May 13th 1918

Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) writes from the Victoria Falls Hotel in Southern Rhodesia, where he is on leave, having been up country in Singida district of Tanganyika dealing with an outbreak of the plague.

16/4/18. “The inhabitants of this district, known as Wanyaturu, were having rather a poor time, for beside the plague there was smallpox in the country, and they had no grain, all their reserves having been used, and the crops not yet having come on, so they were living on grass seeds, meat and the blood of their cattle, which they obtain and drink after the custom of their northern neighbours, the Masai. 

The jugular vein of an ox is made to stand out prominently by pressure, and then a little arrow is shot into it from a few yards away. This is the time honoured procedure – but one wonders why such a round-about method is used instead of the knife! The warm blood is drunk fresh; though I am a medicine man myself, I could never bring myself to face this procedure, though my curiosity longed to be satisfied!

I am taking advantage of this leave to see one of the world’s wonders… viz., the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, near Livingstone… 

Firstly, get it into your heads that the renowned Niagara falls are not in it with the Zambezi falls! The latter are twice as broad and two and a half times as high as the Niagara, but perhaps the word deep describes it better than high, seeing that the water drops into an immense chasm, for the level of the country is the same above as below the falls. The river, a mile and a quarter broad, suddenly falls over into a fissure deep set at right angles to its course, and very narrow, in some places less than 400 feet across…

The spray produced by the terrific impact of water at the bottom of the chasm rises high into the air above the surrounding country for some hundreds of feet, forming a white column which is visible from 25 miles away…

I also send one of the railway’s printed maps and a set of picture cards which I should like to be put up on the walls of the Museum, so that the falls may be somewhat more than an empty name on the map.”

January 25th 1918

Further to previous correspondence on the matter, Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) has written on the subject of a War Memorial:

“…but why only for those ‘who have given their lives for their country in this Great War’? Surely this war is not the first occasion on which Dragons have died for their country or for others? Nor will it be the last. Peace hath her victories no less than war.

I remember at the beginning of my first term the Skipper announcing the death in a boating accident of a boy who had only left at the end of the preceding term, and was drowned while trying to save others. Would this occasion, when we are all trying to do our bit, be a most suitable one for collecting funds for a memorial for all time, past, present and future, of our friends who have died, are dying, and will die for others long after we have gone?”

Claude Burton (‘Touchstone‘), father of Capt. Paddy Burton (Beds), who was killed on the Somme, has written:

“A mere affair of masonry and medallions – the ordinary type of war memorial – falls a long way short of my own aspirations in the matter…

It seems to me that since Old Boys have fought and died for those who are to follow them, the memorial most fitting them would be one which would benefit directly the future boys of the School, and I would therefore suggest that the bulk of the money subscribed should be employed in founding scholarships which should give a better chance in life to those who need it…

Of course this is only an individual opinion – one amongst many, but I feel that if my eldest son were still with us he would have inclined to some such solution of the problem.”

In view of the opinions expressed on the subject, I would not at present commit myself to any particular scheme. Subscribers may be sure that no definite conclusion will be adopted until all those who are interested have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, and then a Committee of Old Boys and parents of past and present boys will have finally to decide on what shall be done.

 

January 11th 1915

Old Dragons are also involved in fighting the war in other parts of the world. Geoffrey Carpenter (Capt. Uganda Medical Service) is in charge of a field ambulance in British East Africa and has written to tell us of the Battle of Tanga, which took place in early November.

“You will have seen in the papers that there had been some stiff fighting in BEA, mostly on the coast, where an attack on a fortified town (where our men had been told there would be no opposition) was repulsed with considerable slaughter. The Germans had a very large number of maxims, in trees, or firing through holes cut in enormous tree trunks, each one covered by another behind, and with all the ranges carefully marked off. They had also enlisted the services of large numbers of bees – ferociously stinging – which set upon our men and of course considerably aided the rout. Indeed one or two men died of bee stings…B.E.A

We do not have enough troops to do more than maintain a defensive position and have made our line of defence along the north bank of the river Kagera, which flows into the lake at about the middle of its west coast… As it is impassable in most places, owing to dense belts of papyrus along its banks, it makes a most excellent line of defence. The actual political frontier is some miles to the north of the river, so that we hold a strip of territory really part of GEA. I think I may claim to be (at least one of) the first Old Dragons to invade German territory.

I am now (with one other white man) in a fort which we have taken over from the Germans, who retired when we advanced. They had simply erected four walls enclosing a square space. Since we have been here (2½ months) we have taken it in hand and have made no end of a place of it – bomb-proof houses to live in, underground magazine, underground passage leading to an outlying maxim pit, and other dodges so that it seems a very strong place now.

We are about four miles north of the river on a hill top, overlooking a flat plain, with other hills to the east and west. Curiously enough the other white man, who is in charge of the fort and of a section of the line of defence, is Captain Bertram Garratt of the Indian Army, Old Dragon and who was a little senior to me. We both hope the squareheads will attack so that we can have some fun.”

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, we gather Frank Sidgwick is finding training difficult – particularly on the Parade Ground.

“Form Fours”

A Volunteer’s Nightmare.

If you’re a Volunteer Artist or Athlete, or if you defend the Home,

You sacrifice “Ease” for “Attention,” and march like a metronome;

But of all elementary movements you learn in your Volunteer Corps

The one that is really perplexing is known as the Forming of Fours.

 

Imagine us numbered off from the right: the Sergeant faces the squad,

And says that only the odd files move – I always seem to be odd!

And then his instructions run like this (very simple in black and white) –

“A pace to the rear with the left foot, and one to the right with the right.”

 

Of course if you don’t think deeply, you do it without a hitch;

You have only to know your right and left, and remember which is which;

But as soon as you try to be careful, you get in the deuce of a plight,

With “a pace to the right with your left foot, and one to the rear with the right!”

 

Besides, when you’re thoroughly muddled the Sergeant doubles your doubts

By saying that rules reverse themselves as soon as you’re “turned about;”

So round you go on your right heel, and practise until you are deft

At “a pace to the front with the right foot, and one to the left with the left.”

 

In my dreams the Sergeant, the Kaiser, and Kipling mix my feet,

Saying “East is left, and Right is Might, and never the twain shall meet!”

In my nightmare squad all files are odd, and their Fours are horribly queer,

With “a pace to the left with the front foot, and one to the right with the rear!”

 

No.5 Balham A.V.F., A Company . Platoon 1 = F.Sidgwick.