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The Diary of Arthur Beagle



Updated 2nd Edition, 2014


In the years of famine following World War 1 in East Africa two words were coined by the local people: mutunya and kaputala. Mutunya, meaning scramble, refers to the frenzy of the starving crowd whenever a supply train passed through. Kaputala refers to the shorts worn by the British troops: it was these soldiers, according to the local Gogo tribespeople, who were responsible for their plight.

This book is based around written recollections recorded in a diary from November 1915 to August 1919 kept by my grandfather, Arthur Beagle, a man from Hull, covering his involvement in the East African campaign whilst serving with South African troops …

The world in 1914, it would appear, moved to war by a number of complex events, such as rapid industrialisation and a growth of imperialsm, but probably not conciously driven by this or that power … but rather guided by capitalism’s bursting and putrescent imperialist rivalries, and then left in the hands of ‘great men’ who thought death and destruction were a price worth paying for its maintenance. So, lost in irreversible decisions made by those steeped in ‘old’ warfare we had mechanised slaughter and criminal pointlessness to the degree of the absurd. ‘Lions led by donkeys’ indeed.

The East Africa campaign, frustratingly militarily inconclusive, arrogantly racist and tragically wasteful of all life … an endurance for all, where war with a hostile environment was the cause of more deaths and broken men than enemy bullets.

Revolution, mutinies and unfullfilled uprisings led to the end of WW1, but because the so-called victors were allowed to aportion blame, WW1, rather than the war to end all wars, left Germany with a ‘guilt’ culture which argueably led to WW2.

Editors note

It may appear that certain sections within this book, especially the concluding Part 2: ‘The East Africa Campaign, 1916–1918’ give an impression of blasé ‘matter of factness’ and that the writing on particular campaigns may seem to revel in the militaristic jargon of the source matter, however it is not my intention to make light of war’s wretchedness and definitely not to promote militarism, in fact quite the opposite. I hope all who read this account will find war abhorent and feel a great sympathy for those, black and white, forced, coerced or duped into the ranks, for whatever reason – be it straightforward intimidation or the sickly-sweet lure of drum-thumping jingoism. Cutting away all the bullshit, no matter how ‘gentlemanly’ the conduct of some officers, a lot of people died horrible deaths because the greed of competing capitalisms could not coexist on the same planet.

I cannot guarantee that Arthur Beagle would have agreed with the anti-war slant of this book, but by my brief contact with him and all the accounts of others, he was a kind and good man and I sincerely hope, in hindsight, he would have.

Alan Rutherford, 2014