It’s common knowledge that you either love Marmite or hate it and that if you like Marmite, you won’t like Bovril or Vegemite and vice versa. I’m not too fussed about Marmite or Bovril although I tend to prefer Bovril – Vegemite though is a completely different story.
I was rather surprised a little while ago to see a policy paper in The National Archives discussing whether there was a substitute for Marmite which would have the same medicinal impact (alas, I did not make a note of the reference!).
This same article makes reference to Sunlight soap – another item over 100 years old and still produced by Lever Brothers. This company was already settled in Africa by the outbreak of war, offering to help Spicer-Simson and his Lake Tanganyika Expedition out with supplies if needed and eventually took over Goldie’s Royal Niger Company.
Hampers were not only a Christmas feature. Some lucky soldiers, or rather officers, had Fortnum and Mason hampers sent across. Whilst young privates relied on family members to send favourite foods as young Grahame Munro mentioned in his travels through German South West Africa. He specifically mentioned Oxo.
On the drinks front, there was Nestles and Roses Lime juice, the latter used to help combat scurvy, whilst the former was usually condensed milk – ideal for a sugary sweet additive to coffee or as a stand alone.
On the travel side, P&O Liners initially known as The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company which included the British India Steam Company which services the East African coastline. Another long-standing name is that of Thomas Cook, which was also involved in the ill-fated Gordon Relief expedition of Khartoum pre-1900. During World War 1, the company, along with P&O, Cunnard line and others, continued to offer public services while in 1919, Thomas Cook offered ‘scenic flights’ over the battlefields of Europe.
This year in October 2015, Kenyan aviation celebrates 100 years of service, whilst flight in South West Africa is a few months older – the Germans were flying sorties in January/February 1915. More commonly known is the existence of Ford and Rolls Royce, both of whom supplied vehicles during the war, as did Leyland and Vauxhall. A summary of road transport during the war has been compiled by the Road Haulage Association while DJ Sutton provides a more global perspective in Wait for the Waggon (1998).
On the financial front, there was Standard Bank and De Beers, while socially, there were various clubs such as the Mombasa and Muthaiga in Kenya, as well as the Norfolk Hotel. In addition, the YMCA provided much welcomed relief and rest bases in all the theatres of war.
There are no doubt many other products, companies and organisations which are over 100 years old and with a history in Africa, but these were the big few which have caught my attention.