13th RAJPUTS FIGHT ON BOTH DAYS IN THE TANGA BATTLE, ENTERING THE TOWN TO HAUL DOWN GERMAN FLAGS
A 1914 German postcard showing Tanga town
(Refer to the article The Loyal North Lancashires at Tanga for an overview of the operation.)
The 13th Rajputs (The Shekawati Regiment), Indian Army, landed on 3rd November 1914 at Tanga. Later that day, supported by the 61st King George's Own Pioneers, Indian Army, the Rajputs advanced on Tanga town.
Sketch map showing the British advance on the 3rd November 1914
The Rajputs came under effective enemy fire when they approached the railway cutting. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel H.W. Codrington, with his Adjutant climbed a small knoll hoping to obtain a better view of the ground ahead.
The railway cutting at Tanga
When a staff officer ran up the mound to deliver a message to Colonel Codrington the movement was noticed by a German machine gunner. Enemy machine gun fire then raked the mound, killing Colonel Codrington and mortally wounding the other two officers.
This event was quickly followed by the death of a Rajput British company commander, and also of another British staff officer delivering a message.
The deaths of these five British officers severely shook the Rajput sepoys.
The drainage ditch where the Rajputs re-grouped
The Rajputs fell back and re-grouped along the east of a drainage ditch. Three companies of Pioneers came up to support them on the left.
Subadar Bakhtawar Singh, 13th Rajputs, provided the leadership needed to restore discipline amongst the sepoys, and he was later awarded The Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, with the citation:
For gallant behaviour in the action at Tanga on the 3rd November 1914. Although severely wounded, he continued to rally his men and to cover the retirement.
The two Indian battalions then conducted a fighting withdrawal to the beach area where they formed a perimeter for the night.
An old German building in Tanga town
The Rajputs took part in the large British advance the following day, 4th December, and some of them crossed the railway cutting and fought their way into the town. The Kaiser Hotel was reached and Captain Seymour of the Rajputs got onto the roof and hauled down two German flags.
Captain Seymour was then shot and he fainted, giving the appearance of being dead. But he was stung repeatedly by angry bees (refer to the Loyal North Lancs article) and the intensity of the stings revived him.
When the Kashmiris and the Loyal North Lancashires withdrew back over the railway cutting, the Rajputs in the town accompanied them back to the beachhead perimeter, and were evacuated to Mombasa the following day.
Two Rajput sepoys, No. 1870 Girdhari Singh, and No. 1566 Sepoy Daulat Singh, were both awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal for rescuing Captain Seymour after he had been shot.