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Topics - Chuck Thompson
My Father, Melvyn (Mel) Thompson, travelled to Tanganyika in 1936 as a young geologist. He met my mother, Winona Wessels, in Geita and were married a few months later in August 1940. I have a collection of their letters from 1934 (Melvyn was still at University in Canada) until 1965 when they repatriated to Canada. I have begun to upload these letters and photos to www.melvynsletters.ca - if you are interested be sure to blog your thoughts on the site...access to the letters is via a page link at the top right hand menu bar.
My parents had taken me out of Mbeya school because they were concerned about the possible need to leave the country quickly. I attended a mission day school in Tabora. My father drove me to school that morning and he stopped at the bank...there were policy "guarding" the bank and my father remarked about "tension." The school day started normally and not long into it army trucks began to pass on the road. The Head Mistress, Sister Francis Clair, requested all teachers to stand their students in front of the school to observe our glorious army pass by. Once back in the classroom, we heard the repeat of machine gun fire. Then a black man came running to report to the sisters that the police and the army were "fighting." The sisters feared a repeat of the Congo emergency just a few years before...they asked all the white children (three teenage girls and myself) to leave. As we ran to one of the girl's homes near by (a large house built by Germans with a door that could be barred) the machine gun sounds intensified. I was not running fast enough and one of the girls, Mimi Fanelli< grabbed me and practically carried me over the mattutas in a field we had to cross to get to safety more quickly. We spent most of the day listening to machine gun fire and not knowing if our parents were dead or alive...about 7 pm in the evening, a landrover arrived for three of us...the Biondi's house servant drove it and was the only occupant. We climbed in and were covered with tarps for a slow drive to our homes (we were neighbours) where, to our great relief and theirs, all were still whole. We went to bed in our clothes that night incase of an emergency evacuation...we left the following morning - six peope in the Biondi's fiat. Our fathers remained in Tabora armed to the hilt in case they needed to defend. The British had a war ship just off the coast from Dar...they sent in fighter jets which did a display over Tabora before landing to an immediate surreder from the Tanzanian troops who were all either drunk or high on "bangi" - marijuanna. The women and children went to Mwadui which was considered the most secure location in the area. We remained there a few days before things were "normalized."
My father, Melvyn (Mel) C. Thompson, arrived in Tanganyka late in 1936 to work for a British East African gold mining company. His job was to prospect for gold. These are photos he took of the people he hired as porters to support the prospecting operation.