1815-1914

The British Empire

Olaf Caroe was born in 1892 was the grandson of a Danish immigrant. He became one of the great civil servants of the British Empire joining the Indian Civil Service as an Assistant Commissioner and rising to the highest levels of the service becoming Foreign Secretary to the Indian government and then Governor of the North West Frontier Province. During his time in India he was the epitome of an India Civil Service officer in the first half of the c20th, a time when the Empire was at its height but also displaying signs of imminent decline. Caroe had all the values, virtues and qualities required of an officer, especially one serving on the North West Frontier. He rose to the challenge of serving as an Assistant Commissioner and dealing with the Pathan tribes of the frontier but then reached the pinnacle of his career in 1946 becoming Governor of the North West Frontier.


The North West Province during the tine of Caroe’s tenure as Governor was pivotal to the outcome ‘independence talks’ and in the end , despite what Caroe considered was a good record as Governor, Mountbatten relieved Caroe of his post in order to appease Nehru. The Governorship of the North West Province was Caroe’s last official role as a public citizen. Hence forth in retirement, as a private citizen, he devoted his time to trying to convince governments of the logic of his view on the importance of the area he had spent a lifetime of work in.


Caroe returned to England to settle in the Sussex country town of Steyning.  Unlike many Indian Civil Service officers who returned home to a life of relaxation and often anomymity, Caroe embarked on a literary and academic career becoming one of the country’s recognised and highly sought after experts on The Great Game. He gave lectures, visited foreign leaders and wrote three highly regarded books on the geopolitics of central Asia and the Middle East.


Olaf Caroe

Olaf Caroe

Lord and Lady Mountbatten

‘The Pathans’ by Caroe, the classic for many years on the Pathan people.

Church St,  Steyning