South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue

Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors)


Book ID 628

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E a

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa

At the outbreak of war the German authorities May have regarded the position of their premier Colony with considerable equanimity although it must inevitably be cut off from outside communication; for it had been organized against any attack that could be made without those extensive preparations for which, according to the German war programme, the essential factor of time would be lacking. Indeed for the first year of hostilities the Germans were strong enough to carry the war into their neighbours' territories and repeatedly attacked the railway and other points in British East Africa.

The forces at the disposal of the German Command May never be accurately known. Lieutenant-General Smuts at one time estimated them at 2,000 Germans and 16,000 Askaris, with 60 guns and 80 machine guns, but this should prove to be below the mark. The white adult male population in 1913 numbered over 3,500 (exclusive of garrison), a large proportion of these would be available for military duties. The native population of over 7,000,000, comprising practically all the warlike races of Central Africa, formed a reservoir of man-power from which a force might be drawn limited only by the supply of officers and equipment. There is no reason to doubt that the Germans made the best of this material during the long interval of nearly eighteen months which separated the outbreak of war from the invasion in force of their territory (+).

In his final despatch of May, 1919, General van Deventer places the German forces, at the commencement of 1916, at 2,700 whites and 12,000 blacks. Lord Cranford, in his foreword to Captain Angus Buchanan's book on the war, writes - "At his strongest von Lettow probably mustered 25,000 to 30,000 rifles, all fighting troops", with 70 machine guns and 40 guns. After eighteen months of continuous fighting General van Deventer estimated the enemy's forces at 8,000 to 9,000 men (*).

Another point bearing on the war and duly emphasized by General Smuts in his lecture before the Royal Geographic Society (Jan., 1918), was the extraordinary strength of the German frontier. The coast line offered few suitable points for landing and was backed by an unhealthy swamp belt. On the west the line of lakes and mountains proved so impenetrable that the Belgian forces from the Congo had, in the first instance, to be moved through Uganda. On the south the Rovuma River was only fordable on its upper reaches. And the northern frontier was the most difficult of all. Only one practicable pass about five miles wide offered between the Pare Mountains and Kilimanjaro, and here the German forces, amid swamps and forests, had been digging themselves in for eighteen months.

(+) The Hon. H. Burton, speaking in London, Aug., 1918, said : "Nothing struck our commanders in the East African field so much as the thorough, methodical and determined training of the German native levies previous to the war".

(*) The force which evacuated the Colony in Dec., 1917, was estimated at the time at 320 white and 2,500 black troops; 1,618 Germans were killed or captured in the last six months of 1917, 155 whites and 1,168 Askaris surrendered at the close of hostilities.

Extract ID: 3489

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E b
Extract Date: 1914 November 2

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa 1914

1914. - Hostilities were commenced by the Germans who advanced from Tanga. Having repelled this force the British attacked that town (on November 2-4, 1914) but were obliged to withdraw with serious loss (795 casualties).

Extract ID: 3530

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E c
Extract Date: 1915

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa 1915

1915. - At sea a naval force bombarded Dar-es-Salaam, and occupied the German island of Mafia in January, 1915; the Koenigsberg was driven to take refuge in the mouth of the Rufigi River, where she was bottled up and sunk, but her ten big guns, each handled by its team of 400 natives, figured subsequently in many a land engagement.

On Victoria Nyanza the British seized the port of Shirati in January 1915 and on March 6th the Winifred destroyed the only German armed boat on the lake. Bukoba was afterwards taken by assault and the Germans retired from the western shore of the lake.

The attack on Tanga and the numerous smaller engagements that followed served to unmask the strength at the disposal of the enemy and made it evident that a powerful force must be organized before the conquest of the Colony could be systematically undertaken. Such an enterprise had necessarily to await more favourable conditions on European battlefields and elsewhere. But in July, 1915, the last German troops in S.W. Africa capitulated to General Botha, and the nucleus of the requisite force, composed of seasoned Colonial Volunteers, became available.

Extract ID: 3531

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E d
Extract Date: 1916

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa 1916

1916, - Later in the year, 1915, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was appointed to the command and measures were taken to connect the Uganda railway at Voi with the German line from Tanga at a point near its inland terminus. Owing to the ill-health of General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien, Lieutenant-General Smuts was nominated to the chief command and landed at Mombasa on February 19th, 1916.

Prior to this, our forces advancing along the railway extension above mentioned, had driven the enemy from Serengeti Camp (January 24th), but General Smuts found them still strongly entrenched on British soil behind the Lumi River with their centre on Taveta, S.W. of Kilimanjaro Mountain, and their right on Lake Jipe.

The immediate plan of campaign centred around the snow peak of Kilimanjaro, of which the fertile slopes form the richest and most desirable portion of the German Colony. Fifty miles to the N.W. Longido was already in the hands of a British column under General Stewart, whose objective was a flanking movement, around the western slopes of the mountain, to the enemy's rear. On March 7th General Smuts bridged the Lumi River ten miles north of Taveta and on the following day, by fine strategy and hard fighting, forced the Germans from the swamps and forests which they had been fortifying for eighteen months. On the following day they were driven from Salaita. van Deventer occupied Moshi, the German railway terminus, on the 13th, where he was subsequently joined by General Stewart's column from Longido.

The main body of Germans retreating from Taveta took up strong positions at Kahe station and along the Ruwu River, another body entrenched on the Latema-Reata Nek and were only dislodged after the fiercest fighting (March 19th). The Kahe position was turned by van Deventer on the 21st and on the following day the enemy were in full retreat down the line, destroying the bridges behind them. With the capture of Arusha, the occupation of the Kilimanjaro district was completed.

The second phase of the war opened after a brief interval devoted by General Smuts to the organization of the positions gained. It was soon evident that fighting would no longer be confined to one area.

In April, Belgian troops from the Congo, moving via Uganda, entered the German province of Ruanda, situated at the N.E. of the Colony, and Kigali, the capital of that rich and populous province was entered on May 6th. Germany had declared war on Portugal on March 10th, 1916, and forces were moving on the Rovuma River which forms the southern boundary contiguous to Portuguese territory. In May an independent British column, under General Northey, operating in the south-west from Rhodesia and Nyasaland, completed the investment of the German land frontier.

Having finished his preparations, General Smuts detached van Deventer early in April to proceed in a south-westerly direction at right angles to the German railway which was to form his own line of advance. On April 19th van Deventer, "after ceaselessly marching and fighting", and with the loss of most of his transport animals, seized the important position of Kondoa Irangi, where he was heavily counterattacked with superior forces by the German Commander-in-Chief on May 9th-11th. All attacks were repulsed, but it was only after the advance of a second British Column on his left that van Deventer again moved forward.

In the meantime General Smuts had been fighting his way towards the sea. On his left were the Pare and Usambara Mountains which sloped prepitously to the railway at their base; on his right was the Pangani, an unfordable river, running parallel to the mountains, and the strip, about 15 miles wide, between was densely clothed with bush. The main advance was along the Pangani, the main German defences had been prepared on the line of railway and in this way the enemy was manoeuvred out of one strong position after another. Zame was occupied, May 25th; Micocheni, May 30th; Mombo, June 9th; and Wilhelmstal, an important town north of the line, on June 12th. Tanga itself fell on July 7th, after slight resistance, practically completing our possession of the Usambara Railway, although some bush fighting was still required to clear the district of small bodies of the enemy.

Prior to this it had become evident that the Germans intended to retire on the Central Railway, via Handeni, and General Smuts with his main column crossed the Pangani in pursuit at the end of May. The advance was on a parallel line with that taken by van Deventer but 120 miles further east. This column captured Handeni (June 20th), situated at the head of a light railway and defeated the Germans at Lukigura River (June 24th) after an advance of about 200 miles. Difficulties of transport and sickness made a halt necessary, and the British force remained encamped at the foot of the Nguru Mountains till early in August.

van Deventer now moved forward again (June 24th), seized Dodoma, 85 miles to the south, the first point reached on the Central Railway and commenced to push the Germans along the line eastward towards Mpapwa and westward towards Kilimatinde, both of which he occupied in due course. A further advance eastward to Kilossa (taken August 22nd) brought van Deventer into touch with the British main column who had fought its way from the Lukigura, across the Wami River (August 18th), dislodging the enemy force from the Nguru Mountains.

Part of the defeated forces joined the German troops resisting van Deventer's eastward advance along the railway and assisted in the stubborn resistance he encountered at Kilossa (captured August 22nd); the main body retreated from the Nguru Mountains to Morogoro, the last point held by the Germans on this section of the railway and their provisional seat of Government. This important town was occupied by the British on August 26th, and the remnant of the German forces escaped southward to the Uluguru Mountains where preparations for a determined stand had been made. The German force from Kilossa had also retreated south towards Mahenge.

Without any halt to recuperate and to replenish the almost exhausted transport General Smuts continued the pursuit into the mountains , from which the Germans were driven to Kissaki on the Mgeta River. This position was captured on September 15th, and the enemy retired to a defensive line between the Mgeta and Rufiji Rivers, when, pending the reorganization of the attacking forces he was left unmolested.

The capture of the port of Tanga on July 7th brought the naval and military forces into close touch for the first time; an advance was made by combined forces to the southward, the ports of Pangani, Sadani (August 1st), and Bagamoyo (August 15th) were taken, and on September 4th, Dar-es-Salaam, the former seat of Government, surrendered. Naval forces completed the occupation of the coast line by the capture of Kilwa (September 7th), Lindi and Mikindani (September 16th), and Kiswere (September 18th).

Meanwhile a Belgian force about 10,000 strong, under General Tombeur, had seized Usumbura, at the head of Lake Tanganyika on June 8th and, pushing forward, had, in conjunction with the British, cleared the enemy from between the two lakes and completed the occupation of the lakes themselves, the British capturing Mwanza, on Lake Victoria (July 14th-15th), and the Belgians Ujiji and Kigoma, on Lake Tanganyika (July 29th) at the lake end of the Central Railway. (For naval fighting in the lake, see p.672). Rolling stock was brought across the lake from the Belgian Congo terminus at Albertville and a systematic advance along the line to Tabora commenced. A Belgian column from Ruanda on the N.E.; the British from Mwanza, due N., and a second British force starting from Kirando, a lake port 220 miles south-west of Tabora, cooperated in this movement. After considerable fighting Tabora fell on September 11th.

In the South-West the third attacking force, under General Northey, had cleared the frontier between Lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa of the enemy by the end of May, captured New Langenburg on June 8th, 1916, and Bismarcksburg at the foot of Lake Tanganyika. The force then advanced in a N.W. direction through Malangali (where the Germans were routed "in a brilliant little action" July 24th), on Iringa, occupied August 29th, a military station about 160 miles from New Langenburg and 120 miles south of the Central Railway.

Summing up the position in October, 1916, General Smuts wrote, "with the exception of the Mahenge Plateau they have lost every healthy or valuable part of their Colony".

The effect of climate on the health of the troops, the losses of animals and the bad state of the wheeled transport necessitated a thorough and prolonged rest and refit. It was decided to send home all white troops affected by the climate with the result that nearly 12,000 were evacuated. Kilwa, a port south of the Rufiji position was prepared as a base and a considerable force transported there by sea.

Extract ID: 3532

See also

Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E e
Extract Date: 1917

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa 1917

1917. - General Smuts relinquished his command on January 20th, and was succeeded by Lieut.-General A.R. Hoskins, C.M.G., D.S.O. in may, Major-General J.L. van Deventer, C.B., was appointed to the command.

The fighting throughout 1917-18 had emphasized the difficulties which were so evident in the final stages of the second Boer war, those of rounding up a mobile enemy, with no civil population to defend and provide for, whose main object is to avoid decisive fighting, and who is favoured by a great extent of broken and roadless country in which to manoeuvre.

The British forces advanced early in January and many desultory engagements ensued, in one of which, at Behobeho, the gallant Captain F.C. Selous, D.S.O., was killed (January 4th), but no considerable body of the enemy was definitely disposed of. Later in the year the German forces broke up into small parties, and apparently living on the country, dispersed over a wide area. Some columns of the enemy, which succeeded in slipping through our positions, endeavoured to re-kindle the war in the north, these were rounded up by Belgian troops, brought back from the Congo Free State, who captured their commander on may 22nd, and drove the remnant of the forces back into the British, to whom they surrendered in October.

In June the enemy were officially reported (1) near Kilwa; (2) west of Lindi; (3) in the Mahenge district; (4) at Songwa, 60 miles north of the Portuguese border; (5) in the neighbourhood of the southern border of British East Africa; (6) in the Luchulingo Valley within Portuguese territory; and the war resolved itself into innumerable attempts to surround those elusive forces by means of mobile columns, hampered by every difficulty of terrain, climate and transport. Of the above forces the main body (1) and (2) under von Lettow Vorbeck, with the pick of the German troops, was 4,000 to 5,000 strong. No.3, under Tafel, comprised 2,000 to 3,000 rifles; No.5, under Naumann, consisted of 600 men; and No.6, under von Stuermer, was rather weaker.

Increasing pressure was maintained as the war advanced from all sides; at the end of September, half of the German forces were reported behind the parts of Lindi and Kilwa, they were attacked from the north and dispersed southward in small parties. Another important body still held the Mahenge plateau, previously mentioned, but the town of this name was captured by a Belgian force on October 9th, after severe fighting in the Kalimoto Hills and elsewhere. In the same month the Rhodesian column, under General Northey, pushed the Germans from their administrative centre at Liwale.

The cumulative effect of the harrying without rest to which the German forces had been subjected for many months was becoming apparent. The Mahenge plateau was cleared of the enemy, and captures and surrenders greatly depleted the attenuated forces still holding the field.

Early in December the remnants of the German forces, evacuated their colony by crossing the Rovuma River into Portuguese territory. They numbered 320 whites and 2,500 black troops, with a considerable reserve of trained native porters of good fighting stock, many of whom were, from time to time, drafted into the fighting line. Tafel, unaware of this movement, when driven from Mahenge and on his way to join forces with Vorbeck, was rounded up and capitulated (Nov. 28), there was no longer organized resistance within the limits of the colony. In the last six months of 1917, 1,618 Germans and 5,482 Askaris had been killed or captured.

Extract ID: 3533

See also

Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 520-521E f
Extract Date: 1918

History of East Africa : The War with Germany in East Africa 1918

1918. - Desultory fighting between the diminishing German forces and the pursuing columns continued in Portuguese territory, the former being steadily shepherded southward, but successfully avoiding a final round up. In July, their main body, reduced to about 250 Germans and 1,300 Askari were located some 25 miles from Quilimane and nearly 500 miles south of the Rovuma River. At this time the pursuing forces consisted mainly of native levies. In August the main force was reported near Chalana, 60 miles west of Angoche, after abandoning a hospital containing 300 sick and wounded at Namirrue. Under pressure from the pursuing columns the Germans turned northward, recrossed the Rovuma River after a trek of over 1,000 miles, and were presumed to be heading for Tabora.

Rapid dispositions were made to check the advance northward, to avoid which the German Commander turned south into Northern Rhodesia. This was at the beginning of November, and a few days later the armistice put an end to further hostilities.

The fate of the remnant of the German force was provided for by the XVIIth clause of the Armistice conditions, which stipulated for their unconditional evacuation within one month. von Lettow-Vorbeck surrendered at Abercorn, in the extreme north of N.E. Rhodesia; his force consisted of 30 officers, 125 other Europeans, 1,165 Askaris, 2,294 native carriers, etc., and 819 native women.

The last shot is said to have been fired on the Chambesi River on November 13th, and the surrender took place a few days later.

The cost of the campaign among the British and their Native Allies (exclusive of that incurred by the Belgians) up to March 31st, 1919, was approximately L 72,000,000.

General van Deventer, in his final despatch, says : "The Germans rewarded their black troops by giving them a free hand in respect of loot and the treatment of women; but it nevertheless says much for the character of the German commander that he was able to keep these men with him through four years of most strenuous campaigning. There were occasions when atrocities were committed on our wounded, and the treatment of our prisoners - especially the Indians - was at times infamous; but the Germans themselves, with rare exceptions, tried to stop the former, while the latter was the work of men far behind the firing-line, most of whom have already been punished; and though it is impossible entirely to exonerate the Higher German Command with regard to these matters, it must in justice be said that the actual fighting of the East African Campaign was, on the whole, clean - and sometimes even chivalrous".

Lieut. E.W. Bovill (in The Journal R.G.S., Oct. 1917), refers to the total disregard by the Germans of the barest needs of the native population in their wholesale seizure of every vestige of foodstuff throughout the country left to them. "Those of the unfortunate people who were of any military value were commandeered at an early date. The able-bodied men were impressed as soldiers, but more generally as porters, while the younger women were distributed among the askari. But what of the old men, the old women, and the young children ? There was a desolate village and starvation."

Extract ID: 3534

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 521E-521F

History of East Africa

The mandate to administer the former German Colony has been conferred to Great Britain under the terms of the Supreme Council of the League of Nations. Great Britain has transferred the Provinces of Ruanda and Urundi, in the N.W., to Belgium, with the concurrence of the Supreme Council. These Provinces contain three-sevenths of the population and more than half the cattle of the Colony.

Naval Defence. The boundaries of the East Indies Station, on the African coast, were enlarged in 1919, and include Zanzibar and what was the littoral of "German" East Africa.

Dar-es-Salaam remains, at least for the present, the seat of Government of the conquered Colony. The first Administrator is Sir Horace Archer Byatt, C.M.G. The native troops have gone back quietly to their villages and the few Germans that remain are reported as settling down under the new Administration.

Minor Transfers of Territory in East Africa, incident at the close of the War (p. 521F)

Ruanda and Urundi (British East Africa). - The British Government transferred the Administration of these Provinces in the N.W. of late German East Africa to the Belgian Government, with the sanction of the Supreme Council, in August 1919.

Kianga. - Situated at the mouth of the Rovuma River (late German East Africa), with an area of 400 square miles; the claim to this territory by Portugal was conceded by the Supreme Council on Sept. 25th 1919.

Extract ID: 3490

See also

Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 527

Climate : Conquered East Africa

The remarks on the British East African climate apply in most instances equally well to the former German Colony, both countries running side by side from the East Coast to the great central lakes.

Major H.G. Lyons has contributed much valuable information hereon in the April issue of the "Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society". He divides the country, both from the standpoint of climate and productions into five regions :

(1) The coast belt, 15 to 40 miles wide, characterised by great heat and moisture;

(2) the hilly district of Usumbura in the N.W.;

(3) Mount Kilimanjaro and the adjacent country;

(4) the inland plateau, which is a continuation of the B.E.A. plateau; and

(5) the lake regions.

The coast belt is marked by its limited range of temperature, the mean monthly range being only 5-6 degrees F. The rainfall is heavy, but very uncertain, and the climate trying for Europeans.

Kondeland, N. & N.E. of Lake Nyasa, is spoken of by Sir Alfred Sharpe as a magnificent country, suitable for European settlement.

Extract ID: 3514

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 552
Extract Date: 1912


In German East Africa (1912) the following Government return was made of natives in European employment :-

Railway construction and repair 16,055

Railway services 4,007

Harbour works, Tanga 100

Government service 5,000

Employed by European merchants & c. 2,500

Employed in caravans for Europeans 5,000

At mission stations 3,000

In European domestic service 9,000

Mining 2,966

Plantations 91,892

Total 139,520

In addition, some 25,000 were in the employ of Arabs and Indians. Wages ranged from 3 to 12 rupees per month in addition to food. Natives employed on the Central Railway received from 8 to 10 rupees and a food allowance of 15 hellers (2 1/2 d.) a day. Labour was reported scarce in the plantation districts.

Extract ID: 3512

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Samler Brown , A and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue, 1920
Page Number: 563, 564A, 567, 570A


Sisal hemp (Agave Rigida var. Sisalana) was introduced into E. Africa from Mexico by German enterprise in 1893, ten years before it was planted in British East Africa.

In 1912, 61,877 acres were said to be planted in G.E.A., and in the following year the exports exceeded half a million in value and were used exclusively by the German Navy

Extract ID: 3511