'With Botha's Army
in German Southwest Africa'
told by J. P. Kay Robinson, with the British Army


On the Road to Capetown

Soth African engineers disembarking at Luderitzburcht


These experiences of an English soldier in South Africa form most interesting stories of the brilliant campaigns under General Botha. They have been gathered into a book under title "With Botha's Army," with an indorsement by General Botha in which he says: "It contains an able and good description of the fine spirit which animates our Army in German South West Africa, and of the good humor which kept our men cheerful under most trying conditions." The narrator tells about "The Occupation of Luderitzbucht"; "Sandstorms and Ceremonies"; "War's Grim Jests and Morals," with numberless anecdotes of human interest.


German cavalry in Soutwest Africa


I — Story of the Carbineers in Africa

The story of the campaign of German Southwest Africa is written, plain for all time, across the sands of that amazing country, and an empty bully-beef tin, half-buried in the flank of a tawny sand-dune, is eloquent of most of its detail.

The week that followed upon our second taking of Fort Grasplatz brought us a passing interest in new arrivals : the Natal Carbineers, the Pretoria Regiment, the Kaffrarian Rifles, a battery of the Natal Field Artillery, the Eastern Rifles, the 1st Kimberley Regiment, and — it was whispered — a brand-new Brigadier with a brand-new Staff to match.

A bare note in my diary states simply that they came. Of the order of their coming is no mention, but then, not even official records, I believe, could have lucidly sustained the sandstorm that snarled over Luderitzbucht throughout the whole of that infernal week. Through it were caught glimpses, here and there, of herds of baggage-laden infantry being driven to allotted camping-grounds ; of spick-and-span Carbineers striving desperately to maintain the dignity of their spurs — and almost succeeding; of kicking mules and cursing drivers; strings of horses, wagons, guns, more drivers (still cursing), native scouts, poultice-wallopers (courtesy title of the S.A.M.C.), and all the rag-tag and bobtail of our amateur army.

A hard-bitten company of the Veterinary Corps drifted down upon us, and asked if there was beer: they had heard------. We told them, Yes; there was beer, but there was none now. We were sorry. Whereupon, and without enthusiasm, they said that it didn't matter, and drifted away, still searching. Others, but these were of the infantry, forlorn units blown from all knowledge of their whereabouts, we found huddled under the lee of buildings. They bleated at us joylessly, and asked many questions. Was this a sandstorm? Were there many Germans about? and — but this was inevitable and unvaried — had we found many diamonds?

We would usually tell them that our kit-bags could hold no more, whereupon they would break down and beg to be taken back to their regiments. We did not, of course, entertain the slightest knowledge of their regiments' whereabouts, but, as something was obviously expected of us, we would indicate variously all four points of the compass, and they would thank us effusively and merge away, one by one, into the muffled landscape.

Sandstorms, however, do not last for ever, and there came at last a day when the unchanged hills looked down upon neat acres of canvas and a new and startling activity. All of our immediate world was become a geometric pattern. Wagons, scores upon scores of them, stood axle to axle in a faultless precision that led the eye along ruled lines to ordered rows of water-carts and tethered mules. A group of these last had broken loose, and half a dozen mathematicians with long-handled whips were chasing them back into equational order. Beyond, again, right-angled horse lines and a criss- cross pattern of tents which was the Natal Carbineers' camp played with the Natal Field Artillery's 15-pounders at being an Euclidic proposition. Which, of course, was absurd.

It has somewhere been said that an Army represents the only true democracy. This is not true. Nowhere is there so nice a class distinction as in the Army, and nowhere, perhaps, is that nicety so candidly maintained. We, the I.L.H., would not at that time have even dreamed of visiting the infantry, but we called upon the Carbineers because, simply, they were "mounted men," and as such our equals. Later, months later, out of the common thirst and the sandstorms — all men are alike in a sandstorm — there grew the reluctant conviction that active service brings to pass a sort of socialistic millennium in which regiments are judged only by their performances, and in which officers may at times speak quite respectfully to their men, and men almost respectfully of their officers. That the moral of the mounted man is usually superior to that of the "foot-slogger" may be attributed solely to the superior moral of the horse that he rides. This last is an epigram, but true.


German lancers in South West Africa


II — Tales of the Natal Field Artillery

The Natal Field Artillery, too, were on our visiting list, and we found them to be excellent fellows. We swapped lies with them; we pronounced their guns to be the loot of some museum — they were not, certainly, of the newest type — and we greedily borrowed all the newspapers that they had brought with them.

It was in the N.F.A. lines, by the way, one white-hot noon, that I almost tripped over the super-philosopher. He was Irish, which perhaps makes his philosophy the less remarkable, and he sat upon an upturned soap-box and toyed with a dish of something that sounded like camp stew.

There was a sudden noise, the sort of noise that makes a grown-up say to a child: "You should put your hand before your mouth when you do that!" and I heard, rather than saw, the super-philosopher clear his mouth of some objectionable morsel. I looked round, and his pale eye closed with mine. "Praise th' saints!" he said, "thim ants have no bones into thim!"

Our interest in the arrivals did not last long. A new sandstorm blew up and swallowed them, and when, weeks later, it spat them out again, they had all but lost their identity as far as we were concerned. The infantry became known to us simply as "foot-sloggers;" the Carbineers, from a weakness for polishing their riding-boots, became "the Cherry Blossom Brigade;" and we, the I.L.H., were known to all and sundry as the "Illicit Liquor Hunters." I do not think, however, that we should have minded so much if there had been any liquor left to hunt.

We were kept hard at work, too, and we soon learned that the "in-betweens" were more profitably to be spent in what we called "blanket-drill," and what our N.C.O.'s, when they were not indulging in it themselves, called "darned laziness," than in afternoon calls upon strangers who had so thoroughly taken upon themselves the color of their surroundings as to have become as supremely uninteresting as ourselves.

The deep groaning noise that a trumpet makes at dawn, and which field-officers and poets call "reveille," and turn over again and snore at, when by some rare chance, they hear it, was to us the first note in a symphony of labor that was to last all day. Who has heard the howls of execration that uprise from a sleeping camp at its first note will appreciate the truth of what I say. The utter hopelessness of any resistance to its summons is, perhaps, what galls most. Turn you never so deaf an ear, you will still have the chilling conviction that some N.C.O., with more liver than bowels of compassion, is waiting "outside" to mark you down as an absentee from roll-call.

Reveille, roll-call, arms inspection, morning stables, alleged breakfast, stable fatigue, mounted squadron drill, watering and feeding horses, and musketry instruction took us by gentle stages as far as lunch-time. After lunch (save the mark! but is sand, disguised as Irish stew, lunch?), Swedish drill, sectional skirmishing on foot, and an odd quarter- master's fatigue or so thrown in, would lead us on to evening stables. That accomplished, we were at liberty — those, at least, of us who were not on guard for the night — to prepare our evening meal and to retire to our blankets, where, masters of ourselves at last, we could — the writer certainly did on one occasion — dream that one- eyed camels of malevolent aspect chased us through interminable leagues of sandstorm, and finally drove us into seas of greasy Irish stew, wherefrom emerged horrid shapes that lectured us on the care of rifles and the virtues of discipline.

How we longed for war, if only for its comparative peace!

Not all our days were gray days, however. There came a period when each morning saw us, clad mainly in pipes and towels, taking our horses down to a landlocked arm of the sea, where the hills stood up in their glory around us, and where flamingoes, in their stately phalanxes, waded the still shallows or flung in broad-pinioned ease to some further sand-bank; where black seals bobbed greeting to us from the dipping waters, and where we could forget the sandstorms of yesterday and tomorrow.

Horses, we found, made excellent diving boards, and lent themselves, besides, to a type of chariot-racing that I have not met elsewhere. For this form of sport it is essential to have two horses, and it usually became one's painful duty, therefore, to borrow the mount of some other man, preferably a non-swimmer, when he was not looking, and then to make for deep water — where he could not follow — with as little delay as possible. Remained then only to so contrive oneself as to stand with a foot on the back of each animal, and to keep them swimming sufficiently near together to allow one to retain some sort of balance. Sometimes one would succeed, but usually, and in spite of extreme efforts, the contrary beasts would swim more and more widely apart, until overtaxed powers of doing the splits would end in a ducking as ignominious as inevitable.

I remember an occasion when, after a long and tiring patrol, we had ridden our horses into the shallows to cool their legs, a school of ground-sharks suddenly appeared, almost literally, under their very noses. The White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland," who made his horse wear spiked anklets against the danger of shark-bite, must have foreseen some such contingency; but then, had he been with us, he would have fallen off, I feel sure, in the smother of spray and panic which the experience cost us.


two pages from a British magazine


Ill — Wild Ride of the Water Patrol

One of our duties at this time was the providing of an escort to the water ration that left Luderitzbucht each morning for Kolmanskoppe.

The water was taken in mule-drawn trolleys along the railway line (we possessed no other "rolling stock" at that time) and as it was the sole supply of the two infantry regiments stationed there, extreme care had to be taken to prevent its being intercepted by a stray German patrol.

On October 7, No. 3 Troop had supplied the convoy, and we, whose turn it was to do so on the morrow, had spent the greater part of the day in the sweet frame of mind that is bred by camp fatigues, and at four o'clock in the afternoon were waiting for the order to "break away" from a squadron drill that seemed as if it would never end. The other troops had dismissed long ago, and we asked ourselves with some bitterness why we should be kept out in the heat and sand playing at circuses, and all the while the sharp words of command stabbed through the curtain of dust that followed us, and punctuated our grumbling. "On the left fo-orm troop!" Some one, hand-jostled by a section in rear, cursed aloud, and we laughed as we went forward at the picturesque phrase he had used. "Sections right!" The sand-fog rose more thickly about us. Was this farce never going to end ? "Ha-alt!" Ah! This was the order for which we had been waiting. The "dismiss" would follow, and there was still time if we hurried for a bathe before evening stables.

But our O.C. had apparently forgotten us. He was gazing with something of an air of abstraction at a soldierly horseman making towards us from the direction of the camp.

There was nothing really extraordinary in the sight of that figure (we could recognize him, by the big, upstanding gray that he rode, as the Colonel's orderly), yet something — his obvious hurry perhaps — made us forget our anxiety to be dismissed.

A minute later he had pulled up before our troop leader. "Colonel D--------n's compliments, sir! and you are to report to him at once!" And then, in the confidential tone that orderlies learn from their constant association with the higher ranks: "Water guard, sir!" I could just catch the words: ". . . German patrol . . . one . . . chap wounded. . . . What's that, sir? ... Yes, one of our fellows."

"Sections right! Wa-alk'arch! Tr-r-ot!" There was life in the order this time, and there was life, too, in our quick response. The horses even seemed to be infected, and we had to hold them a little as we pounded along in the wake of the news-bringer.

"Steady, there! Ye don't want to ride the sentries down, do ye?" The camp buildings had leaped out at us from the yellow haze of our own progress, and the corporal of the guard had flattened himself against a wall — just in time. We pulled up and rode in soberly. Men of other troops dashed at us and held our horses. "Lucky devils!" they said, and bade us get our bandoliers and rifles. From them we learned that a German patrol had lain in wait for the water convoy at a point some three miles up the line, had potted one of our men through the thigh, and had retired without our fellows being able to fire a shot in exchange, and now, we — "lucky 4," they called us — were going out to hunt them. "And I don't suppose they've gone far," one informed me. "I expect they'll be waiting for you, an' p'raps they'll shoot one of you. I know I hope they will — you lucky, lucky devils!"

Into the press of chaff and counter-chaff, and the excitement of straps and buckles, rode one, speaking with the large voice of small authority, and hung about with "the complete campaigner's outfit." Not a detail — if we except the camp-stretcher and the cork,- mattress — was missing. Water-bottle, haversack, prismatic compass, field-glasses, first-aid outfit, and sand goggles — the White Knight again!

As a quick-change artist he should have commanded our ready admiration. As it was, he provided just that sobering touch of humor that we needed. "Goin' to take all week to get ready?" he queried with that heavy urbanity which N.C.O.'s and stage managers mistake for satire, ". . . passel o' ladies' maids!"

"Oh! you — you May queen!" I heard some one say, and the troop giggled helplessly as we swung into our saddles. "Number off from the right!" the order was barked at us.

"One" — "two" — "three"------. The fourth man was having trouble with his pony and was far too busy to think of mere numbers, and the White Knight glared down the line of us as if, in some way, just outside his comprehension, we were all to blame. "As you were!" he snapped — it sounded like "Zwear!" "Number off from the ri------" "No time for that now, Sergeant!" spoke the crisp voice of the O.C. from somewhere behind us. "Sections left! Walk! march! Tr-r-ot!" and the quick dust rose to the forward surge of horses and men, and we were off.

Five minutes later we had passed the outlying pickets of the Transvaal Scottish, and were kicking up the sand at a good hand-canter along the hill-girt railway line to Kolmanskuppe. There is a peculiar exhilaration in this form of sport (I cannot easily use the term "warfare" in regard to a game wherein all that is ordinarily known as "patriotism" is swallowed up and lost in a wholesome, primal, man's desire to hunt man — the royalist of royal game — for the sake, only, of the game's lust), and if in G.S.W. we were rather like the famous American hunter who had never been known to kill anything, but who "just hunted" — well, such little killing as did come our way proved conclusively that "just hunting" held all the breathless joy of the thing and left no — aftertaste. For some miles we held our pace, and the heavy, springless sand through which we rode flung its yellow veil about us. There was the sound of wind in our ears, and the creaking of saddle-leather, a vague surging noise, as of a heavy ground-swell sucking through rocks, and, over all, the choking, blinding pall of dust. An oath, back-flung from a leading section where a horse had stumbled, sounded smothered and unreal. Now and again an outcrop of bare granite would leap out to meet us, and the brief thunder of our passing would shout back from the echoing hills; then sand again, and its muffled tumult.


German troops in retreat blowing up raiway lines


IV — Story of the Troopers on the Trail of the Ambushers

The valley became narrower, and a hint of coolness stole down the sudden shadows. All on a moment a swift hand plucked the sunlight from us, and the jaws of the hills closed suddenly about our path — closed, closed, until the ribbon of steel that we knew to be'the railway line looked like a tongue lolling from the cleft grin before us. There was a silence in that place, and our horses pricked quick, apprehensive ears to it. "What a place for an ambush!" said some one of my section, and the angry "Don't be a fool!" of the man to whom he had spoken showed that three of us, at least, were thinking of the same thing. The click of a steel-shod hoof striking against stone, and — "click!" back would come the answer of the rocks; just the sort of noise that the bolt of a Mauser rifle makes when it is drawn back to------

Well, speaking personally, I do not suppose that I should have noticed it if my horse hadn't jumped so.

It was here, or hereabouts, that our patrol had been fired on only a few hours before, and we had received no particular assurance that ours was not likely to be a similar experience. On the contrary, every breathing instant was pregnant with possibility, and, be it said, a sort of half-shrinking hope.

A barrier of great boulders, through which the line won a bare clearance, stood suddenly up against us. Just the place for an ambush; but nothing happened save, perhaps, that one was conscious more of one's own breathing after it was passed. A hundred yards or so farther on the hills to our right fell away in a great curve, and sheeted sunlight lay on all the place; orange, streaked with silver of drift-sand on the shining plain, while beyond, and high above all, white-faced crags swam on an opal-hearted mist. To our right a mad sunset flared above the purple-footed hills, and pointed long, scornful, shadow-fingers at us. Sunset ? or drunken magic ? Saffron there was, and duck's-egg green lying on amber; amber that dripped molten gold, and tipped with splendid color the peaks which stood up blackly against it; amber, shot with blush-rose and slashed with fierce scarlet: a breathless wonder that changed while we watched it — changed and deepened until all the painted sky was a blood-clotted glory.

Night had stepped into the valley in which we rode, and I was not sorry when my section was picked out for "flanking work," and we were sent at a sharp trot to the foot-hills and the sunlight. We were told to keep slightly in advance of the troop, and, as the broken nature of the ground allowed, about three hundred yards distant from the railway line, the idea being, of course, that should an enemy patrol be waiting for us among the rocks, we — "the advance screen" — would draw their fire, and so secure some measure of safety for our main body. A leading section was sent off to the shadow-land on the right of the line, and, looking back when we had ridden some hundred yards or so, I saw two other sections detach themselves from the main body, and drop back, to the right and left respectively, as a sort of extended rearguard.

"As the nature of the ground allowed!" The words were the letter of our instructions; the exclamation mark, as Punch might say, was ours when the first gentle slope that we negotiated jumped suddenly up into a hog-backed "krantz," that looked as if it might strain even a klip-springer. It had to be done, however, and we laid ourselves on our horses' necks and let them go at it. What a breathless scramble it was! Loose shale avalanched about us, and steel-shod hoofs slipped and struck, and struck and slipped again on the crisp granite, and just when it seemed to me that nothing was left but to dismount and pull my horse up after me, there was a last, furious straining of willing muscles, a plunge that shook my hat over my eyes, and the four of us were landed in a hard-breathing bunch on a sort of shelf of rock. A girth had slipped, and we paused while it was tightened, and looked back. The troop was halted — while we attained our position, I supposed — and as we watched, a figure rode clear of the others and signaled agitatedly to us to advance.

It was comparatively easy, from our elevation, to select a route that conformed measurably to our instructions and to the opposing factor of our own instinct of self- preservation. Only comparatively easy, however, because distances that looked flat, or, at the most, but gently tilted, proved on closer inspection to be almost worth the serious consideration of an Alpine Club. But we managed to scramble along somehow. When possible, we even went farther into the spirit of our instructions, and rode in extended formation, but, although our horses displayed an amazing aptitude for rock-work, we usually found ourselves progressing in single file. Once, I remember, when a flat surface of rock tempted us to something approaching a trot, we pulled up only a few yards short of where the hill ended abruptly, and lay, piled about its own foot, hundreds of feet below. It was from there, too, that we first caught sight of the white buildings of Kolmanskuppe, some two or three miles away, but although it was a cheering sight, we went on from that place with much sedateness and circumspection. All serious thought of meeting the enemy patrol had vanished, of course, with that first glimpse of "civilization." Only one ordeal now remained: to get ourselves down, out of that region of sunlight and breathlessness, to where, with the lesser hills, began the last phase of our journey.

One attempt landed us in a cul-de-sac of tumbled granite, another on a tongue of rock that would have proved perfectly negotiable if the tongue had not been bitten short, or if there had been a bridge across the forty-foot chasm that grinned up at us; but, eventually, by winding in single file round a spur of rock where a false step meant — as one of us said and giggled so much at, that he all but put his assertion to the proof — "more than a bad cold" for the man who slipped, we found a steep slope wheredown we tobogganed with safety and some amusement to ourselves, but not a little detriment, I think, to the tails of our horses.


a German patrol in Southwest Africa


V — Scouting on the Edge of the Desert

The troop, we found, had taken courage of the less imposing scenery, and were just visible in a cloud of dust some half a mile ahead of us. Just outside Kolmans-kuppe the railway line takes a sharp bend to the left, and as half a mile in the rear does not exactly correspond with the M.I. hand-book's definition of an advance guard's position, we kicked up our tired animals and made a desperate effort, by cutting across the angle of the line, to regain some measure of dignity. What the troop thought when, some ten minutes later, we reappeared in advance of them, I do not know. They looked rather indifferent, I thought, and when, soon afterwards, a ragged fringe of infantry appeared on the sky-line above us — Kolmanskuppe is on the edge of the desert proper, and looks as if it had been washed up by the sea of mountainous sand-dunes — and the troop, realizing apparently that there was really no need to follow its meticulous course along the railway metals, wheeled sharply to the right, we cantered down and, with all humility, tied ourselves on to its tail.

In the number of its houses, Kolmanskuppe is not a large place; in the extent covered by such buildings as there are it is quite considerable. An average distance of about one hundred yards between the houses, and the glaring monotony of their design stifles any desire on the part of the visitor unduly to prolong his tour of inspection.

In the ordinary sense we were not, of course, visitors, and besides, we had "done" Kolmanskuppe, more thoroughly than an American tourist does Rome, on a previous occasion. Then, we had been actuated by other than guide-book motives, and now, its interest gone, the place was become an eyesore, and we wanted to go home. That, we supposed, was why we got the order to off-saddle.

The one picturesque touch in the picture was supplied by our three camels. They were there on some water-carrying pretext, and they recognized us from afar off, and came and stood to windward of us so that there could be no remote possibility of our not recognizing them.

We never seemed, somehow, to be able to get away from those three gaunt beasts. No matter the direction of our journeyings, we always met them sooner or later. We should not, of course, have minded if they had shown any signs of awakening affection for us, but they didn't. It was their sneering indifference to our presence that galled us most, I think. Had we been in the habit of thrusting ourselves upon them, this attitude would have been understandable, even commendable; but we didn't thrust ourselves upon them. They hatched deliberate plots to meet us in unexpected places, and when we met they sneered at us, and besides, as I have said elsewhere, they smelt abominably. In very truth, Tartarin of Taras-con was not more haunted by his own camel than were we by our three.

The corporal who was in charge of them slouched to us from somewhere out of the desert — he was borrowing habits right and left from his camels, we often told him — and gave us the cheerful information that we were to convoy some wagons back to Luderitzbucht, which wagons, he added, were only then being off-loaded. Dusk was spreading like a gray blanket across the face of the sands, and the prospect of a night ride at the tail of a string of creaking wagons was not enticing. We asked him how he knew, and he retired into his newly acquired camelism, and went off to his uncouth beasts.

But he was right, and an hour later saw us — or heard us rather, for it was pitch dark — starting on such a ride as I hope never again to suffer. The road from Kolmanskuppe to Luderitzbucht is rendered distinct from the country through which it runs by means of white-painted paraffin tins placed at irregular intervals along its alleged sides. That it does not otherwise differ to any marked extent from the surrounding country is due less, I think, to the surveyor than to the country, which is mainly precipices and small but very knobby hills. I have since traveled that road in the daytime, and its unrelieved roughness — unless an occasional wallow in deep sand can be called relief — makes of it a thing to be remembered ; but of that night, when our nostrils, and our throats, and our eyes were filled with the dust kicked up by close upon a hundred mules and half as many horses, and our ears were deafened by the harsh thunder of empty wagons bouncing into and out of deep holes and over fire-spitting granite boulders, recollection is a mere headache.

For the first half-mile or so — my section had now become the rearguard — we rode at some fifty yards behind the last wagon. We did this for several reasons: firstly, because the air was less full of dust at that distance; secondly, because we could more or less select our own pace instead of having, every now and then, to pull our horses back upon their haunches to avoid spitting them on the brake handle of a wagon stopped suddenly in its drunken career by virtue of collision with some more than usually imposing obstruction; and thirdly — but this I do not think was a real reason — because we had been ordered to do so.


German camel corps in Africa


VI — The Frightened Horses — and the Camels

We were going down some unseen slope, I remember, when the change occurred. My horse was plunging a good deal, and I had to use both hands to prevent his getting away from me. The man on my right seemed to be having similar difficulty with his animal. Strange! they were all quiet enough a minute ago, and now------

"Look out!" The words were shot at me by No. 3 of the section as, with his horse completely out of control, he raced past me into the darkness and the dust. "Rummy," said the man on my right, "I don't know what's the matter with the beasts. They're scared out of their lives, that I'll swear — Good Lord!" His ejaculation was spoken away from me, for his pony had swung suddenly about with a quick, frightened movement, and was now staring into the blackness from whence we had come. A moment later and my own beast had spun around. We waited in silence.

"Where's T--------?" said the other man suddenly. (T-------- was of my section, and I seemed vaguely to remember that he had been riding behind us.) If my memory was right, then T-------- was somewhere out there in the blackness, and the — the — whatever it was that was frightening our horses was out there with him. It was not a nice thought. We waited again, and I found myself wondering what it would sound like to call out T--------'s name, when out of the darkness came the sound of a snort, followed by what seemed like the frenzied plunging of some heavy beast. Then a voice uplifted itself in earnest supplication, and the voice was the voice of T--------. He seemed to be calling upon the name of a god not altogether orthodox. I caught, here and there, strong expressions of his disapproval of some person or thing. The voice was growing louder and clearer, and it became obvious that T--------was being borne towards us at a high rate of speed. The pale sheet of the sky held him in silhouette for an instant, and then he flung down upon us in a perfect flood of invective.

I had never heard him talk quite like that before. It was really, and almost literally, illuminating, and we reined aside in a sort of reverential awe to let him pass. He did so on the wings of some of the most golden eloquence that it has ever been my lot to hear. "Goddam!" I heard distinctly, followed by a string of words which I do not know how to spell; and then some fine but strictly censorable phrases, out of which I collected fragments that made a disconnected yet interesting whole. In this way I was puzzled for some moments by the many variations of the word camel. "Camel!" I found myself saying, "camel!" when "Look!" said the other man suddenly, and I looked, and saw striding down upon us from the same pale sheet of sky that had held T-------- only a few minutes before three gaunt, long-legged shadows.

"The camels!" said the other man, and I looked at him, and he looked at me, and what there was in that shrouding darkness to tell each other what the other thought I do not know; but, as our frenzied horses waltzed and plunged away from the acrid fear behind them, we clung to our saddles with both hands, and rocked and choked with insane laughter. Later, when we met T--------, leading a dead-lame pony out of the rocks, we broke out afresh, and between paroxysms, told him something of our admiring respect. Indeed, a man who could steer a madly racing pony through pitch darkness and over and between rocks, and at the same time conduct ably a rhetorical discourse on the (presumed) illegitimacy of camels and the moral degeneracy of men who ride upon them, well deserved some more tangible expression of merit than was held in mere words. Iron crosses have been given for less.

The remainder of that ride left to us only recurring fits of laughter, dust, and noise and darkness, and when the camels came too near, which, in spite of concise injunctions to them to go "to another place," they often did, spasms of wrathful and sulphurous abuse.

A note in my diary says of our return to Luderitz-bucht: "Surprised to find myself looking on the beastly place as 'home!' "

But was there real cause for surprise ?


general Botha accepting the German surrender of Southwest Africa at Windhoek



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