Salaita

Name ID 2121

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

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The South African Military History Society Newsletter
Extract Date: 1916

The King's Shilling - 1916- East Africa

Mr. Cowley was thanked by Flip for an informative and interesting lecture and the next speaker was then introduced. This was Mr. Hamilton Wende, a free-lance writer and TV presenter for the SABC, BBC and National Geographic. The subject of his lecture was "The King's Shilling - 1916- East Africa".

While working on a shoot in East Africa, Mr Wende's interest in the campaign in East Africa during World War Ihad been piqued by local oral histories and tales handed down by that campaign. A chance remark about South Africans"running away" at the Battle of Salaita resulted in him then researching this battle and ultimately writing a novel with the battle as it's theme. During the German East African Campaign in World War I, the German Commander,General von Lettow-Vorbeck, led the British a merry dance the length and breadth of German East Africa and successfully tied up large numbers of British and Empire troops. The campaign gave rise to a high death toll in terms of disease and starvation among both the troops and the local population, but not in terms of battle casualties. At Salaita, for instance, the toll was about 200 killed in action.

The South African troops taking part were raw and inexperienced and were under the control of officers and

NCOs who, in some cases, had fought on opposite sides in the Boer War only a decade previously. These troops were engaged in following up the enemy and were stopped on 11 February 1916 at Salaita Hill, a surprisingly smallhill but which was well fortified. The General in charge decided, against the advice of his staff, to launch the 5th, 6th and 7th Transvaal Regiments against this hill in a frontal attack supported by the Baluchi Regiment. So confident of success was he that he even laid on a champagne breakfast for himself in celebration of his expected victory. The South African and Indian troops advanced en masse against the hill and were promptly subjected to a massive defensive effort by artillery and machine gun fire. Although supported by two armoured cars, these provedineffectual and withdrew when they ran out of ammunition. The German forces, in the main Black Askaris, thenlaunched a bayonet counter attack and the South African troops broke and ran in panic, leaving their machine guns behind. The Baluchies, who were a more battle hardened regiment and had seen service on the Western Front and Indian Frontier, rallied and repelled the charge, in the process recovering the South African machine guns which they derisively delivered to the South African camp that evening.

This was the largest defeat of white British troops by Blacks since Isandlwana and, as such, was promptly covered up by the British and South African authorities. War histories play down the event and when questions were asked in the South African House of Parliament they were politely fielded and ignored.

Using a Power Point presentation, Hamilton then showed his audience the battlefield as it is today, with the trenches, rock machine gun sangars and even a sniper's nest in a hollowed out baobab tree. The battle and its aftermathproved the inspiration for a book thatMr. Wende decided to write and which he has entitled "The King's Shilling". Hamilton told us about the research he had done and particularly the fact that 33 British soldiers were unaccounted for after the battle. Had they kept running? This made him think of the meaning of courage in a battlefield scenario and gave rise to the theme of his book, which is defeat and how to overcome it, a theme still relevant today.

Mr. Wende was thanked by John Parkinson for a most interesting and well-presented lecture and who also presented him with a Society tie as a token of its thanks. Flip then adjourned the meeting for tea.

Extract ID: 5218
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