Civil Servants in War

Samuel Prempeh in his thesis on The Basel and Bremen missions and their successors in the Gold Coast and Togoland, 1914-1926 : a study in Protestant missions and the First World War noted:

On 4 August 1914 the Administration had a European staff of 613 in the Colony and its dependencies but before the end of 1917 the staff capacity had been reduced to 531 of which no less than 91 were engaged in war service (24 were seconded for Togoland administration and 63 for military service with the Gold Coast Regiment). The largest reduction of staff necessitated similar reduction of major public works and the temporary suspension of other less important duties. Pressure of work partly accounted for lengthened periods of tours, sometimes for 18-24 months without leave…

The first impact of a 30 per cent reduction of staff was evidently the closure of a number of stations, even so heavier work and unbearable sacrifice characterised administrative life. Of the 613 officers no less than 223 served at one time or another in war service… Absence of officers and the Constabulary from the North made the maintenance of law and order a major problem…

This was not an issue which only affected the Gold Coast. Louis Botha banned enlistments and resignations from the South African civil service particularly in the Native Administration Department in order to ensure the basic functioning of state. Local councils made do as they could. Pietermaritzburg saw 107 municipal employees enlist in the war, 12 of whom died, and 15 were wounded. All widows and orphans, irrespective of background, were paid a war gratuity according to Julie Dyer. Interestingly, Pietermaritzburg saw a decrease in criminal arrests during the war years.

Others in East Africa, such as Oscar Watkins and John Anderson tended to take on more work including raising and managing the Carrier Corps whilst doctors such as Norman Parsons Jewell were responsible for military and civilian hospitals in areas such as Bukoba. Claude Oldfield, a District Administrator in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) combined his work with that of military service too.

There are many cases of the effect of civil servants joining the military if one looks, but also numerous on what was achieved by the few, including opportunities for some as I discovered in exploring the diversity of the East Africa campaign.