The recent WW1 Tsavo trip ably conducted by James Willson author of ‘Guerillas of Tsavo’ awakened in me memories of WW2, less than 25 years after ‘the war to end all wars’. It dragged me back to that time of fear, cold sweating numbing fear, as I lived through the blitz. Even to this day, I recall the stomach curdling sound of the sirens warning us of an impending air raid. Some years later, I was a twelve-year old sitting in the cinema on a Saturday morning waiting to see the next episode of Zorro. The Pathé newsreel came on and I first saw scenes of death, naked dead bodies piled high like so much debris, even the last remnant of their modesty stripped from them. The living dead walked hesitantly, as if from another world; zombie-like figures staring at the American soldiers who had come to free them.
These and many more images were conjured up as we travelled through that now peaceful countryside in Taita-Taveta once the site of so much death and destruction. Standing in a cemetery and there were many, I was conscious of the bodies lying beneath the serried rows of identical head stones distinguished only by their name, rank and company; young lives never fulfilled, never to feel again the sweet breeze through their hair or see the smile on their children’s faces. The sadness of the places touched me deeply.
In retracing the path around the Mashoti Fort now overgrown and almost unrecognizable by the passage of time, I tried to imagine the heat, the insects, the discomfort and the fatigue that was the life of the soldiers most of whom would never lived to enjoy the freedoms they had fought for.
And finally the debacle at Salaita hill reminded me if I needed a reminder of the futility of war.
The Editor, Old Africa,
1st September 2104