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Life at ZAF Livingstone
Monday, 23 November 2015 10:32
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Life at ZAF Livingstone
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Well actually it was NRAF Livingstone until Northern Rhodesia became independent "Zambia" in Oct '64, following which the base (the local airport) became the home of ZAF Livingstone.

I went out on Loan Service from the RAF as part of the second traunch of "technical instructors" in July 1964, shortly after my 21st birthday. Not surprisingly, it came as something of a culture shock to learn that we would be on double wages in Africa, accomodated in hotels, and regarded by the local "expats" as something of a novelty socially. Life couldn’t be better!

A number of other „Europeans“ formed the NRAF contingent - these were contract uniformed staff of S African, S & N Rhodesian extraction. They were a good bunch, and always „up for it“.

Our working day finished at 1pm, when we were transported back to the Fairmount Hotel for lunch. It wasn’t long before it became habit for several of our 20 or so to take lunch in the men-only swing door public bar - which was open most days for 24 hours. The publican, being a shrewd Yorkshireman, put trays of food out every 4 hours for the wellbeing of all at no cost. That meant that the hardened customer left for home only when he felt bound to by his consciernce. I remember some long sessions at that hostelry. We were also regular visitors to many of the local clubs (Police, Railway, Airport, MOTHs, etc) which ensured a heady social life. Afternoons were often spent on the river (Zambesi), fishing or boating. Victoria Falls was another attraction, being quite local.

It became a regular weekend feature to negotiate some 60 miles of dirt roads to the Chobe River Hotel in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) for the game park and very good river fishing there. There was a hotel proper (I think it had no more than four rooms), but we preferred the thatch covered rondavels - at 12/6d a night! It might interest some readers of this to look up the current prices at the many "Safari Camps" that now swamp this resort – most around 800$US a night! I recall one weekend in particular when a fishing match was arranged at Chobe (ZAF Officers v Others). Unfortunately, there were insufficient boats available to accomodate both teams, and being gentlemen the officers commandered all the boats. Our prospects looked grim; we were faced with fishing from the river bank -a fairly hopeless task. Anyway, having previously fished one of the game reserve lakes that became land locked in the dry season - and having been disappointed at catching only catfish (to 25lbs) as opposed to tiger fish – I suggested that we head for the same spot, so all we piled into a white Rover 100 belonging to Bruce. The anticipation of shoving it up „our betters“ dominated our thoughts. Some hours later we just made it back to the hotel in time for the "weigh-in". Of course, being without a boat we were not expected to require the scales, and there prevailed a certain smug satisfaction from our opposing team. The results were about to be announced when the cry came, "Hang on" it was Roger, one of our crew, and Bruce's Rover was duly backed up to the hotel swimming pool lawn to discharge a literal barrow load of large catfish from the boot - a winning weight. Of course our win was not popular with all, but we had enjoyed a great day followed by a splendid evening.

Although we at Livingstone were all originally accomodated in the Fairmount Hotel, those below SNCO rank were moved to the North Western Hotel after two or three months. This establishment was run by an elderly lady whom we soon dubbed „Rosa Klebb“. The nickname stemmed from the attitude she adopted with us NRAF guys, compared to that . which she reserved for „standard paying guests“. Typically, no „seconds“ allowed in the dining room, no room-service after 10pm, and don't bother to ask for anything whatever beyond your stipulated entitlement– however urgent your need. It gave one the impression that she had made our masters an offer they couldn't refuse, and then needed to make the books balance.