In mid-summer 1960, David was persuaded to rejoin External Affairs full-time and resume his role as a cryptographer, this time in Leopoldville, in what had up until very recently been the Belgian Congo. The transition from colony to independent republic did not go smoothly and Leopoldville was considered a semi-war zone. The UN had been called in and things were somewhere between chaotic and “hot”. And there was Our Mister Nixon.
David’s trip from Ottawa to Leopoldville was routed through Rome to Brazzaville, across the Congo River from Leopoldville in what was then French Equatorial Africa (now Congo). (NB: what was Leopoldville is now Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo – yes, it’s confusing!)
From Brazzaville, David’s chauffeured car (a 1959 Ford station wagon) was driven down to the banks of the Congo, onto a raft of logs not much bigger than the car (so David said), surrounded and sat upon by dozens of locals and their livestock (so David said), and propelled across the river by a pair of very large outboard motors.
On his out-bound journey, David was also a diplomatic courier, granted special immunity and carrying two diplomatic pouches (duffel bags) filled with sensitive documents for the new Embassy, one attached to each wrist with handcuffs! David’s description of visiting the washroom on an airliner with a duffel bag on each arm was truly hilarious!
David was able to spend part of a day and one night in Rome (without the diplomatic bags attached) and took a few minutes to write home:
August 28, 1960
Dear Dad & Russ,
First half of trip completed. Rome is absolutely splendid and I’m sorry I don’t have more time here. Spent about an hour tonight seeing the Coliseum by moonlight – very impressive.
The journey and accommodations were all first class and had certain rewards:
Once he got somewhat settled (and detached from the dip. bags), another postcard was dispatched:
September 2, 1960
Dear Dad & Russ,
Sorry to disappoint you, but THIS is Africa!! Will write when I get a chance – have been very busy past week. Moving in with Bulls [Trade Commissioner] today ’cause hotel not too good and food worse. I’m feeling fine and climate very nice so far – much cooler than Ottawa in fact. Leopoldville is a most attractive city although slightly deserted at the moment.
Best regards to all, David