Updated: Feb 11, 2022
Bukoba was a town in German East Africa (Tanzania) on the western side of Lake Victoria, near the Uganda border. An important wireless mast & communication centre was located there. In 1915 London gave General Tighe, commanding troops in British East Africa (Kenya), permission to mount an amphibious raid on Bukoba. Brigadier-General Stewart was ordered to command the raiding force. The raid occurred between 22nd & 24th June 1915.
As listed in General Stewart's after-action report the composition of the raiding force was:
4 Companies 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers & 4 machine guns
3 Companies 3rd King's African Rifles (400 rifles)
2 Companies 2nd Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment & 4 machine guns
1 Double-company 29th Punjabis, Indian Army
1 Section (2 guns) 28th Mountain Battery
1 Section East Africa Regiment with 4 machine guns
Faridkot Sappers & Miners (Imperial Service Troops from an Indian Princely State)
Engineer Bridging Section
"C" Section 26th British Field Ambulance
C/22 Indian Clearing Hospital
The Nairobi Signal Section (fore-runner of "Z" Divisional Signals Company) also landed whilst Logan's Battery (artillerymen mostly from the Loyal North Lancashires) manned ships' guns afloat.
The Schutztruppe (German Army) strength was estimated at 200 men with two Maxim Machine Guns & one Field Gun. One of the Schutztruppe units was composed of Arabs and they fought well on the broken high ground that dominated Bukoba town to the north and west.
The British force sailed from Kisumu and concurrently a diversionary attack was mounted by British troops in the Kagera Salient to the north which resulted in German troops being diverted away from Bukoba. Guns on the Naval Flotilla ships bombarded Bukoba town before the British troops landed. After landing the British troops quickly occupied Karwazi Hill and came under fire from enemy positions across the valley to the west.
German defensive positions, marked in green on the above sketch map, were concentrated on Arab Ridge, Gun Spur and Fusilier Knoll. The Loyal North Lancashires were tasked with moving north to go up Karwazi Hill, and then to swing left to get onto Arab Ridge and follow it down towards the western side of Bukoba.
The Royal Fusiliers were tasked with attacking Fusilier Knoll on the direct route to Bukoba town. The attack was successful and was followed by a second attack that took Gun Spur, this second attack was led by two platoons from the Loyal North Lancashires.
The small round hill near the left hand edge of the photo is Fusilier Knoll, and the crags to the right are Gun Spur. Bukoba town lies along the Lake shore and the port is located above Fusilier Knoll.
The view north from Gun Spur showing the valley that the Royal Fusiliers had to cross in order to seize Fusilier Knoll, which is off the picture to the right. Karwazi Hill is the right-hand half of the skyline.
During the Fusilier attack the East Africa Regiment machine gunners provided overhead supporting fire. Meanwhile the Askaris of 3rd KIng's African Rifles (3 KAR) landed on their own beach south of the main landing and immediately occupied the hill above the beach. As night was falling the British attack was halted.
The yellow sand marks the KAR landing beach and the rocks in the foreground are part of the position occupied by the Askari
Next morning, 23rd June, the Royal Fusiliers were ordered to advance on the town, the Loyal North Lancashires encircled the town to the west, 3 KAR and the 29th Punjabis were in reserve, and the East Africa Regiment machine gunners advanced along the shoreline, where they had a sharp fight near the Kanoni River. The mountain gunners provided artillery support when required. The German defenders withdrew as the British troops advanced.
The Kanoni River today taken from a bridge crossing it. In 1915 the river was a much greater obstacle and was a metre deep
Once in the town the Sappers and Miners were tasked with demolishing the radio mast whilst other units set fire to government buildings.
The following buildings were destroyed:
The Wireless Station
Government School & Rest House
Military & Police Lines
Boat Sheds & their contents.
On the higher ground to the west of the town the Loyal North Lancashires captured a German field gun at the German Protestant Mission.
General Stewart listed these German items destroyed or captured:
32,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
24 small gun rounds
1 Field Gun 2.9" calibre (which was lost in the Lake whilst being removed from Bukoba)
2 machine gun barrels plus ancillary items
Flags, military stores & clothing, explosives, kerosine and lubrication oil,
9 large canoes, 1 motor launch (complete), 2 whaler boats, 2 small boats
Regrettably General Stewart and his staff then turned a blind eye to looting of the civilian properties in Bukoba. The Loyal North Lancashires did not loot - they were securing the western flank.
The casualty figures listed in General Stewart's report were:
25th Bn Royal Fusiliers 6 soldiers killed in action and 2 soldiers died of wounds, 1 officer & 9 soldiers wounded in action
2nd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1 soldier killed in action and 6 soldiers wounded in action
3rd King's African Rifles 3 Askari wounded in action
East Africa Regiment 1 soldier killed, 1 officer and 3 soldiers wounded in action
3 Germans and 13 Askari killed in action & 3 Germans & 26 Askari wounded in action.
(Plus an unknown number of persons killed & wounded during the preliminary British bombardment before the landing took place.)
The old German Roman Catholic Mission near Bukoba Port. The hill feature in the background was held by British outposts, principally from the Loyal North Lancashires, until the British force sailed back to Kisumu early on the morning of 24th June.
After the British withdrawal local inhabitants continued with the looting of German properties, but when the Schutztruppe returned retribution was severe, and a chief was hanged.
Bukoba port and jetty today with a ferryboat that sails to Mwanza
The raid was a success - the first notable British success in the East African Campaign, and the Royal Navy deserves credit for the work of its Flotilla during the raid. This was the first time, after the training at Kajiado & Nairobi, that the 25th Royal Fusiliers was in action as a unit.