Tanzanian war with Germany

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Tanzanian war with Germany

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Mon, 03/03/2008 - 09:54 — raja4u

At the outbreak of the First World War the German authorities regarded the
osition of their premier Colony with considerable equanimity although it was
nevitably cut off from outside communication. It had been organized against any
ttack that could be made without those extensive preparations. For the first
ear of hostilities the Germans were strong enough to carry the war into their
eighbours' territories and repeatedly attack the railway and other points in
ritish East Africa.

The forces at the disposal of the German Command may never be accurately known.
ieutenant-General Jan Smuts at one time estimated them at 2,000 Germans and 16,000
skaris, with 60 guns and 80 machine guns, but this should prove to be below the mark.
he white adult male population in 1913 numbered over 3,500 (exclusive of garrison),
 large proportion of these would be available for military duties. The native population
f over 7,000,000 formed a reservoir of man-power from which a force might be drawn
imited only by the supply of officers and equipment. There is no reason to doubt that
he Germans made the best of this material during the long interval of nearly eighteen
onths which separated the outbreak of war from the invasion in force of their territory.

In his final despatch of May 1919, General Jacob van Deventer placed the German forces
t the commencement of 1916 at 2,700 whites and 12,000 blacks. Lord Cranford, in his
oreword to Captain Angus Buchanan's book on the war, writes, "At his strongest von
ettow probably mustered 25,000 to 30,000 rifles, all fighting troops", with 70 machine
uns and 40 guns. After eighteen months of continuous fighting, General van Deventer
stimated the enemy's forces at 8,000 to 9,000 men.

Cut-off from Germany by the British Navy Von Lettow made a virtue of necessity and
onducted a masterly guerilla campaign, living off the land and moving swiftly to
epeatedly surprise the British. The British, who deployed large numbers of Indian
rmy troops under Smuts, faced difficult logistic problems supplying their pursuing
rmy deep in the interior, which they attempted to overcome by the formation of a
arge Carrier Corps of native porters.

Another point bearing on the war and duly emphasized by General Smuts in his lecture
efore the Royal Geographic Society (January 1918), was the extraordinary strength of
he German frontier. The coastline offered few suitable points for landing and was
acked by an unhealthy swamp belt. On the west the line of lakes and mountains proved
o impenetrable that the Belgian forces from the Congo had, in the first instance, to
e moved through Uganda. On the south the Ruvuma River was only fordable on its upper
eaches. And the northern frontier was the most difficult of all. Only one practicable
ass about five miles (8 km) wide offered between the Pare Mountains and Kilimanjaro,
nd here the German forces, amid swamps and forests, had been digging themselves in for
ighteen months.

The Honorable H. Burton, speaking in London in August 1918 said, "Nothing struck our
ommanders in the East African field so much as the thorough, methodical and determined
raining of the German native levies previous to the war."

The force which evacuated the Colony in December 1917, was estimated at the time at 320
hite and 2,500 black troops; 1,618 Germans were killed or captured in the last six
onths of 1917, 155 whites and 1,168 Askaris surrendered at the close of hostilities.

 

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