From: The Senior Medical Officer, Kilwa-Kivinji
To: The DDMS, Lines of Communication, Dar-es-Salaam
Kilwa- Kivinji, 9/5/1917
Sir, I have the honour to report on the following facts connected with embarkation of Union Labour Porters, unfit for service, on HMT Aragon and with the condition of these porters in the Kilwa Area at the time.
1. MEDICAL ARRANGEMENTS ON HMT ARAGON
On 28 March, I was informed no doctor or drugs on board, I wired to you, “I propose putting on medical personnel from my hospital staff.”
On 29, I inspected ship with OC Section, saw that there were ample medical comforts aboard.
Suggested that ship should take over all feeding arrangements, which they agreed to do, if authority obtained, and inspected accommodation which was ample.
There were few porters on board at this time, and none sick. After I left the ship, some dhows arrived, and other porters who had walked to Kisiwani.
Captain Douglas, SAMC, as Post Embarkation Officer, was available within ten minutes of receiving a call from the ship, and Lieut-Colonel Praal, IMS, and staff kindly undertook to attend sick on board daily until Captain Sharp, RAMC, with drugs and personnel went on board the ship.
Sick were attended to morning and evening by staff from HMHS Gascon, and facts entered on ship’s log. On 30 I received a wire stating there were two deaths and numbers of men going sick. Captain Sharp, whom I proposed to send, was sick with malaria and I replied that Captain Miller, RAMC, would proceed on board on 31 with staff. Meanwhile Captain Douglas was available at Kisiwani, and the medical staff of the Gascon with ample drugs.
On 31, I went on board with Captain Miller, arranged for accommodation for sick, again went into question of medical comforts, blankets, and bunks, in case of any serious illness, with Captain Miller, I sent an NCO and two nursing orderlies, and in addition on the ship was another trained male nurse, and drugs and dressings and equipment sent from this hospital.
We discussed whether cases should be put into the Post Hospital, Kisiwani, but decided that the men would have a better chance of recovery on the ship.
My report giving reasons in detail submitted in report B/B/41, dated 4/5/17.
That deaths should reach such a large proportion, could not have been anticipated.
I have seen Captain Miller since his return, and he stated that drugs, comforts, and accommodation were ample throughout voyage, and I understand has rendered a report to this effect.
2. ARRANGEMENTS REGARDING EVACUATION
I was not consulted on this matter, and did not know that porters had been sent by road to Kisiwani until the day after they had left.
That porters were proceeding by dhow I discovered by meeting the OC Kilwa Section going to the wharf. On our arrival, we found that many boys had gone on board. With one party of about three hundred no water or rations had been sent. The OC Section and myself arranged with the DADS&T to send food and water out to the porters on the dhows, and to feed those on shore.
No officer of the Labour Union Dept was present, until the OC Section sent a note to the Controller, Union Labour. We also found over 200 porters sitting on the ground, evidently to remain there for the night.
We personally took these porters over to the hospital and placed them in empty hospital marquees.
These boys had orders to be on the dhows at 4 a.m. and actually started embarking at 4.20 a.m. by orders of OC Section, who was present, as no officer from Labour Union Dept was on the spot at the time.
The porters who reported sick from the Repatriation Camp, attended daily at No 19 Stationary Hospital for treatment, and a Medical Officer from the Hospital and an orderly held a sick parade daily at 6.30 a.m. at the Animal Transport Camp to save the sick porters the walk down to the Hospital.
Drugs and dressings were kept in the camp.
These porters had been seen as usual the day prior to embarkation.
3. GENERAL CONDITION OF CAPE BOYS IN THIS AREA OF OPERATIONS
I attach my Hospital Figures from beginning of December to end of April, and would draw attention to the large number of admissions and proportion of deaths in the month of March. I also attach statement showing daily amount (sic) of deaths in the hospital during the month of March.
Union Porters were at this period being brought in from up the line for this evacuation in large numbers.
All were debilitated, of very poor physique, and it was a matter of extreme difficult to decide who could remain out of hospital, and who be admitted.
All were full of malaria and a man would appear comparatively fit, one day, possibly temp 102 degrees; this temperature would fall to normal and two days later he would die in his sleep.
Captain Miller stated he had the same experience on the Aragon and Lieut Cherrington of the Union Labour Depot, states that in his camp, convalescent men apparently quite fit during the day suddenly died during the night.
On examination, the blood of these men was found to be full of subtertian malaria parasites, and on a few occasions smears were taken from the brain, showing the capillaries blocked with parasites.
In all cases the porters belonging to the Animal Transport were in a much worse condition than those of other units, as the proportion of deaths in hospital show. The condition under which these porters were, during the rains, could not have been worse.
The porters in this area appear to me to be of a much lower type than I have met in other areas.
Many were old men, others young boys; at one time in the Animal Transport Camp there were two men each without a hand and many stated to me they had never been medically examined before leaving South Africa.
Eventually, in consultation with OC Union Labour Depot, Capt Douglas, SAMC, inspected these porters prior to disembarkation in order to weed out those obviously unfit. The difficulty under which the medical treatment of these porters has been carried out is very great.
In the entire area I do not suppose there is one MO who speaks their language and the Controller of Union Labour was unable to give me any interpreters for the hospital.
They have been nursed all along here by my European orderlies who have to do what they can with the aid of other sick porters in the ward, who may speak a few words of English, and the same difficulty applies to the Medical Officers. I would also point out that there was no representative of the Union Labour in charge on the Aragon and that thereby the MO’s difficulties in dealing with the sick were much increased.
As far as was in the power of the hospital, they have received every care and attention possible and since Lieut Cherrington came to Kilwa as OC Union Labour Dept, we have always worked together on all questions concerning them.
I regret very much that Lieut Cherrington was sick in hospital at the time of the evacuation of the Aragon.
With reference to type of Union Porters sent to Kilwa area, I would refer you also to report from DADS&T Kilwa to DS&T, GHQ Dar-es-Salaam, dated 18 January 1917.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Sgd) JA Manifold, Lieut-Col RAMC, Senior Medical Officer, Kilwa-Kivinji