A packed Thomas Arnold Hall was enthralled last night by the stories of Mr Chris Lubbe, a former body guard of the legendary South African President Nelson Mandela.

After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and after a chance meeting, Chris was handpicked to be one of his 24 bodyguards. For the next 8 years, the then freedom fighter was in the shadow of Mandela until his retirement in 1998.

As well as his bodyguarding duties, Chris also became involved in South African politics at a high level including discussions on the first democratic elections in the post-apartheid regime and the new constitution, thus helping to shape the country as it is now.

Chris entertained the audience with many anecdotes of the world leaders and celebrities that he met in his time with Mandela. He recalled how Fidel Castro liked to be called “comrade”, how he sang a duet with Michael Jackson and how informal the relationship was between Her Majesty the Queen and Mandela. He also told the audience of his two dances with Princess Diana and the fatherly advice and fingerwaving by Mandela who reminded Chris of the protocol of such meetings!

In relaying the horrors of Apartheid, Chris explained how he became a freedom fighter and the personal impact of the regime on himself and his family. The turning point in his life happened when he was just 8 years old when his mother took ill on a bus, was roughly handled by two policemen and was left for dead in the streets. The lack of care by the heavily politicised health service meant that she was left in a coma and only hours from death.

As early as 14 years of age, Chris was tortured by the police and became an active freedom fighter from then on. He had several near death encounters with the South African authorities including a year of incarceration and torture in a tough jail.

Remarkably, and with the inspiration of Mandela, he eventually learned to reconcile himself with his former enemies and most crucially to forgive those who had beaten him. Today he is a godfather to the children of a white policeman who tortured him.

The power of this message, the charisma and unassuming nature of this man who had been through so much, captivated the hall and many senior pupils crowded around Chris at the end of his talk, eager for more.

In his last days of employment with Mandela, Chris asked for advice from the great man. “Tell your story Chris”, he said.

Graeme McQueen, organiser of the TA Lecture series said “Warminster School and members of the local community were privileged to benefit from this rare insight into history and to dwell on the eternal themes of courage, truth and reconciliation. Chris Lubbe is an inspiration to us all.”