African WW1 mementoes: a Club and a ‘Walking Stick’

This is an off-the-wall post in a sense. After reading all my Grandfather’s diaries from his time in East Africa during the 1914-18 war, and publishing them on this WordPress site, it was only very slowly that I realised that the unusual ‘walking sticks’ that I collected from my Aunt Isobel’s house when clearing it, many years ago, might have come from his travels. Aunt Isobel had inherited all the contents of Grandad’s house, and she had sold most of it, kept very little: so maybe these were deemed not worth selling, ie not valuable, and kept for possible use!

IMG_7585One of these sticks is in reality a Club, ie a weapon, as it is just 580mm in length. The realisation that this was an East African, or African club dawned when I visited the Selborne home of Gilbert White, and in the Oates Museum there discovered that in his time in the Boer War, Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates had collected similar weapons as examples of those used by the native people.

This club is very heavy, 510gms, with a major knob on the top and a beautifully reverse tapered handle, 28mm at the far end and 19mm half way along, to enable a good swing. The whole thing is in the weight of the knob, so the shaft feels very light in comparison.  The wood is very dense, as in lignum vitae or bogwood. The knob is 88mm diameter.

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The Walking Stick

Some walking stick this is. It is the sort of walking stick you would want to have at your side if walking through an area where the ‘natives’ were not friendly, and the owner of this stick in East Africa would have had a good ally at his side. But what I can’t quite understand is where the local people would have had access to steel wire to bind the plaits round the shaft!

IMG_7588The stick is a total length of 840mm, with a small hand knob on the top, diameter 40mm. It’s not quite straight, see the picture. The stick diameter is between 22 and 19mm. There are three sections of plaited binding using steel wire, reinforcing the wooden shaft. This is not because it needs it, it is not cracked, it’s just to make it heavy, and solid. These are in sections 92mm, 157mm and 158mm long, from the top. The weight of the whole thing is 690gm.

So a quick bash with this stick would make quite an impression, although the appearance from a few metres away would have been that of an average walking stick. Quite a formidable hidden weapon. The wood is heavy, again, I suppose it is European to call it bogwood or lignum vitae.

The reason I have not used it to date is that I’m worried about the steel wire rusting! But I think it might be brought out more often in future. Thanks, Grandad! Its not what the man who made this stick expected, when it is used for someone sauntering through a Hampshire village 100+ years later!

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Nick@nickdenbow.com

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