In 1937, Ursula Bower visited Nagaland at the invitation of a friend, and on a dispensary tour encountered the Naga people. She was so taken was with their striking dignity, tribal pride and unique culture that she arranged to live among them to write an anthropological study.
But she became more than an observer - living alone among them, Ursula was integrated into their village life, becoming their figurehead when in 1944 the Japanese invaded the jungles of Nagaland from Burma. The Nagas turned to her for leadership and with the support of General Slim, her Naga guides were armed and trained to patrol and repel the Japanese incursions. The Nagas' courage and loyalty were duly recognised, and after the conflict Ursula, with Naga support, went on to run a jungle training school for the RAF.
Later, with her husband, Tim Betts as Political Officer, she worked among the volatile tribes of the remote Apa Tani Valley, bordering Tibet. Following the Independence of India in 1947, Ursula returned to her highland roots, but to her death in 1988, her experiences among the Naga people shaped and directed her life.
Vicky Thomas was editor of the partwork series Images of War for Marshall Cavendish in the late 80s, which kindled an enduring fascination for oral history, especially the experience of WWII. Since 2002 to the present day she has researched oral history books for Max Arthur, and while doing this she stumbled on Ursula Betts' interview at the IWM Sound Archive. She is the family's chosen biographer with exclusive access to archive material, enabling this unique insight into Ursula's extraordinary life.