Prince And Pauper

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13





In 1972 I returned to Nairobi to collect my Piper Comanche if not the wiser, at least a much poorer man, as Larry Popp had been justifiably upset about the loss of his Cessna Skyhawk I had hired. And most of all the small profit I had made from the British Broadcasting Corporation expedition had gone to help compensate him.


I was also having problems in another quarter; My second son, Howard Miles, had been born, and like his sibling James, he was perfectly healthy, his birth being closely monitored by Guy’s Hospital in London. However, communications with my wife Hazel had broken down at the time, because the British postal workers were on an extended strike, and no letters got through. All attempts to obtain a date from Hazel for her return to Africa were fruitless, and I had no available ready money to allow me to fly to Britain and discover the problem. So I vacillated, and this was to prove a terminal error.


I was happy to be reunited with my Comanche, to revel in the sheer power of the 250 HP engine, and the 160 knot cruising speed, but I was now again short of money so I had to get down to some hard work.


At this time, another very keen pilot, who had served a long apprenticeship as an engineer with East African Airways, Billy Mussett, agreed with me that we might be able to get something going together, and after he had checked out on the Comanche, I tried to get work for both of us.


I had been approached by members of the Ethiopian Royal Family, at act as guide to cousin of the Queen of England, Prince William of Gloucester. Then the sixth in line of succession to the British Throne, behind the Queen, his friend Prince Charles, and his father the Duke of Gloucester.


Prince William was a keen adventurer, knowledgeable concerning wildlife and a positive expert on birds. He had wanted to spend more time in the Lower Omo River, since he had passed briefly, down the river on his and Prince Charles’ boat ‘The Royal Barge’ but had been impressed with what little he had been able to see and hear.


I met Prince William and his travelling companion, Californian lawyer Bob Huskinson who had been his friend and confident at StamfordUniversity in California, and they both requested me to drop everything and take them to camp on the Omo. I was unable to do this immediately, but they arranged for an Italian guide to drive them from Addis Ababa, and drop them at Murle, where I would take over.


The  formalities were soon dropped in one of East Africa’s most unexplored regions, and William, Bob and myself were merely happy that in camp there were copious ‘fizzy’ soft drinks, and for the evenings an ample supply of ‘The Wine of Scotland.’


William and I differed on our selection of aircraft, I swore by my Piper ‘Comanche’, he, loved his Piper ‘Arrow’ a more modern retractable which he kept and flew in Britain. This Cherokee Arrow had ‘automatic’ features I distrusted intensely.


However, nothing I could say would sway him so I respected his opinion and only begged to differ. I think I was later proved correct in my opinion when the Prince was turning sharply out of his take-off during an ‘Air Rally’ at HalfpennyGreenAirport in the British Midlands. At the precise moment his stall speed was raised to a high level due to his accelerating turn, the undercarriage dropped down and the suddenly increased drag made Prince William’s aircraft unmanageable, he turned inverted and crashed, killing himself and his co-pilot. Prince William was a former diplomat, a businessman and chairman of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; his demise was sorely regretted.


But this crash was in the future, and could not be envisaged, so the three of us enjoyed the pleasures of exploring the Omo, and cataloguing the enormous variety of birdlife which dwelt in the trees of the riverine forest, and the acacia thorn of the plains beyond.


On one such foray, William was watching the antics of an elegant coucal in the riverine forest, when a lurking buffalo rushed at us. It was probably suffering from rinderpest, a common killer disease of ungulates, which I had assumed responsible for the death of the majority of the lesser and greater kudu population on the east bank of the river. Rinderpest makes animals, especially buffalo, violently bad-tempered, and I just had time to bring up my .458 Schulz & Larsen and shoot the buffalo before it impaled the Royal Rear! William profusely thanked me for my timely intervention and asked my how it felt to have saved the life of my future King? “Just pleasure sire!” I replied, “It was duty – I am after all a British Highlands Officer!”


Too soon the safari came to an end, William, Bob and I flew back to Addis Ababa, The Prince left me a fine Holland and Holland rifle in 7mm Remington Magnum caliber, which I treasured until I lost it in the Marxist revolution, now just a few short months away.



  • The illustration was photographed in black and white on a low-cost Polaroid camera as I had left my Nikon in Nairobi. It shows Prince William and myself (left) just after I had saved his life from a wild Cape buffalo. The picture was also printed on a page of the ‘Daily Express’ in 1972

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