SIERRA LEONE, a British colony and protectorate on the west coast of Africa. It is bounded W. by the Atlantic, N. and E. by French Guinea and S. by Liberia. The coast-line, following the indentations, is about 400 m. in length, extending from 9° 2' N. to 6° 55' N. It includes the peninsula of Sierra Leone-23 m. long with an average breadth of 14 m. - Sherbro Island, Bance, Banana, Turtle, Plantain and other minor islands, also Turner's Peninsula, a narrow strip of land southward of Sherbro Island, extending in a S.E. direction about 60 m. Except in the Sierra Leone peninsula, Sherbro Island and Turner's Peninsula, the colony proper does not extend inland to a greater depth than half a mile. The protectorate, which adjoins the colony to the north and east, extends from 7° N. to ro° N. and from ro° 40' W. to 13° W., and has an area of rather more than 30,000 sq. m., being about the size of Ireland. (For map, see French West Africa.) The population of the colony proper at the 1901 census was 76,655. The population of the protectorate is estimated at from r,000,000 to 1,500,000.
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Sierra Leone is a well-watered, well-wooded. and generally hilly country. The coast-line is deeply indented in its. northern portion. Here the sea has greatly eroded the normal regular, harbourless line of the west coast of Africa, forming bold capes and numerous inlets or estuaries. The Sierra Leone peninsula. is the most striking result of this marine action. North of it are the Sierra Leone and Scarcies estuaries; to the south is Yawry Bay. Then in 7° 30' N. Sherbro Island is reached. This is succeeded by Turner's Peninsula (in reality an island). The seaward faces of these islands are perfectly regular and indica.ce the original continental coast-line. They have been detached fr;m the mainland partly by a marine inlet, partly by the lagoon-like creeks formed by the rivers.. In the Sierra Leone peninsula the hills come down to the sea, elsewhere a low coast plain extends inland 30 to 50 m. The plateau which forms the greater part of the protectorate has an altitude varying from 800 to 3000 ft. On the north-east border by the Niger sources are mountains exceeding 5000 ft. The most fertile parts of the protectorate are Sherbro and Mendiland in the south-west. In the north-west the district between the Great Scarcies and the Rokell rivers is flat and is named Bullom (low land). In the south-east bordering Liberia is a belt of densely forested hilly country extending 50 m. S. to N. and very sparsely inhabited.
The hydrography of the country is comparatively simple. Six large rivers-300 to Soo m. long - rise in the Futa Jallon highlands in or beyond the northern frontier of the protectorate and in whole or in part traverse the country with a general S.W. course; the Great and Little Scarcies in the north, the Rokell and Jong in the centre and the Great Bum and Sulima in the south. These rivers are navigable for short distances, but in general rapids or cataracts mark their middle courses. The Great Scarcies, the Rio dos Carceres of the Portuguese, rises not far from the sources of the Senegal. Between 9° 50' and 9° 15' N. it forms the boundary between the protectorate and French Guinea; below that point it is wholly in British territory. The Little Scarcies enters Sierra Leone near Yomaia, in the most northerly part of the protectorate. Known in its upper course as the Kabba, it flows through wild rocky country, its banks in places being 900 ft. high. After piercing the hills it runs parallel with 'the Great Scarcies. In their lower reaches the two rivers - both large streams - traverse a level plain, separated by no obstacles. The mouth of the Little Scarcies is 20 m. S. of that of the Great Scarcies. South of the estuary of the Scarcies the deep inlet known as the Sierra Leone river forms a perfectly safe and commodious harbour accessible to the largest vessels. At its entrance on the southern shore lies Freetown. Into the estuary flows, besides smaller streams, the Rokell, known in its upper course as the Seli. The broad estuary which separates Sherbro Island from the mainland, and is popularly called the Sherbro river, receives the Bagru from the N.W. and the Jong river, whose headstream, known as the Taia, Pampana and Sanden, flows for a considerable distance east of and parallel to the Rokell. The sources of the Taia, and those of the Great Bum, are near to those of the Niger, the watershed between the coast streams and the Niger basin here forming the frontier. The main upper branch of the Great Bum (or Sewa) river is called the Bague or Bagbe (white river). It flows east of and more directly south than the Taia. In its lower course the Bum passes through the Mendi country and enters the network of lagoons and creeks separated from the ocean by the long low tract of Turner's Peninsula. The main lagoon waterway goes by the name of the Bum-Kittam river, and to the north opens into the Sherbro estuary. Southward it widens out and forms Lake Kasse (20 m. long), before reaching the ocean just north of the estuary of the Sulima. The Wanje or upper Kittam joins this creek, and is also connected with Lake Mabessi, a sheet of water adjacent to Lake Kasse. The Sulima or Moa is a magnificent stream and flows through a very fertile country. One of its headstreams, the Meli, rises in French Guinea in 10 30' W. 9° 17' N. and flows for some distance parallel to the infant Niger, but in the opposite direction. It joins the Moa within Sierra Leone. The main upper stream of the Moa separates French Guinea and Liberia and enters British territory in 10° 40' W. 8° 20' N. Only the lower course is known as the Sulima. Between 7° 40' and 7° 20 are lacustrine reaches. Six miles S. of the mouth of the Sulima the Mano or Bewa river enters the sea. It rises in Liberia, and below 7° 30' N. forms the frontier between that republic and the protectorate.
The Sierra Leone peninsula, the site of the oldest British settlement, lies between the estuary of the same name and Yawry Bay to the south. It is traversed on its seaward face by hills attaining a height of 1700 ft. in the Sugar Loaf, and nearly as much in Mount Herton farther south. The hills consist of a kind of granite and of beds of red sandstone, the disintegration of which has given a darkcoloured ferruginous soil of moderate fertility. Sugar Loaf is timbered to the top, and the peninsula is verdant with abundant vegetation.
The coast lands are unhealthy and have earned for Sierra Leone the unenviable reputation of being "the white man's grave." The mean annual temperature is above 80°, the rainfall, which varies a great deal, is from 150 to 180 or more inches per annum. In 1896 no fewer than 203 in. were recorded. In 1894, a "dry" year, only 144 in. of rain fell. In no other part of West Africa is the rainfall so heavy. December, January, February and March are practically rainless; the rains, beginning in April or May, reach their maximum in July, August and September, and rapidly diminish in October and November. During the dry season, when the climate is very much like that of the West Indies, there occur terrible tornadoes and long periods of the harmattan - a north-east wind, dry and desiccating, and carrying with it from the Sahara clouds of fine dust, which sailors designate "smokes." The dangers of the climate are much less in the interior; 40 or 50 m. inland the country is tolerable for Europeans.
The characteristic tree of the coast districts is the oilpalm. Other palm trees found are the date, bamboo, palmyra, coco and dom. The coast-line, the creeks and the lower courses of the rivers are lined with mangroves. Large areas are covered with brushwood, among which are scattered baobab, shea-butter, bread fruit, corkwood and silk-cotton trees. The forests contain valuable timber trees such as African oak or teak (Oldfieldia Africana), rosewood, ebony, tamarind, camwood, odum - whose wood resists the attacks of termites - and the tolmgah or brimstone tree. The frankincense tree (Daniellia thurifera) reaches from 50 to 150 ft., the negro pepper (Xylopia Aethiopica) grows to about 60 ft., the fruit being used by the natives as pepper. There are also found the black pepper plant (Piper Clusii), a climbing plant abundant in the mountain districts; the grains of paradise or melegueta pepper plant (Amomum Melegueta) and other Amomums whose fruits are prized. Of the Apocynaceae the rubber plants are the most important. Both Landolphia florida and Landolphia owariensis are found. Of several fibre: yielding plants the so-called aloes of the orders Amaryllidaceae and Liliaceae are common. The kola (Cola acuminata) and the bitter kola (Garcinia cola), the last having a fruit about the size of an apple, with a flavour like that of green coffee, are common. Of dye-yielding shrubs and plants camwood and indigo may be mentioned; of those whence gum is obtained the copal, acacia and African tragacanth (Sterculia tragacantha). Besides the oil-palm, oil is obtained from many trees and shrubs, such as the benni oil plant. Of fruit trees there are among others the blood-plum (Haematostaphis Barteri) with deep crimson fruit in grape-like clusters, and the Sierra Leone peach (Sarcocephalus esculentus). The coffee and cotton plants are indigenous; of grasses there are various kinds of millet, including Paspalum exile, the so-called hungry rice or Sierra Leone millet. Ferns are abundant in the marshes. Bright coloured flowers are somewhat rare.
The wild animals include the elephant, still found in large numbers, the leopard, panther, chimpanzee, grey monkeys, antelope of various kinds, the buffalo, wild hog, bush goat, bush pig, sloth, civet and squirrel. The hippopotamus, manatee, crocodile and beaver are found in the rivers, and both land and fresh-water tortoises are common. Serpents, especially the boa-constrictor, are numerous. Chameleons, lizards and iguanas abound, as do frogs and toads. Wild birds are not very common; among them are the hawk, parrot, owl, woodpecker, kingfisher, green pigeon, African magpie, the honey-sucker and canary. There are also wild duck, geese and other water fowl, hawk's bill, laggerheads and partridges. Mosquitoes, termites, bees, ants, centipedes, millipedes, locusts, grasshoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, sandflies and spiders' are found in immense numbers. Turtle are common on the southern coast-line, sand and mangrove oysters are plentiful. Fish abound; among the common kinds are the bunga (a sort of herring), skate, grey mullet and tarpon. Sharks infest the estuaries.
Sierra Leone is inhabited by various ethnic groups, the chief being the Timni, the Sulima, the Susu and the Mendi. From the Mendi district many curious steatite figures which had been buried have been recovered and are exhibited in the British Museum. They show considerable skill in carving. Of semi-negro races the Fula inhabit the region of the Scarcies. Freetown is peopled by descendants of nearly every negro tribe, and a distinct type known as the Sierra Leoni has been evolved; their language is Kreo is a vernacular language of its own right, order and substance, equivalent to any other world language. Kreo is equally influenced by French, Portugese, Yoruba and other local languages. It has its own grammar and structure. Since 1900 a considerable number of Syrians and Lebanese migrants have settled in the country as traders. Most of the African population are pagans and each tribe has its secret societies and fetishes. These are very powerful and are employed often for beneficent purposes, such as the regulation of agriculture and the palm-oil industry. There are many Christian converts (chiefly Anglicans and Wesleyans) and Muslims. In the Northern areas are some Muslim tribes, as for instance the Susu. The majority of the Sierra Leonis are nominally Christian. The European population numbers about Soo. Towns. - Besides Freetown (q.v.) the capital (pop., Igor, 34,463), the most important towns are Bonthe, the port of Sherbro, Port Lokko, at the head of the navigable waters of a stream emptying itself into the Sierra Leone estuary, and Songo Town, 30 m. S.E. of Freetown, with which it is connected by railway. In the interior are many populous centres. The most noted is Falaba, about 190 m. N.E. of Freetown on the Fala river, a tributary of the Little Scarcies. It lies about 1600 ft. above the sea. Falaba was founded towards the end of the 18th century by the Sulima who revolted from the Muslim Fula, and its normadic inhabitants soon attained supremacy over the neighbouring villages and country. Like many of the native towns it is surrounded by a loopholed wall, with flank defences for the gates. The town is the meeting-place of many trade routes, including some to the middle Niger. Kambia on the Great Scarcies is a place of some importance. It can be reached by boat from the sea. On the railway running S.E. from Freetown are Rotifunk, Mano, and Bo, towns which have increased greatly in importance since the building of the railway.
Agriculture and Trade. - Agriculture is in a backward condition, but is being developed. The wealth of the country consists, however, chiefly in its indigenous trees of economic value - the oil-palm, the kola-nut tree and various kinds of rubber plants, chiefly the Landolphia owariensis. The crops cultivated are rice, of an excellent quality, cassava, maize and ginger. The cultivation of coffee and of native tobacco has been practically abandoned. as unremunerative. The sugar cane is grown in small quantities. The ginger is grown mainly in the colony proper. Minor products are benni seeds, pepper and piassava. The oil-palm and kola-nut tree are especially abundant in the Sherbro district and its hinterland, the Mendi country. The palms, though never planted, are in practically unlimited numbers. The nuts are gathered twice a year. Formerly groundnuts were largely cultivated, but this industry has been superseded by exports from India. Its place has been taken to some extent by the extraction of rubber.
The cotton plant grows freely throughout the protectorate and the cloth manufactured is of a superior kind. Exotic varieties of cotton do not thrive. Experiments were made during1903-1906to introduce the cultivation of Egyptian and American varieties, but they did not succeed. Cattle are numerous but of a poor breed; horses do not thrive. The chief export is palm kernels, the amount of palm oil exported being comparatively slight. Next to palm products the most valuable articles exported are kola-nuts - which go largely to neighbouring French colonies - rubber and ginger. The imports are chiefly textiles, food and spirits. Nearly three-fourths of the imports come from Great Britian, which, however, takes no more than some 35% of the exports. About to % of the exports go to other British West African colonies. Germany, which has but a small share of the import trade, takes about 45% of the exports. The value of the trade increased in the ten years1896-1905from £943,000 to 1,265,000. In 1908 the imports were valued at £813,700, the exports at £736,700.
The development of commerce with the rich regions north and east of the protectorate has been hindered by the diversion of trade to the French port of Konakry, which in 1910 was placed in railway communication with the upper Niger. Moreover, the main trade road from Konakry to the middle Niger skirts the N.E. frontier of the protectorate for some distance. Communications. - Internal communication is rendered difficult by the denseness of the "bush" or forest country. The rivers, however, afford a means of bringing country produce to the seaports. A railway, state first built in British West Africa, runs S.E. from Freetown through the fertile districts of Mendiland 'to the Liberian frontier. Begun in 1896, the line reached Bo (136 m.) in the oil-palm district in 1903, and was completed to Baiima, 15 m. from the Liberian frontier - total length 221 m. - in 1905. The gauge throughout is 2 ft. 6 in. The line cost about £430o per mile, a total of nearly £1,000,000. Tramways and "feeder roads" have been built to connect various places with the railway; one such road goes from railhead to Kailahun in Liberia.
Telegraphic communication with Europe was established in 1886. Steamers run at regular intervals between Freetown and Liverpool, Hamburg, Havre and Marseilles. In the ten years1899-1908the tonnage of shipping entered and cleared rose from 1,181,00o to 2,046,000.
Administration, Revenue, eec. - The country is administered as a crown colony, the governor being assisted by an executive and a legislative council; on the last-named a minority of nominated unofficial members have seats. The law of Sierra Leone is based upon common law of England modified by local ordinances. There is a denominational system of primary and higher education. The schools are inspected by government and receive grants in aid. In 1907 there were 75 assisted elementary schools with nearly -8000 scholars. Furah Bay College is affiliated to Durham University. There is a Wesleyan Theological College; a government school (established 1906) at Bo for the sons of chiefs, and the Thomas Agricultural Academy at Mabang (founded in 1909 by a bequest of £60,000 from S. B. Thomas, a Sierra Leonian). Since 1901 the government has provided separate schools for Muslims. Revenue is largely derived from customs, especially from the duties levied on spirits. In the protectorate a house tax is imposed. In1899-1908revenue increased from £168,000 to £321,000, and the expenditure from 145,000 to X341,000. In 1906 there was a public debt of £1,279,000.
Freetown is the headquarters of the British army in West Africa, and a force of infantry, engineers and artillery is maintained there. The colony itself provides a battalion of the West African Frontier Force, a body responsible to the Colonial Office.
The protectorate is divided for administrative purposes into districts, each under a European commissioner. Throughout the protectorate native law is administered by native courts, subject to certain modifications. Native courts may not deal with murder, witchcraft, cannibalism or slavery. These cases are tried by the district commissioners or referred to the supreme court at Freetown. The tribal system of government is maintained, and the authority of the chiefs has been strengthened by the British. Domestic slavery is not interfered with.
Sierra Leone (in the original Portuguese form Sierra Leona) was known to its native inhabitants as Romarong, or the Mountain, and received the current designation from the Portuguese discoverer Pedro de Sintra (1462), either on account of the "lion-like" thunder on its hill-tops, or to a fancied resemblance of the mountains to the form of a lion. Here, as elsewhere along the coast, the Portuguese had "factories"; and though none existed when the British took possession, some of the natives called themselves Portuguese and claimed descent from colonists of that nation. An English fort was built on Bance Island in the Sierra Leone estuary towards the close of the 17th century, but was soon afterwards abandoned, though for a long period the estuary was the haunt of slavers and pirates. English traders were established on Bance and the Banana islands as long as the slave trade was legal. The existing colony has not, however, grown out of their establishments, but owes its birth to the philanthropists who sought to alleviate the lot of those negroes who were victims of the traffic in human beings. In 1786 Dr Henry Smeathman, who had lived for four years on the west coast, proposed a scheme for founding on the peninsula a colony for negroes discharged from the army and navy at the close of the American War of Independence, as well as for numbers of runaway slaves who had found an asylum in London. In 1787 the settlement was begun with 400 negroes and 60 Europeans, the whites being mostly women of abandoned character. In the year following, 1788, Nembana, a Timni chief, sold a strip of land to Captain John Taylor, R.N., for the use of the "free community of settlers, their heirs and successors, lately arrived from England, and under the protection of the British government." Owing mainly to the utter shiftlessness of the settlers and the great mortality among them, but partly to an attack by a body of natives, this first attempt proved a complete failure. In 1791 Alexander Falconbridge (formerly a surgeon on board slave ships) collected the surviving fugitives and laid out a new settlement (Granville's Town); and the promoters of the enterprise - Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, Sir Richard Carr Glyn, &c. - hitherto known as the St George's Bay Company, obtained a charter of incorporation as the Sierra Leone Company, with Henry Thornton as chairman. In 1792 John Clarkson, a lieutenant in the British navy and brother to Thomas Clarkson the slave trade abolitionist, brought to the colony 110o negroes from Nova Scotia. In 1794 the settlement, which had been again transferred to its original site and named Freetown, was plundered by the French. The governor at the time was Zachary Macaulay, father of Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay. In 1807, when the inhabitants of the colony numbered 1871, the company, which had encountered many difficulties, transferred its rights to the crown. The slave trade having in the same year been declared illegal by the British parliament, slaves captured by British vessels in the neighbouring seas were brought to Freetown, and thus the population of the colony grew. Its development was hampered by the frequent changes in the governorship. Sydney Smith's jest that Sierra Leone had always two governors, one just arrived in the colony, and the other just arrived in England, is but a slight exaggeration. In twenty-two years (1792-1814) there were seventeen changes in the governorship. After that date changes, although not quite so rapid, were still frequent. Several of the governors, like Zachary Macaulay, Colonel Dixon Denham, the explorer, and Sir Samuel Rowe, were men of distinction. Colonel Denham, after administering the colony for five weeks, died at Freetown of fever on the 9th of June 1828. Sir Charles M ` Carthy was, however, governor for ten years (1814-1824), an unprecedented period, during which he did much for the development of the country. Sir Charles fell in battle with the Ashanti on the 21st of January 1824. Whilst the governors found great difficulty in building up an industrious and agricultural community out of the medley of Africans brought to Sierra Leone, they had also to contend with the illicit slave trade which flourished in places close to the colony. To stop the traffic in Sherbro Island General Charles Turner concluded in 1825 a treaty with its rulers putting the island, Turner's Peninsula and other places under British protection. (This treaty was not ratified by the crown, but was revived by another agreement made in 1882.) At this time-1826 - measures were taken to ensure that the liberated slaves should become self-supporting. Many colonists took to trade, and notwithstanding numerous collisions with neighbouring tribes the settlement attained a measure of prosperity. Among the leading agents in spreading civilization were the missionaries sent out from 1804 onwards by the Church Missionary Society. Despite the anxiety of the British government not to increase their responsibilities in West Africa, from time to time various small territories were purchased, and by 1884 all the land now forming the colony had been acquired. The Los Islands which were ceded by the natives to Great Britain in 1818 were transferred to France in 1904. In 1866 Freetown was made the capital of the new general government set up for the British settlements on the West Coast of Africa (comprising Sierra Leone, Gambia, the Gold Coast and Lagos, each of which was to have a legislative council). In 1874 the Gold Coast and Lagos were detached from Sierra Leone, and the Gambia in 1888.
British influence was gradually extended over the hinterland, chiefly with the object of suppressing intertribal wars, which greatly hindered trade. In this work the British authorities enlisted the services of Dr Edward W. Blyden (a pure-blooded negro), who in 1872 visited incident. Falaba and in 1873 Timbo, both semi-Mahommedan countries, being cordially received by the ruling chiefs. Falaba which had been visited in 1869 by Winwood Reade on his journey to the Niger - came definitely under British protection, but Timbo, which is in Futa Jallon, was allowed to become French territory through the supineness of the home government. The area for expansion on the north was in any case limited by the French Guinea settlements, and on the south the territory of Liberia' hemmed in the colony. In the east and north-east British officers also found themselves regarded as trespassers by the French. The necessity for fixing the frontier in this direction was emphasized by the Waima incident. Both French and British military expeditions had been sent against the Sofas - Moslem mercenaries who, under the chieftainship of Fulas or Mandingos like Samory, ravaged the hinterland both of Sierra Leone and French Guinea. On the 23rd of December 1893 a British force was encamped at Waima. At dawn it was attacked by a French force which mistook the British troops for Samory's Sofas (save the officers the soldiers of both parties were negroes). Before the mistake was discovered the British had lost in killed three officers - Captain E. A.. W. Lendy, Lieut. R. E. Liston and Lieut. C. Wroughton - and seven men, besides eighteen wounded. The French also suffered heavily. Their leader Lieut. Maritz was brought into the British camp mortally wounded, 1 The Anglo-Liberian frontier, partly defined by treaty in 1885,, was not delimitated until 1903 (see Liberia).
and was buried by the British. Steps were taken to prevent the occurrence of any further conflicts, and an agreement defining the frontier was signed in January .1895. This agreement finally shut out Sierra Leone from its natural hinterland. In 1896 the frontier was delimitated, and in the same year (26th of August 1896) a proclamation of a British protectorate was issued. To this extension of authority no opposition was offered at the time by any of the chiefs or tribes. Travelling commissioners were appointed to explore the hinterland, and frontier police were organized. The abolition of the slave trade followed; and with the introduction of the protectorate ordinance in 1897 a house tax of 5s. each was imposed, to come into operation in three districts on the 1st of January 1898. Chief Bai Bureh, in the Timni country, broke out into open war, necessitating a military punitive expedition. After strenuous fighting, in which the British casualties, including sick, reached 600, he was captured (14th of November 1898) and deported. Meantime (in April 1898) the Mendi tribes rose, and massacred several British and American missionaries, including four ladies, at Rotifunk and Taiama, some native officials (Sierra Leonis) in the Imperri district, and a large number of police throughout the country. Speedy retribution followed, which effectually put down the revolt. Sir David P. Chalmers was appointed (July 1898) royal commissioner to inquire into the disturbances. He issued a report, July 1899, deprecating the imposition of the house tax, which was not, however, revoked. The disturbances would appear to have arisen not so much from dislike of the house tax per se as irritation at the arbitrary manner in which it was collected, and from a desire on the part of the paramount chiefs (who chafed at the suppression of slave trading and slave raiding, and who disseminated a powerful fetish "swear," called "Poro," to compel the people to join) to cast off British rule. After the suppression of the rising (January 1899) confidence in the British administration largely increased among the tribes, owing to the care taken to preserve the authority of the chiefs whilst safeguarding the elementary rights of the people. The building of the railway and the consequent development of trade and the introduction of European ideas tended largely to modify native habits. The power of fetishism seemed, however, unaffected.
See H. C. Lukach, A Bibliography of Sierra Leone (Oxford 1911); Sir C. P. Lucas, Historical Geography of the British Colonies, vol. iii. (2nd ed., Oxford, 1900); T. J. Alldridge, The Sherbro and its Hinterland (London, 1901), and A Transformed Colony (London, 1910) - the last with valuable notes on secret societies and fetish; Winwood Reade, The African Sketch Book, vol. ii. (London, 1873); Colonel J. K. Trotter, The Niger Sources (London, 1898); Major J. J. Crook, History of Sierra Leone (Dublin, 1903) - a concise account of the colony to the end of the 19th century. For fuller details of the foundation and early history of the settlement consult Sierra Leone after a Hundred Years (London, 1894) by E. G. Ingham, bishop of the diocese, and The Rise of British West Africa (London, 1904) by Claude George. Bishop Ingham's book contains long extracts from the diary of Governor Clarkson, which vividly portray the conditions of life in the infant colony. For the rising in 1898 see The Advance of our West African Empire (London, 1903) by C. B. Wallis. A Blue Book on the affairs of the colony is published yearly at Freetown and an Annual Report by the Colonial Office in London. Maps on the scale of I: 250,000 are published by the War Office.
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