19 June 1953 – Five days earlier, on 13 June, Captain Gerald S.L. Griffiths had led a company of British soldiers into the Chuka region of Kenya to flush out Kenyan Mau Mau rebels hiding in the forests.  Two Mau Mau suspects, Njeru Ndwega and Kvenji Njoka, were handed over by local police and were interrogated the next day.   When they proved unable or unwilling to inform on their comrades location, Griffiths ordered that one of Njoka’s ears be bayoneted and then threaded with a leash while Ndwega, after being threatened with castration, had his left ear amputated. Ndwega, who was still refusing to cooperate, was then, according to at least one soldier testifying, ordered to run away and he was immediately shot dead.  Meanwhile Njoka was then led around the forest tethered by his ear, until the soldiers returned to camp five days later.  He was then also summarily shot and his body abandoned without even any attempt at burial.(1)

Griffiths later explained in court that Ndwega had been shot while attempting to escape and as for Njoka, while he had not ordered his ear to be bayonetted, once it had been done he felt it was “proper” for a suspect Mau Mau prisoner to be led on a leash through the forest threaded through his ear. “It would not cause pain,” he argued, explaining that “these men have holes made in their ears when they are very young.”  He also insisted that he had only ever ordered a soldier to threaten Ndwega with castration, after his pants had been pulled down, but argued that a mere threat caused the prisoner “no harm”, and that the soldier had amputated the prisoner’s ear so quickly that he couldn’t stop it. (2)

Griffiths had been acquitted of murder in an earlier trial  due to the supposedly insufficient evidence but he was found guilty on four charges of what the press termed “cruelty to Africans” and sentenced to five years imprisonment.(3)  His Defence Counsel had argued for mitigating circumstances, alleging that some time earlier his beloved horse had been killed after being brutally treated by Mau Mau rebels.(3)


19 June 1948 – Sir Edward Gent introduced a state of emergency in Malaya to crush a growing insurgency against continued British rule. Within days over six hundred individuals had been thrown in jail including many Communists, socialists and trade union leaders. The number of those detained without trial continued to rise to 5,362 and by 1957 when Malaysia finally attained its independence, 34,000 people had been detained by the British despite not being convicted of any crime. (4)



  1. David Anderson, “A Very British Massacre,” History Today – ahttps://historyslc.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/a-very-british-massacre.pdf and also http://allafrica.com/stories/200607170327.html See also “Griffiths Told Me to Torture,” The Daily Herald, 9 March 1954, p1 and “Captain Griffiths Denies Cruelty,” The Daily Mirror, 11 March 1954, p6
  2. “3 Witnesses Lied Says Griffiths,” The Daily Herald, 11 March 1954 p2
  3. “Cruelty To Africans,” The Aberdeen Evening Express,  11 March 1954, p16, “Five Year Gaol Sentence on Griffiths,” The Lancashire Evening Post, 11 March 1954 p1 and “British Captain Gets Five Years For Cruelty To Mau Mau,” Jet, The Weekly Negro News Magazine“, 25 March 1954, p12.
  4. John Newsinger (2015), “British Counterinsurgency,” Palgrave Macmillan, London, p42-43 and 47.

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