BY JINGO - Colonial History & Wargames Page

"So You Want To Go Safari?"

What Goes Into The Well Equipped Explorer's Kit
(And A Little Analysis Of Where It Goes)

Edited By P.R. Wilson

With the nascent popularity of Darkest Africa as both a wargaming and role playing environment, there is a growing wealth of background information for the budding bush beater. Notably lacking so far have been more particular particulars about the logistics of safari. Besides, within the superb Foundry figures line, there are some 16 different poses of Porters/Bearers who cry out for proper use in play beyond set dressing. Well, for those whose ambitions run to penetrating the heart of darkness while feeding the leeches with the same spirit of giving, here is grist for your path breaking mill.

Reproduced below (with some further explanation) is an item first encountered by your Editor some 20 years ago. The remarkable "List Of Personal Kit Taken By Speke And Grant From England In 1859" (on their partially successful attempt to nail the source of the Nile) appeared in J.A. Grant's A Walk Across Africa, published in 1864. It is a wealth of information about what might be considered "necessary" to most anyone trekking up country.

Speke and Grant were, after all, actual explorers and not intent on busting slavers or otherwise shooting their way across East and Central Africa. Consequently, their map making and other geographer's tools are not representative of what others might have taken. However, the immediate camp necessities and their weapons would apply to all but the lightest traveling parties. There is also no specific mention of daily food for the explorers, much less for their considerable train of Porters. While your Editor claims no special expertise in this matter, it seems likely that very little if any food was taken along at all. While there was a Goat-herd hired (see the roster, below) who presumably drove some number of goats along for meat, the expectation would have been eventually to forage, hunt, and trade for food on the march. In practice, of course, it was not surpassing that sooner-or-later everyone went hungry, with consequent impact on march rates and overall health.

Perhaps of special interest is the contents of their Medicine Chest. Indicated as weighing 30 pounds, the amount was woefully inadequate to their actual needs and Grant eventually had to be carried in a litter due to his many fevers and illnesses. Speke had been over much the same ground with Burton only a few years before, and one should think would know better, yet he didn't bring much if any more medicine than the first time. To our late 20th Century (or VERY early 21st Century) sensibilities, it would seem they were rather worse than cavalier about their health. The reasons for this are several, not actually germane, and, in any case, would still not be persuasive to us today. The reader is simply reminded that virtually nothing was known of tropical diseases and germ theory was still over 10 years in the future. Suffice to say that NO party should ever have "enough" medicine (at least of the types listed below) to avoid the inevitable delays--and deaths--due to fevers.

Finally, the rosters of Askaris, Porters, Valets, and others who were hired on follows, along with some interesting statistics. Gamers may wish to take advantage of the selection of authentic names thus provided for characters as well. Many are Arabic, strongly suggesting the Islamic faith of these men. Indeed, as the roster numbers each man--and his pay--in some descending scale, favoritism is evident towards these men. One inference might be that some Porters were expected to carry more critical or valuable loads than others, and were chosen and paid accordingly based on their religion--and perhaps race--as much as anything else. The remaining names are rich with echoes of The Interior and the many tribes they may have represented. Most of these seem to have held more menial jobs and were paid dramatically less. More "analysis" of the rosters and some possible gaming applications will follow at the end.

Now, let's see what was in those boxes, bales, and bundles perched on the heads, backs, and shoulders of those poor, faceless souls the Tarzan movies always called "The Boys" or just "The Bearers."

(Items requiring explanation are noted and explained below.)

Camp Equipment

Item Weight Source
12 Blankets (grey Crimean), 2 pair (scarlet ditto) 73 lbs. Grindlay & Co.
4 Leather bags of shooting apparatus -- "
1 Set of bits in box handle -- "
1 Spring balance to 60 lbs. -- "
2 Belts for revolvers -- "
2 Watering bridles -- "
4 Packs playing cards -- "
1 Digester for soup (1) 15 lbs. "
24 Flannel shirts -- "
12 pairs Flannel trousers -- "
4 Hats (wide-awake and glazed) -- "
6 dozen Socks, half woolen -- "
4 Waistcoats of Scotch tweed -- "
2 Veils (green) -- "
4 Waterproof sheets (white), about 10'
-- "
6 Japanned tin trunks (2) 13,14,& 17lbs "
1 Large housewife (3) -- "
8 Table knives -- "
6 Sailor's knives -- "
24 3 bladed (Roger's) knives for
skinning specimens
-- "
7 Saucepans (a nest of block tin) -- "
16 Tablespoons -- "
8 Dessert spoons -- "
2 Gingham umbrellas, half carriage size,
with white covers
-- "
2 Iron Beds 28 lbs each Brown & Co., Piccadilly
2 Iron chairs 12 1/2 lbs. each "
4 Iron stools -- "
2 Sketching stools -- "
1 Photographic instrument for colodion (4) -- Bland & Long
12 Pairs shoes -- Simnet
-- Tea 40 lbs. Sterriker
-- Mustard & cress seed 2 lbs. Unspecified Sources
2 Each Tools (hammers, saws, pincers,
files, chisels, etc.)
-- "
2 Tents (7'x7'x7') -- "
2 Mosquito netting -- "
4 Eye preservers (wire & glass) -- "
2 Hair pillows -- "
8 Pairs trousers, drill, unbleached -- "
12 Pocket handkerchiefs -- "
2 White serge sheets -- "
2 Pairs stirrup-leathers -- "
12 Sail needles, large & small -- "
2 Oval tin teapots -- "
2 Pewter mugs, without glass -- "

Instruments For Observing (228 total lbs.)

3 Sextants, 8 1/2" radius -- Troughton & Simms
2 Stands for the sextants -- "
3 Prismatic compasses, cardless with
platinum rings
-- "
1 Chronometer, gold -- Barrand & Lund
1 Lever watch, with double detaching
-- "
1 Chronometer, silver -- Parkinson & Frodsham
1 Lever watch, with split second-hand -- Dent
1 Lever watch, with split second-hand -- Jones
2 Magnetic compasses (pocket) -- Eliott
1 Rain gauge -- Traveler's
1 Rain gauge -- Livingstone's
1 Maximum thermometer -- Casella
1 Minimum thermometer -- "
2 Bull's-eye lanterns, with vessels to
fit for boiling thermometers
-- "
1 Patent log 10 Massey's
2 Artificial horizons -- "
1 Telescope -- "
6 Boiling Thermometers (5) -- "

Mapping & Drawing Instruments, Supplies

2 Reams mapping paper -- Malby & Sons
-- Tracing paper -- Winsor & Newton
6 dozen Pencils -- "
2 Boxes water-colors -- "
6 Dozen pencils -- "
1 Circular brass protractor -- Eliott
1 Parallel ruler on rollers -- "
1 Case mathematical instruments -- "
1 Pocket compass -- "
12 Ink powder packs (black & red) -- Grindlay & Co.'s
-- India rubber, India rubber rings (6) -- "
2 Penholders -- Unspecified Sources
1 2 foot rule -- "
1 50' measuring tape -- "
1 Drawing board -- "
1/2 ream Open foolscap, graduated in squares (7) -- "
4 Block sketch books -- "
2 Clifford's sketch books -- "


4 Logbooks -- F. Galton, Esq.
12 Field books -- "
5 Longitude books -- "
-- Tables for measuring breadth of rivers -- "
1 Raper's Navigation -- Unspecified Sources
1 Coleman's Nautical & Lunar Tables -- "
4 "Nautical Almanacks" (1860, '61, '62, & '63)
-- Maps of Africa, all recent, foreign
and English
-- "

Rifles, Revolvers, Arms & Ammunition

Weapon Type Bore (8)
2 Single barreled rifle, Lancaster's elliptical 40 bore/.50 Caliber, cartridge firing breech loader
1 Single barreled rifle, Blisset 4 bore
1 Single barreled rifle, Blisset 16 bore
1 Single barreled, rifle, Blisset 20 bore
1 Single barreled smoothbore, Blisset 12 bore (shotgun)
1 Single barreled rifle, Blisset 10 bore
1 Six barreled Colt revolving rifle --
1 Whitworth sporting rifle .45 Caliber, single shot, muzzle loading rifle
1 Double barreled smoothbore 12 gauge (shotgun)
2 Tranter double-action revolvers ,44 caliber/8 lbs each
(A figure presumably including wooden box,
cleaning kit, spare parts, etc.)
500 Rounds each barrel --
50 Royal Artillery Pattern, 1860, Carbines
with pouches, sword-bayonets, and belts
13 lbs each
200 Rounds to each carbine, with caps in complement --

Medicine Chest - 30 lbs.

Item Purpose/Usage
Plaster Compound used as a curative or irritant
Brown's Blistering Tissues Uncertain, but apparently used in conjunction with the plasters.
Quinine The only then known specific for prevention of malaria. Incredibly bitter tasting, it was often mixed with gin and water to produce the tropic's time honored "Gin and Tonic."
Lunar caustic Fused silver nitrate, used for cauterizing wounds.
Citric acid Basically, Vitamin C, used to treat or prevent scurvy.
Jalap The root of a Mexican plant used as a purgative.
Calomel A grey, tasteless medicine; a powerful purgative useful for flushing out worms.
Rhubarb A cathartic and tonic for purging the bowels and to act as a stimulant.
Blue pill A compound of glycerin, honey, and mercury supposedly good for counteracting bile.
Colocynth Cathartic (purgative) made from a Mediterranean fruit.
Laudanum A compound of opium and alcohol that produced a powerful (and addictive) pain killer.
Essence of ginger Apparently used as a stimulant.
Dover's Powders As a patent medicine, this could have been anything, but probably was meant to aid digestion or regulate the bowels.

List Of Men Engaged At Zanzibar

(Their Pay, Appointments, And How Disposed Of)
Number Pay (9) Name What Race
They Belong To
How & Where
Service Was
Guns Stolen
By Deserters
1 500 Sheikh Said bin Salem Arab Cafila Bashi Discharged sick at Kazeh --
2 25 Sulimani Negro -- -- --
3 25 Babu " Servants to Sheikh Said Discharged with Sheikh Said at Kazeh --
4 25 Feraj " " " --
5 25 Yakut " " " --
6 25 Yusuf " " " --
7 25 Saadi " " " --
8 60 Bombay " Factotum (a handyman, jack of all trades) Paid off, Egypt --
9 60 Baraka " Commander-in-Chief Sent back, Nyoro --
10 60 Rahan " Valet Sent back, Bogwe --
11 25 Frij " Cook Paid off, Egypt --
12 25 Mabruki " Valet " --
13 25 Uledi " " " --
14 25 Ilmasi " " " --
15 25 Abedi " Porter Deserted, Bogwe --
16 25 Rahan " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
17 25 Wadimoyo " " " 1
18 25 Wadihamadi " " " 1
19 25 Saadi Allah " " Deserted, Bogwe --
20 25 Tabibu " " Sent back, Usugara --
21 25 Kari " " Murdered, Uganda --
22 25 Matiko " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
23 25 Nasibu " " Left in Uganda --
24 25 Musa " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
25 25 Mabruki " " " 1
26 25 Hassani " " Died, Kazeh --
27 25 Baraka " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
28 25 Johur " " Discharged, M'gunda Mkhali --
29 25 Mabruki " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
30 25 Mutwane " " Left sick, Ukuni --
31 25 Bilal " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
32 25 Othman " " " 1
33 25 Muftah " " " 1
34 25 Uledi " " " 1
35 25 Juma " " " 1
36 25 Uledi " " Sent back, Nyoro --
37 25 Mubruki " " Left sick, Bogwe --
38 25 Sirboko " " Deserted, Nyoro 1
39 25 Masibu " " " 1
40 25 Msalima " " Sent back, Nyoro --
41 7 Mektub " " Paid off, Egypt --
42 7 Baraka " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
43 7 Kani " " " --
44 7 Kirambu " " " --
45 7 Kinanda " " Died, Miningu --
46 7 Mdara " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
47 7 Mdyabuana " " " --
48 7 Uledi " Valet Paid off, Egypt --
49 7 Mzungu " " Deserted, Uzaramo 1
50 7 Thanua " " Deserted, Ugogo --
51 7 Kariombe " " Deserted, coast --
52 7 Kingunga " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
53 7 Matona " " " --
54 7 Malini " " Deserted, coast --
55 7 Darara " " " --
56 7 Khamisi " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
57 7 Yukut " " Deserted, Ngoro 1
58 7 Hutibu " " Deserted, coast --
59 7 Panamba " " " --
60 7 Pakarua " " " --
61 7 Yaha " " " --
62 7 Namaganga " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
63 7 Khamsi " " " --
64 7 Wilyamanga " " Deserted, coast --
65 7 Mkate " Pot boy Paid off, Egypt --
66 7 Mpuanda " Porter Deserted, Uzaramo --
67 7 Kirambu " " Left sick, Bogwe --
68 7 Msaram " " Deserted, Uzaramo --
69 7 Kirumba " " Deserted, coast --
70 7 Kamuna " " " --
71 7 Sulamini " " Deserted, Ugogo --
72 7 Baruti " Under-Valet Paid off, Egypt --
73 7 Umburi " " Porter --
74 7 Makarani " " Deserted, Ugogo 1
75 7 Ulimengo " " Goatherd Paid off, Egypt
76 7 Khamsini " Porter Paid off, Egypt --

List Of Porters Engaged In The Interior

(All were described as "Negroes" but some names appear to be Indian/Baluchi)
Number Name How & Where
Service Was
Guns Stolen
By Deserters
1 Hasani Murdered, Karagwe --
2 Sangoro Deserted, Nyoro 1
3 Ilmasi " 1
4 Khamisi " 1
5 Mtamani Paid off, Egypt --
6 Matagiri " --
7 Sadiki " --
8 Manua " --
9 Mondo Sent back, Uganda --
10 Sampti Deserted, Nyamwezi --
11 Farhan Deserted, Nyoro --
12 Saidi " 1
13 Chauri " "
14 Mijaliwa Deserted, Abu Ahmed --
15 Sangoro " --
16 Murzuki Deserted, Nyoro 1
17 Farhan Paid off, Egypt --
18 Chongo Deserted, Nyoro --
19 Mduru " --
20 Pulimbofu " --
21 Kuduru " --
22 Fisi " --

Hottentots, Cape Mounted Rifles (Askaris)

Number Name Rank How & Where
Service Was
1 Mithalder Corporal Sent back, Mininga
2 Vandermerwe Bugler Sent back, Usagara
3 Adams Private "
4 April " Sent back, Mininga
5 Jansen " Sent back, Usagara
6 Lemon " Sent back, Mininga
7 Middleton " "
8 Peters " Died, Usagara
9 Reyters " Sent back, Usagara
10 Arries " Sent back, Usagara

Table Notes

(1) Digester--A heavy metal container in which substances can be heated or cooked to tenderize or extract soluble elements from.
(2) Japanned--Coated with a black, shiny lacquer.
(3) Housewife--(Pronounced "huzzif") A carrying case for such domestic items as needles, thread, buttons, scissors, or even spices and herbs for cooking, etc.
(4) Colodion--A highly inflammable, colorless or pale yellow, viscous solution of nitrated cellulose in a mixture of alcohol alcohol and ether: it dries quickly forming a tough, elastic film, and is used as a protective coating for wounds, photographic plates, etc.
(5) Boiling Thermometers--Used to (roughly) determine altitude above sea level.
(6) India Rubber--Erasers
(7) Foolscap--A kind of paper generally in sheets of about 13" by 17".
(8) Bore--In this usage read "gauge" which represents the number of rounds (or number of buckshot pellets) to the pound.
(9) Pay--In American Dollars, paid one year in advance

Of special interest is the presence of ten members of the famous Cape Mounted Rifles who seem to be a long way from Johannesburg. Please notice the Dutch and English influence in these Hottentot soldiers' names.


Of the 106 men enrolled at one time or another to serve the needs of two Englishmen bent on going out in the noontime sun, the losses were every bit as bad as those old Tarzan movies showed! Only 17 men reached Egypt to be paid off. The circumstances for each appear on the tables above, but a breakdown of the totals follows.

Of all the headaches Speke and Grant must have faced as "managers" of their expedition, the worst must have been the catastrophic desertion rate. Fifty-nine deserters constituted a rate of 55% of the enrolled force, a number which also represented 64% of all men who did not reach Egypt at all.

The table of men "Hired In The Interior" speaks for itself in that there must have been a fairly constant need to entice men to join to partly, at least, make up for the losses. Of the 66 original Porters hired, 44, or 66%, would desert. Exactly half as many deserters, 22, would be "Hired in the interior" over time to fill the ranks, but clearly at a rate unequal to the loss. Rather like bailing in reverse, Speke and Grant were bringing men into the boat at only half the rate they were losing them.

While the risk of desertion must have been fairly constant, there were clearly major "Desertion Events" from time to time, strictly on average about every three months. In order of size, the worst event was at Nyoro when fully 27 Porters evidently mutinied. These same fellows made off with 21 of the 24 total number of guns stolen by deserters during the entire expedition. The second event was at Uzaramo where 13 men made off, but only one with a gun. The next biggest loss is located only as "The coast." As the Expedition started out of Zanzibar, on the coast, these ten deserters must have fled early, perhaps, again, at once. Why they went over the hill so early on safari is not suggested by the rolls, but it seems at least possible they were ne'er-do-wells who joined up for the enlistment bounty, so to speak, then took "French Leave" while still close enough to home to be able to enjoy it. These deserters represented 17% of the total desertions, and 13% of the original Porters and camp staff hired. After the "Coastal deserters", there are no further major events, the rest going off singly, in twos, and one group of three (at Ugogo). Along with the last 9 deserters, two more guns were stolen, bringing the Expedition total to 24.

Of those 30 men paid the princely sum of $25, 17 deserted, or 56%. Of those 58 others hired at $7 a man at Zanzibar, or hired on later, 42 deserted, or fully 72%. As the vast majority of those Porters paid the "minimum wage" have names suggesting Native African origins, and those paid the much higher wages have names predominantly Arabic, there would appear to have been a clear "class consciousness" at work here. The better paid were less likely to desert than those at the lower end of the wage pool, though it must be said that when it came down to it, neither group was exactly Napoleon's Old Guard.

Finally, there may be another element of class concern in all this. That is, all deserters were Porters. None of the Valets and Under-valets, the Cook, or "Pot Boy" deserted and, in fact, these constitute by far the largest laboring class to make it to pay off in Egypt. Whether this reflects men of better character well chosen for higher positions, or that men given more responsibility rise to it, is not apparent. It may be just as important that all these men would have been in closest proximity to their employers and likely to interact with them on a more personal basis.

Miscellaneous Causes
As can be seen, there were other means of attrition as well. In order of frequency, these include being sent back (6), discharged (6), left behind (4, sick or otherwise), dying (2), and murder (2).

In the first instance, it is not clear why these men were sent back, but they constitute 5% of the total. Of those discharged, 4 were the personal servants of the Cafila Bashi, Said bin Salem, who followed him after becoming sick enough to be released from rolls at Kazeh. In addition to another man discharged at M'gunda Mkhali, these six constitute another 5% of the whole. Those left behind represented some 4%, those dying for unspecified reasons, 2%, and those murdered the same. Altogether, Speke and Grant lost so 18% of their force due to a variety of causes, but these numbers are exaggerated somewhat by the Cafila Bashi's servants following their Master when not themselves victims of misfortune.

It should be noted in connection with the mass desertion at Nyoro that 3 of those sent back left at the same place, perhaps in the care of the deserters and one of them was Baraka, the "Commander-in-Chief" (presumably of the Porters and camp staff).

One is struck by the rather small number of deaths along the way, though this might possibly reflect the fact that the indigenous peoples would tend to be safer from the local fevers and diseases than the Europeans. (Grant was bed ridden or carried in a litter much of the time.)

Finally, the detachment of Cape Mounted Rifles suffered only one death, no desertions, and were sent back in separate incidents. With the death of Private Peters in Usagara, four of his mates under their Trumpeter were sent back. At Mininga, the rest, it seems, under their Corporal, returned. Seeming to operate in squads under a non-com, the Hottentots' record suggests disciplined and reliable soldiers, though the exact reasons for their being sent back are not explained.

Gaming Applications

Kit, Camp Supplies, And Porters
As can be seen, while the foregoing analysis is of only one such expedition, there is some basis for determining both the amounts and types of supplies required per European to take them into the bush and forest, and bring them back. Crudely dividing the above by two can do the job until better information becomes available. While, alas, the actual, total weight of everything is not provided, any wargame scenario designer worth his salt will easily by-guess-and-by-God a figure that is divisible by half the Porters numbered above to find how many are needed per European. Probably only a really large party would require more than one Factotum, Commander-in-Chief, Cook, Goat Herd, or "Pot Boy", though the four Valets/Under-Valets suggest a ratio of 2:1 in that category.

Gamers interested in trying their hand at "Darkest Africa" are likely well aware of the remarkably extensive line of figures for the subject produced by The Foundry. Castings available include an excellent range of generic Porters in some dozen or more different poses carrying a variety of loads, presenting a fine opportunity to build more drama into scenarios.

Depending on the number of Bearer figures to hand, this author encourages gluing identification markers on the bottom of each figure's base. I printed from my computer small numbered squares (to differentiate the figures) printed with what the fellow is carrying. Thus, most bases indicate the figure's load is unspecified "Supplies", while a few say "Tentage", "Food", and "Guns/Ammo." The proportion of load types should approximate what the expedition/party in question would need. For example, a party of ivory hunters would probably carry more "Ammo" than a mapping expedition, which would itself carry more "Books." Again, depending on the nature of the expedition, there may be other specific loads, such as "Maps", "Navigation Aids", "Observation Gear", "Clothing", "Pots/Pans" (generally the cooking supplies), "Tools", etc.

Incidentally, for my own games, I have also designated a few figures carrying "Hongo." This was the tax/tribute/gifts/extortion almost universally demanded of expeditions are they crossed from one tribal boundary to another. Some expeditions brought along the traditional "beads and trinkets" for the purpose, but not a few had to--almost literally--give the shirts off their backs to be allowed to pass unmolested. Sometimes, it was collected daily while a party remained at a village or in camp for prolonged periods of rest and recovery. Hongo could be most anything that caught the local chief's eye and could as easily be a sextant as a gold coin. Scenarists are encouraged to keep up this constant drain on equipment and resources.

As a case in point, when Speke met King Mutesa, his first round of gifts included several firearms with ammunition, one of the telescopes, a gold watch, an iron chair, forks, spoons, knives, and some beads and silk cloth. As these sorts of things would be delivered up as hongo, the diminishing number of Porters might not have been such a loss!

The primary advantage of knowing what is being carried by whom comes in the miniature actions. If the party should be making a run for cover after missing, say, today's hongo, it could certainly be interesting if the Porter carrying the "Ammo" should be brought down, or the fellow with the "Medicine" got potted. Who's going out to drag the critical load in under fire? The best part: there is a tendency for Player's to look upon Porters with an all too authentic (if not actually true) attitude of "Plenty more where HE came from." Add to that the load ID's are out of sight, and it's not likely Players will know which Bearer has the bullets--at least, not until he's missed!

Applying Attrition And Event Cards
Desertion Events should be periodic and variable, ranging from only 1, 2, or 3 at a time but frequently en masse. However, Porters and other working members of a safari are not necessarily identical in their likelihood to desert but may be influenced by their race/religion and the degree of responsibility and interaction with their European employers.

Perhaps somewhere between 10% and 30% of an expedition might be lost to miscellaneous causes which could include causes not listed above (wild animals, river crossings, storms, etc.), though it would be a matter of taste whether or not to take people out for each and every reason possible.

Finally, as may already be known, this Author is a big believer in the use of dedicated card decks to determine a wide range variables in games. Specially printed up cards include entries such as "Deserters! Roll one D6 for number. Roll again, "1"=Each steals a gun, "2"=Roll one D6 for number of guns stolen, "3-6"=No guns stolen." Two more cards specifying ever larger numbers of possible deserters up to a maximum of about 40 are included in the Event Deck, including many other possible outcomes, good and bad, that might occur. Similarly, some cards would cause men to be sent back, die, be murdered, become to sick to travel, etc. Event Cards should be drawn as often as the Gamesmaster/Director wishes (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) as the game system requires.

Close Window To Return To The Table Of Contents

Free Web Hosting