From Boatsheds to Battlefields 54 War Time Raiders

End of 53rd Entry: Now and again a pile of newspapers reached him all full of the Wars between Montenegro, Greece, Serbia, and Turkey.

Then one day Mick woke with a rotten headache which increased as the day wore on – his body got hot and cold by turns shivering fits set in with violent spasms of vomiting. Mick fought against it but malaria needs quinine to stop its progress and the camp was bare of the vital ally.

A couple of evenings later a native passing a farmhouse near the siding casually told the owner that the new white man down the river was dying. A B.S.A. trooper happened to be at the farm. He and the owner did the nine miles in record time driving a couple of natives before them. At Mick’s camp, the hut was deserted though round a campfire Mick’s boys were singing happily. 

On being questioned they reported that their master had been very sick for a couple of days. “No! Nobody had gone in to see how he was – he hadn’t called anybody and the cook was away on a holiday.”

The trooper sent them scuttling round to hunt for signs of their master and soon a shout from the river announced that he was found. Evidently maddened for want of water, poor Mick had crawled down for a drink. He was in a mighty bad way so wasting no time the white men had a couple of poles, a blanket fastened between and four boys sent trotting off to the siding with the patient.

Fortunately, as they arrived a train came in on it’s way to Salisbury and a few hours later Mick was safely in the hospital.

Mick was pretty tough so within a few days unlimited quinine, careful nursing, warmth and cheerful pretty nurses had him on his feet again.

On his return, Mick promptly forsook his old camp transferring with bag and baggage to his new half-completed home. This he soon completed and settled down once more healthy, content and happy.

An adjoining farm was taken up giving Mick pleasant neighbours. The manager of a large ranch rode over – turned out to be a near relation of his old Constantia employer, and began to regularly send his horse for Mick to ride over to the ranch for weekends.

One day Mick feeling off-colour sent a boy over to Tom Godfrey asking for quinine – the boy returned with quinine, a newspaper and a note.

Dear Mick,
Herewith the quinine and half a bottle of brandy, all I can spare.  Also the pup. I suppose you’ve heard that the British Army has arrived in Belgium. We should hear tomorrow how it shapes against the Germans. The Belgians seem to have more guts than one would have thought. Everybody around here is clamouring for the formation of a Rhodesian force and the South Africans have already had a scrap or two in German West.
Yours,
Tom

Mick dazed, read and re-read the note, opened the papers and saw the staring headlines.

Image result for World War 1 newspaper headlines

For a while, he thought he was mad. What was the war about? It was three weeks since he had seen either a newspaper or white man and there wasn’t a war cloud insight. Now apparently Britain, France and Belgium were scrapping with Germany.

Wasting no time Mick ran the nine miles to the siding. Here he found the place in a ferment.  Dozens of hard frontiersman seemed to have come out of the wilds.

Prospectors, traders, farmers, hunters, miners and transport riders – some were Reservists waiting for the train, others ex-Army officers of regular and irregular forces – many like himself had only just heard that there was a war on and were clamouring for details – everybody seemed mad to get to the war before it finished.

Men clamoured for volunteers to look after their mining prospects, farms, and trading stores. Partners tossed as to whom should go and whom should stay.

A meeting was held at which nearly every man put down his name as willing to serve overseas, in Africa or for Home Defence and an urgent application wired to the Administrator calling upon him to immediately form a Rhodesian regiment to be placed at the disposal of the British War office.

Mick volunteered for overseas, then set off back to the farm.  Arrived there he arranged the work for the next few days and left for Salisbury. In the town he found a restless angry population swollen by the addition of men from outside all clamouring for the Government to act.

The authorities, however, seemed as much in the dark as the man in the street. The Union down South had mobilised and was pouring troops into German West Africa, but apparently, the British War office had forgotten Rhodesia’s existence. The Mounted Police left to seize the narrow strip of German territory next to the Victoria Falls.

Rumours came that in the North the Germans were sweeping all before them in Nyasaland and British East Africa. Stories came of black armies invading the Congo, of the Germans having promised their black troops all the white women captured.

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A man with an evil reputation began quietly enlisting picked men from the Bush into a regiment to dash over the Portuguese border looting the country. It was argued that it didn’t matter which side Portugal joined, and if forced onto the enemy’s her colonies and African Seaports would form most valuable acquisitions to Rhodesia and the Union.

It was rumoured that a well-known Jewish speculator was backing the enterprise, that truckloads of horses for the Raiders had already left the Free State. Each man possessed his own rifle so all that remained to do once the horses arrived was to cross the Border.

Mick’s gold-digging Uncle driven from the Alluvial Fields over a threat of prosecution in connection with the distillation of rice spirit in a home-made still with a rifle barrel as worm, had gone prospecting and elephant poaching in North Eastern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. 

Image result for a still for making spirits 1900s South Africa

He had returned destitute but cheerful, and for a week stayed with Mick. Now he was one of the leading spirits amongst the Raiders and through his influence, Mick was enlisted in one of the troops of a squadron.

However, some of the filibusters waxed eloquent over their whiskey which resulted in a stern threat from the Administration that any unauthorised raids would be treated as piratical and immediate steps were taken to prevent any possibility of this organised one from materializing.

Mick interviewed his employers begging to be released from his duty and advanced money to take him to England but was told not to be a fool. The War would be over long before he got there while in any case, it was a war of regular armies, not one for untrained men or Irregular forces.

A question arising from the text:

What does “with a rifle barrel as worm” mean?

Family History Letter from William Frederick Leffler to Bernard Leffler 1922

I found this photocopy of a letter from William Frederick Leffler to Bernard Leffler dated 16th October 1922.  William moved to Pretoria as Registrar of Deeds and his youngest son Jim who was 13 at the time went to the newly opened Christian Brothers College.

Some interesting stories about the Lefflers and music in the Court of George III.

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From Boatsheds to Battlefields 49 Battling Through Life

So Mick lived for nearly a year. Kotzee and himself obtained sixteen oxen from the ranch they have the use of them on condition that the oxen were trained to the yoke, and returned at the end of six months fit for use in waggon or plough.

The two with a few Mashona made bricks and built a house – a weird and wonderful erection whose chimney fell off after erection and whose corners came apart owing to lack of proper bond. Somehow they existed Mick bought a Martini-Henry rifle and 100 rounds of black powder ammunition from the police for £3 sent him by his father – he and Kotzee wore out their boots and walked the country barefooted – more and more the two grew into a pair who looked as though civilization’s breath had never touched them.

But Mick was no fool – he soon found his partner to be a man with no stability of mind or purpose – a visionary and a fanatic.

The two began to argue about Imperialism, Religion and farming. Each began to feel the other an enemy and Mick started to go off more and more to the Godfrey’s, the two English neighbours, Kruger and old Airth. All of them seemed to like him – he got plentiful food at their homes and they thought about everything in the same way that he did.

Then Kotzee’s wife arrived with two beautiful children – Mrs Kotzee proved to be a Christian Scientist and a vegetarian and came from a wealthy family.

The rains began and with it came Malaria – Mrs Kotzee refuse to take quinine or give it to the children – one child died – then Mick went down badly and Mrs Kotzee and the other child were taken ill.

For some days Mick lay delirious without a soul visiting him – he came to himself weak as a kitten and looking like a ghost.

Then came Kotzee with a shotgun practically stone mad raving that Mick had poisoned his family, put his wife against him, ridiculed him to his neighbours and that he would have Mick’s life. Mick thoroughly alarmed grabbed his Martini knocked Kotzee aside and left.

A few days later barefooted and starving he arrived in Salisbury his only possession his rifle and two shillings. At a tearoom, he ordered some soup and fainted whilst trying to eat it. On coming round he found a pretty little waitress doing all she could to help him – the girl told him at once that he had better get into the hospital as he was rotten with fever and advised Mick to interview the Anglican Clergyman who would arrange his entry.

Wearily Mick trudged up to the interview but evidently gave the worthy minister the impression he was drunk. Half delirious Mick understood that the Clergyman couldn’t do anything for him and staggered back to the tearoom for further advice.

The waitress wasted no time but helped Mick to her room and put him to bed. Three days later feeling much better the youth set out on foot for the Angwa alluvial goldfields where a younger brother of his family’s – the family black sheep was earning a precarious living from hunting and gold washing.

Advised that his route was “Follow the railway line”, Mick did – but the Fates sent him along the wrong line until he reached a farmhouse where he was advised to cut across country to the Lomagundi line the one he was on leaving to Cape Town.

That night he came to another farm – a tall bearded man took him in for a meal and hearing his name said: “Well I’m damned – not the son of William Osmond of Sea Point?”

“Yes I am,” answered Mick “Do you know Dad?”

“God Bless your soul youngster I used to live next door to you – nursed you as a baby – Hell it’s a small world.”

For two or three days Mick was kept in bed and well looked after. The Stewart’s to whose hospitable door fate had brought him laughed at the idea of the Angwa pointing out that the place was a death trap and the diggers merely making a bare existence.

The tobacco boom was in full swing and their neighbour Godfrey a brother of Mick’s Marandellas friend wanted a man. Godfrey himself came over to interview Mick with the result that a satisfactory agreement was concluded the youth as soon as he was fit enough moving over to his new employer’s home.

Mick had now had over two years of battling through life and with the exception of three months in the Struan District and six weeks near Grahamstown, his life had certainly not been a soft or easy one. He had become inured to disappointment, used to coarse scanty fare and well able to hold his own amongst any type of men.

His twenty-first birthday was past but with all his rough and tumble experiences Mick still retained the heart of a boy of sixteen with all his idealism unspoilt. A nature full of emotionalism, a strongly developed imagination and the closest possible contact with a father and a mother whose letters showed that however far from him they were in body, yet in spirit, they were always near, kept Mick from many pitfalls. His pen and his imagination were his greatest friends – if with the one he could fight loneliness with the other turn hardship and rough conditions into a game.

Early years spent on the sea and mountain certainly contributed much to his ability to accustom himself readily to any emergencies or calls on his powers of adaptability. They had given him the wiry constitution of a savage and the digestive powers of an ostrich and with Mick, a squall was past was gone – others would come but it was foolishness worrying about them and those that had struck him always left some memory to chuckle over even if only at his own damned innocence or foolishness.