Somewhere in Africa – 31st October 1918

31st October 1918

I have just received a big batch of your letters dated April and May [5 months ago] and have more or less digested all of your news. I am sorry to hear Maxwell Forsyth has been killed. His battalion, the 8th Gordons, if I remember rightly, was in our Division in France, although I never met him there.

The war seems to be r rapidly drawing to a close and we expect the momentous news of peace any day. Having started the fight the Germans are not waiting for their licking, but are getting out of the ring before he is knocked out. The latest news of our local friends is that they have got as fas as Northern Rhodesia, still a “fighting” force. [Map from warfarehistorynetwork.com. Red arrows show British attempts to capture von Lettow in 1916. Green arrows show von Lettow’s progress ending up in Northern Rhodesia.]

From Wikipedia:

On 28 September 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck again crossed the Rovuma River and returned to German East Africa with the British still in pursuit. He then turned west and raided Northern Rhodesia, thus evading a trap the British had prepared for him in German East Africa.

We are back at our old quarters in Ndanda, which you may remember from my letters earlier in the year, so that we are far away from the seat of trouble, but we shall probably get sudden orders that will send us streaking across the country to take up a strategic position somewhere.

The news from Europe however must surely have a depressing effect on von Lettow’s wonderful spirit and energy. He is a Prussian of the Prussians, but once the glamour of the Kaiser is removed I think he will see the futility of keeping it up.

I hope you are considering the ways and means of your annual holiday and hope you will have a good time, wherever it may be. In a sense the latter half of the campaign here has been something of a holiday, with alternate spells of strenuous campaigning and loafing. I have been keeping wonderfully fit, with no recurrence of the fever lately. I have one of Philip’s rare letters to acknowledge. [Philip was my husband’s grandfather.]

No danger for Henry at the moment.

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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.