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Saving the South Africans! E.A. EDEN Awarded the Military Cross - 19 March 1916

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Unterer Himo hill viewed from the west

By mid-March 1916 British forces had successfully crossed into German East Africa (Tanzania) from the Taveta area. Accompanying the Indian 28th Mountain Artillery Battery, a unit that used mules to transport its guns and ammunition, was a Forward Observation Officer named Lieutenant Edwin Arthur Eden of the East African Volunteer Artillery.

Sketch map of the Rasthaus area

The British forces decided to move south through thick bush towards the Ruvu River. On the night of 17th-18th March Belfield's Scouts seized Unterer Himo hill (top photograph) but were driven off it at dawn.

Kifumbo Hill from the north

Unterer Himo and Kifumbo hills received heavy artillery fire and were cleared of the enemy.

Euphorbia hill (above) was the next hill to be seized by the South African infantry.

But then, on 19th March, the advancing 12th South African Infantry walked into a trap set by Captain Ernst Otto, the commander of Abteilung (Group) Otto that contained the 9th and 24th German Field Companies, - see the sketch map above for Otto's position blocking the South African advance route just north of the Himo River.

The South Africans, unused to thick bush, floundered through lack of experience, and Otto's men nearly surrounded them.

Supporting the South Africans was Edwin Eden's Indian battery of six mountain guns and he engaged the Germans, firing 348 shrapnel rounds. Edwin later was awarded a Military Cross, and his regimental history states:

The fire of the battery, directed by Lieutenant Eden, saved the 12th South African Infantry from being surrounded and suffering very heavy casualties. Eden carried out his duties coolly and efficiently (although wounded) under heavy rifle and machine gun fire."

Bush on the ground being fought over - the Germans positioned themselves so that they were concealed but the South Africans were caught in the open.

The fighting went on until nightfall. The next morning patrols discovered that the Germans had withdrawn

This was not the last Military Cross that Edwin Eden was to be awarded during the East Africa Campaign.

(The History of the Indian Mountain Artillery by Brigadier General C.A.L. Graham can be freely downloaded from the internet.)

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