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Uganda Police Service Battalion Decisively defeats a German Attack - 18 February 1916

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

The site of the old crossing over the Kagera River at Kyaka. The laid-out laundry marks the old northern approach route to the crossing.

Uganda shared a common border with German East Africa (now Tanzania) on the western side of Lake Victoria. Ugandan and Indian troops occupied around 20 small posts between the border and the Kagera River. One of these posts was at Kachumbe, just south of the border, which can be seen on the map below.

Sketch map of the Kagera Line

The Germans maintained their own posts and both sides raided each other.

On 18 February 1916 the Germans attacked Kachumbe Post which was usually commanded by No. 125 Sergeant Charles Thomas Cameron Doran of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve. His Askari were from the Uganda Police Service Battalion.

But on this occasion the post was being visited by Lieutenant John Sydney Harmsworth of the East African Intelligence Department. What happened next is best told by reading the citation, published in East Africa General Routine Orders, for the Military Cross that was awarded to Lieutenant John Harmsworth:

For his excellent conduct of the defence of KACHUMBI POST, of which, by virtue of his rank, he assumed command when it was closely attacked in superior strength on 18 February 1916, the action resulting in a loss to the enemy, besides his machine gun, of 4 Germans and 55 Askaris killed or captured, and 1 German and 10 Askaris who escaped wounded and subsequently died, out of a total attacking force of 5 Germans, 75 Askaris, and 1 machine gun; our casualties being nil.

Sergeant Charles Doran receive a Distinguished Conduct Medal with the citation:

For conspicuous gallantry when holding with a few men a post, which he had constructed, against an overwhelming number of the enemy with a machine gun. The enemy were not only driven off with very heavy casualties, but their machine gun was captured.

3rd Class Private Selasi (Helasi) Sempa, Uganda Police Service Battalion, was awarded an African Distinguished Conduct Medal:

On 18th Febuary 1916 at Kachumbi, German East Africa, (Bukoba District). For his great ability and courage in defence of Kachumbi Post, on 18th February 1916, when it was closely attacked in superior strength.

Hongera the Uganda Police Service Battalion for decisively winning a defensive fight and maintaining a clean sheet with zero casualties!

(It is very probable that British local scouts warned of the approach of the Germans, thus allowing the post defenders to be on full alert.)

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