Journey to hospital – Delights of Cape Town – Return to Durban – Embarkation for Kilwa – The enemy falls back – Fever strikes – Leaving German East Africa
January 23rd. 1917
am rather worse if anything. Last night the MO came down to see me, after which he had an interview with the OC. Later, the OC came to my banda and told me that the doctor had decided to send me to the base, with a recommendation that I be sent out of the country. I was suffering from several complaints brought about by continual attacks of fever, and until I was in a better climate, it was impossible to do me any good.
This morning the OC brought his Ford car to take me back to the first hospital. He was extremely kind, and told me that if I was well enough to come back to the country, I had to wire him and he would immediately have me back to the battery. The praise he gave me was very flattering, but still I was very pleased to think that he spoke to me like it because usually he was very sparing with praise.
I arrived at the hospital during the afternoon, but what the name of the place was I don’t know.
January 24th. 1917
I arrived at Baku Baku after dark. There is no hospital here, so I have to lie down on the ground. I have been unable to eat anything for some time, but a sergeant of the South African ASC gave me a big tot of rum, and this kept a bit of life in me.
January 25th. 1917
I arrive at the old place, the Ruvu River.
January 26th. 1917
Reach Makessa, the rail-head, after four days travelling in light cars. We have an English sister here, the first Englishwoman I have seen since last June.
I have seen a GRO informing all troops that General Smuts is going to England, and that he hands over all troops to the charge of General Hoskins.
See endnote 1.
January 27th. 1917
I reach Morogoro by rail and I am taken to the Kaiseroff Hotel, which has been made into a hospital. I am now taking a little milk and bread. By the way, this is the first bread (baked by bakers) that I have tasted since the 17th. June last. I thought it was a great delicacy.
February 4th. 1917
After 14 hours in the train I arrive at Dar-es-Salaam. I am placed in a building on the sea front that had been a fine hotel.
February 6th. 1917
I was examined by the MO yesterday. He at once put me on a draft for the south. I see he filled my sheet stating that I was suffering from a weak heart and anaemia, caused through intermittent malaria.
Today I am sent aboard the hospital ship Delta. We leave Dar-es-Salaam. The German ship Konig is stranded on the beach near the mouth of the harbour, a battered wreck. The Germans intended to sink this boat across the harbour entrance, but our cruisers found her a splendid target with the result that she is now a heap of scrap iron.
We called at Zanzibar for water, then continued our voyage down south.
February 12th. 1917
We arrive at Durban to put ashore a number of South African patients, after which we at once put to sea again.
We are having a real good time on this boat. I am now eating well, and the food is very tempting after what we have been having. At breakfast, I have fish or an egg during the morning, fruit and a bottle of mineral water. For dinner I have chicken and milk pudding and at tea I have fish or an egg, (the opposite from what I had at breakfast), bread and butter and tea.
I am feeling much better and able to get about on deck, but I am so very weak. The least exertion seems to beat me altogether, but I expect I shall soon be fit again.
February 15th. 1917
We arrive at Cape Town and entrain for Wynberg Hospital. Wynberg is a suburb of Cape Town, about eight miles from the docks. Ladies meet us at the station with tea, biscuits and cigarettes. We are then put into motors and taken a short distance to the hospital.
March 15th. 1917
A month has passed and I am still in hospital here. I have been at the MO several times about getting back to duty, but he won’t send me for a ‘board’. Anyhow, I am feeling a lot better than I was, but if I do any hill climbing I am soon out of breath.
I have had a rare good time here since I have been able to get out. After the MO’s visit, (he comes round the ward every morning), we can spend the rest of the day as we please. Three days a week, we can travel into Cape Town by rail without charge and the city is very interesting. One can pay a visit to the Railway and Harbour Institute where a good feed may be had. When the bill is brought, you only pay half of it as the local Red Cross pays the other half. Of course this only applies to men in hospital blues. Also, one may go to the Feather Market where a very good tea is provided free every afternoon. I have never cared to go there but I expect there is plenty of everything to eat.
There is a beautiful pier also, which is free to our chaps, where one may sit in a chair and listen to an orchestra playing two or three times a week. Then there is the Government Building, a fine museum, an art gallery or the Botanic Gardens, where almost every tropical or semi-tropical plant or tree grows.
If one cares for a ride, one can board an electric car in Adderley Street and go to Camps Bay for a shilling. The route takes you over a shoulder of Table Mountain, where one gets a view which has the reputation of being one of the finest views in the world, and it certainly is wonderful.
There are several rest rooms scattered about the city where one may sit and read or write. Fruit is very plentiful here, grapes in particular. One may buy a pound of beautiful black grapes for one and a half pence or yellow grapes for one penny. There is a theatre and a music hall which hold a matinee every week. They send invitations to the hospital and I am generally lucky enough to get one. So long as we report back to the hospital by 8.00pm. we are OK. Occasionally, gentlemen will drive up to the hospital in cars and ask permission to take a few patients for a drive. Away you go for a long drive through the beautiful country. You are given a good tea and then brought back to the hospital.
Last Sunday morning a lady came into the hospital and wanted four patients, but they must be ‘Imperials’. I was one of the fortunate four. She lived at Kalk’s Bay, eight or ten miles away. We all walked down to the station where the lady bought return tickets for us. When we reached her house, we had a cup of tea and cake. She then took us for a stroll on the beach, where we met her husband. Then we all went back for a splendid lunch. The husband suggested a trip to Muizenberg, another sea-side resort about a quarter of an hour’s train ride away. We all went together. This place is famous for its surf bathing, and I was very interested in watching the cleverness of the bathers. They swim well out with a plank. Then they mount the plank and come back on the top of a ‘roller’, which lands them high on the beach.
We arrived back at Kalk’s Bay about 5.00pm. We then had a glorious dinner, after which this good lady gave each of us a great bag full of fruit and cakes to take back to the hospital with us, where we arrive back at about 8.00pm.
What can one say about such generous people as these? I was quite unable to thank them as I ought to have done, but I shall always remember that day as one of the brightest I have ever spent.
This lady told me how she longed to see ‘home’ again. She was a Nottingham lady and her husband hailed from Glasgow. They had been in South Africa for about 20 years. May they be as happy and prosperous as they deserve.
April 11th. 1917
Three weeks ago I was before a medical board, but they turned me down for further treatment. For what reason, I don’t know, because I felt quite all right, and told them so. I have been at the MO several times since, with the result that today I have to report to Simon’s Town for garrison duty.
Last week, about 500 patients from the Wynburg and Maitlands Hospitals were the guests of the Cape Town railwaymen. There were special trains to take us to Fish Hoek, a seaside resort near here. When we arrived there we were at liberty to wander where we liked. There were stalls on the beach with refreshments for us. After spending an enjoyable time there, we were again entertained, and taken to Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, where we were met by a brass band and marched through cheering crowds to a large hall which belonged to the railwaymen. We had a splendid dinner, followed by an enjoyable smoking concert. We had the pleasure of listening to a short address by Mr. Burton, one of the leading members of the South African Government and Minister for Railways. I am given to understand that this gentleman is a Boer (although the name doesn’t give that impression) but I have never heard a more patriotic speech yet. He roused us all to the highest enthusiasm. I was sorry when he had to leave us to attend to his duties in the ‘House’.
This outing and dinner were provided, managed, cooked and served by the railwaymen and their wives and once more showed the kindness and generosity of the people out here.
This afternoon I reach Simon’s Town and am quartered in the Palace Barracks.
April 13th. 1917
Yesterday I was before a Medical Board and I was put on light duty to recuperate.
April 20th. 1917
I have certainly struck a cushy job here. One day last week, there was a court martial. The sergeant major of the barracks was in difficulties about a sergeant to act as Court Orderly. He asked me if I could undertake the job. Having had a little experience at Woolwich, I take it on. Apparently everything went smoothly, so I was struck off other duties and now I am Court Orderly for courts martial, courts of enquiry, etc. Some job!
April 30th. 1917
My good job continues, but I am rather restless. I am feeling well so I would like to get back to my battery again if possible. The rainy season is now on in East Africa and it is reported in the press that when the rains cease, General van Deventer is going back again to take over from General Hoskins. I am rather sorry for Hoskins because he has had no real chance. Shortly after taking over from Smuts, the rains started. The troops he had were more or less worn out with the fever and disease. All this has prevented him from organising any move of importance. Now when the rains cease, van Deventer goes to take charge, just when Hoskins may have had his first real chance. I think that it must be a political move. I am not saying a word against the Boer general, because he has done some fine work in East Africa. Still, I think the whole job is a bit of toffee for the South African Boer to suck on.
If I stay here much longer I think I shall know the Cape of Good Hope as well as any native. I have been able to draw a little money since I have been in Simon’s Town, so very often I have a tour in the surrounding district. I have paid a visit to Groote Schuur, one of the residences of the late Cecil Rhodes. It is a great rambling house, beautifully situated on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. It is a gift to the colony from Rhodes, on the condition that it is used as the official residence of the Prime Minister. It is at present occupied by General Botha. In the grounds is a fine zoo where all the birds and animals are kept as near to their natural condition as possible. This was also a gift to the colony. Higher up the mountain stands the Rhodes Memorial. This is a magnificent structure of white marble and can be seen from miles away.
The scenery of this part of South Africa is wonderfully pretty. Every turn of the road gives one a more striking picture than the last. The air is so clear that one can distinctly see a town nestling on the shore of the bay 18 or 20 miles away. There is a remarkable tree that grows here in such numbers that it is very common. It is named the Silver Leaf Tree. As its name indicates, the leaves are the colour of silver and shine so in the sun that one could be excused for thinking that they were polished every morning. But more remarkable still, the settlers say that these leaves will last for years without dying or fading. I am sending some home to see if their words are correct. I am also told that the tree has been taken to various parts of the world to be cultivated, but without success. Yet it grows here wild!
May 7th. 1917
I hear that there is a medical board next week. If so, I expect that I shall go back east. I don’t mind that at all. I would sooner be back with my old ‘boys’ than anywhere else.
May 14th. 1917
At last I am declared fit and well, and tonight I leave Simon’s Town for Durban by rail. We had a few kind souls to see us off. I am in charge of 49 details consisting of RGA, RAMC, ASC Mechanical transport, ASC Supplies, RE and AOC. We are supplied with three days rations of bully beef, biscuits, milk, sugar, tea and butter. All the crowd are in good spirits. They could not be merrier if the war was over, and we were going home again. We left Adderley Street Station, Cape Town, at 8.30pm.
May 17th. 1917
We arrive at Durban at 8 o’clock tonight, after being in the train for three days and three nights. I found the ride very interesting as we passed through a lot of towns which were very prominent during the Boer War. We had several breaks for an hour or so at some of these, which just gave us time for a glimpse, before we travelled further on. Perhaps the most notable of these were De Aar, the Orange River, Bloemfontein, Harrismith, then over the Drakenburg Mountains into Ladysmith (we had three and a half hours there), Tugela River, Colonso, Pietermaritzburg and then into Durban. A great number of the stations had the altitude in feet of that particular station on the name boards and I found that at several of the places, we were over 5,000 feet above sea level.
When I called the roll at Durban, I was highly satisfied to find that all were present. Some of he chaps had drunk well, if not wisely, during our stoppages, but I was more than pleased that I had an ‘All Correct’ report to give in.
A Sergeant Major from the camp was at the station to meet us, and he marched us down to the Ocean Beach camp. After I had got all detailed off to their tents, we had a good supper provided by the YMCA people in their hut.
May 20th. 1917
I am down with the fever this morning. This is the first relapse I have had since I left East Africa, so apparently it is still in my system. I don’t report sick, but grease around the hospital orderly for some quinine.
May 25th. 1917
I am quite all right again. We are to stop here until we get a transport to take us further up. There are a great number of troops here at present. The greater part of them are bound for India and like us, are awaiting ships.
We have our old friends, the 25th. Fusiliers here, who have been down south for three months, recuperating.
I wonder how my poor old battery is getting on? They have had to stick it right through, or at least, what there is left of them. There is another big camp on the other side of the town, at a place called Congella. This camp is for South African troops only.
As there are only two or three battalions of Boer troops (infantry) there, we don’t bother them much. We are not hard worked. We have guards, fatigues, etc. and what are left have a bathing parade and an hour’s route march each day. The rest of the time is our own, so we are seeing a good deal of Durban.
We are living very well. Our rations are both good and plentiful. I spend a few hours in the town every day. There are plenty of places of interest: parks, art gallery, zoological gardens and botanical gardens that I have already paid a flying visit to, but I intend to see more of them if I am able. I was taken up with the town in the short time I was here before, but the more I see of it, the more I like it.
June 1st. 1917
I am still waiting, but the time does not hang on my hands. Only one thing worries me: I have had no news from home since the 14th. of last February. Our home is one which is continually suffering from German air raids, and I can only think and wonder, wonder, wonder! Perhaps I may hear when I rejoin my battery.
June 9th. 1917
We have embarked on HMT Ingoma. As usual with these ships, it is crowded to excess. We expect to sail tomorrow.
June 10th. 1917
Again we bid goodbye to Durban and civilisation. I wonder for how long.
1. See the Commendation for the Mention in Despatches.