For a little known campaign in the Great War, in German East Africa, there is a
substantial bibliography written by British, German and American authors. The
earliest and perhaps only volume covering the experiences of medical officers is Francis
Brett Young's Marching on Tanga, 1917. Now the granddaughter of one such officer has
thrown further light on a fascinating and gruelling aspect of the war.
Ann Crichton-Harris has adopted a well-known technique, that of editing, annotating
and linking a series of personal letters; but what makes her work stand out is the skill
and objectivity with which she has researched and drawn upon many little known and
often little used sources. She has read widely and quoted judiciously, and has balanced
her own views with reference to the official history and other campaign material.
The genesis of this book was a rumour, in 1992, that a number of letters from
Dr Edward Temple Harris, Captain, Indian Medical Service, to his family in India, had
survived. The letters to Temple Harris' brother Tatham had indeed survived.
Ann Crichton-Harris embarked on a seven year labour of love which took her deeper
into East African and Great War history, culminating in a visit to Tanga to see for herself
where her forebear had served.
The letters which in most cases evaded the attention of the censors, reveal the
appalling incompetence of the British generals and the skill with which the German
commander, Paul von Lettow Vorbeck, conducted a four-year guerrilla campaign in
furtherance of his stated aim to divert allied men and material from the European theatre
Ann Crichton-Harris does not overlook other critical aspects of the campaign, such as
the problems of horse-sickness and trypanosomiasis, the mistreatment and casualties
among the carriers and the fascinating "side-issues" of the cruiser Koenigsberg and the
Zeppelin L-59. Reference is also made to the ingenuity with which the German
Schutztruppe utilized local artisans and indigenous materials.
Past members of HMOCS who served in Tanganyika, whether in the Administration,
Agriculture, Veterinary Services or other departments, and ex-members of the King's
African Rifles will all find much to bring back nostalgic memories of their service.
Those who are unfamiliar with the Great War in "German East" and would like to know
more about a strange and fascinating campaign of which little is spoken today, will find
few better books as an introduction.
Ann Crichton-Harris has produced an affectionate and highly readable book which is
to be thoroughly recommended.