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This article is titled: THE MAN-EATERS OF TSAVO: LIONS THAT STOPPED A RAILWAY.


The World's News Saturday, November 8, 1902

It was indeed a rude awakening, but the Greek was quite unhurt and spent the rest of the night up a tree. Later on, nothing flurried or frightened the lions —they showed absolute contempt for man. 

The Colonel tried hunting them in the daylight, tracked them more than once to the banks of the river after they had eaten a man but could get no trace of them afterward. As the day passed on, the daring of the man-eaters grew greater. On one occasion a lion jumped on to a tent belong ing to a Greek contractor and carried off the mattress on which the man was sleeping.

That night Colonel Patterson sat up in a tree near the tent from which the victim of the night before had been dragged. He heard the ominous roaring of the lions coming nearer and nearer. But the noise ceased, and later came the shrieks from a camp some half-mile away. Next morning it was found that a man had been carried off from the Railhead Camp, where the commotion had been heard the night before. It transpired, then, that there were two lions at work. The camps, which spread for over eight miles, were surrounded by a thick jungle.

About the middle of March 1898, the railway head had just reached Tsavo, when one or two coolies (laborers) very mysteriously disappeared. On the 25th of the same month a jemidar (native officer) named Ungan Sing, a fine, powerful Sikh had been carried off during the night by a lion, while he lay asleep in a tent shared by some other dozen workmen!

Every reader of the daily papers doubtless remembers how a couple of man-eating lions stopped the construction of a portion of the Uganda railway in 1897-98. The matter was referred to more than once about that time, in the latest number of the "Wide World Magazine," Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Patterson, D.S.O., tells the story in detail. It is a remarkably thrilling story, of m
an easy to catch and kill, and excellent eating, they developed the taste, until finally, they would touch nothing else but human flesh, if it could possibly be got.

Toward the end of their career, they stopped at nothing and braved every danger in order to get their favorite food. Colonel Patterson shared with Dr. Brock, the railway medical officer, a hut close to the main camp of the workmen. It was surrounded by a thorn fence- thick and high. A good fire burned in the enclosure all night. Within the perimeter, the coolie camps were also surrounded by fires kept burning all night. Kerosene tins were rattled at intervals by the night watchmen to scare off the brutes. Despite these precautions, a man disappeared regularly every second or third night. Whilst the camp was large and well-manned, the disappearances excited little attention. But when Colonel Patterson was left behind with a few hundred men to build bridges, and the lions devoted all their attention to that camp, a regular reign of terror began. A very thick hedge was built, and the men felt more secure.

The Lions turned their attention to the Hospital Camp, and an assistant had a marvelous escape. Being disappointed, one of the lions sprang on to and broke down a tent in which there were a dozen patients, and dragged off one poor wretch through the thick thorn hedge to a terrible death.

Night after night the Lions repeated their attacks. The camp was then removed, and the colonel kept a long and weary vigil on the old site, for he had been told that lions visited a deserted camp. But they eluded him, and he had the mortification of hearing shrieks and cries from the new Hospital Camp. It transpired afterward that a lion had jumped the hedge and carried off the hospital water-carrier. The lion had put his bead under the canvas, seized the foot of the man, and dragged him out. As soon as he got him clear, he sprang at his throat, and quickly silenced his cries.

"The lion, not being able to jump the fence, ran up and down with his lifeless burden in his mouth, looking for a weak place to force his way through. This he presently found and plunged into, dragging his victim with him, leaving shreds of torn cloth on the thorns as evidence of his passage."

Again the Hospital Camp was moved, and Dr. Brock and Colonel Patterson arranged to sit all night in a covered goods wagon, and wait for the lions. They sat and waited, listened and looked intently.

"Presently," says the colonel, I thought I saw something stealthily coming towards us, but I feared to trust my eyes, which were strained by prolonged staring through the darkness. There was Intense silence for another second or two. Then, with a sudden bound, a huge body sprang at us. "The lion!" I shouted, and we both fired simultaneously, and not a moment too soon, for before he could turn I felt his hot breath on my face. The lion must have swerved off as he sprang, probably blinded by the flash and frightened by the noise of the double blast, which was increased a hundredfold by the hollow roof of the iron wagon. We were lucky to escape. The next morning Brock's bullet was found embedded in the sand close to a footprint It could not have missed the lion by more than an inch or two. Mine was nowhere to be found.

Matters grew desperate. A strong lion trap was built, but the brutes evaded it and attacked the camps some distance away. Man after man
disappeared and with each successful raid, the lions grew more bold.  Up to this time, only one of the lions had jumped the hedge and carried off his prey, while the other waited outside. They now changed their tactics; both entered together, and each seized a man. Two poor porters were killed in this way in one night. Another raid was made by the lions on an inspector's tent, in rally 50 shots were fired. When Colonel Patterson visited the place next morning the Inspector was sure he badly wounded one of the beasts, and together they tracked it to the jungle. They found, however, only the remains of the unfortunate coolie carried off the night before.

When they got back to the camp, all the men had stop working. They refused to be slayed. They had come from India, they said, on an agreement to work for the Government, but not to supply food for devils. The first passing train they stopped by throwing themselves on the rails in front of it, and then swarming into the trucks, and, throwing in their possessions, they fled from the accursed spot. Lion-proof sheds were built for those who remained. The work had practically stopped.

Just before the workmen fled, Colonel Patterson had applied for a couple of armed native policemen to put in each camp to give confidence to the "men. He had also asked District Commissioner Whitehead to come up, and bring any of the native soldiers he could spare. He was expected on December 2, and it was in connection with his arrival that the thrilling adventure illustrated on the front page took place. The boy sent to the station to meet Mr. White head returned, his eyes staring out of his head with terror, stating that there was no train nor station staff and that an enormous lion had charge of the platform. This subsequently turned out to be correct.

When Mr. Whitehead turned up the next morning, looking pale and ill, his first words, in response to Patterson's greeting, were: "That infernal lion of yours jumped on me last night."

"Nonsense! You dreamt it," retorted the colonel. For the answer, Mr. Whitehead turned around and showed the colonel his back. His clothing was split, and on his flesh, there were four huge claw marks. The train, it appeared, had arrived late. To reach the camp, the District Commissioner, accompanied by Abdullah, his sergeant, had to pass along a gloomy cutting. When half-way through one of the lions jumped down from the bank right at Whitehead, knocking him over like a ninepin, and tearing his clothing. Fortunately, Whitehead had his carbine," and this he instantly fired. The flash and loud report must have dazed the lion for a second, and Whitehead was able to disengage himself. The next instant the brute pounced like lightning on the unfortunate Abdullah, with whom he made off.

That night, whilst Colonel Patterson had sat in a specially constructed watch-tower, waiting for a chance shot at the lions, he had heard them growling and purring over the body of the unfortunate Abdullah, and, when he had fired at them they had taken away what remained, and quietly eaten it in the jungle.

Eventually, the lions were shot, but not until after many more surprising adventures, which may be told at some future time, and the work of constructing the railway went on more quietly and quickly.