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German East Africa







The Rufiji River is the largest river in Tanzania with a huge catchment area comprising most of the south-eastern part of the country, which in turn receives relatively high annual rainfall.

It has several large tributaries (Ruaha, Kilombero, Luwego and Mbarangandu) and many small. The tributaries meet and pass through a relatively narrow passage, Stiegler's Gorge, before descending to the flat lower plains, meandering down to a large delta area vegetated by mangrove forests, and finally flowing out through several mouths into the Indian Ocean.

This part of Africa was colonised by the German imperialists through the force of military power during the last decades of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th and is known as German East Africa.

After conquering the anti-colonial resistance, the Germans wished to exploit the natural resources of the country and they made investigations of the navigability of the river, and also examined potential for irrigated agriculture, and hydropower production as early as 1904.

The leader of the investigation carried out in 1907, Stiegler, was killed by an elephant at the gorge, which was named after him.

Million-year-old fossils indicate that some of the world's earliest humans lived in Tanzania. But little else is known of the people who populated the region until the Masai, a fierce warrior people, moved in from the north and claimed what is now northern Tanzania. The area was colonized by Germany in the 1880s and then fell under the control of the British in the aftermath of World War I.



SMS Königsberg



In the upper reaches of the Rufiji River delta in what is now Tanzania lie the rusting remenants of the Imperial German Navy cruiser the Königsberg and its attendant fuelling coalship, the Somali. These relics mark the site of a curious drama that took place against the inhospitable backdrop of an obscure East African river. 



In the early 20th century the Rufiji Delta was very remote, very isolated, and the bush and mangroves very impenetrable. It still is. This was an advantage to the Germans who knew the river systems of the delta very well.


The story of the Königsberg inspired Wilbur Smith to write a book called "Shout At The Devil", which was dramatised in a film by the same name in 1975. Although probably not entirely true to life, the film is fascinating and portrays the cunningness of the German Navy in fooling the British as to the whereabouts of their elusive Battle Raider, and the British determination to seek and destroy her ... added of course, in true 'heroic' American Hollywood style, by a little romance and scenes of 'James Bond' activity.

I saw the film when it came out. It was described more as an adventure film starring some big white hunter, whose dare devil exploits in the film in single-handedly destroying this great battleship are of course fictious, but in real life there was indeed the ship and there was indeed a big white hunter and this is the true story ...


The Königsberg was one of a new class of fast, well armed, cruisers built in the years before the First World War. She was launched in 1906 and first served in the Baltic fleet, acting as escort to the Kaisers Royal Yacht Hohenzollern, before being laid up at Kiel in 1912.



In late 1913 the German Colony in East Africa, with its capital of Dar es Salaam, requested a suitable replacement for their elderly sail and steam corvette, the SMS Gier then on station. In June the following year a sleek powerful recommissioned Königsberg commanded by Fregatten Kapitan Max Loof arrived as a symbol of German naval power in the region.

The British Royal Navy squadron under Rear Admiral King-Hall, based at Simonstown in South Africa, could only offer three out dated cruisers of 1890's vintage, the Astraea, the Hyacinth and the Pegasus. The arrival of this modern warship posed a threat to the region's maritime trade, especially should war be declared. 

Towards the end of July 1914 with political unrest in Europe leading to war, the Königsberg, like her sister ship Emden in the Far East, prepared for a new role as a sea raider and left Dar es Salaam for the high seas, followed shortly after by her collier the Somali.

With the outbreak of war only days away, the  Royal Navy tried to blockade the German port but the Königsberg managed to slip away and sailed south for Mafia Island.

On 4 August 1914 war was declared.


On 5th August the Königsberg sailed north to the Gulf of Aden where she captured and later sank the City of Winchester, the first British merchant ship casualty of the war, after first stealing her coal.

On 8th August the HMS Astraea attacked Dar es Salaam destroying the wireless station and damaging port facilities, but more importantly the Harbour Master panicked and sank a dry dock across the entrance blocking in a number of merchant vessels. The collier Somali escaped as she had sailed earlier.

After recoaling at Cape Rashafoun, the Königsberg headed south to Aldabra Island in the Seychelles. She then left the Arabian Sea area and at the end of August took refuge in the muddy waters of the Rufiji River in German East Africa to await further supplies.  The HMS Pegasus was sent to search for her but failed to find her.

After two weeks sufficient coal had been taken aboard for an attempt to be made to return to Germany via the Cape of Good Hope with the intention of capturing allied ships en route for additional supplies. Meanwhile HMS Pegasus put in to Zanzibar to overhaul her boilers. 

On 19th September, the day of departure, Kapt. Loof received a telegram concerning the British cruiser anchored at Zanzibar some 150 miles up the coast. Not missing a chance to strike a blow at the enemy, the Königsberg left her lair and sailed over night arriving at Zanzibar early the following morning, where she sighted the armed tug Helmut patrolling the harbour. Shortly before dawn the crew of H.M.S. Pegasus were awakened by the sound of heavy gunfire as the Königsberg fired two rounds to scare off the tug.


Then at 11,000 yards the Königsberg opened fire on the stationary Pegasus. Out ranged and out gunned, the Pegasus was rapidly put out of action, and in a brief 45 minute bombardment the Königsberg reduced her to a wreck. She sank later that day with the loss of 38 lives. The Königsberg suffered no damaged.




The Königsberg then turned and headed south for the Cape, but within hours suffered a major engine failure and was forced to return once again to the delta. Her damaged parts were removed and taken overland through the bush to Dar es Salaam, where new items were fabricated by the railway workshops.  Meanwhile the incensed British Royal Navy were sending reinforcements to Zanzibar to hunt for her.


The loss of the Pegasus brought the full force of the Royal Navy's efforts to seek out and destroy the menacing raider and within days three large cruisers were searching the coastline for clues as to its whereabouts. The modern cruisers the Chatham, the Dartmouth and the Weymouth with Captain Drury-Lowe of Chatham in charge of the hunt. They failed to find her and could not understand where she had 'mysteriously disappeared' to.


The Königsberg was hidden up the river delta system where the dense bush and mangroves offering her excellent cover, even for a ship of her size.


And the Germans had set up a warning system of look out posts and gun emplacements around the mouth of the delta linked by telegraph lines to protect her against landings and small boat attacks.


On September 30th the Chatham was near the small offshore island of Komu when a shore party of armed men including Europeans was sighted.  A few shells fired from the Chatham caused the men to flee and a landing party found part of the German warning and supply network.


Documents captured by the landing party, and others which the British captured a few weeks later from the merchant/hospital ship, the Prasident at Lindi, indicated that the Königsberg was hiding upstream at Salale. 




On October 30th the Chatham landed armed parties at the river delta and captured some locals, who confirmed that the Königsberg and the Somali were still at Salale.

On November 1st the Chatham fired on the Somali at 14,500 yards and set fire to the ship, which burnt out and became a total loss. The Königsberg had now lost her only supplier of coal. She responded by moving further upstream, and deeper into the mangroves.

The British charts of the river delta were poor making the risk of grounding in the shallow delta too great for the deeper draft of the Chatham.  Two days later the Weymouth and the Dartmouth arrived. The Dartmouth was low on coal and moved closer inshore but the Königsberg was out of range. She had been moved yet again.

Thinking that she was going to make a run for the open seas, the British decided to blockade the cruiser in the delta by sinking the collier the Newbridge across the main channel.  She was escorted in to the river mouth on 10th November, while the cruisers bombarded the German shore defences. 


The Newbridge was then moved upstream with the armed steamer the Duplex to rescue the crew after she had been scuttled. The steam packet ship was armed with two 14 inch torpedoes and was to sink the Newbridge should the scuttling charges fail. Three cutters armed with machine guns and rifles ran as escort. 

As dawn broke, the German shore defences spotted the Newbridge and opened fire. The British returned fire, and 20 minutes later the Newbridge anchored across the channel, was scuttled, and her crew rescued.


Shortly after the sinking of the Newbridge, the British acquired a civilian Curtis flying boat from Durban, piloted by Denis Cutler in order to locate Königsberg with a view to bombing the ship.


The first flight on 19th November failed to find the raider ... the Königsberg was well hidden, and the aircraft was shot down.  HMS Fox was sent to Mombasa to acquire a Ford car radiator to replace the damaged one from the Curtis. 


On 22nd November the second flight spotted the cruiser and revealed that she had moved upstream again.  The seaplane was shot at and on landing was severely damaged but by 3rd December 1914 the Curtis flew again with spares cannibalised from another seaplane.  A week later the plane was shot down and Cutler was taken prisoner.  The aircraft was a total loss.




Map showing the movements of the Königsberg in the Rufiji River delta system.

The circled numbers indicate Königsberg's anchorages and the M1 and M2 the position of the monitors on the final attacks.


By this time the British were getting desperate and more incensed at being out-foxed by the Germans and needed someone who knew the area well. The obvious choice were the great hunters. The Admiralty in South Africa located the elephant hunter, P.J. Pretorius, and the British South Africa Company in the Rhodesias located Frederick Courtney Selous.


At the beginning of 1915 the British sent a RNAS Expeditionary Squadron under the command of Lt. Cull ... consisting of two Sopwith 920 seaplanes and twenty men. The squadron arrived off the delta on 20th February 1915. The planes could, in theory carry a pilot, observer and bombs but in the hot climate this proved impossible and during testing, one of the planes was wrecked.

The German supply ship the Reubens left the Jade to resupply the Königsberg but was sunk by the Royal Navy before she could do so.

In early March King-Hall arrived in the pre-dreadnought the HMS Goliath to take over the operation and to see if the 12 inch guns of the Goliath could reach the Königsberg.  They couldn't and the river was too shallow to permit the Goliath to get closer within range. 

Three additional decrepit Short Folder seaplanes then arrived which enabled the flights to continue to monitor the Königsberg as she again moved further upstream but they were totally incapable of carrying bombs. One plane being shot down with the pilot surviving.

Kapt. Loof had now received orders to send some of his crew to support the German land forces that were fighting in the area. This left his crew seriously depleted.



The delta was too shallow to permit large well armed vessels access so it was decided to sink the Königsberg using shallow water gunboats. And so the monitors the Severn and the Mersey were towed from Malta.  The two ships did not arrive until early June.


After a month of preparation, they entered the river on 6th July using the northern entrance whilst the Weymouth lead a diversion from one of the southern channels.

As daylight broke the German shore defences opened fire but were little threat to the monitors. About half an hour later the monitors reached their position and anchored near Gengeni Island five miles down stream from the raider. 

The Königsberg fired first, targeting via shore spotters, the monitors replying using spotter aircraft.  The German cruiser found the range rapidly but took nearly an hour to score her first hit, disabling the Mersey's forward 6 inch gun. 

To throw off the German fire the Mersey moved position, and just after she moved, a full salvo landed on her previous position.  A quarter of an hour later the British scored their first hit, knocking out one of the Königsberg's guns and then scoring another six hits in the next fifteen minutes.

The Königsberg now targeted the Severn, forcing her to move.  From her new position the Severn spotted the German look out post in a tree and knocked it out.  After that the Königsberg's fire deteriorated.  But the British shooting was poor and uncoordinated, the spotter planes having difficulty targeting for two separate ships, and after a further two hours of near stalemate the British withdrew, having fired over 600 rounds for only about twelve hits.

The next attack was set for 11th July, this time the spotting procedures had been improved with lessons from the last attack.  The Mersey was to anchor in the same position as last time as a decoy, whilst the Severn went 1,000 yards upstream.  Königsberg didn't fall for the decoy and soon switched target from Mersey to Severn, her shooting being close but causing no damage.

The Severn hit the Königsberg after twelve minutes killing a gun crew and during the next ten minutes the Severn repeatedly scored hits.  The aerial spotting was working well and the British fire was gradually "walked" along the length of the German cruiser.   One of the planes was hit by shrapnel and forced to crash land, the crew being picked up by the Mersey.

During the next hour the Severn repeatedly hit the Königsberg, causing several secondary explosions. The Mersey then moved past the Severn upstream and she too hit the German raider on a regular basis.  With so much damage being inflicted on his ship and all guns out of action Kapt. Loof gave the order to abandon ship and a scuttling charge sank the raider alongside the river bank.  The Königsberg lost twenty three killed and thirty five wounded.

Loof signalled Berlin

"Königsberg is destroyed but not conquered."


Her ghost lived on in the shape of her ten 4 inch guns that reappeared to shell the British during the land campaign, led by Colonel Von Lettow Vorbeck ...



Ten months had passed before the Königsberg 's destruction by the then revolutionary use of spotter aircraft in cooperation with surface vessels. Although not as successful as the Emden, the Königsberg had occupied the Royal Navy for nearly a year, tying up twenty ships and ten aircraft, and consuming nearly forty thousand tons of coal.

The Pegasus at the time of her sinking was outdated, slow and poorly armed. And even if she had not been surprised at anchor when attacked, she would still have been easy prey for the more powerful German cruiser.

Ships of the Pelorus Class were fitted with a variety of boilers to verify their performance. Their designed speed of 20 knots was fast for their day but by WWI their speed was reduced to 16 knots, while modern cruisers of that time, like the Königsberg, were at least 10 knots faster. All the ships of this class were due for disposal in 1915 had war not been declared.

After the war Commander Ingles, former Captain of the Pegasus bought the wreck of the Königsberg for Ł200 and salvaged a large quantity of non ferrous metal from her. The wreck remained in the river until 1962 when a salvage contract was awarded and her remains were cut up for scrap. Sadly, today there is little to be seen of her, other than a few pieces of metal in the bushes.

The Somali slowly corrodes away under an umbrella of mangrove trees, invisible to all but the keenest eye, while the Pegasus has now become a popular dive site. The Severn and the Mersey spent most of the war in East Africa before being towed back to the Mediterranean in 1917 and seeing service on the river Danube.

The largest relics of the Königsberg to survive are a pair of her 4 inch guns, one in Mombasa, Kenya and the other in Pretoria, South Africa. By a strange coincidence the Mombasa gun stands next to one from the Pegasus. Both had been salvaged from the respective wrecks and both were to see action against one another on land having fought a one sided action at Zanzibar.



Story in German



Kevin Patience, author of a number of books and articles on East African military and transport history, published Königsberg - A German East African Raider in 1997, which tells the full story from the launching to the present day, illustrated with numerous photographs many of which have never been published before.



(Shout at the devil) "Brüll den Teufel an"   Produced in England 1975 by Michael Klinger   Director: Peter Hunt   Storyboard by Stanley Price, Alastair Raid AND Wilbur Smith (The author of   the book)   Soundtrack by Maurice Jarre   Running Time: 148minutes   Cinema first night in Germany: 7.5. 1976 Free for People over 16 Years   Roger Moore as Oldsmith   Lee Marvin as O`Flynn   Barbara Parkins as Rosa                         Reinhard Koldehoff as Fleischer

The story: An Irish elephant hunter and his British friend make a "war" against a German colonel in German-East Africa in the year 1913. The story is true half-and-half, the movie is full with action and jokes. A good adventure-Movie with a little bit cliche and a horrorful translations. In Germany the movie has also two other Titles: "Rivalen gegen Tod und Teufel" /Rivals against Death and Devil, and "Zwei wie Hund und Katz" /Two like Dog and Cat

The Movie was not shown on the German, Swiss or Austrian TV channels, only in the cinemas, no Videocopy, no DVD.


The movie, in English, is available from Amazon Book Stores.   Buy this Video





from the book

Shout at the Devil by Wilbur Smith

ISBN 0-330-02440-X



I will not deny that this story was suggested to me by the action in World War 1, when the German mercantile raider Konigsberg was sunk in the Kikunya channel of the Rufiji delta by ships of the Royal Navy.


However, I will most emphatically deny that the rogues and scoundrels depicted in my tale bear the slightest resemblance to any members of the company of men that operated to the destruction of Konigsberg. In particular, I would strongly resist the suggestion that Flynn Patrick O'Flynn is based on the character of the gallant Colonel "Jungle Man" Pretorius, who actually went aboard Konigsberg, disguised as a native bearer, and paced out the ranges for the guns of His Majesty's warships Severn and Mersey.


I would like to express my thanks to Lieutenant Commander Mathers (R.N. retired) for his assistance in my researches. 



Why did Wilbur Smith feel it necessary to write this forward? None of his other books contain a forward.


His "disassociation" from the character Flynn Patrick O'Flynn and Colonel (Major) P.J. Pretorius seems to suggest that there was some controversy surrounding either Pretorius, O'Flynn, or the incidents either in the book, or in real life.


When you read the book, and then Pretorius's life-history there are remarkable similarities.



Shout at the Devil


Wilbur Smith Books & Biography






The East Africa Campaign ...

by Jan Christian Smuts (former Prime Minister of South Africa)

and his son J.C. Smuts



Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950)


When my father reminisced about East Africa, it was seldom about the war, but rather about the breathtaking beauty of parts of the country or of such homely matters as jigger fleas in one's toes. True, he did mention the building of the bridge across the river or the guns of the Königsberg, but he preferred to talk about the vast crater of Ngorongoro, of Kibo and Mawenzi, of the great craters Meru, Longonot, Longido and of the Pare and Usambara mountains. To him the interest and beauty of the country had transcended the horrors of war.


My father had with him in East Africa the famous Major P.J. Pretorius, one of Africa's greatest elephant hunters. I heard him recount to some friends once how he came across Pretorius.


In 1915 the German raider, the cruiser Königsberg, disappeared suddenly off the coast of East Africa, and it was suspected that it had taken refuge in the mouth of the Rufiji, but the Navy were unable to locate it. The first my father heard of it was, while he was still in the Union, getting a cable from the Admiralty, 'Have you an elephant hunter Pretorius in South Africa? We would like him for a special mission.' This was a bit vague and cryptic, but they managed to get hold of Pretorius and sent him up.


The Rufiji near its mouth turns into a vast mangrove swamp with huge overhanging trees, large enough to shelter even a cruiser. Pretorius knew the Rufiji well for he had hunted and farmed there before the war. It did not take him long to locate the Königsberg, hidden about 20 miles inland. So the monitors Severn and Mersey were despatched, and from a great distance, with the massive guns, knocked out the raider. After that my father made Pretorius his chief scout. He was an absolutely deadly shot and the natives knew and venerated him. Under him he had about 150 native askaris, and with these he used literally to live well behind the German lines and send in valuable reports. My father says he was worth a small army in himself.


The Königsberg was to be very troublesome for a long while to come, for the enterprising of Lieutenant-Commander Schoenfeld had salvaged her ten 4.1 inch high velocity guns. These were to be converted into mobile land guns and to outrange our own artillery throughout the campaign and to harass our men incessantly.




Since the outbreak of the war in 1914, British and German contingents had been skirmishing incessantly on the frontiers of East Africa. The position was unsatisfactory, but Britain had her hands too full in Europe to tackle this outpost campaign seriously, and waiting no doubt till South Africa had cleared up her troubles in the south and was in a position to help.


Under von Lettow Vorbeck the Germans had been more enterprising, and his small but efficiently bush-trained army had crossed the borders of Nyasaland and the Congo and were attacking the Kenya-Uganda railways.


In the second half of 1915 however, Britain was in a position to take the East African war more seriously and began sending out more troops. But even so, Major General Tighe did not seem able to get going and a naval assault on the port of Tanga proved a failure.


Beyond sending a few troops to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia the Union had not been in a position to send men abroad until South-West Africa was cleared up. But now the campaign in East Africa was being freely talked about and volunteers were being called for service there as well as to make up forces for service in Europe.


South African troops had been well paid in the South-West African campaign, but in these new campaigns they were to receive only the King's shilling per day. There was considerable pressure, especially from the Unionists and Labour to bring the pay into line with that of the other Dominions so the Government decided to make up the different to 3 shillings per day, though this was not to apply to the brigade for Europe.


It was an open secret that in the beginning of November my father had been offered the command of all troops in East Africa, but in view of the position in South Africa he had felt constrained to refuse the appointment. Whether this offer had been made as a compliment to his military achievements or in deference to the fact that South Africa would be supplying the major portion of the East African contingent, is not known. Britain might have been more pleased to see Botha in this position, but his absence from the Union was out of the question.


Early in 1916, General Smith-Dorrien was appointed. But on the way to South Africa he was taken seriously ill and it soon became apparent that he would not be fit for active duty. Once more the command was offered to my father and by this time he felt he could be spared and in any case he was tired of the bickerings of the political world and yearned for action. On 10th February 1916 it was officially announced that my father had accepted the command in East Africa with the rank of Lieutenant General in the British Army ... Britian's second youngest general. Brigadier General J.H.V. Crowe said that it was a bold stroke to entrust the command of these troops and the carrying out of the operations to a man 'who was not a soldier and who had practically no experience in handling any considerable force'.


On 19th February 1916 my father arrived in Mombasa but while on board the steamer he had heard that our forces had received a severe check at Salaita Hill. The natural strength of the German positions in East Africa was formidable. They started at Kilimanjaro and ran down a series of high mountains and big rivers to the coast. It was a land of dense bush, of mosquito, jigger flea and horse-sickness fly.


His own army was an amazingly polyglot one ... there were men from the United Kingdom, from South Africa, Cape Corps, Gold Coast, Nigeria and the West Indies, from Kashmir, Jhind, Bhurtpur and Kaparthalu, Boer settlers from East Africa, Rhodesians, Kings African Rifles native troops, Uganda contingents, Arabs, as well as Belgian and Portuguese troops. His staff he took over almost without change from General Smith-Dorrien. Some were highly-trained regular officers but most were just enthusiastic militant citizens.


I can here do no better than let my father describe the campaign himself ...


During the 19 months which had elapsed since the outbreak of the war before my arrival in East Africa, the Germans had on the whole been superior to us both in strategy and effective striking force, and it says much for the tenacity of our defence that during that period British East Africa was not itself overwhelmed.


The Germans, while entrenching themselves in our territory and successfully striking minor blows at us in many directions and unceasingly threatening our long railway communications with the coast at many points, wisely foresaw that the real struggle would come later, and devoted their attention mainly to the recruitment and training of a large native army under German officers. The word had gone forth from Berlin that East Africa, the jewel of the German Colonial Empire, was to be held at all costs, and the German commander, Colonel von Lettow Vorbeck, was the man to carry out this order to the bitter end. The initial stocks of guns, machine-guns, rifles, and ammunition were from time to time very largely augmented by several blockade runners, and heavy artillery was supplied by the Königsberg and other warships on that coast.


When I arrived in February 1915 with South African reinforcements to take the offensive I therefore found opposed to me a very large army, in effective strength not much smaller than my own, well trained and ably commanded, formidably equipped, immune against most tropical diseases, very mobile and able to live on the country, largely untroubled by transport difficulties, and with a morale in some respects higher than that of our troops, who, in inferior strength, had borne the heat and the burden of defence for the last 18 months.


Powerful as was the German's military force, the physical and climatic difficulties of the country added vastly to their power of defence. For 130 miles from the coast to the neighbourhood of the Kilimanjaro Mountain the German territory was protected by the high mountain ranges of the Usambara and Pare Mountains. The only practicable gap in this natural rampart was a space about 4-5 miles wide between the northern extremity of the Pare Mountains and the foothills of the Kilimanjaro, in which Taveta lies and in which the Germans had been entrenching and fortifying themselves. This dangerous gap, in which the main German force was concentrated, was the gateway to German East Africa and towards it my predecessor, Major-General M.J. Tighe, had been building a railway and laying waterpipe lines over the waterless Serengeti Plains. About 8 miles in front of the Taveta gap stands Salaita Hill on which our forces had made a disastrous attack.




This gap had to be forced at whatever cost. After spending a week in the most searching reconnaissance for the weak spots of the German's dispositions and in misleading movements and ruses, I advanced the bulk of my force by night against the German's left flank, took from them the foothills of Kilimanjaro by surprise and finally compelled them to evacuate their practically impregnable Taveta positions.


 There followed the series of actions at Reata and Latema Hills, at Euphorbia Hill, at Rasthaus, at Massaikraal on the Soko Nassai River, at Kahe Hill and station, and on the Ruwu River which, within the next 12 days, gave us complete possession of the entire Moschi-Aruscha area, and finally drove the German army after over the Ruwu into the Pare Mountains and down the Tanga Railway towards the Usambara Mountains.


The rainy season set in with extreme violence forced us to consider how the climate and the seasons were going to affect our campaign. It is impossible for those unacquainted the German East Africa to realise the physical, transport, and supply difficulties; of the advance over this magnificent country of unrivalled scenery and fertility, consisting of great mountain systems alternating with huge plains; with a great rainfall and wide, unbridged rivers in the regions of the mountains, and insufficient surface water on the plains for the needs of an army; with magnificent bush and primeval forest everywhere, pathless, trackless, except for the spoor of the elephant or the narrow footpaths of the natives; the malaria mosquito everywhere, except on the highest plateaux; everywhere belts infested with the deadly tsetse fly which make an end of all animal transport; the ground almost everywhere, a rich black or red cotton soil, which any transport converts into mud in the rain or dust in the drought. In the rainy seasons which occupy about half the year much of the country becomes a swamp and military movements become impracticable. And everywhere the fierce heat of equatorial Africa, accompanied by a wild luxuriance of parasitic life, breeding tropical diseases in the unacclimatised whites. Unseasonable rains cut off expeditions for weeks from their supply bases; animals died by the thousand after passing through an unknown fly belt; mechanical transport got bogged down in the marshes, held up by bridges washed away or mountain passes demolished by sudden floods. And in the face of this the German forces were fighting every inch of the ground.


In 1916, of the 58,000 troops, 50,000 went down with attacks of malaria. In 1917 the figure rose to 72,000 of whom 499 cases were fatal.


Continuous fighting took place all the way and every man who did not fight was occupied behind in bridge-building, road-making, and bush cutting. The Germans had effectively destroyed railway lines so the establishment of means of communication, the creation of sea-bases were tasks of great magnitude, involving time and prodigious labour, and requiring appliances which could not be secured in those distant parts. I found Mombasa our only sea-base in February 1915 and in the following July the occupation of Tanga and the restoration of that wrecked port and the railway from it enabled us to shorted our communications to the interior. In September Dar es Salaam had to be adopted and restored as our sea-base and again everything there had been destroyed. In October we commenced the preparation of Kilwa as a new sea-base from which big forces could operated south of the Rufiji River. There was a magnificent natural harbour, but absolutely nothing in the way of landing appliances or arrangements. While this was going on and the evacuation of the sick and wounded, General Northey with Deventer's assistance, was waging a grim struggle in the direction of Iringa against the German forces who had broken away from the Belgian and British columns in the Tabora area. The retreat of the Germans impinged violently against Northey's lines of communication and broke them in places. On January 1st 1917 I moved southwards to the Rufiji while General Hoskins, who was based at Kilwa, moved northwest in order to enclose the German forces there, or to compel their retreat to the southern frontier of the colony. Once again it was proved to us that in the African bush, with its limited visibility, it is practically impossible to enclose an enemy determined to escape.


In the middle of January I was ordered to relinquish my command in order that I might represent South Africa on the forthcoming Imperial Conference and with deepest regret that I had not been allowed the privilege of finishing my work I sailed from Dar es Salaam to attend the Conference. After I left the heavy rainy season set in almost immediately and put a stop to our further moves, and the Germans were thereby enabled to retreat to the south. The advance was vigorously resumed in June by van Deventer and by December the bulk of the German forces had been captured. However the remnants in the field had retired over the Rovuma River into Portuguese East Africa. Von Lettow was still at large, and using the vastness of Africa for his elusive guerrilla tactics. He was never captured and surrendered voluntarily upon hearing of the armistices.


Before concluding my father pays tribute to the German commander and point out the significance of the East African campaign ...


The German's stubborn defence of their last colony is not only a great tribute to the military qualities of General von Lettow, but is proof of the supreme importance attached by the German Imperial Government to this African colony, both as an economic asset and as a strategic point of departure for the establishment of the future Central African Empire which is a cardinal feature in the Pan-Germanic dream. With German East Africa restored to the Kaiser at the end of the war, and a large askari army recruited and trained from its 8,000,000 natives, the conquest or forced acquisition of the Congo Free State, Portuguese East and West Africa, and perhaps even the recovery of the Kameroons may be only a matter of time. In this way this immense tropical territory, with almost unlimited economic and military possibilities, and provided with excellent submarine bases on both the Atlantic and Indian seaboards, might yet become an important milestone on the road to World-Empire. The East African campaign, therefore, while apparently a minor side-show in this great world-war, may yet have important bearings on the future history of the world. And it is to be hoped that our rulers will bear these wider and obscurer issues in mind when terms of peace come to be arranged at the end of this war.




In the 1930s my father attended a dinner in London in honour of von Lettow Vorbeck. It was a pleasant affair at which mutual compliments were paid. The design was also to improve relations with Germany. My father had always had a high regard for von Lettow, and thereafter they remained friends. He had hoped that after the war Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck might assume control of Germany but a petty indiscretion had put him out of the running, and instead Hindenburg became President of the Reich.


In the 1930s, from his distant vantage point my father saw those dark clouds approaching were no mere wisps of mist. All this signs of the approaching storm were manifest. Long ago, when von Lettow Vorbeck, the man whom he hoped would save Germany, played his cards badly, he had had misgivings about the future of Germany.  Von Lettow was young, strong and able, but Hindeburg was an old and tired figure head under whom things might slide dangerously. Adolf Hitler saw the weakness of the situation, and his great opportunity, and lost no time in putting his ambitions into effect. Hindenburg was no match for him ...




After the Second World War my father sent Paul Emil food parcels which were much appreciated. They corresponded on occasions, and after my father's death in 1950 von Lettow wrote my mother a most touching letter.





Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964)


Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was not one of the major commanders of the war, but in his own field undisputedly one of the best, whose skills exceeded many of those who achieved greater fame.

All his active service was spent in colonial campaigns, in the Boxer Rebellion and in the Hottentot and Herero risings in Germany South-West Africa. In 1913 he was given command of German forces in East Africa, and in January 1914 was appointed the colony's military commander.

From the outbreak of war he operated virtually without support, with never more than about 3,000 German and 11,000 native troops, but held at bay an Allied force of up to 130,000 men, proving him a master of irregular warfare.

The Battle of Tanga in 1914, often referred to as 'The Battle of the Bees', an amphibious attack launched by British and Indian forces, established the reputation of Colonel (later General) Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck by the manner in which he successfully beat off the British-led attempt to capture German East Africa.


Tanga was sited on a high plateau in German East Africa, some 80km from the border of British East Africa, and was its busiest sea port as well as being the site of the crucial Usambara railway.


Tanga was the subject of gunboat diplomacy resulting from a British warship preparing to fire on the port on 17 August but had been spared from bombardment by an agreement extracted from the town's population to refrain from initiating local aggression.


However the British subsequently changed their minds and ordered General Aitken to capture the German colony by landing at Tanga. And thus in November 1914 the first major action of the war in German East Africa had begun.


Something of a fiasco from the start, Aitken's force of 8,000 insufficiently trained Indian reserves (from Indian Expeditionary Force 'B') were preceded by the inopportune arrival, on 2 November, of a British cruise, Fox, announcing the termination of the August agreement.


Alerted by this and Aitken's openness in his intentions - no attempt at concealment was considered - Lettow-Vorbeck was able to rapidly and substantially reinforce the town's local defence contingent which initially was a single company of men.

Believing (incorrectly) that the Germans had mined the harbour, Aitken's force gingerly landed a few kilometres south of Tanga harbour without first having performed standard reconnaissance of the area. The next day, again without advance reconnaissance,Aitken marched upon the town.


The German forces quickly and effectively broke up the ill-formed advancing Indian parties and by early afternoon the fighting had taken on the nature of jungle skirmishing, occasionally being interrupted by swarms of angry bees which are prevalent in the East African bush (hence the action's nick-name).


Although numerically outgunned eight to one, Lettow-Vorbeck launched his own counter-attack on the evening of 4 November and the next day, backed by around 1,000 troops trained in the Prussian tradition.  Rapidly overrunning the hastily, and ill-prepared British positions, Lettow-Vorbeck's forces caused the British force to beat a hasty retreat back to their boats.


Lettow-Vorbeck gained much booty from the supplies left behind by the British in their hasty retreat, including machine guns, rifles and 600,000 rounds of ammunition.


The war in East Africa is often considered somewhat courtly and gentlemanly.  For example, after the battle the British met the Germans under a white flag and, over a bottle of brandy, compared notes and opinions of the battle, in addition to taking care of the wounded.

Later, when reinforcements from South Africa arrived, the odds against him made his task impossible, and he was finally driven into Portuguese East Africa, where for the final year of the war he led a guerrilla campaign with barely 3,000 men, which won the unstinting admiration even of his enemies.

He remained continually on the offensive, gradually working south, and in December 1917 invaded Mozambique, and advanced as far south as Quelimane (July 1918), invaded Rhodesia in the fall and captured Kasama, Zambia on 13 November 1918.

He officially surrendered to the British, having never been defeated, on 23 November 1918, at Mbaala, Zambia, and arranged for the re-patriation of German soldiers and prisoners of war before his departure for Germany in January, 1919.

At his surrender his company consisted of 30 officers, 125 European non-commissioned officers, 1168 native rank and file and 1522 carriers. Munitions comprised one Portugese gun, 24 machine guns, 14 Lewis guns and 1071 rifles. Up until 1954 four of the Maxims ornamented the Northern Rhodesia Regiment barracks in Lusaka.

Although he never had any chance of securing the German colony, in occupying so many Allied resources he more than fulfilled his duty, and was never defeated conclusively in the field, surrendering some 2 weeks after the armistice in Europe.

After his return to Germany he led Frei-korps against the Spartacist revolt, but his right-wing sympathies led to his forced retirement in 1920.His memoirs of his wartime experiences were subsequently published (in English translation) as My Reminiscences of East Africa.

From May 1929 until July 1930 he served as a deputy in the Reichstag, later unsuccessfully trying to establish a conservative opposition to Hitler.

When Smuts, his former opponent, in the aftermath of the Second World War, heard that Lettow-Vorbeck was living in destitution, he arranged (along with former South African and British officers) for a small pension to be paid to him until his death on 9 March 1964 at the age of 94.

Lettow-Vorbeck was a good friend of Karen Blixen, the Danish noblewoman who wrote the hauntingly beautiful book "Out of Africa" under the pen name Isak Dinesen.





Sketches: Adjudikant von Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck



Sources :

Photos of World War 1

Books :

My Reminiscences of East Africa

by P.E. von Lettow-Vorbeck Pub. London 1920 ... available from Amazon Books and review.

Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck and Germany's East African Empire

by E.P. Hoyt Pub. London 1981 ... available from Amazon Books and review

The World War One Source Book

by Philip J. Haythornthwaite Pub. Arms and Armour Press ISBN 1-85409-102-6 

Jan Christian Smuts

by his son J.C. Smuts Pub. Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1952





Steigler's Gorge where the great Rufiji river is squeezed through a narrow granite gulley named after a German hunter who was killed by an elephant here in 1907






Frederick Courteney Selous D.S.O. 1851 - 1917


Last of the

Big Game Hunters of Southern Africa


During World War I, Frederick Courteney Selous became a captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers stationed in East Africa. He commanded troops on patrol and against German forces along the coast of Tanzania and southern Kenya, from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam. The company's battles were few, but miserably hot and humid conditions forced the men to march through deep mud and disease-ridden swamps. By the end of 1916, after driving German troops out of the fortified village of Kissaki, only 60 of Selous's original 1,166 soldiers remained fit for duty.

In January of 1917, Selous and his troops encircled a German force led by General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. Outnumbered five to one, the Fusiliers were attempting to close a road and prevent the Germans from escaping. Selous was shot in the head during this conflict, a few days after his 65th  birthday.

Scottish born Frederick Courtney Selous is buried in the park that now bears his name.

The writer, H. Rider Haggard of Zululand, had modelled his characer, Allan Quartermaine, on Selous.

Lettow-Vorbeck so admired his adversary that he sent a message of condolence.


One observer wrote,

"If there ever was such a thing as a gentlemen's war, this may well have been one of the last examples."




A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa

Frederick Courteney Selous, Alexander Books, 1-57090-141-4, Adventure/Resnick's Library of Worldwide Adventure, $19.95

A narrative of nine years spent amongst the game of the far interior of South Africa containing accounts of explorations beyond the Zambesi, on the River Chobe, and in the Matabele and Mashuna countries, with full notes upon the natural history and present distribution of all the large mammalia. While Frederick Selous was first and foremost a hunter, he was also a man of many other accomplishments as well. He was a trusted lieutenant of Cecil Rhodes, a close personal friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, and a naturalist whose observations and writings were read by layman and scholar alike. 6x9, trade paper, b & w illustrations, 582 pages. Mike Resnick, series editor.




Major Philip J. Pretorius (1877-1945)

Philip Jacobus "Jan" Pretorius, was a descendant of the famous Boer Voortrekker general who gave his name to Pretoria, South Africa. He was a dark-complexioned man who looked more like a Somali or an Arab than a European. He rode transport for the British South Africa Company in 1893 during the war with King Lobengula of the AmaNdebele Zulu. Over the years he wandered over much of the Zambezi region, even penetrating as far as "King Khama's Country," modern Botswana. He lived in the Congo with Pygmies, fought cannibals, dug for gold, and most critically for his future as a soldier, became an ivory hunter and later poacher in German East Africa.

In 1904, he was arrested by the Germans for killing cannibals who were trying to kill him. After two years of imprisonment and red tape, he found that the German authorities had sold off his entire cattle herd of 774 head to favoured politicians for 150 English pounds. Several years later, when he had built his farm up again, he had to tell it to Hauptmann (Captain) Blake, a German officer. It was then that Pretorius became an ivory poacher -- to recover his losses.


At the turn of the last century the legendary figure of Major Hannes* Pretorius (aka 'Jungleman') roamed the wild territory of what is now the Zambezia Private Game Reserve in search of ivory which he found in abundance. In his autobiography he remarks, "Life is held cheaply in Zambezia. Feuds, punishments, barbaric rites, tribal wars, cannibalism, slave raids - all take constant toll of the population." He was not the only European in the area however.


A Portuguese desperado was ensconced on nearby Kanyemba Island which he had turned into a small fortress. On the run from both the Portuguese and Rhodesian Police he had killed several Askaris who had been sent to arrest him and return him to Mozambique for arraignment. He succeeded in ingratiating himself with the Chief, took several black wives and lived out his life on the river. The number of light-skinned locals still in evidence today is testament to his virility.


By all accounts, wrongly accused of complicity in the murder of Paramount Chief Chiawa, Pretorius was sentenced to death and left the area going north. Arriving in what is now Tanzania.

When WWI began, August 14, 1914, he was in German territory shooting elephants. A native patrol under Leutnant Wak almost captured him but left him wounded in both legs. He was picked up by friendly natives and carried across the Ruvuma to the Portuguese side of the river. He had to open the wound in his leg to let out the poison, but he finally reached Malindi on Lake Nyassa, British Central Africa, 26 days after being shot!

Months later, Pretorius went to the recruiting office in Pretoria, South Africa, but was flatly refused. They thought he must be a German agent. Weeks later, all this reversed. He was summoned to meet Admiral King-Hall aboard the battleship "Goliath." His mission was to find the German battle cruiser "Konigsberg," which was hidden somewhere up the Rufiji -- his old hunting grounds.

The British centre of operations for this hunt was 22 miles off the mouth of the Rufiji -- the island of Mafia. Pretorius picked six ruffians and kidnapped a couple of locals, to act as guides. They found the well-camouflaged ship, and after a few more trips back and fourth to get the correct bearings, even sneaking into the German camp to get the location of the accompanying torpedo boats.

Pretorius then spent the rest of the war behind enemy lines as the chief scout to General Jan Smuts, commander of the South African Allied forces. He distinguished himself in the East Africa Campaign and became a Major.

During the battle for Taveta, General von Lettow-Vorbeck staged a withdrawal action, badly mauling the South African infantry and the Second Rhodesians. But Pretorius' suggestion to cut off the water to Salaita worked. During most of his action, he moved like a ghost through enemy territory gathering information. He got so close to the Germans that one day, in a trench he thought was deserted, he was saluted as one of their officers.

Pretorius was known as "Jungle Man." He was so wary that he never slept twice in the same place while in the field. He had a sort of "sixth sense" and once he moved his dry troops (20 men) into the rainy night just before his camp was attacked.

The famous hunter and scout, Frederick Courteney Selous, was killed by a sniper when he acted as a replacement at the last minute on one of the missions planned for Pretorius. Obviously, he didn't have the same "sixth sense." Later, another man, van de Merwe, was taken by perhaps the same sniper out to get Pretorius, afterall he was by now a man with a price on his head.

Pretorius was indeed a thorn in the side of Lettow-Vorbeck throughout the war. He persuaded more than 2000 German territorial natives to revolt and fight for the Allies -- for which he won a bar for his "Distinguished Service Order" medal.

In his last engagement, he took the Tafel column on the Ruvuma river right under the nose of Lettow-Vorbeck. 4,500 of the enemy surrendered to the nearby General Hannyngton, commander of King's African Rifles, after Pretorius had managed to starve them into submission by his scorched-earth policy.

After the war, Pretorius returned to his adventurous life of big-game hunting. He was a pioneer in film making to record the charges of dangerous game, particularly lions, which he killed mere feet in front of the camera's lens.

When the farming community in the Eastern Cape decided that their elephant neighbours were unacceptable pests they hired Major PJ Pretorius to exterminate the animals. Over a period of 13 months (from June 1919 to July 1920) he shot about 120 Addo elephants. Visiting Addo on a recce trip, Pretorius concluded: "I soon realised that if there was a hunter's hell, here it was. . . . It was scrub, generally some 18 feet high and exceedingly thick. Once in the jungle it was seldom possible to see more than five paces ahead and the jumble of undergrowth consisted of thorns and spikes of every description. A terrible country." Despite these misgivings, Pretorius, clad in leathers against the thorns and armed with a .475 Jeffries Cordite Express double-barrelled rifle and a step ladder, set about his bloody extermination task. And he very nearly succeeded-leaving a token herd of 16 beasts.

In 1927 J.C. Smuts, son of Jan Christian Smuts, met Pretorius poaching elephants along the undefined Rhodesian-Mozambique border near Parfui, and again during the Abyssinian campaign the World War 2.

A very shy and modest man, he was persuaded by a good friend, Mr. L.L. leSueur of Johannesburg, to make notes of his fascinating life. It came out as "Jungle Man" in 1948, nearly three years after his death in 1945 at the age of sixty eight.

Pretorius recounted the story of this dangerous operation in the Rifiji in a book of his own, entitled "Jungle Man".

* The names Jan, Jannie, Johan and Hannes, Hannie are an abbreviation of the Afrikaans name Johannes. Johannesburg is also a derivative of the name Johannes.


Jungle Man

Major P.J. Pretorius, Alexander Books, 1-57090-054-X, Adventure/Resnick's Library of Worldwide Adventure, $16.95

The true story of the man whose life had to be toned down for the best-selling novel and movie "Shout at the Devil," and that was only one incident in this heroic African adventurer's life. 6x9, trade paper, b & w illustrations, 224 pages.







Olduvai in the Ngorongoro Crater is world famous for the archaeological discoveries made by Dr. Louis and Mary Leakey. The remains of more than 30 fossils hominoids were found at various sites at the gorge, including the skull of Australopithecus - Zinjanthropus boisei which is believed to be 1.7 million years old.

The Mangati people live in a very dry savannah region in and around Lake Balangida Lelu. They are of Nilotic origin and used to be great foes of the Masai. The Hehe people of Bantu origin live on the high plateau overlooking the Ruaha valley. This relatively high altitude (1500 to 2000 m) favours an agricultural existence. The Hehe were once feared by the slave caravans passing the region. And during the German occupation at the beginning of the century they opposed an attempted resistance by the Kaisers soldiers.

95% of Tanzanians today are of Bantu origin. The largest tribes include the Zaramo, the Sukuma, the Nyamwezi, the Makonde, the Haya and the Chagga. The Maasai and several other smaller groups including the Arusha and the Samburu are of Nilo-Hamitic or Nilotic origin. The Iraqw, who live in the area around Kartu and north-west of Lake Manyara, are Cushitic, as are the tiny tribes of Gorowa and Burungi; the Sandawe and, more distantly, the Hadzabe, are considered to belong to the Khoisan ethno-linguistic family. And there are Asian and Arabic populations, especially in Dar es Salaam, and a small European community of both expatriate and by decent.

The Zaramo who live in the area around Dar es Salaam between Bagamoyo to the north and Kisarawe to the south-west are the area's original inhabitants.



Tippu Tib

African Slave Trader




While slavery has been practised in Africa throughout recorded history, its most significant expansion in East Africa came with the rise of Islam, which prohibits the enslavement of Muslims. Demands of European, primarily French, plantation holders on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius also contributed significantly to the trade, particularly during the second half of the 18th century.

Tippu Tib, whose real name was Hamed bin Mohamed el Murjebi, was one of East Africa's most infamous slave traders, notorious for his ruthless cruelty. He was born around 1830 in Zanzibar and his father was a wealthy plantation holder from Tabora. While still young Tippu Tib began to assist his father with trade and soon came to dominate an extensive area around Lake Tanganyika that stretched well into present-day Congo (Zaiare). In 1887 Henry Morton Stanley persuaded him to become governor of the eastern region of the Congo although the undertaken was short-lived. In 1890 Tippu Tib left his base in the Congo for Zanzibar, where he died in 1905. He wrote an autobiography which has been published in Swahili, English, and German.



The Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater are often equated with wildlife and adventures in Kenya, but Kenya only has a small portion of territory 'attributed' to the Seregenti National Park, called the Maasai Mara.

The largest game park in Tanzania and Africa with an area of approximately 50,000 sq km is the Selous Game Reserve through which runs the Rufiji River. It was named after the hunter Frederick Courtney Selous who used to hunt in the area. In 1922 it was created to protect the wildlife.

The African researcher Keith Johnston (1844-1879), along with several others, including the hunter Frederick Courtney Selous, is buried somewhere in the Selous Game Reserve. The graves of 2 colonial officers who died in the 1907 Maji Maji rebellion lie next to that of Selous and at the Kilombero River are the graves of the soldiers who succumbed to tropical diseases during World War 1. During the War the German army entrenched themselves at Beho Beho and the ditches are still visible today.

Keith Johnston's grave has to this day not been found but is located somewhere near the village of Beho Beho. His companions cut his initials and the date of his death into a Mkuyu tree over the grave.

In 1880 William Beardall, who was on an expedition on behalf of the Sultan of Zanzibar, found Johnston's grave and when the German colonial official, Dr. Wilhelm Schmidt, saw the grave 1890 he erected a wooden cross over it. Schmidt spoke to authorities in London with a view of erecting a more permanent memorial, and after much negotiation, a large granite stone from Sweden was shipped to Africa.


It took 100 porters over a year to carry the stone to the Rufiji where it was inscribed and set over Johnston's grave. The Germans marked the grave on their maps of the area and maintained also the name "Johnston mountain", which Thomson had given to the nearby mountain Hatambulo (2,192 m). 


In 1897 the German geologist, Bergassessor Bornhardt, visited the grave on an expedition.  He determined the degrees of longitude and lattitude ... given as 7.38' south and 37.49' east.  He also picked also two branches of the tree over the grave, which finally reached the "Royal Geographical Society" on detours.  Afterwards the grave remained unmentioned.


The handwritten diary of Johnston made its way to the Scottish national library where it lay until it was finally transliterated in the year 2000 by James McCarthy, a Scot, who had a special interest in the piece of Scottish German colonial history in Mahenge, not too far from Johnston's last resting place. 


In 2001, Rolf D Baldus and Mike Shand, made a first futile attempt to find the grave. The administration of the reservation was interested to clear up and protect the area and add a further historical object of interest from this chapter in history.


Although they found the graves of the soldiers and Frederick Courtney Selous who had fallen in World War 1, and repaired them, they could not find Johnston's grave.


Story in German





In the late eighties the elephant population in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve fell from well over 100,000 to under 30,000 animals due to heavy poaching. Old bulls with big tusks became very rare, as they were the prime target of the poachers. Responding to a cry for help from Dar es Salaam, the Berlin government in 1988 launched one of its first wildlife conservation projects in Africa. After a set back when it was discovered that the bull elephants had become sterile, conservationists in Selous drew the local population into an economically viable wildlife project that has succeeded in combating the devastating poaching that previously plagued Africa's largest protected wildlife park. Around 1992 the population grew and the elephant population in the Selous Ecosystem is now well over 60,000 animals again and continues to grow.




Photos of the famous Stieglers Gorge cable car have appeared and still appear regularly in publications about the Selous.


It was installed by the Norwegian engineering company, who through NORAD was assisting Tanzania in various hydro-electric schemes. Following up on the original investigations carried out in 1907 by the German Stiegler and other representatives, NORAD in the 1970s planned the gigantic Stieglers Gorge dam in the 100 metre deep canyon where the Ruaha River and the Rufiji meet.


In 1904 the Germans had made investigations into the navigability of the River Rufiji, the possibility of building a dam for hydro-electrical purposes, and examined the potential for irrigated agriculture.The annual flooding of the Rufiji was carefully mapped and the Germans made a very valuable contribution in providing information about the Selous/Rufiji area.


Fortunately for the Selous the project did not materialise. It would have brought destruction to large parts of the catchment of the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve.

The cable car was used to transport small vehicles of the engineers across the gorge between the North- and the South bank of the Rufiji River.

The Norwgian engineers pulled out from the Selous in 1981, leaving most of their installations including the cable car behind. It fell into disrepair, and the last car is said to have crossed the gorge in 1985.

However, recently the Stiegler's Gorge Safari Camp has renovated the structure and the Selous Chief Warden, Benson Kibonde made the first official crossing of the gorge after nearly 18 years.


 Hydro-Electric Projects in Tanzania



 Keith Johnston

The Real Discoverer

Keith Johnston was on an exploration for the Royal Geographic society in Zanzibar with Joseph Thomson. Like all explorers of these times, the expedition was dogged by heavy rains and the inevitable malarial insects. Keith Johnston also succumbed to sickness and died.

The expedition carried on without him under Joseph Thompson, then a young geologist. Thompson went on other expeditions and gained recognition for his explorations along the Great Rift Valley around the Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro areas.

On one of his trips in 1883, he met up with the German botanist Georg August Schweinfurth who was making studies in the Bahr el Ghazal country of north Africa.

In the early 1870s Schweinfurth was exploring the equatorial districts southwest of the Nile. He also explored the notorius cannibal country of the Niam Niam which lay between the Nile and the Congo Rivers. Schweinfurth was one of the most healthiest and happiest travellers of Africa and never succumbed to malarial or dystentry. He wrote a book of his travels and nature finds called 'The Heart of Africa'. At one point he lost his stores and personal possessions in a fire which swept through his camp, including his quinine and chronometer. Despite this set back Schweinfurth carried on and never once got sick. For the remainder of his journey his literally counted his steps to Khartoum ... 1,250,000 of them!


Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann

The Real First Explorers




Explorations of Tanzania are usually attributed to those of the missionary David Livingstone, journalist Henry Morton Stanley, or Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke but in fact the first Europeans in the area were the missionaries Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann from Germany who arrived at Mt. Kilimanjaro in the 1840s.

Krapf was also the first European to see the snows on Mount Kenya. In 1851 he was attacked by robbers near the Tana River. The natives constantly tried and tested the two missionaries, who were trying to convert them to Christianity. The natives in turn subjected Krapf and Rebmann to their tribal customs much to the disgust and horror of Rebmann.

Krapt and another missionary, J.J. Erhardt, explored the coast between Mombassa and Mozambique and from information gleened from local tribesmen heard about a mountain range which they thought could possibly be the location of the fabled Mountains of the Moon and the great river that Ptolemy had mapped 150 years before Christ.

Although Ptolemy's map was considered a figment of his imagination, it inspired many explorers to find these mysterious locations.

In 1857 Burton and Speke traversed the country in search of the source of the Nile, with Livingstone and then Stanley arriving a few years later.

In the 1860s Anglican and Catholic missionaries began to arrive on Unguja, the local term for Zanzibar Island, and then in 1868 Catholic priests established the first mainland mission at Bagamoya as a station for ransomed slaves. Over the next decades the missionaries moved further inland as far west at Lake Tanganyika.

European explorers began to 'discover' and map large areas of the interior, principally by following established Arab/Swahili caravan routes.






 German East Africa

Were they any worse than the British?

By the late 1880s Britain had established a sphere of influence on the Zanzibar archipelago and along the coast, principally towards Mombasa in Kenya. And in 1884 Carl Peters, a German acting independently of the German government, concluded various 'treaties' with local chiefs in order to secure a charter for his company, the Deutsch-Oostafrikanische Gesellschaft (DOAG), or German East Africa Company.

These treaties were soon endorsed by the German government and delegated DOAG to administer the mainland. These treaties posed a challenge to Britain's coastal dominance which was temporarily resolved in 1890 when the two countries signed an agreement defining their spheres of influence and formally establishing a British protectorate over the Zanzibar archipelago. And in 1891 most of what is now mainly Tanzania came under direct German control as German East Africa.

Local opposition to labour policies and hut tax and other measures of control contributed to the discontent of the natives culminating in the Maji Maji rebellion of 1905 to 1907.




Chief Mkwawa of the Hehe was one of German colonialism's most vociferous resistors and is a legendary figure in Tanzanian history, particularly in Iringa, near which he had his headquarters.

During the second half of the 19th century the Hehe became one of the most powerful tribes in central Tanzania overpowering one group after another until by the late 1880s they were threatening trade traffic along the caravan route to Bagamoyo.

After several attempts by Mkwawa to negotiate with the Germans were rejected, his men trounced the colonial troops in the infamous battle of Lugalo and then launched another damaging attack on the German fort at Kilosa.

The Germans placed a bounty on his head, and initiated a counter attack in which Mkwawa's headquarters were taken.

Mkwawa escaped but committed suicide in 1898 rather than surrender to the contingent that had been sent after him.

His head was cut off and the skull sent to Germany where it sat until it was returned to Kalenga in 1954.

In addition to deaths on the battlefield during the Maji Maji rebellion, in which the natives believed they were invulnerable to bullets, the Germans were criticised for using the 'scorched earth' tactic as used by Kitchener in 1901 during the South Africa Boer War, to quell the rebellion. However the Ngoni, a tribe of warriors much feared by their neighbours, continued to wage guerrilla-style war on the Germans until 1908.



German colonial rule lasted until the end of World War 1 when German East Africa came under British administration and the territory was renamed Tanganyika.

This lasted until World War 2 after which the country became a United Nations trust territory but still under British administration.

British administrators introduced a system of indirect rule which aimed a promoting the establishment of indigenous political institutions and leaders but resulted in many local chiefs being replaced with those who were considered to be more amenable to colonial interests, intensifying discontent.

A rallying point for the nationalist cause came in the early 1950s when several thousand Meru people were forcibly expelled from their lands in the western Kilimanjaro area in order to make room for a dozen or so European settlers to establish large farms.

Tanzania is East Africa's largest country.





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World War I


How it All Began




United after the Franco-Russian war in 1870/1, Germany's power in Europe began to rise. Tensions were heightened by conflicting national ambitions, economic competition, and colonial rivalries. By 1914, Europe was divided into two camps ... Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy on the one side ... Britain, France, and Russia on the other. The alliances each made a pact that any incident involving one country would mean a declaration of war for them all.


The assissination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was that incident.


Germany took reprisal by invading Belgium, causing Britain to step in to help the Belgians. But this was not just a land war with trenches, machine guns, and troops ... and confined to Europe.


Britain had a navy, the world's largest ... Germany had a navy, the world's third largest ... and gunboat diplomacy, arising out of the 1882 incident at Alexandria, Egypt and that in China in 1900 involving rebels, meant that the war could be fought also from the sea.


Britain, France, Germany, and Italy all had territories abroad with goods being ferried between the colonies and their mother-lands. Shipping lanes were threatened and Africa once again became the focus of conflict. World War 1 had begun ...


Naval Operations 1914


Both Britain and Germany depended upon their fleets for the maintenance of overseas colonies and Britain was also dependent upon naval power to keep open the sea-lanes along which a great proportion of the nation's food and raw materials was transported.


Operations in 1914 were largely a matter of the elimination of German colonial possessions and the naval forces which supported them. The German maritime colonies fell quickly But German colonial naval support took considerably more effort to neutralize.


The Emden was dispatched as a commerce raider in the Indian Ocean and her exploits became almost legendary as she wrought havoc with British shipping until caught and destroyed by HMAS Sydney at the Cocos Islands.


The last element of the German colonial navy was the light cruiser the Königsberg, stationed in East Africa and, having made her first strike, she now posed a threat until  she was blockaded in the River Rufiji. Although she was finally destroyed in July 1915 she kept the British Navy on their toes and led them a merry dance to say the least.



The German Colonies during the War


In contrast to the rapid collapse of Togoland and South-West Africa, and the delayed collapse of Cameroon, the German colony of East Africa was by far the most difficult to overcome, partly because of the strength of the German forces and partly because of the German commander, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who proved himself a master at Guerrilla warfare.


The colony, about nine-tenths of which later formed British Tanganyika, was bordered by British East Africa (Kenya) in the north, Portuguese East Africa (Mocambique) in the south, and Uganda, Belgian Congo (Zaire), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) in the west. The chief towns were Dar es Salaam and the port of Tanga, both on the eastern littoral. From early 1914 Lettow-Vorbeck was military commander, and from July 1912 the civil governor was Dr. Albert Schnee.


The most important strategic feature was the Uganda railway, just over the northern border, connecting Uganda with the British port of Mombasa. Initially the British forces available to confront the Germans was only about 1,500 Europeans and 2,300 natives in Uganda and British East Africa combined, and the Germans were able to attack the railway and reek havoc without threat of serious counter-offensive.


The Kashmir Rifles


To reinforce the British presence, two Indian Army expeditionary forces were sent to East Africa: Brigadier-General J.M. Stewart's Force C ... to support the troops holding border between British and German East Africa, and Major General A.E. Aitken's Force B who landed at Tanga in November 1914. The Germans, reinforced by rail from the interior, beat off the assault with some ease, and Force B was withdrawn, leaving the most reliable units the 2/Loyal North Lancashire and Kashmir Rifles. The vast quantity of munitions they abandoned was an invaluable asset to Lettow-Vorbeck's isolated command.


Britain adopted a defensive posture, awaiting reinforcement, but Lettow-Vorbeck waged an effective guerrilla war against the Uganda railway, including a successful action at Jasin in January 1915, which forced Britain to divert more resources to East Africa, which was the German's main aim.


Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was nominated to take command of the British forces, but was prevented by illness, and command was given to Lieutenant General Jan Smuts from South Africa, whose forces included Indian and East African units and reinforcements from Britain, West Africa, and South Africa.


Despite a considerable numerical superiority, and an excellent leader in Smuts, British operations were rendered extremely difficult by the nature of the terrain and the unwillingness of Lettow-Vorbeck to engage in a major action, seeking only to evade capture and thus tie down the maximum Allied resources.


So successful were the Germans that they were able to manufacture what they could not capture, producing their own whisky and cigars, and utilizing the guns of the cruiser Königsberg to augment their artillery.


The Boer Brigade


Smuts planned an advance on multiple fronts, his own force and that of the South African Major General Jacob van Deventer advancing from British East Africa, amphibious forces occupying the coast and advancing south from Lake Victoria, the Nyasaland and Rhodesia Field Force advancing north over the southern border of German East Africa, and a Belgian force moving from the Congo to seize Ruanda and Urundi on the north-west border.


Gradually Lettow-Vorbeck was forced out of the highlands, but this supremely skilful leader could not be cornered. To escape destruction, he withdrew his surviving troops into Portuguese East Africa in November 1917 from where he continued to wage a guerrilla war for a year. When informed of the armistice and the end of hositilites, he surrendered his surviving 175 Europeans and about 3,000 natives at Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia on 25 November 1918.


His efforts had been quite astonishing. In a hopeless position, he had occupied the attention of some 130,000 Allied troops, inflicted great losses on them, and was still at large when the war ended. In many ways, it was the most outstanding performance by any commander during the entire war.


The German Troops


The German colonial forces were formed in 1889, with personnel from the army or marines, or volunteers from colonial settlers. Styled Schutztruppen, units were composed of German officers with other ranks, partly German including NCOs, and mainly natives, organised in independent companies of 3 platoons each, with their own transport. Companies were styled either as Feldkompagnie (FK) or Schutzkompagnie (SchK).



At the outbreak of hostilities in East Africa, there were 14 such companies comprising some 260 Germans and 2,500 natives.


Weaponry was rather outdated with some 8 companies being armed with 1871 pattern rifles using black powder propellant, far more conspicuous than the usual smokeless cartridges. Each company had from 2-4 machine guns which considerably outgunned the British in the early stages. In addition to the combatants, as with all forces operating in Africa, each company required about 250 native porters to carry equipment.


The British Troops


The British forces in Africa were a mixture of a limited number of European units, some volunteer corps formed from the white settlers, namely the East Africa Mounted Rifles and the East Africa Regiment, and native corps such as the West African Frontier Force.


The most important of the native units was the King's African Rifles (KAR), formed in 1902 by the amalgamation of the Uganda, Central Africa and East Africa Rifles, commanded by British officers and some British NCOs. These troops were dispersed widely at the beginning of the war throughout British East Africa and Uganda and despite their great qualities in bush fighting, by early 1917 there were still only 5 regiments in 13 battalions. In February 1917 the number was increased to 20 battalions, some being recruited from captured German askaris.


Having borne the brunt of the early operations in East Africa, the KAR continued to serve with great distinction.


In addition to the military forces, both British and Germans employed their quasi-military police in a purely military role.


The Neighbours


At the beginning of the war Belgium attempted to secure neutrality for the Congo, but after German incursions an army of about 10,000 was raised to participate in the East African campaign. The north-western part of German East Africa was administered by Belgium from September 1916, and in September 1919 an Anglo-Belgian agreement transferred most of Ruanda and Urundi to the Congo.


The protectorate of Nyasaland was virtually defenceless in 1914 until almost every Briton of military age enrolled in the Nyasaland Volunteers. After a minor German incursion was repelled at Karonga in September 1914 no further hostilities occurred. Defence was bolstered in September 1915 by 1,000 Imperial Service troops, and Nyasaland acted as a base for operations against German East Africa in which the Nyasaland battalions of the KAR were involved.


Portuguese East Africa, previously and subsequently named Mozambique, maintained a force of about 4,000 men. The first German raiding parties entered the colony early 1917, followed in November by Lettow-Vorbeck.


Administration of the Rhodesias (both Zambia and Zimbabwe) was still in the hands of the British South Africa Company. Military forces before the war consisted of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) - a mixed European and native force of 1,000 strong, and two divisions of the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers, about 1,800 strong. During the war, early raids from German East Africa were contained by Rhodesian volunteers, the BSAP and troops from the Belgian Congo. Rhodesians participated in the operations under General Northey launched against the Germans from Northern Rhodesia. The 1st Rhodesian Regiment was formed for service in the South African rebellion and the campaign in South-West Africa, and the 2nd Regiment served in East Africa; in all more than 6,850 European Rhodesians saw active service during the war, over half the total male population.


On the Mozambique frontier conflict with the Germans occurred as early as 24th August 1914 but engagements in the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique did not cause a declaration of war. Reinforcements were dispatched to these colonies and ultimately some 40,000 Portuguese troops collaborated with Allied forces in Africa against both the German forces and native insurrections.




South Africa just before the War


The Union of South Africa came into existence on 31st May 1910, exactly 8 years after the surrender of the forces of Transvaal and Orange Free State, which ended the great Boer War against the British.


It comprised the states of the Cape Colony, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony each with its own administration and a Provincial Council. The 1910 election returned the South African National Party to power, a new creation based on the Transvaal Het Volk Party, whose leader, General Louis Botha, became prime minister. Botha (1862-1919) had been commandant-general of the Transvaal forces during the Boer War and had also conducted a brilliant guerrilla campaign against the British until his surrender, after which he became devoted to the reconciliation of Boer and Briton, and remained unswervingly loyal to the British Empire.


He was aided by his defence minister, Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950), one of the greatest South Africans and was a superb Boer commando leader during the war and like Botha, worked for reconciliation and in support of British interests.


Among the Afrikaners however, there was still resentment against the British and sympathy with Germany, who had supported the Boer republics.


At the beginning of the World War, Botha and the National Party were supported by the English-speaking community and the disaffected Afrikaners backed James Hertzog, an ex-Boer general who had been justice minister until his anti-British sentiments forced Botha to drop him.


Immediately when Britain declared war, Botha undertook to maintain South African defence with local forces, freeing the 6,000 strong British garrison. And Britain suggested that South Africa occupy the German colony of South-West Africa, thus depriving Germany of two naval radio stations and the harbour of Walfisch Bay. Having coveted the German colony for so long, the South African government accepted with enthusiasm.


South African support for Germany


On 14th August 1914 Botha and Smuts assembled their military commanders and discussed mobilization, but immediately a rupture occurred. Senior figures resigned their commissions or declared open opposition, among them were: Christian Beyers (1869-1914) ... commandant-general of the South African Defence Force, Lieutenant Colonel Solomon Maritz, and Major J. Kemp.


On 14th September Beyers and the old Boer general Jacobus de la Rey (1847-1914) set out for the Defence Force camp at Potchefstroom in western Transvaal to assist Kemp who was intent on gathering anti-British forces and marching on the capital Pretoria to depose the government. However, driving to Potchefstroom Beyers and de la Rey were fired on by a police patrol and de la Rey was killed.


Maritz, who commanded the Union forces at Upington on the South-West border, had been in collusion with the Germans since mid-August, and on 10th October announced the independence of South Africa and declared war on Britain.


Botha immediately declared martial law and began to organise forces.


Anti-British elements gathered around Beyers in the Transvaal and around the old Boer general Christiaan de Wet (1854-1922) in the Orange River Colony.


As Botha dispersed Beyers' adherents, de Wet announced his intention of collaborating with Maritz, occupying Pretoria and establishing a republic. Kemp also set out to join Maritz.


However, most of the South African forces remained loyal to Botha, and the prime minister assumed personal command, holding English-speaking units in reserve so as not to accentuate the hostility between nationalities.


By mid December 1915 however most of  the revolt was suppressed. Botha defeated de Wet's 2,000 strong commando near Winburg, de Wet himself being captured when he tried to outrun the motorised columns on horseback, and Beyers was drowned attempting to cross the Vaal River to avoid pursuit.


Kemp and Maritz united in German territory and attacked Upington in January 1915 but were defeated. Kemp and most of his men surrendered and Maritz fled to South-West Africa and then on to Angola and Portugal.


Botha then resumed his plans for the occupation of South-West Africa, which involved an advance by 4 columns. The largest, under Botha, marched from the port of Swakopmund on the South-West African coast towards Windhoek and the three smaller colums, under Smuts, advanced further south ... 2 from South Africa and 1 from Luderitzbucht, another German coastal installation. Botha had overwhelming superiority ... 50,000 against 9,000 Germans and reservists ... and after a rapid pursuit the surviving German forces surrended on 9th July 1915.


Internal dissent however still continued, coalescing around Hertzog's Nationalist Party, but in the 1915 elections Botha's party won overwhelmingly and Botha remained in power. Although no difficulty was experienced in raising troops for service in East Africa and on the Western Front, Hertzog continued to urge neutrality and led the Nationalists towards the concept of a republic.


Smuts served as commander of the Anglo-South African forces in East Africa until January 1917 and then went to London to serve on the British War Cabinet where he acquitted himself with great credit. And when Botha died in 1919, Jan Christian Smuts succeeded him as prime minister.





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