Out of Africa: Peter’s lasting legacy in Africa

News posted

9th October 2015

Charters resident Peter Davies has left a long and lasting legacy across sub-Saharan Africa – playing a very real part in the economic development of that continent.

He was instrumental in helping develop the rail and road infrastructure through Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia); Swaziland; South West Africa (now Namibia); Mozambique and South Africa.

He lived and worked in Africa from 1948 to 1987. He met and married his wife Jean while on leave in the UK in 1955. From 1957, Peter worked firstly for Rhodesia Railways and then engineering consultants Jeffares and Green. During that time he oversaw the development and refurbishment of over 4000 miles of strategic railway line and roads, helping open up vital economic routes to get minerals and other goods to the ports. 

“They were pioneering days and very rewarding,” said Peter, now 89 and living with his wife Jean at Charters Village. Jean was a field officer for the British Red Cross in Swaziland but also ran a horse riding school during their time in Natal. 

Peter drove the first Land Rover in Africa; had close encounters with all kinds of wildlife, including elephant; met King Sobhuza II of Swaziland and eventually became senior partner at Jeffares and Green.

The couple returned to the UK in 1987 but such was Peter’s reputation he was appointed as a technical consultant for the Channel Tunnel; then consulted for Kennedy & Donkin on the development of the Bangkok Overhead Railway. He eventually stopped working at the age of 75!

“I’ve always lived an active life I suppose,” said Peter modestly. For fun he drove in car rallies; sailed dinghys and competed with Jean, driving in horse and carriage competitions. Infact he won a silver medal sailing in the South African Games.

The couple eventually settled near Hythe and following their passion for horses, competed in the National Driving Trials. But as the years passed, they began to look for somewhere requiring less maintenance than their 300-year-old cottage with three acres of grounds; and they found Charters Village.

“We love it here. We arrived in November last year and being much closer to our families it is perfect for us,” he added. Earlier this year, Peter and Jean, who is also 89 years old, celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary with a congratulatory card from the Queen.

“We are very comfortable here; the staff are lovely and we have peace of mind,” he added. “Help is always close at hand should we need it.” The couple live in a two storey chalet bungalow.

“Although we are not as active as we were, we have lots of wonderful memories of our days in Africa,” he added. “And it is humbling to think that some of the projects I helped deliver are still making a difference.”