Blind St Albans veteran remembers Mau Mau uprising as part of commemorations

84 year old Mike Tetley MBE marched at remembrance Sunday commemorations

84 year old Mike Tetley MBE marched at remembrance Sunday commemorations - Credit: Archant

A former soldier who was blinded and nearly killed in the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya recalled his dramatic experiences as part of recent Remembrance commemorations.

Mike Tetley, 84, of St Albans attended the Remembrance Sunday march at the Cenotaph in London as a representative of Blind Veterans UK. While many remembered the fallen of WWI and WWII, Mike recalled his time serving in Africa.

Growing up in Kenya, and being fluent in Swahili, he was called up for national service in 1953 and served as part of the King’s African Rifles.

He fought in the Mau Mau uprising, a rebellion of Kikuyu independence fighter, and he lost his sight while in action in Kenya.

Mike said: “During the fighting, a bullet hit me in the left ear and came out of my right eye.

“As I lay on the ground a Kenyan fellow soldier stood over me and single-handedly fought off seven enemy soldiers. I was lucky to escape with my life.”

20 years later, Mike returned to the location of the conflict, and was surprised to find out that his tour guide, General Chui, was someone he had fought against decades before.

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“At the end of the walk I invited him for a cup of coffee and asked him about that time. To my surprise he said ‘I know you because you shot me in my leg and it was one of my soldiers that blinded you.’

“He showed me his leg where I had shot him, and we talked at length and he said, ‘We must not hate each other because hate destroys us from within’.”

Following his medical discharge from the army, Mike contacted Blind Veterans UK who supported him and then trained him as a psychotherapist; his career now for 60 years.

* District council leader Julian Daly was among those who paid tribute to First World War servicemen at the inauguration of France’s International Memorial of Notre Dame de Lorette recently.

The Ring of Remembrance memorial at Ablain Saint Nazaire, north-west of Arras, lists the names of 579,606 men who died in northern France in the 1914-18 war.

Inside the ring are 500 sheets of stainless steel listing the names of soldiers who died on near-by battlefields alphabetically rather than by nation or rank. It is the first time that such a memorial has listed all soldiers together, allies and enemies alike.

It was unveiled by French President François Hollande at an Armistice Day ceremony to mark the end of the war.

Cllr Daly was invited to the inauguration ceremony along with leaders of other British councils. He said: “It was an honour to represent St Albans district and to pay respect to the soldiers who died in northern France during the First World War.

“The vast, unique memorial lists the names of British soldiers alongside those of others who died, alphabetically and without reference to nation or rank.”