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101st Grenadiers left to fight it out alone at Tanga - 3rd November 1914

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

The Screen Wall naming the British dead in the Tanga Memorial Cemetery, Tanzania.

(Refer to the article The Loyal North Lancashires at Tanga for an overview of the operation.)

During the British advance on Tanga town on 4th November 1914 the 101st Grenadiers, Indian Army, a sound and steady unit, were deployed on the left of the British line.

In the thick scrub on the left flank the Grenadiers came up against four enemy Field Companies and despite charging valiantly the battalion could not progress against the machine guns firing straight at them from the German Railway Workshops. By then half of the forward Grenadier companies and all the British officers in them were casualties.

The solidly built German Railway Workshops at Tanga.

The two Indian Army battalions on the right of the Grenadiers gave no support - one of those battalions fled the battlefield and the other refused to advance. When a German counter-attack was mounted the surviving Grenadiers were forced to fight an independent withdrawal action.

But the surviving Grenadiers maintained their discipline, and with most of the British officers down, the Indian Officers kept a tight grip on the sepoys, and fought a steady withdrawal action. They fought their way back to the beach and joined the British perimeter that was being formed, and during the following day they were evacuated by sea to Mombasa.

Sketch map showing how the German counter-attack in the afternoon pushed the 101st Grenadiers back in isolation beyond the rest of the British line

During this intense fighting Grenadiers performed many acts of gallantry and self-sacrifice.

No. 1222 Sepoy Fazil Khan, 101st Grenadiers, was later awarded an Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, with the citation:

For gallant behaviour in the action at Tanga on the 3rd November 1914. He remained with Lieutenant Hughes, the Adjutant of his regiment, and two other men until they were all killed. He refused to leave Lieutenant Hughes until he was assured that this officer was dead and then he brought away the latter’s sword with him.

No. 905 Sepoy Sabdal Khan, 101st Grenadiers, was awarded an Indian Distinguished Service Medal for going forward to recover his wounded Jemadar.

The first photograph displayed above shows the screen wall in the Tanga Memorial Cemetery. This cemetery is located where most of the remains of the 101st Grenadiers were later found by the British, when they occupied Tanga two years later. Three of the panels shown are needed to commemorate the over 180 officers and men of the 101st Grenadiers who were killed on the Tanga battlefield, or declared missing afterwards.

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