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 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.