Somewhere in Africa – 10/4/1918

Askari soldiers WWI East Africa

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.

 

Somewhere in Africa – 12th February 1918

Grand National Hotel Johannesburg

Henry is on leave at last!

Grand National Hotel, Johannesburg – 12th February 1918

A line to inform you of my arrival in this well known town, where I propose spending the rest of my leave. The train journey up from Durban takes 24 hours and takes you through fine looking country. In Natal we passed through many of the battlefields of the Boer War, Ladysmith, Glencoe, Elandslaagte, Majuba, &c., which are now all peaceful pasture lands. The approach to Jo’burg is like coming into any mining town, except that the slag heaps are white instead of black. These are the gold mines, of which I had no idea there were so many. I am going to try to get down one of them and will let you know more about them.

This photo shows the Grand National Hotel around 1893. Source: Wikimedia

Grand National Hotel Johannesburg

We are very high up here and the climate much cooler than at the coast, with the result that I had a recurrence of the fever and had to spend a few valuable days in bed. It is a fine up-to-date town with palatial buildings and offices. Khaki is conspicuous by its absence … The old racial question is still in evidence, British and Boer, very much like the Irish question at home. We have been made honorary members of the Rand Club, which is a very swell place and apparently in complete ignorance that there is a war going on. I enclose a photograph taken in “German” East which I have just discovered among my possessions.

I found this map on Pinterest – original source isn’t shown. It shows the colonization of Africa by European countries as at 1914.

African colonization 1914

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – AND HENRY TOD’S LETTERS – FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

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.

 

Somewhere in Africa – 13th Feby 1917

Let’s see whether Henry Tod has had any harrowing experiences of late 🙂

Fern Villa Hotel, Marine Parade, Durban

From the above address you will see I am off the ship at last. We got in here and disembarked yesterday and are now waiting for another ship to take us on the last stage of the journey. We have not heard of any definite sailing yet and may be here for a week or more. I wouldn’t mind being stuck here for a month as it is without doubt one of the finest places I have ever been in. The military camp, which is close by, stretches along the beach where the big rollers come incessantly tumbling in. I like this place much better than Capetown, both as a place and the people in it. Natal is the most British of all our possessions in Africa and the people here are falling over themselves to welcome us and make us at home. One did not get that impression in Capetown where the population is rather mixed.

Round Capetown the mountain scenery is very fine and is as “stern and wild” as anything to be found in all Caledonia [a reference to Scotland]. There is an electric railway running eastwards along the mountain side, something like the Highland Railway. The famous Table Mountain, which almost invariably has its “cloth” on, rises just behind the town and makes a most effective background, especially coming in from the sea. We were only there a day and a half and as I was landed for picquet duty the first day I did not get around very much. The troops were disembarked and given a stiff route march, to harden them up a bit.

The convo resumed it voyage, less the White Star boat which was proceeding to Australia. Rounding Cape Agulhas, disaster overtook one of our company, the “Tindareus”, which sank from some mysterious internal explosion, as it could hardly be a submarine in these waters. [See this article for more information on SS Tyndareus, including the text of the King’s cable. As it turns out, the Tyndareus survived to sail on until 1960.]  It happened in the night in pretty dirty weather. Only 18 lives were lost out of some 2000, which was entirely due to the fine discipline of the troops and crew alike. The King cabled his congratulations to the commander and likened it to the “Birkenhead” tradition. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but there has been dirty work somewhere. The other ships carried on and the rescue work was effected by warships from Simonstown, which is a naval base. We put in there for the night.

17/2/17 I had a game of tennis yesterday with some people I met on board ship. They got on at Capetown where they were having a holiday and were returning to Durban, where they live. I am now casting around for a game of golf. It is summer time here and to hot for anything – even letter writing. I have had some fine surf bathing here and it is most exciting. There is a huge enclosure with a sort of iron grid to keep out the sharks and the only way to make any headway against the tremendous breakers is to pull yourself out on a rope attached to it. You then let go and the next thing you know you are bundled neck and crop [now there’s an expression] on the beach, with half the Indian Ocean inside you.

We move about here in rickshaws drawn by splendid looking Zulus, with a fearsome looking headgear of horns and feathers. They get along the smooth roads in great style but I don’t envy them their job in this heat.

Looks like Henry Tod continues to enjoy his voyage.

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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.