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The British Advance on Dar es Salaam - August & September 1916

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

(This follows on from the capture of Bagamoyo.)

The victors of Bagamoyo pose before their booty. The damaged Revolverkanone is to the left and the Konigsberg 4.1-inch gun to the right. Courtesy of Cross and Cockade International

The victors are, from left to right:

Captain Cullinan, Commander R. Bridgeman and the Commander in Chief Cape Squadron, Rear Admiral Edward Charlton.

(My preference is for the chap in the left rear – he may well have been in charge of the fatigue-party that cleaned the weapons!)

Sketch map of the British advance on Dar Es Salaam

On 20th August 1916 the 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (14 officers and 355 Other Ranks) arrived at Kilindini, Mombasa from South Africa aboard the “Comrie Castle”.

(Around 150 men remained in hospital in South Africa.)

Theoretically the unit was fit, rested and recuperated.

With the addition of drafts from England the Battalion on 22nd August had a strength of:

21 Officers

31 Warrant Officers and Sergeants

71 Corporals and Lance-Corporals

4 Drummers

404 Privates.

On arrival in British East Africa the CO received a Warning Order to be ready to move by sea to Bagamoyo aboard the SS Rajput. This move was completed before the end of August.

The British plan for seizing Dar Es Salaam was to advance south from Bagamoyo on three axes whilst a fourth column moved southwest to Ngerengere to cut the German Central Railway.

The landing jetty at Dar Es Salaam

The 2nd West India Regiment, Zanzibar Rifles and details of South African Infantry (put together from stragglers found on the Line of Communication) marched down two tracks near the coastline. Also on this axis was a Royal Navy landing party equipped with a 3-pounder gun, 6 machine-guns and 6 Lewis guns.

2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment advanced along the road with the Main Column, as did 129th Baluchis and 5th Light Infantry combined as a composite battalion.

40th Pathans marched slightly west to seize Ruvu Station on the Central Railway.

The Jind Infantry were tasked with the capture of Ngerengere.

The Royal Navy was to support the coastal column and bombard Dar Es Salaam.

HMS Challenger had fired 50 shells at night into Dar Es Salaam railway station on 21st August, causing a large fire and demoralizing the civilian population.

On 31st August at 1400 hours No 1 Company of the 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashires marched south as Advance Guard for the Main Column. The remainder of the Battalion marched at the head of the main body.

Each company marched with its own Machine-Gun Section and with its own 1st Line Transport immediately behind the company.

As insufficient porters had been provided, the mens’ kits were left at Bagamoyo in a small Depot.

The weather was hot, especially for the new men from England, and the broken road surface threw up much dust and impeded the carts.

The Advance Guard saw enemy movement ahead but no contact developed. At around 1700 hours Singa Village was reached. The column bivouacked in a square with the Loyal North Lancashires facing south and east.

There was a little water here but a bonus was the large number of ripe coconuts waiting to be knocked off the plantation trees.

The Bishop of Zanzibar. A 1923 photograph.

On 1st September No 1 Company was placed at the rear of the column to escort the Supply Column, whilst No 4 Company was Rear Guard.

The road threw up choking dust and at 1000 hours, after five hours marching, a halt was ordered at Mapinga and bivouacs prepared.

Bees were disturbed and the new soldiers from England had an introduction to their ferocious attacks and stings.

A “bright spark” lit a grass fire to drive the bees away and several items of equipment and helmets were burnt and lost.

Some more porters arrived from Zanzibar under command of Frank Weston DD, Bishop of Zanzibar, and the rear end of the column started to move with more determination.

(An interesting account of this march from Bagamoyo to Dar Es Salaam and of the Bishop’s military service in the Carrier Corps can be found in “Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar” by H. Maynard Smith. Free Download available at: ).

There was good water at Mapinga and so dinners were cooked. The Field Ambulance admitted 32 men suffering from fever and the effects of the sun, whilst 16 other sick men stayed behind here under the Quartermaster to guard a dump of kit.

At 1430 hours the column marched again, reaching Magosa at 1730 hours. A square perimeter was formed again with the Battalion on the north and east faces.

The water here tasted very bitter.

The likely position of the Schutztruppe 4.1-inch gun position covering the entrance to Dar Es Salaam Harbour

An early start at 0300 hours took advantage of the cool pre-dawn air on 2nd September.

No 4 Company was Advance Guard, opening fire with its machine-guns on Schutztruppe seen near Gunja Peak at 0730 hours. An hour later the peak was occupied. It had been an enemy Observation Post and the former occupants had withdrawn rapidly. As there was good water here the Battalion halted for the day, picqueting the hill and establishing an OP manned by an officer in a large tree.

Next day the Bn marched in the main body. The column started at 0200 hours, marching on the reported German 4.1-inch gun position north of Dar Es Salaam.

At 0530 hours an hour’s halt was ordered whilst the Royal Navy bombarded the enemy gun position. The advance then continued to Mission Hill and on to Kyemeko Hill where dinners were cooked. In the evening the Battalion reached the RV for the day, Msasani Beach just north of Dar Es Salaam.

A platoon of No 4 Company and all the Battalion’s sick men had remained at Gunja Peak to guard a Royal Navy wireless station established there.

Msasani Beach, Dar Es Salaam

The Royal Navy had landed 12,000 gallons of fresh water and three-days rations for the Coast and road columns at Msasani Beach.

Coast Column (2nd West India Regiment, South African Infantry and Zanzibar Rifles plus a RN 3-pounder gun) had arrived first at Msasani in an exhausted and dehydrated state.

This had been the first exposure to the harsh theatre conditions for the newly-arrived West Indians. (Read in “Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar” how the Bishop and his Zanzibari carriers had got the naval gun through the bad, dry terrain.)

Applying an improvised rule that “Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law” Coast Column drank all the water and consumed all the rations before Road Column, including 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, arrived. (In his dispatch Rear-Admiral Charlton apportioned the blame to a “regiment of African descent”.)

British air reconnaissance photograph of Dar Es Salaam. Courtesy of Cross and Cockade International

On 4th September 1916 British Army units entered Dar Es Salaam, the 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment first being billeted in Boma Barracks, but later that day moving into the Sewa-Hadji Hospital.

The Schutztruppe had withdrawn from the vicinity of the town, and the Battalion had a reasonably quiet time, receiving the mens’ kits from Bagamoyo on 10th September.

That day the CO received orders for a move to Kilwa, as the Royal Navy was pressing ahead with the seizure of the ports in the south of German East Africa.

On 11th September the Battalion embarked on HMS Hyacinth at 0600 hours, and sailed south.

(An Admiralty Prize Court later awarded 100,000 pounds prize-money to the Royal Navy for the capture of Dar Es Salaam. Army units did not qualify to share the award as the Court judged that there was no convincing proof that any soldiers had Dar Es Salaam harbour in sight at the time of capture.)

The old German church in Dar Es Salaam

The only Germans found in Dar Es Salaam were 80 hospital patients and 370 non-combatants.

The British now began to change their main base from Mombasa to Dar Es Salaam, although initially tidal constraints meant that floating pontoons had to be used at Dar Es Salaam for offloading lighters bringing cargo from anchored ships.

By 23rd January 1917 a new deep-water pier with a 5-ton steam crane was in use.

Dar Es Salaam Harbour

Crane in Dar Es Salaam Harbour wrecked by the Germans before their withdrawal.

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