did not have any problems in this respect. However, we did see several burnt out huts which we were told had been destroyed by terrorists.
It occurs to me that I, and all my colleagues who went out to Cameroon in 1962, should be very grateful to you, and all your fellow soldiers who, at considerable personal risk, sorted out a lot of this problem before we arrived. Thank you all very much for what you did.
Since my return from Cameroon I have only come across one person who had been to Cameroon. He was a professional photographer and went out there to photograph the wildlife. That country is hardly on the tourist trail.
Thanks again for what you did and for writing the book.

Kindest regards

Ivan Stedman

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