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The Wind of Morning: An Autobioqraphy
by Colonel Sir Hugh Boustead KBE, CMG, DSO, MC. Foreword by The Lord Luce, GCVO, DL. Published by Craven Street Books, Fresno, California, 2002. Pp. xii + 240. Illus. Maps. Index. Pb. £18.99/$21.95. ISBN 0-941936-70-8.
Hugh Boustead (1895–1980), the son of a tea planter in Ceylon, lived a life of remarkable adventure. During the First World War he fought in France, winning his Military Cross at the Battle of Arras; and then in Russia, roaming the steppes with Cossacks fighting the Bolsheviks. He captained the British Pentathlon team at the 1920 Olympics; was given command of the Sudan Camel Corps in 1931; took part in the Mount Everest expedition of 1933; explored the Libyan desert with Ralph Bagnold (who was later to found the Long Range Desert Group); helped Haile Selassie to recover his throne; and served in a variety of administrative posts in Sudan, Yemen, Oman and Abu Dhabi. Knighted in 1965, Boustead was recalled from retirement three years later by the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Zaid bin Sultan, to look after his stable of horses in Al-Ain. ‘I believe’, Sir Hugh wrote, ‘that to attain happiness you should remain in harness so long as you can carry it’.
His vivid and entertaining memoir was first published by Chatto & Windus in 1971, and this reprint by Craven Street Books, at a time of increasing public interest in the former British Empire, is most welcome; for Sir Hugh was born at the height of the Empire, represented all that was best in it, and lived to see its rapid decline. Although his first love was always the Sudan, his second was Hadhramaut in the Aden Protectorate, where he spent nine years 1949–1958 as Resident Adviser and British Agent, based in Mukalla; and two chapters of his book are devoted to that period. It was as an administrator and adviser in both the Sudan and southern Arabia that he spent the most fulfilling years of his extraordinary life. And the words with which he concludes his autobiography would fittingly serve as his epitaph:
‘There can be few deeper satisfactions than to have played a part in helping a country or a people forward – to a life of peace, with agriculture and commerce prospering, under an honest government with justice administered under the rule of law, with education for the young, with medical care for the sick.. .As I said to the people of Mukalla when I bade them farewell [in 1958], . . our works live after us and by their fruits we should be judged in days to come.’