Monday, July 23, 2012

African Expeditions - Henchmen and Supplies in 1910

In my quest for Africa-related illustration, I've delved into a couple old books found at Project Gutenberg. Besides a few usable illustrations, I also found a few interesting tidbits from the age of safaris, when the process for going out into the wilderness wasn't too different from what it might be like in a game of D&D.

What follows comes from a book called In Africa, Hunting Adventures in the Big Game Country by John T. McCutcheon.

For an African expedition involving four "adventurers", there were the following "henchmen"

Cook, toto and head man

(1) Head-man: Runs the camp and the other henchmen; paid $25/month

(8) Gunbearers: Carry gun and other key equipment, skin beasts and collect trophies; fire weapons when the boss is down; paid $25/month.

(4) Askaris: Native guards, keep up fires, scare away animals; $5/month.

(1) Cook: $13/month

(4) Tent Boys: Personal servants of the “adventurers”; wait on tables, do washing, make sure water is boiled and purified, fill water bottles; $7/month

(80) Porters: Carry camp from place to place, each carrying 60 lb. on head, then set up camp, get firewood, carry what game is shot by the “adventurers”; $3/month

(4) Saises: Grooms, one for each mule or horse; $4/month

(20) “Totos”: Means “little boy”, they are not hired, but come along as stowaways, carry small loads and help brighten the camp; paid food and lodging.

Gun bearer, askari, tent boy, porter

By my count, that would be something like a sergeant-at-arms, 12 men-at-arms, one specialist (the cook) and 108 "torchbearers". The total cost is $542 per month.

It was required by law that each porter be provided with, at minimum, a water bottle, blanket and sweater. Uniforms, water bottles, shoes and blankets were provided for all others.

They had 20 tents for the entire expedition - if you assume one tent per adventurer, then you're looking at an average of seven or eight people per tent - probably more in some tents, since the head-man and cook probably got their own tents.

Supplies for a 6 month trip into the wilderness were as follows:

    Two tins imperial cheese.
    One pound Ceylon tea.
    One three-quarter pound tin ground coffee.
    One four-pound tin granulated sugar.
    Two tins ox tongue.
    One tin oxford sausage.
    Two tins sardines.
    Two tins kippered herrings.
    Three tins deviled ham (Underwood's).
    Two tins jam (assorted).
    Two tins marmalade (Dundee).
    Three half-pound tins butter.
    Three half-pound tins dripping.
    Ten half-pound tins ideal milk.
    Two tins small captain biscuit.
    Two tins baked beans, Heinz (tomato sauce).
    One half-pound tin salt.
    One two-pound tin chocolate (Army and Navy).
    Two parchment skins pea soup.
    One one and one-half pound tin Scotch oatmeal.

    Two tins baked beans (Heinz) (tomato sauce).
    One tin bologna sausage.
    One tin sardines.
    One tin sardines, smoked.
    Two one-pound tins camp, pie.
    Five tins jam, assorted.
    Two tins marmalade (Dundee).
    Five half-pound tins butter.
    Three half-pound tins dripping.
    Ten half-pound tins ideal milk.
    Two tins imperial cheese.
    One one and one-quarter pound tin Ceylon tea.
    One three-quarter pound tin ground coffee.
    One four pound tin granulated sugar.
    One quarter-pound tin cocoa.
    Two tins camp biscuit.
    One half-pound tin salt.
    One one and one-half tin Scotch oatmeal.
    One one-pound tin lentils.
    One tin mixed vegetables (dried).
    One two-pound tin German prunes.
    Six soup squares.
    One ounce W. pepper.
    Two sponge cloths.
    One-half quire kitchen paper.
    One two-pound tin chocolate (Army and Navy).

    Three fourteen-pound tins self-raising flour.
    Two cases (black band) containing fifteen bottles lime juice (plain) Montserrat.
    Two cases, each containing one dozen Scotch whisky.
    Two cases (red and blue band) thirty pounds bacon, well packed in salt.
    Two cases (yellow and black band) five ten-pound tins plaster of Paris for making casts of animals.
    One case (red and green band) fifty pounds sperm candles—large size (carriage).
    Four folding lanterns.

The following items to be equally divided into as many lots as necessary to make sixty-pound cases:
    Eight Edam cheeses.
    Twenty tins bovril.
    Twenty two-pound tins sultana raisins.
    Ten two-pound tins currants.
    Ten one-pound tins macaroni.
    Thirty tins Underwood deviled ham.
    Eighty tablets carbolic soap.
    Eighty packets toilet paper.
    Ten bottles Enos' fruit salt.
    Twenty one-pound tins plum pudding.
    Six tins curry powder.
    Twenty one-pound tins yellow Dubbin.
    Six one-pound tins veterinary vaseline.
    Six one-pound tins powdered sugar.
    Six tin openers.
    Twelve tins asparagus tips.
    Twelve tins black mushrooms.
    Six large bottles Pond's extract.
    Twelve ten-yard spools zinc oxide surgeon's tape one inch wide.
    Two small bottles Worcestershire sauce.

In addition to the foregoing we added the following equipment of table ware:
    Eight white enamel soup plates—light weight.
    Eight white enamel dinner plates—light weight.
    Three white enamel vegetable dishes—medium size.
    Six one-pint cups.
    Eight knives and forks.
    Twelve teaspoons.
    Six soup spoons.
    Six large table-spoons.
    One carving knife and fork.
    Six white enamel oatmeal dishes.

As our tent equipment and some of the miscellanies necessary to our expedition, the subjoined articles were procured:
    Four double roof ridge tents 10 by 8—4 feet walls, in valises.
    One extra fly of above size, with poles, ropes, etc, complete.
    Five ground sheets for above, one foot larger each way, i.e., 11 by 9.
    Four mosquito nets for one-half tents, 9 feet long.
    Four circular canvas baths.
    Twelve green, round-bottom bags 43 by 30.
    Four hold-all bags with padlocks.
    Two fifty-yard coils 1 1-4 Manila rope.
    One pair wood blocks for 1 1-4 brass sheaves, strapped with tails.
    Four four-quart tin water bottles.
    Two eight-quart Uganda water bottles.
    Four large canvas water buckets.
    One gross No. 1 circlets.
    One punch and die.

This does not include medical and surgery supplies or rifles.

Personal supplies were as follows:

    Two suits—coat and breeches—gabardine or khaki.
    One belt.
    Two knives—one hunting-knife, one jack-knife.
    Three pair cloth putties.
    Three flannel shirts (I actually only used two).
    Six suits summer flannels, merino, long drawers.
    Three pair Abercrombie lightest shoes (one pair rubber soles).
    Three colored silk handkerchiefs.
    Two face towels—two bath towels.
    Three khaki cartridge holders to put on shirts to hold big cartridges, one for each shirt.
    One pair long trousers to put on at night, khaki.
    Two suits flannel pajamas.
    Eight pair socks (I used gray Jaeger socks, fine).
    One light west sweater.
    One Mackinaw coat (not absolutely necessary).
    One rubber coat.
    One pair mosquito boots (Lawn and Alder, London).
    Soft leather top boots for evening wear in camp.
    Five leather pockets to hold cartridges to go on belt.
    Three whetstones (one for self and two for gunbearers).
    One helmet (we used Gyppy pattern Army and Navy stores).
    One double terai hat, brown (Army and Navy stores).
    One six-_or_eight-foot pocket tape of steel to measure horns.
    One compass.
    One diary.
    Writing materials.
    Toilet articles.

How often to PC's bring changes of clothes with them on adventures? 


  1. Reminiscent of the great Avalon Hill game Source of the Nile ... though much more obsessively detailed.

    One must keep up one's Bovril drinking and pyjama wearing!

  2. Great find. Makes me want to be a bandit lurking about to loot these huge affairs as they pass through the wilderness. Of course there's all those rifles . . .

    1. Ah - but what if the head-man and askari ARE the bandits. Now you got yourself a wilderness campaign.

  3. It can take a play session or two to equip a large expedition if all things are not hand waived. Even buying off a list can take a couple hours. We call such sessions Shopquest in my regular group.

  4. Actually, one or two of my players are usually this manic with their inventories. Though incessant discussions of encumbrance abound.

    1. The planning portion of the adventure can be lots of fun for some folks, but only if the Ref is going to be a stickler about the supplies, of course (which, as I get older, I'm becoming more of).


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