Lieutenant-General Sir J. L. van Deventer
Fifth East African Despatch
London Gazette #30611. Friday, 5th April, 1918
5th April, 1918.
The Secretary of State for War has received the following Despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir J. L. van Deventer, K.C.B., Commanding-in-Chief British Forces in East Africa:-
21st January, 1918.
I have the honour to forward herewith my Despatch on the operations of the forces in East Africa from 30th May to 1st December, 1917.
In accordance with your Lordship's instructions I left Pretoria on 15th May, and took over the command in East Africa from General Hoskins in Dar-es-Salaam at noon on the 29th May.
At that time the enemy's forces were in two main bodies. The Western force, commanded by Tafel, was based on Mahenge. It consisted of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, and held the country to a radius of about 70 miles to the west, north and east of Mahenge, with a strong detachment at Likuju, fifty miles from Songea, on the Songea-Liwale road.
The Eastern (and main) German force was in the coastal area, facing our troops at Kilwa and Lindi. Its strength was between four and five thousand, and included the pick of Von Lettow Vorbeck’s troops, under the direct command of the German Commander-in-Chief.
In addition to the above, there were two important detachments. One, of four or five companies under Von Stuemer, had invaded Portuguese East Africa, and was exploiting the rich Mwembe area lying between the Lujenda River and Lake Nyassa. The other, of 600 men under Naumann, which was more a raiding force than a detachment, had succeeded in evading our pursuing troops and crossing the Central Railway east of Tabora; it was now moving northwards.
Our own troops were disposed as follows:
At Lindi, one brigade under General O’Grady.
Between Kilwa and Mohoro, and holding the country for thirty-forty miles inland, two columns under General Hannyngton.
On the Rufiji at Kibambawe, the Nigerian Brigade (less one battalion) under General Cunliffe.
Pursuing Naumann, the equivalent of a brigade, with an equal number of our Belgian Allies.
Two battalions were at Iringa, and a small central reserve at Morogoro.
General Northey’s force held a line from Ubena to Songea, while a detachment consisting of a battalion of the King’s African Rifles was pressing northwards from Fort Johnston, in Nyasaland, against Von Stuemer.
2. The health of our troops, after the wettest season known in German East Africa for very many years, was far from good. None but the indigenous African can stand the climate of the coastal belt in the rains, and the conditions on the banks of the Rufiji were but little better. Europeans, Indians, and Africans recruited from any but low-lying areas had alike suffered terribly from malaria; the "paper strengths" of the force bore no relation whatever to the numbers of men actually available in the field; and a brigade that could put 1,400 rifles into the firing line considered itself singularly fortunate. Iringa, and the Ubena-Songea area, were, however, comparatively healthy; and Northey’s troops, though war-worn, were far fitter than those on the coast.
3. It was evident that the forthcoming operations would differ considerably in character from those of the earlier parts of the campaign. With the possible exception of Mahenge, and certain food areas, there were no strategical objectives such as had been offered by the Moshi area, the Tanga and Central Railways, Tabora, or Das-es-Salaam. The country now held by the enemy was, for the most part, wild and inhospitable; means of communication were practically non-existent; and even the better known places, such as Liwale and Massassi, were, from a military point of view, mere geographical expressions. It therefore became obvious to me, at a very early stage, that our true objectives in the coming campaign must be the enemy forces in the field, and that the completion of the conquest of German East Africa could only be brought about by hard hitting, and plenty of it.
The campaign promised to be one of considerable difficulty. The enemy still occupied a territory over 300 miles square, and had the immense advantage of Anterior lines. From Mahenge to Liwale was merely a seven-day march for his Western force, but the transfer of a British force from Mahenge to Kilwa or Lindi, whence alone Liwale could be reached, would have taken as many weeks. The country was admirably suited to defence and to rearguard tactics. The enemy's askaris were now all veterans, and, fighting in their native bush, backed by the numerous and well-handled German machine guns, were worthy opponents for the best troops.
It was evident that the enemy's chief object was to play for time; to keep the net from closing on him, and to hold out in German East Africa, if possible, till the next wet season, hoping that the rains would then prevent our maintaining the long lines of communication that would be necessary before we brought him to bay. His hopes were doubtless raised by the abnormal rainy season that had just come to an end, for much of the country was still water-logged, and could not be fit for mechanical transport for some time, and thus the period available for active operations was considerably reduced.
Moreover, the pursuit of Naumann was diverting valuable troops from the main operations, and, owing to shipping difficulties, both transport and reinforcements were arriving slowly.
4. There were five possible lines of advance from the north and east-
(a) Dodoma - Iringa - Mahenge. - The healthiest but also the longest. The country between the highlands of Iringa and Mahenge was difficult, and only a small portion of it could be made possible for motor transport.
(b) Kilossa-Kidatu-Mahenge.- A shorter line than the first, and more feasible for motor transport. Both (a) and (b) suffered, however, from the defect that the rainy season in this area is considerably earlier than on the coast, and the Ruaha and Kilombero rivers might become very formidable obstacles early in December.
(c) Mikesse-Kibambawe-Mahenge. - The most difficult as regards physical obstacles. The Mikesse-Kibambawe line had given much anxiety in the beginning of January, 1917, and the country south of Kibambawe was a wild tangle of bush, totally impracticable for wheels.
(d) Kilwa.- The unhealthiest of all. But a large proportion of the enemy's forces were within close striking distance of Kilwa, and it was possible that the health conditions here and at Lindi might improve with the advent of the dry weather. Kilwa also possessed a first-class harbour, accessible to ships of all but the largest tonnage.
(e) Lindi.- It was obvious that this line would, sooner or later, assume very great importance. For it was only by a thrust south-westwards towards Massassi that we could hope to cut off the main enemy force from Portuguese East Africa. Lindi Harbour had, however, considerable limitations, and could only be used by a proportion of the shipping at our disposal, while the country between Lindi and Massassi was extremely thick and difficult.
5. Taking all the above factors into consideration I decided to make my main advance from Kilwa and Lindi; to operate against the enemy in the Mahenge area from both Dodoma and Kilossa, and to use General Northey’s forces to assist in the Mahenge operations to clear Von Stuemer out of Portuguese East Africa, and finally to advance towards Liwale from Songea.
It was also very necessary to get rid of Naumann. It seemed that the quickest way to do this would be by the employment of mounted troops, and a request was sent to the Union Government that a regiment should be raised for this purpose, and for use thereafter against the enemy's main forces.
6. Much preparation was necessary before the main operations could commence, but certain subsidiary operations appeared immediately feasible.
It was very desirable to clear a larger area round Lindi in order to secure a better water supply and to prepare the main exits from the town and harbour. It was also desirable to eject the enemy from the upper part of the Ulanga (or Kilombero) Valley, and to advance towards Ifakaras, as such a move was calculated to make the enemy weaken on the line of the Ruaha at Kidatu, and so facilitate the advance on Mahenge from Kilossa.
I decided that these two operations could be begun at once, and that at the end of June the state of reinforcements and transport at Kilwa would probably permit me to begin operations in that area against the enemy's main force. Meanwhile General Northey would be concentrating at Songea for his advance eastwards, and his troops in Portuguese East Africa would continue clearing the enemy out of the country they had occupied.
The operations under General Edwards against Naumann were in full progress north of the Central Railway.
7. During June the situation developed on the above lines with varying results.
On the west General Northey despatched the 1/4th King's African Rifles to clear the enemy from the district east of Lake Nyassa. Half this battalion crossed the Portuguese border north of Fort Johnston and moved northwards, being joined later by the remainder of the battalion, which was landed on the shore of Lake Nyassa, to the south-west of Mtonia. By the end of June this force had advanced to within a day's march of Mwembe, where enemy patrols were encountered. Mwembe and Likopolwe were both occupied by 6th July, the enemy falling back northwards without serious resistance.
The Songea column, consisting of 1/1st and 2/lst K.A.R., 1st South African Rifles, and a section of Mountain Artillery, had by 30th June completed its concentration at Likuju, on the Songea-Liwale road. The enemy were unaware of the extent of this concentration, and on the 29th approached Likuju with about five companies, and opened fire on the camp with a field gun, but thereafter made off hurriedly without attempting further reconnaissance.
Two companies of Northern Rhodesian Police were despatched on 27th from Lupembe to Nalugombe to prevent the enemy at Mpepo from reinforcing his Ruipa front.
Colonel Tytler concentrated the Iringa column, consisting of the 17th Infantry, 2/4th K.A.R., and two sections 24th Mountain Battery, at Boma Mzinga by 29th June, with advanced posts forward to Mgeta Mission, and improved the roads for his advance to Ifakaras, which began on the 30th.
The situation in the Kilwa area during June was as follows:-
The enemy was holding a general line running from Kimamba Hill, adjoining Kisiwani Harbour, up the right bank of the Ngaura River to Makangaga, and thence across to Kilaganeli, eight miles south of Kirongo, and to Nahende, on the Liwale road. Kimamba Hill, the rising ground opposite Rumbo, Kilaganeli, and Nahende were held by strong detachments. A total of eighteen companies was known to be on this front, of which about eleven were between Kimamba Hill and Makangaga. There were also two or three enemy companies to the north-west at Madaba which sent constant patrols eastward.
The composition of the Kilwa force (temporarily under command of Brigadier-General Beves) was as follows:-
No. 1 Column (Colonel Orr).
Gold Coast Regiment.
22nd Mountain Battery.
No. 2 Column (Colonel Grant).
11th Hull Heavy Battery.
27th Mountain Battery.
No. 2 Column was concentrated at Kirongo, with detachments at Namatewa, Chemera, and Mnasi, No. 1 Column at Rumbo, with a strong detachment opposite Kimamba Hill, and a smaller intervening detachment.
Throughout the month our patrols were in daily touch with enemy patrols, which devoted much attention to harassing our lines of communication. Careful reconnaissances of the enemy’s positions opposite Kirongo, Mnasi, and Rumbo were undertaken, and preparations made for attack on the arrival of reinforcements. These arrived at the end of the month, the 8th South African Infantry being allotted to No. 1 Column, and 7th South African Infantry and one company 3/3rd K.A.R. to No. 2 Column. A small column, No. 3, consisting of 3/3rd K.A.R. (less one company) and 200 rifles 40th Pathans, was formed under Colonel Taylor.
On the 27th the enemy evacuated some of his advanced positions, and on the 28th patrols found that all had been given up, except Kimamba Hill, which was held by a light rearguard until the morning of the 29th, when our troops drove it off.
Intelligence and patrolling indicated that the enemy had withdrawn in the direction of Mtshakama, while still maintaining his detachment at Kilaganeli.
In the Lindi area the first week of the month was spent in active reconnaissance and preparation for an operation to expel the enemy from the area Ngapa-Schaeffer's Farm-Mayani, which he was holding with about six companies. On the 10th June the Lindi force advanced in two columns, the right column (5th Infantry, l/2nd K.A.R., half 259th Machine Gun Company, one section 27th Mountain Battery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Law, 2nd West India Regiment) moving from Lindi via Naitiwi and Mayani, while the main column (25th Royal Fusiliers, 3/2nd K.A.R., Machine Gun Section and Trench Mortars of 2nd West India Regiment, one section 3rd Battery South African Field Artillery, one company 61st Pioneers, under Brigadier-General O'Grady) operated to the east of Mandawa from Mkwaya Creek, where a successful landing was carried out in co-operation with the Navy, which also supported the advance of the main column by covering fire. The operation was completed by the 13th June, the enemy abandoning the area after some resistance, in the course of which the 25th Royal Fusiliers took two machine guns.
The abandoned area was occupied by our troops, and active patrolling forward was carried out till the end of the month. On the 29th the Officer Commanding at Naitiwi (Lieutenant-Colonel Wilford, D.S.O., 5th Light Infantry) hearing of a small enemy party near Lutende, some eight miles north of his post, moved out with 150 rifles of his battalion to attack it. The enemy camp was rushed at dawn on the 30th, three white, and several black prisoners being captured. Our force was, however, almost immediately counter-attacked by three enemy companies, whose presence had not been suspected, and surrounded. Colonel Wilford was mortally wounded early in the engagement. Captain Hall took command, and, after a gallant fight against very heavy odds, finally broke out with some fifty men and reached Naitiwi.
8. Active operations took place during June north of the Central Railway, where British.and Belgian columns continued the pursuit of Naumann.
As the country to the west of Mwanza was familiar to the enemy, and he had made persistent efforts to break in that direction, General Edwards disposed his columns to prevent such a movement, while he continued to pursue from the south. Naumann kept on moving northwards, and on the 5th June attacked our post at Mkalama, which was gallantly defended by its small garrison of five whites and twenty-two Askaris, under the Political Officer, Captain Holland, until the arrival of our column on the 8th. The enemy resumed his march, crossed the Sibiti River, and then turned north-west, with the intention of breaking west between Schinyanga and Ilola. On finding, however, that this path was barred, he turned north again, and, crossing the Simiju River on the 15th, reached Samanda on the 17th June, evidently making for Ikoma.
9. I had a meeting at Dodoma on 18th June with Colonel Huyghe, the Belgian Commander-in-Chief, and we agreed that the force engaged in pursuing Naumann was too large, that a smaller force could be given more mobility, and that this should be homogeneous. It was therefore decided that the Belgian troops should take over the Naumann operations from 25th June.
I further asked Colonel Huyghe to send a Belgian column from Dodoma via Iringa to operate against the enemy on the Malinje-Mpepo front, and arranged with him that, during July, another strong column should be got ready to act from Kilossa through Kikumi and Kidodi towards Mahenge. Thus the Belgian forces would eventually be in a position to take over the Mahenge operations entirely.
10. During July General Northey's columns made good progress at all points. In Portuguese East Africa the l/4th K.A.R. advanced steadily north-eastwards, driving back the enemy, and by the end of the month had completely cleared the north-west portion of Portuguese East Africa. On the 31st the 1/4th K.A.R. crossed the Rovuma on rafts near Sassawara unopposed, and moved on Tunduru.
The Songea column, which had concentrated at Likuju, advanced on the 3rd July, and by the 7th had driven the enemy from his position covering the Songea-Liwale and Songea-Mahenge road junction. The opposing enemy force did not retire towards Liwale, as we had expected, but drew off northwards in the direction of Mahenge; and I directed General Northey to pursue if necessary as far as Mpondas, when the situation would be reconsidered. This advance continued steadily, the enemy force of about five companies, though offering a stubborn rearguard resistance in difficult country, being driven from position to position, until, at the end of the month, Colonel Hawthorn had reached a point a few miles south of Mpondas. There were signs that the enemy had been reinforced from Madaba in the Eastern Rufiji area.
Further north two small columns from Lupembe, under Lieutenant-Colonel Fair, had similarly pressed the enemy's detachment to the west of Ruhudje, and by the 26th had driven the whole of it across that river into the Mpepo Mkapira area.
The Iringa column by 2nd July had its advanced troops in contact with the enemy on the Ruipa River, and by the 7th had secured a crossing. The advance continued against constant rearguard opposition, and by the 15th the column had occupied the whole of the entrenched enemy positions on the Ruipa. The enemy fell back on a strong position on the Njarabungu River, our forces following slowly on account of transport difficulties in rear. On the 29th July the enemy was attacked in position and compelled to withdraw towards the Idete River.
11. The effect of the above operations on the Western front was clearly shown by the way in which the enemy withdrew his forces from other points in order to strengthen the Mahenge area. To the north he began to fall back to the line of the Ruaha River, while further east he weakened his forces at Madaba, sending the bulk of them to reinforce his troops on the west. This latter movement eventually enabled me to reduce my detachment on the Lower Rufiji to one battalion, which carried out active patrolling to the south, with the object of inducing the enemy to anticipate an advance on our part from the Rufiji.
12. Important operations took place during July in the Kilwa area, where I found myself in a position to initiate operations against the enemy's main forces during the first week of the month.
Transport considerations did not yet permit of these operations being pressed beyond a limited distance, but I hoped that I should be able to go far enough to compel the enemy to show definitely whether he intended to retire towards Liwale or Massassi, to gain ground in which roads and water supplies could be prepared for the next step, and to inflict loss on the enemy which would weaken his resistance to subsequent blows.
With these objects in view I decided, as a first phase, to drive the Kilwa enemy south of the Kiturika Hills. The Lindi force was meantime to contain the enemy opposing it, but to take no offensive on a large scale pending arrival of reinforcements.
The advance at Kilwa began on 5th July with a converging movement of Nos. 1 and 2 Columns of the Kilwa force against the enemy positions round Mnindi, on the Mtshakama road, while No. 3 Column moved simultaneously from Wungwi, on the western shore of Kisiwani Harbour, towards Nambanditi.
There was sharp fighting during the whole of the 6th, No. 1 Column driving the enemy from a position four miles north-east of Mnindi and pressing him backwards, while No. 2 Column attacked Mnindi from the west. The enemy was found well entrenched on both fronts, and the attacks progressed slowly. Towards evening the enemy delivered a heavy counter-attack with the bulk of his force against No. 2 Column, in which he suffered considerable loss, but regained ground which enabled him to keep open the Mtshakama road and retire by it during the night. No. 3 Column reached Nambanditi without opposition.
The left and centre columns (Nos. 3 and 1) continued their advance directly towards Mtshakama, while the right column (No. 2) moved via Kirongo against the three or four enemy companies at Kilaganeli. These retired south and were followed up, slight rearguard resistance being encountered at Mtandawala on the 14th. A concerted attack on Mtshakama by all three columns was designed, but the enemy did not await this blow, and continued his movement southwards. No. 2 Column was thereupon directed on Likawaje, Nos. 1 and 3 Columns on Narungombe. The two latter encountered rearguard opposition on the 17th and 18th, and by nightfall on the 18th had reached a point two miles north of Narungombe, which was reported to be held in force. No. 2 Column was thereupon directed to co-operate in an attack on Narungombe on the following day.
The allotment of troops to the columns had varied during the advance in accordance with the tactical situation, and on the 18th was as follows:-
No. 1 Column (Colonel Orr).
8th South African Infantry (less two companies).
Gold Coast Regiment.
27th Mountain Battery.
No. 2 Column (Colonel Ridgway).
7th South African Infantry.
22nd Mountain Battery.
No. 3 Column (Colonel Taylor).
8th South African Infantry (two companies).
3/3rd K.A.R. (less one company).
40th Pathans (detachment).
Early on the 19th No. 1 Column gained touch with the enemy and engaged him in front, while Nos. 2 and 3 Columns moved against his left and right flanks respectively. The enemy was found to be strongly entrenched and the fighting was particularly severe. In the centre the 33rd Punjabis and Gold Coast Regiment succeeded in capturing the enemy trenches in front of No. 1 Column, but were heavily counter-attacked, and finally compelled to evacuate them after a stubborn resistance. On the left bush fires greatly interfered with the movements of No. 3 Column. The enemy took advantage of this to launch heavy counter-attacks against No. 3 Column, and the detachment of the 40th Pathans on the extreme left, which quickly lost all its British officers killed or wounded, was forced back. The remainder of the column, which was in imminent danger of being rolled up, was compelled to give ground.
Meanwhile on the right No. 2 Column had gained a position well round the enemy's left flank, repelling three counter-attacks, and by the afternoon was pressing the enemy closely. In order to relieve this pressure the German Commander made another strong counter-attack, which was stopped, and in turn counter-attacked by the l/3rd K.A.R. under Major Durham. The enemy was driven back right through the trenches on his left flank, which were taken and firmly held.
This success decided the action, the enemy evacuating the whole of his position at dark and retiring towards Mihambia. His losses had been heavy.
The 22nd and 27th Mountain Batteries and Gold Coast Battery gave close support throughout the day to the attacking infantry, whose gallantry and endurance were most marked. The casualties, particularly amongst officers, had been considerable in nearly all units engaged.
The occupation of Narungombe practically completed the clearing of the Kiturika Hills, which had been an arduous task for the troops engaged. The effective fighting strength of the Kilwa force had been greatly depleted by malaria and other sickness, and rest and reinforcements were necessary before the advance could be resumed.
At Lindi the month passed quietly in reconnaissance, and preparation for an advance early in August.
13. While progress was thus being made in the main operations, Naumann remained north of the Central Railway, and by his activities threatened to prove a serious nuisance. It was never possible to forecast his intentions, as his detachment, though a sufficiently effective fighting force of 600 rifles, twelve maxims, and two guns, was completely mobile and small enough to live on the country. On the 28th June he captured Fort Ikoma, a small post east of Lake Victoria, garrisoned by a few irregulars. The Belgian pursuing column reached Ikoma the following day, and had a sharp engagement with the enemy, who thereafter turned eastwards towards Lake Natron. This movement necessitated my taking steps to garrison the Magadi and Aruscha Districts, troops for the purpose having either to be taken from my reserve or from new K.A.R. battalions under training.
Naumann passed through the Sonjo district and then moved in a south-east direction, reaching Engaruka on the 17th, his objective then appearing to be Aruscha. A mobile Belgian column left Ikoma on the 20th with the object of forcing him southwards towards the Central Railway. On that day Naumann was on the north shore of Lake Manyara, and was reported to be making for Kondoa. The Cape Corps, from Aruscha, was directed to join in the pursuit. The enemy passed through Ufiome and Massogoloda, leaving the latter place on the 25th, and moved southwards east of Mount Hanang, with the apparent intention of recrossing the railway.
I arranged with Colonel Huyghe that the Belgian troops should endeavour to drive Naumann south on to the railway near Dodoma, where my reserve column could engage him, and at the same time I reinforced Kondoa and made preparations to deal with a possible move to the east.
14. The general situation at the beginning of August had cleared up considerably. The enemy had been driven out of Portuguese East Africa, and on the western front had been pressed back to the general line Kidatu-Idete River-Mpepo-Mpondas. On the eastern front he had been compelled to withdraw from the Lower Rufiji area and had been forced out of the Kiturika Hills.
It had been found, however, that the enemy's capacity for resistance had not been in any way weakened by the rainy season, and that the moral and training of his troops remained high. There was thus every reason to expect that there would be serious opposition in the coming stages when the circle round him began to tighten.
I decided to continue operations on the same lines until the arrival of reinforcements and transport should place me in a position to make an uninterrupted advance against the main enemy and deal him a decisive blow. This, I estimated, would be about the middle of September.
15. During August and the early part of September good progress was made in the West. Lieutenant-Colonel Shorthose, after crossing the Rovuma, continued his movement north and occupied Tunduru on 23rd August after slight opposition, thus firmly establishing our hold on this district, which was of considerable supply importance.
The Songea column, under Colonel Hawthorn, remained in the vicinity of Mpondas, engaged in a constant struggle, in the most difficult ravine country, with an enemy of equal strength, who received frequent minor reinforcements. Colonel Hawthorn continued to operate with enterprise and vigour, manoeuvring the enemy out of successive positions and inflicting loss on him in many minor engagements.
The Lupembe column, under Lieutenant-Colonel Fair, forced back the enemy in the Mpepo area, and by the 20th August was hemming in the enemy detachment there, which finally gave way and retired towards the east. Our troops followed in close pursuit, and on the 30th inflicted a severe local defeat on the enemy, killing or capturing three white and 92 askaris.
The Iringa column was reinforced on 10th August by the leading troops of the Northern Belgian Column. This latter column had been originally intended to operate in the Malinje-Mpepo area, but on account of the progress of our own troops in that area it had been diverted to the Ruipa front, and I arranged with Colonel Huyghe that it should ultimately replace my Iringa column, and so leave the zone of operations towards Mahenge entirely in Belgian hands.
The combined forces under Colonel Tytler renewed operations against the enemy on the Idete River, and by the 26th had effected a crossing and were pushing patrols towards Ifakaras.
Meanwhile the main Belgian column (Southern) had been concentrating at Kilossa and Uleia, and on the 14th began its move south against Mahenge. The enemy did not offer serious resistance to the earlier stages of this advance, and the column moved rapidly forward, driving in the opposing rear-guards and capturing prisoners. By the 26th the column had reached Kiberege, and by the 28th had joined hands at Ifakaras with the Belgian Northern column, and the Iringa column. The latter column was then withdrawn, the 2/4th K.A.R. being sent to reinforce General Northey, while the remainder returned to the Central Railway in reserve.
The enemy had retired south of the Kilombero River, which was a formidable obstacle, but the rapidity and skill with which the Belgian columns acted deprived the enemy of any advantage he might have gained from this. By the 6th September the Belgian columns had secured crossings at two places, and by the 8th the whole of the Belgian Southern Brigade was across and moving against Mahenge. The enemy opposition now became greater, and strong resistance was encountered at Kalimoto on the 11th, from which date the enemy disputed every foot of the way into Mahenge, through hilly country, densely bushed. Progress was necessarily slow, but remained steady, and by the end of September the Belgians, after numerous successful encounters, had reached a point seven miles north of Mahenge and were encircling it from both east and west.
16. On the Eastern front active patrolling was carried out in the Kilwa area with one or two minor encounters, but the chief effort was devoted to organisation and preparation for the advance in mid-September. The tram line was extended as rapidly as possible towards the south, roads improved, transport collected and supplies accumulated as far forward as possible. By the end of the first week in September the bulk of the Nigerian Brigade and the new Indian reinforcements (55th Rifles, 127th Baluchis, and 25th Cavalry) had been landed and were nearly ready to take the field.
The enemy had reinforced his Kilwa front at the end of July, and as this could only have been done at the expense either of his Lindi front or of his reserves, I decided to push forward in the Lindi area during August and thus improve my position for vigorous action against the enemy should he retreat into the Massassi area.
On the 2nd August the Lindi force began operations by occupying the enemy's forward position on the Mohambika stream, and on the 3rd advanced in three columns against his main positions from Tandamuti Hill to Mandawa. The right column (3/2nd K.A.R.) advancing from Schaedels reached its objective, driving the enemy from his advanced position east of the loop on the trolley line. The objective of the left or main column (25th Royal Fusiliers, 259th Machine Gun Company, 3/4th K.A.R.) was the enemy's right flank on Tandamuti Hill. Here very stubborn resistance was encountered, the centre of which was a concealed redoubt, the existence of which was not previously known. Despite repeated efforts this redoubt could not be taken, and in consequence the main column was brought to a standstill. The centre column (30th Punjabis) became thus unsupported in its advance, and on being heavily counter-attacked by the enemy's reserve was compelled to withdraw with considerable loss after the whole of the British officers had become casualties. The engagement ended by our troops entrenching on the ground gained and organising for a fresh advance.
This began on the 10th by a turning movement south of Tandamuti Hill, which was heavily bombarded by the Navy with the object of deceiving the enemy as to the point of attack. The movement was successful in causing the enemy to abandon his ground and fall back to another strong position at Nurunyu. General O'Grady followed in pursuit, keeping in close contact with the enemy and reconnoitring actively with patrols. Heavy rain hindered operationso on the 15th and 16th, but on the 18th the enemy was closely engaged and pressed back to his main line of defence at Nurunyu, opposite to which our troops entrenched.
Active reconnaissance was carried out on the 19th in preparation for attack, but in view of reliable information that the enemy had received considerable reinforcements from the north, I did not consider it advisable to press the Lindi offensive further at the time, and decided to confine action in that area to active patrolling and to organisation and preparation until the Kilwa force should be ready to move.
17. The attempt at the end of July to drive Naumann south on to the Central Railway had not been successful. In the early days of August he succeeded in evading our troops on the Kondoa-Dodoma line by night marches through thick bush, and broke out with his main force eastwards towards Luita. As this movement brought him beyond the reach of the Belgian troops, these were withdrawn, and the pursuit taken up by a column under Colonel Dyke, consisting of the 1st Battalion, Cape Corps and King's African Rifles Mounted Infantry, gradually reinforced by the 10th South African Horse, as that regiment completed its mobilisation. One Nigerian battalion was also temporarily attached to this column.
Reports first indicated that he was making for Handeni, and I formed a small mobile column of King's African Rifles at Korogwe to meet this move. On the 13th information was received that Naumann was moving south from Luita towards the railway, and our troops moved to intercept him. Finding himself headed off, he moved east towards the Nguru Hills, closely pursued by our troops, which now included part of the 10th South African Horse. Naumann had now divided into three parties, and reports became in consequence very conflicting, but by the 21st it was evident that his main force was moving north again, via the Masai Steppe, while one party still remained west of the Nguru Hills, in the vicinity of Kakera. This latter party was at once closed on by our troops, and surrendered on 2nd September, nine whites and about 100 Askaris, with many porters, being made prisoners. Naumann with his main body crossed the Masai Steppe, and on the 29th one of his raiding parties held up a train near Kahe, while his third party, keeping more to the west, headed for Engaruka and Massogoloda.
A day or two later reports were received that Naumann had given up his move north and was doubling back south across the Masai Steppe. During the previous few weeks minor captures from his force had been frequent, and it was evident that it was being gradually destroyed and that the end could not be far off. He reached Kidschungo on the 8th September, and thence made south towards the Nguru Hills, with our troops closing in from all sides. 'The 1st Battalion Cape Corps, under Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, which had done much hard marching during the pursuit, closed in from north, north-west and west, while another portion of the battalion, which had been previously detached, closed in from the east and south-east. Both these detachments were accompanied by troops of the King's African Rifles Mounted Infantry, which had clung close to the enemy throughout. The column of King's African Rifles based on Korogwe closed in from the north-east, while the 10th South African Horse advanced from the south-west and south. On the 15th Naumann reached Geiro, but found his way blocked by the cavalry. He then turned north again with the 10th South African Horse in close pursuit, and was finally brought to bay on the Luita Hill, a very strong natural position. The 10th South African Horse occupied all surrounding water-holes, and kept Naumann's force in play until the arrival of the infantry. Naumann was then closely invested, and surrendered on 1st October, together with fourteen other German whites, 165 Askaris and many porters.
The remaining party of Naumann's force had meanwhile continued to move west to Lake Eyassi, where it halted. This party was of small strength, and on October 2nd surrendered to a detachment of King's African Rifles sent from Aruscha. Three whites and fifty three Askaris were made prisoners.
Thus ended a remarkable raid. The force which carried it out was composed of first-class Askaris, well led. It started under Wintgens from Gumbiro, sixty miles north-west of Songea, in the beginning of February. New Langenburg and Bismarksburg were threatened in turn; the force then turned northwards and passed through Itunda, leaving the German Commander in our hands there, sick. Naumann succeeded, and crossed the Central Railway east of Tabora on 27th May, marching north. Repulsed at Mkalama, and prevented from breaking westwards, Naumann went north again, heavily engaged the Belgians at Ikoma, after which he moved westwards towards the Magadi Lake, then south to Kondoa Irangi, near which place he narrowly escaped capture. After threatening Handeni, he was next heard of near Moshi. Finding our troops ready for him there, he doubled back on his tracks, re-crossed the Kondoa Irangi-Handeni road and was finally brought to bay.
Such a raid could perhaps only have been carried out in a country like German East Africa, where the bush is often so thick that two considerable forces may pass within a mile, unaware of each other's presence; and where a ruthless leader of a small force can nearly always live on the country.
18. By the middle of September the situation was ripe for the main advance. The Kilwa force had been strengthened by the bulk of the Nigerian Brigade, the 25th Indian Cavalry, and two Indian Battalions, the 55th Rifles and 127th Baluchis. The Lindi force had also been increased, and was organised in two main columns, Nos. 3 and 4. Sufficient motor transport was by this time available for the whole force.
My plan was to make a combined movement southwards from the Kilwa area, and south-westwards from Lindi, engaging the enemy wherever met with.
I hoped thus to be able to deal with the enemy main force, whatever course it might take. If it went westwards towards the Liwale Mahenge area, the Kilwa force could be diverted in that direction, while the Lindi force occupied Massassi and cut off retreat to the south. If it stood to fight against the Kilwa force, the Lindi force would come in against its flank and rear. If it were divided against the Kiliwa or Lindi forces, or opposed mainly to the latter, then the Kilwa force was strong enough to press back anything that might oppose it, and attack the flank or rear of the portion opposing the Lindi troops.
Meanwhile the western forces were to press on vigorously and keep all enemy troops in the Mahenge area fully contained.
19. I proceeded to my Advanced Headquarters in the Kilwa area on 10th September, and the move forward of the Kilwa force began on the 19th, when No. 1 Column from Narungombe drove the enemy out of Mihambia after sharp fighting. No. 2 Column moved from near Mssindy against Ndessa, from which the enemy withdrew after slight resistance, and the Nigerian Brigade on the right moved from Mssindy by a circuitous route against Mawarenye, to try and cut off -the enemy's retirement.
The 25th Cavalry were despatched on a special mission to destroy the enemy food depots at Nangano, and on the Mbemkuru between there and Nahungu.
The advance continued steadily on the 20th and 21st, the enemy's Ndessa force falling back before Nos. 1 and 2 Columns. It had not, however, located the movement of the Nigerians, and, on the 22nd, it attempted to retire south-west from Mawarenye by a road which two battalions of the Nigerian Brigade under General Cunliffe had already gained possession of. The enemy made desperate efforts to break through, which were all repulsed with heavy loss, and finally he was compelled to retire hastily in small parties southwards through the bush, leaving over 100 dead on the ground.
The three .columns continued their movement southwards, meeting with constant opposition. No. 2 Column occupied Mawarenye on the 23rd, sent the 2/3rd K.A.R. to reinforce the Nigerian Brigade for the advance on Nahungu, and then marched on Nakiu, which was occupied on the 25th without opposition.
No. 1 Column moved from Bweho Chini, drove back a strong enemy rearguard at Ndandawala, and on the 26th was closely engaged all day with the enemy in position covering Nahungu. The chief share of the fighting was borne by the 2/2nd K.A.H., supported by the 27th Mountain Battery, which succeeded in knocking out one of the enemy guns in action on Nahungu Hill.
Meanwhile two Nigerian battalions were advancing on Nahungu by a parallel road, and on the 27th they co-operated in the attack, engaging the enemy in position about 1½ miles north-west of Nahungu Hill.
The enemy finally gave way before the combined pressure of these attacks, and evacuated his positions during the night of the 27th/28th.
The cavalry joined the main body at Nahungu on the 30th, having successfully raided many enemy food depots on the upper part of the river.
The general line of retirement of the enemy was to the south-west; and it was now clear that he had no intention of withdrawing towards Liwale, but that his main force would ultimately centre in the Massassi area. I decided therefore to continue the pursuit from the Mbemkuru Kiver with .General Hannyngton's two columns and the cavalry, and to send the Nigerian Brigade south across country to assist the Lindi force by cutting off the enemy's line of retirement. This brigade accordingly left Nahungu on 4th October, and, after a trying march through most difficult country, gained touch with the right of the Lindi force north of Mtama on the 11th. The delay and deviation entailed by the difficult nature of the country caused the brigade to reach its objective (Mahiwa) three days late.
20. The Lindi force had been held back during the first day or two of the Kilwa operations, but I then decided that the time was opportune for a combined movement and directed an attack on Narunyu and Mtua to begin on the 24th. This was carried out by a wide turning movement south of the Lukuledi River assisted by a frontal attack on the Nurunyu position.
The enemy did not attempt serious resistance at Nurunyu, and, after a short fight with the outflanking column, on the 27th he withdrew during the night towards Mtama, leaving, strong rearguards to oppose our advance. The whole country was exceedingly difficult and progress slow. On the 1st October there was sharp fighting halfway between Mtua and Mtama, the enemy counter-attacking heavily, but failing to regain any ground. After this engagement the Lindi force checked the speed of its advance in order to give time for the Nigerian Brigade to come up.
Meanwhile the Kilwa force continued its movement west and south-west, meeting with constant opposition from strong rearguards, which were steadily driven from position to position. The enemy main line of retirement lay through Ruangwa to Ruponda, the destruction of his depots on the Mbemkuru having prevented him using that route. I directed General Hannyngton to move the bulk of his force by the Mbemkuru route and endeavour to anticipate the enemy at Ruponda, leaving a detachment to press the enemy's rearguard on the direct line of retirement. This detachment I reinforced from my reserve.
General Hannyngton's advanced troops occupied Mnero Mission on the 9th and Ruponda on the 10th, thus completely severing the main enemy communication between Liwale and Massassi, and isolating the enemy forces in the northern Mahenge area. The movement did not, however, greatly affect the enemy retirement from Ruangwa, as it became quickly evident that he had prepared an alternative line east of Ruponda, running south from Ruangwa through Mnacho to the Lindi-Massassi road. The German commander was thus in a position to maintain his central reserve in the vicinity of Namgumburu, and this he continued to do even after the occupation of Ruponda. The situation at this moment demanded careful watching, as a strong enemy movement northwards against our long drawn-out line of communication to Kilwa was always possible.
The best solution lay in strong pressure by the Lindi force, which made steady progress towards Mtama during the 10th, and on the following days began flanking movements against that place, which was reported to be held by nine companies. The enemy did not, however, stand to fight at Mtama, but retired slowly westwards on the 15th towards Nyangao, being doubtless considerably influenced by the advent of the Nigerian Brigade, which had been ordered to make a wide turning movement north of the Massassi road with the object of getting astride the enemy's communications at Mahiwa.
The German Commander was evidently well aware of the danger of the continued advance of the Lindi force, and decided to use a large portion of his reserve to check it. On the 13th he fell back from Namgumburu towards Ruangwa, and, leaving a rearguard in that area, marched south-east with about five companies to reinforce his troops at Nyangao. This movement brought on one of the severest fights of the East African Campaign.
21. The Nigerian Brigade had now joined the Lindi force; and was operating on its right flank. One battalion which had been moved to Lindi by sea after the Naumann operations still remained in force reserve. The objective of the brigade was to cut off the enemy's retreat from Nyangao north-westwards and from Mahiwa westwards, and by the night of the 14th it had reached the sanatorium four miles north of Nyangao. Here one battalion (1st Nigerians) was left, together with the brigade reserves of ammunition and supplies; and on the 15th the remainder of the brigade continued its march west. Opposition increased with the advance, and continued all day on the 16th. The enemy succeeded in preventing the 1st Nigerian Battalion (which was called up in support) from joining the remainder of the Brigade in its forward position on the enemy's northern flank, and compelled it to fall back to the Sanatorium with some loss. This made the situation of the Nigerians somewhat precarious, and in order to relieve it Nos. 3 and 4 Columns operating on and parallel to the main road pressed their advance vigorously. The enemy fell back from Nyangao on the 16th, but took up a position on a ridge about two miles south-west of that place, behind the Nakadi River bed, and offered most determined resistance on the 17th. Nos. 3 and 4 Columns were both heavily engaged all day. No. 4 Column (Colonel Tytler) advanced from Nyangao at daybreak, and at once gained touch with the enemy. The 3/4th K.A.R. attacked, supported by artillery fire, and by one o'clock had taken part of the position. No. 3 Column (General O'Grady) had meanwhile come up on the right of No. 4 Column, the Bharatpur Infantry attacking with 1/2nd K. A.R. in support. Opposition to this attack increased steadily, and both battalions were soon fully engaged. At four o'clock a determined counter-attack was made against both columns, and the whole line was pressed back, but again advanced and regained part of the lost ground. Darkness set in with the engagement still proceeding.
On the morning of the 18th the action was resumed, No. 4 Column pressing the enemy vigorously in order to enable No. 3 Column to effect a junction with the Nigerian Brigade, which it succeeded in doing at 8 o'clock. No. 4 Column's attack was at first successful, the 30th Punjabis driving the enemy from their trenches and occupying them, while part of the 3/4th K.A.R. and of the 259th Machine Gun Company came up on the Punjabis' left to strengthen that flank.
The enemy was, however, in force, and delivered a strong counter-attack on the left, which eventually compelled our line to fall back to the river bed. This position was maintained during the afternoon, several counter-attacks being repulsed.
No. 3 Column meanwhile attacked the enemy's left flank and forced it back for some distance, the 3/2nd K.A.R. leading, while the 25th Fusiliers (from No. 4 Column) filled the gap between the attacking fronts of the two columns. On this flank also the enemy developed a very strong counter-attack, gaining some ground, and it was found necessary to restore the situation by bringing up the 3rd Nigerians from reserve to the left of No. 3 Column. The enemy pressure continued until dark, but without further result, and on the morning of the 19th he was found to have retired to his original line.
Losses on both sides were heavy in this four days' engagement, in which much of the fighting had been at close quarters. A halt was advisable until reinforcing drafts could be brought up, and action against the enemy was therefore confined during the next fortnight to vigorous patrolling against his front and round his flanks.
22. Meanwhile to the west the Kilwa force successfully raided Lukuledi Mission. Colonel Orr, with No. 1 Column, leaving Ruponda on the 17th, reached Lukuledi next day, and had a sharp fight with two or three enemy companies. Reconnaissances towards Tshikukwe and Massassi were carried out.
On the 21st the column was attacked at Lukuledi by the force which it had previously fought, reinforced by at least three other companies. The enemy was repulsed with loss, two machine-guns and some prisoners being captured by the 1/3rd K. A.R. The column then withdrew, reaching Ruponda on the 24th. Valuable information about the country, roads, water, etc., had been obtained, which proved of great use to us later on.
No. 2 Column in the centre drove the enemy rearguard from Ruangwa on the 16th and 17th. The enemy then withdrew to Mnacho, across a wide waterless strip.
The line from Kilwa had now been stretched so far that maintenance of the forces fed from it was becoming a serious problem, and it had become desirable to call a halt in order to let supplies accumulate forward before making any further advance. I decided accordingly to spend the next fortnight in active patrolling and in refitting and resting the troops before beginning what promised to be the final phase of operations in German East Africa. Until 6th November no further movement of importance took place on the eastern front.
23. Steady pressure on the western front had been maintained during October. General Northey's battalion at Tunduru sent a strong detachment north-east to the Mohesi River, and in the middle of the month strengthened this to two companies and pushed it forward to Abdallah-Kwa-Nanga, the centre of a fertile district some fifty miles south of Liwale. This detachment in turn pushed forward a raiding party of 250 rifles, which entered Liwale on the 29th, capturing twenty-four whites, including sick.
The Songea Column continued its activity on the Luwegu River, and by the 5th had established itself on the north bank east of the enemy position. The enemy gave way and retired some six miles northwards.
I had previously asked General Northey to dispatch the battalion which had joined him from the Iringa Column (2/4th K.A.R.) towards Abdallah Kwa Nanga, but now decided that the situation pointed to the possibility of the Songea and Lupembe Columns being able, in conjunction with the Belgians, to bring the enemy in this area to decisive action. I accordingly requested General Northey to reinforce his Songea Column with this battalion and all available transport. Thus reinforced, Colonel Hawthorn renewed his attack on the 16th October; but the enemy, avoiding the blow, retired down the Luwegu River, destroying and abandoning both his guns. The pursuit was pressed steadily, the enemy retiring from point to point as our troops closed in. By the end of the month he had reached a point on the river south of Liganduka's.
24. The Belgian advance on Mahenge continued steadily over very difficult country, which rendered progress slow; but this was, in any case, unavoidable at the moment, as the long lines of communication made the supply of their forces very difficult. We had hoped that the resources of the country would assist us, but the enemy had practically cleared everything from the line of advance.
On the 4th the Belgian forces were in active contact with eight or nine companies extending from Schauri to just north of Mahenge, and by the 9th had occupied Mahenge, capturing some twenty whites in the last position held, and also ninety-two whites and 242 askaris left sick in hospital. Thus the first and main objective of the Belgians had been most successfully and skilfully attained.
On the 22nd September the Belgian left fought a most successful action against an enemy detachment in position at Mtrika on the Mkaha River, killing or capturing three whites and forty-three askaris, and taking two machine guns.
The Belgian advance continued, and by 18th October their right was in touch with Fair, near Mubike. Saidi was occupied on the 21st, and Ligombazi on the 25th.
Time was, however, getting short in the Mahenge area, where heavy rain might be expected any time after the middle of November. There had been no opportunity to build up a food reserve, and the nature of the road was such that heavy rain might entirely stop the running of mechanical transport.
On the 27th I had a meeting with Colonel Huyghe, and asked him to leave only two battalions in the Mahenge area to co-operate with General Northey's troops, sending the rest back to Kilossa, and to transfer two battalions from his Reserve to the Kilwa line, to operate north and north-west from Liwale. The Kilwa-Liwale line was expected to remain open two months longer than the Kilossa-Mahenge line.
The combined British and Belgian pressure was being severely felt by the enemy, and by the 28th the German Commander in the Mahenge area (Tafel) was reported to be withdrawing all his troops towards Kahambu.
Deserters were numerous, and had begun to surrender to the Belgians in large parties. It was evident that the whole enemy front in the west was giving way, but the great difficulty of supplying our forces at the end of their long lines of communications prevented our taking full immediate advantage of the situation. Both Allies continued, however, to push forward with what troops they could feed.
25. On the night lst/2nd November Colonel Hawthorn attacked and took the enemy's position south-east of Liganduka's, capturing twenty-four prisoners and a machine gun.
The enemy on the Luwegu retired eastwards, Hawthorn following towards Kabati Mzee, and Fair towards Kabati Mtoto. By the evening of the 5th Hawthorn had driven enemy rearguards down both banks of the Luwegu River, and had got to within a mile of Kabati Mzee; and on the 6th Fair reached Kabati Mtoto, where 142 German whites and 140 askaris surrendered, and three machine guns and some hundreds of rifles, mostly damaged, were found abandoned.
On the 6th eighty-two more askaris surrendered to the Belgian Columns; and, during the next day or two, other surrenders of sick were made at Kahambu and Mlembwe.
It was now clear that the enemy forces were withdrawing to the south through Dapate, and Hawthorn accordingly turned south-eastwards, while Colonel Murray, with 250 rifles, pressed east along the Songea-Liwale road.
The Belgian forces to the north now found that the enemy was beyond their reach, but that, on the other hand, he was coming within the radius of action of the Belgian column of Liwale.
This column, under Major Herion, consisting of the Belgian 9th Battalion and Cyclists, had taken over Liwale from General Northey's detachment (under Major Hawkins) on the 2nd, and was awaiting the arrival of the 4th Battalion, which landed at Kilwa on the 6th. Major Hawkins had withdrawn to Abdallah-Kwa-Nanga, where he awaited the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Shorthose with the headquarters and one company of the 1/4th K.A.R. from Tunduru. One company of the battalion was left as garrison at the latter place.
By the 11th it had become practically certain that Tafel’s intention was to break south to join Von Lettow Vorbeck, and the final confirmation was received by the locating of his advanced patrols at Mandebe on the 13th. Major Herion despatched 200 rifles south-westwards from Liwale on the 14th, and Colonel Murray with 400 rifles also pushed south-east towards Abdallah-Kwa-Nanga. These reinforcements could not, however, arrive in time to assist Shorthose and Hawkins in stemming the enemy movement to the south, which they most gallantly attempted to do on the 16th when still separated from each other by some hours' march. Each of their small forces put up a determined fight, and inflicted considerable loss on the enemy before being compelled to withdraw towards Tunduru in face of great odds. The Belgian Column succeeded in overtaking the enemy's rearguard company and captured a maxim and some prisoners, including the company commander. Captured documents showed that the enemy's force numbered between 1,700 and 1,800, and was moving southward to the Rovuma in three parallel columns.
This ended all fighting in the Mahenge Liwale area, and in view of the imminent approach of the rainy season in that part of the country it was decided to withdraw all Belgian forces supplied from Dodoma and Kilossa without delay. General Northey took over Mahenge, strengthened Tunduru, and withdrew the bulk of Hawthorn's column to rest and refit.
26. At the beginning of November the enemy's force in the eastern area under direct command of Von Lettow Vorbeck was located as follows:-
Mahiwa front, 7 companies.
Mnacho, 1-2 companies.
Nangoo-Lukuledi, 12-13 companies.
Newala, 2 companies.
The advance of both the Kilwa and Lindi forces was to be renewed on the 6th, and I now suggested to the Portuguese Commander-in-Chief that he should move his force at Unde eastwards and concentrate near Mocimboa Do Ruvuma, with a supporting force at Chomba, and a strong detachment at Ngomano. To this suggestion Colonel Rosa cordially agreed.
On the 6th the Lindi force under General Cunliffe began its advance, the Nigerian Brigade, No. 4 Column and No. 3 Column forming the right, centre and left respectively. The first resistance was encountered by No. 4 Column on the western edge of the clearing near Mahiwa, which was finally taken by the 5th Light Infantry well supported by artillery fire. The main opposition was, however, encountered by No. 3 Column, which established itself on the enemy's right rear, and was heavily engaged throughout the day, the enemy unsuccessfully counter-attacking O’Grady's flanks and rear. The Nigerian Brigade on the north encountered little opposition, and at 15.30 hours was instructed to send two battalions to reinforce No. 3 Column. These, however, had to move through dense bush and did not reach the main road till dusk, by which time firing had ceased.
Next morning the Nigerian Battalions linked up with No. 3 Column and located a strong enemy rearguard entrenched about one mile to the west.
The bulk of the enemy forces had retired towards Nangoo during the night, across a 20-mile waterless tract of country. I directed General Cunliffe to pursue with a force of at least 2,000 men, and the 3/4th K.A.R. was accordingly transferred temporarily from No. 4 Column to No. 3 Column, which was selected for the task.
Two battalions of the Nigerian Brigade moved forward on the 8th to clear the road for the advance of No. 3 Column. These battalions met with constantly increasing opposition; by 15 hours the 3rd Battalion was heavily engaged, and by 16 hours it became necessary to bring up the 4th Battalion and attack the enemy's right. This had the desired effect, and the enemy withdrew as night fell.
The Cape Corps had been brought up in support of the Nigerian attack, and during the afternoon located an enemy machine gun in action on the flank, which they rushed and captured, killing or taking prisoner the whole gun-crew.
No. 3 Column moved at dawn on the 9th, and during that day and the 10th was constantly opposed by the enemy rearguard, which fell-back from position to position in dense bush. Great difficulty was experienced in providing the column with water. The enemy's last serviceable 4.1 inch Königsberg gun was abandoned en route.
Eventually No. 3 Column reached Nangoo at about 10.30 hours on the 11th, to find that the enemy had retired towards Chiwata. Touch was gained with No. 1 Column of the Kilwa force at Ndanda.
General O’Grady continued the pursuit, gradually driving the enemy back on Chiwata, and by 10.30 hours on the 14th the column was overlooking that place from a commanding position on the edge of the Makonde Plateau.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Brigade had been brought up and moved west to Ndanda on the 12th, relieving No. 1 Column of the Kilwa force at that place. From Ndanda the Nigerians moved on Chiwata on the 13th.
27. The Kilwa force had moved simultaneously with the Lindi force, No. 2 Column reaching Tandanai and No. 1 Column Tchingwea on the 7th. The 17th Infantry formed a detachment to operate against Mnacho.
On the 8th No. 2 Column reached Lukuledi Mission, and No. 1 Column a point on the Lukuledi River a few miles to the east. Both columns were unopposed, and the movement appeared to surprise the enemy, who continued to hold Mnacho. The Mounted Column (10th South African Horse, 25th Cavalry, and King's African Rifles, Mounted Infantry Company), under Colonel Breytenbach, arrived at Lukuledi on the 9th, and was directed on Mwiti. A detachment from the Mounted Column occupied Massassi on the 10th, taking prisoner fifty-seven German whites and 142 askaris. A damaged 4.1 inch naval gun was found in the post.
On the 10th No. 1 Column occupied Ndanga Mission after some opposition, sixty-four German whites and 129 askaris being captured, including sick. The enemy hastily withdrew his detachment from Mnacho, and the 17th Infantry followed southwards towards Ndanda.
28. With the junction of the Kilwa and Lindi forces the campaign in the southern area entered its last phases. Chiwata had been reported as a strong-natural position on the edge of the Makonde Plateau, and the camp was known to contain a large hospital and our prisoners of war.
I decided to attack it from the north with the Lindi force and from the west with the bulk of the Kilwa force, while the mounted troops, supported by infantry, operated towards Kitengari against the enemy line of retirement. These movements were initiated at once by Generals Cunliffe and Hannyngton, and developed during the 13th and 14th, on which days there were continual patrol encounters.
I arrived at Ndanda on the evening of the 14th. No. 1 Column had by then occupied Mwiti after slight resistance, while No. 2 Column was within a mile of Chiwata on the west, with part of the Nigerian Brigade in support. Column 3 had gained the heights to the north-east, as mentioned above.
It became evident early on the 15th that the enemy did not intend to defend Chiwata seriously, but was falling back south-east to Lutshemi. Some opposition was encountered by No. 3 Column on the heights to the east, where the enemy rearguard proved active, but No. 2 Column and the Nigerian Brigade entered Chiwata after only slight opposition, and accepted the surrender of ninety-eight German whites and 425 askaris, including sick; seventy-one European, twenty-eight Indian and twenty-two African prisoners of war were also released. No. 3 Column continued to press forward, and was sharply engaged towards evening with the enemy rearguard.
29. I now directed that No. 1 Column from Mwiti, the Nigerian Brigade from Chiwata, and No. 3 Column from its position on the Plateau should co-operate against Lutshemi, No. 2 Column to form a reserve at Mwiti, while the Mounted Column moved east with the object of cutting communication between Kitengari and Newala. No. 4 Column was utilised in cutting a motor-road from Mtama towards Luagala.
Fighting was continuous on the 16th round Lutshemi. No. 3 Column and the Nigerians drove the enemy from successive rearguard positions after sharp engagements, while No. 1 Column advanced east from Mwiti. The country was extremely broken and difficult, and progress was slow. The Mounted Column arrived at Lulindi.
The Nigerians, No. 1 Column and No. 3 Column, converged on Lutshemi on the 17th, fighting their way continuously. The enemy began to show signs of unsteadiness, many undamaged rifles being found. The extreme thickness of the bush made it impossible to surround the enemy completely, and during the night of the 17th/18th his main force retired south-east towards Simba’s by an unsuspected path. After some rearguard opposition on the 18th, our troops occupied his camp at Lutshemi, releasing 32 European officer prisoners of war, and capturing about 300 German whites and 700 askaris.
No. 2 Column on the 18th captured a patrol sent by Tafel to get communication with Von Lettow Vorbeck.
No. 1 Column was now directed to support the Mounted Troops at Lulindi, while No. 3 Column continued the direct pursuit towards Simba’s. No. 2 Column and the Nigerians were held back in reserve in readiness to deal with Tafel’s force moving south from the Mahenge area. The exact location of this force was at the moment unknown.
On the 20th patrols reported that the enemy main force had retired south from Simba’s-Kitengari area. At Simba’s 52 Germans and 75 askaris surrendered to No. 3 Column.
No. 1 Column at once moved against Newala, arriving there on the 21st but found that the enemy had moved south with great speed and got clear, leaving 126 Germans and 78 askaris in our hands.
30. Reports indicated that Von Lettow Vorbeck was making for the Rovuma and thence intended to go westwards to gain touch with Tafel’s force. The latter had been located west of Massassi by our scouts and Intelligence Agents, who reported on the 20th that it was on the upper reaches of, and moving down the Bangalla River. No. 2 Column was accordingly directed to move to Massassi on the 22nd, and thence on the 23rd towards the Bangalla, the Nigerian Brigade to concentrate at Massassi and No. 3 Column at Mwiti. No. 2 Column was placed temporarily under the G.O.C. Lindi force.
The Mounted Column was ordered to move on the 23rd towards the junction of the Bangalla and Rovuma Rivers, and No. 1 Column to concentrate at Luatala on the 23rd in support of the Mounted Column.
Reports on the 23rd showed that the greater part of Tafel’s force had passed through Mtimbo on the night 22nd/23rd, and was continuing its m arch down the Bangalla, and that the bulk of Von Lettow Vorbeck’s force was still on the north bank of the Rovuma.
On the 24th No. 2 Column reached the Bangalla, with part of the Nigerian Brigade following in support, while No. 1 Column, pushing on from Luatala in support of the mounted troops, reached the Mwiti River. On the 25th it became clear that the speed with which Von Lettow Vorbeck was moving up the Rovuma made it unlikely that the stern chase after him would succeed; and as a matter of fact he crossed the Rovuma at Ngomano on November 25th and 26th and escaped up the Lujenda into Portuguese territory. An attempt by the Portuguese garrison at Ngomano to delay this movement was not successful.
31. On the other hand, it now became evident that owing to the speed of our movements Von Lettow Vorbeck had failed to effect his junction with Tafel. The latter was apparently unaware that his Commander had abandoned the Makonde Plateau and Newala, and had therefore decided to leave the Bangalla and move east towards Newala.
On the 25th Tafel’s advanced troops engaged our post at Tshirimba Hill. No. 1 Column had reached the Bangalla confluence that morning and seen no sign of the enemy, but on native intelligence being received that the enemy was advancing towards Luatala a cavalry patrol was ordered to return there, backed by the 129th Baluchis.
I directed No. 1 Column to return to Mwiti, No. 3 Column to work south from Nairombo, and No. 2 Column, which had reached Nauru’s, to continue its movement towards Wangoni. The Nigerian Brigade was disposed partly at Nauru’s, partly on the Bangalla.
On the 26th, the cavalry patrol and 129th Baluchis (about 150 rifles strong) had a sharp engagement near the Mwiti River. The enemy was in much superior strength, forced back this small detachment, and proceeded south. It was evident that Tafel had discovered his mistake, and was trying to break away.
On receipt of the report of this action, No. 1 Column, which was marching to Mwiti River, was directed to move in pursuit and attack the enemy wherever met.
On the 27th a party of 37 Germans, 178 askaris and about 1,100 other natives came in and surrendered to the post at Luatala and Intelligence pointed to the remainder of Tafel’s force having moved down the Mwiti River and crossed the Rovuma. No. 1 Column was accordingly ordered to return to Bangalla on the 28th to intercept him, but in the evening a message was received from Tafel stating that he intended a cessation of hostilities. A meeting was arranged, and at midday on the 28th Tafel surrendered unconditionally, with 19 officers (including Schonfeld, Lincke, and Aumann), 92 other Europeans, over 1,200 askaris and some 2,200 other natives.
32. With the surrender of Tafel and the retreat into Portuguese East Africa of Von Lettow Vorbeck with the remnant of his forces (approximately 50 officers, 250 other Europeans, 1.500-1,800 askaris), the campaign in German East Africa came to an end, and the last German Colony was conquered after a resistance which had been prolonged until nine-tenths of the enemy’s white and black personnel had either been killed or had fallen into our hands. Raiding bands might still re-cross the border but could scarcely hope again to wage organised war in German East Africa.
An equally arduous campaign, though on a very much smaller scale, will, however, probably still be necessary before the German force in Portuguese East Africa is finally brought to book, for the country is vast and communications are difficult.
33. The last six months of the German East Africa campaign had been of a most exacting nature. My predecessors have well described the difficulties of advancing through tropical Africa against an enemy in possession of interior lines who can advance or retire along carefully prepared lines of supply. As the area of operations diminished so the potential advantages of these interior lines increased and the fiercer became the fighting. The moral of the enemy never wavered, and nothing but the determined gallantry and endurance of the troops finally crushed him. To the infantry, British, South African, Indian, West and East African, I owe unqualified thanks and praise; and especially to the regimental officers, who set an example which all have followed.
During the six months our casualties in action alone have been close on six thousand, including over one thousand carriers and followers, but against these may be-placed the 1,618 German whites and 5,482 German askaris who have been killed or captured in the period. Most of those captured in hospitals were not ill, but were simply tired out by the closeness of our pursuit. Fourteen guns, seventy-seven machine guns and thousands of rifles have also been taken.
Although the nature of the country and of the fighting were such that the infantry had incomparably the hardest task, yet the other fighting arms have done all in their power to lighten it. The artillery and the Stokes Mortar Batteries have afforded steady and close support in action, while the successful raiding of the mounted troops has frequently upset the enemy’s plans and movements and so facilitated our advance.
The Royal Flying Corps under Major Wallace, D.S.O., and Royal Naval Air Service, under Commander Bowhill, have been indefatigible in their work of reconnaissance, of such great value in this badly-mapped country, and have never hesitated to take any risks in carrying out this duty. Their well-organised bombing raids have been also most successfully carried out.
The Royal Engineer units, Pioneers, and Road Corps, under the direction of Colonel Rundle, D.S.O., R.E., have done splendid service in keeping pace with the troops, and pushing forward the roads on which the movement of mechanical transport, and consequently of the forces, entirely depend.
The Signal Service has maintained its high reputation in this country and has never failed to cope with any situation which has arisen, often under circumstances of the greatest difficulty. Lieutenant-Colonel Hawtrey, D.S.O., R.E., deserves great credit for the efficient work of this important service.
The good work done by the Intelligence Department, Officers, Scouts, and Agents has very greatly assisted the progress of operations.
Much of this work has necessarily been performed under circumstances of considerable difficulty and danger, but the results have been most valuable, and great credit is due to all ranks.
34. In a campaign of this nature, in which a force comprising a most varied assortment of races and languages has been distributed over many hundreds of miles of wild tropical country where malaria and other serious diseases have been rife, with an entire absence of made roads, and serving under continuously adverse climatic conditions, the strain thrown upon the lines of communication can only be fully realised by those who have participated in it.
During the greater part of the period five separate lines were in use simultaneously, three from the Central Railway, one from Kilwa and one from Lindi. On each of these most careful organisation of posts, depots and transport had to be made, and maintained and adjusted from time to time in accordance with the fluctuations of the campaign. Transfer from one line to another was an exceedingly difficult matter, in view of the distances which separated them and the constant necessity to economise shipping, yet changes at short notice were inevitable against an enemy acting on interior lines. Only foresight, energy, and incessant labour on the part of the Inspector-General of Communications and his subordinates could solve such problems, and I record here my appreciation of the great services rendered by Brigadier-General W. F. S. Edwards, C.M.G., D.S.O., and those serving under him.
35. From past experience it was recognised that the success of the operations for the period under review must largely depend upon the degree of preparedness and efficiency of the Administrative Services, and active steps were therefore taken for some months beforehand to increase and organise the supply, transport, and medical resources, while tramway construction was expedited to the utmost. Large numbers of box cars, petrol tractors for tramways, and additional personnel were ordered, while the Ordnance and other services similarly anticipated every requirement of the Force. As a result it was in a position to take the field with the knowledge that it could be adequately supported and maintained at considerable distances from its main bases, and this was fully borne out by subsequent results.
In preparation for the Belgian offensive down the Kilossa line, large stocks of supplies were placed at Iringa, while on the Dodoma line animal transport was exploited to the fullest extent. This line is the only one, of the many opened up during the East African campaign, which has proved to be “fly” free. The use of animal transport on it released cars for use elsewhere, while on the Mikesse-Rufiji line the same object was attained by the employment of large numbers of local porters, this course being possible owing to the very thickly populated nature of this area.
Contemporaneously very large numbers of carriers were being assembled in both British and German East Africa, this in view both of the high wastage to be anticipated and the fact that all probable lines of advance lay through fly belts of unusual virulence.
To supplement carriers, a considerable amount of pack donkey transport was also formed and equipped.
It was deemed advisable to depart from generally accepted principles in the matter of the allocation of transport. Instead of units of mechanical transport being attached to field formations and running back to points at which lines of communication convoys could transfer their loads, as had been the practice in the earlier stages of the campaign, Mechanical Transport units of the lines of communication delivered practically into the bivouacs of the troops. This method, while ensuring more effective control of the Mechanical Transport and economising vehicles, entailed in many cases very long hours on the road, with considerable risks in the matter of interruption from enemy action. While several convoys were ambushed and casualties inflicted on convoy personnel, in no case was a convoy unable to beat off the attack.
During August and September the operations against Naumann placed a very severe strain on the Mechanical Transport based on the central railway, but its use, in many cases over tracks never previously pioneered or used by mechanical transport, was largely instrumental in bringing these operations to a successful conclusion.
Sickness has been rife, and the supply and transport personnel has frequently been at breaking point; but with the exception of one or two short periods the troops have always been in receipt of full rations, while the number on a reduced scale at any one time has been very small in proportion to those engaged. That this result has been attained is due almost entirely to the exertions of the Supply and Transport personnel, whose casualties reflect the strain to which they have been subjected, and whose devotion to duty and cheerful acceptance of the hardships of the campaign merit the highest praise. In this connection I would especially bring to notice the name of Brigadier-General P. Hazelton, C.B., C.M.G., Director of Supplies and Transport.
The Medical Services have had many, and at times almost insuperable, difficulties to contend with. Probably in no previous campaign in the tropics have such numbers been employed, and the peculiar conditions, as explained above, have rendered the evacuation of the large number of sick and wounded which had to be dealt with a most difficult problem. Transport of sick has been carried out by porters, motor ambulances, and mechanical transport, plying on the roughest roads, which necessarily at times involved much discomfort to the sick and wounded. Although the internal lines of communication have been long and difficult, the evacuation of sick has been well and expeditiously carried out from the front to the rail and sea bases, and every effort made to minimise the discomfort that might ensue. The mobility of the force has never been impaired by retention of sick at the front. Apart from the large number of wounded dealt with, the sick rate from disease - namely, malaria and dysentery, has been excessive, and entailed large hospital provision to cope with it.
The Sanitary Services have had a most difficult task to keep in check the spread of severe infectious diseases - e.g., cerebrospinal meningitis and small-pox. These diseases are prevalent in many parts of the country, and liable to be introduced by carriers. Although always present in the force, they have been successfully controlled. The great number of carriers employed necessitated the formation of an elaborate medical organisation to deal with them, involving large hospital establishments. The medical arrangements for carriers has been most carefully considered and well carried out; extensive arrangements for their eventual repatriation have also been made.
An African Native Medical Corps, mainly recruited from Uganda of natives of superior intelligence has been formed, and done excellent work in carrier hospitals and with East African troops.
The climate has been most trying to Europeans and Indian troops, and even the African troops have suffered severely.
The personnel of the Medical Services have suffered equally from climatic effects.
I cannot speak too highly of the enthusiasm and good work done by officers and men of the various Medical Services under the command of Surgeon -General G. D. Hunter, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., who have made every effort for the treatment, care and comfort of the sick and wounded, at times under most exceptional and trying conditions.
The ladies of the various Nursing Services have shown the greatest devotion to duty, working at high pressure, regardless of climate and unusual surroundings; they one and all deserve the highest praise.
The Ordnance Services maintained the very high standard of efficiency which has been conspicuous throughout the campaign. The length of time required before orders could be executed from England and elsewhere made the provision of the enormous varieties of stores, equipment and clothing, &c., required by a force comprising so many different types of troops and followers, peculiarly complicated, and it is greatly to the credit of Brigadier-General R. K. Scott, C.M.G., D.S.O., and those serving under him, that every need has been foreseen, and the local resources of the country so fully exploited.
I desire specially to acknowledge the valuable services rendered by Colonel Sir William Johns, Kt., C.B., C.I.E., and all ranks of the railway units and administration. It became evident at an early stage of the operations under review that the only means of maintaining our forces in the field, at a considerable distance from the bases at Kilwa and Lindi, was to establish tramway systems; and the successful manner in which some 115 miles of track was collected and laid, and the requirements of the Army carried forward, without interruption, by petrol-driven tractors and trailers, is worthy of high commendation.
The exceptional conditions prevailing in East Africa have necessitated the employment of carriers to an extent hitherto unprecedented in any military operations. The men have been recruited from British East Africa, German East Africa, N. Rhodesia, and Nyasaland and the West Coast; and a very extensive organisation has had to be evolved to deal with their registration, pay, housing, feeding, medical treatment, and eventual repatriation. The difficulties were accentuated by the different habits of the various tribes, and their great susceptibility to disease, if serving in climates to which they were not accustomed. The conditions under which the men have been employed were necessarily very arduous, and they formed the subject of most careful attention and examination from both within and without the force. The work performed by the carriers has been of the greatest value, and the high state of efficiency attained testifies to the excellent powers of organisation of the Director, Lieutenant-Colonel O. Watkins, D.S.O., and his Staff.
The enormous mortality, due to the many diseases prevalent in Africa, has thrown a very heavy strain on the Remount Department, and the duty of arranging for receiving and forwarding a large number of animals which have been issued during the campaign has been carried out with marked judgment and success
The work performed by all ranks of the Veterinary Services has been consistently good. In addition to the skilful treatment of the sick animals with the force, much valuable work has been done in combating the many diseases prevalent throughout the country.
The duties of the Political Officers with the force have been of a very varied and responsible nature. They entailed the exploitation of the resources of the country without causing undue hardship or alienating the sympathies of the inhabitants, and the gradual introduction of humane methods of civil administration, as the various districts became clear of active operations.
The present friendly attitude of the people is a tribute to the manner in which these duties have been carried out, and in commending the work of the Officers of the Political Department I would include those serving under His Honour the Administrator, who rendered great assistance to the forces in the field during the operations north of the Central Railway.
The several Pay Departments have carried out their duties to my entire satisfaction, and I desire also to express my appreciation of the services rendered by the Military Audit Staff.
The enormous area over which the troops have been scattered and the unceasing difficulties of transport, have rendered the task of the Postal Services an enormous one, and credit is due to them for the manner in which the requirements of the force have been met.
The spiritual welfare of the troops has been carefully attended to by the Chaplains with the force, and they have also greatly interested themselves in arranging healthy amusements for the men whenever it was possible.
The services of the Provost Establishment have been efficiently carried out, often under very trying conditions.
My thanks are due to Colonel J. L. Montgomery, C.S.I., Commissioner, Royal Red Cross, and his Staff, for their unceasing exertions in providing comforts and augmenting the supplies for the sick. The issues to the hospitals have been on a very generous scale, and the additional gifts of motor launches, boats and vehicles, together with many other useful articles, have been very keenly appreciated.
36. I owe most grateful thanks to Rear-Admiral E. F. B. Charlton, C.B., and all ranks of the Royal Navy, for their hearty and ready co-operation at all times when joint operations were in progress; and to the Naval Transport Service, which has continually to cope with a gigantic and intricate problem, on the successful solution of which the timely conduct of the operations and the smooth working of the supply system so largely depend.
My most sincere thanks are due to Colonel Huyghe, C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian forces in German East Africa, for his most loyal and efficient co-operation. The Belgian troops are splendid fighters, keen and reliable, and their participation in the campaign has been of the greatest value to the Allied force.
The Governments of India, Union of South Africa, British East Africa, and Uganda have continued to afford me unstintedly the same measure of assistance and support as was enjoyed by my predecessors. Troops, supplies, transport, all have been freely given, to meet the demands which the military situation has from time to time compelled me to make.
Finally I desire to record my warm appreciation of the good work done by my own Staff, by all Services and Departments, and by all Commanders, Staffs, and representatives of Services and Departments in the Field and on Lines of Communication, and in particular I wish to bring to your Lordship’s favourable notice the names of the following officers:-
Brigadier-General S. H. Sheppard, C.M.G., D.S.O., who as Chief of my General Staff has afforded me most valuable assistance and unstinted support. He displayed the greatest energy throughout; and this, combined with his unfailing tact, ensured the closest co-operation between all branches of the Staff and all commanders, and greatly facilitated the speedy and successful prosecution of the operations.
Major-General R. H. Ewart, C.B., C.I.E., D.S.O., who, as Deputy-Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, has been responsible for the co-ordinated working of the multifarious administrative branches connected with a campaign of this kind. His duties have also included frequent dealings with Allies and neighbouring Civil authorities, as my representative, on matters of a most diverse and complicated nature. To all he has devoted the greatest energy and ability.
Brigadier-General E. Northey, C.B., A.D.C., who has been in command of the whole of the forces in the Western area, and has carried out a widely extended series of operations with most marked success. The administration and control of his force, and of its bases and long lines of communication have rested entirely in his hands. I owe much to General Northey for his constant loyal support and co-operation.
Brigadier-General F. G. Cunliffe, C.B., C.M.G., who has rendered valuable services with the Nigerian Brigade and later in command of the Lindi Force, and has shown marked resource and ability.
Brigadier-General J. A. Hannyngton, C.M.G., D.S.O., who resumed command of the Kilwa force during September after a severe illness and rendered distinguished service during the subsequent operations, under most trying conditions.
Brigadier-General H. de C. O’Grady, who has shown great qualities as a fighting commander and has lost no opportunity of dealing the enemy hard knocks.
Colonel R. T. I. Ridgway, C.B., an able and experienced soldier who commanded a column in a most capable manner.
Colonel G. M. Orr, who commanded a column throughout the operations and showed marked capacity, judgment, and good leadership.
Colonel H. C. Tytler, who commanded a column in the advance from Iringa, and later in the operations against Naumann, and in the Lindi area.
Colonel P. H. Dyke and Colonel J. H. Breytenbach, who rendered good services during the Naumann operations. Later, Colonel Breytenbach commanded the Mounted column to my entire satisfaction.
Colonel A. J. Taylor, D.S.O., who did good work in the Kilwa and Lindi areas in command of a column.
Colonel D. J. K. B. Van Deventer who, though he only took command of a column towards the conclusion of the campaign, was still able to render good services.
Lieutenant-Colonels G. M. P. Hawthorn, D.S.O., W. J. T. Shorthose, R. E. Murray, D.S.O., C. H. Fair, D.S.O., who commanded columns under General Northey with conspicuous ability and success.
Also of Brigadier-General E. H. Llewellyn who, as Commandant of the King’s African Rifles, has done much valuable work in organising and preparing the new K.A.R. battalions for the field.
His Honour the Administrator, Sir Horace Byatt, K.C.M.G., whose firm control of the northern part of German East Africa, and cordial support, have been of the greatest assistance to me.
And of the other Officers, Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers and men included in the list which I am forwarding shortly in connection with this despatch.
I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship’s obedient servant,
J. L. VAN DEVENTER,
Commanding-in-Chief, East African Force.
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