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Papers of F.H. Le Breton, soldier-settler in Kenya


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Papers of settler community organisations in Kenya for which F.H. Le Breton served as Secretary and spokesperson, particularly relating to the districts of Trans Nzoia and Plateau.


  • Creation: 1931-1963


2.0 Linear metres (13 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 16130/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. 16130/1-13

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 16130


Papers of F.H. Le Breton, soldier-settler in Kenya, relating to settler community associations in which he was involved.

Biographical / Historical

Biographical Note

Francis Hemery Le Breton was born in Torquay in December 1889 and educated at Charterhouse School, Godalming, and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He trained to be a member of the Royal Field Artillery and went, as Lieutenant, with his horse-drawn artillery battery to France in August 1914. Stationed near Ypres he was wounded in November 1914 and returned to England. After recovery he became an Instructor at the Royal Military Academy until he was sent back into action in August 1917. He fought at the battles of Passchendaele and Ypres again, and was wounded a second time in August 1918. He left the Army in 1920 with the rank of Major and the award of the Military Cross.

After the war Le Breton joined the “soldier-settler” scheme being promoted by the British goverment to induce capable people, mostly officers with a small amount of their own capital, to go out to British East Africa and develop the land. He went to the newly re-named Kenya Colony in 1921 and settled in one of the new Kenya highland farming areas in the west of the country called the Trans Nzoia District, intending to grow coffee. He took an active part in the local settler organisations, dealing with the wide range of issues that they faced, economic, technical, social and political. Farming became uneconomic following the world economic slump in 1929-1930 and prices remained low through the 1930s. Le Breton wrote a simplified Swahili grammar, entitled Up-country Swahili, which he published himself in 1936. It became widely used among the European community across East Africa, and went through 16 editions until 1968 with a total print of 93,000.

At the outbreak of World War II Le Breton joined up and was initially made commander of the Coast Defence Battery in Mombasa. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel he then headed the newly formed African Labour Corps engaged in various works to support the troops fighting the Italians in Abyssinia. He was posted with his men to Egypt, as garrison troops stationed along the Suez Canal, and later to Palestine. He was released from military duty in 1946.

Le Breton resumed residence as a farmer/settler in the Trans Nzoia and took an active part again in the local organisations. He was appointed as a member of the Kenya Legislative Council for a period in the 1940s-1950s. He remained in Kenya for a few years after Independence in 1963 and then accepted the government offer to buy farmland and moved to Portugal in 1968. He died in 1974.

Organisational History

The Colonists' Association, the Pastoralists' Association and several District Associations joined to form the Convention of Associations in 1910, representing the needs and interests of the colonists in Kenya. The Convention's activities declined after 1943 but it was revived in 1958 and continued until April 1963 when it was wound up.

The European Elected Members Organisation was a descendant of the Reform Party founded by Lord Delamere in 1921 in an attempt to bring Government expenditure into line with the country's own financial resources. It became the Elected Members Organisation in 1929 and, on the death of Lord Delamere in 1931, Lord Francis Scott became Chairman. For a long time the Elected Members were a minority in the Kenya Legislative Council and combined in order to make the views of their constituents known to the Governor and to the Official Members of the Council. 'European' was added to its title to distinguish it from the Unofficial Members Organisation formed following the appointment of Africans to the Legislative Council in 1948 resulting in a multi-racial majority.

The Electors' Union was created in February 1943 when new local political associations joined together amid calls for a general election. As the Convention of Associations was in abeyance at the time the Electors' Union proposed to act as a forum in which the needs and interests of the electors could be discussed, to make them known to the Government through the Union's Central Office and to ensure that the Europeans exercised their right to vote for members of the Legislative Council. The Electors' Union worked in close collaboration with the European Elected Members Organisation, sharing its office and secretariat. Amalgamation between the two organisations was discussed in the early 1950s but did not take place and in 1955 the Electors' Union changed its name to European Union. With the growth of political parties in the Legislative Council the European Union and then the European Elected Members Organisation declined and ceased to function.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by David Le Breton, son of F.H. Le Breton, in July 2019.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library: Convention of Associations Papers (MSS. Afr. s. 594), Electors' Union and European Elected Members Organisation Papers (MSS. Afr. s. 596)

Catalogue of the Papers of F.H. Le Breton, soldier-settler in Kenya
Finding aid prepared by Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom