Frank Neil Brockett 1916-75
Only child of Frank Brockett and Ellen SMITH, Neil—as he was always called—was born 24 Jan 1916 at ‘Lyndon’, Woodthorpe Rd, Ashford, Staines, Middlesex.1 Here are some images of his early years in Southsea:
Neil is an example of a local boy ‘going global’ during the second World War and remaining so for the rest of his life. For a quick overview of his life: Read more
Neil’s father died when he was not quite 6 months old, and during his last illness Ellen removed with Neil to her parents’ home in Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, where she brought Neil up, trained as a midwife, and never remarried. Neil’s early life was within walking distance of Old Portsmouth and the entrance to the large naval base, and in 1928, aged 12, he joined the Officers’ Training Corps. He began his professional career aged 17 in 1934 as a Clerk in Lloyds Bank. But the nation—the Navy in particular—was preparing for war, and in July 1938 Neil completed probation as a Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. War broke out in September 1939 and Neil was called up for active service in December.2 A month later he was given leave to get married, but within a few months was in Dunkirk assisting Naval Captain William Tennant with the famous evacuation. Neil spent much of the rest of the War on board HMS London in the Arctic, S Africa, the Gulf, Australia and the Far East. These experiences widened his horizons and after the War he joined the British Colonial Audit Department and served in Dar-es-Salaam, London, Aden, and Nairobi. When Kenya gained independence in Dec 1963 Neil continued there in the British Diplomatic Service, working principally on the Land Resettlement Scheme. In 1966 he joined the International Monetary Fund and worked as Budget Advisor for the Governments of Liberia and then Indonesia. He died 27 Nov 1975 in Lyminster, W Sussex.
Contents of this page:
1. Southsea 1916-33
2. World War II 1939-45
3. Tanganyika 1946-48
4. London 1948-1951
5. Aden 1951-54
6. Kenya 1954-66
7. Liberia 1966-72 and Indonesia 1974-75
8. Lyminster W Sussex
During Neil’s father’s final illness, Ellen moved back to her home town of Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, see the separate page. Frank’s sister Daisy and her husband also lived there and, not having children of their own, requested to adopt Neil, but Ellen declined. There was apparently also an issue between Ellen and mother-in-law Selina Brockett regarding payment for Frank’s funeral, and Selina finally deducted the £20 for it from Neil’s share in her Will. In addition Neil lived all his childhood and youth till the War with Ellen in her parents’ house and their wider family circles, so all in all Neil had little to do with his Brockett relatives. For instance, he only had faint or repressed recollections of his uncle Jim Brockett, suggesting he had emigrated to Australia, see the separate page.
1928: Joined the OTC—the Officers’ Training Corps—aged 12.3
1930-32: In Jul 1930 F N Brockett was listed with 12 other under-18 candidates from Portsmouth Grammar School who passed the University of Cambridge Certificate Examination.4 His mother’s diary recorded that he was aged 14 years and 5 months. Her diary for his 16th year (1932) recorded: “On June 3 operated for appendicitis”. This apparently prevented him from taking the university entrance exam. He and/or his mother must then have contacted his mother’s 1st cousin Jabez Jabez-Smith, who in 1931 was “A controller of the Advance Department, [Lloyds Bank] Head Office, and 4 years later Assistant Chief Controller”,5 since Jabez wrote to Neil on 1 Sep 1932:
For a transcription Read more
Lloyds Bank Ltd,
My dear Neil,
Come up on any day next week other than Monday Friday or Saturday. Please arrange to be here at 12.45. Take the lift up to the 4th Floor then ask the messenger to send your name in to me. We will then have some luncheon & afterwards we will see the Staff Secretary. Please let me know what day to expect you. …
You may rest assured I will do all I can to get you in.
My love to you all & best of good luck
1933 17 Jan: Neil started work as a Clerk at Lloyds Bank in Shirley, Southampton one week before his 17th birthday.6 His mother’s diary for his 16th year concluded: “Interview with Lloyds Bank in Sep. Accepted. Started in Southampton (Shirley) Lloyds Bank at 16 years 11 months & 3 weeks.”:
As mentioned in the Overview above, Neil had spent his childhood and early youth in the vicinity of the Naval Base in Portsmouth, and at the age of 12 joined the Officers’ Training Corps. Then on 19 Mar 1938, while still working at Lloyds Bank—by that time in Fareham—he was appointed as probationary Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR).7 He completed his probation by July 1938.8 As is well known, on 1 Sep 1939 Germany invaded Poland and two days later Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. On 29 Sep 1939 the England and Wales Register recorded Frank N Brockett, Bank Clerk and Royal Naval Reserve Paymaster Sub [Lieutenant], living with his mother Ellen, Midwife (retired), at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea.9 Neil was called up for active service in December 1939.
Then in the first half of 1940 two major events occurred in Neil’s life: he got married and soon after was transferred to Dunkirk for the famous evacuation.
On 27 Jan Neil and Doreen Lois TWEED were married in Elm Grove Baptist Chapel, Southsea, he aged 24, Bachelor, Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant RNR (Bank Clerk) of 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, she 22, Spinster, Dental Attendant, Portsmouth Education Authority, of 4 Hereford Court, Hereford Rd, Southsea; witnesses the two widowed mothers.10 Doreen was born 5 Sep 1917 in Portsmouth, only daughter of Rev Ernest William and Florence Louise TWEED. Like Neil, Doreen’s father died when she was an infant. Both were brought up in Southsea by their single mothers.
Between January and 18 March 1940 Neil was recorded as Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant in the RNR, date of appointment 19 Mar 1938.11 Then on 19 March he was promoted to Paymaster Lieutenant,12 and within 2 months he was transferred to Dunkirk as part of the Royal Navy’s urgent efforts to evacuate hundreds of thousands of British, French and (?) Belgian troops left stranded when France fell to the Germans. The Senior Naval Officer (S.N.O.) in charge of the evacuation was Captain William Tennant—later Admiral Sir William George Tennant KCB CBE MVO DL—assisted by a team of between 9 and 12 senior officers. His second in command was Commander Guy Maund, and two others in the team relevant to Neil’s work, were Commander Ellwood, in charge of Signals / Communications, and Commander Harold Henderson, the British Naval Liaison Officer (B.N.L.O.).13
A 2½ page typed document entitled ‘NOTES ON THE EVACUATION OF DUNKIRK’ has survived among Neil’s papers concerning aspects of the evacuation he witnessed and was involved in:14
Neil’s Notes survive as a carbon copy of the original, which would probably have had a date and indication of addressee. However it’s clear from the contents that he typed them after the completion of the evacuation, and in response to an official request or requirement. Neil’s Notes included various notes Tennant had asked him to make during the operations, but the typed-up Notes clearly weren’t addressed to Tennant. Indication of the addressee was perhaps deliberately removed for confidential reasons from the carbon copy he kept. His Notes haven’t apparently been archived with the other TNA ADM reports, so perhaps they were requested by Henderson to help him compile his own Report. Neil kept his own carbon copy, but Henderson, or whoever, perhaps discarded Neil’s original once they had finished their own Report. Henderson’s Report hasn’t yet been located. “Ship captains and masters submitted reports of proceedings at the conclusion of the operation. Anyone else in a command function ashore would also submit a report. In addition, officers with a unique perspective might contribute.”15
While being as frank and open as was presumably required, Neil managed not to be overly critical about what must have been desperately frustrating situations, like the erratic progress of embarkation and having to waste time deciphering irrelevant messages: Read more
NOTES ON THE EVACUATION OF DUNKIRK. Paymaster Lieutenant FN Brockett, RNR.16
(A). Notes on work done by me.
Satisfactory up to the time of the breakdown on the Dover line. A day or two previous to this a Signalman sent over from Dover with no equipment except Auxiliary Codes. A wireless van had also been despatched and according to reports arrived at Calais, fate then uncertain. Day that communications with Dover ceased signals were made from the top of the Bastion to a Destroyer in the roads by means of an Aldis lamp, it was then passed to Dover by W/T. The Aldis lamp was obtained with some difficulty from the French. The following day and until the time of departure the French W/T was operating and this was used exclusively.
Com. Ellwood brought with him a private “K.D.G.” code for communicating with Dover. This was a simple letter transposition code and could very easily be broken down.
The code Franco-Brittannique was also used. All other codes had been destroyed when news of the Germans reaching Gravelines was received.
The “K.D.G.” code was used almost entirely for outward messages. This was because the only copy of the code Franco-Brittannique possessed by the French was the French version. Consequently to transmit a message by this code it was first necessary to translate it into French. This meant that the message when decoded at Dover by the English version might differ in some detail from the original message. The decoding of messages in was fairly straight forward as an English De-code was kept by the French.
The main objection to the Anglo-French code was the time taken in deciphering. To give one example, a long message from Dover timed 0900 was received by me at 1300 and the text was finally obtained at 1430. With events moving at the speed they were, quite often the purport of these messages had been anticipated some hours before.
One message was received in a code which no one could decipher. The groups contained 5 letters or figures. A decipherable version was requested.
One cipher received in the Anglo-French code took 3 hours to decipher. When finished it was found to consist of a congratulatory message from General Gort to the Secretary of State for War to pass to Admiralty and a reply from the First Lord and the First Sea Lord to the Secretary of State for War.
(B). Work of evacuation.
On the day after the arrival of the S.N.O. at Dunkirk he asked me to keep notes of the operations of evacuation. As I was not at actual scene for any long period I was unable to construct very comprehensive notes. It was practically impossible to obtain particulars from S.N.O. as he was in the office for short periods only, during which he was either sleeping or conferring with Naval, Army or French Officers.
The notes I was able to compile both from my own Knowledge and from asking various officers who appeared from time to time I gave to Captain Tennant on the day that he went to La Panne. I presume that he did not wish me to make any further notes as he was then running operations from La Panne. On his return two days later I recommenced the notes and when I left the following evening left them at the office.
(C). Various Points Noted.
At the beginning of the evacuation it was intended to use both beaches and mole. It was however found that embarkation from the mole was so much more speedy and orderly that it was used exclusively for the first few days. The average rate of embarkation when sufficient ships were coming alongside was about 3,000 an hour. The non-co-ordination of troops and transport counted for many valuable hours being wasted. For three nights in succession thousands of troops were waiting on the beaches for transport and hardly any ships arrived. At other times so many ships arrived that all the troops in the vicinity were embarked and some time had to elapse before more troops could be brought up to fill the remaining ships. It will be appreciated that these delays harmless enough under ordinary conditions were not pleasant for troops or ships when bombing attacks, machine gunning attacks, and shelling were almost continuous. It was doubly unpleasant for wounded who were in ambulances parked at the shore end of the mole. I believe that in one instance a large party of wounded had to wait at the quay under shelling and bombing for 36 hours.
Protection by the RAF.
This was a very varied in its effects. While the port of Dunkirk was being systematically destroyed there was scarcely a single British Aircraft ever seen overhead in spite of repeated requests to Dover and also by the Air Liaison Officer for more and more protection. When the evacuation commenced regular patrols of fighters were sent over and the effect was so marked that in two days there were not more than three or four air raids. Then the raids began to increase again, due apparently to there being still too few of our machines on patrol. As an instance of this, an R.A.F. pilot who crashed on the beaches and was brought into the office was questioned as to numbers of planes patrolling. He stated that there were probably “more than 40”. That very morning observers had stated that 65 German bombers had flown over Dunkirk in one raid, as these enemy formations were invariably accompanied by a large number of enemy fighters, 40 British fighters would not be sufficient to keep the raiders off. The pilot himself when asked how many enemy fighters were in the battle said that he seemed to be surrounded by them.
Supplies of food for Naval Landing Party.
A Naval Landing Party arrived with 48 hours rations. Supplies of food through official sources at Dunkirk were practically impossible. The S.N.O. requested me to obtain food for these 150 men. On making extensive enquiries it was believed that a food dump made by the British Military Authorities existed some miles from the Bastion. I obtained a car and finally discovered the dump. The copse in which it was situated had been fairly heavily bombed previously and parts of the copse were alight. Fortunately the food itself was unharmed and the car was filled up with supplies. During the latter part of this an air raid was in progress over the end of the copse. The food was then taken out to the beaches and distributed among the party. After this supplies were obtained from some of the transport ships.
It isn’t yet known when Neil was transferred to Dunkirk. His Notes show that by 29 May 1940 he was working for Captain Tennant. Section B of Neil’s Notes began, “On the day after the arrival of the S.N.O. at Dunkirk he asked me to keep notes of the operations of evacuation.” This implies that Neil was there before Tennant arrived. It’s well known that Tennant left Dover for Dunkirk on the afternoon of 27 May 1940 on the destroyer Wolfhound with a naval party of officers, ratings and signals staff, arriving in Dunkirk 1750 that evening.17 Two other comments in Neil’s Notes indicate the same. One, he wrote “Com. Ellwood brought with him a private ‘K.D.G.’ code for communicating with Dover.” Ellwood came over with Tennant.18 And two, under his final section Supplies of food for Naval Landing Party, Neil noted that the party arrived with 48 hours rations, and that the S.N.O. requested him to obtain food for “these 150 men”. “We know that the men in Tennant’s party were provisioned for two days before leaving Dover, and the “150 men” is roughly consistent with the number of ratings who went. There is no indication of another party as large that followed”.19
Neil’s role in Dunkirk didn’t apparently concern being a Paymaster, although his training as such would have contributed to his—by all accounts—commendable fulfilment of his duties. According to Doreen, he was a Liaison Officer, but whether this was her, or Neil’s, own description of his role or an officially-assigned one isn’t known. If it was an official role, then he was probably answerable to Commander Henderson, the British Naval Liaison Officer, who had arrived in Dunkirk before Tennant’s Party. However, once Tennant arrived Neil’s duties appear to have included assisting Tennant wherever required, and also Commander Ellwood had been placed in charge of communications with headquarters back in England. In section (A) under “Codes used,” Neil mentioned Commander Ellwood in his Notes, and Ellwood in his Report noted:20
“During the week under review, the French Wireless Staff had ceased decoding messages in the Code Franco-Brittanique, and had turned this over to Paymaster Lieutenant Brockett, who worked untiringly and with great efficiency, helped only from time to time by the B.N.L.O. or myself.”
and went on to quote the two paragraphs from Neil’s Notes verbatim, starting “The K.D.G. Code …” Neil was also singled out by Commander Guy Maund, Tennant’s second in command, in his dramatic Report of the events:21
After attending “a conference between the French General, Admiral Abrial, General Alexander G.O.C., British Force, Brigadier Parminter, Commander Henderson, the B.N.L.O. and Captian Tennant … An incident this evening was that on returning to the Naval Headquarters with Commander Henderson after the meeting, a shell burst close to us and threw us off our feet. Henderson was wounded in the neck and the back and after dressing him, we sent him onboard a destroyer for passage to England.
I should like to pay my tribute to Commander Henderson who proved himself a loyal and gallant Officer, and who was quite unmoved however black things might look, His cheerfulness and sangfroid was an example to everyone. Coupled with his name I should like to mention Paymaster Lieutenant Brockett.”22
It’s worth noting that Maund’s long and detailed Report makes only three other specific commendations: to Commanders Surtees and Gotto, and as a concluding statement “to the cool, courageous and indomitable spirit of our leader – Captain Tennant.”23
Maund’s mention of Neil with Commander Henderson suggests that he was working with Henderson, but, as mentioned above, from his Notes and other commendations he also clearly worked with Ellwood and Tennant directly.
Tennant’s office was in two or more locations on land and Neil would have spent time in the dugout at Bastion 28 at least.24 Neil’s Notes show that he himself was also out and about on land and the beaches. This is confirmed by another curious memory he recounted: While he was on the beach one day a senior Belgian official drove up in a large American car, and told Neil he had no further use for it and he could have it if he wished. Perhaps it was the car Neil “obtained” to go and get food supplies? Whether or not the tale grew in the telling, it’s thought that Neil said that the senior Belgian official was Paul-Henri Spaak—Foreign Minister of Belgium at the time, and later Prime Minister and prominent in NATO and the UN.
Neil appears to have left Dunkirk on 2 June. His Notes said, “The notes I was able to compile … I gave to Captain Tennant on the day that he went to La Panne. … On his return two days later I recommenced the notes and when I left the following evening left them at the office.” Maund’s Report recorded that on 30 May Tennant proceeded to G.H.Q to see Lord Gort”,25 and returned in the evening of 31 May.26 Presumably 30 and 31 May were the two days and G.H.Q. was at La Panne (modern-day De Panne).
Mention in Despatches
“Paymaster Lieutenant Frank Neil Brockett, R.N.R.” was listed in The London Gazette of 16 Aug 1940 under ‘Mention in Despatches’.27 The left part of the image below is the award certificate; on the right is a cutting from the Portsmouth Evening News of 2 Sep 1940:
For transcriptions Read more
The award certificate: “The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty hereby certify that by the KING’S order the name of Paymaster Lieutenant Frank Neil Brockett, R.N.R. was published in the London Gazette on 16 August, 1940 as mentioned in Despatches for good service of which His Majesty’s high appreciation is thus recorded.”
The Portsmouth Evening News: “Mentioned in Dispatches. Paymaster Lieut. F. Neil Brockett R.N.R. who was mentioned in dispatches for meritorious conduct in the withdrawal of the Allied Armies from the Dunkirk beaches, is 24 and a native of Southsea. His home address is 23, Outram Road. He is an old Grammar School boy and served in the the O.T.C. He joined the R.N.R. as Paymaster from Lloyds Bank, Fareham, and at present is serving as Secretary in a well-known Naval College.”
See also the “Despatches received by the Secretary of State for War from General the Viscount Gort, VC, KCB, CBE, DSO, MVO, MC, Commander-in-Chief, British Expeditionary Force (France and Belgium 1939-40)” regarding “the embarkation of the Force from Dunkirk and its transport to England which … was carried out in accordance with the finest traditions of the Royal Navy. … It was carried through regardless of danger and loss by enemy bombing. My deep gratitude is due to all concerned, particularly to Vice-Admiral Sir B.H. Ramsay, Vice-Admiral at Dover, Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake Walker, who superintended the actual embarkation and Captain W.G. Tennant, R.N., the senior naval officer ashore.”28
On 31 Aug 1940 Tennant wrote to Neil passing on General Gort’s appreciation of the Officers’ services in Dunkirk and congratulating him on being mentioned in despatches:
For a transcription Read more
31st August, 1940.
I have received the following letter from the Secretary of the Admiralty.
“General the Viscount Gort, VC, GCB, CBE, DSO, MVO, MC, wishes to bring to the notice of the Lords of the Admiralty, the following Officers of the Royal Navy, and to convey his thanks for their services:– …29 CAPTAIN TENNANT, R.N., and the Naval Officers and ratings under his Command. The Royal Navy assisting the Army in the evacuation of the troops from Dunkirke [sic] displayed throughout this very difficult operation, skill, determination, and devotion to duty worthy of the highest tradition of the Royal Navy.”
Many congratulations on your “mention”. I hope you are liking your new job
A close-up of Tennant’s signature on the letter:
As indicated obliquely in Tennant’s letter and in the Portsmouth Evening News, on Neil’s return from Dunkirk he was appointed Secretary to Dartmouth Royal Naval College where he and Doreen lived for about 18 months. One of his responsibilities was to give the officer cadets their pay, and one of them to whom Neil doled out his pay was Prince Philip of Greece (who later became Philip Duke of Edinburgh). Then, early in 1942—probably after its repair in February—Neil was transferred to HMS London, and served on her until 1946 in the Arctic, S Africa, the Gulf, Australia and the Far East. He witnessed the Japanese surrender of the port of Sabang in the Strait of Malacca, on the HMS London 31 Aug 1945.30
Meanwhile Doreen and the family stayed at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, with Neil’s mother Ellen Brockett.
Between Apr 1941 and Mar 1943 the The Navy Lists recorded Neil as Paymaster Lieutenant in the RNR,31 with his name always preceded by an asterisk in a circle, indicating that he was a qualified officer.32 Then between May and Dec 1944 Neil was promoted to Lieutenant in the RNR,33 and listed as such in The Navy Lists until Mar 1946.34
1947-51: Although by then he was living and working in Tanganyika, on 19 Sep 1947 Frank Neil Brockett was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He was still on the Active List of the RNR in Jun 1948,35 and on 1 Apr 1949 Lt.-Cdr. F. N. Brockett was awarded the RNR decoration.36 ‘RD’—The Reserve Decoration—was a medal awarded in the RNR to officers with at least 15 years of active duty, with wartime service counting double. On 15 Jan 1951 Lieutenant Commander FN Brockett RD, was removed from the RNR Active List and placed on the Retired List at his own request,37 perhaps on his posting to Aden, see below.
Soon after demobilisation Neil accepted a post with the Colonial Audit Department and on 24 Jul 1946 sailed from Southampton in the Union Castle ship the Winchester Castle, full of professional men bound for the British colonies,38 in his case Tanganyika (now Tanzania). The ship didn’t dock at Dar es Salaam, so he disembarked at Mombasa, and flew down to Dar by small plane. Doreen and the children followed suit 6 months later on 26 Dec 1946 from Liverpool in the Cunard White Star ship the Georgic, “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence: Tanganyika”.39
They lived in a house at Oyster Bay. Life would have been quite different from 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, where the family had stayed since leaving Dartmouth. As was usual with folk of modest means in those days, the family in Southsea had traditionally had just one live-in household servant, Jane Biss, who had been with them all her adult life.40 From May-Sep 1948 Neil’s mother Ellen visited the family in Oyster Bay, keeping a diary of her visit. She listed 6 servants in her diary: “Maria the Ayah,41 Mohamed the Cook and Head boy, Hassan the House boy, Dominic Dhobi,42 Mbawna General help, and a Garden boy”. Her diary recorded visits to Leopard’s Cove in Dar es Salaam, and Bagamoyo, some 50 miles north along “bad roads… Got stuck in sand in middle of bush.” When they arrived there was “One European house—district Commissioner, gave us key for the Rest House. Convicts fetched water.” Another entry recorded “Neil’s 10 Indian clerks gave an evening party. We felt like Royalty.”
The career of Colonial Audit officers depended on the Department as a whole rather than on any particular locality and officers were liable for transfer between territories and head office in London. Thus, during leave from Tanganyika in 1948 Neil was reassigned to London head office in Queen Anne’s Mansions, Westminster, for 2 or 3 years. They lived at 12 Kenley Rd, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, within commuting distance of Westminster. They owned the property until about 1965, renting it out to tenants. Neil was listed as resident there in Jan 1954, for instance, although they had returned overseas some years earlier:43
Who were Charles F, Holden L and M.A. Brockett? Read more
Charles F Brockett 1909-77—unknown to Neil—was a distant cousin.
“Holden L Brockett” was evidently an error for “L Brockett Holden”. AMICE stands for Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and Laurence Brockett Holden, b 1890, was proposed as a member in 1916.44 His Will, proved 23 Feb 1962, gave his residence as 3 Harland Ave, Croydon. See here for more on him.
M.A. Brockett was Mabel Alice, 2nd wife of Frederick William Brockett—not related to Neil—who lived at 69 Bensham Manor Rd, Thornton Heath, when they married in 1937, and clearly also into the 1950s. Thornton Heath is now an area of South London in the Borough of Croydon, and was part of the county of Surrey until 1965. Mabel died 1962 in Croydon, and Frederick in 1967.
Neil’s next posting in the Colonial Audit Department was to Aden, South Yemen. The family sailed on 7 Apr 1951 from London in the P&O ship the Canton, 1st class, “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence: Aden”.45 They did two 18-month tours in Aden. During the first tour they lived in a house on Downing Street in Khormaksar, where the RAF base was. For the second tour they lived in the flat above the Post Office at Steamer Point. In this early 1950s picture of Post Office Bay, Steamer Point, Aden, the Post Office is the flat-roofed building next along from the pitched-roof building first right, all facing out to sea.
There was no air-conditioning in those days and for the hottest part of the year the family slept in the open air on the flat roof. The Post Office was razed to the ground by shells from a ship offshore during the early 1970s when the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was in power.46 The pitched-roof building was still intact in 2005.
The only white faces on a visit up-country December 1952 to the market in Mukeiras,47 c 210km NE of Aden, on the border with North Yemen, in what was then the Aden Protectorate:
Early in 1954, after leave in England, Neil was posted to the Audit Department in Nairobi, Kenya. The family sailed on 1 Sep 1954 from Southampton in the Holland Africa Line ship the Boschfontein, travelling 1st class, via Suez, disembarking Mombasa, “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence: Kenya”.48
In 1952 sections of the Kikuyu tribe with others had launched a guerrilla campaign, usually called the Mau Mau Rebellion or Uprising, and in October the colonial Government declared a state of emergency. Much of the uprising took place in the Kikuyu heartlands of the Central Province. This included Nairobi, where Neil and family lived. Like most uprisings against the British Colonial Empire the rebellion is now the subject of negative retrospective criticism and anachronistic moralising, however while the uprising was largely directed against White settler farmers, there was also fighting between opposing Kikuyus. The Lake Victoria area peoples—the Luo and Luhya—did not join the Mau Mau but neither did they fight against them except as members of the police and security forces. For two relatively recent, anti-colonial appraisals Read more
“There were as many Kikuyu who fought with the colonial government as there were loyalists who joined the Mau Mau rebellion.”49
“Much of the struggle tore through the African communities themselves, an internecine war waged between rebels and so-called ‘loyalists’ — Africans who took the side of the government and opposed Mau Mau. This was partly brought about by the deliberate policy of the British to cultivate an African opposition, by arming vigilantes, styled as Home Guards, to protect villages from attack and to assist the police and military operations against the Mau Mau fighters. But the opponents of Mau Mau were also those who did not share the values of the rebels, who rejected violence and armed struggle as a way forward, and who questioned the moral basis of the claims made by the rebels to rights in land and access to property. As the conflict went on, these divisions made it appear more and more like a Civil War.”50
The uprising was largely quelled by Oct 1956 with the capture of Dedan Kimathi, but the state of emergency wasn’t officially lifted till 1960, and Britain announced plans to prepare Kenya for majority African rule. Thus, for the first part of their time in Kenya, Neil and Doreen and their family lived through the Mau Mau and for the second part through preparations for the end of colonial rule. From 1954-56 Neil worked in the Audit Dept, transferring to the Treasury in 1956, where his immediate superior was K W S Mackenzie, CMG, Minister for Finance & Development to the Government of Kenya. MacKenzie was mentioned frequently in the Kenya Gazette in the 1950s as Secretary to the Treasury and in the early 1960s as Minister for Finance & Development. In 1962 Mackenzie retired and, aware of changes ahead, wrote Neil a reference, which outlines Neil’s career path in Kenya up to 1962:51 Read more
5th June, 1962.
Mr. Frank Neil Brockett
I have known Mr.Brockett and his wife since 1954 when he was a member of the Kenya Exchequer & Audit Department. They are both very pleasant people and my wife and I have regarded them as friends ever since our first meeting.
Mr.Brockett joined Kenya Treasury in August 1956 as Assistant Treasury Officer of Accounts. At this time and earlier as a member of the Exchequer & Audit Department he was responsible for the introduction into all Kenya Ministries of an efficient system of internal audit. This would have been a major and most necessary achievement at any time. It was particularly important as a pre-requisite to the successful introduction of the decentralised Exchequer system of governmental financial control and at a time when, the post war boom in primary products being over, it was more than ever necessary for a country such as Kenya to avoid waste.
As Assistant Treasury Officer of Accounts and subsequently, from August 1959 to August 1961, as Treasury Officer of Accounts, Mr.Brockett has also been responsible for advising within the Treasury and throughout the Government service on all governmental accounting problems, on systems of financial control and on financial legislation. He also represented the Treasury at meetings of the Public Accounts Committee. He has performed all these duties with maximum effect and minimum fuss. I would indeed note as one of his most outstanding qualities a quiet ability to take responsibility for the job in hand, get down to it and complete it satisfactorily in the minimum time.
In August 1961 Mr.Brockett was transferred to the administrative side of the Treasury as Under Secretary in charge of the Supply Division dealing with the Provincial Administration and the Security Services (Police, Prisons & Military). Shortly after taking over he became involved as Treasury representative on the committee dealing with relief for the victims of widespread famine and floods. This involved constant cooperation with officers of other Government departments as well as the Army and the Royal Air Force. The smooth functioning of the relief operations was to no small extent due to the ability and tact of Mr.Brockett in handling complicated financial issues involving total expenditure running well over £1 million.
Mr.Brockett ‘s success in an administrative posting led to his further transfer in March 1962 to act as Deputy Secretary in the Establishments Division of the Treasury. This involves advice to the Government and all matters affecting the complements, pay, pensions and terms and conditions of service of a civil service numbering 60,000. It also entails constant contact with the representatives of the Staff Side of Central Whitley Council and with the Civil Servants’ Association. Mr.Brockett is handling these problems with the same quiet efficiency which has marked his other work.
I have no doubt that if Mr.Brockett decides to remain in Kenya his services will be invaluable and he will deserve further promotion. If constitutional changes an the process of Africanisation make this impossible I would have no hesitation in recommending him for any alternative employment requiring ability, devotion to duty, integrity, loyalty and good humour.
An image of the signed final paragraph of the reference:
Neil and Doreen were always religious, brought up as Baptists, and in Nairobi were active members of St Andrews Presbyterian Church. Neil was Treasurer there for many years, then Session Clerk. Other outside-work activities of his were photography, bird-spotting and a 12-acre small farm in the Kinangop, past Naivasha near the Aberdare Hills.
At Independence on 12 Dec 1963, the Treasury passed over to the new independent Kenya Government, and Neil was transferred to the British High Commission as a First Secretary, liaising with the UK’s Commonwealth Relations Office in London. This was a Diplomatic post. His work principally concerned land resettlement, and in Jan 1965 he was appointed Secretary to the Stamp Mission: Read more
“The Stamp Mission, under the chairmanship of the Hon. A Maxwell Stamp and consisting of G J Caren, Dr A M M McFarquhar, R J M Swynnerton CMG OBE MC and joint secretaries F N Brockett and T Duffy, was appointed by the then Minister for Overseas Development, the Rt. Hon. Barbara Castle MP in January 1965 to advise on proposals for a further transfer of European farms in Kenya. Terms of guidance of the mission were:
i) In the light of the progress of existing settlement schemes and their effect upon the advancement of African farming and the economy of Kenya; and of all other relevant circumstances in Kenya today, to advise the British Government on the need for a further scheme for the transfer of European farms to African ownership and if there is a need, what form such a scheme should take.
ii) The team will have before them the proposals of the Kenya Government set out in their memoranda prepared in April and December 1964. They will wish to examine these proposals in consultation with the Kenya Government but they should consider other alternative solutions.
iii) If a further scheme of land purchase is recommended, the mission should advise as to its extent; its timetable; the system of valuation to be applied to the purchase of European mixed farms; the financial viability of the scheme; the financial implications for the governments in the light of the system of valuation recommended and of the methods of settlement and development and possible systems of management contemplated; the effect of the scheme on the economy of Kenya including on export trade; and the requirements of farmers and staff, including the training of Africans, for the successful implementation of the scheme.
The Kenya Government’s proposals of April and December 1964 were superseded by proposals of January and February 1965 and final proposals were handed to the Mission on 22 March 1965, three weeks after its return from Kenya. An interim report was handed to the Minister for Overseas Development in May 1965 and following consideration of this report, the Kenya Government submitted another set of proposals on 28 July. In June the minister amplified the terms of guidance thus: It would be helpful if the final report would indicate the administrative framework which the mission consider the Kenya Government will require, if the mission’s recommendations are to be properly implemented, particularly in terms of expatriate staff. We hope these recommendations will, so far as possible in the circumstances, cover land consolidation and other forms of agricultural development apart from the settlement of Africans on European mixed farming land and that the staffing requirements will be formulated to take account of these. The final report of the mission was submitted in October 1965; it was not published.”52
Around this time Neil was approached by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC and he sent them a ‘Personal History Statement’, geared towards their financial-administrative perspective. It provides a succinct outline of his career in his own words:
1933-40 Lloyds Bank (England). General / accountancy
1940-45 Royal Navy. Secretarial and accountancy
Colonial (now Overseas) Audit Service
1946-48 (a) Tanganyika. Auditor
1948-51 (b) London Head Office. Auditor
1951-54 (c) Aden. Senior Auditor and acting Principal Auditor in charge
1954-56 (d) Kenya. Senior Auditor
Overseas Administrative Service Kenya
1956-59 Senior Assistant Secretary. Assistant Treasury Officer of Accounts
1959-62 Under Secretary. Treasury Officer of Accounts
1962-63 Deputy Director of Personnel. Also acting Director
1963-date Commonwealth Relations Office (British Government). First Secretary British High Commission. Read more
Almost all my working experience since the War has been overseas, and with under-developed countries. I have had long experience in working alongside indigenous staff, and have always enjoyed harmonious relations both with them and in training them. My last post in the Kenya Government, in the Directorate of Personnel, was the most testing in respect of relationships; but the result was sufficiently satisfactory for the Kenya Government to agree to my remaining in Kenya, on retirement, as a senior servant in a foreign (British) embassy.
During my years of audit service I was responsible for the audit of both aspects of public accounts, including Railways and Harbours. In London I was responsible for the final accounts of eighteen British Colonies. I was also concerned in the audit of a Colonial Currency Board. In Kenya I set up an internal audit system in all Ministries at the time of the inception of the Ministerial system in the Colony.
As Treasury Officer of Accounts I was the advisor to the Permanent Secretary for Finance and to the Permanent Secretaries of all Ministries on financial and accounting matters and on financial legislation. I was the permanent Government representative at the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
I was one of three Government members of the Famine Relief Committee which in cooperation with the British Army and Air Force handled a country-wide drought and famine in Kenya in 1961, lasting nearly six months.
In the British High Commission, I administer relations with the Kenya Government concerning the Land Settlement Schemes, in which the British Government are providing over £20 million during six years. I am also responsible for the provision of technical and capital aid from Britain for the Natural Resources schedule; capital aid in the current year exceeds £3 million.
I was Secretary to the Stamp Mission, recently sent to Kenya by the British Government to investigate the need for further land transfer schemes following the conclusion of the current Land Settlement schemes.
On completion of his work for the Stamp Commission he worked—not so happily—for 3 or 4 months in the Ministry of Labour in London, until in Jul 1966 the IMF offered Neil an appointment as Budget Advisor. This developed into two separate assignments in Liberia 1966-69 and 1971-73, and one cut short in Indonesia 1974-75:
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
WASHINGTON, DC 20431
July 22 1966
Dear Mr Brockett:
It is a pleasure to offer you an appointment as Advisor under a technical assistance program of the International Monetary Fund on the following terms and conditions.
You will be assigned as Advisor to the Budget Director of the Government of Liberia. Your task will be to undertake a comprehensive reorganisation of the Budget Bureau, to strengthen its administration, and to improve its operations, with the objective of making the Bureau an effective instrument of financial programming. In the performance of your duties you would be responsible entirely to, and under the sole direction of, the Fund. …
Director of Administration
Neil’s signature on his passport in 1966:53
In Liberia his office was in the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, in the floor below that of William V S Tubman, President of Liberia 1944-71, and at the end of his first assignment he received the following letter from the President:
THE EXECUTIVE MANSION
February 22, 1969
Dear Mr Brockett:
Your letter of the 19th of February has been received and I note that Mrs. Brockett and you are scheduled to leave Liberia on the 26th instant.
I regret that your tour of duty here having expired, you will be leaving the country and returning to your Headquarters. Your services here as Budget Advisor have been very well performed and I greatly appreciate your services which I consider to have been very constructive. You carry our very best wishes.
Mrs. Tubman and I would like to have Mrs. Brockett and you to Dinner on Sunday evening, the 23rd instant at eight o’clock.
The typical top hat and bow tie attire for Americo-Liberian high-society formal occasions, even in the sweltering heat:
In between the Liberian assignments—from 21 Apr 1969 to 1 Oct 1971—Neil worked in the Ministry of Overseas Development in London. Then six months into his second assignment as Budget Advisor in Liberia, Neil was diagnosed with cancer and had to have a colostomy operation in London 15 May 1972. Two months later he returned to Liberia to complete his agreed term to the end of Oct 1973. On 22 Oct the Auditor-General of Liberia wrote to William R Tolbert, President of Liberia (1971-80), who responded 26 Oct 1973:54 “I note the high commendation you have made of Mr. Brockett’s performance during the tenure of his service; and your request, therefore, to hold a Cocktail Party as an indication of Government’s appreciation of his services. I also note your request for Government to decorate Mr. Brockett as an added recognition of his contribution toward the strengthening and promotion of the auditing program. Having reviewed your proposals within the framework of our existing policies regarding the recognition of merit, I approve your recommendations.” What became of the decoration isn’t known; the next month Neil received the following letter from President Tolbert: Read more
THE EXECUTIVE MANSION
November 19, 1973
Dear Mr Brockett:
I have been informed by the Auditor General that you are about to terminate your tenure of service in Liberia. In this regard, I also note that this is your second assignment in Liberia in an advisory capacity; the first being an Advisor to the Bureau of the Budget from 1967 to 69 and your present tenure as Advisor to the General Auditing Office which commenced in 1971 and ends this year. According to the Auditor General, you have been of tremendous value and assistance not only to the Auditor General, but equally so to every member of the staff. The Auditor General has also informed me that the training program enunciated by you in 1971 and your assistance with his periodic audit program have proven to be very effective and have brought about greater productivity in the service.
W R Tolbert, Jr
Early the following year Neil and Doreen began an assignment as IMF Budget Advisor to the Government of Indonesia in Jakarta. However, after only a year in post the cancer returned and Neil again had to resign his post and return to the UK for treatment. This time it was unsuccessful.
From 1970 Neil and Doreen had the derelict Coach House Cottage, Lyminster, W Sussex, renovated for their retirement, and were listed as occupants in the Sussex phone directory from 1971.55
Neil died of cancer 27 Nov 1975 in Lyminster, W Sussex, and a well-attended funeral service was held at Chichester Crematorium 1 Dec.56 His Will was proved London 26 Jan 1976, estate valued at £23,151.57 After a few years Doreen moved to 60A High St, Old Portsmouth. With its panoramic view over the entrance to the harbour she welcomed guests from all round the world for many years. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1995, and died on 27 Dec 2005 of “old age” in Abbotts Barton Care Home, Winchester.58 Her funeral service was held at Immanuel Baptist Church, Southsea. Ashes of both were buried in Lyminster churchyard.
Son Mervyn Neil Brockett, born 29 Sep 1946 Portsmouth, Hampshire; died Portland, Oregon, USA, 26 Aug 2015.
Page Last Updated: February 21, 2021