The Great War Diaries - 1917 (King's African Rifles)
After being invalided back to England in 1916 from service with the 5th. Seaforth Highlanders of the 51st. Highland Division, my father, Lieutenant John Bruce Cairnie, was posted to the King’s African Rifles. There was no diary found for the time between those postings, and what follows is where he takes it up again.
Correspondence to Alan Cairnie [firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com]
At 3.30 p.m. on Thursday 11th October 1917, after lying for a couple of days in Plymouth Sound, we got up anchor and passed out into the Channel. We were one of a convoy of nine ships, all of large size, and all carrying troops for Africa and India. In addition to these we had a number of civilian passengers: one vessel carried a Kaffir labour battalion. Our escort consisted of a cruiser, two armed liners & a number of torpedo boats, these making a screen round us to keep off the submarines. Each vessel carried a couple of guns as additional protection, & concealment was sought for by camouflaging the hulls etc. with weird impressionist designs.
The weather was fairly good, a slight breeze from the S.W. producing just sufficient swell to remind us as we sat at tea & during the concert which followed, that we were no longer behind the breakwater. By the time dinner was over, England except for Eddystone & the Lizard light had disappeared into the darkness. During the night the wind and sea rose considerably and we wakened in the morning to find walking a difficulty and the usual abdominal misgivings, premonitory of sea-sickness, soon made their appearance.
The next couple of days can be quickly passed over - altho’ at the time I didn’t think so. The Llanstephan Castle has I understand the reputation for rolling & she certainly lived up to it. The wind was still more during the second night & it was only with difficulty that one could adhere to the bunk. This, and the creakings & noises of falling crockery made sleep, at best, uneasy. There was a good deal of sickness, & the saloon was fairly empty at meal-times but altho’ I was not exempt I managed to put in an appearance every grub-time.
Built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding Co, Glasgow in 1913 for the Union-Castle
Mail SS Co, this was a 11,346 gross ton ship, length 500.5ft x beam 63.3ft,
one funnel, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 14 knots. There was
accommodation for 195-1st, 165-2nd and 100-3rd class passengers.
]Launched on 29th Aug.1913 she made her maiden voyage to East and South
Africa shortly before the outbreak of the Great War. On her second voyage
she reached Zanzibar on the homeward voyage, but on hearing reports that the
German cruiser "Konigsberg" was in the vicinity, she returned to Durban and
was then transferred to the UK - West coast - South Africa mail service. She
remained on this service until 1917 when she was taken up by the liner
requisition scheme and used for North Atlantic trooping work. After the war
she returned to the Capetown service until 1920 when she resumed the East
African service. In 1922 she was transferred to the "Round Africa" route
making calls at Naples or Genoa, Suez, Aden, Mombasa, Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam,
Beira, Lourenco Marques, Durban and East London, Capetown and home via West
Africa. In 1938 she was converted from coal to oil fuel and continued in
commercial service after the start of WWII. In Aug.1940 she carried 300
children evacuees from Liverpool to Capetown and in August 1941 sailed from
Liverpool as commodore ship of the first of the Russian convoys, returning
with 200 released Polish airmen. She was then sent to the Far East to
operate as a transport in the Burma campaign and was later taken over as a
unit of the Royal Indian Navy. After refit after the end of the war, and
with accommodation for 231-1st and 198-torist class passengers, she rejoined
the round Africa service. After the introduction of more modern ships, she
was withdrawn from service in 1952 and scrapped at Newport, Wales.[Steamers
of the Past by J.H.Isherwood, Sea Breezes magazine, Sept.1974][The Cape Run
by W.H.Mitchell and L.A.Sawyer]
During Friday night, the escort with exception of the auxiliary cruiser Armadale Castle, left us, so we considered we must be in tolerably safe water altho’ we had been under the impression that they would be with us at least as far as Sierra Leone. Part of the convoy also disappeared. Probably the roughness of the weather was partly accountable for the escort leaving so soon as it seems that submarines can’t do much in a sea like this.
Sunday 14th was a much better day & it was possible to sit on deck with pleasure. A C. of E. service was held in the saloon, & I believe was well attended. Those who didn’t go didn’t escape the collection, as it was taken all over the ship – quite a good scheme which might be brought in in civilised life in the shape of a door to door collection during church hours! A fine evening with bright phosphorescence on all the broken water. (Why is it only on the broken water?) We saw a school of porpoises very close: I never saw them actually leave the water before.
Monday 15th. It rained over night but cleared up in the morning. The rest of the convoy has rejoined us. There are now eight of us, counting the Armadale Castle. It seems one of our life-boats was washed overboard on Saturday night. We had another concert this afternoon: some of the songs contributed by the foc’sle were a bit thick but otherwise the show was quite successful. The cabin was very warm at night, & some of the bedclothes have had to come off. Had a couple of games of chess in the Smoke room before turning in. The Plough is setting low on the horizon and a star (Venus) which we ordinarily see low down is well up & very brilliant.
Tuesday 16th. Still warmer today: we have shifted our chairs to the shady side of the deck. Deck games going strong in view of the competitions which are coming off. I had 5 games of chess during the day which is rather more than is good. Our position is still rather doubtful – whether we of K.A.R. are ordinary passengers or not - & consequently a few small grievances. Our position on the sea is still more open to doubt & conjecture as we have been zig-zagging about in a most erratic manner. Opinions differ as to whether we are East or West of the Azores; in fact some think we are nearer Newfoundland than the former. The captain I suppose knows; at lest I hope so, but he gives nothing away, to us anyway. Last night we stopped altogether for a short time – steering-gear broke down I hear, & it seems that one of the I.W.T. people lost his head and started tearing about: the riot act was accordingly read to us today by the O.C. Ship.
Wednesday 17th. This has been a very bright day with just sufficient breeze to make things pleasant. I have never seen the sea such a peculiar colour. Altho’ the sky is only a hazy blue the water is a rich almost purple colour, especially round the ship where it appears almost thick, & gives such an impression of solidity that you feel you could almost walk across to the other ships. Except for a fleck of broken water at their bows he convoy seem as motionless as Coleridge’s "painted ship". To finish up with we had a glorious sunset: by the time we got up from dinner it was just at its last a long low streak of vivid ruddy brown flecked with small dark clouds & silhouetted against it the rest of the convoy. I have put in a fairly useful day - Swahili in the morning; rather a solid book from the ship’s library: the first few pages of Tylor’s Anthropology, & anti-cholera inoculation.
Thursday 18th. The cabins are just verging on the unbearable at nights: a few are sleeping on deck, & I suppose we’ll soon all be doing so. The steward wakens us up at 7 a.m. for a very welcome hot salt water bath: after that a cup of coffee & a stroll on deck before breakfast. We parade every morning at our life-boat stations at 10.30 a.m. & the captain goes the round. Up till today we have lived with our life belts – theoretically in them but practically, as a rule, with them on our arms, and hung very handy above our bunks at night. Now we are to wear them only at the forenoon parade so we must be practically out of danger. We are to be in some port – Sierra Leone I suppose - next week & w ill have a chance of sending off a mail so everybody is busy writing.
Friday 19th. It is getting hotter every day. I can’t think what more clothes I can leave off, as I have reached the limits of decency already. The men’s boxing match started this afternoon: there were several good bouts & hard hitting. Venus is very close to the moon tonight – unusually close I believe.
Saturday 20th. Sky overcast most of the day; very muggy. Spent practically the whole day writing in anticipation of Monday’s mail .
Sunday 21st. Very hot last night in the cabin. Bedclothes quite unnecessary in spite of the electric fan going all night. Today it has been muggy: continual perspiration. Ices came on the menu for the first time, but iced drinks, iced butter etc. have been going strong for several days. There must be an enormous refrigerating system on board. All the fresh water is got by distillation so they must have way of ‘resalting’ the water into the fairly good imitation of drinking water. Took a day off as far as Swahili etc. are concerned. We saw the first flying fish today - rising often in small shoals from below the bows. They travel a good distance over the water, touching the surface occasionally – every 20 or 30 yards perhaps. This is probably to get up their speed again by a sweep with the tail: the pectoral fins which are wide-spreading seem to act as planes & don’t flap at all. I expected things like cuddings at least but they are only about the size of small herring.
Monday 22nd. A nice cool breeze this morning pronounced by experts to be a land one. Two birds like crows flew over us for some time. Saw a number of what we took to be sharks. Boxing in the forenoon: sports in the afternoon. In the whistling race I had the Hindu lady for partner but failed to make her recognize Killarney.
Played the fist game in the chess tournament & got beaten by a very poor player. I thought I had a soft thing. So I have learnt for the second time " Don’t underestimate your opponent and don’t be in a hurry." Stayed on deck for a long time after dinner: bright moonlight and an oily sea.
Tuesday 23rd. We sighted the coast today at 12 noon and are now (3p.m.) getting well up to it. The Armadale Castle has gone ahead and we are falling into single file behind her. We have been zigzagging very cautiously all day and since last night have been carrying our lifebelts.
Our fist impressions of the new country have been good. The coastline to the right is backed by a long line of steep hills, into which narrow valleys run up. The slopes are covered with vegetation, very dark green in patches but I can’t make out whether it is trees or not. Here and there on the slopes are cultivated fields. On the left end of the ridge, clustering about the spurs are red roofed buildings & right down on the coast palm trees & what may be either a mosque or a lighthouse. To the left or north the coastline is marked by clumps of palms but the shore itself is too low to be visible yet. We are told by those who have been here before that Freetown – it is Sierra Leone we are approaching - lies at the foot of the hills, at their northern end, & it is the outlying part of it that we see.
Later – We got through the boom shortly before 5 p.m. & came up the river with the band playing, all standing to attention as we passed the flag-ship. We are lying about a mile off shore, so thro’ our glasses, we have a good view of the town and the densely wooded hills which rise steeply behind it. Instead of the dry sandy waste which I had expected there is a luxuriant vegetation, & the landscape is brilliantly green. Along the shore are groves of palms, and behind them the woods, right up to the hill tops. The town consists for the most part of good solid European-looking buildings which line the front, while red roofed bungalows straggle up the slopes and look out from among the trees. On a smoothly green conical hill just behind the town stands the barracks. As far as looks go at least, this part of the white man’s grave is charming enough, & even after the sun had gone & the moon shone down thro’ a faint haze it wasn’t easy to think of the place as anything but pleasantly situated sea-side resort. As far as the naked eye could see, it might have been on the Clyde, but the field glasses showed up figures and garments which would hardly have been fashionable there. Funnily-shaped canoes with triangular sails, dotted about the bay, also spoke of foreign manners and methods.
Wednesday 24th. Up on deck before the sun had properly risen and made a rough pencil sketch of the town & hills. A faint haze lay over the town, a few wisps of mist about the hilltops and perfect calm on the bay. A few canoes were moving about near the shore. After breakfast a number of diving boys came out in the dugout canoes and dived all forenoon for money. When a coin is thrown they flop over the side of their canoes & go down after it. You can follow them down a long way by the white soles of their feet. They seldom miss, especially if it is a silver coin which shows up better & goes down slower than a penny. They were very good-humoured. I could imagine Jacky Forbes & Co coming to bitter words if not blows under similar circumstances.
Shore leave was given only to the elite on account of smallpox said to be in Freetown. A number of the grandees of the place came off tho’ & held high revelry in the saloon until a late hour. Read an absorbing novel all day. The air was very close in the evening & the saloon hardly bearable at dinner. We are in a continual state of perspiration - never dry, shirts sticking to our backs & skin beginning to come out in "prickly heat". It will probably be worse before it is better because the fresh water which it was hoped to take in here is not forthcoming in sufficient quantity, so washing water has had to be cut down. Evidently all our drinking water & much of the washing water is carried in tanks, & not distilled from sea water. As regards the moist atmosphere it is very uncomfortable but not nearly as bad as I had expected.
Thursday 25th. We got away from Freetown at 3 p.m. The Armadale Castle stays here, & we are to be escorted the rest of the way by the cruiser "Kent". Pleasant breeze blowing outside & we are glad to be moving once again.
Friday 26th. Still going ahead: pretty cool.
Saturday 27th. Crossed the line today sometime: The Father Neptune affair didn’t come off. The men had bolster fighting over a big sheetful of water. Very cool: and able to sleep at night with a sheet over me.
"Saturday night at sea – Sweethearts & wives."
Wednesday 31st. The weather has been getting gradually cooler and we are thinking of getting back into warmer clothes. I had expected much greater heat. There has been no excitement of any sort, but still time slips past. We expect to be in Cape Town in a week or less. The Marconi news this week has been very bad – the Italian debacle and some plot to provoke civil war in France: the absence of details makes things worse.
Sunday 4th. Sea a good bit rougher. Vessel pitching a bit. Busy writing all day. We saw two small whales today, & a number of albatross have been hanging about for a day or two. Had rather a narrow escape from collision tonight: a strange vessel passing thro’ the convoy, but thanks to the Kent’s search lights there was no mishap.
Tuesday 6th. Wakened this morning to find ourselves lying below Table Mountain & moving slowly in to the quay. By the time I was on deck we were along-side. It was a perfect morning, cloudless and yet with a cold breeze. The visibility was very high – seems almost always to be - & every stone on the Mountain stood out with perfect clearness. The Mountain really is part of a high range which forms the coast line from Cape Town for considerable distance to the South. It is composed as far as I can make out from a motor char a banc of red sandstone beds overlying a whitey granite, with which are associated igneous rocks. Anyway that part of the range which faces Table Bay that is to say Table Mountain, The Devils Peak and the Lions' Head have very steep in fact in most places absolutely precipitous upper faces of stratified rock & sweep downwards in long steep slopes of debris, carrying thick fir woods in parts & elsewhere presenting a parched appearance. Cape Town itself doesn’t appear to the greatest advantage as seen from the harbour. The best part of the town is hidden from view in the ‘Kloof’, and what is seen is not only cheap & temporary looking but is dwarfed by the ;mass of the mountain which so overshadows it. As soon as we were allowed ashore – 10 a.m. there was a rush for the banks, but first of all I sent off a cable home. I ran across Ralph McKay in one of the streets so we went round together. In the forenoon we visited the Houses of Parliament - not very imposing & brickbuilt, but with strange flowers blooming round about them. We crossed over to the Botanic Gardens which are alongside & wandered thro’ them trying to pick up the names of some of the trees & shrubs but without much success. Then having got hold of the first newspaper since leaving England – but only a morning one – we sought out a café & tried to get at what had been happening, especially on the Italian Front. We lunched in a restaurant, very abundantly and cheaply: food seems to be plentiful here: in fact one shopkeeper told us that they were living in a bed of roses, but no doubt in the distant future they too would feel the pinch. Imported goods – especially I notice boots – are very dear. In the afternoon we went by char-a-banc to Hout Bay, and back by a circular route round the Mountain. For the fist eight miles or so, the road runs along the coast, where it is formed by the flat-topped hills. These are composed of the red sandstone beds, which are cut into by ravines & gullies & carved into outlying pinacles & pulpits. The slopes to the sea are very steep & the road runs thro’ a series of cuttings in the debris & sometimes thro’ the solid granite which forms the actual coast line on which the surf breaks. The granite contains big felspar xals & is overlain by debris from the higher ground, often containing partially decomposed constituents of the granite, & if it hardened in this condition it might be rather a difficult rock to spot. It would I think be rather like a granitey rock I got in the burn bed at Loth & Culgower. And again, the sandstone debris might, altho’ without any traces of bedding be similar in formation to the breccia beds along the coast of Sutherland. The so-called stacks there might be large chunks which fell forward off the cliff face. However I didn’t have a chance to look at things closely. The braes carry an absolutely new flora - all the plants have some apparent method of conserving their water supply – either by waxy leaves, linear leaves, swollen leaves or some other way, and many of them with very bright flowers. We turned in over a col and ran down thro’ wooded lanes into the valley which terminates in Hout Bay. The sands there are extremely white & consist of shelly material & grains of quartz from the granite I suppose. In one corner of the bay the sand has been blown up across the back of a headland. We stopped for an hour here & had tea at the hotel & a stroll on the sands. The shells are much the same as we have – mussels, limpets etc. but are larger as a rule & proportionally stronger. The way home ran up the valley, over a col & then along the back of Table Mountain. Towards the north the ground is very flat and not much above sea level I should think. It is covered with pine woods which sweep down from the mountain, and with plantations. I should think the land here is only recently formed, by silting up a passage between the Cape Peninsula and the mainland. The re-entry of Cape Town is uninteresting, thro’ what is evidently one of the poorer parts, We had dinner at a cheap restaurant, and tried a Picture House afterwards but came out at halftime & returned to the ship pleasantly tired.
Wednesday 7th. Went up town with Ralph and visited the Museum to see the African animals. One of the most interesting things was the Bushman paintings on stone – exactly similar to those of palaeolithic man in the caves of the Pyrenees. The sun very hot, so I thought it advisable to wear my sunhelmet, altho’ many of them are still wearing the glengarries. In the afternoon we took the train to Uinzenberg, a small bathing place at the N.E. end of the peninsula. The water is shallow for a good way out, and consequently the bathing is of the surf variety & surf boards were being used by a good few of the bathers. The wind was very cold so I didn’t go in, altho’ the water is said to be from 10 to 15 degrees warmer than is Table Bay. One gratifying feature about these parts is that the military are treated to most things gratis, e.g. docktrains, chairs on the sands, towels etc. but if you go to buy anything you usually pay thro’ the nasal organ. We had tea at the hotel & then back to town. I had dinner on the Norman. They are very cramped there & the ventilation of the cabins is so bad that most of them have been sleeping on deck all the time. The only incident of interest during the meal was that one of my false teeth broke off the plate, and I had to exercise some ingenuity to transfer it from my mouth to my pocket. I’ll need to get it sorted at Durban.
Thursday 8th. I spent the forenoon wandering round the shops. I bought the Daffodil Fields & Rupert Brooke and may get some of Service’s in Durban. Went out after lunch to the Groote Schnar, Rhodes’s house, which lies at the back of the mountain. Botha lives in it now, but is away at Pretoria. The house is built on the Old Dutch type. The woodwork is splendid, and the furniture I suppose unique. Much of it is old Dutch inlaid with mother of pearl & ivory. The bathroom is lined with marble and the bath made from solid lump of granite weighing 3 tons. Rhodes’ bedroom looks out on a terraced garden behind the house, and up over thick pine woods to the towering heights of the Mountain. The smell of pine came strongly in thro’ the open window; the reality of Rhodes as a man and not a mere name was borne in upon me at the same time. His mark is over all the house, far more so than Botha’s whose little room we saw. I could have spent any length of time in his library. He had all the old classics done in red leather and typed. I remember reading that he was so much taken with Gibbon’s Decline and Fall that he collected all the original authorities used by Gibbon. He could not possibly have read them all – they cost him abut £6000.
We had a look at the open air zoo which is near by. The monument which commands a fine view seemed too far off so we came back to town for tea.
Dinner on board.
Friday 9th. Not allowed ashore today. We went out into the roads at noon and left about 5 o’clock. I tried a couple of snaps of Table mountain. The scenery very fine: the weathering of the sandstone beds very like that in the Grand Canyon as per illustrations. The junction of the granite & sandstone could be clearly seen in a number of places. The latter appeared to be lying on a practically plane base, altho’ the granite rose a bit higher in the Lions head. Miss Mayadas – the "Hindu Lady: - told me last night she would be glad to get away from Cape Town ‘where her colour had prevented her being served.’ My theories rather crumpled up at that as she is as well educated as any of us, and there is no hint of degeneracy about her either.
Saturday [10th].. Out of sight of land all day: running broadside on to swell & rolling a good deal. Stayed in bed a good part of the day with a cold.
Sunday 11th. Dr. Wilson introduced me to McKenzie, a Caithnessian & one of the big banking men of S.A. He was born in Wick but hadn’t been there for about 40 years so we didn’t have much to speak about there. I got some information about S.A. from him. In the first place a great many of the Dutch, egged on by disappointed politicians are disloyal, & there is nothing they want more than to see the British cleared out. They haven’t fought for us in anything like the numbers they should have done. This antagonism is preventing Britishers from immigrating, which is just what these Dutch want. The language question is acute. Botha he says is sincere: not well educated but a charming personality and makes a fine combination with Smuts who had a brilliant university career: but who is a politician and not troubled with too many scruples. It is probably largely owing to his influence at home that the Dutch have got the upper hand in German East where according to all accounts they are doing themselves handsome and us the opposite.
There is a good deal of intermarriage in Cape Town between white artisan class & the blacks, as these save servants while the white woman wants a more leisured position. In Durban the types are pure – European, Indian & Zulu. One of the saddest features he says is the growing predominance of the Jews who are capturing the trade of the country especially in the smaller towns. In spite of many admirable qualities – e.g. family life, and liberal spending they are not our people & in a time like the present are benefiting by our extremities. "South Africa is a splendid country if it weren’t for the people." His own ambition is to lay his bones on his own farm where he has had so much pleasure.
The reason for the higher temperature at Muezenberg than in Table Bay is the Mozambique Current.
Tuesday 13th. Yesterday was dull & hazy. We sighted Durban lights about 9 p.m. and by 10.30 were lying just off the town. It was strange to see the place so brilliantly lit up and be able to trace the streets by means of the lamps. By the time I was up this morning we were moving in. After an early breakfast the work of unloading began. There was a good deal of confusion owing to contradictory orders. Meanwhile we had a chance of looking about us. The harbour, which is evidently an estuary has accommodation for a large number of vessels but there aren’t sufficient wharves at least for the present times. It is surrounded by low wooded hills, except in the North where they recede & the flats on which the main part of the town is built intervene on that side. After a few hours waiting we got our kit off, tipped the stewards & set off for Congella Camp which lies on the flats further up the harbour. Our kit went by rail and we got on a tram. At the dock gate we were met by several prancing ricksha men in full war dress especially as far as their heads were concerned but we weren’t tempted. We were allocated to tents- three in each- on our arrival at Camp, had lunch & got our kit arranged, expecting to be in Durban for a week or two at the least. There are some officers who have been here for six weeks waiting for a boat. I spent the remainder of the day in camp & turned in early – Iago & Duguid sharing the tent.
Wednesday 14th. Spent the forenoon in town with Carter of the W.A.F.F.s buying a few articles of kit. Prices on the whole are reasonable and compare well with Britain, altho’ the stock of imported goods is running low. In the afternoon we took the tram round the Berea or residential part of the town, which lies on a low hill behind the town. It is composed mainly of pretty little bungalows & some larger houses with grounds and wellkept gardens. Durban being largely a health resort – the Brighton of S.A. - rents are high and houses very dear. I don’t like the place as well as Cape Town altho’ of course I only had a few days in each place. In Cape Town the buildings are better and more compactly built together. The streets are a bit narrower perhaps but the surroundings are imposing. From Durban there is no high ground to be seen. The mountains which one never loses sight of in Cape Town are altogether wanting, The most outlandish feature of the place is certainly the ricksha men – Zulus of fine physique, with as a rule elaborate head-dresses of horns, porcupine quills or feathers: sometimes a Homburg rather spoils the effect but as a rule they stick to their own style. They can run well & for a long time, and their charges aren’t too exorbitant. There is less intermingling of races here than in Cape Town owing to the fact, if Mr. McKenzie is correct that the poor white artisans there intermarry pretty freely with the blacks. Probably there are fewer of that class in Durban as it is not such an industrial place as Cape Town. The whites are mainly British, many of them Scotch. There is intense feeling against the Dutch & Indians. Two of the lady passengers of Llanstephan had the greatest difficulty in getting accommodation for their Indian nurses or even getting them off the boat at all. Miss Mayadas was in the same position: it can’t be expected to reconcile Indians by this treatment. It isn’t treating them as brother, altho’ there must be some justice behind it – protection of the white from Indians competition.
When we got back to camp we found that we were under orders to embark tomorrow for East Africa. Much quicker move than we had dreamt of. Spent the rest of the evening writing home.
Thursday 15th. Got our kits packed immediately after breakfast and spent the forenoon trying to rush a job thro’ the dentist’s hands- the result of the Norman episode. Was lucky to get it finished by 1 p.m. Sent off my p.c.s on my way to the boat which we had to get onto by 1.30 – the Ingoma. There are about a dozen of the Hertford crowd on board including Brown Anderson & Goodfellow. Carter (W.A.F.F.s) and Ralph are going with her too. It was 5 p,m, before we got away from the quay & over the bar which was in a great state of commotion, a high wind blowing & all the sky to the west black & nasty looking. We dropped the pilot outside and stood out to sea with a heavy swell to which we had to run broadside. However the boat altho’ it is rather small is a good sailor. We have good accommodation – 4 bunk cabin on deck, a fair-sized saloon & lounge.
Information kindly provided by: Ron Mapplebeck <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"It just so happens that a colour postcard of what is thought to be the
INGOMA, plus an outline of her career, is currently showing at:"
By reference to the recent fleet history of Harrison, built in 1913, 5686grt by D. & W. Henderson, Glasgow (483) for Harrison Rennie
114 passengers (one class)
In 1937 renamed SAN GIOVANNI BATISTA, Comp. Ligure di Nav., Genova Badly damaged by British aerial torpedo attack on 31/1/1942, towed to Tripoli. Scuttled there by Italian forces on 19/1/1943, later refloated and broken up
Friday 16th. Low sandy coastline visible at breakfast time but we soon lost sight of it so think we must be crossing Delagoa Bay. Wind down today a bit but some heavy rain storms passed & at night it set into a regular downpour with heavy thunder and vivid blue lightning. Officer of the watch 8-12 midnight.
Sunday 18th. The last two days we have been more or less hugging the coast, which is low & sandy , rising into small sandhills, with low bush clad ridges behind. No signs at all of human habitations except for a solitary lighthouse we passed yesterday. We have had several very heavy showers of rain. We were expecting to be at Beira tonight but there was no sign of it when darkness fell, in fact there was no land visible at all. Today the atmosphere has been very moist and warm.
Monday 19th. Soon after I wakened this morning the boat stopped. I went on deck but could see no land, but the pilot signal was at the mast-head. I went back & dressed & by the time I was up again the pilot was aboard. Probably I hadn’t looked carefully enough for land but we were certainly a good long way out when we stopped – 12 miles I heard but that is probably too much. The water is very dirty even at this distance out. The shallows on the map are probably due to the sediment from the Zambesi etc. being carried into this corner by the Aghulas Current. The channel into the roads is marked by buoys. The coastline gradually reveals itself: it is very low indeed & shows spits and banks of sand everywhere. Beira looks a miserable lonely place from the sea – just a few red roofs among trees, barely raised above sea-level. By the time breakfast was over we were anchored a couple of hundred yards from the town which is protected by a concrete sea-wall – protected more probably from extra high tides & tidal waves rather than from rough seas. We were given permission to go ashore and be back by sunset, so we weren’t long in getting over the side, into a motor boat which was going in. The town is not prepossessing. It is built almost entirely of corrugated iron sometimes painted usually not. The streets are ankle-deep in sand, with packed sand beneath. Along them run narrow tram-lines, branching off every short distance into narrow lanes or up to private houses. The favourite method of getting about is on trollies pushed along these rails by a couple of boys. It is apparently exactly the same system as is used in Mombasa. The footpaths are made of concrete so there is evidently no workable stone available, the few solid buildings there are being of the same stuff. Along the streets are planted flamboyant acacias, now in full bloom: so are some purple trailing plants on many house fronts. The town is built in a very haphazard way, so that it is impossible to say which is the centre. The population is mainly black, but the bulk of the whites are British, so that most signs notices etc. are in English. There is at least one decent hotel – the Savoy, where we had lunch for 4/-, and a siesta in the afternoon. We strolled across the golf course held to be the best in E. Africa: it is as flat as a pancake with artistically arranged bunkers: very well kept tho’ especially considering the ravages of the land crabs which burrow into it & into whose holes most lost balls go. We bought a few things. Prices are pretty high, but it is rather surprising what a variety of things you can get provided you pay for them. Most of the shops are of general store type and keep nearly every line of goods. Haircut 2/- (didn’t have one) Large Angiers Emulsion 5/-, p.p.c.s 1 1/2d, medium sized bottle brilliantine 3/- Beira news 3d etc. Speaking to a Scotch assistant in one of the store. Living here costs about £11-12 everything found per month. Wages £25-30. The only thing to waste money on is the café’s – in other words ‘drink’. The climate isn’t too unhealthy: the winter months brace you up again. Mosquitoes evidently give some trouble as some of the houses are built mosquito-proof.
Tuesday 20th. Stayed on board and wrote letters as the mail is to go tonight. Reading "The Virginians" the first by Thackeray I have tried.
Wednesday 21st. Started teaching Anderson & Goodfellow chess, & being taught bridge in return. We sent ashore after lunch with Brown. It rained most of the afternoon: played a foursome at billiards, tea at the Savoy and back in time for dinner.
Thursday 22nd. Four hundred German askari prisoners and three hundred K.A.R. came aboard this morning. They have come down from Nyasaland, by Chinde and are for up the coast now, the prisoners I understand to be sent back to their villages round about Dar-es-Salaam. The K.A.R. men seem quite pleased with themselves. They remind me of ourselves in the early part of the war, they are so happy, jabbering away and drilling each other. They are keen enough.
Wednesday 28th. We left Beira on Friday morning last and haven’t seen land until this morning when we passed Pemba on the port side. We will be in Kilindini this afternoon. The run up hasn’t been very exciting. The weather has been splendid & very hot: the nights moonlit & balmy. Flying fish very abundant the last few days. I think now that they do give a bit flutter with their pectoral fins on first leaving the water. There are a good lot of porpoises too. We have had some very fine sunsets. I haven’t seen any dawns. On Monday we had wireless news of great British victory in France & we are eagerly waiting for details at Mombasa. We have had a native interpreter up on deck for an hour at nights & are making some progress with Swahili.
Later. Got into Kilindini at 1 p.m. The entrance is narrow, and the harbour itself not very wide, but long & will accommodate any number of vessels. There isn’t much wharfage. We were allowed ashore till 10 p.m. & got in in a rowing boat. Kilindini isn’t much of a place. The station is at the top of the hill above the docks, Mombasa station further up being the terminus. We walked up to the top and took a ghari, or trolley to Mombasa. The road is lined with palms acacias and so on, cocoa-nuts hanging in clusters & plenty other kinds of fruit that we don’t know. Wen we came to pay the boys we found they wouldn’t take our English money so we had to get it changed into rupees. We went straight to the Standard bank & opened accounts, with overdraught of £5 which was very welcome to all of us, many of them being absolutely on the rocks. The Club stands on the sea front overlooking Mombasa harbour. It is a big airy place with wide verandahs, 3 billiard tables and liquid refreshment which was very welcome. On the right, looking towards the harbour is Jesus fort, now used as the prison: can’t get in without a permit which we didn’t have. It seems in good repair. The bazaar, if we got hold of the right place, is a long twisted narrow street which runs away into a maze of narrower and still less interesting alleys. The shops are small and musty, and run by Goanese mainly. There were batches of pretty little children in harem skirts, with ear and nose ornaments - Arabs perhaps but they were very delicate looking. The mosque in Vasco Da Gama street is an unshapely affair from the outside whatever it may be from the inside. There are few or no horses in Mombasa. All traction is by blacks - they haul the carts loaded with goods up the brae from Kilindini, a few inches at a time, the man at the pole chanting encouragement.
We got back to the ship for dinner
Thursday 29th. We came ashore on a big lighter, with all our baggage: the sun was so hot we were glad to get into the shade of the gunwale. Reporting at the Post Commandant’s office we found out that the train was to leave at 2p.m. If we hadn’t asked we wouldn’t have known: they are very casual here. We had lunch at the Manor house and then proceeded to the train. The first class carriages have a worn out appearance: they accommodate four sleepers, - two on the seats & two up above. The windows can all be opened, and may be shut either by means of glass or wooden lattice. Iago, Duguid, Brown and I shared a compartment. We got away by 3p.m. As soon as we crossed the bridge between the island & the mainland the train started to climb through low hills well wooded with plantations & shambas here and there, and occasional native huts and small villages. Banana trees are very abundant, and cocoa-nut palms. The natives stood watching the train and showed the same delight in waving to perfect strangers as can be seen along the railway at home. I saw one carrying an umbrella, closed, but instead of having it in his hand he had it balanced across his head. We had dinner at 5.30 Samburn and made a very good meal of it for two rupees. A few stations before that we had bought pine-apples and bananas at Mazeras at what appeared to be us cheap prices, but when Duguid came to calculate he came to the conclusion that we were badly swicked. The carriage turned in early, Iago & I playing a couple of games of chess first. I sat by the window for a while: there was a brilliant moon: I wanted to see the Taru desert but didn’t, at least as far as I know. The bush seemed to be getting thinner when I turned in. We had heard that the temperature falls very much during this night journey so I came armed with a greatcoat, but owing to our late start we hadn’t risen to a sufficient altitude so that I perspired all night while the rest were just nice.
Friday 30th. Wakened at 5 a.m. but as the bush was very thick on both sides of the line and nothing could be seen I lay down again for an hour. At 6 I rose and shaved with that virtuous feeling one has in doing so while others are still asleep. The train reached Mackindu at 8.30 where we had breakfast which we were very ready for. By this time we had seen only a few buck. Immediately after leaving we ran the game country and saw zebra in fair numbers, buffaloes of some sort and later on, on the plains Thomson’s gazelles, hartebeests, impala, baboons etc. Perhaps we would have seen more if we had passed earlier in the day, but I think we never saw more than a hundred & fifty head of game at any one time. At any rate they didn’t run into thousands as one reads, whatever they may have done at one time. They aren’t much afraid of the train, altho’ as a rule they stand away at a respectable distance. There is often hardly a patch of cover on the plains, & it must be very difficult to approach for a shot. Still the plains aren’t boundless: there are hills shutting them in all round, or rather shutting in the view: the ranges of hills not being continuous, but isolated, & the plains sweep round their flanks. In all this wide country there are few signs of human habitations, & what there are, are of back humanity. I don’t think the game reserve runs north of the line at all, but perhaps its proximity – most of the game we saw was north of the line – accounts for the absence of farms, partly. A few blacks were at work here & there on the line, armed with a hammer and a string of beads. The line is a single one, with a loop at the stations, the same as the Highland. The stations are not imposing but the food at the refreshment rooms is good, and they don’t seem to want take advantage of the fact that you are dependent on them. They are set down in the country seemingly haphazard as there are no houses in sight as a rule, nor roads leading up to them. We got into Nairobi at 5.30 p.m. and found nobody to meet us. We hadn’t been expected for several hours! Having impressed H.Q. by phone with the fact that we had really come they sent down an officer to direct us to the Norfolk Hotel where we were put up at 5 rupees a day. Our kit came up shortly afterwards. After dinner the Scotch element was invited to the St. Andrews day celebrations in Mr. Espies’ house. All the Scotch males – or most of them – in the place were there. It seems that most of the heads of departments are Scotch. They were all very free and easy, and gave us a very good welcome. As the evening went on things got freer and easier. I got back to the hotel at 1.30.
Saturday 1st. Reported to Commandant at 10 a.m. & again at 2 p.m. Brown, Anderson, Goodfellow, McBean, Straiton, Lee & Horne & myself allocated to 5/4 K.A.R. at M’bagathi. Duguid, Iago, Neish, Simpson, Cook & Stansfield to 4th Depot, Bombo. Ralph to 3/6th M’bagathi. We spent most of the evening at Burgess’s house – Anderson’s friend – fixing up personal boys, and getting a few tips on how to deal with them. I interviewed them in our room later on and came to a complete misunderstanding with them, We didn’t know that they were rationed by the Q.M. so we said they wd. have to buy their own posho. That was the bone of contention. My Swahili came in useful but leaves a great deal to be understood.
Sunday 2nd. My boy turned up in good time, and the other two later on. By this time we knew our mistake, so things were smoothed over at least for the time being, but my boy struck just before leaving for camp on an obscure question of boots. I let him go, expecting & hoping that he would come back. We embarked on a buggy – 5 of us at 10.30 a.m. for M’bagathi. After 1/4 hour we had to haul aside & the boys went back to exchange one of the ‘horses’. They returned with a donkey 1/2 the size of the remaining horse, but we got along after that at a good pace. Any amount of game along the road as we are in the game reserve now, and the animals know it. After negotiating a number of miraculous bridges & ‘fords’ we arrived at the camp, about 7 miles out, and reported to the C.O. It was evening before our kit turned up, it having been brought out on a prodigiously slow oxen waggon. By this time I had found my boy at an Indian shop beside the camp. No word of boots now: I soon had him putting my things in order.
Monday 3rd. Wakened very early and looked out. Perfect night. Restless till 6 a.m. which I always am when something unusual is on the cards. Aweru was up early too, and working at my things before reveille. He brought me a cup of tea then. Dressed and on parade by 7 a.m. Fortunately it was kit inspection, so that my Swahili wasn’t very much tested. Breakfast 8 – 9, and a good appetite. Good porridge and fresh milk, sausages, eggs, and fruit. Parade again at 9 a.m. making up deficiencies in kit: then an hour’s squad drill. The men have 3 or 4 months service on the average and are very smart considering: in fact they could easily beat our finished recruits at Ripon, but they don’t have such a variety of training. From 12 – 1 there is a Swahili class in the captain’s ‘banda’, but it will probably stop after tomorrow when their exam. comes off. At 2 o’clock a tribal return had to be made out and the company was fallen in by tribes – 13 in all. As far as I could make out there was very little conformity to type within each tribe: tribal distinctions apparently consist in artificialities mainly, e.g. pulling out the lower incisors, scars etc.
Played a game of football after tea, and felt nearly dead beat after it.
Wednesday 5th. Sun very hot both days, and the back of my knees were swollen and red. The battalion was on parade for a sweating hour; hard work keeping the ascaris to it but they worked very well considering. Ralph came over last night from the 3/6th. W ho are in camp not far from here.
Thursday 6th. On fatigue all day. The village containing the regimental bibis has to be shifted to the other side of the camp, for sanitary reasons. We spent the forenoon clearing the bush, and the afternoon in demolishing the present huts & carrying the material across to the new site. Meanwhile the bibis, in all their coloured finery have been sitting round with their goods and chattels. Some of them are well enough looking in a barbarous way, and they are all well set up. They haven’t any respect for white men, I am told! I came across a mymecophilous mimosa tree near their huts. The ants live in large chestnut-like outgrowths which seem to be formed from a couple of stout thorns. These thorns project from the outgrowths, and at their base is the aperture thro’ which the ants come in and out. Another larger tree of the same sort was growing close by, on which there were no outgrowths, altho’ thorns and ants were both present.
Friday Carried on with the bibis village in the forenoon. Most of them had to sleep al fresco last night, or in temporary erections. Some of them were cooking rice patties, which looked palatable enough but I wasn’t much taken with the condition of their cooking utensils. The ascaris work well enough but take their own time & it needs an N.C.O. among them with a cane to make them get a move on. In the afternoon ‘A’, ‘C’, & ‘D’ coys. made an attack. It wasn’t a very great success, mainly because the objective was too small for the frontage occupied & because it wasn’t divided between the coys. or our O.C. Coy. Omitted to tell us. In a case like this w[h]ere the objective can’t be seen from the posn. of deployment, platoon commanders should surely be taken forward & showed their objective or if there isn’t time for that the first opportunity shd. be taken to point it out during the advance. The result was we overlapped badly with the coys. on our right.
Saturday 15th. I haven’t had time or inclination to sit down to write up my diary this week. In fact I haven’t made up my mind yet whether to write it up daily or a few days at a time. This week has been a very busy one. The C.O. has been away & the adjutant has been keeping strictly to the programme of work. For instance, last night we had two hours of night work reconnoitring a piece of ground: we got finished at 9 p.m. and had to have the report in by 7 a.m. this morning. It was a fairly easy piece of ground except for the river crossing which was rather difficult to find, even with the help of matches. Anderson & Paton finished their reconnaisance with hurricane lamps. On Wednesday afternoon the battalion did an attack over the same piece of country. It wasn’t too bad, but there was a good deal of language emanating from the O.C. Coy. So far I haven’t impressed him at all favourably. We had a difference of opinion over an outpost position which I had to take up. I went to him afterwards & apologized for my sulkiness while under correction, but I still hold to my own opinion. Besides that we have had another kit inspection, and he made things generally unpleasant for us all. I think my platoon is improving on handling of arms and I am getting them to put a little more go into the bayonet work. I wish there was a Swahili word for ‘guts’ or if there is that I knew it. However I’d want to know the Achole for it as well, & several others. I find that about 20 of my platoon don’t understand Swahili and can’t have even the slightest idea of what I am talking about.
Sunday 22nd. Another big hiatus. The main thing this week from a personal point of view is that I am on draft for G.E.A.& expect to go down in a few days. I am quite glad to be going altho’ I am rather dubious about my ability to stand it long. I expect that I’ll soon have a ‘liver like a crocodile’ and my heart has been troubling me for a week or so. No doubt this is due partly at least to the high altitude & rash football. However that doesn’t worry me as it would have once. I will be very sorry if I have come out here only to go home again, but I think I will be equal to whatever comes.
I am having a quiet day today, beginning with breakfast in bed, and don’t intend to go far from the tent all day. Sunday is still Sunday here, even tho’ there is no service. There is no artificially superinduced atmosphere to make you "feel good’ and if you arrive there it is by your own efforts.
This week has been a busy one, but I had one day off, as orderly officer so managed to get a few letters written. I have had none myself yet, but it would only have been by a stroke of luck if I had because Oct 17th. Is the latest date for which letters have arrived so far. I went to the post office in Nairobi yesterday & found the mail which arrived a fortnight ago still in the process of being sorted, & still knee deep on the floor. Things seemed to be in chaos & if I don’t get letters before going south I don’t expect to see any for months. I am existing now on the photos I brought with me & the three letters I got at Plymouth, and not doing so badly. I feel them at home closer now that ever I did when I was away before.
I spent Friday and yesterday in Nairobi. We walked in just after breakfast on Friday, before the sun was too hot. The road runs for the most part along the slope of the plateau which stretches to N. & W. of the camp. I suppose this is to keep it up out of the swampy ground in the wet season. It is very rough anyway & has a decided list to the south. A new road is being made by the convicts just now. These convicts are better treated than ours at home. They can speak as much as they like and are well fed. We approached the town by the "Hill road", thro’ the 3rd. K.A.R. depot: called at the Paymaster’s and K.A.R. H.Q. for letters, with the results aforementioned. I went & saw John Munro, & hunted the hospital for McLelland of the 1/5th. Sea. but find he has gone. I spent the rest of the daylight buying odds and ends, and seeing the dentist. We stayed at the New Stanley Hotel, a roomy place, with wide staircases & lobbies, whitewashed walls, and plenty of basket chairs. They charge 7.50 ruppees per day, inclusive. We sat on the verandah upstairs most of the afternoon – McBean & I. He is a very likeable chap. He reminds me in many ways of Vane but is free-er with his confidences which isn’t a good point. He is a Celt thro’ & thro’ & absolutely different from the dour Scotchman. I felt so kindly towards him this morning that I gave him Service’s Poems which I know he likes. He left before breakfast today for Beira with a draft. It is a new experience for me to be giving. In the evening I took a ricksha up to the Club, up on the hill, to meet John Munro. The sun had just set and the trees on the top of the hill were silhouetted against the orange red of the sunset, one bright star shone above and the air was still balmy, and full of the whistle of frogs along the road side. Beifer came along with his friend in a little while, & we walked out to Donnie Rose’s house, where we had dinner, pipe tunes on the gramophone and a talk about home. Rose has been out here for 3 1/2 years now. He is in the P.W.D. here, and has had rather a bad time with fever, some months ago. He says he got it here, but I think he moves about the country a bit. They seem to have had rather a bad time during the plague outbreak, about a year ago. Several Europeans died and a couple of hundred or so blacks. In several cases, a body lay in the street for several hours which surely doesn’t reflect much credit on the department responsible. The plague of course is spread by fleas on rats so that there is war to the knife against the latter. The sanitary system in Nairobi is bad, or rather it hardly exists. There are no water-closets. The bucket system seems to be the only one. The native bazaar where the Indian ‘dukas’ are is especially bad. The refuse pits in the middle of each back-court are emptied daily but never ‘cleaned’ out. Disease is hardly preventible. There are no closed in sewage pipes. Another problem, & quite as pressing a one, is that relating to the natives who are very cheeky often. The difficulty is that the civil authorities always seem inclined to take the word of a native before that of a white man, & the boys naturally take advantage of the fact. A boy lately got 7 years for murdering his white mistress: for murdering a black woman it would have been a capital sentence – witness the Indians sentenced now at Mombasa for murdering one of their own kind. The only possible way seems to be to assert the supremacy of the white man. Any softness is taken as weakness & even here in the camp, if you give them an inch they take a yard. My own boy, Maweru, seems a decent enough specimen. Of course, he is young but altho’ I have had my suspicions once or twice, I believe he is honest. I sent him into Nairobi with 30 rupees shortly after I got him and he came back all right. However I was under the impression that I took a couple of thick semmets out with me, & finding that there is only one in my boxes now I examined Maweru’s underflannel & found it the exact duplicate of my own except that it hasn’t my name on it. He claims to have bought it himself, so I must take his word for it as I may be mistaken myself. He has gone home today on leave until Thursday as he had a letter last night saying his father is dead. I wonder if he will turn up, as I have promised to reduce his wages by 2 rupees after the end of this month. Meanwhile I have got a big strapping Kikuyu to look after me.
We don’t have mess on Saturday or Sunday now, so go into supper in neglige.
Monday 24th. I went on parade today altho’ nominally on draft leave. The draft seems to have been indefinitely postponed. There was nothing much doing. In the afternoon we did a small advance guard scheme along the river bed from the Cattle Boma to the camp. There is a white safari party living at the Boma just now, in a tumble-down banda which must be alive with vermin. On our way there, just across the river, we met three Masai, the first authentic specimens I have seen. They were very tall, splendidly built, with fine features. Their skin was light chocolate brown, the hair smeared with red earth, & each carried a few spears. It is a pity they aren’t amenable to discipline. As it is, they are simply pampered parasites.
This is Christmas Eve. We have just had dinner – the same as usual. I am in my tent now and am going to turn in very soon, as we are going our shooting early in the morning. It is bright moonlight outside: the moon is about 3/4 full. There is very little of the Christmas atmosphere about. Somebody is thumping suitable hymns on the piano. I shall hang up my stocking as usual, but don’t hope for anything. This is my fourth Xmas in the Army. The first was at No. 21 with Mac in bed with influenza, the next at Bronfay farm with the Duke of Wellingtons, the third at home, and now this one here.
Wednesday 26th. Yesterday morning Anderson & I went out at 5.15 a.m. with a couple of boys, to have a shot. We were rather later than we intended, so the sun was up before we got beyond the 3 mile limit. We came upon some Tommies but they kept out of range: cover is very scar[c]e. At last I got a big bush between myself & one & got to within about 200’. I crawled up & tried to make myself comfortable but could get no rest for my right elbow. He was standing side on evidently suspicious so I decided to fire altho’ my sight was heaving badly. Of course I missed & the intended victim, after waiting for a few seconds, took to his heels. Anderson knocked one over later on, & then we made our way back to camp as we couldn’t have carried any more had we hit them. We got back in nice time for breakfast with a healthy appetite.
I spent the rest of the day writing & sleeping. We had our Christmas dinner in the middle of the day – hors d’oeuvre, soup, lobster mayonnaise, lamb cutlets, roast turkey , asparagus, plum pudding mince cakes, & coffee. I wrote Daisy today but found it difficult. Read a few pages of the Origin of species, which I find hard reading: turned in early. We hadn’t much sleep last night (Christmas eve) because of the ‘carols’ with the C.O. at their head, coming round and playing havoc with the tents. I managed to save mine by counterattacking immediately with a bucket of water.
I didn’t get up till about eight today & after breakfast I took my geological hammer revolver, magnifying glass & the Golden Treasury & spent a very pleasant forenoon on the side of the burn beyond the Bibi’s village. We had a sharp shower of rain in the evening but only sufficient to wet the surface of the ground. Had a smoking concert in the mess at night with the white N.C.O.s as guests. There isn’t the same line drawn here between N.C.O.s & officers; the distinction is rather between white men and black. Quite a good concert, the sergeants providing practically all the talent.
Thursday 27th. Had bush work in the afternoon – company affair. Wilson & Goodfellow at loggerheads. In the evening I had my first letters from home – 2 from Mother 1 from Bessie & one from Crossgates. I don’t think home ever seemed so sweet and dear to me as now. I don’t know why. I believe half my ‘melancholy’ is home sickness – in a man of twenty eight. Any way it is fine to see a letter from home & hear the news altho’ it is a couple of months old.
Friday 28th. The draft has been warned again, for Sunday first. I hope it goes. Applied for leave immediately & got it till tomorrow night, so stayed in, in the afternoon packing.
Very difficult job deciding what to take & what not. It depends on whether we are to do garrison work or trek. The rains are coming on too, so there won’t likely be much movement. Maweru hasn’t come back from burying his father so I have taken on Harangi, a Kikuyu, at 15 R. per mensem. He is much stronger tho’ perhaps not so intelligent as Maweru.
Saturday 29th. Walked into Nairobi before ‘brekker’. Splendid morning. Passed lots of Tommies & haartebeest a couple of miles out of Nairobi: they let me come within 100 yards of them without rising to their feet. This was in the reserve of course. Did some shopping in the forenoon and have arranged with Standring at the English Pharmacy to develop my films & send prints home. I deposited 10 R. with him to be going on with. Called at the Analytical Department on Birch. Found him in the lab, in the middle of a nauseous smell emanating from the stomach of a poisoned Kikuyu which was boiling merrily in a cupboard. Had lunch with him at the New Stanley. Rode out to camp at night on a donkey, along with Maloney on the C.O.’s horse. Took 1 3/4 hours to the job. Splendid night, especially after the moon rose. Arrived at camp sore behind with the donkey’s jog-trot. Got the rest of my packing done and into bed by 10 p.m.
Sunday 30th. Up at 5 a.m. Dawn just breaking. Breakfast in a hurry & marched into Nairobi, arriving there about 9 a.m. The men were fed on the hill, on mealie-meal, monkey nuts, dates & potatoes. Their methods aren’t very cleanly, and the meal at least didn’t seem half cooked. It must be very filling because there wasn’t a great deal of it. They roll it into a ball in their hands & then eat it, after dipping it into a basin of melted ‘ghee’ – dirty greasy stuff. Brown and I walked down to the New Stanley for lunch. On the way we passed St. Stephen’s church where there were a lot of blacks worshipping & I think whites too. I was surprised to find myself feeling ‘disgusted’ at the idea of equality – unstrictured, as it were. Then came the question "What of your religion?" "Aren’t they all equal in that?" Somehow I feel there’s something wrong there.
The draft was inspected at the station by the General, & then we got aboard. I was much relieved when my boy turned up. I was afraid he had bunked with my haversack & lamp & was cursing my stupidity. As it is, three of our boys did leave their bwanas in the lurch. It’s rather a favourite dodge & you want to have some sort of hold on them there. I hadn’t & was all the more surprised at my good fortune. We left Nairobi about 3 p.m. to the strains of Auld Lang Syne from the 3rd. K.A.R. band. The draft consists of Penfold, Maloney, Carter, Watson, Brown, Shettaford(?) & myself , along with 130 ascaris. We had a pretty decent dinner at Kiri, about 7.30 p.m. We saw the stony athi plains better than coming up. The stoniness seems to be the result of weathering of the lava-flows certain parts taking longer to weather than the rest and standing up. Very little soil, the wind must play a large part in disintegration. These plains are a good example of the influence of geological structure on surface features. You can see the difference at once when you pass from the lava country to the gneissic, and again the coastal belt of sedimentary rocks has a scenery of its own. I don’t know what the hills round Voi are composed of.
Monday 31st. Wakened about 6 a.m. & had a shave & a cat’s wash, there being no water in the compartment. Had to wait for breakfast till we reached Voi at 10.30: before that we tried hard biscuits and coffee made with warm water from the engine. Served out the rations at Voi. The Mahommedans won’t eat ‘bully’ – or any meat whose throat hasn’t been cut by a Mahommedan. I tried to get a photo of some policemen here as they were rather fine specimens but they refused unless I would give them a copy. I couldn’t promise that so had to try to snap one on the q.t. Plenty game about, especially hartebeest, tommies, grant’s, & ostriches. A few giraffes were seen too but not by me. Lunch at Samburu, for 2 rupees. After that we had a pretty quick run down to Kilindini getting there at 6 p.m. just as it was getting dusk. We detrained & lay about for an hour and a half until the staff made up their mind what to do with us. At last when it was quite dark we were told to march into quarters close at hand. Having disposed of the men we got hold of our own stuff. Brown & I getting one tent, where our boys soon rigged up our beds & mosquito nets. Altho’ this is Hogmanay we didn’t attempt to sit up. The air was moist & clammy & we were glad to get into pyjamas. No necessity to use blankets at all. I must say the net isn’t so fuggy as I expected. There are said to be lots of mosquitoes about altho’ I have seen or heard none. Had dinner in the mess & turned in very early.