Today is the 100th anniversary of Galipoli, it is a day when Aussies and Kiwis at home and abroad stop to remember those who died on the shores of Galipoli in Turkey during WW1. Debs and I were lucky enough to lead an overland trip to Galipoli for the 90th Anniversary; it was a pilgrimage that every Aussie and Kiwi have to do at least once in their life.
Although this little story has nothing to do with Galipoli as such, it is part of WWI and the war effort to defeat the axis powers namely Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Germany. Little is known about the war efforts in East Africa so on this day we would like to share this story based in Kenya.
We have come across this typical African story at various times from totally different sources. So there must be some truth to it.
In East Africa the British Empire enrolled hundreds of thousands of locals into the Kings African Rifles and the Carrier Corps. To this day there is a suburb in Nairobi called Kariakor which used to be their base.
Germany was in possession of German East Africa, now called Tanzania.
Since there were only a handful of German troops and settlers in German East Africa they also had to rely heavily on local recruits.
Germany had neither intentions nor resources to occupy the British Colony of Kenya but orders were given to keep the Brits busy by running small incursions across the border to sabotage the Uganda Railway by blowing up bridges and loosening tracks. The idea was to weaken the British on the main battle fields in Europe as they had to send reinforcements to Kenya and Uganda to protect their Colonies.
In the 1950s the British Government decided to compensate their now very old African soldiers who fought against the Germans in WWI and WWIΙ with a one off payment for their services.
Word was sent out that a British delegation would travel around Kenya visiting various locations for one day only to pay compensation in cash. Any claimant was required to present himself in his original uniform as proof he served during the war.
The turnout was bigger than expected. The paymaster was quite busy keeping up with his books, taking records and handing out the money one by one to a long queue of people.
On one occasion he looked up at the soldier he was just about to hand over the money and immediately burst out laughing.
The soldier in front of him was wearing a German uniform! “Oh well” he thought, “he still fought in the war, he probably had no idea who he was fighting for” ….. and handed over the compensation courtesy of the British Government.
So on this day, 25th April 2015, let us respectively remember everyone who fought ………..
Thiemo Ebersberger, a German is married to Debs, an Aussie, and together they run Africa Expedition Support based in Kenya. Check out www.africaexpeditionsupport.com for safaris and expeditions.