Interesting Letter from British East Africa
Mr. Walter Bedford, 12, Hilton Terrace, New Brighton, Morley, has received the following letter from Private G. Saville, 14827, B Coy, 6th Platoon, 25th Batt. R. Fusiliers, Expeditionary Force, British East Africa:- “Dear Chum,- Just these few lines, thanking you very much for sending me those papers. I think I am fairly well, if I can only stick it, which I think I can. You must take the heat into consideration, which is just like living in a furnace. I have often thought about ______ once saying that he could do with his skin off. I was just thinking I should be cooler if I had mine off. I suppose you will want to know how we are framing out here in this part of the world. I call it ‘No Man’s Land,’ as, in my idea, I don’t think it will be any good to anybody, only for big game shooting. I read in the ‘Observer’ about someone catching a snake down Topcliffe Hill about two yards in length. I don’t know what kind of a show they would make in trying to catch one of these snakes out here. They range from about one foot to twenty yards in length. We have every kind of wild animal you can mention, including the great African lion. They come prowling round in the nighttime. It seems very funny that these beasts will not touch you if you do not try to tackle them. I came in contact the other night with a school of baboons - the size of a child 12 years of age. They were like a regiment of soldiers. There must have been a hundred of them. Up to the present I think we are about level with the enemy out here. It is not a case of trench fighting but bush fighting. You see, in the bush you never know when you are going to meet the enemy, so it makes every man listen and keep his eyes open. We had a scrap about a fortnight since, in which our boys put up a good fight, but eventually we had to retire, as we were fighting against great odds. I can tell you these Germans show no mercy against our wounded, they simply mutilate them.
… I haven’t seen a house or shop for four months. I can tell you it is like being at home when an English mail reaches us. I don’t care how soon the war is over, so that we can all be together again. Never mind, we all have to do our share, and we are doing it for a just cause. I never thought that I should go through this experience. - Yours, etc., G. S., Sept, 13th, 1915.”
First published in;
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Morley “Tommy” in British East Africa
Mr. A. E. Saville, 5, Smith’s Square, High Street, Morley, has received a letter from his son, Pte. Geo. Saville, 14827, B Company, 6th Platoon, 25th Batt. Royal Fusiliers, Expeditionary Force, British East Africa, in which he says:- “I have just completed my first twelve months as a bush fighter in British East Africa, and have had many experiences. The greater part I have seen of the country is thick bush, and there is plenty of big game. A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I had rather an exciting experience, being chased by a wild boar, and it nearly proved the master of us, as we were both unarmed at the time. During the last few months we have had it pretty stiff out here. We have had an enormous amount of trekking, which is very trying owing to the heat. our regiment has been in places which could only be reached by native paths, and some parts had never been trodden by white man before. For the last six months I have not had the pleasure of seeing house or shop - only a few native huts, which are built of mud and straw. During the last few weeks we have had plenty of fighting. A short time ago a night attack was made on us by a large force of Germans. We had just retired for the night. Next day we had a fierce battle but eventually we drove the enemy off with heavy losses. The German black troops are very highly trained for bush work; they are also very cruel. They seem delighted in firing on our Red Cross vans, whilst the cure for our wounded who fall into their hands is a few bayonet thrusts! We are now getting the advantage of the enemy, and hope that before long there will be another red patch added to the map of Africa. I have been about three weeks in German East Africa which seems a very nice colony, and the supply of water seems to be more plentiful. I will now conclude, hoping the war will soon be over.”
George Saville’s birth was registered in Dewsbury Registration District in June Qtr. 1891, this district covered the town of Morley where the later 1901 and 1911 censuses show George as having been born.
Both the 1901 and 1911 censuses show George Saville living in Morley with his parents Albert Edward and Annie, initially at 1 South Parade and then later at 5 Smith’s Square, High Street. An elder brother, Richard, is recorded on the 1901 census along with younger sisters Miriam and Nellie. Ten years later the 1911 census records that the 19 year old George was by then working as a pony driver underground in a coal mine, brother Richard had moved out of the family home having married and there was a further younger sister, Martha.
Sometime around mid-March 1915 George attested and was approved for service as a Private with the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was allotted service number 14827 and proceeded overseas as part of the original battalion establishment aboard the “Neuralia” on 10th April 1915.
On 27th September 1915 George’s brother, Richard, was killed in action whilst serving with the 9th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
As George’s service record no longer survives we are left in the dark as to what happened to him during his three years overseas but if his medal roll entry is accurate then he is relatively unusual in that he appears to have suffered the tropical climate better than most and spent the entire campaign in East and South Africa, even to the point of staying on for a few months after the main battalion strength had left for home at the end of 1917. His medal roll entry indicates he arrived back in the UK on 13th April 1918.
Presumably, on his return to the UK, a posting to the Royal Fusiliers Depot and a short spell in hospital for observation and any required treatment would have followed but what is known is that he was medically downgraded and discharged from the Army as ‘No longer physically fit for war service’ under Paragraph 392 (XVI) of King’s Regulations on 16th October 1918
For his service with the 25th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers George earned the 1914/1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.
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.
Soldiers Died in the Great War.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
1901 & 1911 England Census
England & Wales Birth Records
First published in;
Unknown Newspaper, Unknown Date