B.S.A.s in German East Africa

The extraordinary saga of the South African Motor Cyclist Corps and their 400 B.S.A.s in World War 1

By Ashley Blair

The campaign in German East Africa during the Great War has always been regarded as a mere side show compared to the tumultuous and bloody events in Europe. But it was the East African campaign that inspired C.S. Forester’s novel The African Queen and Wilbur Smith’s Shout at the Devil.  It was the theatre where aircraft were first used as spotters in naval warfare and where the entire crew of the German cruiser Königsberg were each awarded the Iron Cross.  It was also where General von Lettow-Vorbeck used a bicycle to travel through the bush to visit his troops. Two gunboats were carried 3,000 miles into the war zone at Lake Tanganyika overland from Cape Town by railway and then dragged in turn by traction engines and hundreds of ‘porters. Germany even dispatched a Zeppelin with supplies for their beleaguered East African soldiers.

It was into this conflict that the South African Motor Cyclist Corps was sent in 1916 with 400 B.S.A. motorcycles.  Although a well-known publicity photograph, usually incorrectly labelled as one of the South African Motor Cycle Corps, shows a smiling soldier with a Model H, all of the known photos from East Africa show Model Ks without the enclosed chain drive.  The Model K had a cylinder capacity of 557cc, was rated at 4½ horse power and had a primary chain and belt final drive. The magneto was mounted in front of the engine in a position rather vulnerable to wet conditions, although the front mudguard did have a protective lower flap. The S.A.M.C.C. machines had leather gun buckets mounted on the forks for carrying rifles, Lewis guns or signalling equipment.

  B.S.A. Motor Bicycle as supplied to the British, French and Russian GovernmentsS.A.M.C.C. rider with full kit

The South African Motor Cyclist Corps was formed in January 1916 under the command of Colonel James Fairweather. He was an Anglo Boer war veteran who had been awarded the D.S.O for “very good service at Patriots Klip, Cape Colony on 15th December 1901” and Mentioned in Dispatches twice. He had also seen recent service in German West Africa where he was again Mentioned in Dispatches. The Corps was made up mainly of railway men, possibly because of their familiarity with things mechanical, who were paid five shillings and six pence per day. The Corps hat badge with a winged wheel reflected the men’s origin as it was very similar to the badge used by Railway units.

The Corps was formed into eight platoons, plus a Headquarters Section. Each platoon had its own motor mechanic and there were also mechanics and signallers in the Headquarters Section. In February 1916, while the Corps was still in training at Potchefstroom, 50 of the most promising men were chosen to go early to East Africa as dispatch riders. They were told that they were likely to go into action very soon after landing so while the ship was still at sea their machines were brought up out of the hold and set up on deck.

The remainder of the Corps sailed from Durban for East Africa early in April 1916 on the S.S. Huntsgreen. Captain Duncan McMillan, Adjutant and former Engineering Professor at Cape Town University, gave lectures on motor cycles during the voyage. Smallpox broke out on board and after they landed the Corps was taken by train into quarantine near Voi.  They were kept isolated for three weeks and during this time the cyclists* heard their first lions. The initial ride was to Moshi, over 100 miles away, with the last part being ridden in darkness. As compensation, the cyclists saw the splendour of Mount Kilimanjaro by moonlight. The next ride was to Kondoa-Irirangi along a very rough road that was in turn sandy and deeply rutted by motor lorries. The machines sank in the sand down to the B.S.A.’s footboards. Several river crossings had to be negotiated by manhandling the motorcycles. Each B.S.A. was carried on two poles by four men.

 B.S.A. being taken across a river in German East Africa Three soldiers on B.S.A.s at a crossroads. Photo: Ditsong National Museum of Military History, Pretoria


 As they were arriving at Kondoa-Irangi the Germans fired 20 shells at them from one of the naval guns salvaged when the Konigsberg, the ship that inspired Shout at the Devil, was scuttled. The riders were spread out about 100 yards apart and none of them was hit. Motorcycle patrols were regularly sent out from Kondoa-Irangi looking for Germans during the six weeks the Corps was based there.  Riders out on patrol were often away for long periods and had to be constantly on the alert. Lieutenant Jackson led a patrol for over 200 miles in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the German Central Railway that linked Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean with Lake Tanganyika on the Belgian Congo border. In June 1917 two riders, Hyland and Harvey, who were camped out in the bush near Lupembe while on patrol, were rushed by Germans at midnight while they were asleep. They were both captured and their B.S.A.s smashed. “Official” photographs of S.A.M.C.C. have proved impossible to find but The Ditsong National Museum of Military History in South Africa has a donated album which includes faded photographs of motorcyclists in East Africa during the First World War. One of these photographs shows ten men and two officers with two broken up B.S.As. The caption reads “Soldiers posing behind the remains of captured motorcycles.” Could these be Hyland and Harvey’s motorcycles after being re-captured?

 Soldiers posing behind the remains of captured B.S.A. motorcycles. Photo: Ditsong National Museum of Military History, PretoriaRifleman R.D. Digby, SAMCC Dispatch Rider. Photo: South African Documentation Centre

The story of the German East Africa campaign was one of continual pursuit of the ‘wily’ German commander von Lettow-Vorbeck whose objective was to tie up as many British and Allied troops as possible to prevent their involvement in the conflict in Europe. From Kondoa-Irangi the Corps rode to Dodoma and was the first unit to enter the town on 27th July 1916, arriving just after the Germans had withdrawn. The pursuit of von Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops continued and following “a sharp engagement” by the S.A.M.C.C. on the 14th August 1916 at Kidete, Lieutenant Hall was awarded the Military Cross and Sergeant Coles the Distinguished Conduct Medal.


The November 23rd 1916 issue of The Motor Cycle described the load carried by the B.S.A.s in German East Africa:

“Firmly strapped across the carrier were a large kitbag and a roll of blankets done up in a waterproof sheet, surmounted by a mess-tin and a tin of “bully.” On the near side a spare belt was coiled up under the pannier bag, and on the off side a despatch and map case. The saddle down tube carried a spare inner tube in its leather case and a spare water bottle. Bags holding flour, coffee, and sugar were tied to the handle-bar, together with an enamel drinking mug and a tin of beef fat. Attached to the front fork was a long rifle holster, in which were a rifle and signalling flags, while on the other side of the fork were a native spear and a bow and arrows – souvenirs. A spare pair of puttees wrapped around the tank served as knee-grips.” 

Fully loaded B.S.A. and S.A.M.C.C. soldier Sketch of soldier and B.S.A. in German East Africa


The conditions that the B.S.A.s, and their riders, had to endure were extraordinarily arduous. As well as the rider, each machine carried up to 140 pounds of equipment including rifle, ammunition, and bedding. On the 14th August 1917 the War Diary records details of a telegram received from Lieutenant McHardy in which he stated that the day before he had only travelled five miles in seven hours! He was of the opinion that it would take one hundred labourers two weeks to make the road passable for motor cyclists. The idea of a despatch riding system along that particular piece of ‘road’ was abandoned. “None of the roads are more than improved native paths, and the country is all hilly or mountainous, much of it being dense bush and very unhealthy,” reported The Times on September 26th, 1917.  The machines were carried across rivers in dugout canoes and steadied down descents by up to four men with ropes. In May 1916, during the rainy season on the Irangi Plateau, the daily average speed of the motor cycles was reduced to just three miles per hour. The whole area they were operating in on the plateau had turned into a quagmire which was made even worse by the stink of rotting horses. The War Diary for 4th December, 1916 recorded that,

“At several places on the Dodoma – Iringa road deviations had to be cut through the bush and for some 10 or 12 miles altogether the patch consisted of a climb over rocks with boulders strewing the so-called path and gradients of 1 in 4 to 1 in 10. Again at Lukigeta Nek there are 4 miles of road over which the cycle will hardly pull itself up without the rider running alongside. Between MIOWA and IDODI it took 3 men pushing and the engine firing to get the machine over the mountain.

In fact, the roads round Iringa with very few exceptions are quite unsuitable for cycle work, and it says a good deal about the skill of the riders, and the staunchness of the machines, that the damages have not been greater. As it is, every machine in the Corps has required from 6 to 20 back spokes each and some 40 new back rims have been fitted.”

Lack of spare parts for the B.S.A.s was a constant issue. The Corps did not get all the spares they required before they arrived in German East Africa and owing to transport difficulties many of the spares ordered did not get through at all. Even more galling was the order to hand over what spares they did have to be pooled and shared among all the units with motor cycles. Because the S.A.M.C.C. was farthest from base they got practically nothing in the redistribution! Until they reached Kilossa every machine that they had brought with them was still running but after that the appalling roads, which had never previously been used by wheeled traffic, began to take its toll. Machines had to be cannibalised to get parts.

Food was also a problem. The S.A.M.C.C. War Diary for November 17th 1916 records that, “Rations came in this morning by 600 porters, so the troops are to be put on ¾ rations tomorrow, that is: ¾ lb flour, 3 oz sugar, ¾ oz coffee, ½ oz salt, 3 oz jam, 1 ½ oz milk alternate days.”  Later in December they were ordered that rations were to be halved and although the meat ration was doubled as rations had been issued to the 31st December they would not receive any more till the 8th January. The Adjutant protested to strongly to General Northey but the situation did not change even for those out on patrol. For some weeks in 1917 the daily ration for men was reduced to a cup of rice, a cup of flour and a ‘little’ tea, sugar and salt.

Shortage of petrol, which was usually carried in by porters balancing tins on their heads, was also a problem. The War Diary for December 3rd 1916 records, “Petrol shortage is serious, as most of the men on our posts have only an average of 30 – 40 miles left. This would not bring them back to Iringa should this be necessary. 250 gallons is required to fill their tanks. A memo was sent to O.C. supplies asking for this.”  

One of the hazards that the riders had to contend with was African wildlife.  The Times of Tuesday, May 23rd, 1916 reported that, “Horrified hippos disturbed in the quietude of their lairs by the buzzing of motor-cycles, charge about open mouthed with a protesting snort.” The article also reported that two rhinos had charged a lorry. There was so much wild life about that a driver remarked that, “This place is a blooming zoo, and they don’t lock the animals up at night.”  A letter from a S.A.M.C.C. motorcyclist reported that, “Hardly a morning passes but we have the unique sight of droves of big game careering between the different squadrons. They comprise chiefly wildebeeste, eland, hartebeeste, gemsbok, rooibok, grysbok and springbok. Also there abound all sorts of wild beasts – lions, leopards, hyenas, wild pig, giraffes and ostriches.”

A very close encounter with a lion was recounted in the September 7th 1916 issue of The Motor Cycle. A  S.A.M.C.C. rider was travelling at speed just on dusk when he saw a lion lying on the track. Although he swerved he grazed the lion’s hind quarters and tail. He then hit a rock and while doing an involuntary dismount, sprained his ankle. The lion jumped around to see what had hit him but before it was able to take any further action the rider had scrambled up a tree. He had no time to get his rifle from the scabbard and he was forced to spend the night in the tree, enduring a thorough soaking from a tropical downpour. When it became light the dispatch rider saw that the lion had finally left but the track was now under water and unrideable. The cyclist limped along on foot until he reached the camp where he delivered his message.

It was much smaller wildlife that was the most deadly in the East African campaign. Mosquitoes spread malaria amongst the troops and in the last three months of 1917 up to 15,000 sick soldiers were evacuated from East Africa, most of them with malaria. Sickness was responsible for many more deaths and hospitalisations in this theatre of war than in any other. Disease was far, far deadlier to the allied troops than any efforts by the Germans. Robert Dolbey writing in Sketches of the East Africa Campaign said that, “In this campaign the Hun has been the least of the malignant influences.”  Of the 35 S.A.M.C.C. men who died during, or shortly after, the campaign only four died from enemy fire. Thirty one died as a result of disease. When 5 officers and 54 other ranks of the S.A.M.C.C. left for two months leave on January 29th 1918, there remained only 15 of the cyclists who originally left South Africa in 1916. When the Corps left Irangi a large number of B.S.A.s had to be left behind because so many of the Corps had dysentery.

Not everyone thought that malaria was spread by mosquitoes. The S.A.M.C.C. War Diary of late September 1916 stated that, “There was a considerable amount of fever amongst the men, especially before the huts were erected. In all probability the trouble was mostly caused by the sun.”  Again on the 28th December 1917 the War Diary recorder wrote, “Moved camp to hill on north of town where, though high up and difficult to get at, the camping ground is clean and fairly free from mosquitoes. There is also plenty of shade amongst the trees. This is important as many of the attacks of so-called malaria are, in my opinion, simply slight sun-stroke attacks.”  

Victory Medal to John Edgar, S.A.M.C.C.  Five soldiers line up on their BSAs. Photo: Ditsong National Museum of Military History, Pretoria

 Cyclist John Stewart Edgar was typical of the total of 898 men who served with the South African Motor Cyclist Corps. He was born in 1898 and was a shop assistant in Johannesburg before spending four months in the Depot Battalion in South West Africa. When he was eighteen he enlisted in the 7th South African Infantry on 7th April 1916 and served in Nyasaland, East Africa for 10 months before he was hospitalised with malaria at Voi.  Later he was sent back to South Africa and convalesced in the Number 4 General Hospital, Roberts Heights. On the 26th February 1918 he enlisted in the South African Motor Cyclist Corps. On his second attestation, when responding to the question,  “Have you previously served in any military force and if so what are the particulars of such service?” he lied and wrote, “No.”  He returned to Nyasaland in March 1918 but again contracted malaria. In his 21 months service in East Africa he had six attacks of malaria. He was finally discharged in February 1919. Although a late reinforcement to the Corps, his experience with malaria would have been typical of many of the cyclists.


One member of the S.A.M.C.C. who was killed by enemy action was Colonel Fairweather who died on 18 February 1917 while moving up to what he believed were friendly forces at Rupira in what is now Tanzania. The S.A.M.C.C. War Diary record of the event stated that, “Col. Fairweather was attacked by Wintgens with 500 – 600 men and many machine guns. Col. Fairweather was killed early in the day. He had gone out to satisfy himself that scouts reports were correct and was picked off by snipers. Sgt Harris* captured. Cyc Homan mortally wounded, died 3 a.m. on 21st.”

*Sergeant Frederick Harris, originally from Palmerston North, New Zealand, was a Boer War veteran.  A newspaper article recounts Sergeant Harris’ captivity.

Fairweather was buried by the Germans who asked the sixteen members of the Motor Cyclist Corps they were holding prisoner to attend the service. A guard of honour was provided by askaris, African soldiers, but the usual salute was not fired because British forces were close by. Among the prisoners who attended the funeral was Wally Clarkson who later became a Springbok rugby centre and toured New Zealand with the 1921 Springboks.

Colonel H B Cuming, CB, who was the commander of the Kaffrarian Rifles during the Anglo Boer War, wrote of Colonel Fairweather:

"He was without doubt the most gallant fellow I ever worked with in the field. His complete indifference to shell fire and bullets amazed me. He was an excellent officer in every way, and his death is an irreparable loss to the Active Union Defence Force. In every detail of his work he was thorough and full of useful ideas." (http://www.AngloBoerWar.com)


A former Railway employee wrote that:

"The men who served under him were unanimous in their praise and liking of their Commander, whose chief anxiety at all times, even at great personal sacrifice, lay in promoting the welfare and comfort of the rank and file ... Quick to commend and reward good services, he was equally spontaneous in his denunciation of the bad ... He was a man of the most honourable and lofty principles, and the country generally, still more the Railway Administration and the military service, can ill spare him." (http://www.AngloBoerWar.com)

Colonel Fairweather is buried in the Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania along with seven other members of the Motor Cyclist Corps.


The S.A.M.C.C. created an impressive sight and sound when on the move with their machines. Captain Ashley wrote in a letter to The Motor Cycle (October 12th 1916) that, “it was a grand sight to see the 400 B.S.A.s thundering along with their exhausts open. When the corps is on the move it covers seven miles of road, and the engines make a noise just like the breakers on the sea shore.” Colonel E. S. Thompson recorded in his diary that when the Motor Cyclist Corps left for Kilossa on 13th August, 1916 they were making “a great noise.”  It is hardly surprising then that he recorded five days later that No.4 platoon of the Motor Cyclists had been ambushed. 

  S.A.M.C.C. with their B.S.A.s at Zomba, Nyasaland, 1917  B.S.A.s at Kilossa, German East Africa

Sergeant J.G. Maker of the 5th Mountain Battery, South African Mounted Riflemen described some of the work that the Motor Cyclists carried out. He and an officer had climbed up a ladder inside a church steeple and were looking for targets when a motor cyclist arrived with information about enemy machine guns.  The Mountain Battery put the machine guns out of action. This gave Sergeant Maker considerable satisfaction as these particular machine guns had been treating him “without respect,” as he put it, for quite some time.  When a South African force ran into an ambush the colonel sent a message back to headquarters by motorcycle saying that they were heavily engaged and needed urgent reinforcements.

The men of the S.A.M.C.C. proved to be very resourceful. On the 24th November 1916 two cyclists were ordered to travel 70 miles over rough roads to the hospital at Madibera where there were a large number of askaris and 18 German soldiers who wished to surrender. After a day and a half the two cyclists reported back and then returned to the hospital with a convoy of 18 including a doctor and medical orderly. They also carried food, medical supplies, and petrol. In December 1916 a patrol of eight cyclists was sent out as escorts to a lineman who was to repair the telegraph line. The patrol was ambushed and had to leave their motorcycles and take to the bush on foot. One of the men walked 40 miles through the bush back to base with news of the event. Because their supply lines were so long men of the Corps were forced to improvise. Mechanics converted a Maxim machine gun tripod using spare back wheel and parts of a window frame so that it could be used with a Lewis gun.  Some of the surviving S.A.M.C.C. badges are cut out of sheet brass and may have been made in the field. 

S.A.M.C.C shoulder badge South African Motor Cyclist Corps helmet badge

 In May 1917 General Northey began transferring S.A.M.C.C. men to become officers and NCOs in The Kings African Rifles. Captain McMillan, who had taken over as Commanding Officer of the S.A.M.C.C., protested vigorously but was told that it was “necessary to win the war.”  The General visited the S.A.M.C.C. soon after and praised the men and officers for the work they were doing but said that he would continue to draw men to be used in other units. This was a back handed compliment to the qualities of resilience, resourcefulness and leadership shown by the men of the S.A.M.C.C.

In spite of all the hardships the B.S.A.s performed successfully and Birmingham Small Arms received letters from East African veterans “glowing with praise and enthusiasm for the service and reliability of B.S.A. Motor Bicycles.” The September 16th 1916 copy of The Motor Cycle reported that, “It is a remarkable testimony that the machines with which the South African despatch riders are equipped have stood up so well under conditions exactly the opposite for which they were designed.” The writer went on to say that, “We are all mounted on 4½ h.p. B.S.A.’s and a stronger machine and more powerful engine would be hard to find.” Riders did say that they could have had a few more inches clearance as many of the machines lost their footboards. Over half of the carriers broke at some stage because of the massive loads they carried.  

In 1918 Birmingham Small Arms published With the flag through German East Africa: a few experiences described by motor cyclist despatch riders, special reference being made to the wonderful achievements of the B.S.A. motor bicycles in the East African campaign. This was a 32 page advertising pamphlet containing letters and testimonials from B.S.A. motorcyclists who had served in East Africa. The forward was written by Lieutenant Commander W. Whittall who commanded No.1 Squadron, Royal Naval Armoured Car Division in East Africa. He wrote that he thought that the country that the B.S.A.s operated in “was utterly impossible for motor-cycles at any time,” but that was before the riders managed to get through successfully. He went on to say that if a message was sent by any other means it might or might not get through but, “If you sent it by motor-cyclist you knew it would get there.”  Commander Whittall finished with the stirring message that “there is no medium of locomotion that can beat that wonderful product of engineering genius, the British motor-cycle which, like its rider, can literally go anywhere and do almost anything.”

 Cover of  'With the Flag Through German East Africa'

B.S.A.s were not the only motorcycles used in German East Africa. The Royal Flying Corps had P & Ms, including some with side chairs, although they were never used any great distance from their home depots and did not have to endure the harsh conditions in the bush that the B.S.A.s encountered. The Light Armoured Brigade had a number of Douglas motorcycles for despatch work in support of their armoured cars. These had the front guards removed and the back guard cut off at the centre of the carrier to allow the motorcycles to move more easily in the mud during the rains and in the sand during the dry season. When P & M or Douglas riders met riders on B.S.A.s they were supposed to have cast “envious glances” at the B.S.A.s!

One of the few humorous incidents of this campaign was related by General von Lettow-Vorbeck, the only German General never defeated in the war. Although his autobiography only mentioned “an English motor-cyclist” the rider was, without any doubt, a member of the S.A.M.C.C. riding a B.S.A. On the 13th November, 1918 the hapless dispatch rider was taking a message about the Armistice to a Kings African Rifles battalion on his motor cycle. He couldn’t find the unit and rode right past the British lines and on into German hands. The Germans read the message he was carrying and this is how they learned that the war in Europe was finally over. His captors were most surprised that he had managed to get through at all as they had laid mines all along the road.

Do any of the 400 B.S.A.s used in East Africa still exist? There are no known surviving records listing frame or engine numbers of the machines used in the campaign. All the Birmingham Small Arms records relating to this time were destroyed during the November 1940 air raid on Armoury Road which killed 53 B.S.A. workers. Very little has been published about the S.A.M.C.C. and their exploits in German East Africa except for the B.S.A publication and articles in The Motor Cycle. There are some records in South Africa, but as researcher Gordon Bickley said, “the WW1 Records are indexed in a completely random fashion and nothing is where one hopes it will be listed!!  It takes literally HOURS to work one's way through the Index's!!”  There may be a dusty file box containing a list of frame and engine numbers lying untouched. It is not known how many of the machines returned to South Africa with the Corps or how many were left behind in East or Central Africa. It is entirely possible that ex S.A.M.C.C. B.S.A.s do exist that can be provenanced back to when first found in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanganyika or as war surplus in South Africa.

Captain F. J. Ashley of the S.A.M.C.C., in With the flag through German East Africa, has the last word when he wrote that, “if ever I wish to think of a combination of grit and reliability I need only think of a S.A. (Motor) Cyclist on a B.S.A. with fifty miles of G(erman) East Africa in front of him.”

*Note: Documents and dispatches of the time referred to the men of the South African Motor Cyclist Corps as ‘cyclists.’




Gordon Bickley, researcher, South Africa.

The Ditsong National Museum of Military History, South Africa.

Lt. Z. Mshuqwana, Department of Defence Documentation Centre, South Africa.

The National Archives, United Kingdom.

National Archives and Records Service of South Africa, South Africa.

Jeff Nutt, Vintage Motor Cycle Club Library, United Kingdom.

Liz Palmer, Birmingham Archives and Heritage Service, United Kingdom.

G. W. Prinsloo, South African Documentation Centre, South Africa.

Lee Richards, researcher, United Kingdom.



Recent additional photos and documents here.

AngloBoerWar.com http://www.angloboerwar.com

Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd, (1918) With the flag through German East Africa: a few experiences described by motor cyclist despatch riders, special reference being made to the wonderful achievements of the B.S.A. motor bicycles in the East African campaign.  BSA: Coventry.

Brown, J.A. (1991). They fought for King and country: South Africans in German East Africa, 1916. Johannesburg: Ashanti Publishing.

Curson, H.H. Unpublished manuscript

Dolbey, Robert Valentine, (1918). Sketches of the East Africa Campaign.  Project Guttenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10362

Frost, G H. (1919).Munitions of War. A Record of the work of the BSA and Daimler Companies during the world war 1914-1918. Birmingham: B.S.A. Company, Limited & Daimler Company, Limited.

Headquarters and Troops: South African Motor Cyclist Corps (1 February 1917 - 28 February 1917) WO 95/5331. Unpublished manuscript. National Archives, UK.

Lettow-Vorbeck, General Paul von, (1920). My Reminiscences of East Africa. London: Hurst and Blackett.

Lines of Communication Troops: South African Motor Cyclist Corps (1 March 1917 - 31 August 1917) WO 95/5331. Unpublished manuscript.  National Archives, UK.

Paice, Edward (2007).  Tip and run: the untold tragedy of the Great War in Africa. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

South African Motor Cyclist Corps (1 September 1916 - 31 January 1917) WO 95/5343. Unpublished manuscript. National Archives, UK.

South African Motor Cyclist Corps War Diary (September 1917- December 1917). Unpublished manuscript. South African National Defence Force Documentation Centre, Pretoria

Thompson, Colonel E. S., ED. (1988) A Machine Gunner's Odyssey Through German East Africa: The Diary of E S Thompson, Part 225 May - 17 September 1916. Military History Journal Vol 7 No 5 - June 1988.

The Motor Cycle September 7th 1916; September 16th 1916; October 12th 1916; November 23rd 1916.

The Times May 23rd, 1916; September 26th, 1917.


South African Motor Cyclist Corps casualties

The following are the known officers and men of the South African Motor Cyclist Corps who died or were killed during the East African campaign.

Anderson, Robert Buchanan, Sergeant, 450. Died of influenza on the 20th December 1918 aged 37 and was buried in the Beira Christian Cemetery, Mozambique. He was the son of Andrew and Eva Marion Anderson, of Hoylake, Cheshire, England.

Armstrong, C. W. CM/795 Private. Died on the 13th December 1918 and was buried in Lumbo British Cemetery in Mozambique.

Bell, F.C.E. Private, MT/6903. He was killed on 20th November 1917 aged 21 and buried at Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania. Son of Mr. H. C. and Mrs. D. W. Bell of 74  Silverton Road, Durban, South Africa.

Clulee, L.A. Private. CM/842. Died on 26th October 1918 aged 30 and was buried at Thaba Tshwane (Old No.1) Military Cemetery, Gauteng, South Africa. He was the husband of Maria Agnus Clulee, of Farm Bellevue, Mafeking, South Africa.

Coetzee, Private, J. H., CM/658. Died on the 26th August 1918 and was buried in Lumbo British Cemetery in Mozambique.

Cook, F.G. F. Corporal CM/541. Died on 26th October 1918 and was buried at the Johannesburg (Brixton) Cemetery, Gauteng, South Africa. He was the son of Frederick J. and Mary I. Cook 14A, Goldreich Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fairweather, Lieutenant Colonel, J .McL., D.S.O., MiD.

Frost, Philip Ivan Lowne, CM575 Died on  21st December 1917 aged 17 and was buried at Zeerust Municipal Cemetery, South Africa. Son of Philip John Frost, P.O. Box 94, Zeerust, Transvaal, South Africa.

Goodwin, W.C. Lance Corporal CM/81. He died on 10th January 1917 and was buried in Dodoma Cemetery, Tanzania.

Grahame, F.J.S. Lance Corporal 218. Died on the 9th May1917 and was buried in Simon's Town (Dido Valley) Cemetery, Western Cape, South Africa.

Hailstone, H. Private. CM/777. Died on the 31st  October 1918 and is buried in Thaba Tshwane (Old No.1) Military Cemetery, Gauteng, South Africa.

Hartley, Lance Corporal, Walter David, 810. He died of malaria on 25th July 1919 aged 27 and was buried at Kimberley (West End) Cemetery, South Africa.  He was the son of Walter Harry and Ellen Hartley of 5 Milner Street, Kimberley, South Africa.

Hollander, B.L. CM/24.   On the 17th December 1917 Corporal (Acting Sergeant) Hollander of S.A.M.C.C. was gazetted with the Military Medal. He died on the 16th November 1917 aged 29 and was buried at the Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and was the son of P. and M. J. Hollander.

Homan, Charles Travers, Private CM/346. Died on the 21st February 1917 aged 36 and was buried in Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was born at Locheen Glebe, Offaly and was the son of the Rev. Canon Homan and Mrs. Mary Ethel Homan of 6 Eglington Park, Kingstown, Ireland. He also served in German South-West Africa.

Hughes, Private, A, CM/892. Died on the 4th January 1919 and was buried in Blantyre Church Of Central Africa Presbyterian Cemetery, Malawi.

Judd, Private, Robert Charles. CM/455. He died on 22nd December 1916 and was buried in Dodoma Cemetery, Tanzania. He was the son of Mrs. Judd 445, Jules Street, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Lessing, Private, Nicolas Stephanes, 861. Died of sickness on the  27th June 1918 aged 20 and was buried in Zomba Town Cemetery. He was the son of Jacob and Hendrina Lessing 210, Claremont, Daspoort, Pretoria, South Africa.

Martin, Cyclist, F., CM/370. He was wounded on the 16th and died on the 19th February 1917. He was buried in Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania.

Miller, Harry Rudolph, Private, 384. Died on 25th July 1916 aged 24 and was buried at Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania. He was the son of Mr. J. H. K. and Mrs. E. W. Miller, of Beacon Hill, Estcourt, Natal, South Africa.

Munro, Cyclist, Graham Alexander, CM51. He was wounded during a night fight with a German patrol in 16th December and died on 18th December 1916. He was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was the son of Alexander and Ethel Munro, of Slaai Kraal, Grahamstown, Cape Province, South Africa.

Murton, Private, Alfred Henry , CM/856. He died on the 8th January 1919 aged 16 and was buried at Zomba Town Cemetery. He was the son of Thomas George and Eleanor Frances Murton, 69 Long Street, Germiston West, Transvaal, South Africa.

Musson, Private, F A, Private CM/872. He died on 2nd July 1918 and was buried at Lumbo British Cemetery, Mozambique.

Norris, A. Private CM/107. He died on 5th September 1919 aged 31 and was buried at the Johannesburg (Brixton) Cemetery, Gauteng, South Africa.

Paul, Private, Cyril William, MC/587. He died on the 18th December 1916 and was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was the son of William and Lily Lanyon Paul of 1 Clifton Place, Musgrave Road, Durban, South Africa. Although he is listed in the S.A.M.C.C. Roll of Honour in St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, the cemetery records show he was with the Army Cyclist Corps.

Roberts, Thomas Henry Edward. Cyclist. CM/198. He died on 26th March 1917 aged 43 and was buried in the Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania. He was born at Liverpool, England and was the son of Thomas and Grace Roberts. He was  husband of A. M. Williams (formerly Roberts), of Mafeking, Cape Province, South Africa.

Smith, Cyclist, A. H. Cyclist, CM/607. He died on 21st May 1917 aged 32 and was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was the son of Edward Alfred and Jessie Caroline Smith, of 15 Cypress Grove, Graaff Reinet, Cape Province, South Africa.

Smith, S. McL. Cyclist CL/173. He died on 13th October 1917 and was buried at Durban (Ordnance Road) Military Cemetery,  Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Staples, A. A. Lance Corporal CM/2. Mentioned in Despatches. Died on 19th February1917 and was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania.

Thom, A. Private CM/751. He died on the 4th November 1918 aged 21 and was buried at Thaba Tshwane (Old No.1) Military Cemetery, Gauteng, South Africa. He was the son of Eliza Mather Truscott (formerly Thom), of 1 Marlborough Grove, Rhyl, Wales, and the late Andrew Thom.

Turbridge, C.B. Private CM/588. He died on 18th March 1918 and was buried at Mafeking Cemetery, South Africa.

Visser, Cyclist, Jochim Jacobus, Cyclist CM/376. He died on 17th December 1916 aged 22 and was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was born at Fauresmith, Orange Free State, South Africa and was the son of Joachim Jacobus and Aleta Elizabeth Visser.

Wiseman, S. S. Cyclist, CM/237. Died on 21st April 1917 and was buried at Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania. He was born at Hobart, Tasmania and was the son of Stephen and Lucy Wiseman, of Garryowen, Clifton-on-Sea, Cape Town, South Africa.


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