Friday, August 5, 2011

Down Memory Lane In a Rickshaw

Two uniformed passengers take a rickshaw ride at Durban, Natal, South Africa, during World War I. One of the Australian soldiers depicted - he is seated on the right hand side of the rickshaw - is George Stephen GADSDON (aka George Stephen LEADER, 1882-1933).

Born in Islington, London, in 1882, George Stephen Gadsdon lied about his age to get into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment: he was 15 at the time but stated he was 18. This circumstance led to his being discharged from the Regiment a month after he enlisted. He then joined the 6th Dragoon Guards, saw action in the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa and later went to Australia where he changed his surname to LEADER.

He survived several major battles of World War I including Ypres: his battalion (2nd Australian) lost 90% of their number at Gallipoli. George was wounded twice during his military career and also suffered the effects of mustard gas in France from which he never fully recovered. When George was reported Missing in Action at one stage of the Great War, his wife was asked if he had any distinguishing marks: she replied, 'A Union Jack tattooed across his chest.'

Aussie soldiers World War I with rickshaw, Durban.

                                Unidentified lady and child in rickshaw at Durban, ca first decade 1900s.

The word rickshaw (sometimes spelled ricksha) stems from the Japanese jinrikisha meaning literally 'man strength vehicle'. It was introduced in Japan ca 1870; by the 1880s the word was anglicised and shortened. Rickshaws became a popular tourist attraction in Durban from the 1890s. Today their numbers have dwindled but it is still possible to take a rickshaw ride along Durban's Golden Mile (the beachfront).

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