Adventures with the Divisional Commissioner

Adventures with the Divisional Commissioner

John Millard as Divisional Commissioner oversaw  two thirds of Bechuanaland Protectorate (which is a little bit smaller than Texas).  He travelled with his family in the caboose to cover the area between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers in the north and south and including 11,000 square miles of the Okavango Swamp, the great Makgadikgadi Pan, Lake Ngami and the Kalahari Desert wastelands.  To the far west was South West Africa and in the east the Rhodesian border.

Adventures with the Divisional Commissioner

Tim Hughes usually spent mid-term breaks, Easter and Rhodes & Founders long weekends with his Uncle John Millard, the Divisional Commissioner of Northern Bechuanaland.  Tim travelled 60 miles south from Plumtree to Francistown by train to stay with him, his wife Corinne and daughter Philippa.

If John and Corinne were busy, their African chauffeur would collect him from the railway station. Riding in the very latest Chevrolet sedan with a chauffeur was a great thrill. John always made sure that Tim’s visits were exciting, usually camping and shooting.

Adventures with the Divisional Commissioner

The most memorable visit was to an area north of  Makgadikgadi Pan.  A group of tough Afrikaner men accompanied John and Tim on that shooting trip. They had the luxury of a caboose (caravan on an eight ton truck) to sleep in, while the men just lay on the ground with blankets over their heads to keep the mosquitoes off. There were plenty of elephants in the area.  One morning, there was much excitement in the camp, when one of the men, on waking, noticed a large heap of fresh elephant dung right next to his head.  This chap, doing the cooking one evening, tasted some of the antelope stew, burnt his tongue, and spat his false teeth into the pot. Of course, everyone still ate the stew.

One Easter, John was asked to shoot a rogue elephant raiding African crops near Serowe. A campsite was set up in thick mopani veld (bush) in an isolated area. Jack Chase, who hunted man-eater lions, arrived to help John and learn about elephants. The pair used horses as the veld was too thick for a vehicle. To his dismay, Tim was left in camp with the servants but understood how dangerous the hunting might be.

Their Bushman tracker found the elephant.  They left the horses with him to hold and proceeded on foot. They could not see the elephant clearly in the thick scrub.  Their shots only wounded it, but by the sound of things the elephant was charging towards them.  They made a hasty retreat to the horses.  John jumped on.  The Bushman disappeared.

Jack also mounted, but the saddle slipped.  The horse began bucking.  Jack clung on but his hat flew off.  The charging elephant stopped to demolish it.  John wheeled his horse and shot the elephant precisely.

Jack went on to be a professional elephant hunter.

Since Tim had missed all the excitement, John took him duck shooting the next day.  On their return to Francistown, he had his first flight, a joy ride with John in his claret Tiger Moth.

Tim Hughes got a joy ride in John Millard's Tiger Moth he had purchased for 180 pounds

Tim Hughes got a joy ride in John Millard’s Tiger Moth bought for 180 pounds in the 1950’s

Many thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the he excerpts from his unpublished manuscript Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s and to the John Millard family for use of the photos from his autobiography “Never a Dull Moment” (a wonderful read available on Amazon UK and by purchase from the Millard family via the comments section of this blog).