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Ragtime Soldiers, The Rhodesian experience in the First World War
by Peter McLaughlin


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Books of Zimbabwe, 1980
225 x 150 mm, xiv, 159 pp., 37 illus., 3 maps, Author's Preface and Introduction, 1980
ISBN (Std) 0 86920 232 4, (Pbk) 0 86920 234 0

"T'he war to end all wars', an epic of sacrifice and endurance, witnessed a remarkable contribution by Southern Rhodesia, and this book describes the part played by this young and extraordinary nation.

Many countries remained peaceful backwaters in the years 1914-18, but Southern Rhodesia was not among those which remained aloof. Rhodesians patriotically flocked to the colours in August 1914, impatient to get to the battlefronts. Hundreds of them died or were maimed in this romantic pursuit of the glory of war; illusions were shattered like the bodies of the victims, and few who survived were unmarked by the nightmare through which they had lived.

The Western Front has cast its eerie spell over images of the Great War but the conflict was spread across half the globe, and black and white Rhodesians also stormed into battle in the dunes of South West Africa, in the thorn scrub of disease-ridden East Africa, in Palestine, Bulgaria, in the air and at sea.

The war accelerated the emergence of a Rhodesian nation; only a minority of those who fought had been born in the country, but they identified themselves as Rhodesians and banded together into Rhodesian units.

'Peter McLaughlin manages skilfully to convey the whole local background, the simple unawareness of the complex issues involved in the European conflict on the part of the folks back home in the Rhodesia of 1914. In their pathetic eagerness they packed off every able-bodied man in support of an unrequited common loyalty and patriotism.'
COLIN DAVIS, 'Talking of Books', S.A.B.C.

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