Cyril Branson was a Canadian when he died, but British when he grew up and French when he was born. He served with the 7th Gurkhas in India and the Royal Sussex Regiment in Palestine, Trans-Jordan and Greece from 1945 – 1949.
At each posting he saw the Union Jack coming down and tensions rising.
Long Shadows of Yesterday is an interesting and engaging account of the affairs in the hotbeds at the end of British Imperialism.
By late 1945, the movement for independence in India was coming to a head. In Palestine, the conflict between the majority Arab population and the ever-increasing Jewish settlements was intensifying. The political situation in Egypt was deteriorating.
In Greece, the government was facing a civil war. And in Trans-Jordan, King Abdullah was trying to save his throne. British influence (the old Raj and previous political leverage) in these areas was declining fast and the vestiges of “Empire” were fading rapidly.
During the period of 1945-1949, Cyril Branson served as an army officer in India and a number of Middle-East countries. “This provided me the opportunity to see, at first hand, some of the miseries inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people as a result of bad decisions made by politicians sitting comfortably in their offices in Westminster and Washington D.C…”
As a British officer, command from above imposed a conciliatory viewpoint on the nationals as in “consider the other person’s perspective.” Branson realized that this is easier said than done. For example, in India, who was the other person? Was it the Hindu or the Muslim? In Palestine, was it the Jew or the Arab? Living in such close proximity to the people who were suffering the consequences of political decisions, it became increasingly difficult to remain unbiased, and not let your emotions dictate empathy, anger, or discrimination.
In each country that Branson served, he discovered a different set of behavioral rules were necessary. Long Shadows of Yesterday is based on a young officer’s impressions of the various cultural, political and military situations endured during those turbulent times. The 343-page memoir is an interesting (and often humorous) examination and one to juxtapose today’s political circumstances with that of yesterday. The reader can judge as to how much has actually changed.
CYRIL “MIKE” BRANSON
After serving in the British Armed Forces, Cyril Branson emigrated to Canada where he joined the Royal 22e Régiment in 1954 and served until his retirement as Colonel during the 1980s. He became an executive director with the Canadian government and retired after successfully elevating a department out of the red and into the black within three years. He enjoyed retirement as a writer, painter, and musician until his death on June 27, 2015 at the age of 88.
Clive Branson, Cyril’s son, lives on Besserer St.