Somewhere in Africa – 2nd March 1917

Henry Tod refers below to his Cook’s tour of Africa, which seems an apt description of his long voyage. This letter is written from Dar-es-Salaam, (then part of what was German East Africa, now part of Tanzania).

I arrived here [Dar-es-Salaam] five days ago and completed another stage in this Cook’s tour. This is the base of our operations in German East [Africa] but I and the other K.A.R. men have to go on to Mombasa thence Nairobi where we have to report to H.Q. of our new regiment, to which we have been seconded. We have not yet heard when we get a steamer up the coast. Meantime we are encamped, with other details, among the cocoa-nut palms until further order.

There are quite a number of Germans at large here, plying their usual calling. Some have been interned but most seem to be at liberty, with the only restriction of having to be indoors by dusk. The town, which is a fine one and laid out on spacious lines, has got somewhat damaged by bombardment from our warships, especially the wireless station. There is a fine natural harbour, in which several ships have been run aground and one also in the river mouth, to avoid being captured by us. The fighting at present is to the south of this, on the Rufiji River, towards the Portuguese frontier. ‘Tis rumoured that the enemy have been able to get large supplies smuggled through from our ancient allies.

You can see the Rufiji River (also spelled Rufigi) in the map below just a little south of Dar-es-Salaam. By 1917, the British had taken quite a lot of German East Africa.

Our camp is about two miles inland in a most picturesque situation, in the middle of a cocoa-nut plantation and every tree has a heavy cluster of nuts. An occasional one falls with an alarming thud, which would just about lay you out if it caught you. It was some time before we could persuade and of the ‘base barnacles’ to recognize our existence and the only rations we had for the first day or so were the cocoa-nuts.  The milk of the cocoa-nut with a lime squeezed into it makes a splendid drink.

There was a welcome thunder ‘plump’ yesterday, lasting 3 hours which has helped to cool the air a bit. It found the weak spots in our tent and our kit got a good soaking. We have engaged our ‘boys’ or native batmen and are practising Swahili on them, and they make excellent servants. There is little for us to do here, with no shooting within reasonable distance, so we are all impatient to get on to our destination.

I am writing this sitting up in bed, under a mosquito net, which probably accounts for the writing being worse than usual. These pests are rather troublesome, likewise ants and a hundred other varieties of insect. A lizard has just this moment crawled into one of my open boxes and disappeared into its depths, and it can stay there for all I’m going to do about it. The first night I slept but little owing to the whole world being a-buzz with insect life, but it doesn’t worry me now. Have just heard that there is a boat coming in tomorrow so we will soon be at the end of our journey.

Henry left England in early January 1917. He was in Sierra Leone several weeks later, followed by Cape Town and then Durban and now Dar-es-Salaam. He’s gone more than half way around Africa. I wonder when he’ll see action?


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

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