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Full text of "MAN HUNT IN KENYA"




They had underestimated the physical strength of 
their adversaries. One of our men, Waira, was thrown 
backwards into the bush. Njeru fell over when his 
leg was grabbed. Thia almost lost his revolver. With- 
in seconds knives were flashing, and everyone was 
wriggling and kicking on the ground in the darkness. 
A heavy body fell on Njertfs face. He was choking. 
He gasped, he bit, but in vain. Waira, bleeding from 
a knife wound on his arm, broke loose and went to 
help Njeru. An elbow hit him in the cheek and 
knocked him over, and a terrorist dropped on him. 
Over and over they rolled until the terrorist was 
under him. This was not a time to worry about 
bringing them back alive it was a fight for life. 
Waira pulled his knife from its sheath and plunged it 
deep into his opponent's chest. . . . 





This low-priced Bantam Book 

has been completely reset in a type face 

designed for easy reading, and was printed 

from new plates. It contains the complete 

text of the original hard-cover edition. 


A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with 
Doubleday and Company 


Doubleday edition first published in 1958 
Bantam edition / January 1983 

Maps by Alan McKnight. 
Inside illustrations by Greg Beecham. 

All rights reserved. 
Copyright > 1958 by Ian Henderson 6 Philip Goodhart. 

Cover art copyright 1987 by Hiram Richardson. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-10022. 

This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by 

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Ian Henderson's book is an account of the most 
important pseudo-gang operation in the whole campaign 
against Mau Mau terrorists in Kenya. The operation was 
designed to apprehend Dedan Kimathi, militant head of 
Mau Mau, and it succeeded. 

The pseudo-gang technique was not evolved in Kenya; 
it was used many years earlier in Palestine, both during 
the Arab and Jewish rebellions in that country and 
subsequently in Malaya against the Chinese Communist 
terrorists. But it achieved its widest measure of success in 

Henderson's book is confined to the single operation 
which resulted in Kimathi's capture. Yet the story epito- 
mises the tactics used by Field Intelligence officers in the 
earlier days of the emergency, earned a step further by 
Special Force Teams led by Army, Administrative, and 
police officers at a later stage and ultimately perfected and 
executed with boldness, great courage, and outstanding 
success by Henderson himself. 

His account does not attempt to describe or explain 
how he was able to convert captured Mau Mau terrorists 
to his own use almost overnight. If a brief answer to this is 
possible, it is that his deep knowledge of the Kikuyu 
people, their language and their customs, enabled him to 
reach into their minds and influence their thoughts in the 
way he wished. He knew the enemy as did few, if any, 
other Europeans in Kenya's security forces. 

Commissioner of Police, Kenya 

30th December, 1957 























19 "HOT SCRUM" 200 




A F R 














Early in the afternoon of the seventh of October, 
1952, Chief Waruhiu was shot and killed seven miles 
outside Nairobi. He was murdered in the best Chicago 
style: His car was forced to a halt by the side of the road, 
and three gunmen walked over to him and opened fire at 
point-blank range. The chiefs funeral was impressive. It 
was attended by several thousand of his fellow Kikuyu 
tribesmen. The new Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, was 
there, and so was Jomo Kenyatta, then the most promi- 
nent African politician in Kenya. The size and eminence of 
the congregation were in part a tribute to Waruhiu's 
position and personality he had been a chief for thirty 
years and had received the M.B.E. earlier that year. In 
part it was also a recognition of the extraordinary circum- 
stances surrounding Waruhiu's death. This was just one of 
many murders and acts of violence ascribed to Mau Mau, 
the secret, subversive movement that was growing in- 
creasingly bold. A few days before his death Chief Waruhiu 
had condemned Mau Mau. The bullets in his head and 
stomach were the terrorists' reply. 

For two more weeks the violence and rumours of 
violence spread. Then a state of emergency was proclaimed 
throughout the colony of Kenya. Within hours a battalion 
of the Lancashire Fusiliers flew in from the Suez Canal 
Zone, and over a hundred prominent Africans were detained. 
Jomo Kenyatta, President of the Kenya Africa Union, 
whose oratorical powers had captured the hearts and 
imaginations of the Kikuyu, was arrested in his own home. 




1 f wnm*. ._wHl(S ^! 


20 60 80 100120 

movei J 1ent ' which had 

which flourished most strongly in the 




SS7h T 6Very VCStige f European civilisation 
Both these elements were combined u/this loosely 


movement, but as time went on the more sophisticated 
agitators were replaced by men who called for the rejec- 
tion of all Western ways. 

It was both a strength and a weakness of Mau Mail 
that it drew its support almost exclusively from one tribe. 
It was for all practical purposes restricted to the Kikuyu, 
but the Kikuyu are the Germans of tribal Kenya. This 
tribe of one and a half millions is noted for its devotion to 
education, its ability to work hard, and its intelligence. 
The tribal reserves, which are potentially fertile and most 
strategically placed, lie close to Nairobi and the European 
settlement areas. 

In the last fifty years the Kikuyu has had closer 
contact with European civilisation than any other tribe in 
Kenya. They provided numerous clerks in government 
offices, many of the most experienced hands on the Euro- 
pean farms, and the bulk of the workers in Nairobi, the 
colony's capital. If they were not the colony's economic 
backbone, they were at least its economic pelvis. As 
fighting men, however, the Kikuyu were thought to be 
negligible. Only a handful were serving with the King's 
African Rifles or the Kenya police. 

When the troubles began the congregation at many of 
the mission churches in the Kikuyu reserve fell by 90 per 
cent, and authoritative observers believe that 90 per cent 
of the tribe was prepared to give Mau Mau some support 
at some time during the emergency. Many Kikuyus were 
willing converts, others had to be dragged to the Mau 
Mau oathing ceremonies. Of all the tribes in Kenya, the 
Kikuyu had the greatest collective respect for the binding 
power of both secular and magic oaths. They had a collec- 
tive passion for secret societies and a folk affection for their 
traditional tribal ceremonies. These ancient oaths and 
ceremonies were distorted and perverted by the Mau Mau 
leaders. Tens of thousands of once peaceful men and 
women promised to kill, cut, and burn. The taking of the 
oaths was solemnified with bestial ceremonies, which in- 
cluded the munching of human brains and intercourse 
with dead goats. To complete the atmosphere of horror, 
the "oathing chapels" were decorated with intestines and 
gouged goat's eyes. 


These oaths helped to bind the bulk of the tribe 
together in support of Mau Mau and to turn the tribal 
mind against civilisation. Hundreds of Kikuyu who resisted 
were cut to bits, strangled, or buried alive. Brother 
butchered brother with evident enjoyment. In theory Mau 
Mau was anti-white, but in practise the terrorists killed 
nearly a hundred times as many Africans as Europeans. 
During the emergency more Europeans were killed in 
traffic accidents within the city limits of Nairobi than were 
murdered by terrorists in the whole of Kenya. 

The arrest of Jomo Kenyatta's colleagues deprived 
Mau Mau of its recognised political leaders, but this did 
not check the spread of terror. More British troops ar- 
rived; more battalions of the King's African Rifles were 
moved into the colony. The Kenya Regiment was mobilised, 
and the Kenya police force was expanded rapidly. Loyal 
members of the Kikuyu were recruited into a Home 
Guard. The Kikuyu reserve was soon speckled with armed 
posts. Real success, however, could not come quickly. Our 
forces were impressive, but they had few targets at which 
they might aim. The terrorists rarely moved or operated 
by day, and hardly ever attacked any soldier or civilian 
who had a chance to protect himself. By day all was 
usually peaceful. By night the terrorists swept over the 
reserve and settled areas, taking food, taking money, and 
taking life. If the security forces were often baffled by the 
problem of what to do next, so were the terrorists. They 
had no coherent plan of revolt, their objective was hazy, 
and their route unmarked. What to do, and where to do 
it? The Mau Mau answer was to take to the forest, the 
traditional hiding place of the tribe. 

The main section of the Kikuyu reserve was flanked 
by two huge areas of woodland on Mount Kenya and the 
Aberdares. In the past these forests had protected the 
Kikuyu from the depredations of the Masai warriors and 
the slave traders; in modern times it was the customary 
lair of those Kikuyu who wanted to escape from justice, 
and at the beginning of the emergency there were proba- 
bly three or four hundred criminals on the run. Thus active 
Mau Mau supporters began to trickle into the woods, and 
the trickle soon became a flood of thousands. For the most 


part it was the young men, of the warrior age groups, who 
took to the forest, but the oldest was nearly seventy and 
the youngest terrorist ever captured was just eleven, 
while 20 per cent of the forest bands were women. 

At first life for the terrorists in the forest was not too 
unpleasant. Some went in carrying bundles of their most 
treasured possessions. Many had brought knives, spoons, 
plates, and cups. Some carried mattresses and blankets 
and sheets. Supplies of food came up regularly from the 
reserves, while passive supporters in the towns sent up 
such sophisticated items as cigarettes, oil for cleaning 
guns, penicillin, hypodermic syringes, sulphur drugs, as- 
pirin, and matches. In the first months of the emergency 
the Mau Mau discipline was so strong that a terrorist in 
the forest who gave his money to a courier could be almost 
certain of getting what he wanted from any shop in 
Nairobi. They were always short of precision weapons, but 
some of the gangsters showed a remarkable facility for 
turning out "guns" made from odd scraps of iron piping, 
door bolts, rubber bands, and bits of wire. Sometimes, of 
course, these guns would injure the firer rather than the 

After the first few months, however, the life of the 
forest terrorists deteriorated. It became increasingly diffi- 
cult to get food from the reserves. Then, in the summer of 
1954, "Operation Anvil" (the search of Nairobi) destroyed 
much of the central passive organisation in Nairobi and 
broke up the best supply pipeline. 

Meanwhile, the troops and police were learning to 
operate effectively within the forest itself. The tracker 
teams developed phenomenal skill at following gangs and 
eliminated many terrorists. Then the pseudo-gang tech- 
nique was developed. Surrendered terrorists were formed 
into gangs led by young Europeans, most of whom had 
been born in Kenya, Dressed in rags, with faces blackened 
by burnt cork and boot polish, they roamed through the 
forest and accounted for still more gangsters. Many terror- 
ists, impressed by the hopelessness of their existence, 
surrendered. Many were killed during intra-Mau Mau 
arguments. Many died of disease or just plain hardship. 
Many were killed by the security forces. By mid-1955 


three or four hundred forest terrorists were being elimi- 
nated each month. The hardships of the forest and the 
shortage of ammunition shattered the fighting spirit of the 

At the beginning of the emergency captured gang- 
sters were often fat, bloated by the meat of stolen cattle. 
Many had watches, and some wore two suits of clothes. By 
the end of 1955 the captured terrorists were lean and 
verminous, but the bushcraft of these survivors had reached 
a superlative standard. When frightened they moved at 
staggering speed, and some gangs have been known to run 
seventy miles through the forest barefoot in a single day. 
In the words of one policeman, "if you want to know what 
it's like, try running through seventy miles of blackberry 
patches in your socks." As food from the reserves became 
more difficult to steal, the hardcore were thrown back on 
the resources of the forest. Every edible plant was put to 
use. Much time was spent trapping wild animals wire 
from crashed R.A.E planes made the best snares. The 
hungry terrorists would sometimes eat raw monkey or 
meat so maggot-ridden that even the hyenas would not 
touch it. Wild honey was their only sweetening, and the 
terrorists seemed impervious to bee stings. They would 
eat their honeycomb with the bees still inside. 

At times of crisis the terrorists would forego even this 
meagre diet and travel without food for two or three days 
at a time. Only one forest terrorist captured after 1955 had 
an ounce of spare fat on his body. Material hardship, 
however, made little difference to this hardcore. The soft 
were already dead. Most of those who survived had suffered 
at one time or another from pneumonia, syphilis, and 
other diseases. Many had recovered from bullet wounds, 
and their recuperative power was phenominal. Their city 
clothes had long since disappeared, to be replaced by 
jackets and trousers of animal skin, which they would not 
take off for a year at a time. Some wore caps which they 
pulled over their faces as protection from the rain when 
they slept, but at least one gang had been known to sleep 
without blankets on the ice near the peaks of Mount 
Kenya. With this toughness went a remarkable ability to 
detect the presence of strangers and an unusual facility for 


covering their tracks. Some Mau Mau travelled on their 
toes, others ran on their heels or the sides of their feet so 
that they would not leave a recognisable trail. 

By the end of 1955 only fifteen hundred of these 
terrorists were left at large, roaming over an area of more 
than six thousand square miles. Ordinary methods of 
warfare were clearly not going to dislodge them, and they 
could not be left to rot. At the height of the emergency 
some sixty thousand Kikuyu had been confined in deten- 
tion camps. At the end of 1955 they were being released 
at the rate of two thousand a month. Perhaps these 
released detainees and their colleagues in the camps would 
live in peace, but perhaps they would not. The danger of a 
resurgence of Mau Mau remained so long as any recognised 
leaders were still at large. Of these leaders, by far the 
most powerful was Dedan Kimathi. 


Muthiururi niethiururukaga . 

He who turns others around may also turn him- 
self around, 

The devil that cometh out of thy mouth flieth to 
thy bosom. 

If the Kikuyu are the Germans of tribal Kenya, 
Kimathi was their Hitler. Like Hitler, he had to wait until 
the fabric of society broke around his head, but then he 
was able to exploit the convulsion with throbbing, burn- 
ing oratory. Financial chaos and the threat of Communism 
gave Hitler his chance. The corruption of the Kikuyu 
tribal customs by Mau Mau and the flight to the forest 
gave Kimathi his opportunity. 

On the thirty-first of October, 1920, Kimathi Wachiuri, 
later baptised with the name Dedan, was born in the Tetu 
location close to Nyeri, the most northerly of all Kikuyu 
districts and the one that lies closest to the Aberdares and 
Mount Kenya. 

He was an illegitimate child, but from childhood he 
used the name of Wachiuri, his mother's legal husband, 
who had died some years before Kimathi's birth. Wachiuri 
had been rich enough to have three wives, and theirs was 
a large family. Kimathi's mother had two other sons and 
two daughters. 

As his grandmother lay dying in 1931 she sent word 



that Kimathi was to come to her. It was a cold and misty 
day. Kimathi, who was then only eleven, was brought into 
the mud and wattle hut where the old woman lay and 
received her blessing according to Kikuyu custom. Blind 
and frail, she laid her hand on Kimathi's cheek. With her 
last words she chose him to be leader of the house and 
then asked that she be turned so that she would die facing 
his bed. Finally, she dipped her finger in a goat's horn of 
water and sprinkled the liquid on Kimathi's head. 

This event made a deep impression on the boy, and 
stimulated the superstitious inclinations that lurk in most 
Kikuyu hearts. Moreover, he believed that Ngai, the 
traditional god of the Kikuyu tribe, had guided his grand- 
mother's hand and had chosen him to be the head of the 
whole tribe. 

At about this time he began to dream. He dreamt of 
lands where all the cows were brown, of places in the sky 
where rows of people sat on wooden benches, of death 
being like a gate which opened and shut, of rivers running 
uphill, of people standing before him in white clothes with 
arms outstretched, and of Ngai speaking to him in his 
sleep. He believed everything he dreamt, and his descrip- 
tions of these dreams made old men and women turn their 
heads away, for they were frightened of such things. 

Kimathi did not try to win the leadership of his clan 
or tribe by minding his manners. Long before his grand- 
mother made her gesture he had been saddled with a 
reputation for delinquency. When barely out of the tod- 
dling stage he was nicknamed "Njangu" (rough and treach- 
erous) by his playmates. 

At the age of six he went on a hunger strike because 
his mother would not give him the sort of shield normally 
carried by an adolescent apprentice warrior. He killed 
some goats belonging to a friend of his mother with a bow 
and arrow. He refused to carry water for her and broke her 
maize grinding stone. He refused to chase locusts away 
from the family crops and pushed his youngest sister down 
an antbear hole. For this vindictive prank he was tied to a 
lot of firewood by his eldest brother and flogged. Soon 
after his grandmother's death he slashed the nose of a bull 
belonging to an old man named Wachira. When he was 


tracked down he offered Wachira all his mother's clothes 
as compensation. Once he crept into a hut while the 
owners were drinking native beer and tied up the penis of 
a baby boy. 

Fortunately for his family he was seldom at home, but 
he did everything possible to learn the tribal rituals and 
circumsion ceremonies practised by the older boys. He 
was certainly intelligent, but school did not have a calming 
effect on him. There he was brought in touch with the hot 
controversy that raged between the tribe and the Chris- 
tian missions over female circumcision. The missionaries 
were doing their best to stamp out this practice as a 
barbaric manifestation of paganism. The Kikuyu, however, 
regarded it as an unchangeable feature of their tribal 
tradition. As a by-product of this controversy a number of 
independent schools were started by Kikuyu. Many of 
these soon passed into the hands of disreputable teachers, 
who dispensed a heady brew of anti-white, anti-government, 
and anti-Christian dogma to their impressionable pupils. 

At the age of fifteen Kimathi became a pupil of 
Karuna-ini school in Tetu. He was soon so good at poetry 
and English that his teacher gave him a goat. While he 
was at this school Kimathi lived with an old man, Waithangi 
Muthui, who paid ninepence every month for his tuition. 
Kimathi's progress astonished Waithangi, who soon looked 
on him as a member of his own family. But Kimathi could 
not change. He stole from Waithangi, sold his possessions, 
bartered his crops, and even ran him into debt. One day, 
when Waithangi was away from home repairing fences, 
Kimathi broke into his hut and stole two shillings from the 
pocket of his raincoat. When the old man came back he 
discovered what had happened and chased the boy away. 
Kimathi did not forgive or forget. Waithangi was one of the 
first men to be murdered by Mau Mau in 1952. He was 
then almost eighty years old. 

To raise money for his school fees Kimathi set up a 
small night school, where every evening he taught other 
youths whatever he had learned during the day. He took 
money or paraffin or soap, which he sold at the local 
market. After three years he became a pupil at a more 
advanced school in Tetu, called Wandumbi. To meet the 


higher fees he spent two days a week wandering through 
the Aberdare forest collecting the seeds of Grevillia robusta 
trees, for which the Forestry Department was then paying 
a penny a tin. His seed-collecting forays into the forest 
gave him an early experience of forest life, which he never 

Kimathi loved traditional ceremonies, but he was 
willing to change the ceremony to suit himself. On the 
seventeenth of September, 1938, just before he was eigh- 
teen, Kimathi was circumsised in the dispensary at Ihururu, 
the administrative centre of Tetu location. The fact that he 
had not been circumcised at a public ceremony according 
to tribal custom was soon discovered by the other young 
men, who began to laugh at him. In reply he challenged 
all those who had been circumcised during the same week 
to dance with him. The neighbours awaited this contest 
with excitement, but when the time came all the other 
young men were suffering too much to attend. To the 
cheers and applause of hundreds of onlookers, Kimathi 
danced alone. 

In 1939 Kimathi tried his hand at working. After 
getting a registration certificate from the district commis- 
sioner, he went to the Forestry Department in Nyeri and 
was hired to drive oxen hauling timber out of the forest. 
After one week he was attached to a Sikh forestry officer 
who was going on an expedition down the edge of the 
reserve to Fort Hall Kimathi was chosen to carry the 
Sikh's suitcase, but once he was safely out of Nyeri he 
doubled back with the suitcase and was never seen again 
by either the Sikh or the Forestry Department. 

Wealthier than before, Kimathi returned to his stud- 
ies. His teacher at that time was Eliud Mugo, who later 
became one of Mau Mau's most steadfast enemies. Closing 
an eye to Kimathi's misconduct, and intrigued by his 
capacity to learn, Eliud arranged for Kimathi's entry into 
the Church of Scotland Mission School at Tumu-Tumu. 
Apart from a break of three months early in 1941, when he 
joined the army, Kimathi stayed there for two years, 
causing trouble, refusing to pay his fees, but learning fast. 
He was finally expelled in February 1944. 

His brief army career was not without incident. In 


the first week at the depot Kimathi marched up to his 
corporal and threw some ground nuts at him. Exactly a 
month later he received his first pay, which he spent on 
native beer. A drunken brawl followed. When the military 
police arrived on the scene and fired over the heads of the 
trouble makers, Kimathi managed to slip away unseen and 
spent the next two days hiding underneath a bed in the 
cook's house. 

After leaving Tumu-Tumu, Kimathi moved from job to 
job. He was variously a school teacher, a dairy clerk, an 
employee of the Shell Company, a timber clerk, and a 
trader in hides. But, as before, his career was chequered. 
He stole a bicycle from a labourer on a farm in the 
Naromoru district. On a farm near Thomson's Falls he 
beat up an old Turkana herdsman and stole his money. 
Then, while employed as a clerk at a farm north of Nyeri, 
he appropriated some money and fled north to Ol Kalou. 
No one seemed able to catch up with him. 

In January 1949 he reappeared in the Tetu location 
and unobtrusively obtained employment as a teacher in 
his old school, Karuna-ini. Within three months he was 
summoned before the school council and charged with 
raping two of the young girls he was teaching. Once again 
he fled north to Ol Kalou, where he got a temporary job 
on a pig farm. There he lost the index finger on his left 
hand while grinding corn for the hogs. 

Despite, or perhaps because, of his lack of scruples, 
Kimathi became a popular figure with the uneducated 
Kikuyu he met during his travels. Dabbling in clandestine 
subversive activities by night, and posing as the future 
leader of the tribe by day, he gained considerable influ- 
ence in the outlying areas of the central and Rift Valley 
provinces. At that time violence and thieving were regarded 
as positive virtues by the bulk of Kikuyu youth provided 
the thug or thief was successful. Kimathi was successful. 

For some time past Kimathi had taken a hand at 
organising the stewards who controlled the mass rallies in 
the reserve addressed by Jomo Kenyatta and his col- 
leagues. Kimathi and his men were there to use strong- 
arm tactics against any opposition, but he had listened and 
he had learned. On the second of June, 1952, having 


already taken the Mau Mau oath twice and become a leading 
oath administrator in the Ol Kalou and Thomson's Falls area, 
he was appointed secretary of the local branch of the Kenya 
African Union, an organisation closely interwoven with Mau 
Mau. Now he began to prepare for the migration into the 
forest which was to follow the outbreak of violence. 

Four months later, having first travelled deep into the 
Aberdare forest with a party of young Kikuyu that includ- 
ed his two brothers, Wambararia and Wagura, he sudden- 
ly appeared in an area called Kanunga. Helped by several 
other men who were to become leading terrorists, he 
organised a massive Mau Mau oath ceremony on the 
banks of the Gura River which was attended by thousands 
of Kikuyu. That day, on Kimathi's express instructions, or 
at least with his full approval, the senior chief of the Nyeri 
district, Nderi Wangombe, was brutally hacked to death as 
he walked down to the river to see what was going on. 

Kimathi was now formally identified by his tribal 
leaders as one of the leading oath administrators and a hue 
and cry began. He was traced to a friend's house in his 
own location, and late one night was surrounded by a 
party of Kikuyu tribal guards. He was asleep, and woke to 
hear them knocking at the door. For some minutes he did 
not answer, then, as the door was being forced, he tried to 
escape through the window. A guard grabbed him, 
handcuffed him, and took him off to the chiefs camp at 
Ihururu. At the camp Kimathi recognised one of the 
chiefs assistants as a Mau Mau supporter. Late that night 
the supporter returned and the two men bargained. Kimathi 
offered his bicycle in exchange for freedom. The bargain 
was struck. The cell door was unlocked, and Kimathi 
disappeared in the darkness. He was off to the Aberdares. 

At the time he walked out of the cell Dedan Kimathi 
was thirty-two and untested. His educational attainments 
were pitifully small by Western standards, but they were 
substantial in comparison with his fellow Kikuyu. He 
could add and subtract, and divide and multiply, if the 
numbers were not too large; he could write and read 
English a bit. At one time he showed a liking for American 
paperback cowboy stories and thrillers, but he had to 
struggle with the words, and it seems their lurid covers 


were the principal attraction. The British withdrawal from 
India had a profound effect on Kimathi, and he was also 
aware of the Egyptian terrorist activities in the Suez Canal 
Zone. He knew of the existence of the Soviet Union, but 
the theory of Communism and the subtleties of dialectical 
materialism meant nothing to him. He did, however, know 
the Bible as well as many a lay preacher. At times he 
seemed to believe that the Bible had been written espe- 
cially for him. He carried an Old Testament translated into 
Kikuyu wherever he went. He spoke in parables, and his 
harangues were larded with allusions to and quotations 
from the Bible. As an orator he was magnetic, compelling, 
irresistible. In the rest of Kenya there were a few Africans 
who could have held their own with Kimathi in council or 
on the platform, but they were not in the forest and 
Kimathi was. 

He also had a plan, or at least the glimmerings of one. 
As bemused recruits poured into the forest, Kimathi would 
assign them to gangs and appoint leaders. From time to 
time he would regroup his forces, and these reorganisations 
were complex affairs involving as many as two thousand 
men. He adopted British ranks, and the orderly room 
terminology of the British army. When Kimathi had fled to 
Aberdares he took with him a pencil, notebook, and some 
carbon paper. Now Kimathi wrote out his Mein Kampf, 
telling his men how they would take over the European 
farms, how they would kill all those black, white, or 
brown who stood against them. These pages were torn 
from a notebook and passed around the gangs, These odd 
sheets of paper were the sum total of Mau Mau literature 
in the forest, and they added immensely to Kimathi's 
reputation. No one now doubted his authority in the land 
of the trees. 

He formed two main councils, which he called the 
Nyandarua Defence Council and the Gikuyu na Mumbi 
Itungati Association. The first was to formulate policy and 
appoint leaders for the gangs, the second would prepare 
the rank and file for the life of violence that now lay before 
them. Kimathi welcomed the steady destruction of all 
links with civilisation, and as his men forgot their past they 
worshipped their leader with increased fervour. His fol- 


lowers were certain he had the power to alter the course 
of rivers, to transform the ranching lands of the European 
farmers into lakes of stagnant water, and to lead the Mau 
Mau to certain victory. 

In this exalted position death was his to command. 
He was the invincible ruler of the mountains, and no one 
could speak to him without his express permission. He 
dreamt dreams in which he saw himself as the King of 
Africa or the "popular Prime Minister of the Southern 
Hemisphere." At a public ceremony deep in the jungle he 
bestowed himself with the title "K.C.A.E." to signify that 
he had been appointed, "by God," a Knight Commander 
of the African Empire. After that he called himself "Prime 
Minister Sir Dedan Kimathi." 

For a long time he enjoyed life in the jungle, where 
he lived in undisputed comfort. He found luxuries he had 
never seen before. He was protected by many devoted 
terrorists whom he had specially selected; he was entertained 
by young Kikuyu girls abducted from the Kikuyu reserve. 
He was waited on by countless Kikuyu youngsters who 
held high hopes that when the end he predicted became a 
reality they would live a lifetime of luxurious pleasure. He 
chose for himself, or was given without asking, all the 
more valuable or useful items of property stolen on Mau 
Mau raids. 

He made it his personal concern to see that no other 
terrorist achieved sufficient popularity to become a com- 
petitor for his supreme position. There were a few who, 
by demonstrating a particular ferocity at the time of Mau 
Mau raids, or by showing special qualities of leadership, 
gained top much popularity for his liking. These he "de- 
moted," stripped of their followers, and sent to distant 
areas where they could not endanger his authority. If they 
dissented, or if they came back, he had them strangled 
with a rope and left for the hyenas to eat. His two 
brothers, Wambararia and Wagua, who entered the forest 
with him, lived a precarious life because of his determina- 
tion to remain top dog. It was often said by his men that 
had they not been "from the same womb as he was 
himself" he would have done away with them. These two 
brothers derived some popularity in the forest from their 


relationship with Kimathi, and there was always a tenden- 
cy among the Mau Mau rank and file to treat them with a 
degree of respect and care which those who were not 
related to Kimathi did not enjoy. When Kimathi realised 
this he foresaw the possibility that his brothers might in 
time gain enough popularity to unseat him. From that 
moment he made a point of keeping both of them well 
under his heel, never allowing them to participate in any 
aflairs which might bring them into the limelight. Wagura 
was shot and killed in the forest in 1954. When news of 
this was brought to Kimathi by one of his subordinate 
leaders, he remarked, "Tell me the names of others who 
were killed, but never mention the names of my broth- 
ers." After Wagura's death Wambararia became one of 
Kimathi's servants, and for the next two years his sole task 
was to cook food for his brother. He was fat, for as cook he 
very properly made a point of looking after himself, but 
the task carried no prestige, and Wambararia, who had all 
the makings of a terrorist leader nearly as dangerous as his 
brother, never rose to any level of importance. 

But these good times were not to last for Kimathi. As 
the initiative was wrested from the Mau Mau, as more and 
more of his fanatical followers fell to the army, the police, 
and the Kikuyu loyalists, he found he could no longer 
convene mass meetings in the forest and stand before 
thousands of excited worshippers. No longer was he able 
to live in the comfort of rainproof shelters and sleep on a 
wooden bed with ample blankets sent up to him by 
supporters in the native reserves, nor did he receive new 
clothes and medicine from Nairobi. 

His organisation began to lose its cohesion, and the 
time soon came when he did not know where to find his 
subordinates, or even whether they were dead or alive. 
His control over the once large organisation of terrorists 
had always been fairly remote; now he lost touch with all 
but a few of the gangs. The "passive wing" of Mau Mau, 
the mass of Kikuyu in the native areas, in the towns, and 
on the farms, who had taken the oath and who supplied 
the "militant wing" with arms, food, clothing, medicine, 
and information, was gradually broken up by the security 
forces. Kimathi was thus cut off from the outside world. 


Furthermore, the forest gangs found that their raids were 
becoming progressively more dangerous, costly in casual- 
ties, and unproductive in booty. Kimathi, like everyone 
else, had to live off the land. 

The effect of all this upon Kimathi was profound. He 
unleashed his fury, not on the terrorists who were guarding 
him, for he could not do without them, but on those who 
had "betrayed the community" by committing minor in- 
fringements of his rules. Eating food before it had been 
shared out, speaking in his presence without his permis- 
sion, sleeping with women, failing to pray to Ngai these 
and thirty-four other lesser deeds all resulted in the death 
of the offender. Terrorists from the Fort Hall district were 
the ones who suffered most from his tantrums. He found 
fault with almost everything they did or did not do and 
strangled them in large numbers. Nothing pleased him 
more than to stand in the forest as the Mutui wohoro, or 
Dictator of Justice, and see his followers' blood flow. Those 
who were with him at this time have said that these 
executions became his sole amusement, and he arranged 
them as frequently as his own security would permit. This 
reaction, not unprecedented among megalomaniacs in times 
of imminent defeat, became more pronounced as events 
became worse. He soon gained the reputation in the 
jungle of being the most dangerous killer of them all. 
What some others thought of him is summed up in the 
words of a surrendered terrorist from Fort Hall who said, 
"Nobody has helped the government as much as Kimathi, 
and for that reason he should be given a salary. He has 
killed more Mau Mau than any member of the security 
forces." Of that there was no doubt. 

By the end of 1955 Kimathi's life was drastically 
different from what it had been in 1953 or 1954. Killing 
was his sole interest, and as he never found the opportuni- 
ty of killing outside his mountain domain, he killed lavishly 
within it. He was always thinking about pseudo-gangs. It 
infuriated him to think that some of those who had taken 
the powerful oaths of the Mau Mau, and who had once 
idolised and worshipped him, had surrendered and then 
come back to hunt him and his followers. Knowing that 
this had happened in some cases, he believed it could 


happen in every case and he hated everyone. Of his 
original harem he left himself with only one woman, 
Wanjiru, a nineteen-year-old Kikuyu girl from his own 
district of Nyeri. He strangled all the others. 

Yet he and his henchmen adapted themselves to the 
privations and hardships of isolation in the forest with 
great success. In this cruel reversion to an animal exis- 
tence, Kimathi outstripped all the others. As he learnt 
more about the forest, he forgot more about civilisation. 
He chewed skins and bones like a hyena; his eyes flicked 
about like those of a nervous monkey; he would only drink 
water as a buck or a goat drinks, by lowering his head to it; 
he never washed, and his lice-ridden hair grew down his 
shoulders until it was long enough for him to swat horse- 
flies. All the time, day and night, he was on the alert, and 
his powers of sight, hearing, and smell grew abnormally 

He had never been a brave man. Every terrorist who 
knew him well will confirm that he was one of the most 
timid of all those who entered the forest. Even when he 
was at the height of his power he ran no risks. But now he 
was cowardly in the extreme. This did not disturb his 
henchmen, however, for in their estimation "a leader 
appointed by Ngai," chosen from among thousands to lead 
them in the forest, and blessed by an old woman, did not 
have to be brave. They knew that with his instinct and 
intuition, and their courage and determination, they had 
little to fear. His existence was therefore dependent upon 
them, and theirs upon him, and particularly upon his 
inexplicable ability to sense danger. Within one month of 
entering the forest in 1952 he chose his personal guard. It 
never numbered more than sixty-one. Three years later 
fifty of them were still with him. 

Yet, despite his powerful bodyguard, despite his un- 
derstanding of" the jungle, his wariness, and his tempera- 
ment, his main shield of defence was undoubtedly his 
reputation. Everyone, both inside and outside the forest, 
knew how dangerous he was. Nothing was more disturb- 
ing than the thought of falling into his hands. Some of his 
followers may have come to hate him, but if this was so 
their hate was never apparent. It was submerged in an 


abyss of terror, terror of Kimathi as an individual and 
terror of his reputed connection with Ngai, the supreme 
deity whose home, according to Kikuyu mythology, was 
the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya. 

Kimathi, in the words of one policeman, "was as 
elusive as a butterfly." But if the myth of Mau Mau was 
going to be broken once and for all, this poison butterfly 
would have to be caught. 


While the future terrorist leader was being blessed by 
his grandmother, Kimathi's principal opponent, Ian Hen- 
derson, was toddling about just a few miles further north. A 
few years before the First World War, Jock Henderson, lan's 
father, had been sent out to Kenya by an enterprising firm 
of Scottish merchants. This visionary scheme for starting a 
flourishing seed trade on Kenya's fertile soil came to 
nothing, but Jock Henderson stayed on. He liked the 
climate; he liked the space; he liked the pioneering atmo- 
sphere. He looked for gold and did not find it. He took 
part in the guerilla campaigns in German East Africa. He 
grew sisal at Thika, and he married a friend from Scotland, 
whose experiences with snakes and wild animals in those 
early days were hair-raising. They took to cattle farming 
and were nearly ruined when a visiting Swede quietly sold 
. six hundred of their cattle and decamped with the money. 
Then the family moved on to a coffee farm just outside the 
small town of Nyeri. Their farm, which stretched almost 
from the township line to the edge of the Aberdares, ran 
up to the best game forest in Kenya. The well-known 
Treetops game lookout was built a few hundred yards from 
the farm s boundary fence. The view was superb impressive 
but friendly. Mount Kenya rose a few miles to the east and 
the Aberdares a few hundred yards to the west. From the 
farmhouse one could watch the smoke rising from huts in 
the Kikuyu reserve, but there were not many white 
neighbours. Sometimes the family *s European friends and 
neighbours would come up for a rumbustious tennis party, 



which spilled over the acres of lawn. Or there might be 
parties at other houses or at the club. Occasionally, Jock 
Henderson would decide to take his family and his African 
form hands into town for a Sunday celebration, and the 
party would sweep into Nyeri, singing and laughing, on 
the family lorry. But it could have been a lonely life for a 
farmer's young son. However, although there were no 
white playmates nearby for young Ian, there were plenty 
of African boys on the farm. Ian played with them. 

And so young Henderson formed and led his first 
band of Africans. He was the warrior leader, not a distant 
white king in a distant white house. He played with them. 
He talked with them. He fought and thought with them. 
And he asked questions. 

Then there was the forest. At times he went in alone; 
at other times he led groups of African youngsters in a 
search for butterflies. As he grew older, they looked for 
more substantial game. By the time he was approaching 
adolescence, young Henderson was a first-class shot, and 
he was able to get plenty of practise. There were a dozen 
guns in the house. 

At the age of eleven Ian had his first ride on a motor 
bicycle. His legs were not long enough to reach the foot 
controls, which were operated by a slightly larger Kikuyu 
youth perched behind him on the saddle. This example of 
black/white co-operation did not last very long. They 
crashed, and Henderson still carries a formidable scar on 
his thigh. During the Mau Mau troubles his former play- 
mate was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for 
cutting the legs off a farmer's cows. 

The farm and the forest were the strongest material 
influence on Ian Henderson's youth. At school in Nairobi 
he did well enough in School Certificate, with distinctions 
in French and Art. He was good at rugger, hockey, cricket, 
and long-distance running; he was a lance corporal in the 
school cadet force. It was a creditable, if not an outstand- 
ing, record. The Prince of Wales School did something to 
broaden his mind, but his ambition was still centred on 
the farm and forest. For a time his father thought of 
sending him to a forestry school in New Zealand, but the 
war was still flickering on. The fighting would clearly be 


over by the time he was trained, and it looked as though 
military service would mean nothing but a dull round of 
garrison duty in Germany or Japan. 

In Kenya, however, there was an alternative to mili- 
tary service. He could join the police, and he did so in 
February 1945, just before his eighteenth birthday. In his 
first training tour he scrubbed down the cells slept in by 
African drunks, and from this he graduated to the almost 
equally unpleasant job of traffic officer for Nairobi, a city 
notorious for sticky traffic jams, inadequate parking space 
and bad driving. 

Every police force in the world, however, is short of 
men with a talent for detective work, and young Henderson 
soon moved from bicycle thefts to armed robbery and 
murder. It was an interesting career, though he still hankered 
after country life, and at one point he left the police to 
help his father on the farm. He was an ordinary young 
Kenyan, fond of sport, popular with his colleagues, 
meticulously neat, interested in things rather than ideas, 
and not much given to theorising about the meaning of the 
European presence in Africa. But he had one extraordi- 
nary qualification: he knew the Kikuyu people and he 
knew their language. He knew how their minds worked 
and he knew where to go to get information. This was of 
vital importance in ordinary police work. When he was 
still a junior officer eighteen houses were broken into at 
Nanyuki, a town not far from Nyeri. The local police could 
find no conclusive clues. Henderson was sent for, and 
within a fortnight he had solved fifteen of the robberies. 

This knowledge of the Kikuyu was even more valu- 
able when he was transferred to Special Branch. At last he 
was the proverbial round peg in the round hole, but the 
months that followed were pure frustration. His African 
friends were going bad before his eyes. When Princess 
Elizabeth came to Kenya in 1952 he commanded her 
guard at Sagana Lodge, but most of the time he just 
watched and worried. 

Only a handful of Europeans could speak Kikuyu 
fluently, and at last he was able to act. Jomo Kenyatta was 
still a key figure, idolised by the tribe, the only Kikuyu 
with an international reputation. While many suspected 


what his real role in the foundation of Mail Mau had been, 
the case still remained to be proved in an open court. 
There was little doubt that Kenyatta would be convicted if 
the witnesses for the prosecution would testify, but would 
they run the risk involved? Every African witness knew 
that he was only too likely to lose his life, or his tongue, or 
his hands, to Mau Mau revenge squads. The preparation 
of the case against Kenyatta, with the protection of the 
government's witnesses, was Henderson's first front-rank 
assignment. The government's witnesses all gave their 
evidence, and Jomo Kenyatta was convicted. The figure- 
head of the Mau Mau had been cut off, but the body and 
limbs lived on. 

The next few months were hectic. There were too few 
trained police officers, and all were overworked. There 
was also a substantial element of risk. On the night of the 
Lari massacre, when two hundred Kikuyu men, women, 
and children were cut down by Mau Mau terrorists, 
Henderson was ambushed and his car set on fire. In the 
words of one of his African assistants, "Mr. Henderson 
does not work with time"; on weekends, when many of his 
friends were off playing golf, he would plunge into the 
forests of Mount Kenya to look for General China, the 
principal Mau Mau leader in that part of the world. His 
reward was a bullet through his left arm. 

On the sixteenth of January, 1954, General China did 
fall into the government's hands. Ian Henderson was his 
principal interrogator and General China decided to co- 
operate. Securing the co-operation of General China was a 
substantial achievement, but this was only the beginning 
of a curious chapter. The terrorists in the forests of Mount 
Kenya had to be persuaded to co-operate with their 
former leader and give up terrorism. An involved series of 
meetings and confrontations now took place. 

In the words of the citation of his first George Medal: 
"Between February 13 and April 10, 1954, Mr. Henderson 
was in immediate command of the Special Branch detach- 
ment assigned the duty of attempting to bring about a 
meeting between Government representatives, and those 
of the terrorists in the Mount Kenya area. The nature of 
this assignment made it necessary for Mr. Henderson to 


travel frequently into the forests and parts of the reserves 
occupied by terrorists under conditions of extreme vulner- 
ability in order to achieve the objective." These official 
words mean that Henderson walked into the forest time 
after time often unarmed to parley with a band of 
half-crazed thugs. Slowly, he climbed the Mau Mau ladder 
of command, meeting leaders of increasing importance at 
each successive meeting. The negotiations were protracted, 
and the conditions were trying. Whenever Henderson or 
his colleagues reached into their pockets for a cigarette or 
a handkerchief, the terrorist leaders would suspect a trap 
and grab their weapons. 

Henderson led his party into the forest and talked for 
the government. He alone knew both the thickets of the 
forest and the thickets of the terrorist mind. 

A military mishap, for which a stray band of Mau Mau 
were responsible, broke the confidence of the terrorists 
just at the moment when it seemed that they would 
surrender in large numbers, but these negotiations con- 
firmed Ian Henderson's reputation with both the govern- 
ment and the terrorists. In the words of Sir Evelyn 
Baring, "a number of people were giving us advice on 
what the Mau Mau would do next. No one was right the 
whole time, but Ian Henderson was right more often than 
anyone else/' 

The terrorists also respected him. The Kikuyu give 
everyone nicknames and Henderson was called "Kinyanjui" 
after a Gladstonian elder statesman of the tribe who had 
died just before the first war. The name Kinyanjui was not 
merely symbolic. Traditionally, the Kikuyu respect the 
advice of their elders. The power of the generation is of 
vital importance. It is not explicit like a block vote at the 
conference of the T. U. C., but implicit in the sense of the 
Carlton Club. The angry young men of Mau Mau had 
thrust the elders aside, but now these angry young men 
were in the forest and doing very badly. Violence had not 
been a success. Thousands were dead and tens of thou- 
sands were interned. The tribe was being hurt, and the 
elders were speaking out. Ian Henderson knew the elders 
and knew what they were saying. When he sat huddled up 
in a forest clearing arguing away in the terrorist patois, 


which he had to learn during the talks, he spoke not only 
for the white man's government but also for the elders of 
the tribe. 

By 1955 the Mau Mau front was beginning to crack 
badly. Henderson played his part in the development of 
the pseudo-gangs technique, and then went into the forest 
of the Aberdares for the "Chui" surrender talks where he 
earned his second George Medal. Once again Henderson 
was the spokesman for the government. Once again it took 
weeks to climb the ladder of leaders. But this time he 
knew that Kimathi was opposed to the talks and was trying 
to sabotage them, and clearly the best way to sabotage 
them would be to cut off Henderson's head. The talks 
began to the noise of crackling explosions as gas-filled 
bamboo shoots popped in the sunlight after the rains. 
They failed when Kimathi seized the principal terrorists 
taking part. Kimathi was implacable, but many of the 
other leaders seemed to enjoy talking. They knew that 
they were isolated and they did not all like losing touch 
with their families and the main body of the tribe. As 
Commissioner Richard Catling, who has a distinguished 
record of Special Branch work himself, said, "Ian was just 
about the only window I had on the Mau Mau mind." 
Henderson was also the last window through which the 
terrorists could look at the outside world. Kinyanjui was 
their last telephone wire, their last link with the govern- 
ment, their last link with civilisation. 

This new eminence did not shake Ian Henderson's 
diffident manner. Even his hair seems to recede out of 
modesty. His slim, wiry body seeks the background, but 
his eyes are memorable. When discussing his own 
specialities, however, he has abundant self-confidence. To 
a direct question he will give an exhaustive reply; and he 
assumes that everyone will listen to the whole answer. He 
combines the true Kikuyu's circuitous approach to a diffi- 
cult problem with a policeman's reluctance to share his 
secrets. He is too gregarious to be the complete lone wolf 
but he works best on the longest of long reins. He is an 
individualist with an unusual combination of quirks and 
qualities and an unusual charm. 

He is patient but volatile. He is exceptionally practical 


the administration of his operations was always first class 
but he could grasp and sometimes mould the mad theories 
of the Mau Mau. He has immense stamina, immense 
physical and mental energy, but he is high-strung. While 
driving down to Nairobi from the forest he was known to 
roar with laughter at times because of the release from 
tension. His neat bungalow on the outskirts of Nairobi is 
almost antiseptically clean, but in the forest he often had 
to huddle under some louse-laden shelter with his terrorists. 

Perhaps there is a touch of masochism to be found in 
all long-distance runners, and Henderson is no exception. 
Of one tense moment he has written: "It was the same 
feeling one had as a child when knocking on the headmas- 
ter's door for a caning a nice feeling in many ways 
because it was exciting, gripping and different from the 
dull routine of one's everyday life." 

It is certainly difficult to imagine how Henderson 
could have survived the mental and physical strain without 
a certain enjoyment of discomfort for discomfort's sake. 
But allied with this ability to withstand, and even enjoy, 
the onslaughts of nature and mankind is a fierce Scottish 
pride, a love of the British Empire, and a stern devotion 
to his own Kenya. 

As Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Lathbury said in 
his farewell message to Special Branch, "Ian Henderson 
has probably done more than any single individual to 
bring the emergency to an end." Certainly few white men 
in the history of British Africa had shown such ability to 
understand and manipulate a tribal mentality. Would he 
be equally successful with the hard-core of fanatics? Would 
he be able to manipulate the fanatics? 

Kinyanjui, "the elder statesman," and his Special 
Branch colleagues now turned their full attention to the 
problem of catching Kimathi. 



Gathutha konagia mundu njira. 
A little path is sometimes the one that leads you 
to the highway. 

By the end of 1955 only a handful of terrorists were 
being captured each week. The fifteen hundred still at 
large were the bushcraft experts, and as their numbers 
dwindled the survivors were harder to find in the six- 
thousand-square-mile forest of the Aberdares. Even the 
pseudo-gang leaders were for the most part having little 
success. These pseudo-gangs were largely made up of 
ex-terrorists who had surrendered. They were inevitably 
less tough, less primitive, than the hard-core in the forest. 
They had surrendered because they could not take it. 
Even the best of the pseudo-terrorists would soon lose 
their edge that uncanny sensitivity which life in the 
jungle had given them. They developed a taste for the 
good food they saw others eating. They wanted to sleep in 
warm beds between blankets. They wanted clothes to 
shield them from the rain and cold. They wanted to drive 
as far as they could into the forest before taking to their 
feet. They wanted injections "to wash the blood" when 
they felt ill. Above all, they developed a feeling of securi- 
ty, and with this sense of safety they lost their understand- 
ing of the forest. 

Finally, inevitably, the remaining Mau Mau soon realised 
that former terrorists were being used to hunt them. They 



now took special precautions against the pseudos. Most of 
the surviving hardcore knew all their colleagues by sight. 
New faces, they had learnt, were dangerous. No form of 
disguise, however perfect, was now good enough. The 
chances of catching Dedan Kimathi with an ordinary pseudo- 
gang were remote, The intelligence experts had little 
information about him. He and his bodyguard generally 
avoided meeting other gangs. He had long since stopped 
his own foragers and raiders from leaving the forest to 
pillage European farms. He did not want his men to 
expose themselves, and in this he was highly successful. 
It was virtually certain that he was in the Aberdares, 
but that information was not much comfort to Kimathi's 
hunters. The Aberdares rise fairly steeply from the plains 
of the Central Province, and at eleven thousand feet it 
looks as if the whole top of the mountain has been cut 
away with a jagged saw. The flat top, known as the 
Moorlands, is eighty miles long. It is a place of swamps, 
lakes, icy winds, and swirling mists. Towards the middle of 
the Moorlands there is a great depression in the land. 
Here the lakes get bigger, the cold water seeps slowly 
through the tufty grass which bubbles and oozes when you 
step on it. Immediately below the Moorlands stands the 
bamboo belt. This is approximately twelve to fifteen miles 
wide and circles the whole mountain, covering an area of 
four thousand square miles. The old bamboo has been 
blown over, and the remains make a thick tangled mattress 
of dried poles. Through this layer new shoots have grown 
up. In some places it is so thick that only a faint glimmer 
of light can be seen when the sun is directly overhead at 
midday. This tangled interwoven mass, which stands twenty- 
five feet high, made an ideal hiding place for the terror- 
ists, but the tropical bamboo is a treacherous growth. Its 
thin sharp leaves can cut your skin like a razor, and as the 
wind blows on the leaves a shower of invisible bamboo 
hair will fall on your skin and cause severe itching, while 
the sharp-pointed shoots and sticks are a constant menace 
to the traveller's eyes. Below the bamboo belt there is yet 
another belt of deciduous "black" forest. This belt is 
extremely thick in parts, and it is often difficult to see 


more than three or four feet ahead. But it is easier and 
quieter to move through than the bamboo. 

Faced with the massive problem of finding the terror- 
ist needle in the vast haystack of a mountain, an expert 
committee of three was set up. First there was Assistant 
Commissioner John Prendergast, G.M., the director of 
Special Branch, and a veteran of the last forest surrender 
talks. This tall, handsome Irishman, who worked before 
the war for the Middlesex County Council, had built up a 
distinguished record of intelligence work in Palestine, Port 
Said, and the Gold Coast. The second member was Super- 
intendent Anthony Lapage, a square, solid, smiling man, 
whose father had been bailiff on the Duke of Wellington's 
estate. When Tony Lapage came to Kenya before the last 
war, he had turned from farming to the forest. There he 
had hunted for bumblebee mice and the elusive spotted 
lion of Kenya. More recently, he had hunted for Mau Mau 
with substantial success. The third member of the com- 
mittee was Ian Henderson. 

They reviewed the numerous operations that had 
been launched during the past three years in an effort to 
catch Kimathi. Thousands of soldiers and policemen had 
taken part. There had been sweeping operations, cordon 
operations, operations to starve him into the open country, 
intelligence schemes designed to attract him towards bo- 
gus sources of supply. There had even been psychological 
operations with coloured smoke and recorded voices in 
the night. These schemes had been ingenious and were 
carried out with skill, but they did not work. There was no 
obvious way of catching Kimathi; only improbable schemes 
had a chance of success, and the committee chose the 
most improbable. 

They would try to seize some members of Kimathi's 
gang. They would try to convert the gangsters before 
Kimathi missed them, and they would try to persuade the 
gangsters to lead a striking force back to Kimathi. The 
odds against success were clearly enormous. The whole 
plan was drenched with complications. How would contact 
be made with the gang? How could gangsters be captured 
without Kimathi's knowledge? How could they be made to 


co-operate quickly? Unless there was a solution to all 
these complications the effort would be wasted. The mere 
feet that this preposterous plan was backed by the com- 
missioner of police, Mr. Richard Catling, and the 
commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald 
Lathbury, was ample proof that everything else within 
reason had already been tried and found wanting. 

First the committee had to make contact with Kimathi's 
men. How would they do it? They would write the gang a 
letter. The problem of contact in the forest worried the 
Mau Mau as well as the security forces. Our troops had 
wireless sets, but the Mau Mau could only write letters to 
each other. With stubby pencils they scribbled notes for 
each other on grubby paper, which they posted in their 
letter boxes. These letter boxes, known only to their 
friends, would be holes in trees, cracks in rocks, or other 
places hard to see. 

Henderson and his colleagues decided that three 
identical letters should be written by a surrendered ter- 
rorist and posted in three separate parts of the forest. The 
letters would call on the gang to surrender. Previous 
experience gained in writing letters to Mau Mau leaders 
urging them to surrender had shown that if you mentioned 
any specific terrorist leader by name in a letter there 
would be no response. The individual concerned would 
feel that a special trap was being set for him, and he would 
go out of his way to persuade everyone in the forest to 
ignore the letter. Kimathi would not be mentioned in 
these new letters, they would be addressed to "The 
People in the Forest," but it was hoped that any such 
letter found in the forest would find its way up the ladder 
to Kimathi. 

After the letters had been posted an aircraft fitted 
with a powerful loud-speaker would fly over the forest, 
sky-shouting a recorded message announcing the position 
of the letters. The leaders would not go to the letter point 
themselves, but if their curiosity were aroused they might 
well send one or two of their followers to collect the 
message. The sky-shouted message had to arouse their 
curiosity and had to say where the letters were posted, but 
it had to avoid giving much indication of the contents of 


the letters, lest the gangsters not bother to collect them at 
all. If Dedan Kimathi had not actually heard the sky shout 
himself, he would soon be told about it. A conference 
would be called. Kimathi would preside, and younger 
terrorists would be sent off to collect one of the letters. 

Provided Henderson and his colleagues could capture 
these terrorists, indirect contact with Kimathi would have 
been made. They then developed a plan for capturing the 
messengers. The ambush might have to remain hidden, 
motionless and silent, for days on end, as no one could say 
when the letters would be collected, if they were collected 
at all. However long it took the messengers to arrive, the 
ambush party would have to strike so quickly that no one 
could escape. The escape of a single terrorist would 
jeopardise the whole venture. Once die messengers had 
been captured, Henderson and his colleagues felt reason- 
ably confident that they would be able to get the terrorists' 
co-operation. Every interrogator has his technique for 
handling an unwilling criminal, and Special Branch had 
had some notable successes. 

At this point Tony Lapage and Ian Henderson went 
round to talk to a number of ex-terrorists, now enrolled in 
pseudo-gangs, to hear what they had to say about the plan. 
Most of them agreed that curiosity would drive Kimathi to 
send someone to collect one of the letters, but no one 
believed that any of the terrorists in the forest would 
willingly betray their supreme leader. In their view 
Henderson would not even have a chance to try to win 
their co-operation. There would be a heated gun battle, 
they thought, as soon as the ambush was sprung, and it 
would be necessary to shoot the messengers. 

Two more problems remained before the plan could 
be put into action. Where should the letters be planted, 
and where should the warning message be sky-shouted? 
Henderson and Lapage now went to various detention 
camps to talk to terrorists who had just come from the 
forest. No one had seen Kimathi for weeks, but they did 
discover that in the earlier stages of the emergency Kimathi 
had shown a peculiar liking for three particular spots on 
the eastern slopes of the Aberdares. Perhaps he was still 
there. They then looked for three suitable areas in the 


region where the letters could be planted. This was far 
from easy. The points had to be suitable for ambush, they 
had to be points which could be described in detail within 
six seconds, the absolute time limit for any sky-shouted 
message. There would not be time for elaborate descrip- 
tions before the aircraft flew out of hearing range. 

For a time the committee thought about abandoning 
the sky-shouter system and dropping leaflets instead, but 
the cost would have been considerable, and Mau Mau had 
come to regard all leaflets as nothing more than "rubbish 
to mislead" them. The use of pamphlets would get the 
scheme off to a bad psychological start. 

Finally, Henderson and his colleagues picked three 
points which were so well known to the terrorists that they 
had given them nicknames. The first of these was an old 
Mau Mau hideout used by Dedan Kimathi in 1953. In 
those days it had been the site for many important terror- 
ist meetings, and was known to the Mau Mau as "Mihuro," 
meaning "at the bottom," or the seat of their delibera- 
tions. Everyone knew where Mihuro was. The second 
point was a large Mau Mau food store, long abandoned, on 
the slopes of a small hill known as "Karathi's Mother." 
Many years ago, according to Kikuyu legend, a Kikuyu 
woman had sacrificed her only son, Karathi, at the top of 
this hill in the hope that evil spirits would be appeased 
and that the locusts eating her crops would vanish. The 
other point was an enormous rock, weighing some five 
tons, at the end of Wanderers' Track. Dedan Kimathi had 
once been able to convince his gullible followers that he 
had put the rock there himself to stop the Royal Engineers 
building the track further up the mountain. The terrorists 
implicitly believed this ridiculous story, and his achieve- 
ment was soon discussed throughout the forest. Whenever 
Mau Mau gangs were nearby they visited the rock and 
reflected on Kimathi's super-human powers. 

How could Henderson and his colleagues best am- 
bush these points? They approached the police and army 
dog teams, but none of the dog handlers could guarantee 
that their animals would remain silent for long in the 
forest. They considered using pit snares, trip wires, and 
other obstacles, but there was no real alternative to the 


use of a small number of hand-picked police. But could 
anyone be sure they would remain alert if a terrorist 
messenger did not come for four or five days? It was 
decided to change tactics. Instead of ambushing all three 
letter points, the police would keep out of the forest until 
Henderson and Lapage discovered that a letter had been 
removed. Then, before the terrorists had time to bring 
back their reply, they would move up and ambush that 
particular point. 

This now meant that all three letters had to be so 
written that Kimathi would be sufficiently interested to 
reply. In normal circumstances Mau Mau would never 
reply to a letter written by a surrendered terrorist unless 
the writer said something about defeat. Any suggestion 
that defeat was imminent so infuriated the terrorists that 
they would, given an opportunity, seek to disillusion the 
author by murdering him. The letters were written in a 
provocatively defeatist vein, saying that the people in the 
forest were doomed and that the writer would return to 
the same point in the jungle alone and unarmed some days 
later to lead the gangs into captivity. This sort of letter 
would annoy Kimathi so much, it was thought, that he 
would send some of his henchmen to kill the writer at the 
letter point. Seven days after the letters were planted so 
went the message the writer would return. This would 
give the gangs time to react to the sky shout, collect the 
letter, and choose the murder party. 

Henderson and Lapage would plant the letters at 
Mihuro on the nineteenth of December, 1955, at Karathi's 
Mother on the twentieth, and at the rock on Wanderers' 
Track on the twenty-first. The sky-shouting would be 
carried out on the following days. Three days after the 
planting of the letters they would go back into the forest to 
see if any had been removed. If a letter had gone they 
would return again on the seventh day to await all comers. 
Henderson and his colleagues first had to find a needle in 
a haystack, and when they found it they had to persuade it 
to melt. 






Njeterera ndekinyaga. 

He who hesitates never arrives. 

At midnight on the eighteenth of December, 1955, 
Tony Lapage, my African inspector, Gethieya Ndirango, 
and I left for the Aberdares. We had made the same 
journey into the forest often before, and as we drove along 
the road, threading our way through the scattered Kikuyu 
villages which lie below the mountain, I thought much 
about Gethieya, 

He had been a Kenya policeman for fourteen years 
and had worked with me for eleven of them. As Mau Mau 
swept through the Kikuyu tribe, striking terror into the 
lives of these normally peaceful people, he knew that he 
had become an important target, for he too was a Kikuyu. 
But, if anything, the threats to his life and family spurred 
him on to greater efforts. For his exploits in the forest he 
had been awarded the Colonial Police Medal for gallantry. 
Month after month, year after year, he had battled against 
terrorism. And now here he was, sitting between Tony and 
myself, ready to start all over again. As we sped along the 
dusty, bumpy road, he was half asleep with his feet up on 
the dashboard. When I dug him in the ribs and asked how 
he was, he gave his stock answer "On the pig's back, sir." 
How he loved that phrase. Good old Gethieya! 

At Nyeri, a hundred miles north of Nairobi in the 
saddle between Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, we 



A B E R D 

N Y E R I 


Mate Mto itMdi ~~ 


picked up three African police constables who were to 
guard the Land Rover. As dawn was breaking, we entered 
the Aberdare forest at Njogu-ini. There was not a cloud in 
the sky as we bumped along towards the top of the range, 
twelve thousand feet high. Before reaching the bamboo 
belt we stopped for a few minutes to have some hot coffee 
from a flask. How fresh and alive it all was! The sun rising 
over the shoulder of Mount Kenya was warm and comforting. 
The air was strong and sweet-smelling. The song of a 
hundred birds promised a beautiful morning. 

As we drove higher up the track we passed elephant 
footprints and rhino droppings, but apart from an occa- 
sional Jackson's francolin that would suddenly dart on to 
the track just in front of the wheels of the Land Rover, the 
journey continued without incident. 

Towards midday we were high up the Aberdares and 
could look back down the long falling slopes of the moun- 
tain to Nyeri, some thirty miles away. We were getting 
close to Mihuro, our first letter point. Finally we stopped. 
Quietly we told the African constables to sit tight and 
prepared to set off through the forest. I led the way, as I 
had been to Mihuro before. We made no attempt to 
conceal our tracks, because we knew that any attempt to 
hide our route might make the terrorists think we were 
interested in tricking and trapping them. If we travelled 
out in the open, they would be less suspicious. 

At the best of times it is a difficult journey. In this 
particularly thick part of the forest you have to crawl along 
the ground, climb on your hands and knees over fallen 
poles and branches, walk along the stronger bamboo like a 
tight-rope dancer, and thread your way across patches of 
dry bamboo which may hide deep pits. The shoots cut at 
our hands and legs and faces. Mithuro was only three 
miles from the spot where we left our Land Rover, but it 
took us nearly four hours to get there. We set to work 
immediately. Beside one of three dilapidated bamboo 
shelters which had once housed the Mau Mau "Houses of 
Parliament/* we scraped an area of ground about five feet 
square until the bare, brown earth was plainly visible. In 
the centre of this we put a thin bamboo stake and, after 
placing our letter inside an empty bottle to keep it safe 


from the weather, we slipped the bottle over the stake, 
open end downwards. 

We then plotted the various places where we planned 
to lie in wait, if and when our letter was removed. At least 
we were sure that no terrorist could approach the bottle 
through the tangle of branches without making a noise 
that we were bound to hear. After that we returned to the 
clearing. We knew the Mau Mau were so nervous and 
suspicious that if they saw the smallest root or stick jutting 
out of the ground beside the bottle they would imagine 
that a booby trap had been set for them. For the last time 
we examined the ground before starting the return jour- 
ney. We now had to travel uphill all the way, an experience 
well worth avoiding in this type of country and at this 

From the moment we left the Land Rover on the 
outward journey we realised that we might well be seen 
by Mau Mau sentries somewhere along the route. There- 
fore, in order not to look dangerous, we carried no firearms. 
Our only weapons were one 36 fragmentation grenade 
for each of us in our pockets. As we climbed we thought 
of the long meeting in the forest which was bound to 
follow the sky-shouting. Every one of the long-haired, 
dirty terrorists would speak at length, possibly for hours, 
for or against sending anyone to the letter point. In this 
heated debate the fact that the letter had been planted by 
a party of unarmed men who did not conceal their tracks 
could swing everything in our favour. Such details had 
made or marred operations before. 

But we soon regretted our lack of firepower when we 
stumbled on to a large herd of elephant browsing in the 
shade of the forest. No sooner had we come upon them 
than one particularly inquisitive young elephant ran to- 
wards us. We stood and sweated for this was the sort of 
thing that could have brought the mother literally down 
on top of us, but fortunately the little devil turned round 
and made off back to the herd after circling once round us. 

When we eventually arrived at the Land Rover we 
were shocked to find that our three guards had vanished. 
They had discussed matters after our departure and decid- 
ed that the vehicle was too obvious a target for Mau Mau. 


Fearing a concerted attack, they had taken refuge in a 
high tree some hundreds of yards further on. So ended 
our trip to Mihuro. The first of our letters was planted. 

That night we slept in a friend's house at Nyeri but 
before dawn the next day were well on our way up the 
mountain again to Nyina wa Karathi. We reached the 
slope after several hours' walking, to find that three bull 
elephants were feeding just outside the old Mau Mau food 
store where we wanted to place our second letter. All 
noiseless efforts to chase them away proved futile; they 
just would not budge. So we sat down and waited patiently 
for them to move on, but this they refused to do. We sat 
looking at them, and at our watches, until four o'clock in 
the afternoon. Then we had to leave if we were to have 
any chance at all to get back to the Land Rover before 
darkness fell. Reluctantly we abandoned the project and 
retraced our steps. It would have been far too risky to 
plant the letter the next day. The sky-shouter would be up 
at dawn, and we had no means of contacting the pilot to 
postpone the flight. Ironically, six months and three days 
later, we captured a gang of terrorists led by a notorious 
Mau Mau leader named Ndungu Gicheru, who had, in 
compliance with the sky shout, spent two days looking for 
our nonexistent letter at Nyina wa Karathi. 

When we reached the vehicle we decided it was far 
too late to return to Nyeri, so we pushed out the spare 
wheel and slept in the back. By midnight the windows and 
canvas screens had a rough surface of frost on them, and 
the metalwork was so cold that it felt hot to the touch. By 
two in the morning we could bear the cold no longer, so 
we jumped out and spent the rest of the night shivering 
on the leeward side. 

The rock at the end of Wanderers' Track, the rock 
which Kimathi claimed he had put there, was only a 
matter of a few miles uphill from our frozen bivouac. As 
soon as the sun came over the horizon and we had thawed 
out, we drove on up to it and planted our letter with an 
empty bottle and stick, just as we had done at Mihuro. 
Then we set off down the mountain again, with Tony 
sitting on the bonnet photographing the game with his 


cine camera. The condition of some of the animals we 
encountered was pitiful. There were elephant and rhino 
with deep, long scars running along their bodies; there 
were others with crippled legs, and one or two with large 
gaping holes, in their ears. Some Colobus monkeys had 
had their beautiful long black and white hair singed or 
burnt. All this was the result of air bombardment and 
strafing, and, judging from the amount of wounded game 
we saw, the slaughter of animals must have been immense. 
What a tragedy that this beautiful mountain should have 
suffered from the destructiveness of man! Yet, on that 
lovely sunny day, with the wild flowers in bloom and the 
crystal-clear streams dancing down the mountainside, it 
seemed as though nature was retaliating with beauty. 

On the twenty-third of December, three days later, 
we went back into the Aberdares to see whether either of 
our two letters had been removed. By this time the 
sky-shouter had completed his task. As before, the first 
point we visited was Mihuro, where we found that our 
letter had been destroyed by a school of Sykes monkeys, 
who had eaten all but a few fragments of the paper and 
thrown our empty bottle into the bush. We had to forge a 
new letter. Our early feeling of buoyant excitement had 
evaporated as we groped our way back to the Land Rover 
in silence. 

The next day we visited the rock. Here both our 
letter and bottle had gone, and for a moment we held our 
breath with excitement, but on looking behind the rock 
we were horrified to find a pile of empty corned beef tins. 
It was not the Mau Mau who had removed our message, 
but a road-reconnaissance unit of the Royal Engineers, 
who thought they had found a treasure for the Intelligence 
and had taken our letter, plus the bottle with our finger- 
prints on it, straight to the police in Nyeri. This was 
disastrous. The rock was obviously a poor bet now, for 
even if we forged another letter and left it there, no Mau 
Mau would consider visiting the place once they had seen 
a group of hungry soldiers sitting there eating corned 
beef. The rock thus joined Nyina wa Karathi in the list of 
failures and left us with Mihuro, where our prospects 


were far from good. Losing two of the three letter points 
within the first three days was tragic. Christmas passed 

What could we do next? Early on Boxing Day morn- 
ing Tony and I were sitting in Special Branch headquarters 
when the telephone rang. On the far end of the line was 
Superintendent John Toft, at that time the head of the 
police division at Naivasha. Beside the forest station at 
North Kinangop, far down the western slope of the 
Aberdares, a typical Mau Mau letter had been found in a 
cleft stick early that morning. The letter was addressed to 
"Kinyanjui," my Kikuyu nickname. It was written in Kikuyu 
and had not been translated for security reasons. Without 
a moment's delay Tony and I rushed to Naivasha to read 
the letter. We found that the author was a terrorist who 
had once held a fairly high rank in the Mau Mau. His 
name was Gati, and his letter read: 

To Sar Kinyanjui of Special Branch. 
If you find this letter please say so from an 
aeroplane. I have heard the words so wait for me 
on die Nyeri track and you will find another 

It is I, GATI. 

That the letter should have been addressed to me was 
not very surprising, for after the two series of expeditions 
which I and other Special Branch officers had made into 
the forests in 1954 and in 1955 to try to convince the Mau 
Mau of the futility of violence, I had received an endless 
stream of letters from the forest some threatening, some 
saying that isolated terrorists wished to surrender, some 
saying almost nothing at all. "I have heard the words." 
Obviously the writer had heard the sky shout, which I had 
recorded on tape in Kikuyu. 

The following morning at dawn the Pembroke sky- 
shouter was up again over the western Aberdares, confirming 
receipt of the letter and saying that I would be travelling 
along the Nyeri track on the twenty-ninth of December. 
The weather over the mountain was stormy that day, and 
the flight buffeted the pilot, who reported, on his return, 


that he was doubtful if anyone could have heard our 
message. But whether the message had been heard or not, 
the die was cast for the twenty-ninth, and the date could 
not be changed. 

From the place in which the letter was found it was 
obvious that by "Nyeri track" the writer meant the Fort 
Jerusalem track which winds steeply up through the Aberdare 
forest from the timber mills at North Kinangop to the 
frost-worn Moorlands, then across the Moorlands towards 
Mihuro on the eastern side, before finally dropping down 
to Nyeri. There is no other track over the Aberdares from 
the west to Nyeri. 

In dry weather the Fort Jerusalem track is bad enough 
and passable only if there have been no landslips, but in 
the rainy season, or after a heavy storm, no vehicle of any 
sort can get through. Gati could hardly have chosen a 
worse meeting place. Having heard about the terrific 
storm from the pilot, we all looked forward to a great deal 
of walking. It is always necessary, when travelling along 
this track in wet weather, to get out and prop up one side 
of the vehicle, while the driver edges it across the slippery 
patches of ground where it is in particular danger of 

As we expected, the twenty-ninth was upon us before 
the forest had dried out. As we began climbing, with the 
Land Rover strained in first gear, low ratio, we slithered 
about buckling the wings of the vehicle against the banks, 
time and time again, and showering everything, including 
ourselves, with mud. If the track was as bad as this on the 
slopes of the mountain, where the water could drain away, 
it would certainly be quite impassable when we reached 
the flatter, marshy Moorlands. 

And all the time we were looking for the promised 
letter. On and on we rumbled, stopping only when the 
windscreen was so covered with mud that we could not 
see through it. We had climbed to about eight thousand 
feet when we came upon the message. It was tied with 
forest string to a short bamboo stick standing upright in 
the middle of the track. 

There it hung, and this was what admirers of 
Hemingway would call "a moment of truth." My thoughts 


skipped, grasshopper-style, but they always came back to 
one theme that I was walking straight into an ambush, 
where every advantage of attack and retreat would lie with 
the terrorists. I probably wouldn't even know where the 
bullets had come from. 

We stopped the Land Rover about thirty yards short 
and sat quietly for a moment or two. No one could be 
seen. I got out and walked up to the bamboo stick. Once 
again we were all unarmed so as not to frighten anyone 
who might be watching us from the forest. But it was now 
too late to think about guns and protection. As I untied 
the string round the message and lifted it from the stick 
there was still no sound in the forest. I read it. It was a 
short message. All it said was, "Return here again on 
January first." This, oddly enough, was excellent news. 
Mau Mau do not normally put in an appearance when you 
first arrive at a meeting place. They lie up in the forest 
nearby to see how you behave, whether you are armed, 
how many people come with you, and whether your 
pockets bulge, for that, in their eyes, is a sure sign that 
you are carrying grenades and planning to kill them. If 
they do in fact show themselves at the first meeting, you 
have every reason to suspect that something is wrong. On 
the other hand, any delay or hesitation on their part, any 
postponement of an arrangement to meet, is usually a sign 
that they really do want to meet you, but are frightened to 
come out before they have sized you up. 

Knowing that we were being watched, I scribbled a 
reply saying we would be back on the first, put it back in 
the cleft stick, lit a cigarette, and walked as casually as 
possible back to the Land Rover. We drove on up the track 
for some distance before we could find a place to turn 
round. On our way back we carefully edged our way round 
the stick to avoid knocking it over. 

On New Year's Day we were back again. This time I 
brought with me my wife's Arab-silver bracelet which I 
had bought at Malindi on our honeymoon. Since the 
outbreak of the emergency I had taken it with me, tied 
firmly to a handkerchief, on most of my trips into the 
forest. I was confident that it would bring us luck again. It 
was our fetish. 


Once again we stopped the Land Rover about thirty 
yards short of the bamboo stick, which was stuck in exactly 
the same place. Wedged in the cleft was a government 
surrender pamphlet, on the back of which was written: 
"Wait, we are here." What would the next few minutes 
bring? For almost half an hour we walked up and down 
between the stick and the Land Rover. We smoked, we 
talked, we waited. No one's hands went into his pockets; 
no one moved suddenly; no one stared into the forest. We 
were so keyed up that we found it difficult to keep still for 
more than a few seconds. For want of something better to 
do, we drew lots to see who would be the first to be boiled 
in a Mau Mau tub. 

Then we all heard a feint rustling in the forest to our 
left. Straining our ears, we could hear the noise moving 
closer and closer. They were coming! We stopped talking, 
and our hearts began to beat faster. (It was the same 
feeling one had as a child when knocking on the headmas- 
ter's door for a caning a nice feeling in many ways 
because it was exciting, gripping, and different from the 
dull routine of one's everyday life.) A feeling of expectancy 
is always pleasant; when this expectancy is coupled with a 
little risk or anxiety it is even more pleasant. But still no 
one looked at the forest. 

Seconds later two Mau Mau terrorists appeared about 
twenty yards away on the fringe of the forest. One was 
dressed in a reddish-brown bushbuck-skin coat and an old, 
heavily patched pair of long black trousers. The other 
wore a monkey-skin jacket and soft hyrax-skin trousers. 
Their hair was long and dropped over their faces. It was 
plaited, and the many plaits jutted out at all angles like 
the quills of a porcupine. (This plaiting of hair, incidental- 
ly, was a characteristic of all forest terrorists; plaiting made 
it easier for them to see and pick out the great numbers of 
lice which infested their heads.) 

There, on the fringe, they paused to look at us, the 
one in the lead crouching down to peer through a thick 
bush. After studying us for a short while, both jumped 
quite boldly down the bank on to the track and started 
towards us. I went forward to meet them and, as was 
customary, shook hands without saying a word* There was 


a silence for a minute or two as they turned to look 
suspiciously at the Land Rover and then at my trouser 
pockets. Seemingly satisfied, one of them raised his arm 
and, pointing at the forest above, exclaimed: 

"Ndi o haria no ngumenyaga niwe Kinyanjui [Even 
from up there I knew you were Kinyanjui]." 

"How?" I asked. 

"Because I saw you in the Chinga forest in May 
during the talks," he replied. (This was the last of the 
unsuccessful surrender conferences,) 

Feeling unexpectedly comforted by this news of our 
having met before, I told the man in the bushbuck coat, 
who was clearly Gati, the leader and letter writer, to fetch 
any other terrorists who might be waiting nearby. He 
assured me that they were alone. Both were carrying long 
double-edged simie, or Kikuyu swords, which dangled 
from a strap over their shoulder; both smelt dreadful 
they had not washed for some months but neither pos- 
sessed a gun. 

I beckoned them to sit down to talk, and after they 
had studied the Land Rover closely for a second time, we 
moved over to a patch of grass and began what turned out 
to be a three-hour conversation in their native tongue, 
throughout which they watched our every movement with 
extreme suspicion. Needless to say, this feeling was mutu- 
al, and our eyes kept as close a watch on them. 

At first the conversation moved jerkily. For many 
minutes we talked pointlessly about the state of the track 
and the damage it had done to our Land Rover; about 
Longonot and Eburru Hills, which we could see far away 
down the mountain in the distance; about the smell of 
petrol from the Land Rover which was so alien to our two 
friends that it caused them to screw up their faces in 
disgust and spit on the ground. All the time we were 
sizing each other up. All the time we were growing more 
used to each other. For this first conversation with Gati 
and his companion, Hungu, was not only the end of the 
beginning of our scheme, but the beginning of the end of 
Dedan Kimathi. It was the key to the ultimate success of 
our whole venture. 

After some time I said I was going to have a cigarette 


and, as they watched with renewed suspicion, I took a 
packet from my pocket. As a gesture of friendliness I 
pulled two cigarettes out of the neatly packed rows, placed 
them on the lid of the opened packet, and offered them to 
our unusual companions. Instead of taking the two ciga- 
rettes I had offered them, they dug their fingers deep into 
the rows and pulled out two others, obviously determined 
to avoid touching anything I had chosen for them in case it 
contained some urogi or spell which would endanger 
them. But as time passed, as we chatted on and the 
conversation ranged over a score of irrelevant subjects, the 
first tension began to subside, and in a more relaxed 
atmosphere their reason for writing to me gradually emerged. 
Gati, at one time the so-called division general quarter- 
master of the two-thousand-strong Mburu Ngebo Mau 
Mau army, told their story, while Hungu periodically 
nodded in agreement. 

It seemed that they had been checking their game 
snares on the Moorlands near Rurimeria hill on the elev- 
enth of December, when they had suddenly and 
unexpectedly come face to face with Kimathi and his 
powerful bodyguard. Now Hungu had, long before, been 
Kimathi's prisoner and had escaped while awaiting eighty 
strokes with a lash for the serious Mau Mau offence of 
having sexual intercourse with a female terrorist when he 
was not a privileged leader. He knew he would be killed, 
if caught again, for the even graver offence of escaping. 
When he saw Kimathi's men, therefore, he ran as he had 
never run before. 

Gati had not known of Hungu's mistake until that 
moment and was completely taken aback when he saw his 
companion run for dear life. But his mind worked fast. He 
knew that Kimathi believed in guilt by association. He 
knew that Kimathi would suspect them both of being 
pseudo-terrorists or government spies, and that he would 
be strangled if he was caught. He realised that his only 
hope also lay in running away, and so he fled. Both men 
escaped from Kimathi's pack. By sheer luck they met 
again several hours and several miles away. 

They knew that Kimathi would try to hunt them 
down, as indeed he did, so our two fugitives had travelled 


on for two days and two nights until they located the 
powerful gang of another Mau Mau leader named Chege 
Karobia, from whom they sought protection. Chege agreed 
that they were not traitors, but he would not allow them 
to join his gang. He knew that if Kimathi heard of it he 
would be blamed for not sending them back for trial. And 
Kimathi was dangerous. He had people strangled for far 

Dispirited and frightened, Gati and Hungu left Chege 
and went into hiding on their own. But as the days passed 
their fear of Kimathi became an obsession. They became 
too frightened to sleep; they imagined the ghastly conse- 
quences of being captured by Kimathi's men. They were 
desperate, hunted by Mau Mau and the security forces 

Then suddenly on the twentieth of December they 
heard the drone of an aeroplane over the Aberdares. The 
sound came closer. In their own words, 'The aeroplane 
spoke. It said we could write a letter. We knew it had 
been sent by God to save us, so we wrote a letter and put 
it beside the military camp below North Kinangop on 
Christmas night when all the troops would be having a 
party, and nobody would be out hunting us." 

"Why didn't you put your letter where the aeroplane 
said?" I asked Gati. 

"We did not hear any place mentioned, we only heard 
the plane say we should write a letter." 

The stormy conditions on the Aberdares had distorted 
the sky-shouted message to such an extent that only odd 
words of it had been heard. 

I asked Gati why he had addressed his letter to me, 
and was told that "as no other European speaks Kikuyu 
from an aeroplane" he was sure it couldn't have been 
anyone else. After hearing their story I asked the two of 
them exactly why they had come to us that day. 

"Before Kimathi falls us," they said, "we thought we 
had better surrender." 

Tony and I summed up the situation. We had two 
surrendered terrorists on our hands, and both had fallen 
out of favour with Kimathi. On the other hand, not a 
single person, apart from ourselves, knew they had 



surrendered. In fact, there was every likelihood of Kimathi 
hearing that they were not pseudo-terrorists when he next 
met Chege Karobia. After all, they would not have gone 
openly with their story to Chege if they had been traitors. 
Good use could be made of them, but we had to try to 
prove to the Mau Mau that they were still active in the 
forest. Otherwise their absence would compromise them 
and make them useless to us. 

In the next few days we talked a lot to our two 
friends, until their fear of us had disappeared and their 
outlook on life began to change. We showed them the 
reserves so that they could see how Mau Mau had been 
eliminated. We took them up in helicopters. We told them 
what we knew about their own past activities in Mau 
Mau so that they would appreciate that might, as well as 
right, lay with us. Then we put them back into the 
Aberdare forest again and met them every few days to test 
their reliability. In the meantime we returned to Mihuro 
to see if our forged letter had been removed, but it had 

Browning Hi-Power 


All the time that Gati and Hungu were in the forest 
they were afraid that Kimathi would find them. To guard 
against this happening they kept very much to themselves 
and avoided all the places where they knew other gangs 
had their hideouts. We found them to be honest about 
their movements, and they were always punctual in their 
meetings with us. Soon we were completely satisfied with 
their trustworthiness and issued them pistols. This gave 
them new confidence, and they began to move more 
widely about the forest. All the time the task for which 
they were being prepared was developing behind the 

Once we were certain that our guns were in safe 
hands, we started to make Gati and Hungu popular with 
the other terrorists. We sky-shouted a message over sever- 
al parts of the Aberdares, claiming that both were badly 
wanted criminals and offering six hundred pounds to any- 
one who provided information leading to their capture. 
We made a point of keeping Gati and Hungu out of the 
forest when the sky-shouter broadcast this message, for 
they would have turned white at the thought that we were 
encouraging people to run them down. We did not keep 
this secret from them for long, however only long enough 
for us to get proof of the reaction of the terrorists in the 
forest. The effect of our hue and cry was dramatic. Within 
a few days Gati and Hungu became heroes. Obviously 
they must have committed some awful crime or the gov- 
ernment would not have put such a high price on their 
heads. Everyone wanted to meet them. Not only had we 
boosted their reputations to dazzling heights, but we had 
even provoked Kimathi into changing his opinion about 
them. He was now anxious to anoint them with fat, for 
they were the only Mau Mau whose heads were worth as 
much as was his own. We discovered this from the interro- 
gation of a terrorist named Gakoni, who was wounded and 
captured by a patrol of loyal Kikuyu guards while stealing 
food in the reserve. He had been with his gang leader 
when a letter had arrived from Kimathi calling upon 
everyone to locate Gati and Hungu, for they had done 
great deeds. This was just what we wanted. All was well, 


provided that no one captured them and claimed the 

To this day I think it was a miracle that out of all the 
Mau Mau in the forest it should have been Gati and 
Hungu who walked into our hands on that New Year's 
Day. Throughout the first three years of the emergency I 
had been in contact with many hundreds of Mau Mau. I 
met and interrogated many who had surrendered. I met 
captured terrorists shortly after they had come into our 
hands. I met terrorists at the moment of their capture, 
and I met terrorists in their hideouts during surrender 
talks. To me they were all alike they all had the same 
fanaticism, the same sullenness, the same suspicions, and 
the same violent hatred of anything not in tune with their 
life inside the forest. Even those who surrendered because 
they could not stand the hardships of forest life cherished 
warm memories of their semi-animal life in the jungle. 
Over and above all this, they all seemed to share the same 
fears and superstitions and to possess an arrogance and a 
lust for killing, which for them was really a form of 
entertainment. I had not met one terrorist who did not 
justify this assessment to a greater or lesser degree. But 
for the first time, on that New Year's Day I found an 
exception to this rule Gati. He was basically different 
from all those who had come before him and from all those 
who came after him. He was quite open about his life as a 
terrorist. He repented, but he asked for no mercy. He was 
incredibly polite and soft-spoken. To tell a lie was, in his 
ears, a most terrible thing. Above all else he was utterly 

Gati had been a carpenter-handyman on a farm in 
Kipipiri before the emergency and had been sent back to 
the reserve with the other Kikuyu labourers in the area 
when the trouble began. But he had no roots in the 
reserve and few friends. When the move to the forest 
began there was little to hold him back, though he was 
older than most of the recruits for the forest gangs. 

Inside the forest his abilities were soon recognised. 
He became the leader of a gang of two hundred, and as 
quartermaster general his special responsibility was steal- 


ing food from European farms. He had been an efficient 
gang leader but he was never a fanatic and did not, in fact, 
take any Mau Mau oaths until his career as a leader was 
under way. 

Towards the end of January we began to tell our two 
friends from the mountain, as they liked to call them- 
selves, about our plans for catching Kimathi. They were 
quite enthusiastic. We did not have to introduce them 
gradually to the idea that Kimathi was the root of all evil 
in the jungle. That had already become obvious to them. 

Yet there was more to their readiness to help us than 
that. Gati and Hungu had seen how the "white enemy" 
they had been taught to hate had come to meet them 
unarmed and then given them guns with which to protect 
themselves. This contrast was so great, so traumatic, that 
they felt they now had to offer their lives to their old 
enemies. They realised that Kimathi had kept the Mau 
Mau in the forest by lies. They had been cheated, they 
thought. "Ngai," they insisted, "had created a new magic. 
The forest would become a den of plague." 

The time was ripe for us to get together to discuss our 
next step. How could Kimathi be eliminated? Hour after 
hour, day after day, we probed, and studied, and listened 
to everything Gati and Hungu had to say. They were now 
our most expert advisers, but it was clear that there was 
no easy road ahead for us. Kimathi was far too cunning to 
fall easily. Even if our two collaborators could merge with 
his gang without losing their lives, they would not be 
allowed to come face to face with him until they had first 
been screened, searched, and questioned by his henchmen. 

In the whole forest there were only two terrorists who 
were allowed to meet Kimathi without first being screened 
by his guards. They were Kahiu Itina, who led a gang 
some thirty strong in the northern Aberdares, and Chege 
Karobia, a close friend of Kimathi, who led a group of 
terrorists in the western Aberdares. Chege was the leader 
from whom our two men had sought refuge after their 
flight from Kimathi on the Moorlands. 

We now knew for certain that we would have to have 
the support of members of Kimathi's own gang before we 
could account for him. It had to be an inside job, as no one 


else, apart from Kahiu Itina and Chege Karobia, had 
access to him. We were now faced with the question of 
whether Kahiu and Chege or Kimathi's own bodyguard 
would be easiest to locate. Our two collaborators told us 
that it would be almost impossible to trace Kimathi's gang. 
One could search the jungle for months and never set eyes 
on them. By far the best course was to hunt for Kahiu 
Itina and Chege Karobia, both of whom would know 
where Kimathi was hiding and how best he could be dealt 
with. Once either one of them was in our hands, the jump 
to Kimathi would be a short one, or so we thought. 

But even the task of locating Kahiu or Chege was not 
going to be an easy one. They too could be literally 
anywhere on the six thousand square miles of the Aberdares, 
and the fact that Gati and Hungu had met Chege after 
their flight from Kimathi on the Moorlands did not mean 
that they knew where he was and could go back and find 
him again. 

We asked Gati what he thought about our letter 
scheme. Would Kimathi send any of his men to a letter 
point like Mihuro? He roared with laughter. "Kinyanjui," 
he said, "that man is not a human being. If he heard of 
anything like that he would go many miles away. Even if 
you put thirty rifles there and told him he could have 
them, he would leave the area with great speed." 

This now showed us the futility of planting more 
letters or of sky-shouting once again. We knew that all the 
elaborate plans we had made for the hunt for Kimathi 
were useless. We had not kept abreast with the times 
Kimathi had changed a great deal since the days when the 
ex-terrorists we questioned had known him, since the days 
when he would have tried to murder anyone who wrote to 
him and invited him to surrender. Still, our scheme had 
not been entirely unproductive, for, somewhat indirectly, 
it had brought Gati and Hungu into our hands, and they 
had furnished us with up-to-date information about the 
changes that had taken place in the jungle. 

On the fifteenth of February two terrorists were 
wounded and captured while trying to steal sheep from a 
farm in the country west of the Melawa River, which flows 
down the northwestern side of the Aberdares. On being 


questioned about Gati and Hungu, they told us that, as far 
as the terrorists knew, both our friends were still very 
active in the forest. One said that he had heard that Gati 
had murdered three policemen in Kiambu and was now 
the subject of a hue and cry for six hundred pounds! The 
other insisted that he had received a letter from Hungu 
only ten days before, saying he was in the Eland Hill area 
at the northern end of the Moorlands. This was all pure 
invention, of course, and one did not have to look far for a 
motive. Nevertheless, between the bluff and the lies there 
was an element of truth, and we were extremely pleased 
to know for certain that all was well in the forest for our 
two men. 



Murunguru utuhaga na ime. 
The bushcat skips in the dew. 

The early bird catches the worm. 

Our immediate aim now was the capture of either 
Kahiu Itina or Chege Karobia. Neither of our two men 
had any doubt that they would be able to merge with 
either of these gangs and speak to their leaders once they 
were able to find them, nor did they consider that either 
would deny them information about Kimathi once we had 
them in our hands. But how were we going to capture 

"You will know we are dead when you find your 
pistols in years to come/* said Gati, 

We realised all too well that our two friends could do 
very little alone against such powerful opponents. From 
that moment we set out to build up our force, which we 
aimed to do by joining, and then capturing, small Mau 
Mau gangs. Meanwhile, we decided to avoid Kahiu Itina 
and Chege Karobia, and Kimathi as well, until we had a 
minimum of twelve hardcore terrorists on our side. Twelve, 
we estimated, would be adequate for our purposes, pro- 
vided they carried sufficient firepower. 

Our first move in this new direction began on the 
twenty-eighth of January, 1956, exactly four weeks from 
the day when Gati and Hungu came into our hands. 



Before dawn Tony, Gethieya, and I were making our way 
up a narrow game track in the Melawa Gorge. As only a 
terrorist could guide us in the darkness, for they could see 
surprisingly well at night, Gati was in the lead. We were 
worried about being trailed and identified by some Mau 
Mau foraging gang returning to the forest after a raid into 
the wheatlands below, so as we travelled along Hungu was 
in the rear, threading back the blades of grass every few 
yards to mislead anyone who might try to follow. Our faces 
and arms were blackened, and we wore the customary 
terrorist uniform of animal skins. We had specially made 
wigs of terrorist hair, but these fitted so firmly over our 
heads and made us sweat so much that we pulled them off 
in the darkness and carried them along in our hands, just 
as an American Indian would have carried the scalp of his 

Gati was going to take us to a secret path in the forest 
often used by terrorists crossing the Melawa Gorge. Tony 
and I were going to wait by the path, ready to intercept 
anyone who came along, while Gati and Hungu went on to 
comb the forest south of the river. Some weeks before 
they had left two small gangs there searching for a suitable 
place to build an underground food store. Our two friends 
were confident that these gangs would still be in the area, 
as much grain was ready for reaping on the European 
farms in the valley below, and this was a powerful attrac- 
tion to hungry terrorists. Then again, no terrorists would 
think of constructing something fairly permanent like a 
food store if they were not planning to stay. Our friends 
were sure that if any of the terrorists did succeed in 
getting away, they would run right into our ambush. 

As we approached the edge of the Moorlands the first 
glimmer of dawn was appearing in the east, and we 
hurried across the open grassland as fast as we could to try 
and reach the thick forest before there was enough light to 
show us up. We were wet through from the dew and the 
frost on the grass, but we were still sweating. The secret 
path was barely visible in the half-light when we reached 
it. It ran through thick deciduous forest where Tailing 
leaves had given the ground a soft mulchy layer: It '-was a 
natural escape route for a fiigitive-dark and thickly hemmed 


Patchett Sub-Machine Gun 

in, reasonably flat to allow for speed, noiseless to tread 
on and the continuous shower of leaves falling from the 
trees would soon hide any terrorist tracks. 

While Gati and his companion set off down the hill- 
side on their own, Tony, Gethieya, and I checked our 
Patchett guns and lay down in ambush positions beside the 
track. The day passed slowly without incident, though we 
were bitten mercilessly by ants. Several times we heard a 
rustling of the bushes nearby, but each time it turned out 
to be some little forest animal scampering about in search 
of food or on its way to water. Once a beautiful little red 
forest duiker came along the track and passed us 
unsuspectingly. The first feeling of excitement began to 
wear off, and by evening we were beginning to get cramped 
and restive. As the sun fell away behind the horizon, 
teams of Colobus monkeys sounded their good-nights in 
the low, rolling, guttural call which echoes eerily for miles 
round the forest. When the Colobus had retired, the birds 
became quiet, and to mark the end of day came the 
excited cackle of the partridges, who always seem to leave 
their homecomings till too late. 

Suddenly, as we lay in silence, there was a low 
whistle, followed a few seconds later by another. For a 
moment I wondered whether it was a terrorist signal, and 
I clutched my gun more tightly. Then we heard it again, 
this time a little louder, and I thought that it must be Gati, 
who knew where we were lying. He was probably afraid to 
walk towards us in case we should make a mistake and 
shoot him. I whistled back and then listened again. This 


time my whistle was answered by two short, sharp whis- 
tles. Yes, it was Gati all right. 

His dark, stocky form soon appeared. He was alone. 
Without a moment's hesitation he walked over to where I 
was lying just as though he could see me from a distance, 
and, bending down, put out his hand for me to shake. I 
could feel immediately that his wrist and fingers were 
covered with congealed blood. 

"Kai niatia [What is it, Gati]? Where is Hungu?" 

"There is nothing bad. They are sitting back there, 
and Hungu is guarding them," he replied, pointing down 
the path. I breathed a sigh of relief. 

In no time Gati was leading us back through the 
pitch-dark forest, and within a hundred yards we came 
upon Hungu. He was standing, feet apart, pistol in hand, 
over the prone bodies of four Mau Mau who were handcuffed 
in pairs and lying face downwards on the ground. 

It seemed that shortly after our two collaborators had 
left us early that morning they had come to the banks of 
the Melawa River. They had followed the river down- 
stream for nearly three miles before they found a place 
where fragments of plucked leaves were lying on the bank. 
Mau Mau often used these to, cover the river stones and 
thus avoided leaving muddy marks on them when drawing 
water from the middle of the stream. From that point they 
had tracked the gang through the forest for a long way. 
They had seen where the gang had rested, where one 
terrorist had branched off to examine a hollow in a tree for 
honey, and where, eventually, the gang had taken extreme 
precautions to cover their tracks. This was one of the arts 
which the remaining hardcore terrorists had perfected. It 
involved putting the whole weight of the body on to one 
side of the foot so that no toe or heel marks would be 
noticeable. When they ran through long grass a thin stick 
would be used to thread the blades back every few paces. 
Once a gang began covering its tracks, a technique which 
Mau Mau referred to with justifiable pride as ktihitha 
makinya, or "to hide the feet," only the most expert 
jungleman could follow them, and that, in my experience, 
only meant Mau Mau of the same calibre as the hunted. 
Suspecting, because of these precautions, that the 


hideout was near, Gati and Hungu waited until the mists 
thickened in the valley, for they knew that only then 
would the gang light a fire. When the mist was thick and 
swirling they quietly moved downwind in the hope of 
smelling the smoke. And that was exactly what directed 
them to the hideout. 

Our friends crept up on their hands and knees to 
within ten yards of a gang of five terrorists. Two were 
asleep on the ground, a third was sitting with his head 
resting on his knees, and the two others were preparing to 
cook some buck meat over the smoking fire. The attack 
was launched so quickly that all the terrorists had been 
able to say was, "Nogwo, noguo [That's it, that's it]." But 
while Hungu was busy handcuffing them, one had jumped 
to his feet and tried to escape through the dense forest, 
Gati fired at him. Two shots went astray, but the third 
bullet cut into his thigh and knocked him over. For a 
moment he lay there, then he rose again and plunged 
through some bushes, but a few seconds later another shot 
hit him in the back of the neck, killing him instantaneous- 
ly. Gati searched him quickly for arms and documents, 
getting blood all over his hands. Then he led the party 
round in a long detour to our rendezvous. The journey 
was uphill all the way and took most of the day. 

We moved on immediately, without waiting for the 
dawn, for the open Moorlands had to be crossed again and 
we wanted to be out of sight of terrorist eyes by dawn. As 
we trekked back nobody said a word until one of the 
prisoners turned to Hungu and asked him to remove the 
handcuffs, as they would have no hope of escape if a wild 
animal were to charge while they were manacled together. 

"I did not harvest you to plant me," Hungu retorted, 
and the journey continued, with only the soft thud of our 
feet breaking the quietness of the night. 

The newcomers were brought all the way back to 
Nairobi, where we set up a base camp called "Mayfield." 
There we began the tedious task of winning their support 
and confidence. Like all Mau Mau from the heart of the 
forest, they were astonished by the ordered flow of life 
outside, where there was now little evidence of an emer- 
gency. They knew of the damage that terrorism had wrought 


. S-51 

in their tribal reserve. Now they could see the spectacular 
progress made by government in its efforts to rehabilitate 
the Kikuyu. 

By showing them the peaceful conditions in the re- 
serve, we shattered to smithereens their ridiculous notion 
that the Mau Mau would win. We then embarked upon a 
deflating campaign designed to convince them that they 
were not the tough, super-human fighters they thought 
they were. We took them to a rifle range and showed them 
what poor marksmen they were. We took them up in a 
helicopter where, by cutting the engine and dropping fast, 
we made them decidedly anxious to get their feet on to 
solid ground again. 

When their arrogance had vanished, education be- 
gan. There were endless hours of patient discussion in 
which the futility of terrorism and the malevolence of their 
leaders had to be emphasised and re-emphasised. We 
explained how the leaders had perverted the tribal rituals 
and oaths; we explained why and how the leaders were 
debauching the rank and file. We described the appalling 
suffering which Mau Mau had brought upon the tribe, and 
the effect of this upon the young children who had been 
made parentless by Mau Mau violence. The methods of 
conversion were many, but the key to their success was 
kind and gentle handling. Our prisoners were fed well, 
and they were treated well. Another vital factor was, of 
course, the presence of Gati and Hungu, who, as Mau 


Mau themselves, were able to argue with greater eflect 
than any white man. But of all the many factors to which 
their conversion can be attributed, the most telling was 
the freedom they were given from the moment they were 
brought out of the forest. While they were watched discreetly 
by Gati, Hungu, and ourselves, they were never impounded 
as prisoners. They retained the weapons they had carried 
in the forest and were free to roam about our camp with 
them. This was a risky business, but it was the only means 
of testing their loyalty and we always felt it was better to 
establish this, as far as one could, while outside the forest, 
and before we placed ourselves at their mercy inside it. 

It was not very long before they were sufficiently 
indoctrinated for our purpose; in nine or ten days we saw a 
marked difference. But on no account would we ever let 
them wash or change their forest clothes, as it was impor- 
tant that physically they should remain in the same state 
as they were when captured. 

By the end of the first week in February we were 
confident that we had six collaborators, and back to the 
Aberdares we went, Meanwhile one of the newcomers had 
told us about a Mau Mau meeting scheduled to take place 
on the eighth of February beside a stream called the 
Magomboki. As a result our six terrorists were sent into 
the Kipipiri forest on the night of the seventh with orders 
to attend the meeting. We did not want them to capture 
anyone, but we hoped their attendance would prove that 
they were still in circulation and that this would pave the 
way for subsequent operations. 

It rained heavily on the eighth, and we wondered 
how much this would hamper the conference. The four 
new boys roamed about the Magomboki stream all day, 
but nobody put in an appearance. Gati and Hungu, tired 
of sitting in the rain, cut through the forest to a large 
timber mill known as Bush Mills, which had been burnt to 
the ground by Mau Mau early in the emergency, and came 
upon the tracks of two terrorists who seemed to have gone 
up and down one path several times that day. They 
decided to wait and see whether anyone passed by again. 
Patience was soon rewarded. Some three hours later two 
Mau Mau, carrying large bundles of wheat on their backs, 


came climbing up through the forest. They did not see 
their ambushers slip round behind them and both were 
pulled to the ground from behind so suddenly that the 
straps of their bundles, which were fastened round their 
necks, almost strangled them. When they realised what 
had happened they were furious and accused Gati and 
Hungu of trying to steal the food they had taken such 
grave risks to obtain. However, when they saw our men 
draw their pistols they quickly stopped arguing and were 
brought back to us in a very worried state. 

In those days no Mau Mau gang moved far from its 
own chosen area, but the gangs knew their own homeland 
in great detail. Our own pseudo-operations had caused 
this immobility. We wanted to find out which part of the 
forest was Dedan Kimathi's select area. Meanwhile we 
thought it essential to raise our force from as many places 
as possible in order to gain a wide knowledge of the 
terrain all over the Aberdares. 

Our two latest additions were indoctrinated some- 
what more quickly than the others because this time, as 
on all future occasions, we were able to use a larger 
number of their own kind on the job. Within a few days 
we found we were able to spring our eight-strong force 
into a completely new part of the mountain, the Fort Hall 
forest. At this time of the year, hot and sunny before the 
seasonal long rains, the forest is a picture of natural 
magnificence, with the trees and bushes in full flower and 
the bees humming from plant to plant in a constant search 
for pollen. As honey was one of the staple foods of the 
terrorists, it was a normal practice for gangs to send out 
small scouting parties to i>In-point beehives so that when 
the rains eventually did come they could find the honey 
easily. This search for hives inevitably meant a consider- 
able increase Li gang movement, and because of this we 
were a little concerned about the safety of our men. There 
was always the possibility that they would run into Kimathi's 
gang and be captured, for it was his practice to hold and 
interrogate every terrorist he came across. Some way of 
supporting our team while it was operating had to be 
found. We therefore decided that Tony, Gethieya, and I 
would set up a base in the forest to which our team could 


run if events turned out badly, or from which we could 
rush out if we heard firing. 

The base we established for this operation in the Fort 
Hall forest consisted of a small canvas bivouac, hardly 
larger than a bed sheet, sited on the southern bank of a 
river called the Mathioya where the forest was sufficiently 
dense to keep us completely concealed. As the team 
began a search of the forest, we took up our positions. 

We had been in our tiny camp for only an hour or so 
when we realised that the firing of pistols would serve no 
practical purpose as a warning signal by day. The gases 
trapped between the intersecting links of bamboo expand- 
ed in the hot sun and split the poles in an endless volley of 
loud explosions which echoed all round the forest. It was 
quite impossible to distinguish between these explosions 
and gunfire. Nevertheless, we took it in turn to sleep and 
someone was on the alert at all times. 

Meanwhile our team was moving silently through the 
undergrowth, studying the movement of the bees, seeing 
if the Mau Mau had visited new hives, searching for 
tracks, for game snares, for watering points, and for other 
telltale signs of terrorist activity. They discovered there 
was ample food for the Mau Mau in the area, as duiker 
and bushbuck were plentiful and there was an unusually 
large variety of indigenous trees whose fruits were edible. 
There was also a great deal of thabai, a dreadful nettle 
which causes a massive body rash but which was a favour- 
ite Mau Mau foodstuff. 

They stopped to examine each fruit-bearing tree and 
each patch of stinging nettle they came across. They 
carefully bent the nettles over with a stick to see whether 
any leaves had been plucked from the lower primaries; 
they knew the Mau Mau would never remove any of the 
upper leaves and thus reveal their visit. The first night 
came, and to avoid lighting a fire our team ate corned beef 
and buried the tins. They slept as a buck would sleep, 
where the ground was soft with their lair adequately 
hidden. It made no difference to them that the soil was 
moist and the dew dripped down on them from the leaves 
of the trees above. 

By first light they were on the move again, snaking 


their way through the forest, hoping all the time to sniff a 
whiff of smoke from Mau Mau fires. They had not gone 
very far before they came to a slight rise in the ground. 
Here they halted to peer through the trees at the higher 
ground in front of them. As they were doing this they 
heard a rustle in the forest close behind them. They were 
being tracked down! But before they had time to decide 
what to do, four terrorists came into view and stopped 
abruptly twenty yards away. For a moment both parties 
stood glaring at one another without moving an inch or 
making a sound. Suddenly there was a shout from Gati. 

"l/rai [Run]," he called, and our men swung round 
sharply and scattered into the forest. 

"Tigaf kuura, no ithui [Don't run, it is only us]," the 
terrorists yelled back as they chased after our men. 

But our men were not running away from fright. They 
had already identified the newcomers. There was Rukwaro, 
a Fort Hall man; Thia, a minute little fellow whose size 
had made him the butt of many forest jokes; Wamai, who 
was an expert at making weapons; and Kinuthia, a tall, 
thin terrorist who had once operated far away on Mount 
Kenya. They were not dangerous, as were Kimathi or 
Kahiu Itina or Chege Karobia. Gati had shouted to his 
men to run only because he knew that if his team had 
stood their ground the other band would have fled in- 
stead. Running away from one another was an accepted 
habit when two gangs met. 

Convinced that our team was a geniune, friendly 
gang, the four Mau Mau raced on through the forest, 
appealing to them to stop. When our men had run a few 
hundred yards, Gati deliberately slowed them down so as 
to let his pursuers catch up, and soon everyone was 
gathered together in an excited, breathless group. 

"Kai," exclaimed the panting Rukwaro, "we nearly 
missed one another/' 

"Noguo," agreed Gati. "That's it, we had gone like 

At this everyone burst out laughing. In their excite- 
ment they did not care whether their enemies heard 
them. There was much shaking of hands the terrorist 
way each clasp followed by much holding of thumbs 


before clasping hands a second time. It was a happy 
reunion among friends of the jungle. 

By the time the team and their four new prisoners 
arrived at our forest base, the newcomers had been told all 
about our scheme and were quite pleased at the idea of 
joining us, especially as Gati and the others seemed to be 
so happy in their work. But they were frightened of 
meeting a European. They had, after all, only caught 
fleeting glimpses of them during the forest operations of 
the past three years. My first impression of them was their 
nauseating smell. It was so strong that I found I could not 
stand near them. The feeling was evidently mutual, for 
one of them instantly vomited on smelling a bar of soap 
taken from Gathieya's pocket. In the days to come I saw 
many terrorists sickened by the smell of soap on our 
bodies. Nothing seemed to revolt them more than 

The target of twelve which we had set ourselves 
before we were prepared to turn our attention to Kahiu 
Itina and Chege Karobia had now been reached. It had 
taken us seven weeks to arrive at this stage. We were at 
last ready to begin our search for the only two terrorists in 
the forest, apart from Kimathi's own men, who could lead 
us to Kimathi himself. 


Muti uguagira mundu uri ho. 

The tree falls on the man who stands by it. 

Trouble comes when we least expect it. 

Ten days later we went back into the Kipipiri forest. 
Our terrorists were now in two teams of six, one under the 
leadership of Gati, the other under Hungu. 

It was almost nine months to the day since the last 
surrender talks in the Chinga forest had broken down, and 
we knew that a migration of terrorists had taken place 
away from our old meeting place in the eastern Aberdares, 
towards Kipipiri and the northern part of the mountain. 
With that migration, we now discovered, went Kahiu 
Itina. He had once been a leading member of the Ituma 
Demi Trinity Council, a body set up in the forest by 
Kimathi in 1953 to direct the activities of the nine separate 
wings of the Ituma Demi Mau Mau army. We went north 
into the Kipipiri in search of him. 

On the twenty-fourth of February each of the two 
teams picked up tracks in the forest, but by nightfall they 
had made no contact. The next day they continued the 
hunt, and by noon had converged on an empty Mau Mau 
hideout close to the rocky summit of Kipipiri. 

Kipipiri is surrounded by thick forest and bamboo 
which rises almost three quarters of the way up her slopes. 
Above this there is a stretch of grassland, like the Moor- 



lands of the Aberdares in many ways, and above that again 
is the rocky summit. While our teams climbed they were 
both being carefully watched by a Mau Mau gang, and 
they had only just arrived at the hideout when they heard 
voices calling from a ridge several hundred feet to their 
left. The callers had identified Gati and certain of our 
men, and were asking them to wait until they could come 
across the valley and join them. 

To Gati's surprise, the other gang numbered no less 
than twelve. They carried four automatic weapons, and 
were led by a particularly well-known gang leader named 
Gaichuhie. The last time Gati had seen Gaichuhie was in 
August 1954, when he had been chosen by Kimathi as one 
of four so-called arthuri or "elders" to preside over the trial 
of a young terrorist named Gathongo. Gathongo had been 
seated one night with Gati and some thirty other terrorists 
around a fire in the Fort Hall forest when Kimathi arrived 
on one of his inspections. All had gone well until the late 
hours of the night, when, suddenly, three rounds of am- 
munition exploded in the fire. Everyone scattered in 
alarm. When the panic was over and everyone had 
regathered, Kimathi and his escort began a thorough 
investigation. He was sure that the ammunition had been 
thrown on to the fire deliberately to try and kill him, 
although everyone else was satisfied that there had been 
an accident. Suspicion fell upon Gathongo, who, according 
to one of Kimathi's men, had seven rounds of ammunition 
in his pocket before the explosion, but only four after- 
wards. Gati, however, knew Gathongo had not been re- 
sponsible because he hd been sitting next to him all the 
time. Angered by the false accusations made by Kimathi's 
man, Gati strongly defended Gathongo and said he would 
not allow him to be strangled. This could have put Gati 
himself in danger, but he held a loaded sub-machine gun 
in his hands, and nobody, not even Kimathi, felt inclined 
to argue too much that night. 

The next morning the argument began afresh, and it 
was obvious that if it weren't for Gati, Gathongo would have 
been strangled on the spot. News of the case spread 
quickly through the forest, and within days hundreds of 
Mau Mau were arguing about it. Some of them wanted to 


see Gathongo killed as a warning to others who might be 
planning to attack Kimathi. Those who took this view were 
not the least concerned about the strength of the evidence 
against Gathongo. They simply wanted to see someone 
die, and Gathongo was as good a victim as anyone else. 
Many terrorists, however, sided with Gati and said that 
nobody should be strangled unless there was proof of 
responsibility. The argument reached such a pitch that it 
was touch and go whether the two opposing camps would 
begin fighting among themselves. At this stage Kimathi 
chose four elders to settle the row. Unlike the other three 
judges, who sought to ingratiate themselves with Kimathi 
by recommending Gathongo's execution, Gaichuhie would 
not agree to the strangulation without good reason. His 
stubbornness made him very unpopular, and he was threat- 
ened himself, but he literally stood by his guns and 
challenged all who accused him to a duel. In the end, his 
personal courage and toughness, for he was a tough nut by 
any standard, won the day, and Gathongo was spared. Gati 
and Gaichuhie had parted as great friends after this inci- 
dent and were delighted to meet again on Mount Kipipiri 

After exchanging excited greetings, and smearing ani- 
mal fat on the foreheads of our men in accordance with 
Mau Mau custom, both groups faced Mount Kenya the 
seat of their god Ngai, and, with arms upraised, said their 
prayers The ritual was a peculiar one. As the traditional 
god of the Kikuyu, Ngai, lived on the snow-capped peak of 
Mount Kenya, the Mau Mau believed that their prayers 
would only be heard if they faced that mountain as their 
forefathers had done years ago. They all stood together in 
close formation, earth in their right hands and arms raised 
shoulder high. After some time Gati and Gaichuhie walked 
round together to the head of the group, a position thev 
were entitled to occupy as leaders, and began to speak in 
turn. Their words did not follow any set form. They came 
out spontaneously. 

"Ngai," said Gaichuhie, "you have chosen me as one 
to lead your people. You have given us this forest to hide 
m, the rivers to drink from, the berries to eat, and the 
animal skins to clothe ourselves in. You have told us to 
suffer so that the nine clans of the Kikuyu can be cleaned 


of all traitors and you have chosen a large, red book in 
which the names of all of us who die will be written, for 
they will be more precious than those who remain alive." 
As Gaichuhie paused at the end of this and every 
subsequent sentence, the Mau Mau behind him^mumbled 
their chorus: "Thaai, Thaaiya, Thaai, Haaaah!" 

This was a mark of agreement with what their leader 
had said, and as they mumbled these words they released 
some of the earth in their hands and allowed it to trickle 
down to the ground. This, they believed, meant that their 
prayers had been "planted as a seed in the ground and 
would therefore germinate" and be answered. When 
Gaichuhie finished it was Gati's turn, and he prayed in a 
similar vein; his words, too, were planted with earth from 
the hands of his motionless listeners. His prayers drew an 
approving mumble, "Thaai, Thaaiya, Thaai, Haaaah!" 
Even to the Mau Mau the ceremony was a little frightening. 
When the prayers were finished and they had begun 
to talk to one another again, Gaichuhie said that there 
were a great many terrorists, possibly eight or ten gangs, 
over the crest of the mountain. Even more were expected 
to come that day because a big meeting had been called by 
a Mau Mau witch doctor named Muraya, who would be 
arriving the following day with important news. Gati asked 
whether Kahiu Itina would be present, but Gaichuhie 
would only say, "Only Ngai knows that." Gati did not 
pursue the question. A man who is inquisitive is a spy, and 
spies are strangled. 

That night our teams slept with Gaichuhie's gang and 
did their fair share of sentry duty, knowing that no security 
forces were in the forest, as it had been closed to all 
troops. At first light the whole group moved over to the 
other side of the mountain. Here they found no less than 
eighty-two terrorists, at least half of whom were well 
known to our collaborators. Witch doctor Muraya had not 
yet arrived, nor was there any sign of Kahiu Itina. All the 
Mau Mau were split up into groups of six and seven and 
were lying about on the rocks and grass within shouting 
distance of each other. Outside the main group there were 
several groups of armed sentries, posted in pairs. Beyond 
them, right up at the top of the mountain, were several 


more sentries, all absolutely motionless with their backs 
against rocks. 

As soon as they arrived, our men were given a warm 
welcome, for many had not seen them for several weeks, 
and no one had seen Gati or Hungu since our six hundred 
pounds had been put on their heads. Gati found his 
influence was so great that he was able to issue orders and 
organise the relief of sentries. As he wandered about 
among the terrorists, he recorded their names in a dairy 
farmer's milk ledger which he confiscated from a colleague. 

By three o'clock in the afternoon the terrorists were 
beginning to fidget. Witch doctor Muraya had still not 
turned up, and everyone had been without food for almost 
twenty -four hours. To cook they had first to find water, and 
this could only be done during the daylight. By four 
o'clock it was unanimously agreed that if Muraya had not 
arrived within an hour, the meeting would be called off 
and everyone would go his way. 

After all this time the terrorists had run out of conver- 
sation and they stretched out on the grass in boredom and 
began to doze. Suddenly the silence was shattered by a 
shot. The gangs jumped to their feet and rushed for cover 
with their guns and knives at the ready. Hungu had fired 
the shot, and after the first moments of confusion his 
neighbours grabbed him, threw him to the ground, and 
seized his pistol. Had he tried to murder someone? Was 
he a traitor? 

Within a minute, twenty to thirty terrorists were 
packed tightly round Hungu's prostrate body, questioning 
him sharply, and more were running towards him. Our 
men knew that to speak out in favour of a suspected 
person was to court an unpleasant form of death, so they 
made no move. This was one of those occasions when 
matters had to be left to take their course. It was now up 
to Hungu whether Gati and all the rest of our men were to 
live or die. If our men ran they would certainly not get 
away from the mob, and they did not have enough guns to 
shoot their way out. All they could do was to wait and 
hope and pray as they had never prayed before. 

Gati could hear Hungu answering the questions which 
were showered upon him so fast that he seldom had time 


to answer one before three or four more were fired at him. 
He could hear Hungu's nervous voice stuttering and hesi- 
tating, but always just managing to get an answer out. So 
far he was holding his own. Then Gati heard a demand 
that Hungu be given a traditional test to make him speak 
the truth. This involved placing red-hot coals on his bare 
stomach and cutting off his thumbs at the first joint. Gati 
knew Hungu well enough to realise that he would never 
be able to withstand that torture. "This is the day of our 
judgment," Gati whispered to himself. 

Then Gati could bear the strain no longer. He got up 
and walked over to the hostile mob which was getting 
increasingly hysterical. He elbowed his way through them 
as though he too were angry. After all, he was a popular 
leader thanks to us. When he reached the middle, and 
was standing beside Hungu's feet, he raised his hand high 
above his head. Speaking in a firm, authoritative voice, he 
ordered everyone to stand back and be silent. Gaichuhie, 
in his usual stubborn way, refused to obey. "You, Gati," he 
said, "you were with Hungu. This is not an affair for you. 
Probably you are a spy too." 

All eyes turned on Gati. This was a moment for 
strength. He knew that what he was now going to say 
might provoke Gaichuhie to challenge him to a duel with 
knives, and one or the other, or both, would surely die a 
painful death. He knew that was the sort of thing which 
appealed to Gaichuhie' s tough temperament. He had not 
forgotten Gathongo's trial in the forests of Fort Hall. But it 
was better to die fighting a duel with Gaichuhie than to be 
pulled to bits by a howling mob. Gati lifted his hand and 
placed a finger on the bridge of his nose between his eyes. 
"Look at me right here," he said to Gaichuhie. "And don't 
look anywhere else until I have finished." 

He could sense that the mob was already impressed 
with his strong words. They became silent and watched 
with startled eyes. Gati gave Gaichuhie a cold, steady 
stare, not daring to blink or glance away. 

"Tell everyone here if we did not sleep with you last 
night! Tell them that while you and your men were asleep 
my men guarded you! Tell them, for you seem very full of 


There was a deathly silence as the mob awaited 
Gaichuhie's answer. Those harsh words wen? not likely to 
draw a soft reply from a tenacious, brutal tough like 
Gaichuhie. But no reply came; as the crowd began to stir 
and whisper, Gaichuhie shook his head, turned about, and 
walked meekly away, leaving Gati in command of the 
situation. The crisis had passed, but all was not yet well. 
Gati turned to Hungu, and in the same firm voice asked 
him whether he had fired. "Aca [No]," replied Hungu. 
"The gun fired by itself. It was in my pocket." 

"Give me his trousers," ordered Gati, hoping and 
praying that what Hungu had said was true, for he was 
now going to point out the bullet hole in the pocket. It 
was true. Gati held up the trousers so that everyone round 
him could see the hole. When they had done so, he threw 
the trousers on the ground beside Hungu and told him to 
put them on. The mob did not object. Some had already 
lost interest in the incident and were drifting away. Then 
he called for Hungu's skin jacket and the pistol, and he 
was given these too. As with the trousers, he threw them 
down on to the ground, and Hungu nervously took them. 
For the last time he rasied his voice and said: "All must 
leave here now. The shot will have been heard by our 
enemies." And with that the mob dispersed. Many jeered 
at Gaichuhie, and some even said that he should be 
strangled for falsely accusing Gati. 

A few minutes later only two terrorists, apart from 
those in our teams, were left at the meeting place, but 
these two did not wish to leave by themselves. They had 
been living alone for many months after the gang which 
they belonged to was broken up by the security forces. 
Three of their companions had been killed in the action, 
and they were the only survivors. Both were natives of 
lyego location of the Fort Hall district, and when they saw 
that one of our men was also a native of lyego, whom they 
had known since childhood, they decided they would try 
and join Gad's gang. The sight of this old friend was too 
much for them. They just could not leave him. And so the 
two came up to Gati and asked permission to join his 
party. Naturally Gati was delighted and willingly agreed to 
their request. Out of a situation which seemed at one 


stage bound to end in catastrophe much good had come. 
For not only had Gati's leadership been confirmed, but 
our whole force had had its morale lifted and our strength 
had been increased by two. 

Nevertheless, this incident on Kipipiri taught us an 
important lesson which we never forgot, If we had gone 
with our teams on the operation we would have compromised 
every single man. No retreat would have been possible 
over the open grassland, and no disguise, however good, 
would have enabled us, as Europeans, to mingle with the 
mob at the meeting place. From that moment we resolved 
never to lead our teams in person unless the operation was 
one based on such good information that we could go 
straight to a target and attack it. When there was any 
searching through the forest to be done, or when there 
was a need to merge quietly with other Mau Mau gangs, 
we would leave things to our teams and restrict our own 
activities to ambushing key points, providing support, 
checking Mau Mau letter boxes, and contacting our teams 
at prearranged rendezvous in the forest. Having gone to 
all this trouble to establish a friendly Mau Mau gang in the 
Aberdares, no risk which might betray them was justified. 

Although trouble had come to us when we least 
expected it, or, as the Kikuyu idiom says, "The tree 
beneath which we were resting had nearly fallen on top of 
us," the Kipipiri episode paved the way for operations 
against Kahiu Itina and other terrorist leaders. Our small 
but valuable force had been displayed before terrorists 
from many widely scattered areas of the Aberdares, and, 
with their return to their various haunts, they took the 
knowledge that every one of our men was still active and 
friendly. This news circulated still further afield much to 
our advantage. Furthermore, it had been established that 
our target, Kahiu Itina, was nowhere near Mount Kipipiri 
or the western Aberdares, or he would have been present 
at the meeting. We now turned our attention to the 
Wuthering Heights region of the northern Aberdares, 
which had been Kahiu's stamping ground in earlier days. 



Gwota mwaki ni kuhuria. 

To get the warmth of the fire one must stir its 

No gains without pains. 

Throughout the month of March we operated at full 
pressure in a determined bid to find Kahiu Itina before 
the long rains broke. The teams made three contacts with 
small Mau Mau gangs. We captured four more terrorists 
and killed a further two, but no one had seen or heard of 
Kahiu Itina for many months. These were small engage- 
ments but even so they contained an element of danger. 
One incident was typical. 

Thirteen sheep had been stolen from a farm near 
Naromoru, and the tracks of the animals were followed by 
the police to the edge of the Aberdare forest. At their 
request we put one of our teams into the forest to pick up 
the spoor and track down the gang. Although the gang had 
shown much skill in driving the sheep along well-used 
game paths where the spoor of the game and sheep 
merged, to the detriment of quick tracking, the team 
eventually managed to find the place several miles up the 
mountain where the animals had been slaughtered. 

Much of the meat had been abandoned at this point, 
which showed that the gang had been prepared to make 



do with what they could carry and to move on before any 
soldiers or pseudos could come up on them. It looked, 
however, as though the gang was reasonably large, and we 
were hopeful that Kahiu Itina was responsible. 

After filling their skin bags with some of the abandoned 
meat, our team continued the pursuit westwards over the 
rising ground towards Muir's Massif, which they reached 
at dusk. It was not too dark for them to see the tracks of 
the gang so they decided to rest until daybreak. The cold, 
howling winds of the upper Aberdares had dropped in the 
calm of the late evening, and our team lay back on the 
grass, gazing down towards the Lol Daiga hills which were 
faintly visible more than fifty miles away, and talking in 
subdued voices about the visits they had made to that far 
country to steal Nderobo cattle. As they were lying there, 
Njeru, the leader, suddenly heard an unfamiliar noise. He 
touched one of his talkative companions on the shoulder 
and then turned his head to one side to listen. A long way 
down below, in a thickly wooded ravine, a dry branch had 
cracked and fallen heavily to the ground. Seconds passed, 
then they all heard something: Ka, ka, ka, then a pause, 
ka, ka. Now they knew what it was. Someone was hacking 
at a tree. It was not the deep, heavy sound of the sort of 
axe used by forestry workers, but the finer and sharper 
noise which only a Mau Mau simi would make. It could 
only be Mau Mau at this time of the evening, Mau Mau 
looking for firewood to warm themselves during the night. 

"If they are collecting firewood the mbuchi [hideout] 
must be near," said Njeru, and, as one, the team rose, 
threw the straps of their skin bags over their heads, ruffled 
the grass where they had been lying, and hurried off 
round Muir's Massif and down the side of the mountain. 

Soon they were on the edge of a deep ravine waiting 
quietly for darkness to fall. They had hoped to hear 
terrorist voices from here, but the noise of the river below 
drowned out all other sounds. When darkness came they 
moved cautiously through the brushwood, and had only 
gone a short way when they saw the flames of a fire 
flickering below them almost half way up the far side of 
the ravine. They moved on slowly until they were only 


forty yards from the fire. Three terrorists were sitting 
round it, Each was holding a stick on which large pieces of 
meat were stuck, and the meat was sizzling in the fire. 

Our men reckoned that only three terrorists could not 
have carried all that meat by themselves, and that there 
must be others in the vicinity, so they decided to lie 
quietly until the meal was over and the three terrorists 
had gone to sleep. Then they would creep up and take 
them by surprise. A half moon was high in the sky before 
all was quiet round the fire. The three terrorists had not 
been joined by any others. They had eaten well, too well 
to do anything but sleep. They sat round the fire and 
talked for hours. At last they all stood up, stretched their 
arms and relieved themselves where they stood. Then 
they covered the fire with earth and lay down on the warm 
earth for the night. Our team crept up on them quietly. 
They did not expect much opposition, as there were two 
of our men to each opponent, and we also had the 
advantage of surprise. 

Our men crawled right into the hideout and stood 
over their sleeping victims. They then dropped as a leop- 
ard would drop from a tree on to a passing buck. But they 
had underestimated the physical strength of their adver- 
saries. One of our men, Waira, was thrown backwards into 
the bush. Njeru fell over when his leg was grabbed. Thia, 
the dwarf, almost lost his revolver. Within seconds knives 
were flashing, and everyone was wriggling and kicking on 
the ground in the darkness. A heavy body fell on Njeru's 
face. He was choking. He gasped, he bit, but in vain. He 
was sure he was about to die, so he gave a muffled yell. 
Waira, bleeding from a knife wound on his arm, broke 
loose and went to help Njeru. An elbow hit him on the 
chest and knocked him over, and a terrorist dropped on 
him. Over and over they rolled until the terrorist was 
under him. This was not a time to worry about bringing 
them back alive it was a fight for life. Now Waira's right 
arm was free. He pulled his knife from its sheath and 
plunged it deep into his opponent's chest. The man gasped, 
stretched up a little, then relaxed his grip. Thia was 
shouting "Ninguaragwo! Ninguaragioo [I will be killed! I 
will be killed]!" but Waira could not see him. The dwarf 



was beneath three or four writhing bodies. Waira pulled 
the first leg he found, but it did no good. 

Then Waira remembered his revolver. He pulled it 
from its holster inside his skin jacket and fired three shots 
into the ground. Within seconds the rolling and kicking 
stopped, and he heard the two remaining terrorists plead- 
ing for mercy. It was some time before everyone was able 
to stand up. They were all cut and bleeding. 

Unfortunately it was just after these interesting little 
battles that Tony Lapage was recalled to more routine 
duties. I doubt whether anyone could have been sorrier to 
leave us, for his heart and soul were in the job, and he 
actively enjoyed trailing through those forests day and 
night with the element of risk always present. Tony was a 
wonderful companion, who had quite the best sense of 
humour I have ever known. It was not easy to replace 
him, and for a long time Gethieya and I carried on alone, 

Webley Mk. IV .380 Cal. 


but eventually I was joined by Inspector Richard 
MacLachlan, a slightly built Scotsman from Glasgow. 

We were closer than we thought, however, to Kahiu 
Itina, and after the end of March events occurred in rapid 
succession. Our first contact with his gang was on April 
Fool's Day, when one of our teams came face to face with 
some of his men and merged, unsuspected, with them. 
Unfortunately, Kahiu Itina was not with them; he and 
eleven others were some fifteen miles through the forest 
to the east. The group that our men met were setting 
game snares over a wide area of the northern Aberdares, 
and the prospects of our team staying with them, and 
eventually accompanying them back to Kahiu Itina, were 

All went extremely well until the night of the second 
of April, when the group was fired upon by a pseudo- 
gang. In their journey with Kahiu Itina's men our team 
had knowingly, but unavoidably, passed out of the area 
closed to operations. When the firing began everyone 
scattered, but no casualties were inflicted and the attack 
was very half-hearted. By a stroke of good luck, during the 
confusion one of our men, named Kibata, tackled and tied 
up an enormous terrorist from Kahiu Itina's gang called 
Ruku. The next morning they brought him to a point in 
the forest where we were meeting the team. Ruku knew 
exactly where the trapping party were to rejoin Kahiu 
Itina. He told us that when he last left him, Kahiu Itina 
had been in a hideout on the Ngobit River near Wuthering 
Heights, and, without delay, we rushed round to that side 
of the mountain. 

To everyone's horror, on arrival at Wuthering Heights 
after a back-breaking journey up the Elephant Entry 
Track the worst track on the whole Aberdares Ruku 
stubbornly refused to co-operate with us, insisting that he 
had not said that Kahiu Itina was on the Ngobit River. He 
now claimed no knowledge of his whereabouts and, though 
we knew he had been with the gang for over a year, he 
swore that he had only met them twenty-four hours 'be- 
fore. Every effort was made to get him to talk before 
others from the trapping party could get back to Kahiu 
Itina and tell him about the action, but Ruku remained as 


stubborn as ever. By the evening of the third of April he 
had still not changed his story so MacLachlan and I took 
him over while the teams headed for the Ngobit River to 
carry out a general search. All Ruku asked during the next 
few hours was that we shoot him. He wanted to die. 

We made ourselves a small shelter on the fringe of 
the Moorlands, and while Mac went off to draw water I 
took Ruku with me to gather firewood, which was no easy 
task in the darkness. When we had gone a short way from 
the camp I told him he could go away if he wished. I had 
said this to uncooperative terrorists before, and found that 
it had worked wonders. They would, of course, be very 
stupid if they did go; they would certainly be murdered by 
their confederates who would suspect them of being won 
over or bribed by us. Ruku was astonished. He looked at 
me menacingly for some moments, then sat down on the 
ground and shook his head. 

"Where do you want me to go?" he asked. 

"Why not go back to Kahiu Itina," I suggested. 

"So you want me to be killed, do you?" 

"Haven't you been asking me to kill you for the last 
two hours? What does it matter whether I kill you or 
Kahiu Itina kills you?" 

Ruku realised then that he could not leave us. He 
knew that if he were seen again by Kahiu Itina's men they 
would kill him. Once he had been missed after the 
shooting, the gang would be sure that he was coming back 
to betray his leader. That was the Mau Mau way of 
thinking. His simple mind suddenly realised that while his 
enemy was allowing him his freedom, his friends would 
kill him when they saw him again. What an odd world it 
was. From that moment Ruku's outlook changed. Without 
a word he rose to his feet and began to look for firewood, 
and when we had gathered enough and gone back to 
camp, he lit the fire and fetched stones for us to sit on. As 
the night passed he became more and more friendly and 
talkative. By dawn he had volunteered to lead us to the 
spot where he had last seen Kahiu Itina. 

At daybreak, as Mac and I were about to set off with 
Ruku to hunt Kahiu Itina ourselves, two members of our 
team arrived unexpectedly at the camp to report. All night 


they had searched along both banks of the Ngobit River, 
but had not seen or heard anything, and Gati now wanted 
to know what to do. Ruku listened intently as they told 
their story and described their search. When they had 
finished he asked: 

"Did you reach the place where the muiri tree has 

"Aca, we have seen no muiri tree/* they replied. 

"In that case let us go now/' Ruku said. 

With that he rose to his feet and beckoned the two 
messengers to follow him. And so they left us. Within an 
hour they had joined the rest of our force and were 
approaching a thick patch of forest along the east bank of 
the Ngobit River, but at least a mile above the point where 
our team had finally called off their search the previous 
night. On Ruku's advice the force split up here to sur- 
round the patch of forest, and several groups of two men 
each went round to cover all the buffalo paths coming out 
of the thicket, for only along these paths could anyone 
travel at speed. Meanwhile he and Gati pushed their way 
through the undergrowth towards the middle, hoping to 
flush Kahiu Itina. 

They had^only gone about a hundred yards, when one 
of Kahiu Itina's men walked into our sentries on a buffalo 
track and was captured. A second terrorist, however, was 
lagging some thirty yards behind and had seen his com- 
panion pounced upon. He turned round and dashed off 
through the forest. Backwards and forwards he dodged 
with one of our men, called Gacheru, on his heels. Finally 
he broke out and dashed up a hill past Gati and Ruku, 
who joined in the chase. 

He was a hard man to catch. First Gacheru, tired out, 
fell back and left Gati and Ruku to continue on their own. 
The agile terrorist darted from left to right like a hare, and 
then veered south towards the river, leaping down the 
slope in great bounds, but he could not shake off his 
pursuers. He plunged into the river, but the smooth river 
stones were too slippery. He lost his balance and fell 
heavily into the water. There, too tired to do anything 
else, he sat up and raised his hands in surrender. 

Unlike Ruku, to whom death had once seemed a 


pleasant relief, this terrorist was terrified of dying. As he 
was being dragged out of the water, he pleaded desperately 
with his captors, telling them that he would show them 
where Kahiu Itina and many others were hiding if they 
would only spare his life. He confirmed the information 
Ruku had given Gati, that Kahiu Itina had been in the 
patch of forest where the chase began. Only the day before 
the gang had moved to another hideout, but he knew 
exactly how to find this new rendezvous. 

It was important to get to it quickly, because it was 
likely that some sharp-eyed scout had seen the chase and 
was already racing to warn Kahiu Itina. There was no time 
for Gati to gather the rest of his force together. He, Ruku, 
the prisoner, and Gacheru, who had by now arrived at the 
river, would have to go on alone and trust in Ngai that 
they would not be killed. 

Fortunately the hideout was not far off, and our party 
could soon see it. Near the headwaters of the river an 
outcrop of massive boulders, each several feet high and 
weighing several tons, surrounded a single, tall, dry tree. 
The new hideout was under this tree, but no one could be 

Gati pushed the terrorist in front of him, hoping that 
the gang would first identify our prisoner and think that 
he was bringing back some stragglers he had picked up 
during his brief absence. But their approach was not 
detected, and they reached the boulders without a check. 

From there they could hear voices in the hideout. 
The terrorists were praying in low voices, and someone, 
probably a witch doctor, was mumbling words which were 
being repeated by the rest of the gang. Gati climbed 
quietly to the top of the nearest rock, and as he peered 
over it, his automatic ready in his hand, he saw them 
praying and heard the familiar words, "Thaai, Thaaiya, 
Thaai, Haaaah!" By this time Ruku had taken the prison- 
er's simi and was crawling up tTie same rock to lie beside 

All the men in the hideout were standing in forma- 
tion, facing Mount Kenya with arms raised shoulder high. 
Gati pointed his gun at them and ordered them to stand 
where they were; they turned their heads towards him 


and gazed into the muzzle of his automatic. But no one 
moved, no one even dropped his arms. 

Then someone in the gang shouted "Tigai Kuura 
[Don't run]." It was the voice of Kingori, the greatest of all 
Mau Mau witch doctors on the Aberdares. As the gang 
stood there, with their arms still raised above their shoul- 
ders, Kingori and Kahiu Itina came forward and looked up 
at their captors. 

"I have had a dream," said Kingori. "I dreamt that 
today Ngai would send someone here who was not an 
enemy and he would take us to a place of peace. I have 
told all these children of mine about this message from 
Ngai, and they are at peace. I know you are the one Ngai 
has sent/' 

"We too have come for peace," replied Gati, who was 
completely taken aback by the meek and pacific reaction 
of the terrorists, and unable to make head or tail of what 
Kingori had said about a dream. "Choose three people to 
cut muondwe to tie the hands. Everyone else must sit 
down. If the three do not return, that will be a sign of war, 
and everyone here will die." 

There was a pause. The gang did not move. They 
would not comply with orders from anyone but Kingori. 
They would sooner be shot down than sit on the ground 
without Kingori's instructions. Then Kingori turned and 
faced his followers and passed on the orders, and, without 
a murmur, they complied. Three men climbed over the 
rocks to go and cut muondwe. There was an uneasy silence 
while they were away. Everyone except Kingori, whose 
eyes were closed, stared in bewilderment at Gati and 
Ruku. They knew their captors well. They were surprised, 
but they were not frightened, for Ngai, according to 
Kingori, had sent them, and because of that there was 
something sacred about Gati and Ruku. They did not hate 
them; they did not like them; they simply looked at them. 
Kingori was praying again to his god on Mount Kenya. He 
seemed to be in a trance, unmindful of the gun pointing at 
him, not caring what his captors or followers were doing. 
Only when the three muondwe cutters slid down the rocks 
back into the hideout did he shake himself back to full 
consciousness again. Taking the strips of muondwe, the 


forest string, in his own hands, he began to bind his own 
men. No one objected. In fact they held out their hands 
for him. When all but Kahiu Itina and Kingori himself had 
been tied he went back to stand beneath the rock, looked 
at Gati, and asked: 

"There are three other children in this forest whom 
we cannot leave. Spare me to send for them?" But before 
Gati had time to answer he turned his head to look at the 
prisoner who had led Gati to the hideout, and asked him: 
"Where is the child you went with to the river?'* 

Much to Gati's surprise, he then heard his prisoner 
tell Kingori how his companion had been captured on the 
buffalo path earlier that morning, a fact of which Gati was 
completely unaware, although his own men had been 
responsible. Had he known this before he would never 
have dashed on to the hideout with only Ruku and Gacheru. 
He would have gathered his men together first. He had 
come on almost single-handed because he thought the 
second terrorist had got away and was on his way to Kahiu 

As the party set off down the river to rejoin the rest of 
our team, a small group of Kahiu 's men were sent off to 
find the missing members of the gang who were trapping 
away to the east. They were told to rendezvous with Gati 
and Kingori at an old army fort on Wuthering Heights. 
Their mission also proved successful, and by late afternoon 
they had returned with the trappers. The total number of 
terrorists accounted for in this single, uncanny operation 
was brought to twenty-eight. 

Throughout the history of the emergency there had 
never been an incident quite like this one. Kingori's 
dream was clearly the only reason for the docile and 
passive attitude of the gang. In the days which followed we 
questioned and requestioned the gang; we just could not 
believe the story. But we found that Kingori had, in fact, 
done just what he told Gati. The day before the attack on 
the hideout he had called them all together and told them 
how Ngai had spoken to him in a dream. He had told 
them how "Ngai would send messengers of peace," and 
that when these messengers came everyone was to remain 
quiet "otherwise Ngai would shake with anger if anyone 


fled." Throughout the night the gang had sat peacefully in 
the hideout "awaiting Ngai's messengers." Nobody had 
slept and nobody had talked. Every few hours Kingori and 
Kahiu Itina had made the others stand and face Mount 
Kenya and pray so that "Ngai would see they were pre- 
pared." We listened to each man's story separately. Kingori 
may well have invented the tale of his talk with Ngai, but 
there was no doubt about what he had told his men. Had 
it not been for the dream and Kingori's undisputed power 
over his superstitious followers, Gati would certainly have 
had a very different reception. 

I shall never forget my first sight of this large body of 
terrorists. Kahiu Itina was obviously the militant leader. 
His eyes were bloodshot from strain and, unlike all the 
others, he was almost bald. He wore an ingeniously made 
leopard-skin coat and trousers, a vest tailored from a piece 
of old canvas tarpaulin, a decorative Colobus monkey-skin 
hat, a Boy Scout belt and a pair of coarse, brown gaiters 
made from the thick hide of a buffalo. He had the walk of a 
townsman and spoke with a snarL He was clearly one of 
those who liked to keep everyone hopping around him, 
one whose authority had gone to his head, and, as his 
record showed, he was a most dangerous fanatic. 

Kingori, on the other hand, was quiet-spoken and 
outwardly gentle. Never had I seen a man so imbued with 
the Mau Mau perversions of the old tribal religion. He 
spoke and thought about Ngai all day long. It was difficult 
to reconcile this meek-looking, God-fearing individual with 
the powerful Mau Mau witch doctor that he was. Even 
after his capture he was idolised by his followers who 
bathed his feet, served his food, deloused his hair, and 
generally waited upon him as diligently as any Roman 
slaves had served their masters. At a glance it was difficult 
to picture him as a protagonist of extreme violence, as one 
who had blessed the commission of appalling acts of 
savagery and inspired those who committed them to re- 
peat them over and over again. He seemed to have neither 
the physique nor the temperament for that sort of thing. 
But beneath his clothes of animal skins were several scars 
gained in bygone battles with the security forces. One 


hand had been permanently deformed by a bullet wound. 

The rest of the gang had a mass of bristly, woolly hair, 
which made them look like walking kitchen mops. They 
had long, black beards; their eyes were wide; and they 
wore an assortment of skin jackets and caps. They carried 
a variety of weapons. Some were European rifles and 
revolvers, which they had preserved remarkably well 
throughout their three and a half years in the forest. Some 
were homemade guns which had been manufactured with 
an undisputed ingenuity from lengths of piping, bicycle 
frames, and scraps of wire and metal they had found lying 
about the countryside, but these were often more danger- 
ous for the man who fired them than the target. Many of 
the animal skins they wore were also tailored with a 
degree of ingenuity. None were made for camouflage or 
disguise. They were all designed for show or warmth, 
usually for warmth. The softer skins, such as those of the 
hyrax, otter, tree squirrel, or pygmy antelope, were used 
as inner garments with the hair inside to seal the warmth 
of the body. The coarser, rougher skins of the eland, the 
bushbuck, and the wild pig, were used as outer garments. 
A large bushbuck skin was enough for one coat or pair of 
trousers, but thirty to forty hyrax skins would be needed 
for a single inner jacket. All these skins had been cut up 
and sewn together with forest twine or thin strips of 
leather, which made the finished article far more durable 
and strong than one might imagine. Gang leaders and 
witch doctors were the ones who dressed for show. All the 
choicest skins such as leopard, Colobus, cheetah, or bad- 
ger were made into an assortment of show pieces, ranging 
from peaked caps and armbands to belts, gaiters, and 
shoulder straps. Small portions of these colourful skins 
were often sewn on to more ordinary skins as pockets and 
insignia of rank. But the beauty of this clothing was purely 
visual, and none could be kept as souvenirs. All the 
clothes stank with a peculiarly penetrating odour, which 
was not surprising. One terrorist, on being asked when he 
had last taken off his skin jacket, proudly answered, "Not 
since the skin dried round my body." 

Witch doctor Kingori regarded all the Mau Mau in 


the forest as "his children." Nothing would alter his reli- 
gious belief that "Kinyanjui had been sent by Ngai to 
collect the children of the forest together/ 7 and he was 
certain that the Land Rovers we used to bring the gang 
out of the forest were the maguru ma Ngai or the "the legs 
of God." He had entered the jungle three years before, 
after administering Mau Mau oaths in the reserve, and 
had predicted that "rocks of fire would one day fall from 
the sky on to the forest." When the bombing of the jungle 
began the terrorists remembered his prediction and turned 
to him for advice. When his subsequent prophesies proved 
right his fame was enhanced, but when they proved wrong 
they were quickly forgotten and the error was attributed 
to the thick forests which had distorted Ngai's words and 
prevented him from hearing them properly. So his reputa- 
tion had grown, unimpeded by his mistakes, until all Mau 
Mau came to regard him, as they did witch doctor Muraya, 
as a mutumwo wa Ngai, or "Ngai's disciple." To them his 
power was complete and decisive, and when he dreamt his 
dreams were infallible, but like most Mau Mau witch 
doctors he did not dream often, for "to converse with Ngai 
too regularly was likely to annoy him." He would fre- 
quently be pressed by his followers to give them personal 
news or guidance about the state of their homes, their 
chances of recovering from their wounds, whether a raid 
would be successful, whether a journey would be safe or 
dangerous. But more often than not he would decline to 
answer such questions on the ground that he could not 
contact Ngai, Ngai could only contact him. It was a 
one-way traffic. 

Within a week we realised that neither Kahiu Itina 
nor witch doctor Kingori would give us information about 
Dedan Kimathi. Nothing would make them change their 
attitude. As soon as his name was mentioned they refused 
to speak. In fact, it turned out that they had no useful 
information to give. They did not know where Kimathi 
was, nor did they want to know. 

Some of our old trusted collaborators then advised us 
that some of the less important members of Kahiu Itina's 
gang might come forward with useful information about 


Kimathi if Kingori and Kahiu Itina were removed. We 
agreed and, while these two important terrorists were 
handed over to the police for normal action, we turned our 
attention to the others and heard what they had to say. 

The effect of Kingori's and Kahiu Itina's removal was 
instantaneous. The others became far more co-operative. 
Several of them had news of Kimathi, but, alas, their 
information was of very little value. We were told that 
Kimathi, more than any other terrorist in the forest, had 
become acutely conscious of the dangers of pseudo-gang 
operations. Not long before he had sent out messengers to 
the leaders of all the larger gangs, including Kahiu Itina, 
to say that from a given date he would kill anyone who 
came near him "because he could no longer tell who was a 
traitor and who was not/* Two of his messengers, who had 
arrived at Kahiu Itina's camp in early February, and who 
knew how changeable Kimathi was and how suspicious he 
had become of everything and everyone, had seen little 
point in returning to him and living a life completely cut 
off from all other terrorists in the forest. As a result they 
had taken the exceptional course of remaining with Kahiu 
Itina, and it certainly was exceptional for Kimathi's men 
were usually fanatically loyal to their leader. Both these 
messengers, Kinyua and Nderitu, were now in our hands. 

From all the information Kahiu Itina's men had been 
able to gather, both from forest letter boxes and from other 
terrorists with whom they talked, it was clear that the 
desertion of these two messengers had infuriated Kimathi. 
We were told that he had embarked on a ruthless cam- 
paign to kill any terrorist who did not belong to his own 
gang. Now everyone was doubly terrified of him and took 
every possible precaution to avoid him. For this Kingori 
and Kahiu Itina hated him and would never allow his 
name to be mentioned. They had heard that two small 
groups of terrorists who had unwittingly gone to find him 
had been strangled and hacked to pieces by his henchmen. 

A large region of the Aberdare forest had thus be- 
come known to everyone as Kimathi's area, and was not 
entered under any circumstances. We were assured that 
only his own men knew exactly where he was hiding, but 


it was virtually certain that he would be somewhere in 
that forbidden region of the mountain. And we now 
discovered that the forbidden region had been his favour- 
ite haunt since he first entered the forest. 

From all this it was quite obvious that neither Kahiu 
Itina nor Chege Karobia could possibly get us any closer 
to our target. We had to be content with a rough descrip- 
tion of the Kimathi area, where we would now have to go 
in search of him. In terms of Kimathi, all we had been 
able to gain from the capture of Kahiu Itina and his gang 
was information which narrowed down :>ur field of search. 
From his two deserter messengers, however, we were able 
to find out a great deal more about his forest life. They 
told us that he never stayed in one place for more than a 
few hours. Frequently he would tell his men that he was 
going north when, in fact, he went south. He was reputed 
to know more about bushcraft and the forest than any 
other terrorist and to be able to travel at considerable 
speed for seven days without food. It was said that he had 
such a keen instinct that were he to sit up suddenly during 
the night and say, "We go," as sure as dawn the security 
forces would arrive at the spot within a matter of hours. 
This mysterious sense which forewarned him of danger 
was his principal hold on his followers. Despite his vile 
temper, despite his lust for killing, despite his treacher- 
ous, unpredictable temperament, they believed there was 
more room for survival with him than away from him. 

The area in which he had isolated himself had been 
soundly chosen. It was the part of the Aberdares known as 
the Tree Tops Salient, or Ruthaithi, and the vast forest area 
to the northwest known as the Mwathe. This part of the 
mountain, over two hundred square miles in size, was the 
most difficult and dangerous of all areas on the Aberdares 
in which to operate. The ridges were steep, the bushes 
particularly thick, and it contained nearly seven times as 
many wild animals to the square mile as did any other part 
of the Aberdare or Mount Kenya forests. After many 
months of bombing by the R.A.E the animals were ex- 
tremely aggressive. 

This news depressed us and made us realise that the 


hunt would be far longer and more difficult than we had 
originally thought, but we derived some satisfaction from 
knowing that all three of our initial letter points had either 
been in or on the edge of this particular area. This showed 
that our original estimate of Kimathi's whereabouts had 
not been very wide of the mark. Now we were certain that 
he had heard the sky shouts, but it was equally certain 
that he would never have acted upon them. Nevertheless, 
what we had lost on the swings we had gained on the 
roundabouts, for as a result of the sky shout, Gati had 
come into our hands; through him we had raised a valu- 
able force of terrorists who alone had the knowledge and 
ability to hunt Kimathi; through them we had accounted 
for Kahiu Itina and his gang and, lastly, we had been able 
to narrow down our field of search to less than one tenth of 
the Aberdare mountain. 

Now that we knew why Kingori and Kahiu Itina hated 
Kimathi, Gethieya, Gati, and I decided to visit them in 
prison to see whether their new surroundings had loosened 
their tongues. First we went to see Kahiu Itina. We were 
there but a few minutes. Imprisonment, to put it mildly, 
had not improved his temper or his temperament. Next 
we went to see Kingori. As we entered his cell we found 
him facing Mount Kenya, praying to his god, Ngai. He 
stopped abruptly when the door was unlocked. 

"This is better than the forest, is it not, Kingori?" I 
asked him. 

"Muno, muno [much, much better]," he answered. 
"Ngai has already spoken to me here and I am happy." 

"What did he say, Kingori?" I enquired. 

He shook his head, then closed his eyes for a few 
seconds before looking at me again. "He told me all the 
children in the forest will leave soon, all but Kimathi. He 
will be finished. He will be arrested in the tenth month 
before the rains for the millet planting begin." 

The tenth month, I thought that is October. It was 
still April. Another six months! "There is nothing which 
will keep Kimathi in that forest for another six months, 
Kingori," I assured him. We talked for some minutes 
more, then I left. 


We now trained our sights on to the Tree Tops Salient 
and the Mwathe. For the first time we experienced in fall 
measure the ordeal of operating in this particular region 
during the seasonal long rains, which broke in full fury at 
exactly this moment. 



Oi, 01, egunaga ki? 

What is the use of crying "Oi, oi?" 

What cannot be cured must be endured. 

The long rains, which break with tremendous force at 
the end of March or beginning of April, usually go on 
without any real pause for the first week, then taper on 
into spasmodic afternoon thunderstorms. 

Within minutes of the first deafening clap of thunder, 
the rough forest tracks become quagmires and everything, 
everywhere, is drenched. Frightened by the lightning and 
thunder, the larger animals come out on to the tracks and 
wallow in the mud, tearing deep craters with their feet 
and making travel yet more difficult. 

These heavy storms are often preceded by hail which 
falls with great force, tearing leaves and even branches 
from trees, destroying the beautiful wild flowers, driving 
the animals frantic, and covering the ground with a white, 
pebbled crust. 

Most of the vehicle tracks in the Aberdares and 
there are few paths that qualify for this modest title are 
built on the side of ridges. The ridge tops are too narrow 
for tracks and the bottoms are usually filled by streams. 
When the earth is heavy with hail or rain water, landslides 
are a constant danger. When the rains were over we 
always had to send large working gangs up into the forest 



to grub away the piles of broken earth or rebuild those bits 
of track which had been swept away altogether. Through- 
out the rainy season, in fact, a vehicle is of little use, and if 
you want to travel you have to walk. Even walking is a 
tricky business. Within hours of the time the rain starts all 
the little streams swell and become formidable barriers. In 
their swirling waters there are bits of dry wood, broken 
logs, and even tree stumps. These are difficult to see in 
the brown, muddy water and they sometimes cause severe 
injury to man and beast alike. Detours of fifteen or twenty 
miles are sometimes necessary in a journey that would 
normally cover less than three miles. 

Then there are the animals. Terrified by the thunder, 
they charge to and fro in a constant and hostile challenge 
to any intruder in their kingdom. The Mau Mau used to 
say that the animals associated thunder with bombing, and 
that during thunderstorms they became crazed with fear. 
Certainly I had never before seen game react during 
thunderstorms as they d^d on the Aberdares after the 
bombing. Elephant, rhino, and buffalo would crash wildly 
through the bush as if trying to escape from their own 
shadows; warthog and bushbuck would race aimlessly back- 
wards and forwards; and even the monkeys would leap 
down from their branches and huddle together in terrified 
little groups at the foot of the trees. The terrorists reported 
that monkeys sometimes used to come down from the 
treetops and lie beside them at the bottom of the large, 
heavy trees as soon as the drone of an airplane was heard. 
Like the Mau Mau, they had learnt by costly experience 
that the sound of an aircraft or the explosion of a bomb 
was a signal to seek cover and that there was no better 
cover than the trunks of the larger trees. As long as the 
drone of the aircraft's engines continued, these little crea- 
tures would lie side by side with the Mau Mau, oblivious 
of their presence. After the bombing I often saw the 
monkeys take shelter beneath trees at the first sound of 

The rains had a most depressing effect on those of us 
who were not really used to living in the jungle. There can 
be few experiences in this world more demoralising than 


sitting out in the pouring rain hour after hour, unable to 
find dry shelter, surrounded by thick, cold forest, and 
knowing that the discomfort has to be endured for a long 
while to come. Then your morale receives its ultimate 
test; there is nothing to distract your mind from the 
present misery, no imminent danger, no chance of action, 
no one to talk to, for even if you have a companion the 
noise of the rain is too loud to hear his voice. There is 
nothing to do but sit or lie and feel the rain trickling 
through your clothes. Despondently you look first at the 
dark sky above, then at the drooping leaves, each one of 
which is making its contribution to the flooding river 
thundering down the valley below, This is the time when 
small things are your only consolation, Your eye rests on 
an ant dashing up and down a twig floating on a pool. The 
plight of the little insect stimulates a morbid curiosity and 
you watch it for minutes, wondering when it will be swept 
away to its doom. Then you suddenly feel sorry for it and 
fish the twig gently out of the puddle so that the ant can 
crawl away to safety. Or your eye is attracted to a particu- 
lar leaf from which water is dropping with monotonous 
regularity. You count the drops until this seems futile, and 
then your thoughts return again to the cold and misery of 

The rain continues into the night. Then the thunder 
rumbles and, as it fades away, you hear the trumpeting of 
frightened elephants. Sometimes they are so near that 
their trumpeting is almost as loud as the thunder. You 
wonder which way they are moving and whether it will be 
possible to hear them above the noise of the rain if they 
get really close. Then the thunder stops and the elephants 
are silent. Only the patter of the raindrops and the roar of 
the torrent in the valley below break the hush of the 
forest, from which all the familiar noises have vanished. 

I usually found that the best distraction came from a 
group of friendly terrorists. Hardened to all discomforts, 
they showed no reaction to rain, heat, or cold. They never 
worried about being hungry or cold or wet through to the 
skin. I watched them sleep soundly on a saturated layer of 
leaves and twigs with rain pouring straight down on them. 


They would wake up fresh and cheerful ready for another 
day of dampness. With the terrorists, pride became your 
strongest ally. 

Yet when the rain stops your spirits soon rise and life 
in the forest seems better than ever. The sun brings 
warmth, and the birds come out, the trees begin to stir in 
the breeze, shaking off the rain water trapped in their 
leaves, and the little buck come out into the glades to frisk 
and get warm. The musty gases rise from the compost and 
mulch to mingle with the odour of sweet-smelling Cape 
Chestnut trees, giving the forest an aroma of its own. 
Everywhere there is beauty in abundance and a freshness 
of life. Everything is great and majestic and remote from 
the rush and noise of civilisation. Here there is nothing to 
see or hear but nature in its naked form, unspoilt by man. 
This, one realises, is paradise. It is the land of mountains 
and rivers and trees and all things wild, but it is a 
wonderful land, and God is good. 

Before the rains come the terrorists prepare them- 
selves. They know that it is difficult to conceal your tracks 
when the ground is wet, so they gather as much food as 
they can and store it away in caves and hollowed-out trees; 
they lift their game traps and rig them up nearer to their 
hideouts; they hunt for honey and, after collecting enough 
to see them over the wet season, roll it in thick animal 
skins to prevent badgers from getting at it. 

Before the rain pelts down and the rivers run high, 
they also move their hideouts away from the bigger streams 
and set them up again beside little springs, for they know 
that the noise made by rivers in flood will drown the 
sound of an approaching enemy. They put their hideouts 
in parts of the forest where rain or hail will not flatten the 
undergrowth and where the ground is covered with a thick 
bed of leaves and bark which will mask their footprints 
when they go out to visit their game traps, their letter 
boxes, or their food stores. They know that elephant and 
rhino will now come down the mountain towards the low 
farming country in their seasonal migration to feed on the 
young, green crops. During this migration the animals will 
churn up all the places where there are natural salt licks, 
pools of water, or patches of muondwe. All these places 


have to be avoided, therefore, when new hideouts are 
being chosen. 

They know, too, that even if they have plenty of 
honey it will still be necessary to trap buck for meat. All 
the places in the jungle where a shrub called magomboki 
is growing will be bad for trapping, for, soon after the be- 
ginning of the rains, this will become so thick and matted 
that buck will not pass through it. New trapping areas where 
there is no magomboki have to be found. 

They also have to think about firewood. Wood dampened 
by rain will give out too much smoke, and they know that 
smoke is dangerous, for it helps their enemies to find 
them. They must, therefore, have their hideouts in or 
near the bamboo belt, as bamboo is their ideal firewood, 
whether wet or dry. 

While the rains do not bring about any change in 
terrorist morale, they do cause a marked change in their 
mode of living. Like snakes, they recoil and are harder to 
see. Like mushrooms, they shrivel up, change colour, and 
become invisible in the seed bed. Yet for those who have 
lived through these seasonal changes and who know the 
factors which govern the Mau Mau moods and moves, rain 
simplifies the hunt. It did for our collaborators. They were 
able to write off all parts of the forest where magomboki 
grew in quantity, where there were pools and salt licks and 
fast-running rivers, where the vegetation was flimsy and 
where there were elephant walks and where muondwe 
thrived. They knew the Mau Mau would be near springs 
where the water was silent and clean, where bushbuck and 
duiker could be trapped, where bamboo firewood could be 
found, and where there were trees which shed their leaves. 

With all this and more knowledge in their heads, our 
collaborators were able to narrow down the Kimathi area 
very considerably until we had a target area to concentrate 
in of about fifty square miles. Unfortunately this new 
smaller target area consisted of no less than eight small 
portions of forest. Kimathi could be in any one of them. 
Three of these were in the western sector, the Mwathe. 
The remaining five were in the eastern section, the Tree 
Tops Salient. The more we studied the matter, the more 
we realised that it was impossible to search for him in 


them all simultaneously. We only had enough men to 
operate in five areas at once, and even five was stretching 
us to the limit. We therefore planned a deception opera- 
tion, to chase him out of any of the three areas in the 
Mwathe into any of the five areas in the Tree Tops where 
hunting conditions were slightly better. We would try and 
frighten him by firing machine guns in the western region. 
The shots would be heard by Kimathi, if he were there, 
and he would imagine that a major operation had been 
mounted. This would send him scurrying down to the Tree 
Tops Salient. 

There was no question of installing ourselves in the 
five Tree Tops bits before all the noise was made in the 
west. We knew that if we were to move in before he came 
down, he would not come down at all. This may seem 
extraordinary, but there was good reason for it. We knew 
how difficult it was to conceal our own tracks in the jungle, 
how much more difficult it would be to conceal them from 
the expert Kimathi, and how the whole idea would be 
wrecked if he happened to see the tracks we had left while 
moving in. He would double back, and wherever he went 
he would remain on the alert. Moreover, it was a foregone 
conclusion that if our deception plan did succeed in chas- 
ing him down into the Tree Tops, he would spend the first 
two days searching through the forest to see if the area was 
clear and safe. During that time he or his men would be 
certain to find evidence of our presence. But if we stayed 
out until he had completed his check and settled down, 
our chances of making contact with him would be much 
greater His sentry lines would be shorter, he would cook, 
and he would put out his game traps. This would help us 
to find him. 

It was pelting with rain when we mounted the first 
phase of our operation. Slipping and sliding along in the 
mud, we had to use both our hands to cling to the bamboo 
poles. This was my first experience of operating in those 
particular parts of the Mwathe forest during the rains and 
I shall never forget it. The place was teeming with rhino. 
More than two forest rhino are seldom seen at one time, 
but on that day we found them in groups of up to eight. 
Every few hundred yards there would be a snort, followed 


by another snort as the massive beasts came hurtling down 
on us with their ears flattened against their heads and 
their horns ripping out the vegetation in front of them. It 
was a nightmare! After the first two or three narrow 
escapes we found it far safer to drop everything and take 
to the trees as soon as the first snort was heard. As we 
moved along our eyes darted from one tree to another in 
an anxious search for those we could climb without too 
much difficulty. We had our guns in our hands, and this 
meant that we could not grab the bamboo with both 
hands. Every few yards someone fell, and the noise of our 
stumbling and falling made it very difficult to hear the 
snorts of the rhino. As the timing of the firing was 
carefully synchronised, I had made a point of stressing to 
our men that there was to be no shooting under any 
circumstances until zero hour. After being put to flight 
several times in the first mile by charging rhino, I deeply 
regretted having said this. Our 9-mm. Patchett automatics 
would have been little better than pea-shooters against 
rhino, but their loud clatter might have frightened the 
beasts away. 

Our agile terrorists were natural experts at dodging 
and tree climbing, which usually meant that Mac and I 
reached the trees well behind them and could only hoist 
ourselves off the ground by clutching at their wet skin 
clothes and pulling ourselves up or pulling them down. 
They said it was only because "we did not smell of the 
forest," as they did, that the rhino charged us so frequent- 
ly, and although I never knew how much truth there was 
in this, I suspected that they might be right. When they 
operated alone they seldom had trouble with game. On the 
other hand, it was likely that the rain was the cause of the 
rhino's ferocity. How, I wondered, could any terrorist 
survive for long in this murderous region. After all the 
bombing and strafing of the forests there were a great 
many wounded animals about. Now their injuries had 
healed, but the pain they had gone through had turned 
them into ill-tempered rogues. 

This was certainly one of those rare days when every- 
thing was against us. The rain was unusually heavy, so 
heavy in fact that each drop stung slightly as it landed on 


our arms and faces; the going was painfully hard, and our 
various guides seemed quite incapable of avoiding the 
many patches of wild nettle, which covered our arms, 
faces, and legs with ugly, inflamed rashes. The design of 
our Patchetts did not improve our tempers. With "arms" 
and "legs" jutting out from all sides, this gun either 
catches on branches and delays your retreat or jabs you 
severely in the ribs or stomach as you run away. 

Despite the trials, however, the operation went off 
according to plan, and at exactly midday the first loud 
burst of firing rang through the forest. Then at five-minute 
intervals for the next half hour firing continued at different 
points throughout the area. The noise echoed and thundered 
down the deep gorges. If any Mau Mau were in the 
region, they would not be there long. 

After each volley the elephant could be heard 
trumpeting, and schools of monkeys leapt frantically from 
the trees into the bamboo undergrowth beneath. There is 
something mysterious about the sound of gunfire in the 
jungle. Not only do the reports seem much louder, but 
they awaken within you the thought that every living 
creature for miles and miles is on the alert and terrified, 
and this makes you feel unnerved and faintly guilty. 

With this operation completed, the stage was now set 
for our first offensive against Dedan Kimathi and his fifty 
dangerous adherents. We were ready and anxious. 



Riu ni thatu, no riu ringi ni mbura ya mahiga. 
Today it is misty, but afterwards it will rain 

Stormy days lie ahead. 

On the eighteenth of April, 1956, the finishing 
touches were put to the planning and preparations of our 
first direct operation against Dedan Kimathi and his gang. 
Twenty-two of our terrorists had been specially selected 
for the operation. They were the men who knew every 
member of Kimathi's gang, those who knew the ground in 
the Tree Tops Salient best, those who were the best 
trackers, and those who were completely trustworthy, 
battle-hardened, and brave. 

These men were to operate in two teams, each eleven 
strong. Four men in each were to be armed with automat- 
ic weapons, while the balance were to carry pistols and 
simis and one or two homemade guns, for effect. Their 
rations had been securely packed away in their animal-skin 
bags, and their leaders had carefully checked their cloth- 
ing for anything which might give them away a match, 
pieces of paper, and the many other things which they 
could have picked up easily when outside the forest. A 
strong-smelling native tobacco called kiraiku, used by 
Mau Mau in the forest, .was rubbed over their bodies to 
drown any non-forest smells, and all traces of dust were 



brushed away, as there is no dust in the Aberdares. Their 
simis and knives were splattered with goat's blood, be- 
cause no knife in the forest is clean. 

This odd and somewhat frightening array of Mau Mau 
was assembled in a tent at our Mayfield base, where I 
explained to them which areas we had sealed off for our 
operations and which were still open to normal security- 
force operations, and therefore dangerous to enter. I 
explained where Mac, Gethieya, and I would go each day 
to rendezvous with them, where in the forest we would 
base ourselves, and how they were to identify themselves 
to us and we to them, in the event of our running into one 
another unexpectedly. I emphasised that their task was 
not to get Kimathi this time, for we realised this was 
impossible while so many terrorists were guarding him. 
Our aim was to snatch one or more of his henchmen 
without the rest of the gang knowing of our snatch. We 
would then withdraw quickly to one of the prearranged 
rendezvous and try to win over whoever had fallen into 
our hands. It was unnecessary for me to say any more to 
our men. All specific points, such as how the two teams 
would work and liaise with one another, what they would 
do in the event of a battle or a chase, how they would 
approach their target areas, and what they would do if 
they came upon any game trap, letter boxes, or food 
stores, were left to them to sort out among themselves. In 
my experience it merely confused these unusual people if 
a European interfered in such matters. Their ideas about 
tactics were poles apart from ours, and their methods 
were strange. The issue boiled down to this the Mau 
Mau knew their own kind and the jungle in which they 

After I had said my few words one of the team leaders 
moved into th$ middle of the tent and gathered all those 
taking part in the operation round him in a circle. With 
legs crossed and weapons on their laps, they sat down for 
the conference as they had done hundreds of times before 
in the forest. When a team leader or an ordinary team 
member spoke he would hold in his left hand a number of 
thin sticks about a foot long, and as he made a point, or 


said something important, he would take one of the sticks 
in his right hand and flick it on to the ground. 

Gati was the first to speak. "You, Njeru," he said, 
"you cross the ford with Hungu's mbutu [gang or team] 
and go through the Mathakwa-ini area." This was his first 
point, so he flicked a stick on to the ground. "But where 
the black forest and bamboo meet, watch the ridge which 
goes down towards the place where the grass was burnt.'* 
Down went another stick. 

"Nogt/o," answered Njeru, picking up the two sticks 
to signify that both points were understood. Now Njeru 
came into the centre, and as he flicked a stick on to the 
ground he said to another, Wanjau, "You know the place 
where we turn before the river, where there is a tree 
which has had all its bark scraped off by an elephant. 
Nobody should pass there." 

'There is nobody here who doesn't know it," interrupted 
one of the listeners, picking up Njeru's stick. 

Then Ruku took over a bundle of the sticks and went 
into the middle. "There is a place where they used to trap 
hyrax among some munderendu trees you can see Chania 
hill from there and the waterfall on the Gura can be 

"By the little bluff?" inquired Kibata. 

"Ac0, further on a little where the muondwe reaches 
here," replied Ruku, holding his throat. 

"Yes, we know it," chimed several voices. 

"Well," said Ruku, casting down a stick, "behind 
there we should be very careful, because they might be 
there, and it is impossible to cover up tracks." 

"Noguo, noguo" everyone agreed. 

For nearly two hours this mysterious discussion con- 
tinued, with sticks being thrown down and picked up in 
strict, ceremonial order. They had talked about places 
where a certain type of tree had fallen, where such and 
such a terrorist's trap had broken, where ammunition used 
to be hidden in an elephant's skull, where two waterfalls 
could be heard at the same time; they talked about a 
well-known place for finding kirangi, a type of fungus 
which grows around bamboo poles and is used for medici- 


nal purposes, where a certain very important spring was 
situated, and where there were poisonous plants; they 
even talked about "a valley of echoes" and the whistling 
calls of the night birds. To us it was incomprehensible, but 
their system worked. With no set order of speaking, for 
the procedure allowed anyone to speak whenever he 
wanted to, they were able to have a full exchange of views 
and ideas. This meant that every detail was thoroughly 
understood and examined before it was passed. But the 
rules were strict. No one uttered a word before the 
speaker had finished his point, unless he was not clear 
about something. Only when a stick had been thrown to 
the ground could another man rise to say his bit. If three 
men wanted to speak simultaneously, there would be no 
scramble for a stick; the terrorist nearest to the stick would 
have priority, and the others would not argue about it. 
They knew their turn would come in good time. In any 
case their system was such that there was every chance of 
someone else making their points for them, because from 
beginning to end the emphasis was on thoroughness. But 
there was another reason for the customary restraint shown 
in the picking up of sticks a stick was only cast down to 
mark essential and important points in a speech. Unless a 
point was important enough to warrant a stick, it was not 
important enough to be mentioned at all. If one tried to 
talk too long, and if the points he was making did not 
warrant the sticks he was throwing down, he would have 
his sticks taken away from him, This was a severe humilia- 
tion, and one which marked the offender as a person 
unsuited "to be among men." If this happened in the 
forest, he might be thrown out of the gang. This rule had 
the effect, therefore, of restricting debate to only the main 
and essential issues. It also dissuaded all but the most 
foolhardy from standing up and talking a lot of nonsense. 
When the time eventually came to rise, when every- 
thing that was to be said had been said, and when all the 
sticks lay on the ground and nobody wanted to pick one 
up, Gati moved into the centre of the circle again. Moving 
his finger slowly round the gathering like the hand of a 
clock, he asked all present, "Have we arrived at the 


"Yes," chanted the audience. "At the ones which 
reach down to the rocks." 

That was the end of the affair. They had dealt with it 
from its highest branches all the way down to its lowest 
roots, the roots which reach to the rocks. 

Long after dark that night the teams made their way 
silently into the jungle. They set off from our transport in 
one long line. Each one of them shook hands with us as 
they left, but only Gati and Hungu spoke. These two team 
leaders had quite a lot to say at that final moment, and as 
they talked on and on, I wondered how they could ever 
hope to catch up with their teams again. This did not 
worry them, however. They knew the answers. When they 
too had gone, Mac, Gethieya, and I drove on in the 
darkness without using our lights until we reached the 
point where the track entered the forest, and there we left 
our vehicles. That same night the three of us tramped 
many miles through the forest until we reached the place 
where we were to rendezvous later with our teams. 

For the first thirty-six hours the, hunt was uneventful. 
Four of the likely areas in the salient were searched, but 
without result. The fifth we avoided because there were 
too many noisy Sykes monkeys about, and we feared that 
they would betray the hunters by their calls. We visited 
every spot where Kimathi had camped in the days when 
Kinyua (one of the two messengers who had deserted and 
joined Kahiu Itina) had been in the gang, but no trace of 
Kimathi was found anywhere. 

On the afternoon of the second day the teams met at a 
prearranged point in the forest, and a council of war was 
held. Here it was decided that Hungu's team would cut 
across the salient to the Ruhotie valley in the north, whil^ 
Gati would go back with his men to the area they had 
previously avoided because of the Sykes monkeys. Gati 
had a strong urge to go there; not only was it the only one 
of the five target areas they had not been to, but he 
suspected that the cunning Kimathi might lie up close to 
the trees full of Sykes monkeys, so that they could warn 
him if anyone entered the region. He had been known to 
shadow game before in order to protect himself. During 
"Operation Sledgehammer," when large numbers of troops 


and police, assisted by tribal police and Kikuyu loyalists, 
had swept through the forests, he had tailed a small herd 
of elephant, knowing that the animals would not wander 
through parts of the jungle where the security forces were 
operating, and that even if they did encounter a patrol, 
the elephant would raise the alarm. And so the two teams 
parted. Throughout the operations they never came into 
contact with one another again. 

The area for which Gati now set course was known to 
the Mau Mau as Kahare-ini because of the unusually large 
number of tree squirrels which live there. To reach it he 
had to cross three rivers, and after the rains there were 
only two or three fords on each which were still passable. 
While the team was crossing the third of these rivers, the 
Itha, at about midday on the twenty-first of April, the first 
evidence of Kimathi's presence was found. On the south- 
ern bank, where buffalo had watered and churned up the 
muddy ground, they saw the tracks of a sizeable gang. The 
tracks were very fresh, certainly not more than three 
hours old, and in the tracks were several distinct impres- 
sions made by a pair of sandals cut out of an old motorcar 
tyre. One of the very few terrorists who owned such 
sandals was Wambararia, Kimathi's brother. 

For some distance from the river the tracks were easy 
to follow. The gang knew that when it was dark, herds of 
buffalo would come down to the water and churn up the 
ground once again with their hooves. But after about a 
mile they branched off the buffalo path which they were 
following. Now the trail was well hidden, and it was only 
after Gati and his men had studied the tracks for many 
minutes that they discovered the gang had split into two 
groups. Gati decided to divide up his team and follow both. 

This proved unwise, for after following one set of the 
tracks some short distance, the smaller of our two units, 
the one that Gati was not with, suddenly found they had 
stumbled on to a hideout and were being watched by 
some of Kimathi's well-armed gangsters. As our men 
walked on, blissfully unaware of their danger, Kimathi's 
men aimed their guns. 

Finally one of the gangsters shouted: "Stand where 
you are, and send one man up/* It was Jeriko, one of 


Kimathi's lieutenants. Everyone in our little team froze 
with fright. They saw they were covered by the rifles of 
the gang; they knew they were far outnumbered and that 
it would be suicide for them to run. 

After some prompting and nudging, the leading col- 
laborator, whose name was Kingarua, went forward 
unwillingly. He was shivering with fright. He walked 
forward slowly and stopped beside a smouldering fire in 
the centre of the hideout. "Tutiri na uuru [We have 
nothing bad]!" he said repeatedly as he stood there, but 
there was no response. 

Then after a few minutes, Jeriko's voice suddenly 
blurted out again. "What are you looking for, you ticks?" 

"Aca," replied Kingarua. "We are only looking for 

"Which others?" 

"Aca," answered Kingarua. "Only others who were 
with us when we went to find food in the reserve." 

Again there was a long silence, Kingarua felt like 
running, but he knew he would be the first to be killed if 
he did so. He wanted to look back to make sure that his 
companions were still there, but felt this might make the 
gangsters think that he was planning to make a break and 
would also mean his death. Behind him our men were 
breathing easier, for they reckoned that if Jeriko had not 
believed Kingarua he would have opened fire long ago. 

For five minutes nothing happened. There was not a 
sound from the forest. Once Kingarua thought he heard 
someone whispering, but he was not sure. Then there was 
a loud rustling in the bushes about twenty yards ahead of 
Kingarua, and Jeriko stepped out carrying a .303 rifle. 
Three other terrorists, all armed, were close behind him. 
They bore down on poor Kingarua, who was sure that his 
last day had come. 

"What I have told you is true, Jeriko, because if I was 
lying we would have run away," pleaded Kingarua. 

"I am not arguing," replied Jeriko, who came right up 
to Kingarua before stopping within a yard of him and 
dropping the butt of his rifle on the ground. "Who are the 
ones you are looking for?" he asked. 

Kingarua thought fast. He had to invent a story. 


He began telling Jeriko how he had left the 
Moorlands four days before and gone down to the 
Kikuyu reserve to find food, how they had asked 
some old women working on their plots along the 
forest edge to fetch them some potatoes, how 
these women had run away screaming, and how, 
after this, he and his companions had moved 
further down the forest edge until they were 
opposite a large banana plantation. On and on 
Kingarua talked. Like all Mau Mau, he knew how 
to spin out a yarn, and would come to the point 
only if he was pressed to do so. He knew that 
if he talked long enough in a convincing way, 
the question he had been asked would proba- 
bly be forgotten altogether. He was still talking 
when Jeriko interrupted. 

"Ssst!" he silenced Kingarua. He had 
heard the drone of a Piper Pacer aircraft. 
The noise grew louder and louder. It seemed 
to be overhead. 

The aircraft was not connected with 
our operation, but Kimathi's suspicious men 
instantly thought in terms of air-support for 
ground forces, probably a supply drop 
for a pseudo-gang. Something, they 
thought, was up. Their reaction was swift. 
Kingarua was grabbed, hit on the head, 
and thrown to the ground. Firing 
came from the forest round about. 
Some of Jeriko's men jumped from 
their hiding places and charged 
up the hill towards the rest of 
our men. One of them fired at 
Kingarua, lying on the ground. 
Others fired at the group. Our 
men threw themselves down in 
the grass, pulled out their Patchett 
guns, which had been hidden un- 
der their skin garments, and fired 

S.M.L.E. Mk. Ill* burst after burst in rapid succes- 

Cal. .303 sion at the men around Kingarua. 


The weight of the fire must have come as a great 
shock to the gangsters, who had not seen any of the 
weapons carried by our men. Like leaves in a wind eddy 
they scattered into the forest. Everything was over in 
those few seconds. The gang had vanished into the jungle, 
but behind them they had left one of Kimathi's so-called 
brigadiers named Thurura, who was lying beside the fire 
groaning, with a bullet wound in his back. Our men could 
see that Thurura was too badly injured to move. They 
were so sure that they must have hit some others and 
rushed forward into the forest after the gang. There was a 
running fight. Now and then they caught fleeting glimpses 
of Kimathi's men and fired at them. Every few hundred 
yards Kimathi's men paused to shoot back. For nearly 
three quarters of an hour and over four miles the plucky 
little group continued on the heels of their enemy. Several 
hundred rounds were fired, and the noise was tremen- 
dous. Eventually, fearing they would run out of ammuni- 
tion, our men broke off and ran back to the hideout to 
collect Thurura. 

Gati was waiting for them when they got back. He 
and his team had arrived a few minutes before. The set of 
tracks he had followed took them to the same hideout, but 
they had been too late for the battle. All they had seen 
were the empty cartridge cases lying about and a trail of 
blood leading from the fire to a thick patch of thornbush. 
Gati had followed the trail, and as he parted the thorny 
branches with the muzzle of his gun he had seen Thurura, 
the wounded brigadier, stuffing a wad of documents into 
his mouth. Gati had jumped in, pried Thurura's mouth 
open with a sheath knife, and pulled out the half-chewed 
documents before he could swallow them. 

Supported by a man on either side, Thurura was 
carried away that afternoon, and by dusk the team had 
gone a long way towards the rendezvous where we were to 
meet them. At their resting place in the forest that night, 
the wretched Kingarua, who had so narrowly escaped 
death at the hands of Kimathi's gang during the day, 
stubbornly insisted that it was his personal right to stran- 
gle Thurura without delay. He kept on trying to cany out his 
threat until he was warned that he would be shot unless 


he kept silent. When he heard this he spat several times 
on the ground in utter disgust and then walked away from 
our team. He spent the night sitting alone under a tree, 
muttering periodic threats that he would definitely stran- 
gle Thurura one day. 

Round the fire that night Thurura was questioned 
thoroughly. Every time he spoke a word the ill-tempered 
Kingarua would shout out, "All that is lies. He should be 
buried!" But Thurura paid no attention to him. Quietly, he 
told his story. The group he had been with was seventeen 
strong, and had not included Kimathi, who had been about 
five miles further east with the rest of his gang when the 
firing broke out. He would certainly have received news of 
the action by now, even had he not heard the shooting, so 
there was no point in following him. Thurura spent the 
riight handcuffed to a tree, while the team dozed in a 
circle round him. At first light they set off" to meet us at 
the rendezvous, carrying him on a bamboo stretcher. 

By the time Thurura reached us he was in very poor 
shape, and Kingarua, needless to say, was delighted, The 
wound in Thurura's back had bled profusely all night. He 
was semi-delirious. From the colour of the blood he was 
coughing up, it was clear that the bullet had passed 
through his lungs. He was so far gone that he was quite 
unable to show any concern when the malevolent Kingarua 
returned to the attack and asked me, in Thurura's hearing, 
whether he could how strangle him. Mac immediately got 
down to first aid and dressed the wound most expertly. I 
had often meant to ask him, because his knowledge of 
medicine always astounded me, why he had chosen the 
police as a career when he could have found a more 
lucrative,, and certainly more comfortable, occupation as a 

Thurura was tough. With some brandy down his 
throat, some food in his stomach, and his wound cleaned 
and dressed, he revived amazingly quickly. After two or 
three hours he insisted on sitting up and talking. He told 
us that we should swing our operations into the Mwathe 
region where we had previously staged the deception 
operation, which, incidentally, he said had worked like a 
magic wand. That was where Kimathi would now return. 


On the strength of this, we withdrew both teams from the 
Tree Tops Salient and spent the next three days searching 
unsuccessfully through the Mwathe forest. We were pestered 
by rhino and found in the end that we had been led on to 
a false trail. Thurura knew Kimathi would not go back up 
there so quickly and had misled us deliberately to give his 
leader more time to get away. This amused me more than 
it did Kingarua, who once again talked of strangling Thurura. 
To him, this was the last straw. He became so preoccupied 
with the thought of murder that we had to segregate him 
and keep him under watch for some time to come. 

Although half Gati's team had been compromised in 
the eyes of Kimathi's gang by this engagement and could 
not be used against the gang again, we were not too 
disappointed with the result of this first operation. The 
documents pulled out of Thurura's mouth showed that 
Kimathi was loth to leave the Tree Tops Salient and the 
Mwathe, as Kahiu Itina's men had told us. In fact, one 
particular document a letter he had scribbled to Jeriko a 
few days before ordered Jeriko not to leave these two 
areas "even if the enemy came like a swarm of locusts.". 
Another note told Jeriko to be at a point on the Kinaini 
River on a certain date "because the district commissioner 
would be coming to tea!" 

Thurura, however, gave us a depressing account of 
Kimathi's tactics and precautions, which he- genuinely 
believed were foolproof. He politely refused to concede 
that secretly capturing any of his men was a practicable 
proposition. "Even if Kimathi is eventually killed or cap- 
tured," Thurura insisted, "he will be the last terrorist in 
the Aberdares." 

This was our first engagement with the gang, or, more 
accurately, with part of it, and discussion on the topic ran 
high for several days. Many of our men who came from 
the Nyeri district, to which Kimathi himself belonged, 
seemed less enthusiastic about the idea of hunting him 
now that it was clear that he had so much ammunition, 
They believed that if Kimathi had been with Jeriko during 
the fight, his men would have fought even more ferociously, 
and our small team would have been shot to pieces. The 
attitude of our men from the Fort Hall district, on the 


Piper Pacer 

other hand, was quite different. They thought Jeriko's 
flight was a sign that the gangsters were not as resolute as 
they had thought, and this led our Fort Hall men to think 
that if they were very well armed themselves, they could 
deal with the gang. Because of this split in our ranks, we 
decided that we would try to use as many Fort Hall 
terrorists as possible against Kimathi in subsequent opera- 
tions. It was, after all, the Fort Hall people ^ho had borne 
the brunt of Kimathf s savagery in the forest. 

The question of whether or not Gati had been right to 
split up his team was debated at great length by our 
terrorists. The majority held the view that in future it 
would be preferable to risk losing contact and keep our 
teams intact, rather than divide up into sir* all, vulnerable 
groups. I was fully in agreement with this. I didn't want to 
lose any of our own Mau Mau or the firearms we had 
issued to them. We could not afford to add to our risks by 
committing small units against Kimathi's powerful gang. 

It was also agreed that on all future occasions one 
member of our teams would travel several yards in front to 
reduce the risk of the whole team being piruied down and 
compromised, as was the case in the actioji with Jeriko. 
There were the usual jokes when some far-thinking indi- 
vidual asked whether he could bring up the rear in future. 


Naturally the Piper Pacer came in for severe criticism. 
"It is very bad," said Waira, "for anyone to come and flap 
his wings and dangle his legs near Kimathi, because he 
might become so annoyed he will finish us all." I arranged 
with the appropriate authorities that "nobody would flap 
his wings and dangle his legs" over any area in which we 
were operating from then onwards. 



Karakunywo niko koi kwigita. 

He who is pinched knows how to defend himself. 

Scalded cats fear even cold water. 

The news of the battle with Jeriko came as a great 
shock to Kimathi. He was sitting alone, reading his Kikuyu 
version of the Old Testament, when the first man to get 
back from the fight came running up to his sentries and 
gave the alarm. Kimathi jumped up, and without waiting 
to hear more of the details, disappeared into the forest as 
fast as his legs could carry him, leaving his Bible on the 
ground. By the time Jeriko and the rest of his followers 
arrived, Kimathi was a long way away, threading a course 
through the forest which kept him mostly on his hands and 

For two whole days his men looked for him, visiting 
the letter boxes they thought he might use, the places he 
had said he liked, the game traps from which he might 
have taken a dead buck to eat, but there was no sign of 
him anywhere. On the night of the second day, as some of 
his searchers were quietly warming themselves round a 
fire in a particularly thick patch of forest near the Muringato 
River, his high-pitched, almost feminine, voice cut through 
the darkness, "Name all those with you." 

His brother, Wambararia, stood up and gave his own 
name, then the names of the five others who were with 



him: "There is Abdalla, whom you know because of his 
thin legs; Ngunyi, the one with a broken sheath for his 
knife; Gitahi, the child who is fierce; Mbaka, who was sick 
when you left. Only Karau remains. He brought the 
honey from the Zaina. There are no others. We have been 
looking for you." 

When Kimathi heard this he was satisfied, for he 
knew the details were correct and he recognised the voice 
of his brother. Coming straight over to the fire, he licked 
his fingers and touched each of his men on the forehead. 

"I know if any of you have been bought by the 
government while I have been away this saliva will boil on 
your heads and burn you to the brain/' he said. "There is 
nothing like that, muthee [elder]," Wambararia respectful- 
ly assured him. 

Kimathi walked round the fireplace to get on the 
windward side where the smoke would not bother him, 
ordered one of his men to move out of his way, then sat 
down and gazed at the burning logs and sticks. 

"We have looked far for you," said Wambararia. "We 
were wondering whether we would ever see you again." 

"You look for, Wambararia, only when you have no 
food left," replied Kimathi. 

The tone of his voice was soft, so Wambararia knew 
his brother was not really angry, and he tried to argue the 
point. "We also have been without food since yesterday, 
but we have still been searching for you." 

"Speak the truth!" Kimathi retorted. His voice this 
time was louder, and it was plain that Wambararia had 
started something he would regret. He had roused Kimathi 
by answering back. He had put himself in the dock, and 
would have to find his own way out. 

"That is the truth, muthee," pleaded Wambararia. 
"And Ngai knows it because he brought us together again. 
We went all the way to Karia-ini, then down through " 

"Shut up, you bastard," interrupted Kimathi in En- 
glish. With that he leaned forward and picked up one of 
the burning sticks of bamboo from the fire. Holding it in 
both hands he probed in the ashes and scraped out a bit of 
scorched bone which he must have seen when he sat 
down, a bit of bone which his men had thrown into the 


fire after they had chewed the meat off it. "What is this?" 
he asked, looking at Wambararia and tapping the bone 
with the tip of his stick. 

When it was obvious that Kimathi had found him out, 
Wambararia turned cold with fright and begged his broth- 
er to forgive him. The bone, he said, was the only food 
they had eaten. But his pleas made no impression on 
Kimathi, who, without saying another word, stretched 
across and thrust the red hot end of the stick into his face. 
Wambararia's cheek and lips were burnt, and hot embers 
fell into his skin jacket. 

"Niahera, niahera," chimed the others, meaning that 
he had been sufficiently punished. After that nobody said 
another word. While Kimathi slept peacefully that night, 
his men remained on guard round about him, listening to 
the noises in the forest, thankful that their leader had 
been found. 

The next morning after the dew had dried on the 
grass, Kimathi was led by Wambararia to the rest of his 
gang. It was not until the evening of the twenty-third of 
April, the day we abandoned our fruitless search for him 
in the Mwathe region to the west, that he summoned 
Jeriko to give him a full account of the Itha River battle. 
The names of those of our men who had been identified 
were recorded in his little red diary, and he ordered his 
henchmen to kill them whenever they were seen again 
"before one is given time to blink." Then prayers were 
said throughout the night, and Ngai was thanked many 
times for having kept Kimathi from accompanying Jeriko 
on that fateful day. 

The next morning, after Jeriko was out of sight and 
earshot, Kimathi had the men brought before him, one at 
a time. He questioned each one closely, and accused them 
of being traitors. We soon discovered that this was typical 
of Kimathi, who invariably suspected there was a spy in 
his camp when his gang suffered casualties. 

During the questioning Kimathi discovered that some 
of his men had come upon elephant tracks during their 
flight towards Kimathi's hideout and, to hide traces of 
their own tracks, had stepped inside the hard, dry prints 
of the elephant. When Kimathi heard this he was horn- 


fied. He was sure it was an omen of ill fortune to tread on 
the tracks of an elephant. In a fit of anger he ordered all 
the honey in the camp to be brought and sprinkled on the 
feet of those who had used the elephant trail, only this 
would appease the evil spirits. Then he chased everyone 
away and sat down alone to study a tattered and soiled 
copy of Napoleons Book of Charms in which he had 
implicit faith. There he worked out what to do next: He 
decided he had to move quickly to a new area. 

It was the fifth of May before we were ready to launch 
our next operation against Kimathi. Once again we used 
two teams of eleven men, but on this occasion we armed 
them to the teeth and replaced those who had been 
compromised with others who had not. For several days 
we concentrated on the Kahareini sector and on the forest 
areas between the Itha and Muringato rivers. We found 
the hideout Kimathi had been in when Jeriko's party were 
encountered and the traces of honey spilt on to the ground 
when those who had followed the elephant trail were 

What a difference there was between this hideout and 
one of Kimathi's I had seen in the Zaina valley in August 
1953. That had been a most elaborate affair. It consisted of 
seven bamboo huts, two of them almost ten feet square 
and the rest half this size. There were doors in all four 
walls of each hut to allow for a speedy getaway. The roofs 
were rainproof; the walls were windproof. In his own 
particular hut Kimathi had a bed, a table, several log 
stools, and a mosquito net, which he sat under when he 
had his meals so that the horseflies would not bother him. 

Though the old site had been some distance from the 
nearest river, he had laid in adequate supplies of water. 
From a spring seventy yards uphill, he ran a chain of 
hollowed-out bamboo poles down to one of the huts. All 
day and all night fresh water trickled down the pipe. There 
was a large food store, neatly constructed of smooth river 
stones, manhandled up from the river bed. In this he kept 
his meat cold and fresh and safe from rats and other forest 
scavengers which would easily bite through timber. None 
of the huts were used by his men. The other large one was 
a meeting hall, used only when other terrorist leaders 


visited him; three of the small ones were cooking houses, 
one for the cooking of his own food, one for the food of all 
the young women he had round him, and one for the food 
of a witch doctor he had with him in those days, a little 
man named Wangombe Ruga, who, when his predictions 
clashed with Kimathi's dreams, surrendered to save his 
skin. Then there was the hut for water and, finally, a pit 
latrine, erected not for purposes of hygiene, but to pre- 
vent hyenas howling round his camp, as they are attracted 
by the smell of human excreta. All his guards lived in little 
shelters, built in a circle round him, but these were 
placed well away from his central apartments. They did 
not enter without invitation. 

The hideout Kimathi had been sitting in when Jeriko's 
men brought him the news of the Itha River battle, 
however, consisted of literally nothing but a few square 
yards of cleared bush, where grass had been cut and laid 
for him and his men to sleep on. There was no bed, no 
stools, no cooking hut, no food store, no water point. His 
only protection from the weather consisted of a few thin 
bamboo sticks stuck in the ground at both ends and 
covered with waterbuck skin. 

We went back to Jeriko's hideout, which was very 
similar, in the hope that some of the gang might have 
returned to look for the documents Thurura had tried to 
swallow, but the absence of tracks showed that nobody had 
been there since our team pulled Thurura from the thorn 
bush and carried him away. 

About a mile northwest of this hideout, however, we 
found a broken and blood-stained stretcher. It was made of 
two long poles interlaced with bamboo and tied with 
muondwe bark and had obviously been discarded when 
one of the poles had snapped. It was right in the middle of 
the area where the running gun fight had taken place, and 
our men were surprised that they had not seen it before. 
A little further on they found traces of more dried blood, 
now nearly washed away by the rain. They found more 
blood on some large water lily leaves near a stream, and it 
looked as if these leaves had been used to wipe the wound 
of an injured terrorist. We realised then that Thurura had 
not been the only casualty among Jeriko's party. 


It was common knowledge in the forest that Kimathi 
would never allow his movements to be hampered by a 
wounded man, so we began a careful search of the banks 
of the stream. It was obvious that the terrorist must have 
been very badly wounded to need a stretcher, and when it 
had broken there was every likelihood that he had been 
left near water, as Kimathi's gangsters had more than once 
before put badly wounded terrorists beside water to die or 
recover. But despite all efforts the search was unproductive, 
and we were back to where we had started. 

Then only three days before the operation was due to 
end, the pendulum of fortune swung in our favour. Several 
miles inside the forest, one of the teams discovered a 
recently set game snare, and four men were left to ambush 
it, while the balance moved over to the crest of a little hill 
to lie in wait. That evening, as the ambushers lay silently 
beside the trap, they heard the bushes rustling as though 
a small group of men was forcing their way through. When 
our men first heard the noise they knew it was Mau Mau, 
for every few moments the rustling stopped and there was 
silence. This was normal terrorist practice. They were 
listening for danger. The noise came closer and closer, the 
pauses grew longer and longer. Finally, from where they 
were lying, our men could see the upper branches of the 
bushes shaking. Out stepped two of Kimathi's men, who 
crouched down to peer under the foliage of their trap 
which was no more than thirty feet away, 

"It has not sprung. Let us go on/' one whispered, and 
they cautiously went on, passing within arm's reach of one 
of our men lying in ambush. Seconds later both had 
reached their trap. They touched the trip stick, and the 
powerful pliant pole sprang up with great force. As one set 
to work on the buck path, removing fallen leaves and 
twigs, the other thrust the trap forks deeper into the 
ground and sharpened the ends of the trap stick so that it 
would give at the faintest touch. Then they took hold of 
the pole and began to bend it back the reverse way to give 
it greater elasticity. At that moment our men jumped up, 
their guns ready. The trappers realised they could not 
escape. One raised his hands high above his head in 
surrender, while the other let go of the pole and sat down 


on the ground, saying, "Wool, wooi, don't kill me. Don't 
shoot!" They were handcuffed together. Their trapping 
exploit was over. 

These were the exact circumstances for which we had 
prayed. This was the type of quiet operation, the "snatch/* 
which would bring Kimathi's men secretly into our hands. 
We learnt all about Kimathi's recent behaviour. Shaking 
with fright, the two trappers, Kinanda and Ngomari, told 
their story so fast they hardly paused for breath. Some 
days after the fight at the Itha River, after Kimathi had 
poured the honey on the feet of his followers and studied 
his Napoleons Book of Charms, he split his force of 
forty-nine terrorists into six separate mbutu or sub-gangs 
to reduce tracks, for he was certain that Thurura would 
give the government much information and that a major 
operation would result. According to Kinanda he had then 
set off northwards towards the Amboni River with fifteen 
men and Wanjiru, his woman; Wambararia had moved off 
with four others in another mbutu ; Jeriko had gone away 
with six; Nyoka with six; Juma Abdalla with eight; and 
Wamuthandi with four. 

Before these mbutu went their various ways, Kimathi 
told them not to leave the Tree Tops Salient, and he 
ordered the leaders to send word when the area was safe 
for him to return, but he warned them not to do this until 
sufficient time had passed to make it improbable that any 
operation would be mounted on Thurura's information. 
He was to be sent this news by way of a certain mururua 
or Cape Chestnut tree which everyone in his gang knew. 
This tree would be his posta (letter box). The letter for 
him was to be left in one of the dark hollows of its trunk. 

The two trappers described how they had been in 
Nyoka's mbutu only one day when Nyoka had decided to 
go on a long safari to Wuthering Heights, in the northern 
Aberdares, where game could be trapped more easily, and 
where there would be plenty of honey now that the rains 
were over. They had pleaded with him to allow them to 
stay in the Tree Tops Salient, for if Kimathi were to hear 
that every man in the mbutu had gone to Wuthering 
Heights he would punish them severely. Nyoka had seen 
reason in this and agreed to their request. 


They had, therefore, been left on their own while 
Nyoka went north, and they did not know where any other 
members of the gang had gone. The news was gratifying, 
as we realised that we could keep our two prisoners for 
quite a long time before the gang suspected that they had 
been captured. We soon made a new plan. One of them 
was to write a letter to Kimathi and we would place it in 
the mururua letter box. The letter would tell him to 
return to a certain bomb crater which he knew well. It 
would tell him that the Tree Tops Salient was now safe. It 
would tell him that there had been no pseudo-gangs or 
security forces in the forest for some days. But it would 
not tell him that we were going to be waiting at the bomb 
crater when he came. 

Before the team and their two prisoners finally with- 
drew from the forest, Kinanda took them to the terrorist 
who had been carried on the stretcher. After the pole had 
broken this unfortunate individual was carried to the 
water's edge where his wound had been washed with the 
lily leaves we found. Then some thick green leaves were 
stuffed into his wound to check the bleeding, and, after 
being given some water, he was left to his fate. For three 
nights he lay there, constantly bathing his head with the 
cold stream water to cool his hot body, then, feeling a little 
stronger, he had dragged himself downstream in the water 
for nearly a mile before crawling up the bank into the 
forest where he collapsed. Sick, hungry, and in great pain, 
he had lain there throughout the night, beating off packs 
of hyenas and screaming wildly every time the beasts 
came close to him. Kinanda had heard the screaming, and 
had asked Nyoka if he could go to the aid of the man, but 
Nyoka had refused this request because security forces 
might be waiting nearby. It was not till Nyoka 'left for 
Wuthering Heights two days later that Kinanda and Ngomari 
crept up to the place. The wounded terrorist was still 
alive. But his feet had been so badly eaten by cane rats 
that most of the flesh round his ankles was gnawed away, 
and his white ankle bones were protruding from the flesh. 
His stomach was grotesquely swollen, and bubbles of 
blood oozed from his wound whenever he moved. His 
whole body was caked with blood and earth. In a faint, 


barely audible whisper, he told Kinanda and Ngomari his 
story. And they listened to every word with care, for they 
knew he would die, and by the custom of the forest it was 
very important to hear the last words of a dying man. 
Then, when he had finished, he raised his head a little off 
the ground, and, speaking a little louder, said to Kinanda: 
"Kill me because of the pain. Do not leave without killing 
me." And Kinanda obeyed, cutting off his head with one 
swift sweep of his sirni. That night the hyenas howled 
louder than ever, and Kinanda remembered a saying his 
old father had once told him: 

Nyota iva gikuo ndumjotokagwo . 
"Death's thirst is never quenched." 



Njira ndiraga mugendi "Huruka" 
The road never says to the traveler: "Take a 

The days ahead were frustrating in the extreme. We 
searched in vain all over the Kimathi area. We looked on 
every hill and on every ridge, in every valley and in every 
ravine, but the answer was always the same. 

We had already posted Kinanda's letter in the mururua 
tree, but Kimathi had not come to collect it. Far north in 
the Wuthering Heights region more teams searched for 
Nyoka in the hope that he might know where Kimathi had 
gone, but again we had no luck, 

To add to our miseries, two of our collaborators were 
killed by a wild buffalo. Our team was moving through the 
forest when there was a sudden, violent commotion imme- 
diately in front of them. Some days before a large buffalo 
bull had been caught in a Mau Mau snare made of six 
strands of barbed wire rolled together, tied firmly at one 
end to a heavy stump, and looped at the other to fit over 
the animal's massive head and horns as it came along its 
path. The bull had dragged the stump many miles through 
the forest until it was exhausted. The barbs had made 
deep cuts in its neck, much flesh had been torn away, and 
its forequarters were covered with blood. 

A buffalo is a dangerous beast at the best of times, but 
this bull had been maddened by pain. It had not noticed 



the approach of the team until they were almost upon it. 
Then it erupted with a volcanic lunge of fury. Its horns 
tore savagely at the earth. Branches and bushes were flung 
high in the air. 

Our men fled to the nearest tree, but the trap wires 
had snapped, and as they ran the buffalo swept down on 
them. In a matter of seconds the first victim had been 
trampled down and gored. A moment later the bull thrust 
its horns into the chest of a second man and shook the life 
from his body. Then the bull was off, crashing into the 
forest. Its victims were a mangled, bleeding mess. Noth- 
ing could be done for them. They were both dead. 

When the news of this tragedy reached me late that 
afternoon, I set off at once, with the remainder of the 
team, to shoot the beast. A buffalo in this condition could 
be a serious menace to our men. The heaviest rifle we 
possessed was a service .303, which was by no means an 
ideal weapon for the job, but we had nothing else. First 
we went back to the spot where the buffalo had last been 
seen. There we examined the broken strands of wire on 
the tree stump and the mutilated bodies of our two 
terrorists. It looked as if every bone in their bodies had 
been broken. The spine of one had been smashed in 
several places, for though he was lying face down on the 
ground, his buttocks and legs were folded back over his 
head and shoulders. 

After dragging the corpses to the foot of a large tree, 
we set off in search of their killer. At least there was no 
difficulty in following the buffalo's tracks. Buckets of blood 
were splattered about. The bull had, in fact, bled so 
profusely that the trail was a continuous red stream. We 
had only been gone about twenty minutes when we saw 
him. Part of his back was just visible over the top of the 
grass. He lay still. As soon as we saw this we stopped, half 
expecting him to rise, but there wasn't a twitch. Very 
slowly, I edged my way round the side until I could see 
the back of his neck, and from there I found I was also 
able to make out the outline of his chest. For some time I 
stood there to see whether there was any sign of life, but 
still there was no movement. To make sure, I put a shot 
through the back of his neck before walking forward. The 


loop of barbed wire was still round his neck. With that last 
fatal plunge the barbs had cut the buffalo's jugular vein, 
and he bled to death. 

Two days later another team came on a rhino in one of 
those areas of the Tree Tops Salient where it is foolish to 
walk unless you carry a reasonably heavy rifle. For two 
hundred yards there was not a tree at hand, only thick, 
matted bushes through which they could not see and 
could not run. 

They were almost in the middle of this patch when 
the rhino charged, and, realizing that they could not run 
fast enough, our men dropped to the ground. As the rhino 
dashed through them with its horn just above the ground, 
it stepped squarely on one man's leg, breaking it like a 
twig, and ripping a huge piece of flesh from his thigh. 

When the rhino made its first charge all but the 
injured man scrambled away to safety. He had to watch 
the animal come crashing through the bush towards him 
again, but this time it charged through a collection of skin 
bags which had been dropped by the others. It carried 
two or three of these on its horn for some yards before 
slinging them into the air. Then the rhino disappeared for 

As I was talking to a terrorist after this incident, I 
mentioned that all we could do was hope that the rhino 
and buffalo were giving Kimathi an equally tiresome time. 
"No, Kinyanjui," he said in all seriousness. "I think Kimathi 
has given them the Mau Mau oath." This was the sort of 
thing the Mau Mau thought Kimathi could do. 

Then one' of our teams operating high on the Moor- 
lands of the Aberdares was surprised to find, as they were 
slowly climbing a ridge late one evening, that a gang of 
terrorists were singing to them from the crest of an 
adjoining ridge a few hundred yards away to their left. 
When they stopped to listen, the singing also stopped. 
When they moved on, the singing started again. Then one 
of the singers shouted across the valley to tell our team 
that if any of our men walked towards them they would all 
run away. 

Bewildered by this odd encounter, our team moved 
on up the ridge. This time they walked more slowly in 


order that they could hear what the gang was saying. 
Much to their annoyance the songs were insulting. They 
were being called "women" and "thirsty goats** and "por- 
cupines." Our men were so annoyed by the abuse that 
they decided to go after the singers, but when they 
reached the crest of the other ridge no one was there. We 
were worried when we heard about this, as we naturally 
suspected that the role of our collaborators had become 
known, and that the Mau Mau had embarked upon a 
campaign of ridicule. But in the weeks which followed we 
found nothing to confirm our fears, for the same team had 
many excellent successes. The riddle was not solved until 
months later when we captured the entire gang of a Mau 
Mau general named Kimbo Mutuku, who said that he and 
his men had been responsible. They had thought that our 
men were part of Kimathfs gang, and as Kimbo hated 
Kimathi for having thrown him out of the higher councils 
of the Mau Mau years before, and for having sent him into 
exile for gaining too much popularity, he had tried to get 
one back on Kimathi. 

Gethieya and I shared the general depression. Once 
we had to spend two days and two nights without food, 
blankets, or shelter at the highest point of the Aberdares, 
where the altitude is just short of thirteen thousand feet. 
Our clothes were soaking wet, we could not light a fire 
because there was no firewood, and it rained without 
stopping. Our spirits were so low that we found we could 
not even talk to one another 

Our tempers were not improved when, after long and 
tiring journeys through the forest, we sometimes found 
that our rations, which had been hidden away at prear- 
ranged rendezvous, had been completely devoured by 
hyenas. Their powerful jaws and sharp teeth ripped open 
tins of corned beef and fruit without difficulty, and we 
would find that all they had left for us were a few scattered 
and torn pieces of tin. Sugar, tea, aspirin, and paper bags 
were their favourite foods, but on one occasion they ate a 
thick tarpaulin sheet used to cover the rations. One partic- 
ularly hungry hyena chewed up my fountain pen and 



Harvard (Shown with U.S. Markings) 

We weren't always unlucky. After one ration trip we 
made a detour through the forest to the scene of a Harvard 
aircraft crash, as we knew that the terrorists obtained 
much of their trapping wire from crashed aircraft. After 
climbing all over the fuselage for several minutes, we 
returned to Nyeri, where we learned that months before a 
military unit had booby-trapped the wreckage with twelve 
two-inch mortar bombs and eight hand grenades. 

And sometimes we laughed. Once Mac nearly lost his 
trousers to an inquisitive baboon who picked them up, 
studied them for a few minutes, and then threw them 
down in disgust. Then Mac discovered a chameleon while 
we were camping on the Moorlands, and proudly walked 
back among the bivouacs of the terrorists to show them his 
find. He did not realise that there is no reptile which the 
Kikuyu fear as much as a chameleon, which they think is 
made by the devil. When the terrorists saw it on his arm 


they rushed into the forest, and we had to spend many 
hours persuading them to return to the camp. Sometimes 
we were confronted with certain rather boisterous terror- 
ists who considered themselves a little too clever. We put 
them in the back of a Land Rover and placed a small dried 
turtle I had bought years before in Las Palmas on the 
floorboards beside them. Nothing could have deflated 
them better! They were so terrified of the turtle, the likes 
of which they had never seen or heard of before, that they 
struggled desperately to squeeze through the hatch be- 
hind the driver's seat, while everyone who was in the 
know roared with laughter outside. When they realised 
that they had made fools of themselves they became far 
more placid. 

While walking one day towards a place on the Moor- 
lands not far from the old Fort Jerusalem track, where I 
was to hide some rations for a team, I came over the crest 
of a small hill to find several eland staring intently in the 
direction of a patch of scrub on the far side of a ravine. 
Realising that they had been alerted by some unfriendly 
visitor, I stopped to study the scrub carefully with binocu- 
lars for some minutes, but, as I couldn't see anyone, I 
guessed they they had probably been frightened by a 

Having buried the rations in a thicket and carefully 
erased my tracks, I set off back to my Land Rover, which I 
had left two miles away. I had gone about a mile through 
the forest fringing the Moorlands when, much to my 
surprise, I came upon a party of native forestry workers 
who had been sent up to repair a broken log bridge on the 
Fort Jerusalem track. They were quite unaware that an 
operation was in progress, and were relieved to hear that I 
would take them down the mountain in my Land Rover. 

Three days later Gethieya and I were back at the food 
point for the rendezvous. The team of seven were there 
waiting for us with four additional terrorists whom they had 
captured, but their tempers were strained, for they had 
come to the food point to collect their rations on the day I 
had brought them, but they had found nothing there. They 
had been without anything to eat for six days. Remember- 
ing the forestry workers, I immediately suspected that 


some of them had gone back up the mountain and stolen 
the food, whereupon Gethieya and I located and questioned 
every one of them. They denied everything. A week later 
the riddle was solved seventy miles away on the edge of 
the Fort Hall reserve, where Ian Pritchard was operating, 
his pseudo-gangs caught a small group of terrorists led by 
a notorious gangster named Noru Makinya. Noru and his 
party had feasted for a week on our rations. As a rule Mau 
Mau regarded any place visited by security forces as 
highly dangerous, so I journeyed to Fort Hall to hear what 
Noru had to say about it. It turned out that he had been in 
the patch of scrub when I had come over the crest of the 
hill, and it was he, in fact, who had attracted the elands' 
attention. He had watched me closely as I hid the rations. 
When I had gone, he crept over with his men to see what 
I had buried. He pelted the spot with stones for some 
minutes to make sure it was not a booby-trap; then he had 
dug up everything and gone away. 

It was not until the fourth of June that we made 
contact with Kimathf s gang again, and then we did so only 
because some of his men made the grave mistake of going 
into the farming country after a rain storm to steal pota- 
toes, which made concealment of their tracks on the 
return journey impossible. 

We had always been on the alert for reports of pro- 
duce stealing along the eastern side of the Aberdares 
bordering on the Kimathi area, so that when one morning 
a wireless message was passed to us in the forest giving 
the location of the theft we were quickly off the mark. 

During the night a gang had crept down to a farm 
near the Nyeri Polo Ground and dug up a large quantity of 
potatoes. In the potato field the terrorists had been both 
wise and careless. After digging down and removing the 
potatoes from the plants, they had carefully replaced the 
earth in the hope that no one would notice until the plants 
began to wither some days later. But in the darkness they 
had not realised that the earth they replaced beneath the 
plants was the earth they had dug up with the potatoes, 
which was much drier than the earth on the surface. Their 
mistake was fatal, for early the following morning when 
the native gardeners went to the fields to work they 


immediately noticed the different coloured patches of 
earth and began digging to find out what had happened. 

The footprints of the gang were plainly visible in the 
neat rows of potatoes, and, within a few minutes of their 
arrival, our team had discovered where the gang had 
posted their lookouts and where they had regrouped 
before setting off with their spoils for the forest. Instead of 
making straight for the edge of the forest two miles away, 
the culprits had first gone in the opposite direction to- 
wards a large labour camp which they circled before 
zigzagging back. They had set a false trail so that the 
blame would fall on native labour. But our terrorists had 
done the same thing countless times before, and no time 
was lost in picking up their tracks on the forest edge. 

Inside the jungle the tracks were more difficult to 
follow, as the drippings from the trees had smudged the 
marks, but despite this the team were close on their quarry 
by late evening. As darkness fell they fanned out and 
combed through the undergrowth in a long line. They 
were now nearly ten miles from the point where the gang 
had entered the forest. 

They had almost decided that it would be best to call 
off the hunt until daylight again when a strong whiff of 
smoke drifted over towards them. They all smelt it. With- 
out a word they crawled upwind on their stomachs. In a 
few moments they could see the faint glimmer of a light 
from a shielded fire against the leaves of the trees. They 
crept on until they could hear voices. Then they stopped 
and waited in silence while two men went forward to 
reconnoitre, easing their bare feet forward inch by inch, 
probing with their toes in case there was a dry branch on 
their path which would crack. When the shrill call of forest 
hyrax pierced the silence of the night they bounded 
forward, for nothing could be heard above this. 

The two scouts came right up to the edge of the 
hideout and peered through the bushes at five terrorists 
sitting round the fire. A large cooking pot supported by 
three sticks was boiling away, and they could hear the 
water bubbling as the potatoes cooked. They recognised 
every member of the gang which was led by Wambararia, 
Kimathi's brother. He was one, they thought, who must 


not get away. Our men could hear every word that was 
spoken. The gangsters were discussing the night's raid, 
saying that they would never go near the labour camp 
again because many dogs had barked. One of them was 
very annoyed with the water carrier because of the dirty 
water he had fetched from the river, but the others joined 
in and said that the whole river had been fouled by 
elephants drinking higher up, and that there was no 
cleaner water anywhere in the area. 

The scouts studied the scene for several minutes, 
hoping to see where the gang's guns were stacked, but 
without success. Probably, they thought, Kimathi had kept 
them all. Then, as silently as they had come, they retraced 
their steps. 

As the pot was being lifted from the fire, the gang was 
rushed from two sides. The terrorist who was holding the 
pot dropped it, spilling the boiling water and hot potatoes 
over one of his equally startled companions. Another 
reeled back shouting, "It is us, Kimathi, it is only us." He 
was soon disillusioned. Wambararia was cool and collect- 
ed. He quickly grabbed a satchel of documents lying on 
the ground beside him and threw it into the fire. He was 
hit on the head with the butt of a revolver when he tried 
to stop one of our men from snatching it back from the 

When all five of Kimathfs men had been handcuffed 
together, the fire was stoked up and, in the flickering 
light, the documents were studied by the only man in our 
team who could read. While this was happening Kimathf s 
men saw their valuable potatoes being eaten with relish by 
the captors who did not save them one. Then the fire was 
beaten out, and the party set off to a place called "Muti uri 
Cieni," or "the Tree of the Vlei," where I was to rendez- 
vous with them next morning. 

It was nearly eight o'clock before I arrived at Muti uri 
Cieni. As I came in sight of the tree I saw the team 
jumping up and down and chatting excitedly about some- 
thing which was obviously amusing them a great deal. But 
Wambararia and his companions, who were still handcuffed 
together, were sullen and unamused. "Kai ni atia [What is 
it]?" I asked. 


"What we have seen today is the best, " replied one of 
our team, and told me what had happened. After the 
prisoners had been handcuffed together, the party had 
travelled several miles through the dark forest towards 
Muti uri Cieni before they had come upon a good place to 
sleep. Before daybreak they were on the move again, and 
were just getting to the tree where we now stood when a 
rhino had charged, scattering everyone. Two of our men 
had seen the manacled quintet making good speed across 
the clearing towards a spinney of trees. To stop any escape 
attempt, they had chased after Kimathi's men without 
worrying unduly about the rhino, which was still charging 
to and fro round the tree. 

As the terrorists were about to reach the spinney the 
rhino apparently caught their scent and came racing over 
after them, but veered off into the forest before reaching 
them. The departure of the rhino was seen by all our men, 
but not by the terrorists. There was panic in the spinney. 
As the fastest of the five, Wambararia dashed into the lead 
and dragged the others along behind him. But when he 
reached the nearest tree and started to climb it, he was 
pulled down by one of his companions, who, standing 
firmly on his back, tried to get up the tree himself, but he 
too was pulled down. Sure that nobody was going to climb 
that tree, the group picked themselves off the ground and 
headed for another, but they did not all aim at the same 
one. All pulled in different directions, swearing and curs- 
ing at one another. When pulling seemed futile, Wambararia 
tried pushing, but this too got him nowhere. In the end 
the gang collapsed in a tangle. All the time our team was 
rolling over and over in the grass at what they claim was 
the funniest sight they have ever seen. 

Wambararia looked like Kimathi, although he was far 
shorter and stouter than his brother. He had scars on his 
cheeks and lips where his brother had burnt him the night 
after the Itha River battle. Once back in camp he became 
the centre of attraction, and all our terrorists huddled 
inquisitively round him. He seemed suspiciously voluble 
and soon announced his readiness to lead us back to the 
place where, he claimed, his brother was hiding. Within 
an hour we were on the move again with Wambararia at 


the head of a specially selected force. But perhaps he was 
telling the truth, for, after all, if anyone would know 
Kimathi's secrets, it would surely be his brother, and 
Wambararia's scars showed that he had reason enough for 
revenge. We decided to attack as soon as the hideout was 
pointed out to us. 

We might have guessed what the outcome would be. 
Instead of leading us directly to his brother, Wambararia, 
marched us straight across the front of the hideout to 
expose us, then, as if he were still not sure that the gang 
had gone, round in a circle and back to it through an area 
of extremely thick, dry bamboo, where a noiseless ap- 
proach was impossible. When we reached the deserted 
hideout and realised what had happened, he said he 
hoped we would kill him. At least he was a faithful and 
loyal brother! 

" Everything in the hideout, such as cooking pots, 
meat, trapping wires, and other valuables, had been left 
behind, which showed how quickly the gang had left. Two 
days later Wambararia told us how he had deliberately 
exposed us. We also discovered from him that Kinanda 
and Ngomari, the two trappers we had captured, were not 
the lone terrorists from Nyoka's mbutu they had claimed 
to be. They had belonged to Kimathi's personal mbutu, 
and had known exactly where Kimathi was at the time of 
their capture. They had, in fact, just come from him, and 
would have gone straight back to him if they had not been 
caught. The story they told us about the mururua letter 
box had been invented on the spur of the moment. 

We learnt all this because Wambararia would not 
believe that he had been tracked to the spot where we 
caught him. Instead, he was convinced that either Kinanda 
or Ngomari, or both, had put us on to him. Not long 
before both of them had been with him in a hideout 
nearby, and had heard him speak well of the area and say 
he would go back to it. Sure that they had done him 
down, he decided to expose them as much as he could and 
he told us about their ruse. This set off a chain reaction. 
Infuriated by Wambararia's revelations and accusations, 
both Ngomari, and Kinanda then told us all they knew 
about Kimathi and his brother, and they told us much. 


This betrayal and counter-betrayal broke all resistance 
among the rest of Kimathi's men in our hands, but ill- 
feeling ran so high that we had to hand Wambararia over 
to the regular police to avoid trouble in camp. 

Now Kimathi was really on the run. Throughout the 
emergency he had never experienced such a series of 
narrow shaves. It was all too much for his nerves. He 
called on Ngai more than he had ever done before. He 
became so suspicious and highstrung that the sight of an 
old rusted bully-beef tin thrown away months before was 
enough to send him skittering sideways like a shying 
horse. If an aeroplane flew overhead, he would insist that 
he had been seen and move his camp without delay. He 
would not touch a government surrender pamphlet for 
fear that it was poisoned or had some curse on it, which, 
in his own words "would burn out the eyes"; the print of 
an army jungle boot in the forest would send him dashing 
off into another area, and the print of a bare foot found in a 
place which he knew none of his men had visited or 
passed through was enough to send him off on a two- or 
three-day journey. 

Among Wambararia's documents was a letter Kimathi 
had written to him some days before, describing a dream 
in which Ngai had spoken to him: 

As I was sleeping I felt someone hold my hand. I 
woke up and heard God say to me, "My son, 
come with me/' I stood up, and Ngai took me by 
my right hand and we walked through a most 
beautiful forest where there were many red and 
yellow flowers and big birds with green wings. 
There were also many big rocks out of which 
clean springs were flowing. And Ngai took me to 
a mugumo [wild fig] tree which was bigger and 
higher than all the other wild fig trees in the 
forest, a tree that was like a father of all trees. 
And I rested my hand upon it. When I did that, 
Ngai spoke to me again and said, "This is my 
house in this forest, and here I will guard you." 
Then the tree came up out of the ground and 
went up into the clouds and I did not see it 


again. Then it rained very hard and I woke up a 
second time, but I could not remember where I 
had seen the tree. But from this I know that the 
house of Ngai is in this forest and it must be 
found and from now onwards no person shall pass 
a mugumo tree without praying, otherwise he 
will anger Ngai and be destroyed. 

As a result of this dream Kimathi began a series of 
pilgrimages to certain parts of the eastern Aberdares where 
large wild fig trees were growing. 



Kuri arume na maiuria ndua. 

Some are males and some can only fill gourds. 


As sheep come to the fold, some are good and 
some are bad. 

While a select group of the very best of our converted 
terrorists was searching for Kimathi in the Tree Tops 
Salient and the Mwathe, the rest of the force was not idle. 
They too had been formed into gangs and went back into 
the forest to work for us. By the end of June we had over 
ninety hardcore Mau Mau operating in the Aberdares on 
our side, and success bred success. A hostile gang fighting 
against us yesterday became a tamed gang fighting for us 
today, We were not exactly converting these desperate 
men, but we were certainly recruiting them. 

No Mau Mau could merge with the Kimathi gang, 
but our technique of penetrating and living in with other 
Mau Mau gangs proved immensely successful. Time after 
time our collaborators contacted gangs and merged with 
them without difficulty. Every meeting was celebrated in 
great fashion with much praying and smearing of smelly 
animal fat on everyone's foreheads to wash away any 
impure thoughts that might have entered their minds 
during the time they had been apart from one another. 
Everyone would then retire to some secluded part of the 
jungle where all the available food was eaten. 



When the gang fell asleep their guests would lie down 
with them and pretend to sleep also. Sometimes friend 
and foe would lie beneath the same skin cover, their 
bodies close together for warmth. But as the night wore 
on, as their hosts snored and sighed and turned, our men 
would be waiting for the signal to strike. Sometimes 
someone in the gang would be restless, and the time for 
action had to be postponed. So as to warn the leader not 
to rise, warning coughs would echo round the hideout, 
and all would be silent for another hour or so. But when 
the moment finally came, the job would be done with the 
utmost efficiency. The Mau Mau would wake to find that 
they were being tied by the feet or covered by armed men 
who were no longer friendly. Every week an average of 
twenty-two terrorists were accounted for in the forests by 
our teams using this technique. 

Normally it was only when a gang had posted armed 
sentries round its hideout that anyone was killed, and 
these were invariably the sentries themselves. This suited 
as well, for in order to make progress we had to have 
information, and only live terrorists could supply this. 
When a team was preparing to capture their sleeping 
hosts, some of them would sneak away to deal with the 
sentries. Sometimes they found them leaning against trees 
blissfully unaware of their danger. These we were able to 
overpower without noise or resistance; sometimes we found 
them alert. They would challenge our men, and we would 
have to have a good excuse for not being asleep. The 
excuse our men usually gave was that they were going to 
relieve themselves. Normally our men walked quite boldly 
up to the sentries, whose positions had been carefully 
noted beforehand, and as they went they would stretch 
their arms back and yawn as though they had just risen 
from a deep sleep. They would whisper to the sentries 
about the coldness of the night, about the noise of an 
animal, or about a pain in their stomachs. They would 
watch their man until he relaxed, then, with the speed of 
a wild cat, they would drop him and hold him down. Any 
resistance meant death. Nothing but immediate submis- 
sion was good enough, for they knew their adversaries, 
they knew it was a matter of life and death. Mau Mau 


were not people to take chances with! It was like holding 
down a leopard give it a chance to free its foot and you 
could be clawed to death. But not once throughout these 
operations did anyone escape. 

Sometimes the terrorists, asleep in their hideouts, 
were remarkably slow in coming to their senses. It always 
amazed me how tense and sensitive a Mau Mau gang 
would be when no sentries were guarding them, and yet 
how utterly oblivious to danger they would become when 
sentries were posted. One night when a terrorist named 
Kabangi was captured, all the sentries round about, and 
all his companions in the hideout, had been securely tied 
up before he awoke. He had been asleep on the ground 
with six others, all closely packed together and covered 
with a single dirty piece of hessian, when our team struck. 
Four men on his left and two on his right had been pulled 
to their feet and handcuffed before he stirred. But even 
then he did not wake up. When one of our men grabbed 
his hair and shook his head, he turned over on to his side 
and mumbled, "What are you doing? Do you think I am a 
woman ?" With that he went to sleep again. 

Another named Kaburei, who was captured with three 
others, complained bitterly to his captors when they tried 
to shake him awake that he was far too tired to visit the 
traps. After his ankles had been tied together with rope 
and he had been pulled to his feet, his first exclamation 
was, "I seem to feel that I am dreaming of being tied up!" 

But these were certainly exceptions. In most cases 
our teams had to act quickly and decisively, sometimes 
before they were ready. The Mau Mau practice of lying 
packed together like kernels on a corn cob sometimes 
made it very difficult for a team leader to extricate himself 
without waking the gang. There were cases where sentries 
screamed out ^nd woke everyone. There were even cases 
where the gang never went to sleep at all. 

For months the sole preoccupation of all these terror- 
ists had been mere survival. They lived like animals. They 
survived because of their animal skills, and when caught 
they reacted like trapped animals. 

I often saw terrorists a few moments after their cap- 
ture. Some would stand there wide-eyed, completely speech- 


less, and shivering violently from shock and cold. They 
would think of the moment of death, and that moment 
seemed very near. Others would be past the stage of 
thinking at all. Mad with shock, they would shout and 
struggle or froth at the mouth and bite at the earth. 

Under these circumstances it was not easy to remem- 
ber that they were fanatics who had enjoyed killing chil- 
dren and slitting open the stomachs of pregnant women. 
They were savage, vicious, unpredictable as a rabid dog, 
but because they were now cornered, muzzled, powerless, 
and terrified, one felt like giving them a reassuring pat. 

Those who were suspected of committing specific 
atrocities or major crimes were handed over to the author- 
ities with the least possible delay to stand trial; those 
against whom no definite charge could be made, but who 
were, nevertheless, particularly bad characters, were sent 
off to detention. Some, we felt, would respond to civilisation 
fairly quickly, others might take longer, others would 
probably never respond. They would remain a menace to 
society as long as they lived. 

But there were some who were not directly linked to ser- 
ious acts of terrorism. There were terrorists who, though still 
hardcore Mau Mau, possessed information which would be of 
great value to us, and who seemed prepared to give it to us. 
We kept these and recruited them into our force. I talked to 
them, Gati talked to them, other members of our teams talked 
to them, and soon they were ready to go back into the jungle 
to hunt for other terrorists. And so the snowball rolled. 

The selection of bad from worse, useful from useless, 
co-operative from stubborn, was always done with care, 
and required a sound knowledge of the psychology of the 
Mau Mau on the one hand, and of the Kikuyu people on 
the other. Above all else, those selected had to be the 
types who would respond to our efforts to win their 
unstinted allegiance. We were trying to persuade them to 
change their regiment, not their souls. To them I was 
probably a rival and more powerful gang leader. I did not 
represent good as opposed to evil, but I did represent hope 
for them and their tribe. It was a tricky business. You 
could never be really sure that the man you had chosen to 
go back into the forest with you would not cut your throat 


when your back was turned. All you could guard against 
was going back into the forest with someone who would 
definitely cut your throat at the first opportunity. Fortunately 
our judgment proved to be reliable, for of the hundreds of 
Mau Mau whom we captured and used again in the forest 
there was not a single case of desertion or loss of firearms. 

The Mau Mau in the forests never had the remotest 
idea what was going on. But it was not very long before 
the stage was reached when more than half the Mau Mau 
gangs on the Aberdares were actively working for us 
against their own leaders and against their own organisation. 
Sometimes a considerable number of our converted gangs 
happened to be out on operations at the same time and 
came into contact with one another. Their surprise was 
understandable. "Since when have you been doing this 
job?" "How did you get here?" they would ask each other. 
Naturally, as more and more changed sides from the forest 
to our force, the task of recruitment and indoctrination 
became easier. Force of numbers became the key to their 
conversion. It was a far cry from the day when Gati and 
Hungu first met us on the Fort Jerusalem track. But Gati 
was still our principal aide. He was the R.S.M.* of this 
force, as well as an operational leader. He was responsible 
for discipline and meted out the punishments such as 
cooking, fatigues, and load-carrying. 

The task of keeping every man in our force recognisably 
active, that is to say, acceptable to the remnant hostile 
gangs as comrades-in-arms, was extraordinarily difficult, 
and as much work and time had to be devoted to this 
extremely important aspect of our technique as was devot- 
ed to the actual hunting of Mau Mau. We had to get all 
our teams seen in the forest from time to time; we had to 
get their members to write letters and keep up the chain 
of correspondence in the jungle; we had to keep their food 
stores going. You could not remove half the Mau Mau 
from the forest and expect the subsequent absence of 
hideouts, letters, traps, and the many other signs of Mau 
Mau activity to pass unnoticed by the other half. Often we 

* Regimental Sergeant Major 


were able to arrange meetings in the forest where our 
teams would confer with hostile Mau Mau. Having proved 
their loyalty to the cause, and extracted all the information 
they possibly could without giving the game away, our 
men would withdraw with their tongues in their cheeks 
and the way would be paved for more operations. Only 
Kimathi and his bodyguard still remained beyond our 
reach. They were a completely different problem. They 
were too cunning, too careful, too suspicious, and too 
isolated to fall to the ruses which brought the others 
tumbling down. 

As a result of all this, our knowledge of the forest and 
of those in it increased steadily, until we found we were 
able to predict gang movements with a surprisingly high 
degree of accuracy except for Kimathi. Every terrorist 
who remained at large was known personally to most of 
the men in our teams. It would be quite wrong to say that 
this admirable denouement was the result of our efficient 
leadership. Far from it. The brains behind the whole show 
were the converted Mau Mau themselves. They were 
undoing the bolts in the evil Mau Mau machine which 
they themselves had constructed. They knew where the 
nuts were, and they had the tools to do the job. 

While we were confident, therefore, that we had the 
forests well in hand, and were rapidly getting rid of their 
occupants, the elements of Mau Mau still active outside 
the forest in the native reserves and the farming lands 
were being whittled down by the Kenya police, the Field 
Intelligence officers and their pseudo-gangs, the Tribal 
Police Reserve, and the Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru guard. 
These forces gained such a firm grip on their areas that if a 
terrorist were to flee from the forest, he had little hope of 
survival. It was a case of jumping from the frying pan into 
the fire. It was not only in the forest that new techniques 
had been developed. The reserve or settled-area terror- 
ists, the Mau Mau oddments who lived in holes beneath 
the ground like rabbits, and who came out only in the 
dead of night to steal food, were far more difficult to find 
than you might think, and it took much skill to root them 
out. They did not live in holes you could see. Their 
underground hideouts, or dakki, were elaborately built, 


and you could sit on top of them, or even build a house on 
top of them, without knowing they were there. In most 
cases the only telltale sign of a Mau Mau dakki was a hole 
in the ground about the size of a penny, through which 
they sucked air. They had a method ofkuhitha muromo, or 
concealing the entrance from inside which was almost as 
perfect as the forest Mau Mau's method ofkuhitha makinya, 
concealing the tracks. Finding them in the darkness of 
night while they were out foraging was next to impossible; 
finding them in their holes by day was hardly any easier. 
Yet with the combined effort of the security forces I have 
mentioned, backed by the district administration, a re- 
markable method of ferreting out these dakkis and tracing 
their occupants was discovered, It is a story which empha- 
sises, amongst other things, the great part which the 
Kikuyu people themselves played in the latter part of 
the emergency to rid their home areas of Mau Mau. In the 
same way as they had started the evil, they were now 
putting an end to it. Outside the forest the Kikuyu loyal- 
ists were the people of whom the Mau Mau were the most 
terrified; inside it was again the Kikuyu who were finally 
cutting out the cancer. 

Needless to say, this was a time when the eyebrows of 
all connected with Operational Intelligence were kept 
perpetually raised by a flow of conflicting rumours and 
reports. The great tribal conspiracy of silence based on the 
Mau Mau oath had been broken by the imminent defeat of 
the terrorists. Hundreds of Kikuyu now tried to ingratiate 
themselves with the authorities by passing information to 
government officers in the field. A great deal of this 
information was false. Where it concerned the movements 
or activities of terrorists cut off in the jungle, few were 
able to assess its reliability. Almost daily we received 
reports pin-pointing certain gangs in a given area. Almost 
daily we knew, but could not reveal, that the gang was 
working for us and was anything up to a hundred miles 
away. Yet there was nothing particular to be alarmed about 
in this trend. It was one of the many peculiar manifesta- 
tions of a peculiar cause. 

It had always been an odd sort of war, and the case of 
Thiongo was by no means untypical. Thiongo had been 


severely wounded in the thigh when his gang was ambushed 
while stealing food in the reserve, He had dragged himself 
several miles into the forest, and for fourteen days had lain 
without food or water, unable to move from the spot 
where he had finally collapsed, On the fourteenth day, 
when his strength was almost exhausted, he saw a small 
monkey peering at him from the branches of a nearby 
tree. Then the little creature came down in hesitating 
jerks, until it was only a few feet away. Something was 
attracting it. When the monkey came close to him he tried 
to catch it, but it quickly darted up a tree. Throughout the 
day, for some reason, the monkey refused to leave the 
area. Instead it kept on sneaking back to the place where 
Thiongo was lying, and eventually he was able to grab it 
by the tail. With his last ounce of energy he strangled it 
and ate its raw, warm flesh. This gave him a new lease on 
life, for three days later he was picked up unconscious but 
alive by a passing gang, with bits of monkey meat and skin 
still beside him. He was taken away up the mountain 
where he eventually recovered. The gangster who found 
and revived him was Gati. Months later Gati, who had 
now joined us, caught Thiongo, who in his turn became a 
team leader. In five months he accounted for forty-seven 
other terrorists. Yes, it was a peculiar war! 

Thiongo and his fellows had learnt what was harmful 
and what was not, what would kill and what would nour- 
ish. They had been forced to adopt a way of life which 
even the most primitive of pastoral African tribes could 
not match. The Masai bushmen, the Wanderobo hunters, 
and other primitive African tribesmen, who had gained a 
reputation for their skill in tracking and hunting, were 
beginners by comparison with the forest terrorists still at 
large in 1956. It was odd that people of this calibre should 
become the main arm of the security forces. It was odd 
that the elimination of the last die-hard remnants of Mau 
Mau should depend, not on the arts of modern warfare, or 
upon the ingenuity and strength of civilised man, but 
upon an abnormal and primitive skill practised by an 
abnormal and primitive people. 



Hun kuma njora, ruticokaga tuhu. 

A knife which has been unsheathed does not 

return into its sheath without having done 

some work. 

Before we got rid of Wambararia he told us something 
of his brother's future plans, Kimathi was certain that all 
the setbacks and alarms he had suffered in the previous two 
months were attributable to a curse. This could only be 
removed by making a sacrifice, and he had told his men of 
his intention to do this at the next full moon. He also told 
them that after the ceremony had been held, a big feast 
was to take place, and that everyone should save meat and 
honey for it. 

We had only known this for four days when we 
received a report that a number of valuable cattle had 
been stolen by a large Mau Mau gang from a cattle pen on 
a farm near Mweiga, Naturally we thought that Kimathi 
was responsible, and that the raid had been carried out in 
order to get plenty of meat for the feast. The fact that 
Mweiga touched the part of the forest in which Kimathi 
was living made us feel sure that we were right. 

The raid had taken place during the night and had 
been discovered by a Mkamba herds-boy, who, on going to 
the pen to let out the cattle, had found some of the 
animals missing, others straying, and the door broken 
down. The police found, from the hoof-prints, that the 



stolen animals had been driven away at a cracking pace 
towards the northern end of the Kimathi area. They 
signalled this information to us, and we rushed a well- 
armed team to the edge of the forest to pick up the trail. 

The exact time of the raid was not known, but as Mau 
Mau seldom stole cattle before everyone was asleep, it was 
almost certain that it had occurred after midnight. But the 
gang could not have reached the forest edge before day- 
break if the raid had taken place after three o'clock, so it 
must have been between midnight and 3 A.M. that the 
cattle were driven off. 

The speed with which terrorists drive stolen stock 
through dense forest always surprised us, and we learnt 
that it was never safe to estimate this at less than an 
average of six miles an hour. It was now nine o'clock in the 
morning, and assuming that the raiders had not stolen the 
cattle until three o'clock, it was clear that they had a 
possible start on us of thirty-six miles. There was clearly 
not much point in following the tracks from the forest 
edge. Instead, we took the nearest track up the moun- 
tain, and dropped our team off about fifteen miles inside 
the forest, so that they could work their way along the 
slope, parallel to the forest edge, until they intercepted 
the spoor. 

Despite our first belief that Kimathi was responsible, 
we soon had our doubts. Thurura and Kinanda, both 
former members of his gang, told us that over a year 
before Kimathi had put a stop to stock-thieving because 
nothing betrayed a gang's position more easily than the 
hoof-prints of stolen animals. But who else would dare to 
venture into Kimathi's forbidden territory. 

Our team had not been gone many hours before they 
came to a steep ridge down which the raiders had tried to 
drive the cattle. Here they had obviously had a great deal 
of trouble with the animals, as, from the spoor, it was clear 
that the cattle had refused to bound down the ridge and, 
instead, had scattered in two directions, leaving behind a 
trail of churned up earth where their hooves had cut 
through the blanket of forest mulch and raked up the dark 
brown soil beneath. 

Gati, the leader, had no difficulty at all in following 


the tracks, and made good speed with the team. At places 
along the winding trail through the forest, his men found 
long, broken sticks which the terrorists had used to beat 
the cattle. For a considerable distance the raiders had 
driven the animals along well-defined game tracks, but 
then they turned off and plunged straight through the 
thick forest. Every few hundred yards the team would 
pause to listen for the sound of the animals crashing 
through the undergrowth, but they heard nothing and 
realised that they were still a long way behind. 

After a few miles, however, the team came to a really 
formidable hill. The raiders had driven the beasts straight 
up the steepest parts towards the top of the Aberdares 
and, in order to travel fast, had seized hold of the animals 
by their tails. They had knotted the cows' tails, as you 
would knot a piece of rope. As the knots tightened with 
the weight of the terrorists hanging on behind, the agonised 
animals had threshed along faster and faster, pulling the 
raiders up behind them. 

Without the benefit of a similar ride up the steep 
hills, our team fell far behind. On and on they plodded, 
breathless, sweating, aching, but determined. But they 
could not keep it up, and as the sun fell behind the jagged 
edge of the Simbara Range, throwing a gigantic evening 
shadow over the whole eastern side of the mountain, the 
track faded until the team was forced to stop. 

They had not been resting for long when they heard 
something coming up the hill towards them along the 
same route they and the raiders had already taken. As the 
sound came nearer they could hear that it was a man 
panting from the steep climb, and Gati quickly hid his 
men on both sides of the track to wait for this newcomer. 
Then three of Kimathi's men appeared, climbing breathlessly 
up the hill towards them. On and on they came until they 
were right in the middle of the ambushers. Then the team 
pounced, threw them to the ground, tied them up, and 
began to question them about the cattle raiders. 

The story the prisoners gave was an odd one. They 
said that they had been with Kimathi a few hours before 
when they had heard the cattle raiders passing through 
the forest. They described how Kimathi made everyone 


stand in silence for some minutes while he climbed a tree 
where he listened to the animals lowing and to the thuds 
of the sticks as the raiders beat them along. Then he had 
climbed down and told his men that he thought our troops 
were driving the animals along in the hope that the Mau 
Mau, in their hunger for good red meat, would follow 
them up to collect any leftovers and walk into a trap. But 
to make sure he had detailed three of his men to reconnoi- 
tre while he vanished in the opposite direction. Although 
this story turned out to be right, it did not ring true at the 
time. Our men could not understand why, if Kimathi had 
been close enough to hear the cattle lowing, his scouts 
should now be so far behind the raiders. Knowing how 
expert Kimathi's men were in setting false trails, they 
were inclined to believe that the thief was Kimathi him- 
self, and that the three prisoners had only lagged behind 
because there had not been enough tails to pull every 
member of the gang up the steep hills. Some of our men 
took the prisoners a short distance away to spend the night 
under guard, while the rest of the team lay down to rest 
and plan the pursuit which would begin when the first 
calls of the partridges were heard in the morning. 

As our men sat resting in the last moments of day- 
light, they talked quietly about the country. Far down, 
probably forty miles as the crow flies, they could see the 
flickering lights of the little railway station of Naromoru, 
then further south they could barely make out the cluster 
of buildings of the police training school at Kiganjo. There, 
they thought, was a world so different in every way, a 
world where people wore clean clothes, where there were 
cars and lorries, and bugle calls, and where there were 
such things as windows, roads, corrugated iron roofs, and 
even bicycles. All these things frightened them, for the 
thought of civilisation now seemed foreign and dangerous 
and made them shudder. They felt they could not speak 
about the gadgets and complications of the world outside 
without feeling chilled and worried. But nearer to hand, 
inside the forest, there were things they understood well, 
things which comforted them. Just behind them was Mutanga 
Riua hill, where, according to legend, an old Kikuyu had 
once taken off his gi thii, or skin coat, and hung it over the 


sun; that was why the Aberdares was always a cold and 
misty place. Then, on their left, was the muirigo wa 
Mwathe or Mwathe ridge, along which the Mau Mau had 
passed in the thousands during 1953 and 1954 on their 
way to Deighton Downs, Ndaragwa, and Ol Kalou; still 
further to the left and slightly lower down was the part of 
the forest they called "Gitara-ini," named after the gitara 
in which Kimathi used to perch to shoot elephant. They 
remembered the .450 elephant gun he used to have, and 
wondered what had become of it, and they remarked on 
how clever he was in being able to kill an elephant with 
one shot! They also remembered how the terrorists used 
to rush up to the dead elephant as soon as one fell to hack 
off the meat before the troops could hear the shot and 
come up, and how Kimathi used to send large gangs 
through the forest to kill porcupine because they ate the 
ivory taken from his elephants, precious ivory which he 
boasted he could exchange for aeroplanes! All these things 
they could talk about freely, for they were a part of their 

They were too high up the mountain to hear the 
familiar noises of the jungle. It was too cold for the hyrax, 
for the ngaiyaga, or bush baby, and even for the hyenas. 
As these were the noisiest of the jungle creatures at night, 
there was an eerie quietness about the place. 

Suddenly the quiet was broken by the lowing of 
cattle. It was the sound of an animal in agony the long, 
drawn out, guttural noise that is made when a sharp knife 
is slicing through a cow's neck, a familiar noise as this was 
the way the Kikuyu slaughtered their animals. The sound 
was clear and loud, and came from the far side of the 

Instinctively every man rose. Those with guns pulled 
their magazine pouches outside their skin jackets because 
in the darkness there was no purpose in concealing them; 
those with simis lifted the straps of their sheaths over their 
heads to prevent them from catching on dry branches 
when they moved through the forest. In a long line they 
went down the valley and up the ridge on the far side, 
halting every few minutes when the cattle lowed, to check 
their course. Only three men were left behind to guard 


the prisoners. All the rest were on the move. Less than an 
hour had passed before they saw a large fire burning in the 
centre of a patch of bamboo, low down in a valley where 
the land was shaped like a saucer. Only from the high 
surrounding ground was this fire visible. They stopped 
and watched for some minutes, and could see much 
darting to and fro in front of the flames. Down there the 
cattle were still lowing intermittently, and the noise was 
echoing against the hillsides. 

Quietly they moved down, first threading a course 
through a belt of black forest, and then through bamboo, 
where it was too thick for a sentry to see any distance. As 
no sentry would stand where he could not see, they knew 
that their route of approach was secure. 

The last two hundred yards was covered with very 
thick bamboo, through which they had to crawl on their 
hands and knees, but here, as the bamboo was young and 
soft, they were able to push ahead without making a noise. 
The glow of the fire became brighter and brighter as they 
crept nearer, and at last they could see everything clearly 
from the fringe of the bamboo. The spectacle made even 
our hardened terrorists shudder. 

Before them was an oval-shaped clearing covered with 
a low grass. In the middle of this arena a large fire was 
burning furiously, throwing up a spray of bright red sparks. 
Three or four terrorists were standing round it with branches 
in their hands beating out the flames whenever they began 
to spread over the surrounding carpet of grass. All round 
this area were groups of terrorists, some skinning dead 
cattle, some keeping live beasts at bay, others slaughtering 
the animals. The scene was a whirl of moving figures. 

One of the terrorists would hold a cow by the tail 
while the others hacked at its legs with their simis until all 
four legs were cut right off or were hanging by no more 
than a shred of skin. There the cow would be left, strug- 
gling hopelessly, unable to move except by rolling from 
side to side, and the group would pass on to another 
animal and start all over again. While this was happening a 
different group was making its rounds. They would grasp 
the cows' heads firmly, then twist them violently and lay 
them on the ground. While some held it down, others 


would cut the jugular vein and collect the warm blood as it 
squirted out. When all the blood had been drained off, 
they would move on to another animal, leaving the cow in 
its death throes. Finally another group would come up to 
skin the carcass and carve up the meat. 

This bloodbath continued deep into the night. As 
each carcass was carved up the meat was carried out of the 
arena a few hundred yards into the bamboo forest, where, 
towards midnight, three small fires were lit, and some of 
the raiders began roasting the choicer pieces of beef. The 
smell of roasting meat drifted over to our men, who knew 
that all would not be quiet until the terrorists had fed. 
This would take some time, as each man would eat five or 
six pounds of meat, if not more, and drink the blood 
drained from the animals' throats. 

By this time our team had identified the gang, and 
realised that Kimathi and his men were not involved. It 
was the gang of a notorious terrorist named Ndungu 
Gicheru, whose cattle rustling exploits throughout the 
emergency had cost the farmers of the Central Province 
many thousands of pounds. Our men knew that they could 
merge with Ndungu's gang in normal times without any 
difficulty, but these were not normal times. If they were 
suddenly to walk out of the bamboo where they were 
lying, they would either send the forty raiders running 
into the forest or start a battle which might be costly. They 
decided to wait until the gang had left the area and 
huddled round the three fires. Then, with luck, they 
should be able to creep up and attack at close range. 

When all the cattle were dead and their moans had 
ceased, the voices of the raiders were clearer. Someone, 
probably Ndungu, was telling those sitting round the fires 
that nobody should roast meat as it was important to get 
away from the area as soon as possible, in case the large 
fire in the arena had been seen from the hilltops. This 
advice was rejected by the majority, who were only inter- 
ested in the meat. After all, they said, no security forces 
would come at that time of the night, and it would be quite 
safe to sleep there until dawn. 

At exactly 4:15 A.M. by Gati's watch, when the fires 
were smouldering and the raiders were asleep, our team 


crawled forward towards the three cooking points, which 
were only a few yards apart. As they slid forward they 
could see the dark shapes of the sleeping raiders, who 
were huddled together on the ground by the hot coals. 
They could see one sentry silhouetted against the sky line, 
but our men were not worried, for in a large gang like this 
there were bound to be people getting up and down 
throughout the night and this would serve as a useful 
cover for their own movements. 

The silence was broken by the loud clatter of machine- 
gun fire. All three fires were sprayed simultaneously from 
a range of about ten yards. As red-hot cinders flew up and 
danced crazily above the ground, the raiders began to stir. 
Some got up and ran into the forest, some stood up only to 
fall back and roll over on the ground. Some did not move 
at all. Then the firing stopped, and our men heard the 
moans of the dying lying round the fires, then the night 
was silent once again. 

That night Ndungu Gicheru lost nearly half his gang, 
and he himself, his leg broken by a bullet, could only 
crawl a few hundred yards away. There he spent what was 
left of the night in agony. When he was found at dawn, he 
was sitting with one leg outstretched and the other, which 
was almost severed below the knee, tucked lifelessly un- 
der him. Ndungu had suffered just as the cattle had 
suffered. The wheels of God grind slowly, but they grind 
exceeding small. 



Gutiri muthenya ukeaga ta ungi . 
No day dawns like another. 

The July mists now rolled down over the Aberdares, 
turning the beautiful mountain into a gloomy, damp, and 
depressing place where the sun would not be visible for 
several days at a time. The birds didn't sing and the bees 
didn't buzz. When the July mists come, all the sounds of 
the forest which are stimulated by warmth cease abruptly, 
as though the needle had suddenly been lifted from 
Nature's gramophone. 

In the early days of the emergency a dramatic rise 
was always expected in the number of terrorists surrendering 
towards the end of July, for the cold, dreary mists drilled 
through their resistance. But those days had gone. The 
gangsters who still held out had long passed the stage 
when discomfort could make any impression on them. 

Yet, just as the long rains brought about a change in 
their mode of living, so did the mists. The valleys, the 
open grasslands, and all places near cold, running streams 
were abandoned in favour of the thicker parts of the jungle 
where the undergrowth provided a little warmth. There 
was a tendency to leave the higher ground and come 
further down the mountain; and there was always a drift 
towards the bamboo belt where easy-burning firewood 
could be found. 

As far as we were concerned, there was no better 



time for our operations. We were able to move about the 
forest far more freely without being seen and we could get 
up far closer to the gangs undetected. As soon as the mists 
arrived, therefore, we redoubled our efibrts and instead of 
using two teams against Kimathi as we had done in the 
past, we now turned out in force to hunt him down. 

On the second of July, no less than seven strong 
teams were bowled into the Tree Tops Salient. They went 
in from all sides from the top of the National Park Track, 
from the Kinaini River, from Njogu-ini, from Kihuyo in 
the east, from Muti uri Cieni in the north, and from 
the Ruhotie valley in the north-west. Their whole effort 
was to be concentrated in the bamboo belt. 

Results followed quickly. On the fourth of July, a 
particularly misty day, five members of Kimathi's gang 
were captured and a further two were killed when one of 
our teams encountered the gang west of the Kinaini River. 
The groups did not see each other until they were a few 
yards apart. By a stroke of luck all Kimathi's firepower had 
been travelling with him in the rear, and our men were 
able to open fire on a largely unarmed vanguard which 
suffered heavily. The gang had only been licking its wounds 
for twenty-four hours when we were at them again. Guid- 
ed by one of the prisoners taken in the first encounter, we 
caught two more of Kimathi's men at a game trap the 
following day and overpowered them without loss to our- 
selves. This was something of a landmark as it as the first 
time that any of Kimathi's gang had guided us on an 
operation without attempting to mislead us. 

Morale among our men soared with these successes. 
To brush with the gang twice in such a short space of time 
was remarkable, and to have done so without losing any 
men was miraculous. The hunt went on with fresh zest 
and our luck still held good. Eighteen days later, on the 
twenty-second of July, Juma Abdalla, one of Kimathi's 
sub-leaders, fell into our hands during a night raid and 
soon after that we scored the greatest success since the fall 
of Wambararia: Jeriko and all but two of his mbutu were 
accounted for in a very spirited fight which cost us two of 
our collaborators. 

Kimathi and some of his men had camped within a 


stone's throw of Jeriko, whom we had last seen at the Itha 
River. To all intents and purposes, there, were two sepa- 
rate groups living near one another. Why Kimathi had 
chosen to do this we could never find out. It was quite unlike 
him to depart from his usual defensive tactics of sleeping 
in the middle of his men, who would spread themselves 
round him over a wide area. Unfortunately, the tracks 
which our teams had followed led them to the wrong group 
and they went into the attack not knowing that the balance 
of the gang was close at hand. No sooner had they rushed 
Jeriko's hideout than they were fired on from behind, and 
this cross-fire killed two of our men. As before, as soon as 
the battle was joined, Kimathi departed like a scalded cat. 
As always, he somehow managed to escape when he 
should have been caught. But his gang of fifty men was 
now reduced to a total of twenty-one men and Wanjiru, 
the woman. We were halfway to our goal. But there was 
another set of figures which interested us even more. Just 
before the Itha River engagement, the gang held, accord- 
ing to Thurura, exactly 2,011 rounds of ammunition. Jeriko 
told us that they were now down to 246 rounds, and in 
this last battle they had used forty or fifty rounds. The 
gang was losing its punch. 

No one was more surprised at the way we were 
whittling down the gang than Thurura. A day or so after 
Jeriko had been caught, I turned to him and asked, 
"Wasn't it you who said that capturing Kimathf s men was 
impossible?" "Noguo, Kinyanjui," he replied, "but I also 
warned you that Kimathi would be the last man in the 
forest to be caught and you will see if I am not right." 

After this last operation we withdrew from the forest 
for some days to interrogate the new batch of prisoners 
and during this period, which carried us out of the mists 
into the sun again, we were able to review all the facts at 
our disposal and plan anew. 

It was during this period that we suddenly realised 
we already held a vital clue to unravelling Kimathi's future 
plans. The clue was his dream the dream about his god, 
Ngai, taking him by the hand to the mugumo tree the 
dream he had written about to his brother. With mounting 
interest we listened as Jeriko and his friends told us how 


Kimai'hi would walk every week to certain parts of the 
forest where large mugumo trees were growing. There he 
would stand with his arms raised above his head, his 
forehead pressed against the tree, praying aloud to Ngai 
and pleading with his god to return and save him. We 
were told that these pilgrimages were the very breath of 
life to him. He believed that if he did not make these 
pilgrimages Ngai would not only let him die, but would 
also destroy his ngumo ya njamba, or "fame of warriorship." 
Kimathi now believed that prayer would bring him im- 
mortality and, even more important to him at the mo- 
ment, an immortal reputation. 

On hearing about this we jumped for joy. Here, at 
last, we had advance information about places in the forest 
which Kimathi would visit and visit come fire or come 
hail. How easy it would be. No longer, we thought, would 
we search laboriously through the jungle for his tracks, 
game snares, hideouts, and food stores. Instead, we would 
watch the mugumo trees like hungry vultures and take 
him by surprise when he came to pray. But Jeriko had not 
finished and his next words threw a less encouraging light 
on things. He told us that Kimathi would never visit one 
of his trees without first sending his men to search the 
area and make sure that no enemies were about. Then, 
even if their report was favourable, he would not approach 
a tree until he had circled it twice. The first time he would 
be anything up to a mile away, the second time closer in. 
During these circuits he would move as quietly as a 
leopard, studying the forest with extreme care and 
thoroughness for traces of human tracks. If he found any, 
even if they were days old, or even if he found marks 
which he could not identify, he would bound away like a 
frightened buck. Knowing his unusual instinct and powers 
of self-preservation, we knew how difficult it was going to 
be for us to ambush these trees. 

Yet there was more to it than that. We were told that 
there were at least forty such mugumo trees in the Kimathi 
area and he was liable to visit any one of them. Sometimes 
he would go to one particular tree three times in succes- 
sion; then, after his third visit, he would stay away while 
his most trusted lieutenants would return to see if any 


security forces or pseudo-gangs had passed by. If they had, 
he would assume that there was a traitor in his camp and, 
in Jeriko's words, ''the case would crack a log." 

Nevertheless, we were making progress. It would 
certainly be easier to watch the trees than work almost 
blindly in those hundreds of square miles of forest. The 
rains and the mists had passed and with them had gone 
the days when the gangs crouched and huddled in their 
hideouts, which were comparatively easy to find. Now 
they would have unwound again and be roaming the 
length and breadth of their private domain. Kimathi and 
his men could be anywhere in either the Tree Tops Salient 
or the Mwathe. But, apart from the considerable problem 
of actually getting to the trees, we now had great difficulty 
in persuading our men to go there. They found the 
thought of ambushing Kimathi at his "places of prayer" 
most disconcerting. "What would Ngai do," they asked, "if 
he found his chosen altar desecrated?" Though they did 
not altogether believe Kimathi's dream, they did not 
disbelieve it either. After all, they knew that he had 
dreamt before of security forces arriving at a certain place 
at a certain time, and these dreams had proved to be 
correct. If he now dreamt that Ngai would return to one of 
these trees, who were they to dispute the prediction? per- 
haps some evil spirit did haunt the trees. Perhaps it would 
jump down and kill them as they lay beneath the branches. 

Fear of "Ngai's altars" became so deep-seated within 
the next few days that at odd intervals during the nights at 
camp, one terrorist after another would sneak away alone 
to some dark corner where, facing Mount Kenya, he 
would pray to Ngai to save him. The drop in morale 
became so serious that all prayer or talk of "evil spirits" 
had to be forbidden. And with our men in this edgy, 
erratic state, we were quite unable to start on offensive 
operations again. All the curious thoughts disturbing their 
minds had to be neutralised. But we had to step lightly, for 
here we were dealing with a potent and deep-rooted part 
of all African life fear of evil spirits. 

While these troubles were upon us, Kimathi was 
facing an identical problem with his own gang. Our men 
were frightened of the mugwno trees and wanted to have 


nothing to do with them; his were frightened of the 
mugumo trees too. After the many setbacks they had 
suffered, his followers began to wonder whether his habit 
of praying beneath the trees was the cause of their misfor- 
tunes. Before Kimathi began these pilgrimages, they had 
been so lucky. Had Ngai, they wondered, deserted their 

Three or four times Kimathi called his followers round 
him and held all-night sessions where he would read from 
his Bible and warm them with the fire of his oratory. Once 
again he poured out the mixture of parable, proverb, 
mythology, and venom which had once swayed thousands 
of forest men. Now the last handful gazed wide-eyed and 
bewildered as he spoke. All the time he was trying to 
convince them that their only hope of survival lay in 
prayer beneath the mugumo trees. 

We soon heard about these sessions and sensed that 
Kimathi was beginning to panic. He seemed to have lost 
all stability of mind. Instead of eating the precious honey 
which his followers found in the forest, he made them mix 
it with earth and animal blood. After this mixture had 
been put on the ground in its container, it would be 
covered with green leaves and herbs while hymns were 
sung. Then, after some of the contents had been sprinkled 
on the ground round the hideout to act as a spiritual 
"fence" for keeping out evil spirits, he would take the rest 
away to a mugumo tree as an offering to Ngai. All eyes had 
to be averted as it was poured over the roots at the foot of 
the arboreal altar. 

Among the many things his gang had stolen in early 
raids were a Bush wireless set, a porcelain washing basin, 
an assortment of silver knives, forks and spoons, and a 
large bathroom mirror. All these things were now condemned 
as "unclean." They were collected and hidden away in a 
cave where we soon found them. Those men who had 
carried the goods to the cave were forbidden to eat or 
touch food for three days on their return and were made to 
wash their hands in the blood of a buck taken from his 
traps. Sometimes Kimathi's travels took him across the 
rough forest roads. He invariably insisted that all those 
who crossed the roads should wash their feet in the first 


stream they came to because "after the enemies* vehicles 
had driven over them, they would be poisoned like the 
fangs of a puff adder." 

Twice he journeyed to Karia-ini, a point high on the 
Aberdares where in 1953 a large bamboo shelter had been 
constructed by the Mau Mau for their meetings. At this 
shelter, which they called "Karuri Ngamne Headquar- 
ters/' he had once met all the leaders of his various 
"armies" in the days when Mau Mau was at the height of 
its power and he was the supreme commander. 

All that was now left of the building was a few 
ant-eaten and weather-worn poles, two or three twisted 
roof beams, and several rows of log benches where the 
leaders had once sat. This had been the home of Mau 
Mau's highest councils, now there was nothing but decay. 
But Kimathi rose above his surroundings. He walked 
jauntily up the aisle between the rows of empty, dilapidat- 
ed benches, just as he had done long ago. With a revolver 
in his hand, he stood looking down on an imaginary 
audience. Raising his voice, he would call the "meeting" 
to prayer and order everyone to stand up while he delivered 
his sermon. He would remind his listeners that Ngai had 
made Gikuyu and Mumbi, the Adam and Eve of the 
Kikuyu, ani placed them at the top of Mount Kenya 
where, in time, they had given birth to nine daughters. 
From these the nine clans of the tribe had sprung. He 
would say that in the same way that Ngai had sent Gikuyu 
and Mumbi to the snow-capped peak, he had only chosen 
those with the "thickest blood" to enter the forest. In this 
way Ngai had separated the corn from the cob so that the 
worthless members of the tribe could be annihilated, so 
that the traitors in the tribe could be washed away by 
blood falling from their own bodies. Ngai had a very large 
black book in which the names of all those who died in the 
forest would be recorded. They alone would find a new, 
rich, beautiful land in a different world to which Ngai 
would take them. 

While his guards stood round about he would go on 
speaking for hours, allowing his imagination and his memo- 
ries free play in his mind. Sometimes, he would raise his 
arms as though he were trying to silence a jubilant, 


cheering crowd. Now and then he would pause and, 
pointing to an empty bench, he would call upon the leader 
of the "Mburu Ngebo Army'* of the Rift Valley to speak, 
for that was where its leader had sat in bygone councils. 
He would call upon other leaders of other "armies" to 
speak. In his imagination, he would listen to reports from 
the leaders of Ituma Demi, Mei Mathathi, Gikuyu Inoro, 
Mburu Ngebo, Ruheni, Kimuri, Kareba, and other de- 
funct Mau Mau "armies." As he stood silently with his head 
bowed, he heard the still voices of his men who had died. 
These lonely council meetings would give Kimathi new 
strength. For days after his visits to Karuri Ngamne he 
would be in better heart, giving new inspiration to his 
followers and showing a more tolerant attitude towards his 

To him these imaginary meetings were not old memo- 
ries revived, they were a reality. He believed he had 
actually seen his ghost audiences, he believed he had 
heard each of his oldtime leaders speak out. He often 
brought up the subject later with his men and asked them 
whether they did not agree that such and such a dead 
leader had spoken very well and was a fine warrior. But 
the gang never questioned his sanity. After all, if the great 
Kimathi had heard the dead speak, who were they to 
disbelieve him? Had he not been blessed- by his dying 
grandmother and chosen to lead the people? The frets and 
fears of his followers centred on one thing and one thing 
only his visits to mugumo trees. These pilgrimages were 
something completely new, something never seen or done 
before by the Mau Mau, and the Mau Mau were always 
suspicious of anything which had no precedent. 

When we learnt about these odd events we were sure 
that Kimathi was going mad. Some of our collaborators 
who knew him well said that if we kept up the pressure 
much longer, he would probably kill Wanjiru and then 
shoot himself. This was our greatest worn; for if he just 
disappeared the myth of his omnipotence would survive in 
the forest. It was imperative that we should find him 
before he chose suicide. 

Just before we began operations again another inci- 
dent shook Kimathi's gang, and we soon heard about it. 


One day towards the end of July, Kimathi's only surviving 
woman, Wanjiru, the Mau Mau queen whom all men 
served, the woman who had never collected wood or 
cooked food in the forest, suddenly became the centre of a 
row which resulted in the death of two of Kimathi's men. 

With a dirty buckskin coat over her shoulders, Wanjiru 
had left the hideout and walked a short way into the forest 
to relieve herself. Kimathi had suddenly become aware of 
her absence and lost his temper because he had not been 
told of her departure. The longer he waited for her to 
come back, the more furious he became. When Wanjiru 
finally did appear, walking back towards the hideout with 
two of his men, he lost every vestige of control. He 
imagined that the two men had lured his woman away to 
seduce her. Without a single word, he walked over to- 
wards them and shot both with his revolver. Then he 
grabbed Wanjiru by the wrist, stripped the coat off her 
shoulders, and for almost an hour beat her naked body 
with stinging nettles. Then he ordered his terrified follow- 
ers to bury the dead and move on to a new hideout in case 
the shooting had been heard. 

That night Wanjiru was very ill. She developed a 
severe rash, and her body was badly blistered and bruised. 
She cried repeatedly for water but Kimathi paid no atten- 
tion to her, nor would he allow anyone else to go near her. 
When he had fallen asleep one of his minor leaders, 
named Wamuthandi, who had been upset by Wanjiru's 
moans, slipped quietly away with four friends and went 
down to the river to fetch water for her to drink. They 
took two rifles with them. Having drawn the water and 
climbed back up the hill, they came in sight of the hideout 
where, to their horror, they saw that Kimathi was standing 
up and asking where they had gone to. As they stood 
there listening, they heard him tell another terrorist named 
Wanyee to collect ten men and go to arrest them. They 
heard Kimathi say that they were to be brought back with 
their hands tied as he proposed "to grind them like corn in 
a mill." 

Wamuthandi and his companions knew they would 
die if they were caught, so that night they fled to the 
Marishimiti gorge nearly fifty miles away on the western 


side of the mountain, where they stayed until they were 
captured. Wanyee's ten men searched for the deserters for 
twelve hours, determined to kill them if they came across 
them, but they were unsuccessful. There is no doubt that 
Kimathi's men hunted for their ex-colleagues with enthusi- 
asm and would have killed them with pleasure. Brother 
hunted brother, father hunted son, and friend hunted 
friend. That was the Mau Mau creed. 

Kimathi's own actions had now caused the death of 
another two and the desertion of another five of his 
dwindling force, leaving him with only fourteen men and 
Wanjiru. This was indeed a far cry from our first feeble 
efforts seven months before. Within a few days two of the 
five deserters were captured by one of our teams and gave 
a vivid account of the cause of their flight from Kimathi. 
Their capture was a great help as those of our men who 
were still apprehensive about going to the mugwno trees 
became less frightened when they heard what had happened 
in the forest. It seemed that even Ngai was deserting 



Mutego ti ngoro, ni wathi warera. 
It is not the trap that counts, but the art of 

A good archer is known by his aim, not his arrow. 

By the evening of the eighth of August, all the large 
mugumo trees in the "Kimathi area" had been plotted on 
our map. These trees are not common in the forest of the 
Aberdares, and they are quite rare in our hunting ground. 
Jeriko had said that there were at least forty, but we only 
found eighteen and ten of these were in spots which 
Kimathi would certainly not visit because the approaches 
were unsafe. We turned to the remaining eight. 

That same night, eight well-armed teams made their 
way to the trees. The march was a taxing exercise in 
bushcraft. Our teams had to avoid open spaces where an 
alert sentry could see them; they had to avoid the likely 
resting places of bushbuck and duiker, for if Kimathi found 
the hoof-marks of a running antelope he might suspect 
that his enemies were at hand; our men also had to avoid 
those birds or animals which raise an alarm as soon as they 
see human beings, such as the Sykes monkeys, whose 
loud, warning calls can be heard for miles through the 
forest. Then there is the tiny little brown ndete or call 
bird. Whenever he sees something move he flies over and 
perches on a nearby bush where he jumps frantically from 



branch to branch and makes as much noise as he can to 
tell the forest of his discovery. He is a most difficult 
creature to get rid of. Fortunately he chatters whenever 
he sees anything move so he is a far less reliable "alarm 
bell" than the less excitable Sykes monkey, and it can 
often be a pure waste of time to check up on his warnings. 
But nothing was ever too tiring or troublesome for the 
timid Kimathi. Whenever he heard the ndete he would 
study the situation from afar for some time in the hope of 
identifying the cause of the bird's alarm, then if he could 
not see anything, he would dart away 

Some of the wild fig trees were several miles up the 
slopes of the mountain and it was not until the afternoon 
of the ninth of August that all our teams were finally in 
position. In some cases the trees grew in places which 
were ideal for ambush; there would be adequate cover for 
our men to hide themselves and good observation points 
at hand. But other trees grew in spots where a rabbit 
could not conceal itself, where the trees had drained all 
the strength from the soil and even grass would not grow. 
Our men took up the best positions they could find, and 
after covering their legs with their animal-skin coats to 
shield them from the hard-biting horseflies, which can 
sting a man to the border of frenzy, the long wait began. 
Here they were to lie for four days and nights unless 
Kimathi favoured them with a visit. Rain, heat, cold, 
wind, ants, caterpillars, wild animals, snakes, and all the 
other dangers and discomforts of the forest would have to 
be endured as they lay there. In those same positions the 
calls of nature would be answered by turning slowly onto 
their backs and scraping a small hole in the soft forest soil 
with their fingers. They would lie there as still as death, 
but all the time they would be alert and sensitive to the 
faintest rustle in the bushes, a suspicious sound or a 
movement in the trees. The events of the last few weeks 
had not lowered their respect for Kimathfs hitting power. 
They knew he had many marksmen, excellent marksmen, 
in his ranks. They knew that two of his men had been 
gunbearers for professional hunters before the emergency 
and could handle a gun as well as anyone. 

I had often watched our teams on operations in the 


forest. They would lie absolutely motionless for so long 
that I wondered whether they would ever be able to move 
their cramped limbs again. All the time their chins would 
be resting on their clenched fists and they would be 
staring at some particular spot where they believed they 
would first see something coming. They were, curiously 
enough, seldom wrong. Their stares would be so intense 
you would think they had seen something and you would 
try to see for yourself, but without looking at you they 
would sense your curiosity and slowly shake a finger to 
show there was nothing there. Sometimes you would hear 
a rustle in the forest and look at them inquiringly, but they 
would still be staring at the spot they had been watching 
for hours. Perhaps they had not heard it, you would think, 
but before you could move, they would quietly whisper 
"Ngima [Sykes]," or "Thwara [buck]," or Kanyoni [bird]/* 
and you would lie back, feeling ignorant and a bit 
embarrassed. In the forest they knew the answers to 
everything; outside they knew nothing. In the forest it was 
always safest to leave everything to them. After operating 
with them a few times you would very quickly realise 
when something unusual was in the vicinity. Instinctively 
they would pull their fists away from their chins and their 
heads would drop an inch or two. This was a reflex action 
developed in the days when they were often under fire. 
Then their heads would turn very slowly in the direction 
from which they suspected the intruder was coming and 
by tapping a little twig on the ground or on a dry leaf, 
they would signal messages to one another. Their bodies 
would curl up. And then one man would give the signal to 
attack. A low in-drawn whistle meant "Fire"; two sharp 
clicks with a finger meant "Rush"; and when they fired, or 
when they rose to their feet and rushed, they would react 
with surprising speed, darting through the tangled, forbid- 
ding undergrowth with a grace and ease that was fascinating. 

Often it would not be the recognised leader who gave 
the signal for action. The Mau Mau knew that in the 
forest it was the man who could see or hear best who was 
best able to direct the others, while the usual leader might 
sometimes be unable to see what was going on. 

We found that number "3" tree, which stood about a 


quarter of a mile south of the Itha stream, had been 
visited by Kimathi only two or three days before our 
arrival. Number "6" tree, about eleven miles to the west, 
had been visited two weeks before that. In each case there 
were traces of honey on the ground, honey which Kimathi 
had spilt there as an offering to Ngai and which had 
attracted a variety of butterflies. 

The first day passed uneventfully as did the second, 
although our team at number "2" tree heard a single rifle 
shot in the distance during the evening. But on the 
afternoon of the third day the monotony was broken by an 
incident which could have had far-reaching consequences. 
A strong wind blew up towards midday in the eastern 
sector of the Tree Tops Salient where Number "1" team 
was operating. As the team lay bunched together beneath 
the tree, two large and very poisonous puff adders fell 
from the branches on to the back of one of our men. 
Fortunately the reptiles wriggled off into the bush without 
striking at the petrified terrorist, but the team as a whole 
was sure that "it was an act of God" and that "Ngai was 
angry with them for being there." They immediately left 
the tree and rushed back to our tactical base higher up in 
the forest. We did everything we could to convince them 
that the snakes had fallen out of the tree because they had 
been mating or because of the high wind. We told them 
that it was absurd to think Ngai had thrown the snakes at 
them, but they were still most upset. MacLachlan and I 
looked at my Arab-silver bracelet. Perhaps the evil spirits 
of the forest were going to defeat my lucky charm. Here 
was something which could alter the whole course of these 
operations and make our terrorists go on strike. Not even 
Gati, our formidable disciplinarian, would have been able 
to cope with evil spirits. 

But the following morning, the fourth and last day of 
the operation, our patience was rewarded. At number "7" 
tree, which stood where the Mwathe and Tree Tops re- 
gions join, a single terrorist appeared for a moment some 
four hundred yards up the slope of a steep hill and quickly 
dropped out of sight. In that split second one of our men 
caught sight of him and signalled word to his companions. 
As this was the day when they were going to withdraw 


according to our plan, the team thought at first that a 
messenger was coming to them to tell them to remain 
where they were for another two or three days, but when 
the figure appeared again, closer this time, they were 
unable to identify him as one of our men. He was tall and 
heavily built, his hair which was exceptionally long, fell 
over his shoulders and, unlike anyone in our force, he was 
wearing a shirt and trousers made of old tarpaulin. 

The terrorist came further and further down the hill, 
jumping quickly from one thicket to another. At one 
moment our team thought that he looked like one of their 
colleagues named Thiaka. There was a whispered discus- 
sion. All were agreed that the intruder looked like Thiaka, 
but he did not move like Thiaka. Then about one hundred 
and fifty yards away from the mugumo tree, the intruder 
jumped into a particularly thick patch of bush and did not 
come out again. Half an hour passed, then an hour, then 
two hours, but there was no further sign of him. It was all 
very odd. Our men were certain that they would have 
seen him leave the patch if he had done so. 

When the sun was noon-high, and their curiosity had 
been stretched to its limit, the team decided to go and 
look for themselves. Splitting up into two parties, they 
wriggled back on their stomachs until they were in a small 
ditch from which they could circle round the flanks of the 
hill, one party climbing it from the left and the other from 
the right. Within five minutes they had regrouped and 
were searching together through the patch of bush which 
the terrorist had entered. In the middle they found an- 
other ditch about four feet deep running along the hillside 
for nearly sixty yards. At its head and also at a point 
where the mugumo tree could be most easily seen, were 
the footprints of their man. They could see where he had 
stood, not only on that day but also several times before. 
The ground had been trodden hard, and a light branch 
which had interfered with his view had been snipped off 
with a sharp knife and tucked away underneath the bushes 
to dry. Now it was obvious that the intruder was one of 
Kimathi's men and that he had been scouting to see 
whether it was safe for his leader to come and pray 
beneath the tree. 


Our men followed the tracks from the top of the ditch 
to the bottom where they disappeared into the forest. 
There they halted to discuss what they should do. First 
they thought that it would be best to return to the tree 
and wait until the scout had told Kimathi that it was safe 
to come, but what if they had been seen? And then they 
realised that they were supposed to withdraw that same 
evening. Even if the scout had not seen them, someone 
was sure to come out to look for them if they did not go 
back to the base that night and there would be a risk 
either of shooting their own friends in the darkness or of 
the searchers scaring Kimathi away. They decided to fol- 
low up the tracks. 

Gacheru was the most proficient tracker among them 
and from the start he set a fast pace. Sometimes he would 
stop for a few seconds to study some special mark on the 
trail, but there were no real problems. The pursuit went 
on from hill to hill, valley to valley, and river to river, until 
Gacheru fell back to the rear and his place at the front was 
taken by the next man. Like all good trackers, Gacheru 
would get a bad headache after a few miles. When you 
track human beings in the jungle you do not focus your 
eyes on anything specific on the ground but rather on the 
general scene ahead. In the words of a most expert Mau 
Mau tracker, "the ground is lifted and brought up near 
the eyes so that the direction of travel can be seen and not 
the footprints/' 

The course taken by the lone terrorist led southwards 
towards the bamboo in the massive Zaina valley, which is 
almost two thousand feet deep in parts, and our team was 
getting worried; tracking in bamboo is always difficult, but 
tracking inside the Zaina valley is even more difficult. 
Furthermore, as our men had no food left, there was little 
hope of a meal for at least another two days if they 
continued on their way. These thoughts were not comforting, 
but the tracks were fresh, their blood was up, and the 
team rushed on like a pack of dogs after a fox. 

Throughout the afternoon the hunt continued, 
fortunately the terrorist had swung westwards towards 
higher ground instead of going down into the Zaina valley 
and, as his course was fairly direct from this point, it was 


clear that he knew exactly where he could rejoin his gang. 
But the pace of our team got slower and slower as the 
tracks became more difficult to see in the fading light. It 
was now a race against time, for once darkness fell the 
pursuit would have to be called off. Gacheru again took 
the lead and they moved on quickly. 

They were beginning to wonder how far their quarry 
was going, for they had already tracked him some thirteen 
miles, when suddenly, in the wind, Gacheru heard Kimathi's 
high-pitched voice. "Wiyite Ritwa! [Name yourself]!" Gacheru 
stopped. The team stopped with their weapons ready. 
"Jeriko," shouted back Gacheru, who knew that Kimathi 
could not have heard of Jeriko's capture, as nobody had 
escaped during the engagement. There was hardly a mo- 
ment between Gacheru's answer and Kimathi's reply. 
"Never," he shouted in English, and with that pandemoni- 
um broke out in the bamboo about forty yards ahead as he 
and his gang dashed into the undergrowth. 

Firing their guns from the hip, our team went crash- 
ing after them. They hurdled fallen bamboo poles. They 
climbed under others. And, as they charged, they had to 
protect their eyes from the network of sharp dry sticks 
which are an added hazard to pursuit in the bamboo. The 
first of the running gangsters to come in sight was Karau, 
whom Kimathi had made a "general" only a few days 
before. A burst of Patchett fire knocked a wooden honey 
container from his hand. He was not hit, but he lost his 
nerve and was found lying on his back with his knees 
drawn up to his chin as though trying to shield his heart 
from the next volley. 

As the team paused to tie him up, a hand grenade 
exploded thirty yards to their left. Then there was a noise in 
another bamboo thicket just ahead. Three of our men opened 
up with their automatics. They were sure they had hit one 
more of Kimathi's gang. Our men went forward. There was no 
sign that their bullets had found their target. As soon as they 
began to probe around, however, they came across a deep 
bomb crater covered with a tangled mass of bamboo. At the 
bottom was another of Kimathi's men. He had fallen into the 
crater as a buck would fall into a pit trap. The noise that our 
men had heard was caused by this man trying to climb out. 


Immediately he saw the team on the edge of the 
crater looking down at him, the terrorist crouched in the 
shadows with his simi drawn ready to slash anyone who 
went down after him. He was told repeatedly that he was 
covered and should come out, but nothing would move 
him. Several shots were then fired into the crater but still 
he did not move or speak. Finally the covering mattress of 
bamboo was set alight and he was dragged out with a long 
pole as the flames licked about him. 

Meanwhile Kimathi and his remnants were travelling 
fast. By the time Karau had been tied up and his compan- 
ion pulled out of the crater, the gang had disappeared 
completely. There was nothing to be gained by following 
him in the last half hour of daylight, as the hunt would 
have to be called off within a few minutes. Taking a short 
cut through the forest and making the most of the dwin- 
dling light, our men and their prisoners set off at a brisk 
pace for base, which they reached just before midnight. 
All the way back they talked about Kimathi and his gang. 
Why, they wondered, had Kimathi not been the one to fall 
into the crater? Karau told them that he had been to the 
ditch in the morning. He had been scouting for Kimathi 
just as they had guessed. What a pity, our men thought, 
that he had not been caught before he reached his leader 
for then he might have led them even closer to Kimathi. 
These thoughts filled the team with anguish. But a cause 
of even greater anguish was the fact that Wanjiru, a weak 
and powerless woman in their eyes, had been with the 
gang and got away from them. The disgrace of missing a 
mere woman was too terrible to bear. They were sure that 
it would take the ministrations of a medicine man and the 
sacrifice of a black sheep to wash away their disgrace and 
stop their comrades from mocking them 

Their fears of being jeered at by their friends in camp 
were, however, quite unfounded. When Gacheru and his 
party arrived, everyone turned out to hear what they had 
to say and when they heard that the woman in question 
was none other than Wanjiru, Kimathi's Wanjiru, they 
were not the least surprised. Although she had teen cared 
for like a child in the forest, they knew that she could run 
like a gazelle, fight like a cat, shoot like an archer and that 


she was more than a match for any ordinary man. "That 
one," said Ruku to Gacheru, "that one is not a female. She 
is one to be watched very carefully with two eyes in the 
front and two in the back and never wag your tail when 
she is near/* 

Later that night there was great rejoicing round the 
camp fires. Gacheru and his team had much to say about 
the day's events. As the flames from our eight fires flickered 
against the trees, lighting up the ugly faces of our collabo- 
rators, the story of the day was told over and over again. 
Gacheru held the centre of the stage with his stirring 
accounts of the pursuit and the battle. He stood where all 
could see him demonstrate how he crouched to peer 
through the forest when Kimathi had challenged him, how 
he ran forward, and exactly what he had done at the bomb 
crater. It was stirring stuff and the tale of those miserable 
victims of the puff adder episode attracted little interest. 
The conversation went something like this: 

RUKA: "Did you really hear Kimathi's voice?" 

GACHERU: "Very much so, like a horn being blown." 

WAIRA: "Weeeee! At that time he was alert like a fly." 

EVERYONE: "Noguo, noguo "(laughter) 

GACHERU: "But, Kasii! he beat the bush like an 

RUKU: "It is as though you have never seen Kimathi 
run before. A .22 wouldn't catch him, probably only a .303! 
(laughter) Even now he is still running and I know his 
men will look for him for four days." 

EVERYONE: "Noguo, noguo. Even five days." (laughter) 

GACHERU: "But it is very bad for someone to sudden- 
ly shout 'Name yourself/ And you couldn't possibly see 
him. You might become too alarmed." 

GATI: "Aaaaaaah! You must be stupid. Do you think he 
is not alarmed too when he says that? He is pulling his tail 
very hard between his legs." 

RUKWARO: 'That is it, for the little mouse squeals 
when its tail is stood on." (laughter) 


Then everyone would talk at the same time and 
nobody would listen and there would be several minutes 
of pandemonium. But after a while only the most talkative 
would keep on. 

GACHERU: "If you hear Kimathi's voice you will be 

most surprised." 

NJERO: "Don't you know he was already running 

when he shouted?" 

THIA: "No, he would be crouched down looking ahead." 
GACHERU: "There is nothing like that. Even Karau 

told me that when he shouted his feet were already 

doing ..." 

(Gacheru would demonstrate a dog-paddle amid laughter) 
GATI: "None of them will eat for three days now and 

anyone who touches food with his finger will be killed/' 
EVERYONE: "Noguo, that is it absolutely/' 
KIRATA: "He will pray and pray and pray." 
GACHERU (standing up}: "What you are doing is not 

good. You must let me talk. I was there." 

THIA: "Kimathi might kill two people because of this." 

EVERYONE: "Noguo, noguo." (laughter) 

GACHERU: "Please realise that I was there and for that 

reason there is only room for me to speak/' 

RUKU: "Noguo, go ahead, but tie up your words for 

we have heard them for long enough." 

WANJAU: "But that woman, she is like lightning." 
GACHERU (annoyed): "All right, you stand, Wanjau/' 
RUKU: "I don't want to hear anyone talk about Wanjiru, 

It is too much." 

KIBATA: "That one will never be caught by the bum 

[their word for surrender] because she will fall herself 


And so the conversation continued. When they were 
too tired to sit up, they lay down on the ground and 
continued talking. When the fires had died down and the 
cold early morning breeze began to blow, they covered 
their bodies and their heads with empty jute bags, mum- 
bling to one another until the dawn came. 


So "Operation Wild Fig," as we called it, had not 
been entirely unproductive. Only thirteen members of the 
gang were left at large. The trap itself had not caught 
anyone, but the art of trapping had. 



Iri Kanwa itiri nda. 

Food in the mouth is not yet in the stomach. 

Do not cry herrings till they are in the net. 

Because of our growing operational strength, we had 
to increase our staff. Finding men who had the tempera- 
ment and liking for this type of work was difficult, but 
there were many volunteers and eight were finally chosen. 
From the Kenya Regiment came three young soldiers, Bill 
Eastbrook, Laurie Pearse, and Jim Stephen, all Kenya- 
born, all under twenty, all strong and single, From the 
Kenya police came three fit and seasoned men, Colin 
Leath, Patrick Smith, and Dick Crow and two outstanding 
Africans, Busani, a Mkamba, and Kiprotich, a NandL 

In a remarkably short space of time all these men had 
become experts in the delicate task of handling Mau Mau 
pseudo-terrorists. Busani and Kiprotich had worked with 
me before during the emergency and Leath already had 
considerable experience in pseudo-gang operations. 

Time and time again these young men went into the 
forest on their own to operate the teams. Their readiness 
to face danger when alone with the terrorists and far off 
from their colleagues was admirable. With the aid of these 
men it was possible to expand the force still further and 
bring even greater pressure to bear on Kimathi and other 
terrorists remaining in the forest. 



Some days after his capture, Karau told us about a 
meeting Kimathi had arranged with the gang leader called 
Chege Karobia, the terrorist from whom Gati and Hungu 
had sought shelter when they had fled from Kimathi on 
the Moorlands. According to Karau, Kimathi had found 
Chege's game traps towards the end of July, and to fill the 
gaps in his own ranks, he decided to take over Chege and 
his followers. The traps were to be the first channel of 
communication between the two groups. With this take- 
over in mind, he had sent some of his men to sit by the 
snares and wait for Chege. On the third of August, when 
two of Chege's men turned up, Kimathi gave them food 
and sent them away with a letter inviting their leader to a 

A week later Chege replied and sent word back with 
the same two men saying that he was ready to meet 
Kimathi and suggesting a rendezvous on the twenty-sixth 
of August. This news had been kept very secret by Kimathi. 
Though he told his men about his plan and also about the 
date, he had been very careful not to tell them where they 
would meet. As a result, Karau had not the faintest idea 
where to lead us. There were now less than one hundred 
terrorists at large on the Aberdares, but we did not want 
Kimathi to recruit them. 

Luck was now on our side. Two days after Karau gave 
us his information, Chege Karobia, the only terrorist in the 
forest who could tell us where the meeting was going to be 
held, was captured with four other members of his gang 
by one of our teams operating under Colin Leath. Nothing 
could have been more timely. We celebrated in the best of 

Chege, who stood barely five foot on his tip-toes, was 
a terrorist of no little importance. He had been in the 
jungle since early 1953 and had risen to a level of promi- 
nence which entitled him to visit various gangs operating 
in the western Aberdares and issue instructions to them. 
He had once been closely associated with Kimathi who (at 
meetings of the Ituma Demi Trinity Council) had shown 
an unusual liking for him. 

Unlike other Mau Mau who sought refuge in the 
depths of the forest, he had thought it far safer to hide as 


near to the forest edge as possible. He had camped close 
to a large timber mill called Geta at the foot of Kipipiri. 
He believed that nobody would look for him near a major 
logging centre where hundreds of civilian Africans were 
employed. He made no hideout because the workers from 
the mill would be certain to find it when they wandered 
through the woods trying to trap buck. Instead, he slept 
with his gang near the labour camp and fed on buck taken 
from the labourers' traps. He never tried to conceal his 
tracks which were merged with those of the workers and 
he cooked at night on well-hidden fires which were cam- 
ouflaged by smoke from the camp kitchens. 

The gangs which Chege once controlled had suffered 
very severely in the last nine months and Kimathi's invita- 
tion reached Chege at a time when he was desperately 
worried about the thought of losing more men. He thought 
that, at any moment, he might be left alone without 
anyone to hunt and forage for him and he had, in fact, 
been greatly comforted by Kimathi's overtures. 

As soon as he fell into our hands, we tried to get him 
to tell us where the rendezvous would be and, knowing 
that he would not be very pleased to hear of Kimathi's 
plot, we confronted him with Karau, who made no bones 
about the fact that there was to be no question of reaching 
any agreement with Kimathi and that he and his men 
were to be captured and forced to serve a new master. 
Chege was furious and he soon began to tell us all about 
the arrangements he had made for the meeting, which was 
to take place on a hill called Ruimeria in the central part of 
the Moorlands. He also told us how both gangs had 
arranged to use either of two secret letter boxes high on 
the Aberdares in case something went wrong and the 
meeting had to be cancelled. 

It was clear that the cunning Kimathi had not agreed 
to anything which would expose him too much. He him- 
self would not be going to Ruimeria. He would send some 
of his henchmen to meet Chege and they were to guide 
Chege to a place where he would be waiting. No one, not 
even Chege, had the remotest idea where that would be. 
We were back with our old problem, how to get at 
Kimathi. Our men couldn't go to the rendezvous on the 


hill, for they would not be taken on to the next rendez- 
vous. If Chege and his four followers went, they would be 
powerless for they had no firearms and we did not trust 
them enough to arm them ourselves. 

With no answer in mind, we set off to carry out a 
reconnaissance of Ruimeria Hill and the surrounding coun- 
try. We squeezed no less than fourteen team leaders, plus 
Chege and one of his men, into our Land Rover, and we 
climbed up the Aberdares by the old Fort Jerusalem track 
and finally stopped by a river called the Karimu where we 
could see the whole area. After studying the country with 
my binoculars, which fascinated our terrorists, it was clear 
that our greatest difficulty was going to be getting into the 
area unseen. The whole region was dotted with little 
hillocks and from the top of each one you could watch 
many miles of the open Moorlands with ease. This meant 
that we had to move by night. There was no other way. 

While we were up there discussing the matter, Gati 
suggested that we get Chege to write a letter to Kimathi 
confirming the fact that he would be attending the meet- 
ing come hail or high water. We had failed to make up our 
minds on anything else, so we happily spent the rest of 
the day dictating a letter to Kimathi which Chege wrote. 

When we reached the first letter box, an isolated 
muheu tree, we found that it had been uprooted and 
smashed by an elephant sometime during the previous 
week. The question of whether the animal had done this 
because of its dislike for Kimathi, or because of its dislike 
for Chege, was heatedly argued by our terrorists, but they 
were at least agreed that we should go on to the second 
box. This one was also in a tree. After Chege had placed his 
letter in a hollow, he broke off a branch from a nearby 
mukorombothi tree and stuck it in the ground at the base 
of the letter box. He then went some yards away, broke off 
another small branch, and stuck this one at the foot of a 
different tree. He told us that he had arranged with 
Kimathf s messengers that the letter box would not be 
checked, even if it obviously contained a letter, unless 
both these branches were in position. The security forces 
could easily plant a fictitious letter, but they would not 


know about the two branches. That was a secret shared by 
Chege and Kimathi alone. 

We had all milled around the letter box, and Chege 
very sensibly drew our attention to our tracks. "What do 
you suppose Kimathi's men will say when they see the 
tracks of seventeen people here and they know there are 
only a total of five of us in my gang?" he asked. "They will 
not say anything," replied Gati, "they will simply go up 
into the air like a jet." When we stopped laughing, we set 
about the task of removing every superfluous mark within 
two hundred yards of the tree and this took some time. It 
was almost six o'clock when we arrived back at our Land 
Rover on the Karimu River. 

That evening, as we were leaving the Moorlands, we 
encountered some old friends six waterbuck. These old 
faithfuls had been in that very locality for the past eigh- 
teen months and I had never once been through the area 
without seeing them. They had become almost part of the 
landscape, and I often thought how unfortunate it was that 
they could not tell us about Kimathi and the hundreds of 
other terrorists who must have passed before their eyes. 

When we arrived back at our base camp, I suddenly 
realised that Kimathi might tell his confederates where 
the meeting was going to be held, and knowing that 
nothing could cancel his plans more certainly than the 
capture of one of his men, I decided to withdraw all our 
teams from the forest as quickly as possible. For the first 
time since our operations began, we did not want to lay 
hands on any of Kimathi's followers. 

In the next few days at our Mayfield camp, we racked 
our brains to find a foolproof plan for dealing with the 
meeting but whichever way we looked at the problem, we 
found that there was no alternative to sending Chege and 
his four men to make the initial contact on the hill. As 
Kimathi knew that they had no guns, they would have to 
go unarmed. But what were we going to do once Chege 
had made his contact? Somehow we had to find a way of 
trailing the party on the hill until they reached Kimathi. 

The decision to send Chege and his companions alone 
did not please them. They were petrified at the thought of 


going unarmed to meet Kimathi's men. "If you want to 
finish us/' said Chege, "finish us here, but do not send us 
to be finished by Kimathi." After a great deal of persuasion 
they finally agreed to go, provided the area was completely 
surrounded by our men, and that this force was so deployed 
that the meeting point on the hill would be kept under 
continuous observation from all sides. 

With all this in mind we drew up our final plans. At 
ten o'clock on the morning of the meeting, Chege and his 
men would travel over the open ground so that, from a 
distance, they could be counted and identified by Kimathi's 
men. The night before, sixteen well-armed teams would 
have moved up through the forest onto the Moorlands 
and, in the darkness of night, they would surround the hill 
abut a mile from its summit. Each team would be five 
strong so that, if their tracks were seen, Kimathi's men 
would assume they were Chege's. The positions that the 
teams would take up would enable at least half of them to 
watch the meeting place on Ruimeria throughout the 
daylight hours, and at least three teams would be able to 
trail the party on whichever side of the hill they ultimately 
went down. After the two gangs had met when Chege 
was being led away to Kimathi our men would follow 
them at a discreet distance. If Kimathi was hiding so far 
away that the party had not arrived before dusk, Kimathi's 
guides were to be captured and made to reveal where 
their leader was lying up. We could do no more. 

During the night of the twenty-fifth of August, our 
force was dropped off in pitch darkness at the bottom of 
the Marishimiti gorge on the west side of the Aberdares. 
There was a last-minute shuffling about as they checked 
their arms and crowded round their leaders, then each 
leader had a final word to say to Chege who, in turn, had 
much to say to them his life depended on their alertness. 
Before they set off up the mountain for Ruimeria, which 
was eleven miles away, every man came up and shook 
hands with us. There were hands which were hard and 
round like the bark of a log; there were others which were 
sticky with filth and honey; some hands were deformed, 
while others were firm and confident. 


Here in the dark forest three Europeans were shaking 
hands with nearly a hundred well-armed Mau Mau who, 
only a short while before, would have much enjoyed 
murdering us. While I personally never thought that any 
of them wanted to do us harm, for we had turned them 
psychologically until they would willingly have given their 
lives for us, I was deeply conscious of one possible weak 
l m k a supernatural omen which they might interpret as a 
sign of Ngai's wrath. It could be an earth tremor, it could 
be a particularly bright meteorite falling through the 
atmosphere, it could be an unusual sound in the forest, it 
could be snakes falling from a tree, or it could be anything 
else which was weird and uncommon. Little things could 
have a disastrous efiect upon such highly superstitious 
people. The risk was small, very, very small, but it was 
present and its presence was enough to cause anxiety. 
Only a year or so before thousands of them had been 
ready to accept our bid to get them to surrender. Then a 
terrorist had found a small, red prayer-book written in 
some oriental language which they could not understand. 
Perhaps it had fallen from a plane. Perhaps a soldier had 
dropped it. Perhaps it had slipped out of someone's pack. 
But a group of witch doctors decided that the book had 
been dropped by Ngai to tell them to remain in the forest 
and the surrender talks broke down. We were always 
vulnerable to evil spirits. 

Soon the teams left us and a feeling of uncertain 
expectancy descended upon those of us who were waiting. 
There were many things to worry about but nothing 
positive could now be done about any of them. In this 
state of mind we could not sleep, nor could we stop talking 
about our fears and our hopes. The night passed slowly 
and eventually none of us had anything more to say. One 
by one we moved away to sit or lie down and think in 
silence until dawn came, with the warming sun and the 
greater confidence that heat brings. 

By dawn all the teams were in position around Rurimeria 
Hill and at ten o'clock Chege and his gang began their 
final approach. Across the Moorlands they came in single 
file; as they climbed the hillside everyone of them could 


be seen by our men but when they reached the top, there 
was no sign of any of Kimathi's henchmen. They could do 
nothing but sit down and wait. 

All day they waited patiently, walking about the top 
every hour or so to show the teams around them that they 
were still there, but nobody turned up. That night, when 
they realised they could be captured and taken away 
without the knowledge of the teams, they moved halfway 
down the hill and lay silently, ready to run at the first sign 
of someone approaching. But by dawn there was still no 
sign of Kimathi's men. They thought he had probably 
made a mistake in his dates and would be coming during 
the next day, but, as before, this was not to be. Through- 
out the third day and night they lay there, with the teams 
in formation around them, and still nobody came. 

By this time those of us lower down the mountain and 
out of contact with the situation were becoming very 
worried. First we imagined that they must have contacted 
Kimathi and were pursuing him, but we could not under- 
stand why, if this was so, our men hadn't sent a runner to 
tell us what was happening as they usually did. Then we 
imagined that our teams must still be waiting round the 
hill, but this also seemed unlikely; our men knew how 
punctual the Mau Mau were and it would be most unusual 
for them to wait even one day longer than the specified 

On the afternoon of the fourth day, tired, weary, and 
very hungry after their long, unproductive ambush, all our 
teams left their positions and set off down the mountain 
towards us, withdrawing Chege and his gang en route. 
Some hours later they reached us, exhausted. "This is 
another thing to me," said Gati on arrival. "The Mau Mau 
never fail to keep an arrangement unless an operation is 
going on/* I suggested that the tracks of our men or the 
teams themselves had probably been seen. "There is noth- 
ing like that and even Kimathi will confirm what I say 
when we catch him," replied Gati. 

When we arrived back at Mayfield camp the following 
day, our team leaders, ever suspicious of anything said or 
done by Kimathi's gangsters who had misled them so 
many times before, immediately pounced on Karau and 


accused him of having known all the time where the 
meeting was to have taken place. They were certain that 
Kimathi would have turned up if someone from his gang, 
who knew his secret, had not been captured. As Karau 
was the last member of the gang to fall into our hands, 
they presumed that he must have known far more than he 
told us. "When another man is caught ask him and if he 
says I knew about that, you may kill me," he said. "Noguo, 
noguo," agreed the team leaders. "That is exactly what we 
will do/* 

However, it was not long before we had our next 
contact with the gang and captured more prisoners from 
whom we were able to discover the reason for Kimathi's 
failure to attend the meeting. It turned out that he had 
been determined to go to Ruimeria Hill right up until the 
very last moment. He had crossed the Honi River, then 
the Chania River, and had slept the night of August the 
twenty-fifth in the Kanjema area on the Moorlands where 
there are many small lakes. As Kanjema was only some 
four miles from Rurimeria, he had no distance to travel the 
following day. What is more, he had even planned to meet 
Chege on the hilltop himself just in case any of his men 
were frightened of "snatching" the party because it con- 
tained another leader. But during the night, while he and 
all his men and Wanjiru were asleep on a small island in 
the centre of one of the lakes, he had suddenly awoken in 
a state of great alarm, ordered everyone to get up and 
move on. His men pleaded with him to wait until the dawn 
before he moved, but he was adamant. He told them he 
had had a dream in which he had seen himself captured 
on a hill and that had decided him. In the freezing cold of 
the night, he and his gang waded through the water and 
trekked across the Moorlands. By dawn they had reached 
the forest on the eastern side of the mountain. Once again, 
his dreams had saved his life! 

The spirits that warned Kimathi of impending danger 
were certainly not able to soothe his temper once his 
nerves were jangling. His behaviour in the days following 
his dream at Kanjema amounted to a reign of terror. 

As he headed back from Kanjema he walked some fifty 
yards behind his men. Not even Wanjiru, his favourite, 


was allowed near him. He walked with his hands on his 
hips as he always did when he was annoyed, and from his 
erratic shambling walk it was obvious to his men that he 
was crazed with temper. Twice they slowed to make sure 
that he was still behind and twice, as he came up to them, 
he raged at them, abused them, threatened them, and 
chased them on. Just before dawn, his men came to an 
abrupt stop as he screamed at them, "Hiti id, mwathie ku 
[You hyenas, where are you going] ?" Without waiting for 
him to come up, they altered course and went on. Kimathi 
did not often shout at night. 

As Chege was approaching the top of Rurimeria Hill, 
Kimathi arrived at the place which was to be his lair for 
the next two days. The site was less than three miles from 
one of his prayer trees, the Kinaini River was a mile to the 
south, and behind the hideout was a deep crater nearly 
seventy yards long and thirty yards wide. From a defen- 
sive point of view, he could not have chosen a better 
place. He could only be approached by climbing the steep 
side of the crater which was jagged and slippery. 

As soon as he arrived, he snatched a rifle from the 
shoulder of one of his men and ordered two of his follow- 
ers, Gitahi and Maragua, to accompany him into the forest. 
There they sat down. For some minutes he was silent and 
looked only at the ground in front of him, but then he 
slowly raised his head and stared at the two terrorists. 
Throughout the forest it was known that when Kimathi 
stared at a man, the victim would freeze with terror. 
Death glimmered in his wide, bloodshot eyes, reddened by 
the bhang or wild tobacco which he habitually put in 
them. Many times before a glare from these eyes had 
made a terrorist beg for mercy before a word had been 
spoken. Gitahi and Maragua were sure that they would 
die. Trembling with anger, Kimathi held out his right hand 
and pointed to one of his fingers. "How many joints are 
there in this finger?" "Three," replied Gitahi. "Asorite" 
answered Kimathi, using the pidgin English he often 
spoke when trying to impress his listeners. He then went 
on to tell them that he was the first point, nearest the 
blood and therefore nearest to Ngai; Gitahi was the second 


because he was trustworthy, he had been captured by the 
enemy and then escaped; Maragua was the third joint, 
affixed to the others "like an unborn child to its mother." 
Because of that, Kimathi continued, they were his "eyes 
and strength" and they were to stand by him until they all 
died together. Gitahi and Maragua were pleased to hear 
this. Even Ngai, they thought, could not have bestowed a 
greater honour upon them. 

Still shaking with anger, Kimathi ordered his two 
favourites to fetch another terrorist named Githua, and 
soon this unfortunate man was brought along, his wrists 
bound with trapping wires. When Githua stood before 
him, Kimathi rose to his feet, spat on the ground to clear 
his throat, and began to accuse him of treachery. He gave 
Githua no chance to answer. For several minutes the 
outburst continued. Where had Githua been when he 
went off to contact Chege Karobia some weeks before? He 
had been away a very long time. Was it not clear that he 
had taken the opportunity of betraying them all to the 
enemy? Githua pleaded with Kimathi to let him speak, 
but it was no good. "I even saw you in my dream telling 
the white men about the meeting at Rurimeria," Kimathi 
claimed. The "trial" was over. Githua was tackled and 
thrown to the ground where he was pinned down. A 
trapping wire was then forced over his head, and Kimathi 
tightened the noose with both his hands. Githua's eyes 
widened, he spluttered, his limbs shook and stretched, his 
tongue curled out of his mouth. His body was dragged 
away and stuffed down an antbear hole. Kimathi enjoyed 
pushing his victims into antbear holes. 

After this, Kimathi returned to the hideout where the 
rest of his followers were sitting silently. They knew from 
the expression on his face that Githua was dead, but they 
felt neither sympathy for their ex-colleague, nor anger 
with Kimathi. Their own lives, they thought, had been 
saved by Kimathi's dream, and if he had seen that Githua 
was a traitor, he must have been one. Kimathi's dreams 
were infallible. Nevertheless, they were worried. They 
were tormented by the thought that they might have done 
something unknowingly which was also wrong in Kimathi's 


eyes, which he would see in his dreams and which would 
send them along the road taken by all his victims into 
the antbear hole, head first, and dead. 

Kimathi's eyes were quick to find fault. He was 
looking for trouble. While Githua's "Cira," or "trial," had 
been in progress, Wanjiru had remained with the men 
instead of sitting apart where they could not "disease her 
mind." He believed he was the only male who could talk 
to a woman without ruining her. When he discovered that 
she had stayed with the men, he gripped her by the wrist 
and dragged her off to the edge of the crater. There he 
thrashed her with a bamboo stick and demanded that she 
should tell him what the men had said to her. In his own 
words, she had to "tahikia ndeio thuku" or "vomit out the 
words" which were spoiling her mind. 

Leaving Wanjiru crying on the ground, he came back 
into the hideout where he had made yet another awesome 
row, this time with his favourite Gitahi who had stupidly 
cut three munyamate sticks to support the cooking pot 
over the fire. They all knew that this type of wood would 
quickly catch fire in the flames and let the cooking pot fall 
into the fire. 

Nothing pleased Kimathi. He threatened his men 
several times. He told them that when they next made a 
mistake he would re-oath them by making them eat 
Githua's intestines which they would have to dig out of the 
antbear hole. He knicked his finger with a knife and, 
while it was bleeding, placed it in a gourd of water so that 
his blood could be drunk by all present. "When you drink 
my blood," he said, "your foolishness will disappear and 
you will have sense like me." 

When the sun had set and darkness fell, Kimathi went 
away and lay down beneath the trunk of a fallen tree. He 
had a rifle on one side and a revolver on the other. 
Throughout the night he tossed and turned in the grip of a 
nightmare. At times he sat up abruptly and looked around 
for a minute or two before lying down to sleep again, his 
men sat watching him. Once when he groaned very loudly 
some suggested going over to find out if he was in trouble, 
but they knew he had gone to lie beneath the tree so that 
nobody could strike at him, and they knew he had taken 


the guns because he feared that he would be attacked. If 
they went near him, therefore, he would be sure to think 
that they were coming to kill him and they would be shot 
for their trouble. He was best left alone to toss and turn 
until a new day had dawned. 

One of the most remarkable things about Kimathi's 
gang was the implicit loyalty of his followers. They never 
plotted against him despite his savagery to them. He 
might lick his lips at the thought of killing them, but they 
never dreamt of shooting him as he slept. Kimathi, howev- 
er, did not seem to realise how safe he was, for whenever 
he murdered one of his men, or swore at them, or beat 
them, he took great care to see that his men did not get a 
chance to attack him without warning. If he had known 
how difficult we found it to get his men to co-operate with 
us, he would, perhaps have been less suspicious of them. 

At the first glimmer of dawn, Kimathi rose and set off 
alone to study the behaviour of the partridges. He be- 
lieved, as did most other Mau Mau, that if partridges took 
to wing and scattered as soon as human beings came upon 
them, the day would end in tragedy. On the other hand, if 
they scurried along the ground for a few yards before 
flying away, they would be showing the muirigo, or the 
"way," and this was an omen of good fortune. When he 
returned to the hideout, he was in a better frame of mind 
and his followers knew that the partridges must have 

As there was only a little decomposed buck meat left 
from the food the gang had carried to Kanjema and back, 
he told some of his men to go off to look for honey, while 
others were detailed to go and search for buck paths in the 
forest. By evening everyone was back again, but their 
reports were not good. There was no honey in the area, 
and there were too many wild pig about who would break 
the trapping wires as soon as they were snared. Once 
again Kimathi grew angry and jeered at his men for being 
no better than women. As darkness fell he took Ngunyi 
aside to listen to the animal noises in the forest and asked 
him what the animals were saying, but whenever Ngunyi 
confessed ignorance or gave an opinion which differed 
from Kimathi's, he too was called a woman. 


Sometime that night nobody had any idea what time 
it was Kimathi ordered his gang to break camp and move 
on. They crossed the Kinaini River, and then the Muringato 
River, on their way to a cave once used by Juma Abdalla as 
a food store. But when they reached it they found it was 
empty. All the food had been cleared out by our teams 
some time before. So on Kimathi and his followers went 
until they reached that part of the jungle which they 
called Mathakwa-ini. 

During the next few days when new game traps were 
being laid, the gang grew more and more hungry. The few 
fruit-yielding trees were bare. Most of the bees had eaten 
their honey during the misty period and had not replenished 
their hives. Meat was, as yet, unobtainable as their traps 
were only now going up. What little food they did find was 
given to Kimathi and Wanjiru. Three hyrax were caught in 
an ingenious but cruel way. When their holes in the trees 
were discovered, a long, pliant stick, spliced at the tip, 
was thrust up the hole until the hyrax felt the tip boring 
into their bodies and screeched. Then the terrorists turned 
the stick so that the soft woolly hair of the animals was 
wound round the tip. They were then pulled down, 
clubbed to death, and given to Kimathi and Wanjiru. For 
the other members of the gang, lack of food soon became a 
desperate problem. Old buckskin garments were boiled 
and eaten after the hair had been scraped off, rats were 
welcome morsels, some roots were dug up and boiled for 
their juices. The gangsters took it in turn to sit near their 
game traps to make sure that when a buck was caught it 
would not be eaten by hyenas or leopards. Spurred on by 
hunger, Kimathi' s men were sitting in pairs by their 
widely scattered traps. They were still sitting there when 
our operations began again after the abortive operation of 
Rurimeria Hill, and in the first week of September we 
caught four more of Kimathi's men. All four were sitting 
beside game traps when the teams found them and none 
had eaten any food for several days. We did everything 
possible to get them to tell us where Kimathi was lurking 
but, like the other captives, they were sullen and silent 
until they were sure that their disappearance had been 
noticed and that Kimathi had been given ample time to 


move himself, his gang, and his traps to a different place. 
Then they started talking and we heard all about his 
dream at Kanjema, about his reign of terror and about 
Githua's death. 

Even before Githua's death the gang had been cut to 
thirteen and you might have thought that this alone would 
prevent Kimathi from killing any more of his men. But 
what was logic to others was not logic to him. Githua's 
death had reduced his strength to twelve, and the capture 
of the four men at the traps brought him down to the 
meagre total of eight. As Gati said, his organization was 
"rotting from the head and from the tail at the same time." 

The revelations of the last men to fall into our hands 
crowned our unceasing efforts to convince our men who 
came from Kimathi's home district of Nyeri that he was a 
maniac who would, in time, kill all who followed him. Our 
men from Nyeri and our men from Fort Hall were now 
equally keen to hunt the chief leader of Mau Mau to his 



Wa mom unungaga uri thiaka. 
A wicked man's arrow emits its unpleasant smell 
even if hidden in the quiver. 

September the fifteenth dawned without a cloud in 
the sky. It was one of those days which leave a lasting 
impression of Kenya's beauty on your mind. As the sun 
came up behind the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya, 
we were climbing the Aberdares from the west, facing into 
the sun. Eleven Land Rovers, carrying twelve teams, 
were winding their way slowly over the Moorlands to- 
wards the eastern slopes. This time we were entering the 
"Kimathi area" by the back door to give ourselves the 
benefit of working downhill. 

The beauty of our hunting ground was overpowering. 
We were on top of the world, above the sun, looking down 
on a vast land of valleys, forests, and hills which were 
blanketed by a warm purple shadow. The night had been 
starry and clear so that there was frost on the hillsides 
which glittering against a background of greens, violets, 
and blues. All the little streams stood out like pencil lines 
on a map, the waterfalls sparkled white in the sunshine, 
and a gentle breeze waved the heather softly from side to 
side. Even the Moorland trees looked spry as their long, 
grey creepers (old man's beards we called them) swung 
peacefully backwards and forwards. 

As we drove along we found rhino and buflalo warming 


themselves in the open glades. Where they were very 
close to the track, the vehicles fanned out to allow for 
sudden acceleration, if any of the animals should charge, 
and the terrorists kept peering under the canvas canopies 
at the backs of the vehicles ready to raise the alarm. 

One of our main sources of amusement, apart from 
swapping stories about our escapes from rhino, was the 
little brown Jackson's francolin. In this high country these 
birds have small feathers growing under the scales of their 
legs, giving them an odd, morris-dancing look. Gati was 
convinced that "God had given them socks" to protect 
their legs from the cold, and as we journeyed along he 
gave a running commentary on the value and quality of 
the "socks" each one was wearing. 

Every so often we came to particularly tricky parts of 
the track, where the vehicles tilted precariously on an 
extremely slippery surface. Sometimes there was a real 
danger that the vehicles would tumble down considerable 
precipices, and driving them across was a difficult busi- 
ness. As a rule, we stopped the Land Rovers before trying 
to cross these patches and let the passengers out of the 
backs so that if the skill of the driver failed he could 
plummet down the steep slope alone. But as they were 
not that sure that the vehicles would stop to allow them to 
get out, the terrorists struggled frantically whenever a bad 
spot came in sight. It was a lively ride. 

Further across the Moorlands, and nearer the forest, 
were three elephant skulls, all lying within a few feet of 
one another. The animals may have been killed by the 
bombing or even by Kimathi with his elephant gun in the 
earlier days of the emergency. But whatever the cause of 
their deaths, they served as a vital landmark, for if a Land 
Rover went more than a few hundred yards past them, it 
could be seen by anyone in the "Kimathi area" far down 
below. This was our off-loading point. 

Before we finally stopped that day, I vowed, as I had 
vowed many times before, that when I was an old man I 
would return to the Aberdares and sit up there on the 
Moorlands and dream of the days gone by of our opera- 
tions, of the beauty and magnificence of this part of the 
world, which is, as yet, untouched by civilisation. And I 


hoped that when that time came, the skeletons of the dead 
and the scars of war would have disappeared and only the 
beauty of this wonderful land would remain. 

When the teams had got out, and the vehicles had 
been tucked away behind the thickest bushes, we set off 
on foot down the eastern slope of the mountain. When we 
reached the thick bamboo, all but one of the teams 
branched off to their destinations, the last we held back in 
reserve. They went in four separate groups. One was to 
wind its way down to the Kinaini River and ambush two 
mugumo trees where we thought Kimathi might soon be 
going to pray; another, guided by one of the most recently 
captured members of the gang, was to visit the hideout 
where Kimathi had last been seen in case he had left any 
tracks; the third was to search the Mathakwa-ini area of 
forest for game traps, for this was where he was most likely 
to be hunting; and the last was to travel right down the 
mountain, a journey of nearly twenty-six miles, until they 
reached the edge of the forest bordering the Nyeri Native 
Reserve where they were to search for the tracks of 
foraging parties. Because of the grave shortage of food in 
the gang, we felt that Kimathi might have taken the 
unusual course of sending some of his men into the 
Kikuyu reserve to steal food and we might pick up their 
tracks along the fringe of the forest. 

During the first two days of the operation we made no 
contacts and one of our terrorists was badly injured by a 
rhino. At the mugumo tree near the Kinaini River, there 
were some fairly recent tracks which showed that Kimathi 
was still praying, but there was no honey beneath the 
trees. For once his belly had come before his god, and he 
had eaten the honey rather than spill it as an offering to 
Ngai. The hideout was empty, apart from a few scattered 
pieces of boiled buckskin which had obviously proved too 
tough to eat and there were no clear tracks worth follow- 
ing. In the Mathakwa-ini area, the third group found 
several places where buck traps had been laid, and then 
lifted. It was clear that he had been trapping there but he 
had moved on when he found that more of his men had 
been captured. The fourth group found the tracks of two 
men and followed them in high hopes, but when these 


circled back to the reserve after passing some old, empty 
honey hives, it was clear that they belonged to Kikuyu 
living in the reserve and not to Mau Mau. These Kikuyu 
had probably wanted the honey for marital negotiations, 
possibly to appease some irate father who was being 
offered too small a dowry for his daughter. If that were so, 
their need was indeed great, but they were treading on 
dangerous ground. 

On the seventeenth of September our luck changed. 
Beside a small, muddy pool near Ruhuru-ini our men 
spotted the toe marks of a single terrorist, who had drawn 
water the day before, and all approaches to the pool were 
ambushed in the hope that he would return. As the 
ambushers lay there, troop after troop of baboons came 
down to water. Then, round about two o'clock in the 
afternoon, a lone terrorist was seen approaching the pool, 
where several baboons were still drinking. The animals 
saw him and snarled and barked, but refused to give way. 
For several minutes the terrorist, who might easily have 
passed for a baboon himself with his long hair and dirty 
brown skin coat, threw stones and sticks at the animals to 
try to frighten them away, but each time he attacked two 
or three of the larger baboons rushed at him and chased 
him back into the forest. This, it seemed, was a feud 
between equals, where each party was claiming his right 
and was fighting for it, where, unless one gave way, there 
would be a fight to the finish. After the ambushers had 
watched the conflict for some time, they crept up behind 
the terrorist. He was concentrating so hard on his argu- 
ment with the baboons that he did not notice them until 
the very last moment. For some time the baboons did not 
see our men either, then the terrorist suddenly sensed 
danger and on looking round, saw our men crawling up, 
but it was too late for our target. 

That same day the tracks of three men were picked 
up by another of our groups not far from Wuthering 
Heights, at least thirty miles to the northwest, and thanks 
to Gacheru and his outstanding tracking ability, these were 
followed to a letter box in the Mwathe sector. As our men 
arrived, they caught a glimpse of the three terrorists 
leaving it. Unfortunately our men were also seen, and in a 


split second the Mau Mail had darted away. Fanning out 
into a long line, the teams sped after them* After running 
three or four hundred yards, they saw the terrorists on the 
opposite side of a valley climbing up the steep slope. 
Some of our men raced on after them, but others stood on 
the high ground and shouted across the valley to some 
imaginary colleagues: "Stay where you are. They are going 
straight for you." This bluff worked. Two of the terrorists 
must have been so busy running that they did not hear the 
shouting, but the third stopped suddenly, looked up at the 
top of the hill for a few seconds, then turned right and 
charged down into the valley again. Here he collided with 
our men who dived at him. For a few moments he fought 
like a cat. He had been grabbed by five or six of our men, 
most of whom were cut with his simi or were severely 
bitten on their hands and he only gave up after someone 
hit him hard on the head with a Patchett magazine. Mbaka 
is the Kikuyu word for cat and this, appropriately, was his 

It turned out that he and three others, one of whom 
was the unfortunate wretch being chevied by the baboons, 
had been sent off by Kimathi three days before to look for 
new trapping wires which the gang needed badly. They 
had gone to examine the wreckage of an aircraft east of the 
National Park Track where they hoped they would be able 
to remove some of the electrical wiring. They got to the 
scene of the crash without mishap, but when they exam- 
ined the crumbling mass of metal from a safe distance, 
they thought they saw a booby-trap and left the scene 

They had not gone far, however, before they were 
charged by a rhino with calf in that same terrible part of 
the Tree Tops Salient which we had all come to dread, and 
all four terrorists ran in different directions. It was quite 
some time before the angry rhino moved on and Mbaka 
could emerge from his hiding place to rally his men, but 
he could only find two of them. For two hours Mbaka 
searched for the missing terrorist unsuccessfully, before 
deciding that he must have gone back to rejoin Kimathi at 
the hideout, so they headed for the hideout themselves. 


To their intense surprise, they arrived to find the 
hideout deserted. Not only was the missing terrorist not 
there, but Kimathi and the rest of the gang were not there 
either. Furthermore, the place had obviously been 
abandoned for good. That night Mbaka and his two compan- 
ions lay in the hideout wondering how they could find 
Kimathi again, and early the next morning they began to 
look for him. Day and night they searched. Without food 
and without trapping wires, they began to think they 
might die of hunger unless they could make contact with 
Kimathi, but they found no trace of him. They were still 
searching when our men saw them at the letter box. They 
had been all the way to Wuthering Heights and back, a 
journey of nearly seventy miles over rough country. 

The story told by the lone terrorist captured at the 
pool confirmed all that Mbaka told us. Like the others, he 
had run when the rhino charged and then returned to look 
for his companions when the animal had moved away. 
Somehow, they had missed each other. That night he slept 
in a tree and the following day set off for the hideout 
alone. Everyone had gone. By this time even Mbaka had 
come and gone. 

Lonely and hungry, he decided to go on looking for 
Mbaka but not for Kimathi, definitely not Kimathi. He 
had been alone. There was no one to corroborate his story, 
and the unbelieving Kimathi would think he had betrayed 
the others to the enemy and was now coming back in the 
hope of betraying everyone else. For that he knew he 
would be strangled and pushed down an antbear hole. 
Even if Mbaka had got back to Kimathi and supported his 
story about the rhino, who could say that since that time 
he had not turned traitor and passed information to the 
security forces? The odds were against him and he knew 
he had to avoid Kimathi at all costs. So he drank where 
the baboons drank, in a filthy, muddy, stagnant pool fouled 
by baboon excreta and urine, for that was one place his 
leader was unlikely to go to. 

With two more of his gang accounted for, Kimathi was 
now left with only six followers. There was his treasured 
woman, Wanjiru; there was his two favourites, the two 


joints of his finger, Gitahi and Maragua; and there were 
three others for whom he had no special affection, Ngunyi, 
Kondia, and 7 Kar, 

Mbaka told us that in his last week with Kimathi, he 
had twice heard his leader speak of suicide, of going away 
to some remote part of the mountain with Wanjiru where 
he would first shoot her and then shoot himself. He had 
told his men that his body would not be found by his 
enemies, as it would be a sin "against the bones of his 
grandmother" if he were taken out of the forest. When he 
had last talked of death, he had called for his goat-skin 
satchel and from it he had removed all his documents. 
There were twenty or thirty old letters from other terror- 
ist leaders as well as his small diary, the diary in which the 
names of all those to be executed were recorded. Sitting 
before a fire, he had read the letters to those around him. 
Only Wanjiru, being a woman, had to sit aside, for she was 
forbidden to hear such things. As he read each letter, he 
threw it into the flames and watched it roll up, blacken, 
and then catch fire. When all this had been done, he 
picked up his copy of Napoleons Book of Charms. This 
had been torn by a bullet during the battle with Gacheru's 
team when they captured Karau and his partner near the 
bomb crater. Putting the charm book on his lap, he flicked 
the pages over, then, with his last stub pencil^ he worked 
out what the future held for him. His men looked on in 
silence, anxious to hear the result, for his fate was their 
fate, but when he had finished he told them nothing. He 
ripped the pages from the book one by one and threw 
them onto the fire like the others. Now they knew they 
were near the bottom of the downward slope. 

Mbaka also told us about a last sacrifice Kimathi 
intended to stage near the top of Mount Kinangop, about 
eighty miles to the south. As he could not get a live goat 
for the ceremony, he had decided to use a live buck, one 
of those caught in his traps. He proposed to place earth in 
the eyes of the animal and then sew up its eye lids with 
forest thorns and twine to show that the land was dear to 
him; then he intended to slit the animals' ear so that its 
blood would pour over the rocks as an offering to Ngai; 
finally, before the animal was dead, he planned to bury it 


with its head pointing upwards to signify "the rising of his 

When all arrangements had been completed for the 
ceremony, he called his men round him and questioned 
them about the safest route to Mount Kinangop, but none 
could advise him. They all knew, however, that it would 
be dangerous to move before the partridges gave them the 
"all clear." That same evening, therefore, Kimathi and the 
remnants of his gang went through the forest to see how 
the birds would behave. They came upon two flocks, but 
in each case, instead of scurrying along the ground, the 
birds took to the air. After this bad omen the expedition 
was cancelled and all-night prayers were held thanking 
Ngai for this warning. 


Iri kuhuma ndiri muti itangigwaterera . 
There is no tree to which a panting man would 
not cling. 

When Gati and Hungu came to us nine months 
before, we did not really think that every Mau Mau gang 
leader in the Aberdares would fall before Dedan Kimathi 
was captured. Thurura, who had long before predicted 
that Kimathi would be the last surviving terrorist on the 
mountain, was depressingly accurate. 

By the middle of September, there were only two 
Mau Mau leaders left in the forest, Dedan Kimathi and 
Kimani Kimarua. All the others, with the single exception 
of Stanley Mathenge who had left the mountain long 
before, had been eliminated by their former followers who 
were now working with us. Kahiu Itina had surrendered 
quietly after the fantastic dream of his witch doctor, Kingori; 
Ndungu Gicheru was seized after the brutal ham-stringing 
of the cattle; Kimbo, the singer and cattle thief, had been 
swept up with all his gangsters and sentenced to death for 
murder; Mururu and Kariuki Kagera, who had tormented 
the farmers in the Kanangop, had fallen; Chege had taken 
us on the abortive operation to Rurimeria; Abdalla, Jeriko, 
Wambarabia, and Karau, from Kimathi's gang had fallen 
like skittles to the cunning of their one-time companions; 
Muraya and Kiiru had been ambushed in the upper Fort 
Hall forests; Njackwema from the far north had been 


"HOT SCRUM" 201 

eliminated and others too had gone the same way. Only 
Kimathi and Kimani Kimarua remained. But on the twen- 
tieth of that month of September, Kimani Kimarua was 
killed in a fight with one of our teams, and Kimathi was 
left as the only important terrorist at large in an area 
where, three years before, nearly twelve thousand Mau 
Mau and some two hundred major and minor leaders had 

Kimani had never been closely associated with Kimathi, 
nor did his gang ever trespass in the Kimathi area. Some 
of his men had once brushed with Kimathfs gang on the 
Moorlands, and one had been run to ground and killed. 
Before that, in June 1955, Kimani had himself been a 
prisoner of Kimathi, along with several other Mau Mau 
leaders, including Stanley Mathenge, Njau Kiore, Kiiru, 
and Kahinga Wachanga, all of whom Kimathi seized for 
taking part in surrender talks with government officers 
against his wishes. For this offence they had been sen- 
tenced to death, bound hand and foot, and placed under 
guard in a small bamboo hut to await execution at dawn. 
But during the night a woman terrorist, who was a friend 
of Stanley Mathenge, entered the hut to take water to the 
prisoners and cut their bonds. They rushed out, overpowered 
the guards, seized their weapons, and disappeared into 
the darkness. 

After these two clashes Kimani had no wish to set 
eyes on Kimathi again, so he went far south into the deep 
gorge of the Mathioya River. Yet in some ways, these two 
were not unalike. Kimani had gone into the forest with 
two brothers; so had Kimathi. Kimani had led his brothers 
a miserable life in the jungle; so had Kimathi. But unlike 
Kimathi, Kimani had an unfaithful brother. He was called 
Ngai, after the Kikuyu god, and he was a member of our 

Since early childhood Ngai had been beaten and 
bullied and he led a very hard life in the forest. Kimani 
used to whip him without reason in front of other mem- 
bers of the gang, and he was always ordered to go on the 
most dangerous expeditions. Ngai had not forgotten this, 
and when he was captured by one of our teams early in 
September he was only too anxious to hunt for his brother, 


who was trapping near the headwaters of the Mathioya 
River at the time. While operations against Kimathi went 
on in the north, Ngai searched for his brother in the 

A few days after Ngai's team, which was led by a most 
efficient but painfully ugly team leader named Kubwa, had 
arrived at the upper reaches of the Mathioya River, they 
came upon a place in the forest where a branch of some 
large-leafed plant had been cut and left on an animal path. 
Further down the path they found a similar branch and 
then another and another. Our men followed on and by 
nightfall had reached the hideout where Kimani and two 
others were resting. 

Kimani was sleeping between his two followers, who 
were tied round the ankles with difficulty, but when the 
rope touched Kimani's feet, he sprang from the ground, 
grabbed Kubwa's Patchett by the muzzle and almost 
wrenched it from his hands. The tug of war did not last 
long. Kubwa squeezed the trigger, and a stream of bullets 
ripped Kimani's chest at point-blank range. 

Ngai was overjoyed when he saw his brother fall. He 
trotted over to the body and happily ruffled through his 
dead brother's clothes for any valuables he could find. 
Mau Mau had taught him, like all others who had succumbed 
to its doctrine, to have no feelings for kith and kin. He 
pocketed Kimani's torn and tattered notebook, a little bottle 
containing antbear fat, which was thought to be a cure for 
rheumatism, and a small skin wallet which had nothing in 
it. Then he stripped all the blood-stained garments from 
his brother's body and slipped them over his own. 

The ease with which the team had been able to 
discover the hideout made Kubwa ask his two prisoners 
why they had left the branches along the path. He was 
told that whil^ a fourth member of the gang had been 
away setting a game snare, two rifle shots had been heard 
in the direction of the Gikira River and Kimani had 
decided to move immediately to a new hideout. The trail 
of branches had been left behind so that the trapper would 
be able to find the new hideout. As Kubwa told them: 
"Had I been born as stupid as you I would have commit- 
ted suicide long ago!" 

"HOT SCRUM" 203 

That night, the twentieth of September, the team 
remained in the hideout with their two prisoners and the 
dead body of Kimani, on the off-chance that the trapper 
had not heard the firing and would return. That is exactly 
what he did. He walked unsuspectingly into the ambush 
just before nine o'clock in the morning. 

Now that Dedan Kimathi was the only terrorist of 
importance on the whole mountain, we decided to ignore 
the few leaderless oddments scattered here and there and 
use every man we had in the main hunt. 

In the Mwathe and the Tree Tops Salient Kimathi had 
three operative letter boxes, and by the end of September 
we knew them all. The first was a hollow beneath the roots 
of a large tree low down the Salient, close to the famous 
Tree Tops game lookout. The second was about six miles 
further up the mountain, due west, between the Muringato 
and Itha rivers, in a derelict beehive that had been 
hanging on a tree for some twenty years. The third was a 
cavity in a rock some seven miles northwest of this bee- 
hive, in the Mwathe area, close to that part of the forest 
where we had once staged our deception operation. The 
last of these would probably not be used again, as some of 
our collaborators knew it well, but the others were almost 
certain to be used if the gang was split up and wished to 
communicate with one another. 

Kimathi also had two ihitoo, or food stores, both deep 
in the forest. One was Juma Abdalla's cave beside the 
Muringato River, but Kimathi knew that it was now emp- 
ty. The second, however, was newly-dug under a large fig 
tree in the Ruhotie valley. It had been found and left 
intact by one of our teams during the last days of the 
previous operation. We knew that no one would construct 
a food store in the forest unless there was food to be stored 
in it. We knew that Kimathi had not obtained food from 
outside the forest, for we would have found his tracks 
along the forest edge, so we presumed that his traps were 
now paying dividends and that he was, at long kst, getting 
so much meat that he was able to dry some for storage. 
Where, then, were his traps? 

The area north of the Ruhotie valley was too close to 
the farming country of Mweiga; the area to the west of this 


contained many giant forest hog and was therefore equally 
unsuitable; the land to the east towards Nyeri and the Polo 
Ground was a poor trapping area as the forest was sparse 
and buck wandered about willy-nilly instead of keeping to 
set paths. But the area to the south of the Ruhotie valley 
was excellent for trapping at this time of year and it was, 
we noted, close to his new store. That was where we 
would look. 

Then there were his prayer trees. By discounting 
those known to the terrorists captured from his gang, we 
were able to eliminate all but nine. Those who knew him 
well were positive that these nine were the only ones he 
would visit again. All the others we could safely forget 

This analysis gave us fourteen key points where we 
would look for Kimathi: two letter boxes, two food stores, 
nine prayer trees, and a trapping area. Our hunting ground 
was narrowed down to fifty square miles of forest. Never 
before had we possessed such full and exact information on 
which to base an operation and never before had we been 
blessed with such an expert body of hunters to carry out 
the task. We were sure that the day of Kimathi's downfall 
was near. Nobody said very much, but everyone was 

On the last day of September, our whole force was 
withdrawn from the forest to prepare for a final, major 
effort to begin on the seventh of October. This operation 
was given the expressive code name "Hot Scrum." Hour 
after hour details of the plan were discussed and re- 
discussed. Day after day we glanced up anxiously at the 
sky for signs of a change of weather. The rains were due 
again and it was imperative that we should establish 
ourselves beside the fourteen key points before they broke. 
We knew that if we moved through the forest in force after 
they had started, our tracks would be seen, and Kimathi 
would know that we had found his key points. 

On the third of October there was an ominous cluster 
of dark clouds over Mount Kenya, but by the late evening 
the sky was clear again. Then on the fourth of October 
clouds gathered in the north, where some light rain fell, 
but the Aberdares were spared. Twice we telephoned the 

"HOT SCRUM" 205 

Meteorological Department and received a very technical 
and complicated account of pressure belts and other phe- 
nomena but we had no precise answer to the question we 
were interested in when was it going to rain? On the 
fifth there was a low mist throughout most parts of the 
Central Province and we breathed a sigh of relief because 
in East Africa the rains are invariably preceded by ex- 
tremely hot, sunny days. 

In operations of this size and nature success is depen- 
dent on a great many factors, over many of which there is 
little or no control. The essence, however, consists of 
keeping the area completely quiet until the operation 
starts. Activities which would normally have little or no 
bearing on the conduct of ordinary operations, such as a 
plane circling over the area, a shot fired on the forest 
edge, Africans cutting firewood, a fish warden visiting a 
trout stream, a vehicle bumping up one of the forest 
tracks, or even torches being flashed towards the forest 
might have a disastrous effect on the outcome of these 
operations. Every abnormal sound or incident could alter 
Kimathi's plans, and every normal sound or happening 
could be misconstrued and made to appear abnormal. You 
could not be too meticulous about the precautions you 
took to keep the area quiet. 

Under these circumstances almost as much work had 
to go into pre-operational preparations as was put into the 
operation itself. Spotters had to watch the forest edge to 
check trespassers, small planes had to be diverted, troops 
and police had to be moved away, local Africans had to be 
warned, and farmers, forest scouts, game scouts, and fish 
wardens had to be asked not to go near the forest fringe. 
When all this had been done, the planning of the opera- 
tion could go forward. 

By the night of the seventh of October all prepara- 
tions had been completed; the weather was still fine, and 
we were ready to move. A long convoy of vehicles, all 
covered with tarpaulins to keep the terrorists hidden, 
pulled out of Mayfield and set course for the Aberdares, 
which we reached after dawn so that the lights of the 
vehicles would not be seen from the forest above. 

This time two main base camps were set up, the first 


deep in the forest on the Kinaini River and the second 
high up on the edge of the Moorlands in an area called 
"Karandi ka gitaraini." As the name was something of a 
tongue-twister for the wireless operators, we renamed it 
"Frost Camp" after an early visit when Mac and I spent 
several minutes looking for a spare wheel which we had 
tossed out of the back of a Land Rover when we went to 
sleep and which had been completely hidden beneath a 
mattress of frost when we began to look for it the following 

Kinaini Camp was situated in a area where there 
were probably more hyrax than in any other part of the 
Aberdares. The noise they made at night was so great that 
we found it difficult to sleep, but it had the advantage of 
drowning the normal noise and clatter of camp life. We 
could not resist catching one of these lovely, soft-skinned, 
ferocious little creatures, and it stayed with us as a mascot 
in a little pen beside the camp fire throughout the operation. 

One of the snags about Kinaini was the fact that it was 
surrounded by thickly forested hills which badly interfered 
with wireless transmission. This compelled us to erect a 
diapole several hundred yards away at the top of one of 
these hills, and we had to climb up there every time there 
was a message to be passed. Doing this at night without 
torches was not a popular occupation. 

When the camp was first set up, the river on which 
we depended for water was a muddy brown and the 
mixture of leaves, broken twigs, and branches made the 
water almost undrinkable. During the rains that sort of 
thing was to be expected, but in the dry season the 
culprits could only be elephants. Luckily the herds moved 
on, and our water supply improved before we became too 

By the following evening, October the eighth, most of 
the sorting out at the camp had been done and we were as 
comfortable as possible. At Kinaini Camp, the lower base, 
the accent was on protection against big game, particularly 
rhino who are a particular menace at night when camp 
fires were burning. All bivouacs were erected beside trees 
which could be climbed easily. The fires were sited so that 
they were ringed with vehicles. Petrol was spilt on nearby 

"HOT SCRUM" 207 

paths used by big game coming down to the river to drink. 
At Frost Camp the emphasis was on keeping warm. All 
the bivouacs were pitched where the ground was not too 
damp. Firewood was collected lower down the mountain 
in the bamboo belt and stacked in large bundles at the 
base, for as soon as the rains broke the tracks would 
become impassable and no more could be fetched. But of 
even greater importance than firewood were the Hexamine 
cookers and their solid fuel tablets which were stored in 
large quantities. The inventor of these cookers was praised 
from the day we arrived at Frost Camp until the day we 
left. When the firewood was wet and it was pouring with 
rain, these cookers were placed in the backs of Land 
Rovers where everyone huddled in search of warmth. 

From these two camps our force set out early on the 
morning of the ninth of October. There was a team for 
each of the nine prayer trees, one for each of the two 
letter boxes, one for each of the food stores, and four to 
search the trapping area south of the Ruhotie valley. In 
addition another five teams were used for odd tasks such 
as ambushing known gang routes and watching various 
springs where it was thought Kimathi might be drawing 
water. One reserve party, consisting of two smaller teams, 
was held back at the camps, rationed and armed and ready 
to move off at a minute's notice. 

This operation would make or break us. We knew that 
if we failed to account for Kimathi this time, he would 
disappear for many months, probably for years, probably 
for ever. Our span of life, operationally speaking, was 
about two weeks. After that the region would be so full of 
our tracks that Kimathi would undoubtedly abandon it for 
good, knowing that a major force had been thrust against 
him and that his favourite haunts had also become our 
favourite haunts. Once he realised this, once he realised 
we knew his fourteen key points, he would certainly 
vanish. He might cross through the settled areas and go 
into the vast forests of Mount Kenya; he might move into 
the sparsely inhabited regions of the Uaso Nyiro or go 
further into the Northern Frontier district, which he knew 
well; he might travel further and cross into Tanganyika or 
Ethiopia. He might even commit suicide and leave us 


hunting him for months after his death. He had talked 
about all these things, as I knew only too well. 

By the night of the ninth, all our teams had reached 
their destinations. Those at the letter boxes found from a 
study of tracks that two terrorists had visited the trees 
three or four days before. They had left behind withering 
branches, a sign, we believed, that they had picked up 
letters which had been left for them. This meant that 
Mbaka's two companions, who had disappeared over the 
crest of the hill during the last operations, had now 
rejoined Kimathi. There was good news from one of the 
teams at the food stores. They arrived to find that the new 
store contained a few pounds of dried buck meat which 
suggested that the process of building up a reserve supply 
of food had begun and should continue. Those teams 
moving into the trapping area and to the prayer trees 
arrived without mishap but found nothing of special inter- 
est to tell us. 

This time we did not intend to lie up close beside the 
key points. In the first place, it was obvious that Kimathi 
would not go to any of them, be they his stores, his prayer 
trees, his letter boxes, or his traps, unless he had sent his 
men ahead to see that all was safe. As long as he had any 
followers, he would expose them before he exposed him- 
self. This meant that little good would come of ambushing 
the key points and capturing anyone who came along. Our 
plan this time was to hide a short distance from the key 
points which would be visited by two men every few 
hours to find out if anyone had been to them. If someone 
had, the team would be called up and the fresh tracks of 
the visitors would be followed until they led to Kimathi. 
In effect, we were going to rely on tracking. 

Secondly, the time factor was important. Our men 
could lie in ambush points without moving for three or 
four days, but after that they would become restless, 
bored, and less careful about hiding. This meant that if 
Kimathi's gangsters did not visit any of the key points until 
the fifth or seventh or tenth day, there was every likeli- 
hood of our teams being seen and our operations 
compromised. We could not afford to run that risk. 

The days passed all too quickly without further devel- 

"HOT SCRUM" 209 

opments, and with each day my anxiety mounted. All the 
time the forest was being plastered more and more with 
our tracks. We began to wonder whether the teams looking 
for traps south of the Ruhotie valley had been seen as they 
combed the forests; we wondered whether other teams 
had been spotted at the time of the move in. Why and 
where was Kimathi lying low? 

On the fourth day, the thirteenth of October, runners 
were sent out to contact all the teams except those search- 
ing for traps, with whom we could not get into touch. We 
asked if Kimathi could have seen them or their tracks, but 
in each case they said that this could not have been so. 
Nevertheless, every hour produced more tracks and more 
evidence of our presence in the forest. Before we had 
prayed for the rains to hold off, now we prayed that the 
rains would come to obliterate every mark that we had 
made and give us a fresh start. The rain birds, with their 
perpetual, incessant whistle, were heard all over the forest 
but that was little consolation as they had been whistling 
for several days. 

Each morning the European and African staff left the 
camps and visited rendezvous points deep in the forest 
where reports were sent by the teams, but day after day 
the results were negative. As a distraction, we set a 
number of partridge traps near our two base-camps. When 
a bird was caught, the other camp would be raised on the 
wireless and proudly informed of the achievement. Once 
when Busani at Kinaini was hauled out of bed to be told 
by Gethieya at Frost Camp that his score had gone up by 
one, Busani retorted: 'That's nothing. Here we have just 
caught twelve and given them Patchetts and sent them 
back into the forest to hunt for Kimathi!" A camp without 
Busani was really no camp at all. This huge, strapping 
Mkamba, over six feet tall and weighing almost fourteen 
stone, a native of the hot country of Machakos, always had 
a smile on his face. He did not, however, have any special 
liking for climbing the steep slopes of the Aberdares. We 
all sympathised with him for having so much weight to 
drag along, but we could never look back and watch him 
toiling up the hills without bursting into laughter and this 
invariably made him collapse on the ground, laughing 


heartily, too. Yet, although he was no mountaineer, his 
physical strength was colossal. With his massive shoulders 
and arms he could lift the back of a Land Rover clear off 
the ground while a wheel was changed, a feat which 
gained him the nickname kereni, or crane, among the 

As always, we had our moments with game. One day 
we saw a huge bull elephant feeding itself in a valley 
beside Kinaini Camp. Accompanied by one of our terror- 
ists, Mac and I went down to have a look at it. We reached 
a spot from where we had an excellent view of this colossal 
beast, but that was by no means near enough for our 
companion who dared us to accompany him closer. We 
unwisely accepted the challenge and on we went. Within a 
few minutes we entered an extremely thick belt of muondwe 
scrub where none of us could see more than a yard or two 
ahead. Suddenly, we were horrified to see the bull only a 
few feet in front of us, facing in our direction with its 
trunk upraised. With a grunt, the terrorist shot past us 
and went crashing through the undergrowth. Mac and I 
followed suit. We dashed out of the muondwe belt and up 
the side of the valley where we paused, breathless, to 
glance back. Much to our relief and surprise, the elephant 
was still standing exactly where we had left him. With 
arms, legs, and clothes all torn and scratched, we trudged 
back to camp. For two nights I dreamt about elephants! 
Bill Eastbrook had a worse experience. He met two 
large buffalo on a track where, on the one side, there was 
a vertical drop of some thirty feet and, on the other, a 
steep cliff. Unluckily, the animals decided against running 
down the track away from him. Instead they thundered up 
towards him, and he had the hair-raising experience of 
standing there with nothing larger than a revolver in his 
hand, as they bolted past him, one on either side. If he 
had run he would almost certainly have been killed. I 
think this was the narrowest shave any of the staff person- 
nel experienced during the operation, for to be sandwiched 
between two galloping buffalo is an experience never to be 

Soon after this, Mac was driving his Land Rover along 
Wanderer's Track towards Frost Camp, quite unaware of 

"HOT SCRUM" 211 

danger, when a charging rhino rammed the back of his 
vehicle. He had heard a crash behind him and felt the 
back of the vehicle jump up. On looking round, he was 
shocked to see the rhino close on his tail. Accelerating 
furiously, he dashed into the camp, where the terrorists 
claimed that the rhino would not have charged him had it 
not seen his moustache and mistaken it for the horns of a 

And so the first few days passed. I carried my lucky 
Arab silver bracelet, still tied to a handkerchief, from 
camp to camp, and we all hoped it would bring us luck in 
the days to come. 



Mageria nimo mahota. 

Where there is a will there is a way. 

We were beginning to wonder whether the fourteen 
key points really were going to provide us with a lead to 
Kimathi when, on the afternoon of the fifteenth of Octo- 
ber, events took a sharp turn for the better. Round about 
midday, a single terrorist from Kimathi's gang came to the 
letter box between the Muringato and Itha rivers and put 
a letter in the old beehive. An hour later the team 
covering this point, on one of their routine visits, saw his 
tracks beneath the tree and found the letter in the hive. It 
was in Kimathi's own handwriting and read: 

I am still where you left me and you must come 
back when the store is full. 

It was quite clear that some of Kimathi's gangsters 
were away collecting food for storage. It was also clear that 
if we could find any of them, they would know exactly 
where we could find him. At the time it also seemed 
reasonably sure that Kimathi was somewhere nearby. Hav- 
ing put the letter back in the hive, two men were left in 
ambush while the rest of the team set off to follow up the 
lone terrorist's tracks. They eventually arrived at Frost 
Camp many days later after travelling nearly forty miles 
through the forest on a false trail. Somehow they had lost 



the tracks of Kimathi's man and got onto the tracks of 
another individual. These things happen even with the 
best trackers. 

Other developments were soon reported. In the area 
south of the Ruhotie valley, one of the trap-searching 
teams found the tracks of two other terrorists. These 
zigzagged about all over the place and even doubled back 
on their original course. Only terrorists in search of suit- 
able places to lay game traps would keep changing direc- 
tion like this, yet that explanation did not seem to fit this 
case. Why should they twice return to ground they had 
already inspected? By dusk the team had not solved this 
problem and on the following morning, the sixteenth of 
October, they split up into pairs to sweep through the 

Half a mile south of the Ruhotie River, there is a 
swamp thickly covered with water-plants and tall ithanji 
reeds. While two of our men were edging their way 
through it, they thought they heard a rifle being loaded 
the sound of a bolt being snapped forward and closed. 
Thinking they had run into Kimathi, both men immediate- 
ly blazed away into the reeds with their weapons. They 
heard a splash and they saw the tall reeds shaking further 
over to their left. Cautiously they advanced. But a few 
steps further on they heard something bubbling in the 
water. They looked down and saw Gitahi, fcimathi's most 
trusted veteran, who had been shot in the back and was 
now lying half submerged in the water. They dragged him 
out and questioned him. There had been three terrorists 
in the reeds, 7 Kar, Ngunyi, and himself. They had left 
Kimathi, Wanjiru, and Maragua three days before, many 
miles up the mountains near Mihuro in the very thick 
bamboo while they had come down to trap buck and store 
meat in the newly made food store. 

Gitahi was immediately talkative, probably because 
he was half drowned, and agreed to lead our men back to 
Kimathi's hiding place. No effort was made to search for 
his two companions. They would probably make for the 
beehive letter box where two of our men were already 
waiting. If they did so, all would be well, for they would 
be caught there, but if they rushed straight back to 


Kimathi and reached him before we did, our position 
would be most serious. Gitahi knew every one of the 
fourteen key points upon which our operation was based, 
and Kimathi might easily see to it that none of his men 
visited any of them again when he heard of Gitahi's 

It was a race against time. Fortunately our two terror- 
ists were sufficiently intelligent to realise this, so half 
carrying, half dragging their wounded prisoner, they made 
off as fast as they could for Kinaini base camp which they 
reached at five past four that afternoon. Only three hours 
were left before nightfall. A strong team was quickly 
prepared, and a bush stretcher was made to carry Gitahi; 
the assault had to be planned and the siting of supporting 
teams had to be decided. While Gitahi's wound was being 
dressed, runners were sent hurrying off to contact all the 
teams by the letter boxes, the food stores, and prayer 
trees to tell them to move in beside their key points and 
ambush them. Other runners were sent to recall those 
teams ambushing forest paths and water points well out of 
range of Kimathi's present position. A third group went off 
to recall the teams looking for game traps south of the 
Ruhotie valley. 

At four o'clock there were only sixteen terrorists 
available at Frost Camp and Kinaini. Once the assault 
team had been picked and the runners sent off, only three 
men were left. 

The task allotted to the runners that crucial evening 
was paiticularly dangerous. Not only did they run a grave 
risk of being mistaken for hostile terrorists by the teams, 
whom they would reach long after dark, but they faced a 
tremendous threat from wild game. It was bad enough to 
go through the Tree Tops Salient in the daytime, but to go 
through it at night, and alone, must have been hair- 
raising. However bad their background, however shady 
their characters, we raised our hats to these runners. 

As far as it is humanly possible to know a forest well, 
we knew the area where Kimathi had been reported. The 
bamboo there was so thick and interwoven that a noiseless 
approach was practically impossible. That was probably 
the reason he had chosen to stay there. It was a place 


where his enemies could not creep up on him without 
being heard. He would probably hear us a hundred yards 
away and run for it, but then he too would make a 
noice a noise which we could follow. Only the fastest and 
most agile of our available men were chosen for the assault 

We left only one man in Frost Camp and one in 
Kinaini, all the others, including the sick, were mustered 
and armed. Within half an hour of Gitahi's arrival our 
transport was grinding up the mountain with accelerators 
hard down on the floor boards. At the ninety-four-hundred- 
mark, the main assault team, led by the ever-faithful Gati, 
dropped off and disappeared into the forest, with Gitahi 
bouncing up and down on a stretcher. A little further on, 
we sent off three two-man teams to ambush three fords 
that Kimathi might use. The time was exactly 6:16 P.M. 
when the last team took up its position. Twenty-six miles 
had been covered since the vehicles left Kinaini camp, 
twenty-six miles up a rough, mountainous track in one 
hour and ten minutes. 

That night was certainly one to remember. Laurie 
Pearse and Jim Stephen, lying in ambush at one of Kimathi's 
favourite crossing points, were almost trampled by a rhino 
which came up on them so quickly and silently in the 
darkness that they first saw its massive black form a few 
yards away. Gethieya and a terrorist, ambushing at an- 
other crossing, were put to flight by a large, aggressive 
beast which they could not identify. Opposite Ruhuru-ini 
hill, a team of two terrorists became entangled in a pack of 
African wild dogs. The dogs were running down a bushbuck 
which ran between our ambushers and brought the pack 
down on top of them. For several minutes there was a 
great deal of growling and snarling, but fortunately noth- 
ing worse happened. An otter bit the heel of one of the 
men on the Chania River ford and the single terrorist left 
on guard at Kinaini, feeling somewhat hungry, ate a tin of 
Simonize car polish thinking it was butter. 

Meanwhile our assault team had problems of its own. 
After leaving the vehicles, Gatfs team had only carried 
Gitahi on the stretcher a short way before they found they 
could not get it through the tangled mass of bamboo, so 


they threw it away and lifted Gitahi on their shoulders. 
But Gitahi soon found that this was too uncomfortable 
and, despite his wound, decided to walk, which, incredi- 
bly, he did. 

Just before darkness fell they got within one hundred 
and fifty yards of Kimathi's hideout. There they halted while 
Gitahi stretched out his arm and pointed out its rough 
position to them. They could not see the hideout itself, but 
they could make out the clump of bamboo beside it quite 
easily and that was a good enough pin point. Leaving Gitahi 
behind, the team split up. After turning towards Mount 
Kenya and praying for a few seconds, they rushed the hide- 
out from three sides. But it was empty. The care with which 
Kimathi had covered up all his tracks, the care with which he 
had buried the ashes of the fire, the care with which 
he had ruffled the grass where he lay, was proof that he 
had not left in a hurry. He had moved house. The team 
called up Gitahi, and all sat down in the hideout to discuss 
their next move. Had Kimathi dreamt again? One thing was 
certain, his departure had not been inspired by Ngunyi or 7 
Kar, for then he would have leapt away without making such 
elaborate arrangements. In any case, the hideout had been 
abandoned long before the action in the camp. 

Huddled together round Gitahi, who was shivering 
from cold and shock, the team reviewed the facts. Soon 
they came to the conclusion that they had been rather 
stupid ever to suppose that Kimathi would be there. After 
all, he would not normally stay in a place known to men 
who were out of his sight for fear that they would be 
captured and guide the security forces back to him. That 
was a risk he would hate to take. The fact that he had said 
in his letter "I am still where you left me" did not 
necessarily mean that he was still in the same hideout. He 
would say this in any case to let his absent followers know 
that all was well. 

In our team there were four terrorists who had once 
belonged to Kimathi's gang. They now recalled many 
previous occasions when Kimathi had left letters saying he 
was in a given place whereas, in fact, he had been in the 
vicinity. That was what he always meant he was never to 
be taken too literally and it would be up to his men to 


search for him. This time they thought Kimathi was proba- 
bly expecting Gitahi, 7 Kar, and Ngunyi to look for him 
anywhere in the bamboo belt within two miles of the 

As there was little more than three quarters of an 
hour of daylight left, it would normally have been prefera- 
ble to spend the night quietly in the hideout and begin a 
search of the surrounding forest early in the following 
morning, but this was not a normal occasion. Nobody 
could tell whether Ngunyi and 7 Kar were already search- 
ing for Kimathi. The hunt had to continue, even by night. 

Leaving three men in the hideout to deal with 7 Kar 
and Ngunyi if they arrived, the rest of the team set off 
with Gitahi, towards the only spring in the area, which 
was less than half a mile away. That was the place the gang 
had entered before Gitahi went down the mountain, and 
as Kimathi would never water at a river the noise would 
prevent his hearing the approach of his enemies it was 
the only place nearby from which he could draw water. 
Within a few minutes they were there and began to 
examine the ground. The sun had already fallen behind 
the mountain and the light was poor, but they were able to 
see that the spring was still in use. They could just see one 
set of tracks leading away up a slope and winding on 
through the bamboo. Gitahi was pushed into the lead and 
the hunt began. 

They had not gone more than two hundred yards 
when Gitahi suddenly dropped to the ground. Like a row 
of skittles, everyone behind him fell down and lay still. 
Gitahi swung his left hand slowly round behind him and 
clawed at the soft earth with his fingers as a signal to Gati 
to creep up beside him. "Kabuci Kau [there's the hideout]," 
he whispered. Gati raised his head slightly and peered 
through the bamboo. There, about thirty yards in front of 
him, was a buckskin coat hanging on a branch and three 
cooking sticks jutting out of the ground below it. For 
several minutes the team lay completely quiet to see if 
they could hear anything moving about, but all was silent. 
Then they crept forward, some going round the side, 
others round the back, until they had surrounded the 
cooking sticks. Once again the hideout was empty. But 


this time there was a difference. Stuck away under a little 
bush was a heap of newly cut thabai, or wild nettle, and 
an old pot; beside this was a leg and the ribs of a buck; 
near the entrance were two skin bags and a tattered army 
blanket, further over, beside a bed of flattened grass, were 
two rusty bully-beef tins Kimathi's cups. Looking around 
more carefully, Gati found two lengths of trapping wire 
rolled up neatly on sticks and placed at the foot of the 
"bed." And under the thabai was Kimathi's Kikuyu Bible, 
the only book he had not burnt. Here lay Kimathi's 
worldly wealth, with the sole exception of his revolver and 
the leopard-skin jacket which he wore, a jacket he had 
taken from his brother, Wambararia. 

Our men spread out to wait for Kimathi's return. 
They were confident that at long last his day had come. 
They waited while the elephant, the rhino, the wild dogs, 
and the otter were terrorising or aggravating our lonely 
ambushers. They waited while the moon rose high. They 
waited while the partridges began to call at dawn. Still 
there was no sign of Kimathi. 

Far away down the mountain all but one of the 
runners had contacted their teams by this time. From that 
moment, Kimathi's letter boxes, his food stores, and his 
favourite prayer trees were closely ambushed. As the 
night of the sixteenth of October faded, we cut Kimathi's 
life line. 



Ruhonoka ti gutura. 

To pass through danger once is no guarantee for 
the next time. 

To escape is not to survive. 

When Kimathi did not return to his hideout by dawn 
on the seventeenth of October, Gati's team split into two 
groups. One waited at the hideout, the other began a 
search of the surrounding forest. By now five other teams 
that had arrived at Kinaini camp shortly after daybreak 
were being rationed, briefed, and brought round through 
the forest to close in on the Mihuro area. 

Then, to our delight, a heavy shower of rain fell over 
most of the eastern Aberdares, We knew that this would 
obliterate all the tracks we had left in the forest during the 
previous eight days. It would also make it very difficult for 
Kimathi to break away from Mihuro without leaving tracks 
of his own. 

Soon there was more good news. All three of the 
buck traps laid by Gitahi, 7 Kar, and Ngunyi many days 
before were found and removed by our men. We knew 
that when this phase of operations against Kimathi began 
his gang had seven trapping wires. The removal of these 
three in the Ruhotie and the discovery of the two in his 
hideout left him with two. If these were found, he would 
be unable to trap and this would force him to seek food in 



the Kikuyu reserve. This, in turn, would expose him to 
the Kikuyu guard, the regular security forces, and all the 
other dangers that beset a terrorist who leaves the forest. 
His only alternative would be to visit the new food store 
under the large fig tree in the Ruhotie valley, but there we 
were already waiting for him. 

The rain had barely stopped, the forest was still 
dripping, when a team led by Ruku was shot at. They did 
not see their enemy, but they had no doubt who it was. 
Spreading out quickly, they raced forward, but after run- 
ning two hundred yards, Ruku trod on a stump and badly 
injured his foot. He fell while his men ran on out of sight. 
He was left alone, far behind, bandaging his foot with a 
strip of dirty cloth. As he sat there, he realised that he was 
not alone. Rising to his feet, his bandage still only half 
tied, he looked around. At that precise moment he saw 
Kimathi walk out of a thick clump of bamboo and start 
across a small clearing about thirty feet away. Kimathi's 
long, black plaited hair was hanging down over his face 
and shoulders. His arms were hidden beneath his large 
leopard-skin coat and he was wet through from the rain. 
For a moment Ruku could not believe his eyes. Then he 
nervously lifted his Patchett automatic, aimed at Kimathi's 
moving body and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud 
click as the bolt sprang forward, but the weapon did not 
fire. Kimathi turned round, looked straight at Ruku, and 
instantly put his hands in front of his face as though to 
shield his eyes from a burst of bullets. Ruku grabbed the 
bolt of his gun and drew it back to reload, but Kimathi was 
already turning away and running for cover with his hands 
now crossed behind his head. Ruku aimed again and 
pulled the trigger, but still the weapon did not fire. 
Seconds later Kimathi had disappeared. 

With a heavy heart, Ruku limped away to rejoin his 
men. Dumbfounded, they listened as he told them his 
story. They stripped his weapon to find out why it had 
failed to fire, but they could find nothing wrong with it. 
They went back to the clearing where they examined 
Kimathi's tracks. They saw where Ruku had stood and 
where Kimathi had dashed out of sight. After the rain his 
trail was clear, and they followed it. 


We had never disputed the fact that Kimathi was 
abnormally lucky, but this was the last straw. After many 
months of toil and hardship, we had finally got him within 
our grasp, staring into the muzzle of a loaded sub-machine 
gun, and yet he had escaped unscathed. The effect of this 
mishap on the rest of the terrorists in our force was easy to 
foresee. They would have been convinced that he was 
immortal. Some would have regarded the incident as a 
sign that Ngai wanted him to remain alive. Fortunately, 
very fortunately, events followed this one in such quick 
succession that no one had time to brood. 

The first of Kimathi's two remaining traps was found 
by Gati's team within a hundred yards of the spring at ten 
o'clock that morning. By two o'clock in the afternoon, we 
had located the second trap. As some of Gati's men 
approached it, they heard Kimathi's high-pitched voice 
cafl out "Who is there?" He was standing about forty yards 
to one side of the trap hidden in the forest. One of our 
men shouted back "It is us." "Who?" shouted Kimathi 
abruptly. "7 Kar," said our man, but Kimathi would have 
none of it and as he took to his heels he shouted to 
Wanjiru, "Mother of the Gods, be caught by yourself!" 

With Gati's team chasing them, Kimathi, Maragua^ 
and Wanjiru ran through the forest. Then there was firing 
ahead. They had bumped into Gacheru's team coming up 
from the Zaina Valley. Gacheru shot at Maragua. Gacheru 
saw him fall as though wounded, then rise and run on, 
carrying a rifle. Gitero fired a long burst at some shaking 
leaves, but it was one of Gacheru's men. Everything was 
happening quickly. Friend and foe were jumbled together, 
firing indiscriminately at everything that moved. Then 
Kimathi was seen again. He was standing behind a bush as 
one of our men named Mugo ran out. Kimathi shot with 
his revolver at point-blank range, but missed. Mugo shot 
back, but Kimathi had already slipped behind a tree and 
was off through the undergrowth. Ruku's team, who had 
been following Kimathi's tracks and getting closer and 
closer to him, heard the running gun battle and raced up 
to join in the melee. Within minutes they too saw Kimathi 
for a split second, shot at him, missed, and then chased 
after him. From time to time Kimathi and Maragua fired 


back at their pursuers. Nderitu, from Gati's team, armed 
only with a sirra, caught up with Kimathi, and was about 
to slash him down from behind when Kimathi turned and 
fired at him. The bullet passed through Nderitu's skin 
coat, grazing his stomach. He fell back, too shocked to go 

Then Maragua broke away from Kimathi and was seen 
climbing a steep cliff towards the Moorlands, dragging his 
rifle along the ground by its muzzle. Bullets kicked up the 
earth round him, but he reached the top and disappeared 
over the brow. A few yards further on Wanjiru fell exhausted 
and was captured. She swore at her captors, spat at them, 
bit them, and kicked at them as they bound her up. Most 
of our men were tiring after the hot pace and crowded 
round her, but a few raced on after stopping momentarily 
to look at the woman who had outrun and outfought them 
before. Now Kimathi was alone! He had seen his woman 
fall, but he never paused to help her. He had seen 
Maragua break away with his only remaining rifle. He 
knew he could never find 7 Kar or Ngunyi again. Perhaps 
they had led his hunters on to him, and he did not want to 
see them again anyway. Like a frightened buck, gifted 
with that extra strength which only the fringe of death can 
provide, he fled on through the forest. The chase contin- 
ued for another two miles. Now and then our men heard 
Kimathi ahead but he was gaining on them. For the last 
time he vanished into the forest. 

That evening, Wanjiru, wearing a dirty buckskin gar- 
ment and still bleeding from bad cuts on her legs, was 
brought to Kinaini camp. She was lean, but wiry and very 
strong. For a Kikuyu girl, she had unusually sharp features 
and was not unattractive she had, after all, been chosen 
by her master from all the hundreds of Kikuyu girls who 
went into the forest at the beginning of the emergency. 
There were scars all over her body which bore witness to 
the terrible life she had led in the jungle. We began to 
question her about her master's movements. 

It turned out that Kimathi had not been alone when 
Ruku saw him in the glade. Wanjiru and Maragua had 
been waiting for him under a tree only a short distance 
away. After his miraculous escape, he had come running 


up to them and told them what had happened. All three 
had then headed west to collect their belongings from 
their hideout before moving on to some other faraway 

"Why didn't you go back to the hideout last night?" 
asked Gati. "Kimathi refused," answered Wanjiru who 
now told how the three of them had left the hideout to 
check their two game traps. For some unexplained reason, 
Kimathi had decided to lie out in the forest for the night. 
Both she and Maragua had pleaded with him to return 
because they were hungry and there was buck meat and 
wild nettle there to be eaten, but he was resolute in his 
refusal. When the rain started the following morning, they 
had stood beneath a tree for shelter, and when the storm 
passed Kimathi told them to wait until he returned. Why 
he went, or where he went to, nobody knew, but it was 
during this lone journey that he had run into Ruku. 

All that night at Kinaini camp we tried to decide what 
Kimathi would do now that he was alone. We thought he 
might go back to his hideout to collect the food and some 
of his possessions. The hideout was already ambushed. He 
might go to his food store in the Ruhotie valley. We were 
already waiting for him there. He might go to his letter 
boxes to look for Gitari, Ngunyi, and 7 Kar. We were there 
too. He might go to a prayer tree. We were watching 
every one that he was likely to visit. He would be hungry, 
and knowing that his last two traps in Mihuro had been 
found, he might go to the Ruhutie area to look for Ngunyi's 
three traps. We had already removed them, and there 
were teams in the area. He could not boil wild nettle 
because his only cooking pot was in his hideout. He could 
not trap meat because he had no traps. He could not live 
on honey because there was none in the area. Unless he 
tried to find food in the places where we were already 
waiting for him, he would be forced to take the biggest 
risk of all to go alone to steal food in the populated 
Kilcuyu reserve. But that was the only course for which, 
apart from suicide, we had, as yet, no solution. This was 
the only point on which we needed Wanjiru's advice. At 
what point along the forest edge would Kimathi enter the 
Kikuyu reserve when hunger forced his hand? Wanjiru 


knew her Kimathi well, and we knew he would confide in 
her far more than he would in any of his men. He had 
probably discussed with her already the route they would 
take to enter the reserve if the worst were to happen, but 
even if he had not done so, her opinion would be worth a 
great deal, for she knew which areas Kimathi thought 
were safe and which he thought were dangerous. 

Three female terrorists in our force were first put 
with Wanjiru in the hope that she would give them 
information that she would not give to the men, but 
despite many hours of talk, she would not co-operate with 
them. "There is nothing," she repeated, "which would 
make Kimathi go near the reserve." Then som.e of our men 
took her aside and tried to talk her round but all she 
would say to them was, "How could I know which route 
you would take if you were chased from here?" I then 
tried myself, but it was no good. She refused to look at 
me. As she spoke she gazed at the ground. She refused to 
eat or drink anything because, as she said, "You might 
have bewitched it." As a last resort, Gitahi and some of 
Kimathi's old guard were sent off to talk to her in a quiet, 
secluded place. They chatted for hours and hours in a 
circle round a little fire, then when the dawn's winds rose, 
they moved to a small bivouac where, huddled together, 
they continued the conversation. By daybreak her old 
comrades had won her over. She named two possible 
places on the forest edge where Kimathi was most likely to 
cross into the Native Reserve. Instead of being stubbornly 
loyal to her master as she had been the evening before, 
she now grew angry whenever anyone referred to her as 
"Kimathi*s woman" and instead of refusing food, she drank 
some gruel and ate several pounds of meat. She had 
suddenly come to hate Kimathi. This was a typical exam- 
ple of Mau Mau psychology. For hours, or even weeks, a 
hardened supporter of Mau Mau will lean one way with 
utmost stubbornness, resisting every argument and every 
new idea, then, suddenly, some minute factor produces a 
fantastic change and the victim leans the other way, often 
with equal stubbornness. Normally, that vital, trivial chink 
in their mental armour can only be found by persons of 
the same mentality. 


The two places on the forest edge where Kimathi 
would cross were, according to Wanjiru, a point opposite 
the Kikuyu village of Kihuyo in Tetu Location, or a point 
near the Zaina River. As we could not risk putting our own 
terrorists at either of these places for fear that they would 
be shot at either by the security forces or the Kikuyu 
guard, we had no alternative to calling up conventional 
forces to cordon the forest edge at those two vital points. 
We sent an urgent signal to Nyeri early on the morning of 
the eighteenth of October, asking for help, and within two 
hours, Colonel Eric Hayes-Newington, operational staff 
officer at Provincial Police Headquarters in Nyeri, arrived 
at Kinaini base camp. He brought with him a letter of 
encouragement from the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant- 
General Sir Gerald Lathbury. 

Some other teams were now reporting to Frost Camp. 
They were quickly rationed and moved down the moun- 
tain, but they were warned not to work as low down as the 
forest edge where Eric had been asked to establish a string 
of nighttime ambushes. 

Then for the first time we had a spare moment to 
examine Ruku's Patchett. The wrong type of 9-mm. am- 
munition had been issued to Ruku, and this had caused 
the jam that fateful afternoon when Kimathi walked in 
front of him. 

That night units of the Kings African Rifles and Kenya 
police took up ambush positions on the forest edge oppo- 
site Kihuyo village, while units of Tribal Police and Tribal 
Police Reserve formed a stop line along the forest edge 
between Njogu-ini and the Zaina River. The eastern flank 
was secure. 

Kimathi's movements after his escape from the fight 
at Mihuro show very clearly that he too knew his end was 
near. From one o'clock on the seventeenth of October, 
when he was last heard disappearing through the bamboo, 
until four o'clock the following afternoon, he did not rest 
once, not even long enough to drink. First he headed 
north towards the National Park track, then he swung 
sharply to the west and climbed up the mountain, then he 
turned south and raced on until he reached Chania Hill, 
then he went east again, down the mountain, as though he 


was making for the Kikuyu reserve. When he was about 
eight miles from the reserve he went north again, thus 
completing a full circle. He did not cross the National Park 
track at any of his usual crossing place, nor did he choose a 
spot where the forest was thick and safe, but dashed across 
an open space where no terrorist would normally tread. 
Then back in the Tree Tops Salient, he stumbled on for 
several miles, still going north, until he reached the steep 
valley of the Mwathe. Finally, at about four o'clock on the 
afternoon of the eighteenth of October after travelling 
non-stop for just under twenty-eight hours and covering a 
distance of almost eighty miles, he collapsed within half a 
mile of the forest edge at Njogu-ini, There he spent the 
night lying out in the ghostly forest as he had done more 
than a thousand times before, but this time he was absolutely 

After dawn on the nineteenth of October, Kimathi 
made no effort to leave the forest edge. He crept along the 
fringe, eying the Kikuyu working in the Tetu Location, 
until he reached a point where he could look down on 
Karnna-ini, the place where he had spent much of his 
youth. There he sat gazing across the hilly country dotted 
with wattle trees and banana plantations, and there he 
drank some water from a stream. All day he sat, but as 
night fell hunger drove him on. Before the moon rose, he 
crossed the deep ditch on the forest edge which had been 
dug earlier in the emergency to stop food carriers from 
taking supplies to the gangs in the forest, and for the first 
time in more than forty months he set foot in the Kikuyu 
reserve. He stripped some sugar cane and a few unripe 
bananas from a nearby plot and darted back to the forest to 
eat them. Our ambush parties should have spotted him, 
but his luck had not quite deserted him. 

By the morning of the twentieth of October several of 
our teams were moving on the forest edge, as by this time 
we had found the place where Kimathi had collapsed near 
Njogu-ini and it was clear that he was somewhere along 
the edge. Twice during the day Mac and I left the forest 
and circled round through the reserve to various points 
along the ditch to try to see that none of our teams 


reached the fringe and clashed with the army, police, and 
Tribal Police ambush parties. 

Events were now largely out of our hands. The ma- 
chine could grind on without direction and late on the 
morning of the twentieth of October, I left the Aberdares 
and flew down to Nairobi. That afternoon my wife and I 
were presented to Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, 
at a garden party at Government House. It was, as the 
Americans would say, quite a contrast. 

I had planned to spend forty-eight hours in Nairobi 
and return to the forest at dawn on the twenty-second of 
October, but Kimathi's luck did not hold out long enough 
for that. After wandering silently along the forest edge on 
the twentieth, he again crossed the ditch that night. Again 
he passed our guards who did not see him in the darkness 
and again he stripped some foodstuffs from a small plot, 
this time deeper in the reserve. But at 6:30 A.M. on 
Sunday the twenty-first, as he was sneaking back to the 
forest with the food he had stolen, he was seen by a party 
of six Kikuyu tribal policemen just as he was recrossing 
the ditch. While trying to climb out of the ditch into the 
forest, he was challenged by a tribal policeman called 
Ndirangu Mau. Kimathi ran down the ditch. Ndirangu 
fired three shots at him. Two missed. The third knocked 
him down. He got up again, climbed out of the ditch and 
rolled into the forest. Kimathi could not get far; he was 
found almost immediately, still wearing his leopard-skin 
coat, lying under a bush a few yards inside the forest. He 
had been severely wounded in the thigh. His revolver was 
found strapped to his body under his skin jacket. 

The three shots were clearly heard by our teams near 
the forest edge. They knew it could only mean that 
Kimathi had been seen. They quickly spread out in the 
undergrowth, parallel to the forest edge in case he had 
escaped and was running towards them. But Kimathi did 
not appear. He was taken first to Ihururu, the chiefs 
centre, from which he had escaped right at the beginning 
of the emergency. From there he was removed to hospital 
in Nyeri. XT 

A strong cordon of police was thrown round the Nyen 


hospital, not to prevent Kimathi's escape, but to stop 
crowds of angry Kikuyu, whose sons and daughters and 
mothers and fathers had been murdered by his fanatical 
followers, from dragging him out and tearing him limb 
from limb. And so the hunt of Dedan Kimathi ended. 
Kimathi was operated on that afternoon and later removed 
to the Nyeri prison hospital where a platoon of the Police 
General Service Unit mounted guard over him. As the 
days passed his condition improved steadily and within 
three weeks he was judged medically fit to stand his trial. 
The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Kenya, 
sitting at Nyeri. It had a magnetic influence upon people 
of all races in the colony. Everyday the courtroom was 
crowded with curious spectators who were anxious to see 
what Kimathi looked like. As each witness filed into the 
witness-box, Kimathi stared at him in the same way he 
had stared at his victims and enemies in the forest before. 
The hearing lasted many days and argument followed 
argument as both the crown prosecutor and the counsel 
for the defence left no leaf unturned in their opposing 
roles. In a hushed courtroom, the judge ultimately summed 
up the evidence. Then three African accessors gave their 
opinions. They were unanimously agreed that Kimathi was 
guilty. Finally the judge found Kimathi guilty and sen- 
tenced him to be hanged. The prisoner showed no emo- 
tion. It had been a fair and thorough trial by any standard. 
It was quite a contrast with his "trials" in the forest. 

Kimathi was then removed from Nyeri prison and 
taken under strong escort to the main Nairobi gaol. There 
he remained while his appeal was argued and dismissed. 
Four and a half months later he was executed. 

He was hardly a political figure, but he was a criminal 
of the first rank. It was appropriate that he should fall at 
last to a party of Kikuyu tribal policemen, representatives 
of that gallant body of tribal loyalists who had stood firm 
with government and decency when the star of Mau Mau 
seemed to be rising. It was a final illustration of the great 
part that the Kikuyu people themselves played in the 
defeat of Mau Mau. The young Kikuyu children of the 
future would be able to stand outside their homes and 


look up at the distant mountain and say: "That is where an 
evil past is buried/' 

After visiting Kimathi in the hospital at Nyeri, I went 
straight back into the forest to unwind our operation and 
stand down the oddest army that had ever fought for 
Queen and country in the history of the British Empire. 
Rumors were sent out to bring all our teams back to 
Kinaini base. During the next forty-eight hours they trick- 
led into camp tired out and weary. Gati was almost the last 
to arrive, lagging far behind the rest of his men, walking 
slowly, picking at his teeth with a piece of stick. He was 
deep in thought. 

When I saw his coming I went over and took him 
aside. We sat beneath the shade of a big tree to talk. 
"Well, it's all finished, Gati," I said. "Yes, Kinyanjui, it 
finished as Kingori prophesied in the tenth month before 
the rains for millet planting began." Then I remembered 
Kingori's words in prison some six months before. The 
prophecy had been fulfilled. 

The last ambush team from the prayer trees was now 
coming into our camp. Of all Kimathi's prayer trees, those 
mugumo trees to which he had made his pilgrimages in 
search of his god Ngai, there was one which had attracted 
him more than the rest. Perhaps its shape or its surround- 
ings fitted more accurately with the mugumo tree he had 
seen in his dream when "God had taken him by the right 
hand and led him to it." 

This tree stood in the part of the forest which Mau 
Mau called Kahiga-ini. It was an enormous tree with a 
huge trunk and heavy, hanging branches which reached 
almost to the ground. It had stood there for many years, 
probably since the turn of the century. Now the team 
came over to make its last report the mugumo tree had 



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