Another former pupil was Eric Sherbrooke Walker, who survived the war and had a remarkable life.

The son of Reverend George Sherbrooke Walker and his wife, Jessie Elizabeth Carter, Eric was born in Edgbaston on July 4, 1887.

He went to King Edward’s School and then Oxford University.

He was a personal secretary to Baden Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, and was one of the first two Scout inspectors, overseeing all of Wales and the south of England.

He joined the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War but was shot down and held as a PoW in Germany.

He is said to have made 36 attempts to escape.

Apparently, on one occasion, a German girlfriend from before the war helped him to escape by supplying him with wire cutters provided by Baden-Powell hidden inside a piece of ham.

After the war ended he was employed as a temporary Captain fighting against the Bolsheviks with the British Military Mission in south Russia alongside the White Army in the Russian Civil War.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry.

Eric Sherbrooke Walker's book about his Kenyan hotel
Eric Sherbrooke Walker's book about his Kenyan hotel

Walker returned to England after the war and married Lady Elizabeth Mary “Bettie” Fielding, the daughter of the 9th Earl of Denbeigh, on July 26, 1926.

Needing money to finance his marriage, he ran a bootlegging business, smuggling liquor into America during the Prohibition era, while Lady Bettie worked as social secretary in the British Embassy in Washington.

When Walker shot and wounded a corrupt state trooper who had tried to steal his cache of whisky, the couple fled to Canada.

He later wrote The Confessions of a Rum-Runner under the pseudonym of James Barbican about his life during that time.

The couple finally emigrated to Kenya, where Walker bought 70 acres of land and opened the Outspan Hotel.

In 1932, he opened the Treetops Hotel as a night-viewing station for wildlife. These business ventures may well have been financed by his bootlegging days in America.

He was host to Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, during their February 1952 visit to Kenya. The couple had accepted an invitation to spend a night at Treetops and arrived there on the afternoon of February 5, 1952.

During the night, unknowingly, the Princess succeeded to the throne of England. Her father, King George VI, died in his sleep at Sandringham in England in the early hours of February 6, and the Princess received the news later that day.

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Treetops, a Kenyan hotel owned by Eric Sherbrooke Walker
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Treetops, a Kenyan hotel owned by Eric Sherbrooke Walker
 

Walker’s business prospered – encouraged by public interest in the accession of Elizabeth II. His hotel business was even featured in National Geographic Magazine and celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin and Paul McCartney, visited the hotel. Walker also wrote a book about his life in Kenya and Treetops, named Treetops Hotel.

His former employer, Lord Baden-Powell, retired to the Outspan Hotel and bought a share of Walker’s hotel business to pay for his cottage (named Paxtu and now home to a Scouting museum) in the hotel grounds, and died there in 1941.

A house on Walker’s farm was used during the shooting of the film version of Born Free.

An avid hunter during his younger days, Walker, like many others, became an advocate of wildlife conservation in his final years in Kenya.

He retired to live in Majorca, Spain, and died there at his home, Cás Fidavé, on May 13, 1976.