P o s t s c r i p t
I have often been asked which of the two campaigns that I have been in was the more difficult. I have always replied that it was the East Africa one. This answer seems to surprise everyone who was not in East Africa for any length of time. I think two years in the field in East Africa was about the limit of a soldier’s endurance. The shortage and poorness of the rations, the scarcity of water, the long daily treks in terrible heat told its inevitable tale.
Malarial, Blackwater, enteric fevers and dysentery were rampant, to say nothing about such things as Veldt sores which covered men from head to foot with sores that almost made him frantic. Just imagine marching 20 or 24 miles in a temperature of 120 degrees in the shade, if you could find any. Before you started, your water bottle was filled and if you did not strike water that night, you had no more until the next morning. Thirst is a terrible thing and it is under these conditions that one finds this out. In France, you could always quench your thirst within an hour or so.
Also, I sincerely believe that all the flying and crawling insects in the world make East Africa their playground. They worry you by day and devour you by night. But perhaps the worst thing of all was the scarcity of news from home. The Field Post Office was in the hands of Indian staff. Whether they were careless and did not trouble to send the mail down the line, I do not know. I do know that a great number of my letters went astray. If one received a letter within three months of it being posted, one could count oneself extremely fortunate. I was once about 10 months without news from home, although my wife and daughter were writing every week. This is very trying when one knows that one’s family lives in an area that is constantly being raided by German aircraft. In France, we usually received letters seven or eight days after posting.
I freely admit that there was much more metal flying about in France and that there was a lot of gas, which was unknown in East Africa, but then one had good food and a decent supply of it. The climate was more congenial to our natures. One had spells off duty when things were a bit cushy. In France, one was troubled by only one kind of insect, not dozens of different species. And again, France was a civilised country, and East Africa, away from the larger towns was not. I would sooner hear a big shell travelling along like an express train, than hear a lion roar a few yards away. I have heard both very often, but a shell never made my flesh run up my spine until it turned my hair into pin wire.
If the same terrible time was to come again, and I had my choice, I should choose the civilised country.
But let us trust that these times will never return.
The whole affair is in the hands of the politicians,
so let them make it impossible for a nation
to run amok through the world again.
J. D. FEWSTER