OBITUARY: Richard Frost

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The Independent Online
Of the many contexts in which Richard Frost will be remembered, the most important may be his leadership from 1947 of the British Council in East Africa, particularly his endeavours in "race relations", a difficult field in which he demonstrated great resourcefulness, imagination and moral courage.

Frost's Second World War service as an intelligence officer with the Royal Air Force, his pre-war experience in historical research on the Times, and his time in the Commonwealth section of the Royal Institute of International Affairs equipped him to deal effectively with the challenges of post-war Kenya and the adjoining British territories. Arthur Creech Jones, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Sir Philip Mitchell, a pre-eminent colonial governor of the period, were rightly agreed that questions of human relations between the white "settler" populations, the Asians from the Indian subcontinent and the majority African peoples were of supreme significance for the future of British East Africa.

The different origins and roles of the several "races" or communities in the political, economic and social life of the region made urgent the development of closer understanding between them after their direct involvement in the war, and at a time when the colonial world was expectant of early change. The expectations of each group varied but coherence and stability, and a common loyalty, were required for peaceful constitutional advance.

It is a measure of Frost's personal success that after seven years serving the whole of East Africa and his return to Britain, first to Cambridge, and then Oxford, he was invited back to Kenya in 1963-65 to be once more their own British Council Representative.

The nature and range of Frost's initiatives are portrayed in his book Race Against Time: human relations and politics in Kenya before independence (1978). It was characteristic of him that he submitted himself to the discipline of postgraduate study for a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the preparation of this valuable publication.

In a subsequent book, Enigmatic Proconsul: Sir Philip Mitchell and the twilight of empire (1992), based substantially on private papers, Frost sought to make known the achievements of Mitchell, whom he believed to have suffered unjust criticism over the advent of Mau Mau in Kenya. Certainly Mitchell's career was wide- ranging, not least during the war, when he established close rapport with American leaders - a fact commended by Frost, who himself, between the wars, had been a visiting Fellow at Harvard in 1928-29, an experience which facilitated his co-operation with US Air Force colleagues in 1939- 45. Frost, a fair-minded man, who knew at first hand the problems of real- life decision making, was a worthy champion of Mitchell.

Frost was born in 1905 and educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He was proud of the scholarly traditions of Westminster, and pleased to gain the Stanhope Prize at Oxford in 1927. His affection for Christ Church, cathedral as well as college, also persisted throughout his life. Besides writing an informative leaflet on Oxford he served in retirement as a voluntary guide to share the treasures of Christ Church with visitors. He was also a volunteer worker at Oxfam headquarters.

Dick Frost's regard for the individual was possibly his most important and endearing personal quality. It marked his work as an international commissioner of the Boy Scout movement with Baden-Powell, it is striking in his excellent red chalk drawings of some of his Royal Air Force comrades, now in the RAF Museum at Hendon, and it was a priceless attribute to the British Council. Africans of all political persuasions and interests responded to his direct, easy courtesy, and were grateful for his encouragement and help, as were Russian visitors who came to Oxford during the Cold War years. At his home, first in Appleton, then in north Oxford, he and his wife Tam, his partner in all endeavours, offered generous private as well as official hospitality.

Kenneth Kirkwood

Richard Aylmer Frost, public servant: born London 29 May 1905; married 1938 Alice ("Tam") Reichwald (two sons, two daughters); died Lugwardine, Herefordshire 5 March 1995.