The Red Pelican by Jon Arensen was recently reviewed in mini-SITREP, the newsletter of the Kenya Regiment. Eric Calonius wrote the review. Here it is.
I just finished The Red Pelican-and what a great read it is! There’s not a memoir in my recent memory that I enjoyed more. I couldn’t wait to pick it up and plunge into the next chapter.
What fascinated me most about the book is that it’s a glimpse into the final, glorious years of the British Colonial Empire. In this case, we have a dashing 21-year-old Oxford graduate, heading down a hippopotamus choked river aboard a creaky, wood-burning steamboat to the most remote colonial outpost in Africa.
What he finds are tall, willowy, stark-naked tribesmen that he whips into a proper British contingent, one that he soon leads into battle against the Italian army on the Sudan-Ethiopian border. That’s just the beginning of a series of stories that unfold against the magnificent natural beauty of East Africa-all based on 1800 pages of diary notes that Lyth had inscribed during those years, in perfect, tight script, and, it is apparent, with a great sense of poetry and style.
It’s amazing that Jon Arensen, the author, spent a great deal of time with Dick Lyth before Dick died in 2005. Dick lived for years with the tribesmen of East Africa, who had not changed in thousands of years. So this is a telescoping of history into a couple of generations. It’s all passed now-the British pulled out in 1955 and the Africans’ lives have changed completely since then. But here is a picture of the final days.
Anyhow, cheers to author Jon Arensen for a great job!
Red Pelican available from amazon.com and as an amazon kindle book.