Troops in a Rubber Plantation Stereoscope Card

We have another stereoscope card this week to look at, again from the East African campaign in the Great War. This campaign has largely been forgotten by history and did not receive much publicity at the time either. There clearly was enough interest, however, to justify a set of stereoscope cards being produced of the campaign and the exotic nature of the uniforms and locations compared to the mud of the Western Front might have been an incentive to the card makers to produce a range of images based on this campaign. Although it was largely a war of movement, men still dug in when they stopped although this was in the form of small foxholes and shallow trenches rather than the expansive trench systems of Europe. Here we see men in a rubber plantation in East Africa:

The trees tower above them, however there is large open space between them as this is a managed plantation rather than virgin forest and so the ground is comparatively open and easy to dig in. The soldiers have dug trenches and shell scrapes and there are some walls of mud bricks thrown up, although it is unclear if these are a pre-existing structure or specially constructed to be part of the soldiers’ defensive position:

The men themselves are wearing tropical KD attire and Wolseley helmets and as one would expect from a conflict away from the Europe, they are still using long Lee Enfield rifles rather than the more modern SMLE:

Although East Africa was a backwater, strategically speaking, it was a theatre of war as fiercely fought as any other and added to the usual privations of active service were the problems of distance, supply lines and tropical disease. It was not just white soldiers involved in the fighting and Belo Akure was a member of the West African Field Force’s Southern Nigeria Regiment and in 1914 was a Company Sergeant Major. During the winter of 1916/17, on a night patrol, with three privates, near Kibongo, Akure and a small party of men saw a group of about 50 native soldiers, led by two German officers, preparing for an attack. He told his men to wait for him to shoot first before opening fire, then shot (and probably killed) one of the enemy officers. His small patrol then gave rapid fire, before retreating while Akure provided covering fire. About a week later, Sergeant-Major Akure was with the 4 th Battalion’s British Officer, Lieutenant Travers, on a patrol to try and ambush a German detachment. Again it was their officer who was the main target, and this time Akure shot him in the leg, and then went out under fire to bring the German back as a prisoner, to the British base at Mkindu. For these two acts of bravery, Belo Akure was awarded the Military Medal (“M.M.”). The details of Akure’s actions are recorded in a book, “With the Nigerians in German East Africa”, by another of the regiment’s British Officers, Captain W. D. Downes, which was published in 1919. Writing about Akure, the Captain says: ‘I have several times seen this sergeant major in action, and can honestly state that I have never seen a braver man.’

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