"Hai Safari! – and Pass the Port"
During World War I there were four campaigns in Africa, Togo, Southwest Africa, Cameroon, and particularly, East Africa, where German General Paul Lettow-Vorbeck’s operations are widely regarded as one of the most brilliantly conducted irregular campaigns in history, a wonderful example of a strategic diversion, costing the Germans far less than it did their enemies. Operations in Africa were conducted under extremely difficult conditions. In most regions only human transport could be used, thus limiting the amount and character of supplies and equipment that could be carried. This put an unusual burden on the officers, who, after all, were supposed to conduct themselves like gentlemen at all times.
|Officer Bearer Allocations|
East Africa, World War I
Now these figures do not tell the whole tale. Bearers, after all, only carry stuff. Important stuff, to be sure, such as cigars, brandy, camp stools, and such. One also needed a servant or two, and probably a cook. Perhaps also a “boss boy,” to supervise these worthies. So an entourage could easily reach ten or twelve “natives” and that only because the officer was “roughing it.”.
The Danish Army Weekly Ration, 1680
Feeding the troops was until recently one of the most important jobs of an army. Of course different armies did it in different ways. The administrative, social, and cultural background of each service dictated often strikingly different approaches to the composition and issuance of rations. Consider how the Danish Army fed its troops during the late seventeenth century.
|Weekly Issue per Soldier, 1680|
|Pork or beef||3 pounds|
Now the Danish pound was actually something like 10-percent heavier than the English pound, so that has to be taken into account when considering the allotments above. Still, the diet was rather starchy, given all that hardtack and groats. But what’s really surprising about the ration is the sheer volume of groats and peas. While the meat, butter, and hardtack rations were pretty close the what most armies issued their troops, the amount of groats (cracked but not milled grain, often oats) and peas was truly enormous; at c. 75 pints per bushel, we’re talking something like 300 pints – nearly six cubic feet! – of some very dry ingredients; or perhaps that’s why the ale ration was of equally heroic proportions?
Having beaten the Turks at Beersheba on October 31, 1917, the British broke the enemy hold on Gaza and began advancing northwards through Palestine. On December 1, 1917, they reached the small town of Ramleh. As the British troops marched through the town, the local Arabs cheered, waving improvised Union flags.
Later that day a large column of Turkish troops entered the town from the north. Seeing them, many of the local people, concluding that the Ottoman Army had recaptured the town, began cheering with great enthusiasm and waving Ottoman flags. But as the Turks proceeded through the town, it soon became that they seemed not to appreciate the enthusiastic welcome being given them. All was clear within a few moments. As the last Turk passed by, a small party of British troops appeared, heavily armed, escorting their docile captives to a P/W camp, a development that quickly put an end to the spontaneous outbursts of loyalty to the Sultan.