Novelists of World War 1 Africa

There have been various novels published over the years which touch on the First World War in Africa. A full list appears on the Great War in Africa Association bibliography. Some published more than one book covering the war – what I find interesting is their connection with Africa and what inspired them to write a work of fiction about the war. No promises, but my plan is to do a short exploration of each of the authors in chronological order, once a month.

The first known book to have a story of the war in Africa was published in 1915 by Gertrude Page. Two more publications occurred in 1916 – Joan Kennedy and Percy F Westerman – followed by four in 1918 – Francis Brett Young, Gertrude Page, Herbert Strang and again Percy Westerman.

At the time of writing this, I know of 59 novels or works of fiction published on the Great War in Africa, some having come to light this year and therefore do not feature in the two articles I wrote around the centenary based on the novels (Fictional accounts of the East Africa campaign (2014) ; The end of the war in Africa (2018))

Below is the list of books, authors and year in which the book was published. Many of the older books are available on Gutenberg or elsewhere. I’m not setting out to review the books unless something in particular grabs me (Distinguished Conduct, The Celebration Husband are examples) as I do not believe in retelling the tale which is what reviews today tend to do. What I will say is that I have really enjoyed the majority of the novels I’ve read (which is most of them) and between them they cover most of the major actions or events of the East Africa campaign with some linking to other theatres and the homefronts.

Page, GertrudeFollow after1915
Kennedy, JoanSun, sand and sin1916
Westerman, Percy FRounding up the raider: A naval story of the Great War1916
Brett Young, FrancisThe Crescent Moon1918
Page, GertrudeFar from the limelight1918
Strang, HerbertTom Willoughby’s Scouts1918
Westerman, Percy FWilhelmshurst of the Frontier Force: a story of the conquest of German East Africa1918
Wren, PC (Percival Christopher)Cupid in Africa: Or the making of Bertran in love and war – a character study1920
Lynn, EscottComrades Ever! etc1921
Olden, BalderKilimandsharo1922
Mader, Friedrich WilhelmDie Helden van Ost-Afrika: Am Kilimandjaro: Ubenteuer und kämpfe in Deutsch-Ostafrika (Die helden von Ostafrika, erfter Teil1927
Brett Young, FrancisJim Redlake1930
Olden, BalderOn virgin soil 1930
Funke, AlfredSchwarz-weiss-rot über Ostafrika : Roman1933
Forester, CSThe African Queen1935
Heuer, HansMalumba, Mutter aller mutter: Roman aus Deutsch Ost-Afrika1935
Christensen, Christen PSønderjyder forsvarer Østafrika 1914-181937
Mader, Friedrich WilhelmDie Schlacht bei Tanga Erzahlung aus dem Weltkrieg1938
Huxley, ElspethRed Strangers1939
Christensen, Christen PBlockade and Jungle: From the letters and diaries etc of Nis Kock1940
Josef, VieraDeutsch-Ostafrika unverloren! Erzählung aus den deutschen Kolonialkämpfen im Weltkrieg mit kartenskizze und Bildern nach Federzeichnungen von Willy Planck1943
Meissner, JanuzL-591958
Bee, DavidOur fatal shadows: A story of German East Africa and Tanganyika1964
McCann, Hugh WrayUtmost Fish1966
Smith, WilburShout at the devil1968
Cloete, StuartHow young they died1969
Scholefield, AlanLion in the evening1974
Scholefield, AlanThe alpha raid1976
Stevenson, WilliamThe Ghosts of Africa1980
Boyd, WilliamAn ice-cream war1982
Scholefield, AlanKanonenboot auf den Tanganjika-See1984
Smith, WilburThe Burning Shore1985
Vassanji, MGThe Gunny Sack1989
Hoeg, PeterJourney into a dark heart in Tales of the Night1990
Smith, WilburTentar al Diablo1993
Vassanji, MGThe book of secrets1994
Christie, AgathaWhile the Light Lasts1997
Margarite PolandIron Love1999
Ackermann, RolfDie weiße Jägerin2005
Wende, HamiltonThe King’s shilling: a novel2005
Bull, Bartle The White Rhino Hotel2006
Dow, ChristopherLord of the Loincloth: The Adventures of the Royal Naval African Expedition and its Intrepid leader, Commander Geoffrey Basil Spicer-Simson2007
Schnalke, ChristianAfrika! Mon amour2007
Capus, AlexA matter of time2009
Smith, WilburAssegai2009
Coelho, João Paulo Borges O Olho de Hertzog2010
Guillou, Jan  Brobyggarna 2011
Lee, JeremyWhere I’m bound I cannot tell2011
Penhaligon, JamesSpeak Swahili, dammit2011
Powell, WilliamChui and Sadaka2011
Ladha, AzmeenaLetter to an unknown soldier2014
Steenbeek, RoelofThe Black Knight: Loss of innocence2014
Alexandri, MayaThe celebration husband2015
Duncan, BrianThe lion and the leopard2016
Cotton, Eleni TratarisBertha: The Swiss trader’s daughter2017
Diop, DavidAt night all blood is black2018
Page, MelvinDistinguished Conduct: An African Life in Colonial Malawi2019
Gurnah, AbdulrazakAfterlives2020

5 thoughts on “Novelists of World War 1 Africa

    • Thanks Steve, there are so many I would recommend on the list. It depends on what your focus is as to what you should look at. There are a fair number which are loose on the history including Foden’s Mimi and Toutou. The one I recommend in contrast to this is Alex Capus’ A Matter of Time – a German side to the story. Did you know Wilbur Smith did another on the EA campaign – Assegai is better than Shout at the Devil in my opinion but still fantasy and even more so is his Burning Shore which includes the GSWA campaign. As I post about the authors, I’ll no doubt give indication as to my preferences and what the books are useful for from an historical perspective.

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