We’ll meet again – or how I gambled away Vera Lynn’s autograph and ended up in a Zambian jungle with a bunch of hippies…

By Danny Millum – BLDS Metadata and Discovery Officer

Normally when you tell your family / friends about what you do, unless you’re a fireman or a nurse they just zone out (especially when your job title is Metadata Discovery Officer).

But it really seems as if the BLDS was actually my genetic destiny, as it turned out that not only was my dad interested in the project but it turns out that collecting African pamphlets runs in the family.

Buried in our loft were the following:

  • East African Annual 1934-35 – Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar
  • Table Talk Annual Review 1935 (Melbourne) – incl sections on Australia’s Overseas Territories
  • Holiday 1947 (Philadelphia)
  • Times of Ceylon Annual 1958
  • Zambia 1964-74 – celebrating ten years of independence

The East African Annual is just one of a set inherited from one of my great uncles, either Owen or Edward. Owen was in the Royal Navy and travelled out to New Zealand via East Africa more than once. He died when his ship was torpedoed in 1943.

Black and white image of Danny's Great uncle in Burma in
Danny’s great uncle in Burma
Credit: The Millum family

Those from 1947 and 1958 would be brought by Edward, who was in the Merchant Navy but served in the RAF during the war. During his time in the Navy he was memorably entertained by Vera Lynn in Burma. She apparently sang from the wing of the aircraft she’d arrived in and he got her autograph but subsequently gambled it away – certainly the picture of him hungover suggests that such dissolute behaviour (so atypical for a Millum) may not have been a one-off.

The Zambian materials are more recent – my parents taught out there in the early 1970s when the newly independent country was clearly so desperate for teachers that it was prepared to hire any old hippie that walked out of the jungle.

Colour photograph of Dannys parents in the Zambian jungle
Danny’s parents in Zambia
Credit: The Millum family

Anyway, my dad’s now threatening to donate all these boxes of material to the BLDS Legacy collection – really hope he doesn’t find much more buried in the attic or at this rate this project is never going to end…..

(First posted on The University of Sussex Library staff blog May 2020)

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Posted in BLDS (British Library for Development Studies), IDS, The Library

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