White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris (1999) by Brian Herne is a useful book on background to hunters in East Africa.
Sadly, the chapter on World War 1 is rather inaccurate – Driscoll was not in East Africa as war broke out. He was in London. The 25th Royal Fusiliers were not the first of Kitchener’s Armies and the 26th Squadron was not the ‘army’s daredevil elite’. In short, Brian portrays a rather romantic view of the campaign. This is a pity as it contrasts with his more factual accounts of the hunters’ experiences. Also more hunters participated in the war than Brian acknowledges.
Herne acknowledges that the views of hunting today are not what they were 100+ years ago, some of these working to protect wildlife.
Cunninghame’s experience of being sent to the Western Front was indicative of the War Office to focus on that being the decisive theatre of the conflict. However, as the war in East Africa moved into the political spotlight as a potential bargaining tool, so more men were sent that way, especially with African experience.
Before the 26th Squadron arrived in East Africa, planes had been supplied by the RNAS.
Brian doesn’t say anything about hunters being used for intelligence, to lead carriers after or to even continue with hunting. Is this because information is scarce when compared with Mau Mau section. While Robert Ruark is mentioned earlier in the book when he went hunting, there is no mention of his book Uhuru on the Emergency, or as Luise White refers to it ‘the Kikuyu Civil War’.
In short, White Hunters gives an overview of hunting in Kenya and Tanzania – it’s a collection of recollections in rough chronological order rather than in-depth history of the hunters. To Brian’s credit, he covers hunters elsewhere in Africa providing they had a link with East Africa and also those who were not white but were professional hunters.
White Hunters shows how men moved between hunting and preservation, ending with the hunting ban in East Africa and a discussion concerning the poaching debate which touches on complexities through the Kenyan Emergency: loyal employees turning on employers, but also trackers putting their lives on the line to save a life. It purports to be an inclusive account covering geographic, gender, class, and culture but could have gone further on indigenous hunters – perhaps they were not classified ‘professional’? Some details need double checking but the book is a good place to start for background or overview of early East African white engagement with the wilds of Africa. Questions such as how relationships developed between hunter and tracker are no doubt yet to be written (or found), as well as the relationships between the hunters and wider communities – allusion is made only to a handful of professional hunters – what did they do the rest of the time?