The author has filled a gap in the early years of Northern Rhodesia
dominated by WWI. No-one before has brought together so much relevant
material in such a concentrated form. It explains in detail the trials and
tribulations of a struggling Chartered Company (the BSA Co) and its
involvement with the War, run by a handful of officials who were already fully
stretched in running this young country on a shoestring. They had to cope
with the increased demands and disruptions which the War was to cause
both internally and externally and its effect on the northern border tribes. It
deals with the effects of intensive guerrilla warfare engendered by Col. von
Lettow-Vorbeck on our northern borders, the tentacles of which slowly
permeated then quickened through the northern parts of the territory.
Although immediate demands for porters and food were met, the position got
worse year by year so that by 1916 onwards the demand for more food and
more porters became so excessive as to cause considerable disruption and
resentment by the local communities. Increased recruitment to the Military
wing of the BSA Police and the K.A.R. at this time added further pressure on
local resources and manpower.
What the author has done is to penetrate all the nooks and crannies and to
interweave all this fragmentation. The rise in membership of the Watchtower
movement did not help and one must mention The White Fathers' missions
(and all the others) who played a role as a counter balance. But even they
had to abandon some of their mission stations towards the end of the war as
fear and panic caused by the advance of German troops entering the territory
in 1918 led to a breakdown in law and order in a wide area around Kasama
and beyond. The strains on the Chiefs and headmen with the never-ending
demand on their resources which had reached a breaking point was only
saved by the Armistice.
The book emphasizes that although certain parts of the territory were
affected more than others, its overall effect continued to tax the authorities.
The death blow to the Company in the North of Rhodesia was its inability to
cope with the multitude of problems, primarily financial involving who was to
pay for what to meet the overall costs of the war. Correspondence between
the War Office and the Colonial Office was too much for the Company to deal
with. The ending of this frightful conflict brought home to many the demands
of what total war meant and brought out aspects of brutality alien to the
British character and its sense of fair play.
This book is a wonderful contribution to yet another aspect of WW I which
now recognizes how much is owed to the many Askari and Porters who laid
down their lives for a cause not of their making. Both are commemorated by
bronze statues in Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Nairobi. White supremacy
was badly dented in the years after the Armistice. Protectorate status was
established then and Independence came 40 years later.
A certain Donald Siwale is mentioned in the book (page 130) as a clerk at
Fife whose suggestions were accepted in resolving a chieftainship problem.
The same Siwale became an ardent nationalist who years later, as a retired
teacher in the 1950's, played a prominent part in the cause of greater African
representation in the government. It was his son who succeeded me as
Director of Manpower & Training for the Zambian Civil Service in 1971, who
was also an ardent nationalist.
One must congratulate the author and his family for the excellent detail rarely
seen to illustrate the old Provincial boundaries and also the areas where the
main crops were grown to feed the war effort. The only criticism I have of this
excellent book is that whilst these maps are some of the best I have seen,
one needs a magnifying glass or enlarger to fully appreciate them and each
one is worthy of its own page.
The author is to be warmly congratulated for his contribution to such an
important part of Northern Rhodesia's social, imperial and military history and
on the painstaking research entailed.