Riddle of Norfolk grave in Africa

Monday, February 5, 2007
8.09 AM

Deep in the heart of rural Tanzania, the three Norfolk teachers must have felt like they were exploring unchart-ed territory.

Deep in the heart of rural Tanzania, the three Norfolk teachers must have felt like they were exploring unchart-ed territory.

But while strolling along dirt tracks in the late afternoon sunshine, they discovered, quite by accident, that they had certainly not been the first East Anglians to venture so far.

The intrepid trio had travelled to Africa as volunteers to help teach English as a foreign language in the remote Kiteto district after reading about the EDP's Dying of Thirst Appeal.

After class they were walking in Kibaya, taking in the local flora and fauna, when nestled among the jacaranda trees they discovered a “thoroughly British”-looking grave.

Marian Williams, from Winfarthing, said: “I just happened to look in that direction and it caught my eyes, it looked so thoroughly British that it stood out from its surroundings. We walked across a field to get to it.”

But they were in for a further shock when they looked at the inscription.

It read: “In loving memory of John Francis Brabazon Spurrell, administrative officer, Kibaya. Killed by a buffalo August 16, 1927, aged 26. Only son of John T and Violet M Spurrell, Newton St Faith, Norfolk.”

Ms Williams, who was with Di Pinder, who lives near Coltishall, and Brenda Packman, from Rockland St Mary, said: “It was a shock that someone from Norfolk had managed to travel to Kibaya all those years ago. And it was such a coincidence with the three of us there.”

The journey to Kibaya these days involves a long flight to the administrative capital Dar es Salaam, followed by a nine-hour bumpy car journey, largely on dirt tracks, without any road signs for direction.

“I can't imagine what it must have been like for him. It just shows how far the English actually got in their explorations,” added Ms Williams.

“And to be killed by a buffalo, when you think of all the other wildlife around.”

Now they are interested in tracing any of his ancestors to find out what he was doing in Tanzania.

Initial attempts via the phone book have so far failed to turn up any information but Ms Williams hopes EDP readers will be able to help.

If you have any information call Tara Greaves on 01603 772446 or email tara.greaves@ archant.co.uk.