As an expatriate working in Africa, I have several different areas of expertise, one of which is running a law firm with my wife Pauline. Yes, she is the clever one! She mainly concentrates on family cases, but lawyers in Kenya tend to run practices where they have a hand in everything. It was amazing to me that when COVID struck, and all the courts were closed, the Judiciary of Kenya, almost overnight, moved to online sessions. They were able to integrate the internet into their processes which revolutionized the practice of law in Kenya. My wife usually left the house at around 5.30 am then did a couple of hours of work in the office before heading off to court for the day. Now she walks to her desk in our flat and goes online. She can conduct cases all over Kenya in the new virtual world. This is one of the things about technology I find amazing. We can now, with basically the flick of a switch, change a whole industry for the better.
I have been working hard on the marketing for the William Brody Series this month and progressed with the website. A great guy called Tom Knorz is helping me. I am hoping to get it finished over the next 8 weeks.
I had a very useful review from someone on Amazon a couple of months ago pointing out the inevitable spelling mistakes that manage to sneak through the editing process. I am so grateful to the readers that bother to markup their copy of the book and then send me a review or an email pointing out typos. With this new digital print media world, I can simply go back to the book on Amazon and make the corrections. I was unable to contact the person who wrote the review, but to all of you out there that help me make the books better, I am eternally grateful.
As always, when I start checking through a book, I fall down one of my rabbit holes and start reading the book again. I was particularly taken with a minor character, who I only mention in passing in African Vengeance, the commander of the German forces in East Africa Paul Emil Von Lettow-Vorbeck, who was also called the Lion of Africa. He appears during the battle of Tanga or the Battle of the Bees as it is known. When I was writing African Vengeance, I went to Tanga several times and stayed in the hotel where Gabriel and Brody stay. There is still a very German feel to this small town.
Lettow-Vorbeck was essentially undefeated in the field and was the only German commander in history to successfully invade a part of the British Empire during the First World War. His exploits in the campaign against the British in East Africa have been described by Edwin Palmer Hoyt as “the greatest single guerrilla operation in history, and the most successful.”
Lettow-Vorbeck must have been an incredible man to meet. He took his role in East Africa very seriously. When he was stationed in Southern Africa, several years earlier, he captured a Hottentot guerrilla leader by the name of Samuel Isaak. Vorbeck undertook the interrogation of the man. Rather than asking him about his forces, weapons, and positions he spent hours with the guerrilla leader asking him questions about how to survive in the bush. The story goes:
“His questions were how to live off a country which offers no apparent sustenance, how to run in conditions when most men barely have the strength to walk, how to condition the body to go without food or water, and most important of all, how to become so much a part, so absorbed into an unfriendly wilderness that survival is possible as the snakes and land crabs and lizards survive”.
To me, this shows a man who understood his mission and wanted to be the best he possibly could be.
After the Battle of the Bees in Tanga, which was the first major battle between the British and the Germans in World War One. The Lion of Africa went into real guerrilla mode and took the battle to the British all along the border. He next fought the British at Jassin on the 19th of February 1915 and won again. Both victories helped Vorbeck with much-needed supplies of rifles, ammunition, and food which helped boost his troop’s morale.
He then went on a recruiting spree to expand his army’s size and ended up with some 14,000 soldiers, most of them African Askaris. Here, Lettow-Vorbeck came into his own once again as he spoke fluent Kiswahili which earned him the respect and admiration of his African Soldiers. He also appointed Black officers and is reported to have said, “we are all Africans here.”
It is important to note that it was unheard of at the time that any white man would have such a keen appreciation of an African soldier’s worth not only as a fighter but as a man. Vorbeck was able to transform a small, fixed German army into a very agile and adaptable guerrilla force that was able to take the British Army to task.
The Lion of Africa and his army of askaris fought the British from Moshi to Tanga. There is a wonderful safari camp in Tsavo West called Lion’s Bluff where you can go on walks to see the old First World War trenches. I sent Gabriel there in African Vengeance and he finds a spent round from the war. This area exists and there are finds made every day. If you would like to learn more there is a website dedicated to the skirmishes on this long-forgotten front that is worth visiting here is the link.
Lettow-Vorbeck survived the war and returned to Germany where he had a very impressive career as a diplomat and businessperson.
In the year of his death, 1964, the West German Bundestag voted to give all of the backdated pay from the Frist World War to the surviving Askaris. In typical German efficiency, a temporary cashier’s office was set up in Mwanza on Lake Victoria, notices were sent out asking for the askaris to come forward. However, a problem soon appeared, the askaris had no formal proof they had been led by the Lion of Africa. Some showed pieces of old worn uniforms, and a few had letters from Lettow-Vorbeck himself. But the majority of the soldiers had nothing. The clever German banker who was charged with handing out the money came up with a brilliant idea: he asked each man to perform the manual of arms. Not one man failed and all were paid in full!
I can’t do justice to such an enigmatic leader in this short piece, but I have included links above for you to continue reading. Also, Amazon has several great books on The Lion of Africa. One that I enjoyed is When Elephants Clash it’s a nice quick read and gives a taste of life in East Africa back in the early 20th century.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this quick note on Africa and its history. As always, please don’t be selfish with this email! Pass it on to your friends and family and let them know they can get a FREE copy of African Slaver from my website – here’s the link as always!
If anyone wants to drop me a line, feel free I am always up for a chat. [email protected]
Have a great day.