THE article by David Pratt that ended with his memory of attending the ceremony to disband the Cameronians brought a memory back to me (Why the future of the Black Watch matters to Scots, November 19).

The ceremony at that time brought a discussion in the tea hut of a building site ‘somewhere in Scotland’ at that time during my apprenticeship, so that would be in the 1960’s. One of those in the squad, Big Wullie to give him his full title, had been a national serviceman of the Cameronians in Nigeria. He gave us his version for the disbanding and since he told us ‘he was there’ David Pratt might be interested, as might the regular historian of ‘The National’, Hamish McPherson.

The Cameronians were in Nigeria and the Igbo people were in revolt against the Empire. The Empire were not winning, because the Igbo had many soldiers who had been on military service for the Empire during the Second World War. So the Igbo were well trained and experienced soldiers and they were fighting in their own country for their Independence. They had fought to free Europe and there had been promises made of African self-rule.

The Cameronians were ordered to build a camp, which they did. Some of the regular Cameronians recognised quickly what it was they were building. It was not a new idea in the Empire. Some had seen similar camps in Kenya where they had been constructed to cage the Kikuyu people. The details of what happened to both men and women within what might truthfully be described as concentration camps in Kenya can be found within the pages of, “Imperial Reckoning”, written by American academic Caroline Elkins.

Only those readers of ‘The National’ who have a strong stomach are advised to tackle this. She had interviewed many survivors who gave their testimony of systematic torture, including the rape of both males and females, and executions of unarmed and defenceless inmates, some just beaten to death. The numbers of people incarcerated and the death toll quoted by Elkins are eye opening.

The decision to disband the regiment was believed by the soldiers of the Cameronians to be because of the very strong stance taken and vociferous protests made by their colonel against the policy, and that the Cameronians should have been involved. They had been posted elsewhere probably as a result. When the camp, or gulag, was completed, the Igbo women were rounded up and put inside. An African regiment was brought by train across from Kenya to complete the job The Empire wanted them to do.

The task that was required of them I learned about two decades later during a break from one of those forgettable one-day management courses. My informant was a man who had been a junior in the Foreign Service in Nigeria at the time. He recounted how the East African soldiers had been ‘filled with beer’ and turned loose on the women. Word was sent to the Igbo men to stop fighting or this would continue. There was full control of any reporting so nothing got out and the whole world never knew there had been another anti-colonial war.

He was clearly pleased with his small role in this and assumed I would be impressed too. He changed the subject quickly and found a different companion for our next break. That was what should really be known as the first Biafran War, the second one was better reported. But was the truth reported? Well, it was the BBC.

Back that day in the 1960’s Big Wullie ended his story with the aftermath when the Cameronians were returned from Africa. The regiment was to be disbanded. All the regular soldiers were offered the opportunity to continue their military careers, to be re-badged was the term. All the regulars refused in solidarity with their colonel, but some national servicemen were made to finish their two years in other regiments. All marched to church fully armed as they always did, in their unique marching step which memory tells me was the same as used by the army of the Roman Empire.

Jim Coll