Somewhere in Africa – 12th July 1918

Quilomane – 12th July 1918 [I’ve found this spelled Quelimane.]

I write this from hospital where I am just getting over a bad bout of fever. It took me just before disembarking and I was dumped here straightaway. We got very bad news on landing. The other half of the battalion which landed some days before us was rushed to a position some distance up the river, which was held by the Portuguese and threatened by an immediate attack by the main German force. The Portuguese held the key position, which was a bridge over the river and our lot took up an advanced position. The Germans, who were apparently fully informed of the disposition of our forces, outflanked our two companies and captured the bridge from our “allies” who fled without putting up anything of a fight.

Our lot were trapped and practically driven into the river, with very heavy loss. Gore-Brown and most of the officers were killed, with about half the men, a great number of whom were drowned.

It has been a thoroughly bad show and of course we have been too late to do anything with our half of the battalion, as we hear the Germans are streaking away north-west, with a good supply of Portuguese stores. I thought at the time the whole battalion should have sailed together, even though the accommodation was limited. The trouble was that Gore-Brown was not allowed to take full command in the action, as there was a Portuguese general on the spot, who disposed of the forces to his own way of thinking. The hospital is full as result of the fight, including some Germans whom von Lettow has cooly left on our hands.

15/7/18. I have rejoined the company and we are entrenched on the outskirts of the town, waiting for an attack that will never materialize.

This URL links to the text of an official despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir J. L. van Deventer, K.C.B., C.M.G., Commanding-in-Chief, East African Force. The despatch is an official record of British movements prior to and after the event Henry Tod mentions in his letter.


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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