Frederick Courtney Selous

Born 1851

Dies 1917

Name ID 1252

See also

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