SKETCHES OF THE EAST AFRICA CAMPAIGN
BY CAPT. ROBERT V. DOLBEY, R.A.M.C.
AUTHOR OF "A REGIMENTAL SURGEON IN WAR AND PRISON"
TO L.A.D. AND C.B.
The bulk of these "Sketches" were written without any thought of publication. It was my practice in "writing home" to touch upon different features of the campaign or of my daily experiences, and only when I returned to England to find that kind hands had carefully preserved these hurried letters, did it occur to me that, grouped together, they might serve to throw some light on certain aspects of the East Africa campaign, which might not find a place in a more elaborate history.
For the illustrations, I have been able to draw upon a number of German photographs which fell into our hands.
I should like to take this opportunity of thanking Mr. H.T. Montague Bell for the care and kindness with which he has grouped this collection of inco-ordinate sketches and formed it into a more or less comprehensive whole.
ROBERT V. DOLBEY,
INTRODUCTION THIS ARMY OF OURS THE NAVY AND ITS WORK LETTOW AND HIS ARMY INTELLIGENCE GERMAN TREATMENT OF NATIVES GOOD FOR EVIL THE MECHANICAL TRANSPORT THE SURGERY OF THIS WAR MY OPERATING THEATRE AT HANDENI SOME AFRICAN DISEASES HORSE SICKNESS THE WOUNDED FROM KISSAKI MY OPERATING THEATRE IN MOROGORO THE GERMAN IN PEACE AND WAR LOOTING SHERRY AND BITTERS NATIVE PORTERS THE PADRE AND HIS JOB FOR ALL PRISONERS AND CAPTIVES THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD THE BIRDS OF THE AIR BITING FLIES NIGHT IN MOROGORO THE WATERS OF TURIANI SCOUTING "HUNNISHNESS" FROM MINDEN TO MOROGORO A MORAL DISASTER THE ANGEL OF MOROGORO THE WILL TO DESTROY DAR-ES-SALAAM (THE HAVEN OF PEACE)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
RHODESIANS CROSSING A GERMAN BRIDGE OVER THE PANGANI RIVER, NEAR MOMBO, WHICH THEY HAD SAVED FROM DESTRUCTION
BRITISH SHELLS EXPLODING A GERMAN AMMUNITION DUMP.
EXCITEMENT OF THE NATIVES
OUR FIRST WATER SUPPLY AT HANDENI
MY OPERATING THEATRE AT MOROGORO. TWO WOUNDED RHODESIANS AND MY TWO OPERATING-ROOM BOYS
SISTER ELIZABETH. THE GERMAN SISTER
HUNS ON TREK
AN ENEMY DETACHMENT ON TREK. MACHINE-GUN PORTERS IN FRONT
NATIVES BUILDING A BANDA
A TYPICAL STRETCH OF ROAD THROUGH OPEN BUSH
THE NATIVE VILLAGE OF MOROGORO
A GERMAN DUG-OUT
OLD PORTUGUESE WATERGATE, DAR-ES-SALAAM
MAP OF GERMAN EAST AFRICA
These sketches of General Smuts' campaign of 1916 in German East Africa, do not presume to give an accurate account of the tactical or strategical events of this war. The actual knowledge of the happenings of war and of the considerations that persuade an Army Commander to any course of military conduct must, of necessity, be a closed book to the individual soldier. To the fighting man himself and to the man on the lines of communication, who helps to feed and clothe and arm and doctor him, the history of his particular war is very meagre. War, to the soldier, is limited to the very narrow horizon of his front, the daily work of his regiment, or, at the most, of his brigade. Rarely does news from the rest of one brigade spread to the troops of another in the field. Only in the hospital that serves the division are the events of his bit of war correlated and reduced to a comprehensive whole. Even then the resulting knowledge is usually wrong. For the imagination of officers, and of men in particular, is wonderful, and rumour has its birthplace in the hospital ward. One may take it as an established fact that the ordinary regimental officer or soldier knows little or nothing about events other than his particular bit of country. Only the Staff know, and they will not tell. Sometimes we have thought that all the real news lives in the cloistered brain of the General and his Chief of Staff. Be this as it may, we always got fuller and better correlated and co-ordinated news of the German East African Campaign from "Reuter" or from The Times weekly edition.
But if the soldier in the forward division knows nothing of the strategical events of his war, there are many things of which he does know, and so well too that they eclipse the greater strategical considerations of the war. He does know the food he eats and the food that he would like to eat; moreover, he knew, in German East Africa, what his rations ought to be, and how to do without them. He learnt how to fight and march and carry heavy equipment on a very empty stomach. He learnt to eke out his meagre supplies by living on the wild game of the country, the native flour, bananas and mangoes. He knew what it meant to have dysentery and malaria. He had marched under a broiling sun by day and shivered in the tropic dews at night. He knew what it was to sleep upon the ground; to hunt for shade from the vertical sun. These and many other things did he know, and herein lies the chief interest of this or of any other campaign.
For, strange as it may seem, the soldier in East Africa was more concerned about his food and clothing, the tea he thirsted for, the blisters that tormented his weary feet, the equipment that was so heavy, the sleep that drugged his footsteps on the march, the lion that sniffed around his drowsy head at night, than about the actual fighting. These are the real points of personal interest in any campaign, and if these sketches bear upon the questions of food, the matter of transport, the manner of the soldier's illness, the hospitals he stayed in, the tsetse fly that bit him by day, the mosquitoes that made his nights a perfect torment, they are the more true to life. For fights are few, and, in this thick bush country, frequently degenerate into blind firing into a blinder bush; but the "jigger" flea is with the soldier always.
But this campaign is far different from any of the others in which our arms are at present engaged. First and of especial interest was this army of ours; the most heterogeneous collection of fighting men, from the ends of the earth, all gathered in one smoothly working homogeneous whole. From Boers and British South Africans, from Canada and Australia, from India, from home, from the planters of East Africa, and from all the dusky tribes of Central Africa, was this army of ours recruited. The country, too, was of such a character that knowledge of war in other campaigns was of little value. Thick grass, dense thorn scrub, high elephant grass, all had their special bearing on the quality of the fighting. Close-quarter engagements were the rule, dirty fighting in the jungle, ambushes, patrol encounters; and the deadly machine-gun that enfiladed or swept every open space. We cannot be surprised that the mounted arm was robbed of much of its utility, that artillery work was often blind for want of observation, that the trench dug in the green heart of a forest escaped the watchful eyes of aeroplanes, that this war became a fight of men and rifles, and, above all, the machine-gun.
In this campaign the Hun has been the least of the malignant influences. More from fever and dysentery, from biting flies, from ticks and crawling beasts have we suffered than from the bullets of the enemy. Lions and hyaenas have been our camp followers, and not a little are we grateful to these wonderful scavengers, the best of all possible allies in settling the great question of sanitation in camps. For all our roads were marked by the bodies of dead horses, mules and oxen, whose stench filled the evening air. Much labour in the distasteful jobs of burying these poor victims of war did the scavengers of the forest save us.
The transport suffered from three great scourges: the pest of horse-sickness and fly and the calamity of rain. For after twelve hours' rain in that black cotton soil never a wheel could move until a hot sun had dried the surface of the roads again. Roads, too, were mere bush tracks in the forest, knee-deep either in dust or in greasy clinging mud.
Never has Napoleon's maxim that "an army fights on its stomach" been better exemplified than here. All this campaign we have marched away from our dinners, as the Hun has marched toward his. The line of retreat, predetermined by the enemy, placed him in the fortunate position that the further he marched the more food he got, the softer bed, more ammunition, and the moral comfort of his big naval guns that he fought to a standstill and then abandoned. Heavy artillery meant hundreds of native porters or dove-coloured humped oxen of the country to drag them; and heavy roads defied the most powerful machinery to move the guns.
In order to appreciate the great difficulty with which our Supply Department has had to contend, we must remember that our lines of communication have been among the longest in any campaign. From the point of view of the railway and the road haul of supplies, our lines of communication have been longer than those in the Russo-Japanese War. For every pound of bully beef or biscuit or box of ammunition has been landed at Kilindini, our sea base, from England or Australia, railed up to Voi or Nairobi, a journey roughly of 300 miles. From one or other of those distributing points the trucks have had to be dragged to Moschi on the German railway, from there eastward along the German railway line to Tanga as far as Korogwe, a matter of another 500 miles. From here the last stage of 200 miles has been covered by ox or mule or horse transport, and the all-conquering motor lorry, over these bush tracks to Morogoro. Can we wonder, then, that the great object of this campaign has been to raise as many supplies locally as possible, and to drive our beef upon the hoof in the rear of our advancing army? Nor is the German unconscious of these our difficulties. He has with the greatest care denuded the whole country of supplies before us, and called in to his aid his two great allies, the tsetse fly and horse sickness, to rob us of our live cattle and transport animals on the way.
At first we thought the German in East Africa to be a better fellow than his brother in Europe, more merciful to his wounded prisoner, more chivalrous in his manner of fighting. But the more we learn of him the more we come to the conclusion that he is the same old Hun as he is in Belgium—infinitely crafty, incredibly beastly in his dealings with his natives and with our prisoners. Only in one aspect did we find him different, and this by reason of the fact that we were winning and advancing, taking his plantations and his farms, finding that he had left his women and children to our charge. Then we saw the alteration. For I had known what eight months in German prisons in Europe mean to a soldier prisoner of war, and now I had German prisoners in my charge. Anxious to please, eager to conciliate, as infinitely servile to us, now they were in captivity, as they were vile and bestial and arrogant to us when they were in authority, were these prisoners of ours.
Nor was this the only aspect from which the campaign in German East Africa appealed to those of us who had taken part in the advance from the Marne to the Aisne in September, 1914. Then we saw what looting meant, and how the German officer enriched his family home with trophies looted from many chateaux. We knew of French houses that had been stripped of every article of value; we saw, discarded by the roadside, in the rapid and disorganised retreat to the Aisne, statuary and bronzes, pictures and clocks, and all the treasures of French homes. Now we were in a position to loot; but how differently our officers and men behaved! The spoils of hundreds of German plantations at our mercy; and hardly a thing, save what was urgently needed for hospitals or food, taken. Every house in which the German owner lived was left unmolested; only those abandoned to the mercy of the native plunderer had we entered. It pays a great tribute to the natural goodness of our men, that the German example of indiscriminate looting and destruction was not followed.
To people in England, and, indeed, to many soldiers in France, it seemed that this campaign of ours in German East Africa was a mere side-show. It appeared to be a Heaven-sent opportunity to escape the cold wet misery of the trenches in Flanders. To some it spelt an expedition of the picnic variety; they saw in this an opportunity of spending halcyon days in the game preserves, glorious opportunities for making collections of big game heads, all sandwiched in with pleasant and successful enterprises against an enemy that was waiting only a decent excuse to surrender.
How different has been the reality, however! The picnic enterprise has turned out to be one of the most arduous in our experience. Many of us had served in France and the Dardanelles before, and we thought we knew what the hardships of war could mean. If the truth be told, the soldier suffered in East Africa, in many ways, greater hardships, performed greater feats of endurance, endured more from fever and dysentery and the many plagues of the country than in either of the other campaigns; the soldier marched and fought and suffered and starved for the simple reason that time was of the essence of the whole campaign. From June until Christmas we had to crowd in the campaigning of a whole year; for once the rains had started all fighting was perforce at an end. Once the transport wheels had stopped in the black cotton soil mud the army had to halt. All the time the great aim of the expedition was to get on and farther on. We had to advance and risk the shortage of supplies, or we would never reach the Central Railway. And there was not a soldier who would not prefer to push on and suffer and finish the campaign than wait in elegant leisure with full rations to contemplate an endless war in the swamps of East Africa.
The early history of the war in this theatre had been far from favourable to our arms. In late 1914 our Expeditionary Force failed in their landing at Tanga, a misfortune that was not compensated for by our subsequent reverse at Jassin near the Anglo-German border on the coast. The gallant though unsuccessful defence of the latter town by our Indian troops, however, caused great losses to the enemy, and robbed him of many of his most distinguished officers. But against these we must record the very fine defence of the Uganda Railway and the successful affair at Longido near the great Magadi Soda Lake in the Kilimanjaro area. But when South Africa, in 1916, was called in to redress the balance of India in German East Africa, the new strategic railway from Voi to the German frontier was only just commenced, and the enemy were in occupation of our territory at Taveta. To General Smuts then fell the task of co-ordinating the various units in British East Africa, strengthening them with South African troops, pushing on the railway toward Moschi, and driving the German from British soil. In so far as his initial movements were concerned, General Smuts carried out the plans evolved by his predecessors. After a series of difficult but brilliant engagements, the enemy were forced back to Moschi, and to the Kilimanjaro area, which, in places, was very strongly held. From this point he mapped out his own campaign. Colonel von Lettow was out-manoeuvred by our flanking movements, and forced to retire partly along the Tanga railway eastward to the sea, and partly towards the Central Railway in the heart of the enemy country.
Two outstanding features of this campaign may be mentioned: the faith the whole army had in General Smuts, the loyalty, absolute and complete, that all our heterogeneous troops gave to him; and the natural goodness of the soldier. As for the latter, Boer or English, Canadian, East African or Indian, all showed that they could bear the heat and dust and dirty fighting, the disease and privation just as gallantly, uncomplainingly, and well, as did their British comrades on the Western front.
Finally, there is one very generous tribute that our army would pay to the Germans in the field, and that is to the excellence of the leadership of Lettow, and the devotion with which he has by threats and cajolings sustained the failing courage of his men. Nor can one forget that in this war the mainstay of our enemy has lain in the discipline and devotion of the native troops. Here, indeed, in this campaign the black man has kept up the spirit of the white. Nor does this leave the future unclouded with potential trouble, for, in this war, the black man has seen the white, on both sides, run from him. The black man is armed and trained in the use of the rifle, and machine-gun, and his intelligence and capacity have been attested to by the degree of fire control that he mastered. It must be more than a coincidence that in the two colonies—East Africa and the Cameroon—where the Germans used native troops they put up an efficient and skilful resistance, while in South-West Africa, where all the enemy troops were white, they showed little inclination for a fight to a finish. In Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck the German army has one of the most able and resourceful leaders that it has produced in this war.
THIS ARMY OF OURS
Since Alexander of Macedon descended upon the plains of India, there can never have been so strange and heterogeneous an army as this, and a doctor must speak with the tongues of men and angels to arrive at an even approximate understanding of their varied ailments. The first division that came with Jan Smuts from the snows of Kilimanjaro to the torrid delta of the Rufigi contained them all.
The real history of the war begins with Smuts; for, prior to his coming, we were merely at war; but when he came we began to fight. A brief twenty-four hours in Nairobi, during which he avoided the public receptions and the dinners that a more social chief would have graced; then he was off into the bush. Wherever that rather short, but well-knit figure appeared, with his red beard, well streaked with grey, beneath the red Staff cap, confidence reigned in all our troops. And to the end this trust has remained unabated. Many disappointments have come his way, more from his own mounted troops than from any others; but we have felt that his tactics and strategy were never wrong. Thus it was that from this heterogeneous army, Imperial, East African, Indian and South African, he has had a loyalty most splendid all the time. He may have pushed us forward so that we marched far in advance of food or supplies, thrust us into advanced positions that to our military sense seemed very hazardous. But he meant "getting a move on," and we knew it; and all of us wished the war to be over. Jan Smuts suffered the same fever as we did, ate our food, and his personal courage in private and most risky reconnaissances filled us with admiration and fear, lest disaster from some German patrol might overtake him. To me the absence of criticism and the loyal co-operation of all troops have been most wonderful. For we are an incurably critical people, and here was a civilian, come to wrest victory from a series of disasters.
First in interest, perhaps, as they were ever first in fight, are the Rhodesians, those careless, graceful fellows that have been here a year before the big advance began. Straight from the bush country and fever of Northern Rhodesia, they were probably the best equipped of all white troops to meet the vicissitudes of this warfare. They knew the dangers of the native paths that wound their way through the thorn bush, and gave such opportunities for ambush to the lurking patrol. None knew as they how to avoid the inviting open space giving so good a field of fire for the machine-gun, that took such toll of all our enterprises. With them, too, they brought a liability to blackwater fever that laid them low, a legacy from Lake Nyasa that marked them out as the victims of this scourge in the first year of the big advance.
The Loyal North Lancashires, too, have borne the heat and burden of the day from the first disastrous landing at Tanga. Always exceedingly well disciplined, they yield to none in the amount of solid unrewarded work done in this campaign.
Of the most romantic interest probably are the 25th Royal Fusiliers, the Legion of Frontiersmen. Volumes might be written of the varied careers and wild lives lived by these strange soldiers of fortune. They were led by Colonel Driscoll, who, for all his sixty years, has found no work too arduous and no climate too unhealthy for his brave spirit. I knew him in the Boer War when he commanded Driscoll's Scouts, of happy, though irregular memory; their badge in those days, the harp of Erin on the side of their slouch hats, and known throughout the country wherever there was fighting to be had. The 25th Fusiliers, too, were out here in the early days, and participated in the capture of Bukoba on the Lake. A hundred professions are represented in their ranks. Miners from Australia and the Congo, prospectors after the precious mineral earths of Siam and the Malay States, pearl-fishers and elephant poachers, actors and opera singers, jugglers, professional strong men, big-game hunters, sailors, all mingled with professions of peace, medicine, the law and the clerk's varied trade. Here two Englishmen, soldiers of fortune or misfortune, as the case might be, who had specialised in recent Mexican revolutions, till the fall of Huerta brought them, too, to unemployment; an Irishman there, for whom the President of Costa Rica had promised a swift death against a blank wall. Cunning in the art of gun-running, they were knowing in all the tides of the Caribbean Sea, and in every dodge to outwit the United States patrol. Nor must I forget one priceless fellow, a lion-tamer, who, strange to say, feared exceedingly the wild denizens of the scrub that sniffed around his patrol at night.
Of our Indian forces the most likeable and attractive were the Kashmiris, whom the patriot Rajah of Kashmir has given to the India Government. Recruited from the mountains of Nepal—for the native of Kashmir is no soldier—they meet one everywhere with their eager smiling faces. In hospital they are always professing to a recovery from fever that their pallid faces and enlarged spleens belie, and they take not kindly to any suggestion of invaliding.
These battalions of Kashmir Rifles, the Baluchis and the King's African Rifles have done more dirty bush fighting than any troops in this campaign. The Baluchis, in particular, have covered themselves with glory in many a fight.
The most efficient soldiers in East Africa are the King's African Rifles; unaffected by the fever and the dysentery of the country, and led by picked white officers, they are in their element in the thorn jungle in which the Germans have conducted their rearguard actions. Known at first as the "Suicides Club," the King's African Rifles lost a far greater proportion of officers than any other regiment. Nor is it a little that they owe to the gallant leader of one battalion, Colonel Graham, who lost his life early in the advance on Moschi. These regiments are recruited from Nyasaland in the south to Nubia and Abyssinia in the north. Yaos, known by the three vertical slits in their cheeks; slim Nandi, with perforated lobes to their ears; ebony Kavirondo; Sudanese of an excellent quality; Wanyamwezi from the country between Tabora and Lake Tanganyika, the very tribe from whom the German Askaris are recruited, and all the dusky tribes that stretch far north to Lake Rudolph and the Nile. Nor should one forget the Arab Rifles, raised by that wonderful fellow Wavell, whose brother was a prisoner with me in Germany. A professing Mohammedan, he was one of very few white men who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. He harried the Huns along the unhealthy districts of the coast, until a patrol, in ambush, laid him low near Gazi.
Last, and most important, the army of South Africans, whose coming spelt for us the big advance and the swift move that made us master of the whole country from Kilimanjaro to the Rufigi. A great political experiment and a most wonderfully successful one was this Africander army, English and Boers, under a Boer General. For the first time since the Great War in South Africa, the Boers made common cause with us, definitely aligned themselves with us in a joint campaign and provided the greatest object lesson of this World War. If the campaign of German East Africa was worth while, its value has been abundantly proved in this welding of the races that, despite local disagreements, has occurred. The South African troops have found the country ill adapted to their peculiar genius in war, and the blind bush has robbed the mounted arm of much of its efficiency. Not here the wide distances to favour their enveloping tactics. Much have they suffered from fever, hardships and privation, and to their credit lies the greatest of all marches in this campaign, the 250 mile march to Kondoa Irangi in the height of the rainy season. The South African Infantry arrived in Kondoa starved and worn and bootless after this forced march to extricate the mounted troops, whose impetuous ardour had thrust them far beyond the possibility of supplies, into the heart of the enemy's country. We cannot sufficiently praise the apparently reckless tactics that made this wonderful march towards the Central Railway, or the uncomplaining fortitude of troops who lived in this fever-stricken country, on hippopotamus meat, wild game and native meal. To the Boer, as to all of us, this campaign must have taught a wonderful lesson, for many prejudices have been modified, and it has been learnt that "coolies" (as only too often the ignorant style all natives of India) and "Kaffirs," can fight with the best.
This campaign would have been largely impossible, were it not for the Cape Boys and other natives from the Union, who have come to run our mule and ox transport. Their peculiar genius is the management of horses, mules and cattle. Different from other primitive and negro people, they are very kind to animals, infinitely knowledgeable in the lore of mule and ox, they can be depended upon to exact the most from animal transport with the least cruelty. Wonderful riders these; I have seen them sit bucking horses in a way that a Texas cowboy or a Mexican might envy.
One should not leave the subject of this army without reference to the Cape Corps—that experiment in military recruiting which many of us were at first inclined to condemn. But from the moment the Cape Boy enlisted in the ranks of the Cape Corps his status was raised, and he adopted, together with his regulation khaki uniform and helmet, a higher responsibility towards the army than did his brother who helped to run the transport. They have been well officered, they have been a lesson to all of us in the essential matters of discipline and smartness, they have done much of the dirty work entailed by guarding lines of communication, and now, when given their longed-for chance of actual fighting on the Rufigi, they have covered themselves with distinction. For my part, as a doctor, I found they had too much ego in their cosmos, as is commonly the fault of half-bred races, and a sick Cape Corps soldier seemed always very sick indeed; yet, as the campaign progressed, we came to like and to admire these troops the more, so that their distinction won in the Rufigi fighting was welcomed very gladly by all of us.
Later in the campaign arrived the Gold Coast Regiment; and now the Nigerian Brigade are here. Very, very smart and soldier-like these Hausa and Fulani troops; Mohammedan, largely, in religion, and bearded where the East Coast native is smooth-faced, they will stay to finish this guerilla fighting, for which their experience in the Cameroon has so well fitted them. The Gold Coast Regiment has always been where there has been the hardest fighting, their green woollen caps and leather sandals marking them out from other negroid soldiers. And their impetuous courage has won them many captured enemy guns, and, alas! a very long list of casualties. But in hospital they are the merriest of happy people, always joking and smiling, and are quite a contrast to our much more serious East Coast native; they have earned from their white sergeants and officers very great admiration and devotion. By far the best equipped of any unit in the field, they had, as a regiment, no less than eight machine-guns and a regimental mountain battery.
THE NAVY AND ITS WORK
To the Navy that alone has made this campaign possible, we soldiers owe our grateful thanks. But there have been times when, in our blindness, we have failed to realise how great the task was to blockade 400 miles of this coast and to keep a watchful eye on Mozambique. For before the Portuguese made common cause with us, there was a great deal of gun-running along the southern border of German East Africa, which our present Allies found impossible to watch. Two factors materially aided the Germans in making the fight they have. First, there was the lucky "coincidence" of the Dar-es-Salaam Exhibition. This exhibition, which was to bring the whole world to German East Africa in August, 1914, provided the military authorities with great supplies of machinery, stores and exhibits from all the big industrial centres; and these were swiftly adapted to the making of rifles and munitions of war. To this must be added the most important factor of all, the Koenigsberg, lying on the mud flats far up the Rufigi, destroyed by us, it is true, but not before the ship's company of 700, officers and men, and most of the guns had been transported ashore, the latter mounted on gun carriages and dragged by weary oxen or thousands of black porters to dispute our advance. In due course, however, these were abandoned, one by one, as we pressed the enemy back from the Northern Railway south to the Rufigi. Last, but by no means least, was the moral support their wireless stations gave them. These, though unable, since the destruction of the main stations, to transmit messages, continued for some time to receive the news from Nauen in Germany. By the air from Germany the officers received the Iron Cross, promotion, and the Emperor's grateful thanks.
But if you would see what work the Navy has done, you must first begin at Lindi in the south. There you will see the Praesident of the D.O.A. line lying on her side with her propellers blown off and waiting for our tugs to drag her to Durban for repair. And in the Rufigi lying on the mudbanks, fourteen miles from the mouth, you will see the Koenigsberg, once the pride of German cruisers, half sunk and completely dismantled. The hippopotami scratch their tick-infested flanks upon her rusted sides, crocodiles crawl across her decks, fish swim through the open ports. In Dar-es-Salaam you will see the Koenig stranded at the harbour mouth, the Tabora lying on her side behind the ineffectual shelter of the land; the side uppermost innocent of the Red Cross and green line that adorned her seaward side. For she was a mysterious craft. She flew the Red Cross and was tricked out as a hospital ship on one side, the other painted grey. True, she had patients and a doctor on board when a pinnace from one of our cruisers examined her, but she also had machine-guns mounted and gun emplacements screwed to her deck, and all the adaptations required for a commerce raider. So our admiral decided that, after due notice, so suspicious a craft were better sunk. A few shots flooded her compartments and she heeled over, burying the lying Cross of Geneva beneath the waters of the harbour. Further up the creek you will see the Feldmarschall afloat and uninjured, save for the engines that our naval party had destroyed, and ready, to our amazement, at the capture of the town, to be towed to Durban and to carry British freight to British ports, and maybe meet a destroying German submarine upon the way. Further up still you will find the Governor's yacht and a gunboat, sunk this time by the Germans; but easy to raise and to adapt for our service. Strange that so methodical a people should have bungled so badly the simple task of rendering a valuable ship useless for the enemy. But they have blundered in the execution of their plans everywhere. The attempt to obstruct the harbour mouth at Dar-es-Salaam was typical of their naval ineptitude. Barely two hundred yards across this bottle-neck, it should have been an easy job to block. So they sank the floating dock in the southern portion of the channel and moored the Koenig by bow and stern hawsers, to the shores on either side in position for sinking. Instead of flooding her they prepared an explosive bomb and timed it to go off at the fall of the tide. But the bomb failed to explode, and an ebb tide setting in, broke the stern moorings and drove her sideways on the shore. Here she lies now and the channel is still free to all our ships to come and go. We found, at the occupation, the record of the court-martial on the German naval officer responsible for the failure of the plan. He seems to have pleaded, with success, the fact that his dynamite was fifteen years old. After that no further attempt was made, and for nearly a year before we occupied the town our naval whalers and small cruisers sailed, the white ensign proudly flying, into the harbour to anchor and to watch the interned shipping. It must have been a humiliating spectacle to the Hun; but he was helpless. Woe betide him, if he placed a mine or trained a gun upon this ship of ours. The town would have suffered, and this they could not risk.
Yet further up the coast, near Tanga, the Markgraf lies beached in shallow water, and the Reubens a wreck in Mansa Bay.
In most of our naval operations our intelligence has been excellent, and Fortune has been kind. It seemed to the Germans that we employed some special witchcraft to provide the knowledge that we possessed. So they panicked ingloriously, and sought spies everywhere, and hanged inoffensive natives by the dozen to the mango trees. One day one of our whalers entered Tanga harbour the very day the German mines were lifted for the periodical overhaul. The Germans ascribed such knowledge to the Prince of Evil. The whaler proceeded to destroy a ship lying there, and, on its way out, fired a shell into a lighter that was lying near. In this lighter were the mines, as the resulting explosion testified. This completed the German belief in our possession of supernatural powers of obtaining information.
Again at the bombardment and capture of Bagamoyo by the Fleet, it seemed to the Hun that wherever the German commander went, to this trench or to that observation post, our 6-inch shells would follow him. All day long they pursued his footsteps, till he also panicked and searched the bush for a hidden wireless. He it was who shot our gallant Marine officer, as our men stormed the trenches, and paid the penalty for his rashness shortly after.
The little German tug Adjutant, which in times of peace plied across the bar at Chinde to bring off passengers and mails to the ships that lay outside, has had a chequered career in this war. Slipping out from Chinde at the outbreak of war, she made her way to Dar-es-Salaam. From there she essayed another escapade only to fall into our hands. Transformed into a gunboat, she harried the Germans in the Delta of the Rufigi, until, greatly daring, one day she ran ashore on a mudbank in the river. Captured with her crew she was taken to pieces by the Germans and transported by rail to Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. And there the Belgians found her, partly reconstructed, as they entered the harbour. A little longer delay, and the resurrected Adjutant would have played havoc with our small craft and the Belgians', which had driven the German ships off the vast waters of this lake.
LETTOW AND HIS ARMY
Lettow, the one-eyed, or to give him his full title, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck, is the heart and soul of the German resistance in East Africa. Indomitable and ubiquitous, he has kept up the drooping spirits of his men by encouragement, by the example of great personal courage, and by threats that he can and will carry out. Wounded three times, he has never left his army, but has been carried about on a "machela" to prevent the half-resistance that leads to surrender. And now we hear he has had blackwater, and, recovering, has resumed his elusive journeys from one discouraged company to another all over the narrowing area of operations that alone is left to the Hun of his favourite colonial possessions. For to the fat shipping clerk of Tanga, whose soul lives only for beer and the leave that comes to reward two years of effort, the temptation to go sick or to get lost in the bush in front of our advancing armies is very great. He is not of the stuff that heroes are made of, and surrender is so safe and easy. A prison camp in Bombay is clearly preferable to this unending retreat. He has done enough for honour, he argues, he has proved his worth after two and a half years of resistance! This colony has put up the best fight of all, "and the Schwein Englaender holds the seas, so further resistance is hopeless." "We are not barbarians, are we Fritz?" But Fritz has ceased to care. "Ahmednagar for mine," says he, reverting to the language he learnt in the brewery at Milwaukee, in days that now seem to belong to some antenatal life. Soon he will look for some white face beneath the strange sun helmet the English wear, up will go his hands, and "Kamerad"—that magic word—will open the doors to sumptuous ease behind the prison bars.
But Lettow is going "all out." His black Askaris are not discouraged, and, in this war, the black man is keeping up the courage of the white. Had the native soldiers got their tails down the game was up as far as the Germans were concerned. But these faithful fellows see the "Bwona Kuba," as they call Lettow, here encouraging, everywhere inspiring them by his example, and they will stay with him until the end. Like many great soldiers, Lettow is singularly careless in his dress; and the tale is told at Moschi of a young German officer who stole a day's leave and discussed with a stranger at a shop window the chances of the ubiquitous Lettow arriving to spoil his afternoon. Nor did he know until he found the reprimand awaiting him in camp that he had been discussing the ethics of breaking out of camp with the "terror" himself.
A soldier of fortune is Lettow. His name is stained with the hideous massacres of the Hereros in South-West Africa. His was the order, transmitted through the German Governor's mouth, that thrust the Herero women and children into the deserts of Damaraland to die. Before the war in South Africa, rumour says, he was instructor to the "Staats Artillerie," which Kruger raised to stay the storm that he knew inevitably would overwhelm him. Serving, with Smuts and Botha themselves in the early months of the Boer war, he joined the inglorious procession of foreigners that fled across the bridge at Komati Poort after Pretoria fell, and left the Boer to fight it out unaided for two long and weary years more. No wonder that Lettow has sworn never to surrender to that "damned Dutchman Jan Smuts." Chary of giving praise for work well done, he yet is inexorable to failure. The tale is told that Lettow was furious when Fischer, the major in command at Moschi, was bluffed out of his impregnable position there by Vandeventer, evacuated the northern lines, and retired on Kahe, thus saving us the expense of taking a natural fortress that would have taxed all our energies. White with rage, he sent for Fischer and handed him one of his own revolvers. "Let me hear some interesting news about you in a day or two." And Fischer took the pistol and walked away to consider his death warrant. He looked at that grim message for two days before he could summon up his courage: then he shot himself, well below the heart, in a spot that he thought was fairly safe. But poor Fischer's knowledge of anatomy was as unsound as his strategy, for the bullet perforated his stomach. And it took him three days to die.
A tribe which has contributed largely to the German military forces is the Wanyamwezi. Of excellent physique, they long resisted German domination, but now they are entirely subdued. Hardy, brave and willing, they are the best fighters and porters, probably, in the whole of East Africa. Immigrant Wanyamwezi, enlisted in British East Africa into our King's African Rifles, do not hesitate to fight against their blood brothers. There is no stint to the faithful service they have given to the Germans. But for them our task would have been much easier. For drilling and parade the native mind shows great keenness and aptitude; little squads of men are drilled voluntarily by their own N.C.O.'s in their spare time; and often, just after an official drill is over, they drill one another again. Smart and well-disciplined they are most punctilious in all military services.
Of all the departments of War in German East Africa probably the most romantic and interesting is the Intelligence Department. Far away ahead of the fighting troops are the Intelligence officers with their native scouts. These officers, for the most part, are men who have lived long in the country, who know the native languages, and are familiar with the lie of the land from experience gained in past hunting trips. Often behind the enemy, creeping along the lines of communication, these officers carry their lives in their hands, and run the risk of betrayal by any native who happens across them. Sleeping in the bush at night, unable to light fires to cook their food, lest the light should attract the questing patrol, that, learning of their presence in the country, has been out after them for days. Hiding in the bush, short of rations, the little luxuries of civilisation long since finished, forced to smoke the reeking pungent native tobacco, living off wild game (that must be trapped, not shot), and native meal, at the mercy of the natives whom both sides employ to get information of the other, these men are in constant danger. Nor are the amenities of civilised warfare theirs when capture is their lot.
Fortunately for the British Empire there has never been any lack of those restless beings whose wandering spirits lead them to the confines of civilisation and beyond. To this type of man the African continent has offered a particular attraction, and we should have fared badly in the East African campaign, if we could not have relied upon the services of many of them. They are for the most part men who have abandoned at an early age the prosaic existence previously mapped out for them, and plunging into the wilds of Africa have found a more attractive livelihood in big game shooting and prospecting. By far the most exhilarating calling is that of the elephant hunter, who finds in the profits he derives from it all the compensation he requires for the hardships, the long marches, and the grave personal dangers. In the most inaccessible parts of the continent he plies his trade, knowing that his life may depend upon the quickness of his eye and intellect and the accuracy of his aim. Nor are his troubles over when his quarry has been secured. The ivory has still to be disposed of, and it is not always safe to attempt to sell in the territory where the game has been shot. The area of no man's land in Africa has long since been a diminishing quantity, and the promiscuous shooting of elephants is not encouraged. It becomes necessary, therefore, to study the question of markets, and the successful hunter finds it convenient to vary the spheres of his activities continually.
Not the least of the assets of these men is the knowledge they have of the native and the hold they have obtained over them. That man will go farthest who relies on the respect rather than on the fear he inspires. The latter may go a long way, but unless it has the former to support it, the chances are against it sooner or later. One man I know of owed his life more than once to his devotion to a small stick that walking, sitting or lying he never allowed out of his hand. The native mind came to attach magical powers to the stick, and consequently to the man himself. On one eventful journey when he had gone farther afield than his wont, and farther than his native porters cared to accompany him, symptoms of mutiny made their appearance. A council was held as to whether he should be murdered or not; he was fortunate enough to overhear it. The only possible deterrent seemed to be a dread of the magical stick, but the two ringleaders affected to make light of it. Realising that the time had come for decisive action, the white man summoned the company, told them that his stick had revealed the plot to him and warned them of the danger they ran. To clinch his argument he offered to allow the ringleaders to return home, taking the stick with them; but told them that they would be dead within twenty-four hours, and the stick would come back to him. To his dismay they accepted the challenge, and for him there could be no retreat. In desperation he poisoned the food they were to take with them, and awaited developments. The two natives set off early in the morning. By the afternoon they were back again, and with them the stick. In the solitude of their homeward trek their courage had oozed out; they feared the magic, and fortunately had not touched the poisoned provisions. In the feasting that had to celebrate this satisfactory denouement it was possible to substitute other food for that which had been taken on the abortive journey. Magic or the fear of it had saved the situation; but the instincts of loyalty had been fired previously by a character that had many attractive features and never allowed firmness to dispossess justice.
At the outbreak of the war two of our Nimrods—whom I shall call Hallam and Best—were camped by the Rovuma river. Hearing that there were British ships at Lindi, they made for the coast to offer their services in the sterner hunt, after much more dangerous game, that they knew had now begun. The native runner that brought them the news from Mozambique also warned them of the German force that was hot foot in pursuit of them. So they tarried not in the order of their going, and made for the shelter of the fleet. But Best would read his weekly Times by the light of the lamp at their camp table for all the Huns in Christendom, he said, and derided Hallam's surer sense of danger near at hand. So in the early hours their pickets came running in, all mixed up with German Askaris, and the ring of rifle and machine-gun fire told them that their time had come. Capsizing the tell-tale lamp, they scattered in the undergrowth like a covey of partridges, Hallam badly wounded in the leg and only able to crawl. The friendly shelter of the papyrus leaves beside the river-bank was his refuge; and as he plunged into the river the scattered volley of rifle shots tore the reeds above him. All night they remained there. Hallam up to his neck in water, and the ready prey of any searching crocodile that the blood that oozed from his wounded leg should inevitably have attracted; the Germans on the bank. Next morning the trail of blood towards the river assured the enemy that Hallam was no more, for who could live in these dangerous waters all night, wounded as he was? But if Hallam could hunt like a leopard, he could also swim like a fish. Next day brought a native fishing canoe into sight, and to it he swam, still clutching the rifle that second nature had caused him to grab as he plunged into the reeds. With a wet rifle and nine cartridges he persuaded the natives not only to ferry him across to the Portuguese side, but also to carry him in a "machela," a hammock slung between native porters, from which he shot "impala" for his food. But somehow word had got across the river that Hallam had eluded death, and the German Governor stormed and threatened till the Portuguese sent police to arrest the fugitive. But the native runner who brought him news of his discovery also brought word of the approaching police. So with his rifle and three cartridges to sustain him, often delirious with fever, and the inflammation in his leg, he commandeered the men of a native village and persuaded them, such was the prestige of his name, to carry him twenty-eight days in the "machela" to a friendly mission station on Lake Nyasa. Here the kindly English sisters nursed him back to life and health again.
Best was not so lucky, for he was taken prisoner. But there was no German gaol that could hold so resourceful a prisoner as this. In due time he made his escape, and was to be found later looping the loop above Turkish camps in the Sinai Peninsula.
One German, of whom our information had been that "his company did little else but rape women and loot goats," fell into my hands when we took the English Universities Mission at Korogwe. Could this be he, I thought, as I saw an officer of mild appearance and benevolent aspect speaking English so perfectly and peering at me through big spectacles? Badly wounded and with a fracture of the thigh, he had begged me to look after him, saying the most disloyal things about the character and surgical capacity of the German doctor whom we had left behind to look after German wounded. Not that the Oberstabsarzt did not deserve them, but it was so gratuitously beastly to say them to me, an enemy. He deplored, too, with such unctuous phrases, the fact that war should ever have occurred in East Africa. How it would spoil the years of toil, toward Christianity, of many mission stations! How the simple native had been taught in this war to kill white men; hitherto, of course, the vilest of crimes. How the march of civilisation had been put back for twenty-five years. How the prestige of the white man had fallen, for had not natives seen white men, on both sides, run away before them? Many such pious expressions issued from his lips. But the true Hun character came out when he asked whether the hated Boers were coming? The most vindictive expression, that even the benevolent spectacles could only partly modify, clouded his face, and he complained to me most bitterly of the black ingratitude of the Boers toward Germany. "All my life, from boyhood," he complained, "have I not subscribed my pfennigs to provide Christmas presents for the poor Boers suffering under the heel of England. Did not German girls," he whined, "knit stockings for the women of that nation that was so akin to the Germans in blood, and that lay so pitifully prostrate beneath the feet of England?" Nor would he be appeased until I assured him that the Boers were far away.
Another, whose reputation was that of "a hard case, and addicted to drink," I found also in hospital in Korogwe, recovered from an operation for abscess of the liver, and living in hospital with his wife. Spruce and rather jumpy he insisted on exhibiting his operation wound to me, paying heavy compliments to English skill in surgery; not, mark you, that he had any but the greatest contempt that all German doctors, too, profess for British medicine and surgery. But he hoped, by specious praise, to be sent to Wilhelmstal and not to join the other prisoners in Ahmednagar. Bottles of soda-water ostentatiously displayed upon his table might have suggested what his bleary eye and shaky hands belied. So I contented myself with removing the pass key to the wine cellar, that lay upon the sideboard, and duly marked him down on the list for transfer to Wilhelmstal.
That the spirit of Baron Munchausen still lives in German East Africa is attested to by Intelligence reports. It says a great deal for Lettow's belief in the accuracy of our information that he very promptly put a stop to the notoriety and reputation for valour that two German officers enjoyed. One had made an unsuccessful attempt to bomb the Uganda Railway on two occasions; but neither time did he do any damage, though, on each occasion, he claimed to have cut the line. The other, possessed of greater imagination, reported to his German commander that he had attacked one of our posts along the railway, completely destroying it and all in it. The painful truth he learnt afterwards from German headquarters was that the English suffered no casualties, and the post was comparatively undamaged.
The sad fate of one enterprising German officer who set out to make an attack upon one of our posts was, at the time, the cause, of endless jesting at the expense of the Survey and Topographical Department of British East Africa. He was relying upon an old English map of the country, but owing to its extreme inaccuracy, he lost his way, ran out of water, and made an inglorious surrender. This, of course, was attributed by the Germans to the low cunning employed by our Intelligence Department that allowed the German authorities to get possession of a misleading map.
That retribution follows in the wake of an unpopular German officer, as shown by extracts from captured German diaries, is attested to by the record of two grim tragedies in the African bush, one of an officer who "lost his way," the other of an officer who was shot by his own men.
GERMAN TREATMENT OF NATIVES
One of the features of German military life that fills one with horror and disgust is their brutality to the native. Nor do they make any attempt to cloak their atrocities. For they perpetuate them by photographs, many of which have fallen into our hands; and from these one sees a tendency to gloat over the ghastly exhibits. The pictures portray gallows with a large number of natives hanging side by side. In some, soldiers are drawn up in hollow square, one side of it open to the civil population, and there is little doubt that these are punitive and impressive official executions, carried out under "proper judicial conditions" as conceived by Germans. But what offends one's taste so much are the photographs of German officers and men standing with self-conscious and self-satisfied expressions beside the grim gallows on which their victims hang. From the great number of these pictures we have found, it is quite clear that not only are such executions very common, but that they are also not unpleasing to the sense of the German population; otherwise they would not bequeath to posterity their own smiling faces alongside the unhappy dead. With us it is so different. When we have to administer the capital penalty we do it, of course, openly, and after full judicial inquiry in open court. Nor do we rob it of its impressive character by excluding the native population. But such sentences in war are usually carried out by shooting, and photographs are not desired by any of the spectators. It is a vile business and absolutely revolting to us, nor do we hesitate to hurry away as soon as the official character of the parade is over. I well remember one such execution, in Morogoro, of a German Askari who assaulted a little German girl with a "kiboko" during the two days' interregnum that elapsed between Lettow's departure and our occupation of the town. To British troops the most unwelcome duty of all is to form a part of a firing party on such occasions. The firing party are handed their rifles, alternate weapons only loaded with ball cartridge, that their sense of decency may not be offended by the distasteful recollection of killing a man in cold blood. For this assures that no man knows whether his was the rifle that sped the living soul from that pitiful cringing body.
In the past the Germans have had constant trouble with the natives, not one tribe but has had to be visited by sword and flame and wholesale execution. That this is not entirely the fault of the natives is shown by the fact that we have not experienced in East Africa and Uganda a tenth part of the trouble with our natives, notoriously a most restless and warlike combination of races.
It was thought at one time that, if the Germans seriously weakened their hold on some of the more troublesome tribes and withdrew garrisons from localities where troops alone had kept the native in subjection, risings of a terrible and embarrassing character would be the result. That such fear entered also into the German mind is shown by the fact that for long they did not dare to withdraw certain administrative officials, and much-valued soldiers of the regular army, who would have been of great service as army commanders, from their police work. Notably is this the case at Songea, in the angle between Lake Nyasa and the Portuguese border. To the state of terror among the German women owing to the fear of a native rising during the intervening period between the retreat of their troops and the arrival of our own in Morogoro I myself can testify. For the German nursing sisters who worked with me told of the flight to this town of outlying families, and how the women were all supplied with tablets of prussic acid to swallow, if the dreadful end approached. For death from the swift cyanide would be gentler far than at the hands of a savage native. But the Germans have to admit that as they showed no mercy to the native in the past, so they could expect none at such a time as this. They told me of the glad relief with which they welcomed the coming of our troops, and how with tears of gratitude they threw swift death into the bushes, much indeed as they hated the humiliating spectacle of the gallant Rhodesians and Baluchis making their formal entry into the fair streets of Morogoro.
The German hold on the natives is, owing to severe repressive measures in the past and the unrelaxing discipline of the present war, most effective and likely to remain so, until our troops appear actually among them. Indeed, the fear of a native rising, and the butchery of German women and children has been ever on our minds, and we have had to impress upon the native that we desired or could countenance no such help upon their part. All we asked of the native population was to keep the peace and supply us with information, food and porters. We sent word among the restless tribes to warn them to keep quiet, saying that, if the Germans had chastised them with whips, we would, indeed, chastise them with scorpions in the event of their getting out of hand. And we must admit that, almost without exception, the natives of all tribes have proved most welcoming, most docile and most grateful for our arrival. Had it not been for the clandestine intrigues of the German planters and missionaries whom we returned to their homes and occupations of peace, there would have been no trouble. But the Hun may promise faithfully, may enter into the most solemn obligations not to take active or passive part further in the war; but, nevertheless, he seems unable to keep himself from betraying our trust. Such a born spy and intriguer is he that he cannot refrain from intimidating the native, of whose quietness he is now assured by the presence of our troops, by threats of what will befall him when the Germans return, if he, the native, so much as sells us food or enters our employment as a porter.
But the native is extraordinarily local in his knowledge, his world bounded for him by the borders of neighbouring and often hostile tribes. We are not at all certain that any but coast or border tribes can really appreciate the difference between British rule and the domination that has now been swept away.
Recent reports on all sides show the desire for peace and the end of the war; for war brings in its train forced labour, the requisition of food, and the curse of German Askaris wandering about among the native villages, satisfying their every want, often at the point of the bayonet. Preferable even to this are the piping times of peace, when the German administrator, with rare exceptions, singularly unhappy in his dealing with the chiefs, would not hesitate to thrash a chief before his villagers, and condemn him to labour in neck chains, on the roads among his own subjects. And this, mark you, for the failure of the chief to keep an appointment, when the fat-brained German failed to appreciate the difference in the natives' estimation of time. By Swahili time the day commences at 7 a.m. In the past, it was no wonder that chiefs, burning with a sense of wrong and the humiliation they had suffered, preferred to raise their tribe and perish by the sword than endure a life that bore such indignity and shame.
But our job has not been rendered any easier by the difficulty we have experienced in pacifying the simple blacks by attempts to dispel the fears of rapine and murder at the hands of our soldiers, with which the Germans have been at such pains to saturate the native mind. This, in conjunction with the suspicion which the native of German East Africa has for any European, and more especially his horror of war, has made us prepared to see the native bolt at our approach.
But if our task has succeeded, there has been striking ill success on the part of the Germans in organising and inducing, in spite of their many attempts and the obvious danger to their own women and children, these native tribes to oppose our advance. Fortunately for us, and for the white women of the country, tribes will not easily combine, and are loath to leave their tribal territory.
Many of us have looked with some concern upon the mere possibility of this German colony being returned to its former owners. We must remember that we shall inevitably lose the measure of respect the native holds for us, if we contemplate giving back this province once more to German ruling. Prestige alone is the factor in the future that will keep order among these savage races who have now learnt to use the rifle and machine-gun, and have money in plenty to provide themselves with ammunition. The war has done much to destroy the prestige that allows a white man to dominate thousands of the natives. For to the indigenous inhabitants of the country, the white man's ways are inexplicable; they cannot conceive a war conducted with such alternate savagery and chivalry. To those who look upon the women of the vanquished as the victors' special prize, the immunity from outrage that German women enjoy is beyond their comprehension. For that reason we shall welcome the day when an official announcement is made that the British Government have taken over the country. One would like to see big "indabas" held at every town and centre in the country, formal raising of the Union Jack, cannon salutes, bands playing and parades of soldiers.
GOOD FOR EVIL
When the rains had finished, by May, 1916, in the Belgian Congo, General Molitor began to move upon Tanganyika. Soon our motor-boat flotilla and the Belgian launches and seaplanes had swept the lake of German shipping; and the first Belgian force landed and occupied Ujiji, the terminus of the Central Railway.
Then the blood of the Huns in Africa ran cold in their veins, and the fear that the advancing Belgians would wreak vengeance for the crimes of Germany in Belgium and to the Belgian consuls in prison in Tabora, gripped their vitals. Hastily they sent their women and children at all speed east along the line to Tabora, the new Provincial capital, and planned to put up the stiff rearguard actions that should delay the enemy, until the English might take Tabora and save their women from Belgian hands. For the English, those soft-hearted fools, who had already so well treated the women at Wilhelmstal, could be as easily persuaded to exercise their flabby sentimentalism on the women and children in Tabora. So ran the German reasoning.
Slowly and relentlessly the Belgian columns swept eastward along the railway line, closely co-operating with the British force advancing from Mwanza, south-east, toward the capital. But, in Molitor, the German General Wable had met more than his match, and soon, outgeneralled and out-manoeuvred, he had to rally on the last prepared position, west of Tabora. Then, daily, went the German parlementaires under the white flag, that standard the enemy know so well how to use, to the British General praying that he would occupy Tabora while Wable kept the Belgians in check. But the British General was adamant, and would have none of it; and as Wable's shattered forces fled to the bush to march south-east to where Lettow, the ever-vigilant, was keeping watch, the Belgians entered the fair city of Tabora. And here were over five hundred German women and children, clinging to the protection that the Governor's wife should gain for them. For Frau von Schnee was a New Zealand woman, and she might be looked to to persuade the British to restrain the Belgian Askari.
But there was no need. The behaviour of Belgian officers and their native soldiers was as correct and gentlemanly as that of officers should be, and, to their relief and surprise, those white women found the tables turned, and that their enemy could be as chivalrous to them as German soldiers—their own brothers—had been vile to the wretched people of Belgium. There was no nonsense about the Belgian General; stern and just, but very strict, he brought the German population to heel and kept them there. Cap in hand, the German men came to him, and begged to be allowed to work for the conqueror; their carpenters' shops, the blacksmiths' forges were at the service of the high commander. No German on the footpaths; hats raised from obsequious Teuton heads whenever a Belgian officer passes. How the chivalry of Belgium heaped coals of fire upon the German heads! And had the Hun been of such, a fibre as to appreciate the lesson, of what great value we might hope that it would be? But decent treatment never did appeal to the German; he always held that clemency spelt weakness, and the fear of the avenging German Michael. For did not the Emperor's Eagle now float over Paris and Petersburg? That he knew well; for had not High Headquarters told him of the message from the Kaiser by wireless from Nauen, the self-same message that conveyed to Lettow himself the Iron Cross decoration?
The Governor's wife was allowed to retain her palace and servants; but all German women were kept strictly to their houses after six at night. No looting, no riots, no disturbance. And German women began to be piqued at the calm indifference of smart Belgian officers to the favours they might have had. Openly chagrined were the local Hun beauties at such a disregard of their full-blown charms.
"I fear for our women and children in Tabora," said the German doctor to me in Morogoro. "Ach! what will the Belgians do when they hear the tales that are told of our German troops in Belgium? You don't believe these stories of German brutalities, do you?" he said anxiously, conciliatory. But I did, and I told him so. "But you don't know the Belgian Askari; he is cannibal; he is recruited from the pagan tribes in the forest of the Congo, he files his front teeth to a point, and we know he is short of supplies. What is going to happen to German children? It is the truth I tell you," he went on, evidently with very sincere feeling. "You know what became of the 1,500 Kavirondo porters your Government lent to the Belgian General. Where are our prisoners that the Belgians took in Ujiji and along the line? Eaten; all eaten." And he threw up his hands tragically to heaven. "I know you won't believe it, but I swear to you that Rumpel's story is true." Rumpel was Lettow's best intelligence agent. "Our scout was a prisoner with a company of Belgian Askaris, you know, and it was only that the Belgian company commander wanted to get information from him that he was not eaten at once. Haven't you heard the tale that Rumpel tells after his escape? How the senior native officer came to his Belgian commander and complained that they had no food, the villages were empty, not so much as an egg or chicken to be got. Irritably, the Belgian officer shouted that the soldiers knew that no one had food, and they must wait till they got to the next post on the morrow. 'But,' urged the native sergeant softly, 'there are the prisoners.' 'Oh, the prisoners,' said the Belgian officer, relieved by an easy way out of a very difficult situation. 'Well, not more than sixteen, remember that.' And the sergeant went away."
This and countless other lies did the Germans tell us of our Belgian Allies. But how different the truth when it reached us at last along the railway by our troops that came from the northern column to join us at Morogoro. Not a German woman insulted; not one fat German child missing; no occupied house even entered by the Belgian troops, not so much as a chicken stolen from a German compound.
So just, so completely impartial was General Molitor, that he applied to German prisoners, in territory then occupied by him, the very rules and regulations that the German command had laid down for the governing of English and Belgian and other Allied prisoners. Only the vile, the unspeakable regulations, and every ordinance in that printed list of German rules that destroyed the prestige of the white man in the native's eyes, did he omit. If the Germans were indifferent to this one elementary rule of the white race in equatorial Africa—the white man's law that no white man be degraded before a native—then the Belgian would show the Hun how to play the game.
"We must hack our way through," said Bethmann-Hollweg. And we, in Morogoro, were very curious to see what manner of vengeance the Belgians might wreak. Nor would we have blamed them over-much for anything they might have done. I had lived in German prisons with elderly Belgian officers whose wives and grown-up daughters had been left behind in occupied parts of Belgium. We all had shuddered at the stories they told us; nor did we wonder that these unhappy fathers had often gone insane. And when we learnt the truth about Tabora, and knew too, to our disgust, that such un-German clemency was attributed to Belgian fear of the avenging German Michael and not to natural Belgian chivalry, we were furious. What can one do with such a people?
THE MECHANICAL TRANSPORT
A cloud of red dust along a rough bush track, a rattling jar approaching, and the donkey transport pulls into the bushes to let the Juggernaut of the road go by. Swaying and plunging over the rough ground, lurches one of our huge motor lorries. Perched high up upon the seat, face and arms burnt dark brown by the tropical sun, is the driver. Stern faced and intent upon the road, he slews his big ship into a better bit of road by hauling at the steering wheel. Beside him on the seat the second driver. Ready to their hands the rifles that may save their precious cargo from the marauding German patrol which lies hidden in the thick bush beside the road. In the big body of the car behind are two thousand pounds of rations, and atop of all a smiling "tota," the small native boy these drivers employ to light their fires and cook their food at night. And this load is food for a whole brigade alone for half a day; so you may see how necessary it is that this valuable cargo arrives in time.
It may sound to you, in sheltered London, a pleasant and agreeable thing to drive through this strange new country full of the wild game that glimpses of Zoological Gardens in the past suggest. "A Zoo without a blooming keeper." But there is no department of war that does such hard work as these lorry drivers.
For them no rest in the day that is deemed a lucky one, if it provides them only with sixteen hours' work. The infantry of the line have their periodical rests, a month it may be, of comparative leisure before the enemy trenches. But for mechanical transport there is no peace, save such as comes when back axles break, and the big land ship is dragged into the bush to be repaired. Hot and sweating men striving to renew some part or improvise, by bullock hide "reims," a temporary road repair that will bring them limping back to the advance base. Here the company workshop waits to repair these derelicts of the road. Burning with malaria, when the hot sun draws the lurking fever from their bones, tortured with dysentery, they've got to do their job until they reach their lorry park again. But often the repair gang cannot reach a stranded lorry, and the drivers, helpless before a big mechanical repair, have to camp out alongside their car, till help arrives and tows them in. A tarpaulin rigged up along one side of the lorry, poles cut from the thorn bush, and they have protection from the burning sun by day. A thorn hedge, the native "boma," keeps out lions and the sneaking hyaena at night. Nor are their rifles more than a half protection, for the '303 makes so clean a hole that it is often madness to attempt to shoot a lion with it. Once wounded he is far more dangerous a foe. Here the "tota" earns his pay, for he can hunt the native villages for "cuckoos," the native fowls, and eggs.
The load of rations must not, save at the last extremity, be broached.
And the roads they travel on: you never saw such things, mere bush tracks where the pioneers have cut down trees and bushes, and left the stumps above the level earth. No easy job to steer these great lumbering machines between these treacherous stumps. From early dawn to late night you'll meet these leviathans of the road, diving into the bush to force a new road for themselves when the old track is too deep in mud or dust, plunging and diving down water-courses or the rocky river-beds, creeping with great care over the frail bridge that spans a deep ravine. A bridge made up of tree-trunks laid lengthwise on wooden up-rights. The lion and the leopard stand beside the road, with paw uplifted, in the glare of the headlights at night.
Nor is there only danger from flood and fever and the denizens of the forest. There is ever to be feared the lurking German patrol that trains its dozen rifles upon the driver, knowing full well that he must sit and quietly face it out, or the lorry, once out of control, plunges against a tree and becomes, with both its drivers, the prey of these marauders. So, while his mate fumbles with the bolt lever of his rifle, the driver takes a firmer grip of the wheel, gives her more "juice," and plunges headlong down the road. At Handeni I once had a driver with five bullets in him; they had not stopped him until he reached safety, and his mate was able to take over. Nor does this exhaust the risks of his job, for there is the land mine, buried in the soft dust of the road, or beneath the crazy bridge. Laid at night by the patrol that harasses our lines of communication, they are the special danger of the first convoy to come along the road in the morning. Troops we have not to spare to guard these long lines of ours, so, in particularly dangerous places, the driver carries a small guard of soldiers on the top of his freight behind him. Native patrols, very wise at noticing any derangement of the surface dust, patrol the highways at dawn to lift these unwelcome souvenirs from the roads.
From South Africa, from home, and from Canada, come the drivers and mechanics of the motor transport. The Canadians, stout fellows from Toronto, Winnipeg, and the Far West, enlisted in the British A.S.C. in Canada, and arrived in England only to be sent to East Africa. It seems at first sight a strange country to which to send these men from the north, but in fact it was a very happy choice. For they got away from the cold dampness of England and Flanders into the summer seas of the South Atlantic, where the flying fish and rainbow nautilus filled them with surprise. Cape Town and Durban must have been for these Canadian lads a new world only previously envisaged by them, in the big all-red map that hangs on the walls of Canadian schools, A little difficult at first, apt to chafe at the restrictions that, though perhaps not necessary for themselves in particular, were yet essential in preserving discipline in the whole mixed unit, rather inclined to resent certain phases of soldier life. But soon they settled down to do their job, to take trouble over their work rather than make trouble by grousing over it. Well they proved their worth by the number that now fill the non-commissioned ranks, and may be judged by the commendation of their commanding officers. I used to think that they came to see me in particular, at the long sick parades I held in Morogoro and Handeni, because I too lived, like some of them, in British Columbia. I cannot flatter my soul by thinking that they came for the special quality of the quinine or medical advice I dished out to them. It may have been that they were far from home, and I seemed a friend in a very strange land.
All I know is, that I felt a great compliment was paid to me that they should be grateful for the often hurried and small attentions that I could give them. They would sometimes bring me Canadian papers that took me back two and a half years, to the time when I came to England on a six weeks' holiday from my work, a holiday that has now spun out to three and a half years, and shows every sign of going further still. Very well these men stood the climate, in spite of their fair colouring, in a country that penalises the blonde races more than the brown, that makes us pay for our want of protective pigment. One stout fellow I well remember, who had acute appendicitis at Morogoro, was the driver, or engineer as they are called, of a Grand Trunk Pacific train that ran from Edmonton in Alberta to Prince Rupert on the Pacific. We operated upon him, and, though he did very well, yet he must have suffered many things from our want of nursing in his convalescence. Very considerate and uncomplaining he was, like all the good fellows in our hospital, giving no trouble, and making every allowance for our difficulties. In fact, the great trouble one has among soldiers, is to get them to make any complaint to their own medical officer. If one suggests things to them or asks them leading questions, they will sometimes admit to certain deficiencies in food or treatment by the orderlies. But of what one did oneself or what the German sister left undone, there was never a complaint to me; though I rather think there were many grouses when once they left the hospital. It seemed to me that it was not that they didn't know better, or that they didn't know that certain things were wrong, for it is a very intelligent army, this of ours, and has been in hospital before in civil life, but all along I felt that they did not like to hurt one's feelings by not getting well as quickly as they might, and that they often pretended to a degree of comfort and ease from pain that I'm sure was not the fact. But this phase is often met with in civil life too, a doctor has much to be grateful for that many of his patients insist on getting well or saying that they are better, just to please him.
The German surgical sister was always kind to our men, and when the serious state of the wound was past she would do the dressings herself, while I went about some other work. Our men liked her, and I remember that our Canadian engine driver offered her, in his kindly way, to give her a free pass on the Grand Trunk Railway. He little knew that this German sister represented no small part of two big German shipping companies that could once have provided her with free passes over any railway in the world. I had under me, too, a couple of Canadian drivers whose lorry in crossing one of the ramshackle bridges over a river, hit the railing on the side and plunged to the rocky depths below. A loose tree-trunk that formed the roadbed of the bridge had jerked the steering wheel from the driver's hands. Over went the lorry on top of them, and the mercy of Providence only interposed a big rock that left room below for the two drivers to escape the crushing that would have killed them. Badly bruised only, they left me later to recover of their contusion in the hospital at Dar-es-Salaam.
THE SURGERY OF THIS WAR
"Please give us a drop of Johnnie Walker before you do my dressing," said my Irish sergeant, who had lost his leg in the fight at Kangata. Lest you might think that by "Johnnie Walker" he asked for his favourite brand of whiskey, I may tell you that we had no stimulant of that kind with us. It was chloroform he wanted to dull the pain that dressing his severed nerves entailed. Always full of cheer and blarney, he kept our ward alive, only when the time for daily dressing came round did his countenance fall. Then anxious eyes begged for ease from pain. But this once over, he laid his tired dirty face upon the embroidered pillow and jested of all the things the careful German housewife would say could she but see her embroidered sheets and the blue silk cushion from her drawing-room that kept his amputated leg from jars. We had no water to wash the men, barely enough for cooking and for surgical dressings, but there were silk bedspreads and eiderdown quilts and all the treasures of German sitting-rooms. And the fact that they were taken from the Germans was balm to these wounded men.
There was Murray, a regimental sergeant-major, his leg badly broken by the lead slug from a German Askari's rifle, ever the fore-most at the padre's services, chanting the responses and leading all the hymns. And Wehmeyer, the young Boer, who had accidentally blown a great hole through his leg above the ankle joint. And Green, the Rhodesian sergeant who had been brought in, almost in extremis, with blackwater. Nor was his condition improved by the experience of having been blown up in the ambulance by a land mine, hidden in the thick dust of the road. Thrown into the air by the force of the explosion, the car had turned over on him and the driver, who was killed. And there was Becker the blue-eyed German prisoner with a bullet through his femoral artery and his hip. Blanched from loss of blood before I could tie the vessel and stanch the bleeding, his leg suspended in our improvised splints, and on his way to make a splendid recovery. And Taube, another German prisoner, shot through the abdomen, and recovering after his operation. Gentle and conciliatory, with eyes of a frightened rabbit, he was the son of the great Taube, the physiologist of Dresden.
Cheek by jowl, in the best bed, was Zahn, the hated Ober-Leutenant, loathed by his own men, one of whom wrote in his diary that he loved to see the bombardment of Tanga, "for Zahn was there, the ——, and I hope he'll meet a 12-inch shell." Jealous of his officer's prerogative, and disinclined to be nursed in the same ward with our soldiers and his own, he gave a lot of trouble, demanding inordinately, victimising our orderly, unashamedly selfish. But he was sheltered from my wrath by the grave gunshot wound of his thigh. Cowardly under suffering, he was in striking contrast to Becker, who stood graver pain with hardly a flinch. After a great struggle he was eventually moved to Korogwe to the stationary hospital. There it became necessary to amputate his leg, and Zahn surrendered what little courage he had left. "No leg to-night, no Zahn to-morrow," he said to his nurse. And he was right, for at eleven that night he had no leg, and at two the next morning there was no Zahn upon this earth.
And there was Sergeant Eve of the South African Infantry, who got a D.C.M., a Londoner, and of unquenchable good humour. Vastly pleased with the daily bottle of stout we got for him with such difficulty, from supplies, he faced the awful daily dressing of his shattered leg without flinching, pretending to great comfort and an excellent position of his splint, which his crooked leg and my practised eye belied.
And there was Smith, yet a boy, but who always felt "champion" and "quite comfortable," though his days were few in the land and his pain must have been very severe. Yet in his case he had days of that merciful euthanasia, the wonderful ease from pain that sometimes lasts for days before the end. In great contrast with these was an individual with a wound through the fleshy part of the thigh, by far the least seriously wounded of all in the ward, who never failed with his unending requests to the patient orderlies and his eternal complainings, until a public dressing-down from me brought him to heel. And Glover who wept that I had lost his bullet, that unforgivable carelessness in a surgeon that allows a bullet, removed at an operation, to be thrown away with discarded dressings.
But, of all, the perfect prince was De La Motte, a subaltern in the 29th Punjabis, ever the leader of the dangerous patrols along the native bush paths that give themselves so readily to ambush. Shot through the spine and paralysed below the waist his life was only a question of months. But if he had little time to live, he had determined to see it through with a gay courage that was wonderful to see. Previously wounded in France, he yet seemed, though he cannot possibly have been in ignorance, to be buoyed up with the perfect faith in recovery with which fractured spines so often are endowed; never asking me awkward questions, he made it so easy for me to do his daily dressing, so grateful for small attentions, and so ready to believe me when I told him that it was only a question of weeks before he would be home again. And in spite of all fears I have just heard he did get home to see his people, and by his cheerful courage to rob Death of all his terrors.
MY OPERATING THEATRE AT HANDENI
Up the wide stone steps, under the arch of purple Bougainvillea and you are in my operating theatre. A curtain of mosquito gauze screens it from the vulgar gaze. Behind these big wooden doors a week ago was the office of this erstwhile German jail. To the left and right, now all clean and white painted, were the living rooms of the German jailor and his wife, but for the present they are transformed into special wards for severely wounded men. On the lime-washed wall and very carefully preserved is "Gott strafe England" which the late occupants wrote in charcoal as they fled. Strange how all German curses come home to roost, and move us to the ridicule that hurts the Hun so much and so surely penetrates his pachydermatous hide. That the "Hymn of Hate" should be with us a cause for jest, and "strafe" be adopted, with enthusiasm, into the English language, he cannot understand. To him, as often to our own selves, we shall always be incomprehensible.
Through the gauze screen on to the white operating table passed all the flotsam of wounded humanity in the summer months. All the human wreckage that marked the savage bush fighting from German Bridge to Morogoro came to me upon this table. And its white cleanness, our towels and surgical gloves and overalls, filled them with a sense of comfort and of safety after weary and perilous journeys, that was in no way detracted from by the gleaming instruments laid out beside the table. Even this chamber of pain was a haven of refuge to these broken men after long jolting rides over execrable roads.
But a particularist among surgeons would have found much to disapprove of in this room. Cracks in the stone floor let in migrating bands of red ants that no disinfectant would drive away. Arrow slit windows, high up in the walls, gave ingress to the African swallow, redheaded and red-backed, whose tuneful song was a perpetual delight. His nests adorned the frieze, but they were full of squeaking youngsters and we could not shut the parents out. So we banished them during operating hours by screens of mosquito gauze; and to reward us, they sang to our bedridden men from ward window-sills.
But despite these shortcomings of the operating theatre itself, we did good work here, and got splendid results. For God was good, and the clean soil took pity upon our many deficiencies. Earth, that in France or Gallipoli hid the germs of gangrene and tetanus, here merely produced a mild infection. Lucky for us that we did not need to inject the wounded with tetanus antitoxin. But an added charm was given to our work by the necessity of improvisation. Broken legs were put up in plaster casings with metal interruptions, so that the painful limb might be at rest, and yet the wound be free for daily dressings. The Huns left us plaster of Paris, damp indeed but still serviceable after drying; the corrugated iron roofing of the native jail provided us with the necessary metal. Then by metal hoops the leg was slung from home-made cradles, and I defy the most modern hospital to show me anything more comfortable or efficient. Broken thighs were suspended in slings from poles above the bed, painted the red, white and black that marked German Government Survey posts. Naturally in a field hospital such as this, we had no nurses; but our orderlies, torn from mine shafts of Dumfriesshire and the engine sheds of the North British Railway, did their best, and compensated by much kindliness for their lack of nursing training.
Sadly in need were we of trained nurses; for the bedsores that developed in the night were a perpetual terror. Ring pillows we made out of grass and bandages, but a fractured thigh, as you know, must lie upon his back, and we had little enough rectified spirit to harden the complaining flesh. But nurses we could not have at so advanced a post as this. The saving factor of all our work lay in the natural goodness of the men. They felt that many things were not right; for ours is a highly intelligent army and knows more of medicine and surgery than we, in our blindness, realise. But they made light of their troubles, as they learnt the difficulties we laboured with. So grateful were they for small attentions. That we should go out of our way to take pains to obtain embroidered sheets and lace-edged pillows, absolved us in their eyes from all the want of surgical nursing. Liberal morphia we had to give to compensate for nursing defects. I have long felt that I would rather work for sick soldiers than for any class of humanity; and in fifteen years I have come to know the sick human animal in all his forms. So that the least that one could do was to scheme to get the precious egg by private barter with the natives, and to find the silk pillow that spelt comfort, but was the anathema of asepsis. No wonder that such splendid and uncomplaining victims spurred us to our best endeavours and made of toil a very joy.
SOME AFRICAN DISEASES
This is the season of blackwater fever, the pestilence that stalks in the noontide and the terror of tropical campaigning. Hitherto with the exception of the Rhodesians who have had this disease previously in their northern territory, or men who have come from the Congo or the shores of the Great Lakes, our army has been fairly free from this dread visitation. The campaigning area of the coast and the railway line of British East Africa that gave our men malaria in plenty during the first two years of war, had not provided many of those focal areas in which this disease is distributed. The Loyal North Lancashires and the 25th Royal Fusiliers had been but little affected. The Usambara Valley along the Tanga-Moschi railway was also fairly free. On the big trek from Kilimanjaro to Morogoro the blackwater cases were almost entirely confined to Rhodesians and to the Kashmiris, who suffer in this way in their native mountains of Nepal. But once we struck the Central Railway and penetrated south towards the delta of the Rufigi the tale was different. British and South African troops began to arrive in the grip of this fell malady. It was written on their faces as they were lifted from ambulance or mule waggon. There was no need to seek the cause in the scrap of paper that was the sick report. All who ran could read it in the blanched lips, the grey-green pallor of their faces, the jaundiced eye, the hurried breathing. Thereupon came three days' struggle with Azrael's pale shape before the blackwater gave place to the natural colour again, or until the secreting mechanism gave up the contest altogether and the Destroying Angel settled firmly on his prey. At first, if there was no vomiting, it was easy to ply the hourly drinks of tea and water and medicine. But once deadly and exhausting vomiting had begun, one could no longer feed the victim by the mouth. Then came the keener struggle for life, for fluid was essential and had to be given by other ways and means. Into the soft folds of the skin of the arm-pits, breast and flanks we ran in salt solution by the pint. The veins of the arms we brought into service, that we might pour in this vitalising fluid. Day and night the fight goes on for three days, until it is won or lost. Here again, as in tick fever, we use the preparation 606, for which we are indebted to the great Ehrlich. Champagne is a great stand-by. So well recognised is the latter remedy that all old hands at tropical travel take with them a case of "bubbly water" for such occasions as these. Blessed morphia, too, brings ease of vomiting and is a priceless boon.