-- On another occasion whilst sitting on a
rocky kopje overlooking the Tsavo Serengeti Plains,
plucking hundreds of pepper ticks off us and enjoying
a rather well deserved cup of tea and Eileen’s
famous chocolate cake, a young lioness decided to join
us … we had to make a rather hasty retreat back to
the car, just managing to save the cake for later.
Once exploring Tembo Fort on the Tsavo
River I got our little group completely lost in the
thick bush on the way back and took several hours to
find our way out to the cars. Being in the high thick
wait a bit thorn bush we had no horizon, so it was
difficult to get our bearings.
This was a situation that troops of
both sides had also experienced, often passing within
meters of each other without even knowing it, and
getting lost and seperated from the patrol; ever since
then I have taken a GPS with me.
It was these and many more safaris
that laid a firm foundation for me to work on over the
years, but some time into the research, I realized
that Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen’s ‘Army
Diary’, was in fact way out of line.
I had the opportunity to retrace his
reconnaissance route between Moshi and Kahe on the
lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in very similar
conditions, except he had done the trip in darkness
with the area swarming with Germans.
It was physically impossible to
accomplish what he claimed.
That safari resulted in the first of
many and subsequent major re-writes of my book.
General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck.
Opportunities arose for me to attend
various tourism marketing fairs in Europe and the UK,
after which I often managed take time to explore and
investigate the military museums in the neighborhoods.
Little mention on anything to do with
the East Africa African campaign of 1914 -1918 was
ever on display in these museums.
I therefore had to learn how to get
access to their reading rooms and archives.
Being from overseas, I was viewed with
great suspicion, even then, and was required to
produce a University Student Research Reference, which
of course I could not, this was a stumbling block, why
and what was I doing researching the East African
Campaign, I was obviously not a student.
Not deterred by this, Higher Authority
was sought before permission was finally granted, and
then passport, utility bills and goodness knows what
else were required to get in to these areas.
Much of the information that I sought
relating to the campaign had only recently come into
the public domain, a lot of it still un cataloged and
some of it is still under wraps and not available.
Was there something being hidden I
wondered? I have my own theories on this.
Once I had overcome this sort of
hostility towards my enquiries, a Pandora’s Box
opened. I was in seventh heaven.
The Imperial War Museum, The National
Army Museum, The Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of
London and more recently the Lancashire Infantry
Museum in Preston - and then the National Archives out
beside the beautiful Kew Gardens, which of course also
required close scrutiny and more time to visit as
It took me a while to figure out how
to operate the various museum search engines so at
first I had to wait for another year to pass, before I
could follow up on my previous efforts for these
primary and secondary source materials.
In the end it was fascinating delving
into those boxes, some of which had not been opened
for generations, and to be able to handle (with gloves
on) and read documents, reports, private letters,
photographs and hand drawn sketches from so long ago.
Many of these reports and letters were
probably last handled by their authors during that
Great War of Civilisation as it was referred to
It left me profoundly moved and
At last, I was really able to get a
grip on what was going on.
In between times back home, days off
and short leave periods were spent exploring the
battlefields, and forts, some of which even the
rangers in Tsavo West National Park did not know
about, or rather their origins and significance but
were always keen to know more.
defenders and loyal North Lancashires manning
a machine gun bunker at Mashoti Fort, 1915. BELOW:
The team from Sarova Taita Hills Lodges and
Lion's Bluff Camp who helped clear bush around
the fort in 2011.
Since then we have done several field
trips with hoteliers from the area, park rangers,
sanctuary rangers and representatives of the nearby
communities to foster a greater interest in the sites
and the necessity for their preservation, they all
have been so enthusiastic, willing and keen to learn
more of their history of this era.
We also need to encourage the
conservation of these sites and develop Battlefield
and Heritage Tourism.
As interests and scope widened and
expanded, more investigations were required, for
instance, - what was the Royal Navy Air Service doing
in Maktau 130 miles away from the ocean?
So a trip was required to the FAAM in
Yoevil, Somerset, where they were super helpful as
they had just started a collection of early material
on East Africa.
It was in East Africa that the Fleet
Air Arm owed its origins, during the blockading of the
German cruiser the Konigsberg in the Rufiji
Delta, those flimsy aircraft were used to find the
ship and provide aiming and target location for the
two monitors that could not see their target behind
the immense mangrove forests of the delta.
The pilots used an early form of radio
'Morse Code' to give these instructions.
Newspaper articles were useful sources
of information, and for this we visited the British
Museum Newspaper Repository where they hold copies of
virtually every newspaper and magazine ever printed in
the UK and the former British Empire.
Copies of the East African Standard,
and the Leader of East Africa were gleaned over
and photocopies made, but before we could look at them
I had to get permission from the British Museum
director in London as the newspapers were still in
their original state and had not been preserved and so
not available to the public.
Sometimes, just trying to lift and
turn the page carefully, the corners would
MacMillan Library in Nairobi holds
some copies of these old news- papers too, which are
available for inspection by prior appointment.
-- South Coast author and historian
James Willson signing his new book 'Guerrillas
of Tsavo' at last Sunday's charity Diani Goat
We learnt about the origins of the
library at Judy Aldrich’s book launch on "Northrop".
Northrop MacMillan served with
dedication during the First World War in this sector
and was Base Commandant at Mbuyuni for a while, he was
honored for his efforts.
In the Nairobi Railway Museum, the
Officers Dining Room furniture from the Konigsberg is
on display, they also hold a large collection of loose
photographs of the early days of the Lunatic