SpanglefishBetty Clay | sitemap | log in

1936 - 1939

THIS page covers Betty's life from her marriage up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

It covers several moves, and also the birth of her two eldest children.

Betty and Gervas were married in Bentley, Hants on 24th September, 1936, and sailed immediately for Africa on the brand new RMS_Dunnottar_Castle (maiden voyage July 1936).  Betty arrived in Northern Rhodesia as a married woman in October 1936.  

Gervas was posted to Sesheke, at that time little more than a small village, in Barotseland, on the Northern bank of the Zambesi some 125 miles upstream from Livingstone, at that time the Capital of the country.

Sesheke was their first married home.  There were no roads in the area, and no motor vehicles - all their supplies came up-river by paddled barge from Livingstone; these then travelled right up the Zambesi as far as Balovale in the far North West of Northern Rhodesia.  Gervas's colleague in Balovale, if he wanted a bottle of whisky, found that he had to order a case, for by the time the barge reached him, his colleagues down river would have inspected the barge contents, and he would (with luck) receive one bottle, with a clutch of IOUs.

Betty and Gervas's daughter was born on 14th June 1937. At that time there were but eight Government doctors in the entire country, though there were many missionary doctors.  Betty left Sesheke on 2nd May and flew to Livingstone, then went to see a doctor in Lusaka, which had just been made the Capital.  There, an X-ray was taken, that prompted the doctor to send her off to Johannesburg for the birth.

While Betty was away, Gervas was posted to Mankoya (now Kaoma) in Barotseland, roughly half way between Mongu, the capital of Barotseland, and Lusaka, the capital of Northern Rhodesia.  To get there, Gervas went by barge to Mongu, and then, there being no roads nor vehicles, he walked the 140 miles to Mankoya.

After a period of recuperation from the birth, Betty and a Nanny (sent out from England by Gervas's parents) travelled back to Northern Rhodesia by train to Livingstone, from where on 17th July they flew to Mankoya.  Upon take-off from Mankoya, the plane crashed, though the pilot escaped with cuts and bruises.

They spent a happy time in Mankoya, but in late 1938 Gervas was appointed as Counsel for the Baroste Government before a Commission set up to adjudicate between the Barotse and the Lovale tribes; this required Gervas (and his family) to move temporarily to Mongu, the capital of Barotseland.

On 21st March, 1939, Betty flew to Lusaka with her daughter, and then flew on to Kenya to stay with her parents, who, by this time, had retired to live in Kenya.  Betty's eldest son was born there on his parent's shared birthday, the 16th of April 1939.  On 31st May, Betty and her two children flew back to Lusaka, then home to Mankoya.

Gervas's Contract of Employment provided for Home Leave every 21/2 to 3 years, so they were due to go back to England on leave in September 1939, but for some reason that leave was cancelled.  They went  instead on holiday to Hout Bay near Capetown.


Page Last Updated - 29/12/2016
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