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Imperialism | Colonial Policy


Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by the German Colonial Society, 1918, The War in Deutsch-Ostafrika

The War in Deutsch-Ostafrika.

(p.22) The war brought all the more difficulties for Deutsch-Ostafrika, as, with the completion of the railroad Daressalam-Lake Tanganyika it went throught a phase of new economic development. The exposition in Daressalam planned for summer 1914 should express to the outside the great hopes the protectorate's inhabitants invested in her further development.
In the country there were the Schutytruppe with 2540 indigenous soldiers and 216 white officers and NCOs, as well as the police force with 2140 coloureds and 45 police officers. To these a number of reservists have to be added, which, in return for the obligation to join the troops immediately when called upon, received a kind of 'waiting pay'. At the East African fleet station was, except the small survey boat Möwe, without combat value, only the small cruiser Königsberg. In the protectorate there were c. 3000 Germans fit for military service, including the crew of the steamers of the Ostafrika Line lying in the ports.
These forces were faced by about 3000 men coloured soldiers in British East Africa, under c. 70 officers. In Zanzibar lay 400 men coloured troops, in Uganda 2000 black troops with 40 whites, in British Nyasaland c. 1000 men. To these were added Indian troops shipped in immediately after the war broke out.
When war broke out, Belgium disposed over 16,500 men of black troops, and of 320 whites. Britain had several large steamers on Lake Victoria, while Germany only had steam pinnaces. On Lake Tanganyika the proportion of Belgians and Germans was about even. On Lake Nyasa the German administration, at the time the war broke out, was caught at an unfortunate moment as the sole German steamer "Hermann von Wißmann" had been pulled ashore for repair works.
As, of course, in the moment the war began, all supplies were cut off, the land found itself in the situation of a besieged fortress, with the exception that in the south in bordered on a country which officially was still neutral, the Portuguese colony of Mocambique. In fact, Portugal did not pursue a policy of neutrality in Mocambique, but supported Britain by permitting it to transfer troops through Portuguese territory, and by other means.
Official reports about British war actions arrived in Daressalam in the morning of August 4th. No steps were undertaken to defend the open town, except the blockade of the narrow port inlet by sinking the swimming dock. 
Already on August 8th British cruisers arrived off Daressalam and took the radio telegraph tower under fire; it then has been taken down by the Germans. On August 17th the British cruiser Pegasus abducted German merchant steamers lying in the port of Tanga. On August 23rd the same warship bombarded Bagamoyo, which was undefended. On August 13th the Britons had taken (p.23) the steamer "Hermann von Wißmann", which had been pulled ashore for repairs, and taken prisoner captain and crew, which were not informed of the outbreak of the war. The hostile actions undertaken against all regulations of the Congo Act now forced the German administration to act. By the call for volunteers was responded beyond expectations, and by the formation of an Arab auxiliary detachment the active force was strengthened, and already on August 15th, under the command of the old Ostafrikaner von Prince took the British Taveta east of the Kilimandscharo. In the succeeding weeks repeatedly clashes occurred an the border to British East Africa, as well as on the southwestern border with British Rhodesia. While British forces occupied the Buddu district to the north of the Kagera, a German detachment advanced along the eastern shore of Lake Victoria against Kisumu, the terminal of the Uganda Railroad. In the protectorate's northwest, German detachments advanced to the north and south of Lake Kiwu andtook the Belgian station Ngoma as well as Kwitschi island. At the same time, on September 20th, the German cruiser "Königsberg" sank the British cruiser "Pegasus" off Zanzibar.
However, the cruiser "Königsberg" was forced to withdraw into the Rufiji estuary to protect itself against British warships persecuting it; here it was later destroyed.
A German attempt to march on Mombasa, despite several successes on British East African territory, unfortunately did not fulfil its plan. 
In the meantime the British had assembled additional strong forces from India in British East Africa, which, on November 2nd, on 14 transport steamers, protected by 2 warships, appeared off Tanga and demanded the city to unconditionally surrender. When this was refused, the ships departed, but returned during the night and disembarked troops. In the morning of November 3rd these attacked to the east of the city, but were repelled, pushed to the shore in a counterattack, and forced to reembark. The next day the entire force, ynder the protection of the warships which took Tanga under fire, was landed again, and attacked the city. They succeeded in getting close to the city and partially even into it. Heavy combats were fought near the railway and near the port pier, as well as near the hospital. Despite the support from its gunboats, which fired 15 cm granades at the city, the enemy was repelled everywhere by the German forces, which in the meantime also had been reinforced. On November 5th there were minor skirmishes, in the course of which the enemy was forced to withdraw to his ships. The total strength of the forces the British had landed numbered at least 8000. They suffered heavy losses. In dead alone, the enemy left behind 150 whites and more than 600 Indians. A large number of machine guns, arms, cartridges served to complete the poor equipment of the German force. In the skirmish at TTanga, the German side disposed of only 250 Europeans and 750 black troops. Unfortunately the conqueror of Taveta, Captain von Prince, fell in the victorious struggle. On the evening of the 6th the ships left the roadsted in northerly direction. At the same time the British attempted to cross from British East Africa into Deutsch-Ostafrika with a great force. This attempt was foiled by the skirmish at Mt. Longido on November 3rd.
On a third location, too, British forces were expelled from German territory. In the northwest the area to the north of the Kagera again was occupied, the British expelled from British Kisiba. Thus, Deutsch-Ostafrika was completely cleared of enemy forces, a fact unchanged by repeated artillery barrages on still undefended Daressalam at the end of November. 
At the turn of 1914 to 1915 the British undertook a second advance in the direction of Tanga, this time on land. Close to the border a heavy skirmish was fought on January 18th and 19th near Jassin, in the course of which the British lost 200 dead, while 4 companies were taken prisoner. Otherwise the enemy was content with taking undefended coastal places under artillery barrage fire.
In the interior, the British succeeded in temporarily occupying Schirati on Lake Victoria. But shortly afterward they were expelled again. In vain they tried to attack Bukoba on the western shore of the lake with ships.
1915 was a generally quiet year. The British succeeded in occupying the island of Mafia off the Rufiji estuary, but, after the defeats at Tanga and Jassin, they did not undertake any larger operations. Yet, after the concentration of strong forces they managed to damage the cruiser "Königsberg", bottled up in the Rufiji estuary, that much, that it was blown up by its own crew on July 11th.
Early in 1915 and again early in 1916 the German side succeeded in sending a steamer carrying war supplies to Deutsch-Ostafrika. Both ships were unnoticed by the blockade in the North Sea and at the East African coast, and effectively added to the poor armament and equipment of the German forces.
On the German side even offensive action was undertaken against British East Africa in 1915. Patrols succeeded repeatedly in reaching the Uganda Railroad and to temporarily render it unfit by blowing up bridges or destroying the rails (p.24). In order to pay back for the impression made by German attacks, the British attempted to penetrate on two locations. In the mid of July they sent 1600 men with artillery against the Kilimandscahro area, where they were defeated on July 14th. On the same day, behind British lines, the Uganda Railroad was blown up near Voi.
The second attack they undertook in June, mobilizing the strongest forces on water and land, against Bukoba. In the process they succeeded in destroying the station building and the radio telegraph station. But they could not hold on here either. The numerous defeats on East African soil had caused an aroused mood in England, which was amplified as the defeats had an inciting impression on the natives in the British colonies in tropical Africa. As the South African forces were freed by the capitulation of the South West African Schutztruppe in summer 1915, a large-scale offensive was prepared, in which the Belgian forces were compelled to join. The second half of 1915 passed with speedy preparations. Numerous armed automobiles were brought in; in British East Africa strategical railroads were built, leading to the border, simultaneously the South African forces were enlarged by exerting more or less pressure. General Smith-Dorrien was appointed commander-in-chief of the British force consisting of white South African troops and black troops. He never took that office and got only as far as Cape Town. The formal and factual command lay, on the British side, with the South African minister of war, General Smuts.
On the Belgian side, too, strong preparations were made. A large steamer was brought to Lake Tanganyika, European troops, BCOs and officers ordered to move to the African theatre of war, a number of airplanes brought in; the German side had nothing to place against this.
The German commander von Lettow-Vorbeck had taken position between Taveta and Rombo, to await the enemy's advance from the east against Taveta, and from the north over Mt. Longido. He had placed only a weak force between Kilimandscharo and Mt. Meru. On March 28th 1916 Smuts began his advance against this position, with 2 strong divisions. By circumventing the left flank, he forced the Germans to give up the position Taveta-Rombo and to withdraw to the Kivoto Mountains.

Here skirmishes broke out on March 11th, which endet with the withdrawal of the Germans, again threatened by circumvention, to the Ruvu Line near Kahe. After determined skirmishes around this position on March 18th to 21st, the British advance here came to a halt. The great losses they had suffered in men and transport animals forced them to refill their ranks. Now General Smuts decided to get a hold of the central railroad, by the means of a quick advance. General van Deventer, entrusted with this operation, succeeded in passing the steppe with his mounted troops in a quick advance, and, after a heavy fight, to occupy Kondoa-Jrangi on April 20th. Here, however, he was forced to halt for a long time; he even was repelled a little. His numbers of men and horses had been reduced, so that he had to concentrate to hold on to his position.
In June, Smuts could resume his advance in Usambara, and in a quick succession he succeeded in occupying the entire Usambara Mountain Range. On July 7th he entered Tanga, to proceed from here along the coast. In the meantime van Deventer had reached the central railway near Dodoma. From there he proceeded eastward and occupied Morogoro on August 26th. Daressalam could no longer be held against the concerted operations of the British fleet and Smuts' troops; it had to be surrendered to the British on September 4th.
The German defense, by this course of events, was forced to withdraw across the central railway to the south. 
Simultaneously with the British, the Belgians had begun their offensive. Thanks to their superiority in men and equipment - at times, British, Belgians and Portuguese had 150,000 men in the field, as opposed to maximum 15,000 men on the German side - until Hune 1916 they could occupy the protectorate's entire northwest, an area of c. 25,000 square km. Their advance was facilitated by the presence of armed vessels on Lake Tanganyika, which in the course of summer 1916 destroyed the German ships on that Lake. The Belgians now focussed their operations on Tabora, an attack they undertook in collaboration with the British who had landed troops on the southern shore of Lake Victoria. Two British and two Belgian detachments advanced from the northeast, north, northwest and west against the small force under Gen. Major Wahle who stood in the protectorate's west. After a determined fight, especially to the northwest of Tabora, the position had to be given up on Sept. 19th.
The situation became all the more difficult for the German defense, as the British took the offensive also from the southwest, from Rhodesian territory (p.26). They had occupied Langenburg and advanced northward to Bismarcksburg, which they took on June 10th. The main push, however, was in the direction of the Jringa region. After the fall of Tabora the danger was imminent that the troops advancing from the southwest could join the forces of van Deventer and thus prevent the detachment Wahle to join the main force under von Lettow-Vorbeck. Against expectations, Wahle succeeded to break out of the already completed encirclement, and to join with the detachment Lettow Vorbeck, which in the meantime had withdrawn in southerly direction beyond the Uluguru Mountains. After all coastal places had been occupied by the enemy by autumn 1916, the situation of the defense was all the more difficult, as Portugal by now had joined the war and Deutsch-Ostafrika now was completely surrounded by the enemy. The Portuguese temporarily had minor successes in Deutsch-Ostafrika's south, which soon were reverted. Several successful blows against the Portuguese created room toward the south. 
These successes did not alter the fact that the situation of the small band of defenders became more precarious every day. Cut off from all supplies, depending on what the land produced, facing an enemy who could dispose of all means of modern warfare, the troops under the leadership of von Lettow-Vorbeck again and again succeeded in repelling the enemy attacks and repeatedly broke through the enemy lines. In summer 1917 even an advance on Tabora was attempted, which had to be broken off because of the commander having fallen ill and being taken prisoner, a few days' marches off Tabora.
At the end of 1917 the remainder of the Schutztruppe was limited to the Makonde Plateau, after the previous main stronghold Mahenge had to be abandoned due to concentrated advances by the enemy. In the enemy countries the campaign was believed to be over, when von Lettow Vorbeck succeeded in the early days of December again to break through enemy lines and to withdraw to the south onto Portuguese territory. A number of determined strikes against the utterly disorganized Portuguese troops lead him, until January 1918, 300 km deep into Portuguese East Africa. Presently the struggle between him and British troops brought in from Rhodesia, Portuguese troops and those landed by Britain and the Portuguese East African coast, continues.
The same horrible treatment given to Colonial Germans in West Africa by the French has also been applied to those Ostafrikaners who were taken prisoner by the Belgians. It took almost a year until Belgium released those women and children who were taken prisoner at Tabora. Here again it became apparent that the entire colonial campaign had no other motive but the desire to destroy the German image and the German possessions on land and the population with all means possible.
Britain, too, respectively the South African Union, has extended the war, as elsewhere, in Ostafrika, too, on the civilian population, which for the larger part has been transported to India or Egypt. It can not be said in what condition the plantations are now, due to the lack of reports. In the protectorate's southwest even missionaries have been carried off, so that the number of Germans still living in the protectorate is rather low.
The Belgians, by treating the natives in the northwest of the territory harshly and inhumanly, have caused a native rebellion, in the course of which the reknown Watussi chief Msinga is said to have fallen. In the Tabora region also, at the end of 1917, the natives are said to have rebelled against the British and Belgians.

Source: Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch, (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by P. Sprigade und M. Moisel, Surveys and retrospects by Dr. Karstedt. Berlin 1918, p.22f

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Dokument in deutscher Sprache