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Colleagues: Sir Mohinder Dhillon

Having worked in the film and television industry for over fifty years, I realise that I have been privileged in having worked alongside some of the finest technicians the industry has produced.

I have worked with some of the best cameramen, great men, talented, dedicated men who would be embarrassed at reading the comments that I make.

Outstanding, even among these gentlemen, is Mohinder Dhillon, now Sir Mohinder Dhillon.

Mohinder has written his autobiography which is to be published shortly.  It is a good read and describes his early childhood in a small village called Babar Pur in the Punjab of India.

In 1917, his father  Tek Singh left the village and went to Kenya in East Africa to work on the railway that runs from Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda.  He would return to his village every four years. Mohinder was born in Babur Pur in 1931.

Mohinder was one of seven children and, in 1947, he and his family moved from the Punjab to Kenya. There, his father held a responsible position with the railway that ran from Mombasa to Kampala via Nairobi..

This intrepid family produced a doctor who had studied medicine in London.  Mohinder remained in Nairobi.

In 1951, education completed, Mohinder sought a job.
Mohinder writes:

box brownieIn 1951, I failed to get to “O” level which was the minimum qualification to get any kind of meaningful clerical job. I was in a dilemma and worried about earning my livelihood and my future life. Every morning I went through the newspapers looking under the Job Vacancies column and one day spotted a vacancy for a “junior accounts clerk for a big Pharmacy”. I contacted the Pharmacy and was called in for an interview. The proprietor of the Pharmacy, an old Jewish lady called Miss Edith Haller rejected me immediately saying what she had wanted was a qualified book keeper which I was not. I was in tears. But as I was about to leave, I mentioned to her that since she  also owned Halle Studio, could I at least get employment there? Her eyes lit up. I knew a little about processing pictures. In a simple gesture, Bau Ji (Mohinder’s father, Bau Ji is a respectful way of addressing a father) had given me a basic, Box Brownie camera, the “Poor man’s Rolliflex” with fixed speed and fixed aperture. Neither he nor I knew that this was the beginning of a career as a photographer/cinematographer.

Mohinder became an accomplished photographer.

In 1959, He was visited by George Pipal then of United Press International.  Mohinder, for some time, had been servicing UPI with news pictures from East Africa.  George was now looking for a newsfilm cameraman to supply the expanding UPI television service.   Mohinder was in partnership with Ivor Davis, a journalist, in their thriving photographic business which became the largest news photo and TV agency in Africa with stringers in Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar and Uganda.

Mohinder writes :

Ivor Davis and I started Africapix Media with a single spring-loaded camera, a mute 16mm Bell & Howell 70 DR which cost us $299 with a case and 3 lenses on a revolving turret. It was capable of taking only 100-feet of daylight-loading spool.  The tension of winding the spring – the camera did not have an electric motor – was so strong that doing it repeatedly left blisters on my hand. 

From this time, he would work for UPIN and ITN and, later, for networks and broadcasters around the world.


Sir Mohinder Dhillon by Jerry Riley.

Mohinder writes:

Some of my first big assignments for UPI were taking pictures of people like world renowned evangelist Billy Graham, actors Charlie Chaplin, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn (of African Queen fame) on Safari to Kenya and general news pictures. Most Hollywood stars loved going on Safari in Kenya, usually on specially erected camp sites.  I shall always remember our very first assignment, when I got a telegram from Associated Press pictures telling me that Charlie Chaplin was on private holiday in Kenya and they needed just one wire photo establishing that he and his family were in Africa. After finding out where Chaplin was staying, I contacted his manager at the famous 5 star New Stanley hotel, but I was rudely chased away. I sent a telegram to AP admitting defeat. The reply they sent back was curt and to the point. “Mr. Dhillon,” it read, “in news business we don’t ever take no for an answer”. I got the message.

Eventually Mohinder got his picture of Charlie Chaplin.  No only that, Chaplin invited Mohinder and Ivor to dine with him and his family.

In April 1960, Mohinder was in Witwatersrand in South Africa for the Jubilee celebration of the formation of the Union.  An assassination attempt took place when Mohinder was around 50 yards from the scene of the shooting.  A South African farmer from Natal, David Pratt, shot Dr. Henrik Verwoerd twice in the head with a .22 calibre pistol.

Mohinder writes:

During a fracas following an attempt on Dr. Henrik Verwoerd’s life, the South African apartheid leader, I was wrestling with his security man who was trying to grab my camera. I was about 50 yards from Verwoerd when a shot went off. There was a commotion, Verwoerd’s bodyguards speaking into walkie-talkies, running about him. I rushed to the scene and got footage of the Prime Minister bleeding in the mouth. His bodyguards saw me and came for my camera. In the confusion, I hit one bodyguard. I did it intentionally, but made it look like an accident. The poor fellow fell and a tennis ball-sized bump developed on his head. He had a slight bleeding wound on one side. I looked at this and attempted to make a quick escape. By now the entire security apparatus seemed to be after me. Before I could get into the hired car outside, three police men got between me and the car and took my camera – with the film inside. I was sorrier for the loss of the film than for the $ 300 camera which was insured anyway. My AP colleague, Dennis Royle (later killed in a stupid NATO crash during useless exercises over the Atlantic) took a still picture of the attack on Verwoerd for which he was awarded the top award.  I was glad I was not locked up as a suspect which would have been hell for me under the Apartheid regime. Eventually I was given the camera back and asked to leave the country. I was put into an open pickup, one hand handcuffed to the side bar and driven at great speed to the airport. There I was warned by a burly policeman in a heavy Yapee (Afrikaans) accent who said he would not hesitate to shoot me if I tried any monkey tricks. From his tone, he sounded like he meant it. As if to underline his seriousness, he told me he had shot a few monkeys like me in his time. My fear was them removing the film from the camera and my heart was racing to find out the truth. As soon as my menacing escorts were out of sight, I opened the camera and sadly they had removed the exposed film.

Africapix, armed only with a Bell and Howell camera were losing assignments that now required synchronous sound.  Mohinder purchased a second-hand  studio Auricon pro-600.  It was a blimped camera with a 60-pound power pack and with nickel cadmium car batteries and a vibrator to power the camera with 110-volt electric current.  It was a synchronous sound camera, recording the sound on a track on the side of the film.  This camera proved to be a monster. It was designed to operate off mains electricity, to use the camera away from the mains required that the aforesaid battery was used and, apart from the battery assembly, the camera itself weighed around 60 pound.

About this time, the Auricon cameraswere being converted in sophisticated workshops and given a DC motor which would work off a light nickel-cadmium battery.  It would be a while before Mohinder could obtain one of those.

1964 saw the Congo Crisis in a country which had recently been granted independence from Belgium.  It was a period of turmoil in the First Republic of the Congo. At various times, it had the characteristics a war of independence, a break-up of the country, with Katanga seeking to secede and a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The Crisis, from 1964 to 1966 resulted in the deaths of some 100,000 people.

Life was cheap.

In early 1964, a group of rebels calling themselves “Simba” (Lion) started a rebellion against government forces under Prime Minister Moise Tshombe.  The rebels captured Stanleyville in September 1964 and it became their base.

Tschombe was supported by South African and Rhodesian mercenaries.

According to Mohinder Dhillon, the indiscipline in both camps was demonstrated by the drunkenness of troops of both sides even when they were on duty.  The Army ration included a large Simba (lion) beer for breakfast.

Mohinder writes (inter Alia) :

Filming of the war in Congo, a country in a shambles, with a completely un-disciplined army, was only half the battle. A bigger nightmare was getting the footage out of the country. We had to drive for two to three days at times to get the film on an airplane. The roads were in a bad condition and as if that was not enough, you often came across road blocks with government soldiers manning the barriers, men drunk out of their minds. By routine we had to come out with our hands in the air declaring our identity. The first thing these Congolese soldiers did was to stick their gun in your stomach and ask questions later. They demanded money and alcohol and cigarettes. You could never tell what was going to happen. A packet of cigarettes, I found was your best friend as a traveller in such tight spots in Africa…..

…….On one occasion in Congo, a soldier who was too drunk out of his mind to get up or talk and could only mumble the word whisky, took a shot at me. This was at a roadblock. From his position and his state of mind, he could not take an accurate shot and missed me. Nevertheless, I heard the sound of the bullet flying past my ear. The only damage was my hat, which flew off my head. I am convinced that he just wanted to scare me with his finger on the trigger.  I watched his finger like a hawk in case he accidently let his finger slip.

After a nightmare drive to Leopoldville (Kinshasa) airport to ship the film off to London or New York, Mohinder was then confronted by the airport staff who all wanted bribe money. The freight staff wanted payment for overtime, even during normal working hours, the customs officer took $25 (half of what Mohinder was being paid) while the waybill typist wanted another $25.  Eventually, Mohinder was able to retrieve this money from his clients.  In spite of all the troubles, not a single shipment ever went astray.

Later he was to film the rebels in Albertville, a location he had been advised not to go to. It was almost the death of him.

He arrived in Stanleyville on the day that the rebels slaughtered sixty of  the hostages they had taken.

The Congolese government had sought assistance from Belgian and the United States forces. The Belgian army sent a task force to Leopoldville.  They were airlifted in by the 322nd Air Division United States Air Force.  Mohinder, in a chartered aircraft, flew in to Stanleyville, the airport control assuming that the aircraft was part of the rescue mission.

The task force consisted of 350 Belgian paratroopers who dropped into Stanleyville airport.  They secured the airfield and then made their way to the Victoria Hotel where they found that there were no survivors.

Altogether some 1,800 American and European hostages were evacuated together with some 400 Congolese.

Mohinder filmed some government soldiers executing Simba rebels at Stanleyville Bridge where they dumped bodies in the river.  He was spotted and made to hand over the film.  From there, he went to the airport to board his charter flight out.

A Congolese security officer asked to examine his passport, looking for a Congo visa.  Mohinder explained that they did not have time to get on before leaving Nairobi.  The officer searched further and triumphantly discovered that Mohinder had an exit-visa stamp from, Albertville, a rebel stronghold.  He then accused Mohinder of being a rebel sympathiser and he arrested him.  Incredibly, the officer had been a rebel, who had gone over to the government side, and it was he who had put the Albertville stamp in Mohinder’s passport.

Mohinder was then placed with a group of people who were being systematically executed.  There was no trial or discussion.  Eventually, Mohinder found that he was one of a handful of men waiting to be led out.

At this point, Mohinder was recognised by John Lane, an ITN cameraman ,who called his journalist over.  The journalist was Sandy Gall of ITN who spoke with the security officer and with Mike Hoare the famous and successful mercenary soldier.  They got Mohinder released.

It was a miracle that ITN cameraman John Lane spotted Mohinder through his viewfinder and raised the alarm only five minutes before the countdown to Mohinder’s execution.

Mohinder had been counting time and recalling his life and his achievements and what was in store for him. And while thinking of his family, he felt a gentle kick and the friendly voice of John: “Mohinder what in hell are you doing here ?”

Mohinder comments ”It was hell all right a hell-hole, a hangar of corrugated iron sheets, hot like an oven.  Shortly after this lucky escape, three staff members of Africapix Media, Mohinder Marjara, Yens Albreksen and Joseph Ngere went missing in Eastern Congo, presumed murdered by Simba Rebels after stealing the company car, camera and personal belongings.  When they went missing my wife Ambi started receiving messages of sympathy after people had read agency reports naming “Mohinder” Marjara as one of the victims”.

Mohinder filming British army in action in Steamer Point in Adenin 1967.

Mohinder filming British army in action in Steamer Point in Aden
in 1967.

In 1967, for about seven months, Mohinder was in Aden.  This was at the height of the insurgency in which daily battles took place between the Yemeni rebels, mainly the NLF, the National Liberation Front, and the British Army.  Aden was then a Protectorate that Great Britain had occupied since 1839.  It was then an anti-piracy station. The British quit Aden in November 1967, some time before the planned withdrawal.  Mohinder was there for all the ferocious fighting that took place.  He spent his time dodging bullets and hand grenades.  If he had dived for cover, he would still have been attached to his 60 pound Auricon sound camera.  If Mohinder had dived that would have  been the end of the Auricon camera, the Monster.  He was left standing.  He luckily survived dozens of battles, sometimes only less than 150 metres from the opposing sides.  Miraculously without a scratch.


Courtesy Dennis Royale-Associated Press.

He reasoned that neither the insurgents nor the British troops would deliberately shoot him.  The Daily Telegraph ran a story about Mohinder under the heading “Ice-cool in Aden”, something on the lines of “Brave Punjab Sikh moving as if he was strolling in Hyde Park”.

The British troops called him “Death Wish Dhillon”.

The East African Safari Rally was inaugurated at Easter 1953.  It was to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

At an early stage Africapix were involved in producing still photos of the event for a variety of motor industry clients.  When they started shooting films, they would provide UPITN with newsfilm.

In the late sixties and early seventies, I was commissioned to make a documentary film on five rallies.  Mohinder’s previous experience on the rally proved to be enormous help to our visiting film crews.  Apart from our staff cameramen from Paris and Rome, Mohinder and some of his own cameramen worked on the documentaries.  Nissan Motors were extremely pleased with the resulting productions.  That was self evident, they commissioned us five times.

We missed out on 1969 and 1970 because the chairman of Nissan Motors of Japan declared that the Rally was polluting the country’s fresh air. He thought that it was not doing their corporate image any good.  The three countries involved, at that time, were Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania each with its own beautiful countryside, blue skies and mushroom clouds which, around Easter, contrasted with the rally cars travelling at top speed churning up either clouds of dust or mud.

Mohinder (centre) as part of the Magnificent Nine.

Mohinder (centre) as part of the Magnificent Nine at the 1970 East African Safari Rally. Self-timer photo by Mohinder Dhillon.

Africapix sent out a photographer and a cameraman on the rally route to reconnoitre for ideal location shots to establish the African location with typical African huts.  They would find, and then take a picture of, each interesting vantage point on the route.

The cameraman would get some cut-away shots, especially though the windscreen, showing typical obstructions on the route such as donkeys crossing the road.  They would find women carrying heavy loads on their heads, colourful markets, varying scenery and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Part of the team was Keikichi (Ken) Watanabe who was the UPI photographer in Tokyo and contact man with Nissan.  He was most helpful to the crew and was fascinated by the tall trees, which one assumed were not to be  found in Japan and the small and tasty local bananas.  When he returned ot Tokyo, he took some bananas back with him.

Nissan was sometimes one of several companies that we worked for on the Rallies.  Others were Peugeot, Shell and finally, the Kenya Tourist Board.

From the photos taken on route, Africapix would produced a sheet of photos, rather like the old Polyphotos, which allowed his still camera clients to choose their preferred locations for pictures.   These pictures were to prove invaluable to us and helped us to choose some of the best locations that could be found en route.  Mohinder was in charge of logistics on these productions, as well as being a principal cameraman, and all of our crews were deposited into their locations without a problem.

Mohinder comments: ”Whilst the rally drivers took compulsory rest, there was no rest for us as we needed to process the photos and wire them.  The film had to be logged and ship back to London”.   

Mohinder made a major contribution to the films’ success.

During the seven years war between Iraq and Iran, Mohinder, with his late brother Balbir, made a film about the plight of the Kurdish people in Iran.  The Islamic Republic treated their Kurds as badly as the Iraqis had done theirs.  Hundred of Kurds were executed.  Their crime ? They were Kurds in the Islamic Republic.  Once again Mohinder was living dangerously and would have been in serious trouble had he and his brother been discovered making their film.

Mohinder comments:  The punishment would have been beheadings on the spot.  The commissioning company “Broadside” were stuck as few (camera crew) would take a chance on such an assignment.  Jon Snow of ITN recommended me to the company and even got me special dispensation from the ACTT (Association of Cine, Television and Allied Technicians) who made me a member.

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the late sixties, Mohinder and Satwant Singh became Royal film makers in the Court of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.  He, together with his cameraman colleague Satwant Singh, went off on a Far Eastern tour with the Emperor.

He writes:

“Anyone who pleased the Lion of Judah got a gold coin. In 1968, my colleague Satwant and I got this rare honour after screening a film of the monarch’s visit to eight countries in the Far East. It was a marathon tour that covered India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia and Australia. Emperor Haille Selassie was a happy man travelling and was received with warmth everywhere he went. In Thailand we sailed on the Royal barge through the floating market where boats sold everything from fruits to shoes. We drove past hundreds of beautiful Buddhist temples and made a call on the young King and Queen. We had jetted into the country to an airport garlanded like a carnival flotilla of colours. Elephants and striking Thai girls dressed in silk danced around the Emperor as he stepped out of the Ethiopian Airline Jet. Rose petals fell at his feet……”

However, in Ethiopia itself, Mohinder was to witness the abject poverty that persisted among those who were not part of the Emperor’s followers.  He was asked to make films which included “Positive Lands” in the country where Feudal landlords owned the best farming land while the rest of the population lived in abject poverty.  On top of all that, he was not being paid for his work.  Eventually in 1974, Haile Selassie was deposed.

Mohinder writes:

“A day before the coup, a tank rolled in at 10 PM and parked just outside the Jubilee Palace main gate overlooking the conference hall. It stood there, a confident predator who knew its prey could no longer spring.

In the morning, under the shroud of mist, two armouredcars and two Jeeps with mounted machine guns drove right into the Palace entrance under the porch supported by tall rounded pillars, a mastery in architecture, on the steps on both sides two beautifully carved out lion statues, a symbol of Royal authority. These brought four high-ranking army officers. Two stood outside while the other two boldly walked into the Emperor’s office where they waited for him. The army TV team followed the two officers un-obtrusively and the cameraman was a good friend of mine and source of information. When the King of Kings appeared for the last time as Emperor, they bowed politely. Up to this moment he was still treated like a ruling Monarch. Very respectfully, with all the courtesies, they saluted before they read him the proclamation:

Even though the people treated the throne in good faith as a symbol of unity, Haile Selassie I took advantage of its authority, dignity, and honour for his own personal gains. As a result, the country found itself in a state of poverty and disintegration. Moreover, an eighty two-year old monarch, because of his age is incapable of meeting his responsibilities. Therefore His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I is being deposed as of September 12 1974, and power assumed by the provisional military committee. Ethiopia, above all.”

Mohinder filmed events after the over-throw and worked with ITN’s Ray Moloney when the news was sent around the world.

Mohinder comments:

“Ray had the gift to put on an American accent to deliver his pipece-to-camera for ABC-TV in the U.S.A. after doing his poiece and commentary for ITN’s News At Ten.”

Based in Nairobi, it was obvious that Mohinder would be called upon to film the events in neighbouring Uganda.

He did this for nine years from Milton Obote’s presidency through that of idi Amin and then back to Obote.

Over a long period, Mohinder filmed interviews with many of the African rulers of the day.

When the troubles between Ethiopia and Somalia came to a head, Mohinder was called upon to film in what were very dangerous locations, working alongside Jon Snow.

In the late 1970s, there was internal unrest in the Ogaden. The Western Somali Liberation Front, led by Muktal Dahir, resorted to guerilla warfare to overcome Ethiopian rule. Ethiopia and Somalia fought the “Ogaden War” over control of this region and its people.

For the B.B.C., Mohinder worked on films concerning wildlife in Kenya, including a documentary that depicted the slaughter of elephants for their tusks.   The film illustrated the illegal trade in Ivory and helped to, at least, curtail the trade. The film was called “Elephant Run” and was broadcast on the B.B.C. Programme “The World About Us”. The investigation within the film showed that the trade in ivory was being carried out with the co-operation and actual participation of the ruling family.

Stockpiles of ivory were seized and some years later it was burnt by order of the Kenya Government.

During this period, Mohinder worked with a number of ITN journalists, some of whom were on their first foreign location when they met up. The list of first-timers included Jon Snow.

With David Smith of ITN, Mohinder, while working on a story of the political situation in Uganda, was alerted to the famine in the north of the country.

He writes:

We were in Kampala when a missionary tipped us off about the famine situation  It was in Karamoja in Northern Uganda. The missionary showed David some pictures of the famine…..We had already done the Obote story.  Obote was a British interest story, not important to the American networks

David Smith and Mohinder covered the famine in detail, showing a 24-hour period in the life of the famine victims.   Mohinder writes: “David wrote a script that hit the hearts and minds of viewers in a typical British tradition of compassion”.

While the bulletin was being broadcast, the ITN switchboard was jammed with callers asking where they could send help.  ITN quickly contacted the Red Cross and a phone number was displayed that people could call to give donations.

That story alone managed to raise $7,000,000 in donations and aid.

Mohinder writes:

The world ignored the warning story that David Smith and I shot in Ethiopia in 1983 and which was shown on ITN News.

There was a drought and all the signs shoed a food shortage such as common relief food, powdered milk etc.  Wheat and high quality coffee was used towards financing military acquisition and shipped out to the Russians.  At the time, Dvid Smith said in his commentary that as many as 6,000,000 people could be affected in Ethiopia within twelve months.

That is what happened exactly one year later.  Sadly, yet again, as these things go, the world woke up too late.  It was, after all a Communist regime, called Dergue and composed of military officers, which should stew in its own juice, an opinion echoed by many in the West.

When it could no longer be ignored, I travelled back to Ethiopia in 1984 with Michael Buerk and, in effect , we were the first news team allowed in that year by the military government, although they were still trying to conceal it.

Nearly a year later, we pushed for another trip and the Ethiopians were silent.  The information from aid agencies working inside Ethiopia was alarming and Britain’s Disaster and Emergency Committee, which is comprised of many other important fund rising committees decided to launch an 11-nation appeal.  The Independent Broadcast authority was reluctant to authorise the appeal, but they were given a sneak preview of Jonathan Dimbleby’s “Seeds of Despair” which convinced them of the severity of the matter. The B.B.C. decided to run the appeal the same day.  It raised $15,000,000.”.

Subsequent visits to Ethiopia by Mohinder resulted in world wide recognition of the plight of the Ethiopian people.  In his book, he describes his visits and talks about the famous personalities of the entertainment world who, as a result of his work, went to the famine areas to see for themselves what was going on.

As a result of his work, the largest relief operation in history was carried out in Ethiopia.

RILEY2009-1075Mohinder started to do more and more work in the documentary field.  He comments:

At the time of the Rwanda genocide all TV agencies opened up their Bureaus in Nairobi with their own equipment, offering the crew $200 per day to get shot by drunken unruly soldiers or rebels, on the basis of  “take it or leave it”. So I left the news.

They (TV News agencies) boasted they could get plenty of operators, recording their own sound. Every kid now armed with HD palm-corder is a cameraman. WTN came back to me complaining that these cameramen go over budgets and unlike me they submit no receipts or accounts. Material they shot doesn’t make any sense to anyone. My reaction was, thanks to you, I ventured in to documentaries and I am glad I did as these film have a  shelf life and it is a creative work of art as you will see in my Vietnam film

Edward Milner of Acacia Productions in-London hired me to do series of documentaries called “No Easy Walk” and then Edward mentioned Vietnam. I was flattered to be hired in Africa by Edward Milner for Channel-4  to shoot an award winning documentary (After the Fire-Vietnam) which can be viewed on U-tube.

The other series I worked on, “African Footsteps”, was made by Diverse Productions.

I was so much in demand my feet never touched the ground. I did some research to find out, “ why me to travel round the world rather than someone from London or USA” ?. Answer: “Mohinder you are one of few film makers who can shoot films which don’t need grading, you think of the editor whilst shooting, you work hard putting in long hours, you get along with everyone, you speak so many languages like Urdu(with which I could communicate in Iran and with Kurdish people). You also have some knowledge of Arabic and many African languages, more than enough to get by. You never complain about the weather or food or where you are going to sleep. We director producers spend half of our energy keeping the crew happy.

You (Terence Gallacher) sent me to the poorest country in Africa-Rwanda for the Kuwait Development Fund to film tea Estates where Swahili is spoken and To Yemen to film the World bank-financed dam building, staying with Egyptian engineers in their compound where it was very easy to communicate. There was no language barrier. You hired me to shoot a pleasant documentary shooting a Caravan International film and I was able to travel through game Parks twice. Some beautiful footage was lost in the lab and I had to go and shoot it all  again.

Belatedly, Mohinder Dhillon was given an honour that he richly deserved, he was awarded a Knighthood.

It is reported thus: Kenya’s leading film maker, Mohinder Dhillon, was knighted by the Order of Saint Mary of Zion during a ceremony at the Royal Artillery Headquarters in Woolwich, U.K. on November 12th 2005. Prince Philip is the Order’s Grand Master. The order constitutes a valid chivalric order of knighthood

“The honours were conferred upon those who had made significant contribution to the society. Honourees included Mohinder Dhillon, whose newsreel photography was viewed to have brought vital issues in the African continent to the attention of the world community. The Award of Knight Commander also recognizes Mr. Dhillon’s professional skills and applauds his efforts, sometimes obtained with considerable risk to his personal safety.”

English: Jon Snow, British television newsread...

English: Jon Snow, television newsreader & journalist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jon Snow, renowned ITN Journalist, has written the foreword for Mohinder’s autobiography he writes, inter alia…

You can’t write about Mohinder without starting with his sheer humanity, and the abiding reality that he is an all round lovely man. That’s before you reach his loyalty, steadfastness and utter dependability. Mohinder Dhillon is a rock. He was my mentor in the field, and someone without whom I would never have progressed in television news…….

And then there is his camera work. He was a news pioneer, filming in Africa and Arabia in a time where none had gone with TV News cameras before.

Mohinder Dhillon is a one-off we shall not see his like again.

Bravo Sir Mohinder, it has been a privilege for me to have known you.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bharani Padmanabhan MD PhD #

    And where may one find this autobiography? Neither Amazon nor Abebooks has heard of it. Thanks!

    January 28, 2014
  2. Iban Randhawa #

    So proud of you Nanaji. and yes…..we will never see his like again.

    May 17, 2014
  3. Vali Jamal, PhD #

    I am pleased this book has come out or is about to. I met Sir Mohinder at his home in Nairobi five years ago and again two years ago. He showed me some pages from his auto. I loved his descriptions of cock-fighting and kite-flying while he was still a kid in India. The reviewer makes nothing of them here. His descriptions of going hunting in Kenya were also very evocative. My own particular interest was piqued when he told me he had done much of the filming of post-independence events in Uganda – Amin’s coup, Amin’s order to expel the Asians, and his fall. Mo was there when a fighter jet dived into the lake (Victoria) when Amin was putting up a show how he was going to capture Cape Town from the apartheid regime. And he was there with Jon Snow when Amin made his hasty departure by helicopter from Jinja as his regime crumbled. So I was moved to see Snow’s preface for his colleague Dhillion.
    From my partial perspective, Dhillon’s book is one record of Uganda Asian history in Uganda. I am trying to flesh it out in a book on which I worked somewhat longer than Sir Mo did on his. I did it alone – no editor, no proof-reader, no sympathetic plain-vanilla reader even. God willing it will be published in March/May 2015 – self-publish, since no commercial publisher could understand why someone would want to write such a long book – 1750 pages, 1.2 million words. I hope some kindred person will write a long review of it as here. I would feel a little bit upset if he missed out on some nuanced stories! To be quite frank only someone who lived through those times – the expulsion of >60k people of Indian origin from Uganda – could write such a review. There are not many of those left in the world after 42 years and not many of those have the attention span to read a book of this size. There is also this parallel story of How The Book Was Done – the well-wishers and the ill-wishers. Like for any movie these days, I have included the Diary of Doing The Book in my book.
    Good Luck to Sir Mohinder. I hope his book is read by thousands. Luckily for him his audience is at least Africa-wide, whereas mine is Uganda-bound and that also people who lived through the expulsion. If one-third of a potential audience buy a book, that’s a blockbuster isn’t it? Just mind you don’t burst no wrists!

    October 19, 2014

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