Out of Africa

News from Mike Sheil who is currently photographing the German East African campaign sites for the CWGC and a book to mark their centenary, he has kindly taken a number of fascinating photgraphs for us to share. Whilst there are no immediate plans for a Battle Honours visit, anything is posible.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission WW1 Cemeteries







Picture One: An Elephant! fo Guild of Battlefield Guide members think “Assignment 6 – Problems on Tour”

When an elephant is flapping his ears, is it because

A - he is cooling himself?

B – he is about to charge?

If you guessed A and are wrong, what do you do next?

East African Campaign - Salaita Hill

Picture 2          German positions on Salaitha Hill near the Kenya – Tanzania border.  War was declared on Aug 5th and the farmers and settlers immediately formed volunteer bands to protect the Mombasa -Nairobi – Uganda railway which was the lifeline of Kenya & Ugands.

On Aug 16th German Schutztruppe under Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck invaded Taveta from German East Africa and advanced to Salaita Hill on the road to Voi  and from here on Dec 5th he attacked Tsavo Bridge.The British were based at Maktau, 50 kms to the east.

Supplies, especially water, were of major importance so in Feb 1915 the British began to build a railway from Voi to Maktau to enable a large camp to be established and on Sept 3rd a skirmish north of Maktau led to the award of the V.C. to Lt W T Dartnell who is buried in Voi.

On 12th Feb 1916 the South Africans suffered 138 dead in a failed frontal assault on Salaita Hill which the Germans subsequently abandoned in favour of hills to the north of Taveta.


Picture 3 & 4    The Voi-Taveta Railway with  the original track still in place.

East African CampaignEast African Campaign

There was a notable VC action at Maktau on 3rd Sept 1915 when a British patrol was ambushed by the Germans and suffered a number of casualties. One of them was Lt Wilbur Taylor Dartnell who was wounded and being carried away: knowing that the German askaris would kill any wounded, he insisted on being left behind with the other wounded. His VC citation reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery near Maktau (East Africa) on 3rd September, 1915. During a mounted infantry engagement the enemy got within a few yards of our men, and it was found impossible to get the more severely wounded away. Lieutenant Dartnell, who was himself being carried away wounded in the leg, seeing the situation, and knowing that the enemy”s black troops murdered the wounded, insisted on being left behind in the hopes of being able to save the lives of the other wounded men. He gave his own life in the gallant attempt to save others.”

The black headstone is inside the Voi CWGC and if you look the guy got eaten by a lion. He was a road engineer on the railway that went through Tsavo, Uganda and was killed by a man-eating lion described in “The Man Eaters of Tsavo” by Lt Col. J H Patterson. The elephant was seen not far from where Dartnell was killed at Maktau.

Voi Cemetery - Grave of Lt WT Dartnell VCVoi Cemetery







Fantastic stuff Mike and thanks for sharing it with us, just make it back in one piece, we need you for a Vosges tour this year!


Battle Honours Canada – Quality Tours with a Canadian contact


An exciting week ahead for us as we launch a range of specialist Canadian focused tours at the University of Windsor Military Studies Conference on Saturday 9 February at the Tilston Armoury, Windsor Ontario.

Clive will be speaking as part of the conference on the saturday morning when he presents “From Zeppelins to Doodle Bugs – The Airwar over London”, a media day on the Friday is also planned with a series of TV, Radio and newspaper interviews planned tointroduce Canadian clients of the tours planned ahead.

A series of presentations to community groups in Windsor & Kingston Ontario are planned as badged Guild guide Kirk Drew, alongside Clive Harris, launch a number of small group tours to Vimy, Ypres, the Somme and the Advance to Victory. 1939/45 tours planned include Dieppe, Normandy and the Capture of the Channel Ports alongside a very exciting trip to Monte Cassino & Ortona for next year.

Battle Honours can offer specific Canadian group tours, whether its along a Regimental theme, following a local community or a family pilgrimage. With a dedicated Canadian address & contact, a website and ability to pay direct into a Canadian account is planned for the near future.

Our Canadian representative Kirk is more than happy to come and speak to groups locally and with the extensive knowledge, experience and contacts that Battle Honours head office in the UK can provide, we are sure that Battle Honours Canada will offer a convenient, hassle free service to anyone in Canada wishing to visit the old front line through the centenary years and beyond, in fact we are confident we can provide everything this side of the pond except Tim Hortons!

Forgotten front 1915

Azmak Cemetery – early photographs revealed

I am indebted to auther Steve Morse (9th Service Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment) during The First World War ISBN 978-0-9555698-1-4), for supplying this fascinating images of Azmak Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsular, taken at various stages of its construction, these images are particularly poignant to me given that my Great Uncle George Miller or the 1/5 Norfolks is believed to be among those buried in the mass plot at the back of the cemetery.

Azmak 1920`s (1)  Synomynous with the campain is the story of the 5/Norfolks and their apparent disappearance on the 12 August 1915, the truth that this battalion, that had landed only two days previously, attacked in dayling, unsupported by artillery and found itself cut off surrounded and isolated by the end of the day. Some members did manage to evade capture and reach the British Line but the vast majority fought to the last man or round. By the time we left the Peninsular the line had not reached the final stand of the Norfolks and as such their bodies remained undiscovered until the 1920′s and Azmak Cemetery was constructed, in fact around the time of these photographs is taken.

The myths surrounding the action include the fact that they were all Sandringham Estate workers, though there were strong links this is a single company within the ranks, that they were abducted by a UFO or “strange cigar shaped cloud” (this claim reached Sir Ian Hamiltons Official Despatches) both of which can be explained by the fog of war and finally that the were the victims of a mass execution by the Turkish. This last claim is based on a conversation with the reverand Pierpoint-Edwards MC whose men discovered the bodies in a nearby ravine at a reunion in the 1960′s, the fact that it would almost impossible to co-ordinate such an atrocity over a 1km area appears to have been overlooked.

It is possible that Pierpoint-Edwards, who served as a padre during the campaign, appears in the first two pictures, most interesting is the plot of individual crosses including one large one at the back of the cemetery, this is where the Norfolks are believed to be buried, including Uncle George. We know that one body was found with gold badges and coller dogs, suggesting it was that of the commanding officer Lt Col Proctor-Beauchamp but this could not be confirmed, is this the grave with the larger cross? Azmak 1920`s (3)

After the campaign it was decided that no markers would placed on the graves of unknown burials, the names would be recorded on the Helles Memorial, this may have been for cost and maintainence purposes. The photo (right) would suggest that the men were originally laid out in individual graves with a wooden cross each as opposed to a mass grave that I had always feared.

Georges memory lives on as my son George Addam Harris is named after him and despite being only seven has already visited the site and heard the true story of the 5/Norfolks on that fateful day. Battle Honours walking tours of Gallipoli follow their advance and if you would like to join us we still have availability this spring on our 5/10 May departure.

The final image below shows the stone wall being finished, the stone of remembrance in situe and the permanent grave markers starting to appear whilst the temporary markers for the Norfolks have been taken away, alongside that is a shot of the cemetery today.

Thanks again Steve for sharing these incredible images with us.


Azmak 1920`s (2)