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October 19 - 25, 2012


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek -- Getting ready for takeoff from Maktau: 12 October 1915 - The first Royal Navy Air Service inland operational flight over enemy territory took place from Maktau with a Caudron GIII piloted by Flight Commander J.T. Cull.


James Willson launches his epic
history guide 'Guerillas of Tsavo'



Coastweek -- Foraging around in the Nairobi National Archives several gems were unearthed which I believe formed part of Edward Rodwell’s extensive collection.

At home we have boxes of printouts as a result of continually having to update the manuscript.

My erstwhile Editor (I assume in cahoots with my family) eventually threw her hands in after five years of frequent updates as more information kept coming to light and so revisions and corrections had to be made.

The last five or six years have seen an immense amount of detail becoming available through an increasingly keen and dedicated network of enthusiasts, who have evolved and became the Great War East Africa Association.

Their website http://www.gweaa.com is becoming a valuable source of information where you will find many links of interest on the entire East African Campaign.

I may add that there has never been a detailed document published about the first two years of the campaign whilst it remained in British East Africa.

Even in the last couple of weeks a most important and significant find has been made, the field diary written by General von Lettow Vorbeck has just been re found at the IWM, it had even been translated into English then forgotten, until it turned up in another box mixed with completely different documents from another time.


Coastweek -- Mount Kasigau rises from the flat plains outside the Tsavo National Park.

So this sort of thing has been the root problem as to why the book took so long to come out.

Personally, I have derived immense enjoyment in researching the detail for this book, which recounts the first two years of the East African campaign whilst it remained in the B.E.A.; the best part though was always the field work.

Greatly supported and encouraged by my family, Eileen and Joan, and to whom I owe so much credit to.

For so long I have thought, dreamed and talked about nothing else, the house is full of war books and magazines, and bits of metal and all sorts of things we have found and collected, they have been very understanding.

I must add, on a more recent foray, Eileen was subject to an unprovoked attack and mauled on the leg requiring anti rabies injections and treatment by no lesser creature than a honey badger, one of the fiercest and most powerful creatures for its size in the African bush.

I hope that now 'Guerrillas of Tsavo' is in print, that many of you may glean some further interest and insight about a little known campaign that took place on our own back door step between 1914 and 1916.

Next time you are in Tsavo West I hope you will be able to add interest to your visit.


Coastweek -- Railway line from Voi to Taveta, looking towards Wundanyi and Taita Hills. 

A few years ago, we went to South Africa with Keren and Andy Burnard, for three weeks, first visiting the Western Cape and Namaqualand to view the wild flowers.

Of course, whilst in the area we had to include visits to the Fort in Cape Town and a museum with artifacts from the Konigsberg at Simons Town.

But more importantly for Andy and I, was a special treat of 10 days visiting the Anglo Boar War and Anglo Zulu War sites in Natal.

It certainly was not long enough.

We witnessed an industry there that had developed around the history of these wars with Battlefield and Heritage Tourism, we were told that there was at least a two year waiting list to be escorted around by licenced professional guides who really know their subjects.

We were very lucky to have the Chairman of the South African Military History Association Raymond Herron of Spion Kop Lodge to show us around.

I belong to the International Group of Battle Guides, there are some 550 world wide of us who have interests ranging from wars that took place B.C. right through to more recent conflicts.

I know that U.K. based members are fully booked during the summer months taking bus loads of veterans and their families, students and others on Battlefield Tours.

Why can’t Kenya develop something like that here, we have much more to see and offer, as most of our battle sites and forts, are located in or near the National Parks?

We have the advantage of the wild life and the sights reasonably close to each other, with excellent accommodation facilities nearby?

The centenary of First World War [1914-1918] is fast approaching in under two years time and many countries world wide are gearing up to handle a potential tourism windfall that will last at least for four or five years, you just have to look at the various tourism websites to understand how big this could be.

For example, Australia announced two weeks ago that they are limiting participation to their commemoration of the Gallipoli Campaign in 2015 to 10,000 people.


Coastweek -- World War One Voi Cemetery: Voi became a hospital centre early in 1916. In the period August 1915 to December 1917, 100 burials were made in the cemetery and after the Armistice, a further 37 graves were brought in from Bura Military Cemetery (14 graves of the 2nd Loyal North Lancs, 29 September 1915), Maktau Military Cemetery (17 graves, largely 3 September 1915) and Tsavo Military Cemetery (six graves). The cemetery now contains 137 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

Ninety per cent of those people will be passing with easy access to East Africa, it makes one think of the possibilities and potential.

South Africa is also gearing up with people wanting to visit the great European battlefields along the Somme, they too could be tempted to stop over here.

I have touched a little this evening on the history and compilation of this book and where it has taken us, but what now …it can not end now ...

I now have a dream … a dream to commemorate the centenary of the start of the first would war in August 2014, where the National Museums of Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service Ministry of Tourism, Kenya Tourist Board, and the Ministry of Defense would join together and plan a pageant to honour and remember the over many Kenyans who played such a substantial role in one way or another during the East Africa Campaign of 1914 – 1918, so long ago.

It is not too late to start planning.

Proceeds from the sale of this book (which I may add is being distributed on a non profit basis) will go to the Askari Fund that is run by the British Legion of Kenya, in support and aid of the welfare for families of Kings African Rifles askaris, who I always felt were rather hard done by, during both World Wars.

In addition a donation will also be made to the F.F.J. from books sold tonight.

The Chairman of F.F.J. way back then had given me a tough and challenging assignment and it was not an easy task.

Marlene Reid, later took up the mantle too, and has also over the years greatly encouraged me to complete this project.

Thanks also go to Shel and Blake Arensen of Old Africa Publications who prepared the layout and design and finally got the manuscript and all the photos to the printers, and to the posts in Coastweek.

So in closing and without further ado I would like to present this evening, the very first copy of 'The Guerrillas of Tsavo' to Marlene, as the Chairman of F.F.J., as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for yours and the FFJs continued support.




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