The Times Obituaries Bob Astles

Astles arriving at court in Kampala: he was an official at the heart of the country’s dreaded State Research Centre
Geoffrey White / Daily Mail / Rex Features

Bob Astles is dead! The LondonEvening Post

The London Evening Post regrets to announce the death of one of our most revered columnists. Robert Asketill, the man famously known to many as ‘Bob Astles’ and to his friends as ‘Bob’ and the man who founded the Uganda Aviation Services, the first airline to employ Ugandans which was renamed ‘Uganda Airlines’ by Idi Amin, has died.

He was responsible for my father’s murder and should have had the guts to admit the part he played in the death of so many innocent people. He even had to conceal his own death for fear of recrimination. He took his ugly secrets to his grave. He tried to fool many in his latter years but he can not fool those who know his true nature. He destroyed my family and many others, only the universe can grant forgiveness to those who commit such atrocities.

It is ridiculous to write a ‘revered columnists. Robert Asketill, the man famously known to many as ‘Bob Astles’…. as though he was actually called Robert Asketill and that he was only famed as ‘Bob Astles’. His name was Bob Astles, and the assumed name of Robert Asketill clear concealed the true identity of a man with blood on his hands. How ever much he did to help people in his latter years he still had to conceal his death and burial for fear of recrimination knowing his own guilt, and the part he played in the murder of my father only one of many innocent people to die at his hands.

The Telegraph – Bob Astles

Bob Astles

Bob Astles, who has died aged 88, was, as the British-born adviser and factotum to the bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the most hated white man in postcolonial Africa.

Why I’m glad they didn’t assassinate Idi Amin

I came accross this commentary on the Independent website:

Why I’m glad they didn’t assassinate Idi Amin  by  Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Written in the wake of the death of Idi Amin it is a ramble regarding the role of the British ( and ‘others’) ‘ who helped to create the misery Asians in East Africa went through’. 

She states:

‘Too many white men acquainted with him still say that he was a thoroughly enjoyable man (the same sort of raffish folk who describe the unrepentant fascist Diana Mosley, who also died this week, as “charming”). He made many such men kneel down before him or carry him aloft in a wooden boat in 1975. These whims merely revealed that he was “mad”, they said.’

I have sent the following to her, and to her editor, asking for her to action in making this statement to be remedied: 

‘This paragraph is grossly inaccurate, and defamatory of my father, Robert Scanlon, who died at the hands of Idi Amin.
He was one of the ‘ kneelers’ and ‘carriers’, deeply humiliating acts which the men carried out the to prevent harm to others  if they did not cooperate.

My father became a Ugandan citizen and regarded Uganda as his ‘homeland’, the country where I grew up, and my sister was born. My parents risked their lives by helping others (ultimately my father lost his life). They helped deported Asians like you by recruiting family members in Canada to act as sponsors to my mothers work colleagues who were their close friends, and are even now settled in Ontario. They helped a Ugandan friend, a minister in Obote’s government, who was nearly beaten to death by Amin’s regime.

It is disgusting that you associate my father with a fascist like Diana Mitford (Mosley), and that you write about my father in the same paragraph as ‘raffish folk’ who found Idi Amin a ‘thoroughly enjoyable man’. 
Vilification of, by inference, my father and his colleagues in this way is libellous and I would like you to take necessary steps to remedy your action.



Murdered or Missing Memorial (MoM)

I have the idea to create a memorial to all of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Idi Amin, like the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, or the wall of remembrance in America or the war graves in Flanders. First by collating the names of those missingormurdered right here on this blog and then working towards a memorial site in Uganda. Please add names to my father’s guest book and send your comments to me, and let me know if you are interested  this project.

The Last King of Scotland

Giles Foden lived in Uganda during the Idi Amin years, he went to live there after I had left. He wrote ‘The Last King of Scotland’ <a href=”book“> on which the award winning<a href=”film“> by the same name is based. It is a widely held belief that the doctor, Idi Amin’s personal physician, Nicholas Garrigan, is based on a real life character, usually Bob Astles. I have even read that the character is a composite of three real life characters, and it has been considered that 2 of ‘the carriers’ (the men carrying Idi Amin in the famous sedan chair image) may have been the others (my father included). The truth is, I think, that three main characters in the film are based on the three main characters in the book. You see film is not that close to the book!

There was no connection whatsoever between the character Nicholas Garrigan and my father in either the film or the book as indicated in one of the film reviews on Amazon:

‘I only learned after the fact that James McAvoy’s character is entirely fictional. This is a shame because the film might have made a superb primer to the history, culture and personality of the region had The Last King Of Scotland shown life in Amin’s government from the perspective from someone who had actually been there’

However, contrary to the above reviewer’s opinion, I do think that if you want to get an insight about how it actually felt to live in Uganda during that time, then the film and book really are good for that. The fear I felt watching the film was really like the fear I felt living in Uganda at that time.

Other reviews I have read of the film also support this view (see below).

As far as possible I would like to make this site factual, there is far too much sensationalism and exaggeration around Idi Amin and his killing machine. The truth and the facts are bad enough, no enhancement is necessary. The reason why I mention Giles Foden’s book and the film are purely for you to have an understanding of the ‘atmosphere’ of fear which existed at that time and what the country was like. As some of the reviews I have read have recognised:

‘this film has great scenery and characters and accurately depicts the clothes, buildings and vehicles of the time and place it is set’ and the film ‘brings 1970s Uganda to pulsating life, perfectly recreating that tumultuous era’.

I plan to write about the ‘experience’ of living in and being raised in Uganda before, during and in the aftermath of Idi Amin’s era over the next few years, using the oral histories of friends, family and acquaintances.

Henry Kyemba was a Minister in Amin’s government. He wrote an account <a href=”the book“>’A State of Blood’ based on his memories of the years 1972 – 1977. He fled Uganda before my father went missing, and there is no account from him on my fathers death. He notes that ‘The history of Uganda will be an oral one’ and that his book is ‘only a begining’. During the course of my research I will also contact Henry Kyemba, however I recommend his book to those of you who would wish to read a more factual account of the Amin era. If you read this book you will certainly come to understand that no embellishment or  sensationalism could make the bare facts more horrifying. As with the shocking truth about the holocaust, the truth about Idi Amin’s Killing Machine is, in its nakedness, far more frightening than fantasy. It the stuff of nightmares, and worse than what most normal people would be capable of imagining.

Henry Kyemba’s book  is out of print, there are only second hand editions available for sale (at over £50). You would be better requesting this book through your local library (ISBN: 0-441-78524-4). Isn’t it amazing how one can buy, new, the fiction (The last King of Scotland) for £4.99, yet the truth is almost unaffordable!

I have to also say, most importantly, that this was Uganda then. I have been back several times over the past few years, and Uganda is once again, the wonderful home land I missed so much for nearly 30 years. I actually feel safer there than in Bradford where I have worked during the last decade, before my illness in 2007.

I am sorry if the HTML links spoil this page’s appearance, but it is with very kind permission of WordPress that I am able to include these links to help my readers to easily find information I refer to. I am a new user of HTML and website/blog building and I am self-taught, so maybe in the future my skills will improve.

The Search Begins: Your Past, My Nothingness

This request was posted on the Ugandaninsomniac’s blog, thank you so much for your support Tumwijuke:

A request from the author of the blog ‘Murdered or Missing?

My father, Robert (Bob) Scanlon went missing and was murdered in Uganda in 1977. This was during the Idi Amin years. I just wonder does any one out there have any information which might help to discover what happened to him and why?

 That blog post struck a chord in me.  I don’t know what it is.

Perhaps it is mawolu from reading Andrew Rice’s book, “The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda.”

Perhaps it is ubuntu.

Perhaps it is the fact that so many have died in my country since 1962.  So many.  And nothing, but fleeting memories remain.

If you have any info on Robert Scanlon, please visit ‘Murdered or Missing?’ here.

1 Response to “Your Past, My Nothingness”

  1. > 1 DarlkomAugust 3, 2009 at 6:21 pmI think not knowing whether someone is dead or alive is the worst kind of torture. There is no closure, you can’t properly mourn without feeling guilty in case the person you are mourning is not actually gone. This is sad.