On the morning of Independence Day we set up our fireworks and awaited our turn to contribute to the proceedings
Weather-wise, it was a dreadful day; overcast and cold. By noon a strong east wind was already developing into the dust storm it was to become - and unhappily the ceremonial stand that had been erected faced due east.
It was going to be a cold and miserable place to sit for several hours. At midnight the proceedings reached their climax, spotlights lit up the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Botswana flag. Our veterinary colleague let go the first four rockets.
Instead of zooming triumphantly into the night sky, however, they rose about ten feet then dropped back to the ground and went fizzing, bouncing, and skidding around the arena - to the considerable fright of the assembled ranks of soldiers, brought from UK to lend dignity to the occasion.
One rocket entered the lower seating area of the stand - fortunately not too crowded because of the dreadful weather; another finished, sparking and spluttering, under the car which was waiting to take Princess Marina back to her residence. The Police Commissioner acting promptly and sensibly, sent one of his officers to cancel the rest of the fireworks; and advised the new President to declare the proceedings over, and let the people go home.
On the other side of the arena we realised the first volley of rockets had not been the success anticipated but knew nothing of the order to abandon the firework display. When the second volley of rockets did not appear, and being by that time slightly tipsy, we decided to let off our fireworks in one massive display. Which we did, and very impressive it was, though by that time most people were well on their way home. The next day we discovered what had happened. There were three causes of the failure of the rockets. We had not fixed the rocket-heads into the sticks securely enough and they had come off destroying the flight balance; the idea of using the mesh fence had not worked as when the propulsion force was fired the rockets tipped over; and finally the strong wind had not been conducive to firing the rockets successfully.
Fortunately, everybody put the failure of the rockets entirely down to the latter reason, and our culpability in the affair was not discovered. The next evening we experimented with a far more successful rocket display and put up a quite wonderful show.
From: Happy Highways. Trevor Bottomley. ELSP. 2000. ISBN 1 903341 54 X