Somewhere in Africa – 15th November 1918

Without any of your letters to acknowledge I am writing this on top of the news of the Armistice. Events of course had been leading up to it but it came, nonetheless, as a tremendously welcome piece of news. We are still at Ndanda, but under orders to proceed to Dar-es-Salaam. Our battalion is in sole possession of this post at present, but we made a determined effort to celebrate the occasion with the aid of the mission bell, of respectable dimensions, and much song and shouting. This despite the rather stiff-necked attitude of the C.O. (the fifth in my time and just arrived from Nairobi) who disapproved of it all and thought it necessary to warn us that is was only an armistice and not real peace, and that all rejoicing was unseemly. Well, chacun a son gout, as the native might say.

We learned the full terms of the armistice last night and if these do not amount to peace I don’t know what does. It seems to satisfy all the demands of the Allies and Germany knows that if she breaks the armistice she will be worse off than ever. There would be no lack of men willing to go on with the good work, under the able guidance of Monsieur Foch. One cannot help feeling that the Germans, as a people, have escaped punishment, escaped it for fifty years for that matter, and now that they have been brought to book they are getting off with little more than their claws being out. However everybody must be thankful it is over at last and one feels a good deal more about the occasion than one can write.

From Wikipedia: “The actual terms, largely written by the Allied Supreme Commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German forces to behind the Rhine, Allied occupation of the Rhinelandand bridgeheads further east, the preservation of infrastructure, the surrender of aircraft, warships, and military materiel, the release of Allied prisoners of war and interned civilians, and eventual reparations. No release of German prisoners and no relaxation of the naval blockade of Germany was agreed to.” The agreement was signed in this railway coach.

I have no doubt we will be chained to this country for some months yet. I understand von Lettow is marching in to surrender with all his force. He was promptly advised of the terms of the armistice and he has intimated his compliance therewith. We have all a sneaking admiration for the redoubtable von Lettow and it must be a bitter pill to him to know that it has all been in vain. He was too hard a nut for the local military talent, and there is no doubt some truth in the adage that he who runs away lives to fight another day. I believe he has played the game pretty squarely, although some of his subordinates have been brought to book for cruelty to prisoners and it may be that he will be on the mat too. The German policy in East Africa was to poison the native mind against the British and foment racial trouble. They were in this part of the world on level terms with ourselves and it was a bad thing to go back on the common policy of upholding the prestige of the white man. [Interesting perspective.]

I see the terms of the armistice have for Russia what she could never have done for herself, but these people have such queer ideas that I do not suppose we shall be thanked for our pains. I have not yet decided whether I shall return to that country, except to try and realize what I left there. [Henry worked in Russia before the war.]

I have certainly had enough of these tropical regions to last me some time, but the highlands of B.E.A. may eventually see me trying to get a living out of coffee or flax. Land is none too cheap except at the back of beyond, but there has been some talk of special terms for K.A.R. and other officers who have taken part in this campaign.  Big land corporations have been early on the scene there and grabbed up the tit-bits. There is plenty of room for everybody of course but at present there is only the Uganda Railway running through the country  and I do not expect there will be very much done in the near future in the way of further development. There may be the alternative of remaining in the K.A.R. for a further period but there does not seem much of a future in that direction, as the establishment is bound to be cut down to normal in time. Latterly the South African element have had it all their own way in this force as a political sop to these zealous patriots.

The Spanish “flu” is sweeping over the continent, having come up here from the south, where it has taken a terrific toll of the natives. It has already gone through our battalion and for a time we were under quarter strength. The death rate however has not been excessive – under ten percent – considering the susceptibility of the African to lung trouble. We are all impatient to get back to Nairobi and I hope to date my next letter from there. I trust all is well with Andy.

Henry has survived the war. I’ve come to appreciate his character through these letters: tough-minded, a good leader, pragmatic, brave, and with a good sense of humour. One more letter which I will post tomorrow.

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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 – 18th August 1918

Guinea Fowl

Guinea FowlIn Europe during August 1918, the Hundred Days Offensive was underway. This was the Allied offensive which ended World War One. The campaign in Africa was proceeding at a different pace.

In the Field – 18th August 1918

I have none of your letters to acknowledge and we seem to have once again outstripped the mail, which is not surprising considering the erratic nature of our movements. I think I last wrote you from Quilomane from where we were shipped back to Mozambique and are now at rail-head some 40 miles inland. At least that is where battalion H.Q. are but we are again split up into company posts. The Germans were expected to rush rail-head but they decided to give it a miss [sounds like a cat and mouse game] and we learn they are seeking away westward.

They bumped into our A company who were on an isolated post but they were well dug in, and the Germans decided to leave them alone when they found they could not have it all their own way. K.A.R. battalions and companies are dotted all over the country, from the coast to Lake Nyasa. I am busy making a miniature Gibraltar of my post, in the form of a perimeter camp with trenches facing all ways, dug-outs and communication trenches, just like old times. Instead of barbed wire we have a “boma” of felled trees and cunningly concealed stakes. It looks however as if we are not to be honoured by a visit from our friends. According to the last news he is bearing away from the coastal area.

The natives hereabouts are real barbarians and they are none to well disposed towards us, which is not surprising considering that first the Germans, then ourselves, to say nothing of the Portuguese have been making free with the food supplies of the country. We have however established a system of barter with the natives, and carry about with us a goodly stock of “Americans”, which it the native name for cheap cotton cloth, with which to do a deal. But we are really all alike to the poor native and our outlying picquets have been attacked by these gentry with spears and poisoned arrows, but the crack of a rifle is enough to scatter them.

We have quite a collection of these ancient weapons and have little competitions at spearing. The askaris have the knack of throwing them much better than we have and can give us points. I go out with a rifle now and again with my orderly in the hope of slaying something in the way of game, but if I bring back a guinea fowl I have done well.

Sounds like a frustrating time to me. Lots of busy work, very little sense of accomplishment.

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 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.

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.