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Askari soldiers WWI East AfricaHenry is back with his battalion after several weeks leave.

2/3rd K.A.R. – East Africa – 10/4/18

I got back to the battalion a week ago and found a most welcome pile of letters from you, covering the period from July [it’s now April] to December. I have thoroughly digested these and note all your news. I am feeling much the better of my furlough in South Africa and found plenty of work waiting for me on return to duty.

We have been at Ndanda for the last three and a half months, training for the operations pending in the Portuguese territory. The rains are drawing to a close and we expect to be on the move within the next ten days or so. It will be entirely a K.A.R. show and you probably won’t read much about it in the papers. The German force of about 300 Whites and about 3000 askaris is roaming about the Portuguese country and doing pretty much as they like. They are a hardened crew, well led, and they will doubtless give us plenty of leg exercise if nothing worse.

There is not much sport here with the gun but football is now in full swing. Each battalion has now got a complement of white N.C.O.s which enables us to make up a team, [I guess officers were excluded] and a good one at that. There is a big camp here now, with 3 battalions of K.A.R., a Pioneer corps, Signalling corps, Carrier Corps, &c. and each has its team. I have managed to squeeze into our team as goalkeeper and I think I have made my place secure by stopping a penalty kick the other evening. The askaris have also taken up the game and the inter-battalion matches which are really inter-tribal, provide great excitement and amusement. [If only all inter-tribal affairs could be handled through a football match.]

The African native is the most cheerful individual on earth and has a keen sense of humour and even more so of the ludicrous. He starts the game with boots on, as the proper thing to do, but sooner or later these are discarded as a handicap to speed. The native sergeant major constitutes himself as captain, merely by virtue of rank, and he orders the players about as he does on parade.

We had a general sports day and our battalion did well in the various events. I entered for the hen race, and thereby lost a valuable fowl belonging to the company mess, but the stakes were high and I might have won a round dozen of them. Each competitor had a hen attached to a piece of string and the course was the length of the football field. The first to shepherd his hen through the opposite goal won all the other fowls. No coercion was allowed and it had all to be done by kindness. I barely got mine half was while others went directly  in the opposite direction, and I should think driving a pig is child’s play to this.

We have built a theatre of grass and bamboo and on Saturday evenings there is a first class variety show, and generally we are making the most of our stay here. Our only grouse is the rations which are very much below par, considering we are more or less a fixture here. It is “bully” all the time and we cannot get any vegetables. Eggs are as scarce as diamonds and just about as big, but I suppose everybody is on short commons these days.

Perhaps Henry will soon be in the thick of it again.

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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 www.mktod.com.