Lt Col John Henry Patterson, DSO (1867 - 1947) was an Anglo-Irish soldier, hunter and author, best known for his book 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo', which details his experiences while building a railway in Kenya.
From 1907 until 1909, J H Patterson was Chief Game Warden in the East Africa Protectorate, an experience he recounts in his second book, 'In the Grip of Nyika'. The Patterson's eland (Taurotragus oryx pattersonianius) was named after him in 1906 when he shot a 'different' looking eland in Tsavo.
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The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo And Other East African Adventures by J H Patterson (1907) is the classic story of the man-eating lions that halted construction of a railway line and reportedly killed 100 people, told by the man who risked his life to successfully shoot them. Considered one of the greatest man-eating sagas of all time, this book is the firsthand account of the infamous Tsavo lions. Free eBook Free Audio Book
'The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo' book (loosely) inspired several Hollywood films:
The Ghost And The Darkness (1996) Starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. This film is based on 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo' by J H Patterson. While the real man-eaters were of the maneless variety, the lions used for filming were fully maned for aesthetic reasons.
In The Grip Of Nyika: Further Adventures In British East Africa by J H Patterson (1909). Patterson accompanied an army officer and his attractive wife on a long safari deep into the wilderness. The various game hunted included rhino, eland, zebra, Thomson's gazelle etc. The husband's death was by a gunshot wound but the exact circumstances were unknown and his wife was reportedly with him at the time. Strangely, as he was a Game Warden and would know the correct procedure, Patterson buried the body in the wilderness and insisted on continuing the safari instead of returning to the nearest post to report the incident. During the ensuing scandal, Patterson abruptly left Kenya and spent the next several years in Europe. The incident was referenced in the film 'The Macomber Affair' (1947), which was based on Ernest Hemingway's 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber' (1936). Free eBook
With The Zionists In Gallipoli by J H Patterson (1916) is the author's World War I memoir about commanding the Zion Mule Corps. The Zion Mule Corps and Jewish Legion would eventually serve as the foundation of the Israeli Defence Force decades later. In 2014 Benjamin Netanyahu referred to Patterson as "the godfather of the Israeli army" and honoured his wish to be interred in Israel. Free eBook
With The Judaeans In The Palestine Campaign by J H Patterson (1922) is the acclaimed account of the services of the 38th (Jewish) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers in Egypt & Palestine from 1918. The Jewish Legion (1917–1921) was the unofficial name used to refer to the five battalions of Jewish volunteers. Free eBook
The Seven Lives Of Colonel Patterson: How An Irish Lion Hunter Led The Jewish Legion To Victory by Denis Brian (2008) begins the narrative with Patterson's assignment in East Africa, where lion attacks were terrorizing workers on a railroad project. The author details accounts of Patterson quelling the rebellion and killing the lions himself. The colonel's indomitable energy and courage become a consistent theme in the book as the author traces Patterson's life from his days as a British socialite to his command of the Jewish Legion of volunteers who helped drive the Turks out of Palestine. Patterson spent most of his later years as an ardent Zionist, working for the creation of a Jewish homeland until his death in 1947, a year before the birth of the state of Israel.
Mad For Zion: A Biography Of Colonel J H Patterson by Patrick Streeter (2004) gives a detailed look into Patterson's life. Although this is not a hunting biography it is interesting, well-written and reveals Patterson's strange background, his time fighting in the Boer War, his strong Zionism and the scandal surrounding an affair with a woman who's husband died mysteriously on a safari that Patterson had outfitted. Maybe the oddest of all these events is the fact that Patterson had an affair with the author's great aunt's sister!
J H Patterson is also referenced in 'The Permanent Way: The Story Of The Kenya And Uganda Railway' by M F Hill (1949)
Old Africa Magazine Article 'J.H.Patterson, Author Of The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo' by Christine Nicholls
Page Updated: July 2021