By
Peter Everington
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15 May, 2020

My friend Carol Sarsfield-Hall, who has died aged 94, spent her childhood in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, where her father was governor of Khartoum until his retirement in 1936. The scenic home in the Lake District she inherited from her parents, Robin (nee Clowes) and Geoffrey Sarsfield-Hall, was adorned with Sudanese weaponry, furnishings and pictures from Geoffrey’s 27 years in the country. Prominent in this display was a rifle with the name Ali Dinar in Arabic on its silvered butt.

Sultan Ali Dinar, celebrated in Sudanese history, was the ruler of Darfur who in 1916 declared holy war against the British and support for Germany in the first world war.  Carol’s father was assistant intelligence officer in the ensuing campaign in which Darfur was subjugated and the sultan killed.

During the second world war, in which Carol’s only brother was killed at Arnhem, the Sarsfield-Halls came in contact with Moral Re-Armament (MRA) through two Australian airmen who were billeted in their Keswick home for recuperation. They talked of a post-war world liberated from hate, fear and greed. This helped the Sarsfield-Halls take a sympathetic view of the African bid for independence. In the 1950s father and daughter were part of an MRA campaign in southern Africa that made the case for a multiracial philosophy of government.

After her parents’ death Carol decided to return Ali Dinar’s rifle to Sudan. In March 1985 the Sudanese ambassador invited her to lunch at the embassy in London. Formally handing over the weapon, she spoke of painful memories while concluding: “I know my father loved the Sudan, and during the 27 years he was in the country made his contribution in many practical ways; but what he received in the way of friendship and appreciation is incalculable. I am glad to be able to express his gratitude by returning this gun as a token of the lasting friendship between our two countries—and a bridge between our two faiths.” 

Warm thanks came from the director general of antiquities in Khartoum, and Carol’s restitution was widely reported in the Arabic newspapers.

She was on a committee that arranged exchanges between British and Arab students. One year she invited Cumbrian friends to a lunch in her home for visiting leaders of Khartoum University Students Union. Among them was a Darfur law student, descendant of Ali Dinar.

Carol was a good friend to my wife and me for more than 50 years. We cooperated on initiatives with Sudan, where I taught for eight years soon after its independence.

She had a deep Christian faith and a generous world outlook. Her home was open to the families of charity workers who could not afford holidays. All remember her with affection and gratitude.

This obituary first appeared on the website of The Guardian in its Other Lives column, 12 May 2020.

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