The Merchant of Mombasa
Just beneath was a smaller version in Swahili, which I had been cramming since first we got word of J Group’s transfer from Bletchley Park, home of His Majesty’s Inter-Branch Cipher Command. With the fall of Singapore, the beginning of attacks on Ceylon, and India in line to be the next target of a seemingly unstoppable Japanese onslaught, 150 naval vessels of the Eastern Fleet had left the East to find shelter in and around Mombasa under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Hoddings Lord Braithwaite CBE, one of a raft of aristocrats who had become, by dint of birth and the exigencies of war, senior officers in His Majesty’s service.
Lord Braithwaite may have been a bit of a stickler for what we in the Royal Canadian Air Force, from which I was on loan, called EBBU—Every Button Buttoned Up!—but when he had steamed into Kilindini harbor aboard his flagship, HMS Warspite, and felt for himself the tremendous wet heat of Mombasa, he did have the good sense to revise previous orders and permit tropical kit: sleeves rolled to a regulation one inch above the elbow, knee-length trousers, calf-height cotton stockings, and an allotment of one pair of dark glasses—or clip-ons for those who already wore spectacles.
About the Author
Hesh Kestin, a new contributor, was European bureau chief of Forbes, publisher of the Nation (an English-language Israeli daily), and editor of the American, an international weekly. His serial novel, American Messiah, is soon to be published on the web at americanmessiahonline.com.