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.

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 France – 15th April 1916

Source: Wikipedia

Henry Tod continues to be out of the line.

I have your letters of 21st and 24th March and am glad to see you are all keeping so well, considering the severe weather. I note you are putting in some strenuous work on the garden and would like to pop over and see how you are carrying on. [I believe his family was farming in Alberta at the time.]

We are still enjoying our rest and from my letter to Andy [Henry’s brother] a few days ago you would get an idea of what we are doing. I am enjoying this rest much more than the last one for some reason or other and suppose a nice comfortable billet has something to do with it. We are not overworked and as I can always get a horse, I cannot complain of much at the moment.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse and today we had a heavy hailstorm. Last night I got lost in the dark riding home from a village some little distance away. I thought I knew the way better than the horse did and when we came to a cross-roads we had a bit of an argument. I insisted on going my way and the result was we came to a different village altogether. I felt very cheap when we had to go back to the cross-roads and take his way and I wondered how he could go straight to his table door in the dark.

We have another week or so before we resume our acquaintance with the trenches. Our thoughts had again been turned to the possibility of leave in our due turn, but this has been stopped all through the First Army of which we form a significant portion. The reason we do not know and can only conjecture. Rumour as usual is busy and some big movement on either side is predicted, but our ignorance on these matters is profound.

I peaked ahead to Henry’s next letter home and there’s an indication he’s near the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The redoubt was near Auchez-les-mines at the northern tip of France near the Belgian border. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about action in March/April 1916. The number of mines blown is horrendous. We’ll read more soon.

“Following the British attacks of 2–18 March, the German units at the Hohenzollern Redoubt were considerably reinforced. The new German garrison of the redoubt remained doubled for several days and a high level of alert maintained until the end of the month, when the possibility of another British attack was considered to have ended.[11] On 19 March 1916, the British exploded another mine at the redoubt and the Germans sprung two mines in the Quarries on 24 March. British mines were blown on 26 and 27 March, 5, 13, 20, 21 and 22 April 1916; German mines were exploded on 31 March, on 2, 8, 11, 12 and 23 April 1916. Each explosion was followed by infantry attacks and consolidation of the mine lips, which were costly to both sides and turned more areas of no man’s land into crater fields.[12] The British 12th Division was eventually relieved on 26 April 1916 and missed the German gas attacks at Hulluch which began the next day, from an area close to the Hohenzollern Redoubt.[12] Engagements continued until the summer, when the British and Commonwealth forces moved their focus south, in preparation of the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916).”

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION 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 France – 20th December 1915

Another instalment from Alexander Henry Tod’s letters home from France during WWI.

Source PBS Newshour

I have your letters of 23rd November and 1st December. I think I have now received all your letters and am sorry my little grouse has disturbed you so much. The only thing outstanding is your Christmas box but that will turn up all right. There are probably about a million parcels to be delivered to the troops at this time and that will take some doing.

As you know we are presently enjoying Divisional rest, well behind the line, but it is rather dull being stuck here doing routine work and we are all hoping to get away on short leave to England. The chances are we shall get it, in due rotation of course, but at this game one mustn’t take too much for granted. I have been detailed to attend a Divisional course of instruction on special subjects, at some other place than this, and will be detached from the battalion for a week. One officer per company goes every week and I was second on the list. I shall be glad to get away as I think we are all beginning to see too much of each other. I go off the day after tomorrow and will rejoin the battalion for the Christmas festivities.

Today is Sunday and I am orderly officer. That’s twice it has fallen on a Sunday and I don’t like it. The duties of the O.O. are rather vague, but comprehensive, and the chief hardship is that he must be on the spot. He has to go round and see that everything is in order – inspect billets, cook houses, prisoners and everything there is to inspect. It is all right on weekdays when he can be excused parades by pretending to do something else.

I took the Roman Catholic contingent to church early this morning but didn’t wait for the service [as far as I know, Henry is not Catholic] as breakfast was waiting for me. There is a strong Irish element in the regiment and we have a ‘padre’ to look after them. He is a good sort and a great favourite with us all and he does full justice to the hospitality of the different messes! [perhaps the padre was a little plump?] He also takes full advantage of his position and the grim business of war to bring home to the men the immediate need of their living better lives and so forth.

source PBS Newshour

We are recruited chiefly from Glasgow [Henry is from Glasgow] and Lanarkshire and the strong local accent is still music in my ears after being away from it so long. The men are wonderful in the trenches under the most trying conditions and there is always someone who can see the humorous side when things are most depressing. I hope some day to tell you all about them when the clouds roll by.

We managed to get a photo taken of the company the other day by a woman photographer, who is in this line of business in the village. We couldn’t all get into the picture so we had to make the best of it. I hope the censor doesn’t grab them. Tea has made its appearance so will close.

I found this comment on the PBS Newshour site about WWI soldiers playing soccer in their off times:

It’s a way to hide the horror under one layer of spectacle and another layer of moral virtue — a way to pretend that war is like a game, that there are rules, that there is safety. A way not to look into oblivion. We missed the cruel irony in all those soccer balls that show up in World War I photos. Nothing is a metaphor for war. War is a metaphor for nothing.

 

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. 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.