Second Despatch from General Smuts - 21 October 1916

On 16th January 1917 The London Gazette published a second supplement with a dispatch sent from Lieutenant-General The Hon. J. C. Smuts, Commander-in-Chief, East African Force in which he explains the actions during East African Campaign from March to October 1916.


The following is the transcribed dispatch as Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 29906, 16 January 1917.




War Office,

11th, January 1917.-

The following Despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from Lieutenant-General the Hon. J. C. Smuts, K.C., Commander-in-Chief, East African Force:-


General Headquarters,

East Africa,

21st October, 1916.


Sir,

In my last despatch I described the brief but important operations which ended on 21st March in the occupation of the Kilimanjaro­ Arusha area. The strategy involved in those operations was determined for me by the military situation I found existing on my arrival in British East Africa in February. The opposing armies had massed on the Taveta and Longido fronts; the rainy season was expected in a few weeks, and there was no time or necessity for radical alteration in the plans on which my predecessor had been working. When the operations came to an end it was necessary without delay to dispose my forces most advantageously with a view to their health and comfort during the approaching rainy season, and it became necessary to study the important question of the strategy to be followed in the future operations.

Reorganisation of Forces.


(2) Preliminary to both matters, however, was the question of reorganisation of the East African forces, which I deemed necessary not only for the vigorous prosecution of the coming campaign, but also to secure the smooth and harmonious working of a most heterogeneous army, drawn from almost all continents, and speaking a babel of languages. I decided to abolish the two Divisions formed by my predecessor and to organise my forces into three Divisions, two of which were to consist of the contingents from the Union of South Africa, and the third was to include the Indian and other British forces. The Union Divisions were again so, organised that each should eventually contain a mounted and an infantry brigade, so as to secure the necessary mobility to enable us to cope more expeditiously with the enemy askari army of fleet-footed Africans. In these alterations, as well as in all other important matters which I have had from time­ to-time to submit for the sanction of the War Office, I have found the uniform and prompt support of the latter, for which I cannot be sufficiently grateful, and to which the success achieved in this campaign was in no small measure due. At the end of March, then, the East African Force--apart from lines of communication troops, under Brigadier-General W.F.S. Edwards, D.S.O., as I.G.C.-was organised as follows:-


The First Division, under Major-General A. R. Hoskins, C.M.G., D.S.O., comprised

1st East African Brigade, under Brigadier­ General S. H. Sheppard, D.S.O., and

2nd East African Brigade, under Brigadier General J.A. Hannyngton, C.M.G., D.S.O.

The Second Division, under Major-General J. L. van Deventer, comprised

1st South African Mounted Brigade, under Brigadier-General Manie Botha, and

3rd South African Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier­-General C.A.L. Berrange, O.M.G.

The Third Division, under Major-General Coen Brits, comprised the

2nd South African Mounted Brigade, under Brigadier-General B. Enslin, and

2nd South African Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General P.S. Beves.


The Second South African Mounted Brigade arrived in May and was ready to take the field in the latter half of June.


Having completed the above reorganization I disposed the infantry units as far as possible at suitable points on high and dry ground at Moschi, Himo and Mbuyuni, with only advance guards along the deadly malarial line of the Ruwu, facing the enemy forces in the Pare Mountains.


The First Mounted Brigade was pushed onto the Arusha area, which was reported to be most suitable for horses, and at the end of March the whole brigade had arrived there.


General Plan of Invasion.

(3) The most important problem for consideration was the strategy to be followed in the coming campaign. As a result of the preceding operations we had just barely entered the enemy territory, which stretched out before us in enormous extent, with no known vital point anywhere, containing no important cities or centres, with practically no roads, the only dominant economic features of the whole being the two railway systems. Faulty strategy at the beginning, a wrong line of invasion once entered upon, might lead to months of futile marching and wasted effort. All our information credited the enemy with the two-fold intention of conducting an obstinate and prolonged campaign in the Pare and Usambara Mountains, and thereafter retiring to fight out the last phases of the campaign in the Tabora area, from which much of his supplies and most of his recruits were drawn. Careful consideration was given to the various alternative lines of invasion that presented themselves.


4) There was, in the first place, the possibility of advancing inland from the coast along the existing railway lines, which had been adopted with such signal success in the German South-West Africa campaign. An advance from Tanga was, however, ruled out because I considered the place of no importance after the Tanga railway had been reached further north. Much, on the other hand, was to be 1aid for an advance inland from Dar-es-Salaam, the capture of which would have great political and military importance and would much facilitate the transport. and supply arrangements for the campaign into the interior. It was however also ruled out, partly because the prevalence of the S.E. monsoon at that period makes landing of a large force on that coast an operation of great difficulty and even danger, partly because a. prolonged campaign on the coast immediately after the rainy season would mean the disappearance of a. very large percentage of my army from malaria and other tropical ailments.


5) In the second place consideration was given to the question of an advance on Tabora. by Victoria. Nyanza, which we controlled, and Muanza, which would have to be wrested from the enemy. This plan had the advantage of presenting a. comparatively short line of advance, and of promising to strike at the main recruiting ground of the enemy forces, as the German askaris would be loath to rems.in in the field after their homes and families had fallen into our hands. Its adoption, however would involve the transfer to a distant theatre of a large part of our forces while the enemy army would remain concentrated and ready to strike at our railway communications with the coast. But my main objection to adopting it w the consideration that to occupy so huge a territory as German East Africa. within reasonable time a simultaneous advance from different points along different routes was essential. Now in the Eastern Lake and Uganda area we already had a. force of about 2,000 rifles; in addition, the Belgians had a very large force in the West in the neighbourhood of Lake Kivu with which they were prepared to invade the Ruanda. and Urundi district if we could, assist them with the necessary transport and supply arrangements via Victoria. Nyanza. For the occupation of the western parts of German East Africa. it was therefore only necessary to make these arrangements, and thereby to set the Belgian and British forces simultaneously in sympathetic motion in the Ruanda and Bukoba. districts respectively. This was done, and with the best results, as will be described later.


6) There remained, then, the third and last alternative of either striking at the main enemy forces in the Pare and Usambara mountains along the Tanga. railway line, or of launching an attack against the interior and the Central Railway from Arusha. A movement against the enemy concentration along the Tanga railway had, however, several grave disadvantages. It was the step desired and expected by the enemy, as the massing of almost his entire fighting force in that area showed. It would in­ volve a prolonged and costly campaign over terrain which nature an9- art had prepared admirably for defensive purposes. And at the end of such a. campaign the entire enemy territory would still remain unoccupied, as the operations would have been conducted length­ wise all along the border. On the other hand an advance from Arusha into the interior, if it was not to be mere temporary raid but a secure and permanent occupation of the country, had to be in such force that it could meet any counter-attack by the enemy, who would in such counter-attack have the advantage of his two railway systems and so be practically moving on interior lines. Such an advance in force, therefore, ran the risk of weakening our forces in front of the enemy in the Pare and Usambara mountains and of giving him an opening to attack our vulnerable communications both with the interior and the coast.


A typical line of Communication camp in German East Africa.
A typical line of Communication camp in German East Africa. Dale C (LT) Collection © IWM Q 15497

7) In spite of these difficulties powerful arguments weighed with. me in finally deciding in favour of an advance into the interior. I was informed that the violence of the coming rainy season would be mostly confined to the Kilimanjaro-Arusha area; that further West and South the rainy season was milder and would not markedly interfere with military operations; and therefore an advance into the interior would prevent our operations being brought to a. complete standstill during the rainy months of April and May. In addition to this the enemy had made the mistake of re­ tiring South along the Tanga. railway with practically his entire fighting force, and the door to the interior stood wide open and unguarded. Even the, six companies which had operated between Kilimanjaro and Meru mountains against General Stewart's advance from Longido, and were expected by me to fall back on Arusha and obstruct our advance in that direction, joined the enemy's main force at Kahe. A small detachment at Arusha fell back before the advance of our mounted scouts, and when the mounted brigade arrived at Arusha at the end of March there was for the moment nothing to prevent an immediate movement into the heart of the enemy country. I decided to push the whole of the 2nd Division into the interior under van Deventer, and for the present to keep the other two divisions with me in rain quarters facing the enemy concentration South of the Ruwu. In this way it would be possible to occupy a. valuable portion of the enemy country within the next two months; and if, as I expected, this move would and must have the effect of compelling the enemy to, withdraw large, forces from the, Pares and Usanibaras to stem the tide of invasion into the interior I could, if necessary, strengthen van Deventer until further and yet have sufficient troops left to make a comparatively easy conquest of these mountains against the enemy's weakened defence. These anticipations were fully realised, as will be seen from the sequel.


Van Deventer's March to Kondoa Irangi.


(8) By April 1st the Headquarters of the '2nd Division, together with the 1st South African Mounted Brigade and two batteries of artillery had reached Aruscha, while two battalions of the 3rd South African Infantry Brigade were on the way.


On the same day General van Deventer reported that his scouts 'had engaged the enemy six miles north of Lolkissale, an isolated rocky hill in the Masai Steppe some 35 miles south­ west of Aruscha. Further reports showed that this force consisted of a detachment of the enemy which had taken up a position covering the water springs on the hill, and that no other wailer was to be found in the vicinity. I therefore issued instructions that the movement southward should be initiated by the occupation of Lolkissale.


This operation was carried out with great skill by the 1st Mounted Brigade. On the morning of the 3rd April three regiments of South African Horse moved out from Arusha, and during the night of 3rd/4th April surrounded Lolkissale. The enemy held the mountain with considerable determination and fighting continued all day on the 4th and 5th, but at daybreak on the 6th the whole force, consisting of the 28th Field Company and Kaempfe's Detachment numbering 17 whites and 404 askaris with porters and two machine guns, surrendered. Our horses had been without water since noon of the 3rd. A large quantity of stores, ammunition, pack animals, etc., fell into our hands, while from information obtained from prisoners and captured documents it was ascertained that the enemy contemplated reinforcing Ufiome and Kondoa Irangi, and that the garrisons at these places had received instructions to hold out as long as possible. As it was evident that the bulk of these reinforcements must be sent from the troops on the Usambara Railway, and that several weeks must elapse before they could arrive, I decided to press forward the movement southwards of the 2nd Division as rapidly as possible, and ordered General van Deventer to send his mounted troops to occupy Ufiome, Umbulu and Kondoa Irangi before the enemy could reinforce them. The remainder of the 2nd Division to follow in support of the mounted troops.


(9) The 1st Mounted Brigade, continued its advance to Ufiome on the 7th, encountering the enemy's patrols at various points of the route and dispersing them with loss in killed and prisoners. On the 10th the enemy were located holding a kopje in the vicinity of Ufiome, and on the 11th the Brigade advanced from the Tarangire River. This movement resulted in the occupation of Ufiome on the 13th, the garrison of about 20 whites and 200 askaris retiring into the mountains, leaving 30 prisoners, some wounded and a. large quantity in supplies in our hands. The enemy was pursued for 20 miles south to Kisesse and Ssalanga, retiring in disorder.


10) As the horses of the 1st Mounted Brigade were greatly exhausted by the continuous marching and fighting a halt was made at Ssalanga until the 17th. The 4th South African Horse had in the meantime been sent by me to join the 2nd Division, and on its arrival was directed on Umbugwe with instructions to clear Umbulu of the enemy.


The 10th South African Infantry and 28th Mountain Battery were also detailed by General van Deventer to follow in support of the 4th South African Horse. Umbulu was finally occupied on 11th May, about one company of the enemy being driven out with loss.


The advance southward continued on the 17th, and contact was made with the enemy four miles north of Kondoa lrangi on the same day. Fighting continued till noon of the 19th, when our troops occupied Kondoa Irangi with no casualties, having inflicted a loss on the enemy of 20 killed, and 4 whites and 30 askaris captured. The enemy succeeded in destroying the wireless station and a portion of his supplies, but left behind about 80 rifles with much ammunition, and 800 head of cattle.


General van De-venter reported after this action that his horses were so exhausted that he would not be able to move until remounts arrived. He had lost hundreds of animals from horse sickness during his advance of some 200 miles from Moshi in the last four weeks, and his troops were worn out with ceaseless marching and fighting. I therefore decided that the 2nd Division should concentrate at Kondoa Irangi with detachments at Ufiome and Umbulu, and send patrols towards the Central Railway, Ssingida, Mkalama and Handeni. During the remainder of the month and the first few days of May this concentration was gradually effected. The expedition, conducted by van Deventer with his usual dash and resourcefulness, had secured important results at a trifling cost. Within a month of the battle of Kahe we had taken possession of the high, healthy, and fertile plateau which connects Arusha with the Central Railway and had occupied the dominant strategic points for any further advance, whether that was to be in the direction of the Central Railway, or westward to Tabora, or even eastward towards Handeni and the Eastern Usambara.


12) Meanwhile, by the middle of April, the rainy season had set in with the greatest violence in the whole area from Taveta to Kondoa Irangi. The numerous rivers came down in flood and swept away almost all our laboriously built bridges, the roads became impassable mud tracks, and all transport became a physical impossibility. The rains fell steadily day after day, sometimes as much as four inches in one day, and the low-lying parts of the country assumed the appearance of lakes. Fortunately, the railway had by this time reached Taveta, where sufficient supplies could be dumped for our resting troops. The extension of the line was energetically continued to join the Kahe-Moschi railway, although for long distances the track was practically under water and the attention of thousands of labourers was constantly required to prevent its disappearance in the mud. Van Deventer's Division in the interior was cut off, and managed to live for weeks on such supplies as could be collected locally, or could be carried by porters from Lolkissale for a distance of 120 miles. The strain and privation were, however, bound to be reflected in the general state of health of the troops.


13) Meanwhile, also, the enemy had realised the tremendous threat which this expedition constituted against his whole scheme of defence, and, thanks to the onset of the rainy season bringing General van Deventer's movement to a standstill, he was able to take measures to avert the danger to his rear by hurriedly transferring a great part of his force from the Usambara to the Central Railway, moving by rail to Mambo, thence by road to Morogoro or Kilossa., and again by rail to Dodoma. This movement placed him in a position to concentrate some 4,000 men against the 2nd Division, which was at the time so weakened by sickness and unavoidable detachments that it could barely dispose of 3,000 rifles in its isolated position at Kondoa Irangi. The enemy, perceiving this, felt encouraged to assume the offensive, and advanced from the Central Railway in the early days of May, arriving on the 7th within six miles of Kondoa Irangi.


General van Deventer gradually withdrew his advanced posts in face of this movement, keeping touch with the enemy, and finally disposed his force in defensive positions on a perimeter of about five miles frontage round Kondoa.


14) On the 9th the enemy drove in our out­ lying picquets south-east of the village,- and at 7.30 p.m. began an attack which lasted for nearly eight hours. This attack was pressed with determination, the enemy making four separate onslaughts, the brunt of which fell on the 11th South African Infantry, supported by the 12th South African Infantry. In some places the enemy repeatedly charged right up to our positions. Firing finally ceased at 3.15a.m. on the 10th, when the enemy withdrew, leaving three whites and fifty-eight askari dead on the ground, and five wounded as prisoners. There were numerous signs on the ground of further casualties. Our own losses were two officers and four other ranks killed, one officer­ and seventeen other ranks wounded. From information obtained as a result of the fighting it was found that the enemy had about twenty­ five companies engaged, under the personal command of Colonel von Lettow, the German Commander-in-Chief. His force was organised as three battalions and one smaller detachment. One battalion commander, Von Kornatzky, was killed, and another, Von Bock, wounded.


15) With this defeat, the enemy's last hope of successful resistance to any large portion of our forces was extinguished. He continued in position round Kondoa during the remainder of May and the greater part of June, keeping for the most part to the thick bush, and engaging. in desultory fighting and occasional long-range bombardment. General van Deventer was unable to assume the offensive on any large scaler on account of his weakness in horseflesh, the heavy sick rate amongst his men, and the great difficulties of supply over a line of communication of two hundred miles of quagmire; and had, therefore to content himself with minor operations and enterprises while reorganising his­ forces and calling in his detachments from else­ where. The 10th South African Infantry Regiment and 28th Mountain Battery arrived from Umbulu on 22nd May. I had already decided to strengthen the 2nd Division with two more battalions, the 7th and 8th South African Infantry Regiments, and additional artillery and machine guns, all from the 3rd Division, and these reinforcements eventually reached the Division on 23rd May and following days.


Occupation of the Pare, Usambara & Handeni Areas.


Such was the position when, towards­ the end of the second week in May, the rains, abated, the ground once more began to harden, and it became evident that a general movement would soon again be possible. The direction. of that movement was settled for me by the necessity of clearing the enemy from the Pare and Usambara mountains before the further invasion of German East Africa could safely proceed. The general conception was to move Eastward along these mountains and at a point opposite Handeni to swing South and march towards the Central Railway in a movement parallel to that of van Deventer. The concentration of the enemy forces in front of Kondoa now made the occupation of the Pares and Usambaras comparatively easy, but the advance had to be rapidly executed to forestall any return movement of the enemy from Kondoa to the Handeni or Usambara area. Moving through the Masai Steppe along the old caravan route from Kondoa to Handeni, the enemy could reach the latter place in twelve days, and in two or three days more could be on the Tanga Railway at Korogwe. It was therefore advisable for my advance to reach the Western Usambara in a fortnight; further, if it could reach Handeni before the arrival of strong enemy reinforcements I would have a second force almost the same distance from the Central Railway as that at Kondoa, and it would be impossible for the enemy to make effective resistance to the simultaneous advance of both columns situated 170 miles apart. The nature of the country was, however, such as almost to preclude all rapidity of movement. The Pares and Usambaras are huge blocks of mountains with fertile valleys; the Southern slopes are precipitous, and immediately below runs the Tanga railway, while further South dense bush extends for 15 to 20 miles to the Pangani, an impassable river flowing almost parallel to the railway and the mountains. The enemy held the mountains and the railway and had outposts along the Pangani river. Our advance was expected to follow the railway, which had been fortified at all convenient points for a hundred miles; and the enemy had therefore every reason to expect that the force opposing, us, consisting of from 1,200 to 2,000 troops with field and naval guns, would render our progress sufficiently slow to enable him to send any necessary reinforcements. I therefore decided on the following dispositions for my advance. The main column with most of the artillery and transport was to proceed down the inner or left bank of the Pangani, somewhat in advance of another smaller column following the railway line, while a third small column was to start from Mbuyuni and enter the North Pares from the North side through the Ngulu Gap, joining the centre column at Same Pass between the middle and South Pares. In this way, with my flanks well forward in the mountains and along the Pangani, any real resistance of the enemy in his well-prepared positions in the centre along the railway would become hopeless. The advance commenced on 18th May by the movement of Lieut.-Colonel T.0. Fitzgerald's battalion of the 3rd King's African Rifles from Mbuyuni to the Ngulu Gap, and on the 22nd May Brig. General Hannyngton's brigade moved from Ruwu along the railway, while Generals Sheppard's and Beves brigades moved down the Pangani river accompanied by Major-General Hoskins and myself.


17) The enemy's first position was reported to be at Lembeni, at which place the railway takes a sharp bend in towards the mountains and the ground is most suitable for defensive action.


I trusted, however, to turn this position either directly by Fitzgerald's column forcing its way through the Ngulu Gap, or indirectly by the- continued advance of the Pangani column past the enemy's position.


The turning movements proved successful, and the enemy evacuated the Lembeni position on 24th May; on the following. day Hannyngton occupied Same station without opposition, and on the 26th May Fitzgerald's column joined Hannyngton's and thereafter formed part of it. Hannyngton was ordered to proceed on the 28th over Same Pass along the road which passes through the South .Pare mountain, and thence through the Ganja Gap between this mountain and the Usambara. on to Mkomazi river. This move would prevent the enemy from making a. stand on the railway along the South Pare mountain, and would at the same time clear the enemy out of the Gonja Gap. It was completely successful; on the 29th Hannyngton reached Gonja and two days after the Mkomazi road bridge.


18) Meanwhile the advance of the main column continued steadily along the Pangani, the advanced guards and mounted troops continuing to keep touch with the enemy's rear­ guards, and I soon discovered that it was his intention to make his next stand near Mikotscheni, at which place the Pangani river rejoins the- railway close to the mountains.


On the 29th Ma;y the advanced troops came up against this position and drew fire from a naval 4.1 inch gun and two field guns. On the 30th May the 2nd Rhodesian Regiment attacked the position in front while the rest of General Sheppard's brigade made an arduous but successful turning movement by our left. The enemy retired in the night along the railway, leaving part of a new bridge in process of construction behind him. Buiko station was occupied by us the following day.


The 2nd Kashmir Rifles marching through open country on the left bank of the Pangani River during the advance into German East Africa, the initial objective being Buiko, 27 May 1916. © IWM HU 94461
The 2nd Kashmir Rifles marching through open country on the left bank of the Pangani River during the advance into German East Africa, the initial objective being Buiko, 27 May 1916. © IWM HU 94461

19) Leaving a rear guard of two companies in front of Hannyngton at Mkomazi, the enemy's main body retired along the railway to Mombo station, whence a trolley line proceeds to Handeni. They then followed this tolley line and entrenched themselves at Mkalamo where this line crosses the Pangani river. This retirement made it clear that the enemy was not going to make a stand in the Usambara, but intended to retire to, Handeni and on to the Central Railway. I decided, therefore, to cross to the right bank of the Pangani with the main column and to leave the further clearing of the Usambara district to Hannyngton. The rapidity of our advance had exceeded my best expectations. We had reached the Usambara in ten days, covering a distance of about 130 miles over trackless country ,along the Pangani river and through the mountains.


20) As at this point a. short pause in the operations was necessary to enable the German bridge over the Pangani to be completed, and to give the railway time to catch up with the advanoe, I proceeded on June 2nd via Moschi to Kondoa Irangi, to visit the 2nd Division and to, arrange personally the plans for future co-operation between my two widely separated forces.


On my return on June 7th I found that the German bridge over the Pangani had been completed and another smaller one made close to Buiko railway station, roads had been cut through the bush, and another 30 miles South had been covered by the main column along the right bank of the Pangani.


21) I had instructed General Hannyngton with his brigade to proceed down the railway line with Mombo as his objective. He advanced to Mazinde station on 8th June and occupied Mombo, on 9th June, meeting with only slight opposition and capturing a machine-gun from the enemy. The enemy retired South along the railway. On the same date the main force of the enemy was encountered by our main column entrenched at Mkalamo, and the 1st East African Brigade had a sharp action, lasting till nightfall. The enemy retired in the night, leaving numerous dead on the ground.


At Mkalamo the trolley line from Mombo to Handeini was reached on the 10th, and thereafter the advance to Handeni continued for a considerable distance, along its route. The trolley line leaves the Pangani at Luohomo, and from that point proceeds in a Southerly direction to Nderema, 2 miles West of Handeni. Between Luchomo and Nderema. is a dry belt of 32 miles, the only water being found by digging in a dry river bed at Mbagui, 22 miles South of Luchomo. To cross this distance GeneraI Sheppard was sent forward with two battalions to, press the enemy back until Mbagui was reached on the 13th. From there he worked forward to within five miles of Handeni, where the enemy was on 15th June found to hold a strongly entrenched position. It was therefore decided to send Baves' brigade from Mbagui by a more Westerly route through Gitu to Ssangeni on the Mssangassi river, 10 miles West of Handeni, where good water was found on the 17thJune, and on the following day the brigade was launched against the enemy's Southward line of retreat from Handeni at Pongwe and another point 4 miles North of Pongwe. At both places the enemy's retreating forces were beaten with heavy loss and driven into the bush, a. pom-pom gun being subsequently found abandoned in the bush by the enemy. On the following day Handeni and Nderema were occupied by Sheppard. On the same day Colonel J.J. Byron's battalion (5th South African Infantry) was sent in pursuit of the enemy to occupy Kangata, 8 miles South of Pongwe. They found the enemy in a concealed entrenched position in dense bush, and in thefight which ensued lost heavily, but held on staunchly until night, when the enemy retreated. At Kangata. the main column for the first time since leaving Kahe came into a made road (the main road between Handeni and Morogoro) having marched for about 200 miles along routes prepared by themselves, mostly by cutting through the bush.


22) During these operations General Hannyngton had occupied Wilhelmstal unopposed on the 12th June, and advanced along the Tanga railway as far as Korogwe on the 15th, where the wagon bridge had fortunately been saved by his special exertions.


From this point he was instructed to move along the Korogwe-Handeni road and to rejoin with all speed the 1st Division, which was now nearing Handeni. He reached Handeni on June 20th, the day after its occupation by Sheppard.


23) The advance of the main column in pursuit; of the enemy continued, and he was next reported as holding a strong position on the Lukigura river. I therefore divided my force in the hope of getting round his position with a flying column and compelling him to stand to fight.


General Hoskins with two South African Infantry battalions, a composite battalion of Kashmir Imperial Service Infantry, 25th Royal Fusiliers, and a small body of mounted Scouts, marched on the night; of 23rd June to a point on the Lukigura river, north of the bridge held by the enemy. This force crossed the river the next morning, and then got astride the road behind the enemy's position. The remainder of the 1st Division under command of General Sheppard advanced direct on the enemy's position.


At mid-day on 24th June both columns engaged the enemy on three sides, and after some resistance defeated him, with a loss of 7 whites killed and wounded, 14 white prisoners, 30 askaris killed and many wounded and captured, together with the capture of two machine guns and parts of a third, one pom­ pom and much ammunition. The Fusiliers and Kashmiris especially distinguished themselves in this action, in which only the dense bush enabled the enemy force to escape from complete capture.


Indian officers of the 2nd Kashmir Rifles with the German flag and machine gun captured in the Action at Lukigura River on 24 June 1916, during the advance to Morogoro.
Indian officers of the 2nd Kashmir Rifles with the German flag and machine gun captured in the Action at Lukigura River on 24 June 1916, during the advance to Morogoro. This photograph was taken at the regiment's depot at Satwari, Jammu, India on 16 June 1917, following their return from East Africa. The officers are: Back row (l to r): Jemadars Shah Wali, Naran Sing and Kalu, Subedars Ram Sing and Tekaram, Subedar Assistant Surgeon Abdul Kadli, Jemadars Naran Si and Bal Sing; Middle row (l to r): Subedars Bhaguran Sing, Umar Fulti and Sher Ali Khan, Major Hoskiar Sing, Lieutenant-Colonel Hadar Ali Khan, Lieutenant Nand Lal, Subedars Maidar Ali Khan, Nowal Sing and Kesri Sing; Front Row (l to r): Jemadars Tazir Din and Lal Sing, Subedars Pursud Sing, Milher Sing and Jemadars Ram Khan and Nadko. © IWM HU 94495

24) We had now reached the eastern slopes of the Nguru block of mountains, and immediately in our front was the high Kanga. mountain. The.re was every indication that the enemy was massing in great force in both the mountains in front of us, as well as on our right flank, and that any further movement. would have to slow down. Our transport had reached the utmost radius of its capacity, and the troops had been on half rations for some­ time. They also required rest and reorganisation. Several units reduced to 30 percent. of their original effectives, owing to the ravages of malaria., and the difficulties of evacuating the sick were as great as those of forwarding supplies and reinforcements.


Since 22nd May the troops had marched considerably over 200 miles in difficult country, often having to cut their way through almost impenetrable bush, and constantly engaging the enemy in his prepared rearguard positions. The march was rendered more arduous by most serious transport and supply difficulties, and, for the last 80 miles since leaving the Pangani, frequent shortage of water for both men and animals. Besides, I deemed it necessary, in view of the ever growing supply difficulties, to repair and restore the Mombo-Nderema. Trolley line before moving further.


Further, it was necessary for. the execution of my plans that the 2nd Division should be more advanced before the combined movement against the enemy's main, forces on the Central Railway should begin. I therefore formed a large standing camp on the Msiha river, some 8 miles beyond the Lukigura, in which to rest and refit the troops prior to the next phase of operations.


Occupation of Coastal Area to Bagamoyo.


25) The pause on the Msiha river enabled me also to deal with another matter which was. rapidly becoming urgent. I had deliberately left the-East Usambara area alone while pushing the enemy forces in front of me back as fast and as far as possible. The situation on my left flank towards the sea. would either clear itself up by the retirement of the small enemy forces in that area, or, if necessary, they could be dealt; with at a more convenient 'time. The railway line beyond Korogwe and the lower reaches of the Pangani river were, therefore, for the present left occupied. Steps were, however, taken to seize Tanga. On 16th June the 5th Indian Infantry, moving south towards the border, occupied Mwakijembe, which the enemy had held strongly for a long time as a base from which to raid and bomb the Mombasa railway. The enemy force of about one company retreated towards the coast north of Tanga. Arrangements were then made by the Inspector General of Communications for the landing of a force under Colonel C.U Price, C.M.G., at Kwale Bay, 8 miles north of Tanga, and a simultaneous attack on that port by land and sea. This force, after slight opposition, arrived before Tanga on the 7th July simultaneously with the Navy, and occupied it practically without opposition. The enemy, consisting of two companies, was expected to retire towards Pangani, but did not do so, and continued to, hang about in the vicinity, and on several occasions even indulged in some sniping into the town. At the same time the small force of about two companies which had retired before Hannyngton from Korogwe along the Pangani, returned and showed signs of aggressiveness. Small raiding­ parties kept interfering with our telegraphline, and convoys between Korogwe and Handeni, and finally, early on the morning of the 13th July, a. determined attack was made on the road bridge at Korogwe, which was, however, successfully beaten back.


26) The time had come to secure my rear and left from this guerilla warfare. Accordingly I ordered the Inspector-General of Communications, General Edwards, to make the following dispositions:-To send part of the 5th Indian Infantry from Tanga, along the railway to Muhesa; to send the 57th Rifles from Korogwe along the .railway also to Muhesa, with, a small detachment on their left in the direction of Amani; from Muhesa the 57th Rifles to proceed to the coast at Pangani, which was to ,be seized in co-operation with the Navy. In the meantime, another detachment under Lt.-Col. C.W. Wilkinson, consisting of Railway Sappers and Miners, Jhind Imperial Service Infantry, and other details, was to proceed from Korogwe down the Pangani River to deal with the enemy force which had attacked the bridge, and which was reported to be at Segera Hill some distance down the right bank of the Pangani. All these movements were duly and successfully executed. At Amani about 25 enemy whites surrendered without opposition. Col. Wilkinson surprised and defeated the enemy at Segera Hill at dawn on the 15th July, and captured from them a Hotchkiss gun in good order, with ammunition, and thereafter pursued the enemy south towards Hale and Kwa Mugwe (Hoffman's plantation). The 57th, after reaching Muhesa, proceeded to Pangani, which had been previously occupied by the Navy on the 23rd July. In the meantime, .as I thought an effort should be made to capture these enemy parties, I had directed General Hannyngton's brigade to return from Lukigura to Handeni, and from there to march along the old caravan route to­ wards Pangani, so as to intercept the retreating enemy and to clear the country of all raiding parties. He reached Ngambo about mid­ way between Handeni and Pangani on the 21st July, but found the enemy had already slipped through, part proceeding to the coast at Mkwadja, and the greater part retiring south along a track which proceeds by Rugusi and Manga (about 40 miles south-east of Handeni), in .a southerly direction towards Mandera, on the Wami River. Accordingly I ordered General Hannyngton to send Lt.-Col. W.J. Mitchell, with a detachment of the 40th Pathans, after the enemy on this route, and to return with the rest of his brigade, as well as the 57th Rifles, to Lukigura., which was reached in time for them to take part in the operations through the Nguru Mountains. Col. Mitchell, in the meantime, had overtaken the enemy at Manga, at the same time as a cooperating detachment of the Cape Corps, sent from Kangata; the enemy was beaten and driven south to Mandera. Sadani Bay was occupied by the Navy on the 1st August, and a detachment of the West India Regiment was landed and moved south and then westward towards Mandera. to cooperate with Mitchell in clearing the enemy from the lower Wami River. This was successfully carried out, and thereafter the combined force marched south east to Bagamoyo, which had been brilliantly occupied by the Navy on the 15th August, with the capture of a 4.1 inch naval gun in good order with ammunition. From Bagamoyo this force was to form part of the larger movement for the investment and capture of Dar-es-Salaam. The military operations on the coast and parallel to it were, subject to the I.G.C.'s orders, under the command of Col. C.U. Price, C.M.G., and were ably carried out.


Bombing of Bagamoyo, German East Africa. Air Photograph No. 12716. © IWM Q 17294
Bombing of Bagamoyo, German East Africa. Air Photograph No. 12716. © IWM Q 17294


Operations in Western Lake Area.



27) To gain a complete picture of the state of the campaign in the northern parts of German East Africa at the end of June it isdesirable, at this point to consider the operations which were in progress in the west, in the neighbourhood of the Great Lakes.


During the months in which my main columns were operating in the Kilimanjaro, Kondoa. and Usambara areas and pressing their advance to the Central Railway, the "Lake Detachment," consisting of the 98th Infantry, 4th Bn. King's African Rifles, Baganda Rifles, Nandi Scouts, and other small irregular units; had not remained inactive.


Previous to the inception of active operations in East Africa the task originally assigned to the detachment had been the defence of the Uganda and British East Africa frontiers on both sides of Lake Victoria, and this task had been faithfully carried out for many long months. Although no engagement of importance took place, there was constant activity, and minor affairs of posts and patrols on the 300 miles of front were of almost daily occurrence. This necessarily entailed a continued state of vigilance and strain and demanded a high state of efficiency on the part of all ranks. That this was maintained is amply shown by the success achieved whenever opportunity offered. An instance of this had occurred just before my arrival, when the small post of one officer and 35 men at Machumbe had utterly defeated a raid of the enemy, causing him a loss of 3 whites and 22 blacks killed and 1 white and 31 blacks captured.


East African mounted rifles (Bowker's Horse) unloading stores from the S. S. SYBIL at Kisumu Pier after the action at Karunga, September 1914.  © IWM Q 45680
East African mounted rifles (Bowker's Horse) unloading stores from the S. S. SYBIL at Kisumu Pier after the action at Karunga, September 1914. © IWM Q 45680

Apart from the minor operations of the Lake Detachment, my principal concern in the west was to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate the advance of Major-General Tombeur's Belgian forces. As an advance from his headquarters at Kibati, north of Lake Kivu;. over the barren region of active volcanoes and in face of strong German opposition was impracticable, an arrangement had been concluded whereby part of General Tombeur's force was to move north-east to Lutobo, in order to advance from there in a southerly direction against Kigali, the capital of the rich German province of Ruanda. To enable him to do so it was also agreed that the base for this force should shift to Bukakata, on Lake Victoria, 150 miles further east and that we should be responsible for the transport and: supply arrangements from this base. Owing to a variety of causes, the organisation and execution of these transport and supply arrangements proved a matter of considerable difficulty; and in consequence I sent Brigadier-General the Hon. Sir Charles Crewe K.C.M.G., C.B., of my staff, to the Lake area to keep in touch with General Tombeur. To advise me in regard to all necessary requirements, and to push the arrangements on as fast as possible. All difficulties were eventually overcome by General Tombeur and my representatives, and towards the end of April the advanced Belgian column under Colonel Molitor arrived at Kamwezi, 10 miles south east of Lutobo. Thereafter rapid progress was made, and Kigali was occupied on the 6th May. The occupation of Kigali made the position of the German forces further west on the Belgian border untenable and enabled General Tombeur to push forward columns both from the north and the south of Lake Kivu. It also became possible for Colonel Molitor's column to resume the advance to the southern end of Lake Victoria, and on the 24th June the Kagera river was reached.


Built for service on Lake Victoria in connection with the Uganda Railway. Image courtesy of Clydeships.co.uk
The SS Winifred on Lake Victoria. Image from Clydeships.co.uk

28) As the Belgian advance towards Lake Victoria progressed during April, May and June, our troops further north on the Kagera line increased their activity against the enemy opposed to them, and began gradually to drive him from his advanced posts. This withdrawal enabled our forces to, become more concentrated, and finally it was found possible to release sufficient troops for an operation against Ukerewe Island. This island, the largest in Lake Victoria, lies immediately to the north of the German port of Mwanza, and produces much of the rice which forms the staple diet of a large part of the enemy's native troops. The island is within a few hours of Mwanza, and forms a favourable base for an operation against that town.


The operation for its capture was skilfully earned out on 9th June by Lt.-Col. D.R. Adye, commanding the Lake Detachment, in conjunction with the Naval Flotilla. on the lake under Commander Thornley, R.N. The enemy was completely surprised, eight German whites, about 60 blacks, and two small field guns being captured.


29) As the withdrawal of the enemy from the Northern Kagera river and Karagwe Distict became accelerated, it also became possible to concentrate our scattered posts in that area. into a mobile fighting force which could act more effectively, against the retreating enemy. For this purpose, Brigadier-General Sir Charles Crewe was appointed to the Lake command in the middle of June. With his mobile column he first occupied Bukoba and Karagwe districts, and then proceeded south to arrange a combined forward movement with the Belgian forces. The advanced parties of the Belgian column had in the meantime reached Namirembe, at the south­ west corner of Lake Victoria, at the end of June, the main body further west being hotly engaged with the German forces retreating from the north. Sir Charles Crewe came to the sound conclusion that the course which promised the best results was a movement of his force against the important fortified town of Mwanza, the occupation of which would give us an excellent base at the south of the Lake for the forward movement of the combined British and Belgian forces to Tabora. Accordingly, on the 9th, 10th, and 11th July, he embarked his force, consisting of about 1,800 rifles, at Namirembe and Ukerewe Island, and on the night of the 11th landed a column under Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Burgess at Kongoro Point, east of Mwanza, and the following day another column, under Lieutenant-Colonel H.B. Towse, further north at Senga Point. By the skilful disposition and movement of both columns-the one from the east, the other from the north-east on Mwanza, he made it impossible for the enemy to withstand his advance; and the threat to the enemy's retreat from Burgess' column made the enemy evacuate the town on the 14th July. Most of the whites escaped down the Gulf in the S.S Mwanza and Heinrich Otto and the steam pinnace Schwaben, with some lighters and boats, while about 400 to 500 askaris escaped down the main Tabora road. The enemy destroyed the powerful wireless station, but left a 4.1-inch naval gun in our hands. The pursuit was continued next day, both by a force moving down the Tabora road and by another embarked on the S.S. Winifred, which was disembarked some 22 miles south of Mwanza. Some distance south 5 German whites were captured, and the enemy steamers and lighters were found abandoned; much baggage and stores and ammunition, a Colt gun, and even much specie were found abandoned by the enemy in his head long flight. The pursuit was continued as far south as Misungi, opposite the southern end of Stuhlmann's Sound. The s.s. Mwanza and the lighters have since been salvaged, and are now in active use. Our total losses in this operation were quite insignificant, while the enemy had been skilfully ousted from one of his most important strongholds. The rapidity with which the enemy abandoned his valuable Lake Provinces and Mwanza was a clear indication that the eventual retreat would not be towards Tabora, but further east towards Dar-es-Salaam, or south towards Mahenge.


British artillery officers with one of the 4.1-inch (105mm) guns from SMS Konigsberg on its improvised carriage. This gun was abandoned by the retreating German Schutztruppe between Pugu and a crossing point on the River Ruwu after having its breech mechanism destroyed. © IWM HU 94464
British artillery officers with one of the 4.1-inch (105mm) guns from SMS Konigsberg on its improvised carriage. This gun was abandoned by the retreating German Schutztruppe between Pugu and a crossing point on the River Ruwu after having its breech mechanism destroyed. © IWM HU 94464

Van Deventer's Advance to Central Railway.


30) I now turn back to review the mam operations further East, and shall begin with van Deventer's advance to the Central Railway. On the 24th June the 1st and 3rd Divisions came to a halt at the foot of the Nguru mountains. On the same day van Deventer, with the 2nd Division, attacked the enemy positions all along the line round Kondoa. Irangi and succeeded in occupying. them with comparatively small loss. For some time infor