SOLDIER AT 53
Frontiersman who Helped to Clear the Hun Out.
THROUGH BUSH AND JUNGLE.
Incidents of a Fifteen Months’ Chase
(“Evening News” Special.)
(A graphic and practically complete story of the adventurous German East African campaign, now notified to be, to all intents and purposes, at an end, related by Private F. G. Rush (a Leeds Frontiersmen), of Farsley, who was engaged for 15½ months chasing the enemy through bush and jungle from the north-east of the captured colony to its south-west corner, whence he has just been pushed into Portuguese territory. The column to which Rush was attached zig-zagged through the colony. Its trail may be likened to an “S” with acute angles.)
A soldier of 53, Private F. G. Rush, of Rose Cottage, Farsley, does not give the over-coloured narrative of the impressionable young soldier on his first campaign.
Rush joined the old 60th Rifles (now the K.R.R.) in 1879, and served with them in the Egyptian War of 1882-3, in the Nile Expedition of 1885-6, in frontier fighting on the Gold Coast in 1887, and in native risings in Uganda later in the same year.
For two months he was also on service in Nairobi with a staff officer engaged on a tour of inspection.
300 MILES UP COUNTRY
At the age stated he anticipated the call of the Legion of Frontiersmen – “Some of us,” he says, “were fidgeting for foreign service” – and sailed without further training for East Africa in March, 1915, with roughly a battalion of similarly experienced campaigners.
In three weeks these men were 300 miles up country from the post of Mombasa in British East Africa. They were attached to the __th Fusiliers, the Frontiersmen’s unit, which secured a V.C. through the late Lieutenant Dartnell in the early stages of the campaign and in February 1916 set out under General Stewart to capture the important capital town and holiday resort of Moshi, snuggling beneath mighty Kilima Njaro, the snow-capped mountain of 18,700 feet, on which a good deal of attention was centred at that period at home.
Smuts was criticised round the camp fires for commencing operations before the [?] but the early start proved premature only so far as the enemy was concerned.
The Germans were taken by surprise and in two months the richest part of the enemy Colony was won.
“Moshi,” says Rush, “is the resort of people from the coast who come to climb Kilima Njaro which feeds eight rivers. It is a most fertile district. Coffee grows in abundance.” The soldiers’ impression of this part of the country in fact, is that “the land will grow any mortal thing that is put into it.”
After a three months’ halt for the rainy season the column captured Wilhemsthal, another hilly holiday resort, which surrendered without a struggle. It then struck across country, almost due west, as the right wing of an enveloping movement, another column moving east along the coast.
During this march the column struck the No Man’s Land of the tropics. The troops had to traverse the great Massai Plain – a wild stretch of elephant grass and bush and jungle. “For fifty miles,” says Rush, “we cut a road for our transport six yards wide, and then you could not see the sky through the top, so dense was the jungle.”
The men are not likely to forget the experiences of this weird war-making. Some parts of the Massai plain abound with game. “There are buck of every description, and where there are buck there are lions. And leopards, cheetas, hyenas, jackals, monkeys and gorillas in galore, whilst the rhinoceros abounds.
The ‘rhino’ was the most dangerous animal the troops had to contend with. The lions generally made off at sight of us, even if there were only two of us, but the ‘rhino’ often makes a charge. He has one redeeming feature – when he has charged he continues on his way. A bull or a buffalo bull will chase you round a field, but a rhinoceros has a go and lets it drop. Sometimes he does not charge directly at you. He simply dashes in your direction and goes blundering by.
The lions were only dangerous, as a rule, when molested. I only know of three men being killed by them and these were cases where they had been fired at and one, maybe, wounded. Then they will all come for you.
It is a rare occurrence to find a single lion. They are generally on the prowl in groups of three or four, the lion making all the fuss and noise and the lioness doing the work. He does the roaring and she does the killing. When she has caught her quarry, he joins up for the meal.
Monkeys were here, there, and everywhere, of course, from the comparatively tame little ‘Coo-Coo’ with the white face (a popular mascot) to the huge gorilla, some of which, when standing upright, were not far short of six feet in height.
These gorillas, dark in colour, only really troubled us at night. The monkey tribe are a general nuisance when they chatter your sleep away from the trees (it is a ‘weary’ noise, a kind of a screech and cackle), and the gorilla is a pest to nervous sentries. Men are posted with the sentries, to be awakened if necessary by a kick, and a gorilla approaching through the tangled undergrowth may often be mistaken for a man.
Whether the gorilla is crawling or walking he would give most people a scare in a jungle at night. Hence the sentry’s guard was often needlessly disturbed, sometimes every half-hour. The old bushmen are more familiar with their movements, and will frighten them away with a stick or a stone. Other members of this menagerie caused similar anxiety, of course, at night, for it is difficult to distinguish anything in the bush or in elephant grass from three to twelve feet tall.
The stories of young sentries were sometimes taller. One told of a monster he must have imagined with green eyes, a horny head and a tremendous tail! He scared it off. Alone he did it!
There was one nocturnal visitor we were all afraid of – the black night adder. Any man bitten may be considered a hopeless case. It is great odds against his recovery. The scorpion was also a trouble. I put my hand on one as I was getting up one morning. He just shoved his tail straight into the palm of my hand, and it was three times its size an hour later.
HIPPOPOTAMUS AND CROCODILE
A centipede from two to four inches long, that gets a grip with his countless claws, which are best loosed with a knife; the mosquito, the flies, the jigger flea, and the tetse fly were drawbacks to the open-air life of the tropics, whilst the hippopotamus and the crocodile would occasionally remind us they were there.
The ‘hippo’ was the joke of the party, but we shot him often enough for the seam of fat which runs under his hide, and so he was very useful in the frying pan.
A crocodile once helped himself to a doctor’s horse as it was being watered, and we shot him too. Practically all we could find of the horse in his interior was its four iron shoes.
He was 18ft. from nose to tail – or, as the boys, imitating the showman, put it ‘he measure eighteen feet from the tip o’ the snout to the hextrimity o’ the tail and eighteen feet from the hextrimity o’ the tail to the tip o’ the snout, making the enoromous dimensions of thirty-six feet in all’.
MOSQUITOES IN MILLIONS
The natives dined upon the entrails of any of these wild animals but they draw the line at the wild boar. Of him they say, ‘Apana Mazury’, or words to that effect. Which, being interpreted into English-Flemish-French meaneth “Na-poo”, otherwise “No good”.
The tetse fly killed off more of our animals than we could spare, for the march was a laborious affair. And the mosquito, which was present in its millions in the marshy districts, was also really dangerous, for men falling with malaria after mosquito bite suffer more severely.
“GERMANS CLEARED OUT”
Having established what is claimed to be a record march for the tropics – 38 miles in one night – and completed the object of their movement west, the column turned south-east towards Dar-es-Salaam, the principal port of the colony, many miles distant. Eventually they captured Tula, twenty miles west of the port, but found that Dar-es-Salaam had already fallen. The Germans were split up and the column to which Private Rush was attached struck south-west again for the Lake Rukiya district.
At Kasaki they came upon and old Arab fort, a relic of the past, which the Germans had put to use. Guarding it was a defence work of growing cactus, set for its purpose and growing five yards wide and six feet high.
From the cactus thorns poisoning sets in if the milk-like juice of a broken thorn gets into a cut. Says Rush, “It burns like vitriol”. The Germans defended the fort but were driven out. In fact, when Private Rush left his comrades the enemy was safely cornered. He has now taken the only step open to him of crossing the border into Portuguese East Africa.
AEROPLANES AND WIRELESS
Concerning the campaign as a whole, Private Rush says the wireless arrangements and the aeroplane played a great part in running the Germans to earth. He believes the enemy had no aircraft and, by the way, he confirms the recent story concerning Squadron Commander Moon, of the R.F.C. who on being forced to descend in the bush and to make his way to the British as best he could, took a bathe in a river, and next saw his breeches the play-thing of the monkeys in the trees. He returned with a kilt of leaves.
The leadership of General Smuts also receives due tribute. At Kilynda the column to which Rush was attached found the enemy in an impregnable position. There was no cover for a frontal attack.
GENERAL SMUTS’ RUSE
“So” says Rush, “Smuts had an incinerator built and had it well stoked up. The Germans, lacking aerial observation, shelled the smoke of the incinerator and the immediate vicinity for 29 days. Meantime the British troops were sitting tight under a hill a mile nearer the German position. The place came to be known as ‘Shell Camp.’ The enemy’s 29 days’ shelling killed one non-commissioned officer. Another man died from shell shock, and the only further loss was a mule.
“At the end of the bombardment, guided by and ending in smoke, the Germans found themselves between the pincers of two forces which had been working around their flank. The waiting column took the position without firing a shot.”
Frank Guy Rush
Frank Guy Rush’s background has proven very elusive to track down and the following account is my interpretation of those records which are available, it certainly appears that Frank was somewhat liberal with the truth regarding his previous army service and was also not averse to the odd name change or age variation. Using the 1891 census where he first appears using that name he would appear to have been born in Abthorpe, Northamptonshire circa 1864 but there appears to be no record of a birth under that name around that time. There is however a Jacob Josiah Rush, a son of William Rush, with a birth registered in March Qtr. 1863 in Towcester Registration District who could fit the bill.
In both the 1871 (aged 8) and 1881 census (aged 18) Jacob Josiah is shown as being born in Abthorpe, Northamptonshire and by 1881 he is listed as a shoemaker.
According to the newspaper article Frank joined the 60th Rifles (later the King’s Royal Rifle Corps) in 1879, and served with them in the Egyptian War of 1882-3, in the Nile Expedition of 1885-6, in frontier fighting on the Gold Coast in 1887, and in native risings in Uganda later in the same year.
So far no trace of a Frank Guy Rush has been found as having served with the regiment at that time, no service record exists and he isn’t listed in the various medal rolls. However, in 1883 a 18 year old Jacob Josiah Rush from Abthorpe, Northamptonshire did indeed join the King’s Royal Rifle Corps with service number 1046, his service was only in the UK with the 1st Battalion or at the Rifles Depot. He was transferred to the Army Reserve in 1890 and finally discharged time expired after completing twelve years’ service on 29th May 1895.
Jacob Josiah then appears to be missing on the 1891 Census which now shows, for the first time, a 27 year old boot salesman born in Abthorpe, Northamptonshire called Frank Guy Rush, he was visiting Charles Butlin and family at The Green, Great Creaton, Northamptonshire. Being listed in the census as a boot salesman would be consistent with the man serving his five years on Army Reserve.
He next surfaces in the records in 1893 when he married Ada Mary J Gardner, the marriage was registered in December Qtr. 1893 in Northampton Registration District and again another name variation is used, this time Josiah Francis G. Rush. The marriage was short-lived however as Ada died within a few months, the death being registered in Stamford Registration District in March Qtr. 1894.
Not yet found in the 1901 census Josiah Francis G. Rush then reappears in June Qtr. 1903 in Bradford Registration District when he married Florence Rhodes (not Knowles as per his later attestation form for the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers), a widow.
The 1911 Census records Frank Guy Rush, aged 44, a boot maker born in Handley, Northamptonshire resident at 38 High Bank, Farsley with Florence, his wife of seven years and step-daughter Hilda Rhodes.
He attested at Leeds on 6th March 1915 as a Private in the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen), he was subsequently approved and joined the battalion on 8th March 1915 being issued with the service number 13499. On attestation he gave his age as 44, occupation as Boot & Shoemaker and with former military service in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, being then time expired. According to his records he had married Florence Knowles in Bradford on 27th June 1903 and was then living at Rose Cottage, Red Lane, Farsley, Leeds
He proceeded overseas as a Private with the battalion on 10th April 1915 aboard the “Neuralia” and served in East Africa until he was posted back to the Royal Fusiliers Depot on 10th June 1917 and then posted again, this time to the 5th Battalion Royal Fusiliers at Dover on 25th June 1917. He was subsequently discharged as being “No Longer Physically Fit” under Paragraph 392 (XVI) of King’s Regulations on 15th August 1917.
For his service with the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers he earned the 1914/1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and was also issued with the Silver War Badge, numbered 225547.
British Army WW1 Pension Records, 1914-1920
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WO 329/2634: 1914/1915 Star, Royal Fusiliers other ranks, Medal Roll
WO 329/764: British War & Victory Medal, Royal Fusiliers other ranks, Medal Roll.
WO 329/3042: Silver War Badge, Infantry (Hounslow), Roll
1871, 1881, 1891 & 1911 England Census
England & Wales Birth, Marriage & Death Records
First published in;
Yorkshire Evening News, 7th December, 1917
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Frank Guy Rush