ONCE A RHODESIAN ALWAYS A RHODESIAN

Published in Chambers circa 1930s.

Perhaps the witchery lies in Rhodesia‘s sunshine, tempered as it is with cool winds from a myriad of hills. It may be the call of the Wild or the lure of pioneering; perhaps it is largely due to the easiness of life in a most hospitable land. Whatever the causes, few ever come to Southern Rhodesia and leave without regret or intentions of returning.

There are many thousands of Britons either in the homeland or in the Empire’s Possessions who are seeking a kindly land in which to find homes for themselves and their children. To those who have lived in the East, Rhodesia presents unequalled advantages for her climate is superb, native labour is cheap and plentiful, and there is an abundance of social life such as appeals to those accustomed to the Straits, Burma and India.

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But to those who have never been out of Britain before, Rhodesia can also offer whatever they crave for in a life of the open. Mines to discover, big game to hunt, farms, plantations, ranches and industries to develop. The Colony is twice the size of Great Britain yet her white population is hardly that of a small English town. She has millions of acres of rich unsettled soil and only 3000 farmers and ranchers.

These few thousand men possess almost a million cattle, 85 000 sheep, 24 000 pigs and a quarter of a million head of poultry. They are developing half a million acres of agricultural and several million acres of ranching land.

It has been stated that Rhodesia will stand or fall on the success of her tobacco. Such has been said at various times of her mining, cattle and maize industries. Experience has proved that Rhodesia will never be dependant on one support. Her diversity of climate, altitude and soils, her mineral resources and the surrounding markets in which live 50 million potential cash customers, place the colony in a unique position.

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Breaking up the stubborn but remarkably fertile soil of Rhodesia.

Almost every known agricultural product can be grown on a commercial scale. This is amply borne out by the crops produced by 3000 scattered farmers. For 1929 the year of the Rhodesian tobacco slump the Government returns show 1 826 345 bags of 200 lbs of maize; 361 173 lbs of cotton delivered to ginneries, 18 830 bags of potatoes, 4 986 tons of onions, 12 901 bags of wheat, 7 143 tons of edible beans, 567 tons of oats sold by farmers. Many other crops also feature in the list wattle bark, coffee, tea, lucerne hay, fruit and almost 30 000 tons of ensilage amongst them.

The previous year 1928, Virginian tobacco had boomed and no less than 45 711 acres were planted to the crop. In consequence of the slump resulting from overproduction, the acreage was immediately reduced by 29 000 and the yield consequently fell from
24 491 464 lbs to 6 704 986 lbs. Increased plantings of Turkish tobacco were made but owing to a poor season the crop yielded only 337 479 lbs in 1929 as against 451 580 lbs in 1928.

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The last two years have not seen much development in agricultural activity owing to the prevailing depression in Rhodesia’s chief markets. Farmers have been more or less marking time as regards production, endeavouring to improve their farms and to hold their own until the clouds of financial stringency pass.

Rhodesia is fortunately in a remarkably good position. Her 1931 Budget showed only a £25 000 deficit on the previous year’s working. Government and people have co-operated loyally to solve the problems forced on various industries. None of the problems has proved insoluble and the result is that today Rhodesians are facing the future waiting eagerly to launch Rhodesian products on the world’s markets.

50%of the United kingdom’s tobacco requirements can be supplied by Rhodesia. Tea is proving a satisfactory and payable crop, large acreages can grow excellent coffee, wattle bark is an easily grown and very saleable commodity, rice growing offers many opportunities and the possibilities of fruit growing are undoubted, especially in view of the increasing markets opening in the mineralized belts of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo.

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The Settler can choose his home among the wild Inyanga and Umtali mountains and grow apples, cherries, plums and pears in the terraces made by forgotten race who left Rhodesia one of the most wonderful irrigation schemes in the world. Whilst irrigating his orchards from aqueducts thousands of years old the Rhodesian may watch the flocks of merino sheep dotting the hillside, see his dairy cows dripping milk as they walk byrewards, rejoice over the rapid growth of wattle plantations and gloat on the fatness of his beef herds.

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He has Chipinga to pick a farm in and there grow tea or coffee, produce the best of citrus fruits, devote himself to pineapple or banana growing, or combine any one or all with wool and mutton, beef and cream production on as large a scale as his finances allow.

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In other districts, there are great belts of a level country along the railways where maize fields are reckoned by 1000 acre standards – there are wide and fruitful valleys running for a hundred miles and more where maize and cotton yield the heaviest of crops.

Much of Rhodesia is sandsoil and here tobacco can be grown equal to any produced by Virginia and the Carolinas. Immense yields of groundnuts also given by the sand and to those direct from European latitudes but the scenery and climatic conditions always make an irresistible appeal for these are more densely settled areas. there is no malaria and the amenities of civilized life are always at hand.

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Ranching country and its conditions must be known to be appreciated. In rearing beef cattle Rhodesians usually allowed 20 acres per beast, so ranches run from 20 000 to
2 500 000 acres in area. One white rancher with native assistance is supposed to be able to manage 5000 head of cattle so naturally cattlemen lead Robinson Crusoe existences.  To rear beef cheaply, land must be cheap and such is not found close to settled areas. Cattlemen go further afield and their lives are such that only the young and adventurous you are not encumbered with dependants are usually fitted for the loneliness and strain of ranching.

Mining and trading or other activities which one wonders so few newcomers ever attempt to engage in. Rhodesian Government Departments are filled with men who know the country, who absolutely trustworthy advisors and who are always anxious to assist whoever comes to them.

There are wonderful opportunities in the mining industry for level-headed men possessed of small capital and the Government offers not only advice practical and financial assistance. There are literally hundreds of abandoned gold mines scattered about Southern Rhodesia which are worth doing further prospecting work on. Many were abandoned in days when working costs and machinery were far higher than they are today.

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Most whilst not offering any attractions to companies yet afford possibilities for small syndicates or single owners. In many cases, former owners tried to make the mines pay their own development work and gave up immediately serious obstacles presented themselves.

Mine owning is naturally no occupation for those who know nothing about mining but its science and art can be learnt equally as easily as those of farming and ranching. There is no more reason to fear losing money in developing a promising gold reef than there is in farming. True a reef might pinch, values go out, ore become refractory or one of a dozen other mights occur but with farming bad seasons, flooded markets, disease and many other enemies may rob a farmer of all he has worked for. But as the tobacco farmer turns to cotton or maize when his tobacco fails so the disappointed miner goes looking for chrome, asbestos, mica or a new gold reef. A knowledge of prospecting and mining is a most useful asset to anyone settling in a country like Southern Rhodesia.

Most of the maize belt lies in a gold-bearing country and many a farm has a little two to five stamp battery pounding away on a small mine which is often the property of the farmer. In the granite, there is a good deal of corundum and in some districts, the country is full of chrome. The romance of Rhodesia’s mineral deposits has yet to be written but few imaginations could yield the material which the Umvukwes, Hartley, Gwelo and other districts offer the writer.

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Native trading offers perhaps a greatest of all opportunities to energetic business men. The native responds readily to any real interest shown in his welfare and though thousands of native stores are established throughout Rhodesia few traders really trouble to study the natives growing wants. As a general rule, the trader is simply out to make as much money as he possibly can in the shortest possible time. His stock is limited to what he considers will yield him immediate profits and his trading principles are usually those of pioneer days.

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But African natives today travel throughout the Continent, education is causing them to develop new wants and to appreciate good value for their money; quite a number are beginning to use C.O.D. system and import goods from Britain or the South African Union. So there is little doubt but that well-stocked shops offering attractive goods would soon take away the customers of the old-fashioned trading stores with their uninteresting shelves.

Business opportunities are unlimited in Rhodesia. One is apt to consider the country solely from the viewpoint of a settler who wishes to take up farming, to think of mining and trading as being prerogatives of people born in mining camps or trading stores, to overlook the possibilities of exploiting knowledge gained in one’s past.

Homilies are seldom appreciated but when a man’s life is spent rushing about a country settling men of all trades, professions and occupations into a life they have chosen without any experience of it; it may be permissible to express a candid opinion. A hairdresser well on in years arrived in a district which was rapidly filling. With the savings of many years, he bought a small farm and through a slump lost all he possessed. Had he started a hairdressing establishment when you arrived, the probabilities were that within twelve months he would have doubled his little capital and gained sufficient knowledge of the district to pick up a choice little farming investment.

Another an auctioneer by profession had this same experience and the same opportunities. Others again would have saved the loss of time and money by availing themselves of the many openings awaiting at every turn, yet as men are obsessed in a gold rush so settlers coming to Rhodesia seem obsessed with the idea of farming and farming only.

Any gold or diamond digger will vouch for the fact that there is more money in running a business on the diggings than there is in digging. A few diggers are lucky just as a few farmers are lucky, but generally speaking, it is more profitable to be a lawyer, a dentist, a butcher or hotelkeeper when in a community which is spending cash freely. In Rhodesia, a man can pursue any occupation without loss of social status. As long as he is making good and pulling his weight with his neighbours his business is purely a matter for his own concern.

On the surface, there is much of the Gertrude Page atmosphere about Rhodesian life. Underneath there is always steady progress being made. Year after year more country is being settled, new industries are established and old ones are developed. The great concessions being granted mining countries will certainly lead to increased spending powers amongst the native population, and to more marketing available to farmers and business people.

Rhodesia surrounded by countries which will buy largely from her as they develop.  Bechuanaland, Angola, Portuguese East Africa and the vast Northern territories will look likely to Rhodesia for many products which it is hardly likely they themselves will produce commercially for a long time to come.

The late D.M. Stanley one of the Rhodesia’s pioneers describes most eloquently the Eastern districts to which he and a score of other gallant frontiersmen devoted their lives.

“North and Mid Melsetter are the Highlands of the district and Highlands of a perfect kind. To the east, the towering Chimanimani marks the boundary. These run to the Lucetti River, there cutting into Portuguese East Africa, to reappear as the Sitatunga Mountains. These Highlands are watered by what is almost as a superfluity of perennial streams. Riding over the mountains, one off-saddles for a rest. Listen and you can hear the muted roar of some distant cascade;  as the wind rises or falls the sound reaches you in varying cadence. Then comes the realisation of the meaning of Tennyson‘s words: ‘The beauty born of murmuring sound.’ “

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The ever-changing panorama of the hills, the changing colour of the mountains, the vivid green of hilltops and valleys are bound to hold in a lasting thrall the minds of all who know it. The numerous cascades have not only a beauty for the lover of nature and the artist but also for the agriculturist, who dreams of the wastewater turned into irrigation channels and fertilising hundreds of acres of the richest soil in Rhodesia.

Again it has its beauty for the industrialist. He sees the many thousands of horsepower running to waste and dreams of the time when such, harnessed by modern methods shall be able to work, at a minimum cost, half the manufactures of South Africa.

There is another vision that may strike him who rides down our larger valleys. He sees kloof after kloof, valley after valley, unfolding as the turned leaves of some vast book. One out of three of such hold permanent water, and the imagination runs riot as to the possibilities for the establishment of smallholders – men who would own their little farms and be the forefathers of a race of small yeoman farmers. That would be the most valuable asset Melsetter could give to the Colony of Southern Rhodesia.

 

By
B. M. Leffler
Formerly: Tobacco Adviser Southern Rhodesia (Govt)
Contributor to S.A. Farmer’s Weekly, Farmers Advocate, Argus Newspapers, Feedstuffs U.S.A., Textile Weekly etc.etc.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 81 November 1918 in Poland

Published in The Star newspaper, Johannesburg 

Two and a half years behind barbed wire or working under armed sentries – nearly four thousand comrades in the lager cemetery – but the War is over today Thank God.

Forty-five thousand Russian Comrades soldiers of the Tsar are prisoners since the Steamroller met Hindenberg in East Prussia.

The Russian invasion of East Prussia in August 1914 was going well until German Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Eric Ludendorff took command.
The Russian invasion of East Prussia in August 1914 was going well until German Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Eric Ludendorff took command.

Ten thousand Frenchmen – captives from Maubeuge and Lille.

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A thousand British – Mons, the Somme and the March Offensive 1918.

British troops preparing for the Somme Offensive in 1916British troops preparing for the Somme Offensive in 1916

We know the Armistice begins today but there is little joy amongst the troops.

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Over the vast lager lies a cloud of foreboding. The sentries truculent yet hangdog – looking slouch at their posts. The Kommandanteur German Officers stand in knots every one of them armed to the teeth.

In the underground cellars which serve as Barracks the prisoners of war discuss the situation with ill-concealed uneasiness.

Today is peace on the Western Front but today is war in German Poland.

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The Regency Council with officers of the Polish armed forces.

Last night came tidings of conscripted men of the German Navy and Polish sailors landing from a Zeppelin to organise a revolution in the town adjoining the lager. What part would be that of the prisoners, the prisoners’ wonder?

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On the ramparts and surrounding the camp machine guns stand post. Half the soldiers are Polish and the Tsar’s troops have sworn to help them.

The French will break for the Austrian Frontier when the storm bursts – each man for himself and that devil help the hindmost or any German families in their way.

“We’ll keep together mates,” says Jack the President of the British Welfare Committee he is a naval rating captured at Antwerp.

“Aye! Wait and see as Asquith says,” rumbles Ben Finette, ex London cabby, Army Reservist, captured at Mons – “Colour Sergeant will take charge – we form platoons – and if anyone touches us we are together for a rush on the sentries – and fight our way to the town for arms.”

Down the Hindenburg Strasser gallop two soldiers white bands around their arms. “Revolutionaries” – fifty thousand prisoners are pouring from their barracks – the sentries deserting their posts are making for the group of officers tearing the badges of Imperial Germany off as they run.

Two foaming horses are pulled on their haunches, sharp commands barked, – an Officer draws his sword – down he goes on a saw-edged bayonet through his chest. Oberst Lieutenant Baron van Wacholz, Commandant of Sprottau breaks his sword across his knee – the Officers are disarmed, stripped of their badges, bustled and roughly handled.

Ten thousand madly dancing Frenchman are singing the ‘Marseilles’, forty thousand Russians ‘God the Terrible‘ and from a thousand British throats comes ‘The Home Fires‘.

Goodbye to Germany,

Farewell to Sprootau

It’s a long long way to Dear Old Blighty

But we’ll get Right There

Marching to the British Camp, the Council of Soldiers and Workers “Brother English we come to proclaim a New World” says the leader.

A Bantam shouts “Are we downhearted?” A thousand British throats answer “No”.

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 80 Food Parcels From Home 1916-1918

Written for publication by Bernard Meredith Leffler from Wendover Farm Pretoria:

How Great War Prisoners-of-War lived on

Parcels from Home

In two and a half years of captivity, I never saw an eatable meal issued by the German authorities. once a day a thin liquid called coffee was issued. This abomination was made from ground acorns barley meal and beet molasses and contained neither milk nor sugar.

Twice a day great evil-smelling tubs of hogwash were drawn, the contents a soup of horseflesh, yellow maize meal, prunes and dried apples. For a change sugar-beet ensilage with chopped carrots and turnips, or most a beastly mess of putrid fish-roe soup with mashed potatoes.

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The kitchen at Limberg Camp

In Winter thirteen pounds, in Summer eighteen pounds of War bread was issued per man per month – a doughy mass of rye, potato and sawdust. Thrown against the wall it stuck there.

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Until our whereabouts was known to the British War Office we devoured huge quantities of these mixtures, all thin soup. When the tubs were carried to our quarters we rushed them, fought over them and sometimes fell into them to have one’s clothes instantly wrung out into basins and drunk. We bartered our clothes to the French for biscuits – braces 5, a kilt 50, a shirt 10 – all depending on condition and amount of vermin.

Once we began to get our parcels the German rations were handed over to the Russians,  Serbians, Romanians and Montenegrins who died off wholesale, some from the food and some from want of it.

Eight funerals a day was the average in Sprottau but as we had never less than 40,000  Russians, 10,000 French and a few thousand other nationalities the Germans complained that prisoners-of-war were very tough and blamed the unsatisfactory death rate on the Order of St John of Jerusalem, the British Red Cross, Sir Edward Grey and Jannie Smuts.

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Immediately the War began, Funds were started to make captivity a little bearable – as the realisation came of the plight of the war prisoners in Germany immense efforts were made to relieve conditions.

Relatives, friends, Clubs, newspapers, Regiments, ships all began sending parcels of foodstuffs to Germany. Popular figures received as many as forty food parcels in a mail, mostly bread gone mouldy in transit, eggs broke, homemade jam oozed from broken cardboard boxes, great cakes ruined by the eggs and jam.

Women packing food parcels for prisoners-of-war at the Australian Red Cross premises at 16 Regent Street in the City of Westminster, London, January 1917.
Packing food parcels for prisoners of war at the Australian Red Cross premises in Regent Street, London, January 1917. The organisation sent 395,695 food parcels and 36,339 clothing parcels to Allied PoWs in Germany and Turkey during the First World War.

In December 1916, the Order of St John of Jerusalem in conjunction with the British Red Cross took over and from then on all parcels were packed in properly organised depots, guarantees were given to the German Government as to the nature of the contents and day after day sealed trucks crossed the German border bearing standard packets to Dülmen, Sprottau, Holtzminden and a hundred other prisoner-of-war camps.

Kaserne B at Holzminden, with prisoners and guards

At the camps, the truck seals were broken by British or French NCOs under the supervision of a German Sergeant Major, the packets taken to an office and then issued to those in camp whilst the rest were sent by parcel post to those working on farms, in factories or mines.

Image result for food parcels checked in german POW camps ww1German censors reading through both incoming and outgoing mail at the Döberitz POW camp.

After December 1916 every British prisoner-of-war received two hundred and eighty-one loaves of bread a month from whichever neutral country was nearest his camp.

From Britain he received either 6 – 101 lbs or 4 to 15 lbs cardboard boxes per month containing:

A.   1 tin bully beef, 1 cake of soap, 1 packet tea, 1 packet bacon, 1 tin jam, 1 bar Mexican chocolate and cigarettes.

B.   1 tin McConachie’s rations, 1 packet Quaker Oats, 1 tin cocoa, 1 tin butter, I tin marmalade, 1 packet sugar, tobacco.

C.   1 tin pork and beans, 1 tin coffee, 1 tin condensed milk, 1 tin herrings in tomato sauce, biscuits, jam

D.  1 tin tripe and onions, 1 tin butter, 1 tin cooking fat, 1 shaving soap, 1 tin cigarettes and 1 tin pudding.

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By forming small messes, buying stolen onions, potatoes and sugar from men coming in from farm and factory work and exchanging with the French who were wonderfully supplied with parcels; we always managed to live really well to the amazement of our German sentries and NCO’s who daily saw that another million tons of British shipping had been ‘versunkt‘.

Because there was so little of it, food played a very important part in a POW’s life. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva provided food parcels to POWs from those countries which were signatories to the 1929 Geneva Convention.  Here men at Stalag 383 at Hohenfels in Germany prepare their lunch using food from parcels.

 

In two years I never lost a parcel and in addition to the food parcels we had monthly tobacco and cigarette parcels and every three months a complete clothing parcel –  uniform, boots, gym shoes, two shirts, two singlets, cardigan, towels, neckerchief and once a year a great coat. This issue was received directly from the British War Office.

All prisoners engaged in civilian employment were paid at current rates, farm hands a penny a day. On repatriation, we were paid out in full as regards army pay.

Working on farms, in factories, mines and other civilian employment prisoners-of-war received civilian rations; 2lbs sugar per month, bread as in the camps, a fairly liberal allowance of potatoes and as much sauerkraut as the stomach could hold. About 1lb of meat per man per week was boiled up in the sauerkraut and potatoes.

Image result for british prisoners of war ww1 working on farms in germanyA group of British PoWs in Germany, transporting hay for the troops’ straw beds

Except for bread and sugar, all foodstuffs were issued as soup. No fats of any description were given except on farms where we shared the family meals, usually contributing to them from our parcels.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 75 Living A Life of Utter Dissipation

End of 74th Entry: D Squadron hailed Mick’s return with enthusiasm for he was very popular and every man was needed. That very evening the column was advancing to the attack on Ukamas, a German strong point which was supposed to be heavily garrisoned.

That evening all sorts of rumours began to circulate of a fixed determination of the regiments composing the command not to cross the Border. Darkness fell.

The order came to saddle up and the 18th Mounted Rifles fell in. The bulk of the other regiments refusing to saddle or move. Troopers of D Squadron raging began to quietly slip cartridges into their magazines muttering that they were prepared to attack the others if anyone would lead.

The commands came “Prepared to Mount” “Mount” and like one man D Squadron swung into the saddle. Amongst the other squadrons, the response was varied but the bulk stood sullenly at their horses’ heads.

For an hour D Squadron sat ready to ride, every man itching to open fire on the cowardly dastards around them. Then came the order to dismount and off-saddle.

Next day new regiments rode forward to take part in Van Deventer’s wonderful ride which resulted in the Germans finding their rear threatened, and abandoning their position at Aus. Retiring with all speed the Germans were badly smitten at Gibeon by Colonel MacKenzie with the Natal Light Horse, the Imperial Light Horse, the Umuti Mounted Rifles and the Natal Field Artillery after one of the greatest military marches in the history of warfare.

Captured guns at Gibeon, German South-West Africa, 1915Captured guns at Gibeon, German South-West Africa, 1915

Meanwhile, the 18th Mounted Rifles, the Midland Horse and various other Cape Colony Boer units rode back to Upington to be disbanded.

After a long dreary ride, the troops arrived back in Upington, D Squadron in a bitter evil temper. No delay was made in disbanding the regiment each man received his pay and two months leave pending discharge.

Thoroughly disgusted with the Union Army Mick proceeded home to Cape Town to receive a wonderful welcome the joy of which was sadly marred by the feeling of absolute hatred of anything Dutch. A hatred which would never leave him.

Mick’s mother was half Dutch, many of his friends and relatives belonged to the race but to Mick, the Boer was tainted. Mr Osmond vainly argued pointing out the wonderful loyalty and courage displayed by the bulk of the Boer race – Mick sneered.

“They know which side their bread is buttered, most of them, but damned few know the meaning of the words Truth or Honesty.

For a few days, Mick hunted around for means to go overseas. He tried steamers for work as a fireman, coal trimmer or deckhand; interviewed relatives for a loan, approached the Imperial Army Officers still in Cape Town but every shipping company was flooded with applicants like himself.

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Then one night at the theatre he met an old friend of his Marandellas days then a B.S.A police trooper now Captain and Paymaster of the 1st Rhodesian Regiment. He proposed that Mick transfer to the Rhodesians who would shortly be proceeding overseas as a unit.

Mick welcomed the offer and next day after wiring the 18th Mounted Rifles depot at Kimberly was transferred to the Rhodesians with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Six weeks passed – weeks that did Mick no good. He travelled to Kimberly to receive his discharge from the 18th Mounted Rifles who were being demobilized – this broke his service as the transfer was for some reason disallowed thus involving a new enlistment in the Rhodesian Regiment.

On his return Mick found himself being everlastingly dragged into bars by a fellow Staff Sergeants and a thousand and one old acquaintances. There was practically no work as the regiment was in German West Africa and with ample leisure, a high rate of pay and numerous friends Mick lived a life of utter dissipation.

Soon wearing Mick applied for and got a transfer into the 2nd Battalion of the Transvaal Scottish gladly relinquishing his rank and pay as a Staff Sergeant to become a private. 

Three days later he left for Luderitzbucht with two Officers of the battalion. A pleasant sea voyage was followed by a long but interesting railway journey and at last, Mick was landed amongst a battalion composed largely of ex-regulars of the Highland Regiments.

Three days went by – the battalion received orders to move down to take part in the Grand Finale of the Campaign. Hemmed in on all sides the Germans were at last at bay. The same night came news of the surrender of the entire German forces.

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Mick returned with the regiment to Johannesburg via Cape Town.

After a triumphal March through the Golden City the regimental pipes skirling in front they proceeded to a demobilisation camp and a few hours later Mick walked out once more free.

Returning to Cape Town Mick found the 1st Rhodesian Regiment arrived and awaiting orders to proceed overseas – interviewing the Commanding Officer regarding reenlistment Mick was told to hold himself in readiness until definite orders had been received.

Unfortunately, a good deal of dissatisfaction existed in the regiment and a day or two later it was disbanded many of the men returning to Rhodesia which was being threatened by a German invasion – others disgusted with Colonial warfare proceeded to Europe to enlist in Imperial units.

For a few days, Mick picked up the threads of his old Sea Point life doing some mountaineering and fishing. With several friends, he discussed every phase of the situation. All were emphatic that they would not serve again in units controlled by the Union Government or engage in Colonial warfare.

Their hearts were set on Europe but funds were lacking and scheme after scheme of going to Australia, England or Canada to enlist were threshed out and dismissed as impracticable.

Then came the news that a brigade of infantry was to be raised immediately for service in Europe. The brigade was to be equipped and paid by the Imperial Government and the troops to be enlisted as units of the Imperial Army. 

The next day Cape Town awoke to find itself placarded with recruiting posters, military bands marching through the town, pipes skirling, processions of veterans of former wars exhorting the fit and young to follow in their footsteps and all the beauty of the Cape calling on men to behave as men.

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Still in the uniform of their Union regiments Mick, his brother and a dozen chums joined the long waiting queues outside the City Hall – waited hours, fought their way into the examining doctors presence and after many hours suspense and struggling found themselves soldiers in the King’s Army.

The first year of the war was over. Mick, his brother and chums were lusty with life bronzed and well experienced in army life. All had smelt powder, were trained soldiers and now with open eyes, and sober minds had definitely chosen their future course.

They had taken a man’s share in the greatest of all wars and it was due to no fault of their’s that little of the actual clash of arms had come their way. Not one had hesitated a moment as to where duty lay. They had played a part in the land of their birth and now eagerly they went to help the land of their fathers, to the battlefields of their race.

Mick, his brothers and three school chums enlisted together. Two bore Swedish names, one Irish, two Dutch. Three were to lie beneath the poppies of Flanders, one to rest in Brighton’s Hero Corner. Mick to return a man hardly worn by suffering, hardship and captivity.

From Youth, the five entered manhood and a life which was Life, Love, and Battle and truest Comradeship – life in the service of the Red Gods.

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From Boatsheds to Battlefields 74 Great Omelette Feast

End of 73rd Entry: Cautiously the fifteen men representing the five sections of the troop crept up the dune – from the summit they looked down on the Police Station standing still and ghostlike in the lunar rays.

An hour passed then slowly the night began to change to day but no signs of movement could be seen in the buildings. The sun rose flooding the desert with waves of red. The stillness of Death reigned.

“I want two volunteers to gallop up to the buildings and draw the Germans if they still there,” said the Lieutenant at last. “Rhodesia will go I know, eh Osmond?” Mick and a young Dutchman volunteered.

“Get your horses and keep well apart” ordered the Lieutenant. “If they’re still there I’m afraid you lads are going to certain death, but it won’t be forgotten. If they’ve evacuated the post they’re sure to have laid mines or set some devilish trap according to their pleasant little customs so be careful. Don’t enter the building or ride right up to them unless you’re certain the station is deserted. Gallop around and give Jerry a chance to show his hand. If you see anything or hear a sound turn and gallop like hell for the scrub or back to the Dunes.”

The Lieutenant shook hands with the two, took down the addresses of their next of kin, and whispered to Mick that Rhodesia would get full details if the worst befell him.

Returning to the horses the two mounted, said brief prayers trotted around the dune and driving in their spurs raced for the buildings.

The ground seemed to fly past beneath their galloping horses, the wind howled in their ears Mick, yelled Tipperary to the silent threatening mass before them. On the dune summit, the troopers laid fingers on triggers.

Round the buildings swept the two but it was all silent. They halted before the doorway – then carefully examining every inch of ground for suspicious signs Mick dismounting walked up and opened the door.

Once more the elusive enemy was gone.

The others now rode up and for a while, every man except two, who were sent scouting around the vicinity, busied themselves in search of loot. Ample evidence existed that the Germans had been at the station the previous day evidently departing in great haste at the news of the approach of a strong British Patrol.

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Many interesting souvenirs were collected Mick unluckily missing most as he and his mate who had been with him in the dash on the station, wasted an hour blowing the office safe open to find it empty.

After an hour’s halt, the Lieutenant once more moved the troop in the direction of a fairly large German town.

That afternoon a big encampment of half-caste Hottentots, the famous Bondelswarts was encountered. These deadly foes of the Germans, well armed and travelling with waggons, flocks of sheep, goats, and herds of splendid cattle had been moving about the Kalahari in bands strong enough to defy any but a powerful body of troops.

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The Germans with many bitter memories of former clashes had not attempted to molest them and so far the Half-castes had refrained from participating in the War. They were ready and eager to give any information regarding the movements of the Germans and to offer unbounded hospitality to British troops.

From them the Lieutenant gathered that the Germans were drawing in all small bodies of troops, clearing the country of civilians and evacuating frontier posts, concentrating on the town of Keetmanshoop. One interesting item of news given by the Bondelswarts was that a large convoy of civilians including some English was only fifteen miles away under a small German escort.

The Guide who knew several of the Bondelswarts personally found that his wife and family were amongst the refugees and earnestly pleaded for an attempt at their release. A Council of War was held but the Lieutenant though itching to have an opportunity to do something material felt it his duty to point out the impossibility of conveying civilians amongst whom were women and children back to the road the troop had come.

Eventually, after much hesitation, it was decided to abandon any idea of attacking the convoy and to resume the patrol.

Shortly after leaving the Bondelswarts a nest containing twenty ostrich eggs was found and a great feast of omelette followed.

Another day was spent in riding along the border but the farmhouses encountered were deserted and eventually the horses’ heads were turned homewards.

When the camp was reached it was found that troops, mostly Boer Commandoes were pouring in and that an immediate move was to be made.

The rebellion shattered and finished, Generals Botha and Smuts were intending to push forward the campaign against the Germans with all the rapidity and vigour they possessed.

Image result for general botha and smuts german southwest 1915The only photo of the meeting
of General Botha and General Smuts in the field

General Botha himself took command of the Northern Army operating from Walvis Bay. General Smuts directed operations from Swakopmund against the strongly entrenched German position at Aus which blocked the road to Windhoek, the Capital. Colonel Berrangé with picked men rode through the Kalahari to attack from the landward side. General Van Deventer was to advance from the South.

D Squadron hailed Mick’s return with enthusiasm for he was very popular and every man was needed. That very evening the column was advancing to the attack on Ukamas, a German strong point which was supposed to be heavily garrisoned.

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 73 Beasts of Prey

End of 72nd Entry: His comrades sleeping below were they and himself not causing many a sorrowful heart amongst the Angels of God?

Mick fancied he could see the slumbering forms of German soldiers their spirits dreaming of; perhaps in communion with those of other sleeping ones in far-off Fatherland – mothers, wives, children, sweethearts. Mick shook himself – “Hell I’m getting soft!” he murmured to himself.

All through the world, it’s the same – there’s many a lovely moonlight picture in Rhodesia at this moment – a herd of impala perhaps drinking at a river ford amidst palms and jungle and old whiskers lying in wait next to the game path. All over the world in the most exquisite spots of Creation are lurking the Beasts of Prey and what after all is Man but the biggest Beast of the lot?”

“It’s all Written and Great as God” as old Abdul used to say in my old fishing days.

Dawn broke redly over the desert and silently the soldiers mounted following in single file behind the Lieutenant and the guide. Orders were given that at the troop left the shelter of the dunes each man was to instantly gallop at the farmhouse; extending as they went, the end files to race around either side of the house until a circle was formed.

No hesitation was to be shown regarding shooting – “Follow Osmond’s example and reckon it’s safer shooting a calf then risking making a mistake” said the Officer laughing.

The distance to the farm from the edge of the desert world was about a mile – Mick on one of the wings had nearly twice that distance to cover and the ground was rough but filled with excitement he reeked nothing of risk – the cold morning air streaming past, the sound of four score hooves thundering through the silence of dawn, the feel of powerful muscles working under him sent the wild Irish blood racing through his veins.

It would have been a glorious gallop under any circumstances it was the grandest gallop given to a horseman under these – a cloud of cavalry racing into the attack.

But German West was a war full filled with battles – as faced the charge on Zwartmodder so fared this no crash of musketry, no hastily awakened armed men pouring out to meet the charging troop – only an open doorway and a weeping wailing huddle of womenfolk and children.

The soldiers swept up to the house – every No. 1 and No. 2 leapt from his horse the bridles been caught by the No. 3s.

“Fix bayonets! Sergeant! Double inside and make a thorough search – don’t waste time on anybody who doesn’t surrender but bayonet him.” shouted the Officer. Mick and two others followed the Sargeant pushing the screaming women out of their way -the Sargeant posted one man in the passage, sent Mick into one room, the other into a second and himself taking the last.

Mick dashing the door open with the butt of his rifle rushed into a room evidently belonging to two girls. He looked under the bed, threw open a wardrobe, looked behind some hanging garment but found nothing. On the point of departing, he heard a scream from the adjoining room, charging in he saw the Sergeant with open mouth gazing at a heavy bundle of washing – even as Mick entered a form disentangled itself from a  mass of garments disclosing a white-faced elderly man.

“Hell,” said the Sargeant expectorating “I just kicked the damn bundle on the off chance and Bless My Soul found Uncle – “Any luck Mick?”

“None Sergeant.”

“Well come on Uncle! nobody’s going to hurt you if you’re a Christian.” Escorting the prisoner the two went down to report the house clean of enemies.

On rejoining the Officer they found he had quietened the womenfolks’ fears and after closely cross-examining the prisoner the Lieutenant ordered his release.

Guards were posted after which the troops were told to off-saddle and rest. It appeared that a German patrol of three men had visited the farm two days previously but that except for half a dozen men at a frontier station called Dabinab there were no enemy forces within twenty miles.

So the farmer assured the Lieutenant and the Guide vouched for him as being strictly neutral with sympathies if anything on the British side. In any case, the farm command a wonderful view of all the country except the Kalahari so two men were ordered off to post themselves on the big dune behind which the patrol itself had hidden and with one more on the lookout from the house roof the others took advantage of a golden opportunity to feast and flirt.

Mick found both the girls had been at a Cape Town school and knew many of his pals. There was a piano and the girls were only too willing to sing, dance and be friendly. Their father proved an entertaining companion to the Lieutenant and Guide and the mother busied herself in baking bread, preparing food and giving of her best to the soldiers.

At sunset once again all swung into the saddle and with laughing farewells took leave of their hospitable friends.

Fully realising that most probably their departure would be instantly taken advantage of to send a warning to the Germans, the Lieutenant wasted no time. Clattering past the stones engraved with the Prussian Eagle which marked the German Frontier the men now full of excitement were sternly ordered to keep silence, and as soon as possible the troop was turned off the road into some dunes where once again the Kalahari rolled into the land.

Straight for the Southern Cross rode the troopers ever deeper into the wild lonely desert which in great mountain waves rolled away into what seemed infinity.

A whisper from the Guide brought a stern order that every precaution should be observed regarding silence – once more the troop swung round from their route.

“We will ride straight for Nababis now,” said the Lieutenant.

Image result for Dabinab German West Africa 1915

Riding slowly and silently the troop followed the Guide through the trackless waste until behind a line of dunes a whispered order came to dismount.

Once again the No. 3s held horses whilst the others gathered around the Officer. “We will extend to four paces, crawl up the dune and the German Camp lies about three hundred yards below. Every man is to remain dead silent. When daylight comes the Germans are sure to come outside – when they do, keep as quiet as possible. I want to wait until the whole lot are moving. I believe there are five or six men there. If several come out I’ll blow my whistle – instantly give them five rounds rapid and then the No.1s and 4s fix bayonets and follow me. If I’m shot the Sergeant will take charge – whilst the No. 1s and 4s are charging the No 2s under the Sergeant will keep up rapid fire at the windows, doorway and any sign of life.”

Cautiously the fifteen men representing the five sections of the troop crept up the dune – from the summit they looked down on the Police Station standing still and ghostline in the lunar rays.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 71 Smoke and Mirrors

End of 70th Entry: Within a few minutes, every chord and note of fear, anxiety and unhappiness had been sounded in his being.

Clenching his teeth, abandoning all hope, tensed to meet a storm of bullets Mick tore like a  whirlwind up to the steps of a tumbledown hotel. His horse stopped suddenly shooting Mick almost over his head.

And from the hotel, a stout Jew armed with a large bottle of ice cold beer appeared to wish Mick and the arriving Squadron a very good morning.

Amidst roars of laughter, the Squadron Leader cross-questioned the Jew meanwhile detailing patrols to ride around and scout for anything suspicious.

The Jew seemed quite willing to afford all information in his power – a small German patrol had visited him the previous day but there were no strong enemy forces in the vicinity. Everything was quite safe and he was well stocked with spirits, beer, tobacco and cigarettes.

Messages came in from the patrols that no signs of enemy troops could be found and the remainder of the regiment was riding in.

Strong guards were posted; scouts sent out and orders given to the remainder of the troops to dismount and make camp.

Zwartmodder, the resting place occupied was to be shut in to allow a Commander on the heels of the enemy’s forces to dally a while, so after a short rest the troops, having bought out practically the whole of the Jew’s stock of goods, remounted to ride forward to the head of the valley where there was open country, a farmhouse and ample supplies of water.

Image result for on guard duty WW1 south africa

When the new camp was reached the troops for the first time in over a week were given an opportunity to bathe, shave and rest and there was much delay in availing themselves of the luxuries. A couple of restful days past. A strong patrol rode over to the German post of Nakop and exchanged long-range shots with its small German garrison.

Three days after the new camp had been made Mick was ordered to take Girlie the fastest horse in the squadron and ride back with dispatches to the main body of troops some fifty miles away.

Full of thrills Mick started off knowing that there was every likelihood of excitement for the regiment was completely out of touch with the remainder of the Southern Command. No connecting posts had been established, there was nothing whatever to stop German patrols riding all over the country and around the encampment of the 18th Mounted Rifles. The German border was only a few miles away.

Riding down the valley Mick kept a keen lookout redoubling his caution as he approached the Zwartmodder Hotel. All of a sudden he saw a horse tethered in the trees before the building.

Instantly Mick swung his horse off the road and as he did so a man leapt from the hotel verandah ran into the trees and dropped. Mick tumbling out of his saddle sought the cover of a friendly looking boulder, cocked his rifle and cautiously looked around the rock to see a rifle muzzle pointing straight at him.

Mick withdrew his head at a speed which the lightning might have envied and a voice yelled out in Dutch “Which side are you on?”

“British” shouted Mick

“Same here” returned the other “Get up and let’s have a look at you.”

“You get up first” answered Mick suspiciously.

After a moment’s hesitation, the other rose holding up his hands and walked towards Mick. He turned out to be a trooper in Mick’s regiment who had slipped away to get a drink but Mick felt very insecure in his company.

There were too many Rebel sympathisers in the Boer squadrons and it behoved a dispatch rider to be cautious in his dealings with strangers. So Mick confessed that he to had ridden over for a drink and the two went into the bar.

The Jew was nervous and earnestly besought his guests not to linger therefore after a couple of drinks the two left. Mick telling his companion that he had received orders to scout around the valley thus finding an excuse for getting away.

Once out of sight Mick made good progress and arrived late that night at his destination where he found the Cape Field Artillery amongst whom he numbered many acquaintances. 

Next afternoonMick had been given a return lot of dispatches and left with orders to spare no time on the road. Girlie refreshed and well fed responded gallantly, and in the early hours of the next morning, Mick rode back into Camp. To his infinite grief, the beautiful mare foundered the result of being left standing in the chill night air whilst Mick was kept waiting until the dispatches were read.

Weary as he was Mick with a couple of chums wise in horse-lore worked for hours on the mare. Never will Mick forget the agony of seeing the brave sweet-tempered animal hobbling along on her knees no power left in her forelegs.

He learned a lesson that night which would never be forgotten, as he lay next to Girlie sobbing and praying to the Creator of man and beast to lessen her suffering and restore her to health. Girlie recovered eventually but for weeks she was unfit for service.

Two nights later rumours were busy that a German attack was to be made on the Camp  – extra guards, picquets, and Cossack posts were posted. Mick was stationed on a rather exposed position. All went well until his second guard soon after midnight.

Half dozing Mick was peering into the inky darkness when suddenly he heard a rustle. Instantly awake he silently cocked his rifle every faculty alert. Again came the rustle and a stick cracked in the night – a shadowy form slowly moving like a man on hands and knees appeared.

“Halt! Who goes there?” bellowed Mick and simultaneously his rifle spurted stream after stream of red flame into the night.

The figure crashed headlong into the bushes and lay kicking and struggling – a trumpet blared in the camp from which rose stentorian shouts of “Stand to arms! Stand to arms !”

An officer accompanied by a sergeant and strong-armed guard galloped up the line of outposts towards the scene of the alarm.

“What did you fire at?” he yelled to Mick as the picquet pulled their excited horses onto their hind legs.

“A man crawling on me Sir! I got him and he’s still struggling just over there,” shouted Mick quivering with a dozen racing emotions.

“Get out to him” answered the officer “Be careful he doesn’t get you or hasn’t any mates.”

With bayonet advanced, Mick charged valiantly at the figure now lying still.

A moment of silence “Is he dead?” called the officer.

“Please Sir it’s a wee calf,” came a woebegone voice from Mick.

Wildly yelling with laughter the piquet galloped off and their route was followed by an ever-rising roar of ironical cheers.

Next day a troop of picked men from one of the other squadrons was detailed for a long scouting expedition along the edge of the Kalahari Desert and into German West.

The Lieutenant in charge was a Rhodesian pioneer – a man of many frontier wars. Mick went to him with earnest entreaties to be included in the troop and to his joy his request allowed.