King’s African Rifles vs Schutztruppe Soldier: East Africa 1917-18 by Gregg Adams is an 80 page overview of the two forces during the latter part of the East Africa campaign which I reviewed back in 2017. Recently I had reason to revisit the book and on this occasion there were a couple of things which caught my eye which I thought worth exploring/sharing.
Glossy images are used to explain the differences between the two sides and I have to say these jarred a bit, more so on this read than my first – perhaps because I’m working more with photos for various reasons.
For those in the know, a quick glance at the trousers men are wearing indicate who was German and who British. However, at this stage of the war we also know men were commandeering uniforms from those they captured or found dead, so beautifully painted images of men all wearing the same immaculate uniforms seems a little out of place. However, the images do allow comparisons to be made.
Another interesting feature is the image of the King’s African Rifles soldier wearing boots in the images used to explain the uniform. This raises some questions as at the start of the war the KAR went barefoot and not being supplied with shoes/boots was an issue for West Africans. Mel Page in his novel-biography of Chimwere Juma explains that when Juma became a sergeant and was entitled to wear shoes he declined as his feet were not used to them; they would cause him more problems than going without – although he did ask for an upgrade in shirt. A later photograph in the book, by J Granville Squires, of KAR marching suggests the men have some sort of foot covering but they don’t look like army boots. Was it a case of the new recruits being issued with footwear of some kind as part of their 6-9 month training prior to going into the field? Perhaps with a little more delving into primary sources and the General Routine Orders we’ll one day sort out when the KAR started to wear ‘traditional’ army boots.
It pays to revisit books – you never know what you might spot having discovered so much more between reads.