Empire & Commonwealth: East Africa

the European conflict sparked off in
Sarajevo in 1914 spread like brushfire to the colonies and dominions of the
European empires Europe’s quarrels became a world war the Allied strategy
of blockade cutting Germany off from food and ammunition men that Germany’s
African colonies were a prime target Togoland Cameroon and German Southwest
Africa were all captured within 18 months but German East Africa’s
resistance to the vastly superior forces thrown against it was one of the most
extraordinary stories of the war fought across an area greater than the size of
Britain France and Germany combined it was a war of mobility in guerrilla
tactics fought in tropical jungles and vast swamps lions crocodiles snakes and
parasites were an even deadlier threat than the enemy disease killed 30 times
as many men as combat when the war began on the 3rd of August 1914 the Germans
had only 200 European troops and 2,500 native Ascari soldiers the British
Empire forces included South African British Rhodesian Indian West Indian and
native African troops from the Kings African Rifles
the Gold Coast and Nigeria disease the climates and environments struck the
allied soldiers down in their thousands it was a war of long hard marches in
very difficult country von lettow-vorbeck fought a guerrilla
campaign and his Ascari’s were tough fighters
he knew the land and were more resistant to local diseases by early 1917 Britain
had learned the lesson and black African troops largely replaced South Africans
Indians and Rhodesians it was these soldiers who form the backbone of the
British army though von lettow-vorbeck hit-and-run tactics kept the British
off-balance weight of numbers told and by autumn 1916 his troops were confined
to the southern part of the colony in July 1917
forced into a battle of mahi WA they won but with high casualties they could ill
afford they crossed into Portuguese East Africa to capture supplies and munitions
but the war had been long and numbers were dwindling with his enemies closing
in he crossed back into German East Africa and then into the British
territory of Northern Rhodesia where three days after the end of the war in
Europe he learned that Germany had surrendered the longest campaign of
World War 1 was over British casualties total 22,000 with 11,000 189 killed the
Germans lost 2,000 men both sides relied on African soldiers and even more
heavily on African Porter’s as many as a hundred thousand of them died in the war
at least three hundred and sixty-five thousand civilians also lost their lives
if you knew why the war was being fought for why their lives were devastated but
the huge contribution of African soldiers and civilians had been vital to
Britain’s war effort

1 thought on “Empire & Commonwealth: East Africa

  • Great posting, great history, NationalArmyMuseumUK. Regards, Michael M. Kamau, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, 4th August 2019.

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