Joshua Okello was born in Kenya in April 1924 and raised in a farming family. Okello looked after cattle as a youngster. He cleaned his father’s home and cut grass. After that, he fondly recalls, there was time to dance. At the age of eight, his father took him to school until 1943 when he joined the army.
He remembers a military camp, near his home, recruiting soldiers. He had uncles, two of whom were supposed to go to war to fight for the British, “but they were already married”.
So, he offered himself to the European district commissioner for military service instead of his uncles who had young wives. His grandfather donated a big bull to the British colonial administration to help in the war effort. As a member of the King’s African Rifles, he went for six weeks training in Jinja, Uganda. He gained 75 per cent accuracy with a gun.
Okello was then sent to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to train as a clerk. After that, he was posted to busy Mwanza Port, in neighbouring Tanzania. He said: “War harmed so many people.” He recalled that Italy and Germany were enemies of the British people and, as colonial subject, it was his duty to join up and fight them.
It therefore surprised him and his African military comrades that, after the war they were not given a pension to live on as an act of gratitude by the British. He said: “We were expecting it very much but it was not there.”