EMail Interview with Edward Paice
Conducted by Trip-Wire Contributor Ambassador Leonard Shurtleff, April 2007
Tip and Run:
The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa
German Officers With Native Troops in Africa
1. Mr. Paice: Mike Hanlon asks me to interview you regarding your new book on WWI in East Africa, Tip & Run. Let me introduce myself. I am a retired American Foreign Service officer. I spent most of my career working on African affairs and had five postings on the continent. I served mainly in West and Central Africa (including in former German Cameroon). I have visited on business Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, South Africa and Zimbabwe and have seen some of the places named in Cut & Run.. I am also an honorary Vice President of the Western Front Association (UK) and a past President of WFA's US Branch. My interests in WWI center around the political, diplomatic, financial, economic and social aspects of the conflict.
EP: I am familiar with your very distinguished career, and thank you very much for contacting me.
2. I must admit I was put off by your publisher's pitch that this is the first time the true story of the war in East Africa has been told. We both know this is sales hype and I expected a pot-boiler. However, when I read your book, I discovered it was indeed an in-depth, well researched and well-presented history of the period. Congratulations on producing a well-founded work that is also eminently readable.
EP: I am pleased that you find the work to be 'in-depth, well researched and well presented'. As for the publisher's over-exuberance I can only apologise for any irritation this may have caused you. Unfortunately that bit of 'blurb' slipped through without me bening given a chance to edit it; such things do happen but they can be annoying nevertheless.
3. I note that you have done other work on Africa. How did you first become interested in the continent?
EP: As a child, my family often had schoolmates from Nigeria staying with us in southern England. They were unable to go home because of the Biafran war. Then, at the age of twelve I was set a history project which involved drawing a map of Africa with the colonial and post-colonial names of all the countries. My fascination (and a fascination with maps) started there, and soon afterwards I remember being fascinated by the news coverage of the Rhodesian war in the 1970s.
My family also had relations in Kenya and South Africa, and by the time I read African History as part of my degree at Cambridge University I had visited both countries and was smitten.
4. Where and when did you live there?
EP: After Cambridge I spent a dozen years working in industry and then in the financial markets. But after one of my regular visits to Kenya in 1993 I decided to take a chance by leaving 'formal' employment and seeing what might come my way in Africa. I settled first in newly-independent Eritrea, and it was there that I secured my first writing job producing a guide book to the country for Bradt Publications. It was an exhilarating time to be in the country; there was so much optimism about the future. All that is dashed now, following the return to war with Ethiopia in 1998. I am very glad that in the course of three years I visited almost every corner of the country because it may not be possible to do again in a very long while. My next writing project was in Kenya, creating an illustrated 'docu-book' about a magnificent area north of Mount Kenya called Lewa Downs. Apart from being fascinating from a historical point of view it is also one of the leading rhino sanctuaries in Africa.
It was while I was in Kenya in 1998 that I decided to return to African History proper and sought out David Anderson, my former tutor at Cambridge who is now the Director of African Studies at Oxford University. It was with his encouragement that I wrote 'Lost Lion of Empire: The Life of 'Cape-to-Cairo' Grogan, and now 'Tip and Run'.
Both projects involved spending substantial amounts of time researching in Africa.
5. How did you first become interested in The Great War?
EP: Well, the war in Europe war has always interested me; and I became more familiar with the campaign in eastern and central Africa when researching 'Lost Lion of Empire'. The most up-to-date account at that time was Charles Miller's 'Battle For The Bundu' which, although a great read, had become a little outdated (having been written in the 1970s). William Boyd's maginificent novel 'An Ice-Cream War' was another trigger for my interest; as were several trips during the late 1990s to the battlefields along the Kenya/Tanzania border.
6. What were your most fruitful avenues of research and resources for Tip and Run?
EP: For the war diaries of individuals the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds, the South African National Museum of Military History, Rhodes House and, of course, the Imperial War Museum proved to be invaluable repositories; for official documents the key was a thorough trawl of the National Archives in London, Kenya, and Lisbon in particular. Most of what survives concerning German participation is available in print.
Among the highlights, for me, were discovering that Smuts had contemplated using gas against von Lettow-Vorbeck in 1916; discovering the original surrender document; and finding one of the last surviving African veterans of the campaign in Isiolo (Kenya) in 2002. None of these were to have much bearing on my narrative, but it is moments such as these that keep the spirits high when spending two full years researching.
7. What surprised you most about the results of your research? What new things did you discover?
EP: In addition to what I mentioned above, the biggest surprises for me were the realization of the true scale of the suffering that the campaign wrought on the civilian populations of the sub-Saharan Africa; that although this had been written about in the past by certain academics there was still no popular recognition at all of it - or even that the First World War had invloved campaigns in Africa; the extent to which territorial hegemony in Africa mattered to the European Powers at the time; and, finally, my respect for those - black and white - who had to fight under the most trying conditions imaginable became unbounded. As one senior British officer put it, there is no form of fighting that requires so much inherent 'pluck' as bush fighting.
8. I am impressed by the range and usefulness of the maps in your book. Where and by whom did you have these produced?
EP: I compiled all the 'roughs', or drafts, and they were then skilfully converted into real maps by a professional cartographer, David Hoxley. The publisher kindly bore the cost, knowing that a book of this type is almost unreadable without proper maps.
9. What new projects are your now working on?
EP: My next book is about the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, a brief respite from African history; but I will be returning to Africa after that.
Thank you, Len, for the trouble you are taking. I do appreciate it and hope that we may have the chance to meet one day.
Order Tip and Run at Amazon.com
|On behalf of the St. Mihiel Trip-Wire, thanks to both Leonard Shurtleff and Edward Paice for providing an excellent and most informative interview. MH
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