Author, broadcaster, playwright, actress… 

Confessions of an Imperial Childhood

I am currently writing, ‘Confessions of an Imperial Childhood’. Born and brought up in British India in the 1940’s, with a war raging in Europe, loved and indulged by Indian servants, on the eve of Independence in 1947 my family and I had to leave forever. The book is about my subsequent experiences, first for a year in rule-bound, traumatised post-war Britain, and then eight years in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. The confessions are not only about how I, as a child of the British Empire, had to come to terms with a new reality, but also about an intrinsic racism in my blood and the gradual realization of the shared humanity of all of us …

Chapter 1

“It was a long hot journey by train ambling down through the middle of India. We chuffed for hours and hours, day after day, through desert with spindly trees and skinny cows. Whenever we reached a station, even if it was in the middle of nowhere, there would be crowds of Indians all shoving and pushing as they packed themselves and their bundles into the third-class carriages. Those that couldn’t get in, crowded onto the open platforms, or clung to outside handles likes flies. We children also stood outside our first class carriage with smuts flying into our eyes. Although my mother shouted at us to take care, it didn’t do any good. What else were we to do to fill in the endless hours of dusty boredom? Besides, my older brother took particular pleasure in breaking rules. He even copied the Indians, hanging onto the handles of the train and, leaning right over, gobbing and spitting onto the railway track. It was 1947, India was about to get its independence, and we were on our way ‘home’ to England.”

As we steamed away from Bombay watching the land turn a misty grey and the trees become pieces of thread, the Gateway to India, which had towered above me when I’d stood under its stone arch, got smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared from sight. What I couldn’t possibly have known at nine years old with my whole life stretching, like the ocean in front of me, was that during that time there were going to be changes so big as to be unimaginable; that everything I thought I knew was going to have to be changed and that the whole world would turn itself upside down.



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Veronica Cecil


I have lived a life on the edge of the great chasms of the twentieth century. A child of partition – growing up on North West Frontier, bordering on Afghanistan, as the Great Game played out in my girlhood home and the Nazi threat loomed; a white child in South Africa as it descended down the monstrous road of Apartheid; a young woman caught up in a deadly civil war in the Congo, a cat’s paw of the superpower Cold War conflict.

I write memoir with a difference – the backdrop is the conflict and upheaval you read about in the history books. I give you the mood, the intrigue and the lies adults told each other about a world changing in front of them. I show what it was really like and paint the past in vivid colours.

I am widowed with four children and nine grandchildren.

I have performed, taught drama, broadcast on the radio, and written for most of my adult life. I am widely travelled and give talks on my adventures.

I started my career as an actress – in repertory companies including Newcastle and Richmond in the UK.

When my children were small I got regular commissions to write half hour satirical television plays for children. I scripted a film and wrote two stage plays and published a short story in New Stories 3, an anthology published for the UK Arts Council in 1978 by Hutchinson.

I also wrote plays for BBC Radio 4

After taking a degree in English and Drama, I taught drama to young adults.

This was followed by a career as a freelance reporter making features and packages for BBC Radio 4 –  mainly for Woman’s Hour – as well as Radio 3 and the BBC World Service. I also wrote and broadcast documentaries and wrote and read short stories for Radio 4.

In 1990 I went out to South Africa and did a number of pieces mainly about the women in South Africa.

Having been born in British India I got a commission to go back to where I grew up and wrote and broadcast a series of six ‘Letters from Abroad’ about what the country was like during the days of the Raj and the current situation in what is now Pakistan.

I have also written articles among others for the Guardian and the Oldie – about playing a cameo role in the Profumo scandal when  British Intelligence listened in on the MP’s sexual exploits through our nursery wall.

In 2011 I wrote a book entitled ‘Drums on the Night Air’ published by Constable and Robinson, a memoir about going out to the Congo with my husband, getting caught up in a war and having to give birth to a baby while fleeing with my one year old son.

I have written a book entitled ‘Blood for our Blood’ about the murder of my mother’s cousin, a brilliant young surgeon, in Peshawar, British India 1932. The case appeared to have been abandoned for political reasons. In 1995 I went out to Pakistan and discovered the true reason for the murder.

After leaving India in 1947, my family went to Southern Africa.

I am currently writing a book about racism and colonialism entitled ‘Confessions of an Imperial Childhood

More about me

Past achievements
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