The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - memoir of time in the Naga Hills as a Deputy Commissioner, 1919-1920

caption: social life in Kohima
medium: articles
person: Vickers/ Maj.PriorShakespearRivenburg
location: Kohima
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: There was none when I arrived as officers were dispersing after the end of the Kuki rising in Manipur. The Commandant of the Military Police Battalion permanently stationed at Kohima was a Major Vickers of the Indian Army who had a limp probably from a wound. Each battalion of the Military Police had only a Commandant and an Assistant young British Officer. As most of the experienced sepoys had been sent to reinforce battalions in France or companies elsewhere of Gurkhas the training of raw recruits to fight the Kukis must have made his life a very busy one. His Assistant, Prior, was an I.C.S. from another province, now preparing to go back there. Vickers was in appearance grim and morose. I went there to dinner and had him and his wife once to dinner. His wife was nice. So far as I know they had no family. He never dropped into my bungalow for a drink or a chat nor I into his. His wife told me she had taken 5 grains of quinine for many years so her blood must have been thin. She kept the breed of chickens of huge size, Buff Orpingtons, carefully protected by wire netting. Fortunately for herself she did not visit the Angami Naga village of Kohima where Buff Orpingtons were to be seen round the houses. Vickers going on leave was temporarily succeeded by young Captain Shakespear whose father and uncle had a long connection with Assam. Both were Colonels in the Indian Army, one being a Hills officer in Lushai on the Assam Commission long in Lushai and the other had been Commandant of the Naga Hills Military Police battalion and finally Deputy Director General of the Military Police battalions of the Province after staff service in Mesopotamia and later wrote a History of the Assam Rifles as they were called after World War 2. Young Captain Shakespear was put in only for a year. He was the nicest of men and had only recently married. His wife became a great friend of my wife. The Executive Engineer in charge of the road was a Club member but his official residence and his wife were in Imphal in Manipur and he lived mostly in rest houses on the road, or in the rest house at Kohima. He had been brought up in India and whether he was a member of the Imperial Service of Public Works or a promoted subordinate I do not know. 8t The Civil Surgeon was an elderly Bengali who lived and ate by caste Indian rules. The American missionary, Rivenburg was married but though they - he and his wife - came to dinner, the American missionaries never joined the club. They could thus avoid the appearance of assisting British Imperialism. The tiny club consisted of a couple of small rooms. I was Secretary but nobody went there save on one or two gala days when tennis was played on the concrete court. A small band of the battalion played music. Liquor of such kind as was obtainable during the war was sold at the bar as I had to try to get bills paid by officers now departed who had failed to pay before leaving. Possibly in pre-war normal days whist or bridge was played at club meetings, there being enough if one or more was married. Life was isolated from the rest of the world save through the daily newspaper, the 'Statesman' or 'Englishman', from Calcutta. Until the last part of the war they had no cheerful news. Some pre-war Deputy Commissioner had taken in Capital, a weekly edited by a Calcutta man who set himself up as a financial expert. Old pre-war copies were often to be found in the rest houses. The readers, Calcutta business men, must have found them sensible and moderate. To a reader like myself in 1920 they were not enlightening. Rivenburg, the American missionary was head of the Government secondary school. So all the men were busy. The wives must have been bored. Fortunately the Assistant Commandant to Shakespear would at times drop in to talk and have tea with my newly married wife while I was still in the office. Busying myself to an unnecessary extent with work in the office took my mind off the pain from the bridge in my mouth or from the subsequent fiddling with my tongue at the plate after its removal and I had also the desire to pass the exam in Angami Naga as I had the hope of staying there as Deputy Commissioner. Hutton however published his books on Angamis and Sema, packed with information and deservedly famous, so Government decided wisely to reappoint him there. Government. The subsequent results amply and clearly confirmed the wisdom of long term appointments. Mills followed with books on the Aos and the Lhotas and Rengmas. So Pawsey too was appointed long term. The result was that the Nagas remained loyal when the Japanese attacked in the second World War.
text: However I continued under Hutton for 6 months and passed the examination in Angami with Hutton examining me along with Rivenburg and another who knew no Angami. I was able to make a little use of this with the aid of my old books in World War 2 at Kohima, Khonoma.