The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 7 No 6 - December 1988

A Machine Gunner's Odyssey Through German East Africa: The Diary of E S Thompson, Part 3
18 September 1916 - 26 February 1917

by Col E S Thompson, ED

This is the final part of Col E S Thompson's diary. In the three issues of the Military History Journal preceding this there were related the circumstances in which Thompson joined the 7th South African Infantry Regiment; his training, arrival in German East Africa; his participation in the battles for Salaita hill and the Latema-Reata hills; the prodigious marches to Aruscha and thence to Kondoa Irangi. From Kondoa Irangi the Regiment marched to Dodoma where it formed part of the occupying force which was intended to deny 160 km of the Central Railway to the enemy. Thompson's unit left Dodoma on 11 September 1916 making for Morogoro also on the Central Railway line. In just over a week they had covered 175 km. During the march the remains of numerous transport animals were observed, victims of disease no less than were the troops. A feature of the German East Africa campaign which is made evident by this diary is that the infantry were tested to the utmost in the pursuit of an elusive enemy. Even when ill the men were expected to cover long distances on the march, and they were always hungry. The acquisition of rations became a preoccupation.


18 September (Monday)
... Saddled up and moved off at 2.30 a.m. [02h30]. Marched along a deep valley and the scenery must have been fine. Coconut palms all over the place and other palms on the river bank. Marched another 4 hours and at daybreak came into a clear space and camped. ... Went to sleep from 8 [08h00] to 12 [12h00]. ... Tested some kaffir beer. Has a sour but not too pleasant taste. Crossed railway on road twice. ... Total of trek 109 miles [175 km].

19 September (Tuesday)
... Complimented in orders on our march of 114 miles [183 km] in 7 days. Moved camp at 9 [09h00] across the railway line. Saw one of our mules running round in fits and in great agony. Much fed up with the Colonel as he made us build huts and not go under the trees nearby. He and all his 'gobers' immediately went under a big tree. We cursed and swore at him for a long time but eventually built a hut for seven.

20 September (Wednesday)
Reveille and roll call.... Cleaned Smikky's gun then drew and cut up the meat with Waggles. Mail brought a Sunday Times. John and Cornelius went out shooting and the latter got 2 wild pigs. ... Brought our saddle across the line to the packs.... Packed our valises. Finished cooking the pig chops. Packed up everything then went to bed and slept fairly well. Hot night again and rather windy. Began raining.

21 September (Thursday)
Reveille 3.30[03h30].... Saddled up while some cartridges were banging away 10 yards [9 m] off in a blazing hut. Moved off at 4.30 [04h30]. Sky overcast yet the perspiration poured off us. Marched 10 miles [16 km] through Kilossa. Very swampy ground and smelt of fever. Kilossa a bit bigger than Dodoma as far as the native village goes. There is also a very old fort here. Marched about 1,5 miles [2 km] along the Morogoro Road, east of Kilossa. Camped among some tall weeds. ... Began to rain and lasted for about 4 hours. Sat under a blanket feeling quite miserable ... when the rain stopped built a little bivouac and started a fire under it. ... All 7 slept in the little 'bivvy' and managed to sleep well in spite of the wet. Heard the English had Zeppelins and armoured motor cars' on caterpillar wheels. Also that Tabora had fallen after 10 days scrapping. [Tabora was on the Central Railway, west of Dodoma].

22 September (Friday)
... Colonel told some of the men that this trek to Morogoro would be our last. ... Packed up. Rose and Stirling brought back tomatoes, bananas, pawpaws and sugar cane, also beans. Moved off at 4 [16h00] and marched for 2,5 hours doing 6 miles [10 km]. Clare, from the VIth [6th SAI] maxims joined Smikky's and we asked him into our mess for the time that he is with us. Quite pleasant marching as there was no dust. Passed through large rubber plantations. Camped at 6.30 [18h30] and made some coffee and banana sandwiches.... Started raining so Bibby and I got under one blanket. No kits as the transport stopped along the road. Started raining hard and got uncomfortably wet. The men started shouting so that the officers couldn't sleep, but when it started to rain again they soon shut up. Slept off and on.

23 September (Saturday)
Woke up at daylight quite wet and miserable. Managed to get a fire going and cooked some mealie-meal. ... Dried our waterproofs and blankets. Cleared up later. ... Got orders to move at 2 [14h00] so cooked the bread at once and then started packing up. ... Drew double rations then left at 2 [14h00] but only went 3 miles [4,8 km] then camped in a nice spot. Collected some fire-wood and got our stew going again. The others built 'bivvys' but Bibby and I put some straw on the ground, our overcoats over, then 2 blankets and our waterproofs. ... Built a big fire then when it began to rain turned in. Awfully hot for the first hour and we sweated like anything. When it stopped raining we stuck our heads out into the fresh air and ultimately went to sleep.

24 September (Sunday)
Reveille 4.30 [04h30]. Packed up. Took valises to the wagons.... Moved at 6 [06h00] and marched 2 hours with a long halt as the transport got stuck behind. Roads in a shocking condition. After an hour's halt camped. ... Saw a good many elephant spoor. Transport came in at 2.30 [14h30] and we got our overcoats off. Had some tea then left at 3 [15h00]. Marched 5 miles [8 km] with a 45 minute halt. Very tiring carrying our overcoats. Camped in rather a boggy place.

25 September (Monday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Moved off at 5 [05h00] doing 7 miles [11 km] and camping near a river. ... Heard they are having quarter rations at Morogoro. ... Rained a bit. ... Kits examined. Had to take out my straps, camera and coins. Mr Parsons 'bombed' my magazine which I was going to lend to Clifford Jones. Moved off at 4 [16h00] marching 3 miles [5 km]. Camped in a good spot. Killed 2 bright green snakes. Built a bivouac. ...

26 September (Tuesday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. Packed up. ... Moved at 5 [05h00], myself catching up later. Marched 3 hours doing 8 miles [13 km]. Very tiresome marching with the overcoats. ... Went out after some guinea fowl but the bush was a veritable jungle with very high dry grass which cut my knees somewhat. Moved off at 4 [16h00] after having some soup. Marched 5 miles [8 km]. ... Water rather scarce but managed to get enough for our dinner. Sky cleared up but it rained during the night slightly and I slept right through it.

27 September (Wednesday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Saddled up. Escort to our kit wagon. After going a couple of miles [km] with the wagon, slipped off and marched the other 3 [5 km] to the Regiment who had camped at the Morogoro site of the Ngeringere River.... Heard rations very bad in Morogoro and that it will take 6 months to repair a bridge between the port and here. Passed a nice house on the road, which was nearly demolished for firewood. Cornelius shot a buck and gave us the neck.... Got orders that everybody was to wash. ... Packed up and started for Morogoro at 3 [15h00]. Marched for half an hour then waited for the transport to catch us up. Position [is that there are a] good many mounted detail on the road. Streets lined with natives. Much amused at some swankily-dressed natives. Marched straight through town, through rubber plantations and camped 3 miles [5 km] from Morogoro in a rubber plantation. The Colonel wasn't half cursed. ... Went with Dick to get the valises and had a gay time getting back to camp, what with dongas and thorn trees in the way.

28 September (Thursday)
Slept late for once. ... Built a hut which took us all the morning. ... Thatched the hut in the afternoon.


29 September (Friday)
Reveille 6.45 [06h45]. Roll call and breakfast. Names of those who wanted boots and clothes taken but informed that we very likely won't get them. Rifle inspection at 9 [09h00]. Dick, Bibby and I got passes and walked to town. Met Duma Hamisi coming in. ... Walked round town a bit then ... went out to the 3rd Divisional Supply Depot. ... Came on to rain so sat in a motor car and read. Heard how well the 5th and 6th [SAl] had done at Handeni and elsewhere. Driven back to town in a Ford motor. ... Rained slightly during the night.

30 September (Saturday) and 1 October (Sunday)
[Camp routine]

2 October (Monday)
Reveille as usual. ... Bibby and I went out foraging. Walked 4 miles [6 km] along the road then got a good many tomatoes for 6 hellers. Went across some old mealie fields then up the foothills of the mountain to some native huts. There was a big beer drink on and we were asked to have some but refused. After climbing another steep hill we sent the boys on to get some potatoes and had a good bath. Returned to the kraal and were offered unger and green bananas but we refused again. Waited till after 3 [15h00] for the boys but they never came so we returned and on our way got the tomatoes and 12 eggs for a rupee. Arrived hungry at camp to find only a small stew for dinner but had some mealies. George had too much 'pompi' and knocked Kitu out. Slept well.

3 October (Tuesday)
... Rifle inspection.... Got orders moving back 50 miles [80 km] to Kilossa.


4 October (Wednesday)
Had pains in the stomach during the night and did not sleep too well. ... Got an attack of diarrhoea. Boots and kits inspected. Tidied up my valise. ... Packed up valises and took them to the wagons. ... Saddled up and said good-bye. Started at 4 [16h00] marched past the town and across the river doing 6 miles [10 km]. ... Rations issued.

5 October (Thursday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Moved off at 5 [05h00] marched 8 miles [13 km]. Not feeling too well. Got an attack of diarrhoea. ... Sultry morning. ... Marched again at 3 [l5h00] doing 6 miles [10 km]. Halted 2 hours for tea. Marched another hour and 20 minutes. Total for the day 19 miles [30 km]. Had coffee then to bed. Slept well.

6 October (Friday)
Got up at 8 [08h00]. ... Had a shave then bath in the river. Rinsed my shirt. ... Packed up and read. Transport left at 3 [15h00]. We at 4 [16h00]. 81st Pioneers repairing bridge. Marched 3 half-hours then 50 minutes and 40 minutes, doing about 8 miles [13 km]. Rained slightly. Further on it had rained pretty hard and the roads were awful for marching. Caught up the transport and camped for the night. Artillery boo-ed the Colonel. ... Everything fearfully muddy and damp. Slept well in spite of discomfort.

7 October (Saturday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Moved off at 5.30 [05h30]. Marched 9 miles [14 km] to the light railway. Roads still very slippery and muddy but were dry and hard further on. General Smuts and staff passed in his motor car looking very neat, with his red staff collar bands. He saluted as he passed us. ... Talked to some natives about the Germans then had some tea and saddled up at 4.30 [16h30]. Transport got stuck in a drift so we had to wait for an hour. ... At 6 o'clock [18h00] marched 0,5 mile [800 m] then waited another 15 minutes. Arrived in camp after doing 6 miles [10 km]. ...

8 October (Sunday)
Reveille 4.30 [04h30]. ... Marched at 6 [06h00]. Marched 5 miles [8 km] then halted for an hour to allow the transport catch up. Marched through Kilossa across the river then south of the town and camped in an open patch on the side of a hill. Last stretch 1 hour 20 minutes. Men began to fall out and the Colonel wasn't half cursed. ... Rained slightly in the afternoon but bivvy kept me dry. ... New pair of 8 X 4 boots.

9 October (Monday)
Got up early and went out shooting with John and Paddy. Cornelius joined us later. Got into some 5 ft [1,5 m] grass and got soaked through with water. Later on divided up. Sheltered under a tree while it rained. Shot at some guinea fowl but missed. Later was walking along when I saw a whopping warthog running along with tail erect and tusks gleaming. I shot and hit him in the shoulder. He jumped in the air then started careering around and came straight for me. I held my ground then shot him dead. He ran aside and soon toppled over. Paddy and John came up and I returned to camp leaving them to cut it up. Took back 5 boys and brought it in. Great excitement prevailed. Cut it up and shared it out. ... Moved my bivvy back and removed the bone from my tusk. Cut my old boots down into shoes. Bobby Reunert came to see his brothers and told him he was joining the air service and that the 9th [SAI] were only 200 strong.

10 October (Tuesday)
Got up at 6.... Rifle inspection. Had an argument with Mr Stent as to whether I pulled my rifle through or not. Mail came. ... Wrote all the afternoon. ...

11 October (Wednesday)
Got up to roll call at 7 [07h00]. Got another attack of diarrhoea. Usual breakfast. Cleaned my rifle thoroughly before rifle inspection; no argument today. Wrote. ... Shaved then dressed and went for a bath in the vlei with Bibby. Water rather muddy but felt cleaner and refreshed afterwards. Got orders to move south. ... Got ready as much as possible for the trek. Dick, George and some others of our section left behind. Drew rations and slept well. Chilly wind.

12 October (Thursday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Moved off at 5 [05h00] marching 3 hours doing 7 miles [11 km]. Camped and made some doughboys. Feet a bit sore from the new boots so took the hobnails out. Read. ... Left at 4 [16h00] camped again at 6 [18h00]. ... Marched to Uleia.(2) Total distance for the day 18 miles [29 km]. ... Mosquitos rather a nuisance.

13 October (Friday)
Woke up at 8 [08h00]. ... Packed our kits in twos. Porters to carry them instead of transport. Two mountain battery guns leaving with us. ... Ralph brought some Sketches and Tatlers.(3) Had a swim.

14 October (Saturday)
Reveille 3.30 [03h30]. ... Moved off at 5 [05h00]. Marched 3 hours, doing 7 miles [11 km]. Road being made by pioneers. Dense jungle and marshy country. Crossed river twice.... Colonel paraded NCOs and told them to tell us that General Smuts had told him he was sorry he had to send us back to Kilossa that the morale of the Germans was bad.(4) He further said that he was proud of us and had got all our names. Those left at Morogoro were going back to the Union. Marched 5 miles [8 km] camping in a hollow in very high grass. Much difficulty in off-saddling. Managed to light a feeble fire and cook some coffee. Smikky not too well. Applied a compress to his side. Slept like a log.

15 October (Sunday)
Moved off at 6 [06h00]. No coffee. Marched 3 hours doing 7 miles [11 km]. Found puff-adder under Smikky and killed it. Grass fires all round. Moved at 4 [16h00], we in the advance guard doing 5 miles [8 km]. Camped in a village. Got our position after moving all over the place. Reported Germans here 3 days ago. Captured quantity of mealies. Total 12 miles [19 km].

16 October (Monday)
Reveille 4.30 [04h30]. Moved 5.30 [05h30]. Went up the nek. Very heavy climbing for about 3 miles [5 km]. Camped on top. ... Marched 5 miles [8 km] from 11 [11h00] to 1 [13h00]. Extremely hot through deserty country. Camped for the day beside a fine river. ... Total 8 miles [13 km].

17 October (Tuesday)
Reveille 4 [04h00]. Moved 5.15 [05h15] doing 6 miles [10 km]. Camped at river and got some unger and beans. Moved again at 3 [15h00]. Doing 7 miles [11 km] to the Ruaha River where SAH [South African Horse] are camped. ... Total of trek from Kilossa 65 miles [105 km].

18 October (Wednesday)
Taken to one position then moved to another. In afternoon had shave, fine bath and washed my clothes. ... Lions uncomfortably close.

19 October (Thursday)
... Heard 2 companies [of] Germans 15 miles [24 km] off. We may move at any moment. No rations. Filled barrel with water and overhauled wallet. ... Quarter rations issued. ... Orders: reveille 4.30 [04h30], move at 6 [06h00] tomorrow.

20 October (Friday)
... Marched 3 miles [4,8 km] to the next river and had to wade through up to the neck. On outpost. Germans 7 miles [11 km] from here. Feeling faint and a bit sick but flour porridge and tea bucked us up. Read for a while and then had to wade back across the river. Bacon, jam, tobacco, flour, baking powder, etc. issued. Marched again at 4 [16h00] doing 8 miles [13 km] total 19 miles [30 km].

21 October (Saturday)
Reveille 2 [02h00]. Marched 5 miles [8 km] to Little Mahingi. Native killed by crocodile here yesterday. 2 SA [Mounted] Rifle signallers stationed here. ... Moved again at 7 [07h00] doing another 5 miles [8km].... Moved 2 miles [3 km] up mountain pass. Very pretty but stoney and rough. Total for day 12 miles [19 km]. Colonel told sick men got to do 30 miles [48 km] in 3 days. Slight attack of gripe.

22 October (Sunday)
Reveille 2.30 [02h30]. Moved at 3.30 [03h30]. Went 4 miles [6 km] up the pass. Stopped for breakfast, on again at 8 [08h00] doing 9 miles [14 km]. Saw 2 of Northey's Motor Despatch Riders. Had to come on slowly, last 10 minutes feet so sore. Got on rearguard and started cooking. Grass started burning and nearly caught our saddlery. ... Moved at 5 [17h00] as we have to go into position tomorrow. 800 Germans coming down the road. Marched 8 miles [13 km], and lost my clasp knife. Chilly wind. ... Slept behind saddle and under overcoats. Total 21 miles [34 km]. Dog tired.

23 October (Monday)
Reveille 3 [03h00]. Moved at 4 [04h00] doing 9 miles [14 km]. Advance guard again. Camped and had breakfast but couldn't eat too much. Varicose vein and scald hurt somewhat on the march. Aired feet. Had a chat with an MDR [Motor Despatch Rider] from Iringa. Saw Lionel Cohen who later on took the Colonel and Adjutant to Iringa. Mr Dare wants to mount one of our machine guns to help capture 80 Germans 12 miles [19 km] from here. Thoroughly cleaned rifle. ...

24 October (Tuesday)
Moved at 9 [09h00]. 5 miles [8 km] to Iringa.(5) Got some oranges, lemons and onions also paw-paws. ... Nearly got attack of dysentery. Excellent rations issued. Butter, biscuits, double ration jam, dried fruit, cheese, sugar, coffee,soap, beef marrow fat. SA [Mounted] Rifles say they have only had one day of quarter rations. Big stew for dinner. Chilly night but slept well.

25 October (Wednesday)
Moved 6.30 [06h30] going through Iringa, across a river and doing 10 miles [16 km] when a motor despatch rider brought orders for us to go back so went another 3 miles [5 km] back. Totalling 13 miles [21 km] for the day. ... Padre told us we narrowly missed having a scrap. ... Slept on outpost.

26 October (Thursday)
Reveille 1.45 [01h45]. Moved 4.30 [04h30]. Germans supposed to be on a hill 7 miles [11 km] off. C Company and Nos 3 & 4 guns. Total strength about 60 men. Advanced slowly across to the hill but heard only one shot. Arrived at hill which Germans were supposed to be occupying but found nothing. Look-out saw a white flag flying so Major Thompson sent 10 men to investigate with Lieut Molyneux. One man reported 25 wounded Askaris and 4 white men. Slept on hill. Had to do 3 hours guard and had trouble with the Sergeant of C Company. Total 7 miles [11km].

27 October (Friday)
Relieved by SA [Mounted] Rifles and Major Page. Advanced to the next hill, myself acting as connecting link. Signallers couldn't get into communication with other hills. Went to see German hospital. Very dirty. Quantity of ammunition and bandoliers discarded. Saw several wounded. Marched back to headquarters camp with prisoners and porters. Crossed natural bridge and had to off-load packs. Arrived in camp at dark and heard 103 dead enemy found. Cooked food and got rations and blankets. Fairly cold. ... Total for day 8 miles [13 km].

28 October (Saturday)
Moved at 6 [06h00]. Marched back to main road and camped. Bathed in drift. Drew rations. Moved 12.30 [12h30] doing 9 miles [14 km] to the nek. Clifford Jones stung by bees. Got knife from porter Thomas.

29 October (Sunday)
Moved at 5 [05h00]. Bert Moon, Mary Hayes and No.1 Gun left to guard nek. Marched 9 miles [14 km] then camped. Relieved SAMR Machine Guns on advance guard. Marched to our position and guns put into donga. Major Thompson much excited. Total for day 17 miles [27 km].

30 October (Monday)
Stand to 4.30 [04h30]. Two shots fired at Askaris who wanted to surrender but did not put up their hands. Breakfast and got orders to move. Started out with D Company 30 strong. One of our guns fired and could be heard off and on all day. Halted 3 miles [5 km] on the road and No.2 gun went up the hill. Later we went on doing another 4 miles [6 km]. Issued rations and had lunch. Lovely bullock killed about 3 lbs [1,4 kg] each per man. Clifford Jones arrived with a number of porters and told us No.2 gun was in action and that our convoy had been attacked which passed us quite near when they were attacked. One young native shot through the thigh. Put our guns in position. Later on climbed the hill which was very steep. No sooner got to the top when a SAMR scout came and informed us that we were cut off from the main column and 500 Germans were coming up on the other side. Down again. A shot fired which gave us the jumps. Went a mile [1,6 km] into the bush and slept as best we could in spite of cold. Total for day 11 miles [18 km]. Very anxious and disappointing day.

31 October (Tuesday)
Reveille at 2 [02h00]. Moved at 3 [03h00] through the bush. Cold and dismal. 5 miles [8 km] to a hill going through swamps with very cold water. ... Rested. Moved at 2 [14h00]. Scouts reported Freeth surrounded and enemy machine guns pointing down on them. Camped in the nek for the night. Twenty of the 4th SAH also came up. Total for day 8 miles [13 km].

1 November (Wednesday)
Moved at 3 [03h00] doing 5 miles [8 km] to the vlei. Camped all day, had shave and bath.

2 November (Thursday)
Marched at 8.30 [08h30] to the nek doing 5 miles [8 km]. Very hot. Regiment arrived at 4 [16h00]. Had had a rough time but came through alright giving the Germans quite a rough time. Got an attack of fever. Had nice tot of brandy. Moved again at 7 [19h00]. Had to fall out as I felt too bad. Crossed the drift and was glad to get to sleep after coffee and quinine. Bob Jones wounded also Hofmeyer. Pintlebury left behind also with fever. Total 9 miles [14 km].

3 November (Friday)
Cows milk on my porridge. Lay under the shade all morning. Moved to Iringa at 2 [14h00] doing 7 miles [11 km]. Feeling a bit better. As the guns got separated we divided up the mess. Suffered a bit from earache during night.

4 November (Saturday)
After breakfast everybody reported sick and the Dr marked each 'unfit', my complaint being rheumatism. Moved our gun position. Asked by Major Thompson if we could go on in 7 days on good rations, said I hoped so. Feeling very dull and heavy. Sweet potatoes and 'bully mash' for lunch. Slept after it.

5 November (Sunday)
Feeling very crook and no appetite. Cleaned rifle. Cooked dinner in afternoon. Hot, sultry day. Very much fed-up with this campaign. Dinner of fowl and ox tail very tasty. Our post did guard but I was let off. ...

6 November (Monday)
Reported sick, put down as no duty with rheumatism. ... Fed up at having to do unnecessary guard. Aeroplane arrived. Natives very excited. Did guard.

7 November (Tuesday)
Did guard, much disgusted at it.

8 November (Wednesday)
Rose instructed new chaps at gun. ... Very pleased guard taken off. ... Drew rations. Rotten job.

9 November (Thursday)
... List taken of men at different actions during the campaign. I got all p's.(6) . .. Rotten headache so went to bed after washing up.

10 November (Friday)
Court of enquiry on Jock Young and Bob Thompson. Instructed new men on the gun. ... Spent a restless night.

11 November (Saturday)
... Startled by hearing guns going but they were blasting down a well. ...

12 November (Sunday)
... Hot sultry day. Heard 2 more machine guns coming soon. ...

13 November (Monday)
... Whole section crimed for using field dressings, cautioned and discharged. Victor and I went to town bought salt, spoon and envelopes. Rotten place. Mr Dare having lessons at our gun also Mr Roos and Clarke. ...

14 November (Tuesday), 15 November (Wednesday)
[Camp routine]

16 November (Thursday)
... Whole regiment paraded in drill order to hear sentence of Kenmuir who was court-martialled for sleeping while on guard at Mahangi Hills. Ten days imprisonment. Major Thompson then addressed us and told us he was proud of us having marched 235 miles [378 km] in 17 days; 72 miles [116km] in 74 hours that through 2 of the most difficult passes he had seen and unusual rations. After all that, 2 days hard scrapping. There had been very little grousing and few men had dropped out. ...

17 November (Friday)
... Paddy sick, Victor bad earache. ... Convoy came in, also 3 Reo motors. Rained and thundered in the afternoon. Bread much better to-day but a bit heavy. ...

18 November (Saturday)
... Cleaned and repaired spare parts. Looked very stormy. ... New men had an examination on the gun. ... Got details of the attack and convoy from Kirschner. Poor ration of diluted rum issued which made me sleep soundly.

19 November (Sunday)
Stand-to abolished much to our joy.

20 November (Monday)
Lovely morning. Orderly to Mr Parsons with only one message. ... Heard Northey had smashed up 2 companies of Askaris. SA Rifles marched south-west at 3 pm [15h00]. ... We had to take up an emplacement until some Indians come up. ... Restless night. Went on guard from 11.30 [23h30] to 12.45 [00h45].

21 November (Tuesday)
Told to make ourselves comfortable. Much fed up. Brought everything up from our old post and made breakfast. ... Made table and re-thatched bed and roof. Whilst preparing lunch Major Thompson came round and told us to go back to our old posts. Absolutely disgusted. Had lunch and moved back. 17th Punjabis relieved us. Glad to get back to our old house.... Very tough and uneatable meat for dinner. Talked to Daisy of his early days in the army. Slept like a log.

22 November (Wednesday)
... Got up and fixed firestones. ... Cooked brawn late into night. Had talk with Mr Parsons about 6 new guns and rations also mails. Saw Tim about my knife. Van de Venter [Van Deventer] arrived.

23 November (Thursday)
... No.1 on tactical handling. Went to town to get spoon for Tim but sold out. Baerends returned looking half starved. ... New pair of socks. Jock Stirling in "boob". Chopped up wood. Bed early with headache. Year since enlisted. Wrote mother. Indians left for Mahingi.

24 November (Friday)
Anniversary of arrival in Potchefstroom and Milton's [Thompson's brother] death. Drew meat. ... Made sour milk scones in afternoon. Rained slightly. Grass fire. Guard from 10 [22h00] to 12 [24h00].

25 November (Saturday)
... More Indians arrived. Mail arrived.

During the period 25 November to 17 December 1916, the diary had to be discontinued as there was no suitable writing paper.
The South African Rifles and the Rhodesian Regiments had gone away to their area to the south-west in the direction of Nyasaland, with their numerous male and female followers. Their soldiers looked very clean and neat in comparison with our ragged state. The inside of our helmets were green with mould, the result of the wet weather in earlier days and they were dented and battered because we used them as pillows, etc. Our only clothes were those in our valises and what we were wearing, viz. shirt and shorts with patches and holes because in many cases the cloth was rotten from our perspiration and so stitches would not hold. Some boots were coming apart at the seams. One of our platoon commanders in A company was Lt Desmond Davis, the headmaster of King Edward VII School in Johannesburg. He knew Bibby as an Old Edwardian and, seeing the condition of his clothes, gave him one of his spare shirts and shorts; so Bibby looked like an aristocrat among the machine gunners!

Our strength was now less than 100 but our duties were light as we had all been declared medically unfit for the time being. We were the garrison of Iringa and our camp was astride the road leading out of Iringa to the south-west. One night we were ordered to parade at about 10 p.m. [22h00], were marched to Iringa and placed as pickets at all the exits. We were there for about 4 hours and were informed, afterwards, that this had been necessary in order to catch an Arab trader in Iringa who was suspected of being an enemy agent. In his house they found photographs of him in parties of German officers. He was apprehended and very likely sent to an internment camp when opportunity offered.
The summer rains had arrived and, as we had no tents, we had some uncomfortable wet nights sleeping on the ground. When we knew that we would not be moving for some time we got our machine gun porters to build us some small grass huts, which gave us shelter from the sun and rain during the day, but there was no room for sleepers.

One day, about 30 young Africans approached us leading a small ox and, when about 50 feet [15 km] away, they proceeded to slaughter the unfortunate animal and immediately cut it up and distribute the portions among themselves. When it came to the entrails there was a real battle - a veritable tug of war - and those who did not get some threw sand on the portions of those who were more fortunate. All this took about 15 minutes and when they had gone the only signs left were the blood marks on the ground. Rather a revolting sight, but we were told that was common among those people.
On 8 December, we received some more machine guns, making the total 12 against our previous 8. This meant a section of two guns was attached to each rifle company and there were two sections in reserve to be used as necessary. I was promoted as No. 1 of a gun and a couple of new officers joined us and their training commenced.


18 December (Monday)
Received parcel containing carbolic soap, Sunlight soap, chocolate, tin of sugar. This notebook [in which this section of the diary is written], 25 envelopes and phospherine tablets but bottle was broken and none left. Received also Daily Mail about Douglas Waugh, 6 Sunday Times, August Railway magazine. ... In charge of guard on my post. Battalion parade. Rained hard.

19 December (Tuesday)
Battalion parade at 9 [09h00]. Much better than yesterday. Were going to attack kopje but rained. Reg. Serg. Major sheltered in our hut. Did first guard and heard we are moving to-morrow and will be away for about 15 days only. Slept well. Had bath in river and found a big blue tick between my little toe and its neighbour on left foot.

20 December (Wednesday)
... Cleaned my gun and went through spare parts and boxes. Drew 2 days' rations. ... Made slings for my gun. ... Packed valise. Got orders to move at 2 [14h00] but rain interrupted so move postponed till 4 [16h00]. Major Hazeldene and Captain Westbrooke arrived bringing comforts parcels and mails. Got 7 packets of Flags as comforts. ... Moved, ultimately going through Iringa. Sweated freely and kit felt very heavy. Marched 5 miles [8 km] then camped; on perimeter. ... Slept well but a bit chilly without a blanket.

21 December (Thursday)
Midsummer Day. Advance guard. Got orders to move at 6 [06h00] but cancelled as transport hadn't come in. Moved at 8 [08h00]marching 7 miles [11 km] to a nice river. Country very pretty and green. Sweat simply poured off and got badly chafed. Camped at 11.30 [11h30]. ... Moved at 2.15 [14h15] across river and camped for night. Came on to rain so put up a waterproof shelter and managed to keep dry. Dug a gun emplacement. KARs and 8th [SAI] arrived. ... Two days' rations drawn but men refused to carry them as our kits are heavy enough. Captain Tucker arranged to carry some of them. ...

22 December (Friday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. ... Moved at 8 [08h00], we rear Company marched 7 miles [11 km] then camped. Aeroplane flew overhead then returned. Advancing in 3 columns. We in the centre. During the first stretch heard firing on our right but not many shots. ... Moved at 2 [14h00] doing another 7 miles [11 km] negotiating some very steep hills. Country lovely and green. Arrived at Gum Trees where the 17th Punjabis are. Camped and had some very salty bacon for tea. Got an abominable thirst later. Got hold of somebody else's blanket by mistake. Rained during the night and everything got soaked but slept all the same. Total for day 14 miles [22 km].

23 December (Saturday)
Miserable damp and cold morning. ... Cleaned rifle and gun. Blanket claimed by owner. Ammunition belts put out to dry. Gave Paddy some 4 by 2.... Aeroplane flew overhead and returned. ... Could not find blanket so slept in my overcoat with my waterproof over me. Two shots fired at sunset. Rained slightly and very heavy dew. ...

24 December (Sunday)
Got up at 6 [06h00]. ... Cleaned rifle and gun. Stripped rear cross-piece, spare feed-block and spare lock, worried by Mr Parsons. ... Put my name in for a new blanket. Brigade staff went out on patrol. ... Found my blanket which was being used as a tent. Got orders to cover our hats with green leaves. Made a bivouac with my blanket. Situation explained to us. Germans 200 strong in nek 5 miles [8 km] away. Indians (17th Punjabis) attacking - we reserves. Columns operating from other directions. No.5 Section guns doing overhead covering fire. ... Threatening night so got to bed early. ...

25 December (Monday) (Christmas Day)
Woken by the Indians marching out at 2 [02h00]. Reveille 3 [03h00]. Packed up. ... Fell in at 5 [05h00]. Marched off. Roads very slippery. Gorgeous green country the same as around Maritzburg. Passed a German position with wooden pointed stakes all round. Got a lovely drink at stream. March 3,5 miles [6 km] then waited. Aeroplane flew overhead. General Berrange and staff passed and wished us a 'Merry Christmas, Lads'. Read for half an hour then moved on. 'A' Company headquarters guard. Stopped on road for rest of day and read. ... Went down to get water. Very steep path and fell down several times. Firing started at 9.10 [09h10] with machine guns, very little rifle fire. Two Indian casualties came in one shot through the chest and the other a flesh wound. Had a look at the German position which was formidable. Desultory firing continued throughout the day. At 5 [17h00] started to rain so dug a position and made a bivouac. ... Got some meal from Rose and Bibby. Rained hard during the night. A bit cold but kept fairly warm. What a Christmas Day! Headache all afternoon.

26 December (Tuesday)
Packed up. Firing started at 6 [06h00] but very little after that during the morning. Took 1,5 hours careful blowing to make a fire owing to wet wood. ... Half rations of boer meal, tea, sugar, salt and bacon. ... Not feeling too well. Headache, stiff neck, swollen groin and toe festering where I found tick. ... Made a bivvy and went to bed early as feeling rather crook. Aeroplanes passed overhead at 2 [14h00], dropping 2 messages the first one to the effect that Taylor's crowd were coming up in the rear about 3 miles [5 km] away. Rather heavy firing at 4[16h00]. Heard later Indians had taken 2nd ridge. 3 signalling stations observed during night. 2 Askaris came in and surrendered. One with full kit but no bolt in his rifle. They slept 5 yards [4,5 m] to the left of my gun. Stated they had had one meal in 6 days. Strength of enemy in nek estimated at 32 whites, 150 Askaris, 2 machine guns and a small field gun. We killed 5 on Monday and wounded 2.

27 December (Wednesday)
Slept late. Cold night ... Cleaned gun. Went up to see Bibby and told him the news. Saw Askari prisoners who had a new blanket each and double our quantity of rations, sent to Gum Trees. Feeling very crook again and think its a touch of fever. Groin swollen further. No firing this morning. Heard Germans evacuated and left behind field gun and hospital. Milk with rations. For lunch, tea and quinine tablets, then lay down and read till 4 [16h00]. Went to the Medicals and got 4 quinine tablets and my toe attended to. Billy Cooper took the head of the tick out of my toe and said the swelling in my groin was due to this. Jimmy Wishart told me Germans had gone off the road into the bush. ... To bed at 6 [18h00]. Bibby came to see me and told me Major Hazeldene had been chatting with them and told them the Germans had any amount of food and this lot were 400 not 200 strong. 350 Askaris 32 whites. Nothing left when the Indians arrived in their position. Our casualties 17 wounded, 1 died of wounds.

28 December (Thursday)
Got up at 6.15 [06h15]. ... Heard Germans 21 miles [34 km] away. If so our job is done as we had to surround them and drive them across the Lange River 15 miles [24 km] away, according to Captain Tucker. Paddy returned and told me the news. There had not been much scrapping. ... Got orders moving back to-morrow. It is rumoured to Mahanji Hills. Took 2 more quinines before bed.

29 December (Friday)
... Moved off 7.30 [07h30]. Had got 3 miles [5 km] when 3 despatch riders came up and gave the Colonel orders to return some men to a position where the Germans were surrounded. B Company, a platoon of D & 2 reserve guns as well as rugga-ruggas were sent. Tramped back to the foot of the German position and halted an hour. Climbed very steep hills to the German position. Halted for 2 hours here. ... The Germans had made quite a dainty Christmas tree with moss hanging on the branches. It looked a comfortable camp but a bit smelly. They had left behind some hand grenades like cricket balls and a good many signalling rockets. The place was very strongly fortified and its a wonder we didn't have more trouble pushing them out. At 4.30 [16h30] we moved on through the Indian camp having a look at a Rexer gun. Marched down some very steep hills and camped by a river. 3 days' half rations issued. ... Cleaned gun and filled casing. Moved at 8.30 [08h30] when it started to pour. Would have walked into the river if lightning had not shown me the bridge. ... Waterproof did not keep me very dry. Road frightfully slippery. Guns pitched all over the place. Marched about 2 miles [3 km] then halted for an hour and managed to doze a bit. Before this thunder and lightning very bad especially one stroke which made us all feel dazed and blinded.. Climbed another long steep hill then halted at 4 o'clock [04h00] and went to sleep with my waterproof over me. About the worst night I have spent in my life. Total for the day 15 miles [24 km].

30 December (Saturday)
Woke up at 6 [06h00] and found Major Hazeldene beside me looking at our aeroplane overhead through his glasses. Wire tapped and got orders to rejoin our regiment as the Germans had gone. All that trouble for nothing. ... Started at 9 [09h00]. ... Big Indian convoy passed us. Climbing back to German position very tiring job and we arrived back in dribs and drabs I felt absolutely beat when I arrived in camp; no fun doing this on such rotten rations. Made a mess tin full of flour porridge then some weak stew then tea. Felt a bit better later so put my overcoat on and laid my bed. Read some of my letters recently from home. ... Heard a native fell in the river last night and was killed and one of our men got pneumonia. Rained slightly during the night but slept well. Total for day 6 miles [10 km].

31 December (Sunday)
... Moved at 8 [08h00]. Passed Volunteer Machine Guns, mostly new recruits with new equipment. Climbed a very steep hill near our old position then halted for half an hour. ... Moved on again to where we left the Regiment. ... Rained heavily. Moved off again at 3 [15h00] marching till 5.30 [17h30]. Absolutely beat again and had to fall out, can't do it on the rations. Leg very stiff. ... Total for the day 15 miles [24 km].

January 1917
We, of B Company and two Reserve Machine Guns, are at present on our way back to Iringa from the Muhanga Mission, where we had rather a rough week on the whole, what with short rations and the weather. I am messing on my own, the others of the mess having returned, with the Regiment, to Iringa, a couple of days ago.

The following men comprise my gun team:

1 January (Monday)
Simply had to tear myself away from my one and only blanket this morning, to make a fire and cook breakfast, which consisted of very watery, saltless porridge, with a few stray weavils for flavouring purposes. At 8 o'clock [08h00] we 'fell-in' in Company order. Before marching off Major Hazeldene addressed us, thanking us for the way we had carried-on under very trying conditions. Grousing, he said, was conspicuous by its absence. He was wanting to return to Iringa by easy stages, but unfortunately there was a ration crisis. (It seems to me, there has been one for the last ten months.) Continuing, he wished us all a Happy New Year and home before the next. Our hopes were dashed to the ground on his informing us, there was no immediate prospect of returning to the Union, and it looked as though we would have to stick it out. However, we shall have to grin and bear it!
Our midday camp was at the river, 7 miles [11 km] further on. A humble lunch of unsweetened and milkless tea, with meat roasted on the fire, made me feel a bit more comfortable in the 'belt region'. We moved off again at 3 'o clock [15h00], but as my varicose-vein leg was stiff again, the same complaint as yesterday, it took some time for me to get into stride. After marching 6 miles [10 km] we camped at a suitable spot.
This camp has any amount of dry wood lying all over the place. Fires were soon blazing and I made some more thin porridge from some 'unger' which Syd Seale gave me. His brother had received quite a decent amount of it from his rugga-ruggas (the native scouts attached to our Regiment). ... Mileage for the day, 13 [21 km].

2 January (Tuesday)
Reveille at 5 [05h00]. ... Got on the move at 7 o'clock [07h00], marching 6 miles [10 km] to our new camp, situated on the outskirts of Iringa, on the Kilossa road, and conveniently near the river, for a change. As we passed the camp about 400 yards [365 m] away, with the river between, we noticed that the others of the Regiment had pitched tents for us. Having to cross the river by the bridge, we still had a mile and a half to do. ... Arrived in the camp feeling very tired and done in. It was only the fact of so many watching our arrival that made most of us stick to the last tedious stretch. ... Yesterday some D Company gun porters had gone out foraging and were lucky enough to have got some 'unger'. Was told I was looking very thin, and Bob Jones, D Company Gun Section Officer, said I looked as though I had gone through some torment! ... At 2 o'clock [14h00] the whole Regiment paraded for medical inspection. The doctor marked all of B Company, including myself 'unfit to move'. When examining me the doctor asked after my leg which was burnt by boiling fat at Kondoa Irangi, some six months ago. The medico has a good memory for some things, especially the taste of whisky! Most of the men of the other companies also marked 'unfit'. Humble porridge for tea again. To-day's rumour is that Smuts has captured prisoners and a howitzer after heavy fighting. Rather crowded in the tent, nevertheless slept like a log. Mileage for the day 6 [10 km].

3 January (Wednesday)
After breakfast cleaned my gun and rifle. Later, managed to induce Sergeant Johnnie Hall, of A Company Guns, to change his short-rifle bayonet for my long-rifle bayonet. He carries a revolver, so doesn't need one. Now I shall be able to participate in the 'fixed bayonet' parades. Went to the river to have a much needed shave and bath, and while there washed socks and handkerchiefs. After this felt a new man. ... Wrote a letter to mother in the afternoon, telling her of our very unpleasant Christmas operations. To bed early, and slept in the open.

4 January (Thursday)
Captain F C Selous, DSO, killed at Behobeho. ... Orders came out that we are to move at 2 o'clock [14h00] this afternoon. We hear we are to be divided up all along the road from here to Kilossa, on 'lines-of-communication' during the coming wet season. Very disappointing, but Captain Tucker says he will try to get the best place for B Company, so perhaps things won't be so bad. Sick parade for those who reckoned they were not fit to move on. Vic, Daisy Bell, Alf Lonsdale, George Cooper, Cyril Holliday and many others being left behind to do garrison work at Iringa. Bibby and I have decided to stick it. As our mess is being divided up somewhat, we had to divide the rations, an easy job, considering the quantity.
After lunch and good-byes moved off, and were just getting into our stride, when a Staff Major rode up to the Colonel on a motor-bicycle, and the column halted. Soon we were marched to a suitable camping place nearby, and got orders to pitch tents. Immediately rumours flew around as to what was happening. Some reckoned there was an armistice on; others that we were going to Dodoma; others again that Colonel Freeth was trying to run from General van de Venter [van Deventer], but was seen and stopped! This last caused much laughter, as it is well-known that no love is lost between the two. Dug gun emplacements and pitched our tents in perfect line.

5 January (Friday)
Heard the quartermaster has some unclaimed blankets, so went along and soon found mine, the holes in it making it conspicuous.


6 January (Saturday)
Got orders, at short notice, to move into Iringa at 1.30 [13h30]. It was an infernal rush getting the valises packed and tents struck. Finally when we 'fell in' I hadn't donned my putties so got my name taken by the Sergeant Major for not doing so. Many gun porters and men absent on foraging expeditions. Very hot day. Marched through Iringa, past the residential part, to a camp among some trees. Quite a pretty spot, our particular portion of the line being right in the bush.
A tent was given to No. 2 Gun, for 5 men and ammunition boxes, so we immediately pitched it and levelled the floor. Informed, much to our disgust, that we have to do double guard - with the Huns over 50 miles [80 km] away!! However, I was fortunate in getting first guard of 2 hours, and shared it with a young B Company chap. Some obnoxious ants troubled Syd considerably during the night, and didn't allow him to slumber peacefully at all. Mileage for the day 2 [3,2 km].

7 January (Sun day)
Reveille at 6 [06h00]. ... Rifle inspection at 9 o'clock [09h00], followed by an Orderly Room, at which my presence was earnestly required! Captain Tucker awarded me 3 hours' extra drill without the option, for not wearing my puttees yesterday. All the gun boys missing yesterday, when we left the last camp, got 5 'cuts' each, on their posteriors. The Nos. 1 on guns are not supposed to do fatigues, but in order to make it easier for the others, I drew the rations and dished them out. Started my gun boys, Assau and Onyalls, (both Kavirondos and as ugly as sin) digging a gun emplacement, and on returning later to find how they were progressing, found them missing. They were having a gay time, evidently discussing the 'cuts' they had received, and drinking 'pombi' (native beer) with the porters of the Reserve Guns. Seizing a stick, I was soon on their tracks, chasing them back to their work, and punctuating my remarks on their behaviour, by every now and then bringing my boot into contact with Assau's behind. He was so tall that I had to jump to every kick. When the others saw this they all burst out laughing, and the boy Assau must have felt small, if that were possible. However, they started again at the emplacement and soon got it done.

8 January (Monday)
Bibby went to town to get some fat from the butchers, but no more luck than I had yesterday. Our fat question is getting quite acute. On the rifle parade at 9 o'clock [09h00], Lt Roos complimented me on always having a clean rifle. After parade completed my first hour's defaulter's drill. Rather pleasant work; not like a punishment. ... Paddon of the reserve guns was discharged to-day from hospital. He was admitted some time ago for eating, what he thought, were mushrooms! ...

9 January (Tuesday)
Reveille at 6.30 [06h30] followed by roll call. At 9 o'clock [09h00] rifle inspection and 'Immediate Action' with No.1 Gun. ... Finished my second hour of defaulters' parade. Not so enjoyable to-day: too much marching about. ...

10 January (Wednesday)
... Cleaned my rifle, bayonet and gun. This morning our old tent was taken away and we were given a new double-covered bell tent, for the two guns. Pitched it in line with the Company's tents. Drew and issued the rations and gave Foxcroft some tobacco for a tin of sugar. Good Biz! ... Returned to camp and finished the third and last hour of defaulters' parade; for which fact much joy. Those on guard had to sleep at the post. I was on second-to-last, single guard.

11 January (Thursday)
After rifle inspection and parade, Foxcroft and I went to town with the idea of getting food in any form from the natives. I took a good vest with me with the hope of being able to barter for meal with it. When in town, the Town Crier came along with a Toto (little boy) carrying his drum. Halting at the street corner he beat on the drum with great show, then delivered on oration. We knew enough Swahili to understand that he was telling the natives that no beer, monkey nuts, meal or beans were to be sold to individuals, but to the Government only. On hearing this, we immediately set out with the idea of getting the country natives before they heard this new order. At the end of half an hour's walk we came to a hut, where there was a crowd of natives gambling, and a nasty looking crowd they were. A native woman came up to us. We said, 'Leta ungu, bibi' (Bring some meal, woman). 'Hapana unga, bwana' (I have no meal sir). Then noticing some fowls we asked for eggs, but she said she had none, so we decided to investigate and see what she did have. We pushed open the door of the house and entered, but she also came in and stopped us from looking around. I noticed a pile of old Sunday Times and other newspapers in a corner, possibly collected from our first camp. Foxcroft espied some eggs in a corner and while I kept the old woman busy talking about the newspapers, he appropriated them. Having now got something from this hut we decided to move on. Foxcroft gave the old woman a quarter rupee, for which she was very thankful, not knowing we had her eggs. After trying three or four huts without success, we came across a closed-up domicile. Evidently the owner was out visiting, so after peering through the chinks and ascertaining that there was something inside, we forced the door and entered. Foxcroft found some sour milk and immediately 'got outside it'. I found a good few beans and some damp meal, which I didn't trouble to take. Foxcroft also got some beans and honey. A small half-starved kitten seemed very glad to see us, judging by the way it purred and rubbed itself against our legs. After a thorough look-round, we evacuated the place leaving everything spick and span. I wonder what the owner of the hut said when he returned to find his beans, milk and honey missing! Soon after we came across another vacant hut and were busy investigating when some natives from an adjoining hut discovered us and were very indignant. However, we appeased their anger and got them into a better mood by pretending to be very interested in their beer-making. After a bit of talk, I brought forth my vest with great gusto and showed it to some women, telling them I wanted meal for it. They haggled and we haggled, but they finally stamped some mealies and gave us about 6 lbs [2,7 kg] of meal. At the next hut Foxcroft managed to buy three rupees' worth of meal, then we turned back to camp. In town we bought a couple of brown candles made from bees-wax, then went to see Bibby and Vic. They are not camped in a very nice place and are rather fed-up at having to do guard over their guns at night.
Arrived back at camp at 2.30 [14h30] after a five-mile walk, but richer by four eggs, some beans, honey and about 15 lbs [6,8 kg] of meal. ... Paraded at 4 o'clock [16h00] and the contents of three parcels, sent to men of B Company who have gone back to the Union, were raffled, but by some bad management, the Machine Gunners were forgotten and only came in for eight Flag cigarettes each. ... Butter issued with rations - 4 ozs [100 gm]. For 2 days. ... Did the last guard from 4 [16h00] to 6 [18h00].

12 January (Friday)
... At 'Immediate Action' drill this morning, I got my gun into action in 18 seconds, the standard time for this manoeuvre being 40 seconds.

13 January (Saturday)
The officers are getting up a gymkhana of athletic sports, shooting, games and machine-gun competitions. Lieut Roos reckons that our guns have a good chance of taking some of the prizes in the latter competitions. We suggested rations to take the place of prizes, but it cannot be done and we shall have to content ourselves with rupees. Indulged in the luxuries of changing my shirt and having a shave. It is rumoured we are moving off to-morrow. If so, let's only hope it is to Dodoma and not south-east again.
At 5 o'clock [17h00] went to the medicals and Billy Cooper removed two jigger fleas with a big bag of eggs from the second toe of my left foot. These are the first jiggers I have had, and I hope the last.
Great rumours are flying round that peace is to be declared in 48 hours and that we are returning to Dodoma. Consequently very happy, so had a sing-song before sleep. Guarded the camp from 8 [20h00] to 10 [22h00].

14 January (Sunday)
This morning felt I would like some clean clothes, so changed and gave my dirty shirt and slacks to a boy with instructions to thoroughly cleanse them, in spite of the fact that he had no soap. Later he returned with the clothing passably clean. Two showers of rain in the afternoon. One at 3.30 [15h30] and the other an hour later.
On first guard from 6 [18h00] to 8 [20h00], so had a whole night's good sleep. Peace and 'going home' rumours, still raging.

15 January (Monday)
... Immediate action drill. ... Did last guard.

16 January (Tuesday)
... Cleaned rifle and gun. Rifle inspection at 8.30 [08h30] and Gun drill. ... Heard SA Horse had left for Dar-es-Salaam. ... Mail came in. ... No guard to-night.

17 January (Wednesday)
Got some more letters making a total of 10, some bearing Christmas greetings.... Later on got Sunday Times with my published letter pasted in. Lectured by Mr Parsons on Beaten Zones, Range Indications, etc. ... Officers held meeting and Colonel asked for volunteers for rugga-ruggas. Rumours of going home getting stronger. Usual lunch and dinner. Second last guard.

18 January (Thursday)
... Heard we are returning to Dodoma to-morrow. Went out with Mr Parsons to practice enfilading fire by compass. Unloaded all but 8 belts and handed in ammunition. ... Bought 2 giraffe-hair bangles from KARs [King's African Rifles]. ... Orders moving at 7 [07h00] to-morrow morning. ...


19 January (Friday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. Packed up. Struck tent. Breakfast. Moved at 8 [08h00]. The donkey carrying our valises has a fine little foal. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km] then camped for the day. ...

20 January (Saturday)
Reveille 4.30 [04h30]. Breakfast. Packed up and moved off in the advance. Boys carrying our blankets. Marched 7 miles [11,2 km] to a dump. Marched at attention past the graves of the [four] 4th SAH men who put up such a good fight at this place. Trees all round simply covered with bullet marks. ... Transport moved at 2.30 [14h30]. B Company acting as advance and rear guard. Delayed a great deal. Regiment passed us later on. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km] to the next dump and got in at dark. Pitched tent. ... Total for day 15 miles [24 km].

21 January (Sunday)
Reveille 6 [06h00]. Moved 8 [08h00]. ... Tents went forward on motors. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km] to the next dump. Pitched tents. Newspapers served out. ... Comforts consisting of sardines, curry powder, boracic powder, soap, sweets and cigarettes dished out. I got sardines, cigarettes, tobacco and boracic powder. Rained in the afternoon. ... Half tot of rum issued. ...

22 January (Monday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. Breakfast. Packed up. Moved off at 7 [07h00]. Got 2 new boys. Many papers left behind. Marched 9,5 miles [15,2 km] to the next dump. Heavy shower on last stretch. Got wet. ... Moved at 3 [l5h00] doing another 5 miles [8 km] to the Ruaha River. Camped in rather a damp place. Gave the gun a wipe. ... Total for day 14 miles [22,5 km].

23 January (Tuesday)
Raining at 6 [06h00] but soon stopped. Breakfast, packed up and moved at 8 [08h00]. Road in an awful state. Several motors marooned. Slid all over the place. Marched 7 miles [11,2km] to next dump. ... Cleaned gun, rifle and bayonet. Steak, bread and butter for tea. Rained later. Heard 3 shots fired by adjutant. Sergeant Rex and Benny went out shooting and did not return. Very close night.

24 January (Wednesday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. ... Moved at 6.30 [06h30]. Search parties sent out for Sergeant Rex and Bennie. Marched 12 miles [19 km] to the river and crossed over on pontoon. Camped in a nice place.... Comforts dished out 1 bag per man containing sardines, soap, cigarettes, tobacco, sweets,. sulphur bag, string, boot laces, 2 handkerchiefs, socks and curry powder. Later on more cigarettes and chocolate also magazine. ...

25 January (Thursday)
Reveille at 6 [06h00]. Still raining. ... Cleaned rifle and gun. Put coat, blanket and kit out to dry. Drew pair of socks. ... Found somebody had jumped my puttees and mess tin cover. Hot night. Slept well.

26 January (Friday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. Packed up. Kicked a native hard several times for leaving my boxes behind. Moved at 7 [07h00]. Road fair. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km]. ... Holliday told me he had seen a picture of the St John's swimming baths in the Illustrated Star. He also told me we are embarking on 16 February and are due at Durban on the 20th and at Johannesburg on the 25th....

27 January (Saturday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. ... Packed up and moved at 6.30 [06h30] doing 8 miles [12,8 km]. Rained on the way and the roads became awful. Camped at a dump. ... Cleaned gun and drew rations. Tidied out valise, changed socks and rubbed boracic powder over my body as I feel very itchy. Time advanced 30 minutes. ...

28 January (Sunday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. Packed up tent and kit. Moved 6.45 [06h45]. Marched 75 minutes doing 4 miles [6,4 km]. Rained making the roads sloppy. ... Rations issued. Moved at 2 [14h00] doing 6 miles [9,6 km]. Camped. ... Total for day 10 miles [16 km].

29 January (Monday)
Reveille 6 [06h00]. ... Rained before we left. Rations issued. Moved at 8 [08h00] doing 10 miles [16 km]. Roads sloppy. Feet rather sore. No wood where we camped so pulled down huts.... 100 miles [160 km] from Iringa. ...

30 January (Tuesday)
Reveille 5 [05h00]. Packed up. ... Moved at 7 [07h00]. Carts carrying tents and blankets. Roads in an awful condition. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km]. ... Moved again ... doing 5 miles [8 km] to a big dump. Pitched tents. ... More comforts. I got sardines and cigarettes. ... Total for day 13 miles [21 km].

31 January (Wednesday)
Raining. ... Left tents standing. Moved at 7.30 [07h30], wearing Vic's small puttees. Roads shocking. Marched 8 miles [12,8 km]. Major Thompson shot at some baboons on a hill and they went making an awful roar. ... Captain Osmond met us. Cleaned gun and rifle. Found my puttees being carried in my mess tin cover by Makonde. Choked him off severely. Marched off again at 3 [l5h00] doing 4 miles [6,4 km] to Dodoma. The B Company dog, Tango, got run over by a motor and had to be shot. Dodoma changed a lot. Tents all over the place. Camped and got parcels dished out. I got 4. Containing socks, towel, chocolates, Balaclava cap, sweets, Oxo, watch strap, rags, string, film. ... Lovely night. Total for day 12 miles [19,3 km]. Trek from Iringa to Dodoma 125 miles [201 km]. Average 10,5 miles [16,8 km] per day.

1 February (Thursday)
Reveille 6.30 [06h30]. Roll call. Gave up all ammunition except 5 rounds. ... Got a rather bilious attack. Rifle inspection. Comforts, magazines and Christmas puddings issued. Heard a train whistle. Tinned herrings for lunch. Had shave, hair cut and bath. Drew 1 pound pay. Had a look at German rolling stock. Very nice engines. Bought biscuits, tooth powder, lime juice, potted meats, Eno's fruit salts, etc. from YMCA. Christmas pudding for tea. Rum issued. Went to bioscope and concert. ...

2 February (Friday)
Reveille 6.30 [06h30] and roll call. ... Cleaned rifle and gun. All old gunners making a machine gun section. Went into the village and bought some salmon and vinegar. Lunch of salmon, cheese and vinegar. 8th [SAI] left this morning. ... Rained hard.

3 February (Saturday)
Reveille 6.30 [06h30]. ... Unserviceable kit inspected. Cleaned rifle and gun.... A good many new graves in the cemetery. Rum issued. Went to see the YMCA bioscope show but rained before it was finished. Slept well.

4 February (Sunday)
Reveille and roll call 6.45 [06h45]. ... Church parade very boring. KARs arriving. ... 'Crown and Anchor' boards going strong. Moving to-morrow. ...

5 February (Monday)
Reveille 5.30 [05h30]. Breakfast and packed up. Put guns and boxes on motor lorries. ... SAFA [SA Field Artillery] firing some of their defective shells. Fell in at 12 [12h00] and marched to the station. Had to wait a while for the train. ... Boarded the train and started at 1.15 [13h15]. Train got quite a move on. Read most of the time. Country very pretty. Arrived at Kilossa at 8 [20h00]. Slept on the roof. Arrived at Morogoro at 12.30 [00h30]. Just missed the rain.

6 February (Tuesday)
Damp morning. Passed several bridges where engines and rolling stock had been blown up. ... Arrived in Dar-es-Salaam at 11.15 [11h15]. Journey of 22 hours. Marched through the town. Put food bag in a rickshaw and marched to camp. Had some tea in the YMCA tent, then had a look at the wireless and bay. ... Walked round and had a look at the German gun positions. Had a bathe. Ralph came to see me looking pretty thin. He had had fever. Saw a 12-inch shell. ...

7 February (Wednesday)
Drew kit bags from town. All in good order. Got a pass and went to town wearing side-arms. Bought some ivory elephants and salt spoons also post cards. Had some cold drinks and lunch at Hotel Burger.... Went to the concert which was a feeble one. Very hot - slept without clothes. Had fine shave from barber.

8 February (Thursday)
Rained hard after reveille and tent leaked badly. Sorted out kit. Kit inspection 11.30 [11h30].... Rum issued. Heard Ralph had gone to hospital.

9 February (Friday)
Went to see Ralph and took him a book. Paraded and Colonel told us we were going home for 6 weeks only. Better than nothing.... After lunch went to the 'Tabora' and took a group photo. ...

10 February (Saturday)
... Paraded for drill in full marching order then had 3 photographs of battalion taken. Boo-ed the Colonel later. Ralph moved to town hospital. Tidied up kit bags. ... Read before bed. ...

11 February (Sunday)
Not feeling too good. ... Sewed flashes on helmet. ...

12 February (Monday)
Anniversary of Salaita Hill. Bathed and fought with blue pops. Paraded at 9 [09h00]. Spent morning in YMCA. Web equipment washed. Aquatic Sports after playing Casino. Had an enjoyable bathe. Rum issued. Nurses attended concert at which Colonel was boo-ed.

13 February (Tuesday)
Colonel inspected us in rifle drill. Quite satisfactory. Very hot....

14 February (Wednesday)
... Battalion parade 9am [09h00]. ... After lunch walked to town on the way having a look at the German observation tower, wharves, etc. Many porters being landed. Had a look at the Konig and then saw our boat out at sea. ... Had dinner at the Afrika Hotel. ... On the way home went to the station. Reinforcements for 17th Punjabis and Mountain Batteries landing from our boat. Hospital ship a fine sight at night. Went to a lecture at the YMCA by Rev. Meynard on the Social and Religious Life of the Boer. ...

15 February (Thursday)
... Packed kit bag and took it to the road. Dressed for parade which consisted of practising keeping in step to a drum. Infernally hot and some chaps had to fall out. Colonel much cursed. Went to YMCA and made tea for lunch. Read and sewed in the afternoon. ... Went for a bathe later and swam to the end of the pier. Rum issued. Went to a rotten YMCA concert. Free biscuits and cigarettes. Bored to death. Slept in the open.

16 February (Friday)
... Parade at 9 [09h00]. Learning to salute. 8th [SA Infantry] Regiment embarking. ... Awfully hot. ...

17 February (Saturday)
Reveille 5.30 [05h30]. Breakfast. Packed up. Paraded at 8 [08h00]. Valises on back, marched off. Very heavy kit and very hot day. Got on board Sir David Hunter (7). Rained slightly. Got aboard Kinfauns Castle. Rifles handed in to armourers. Bibby and I mess-orderlies. Drew mess utensils and dinner. Mess No.28. 8 men to table. Dart in charge. Sat on deck a while and nearly went to sleep. Boat sailed 2.30 [14h30]. Drew rations after lifeboat parade. Feeling a bit squirmy at tea time. Lay and I slept on 1st class deck. Lovely and cool at night.

Photo 1

Troops embarked on Kinfauns Castle

18 February (Sunday)
Reveille. Breakfast 8 [08h00]. Read on deck. Paraded at 10 [l0h00]. Sea wonderfully calm. Lunch l [l3h00].... Saw 2 steam boats in the morning. Keeping close in shore. ...

19 February (Monday)
Sea very smooth but got rough later. ... Out of sight of land. Very slow and cramped.

20 February (Tuesday)
Sea quite rough. Bibby and I mess-orderlies but both feeling crook so Dart did our duties for us. Had nothing to eat all day. Very sick in afternoon, bringing up blood. ...

21 February (Wednesday)
Lay on deck all day. Dozing and sleeping. Very boring. Feeling better but still giddy. 2 pieces dry bread for breakfast and 2 for tea. ...

22 February (Thursday)
Ship going very slowly. Had some breakfast. Came in sight of land later but drifted about till after lunch. Harry Escombe brought pilot aboard. Got rifles and fell in on deck. Entered bay and went to Congella Wharf. Landed after some delay. Met Allan, Grandma, Auntie Ada, Len, Mr and Lily Tainton. Got to camp. Got tea and cake at YMCA. Saw Ray later. After bread and cheese in camp still feeling motions of ship. Walked into town. Walked around a bit then returned. Many Imperial troops about. Hot and noisy night.

23 February (Friday)
Shower bath. ... Got kit bags. Drew 3 pounds [sterling] pay. ... Lunch at Waverley. Uncle George met me in town and took me to see Edith. Returned to camp nothing doing. ... Went to station to meet Ernest Teddar. Looking very fit. Walked about town. Took Ray to Model Dairy for tea. ...

Photo 2

The transit camp, Congella, Durban

24 February (Saturday)
Ray rushed me on his motor bike to camp. ... Handed in rifle and kits and gave in my name to be boarded. Boarded in afternoon, 1 month's leave.(8) ... Went to X-ray lecture at Technical Institute. Very interesting, also labs. ...

25 February (Sunday)
Went down to camp by rickshaw. Got ticket of leave, pay and railway ticket after much palaver. Very much fed up. ... Train left at 6 [18h00]. Band at Pietermaritzburg. Slept like a log. ...

26 February (Monday)
Nice breakfast and lunch on train. Sent telegrams home and one to Dick Heard. Arrived at Germiston and met Dick Heard. Arrived Johannesburg 8 pm [20h00]. Met Pops, Mother and Winnie. Lost yellow bag. Got home about 9 [21h00]. Good old home. Thank the Lord for bringing me back safe and sound to my dear ones.

  1. Our first news of 'tanks' in Flanders.
  2. The 3rd SA Brigade had settled in the Uleia area.
  3. English popular illustrated magazines of that time.
  4. The Germans had been pushed out of Tahora by the Belgians and were making their way to join their main force in the south-east of the country and we were being sent to intercept them, once again coming under the command of General van de Venter [van Deventer].
  5. Our sick were left here, thus reducing our numbers. It was also good-bye to our faithful mules who had come all this way with us. They were all in a feeble state, the result of tsetse fly, which we had encountered on our march from Dodoma to Morogoro. From now on porters carried all our loads.
  6. p's = present.
  7. One of Durban's tugs.
  8. All were given one month's leave after which to report at Potchefstroom. During that period many were discharged for medical, business and other reasons. There were some, however, who thought that having 'put their hands to the plough' they should endeavour to see the job through, as far as possible. Therefore in June, when the 7th SAI returned to East Africa, for another 6 months of the campaign, the number of the old originals had been reduced considerably.

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