The Old and the Bold


German East Africa and Home

October 1917 to July 1918

Those men of the battalion lucky enough to have survived the action at Nyangao spent the following month in a standing camp before winding their way back in dribs and drabs, first to Mingoyo and thence, by lighter, down the Lukuledi river to Lindi.  It was all too apparent, especially to those in command, that the battalion was finished as an effective fighting force and that the action on 18th October was to be their final involvement in the East African campaign.


Once the decision was taken that the 25th Royal Fusiliers would be sent back to the United Kingdom their days in theatre were numbered.  Early December saw those Nyangao survivors arrive at the Detail Camp in Lindi and then, a few days later, they were taken by sea to Dar-es-Salaam.  Here they were joined by those men “raked out from hospital at Dar-es-Salam (sic), Morogoro, Nairobi, & other cushy places” as the 25th Royal Fusiliers began to look a little like a battalion once again.

The stay in Dar-es-Salaam was short-lived as the men now assembled there were soon on the move again, this time leaving the East African theatre for good. The majority were embarked aboard the “Ingoma”, a vessel which, for some of the returning men, had been used to transport them into theatre only three months before.  The “Huntscliffe” and “Anchisis” were also used to carry a few of the men with all three vessels bound for the South African port of Durban.


On the 27th December 10 officers and 225 non-commissioned officers and men of the 25th Royal Fusiliers embarked aboard the R.M.S. “Durham Castle” and sailed that day for Cape Town.  The battalion was not alone on the “Durham Castle” as she was being used to transport other, similarly exhausted, white units home, details of the 11th (Hull) and 134th (Cornwall) Heavy Batteries and 259th Machine Gun Company also being amongst the troops on board.


The stopover in Cape Town was to prove a brief one and on 4th January 1918 the “Durham Castle” left the Cape bound for England and the port of Devonport where, after a three and a half week voyage, the men were disembarked on 30th January 1918.

Men continued to return from East Africa as they were discharged, on recovery, from hospitals there and in South Africa or on release from their extra-regimental duties, these returnees swelled the numbers in camp at Putney throughout March and April.  In May these men began to be posted to the Royal Fusiliers’ 5th (Reserve) Battalion at Dover as the 25th Battalion was wound down and finally disbanded on 1st July 1918, the date of disbandment being conveyed to Lieut.-Colonel Driscoll in a letter dated 28th June which stated ”With reference to War Office letter No.47831/3 (M.S.4.K), dated 26th June 1918, I have the honour to inform you that the 25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers will be disbanded on the 1st July 1918, as far as the personnel in England is concerned.”


Although the battalion was now disbanded in England there were still details in East and South Africa, albeit reducing all the time as they were returned to the UK, who remained listed on the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers’ returns.  These details were recorded well into 1919 with the last recorded return being a detail of 15 other ranks in July 1919, a full year after the battalion disbanded.

On arrival back in England many of the men were admitted to Devonport Military Hospital to be assessed medically before being transferred to other establishments based on the severity and type of illness suffered.  Those sufficiently fit to not require hospitalization were posted to the Royal Fusiliers’ depot at Hounslow before being granted a ten day furlough, the first ‘home’ leave for many since leaving for East Africa in 1915 whilst those requiring medical treatment would be granted a similar ten day furlough on discharge from hospital.  On return from this furlough they would rejoin the 25th Battalion’s camp at Putney.


Wheels, however, were now in motion that would see the formal end of the battalion within a few months.  In a letter dated 22nd February 1918 Major Chichester, for the Director of Organization, wrote; “I am directed to inform you that it has been decided that the 25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers shall be disbanded; and the Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men posted to a Reserve Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

R.M.S. “Durham Castle”

Image from http://www.clydesite.co.uk

“GROUP OF OFFICERS ON RETURN FROM EAST AFRICA”

Frontiersmen Journal 1918

by kind permission of the Legion of Frontiersmen (Countess Mountbatten's Own)

“GROUP OF SERGEANTS ON RETURN FROM EAST AFRICA”

Frontiersmen Journal 1918

by kind permission of the Legion of Frontiersmen (Countess Mountbatten's Own)

Acknowledgement:

Bruce G. Fuller (Legion of Frontiersmen (Countess Mountbatten’s Own))

Roy Sellstrom


Sources:

WO25/3561 - Embarkation Returns Abroad for Home - Jul. to Dec. 1917.

WO339/26512 - Officers Services, Long Number Papers of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel P Driscoll, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

General Monthly Return of the Regimental Strength of the British Army.

The Great War Letters of Roland Mountfort - Chris Holland & Rob Phillips.

The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War - H. C. O’Neill.

Copyright © 2012 - All Rights Reserved - Steve Eeles - www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk

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