No time for peace

Going through some medical war diaries at The National Archives, London (WO 95/5324& WO 95/5325) a little while ago, I was shocked to see there was no indication that the war in Europe had come to an end. I didn’t really expect to see anything for 11 November but I did expect some sort of mention between 11 and 25 November 1918 – the latter date being when German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck officially surrendered at Abercorn (in today’s Zambia).

What this does tell us, is that for the medical services, it was business as usual. Reading through the entries, there was no remarkable difference between the diary entries before or after these dates, other than that the diaries seemed to end at the end of November 1918.

We know the Great War in Africa was quite different to the war in Europe. Trenches were scarce, so were rations and news. Where the men on the Western Front received news regularly, there are accounts of 2-4 months between letters being received. In fact, looking through a diary at RAC Hendon soon after the War Diaries, I was surprised to read that young Brown (the diary author) recorded in his flight log that he ‘dropped letters’ on 27 July 1916 at Lolkisale. This was the only time he dropped something other than bombs during his year in East Africa.

Although there were regular communications (telegrams) between London and GHQ East Africa, when the Armistice was agreed in Europe, a two-week window was included for getting the message through to the forces in East Africa. News of the Armistice arrived on 11 November and was delivered to the Germans on 13 November the day a battle (in East African terms) was fought at Kasama.

As I recounted in WW1 in Africa: the forgotten conflict of the European powers:

Major Hawkins recalled the story of the last days in The Times:
On the morning of November 11th (Armistice Day) the column was still forty-one miles from the road junction at Malima River, where we hoped to cut off at least the German rear-guard. Twenty-one miles were covered on the 11th, and touch with the enemy obtained one mile from the cross roads after marching eighteen miles on the 12th.

The position of the force on this day was a peculiar one. The column, consisting of 750 rifles, was probably considerably inferior to the total number of the enemy should he stand at bay. Further, our column had far outstripped all communications, and it would be impossible to pursue beyond Kasama without waiting for food. It was therefore determined to deal as heavy a blow as possible at the enemy before he got out of reach.

There turned out to be six enemy companies on the Malima, who, being attacked unexpectedly in the rear, hastily retired with loss to the north side of the open valley of the Malima, across which a hot fight raged till dark … 9.30pm … when fighting ceased.

Nearby, on 13 November, a German advance party arrived south of Kasama and fired at British defenders occupying a rubber factory. A British farmer also joined the defence firing an elephant gun from inside the roof of the factory, leading the Germans to believe that they faced an artillery piece.

News of the armistice was received in Livingstone on the 11th, but owing to a fault in the telegraph did not reach the Chambeshi (Chambezi) till two days later. Croad heard of the armistice at ‘about 1 o’clock’ when a Mr F Rumsey brought him a wire from the administrator in Livingstone ‘[…] saying that we were to carry on till General van Deventer wired me instructions.’

At 11.30am on November 13th one of our KAR native patrol posted on the main road reported that two motor cyclists carrying white flags and with white bands at their helmets passed from the direction of Abercorn going towards the enemy at Kasama. The native patrol shouted to them and tried to stop them, but they took no notice and passed on towards Kasama and the enemy.

This news caused great excitement in the column as no home news had been received for over a week. It was decided to advance slowly and await events.

At 2.45pm, when four miles from Kasama, the advance point reported two German askaris coming in under a large white flag, with a letter for the column commander. This proved to be a telegram received by von Lettow from our motor cyclists announcing the Armistice.

Lettow-Vorbeck formally handed in his agreement to surrender on 16 November 1918 and the formal surrender took place at Abercorn on 25 November 1918.

Of the 863 deaths recorded for 11 November 1918, 12 took place in East Africa
7 in Tanzania/German East Africa,
3 in Kenya/British East Africa,
1 in Malawi/Nyasaland,
1 in Zimbabwe/Southern Rhodesia
2 in Mozambique/Portuguese East Africa

Other war related deaths in Africa included:
2 in Nambibia/South West Africa
3 in Ghana/Gold Coast
5 in South Africa
18 in Egypt
(Unfortunately I cannot find a reference for these figures – I came across them in Tanzania or Kenya in 2011 in a travel magazine and accidently deleted the photo containing the publication details – if anyone can help confirm the breakdown, it would be greatly appreciated).

@UKNatArchives @RAFMUSEUM #WW1

Day of the Ring: 21 September – Linking War and Peace

I recently received a message from the organiser of The Ring, a call for peace. He was looking for people in Africa to participate in this, The Ring’s, first international outing. I quote relevant aspects of the letter, and although we might not be physically participating in The Ring, we can wish it well on its way and that it has some impact in helping make the world a better place to live – as many of those who fought in WW1 and other conflicts then and now believed they were doing.

Delighted to tell you all that we now have our last piece in place. The Spirit of Peace Dinner will be on the evening of 21st of September. We have chosen Northern Ireland as a venue for the start and end of the phone relay as it is a major example of who peace can only be brought about by talks and goodwill….and an expressed desire for peace by the ordinary folk of a county. It is our intention each year to chose a location anywhere in the world for the start and end of The Ring, as it is an intention to make it an annual event, run by volunteers, at minimum cost and with no political agenda.

During that day, our message, chosen from those suggested by people around the world, will pass through over 200 messengers in 100 countries and regions around the world. Many more will hear about it through the Ringlet programme and the families programme. The climax will be the Spirit of Peace Dinner at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast

The Spirit of Peace Dinner.

This will be an event with 80 people present. Yes there will be some VIP’s, but mainly and in keeping with our policy, most of those invited will be the ordinary folk. During the meal, we will be showing film of the early people in the Ring passing on the message, filmed by Smartphone and sent to Peter Ferris for editing during the day. We shall be having a talk on the Magic of the Ring, and most excitingly, we will be waiting for the final message to come to us from our final messenger-this will be broadcast to all at the dinner and should be a very moving moment. At the dinner, we then plan to send the message by phone to the UN for onwards transmission as the message of peace from the people of the world to the leaders of the world.

The Ringlet programme

Some of you are taking part in the Ringlet programme. Quite simply, anyone taking part in the Ring can organise their own ring to pass on their own local message. So we have the astonishing programme being run by Campbell College in Belfast, where 126 former pupils are each representing one of the 126 pupils who fell in World War 1, and are passing around a message of tribute to them, submitted by one of the present pupils. Also Violeta Tsonga in Bulgaria has linked up schools in three cities and their Ring is to pay tribute to local World War 1 hero George Milov, Nubaru Pekol is organising a Ring with schools in Turkey, these are just three examples of the rapidly expanding Ringlet programme. If anyone wants to form a Ringlet, just go ahead and let us know. However, as always, our prime need is for you to pass on the message-anything else you do is entirely your choice.

The Family Ringlet

This is a new sector, suggested by an enthusiastic supporter of the Ring programme. His Grandfather fought in World War 1 and there is now a large family of descendants around the world, many of whom know little about the rest of the family. So, they are compiling a directory of all the family around the world and on the Day of the Ring, they are going to pass a tribute to their Grandfather, Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather, around the whole family. It will be the first time many of them have spoken to each other and the main family directory will be made available to all of them. If it works, they plan to do this every year. What a wonderful idea! This is part of the magic of the Ring.

Last lap
I was fully expecting to see there was still a need for people in Africa to join the link so was overjoyed to see this was not the case when I read the last paragraph:

We have the numbers to complete the ring, but some major countries are still missing. Maybe you can help. In Europe, I would like someone in Spain, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Estonia, in Eastern Europe any of the so called “stan” countries, in Asia Pacific Japan is still missing, as is mainland China, we do have Hong Kong. In Latin America we need Peru, Panama, Brazil and Mexico-and if you have any friends in the more obscure countries, do let me know, or you can approach them yourselves and if they agree, pass on their e-mails.

I’m happy to pass on any messages to Robin if you add them to this blog, otherwise you can do so through the website.