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THE MURDER OF DAG HAMMARSKJOLD, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL IN 1961

 

SHORTLY after midnight on September 18, 1961, the world was stunned by the news that a chartered DC-6 aircraft carrying the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (only the second man to hold the post at the time) had crashed near Ndola, then Northern Rhodesia, Zambia today. Fourteen other people including other UN employees also lost their lives. Hammarskjold was on a peace-keeping machine in the newly independent Congo. At first pilot error was blamed but it was not long before people were talking about foul play. That is the way it stood until last year when The Guardian scored a great exclusive in finding the man who was responsible for the crash. A Belgian pilot Jan van Risseghem was identified as the man who shot down DC-6. He was never brought to justice, he died before that.

ONE of the first people at the scene where bits of the DC-6 had come down all over the place was Adrian Begg. At the time he was a policeman and later turned his skills to journalism. We worked at The Nation in Nairobi. Like so many people at the paper, he was a delightful chap. I tracked him down to an old folks’ home in Victoria but have not been able to find any more about him. Below is his report on the horrific crash site scene:

 

It began as a normal, quiet Sunday shift at Ndola’s central police station, where I had been stationed as a young assistant inspector since completing my training six months earlier – but it soon became obvious there was something big on the go. Officers were being called in from home, and in the early afternoon I was sent with a squad of other officers to secure Ndola Airport and put it in security lockdown in readiness for VIP arrivals. The word quickly spread among us that Dag Hammarskjöld was expected.


A twisted propellor and the charred remains of an engine. Investigators were able to deduce that the plane was operating under normal approach power when it crashed.

My job was to secure the airport car park, outside the perimeter fence, and at one point I was ordered to stop the waiting media posse from following Katanga’s rebel leader Moise Tshombe, who was being taken to a nearby government residence to await Hammarskjöld’s arrival. As Tshombe’s car swept past I used the simple tactic of driving a police Land Rover across the road, forming an effective blockade which brought the media convoy to a screeching halt. It wasn’t a popular move – a couple of the journalists were mates of mine.

It was a long, boring wait. Nobody seemed to have any idea what time Hammarskjöld was due, and very little information was filtering through to those of us on the ground. A plane landed we thought must be his but we learned later that it was the British politician, Lord Lansdowne, who had also come from Leopoldville.

Then, around midnight local time, another plane arrived over the airport. From where I was standing near the boundary fence, parallel with the runway, it was low enough to see the cabin and navigation lights, all of which were on. It headed away towards the west. Sometime later the runway lights were turned off and a senior officer, Supt. Bob Read if memory serves me correctly, came out of the airport building to tell the police on duty outside that we could stand down. We asked him why the plane hadn’t landed and he just shrugged and said that apparently Hammarskjöld had changed his mind and gone elsewhere which, we learned later, was the official line set by Lord Alport, the British High Commissioner, who had taken charge of the arrangements that day.

I went back to Ndola Central police station to knock off, and before going home for the night a few of us were sitting around in the control room drinking coffee and chatting about the day’s events (or non-events, in the case of Hammarskjöld’s arrival). Marius van Wyk, who had been on security duty at the house where Tshombe was staying, arrived somewhat excited about what he had seen – a bright flash that lit up the sky soon after Hammarskjöld’s plane flew over. This started us speculating that something had happened to the plane.




 A United Nations logo adorns one of the few recognisable pieces of wreckage. The DC6 was painted in its new white livery only weeks before the fatal crash when it was bought by the Swedish company Transair for charter to the UN for use in its Congo mission.

Marius was sufficiently convincing for me to phone the airport to report what he had seen. (Why I got the job of making the call, I’m not sure. Probably because I was nearest the phone). When I failed to get through, another officer, Keith Pennock, and I drove to the airport which was then in darkness and apparently deserted (it was after 3am). We went to the control tower, which was open, and found the radio operator asleep. We woke him, told him of our concerns, and he said we should tell John Williams, the airport manager, who had just returned from an overseas holiday and was staying at the Rhodes Hotel in Ndola. We rang the hotel but got no answer, so Pennock and I then drove there. Williams wasn’t overjoyed at being woken up and I still recall his exact words when we told him what Marius had seen, and our concern that this might mean the plane had crashed: “That just doesn’t happen. VIP planes don’t crash.” He told us nothing could be done in the middle of the night and there would be no point ordering an air search before first light.

Did Williams know more than he was letting on that night? I don’t think so. Obviously, he was irritable at being roused from his bed by two very junior police officers, but my memory is of a man grappling with a situation that was spiralling out of his control. I believe he genuinely wanted to believe, as he told Keith Pennock and me, that the plane would turn up safely on the ground somewhere in the morning.

Because we weren’t happy about Williams’ apparent lack of concern, I phoned Mufulira police and suggested they send out a road patrol to search in the area Marius had indicated. Then we phoned one of our senior officers to report developments and to get his permission for Ndola police also to send out a road patrol. Between them, the patrols would cover the road between Ndola and Mufulira and hopefully, might be able to spot burning wreckage.

(All three of us were very junior officers. I was 20, Keith, as I recall, was 21, and Marius would have been about 22, so we were taking quite a lot on ourselves in going against the advice of an experienced airport manager that there was no cause for concern).

It is to my eternal regret that our patrols failed to find the crash site that night as we might have been able to save the life of Harold Julien, who was still alive at that time, and perhaps even Hammarskjöld himself, who according to some sources, may have survived for a short time after the crash.



A searcher picks his way through the wreckage, which was strewn over a wide area.

On Tuesday, September 19, the day after the discovery of the plane, I volunteered to assist the team working on the ongoing search of the wreckage and took a number of photographs of the devastation using Kodachrome 35mm slide film (these images have since been digitised). While I was searching I found a body, believed to be that of the Swedish security guard Pvt. Per Persson. The bodies of the other victims had been removed the previous day, and because of initial confusion about the number of people on board, Persson’s body, well hidden beneath the debris, had been overlooked.

The body had what appeared to be bullet wounds and my recollection is there was a 9mm sub-machinegun in the wreckage nearby, which we surmised was the cause. He could well have been holding the weapon on his lap when the plane crashed or maybe even have been loading it preparatory to landing in what he would probably have considered to be alien territory (there was no reason why the gun should have been kept loaded during the flight, but obviously he would have wanted to be prepared for anything once they landed).

The soldiers’ wounds remain one of the mysteries of the crash, and like so many other questions that are still being asked, we don’t know all the answers even after fifty years.

My view? As someone who for many years was a journalist and who, during a brief career as a policeman had a very minor role on the fringes of this tragic and momentous event, I’m tempted by the theory of Ockham’s Razor. This tells us that when there are many competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation is usually the most reliable.


 

 

 


JOHNNY LOBO, BRILLIANT CRICKET



One of East Africa's outstanding, a multi-talented sportsman, Johnny Lobo who is 93, looks back on a cricketing career
that can only be described as brilliant. He was also one of
the most outstanding soccer goalkeepers, a stalwart of the
wonderful Nairobi Heroes team for many, many years.
There were three outstanding Goan cricketers in Kenya:
C.M. Gracias, Blaise D'Cunha, Johnny Lobo.

Johnny Lobo

Memories of a brilliant cricketer

Memories of a Brilliant Cricketer – Johnny Lobo


The Early Years – My family’s Move to Kenya

It was my father’s brother-in-law S.R. Rodrigues who was the first pioneer from our family who ventured out of Goa and crossed the Indian Ocean on a dhow with the Arab traders to Mombasa in 1895. Later he was instrumental in convincing my father Evaristo Lobo, that he could get him a well-paid Government job in Kenya. My father agreed and came over on a steamer in 1911 and began working. A few years later my father got extremely sick and returned to Goa. When he had recovered and was still in Goa, as was typical in those days a proposal arrived from my mother’s family Benjamin Mendes from Aldona for their daughter Maria Mendes. My father married my mother in 1918 and returned to Kenya. My siblings were born shortly after Joseph 1919, Victor 1921, Francis 1923, Eulalia 1925 and Clara 1929. I was the 5th child born on December 27th, 1927. We grew up in Ngara in the staff housing that was built by the British rulers for Goan and Indian government staff, it was known as the Government Quarters neighbourhood. My 3 older brothers were sent to study at St. Stanislaus’ Bombay and were active sports players at school, while my sisters and I attended Dr Ribeiro Goan School (DRGS) in Parklands. It was at this school where my love of all sports began.

 

Dr Ribeiro Goan School and Ngara Quarter Neighbourhood – The foundation

Each day at our half-hour break, the boys would race out of the class to grab the cricket bat, because as we had observed the batter played on till he was bowled out. The excitement and enthusiasm for the game were beginning to take hold in each of us as young boys and I even remember a time when some Goan politics kicked in among the teachers and they left the school, we decided to make the most of the free periods to play our game. This is when we started to play actual matches, eleven players on each side, some of the names I remember are Philip Gracias, Alex and Rui Rodrigues, Willie Paes, Marcus Braganza, Monty D’Sa, Alan D’Cunha and off course myself. Incredibly our first match lasted 3 months, but in those 3 months, we continued to get better.

Our passion for the game continued even after the bell rang to end our day at school. As many of my classmates also lived in my neighbourhood, we would race home and play daily from 4-6 in the evening, the neighbourhood boys included Maurice and Philip Gracias, Batu and Dennis Noronha, Marcus and Henry Braganza, Alu Mendonca and Silu Fernandes.

Building on the newfound confidence we decided to play our first test match against the Government Indian School (GIS) on matting. It was a remarkable result because we not only won the match, but I also scored my first century in the game. Boosted by this win we went on to play our next match against the Prince of Wales school and thanks to a fine inning by Monty D’Sa of 50 runs with good support from Alan D’Cunha of 30 runs, we won that game too. Another impressive victory of my own, for DRGS, was when I scored 2 centuries against Mombasa Goan School 110 and Allidini Visram School 105.

 

The Railway Goan Institute (R.G.I.) – Building on the foundation

My uncle Jack Mendes (my mother’s brother), who captained the R.G.I. on weekends would often take me, then just a young boy of 11years to watch the games. Being the captain of the team and my uncle, if a player did not show up, he would ask me to stand in for that player. This opportunity tremendously improved my game as I played with young men who were more experienced in the game than I was.

In the late 1940s, having left school, I officially began playing for R.G.I and our regular side included Maurice Gracias, Adolf D’Mello, C. Ferrao, Batu Noronha, Piety Fernandes, Henry D’souza, Willie Paes, Donald Gonsalves, Ruben Rebello, Darrell Carvalho, Sydney Machado, Teddy Gomes and Cecil Fonseca. Maurice Gracias was a brilliant cricketer who dominated on the R.G.I. side for several years. He was educated at the Government Indian School and was the first Goan to represent the Asians against the Europeans. He retired from cricket 2 seasons after I joined. While on the team I scored a few centuries most notably against the Aga Khan Club where I scored 130 runs and Nairobi Club where I scored 133 runs.

The Cricket season in Nairobi started in October and ended in March. In those 6 months, every Sunday we enjoyed many matches between clubs. The sports secretaries of each club would meet and draw up fixtures for the home and away games.

There were 10 Asian clubs:


1.      S.V.I.G.

2.      Patel Club

3.      Sikh Union

4.      Sir Ali Muslim Club

5.      Kathiawar Club

6.      Visa Oswald Club

7.      Surat District Club

8.      Aga Khan Club

9.      Railway Goan Institute (R.G.I.)

10.  Railway Indian Institute


 

There were 7 European clubs:


1.      Nairobi Club

2.      European Civil Club

3.      Impala Club

4.      Woodley Club

5.      Parkland Sport Club

6.      Wanderers Club

7.      Railway European Club


 

In the 1950s, we made a trip to Moshi to play against the Tanganyika Twigas, a mostly European side. Blaize DaCunha the great Kenyan spin bowler dominated that game with an inning of 125 runs. The scoreboard read: -

R.G.I.      178 for 5 - 1st Inning declare
Twigas   25 follow on 28

In the early 1960s, R.G.I. was invited to participate in the Asian Sports Association Knockout Tournament and had a sensational first match where we beat the Patel Club, then beat the Kathiawar Club in the second match. We went on to meet the Coast Gymkhana side in the quarter-finals at the Sikh Union Club grounds. We batted first and only scored 138 runs, but with great determination, we bowled out the Coast Gymkhana for 125 runs to win the match. Donald Gonsalves bowled well and most of the Coast team were out due to the brilliant catches by the R.G.I team. We then went on to face the Muslim Club in the semi-finals. We batted first and only managed 90 runs for 8. Then came Cecil Fonseca our 9th player who scored a sensational 95 runs, hitting 4 sixes and we were all out for 210 runs. In this match, Zulfikar Ali on the Muslim side was in fine form and bowled well in the match. The Muslim side began batting and at first, it seemed like they were in trouble 110 runs for 9. Blaze D’Cunha was playing well, but our captain began to panic and changed him after 1 over. Then came the Muslim side’s Basharat Hassan and Mubarak Ali who led the team to victory and won the match for the Muslim Club. Our goal of creating history with a Goan Victory in this renowned tournament was denied.

It was always the practice of each sports team to elect their captain. However, the rules suddenly changed one year, when the Hockey and Badminton ladies and men’s teams took part in the voting process and voted in the new Cricket captain for our team. This was an unprecedented and unacceptable practice which led to a few of us (non-railway workers “associate members” who had no voice in the management of the Club practices) splitting off from the R.G.I side. At this time, Dr Shashi Patel a Railway doctor asked a few of us to join the Railway European Club, which we did for 2 seasons, as Kenya’s independence was looming, players were leaving the country and the Clubs were shutting down. We then moved our game to the Wanderers Cricket Club, a beautiful setting at the beginning of the Kiambu Road, where we played for 3 seasons and they too shut down. The saddest part was to see our R.G.I. Club House had been demolished and the grounds dug up to make way for a boarding Government school complex.  



In Parallel – My Selections in Notable Matches

On my first local leave from work, I was asked to play for the Goan Institute (G.I.) against the Nazi Moja Club in Mombasa. Playing at the coast with an altitude of 57 feet above sea level with humidity was difficult at first. I only scored 50 runs. My host Armand D’Souza pulled me aside and gave me some profound advice that stayed with me throughout my career, “getting to 50 is the hard part, but once you score 50 you are well set, so just go for a 100”. On my next visit to Mombasa, a Saturday game playing again for the G.I. against Mombasa Club, my partner was Joe Fernandes, I remembered Armand’s advice and went for the century. 

In the late 1940s, I was selected to play for the Nairobi Asian Team touring Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam. It was a great game which we won. In the 1950s I was selected to play against the South African Coloured Team which was captained by the famous Basil D’Oliveira in Nakuru at the Rift Valley Sports Club and I was further selected to play against the Rhodesian Team on the Sikh Union ground. In the 1960s, an honour ever cricketer on our team hoped for and I was fortunate to have been given, was to be selected for the match between the Europeans and Asians. The Europeans lead 11 to Asians 1. We turned that game on its head and beat the Europeans. The Asians dominated, won one match after the other, equalizing the series with the last game ending in a record win for the Asians 450 runs with Akhil Lakhani’s 230 runs n.o. and Chandrakant Patel’s 220 runs n.o.

Kenya Commercial League


LtoR: Maura, Jasmer and Johnny at Porter House, Nairobi Kenya

In the 1950s, Jasmer Singh a great cricketer and my close friend, together with Maurice Wright, John MacFarlane and myself formed the Kenya Commercial League for teams which included government offices, banks and companies in the private sector. The games would be played off-season i.e. from July to October. The competitive sportsmanship in this league was exceedingly high and most enjoyable and it drew top players from the Asian Clubs.

I captained the Ministry of Works (M.O.W) side and in our very first season I scored 5 centuries in a row, 4 n.o. and held the record in the league. A game worth mentioning was when Luis D’Souza playing for Gailey & Roberts hit 11 sixes in a match against M.O.W. played on the Patel Club grounds. Other notable great names in cricket in those days included Ramanbhai Patel, Zulfikar Ali, Jawahir Shah, Akhil Lakhani and Chandrakant Patel.

Shortly after my record game in July of that year, the next big upcoming match was Kenya vs. Tanzania which would be held in August of that year. The organizing committee decided to have the scouting selection matches for 17 players at the Patel Club grounds and I was invited to tryout. By the time it was my turn to bat, it was about 6 p.m., the sun had begun to set and the light was diminishing. Throughout my cricket career, my greatest stroke was on the offside. The bowler was Dr Ranjit Singh a known fast bowler with a new ball. I defended my wicket but unfortunately got trapped on the pads. The devastating result for me, was when I was told later that day, that I could not play off-break bowling, and therefore not selected to represent Kenya.

 

My final Cricket years


Our Wedding 1959, Nairobi Kenya with the cricket bat and soccer ball arch.

In 1959, I got married to Maura Lobo from Kampala Uganda. We started our family in the early 1960s-1970s with 3 sons; John, James and Jerry and 3 daughters; Mary Ann, Melita and Michelle. My cricket career continued after independence and throughout my children’s young years into the mid-1970s where I played seasonal games for the Goan Institute (G.I.) side with players like Sunil Sarkar, Yunis Cockar and Alvito Rego. I finally passed on my cricket bat to my son Jerry and even some of our friend’s sons hoping they would take this great game into the future with them.

Having left Kenya in December 1993 and now a citizen of Canada residing in Oakville, Ontario, I still love to watch my children and grandsons pick up the cricket bat and play a match. At the age of 92, my great joy is still when they ask me to join them to bat.