THE DOWNFALL OF
A DIARY OF LIFE
THE NATIVE LEVY IN ASHANTI 1895-96
Major R. S. S. Baden-Powell
Commanding The Native Levy.
AT CAPE COAST CASTLE.
AT last we have arrived at the end of our three weeks’ voyage, and Cape
Coast Castle has shown itself to our longing eyes much as the books
describe it. A large, rambling, whitewashed fort standing on a group of
rocks on the surf-washed beach. Behind it lies the dull red native town
of earthen flat-roofed houses, interspersed with whitewashed bungalows
of merchants, and all around the town there rise a mass of small, steep,
wooded hills, two or three of which are topped with buildings.
Great open surf-boats take us to the shore, each
propelled by a dozen lusty paddlers, sitting sideways on the gunwale,
and timing well the dipping of their three-pronged blades with choruses
which at times are quite harmonious. Then, as we near the seething
beach, a rush of naked helpers runs the boat well up, and we are landed
dry-shod at the castle water-gate. Within the courtyard, with its
galleries all round, the bustle and the noise are almost overpowering,
as gangs of carriers, both male and female, bring the loads of stores
just landed from the ship, to be checked and stored for further use.
Perhaps nowhere will you find a more Well-trodden grave than that of L.
E. L., the poetess, who lies beneath the flags of this same courtyard.
Here, too, are crowds of natives being enrolled and
told off into gangs as carriers, to form the chain Of depots that have
to be made in anticipation of the arrival of the troops.
Note: Two members of the Royal Family served in the Ashanti Campaign
of 1895-96. Prince Christian Victor, a grandson of Queen Victoria, and
Prince Henry of Battenberg, the Queen’s son-in-law.
Prince Christian Victor
Served in the Ashanti Campaign.
Died in Pretoria, 1900
in the South African War
Prince Christian Victor (Major,
His Highness Prince Christian Victor Albert Ludwig Ernst Anton, heir of
Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, G.C.B., G.C.V.O.) was a grandson of
Queen Victoria, the son of Princess Helena, daughter of the Queen. He
was born at Windsor
Castle 14th April 1867 and died of enteric fever at Pretoria (while
serving in the South African War) on
29th October 1900. Aged
Prince was commissioned in the
60th King’s Royal Rifles
in 1888 and served later in the 4th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He served
1891 (Medal and Bar, Mentioned in Despatches), Mirzanai 1891 (Bar),
Ashanti 1895 (Star, Mentioned in Despatches), Nile 1898 (Medal, 4th
class of the Osmanieh, Mentioned in Despatches).
Princess Helena’s first child … was named
Christian Victor and was known in the family as "Christle". He was
followed by a brother that was born in February 26, 1869, and who was
named Albert. Many of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren had Prince
Albert’s name but only Princess Helena’s son was called by that name.
"Christle" was the first member of the Royal Family to attend to school
instead of being educated by a tutor at home. He studied at Wellington
College which made Queen Victoria very happy since Prince Albert had
helped to establish this institution many years before.. At
Wellington he played for the college First Eleven in 1883 and was
captain of the cricket team in 1885. He also studied at Magdalene
College, Oxford and at Sandhurst, where he was captain of the cricket
team. "Christle’s" brother, Albert, returned to Germany to inherit the
dukedom of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Augustenburg, since his
cousin, Duke Ernest Gunther, was unlikely to produce a heir.
"Christle" became an army officer in the 60th King’s Royal Rifles in
1888. He fought under Lord Horatio Kitchener in 1898 when the British
troops defeated the Dervishes at Omdurman near Khartoum and recovered
the Sudan. He participated also in the Ashanti Expedition to Ghana. In
1900 he served in the Boer War under Lord Frederick Roberts. In
October while … in Pretoria, he came down with malaria and
died on October 29 after receiving the Holy Communion in the presence
of Lord Roberts and Prince Francis of Teck. He was interred in the
Pretoria cemetery on November 1st., 1900. During his funeral a Boer
woman commented: "They are burying their Prince in British soil; the
English intend to remain in this land". His grave is marked with a
granite cross and a cast iron railing.
Adapted from: "Helena of Great Britain, Princess of Schleswig
Victoria: Grandmother of Europe, her Children and Grandchildren.
Prince Henry of Battenberg
Died of malaria at the
conclusion of the Ashanti Campaign
Prince Henry of Battenberg was the husband of Beatrice of Great Britain,
Princess of Battenberg and a daughter of Queen Victoria.
1895, in the African territory of Ashanti, in Ghana, under the rule of
King Prempeh, human sacrifice had become a usual activity and raids
were made among the native tribes that lived along the Golden Coast
border, in order to get people to be sold as slaves. The British
Government demanded Prempeh to adhere to 1874 Treaty for peace and
order in Africa. As the African King refused, it was decided to send
an expedition to Ashanti to restore order, under the command of Sir
Francis Scott. One day, when Queen Victoria, Princess Beatrice and
Prince Henry were finishing breakfast, Prince Henry suddenly asked his
mother-in-law for her permission to join the Ashanti Expedition. The
Queen said that such matter was out of question. Beatrice supported
her husband and told her mother that he had set his heart upon going,
that he was tired of his inactivity and wanted to do something for
England. When Prince Henry wrote to the Queen, "I hope, by
volunteering in a national case, to prove my devotion to my adopted
country." She finally accepted.
Before sailing, Prince Henry told to Lord Harris: "I am an Englishman
and I want to show the people of England that I am ready to take the
rough with smooth. I know there is no glory out of it and I know of
the dangers of subsequent ill-health and perhaps death from malaria,
which I know is so great in that country". (Duff).
On December 6, he came to the Queen’s presence to say good bye. He
knelt before her and kissed her hand; she embraced him. The next day,
December 7 1895, he sailed on board HMS Coramandel form the
Royal Albert Dock on his way to Africa. Once in Ghana, Prince Henry
started his way, with the main column of the Expeditionary Force, to
Kumassi, capital of Ashanti. When they reached the River Pra on
January 4th, some cases of fever had sprang out among the troop. At
Prashu, Prince Henry and Mayor Ferguson went for an evening stroll
and the Prince noticed the Mayor had begun with signs of fever. Two
days later he was dead. Prince Henry and the rest of the troop
continued their way to Kwisu, forty miles from Kumassi. They reached
the place on January 10th. Here Prince Henry fell ill with malaria and
the doctor ordered him to return to Cape Coast. Despite his protests
he was put on board HMS Blonde and sent back to England, but as
the ship passed the coast of Sierra Leone, on the evening of Monday
20th, January, 1896, Prince Henry died. That same day, at Kumassi,
King Prempeh submitted to the Governor of Cape Coast.
Adapted from: "Beatrice of Great Britain, Princess of Battenberg" in
Victoria: Grandmother of Europe, her Children and Grandchildren.
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Please write to: Lewis P. Orans
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P. Orans, 2009
Last Modified: 6:46 PM on August 22, 2009