Pemberton’s Rara Avis – Somaliland

Of JP’s photo collection, few depict a plate (and international oval SP) as rare as his London sighting, circa 1955,  of a Morris Oxford MO  Traveller, on British Somaliland plates.

As the rear door sports an ADAC badge, we may assume that the car had previously run in Germany, probably on British Zone BZ plates, in which case, the owner was probably an RAF or Army officer many of whom travelled round their foreign postings with their cars…….(more info on this came along.   See responses below from Mike Raine and now from Barry Scowen)

The pressed figure ‘8’ is of an unusual design…..

S 815 from the Somaliland Protectorate British zone, until independence in 1960. Seen in London;s West End.

S 815 from the Somaliland Protectorate British zone, until independence in 1960.   Seen in Coventry Street in London’s Theatreland  circa 1955.    Pemberton archive

(SP)_S 815_JPvb

Of the 1941-1960 plate types (of which so few illustrations exists) two prefixes existed – S and SO.   There is a suspicion arising that the Italian zone of the the Trusteeship of Somaliland issued SO, and the British zone a simple S.    Mega-collector, author and international cymbalist Jim Fox has gathered one of each into his gallery of exotica, beating the sum of the Other Collectors of the World by a factor of two!


Jim Fox' British Somaliland Protectorate S 1357 rarity.

Jim Fox’ British Somaliland Protectorate S 1357 rarity.

and Jim's SO 5611 believed to be from the Italian zone of the trusteeship territory 1941-49-60 and a bit beyond.

and Jim’s SO 5611 believed to be from the Italian zone of the trusteeship territory 1941-49-60 and a bit beyond.   (Fox archive)

Victor Brumby saw SO 5671 in Britain about 1961 on an Austin A50 Cambridge, driven by an English man with a huge Somali lady passenger.   Stopped for interview by our spotter on his Triumph bicycle, the business card of the driver gave ‘Mogadiscio’ as his home base – then the capital of Italian Somaliland.   The International Circulation Permit (ICP), which temporary imports to GB had to carry in place of a licence disc in those times, read SOM in the ‘Country of Origin’ line.     The 5671 plate was painted or stencilled and the car bore no international oval at the rear.

Note that S 815 wears a ‘Visitor To Britain’ window flag, another authorised international motor-visitor accessory for new arrivals to GB in those days.    To help with parking wardens, doubtless!


Another photo of S 815 from Mike Raine, up in the Somali highlands.



















ABOVE:    Here is reader Barry Scowen as a boy in Somaliland with the Morris which is the subject of this Blog page.   His father must have been the second or third owner of  S 815.   See Comments below.


Terra Incognita  could describe this benighted ‘country’ from the perspective of  collectors.   Who knows more?

P.S.    These ‘S’  plates of typical British design could just as easily have come from Seychelles, Cyprus, Fiji, Singapore, Mauritius, Southern Rhodesia, Guyana, Bermuda, Trinidad and Barbados!    Absolutely identical.     Fortunately in those day, car owners usually fitted the international ovals, which helped the perplexed spotter!


Below:   Sometime after the Somalilands’ 1960 independence, this Italian-influenced Somalia system commenced:

The independence of Somalia gave rise to this series, about 1960. This is seen in Nairobi in 1978

The independence of Somalia gave rise to this series, about 1960. This is seen in Nairobi in 1978, on a Benz lorry.    Vic Brumby archive

When the country collapsed into anarchy, few vehicles bore any plates at all!

This plate was 'liberated' by a Reuter camera team during a newsgathering visit in about 1983. From an armoured Toyota pickup of one of the insurgent groups.

This plate was ‘liberated’ by a Reuters camera team during a newsgathering visit in about 1983. From an armoured Toyota pickup of one of the insurgent groups.  Brumby archive

14 Responses to Pemberton’s Rara Avis – Somaliland

  1. smodriver says:

    Hello – great Blog – only just found it today. I collect period pictures of 1948 – 54 Morris Wolseley vehicles – so enjoyed finding this page. I am 99% sure that the Morris Traveller with Reg S 815 is actually the larger Morris Oxford MO? These were popular in Africa at the time being available from OCT’52 ( almost a year earlier than the Minor Travellers).

    Mike P

    • Mike – your info on Morris exports is amazing to read. I accept your proposal that the Somaliland Protectorate car S 815 is the bigger model MO Oxford, rather than the Morris Minor Traveller I had advised.

  2. Mike Raine says:

    The Morris Oxford S 815 was our family car when we lived in Somaliland. My father (who owned the car) taught in Sheikh, Boroma then Hargeisa in the mid fifties. In 1956 we went on a European holiday that took as through Yugoslavia through Italy and into Germany. From there we went to England before returning to Somaliland.

    I have numerous photos of it with our family, as well as the very telling one of it parked in Berbera with the number place clewarly visible.

    • Well, Mike – what a small world! Would you be willing to share your Berbera shot in our Blog?? That would be amazing. There exist so few pictures of plates of that territory. Might your other photos show other vehicles in backgrounds, from which assiduous editing might pluck items of interest? We have been unclear about the prefixes of the period; we have shots of SO and of S and have always wondered whether the SO was the Italian zone issue. Terrific to hear from you!


      Great I am now in Hargeisa a Medical Doctor, can you please share with me all stories that you have so that I can add on to my old pics from Somaliland

  3. Mike Parry says:

    Mike Raine – I would love to see more pics of the Oxford traveller please?

  4. Name: Barry Scowen


    Comment: It’s a mystery how the Morris Reg S815 pictured in London as my father bought in Somaliland in 1957/8 and sold it in Berbera Somaliland 1960,I cannot understand how it was shipped to Somaliland registered there shipped back to the UK and again returned to Somaliland

    Time: March 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm
    VB reply to Barry 28 Mar.
    The Oxford belonged to Mike Raine’s father who was a teacher in Somaliland in the mid-50’s. He saw the item in the Europlate site and kindly sent some more pics of the car in its home country. He believes his father sold it in Aden, after they had been back to BFPO in Germany and visited GB, before returning to Somaliland.

    Thus it is baffling that you, too, lay claim to the same vehicle!
    Any pictures?
    Vic Brumby
    From Barry 28 Mar 18
    Yes I do have a couple will send them under separate cover would like your thoughts the German badge on the rear of the car you will see it’s now on the front grill. (Father bought the car from a Jack Palfrey.)
    Regards Barry
    A photo then arrived from Barry – and sure enough – that very Morris was shown again, in Somaliland! What are the odds of that – and 60 year after John Pemberton took the picture in London?
    Vic wrote to Barry 30/03/18
    Its the same car, all right, and an almighty coincidence that TWO* British owners should have had it in the Somaliland Protectorate, from new (I estimate 1951) to mid-fifties. *plus, seemingly, Jack Palfrey.
    I should put you in touch with Mike Raine, in Australia, the chap who first picked up the London photo on our Europlate Blog
    This I did and now the two are in contact with each other-a happy ending!


    • smodriver says:

      Hello I have not posted for ages and cannot remember how to?

      From my research/knowledge of these cars:

      1) The pressed numberplate in boot was standard on all cars from Jun’48 2) for exports it ceased in new year 1949 (mainly because most countries did not have a long (front UK style) plate. 3) this is one of just 11 cars exported to Arabian Trading Co Ltd Aden




  5. Thank you for that most unusual info, Mike. You sure have access to some very basic detail on Morris of the period. What a successful export product that car was – plus the Minor.
    And outside Nuffield, the Vanguard Phase 1 and the A40s – they also show up all over the world in our numberplate photos archive…..

  6. Abdulkarim says:

    Hallo all of you ,
    This history is an amazing indead,I appreciated Barry and Mike and Penberton Iam from Somaliland living in Qatar now I got so many history from this page.
    Thank U

  7. ADEL says:

    I heard an old story from my dad that my Grandad owned an Aston Martin vintage car in Hargeisa during the British colonisation in1960s maybe.

    The car was a gift from the British commander I think for his good and loyal service during that era. My grandad used the car and kept it in a garage in town. Not sure what happened after the somali war as he lost alot of valuable things.

  8. Wow, ADEL! THAT would be a fine picture to see. If you find the car, you could repatriate it to one of the famous auction houses here, to help with your pension scheme! Have you ever seen pictures of Somaliland vehicles from the old days???
    (I’m sorry for my late acknowledgement of your kind correspondence.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: