Heia Safari!


Something for the weekend.  Heia Safari!.   The lyrics were written in 1916 by noted German painter of African wild life Hans Aschenborn, and became immensely popular.  When Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck wrote his memoirs, he entitled the book Heia Safari (Hurray Safari).

Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck doubtless would have died an obscure retired German colonel but for the outbreak of World War I.  Taking command of the troops of German East Africa he made up his mind that he would help the German war effort by holding down as many Allied troops in Africa as possible.  This seemed like a large task for a man who commanded  2,600 German nationals and 2,472 African soldiers in fourteen Askari field companies.  The other German colonies in Africa were conquered swiftly by the Allies, but von Lettow-Vorbeck had a deep streak of military genius in him that had hitherto been unrecognized.

He defeated the initial Allied attempts to take the colony and expended to 14,000 his mostly native force.  He declared that “We are all Africans here.” and lived up to that claim by appointing native officers, mastering their language and treating his troops fairly, without loosening the strict discipline he applied to Germans and natives alike.  He proved a master of guerrilla war and improvisation, often arming, clothing and feeding his men from the stores of defeated Allied forces sent against him.  The Allies would pour 250,000 troops into a campaign that lasted the entire war.  He became a hero in Germany as news of his exploits spread, and the British grew to respect and admire a man who fought successfully against very long odds.

He ended the war undefeated, he and his men in northern Rhodesia, the only undefeated German force of the War.  He and his officers were given a tumultuous parade in Berlin in 1919.  Deeply conservative, he entered German politics after he retired from the Army in 1928 and served as a member of the Reichstag.  He fought against the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, who he despised.  When Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to Great Britain, knowing in what esteem the British held their old foe, the old soldier allegedly told Hitler to perform an anatomically impossible act.  (After World  War II a nephew confirmed this in substance, but mentioned to his British inquirer that he had heard that his uncle had not been quite that polite to Corporal Hitler.)

In poverty after the War, he began to receive a pension from contributions by British officers who fought against him.  His fortunes restored by increasing prosperity in West Germany, he traveled to East Africa in 1953 where he had an emotional reunion with his surviving Askaris and received military honors from his British hosts.  The Lion of Africa died in 1964, shortly before his 94th birthday.

How often did we pass
Narrow native trails
Amid the wide savannah
When early dawn prevails
We listened to the sound of
The old and trusty songs of
The porters and Askari
Hurray! Hurray! Safari!

Steep hills and fearful gorges
Primeval forest’s night
The air is damp and muggy,
Blocked from the sun’s sweet light
Through Steppe Grasses waves
Our valiant troop advances
With porters and Askari
Hurray! Hurray! Safari!

We sat around the fire
At night before the tent
At peace, at rest, content
The nocturnal world rejoicing
Across the darkened mountain
Echoes are still resounding
Of porters and Askari
Hurray! Hurray! Safari!

When I go on my last trek
The journey is far beyond
Come and sing to me the song
Instead of mournful hymns,
To my hunter’s ear
Before the gates of heaven
It sounds like the Halali (Announcing the end of the hunt)
Hurray! Hurray! Safari!




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One Comment

  1. Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck seems to have been a real man all in too short a supply today. My take from this however wrong I may be is that a person can be the enemy but does not have to evil.
    Sadly today’s effeminate liberal wimps are both the enemy and evil.

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