Somewhere in Africa – 12th June and 5th July 1918

Portuguese East Africa WWI

Today we have two of Henry’s letters.

Paw-Paw Papaya2/3rd K.A.R. – E.A. 2/5/18

Have none of your letters to acknowledge since my last. We are still well away from the seat of trouble and my company has moved still further away to a post not far from the coast. We are now in the land of plenty, with lots of fruits and vegetables, and generally speaking I am having the softest time of it since striking the country. I am 70 miles from the battalion, which is something in itself, and quite on my own. [I think he means his company is on its own.]

Fine fat bananas and mangoes and paw-paws (native melons) [papaya – see photo]. For vegetables we have pumpkins chiefly, besides cucumbers and a root (called mahogo) which is the nearest thing to a potato I have ever tasted.

We have been busy building a new camp about three miles away. We are on an old German rubber plantation and we are using the trees for building our huts. It is near a big swamp and is the worst place for mosquitos I have ever been in. They are a positive plague and you cannot even keep them outside your sleeping net, with results to be imagined. [Wonder if this is a make work project.]

There is no immediate sign of our moving down into Portuguese territory, where there have been several scraps. A mail is expected up any day and I hope to get something from you. Meantime I am keeping very fit and hope you are all likewise.

12th June 1918

Four of your letters have just arrived in one lot, the last being dated 7th February. I am glad that you are all keeping well and that Andy has got his commission and is over in France. You do not give me his address but suppose I will be getting a letter from him some day.

Portuguese East Africa WWIThis finds us under orders to move at last. The enemy has been steadily making south while in Portuguese territory and we are again after him, and after the long inaction the new is indeed welcome, although we may soon change our tune, as is the way in war.

Von Lettow the German leader, has shown wonderful skill and endurance but his force is steadily diminishing. I doubt however if we will ever capture him alive, or dead for that matter. Africa is a big place and we cannot be everywhere at once. [Map shows the movement of Von Lettow and his troops.]

As I write another of your letters, dated 19th December, has come in and I am glad to see all is well with you and the rest of the clan. It is your turn now to complain of the irregularity of my letters, but when we are on the move, there is little or no opportunity of getting letters away. This is still the “dark continent” where transport is primitive and mostly on your flat feet. Good news you know is slow, while the other kind gets there quick enough.

We are under canvas again which is a pleasant change after the grass huts, although the latter give better protection from the sun. You write of being frozen up all winter, but it sounds quite pleasant to me. We have managed to collect a few hens and enjoy the luxury of an egg now and again.

Here’s a bit from Wikipedia on Von Lettow’s circumstances at the end of 1917 and early 1918.

After suffering heavy casualties throughout 1917 and being unable to hold territory in German East Africa any longer, Lettow-Vorbeck decided to invade Portuguese East Africa in hopes of acquiring sufficient supplies to continue the war. In this he was successful: While the German troops were able to forage food by plundering the countryside, the Schutztruppe defeated the Portuguese colonial and metropolitan forces several times, most notably during the Battle of Ngomano, thereby capturing large quantities of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies from the enemy. Historian Gregg Adams even comments that the Portuguese became “the unwilling quartermasters for the Schutztruppe”. With the Portuguese proving unable to defeat the German forces, the British had to bear the brunt of the fighting in Mozambique, and thus began to aggressively pursue Lettow-Vorbeck’s small army …

As mentioned earlier, I’m keen to finish posting Henry Tod’s WWI letters before November 11, 2018 which marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – AND HENRY TOD’S WWI 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 – 12th March 1918

Durban Club Natal 1915

Durban Club Natal 1915Henry’s leave is up and he’s waiting for a ship to take him back. What do you think he’s feeling after two-and-a-half years of war?

Durban Club, Natal – 12th March 1918

Back in Durban waiting for a ship to take us to East Africa. I had an enjoyable three weeks in Johannesburg, whence I wrote you but the weather there could hardly have been worse. Rain and thunderstorms every other day. I got in a little golf and tennis and had a few motor runs round the country with some friends, to whom I had an introduction.

I went down a gold mine and got half drowned for my pains, owing to the rains almost flooding out the workings. We went down the Crown Mine, another lad and I, escorted by the manager. 2000 feet by hoist and we performed the journey to the next level on something like a water shute. There we saw them working at the “face” of the reef, drilling and blasting, and I took away a specimen of the quartz as a souvenir. There is no gold visible in it and it is quite a complicated process extracting it. There is only about 4% worth of gold in a ton of quartz. I saw it in various stages and finally in the form of gold bricks, each weighing 600 ounces and worth about £2500 when the bank takes possession of it. I was glad to get on terra firma again, pretty much the same feeling after I had been up in an aeroplane!

I am looking forward to finding a pile of letters from you when I get back to the battalion, as of course i have had nothing for months, likewise from Andy from whom I have not heard at all. I have resumed acquaintance with my fellow voyagers on the “Walmer Castle” [the ship that took him to Africa] who have a fine place up in the Berea [a ridge above Durban], and who have been very kind and hospitable.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – AND HENRY TOD’S WWI 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 – 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.