Ok, well Sandy Curle (I think his real name was Alexander but it was only mentioned once or twice and I may be wrong) was born in Edinburgh in 1900. He came from a family of lawyers, obviously not badly off as he was educated privately. Apparently he didn't enjoy school, but was clearly a born soldier as he thrived at Sandhurst (the UK's college for army officers) and came out of there a Second Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders. It was 1918 and the end of WW1 and Sandy's first post was to the Rhineland to help clear up after the war. As soon as he could though he got out of there and got himself seconded to The King's African Rifles (K.A.R.) and, aged twenty three, was sent to Jubaland, a disputed area on the border between Kenya (at the time part of the British Empire) and Italian Somaliland, now Somalia of course. The Italians were given Jubaland after WW1 as a reward for siding with the allies in the war and Sandy was part of the force presiding over the hand-over.
From there he proceeded to be moved all over the Horn of Africa. In 1929 he retired from the army and joined the Colonial Service as an Admin. Officer in British Somaliland. His main concern was the ambitions of the Italians, led by Mussolini of course, who it was known had designs on Ethiopia and indeed one of the main events of his career was dealing with the repercussions of that invasion in 1935. In fact there are those who believe that WW2 began with that invasion and not in Europe.
Sandy decided he needed a break from warfare and in 1937 got himself transferred to Tanganyika as a District Officer. Here he was able to lead a more normal life for a while but it wasn't to last and when war broke out again he was back in the KAR reserves as a captain. His main acheivement was the creation of the Ethiopian Irregulars, almost a guerilla band, who led the reoccupation of Ethiopia in 1941.
The letters end there. Sandy finished the war in Kenya. He had a wife in Scotland and a daughter aged, five, that he had never seen as he had sent his wife back to Scotland, pregnant, when things started to get bad in East Africa.
What a fascinating book this was. I won't say it didn't drag a bit in places because it did. Sandy was writing primarily to his father and the correspondence was a bit formal with quite a bit of detail about the army and his job. Despite that the man's personality shines through and he was clearly an old-school colonial officer who took his job and his responsibilites very seriously. I was reminded of my father-in-law quite a lot and he too was in Africa before the war funnily enough - Rhodesia I gather.
The main interest for me was the firsthand account of important historical events. I won't say I was ignorant of them because that's not quite true. I knew of the Italian involvement in the Horn of Africa before the war but not that they, the French, and us the British, had Somalia and Eritrea all carved up between them with independent Ethiopia having such a struggle to hang on to their independance. This way of learning such pertinant facts via someone's personal correspondence, someone who was on the spot and reporting back on a weekly or monthly basis, works extremely well. I now feel much better informed though how much of it I'll retain I'm not sure. Hopefully a fair bit. As always with a book like this you learn that things were not always as black and white as more formal history books would have us believe and for me that's my main reason in reading this kind of book. Not a book you might call 'enjoyable' but certainly very interesting and informative and I'm very glad to have read it.