A BAD DAY NEAR BURA FOR THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRES
Bura, where the 2nd Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was based in September 1915
During 1915, in preparation for an advance the following year into German East Africa (GEA, Tanzania), specialist Indian railway construction troops built a military rail line from Voi in the east to Maktau to the west. Eventually this line was to be pushed through, after bitter fighting, to Moshi in GEA where it would connect with a German line running down to Tanga on the Indian Ocean coast.
Voi was a station on the British East Africa (BEA, Kenya) railway line running from Mombasa on the coast to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. The British military desperately needed the military line running westwards as it vastly simplified the movement of men, horses, mules, ammunition, rations, other supplies and clothing from the port in Mombasa up to the front line. For their part the Germans, patrolling in from the west, constantly attacked the military line, blowing it up or ambushing trains.
Sketch map of the Voi - Taveta area
On 29th September 1915 the 2nd Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, stationed at Bura on the Voi-Maktau military railway line, responded to reports of German raiders in the area of Bridge 27.
During operations to the south of the bridge 2nd Lieutenant Owen Almond (ex-Regimental Sergeant Major and commissioned after displaying excellent conduct at Tanga) ambushed a German party killing 3 Europeans and around 30 enemy Askari and porters. Owen Almond then led a charge into the killing ground where he was killed himself in a bayonet fight.
Major R.G. Stokes, recently arrived from the Battalion Depot in India, and a relief party travelled in an armoured train from Bura to Bridge 27 to assist in operations.
Instead of leaving the train before the bridge, which was dominated by a slope above it, Major Stokes de-trained his party in the vicinity of the bridge. A German ambush group was waiting on the higher ground and it severely shot-up Major Stokes and his men.
Bridge 27 (looking white in the photo) on the military line between Voi and Maktau. The German ambush party was hidden in the bush up a slope to the right.
The men killed in both Owen Almond's action and the ambush of Major Stokes' group were buried at Bura.
They were: Major R.G. Stokes 2/Lieutenant O.E. Almond 9046 Lance Corporal C. Dennis 10329 Private J. Noon 10158 Private G.T. Gill 9802 Private C. Butcher 9461 Private J. Cochrane 20607 Private P. Gilbert 10271 Private T. Kenny 10198 Private T.J. Watkinson 9232 Private F.W. Hilton 10119 Private C. Green 9479 Private A. Slade 9474 Private A.T Carter
Severely wounded were: 10561 Private Burke, 8676 Private Connor and 9854 Private Hall.
Slightly wounded were: 9705 Private Godley and 20612 Private McMahon.
The Missing were: 9032 Lance Corporal Meadley, 4496 Private Lyon, 10286 Private Ward and 9273 Private Johnson. (All believed taken prisoner.)
In both engagements 1708 rounds were expended and 14 rifles were lost, whilst from Owen Almond's action 2 rifles and 219 rounds were captured.
Initially the dead men were buried in the bush near to the Bura camp, as can be seen in the photograph above.
After the war the remains were moved to Voi Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery where they can be seen grouped together.
After being released by the Germans on parole (meaning he must not fight again against Germany or its allies), No. 9032 Lance Corporal Meadley re-joined the Battalion at El Arish in Egypt in April 1917. Higher authority ordered that he should not serve on operational duties for the remainder of the war.
9273 Private Johnson was also released and paroled and in June 1917 he confirmed Lance Corporal Meadley's account of Owen Almond's action and the subsequent journey into captivity in German East Africa. Private Johnson had been severely wounded in the head, the Germans tried to leave him behind, but he kept catching them up.
Commemorative plaque in Nairobi Protestant Cathedral