Bob Astles is dead!

By Henry D Gombya

Bob Astles who has died in South West London at the age of 88. (Photo by HEGOM))

The London Evening Post regrets to announce the death of one of our most revered columnists. Robert Asketill, the man famously known to many as ‘Bob Astles’ and to his friends as ‘Bob’ and the man who founded the Uganda Aviation Services, the first airline to employ Ugandans which was renamed ‘Uganda Airlines’ by Idi Amin, has died.

Born in Ashford, Kent, Bob left the United Kingdom aged only 21 to serve as a colonial officer in Africa. He was sent to Kampala in 1949 on special duties and fell in love with Buganda, a country he had been sent into to put some sense into the Baganda elders who were giving the colonial office several problems.

After the country gained its independence in 1962, Bob remained and worked for Milton Obote, the country’s first Prime Minister until he was overthrown by Gen Idi Amin in 1971. As those who worked under Obote fled the wrath of Idi Amin, Bob stayed and after being thrown into prison for nearly a month, ended up joining the Amin government as a government adviser.

He was charged with helping stop smuggling and corruption. It was during this time that he became so hated by businessmen and coffee smugglers whose boats he often rammed and sank when he caught up with them on their smuggling runs on Lake Victoria. After Amin was overthrown, Bob was charged with murder but was acquitted by the Uganda High Court as no evidence could be pinned on him for having killed anyone. Instead of setting him free, the new Ugandan government threw Astles into prison and only came out after that government itself had been overthrown in 1985.

On his release from prison, Bob was declared persona-non-grata in Uganda. But it was difficult to find which country to deport him to as he had given up his British citizenship and became a Ugandan. After negotiations between the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ugandan government, the British Government agreed to restore his British citizenship and he returned to Britain where he has stayed until his death on December 29, 2012.

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19 Responses to Bob Astles is dead!

  1. JUDITH says:

    May he RIP, he was very loving and kind but its a pity that some few greedy Ugandans wanted to misuse his kindness and “steal” his money. I would advise those individuals to seek his forgiveness even though he is dead. They know themselves, i dont have to list their names.

  2. Dawson Kirabira says:

    In 1987 I spent half a day at his London home interviewing him for a newspaper story. He was with his Uganda-born wife. He spent most of the time trying to justify his controversial role as head of Idi Amin’s anti-smuggling security unit! May his soul rest in peace.

  3. Barbara and Chris Fawcett says:

    A most fascinating man, bright as a button with many stories to tell and a great spirit of adventure. He was a good friend and fellow sailor. Our thoughts are with Betty and of course Chalky. Chris and Barbs

    • We are running a tribute to Bob this Sunday. If you have anything you would like us to include, please send it to

    • lornas astles says:

      we as his family had to learn of his death through a newspaper why was this?

      • Very good question Lorna. We here couldn’t think of a better person to answer it than you the family. We welcome your opinions.

        • lornas astles says:

          It is still a mystery why we were excluded from his death funeral and thereafter we have been denied our rights to say goodbye and put closure to our uncles departure who has the right to make those decisions to completely estrange blood family it is outrageous and we are very very upset about it. With regard to not telling people about the funeral how was it then that there were apparently 17 people there. There is no excuse for such lack of compassion none at all

      • Nick Astles says:

        It was Bob’s wish that his passing did not draw any media attention, particularly to his family. He gave quite clear instructions that his illness and death were kept quiet, even to those closest to him.

        • I believe there will be good reasons for this, he obviously lived in fear knowing that he did indeed have blood on his hands. If you had been there you would know this to be true.

    • lornas astles says:

      Thoughts should also be with his blood family who were never informed of such tragedy of his illness his death the funeral or even after we had to learn through the press we as a family are very upset over this

    • He was responsible for my father’s murder and should have had the guts to admit the part he played in the death of so many innocent people. He even had to conceal his own death for fear of recrimination. He took his ugly secrets to his grave. He tried to fool many in his latter years but he can not fool those who know his true nature. He destroyed my family and many others, only the universe can grant forgiveness to those who commit such atrocities.

  4. Nick Astles says:

    On a personal note, I wish to extend my thanks to The London Evening Post editorial team for posting an obituary on the man in human form rather than a digest of his controversial legend.

  5. lornas astles says:

    We as his blood family were never informed of his illness his death or his funeral how outrageous is that we are devastated and deeply upset that we have been denied our goodbyes which can never be put right now

    • Lorna’s comment lacks the humility that Nick Astles, Bob’s only son, seems to portray on these very pages. Lorna, if Bob’s only didn’t know about her Dad’s illness, surely who should be blamed for this? Shouldn’t the blood family done more to know about the wellbeing of their elderly relative?
      Editor (Bob’s friend for 25 years who only knew about the death after he had been cremated but was aware for more than a year that he wasn’t feeling well).

  6. It is ridiculous to write a ‘revered columnists. Robert Asketill, the man famously known to many as ‘Bob Astles’…. as though he was actually called Robert Asketill and that he was only famed as ‘Bob Astles’. His name was Bob Astles, and the assumed name of Robert Asketill clear concealed the true identity of a man with blood on his hands. How ever much he did to help people in his latter years he still had to conceal his death and burial for fear of recrimination knowing his own guilt, and the part he played in the murder of my father only one of many innocent people to die at his hands.

  7. comfort madamombe says:

    he was evil and he knew it. how could he close his eyes to the atrocities around him if he was not actively involved. if there is a heaven he is not in it.

  8. James Eccles says:

    The greatest pity is that we had to wait until his death before cremating him. To be remembered as Amin’s pet monkey is the best he could expect.

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