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SKETCHES OF THE EAST AFRICA CAMPAIGN

BY CAPT. ROBERT V. DOLBEY, R.A.M.C.

AUTHOR OF "A REGIMENTAL SURGEON IN WAR AND PRISON"


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

1918


TO
L.A.D. AND C.B.


PREFACE


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,

ITALY,

_February_, 1918.


CONTENTS


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


INTRODUCTION


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


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