Memoir by British Officer Serving in East Africa
War memoir by British medical officer. This book became a bestseller and went through several editions, shaping impressions of the war in East Africa in the minds of the British public.
Francis Brett Young (1884-1954) was a young British doctor and aspiring author who volunteered for service with the Royal Army Medical Corps. As a medical officer, in 1916 he was sent via South Africa to British East Africa (present-day Kenya), where he was involved in the conquest of German East Africa (present-day Tanzania) by the Allies. During his time in Africa, he not only served with soldiers from different parts of Africa, but also with different Indian regiments from the Punjab, Kashmir, and Baluchistan. He was fascinated by the soldiers’ different customs and languages, and studied Swahili, Hindi, and Pashto during his ten-month service in East Africa. However, he maintained a paternalistic attitude towards the African and Asian soldiers, reflecting a feeling of racial and cultural superiority shared by many British officers. .
After his return to Britain in 1917, Brett Young quickly published his war experiences in a book called Marching on Tanga. This book became a bestseller and not only shaped impressions of the war in East Africa among the British public, but also marked his breakthrough as an author. Brett Young would return to the theme of Africa throughout his writing career, for example, in the novel Jim Redlake, a fictional account of his own life, and several historical novels set in South Africa. Towards the end of his life, Brett Young moved to Africa, dying in Cape Town in 1954.