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William Glover     
?? Royal Army Medical Corps


      William Glover was the brother of Eva, whose record as a VAD in the war is included on this web-site. He was born in c.1889 in Aberdeen, the second of three children of whom Eva was the youngest. His father, Dr. William Kensit Glover had been born in Tottenham in 1856. He trained and qualified at Aberdeen, taking his MB BChir in 1898, prior to his marriage to Mary, 6 years his junior, who had been born in Aberdeen. The 1891 census shows Dr. And Mrs. Glover were living in that city with their first two children, Dorothy Mary then aged 5 and William aged 2. Besides general practice, Dr. Glover was also serving as the Honorary Medical Officer to the Aberdeen Cottage Hospital, the District Medical Officer and the Public Vaccinator. The family then moved to Dartford, Kent. Here, besides general practice, Dr. Glover was also the Medical Officer at the Liningstone Hospital, Dartford. In 1911 they were still living in Dartford, Kent. William was either studying at Westminster Hospital or had already transferred to Cambridge where he studied for the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Mary Dorothy, aged 25, was now an art student, and the third child, Eva Leonora aged 18, was described in the census as a part time student. In 1914 the family came to live in Winkleigh, after the Winkleigh doctor, Dr. Harvey, had left to enlist at the beginning of the war, only to be killed accidently in Mesopotamia in 1915. Details of Dr. Harvey are on this web-site, with his name on the Memorial Cross.

      The Old Westminsters website gives us details of William’s early career....

      William Glover took his Cambridge Diploma in 1913, and was first appointed for a short time as medical officer to the Benguela Railway Company, before being appointed to the West African Medical Services in September 1913, where it seems he remained until 1915. The Benguela Railway connects the Atlantic port of Lobito (now in Angola) to the eastern border of Luau in the Democratic Republic of Congo. First initiated by the Portuguese in 1899 to give access to the mineral wealth of the then Congo Free State, a concession was granted in 1903 to Sir Robert Williams’ Benguela Railway Company to extend the line, and by 1914 the first 500 km had been constructed. Work then stopped until 1920, the line only being completed in 1929.

      Transfer from the Benguela Railway Company to the West African Medical Services in September 1913 might have seemed a good career move, but there were problems. The Colony of Northern Nigeria had been developing and expanding but it was only in 1913 that Northern Nigeria amalgamated with the Colonies of Lagos and Southern Nigeria, much the poorer part of the British possessions. According to a letter published in the British Medical Journal in January 1907, allowances for the Medical Officers in the West African Medical Service varied considerably between the richer North and the poorer South, and in addition there were little opportunities for private practice in the South. We have no means of knowing whether or not it was these conditions that led William to transfer his career to the Cameroons in 1915, but perhaps more likely was William’s desire to enlist and serve his country. Meanwhile, on February 9th 1915 William married Anna C. Jeffrey from Aberdeen, in Winkleigh church, which gives us a clue to his career move as he was obviously home then on leave prior to taking his commission.

      In May 1915 William was enlisted with a temporary commission as Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving first in the Cameroons, followed by East Africa and then Egypt between 1915 and 1919. Sadly his service records, in common with many temporary officers in the RAMC, were destroyed between the two world wars, so no details are available.

      In the mid-nineteenth century Britain had annexed the coastal area south-east of Lagos, but it was Germany that by 1911 had annexed an area of the Cameroons larger than that of France and Germany combined, but containing only 200,000 Europeans and 500,00 Africans. By 1914 the Germans controlled the area with a ‘Schutztruppe’ force of 200 officers and NCOs and 1,255 African police. Efforts were made via the American ambassador in Berlin to declare West Africa a neutral zone, but the Cameroons were sandwiched between British and French territory, and both countries were desperate for some sort of propaganda ‘victory’ and colony snatching. The opening moves in August 1914 were a catastrophe, with British forces almost annihilated. Command was then given to Brigadier-General Dobell, the senior British Officer in West Africa. His frontier force consisted of 242 regular officers seconded to the Colonial Office, 118 British NCOs and just under 8000 poorly trained African soldiers from Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierre Leone and the Gambia. The first objective was the main seaport town of Douala, the chief commercial centre of the Cameroons, which included a powerful wireless station which the British Admiralty was keen to destroy, good quays and a floating dock.

      Relations between the French and British commands were distrustful, each scornful of the methods and abilities of the other. Dobell had a difficult task coordinating the Royal Navy with the French army and navy and the Nigeria Marine, as well as some native forces from the Belgian Congo. In the event the Germans surrendered having first blown up the wireless station and removed all the valuable rolling stock, stores, provisions and arms. The allies assumed that the whole colony would now be handed over, or if they didn’t it didn’t really matter as the interior was largely empty. Germany, however decided to hang on, retreating into the interior. In response Britain and France now changed their minds, dreaming of empire expansion in West Africa. The war therefore continued into 1915, and in the May of that year William arrived to play his part. Conditions in the Cameroons were dreadful: in temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the steaming climate was ideal for tsetse fly and other disease-bearing insects, and if William was stationed in Duala he would have experienced 200 drenching days a year, averaging 158 inches. Exploring the creeks of soft mud and wallowing alligators, the Nigerian regiment then advanced along the Northern railway. By March 1915 General Dobell’s force held the mountain region up to the Nigerian frontier and the French held the entire Midland Railway as far as Edea. We do not know how long William Glover stayed in the Cameroons after his arrival in May 1915 before his move, first to East Africa and then on to Alexandria.

      Before the war Germany had made great progress in developing German East Africa, their largest colony. A northern railway ran from Tanga on the coast to the foot of Kiliminjaro, and a central railway ran from Dar-es-Salam to Lake Tanganyika. Their colonial occupation was developing as a huge German success, the most fascinating part of the African continent. Meanwhile, British East Africa became the origin of modern Kenya, with the capital at Nairobi. No British troops were sent to British East Africa, but the white settlers eagerly formed themselves into ad hoc military units determined to capture German East Africa. They were thwarted at first by an official Anglo-German truce at the coastal ports Dar-es-Salam and Tanga, but both sides soon declared hostilities, and endless guerilla war ensued.

      We have no knowledge of how long William Glover served in East Africa, but we do know that his sister Eva, now a qualified VAD arrived at Alexandria in November 1915 and stayed there until May 1916 before returning home. It may be that William wished to transfer to Egypt to be closer to his sister, as well as serving in a much more pleasant station. After his transfer he remained at Alexandria, serving in one of several a major hospitals there for British troops, until September 1919 and his demobilisation.

16 July 2011

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