London County Council in the Great War 1914 - 1918

LCC index

British Troops in Africa.
German East Africa.
German East Africa, immediately to the south of the Equator, has a coast line of about 450 miles to the Indian Ocean, extends inland for some 700 miles in the north and 400 miles in the south, and in area is about six times the size of England and Wales, with a population estimated at 8,000,000. The chief ports are Tanga (pop. 6,000) in the north and Dar-es-Salaam (pop. 24,000) in the centre, these being the termini of railways running north-westward to the Kilimanjaro district and westwards to Kigoma, which adjoins Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika. Tabora (pop. 37,000), 250 miles east of Tanganyika, is the chief town in the interior. A belt, twenty or thirty miles wide, along the coast is fiat and low-lying, but the interior gradually rises to a series of barren plateaux at a height of 4,000 or 5,000 feet. There are no roads, but only unmetalled tracks through the bush, dusty in the dry, and almost impassable in the wet seasons. Under the conditions of active service, malaria and dysentery are frequent, and the prevalence of the tsetse fly throughout much of the country makes horses or oxen almost useless for transport.

The enemy's force originally consisted of about 5,000 native troops and police, with a reserve of 3,000, all officered by Germans and under the command of General Von Lettow-Vorbeck. There were also some 1,500 European settlers. By energetic recruiting the total strength was eventually raised during the war to over 30,000 with 2,300 Europeans, the arms and ammunition for these increased numbers being chiefly supplied by the Konigsberg and other vessels which ran the weak blockade. Precise details as to our troops are lacking; they seem to have been fewer than the enemy at first, but at the height of the campaign were more numerous and better equipped.
They were, however, a heterogeneous assortment, consisting of British and South African troops and settlers, native troops from many different parts of India and native troops from East Africa, Uganda, the Gold Coast, Nigeria and even the West Indies. The languages spoken included English, Dutch, Hindustani, Swahili and several West Coast and East Coast dialects. Some had uniforms almost the same as those worn by the enemy, and, to enable them to be recognised, they were provided with the familiar blue and white bands worn by the Metropolitan Police or with red armlets bearing the letters G.R.
At the outbreak of war the Germans, being the stronger, took the initiative, seized Taveta in British East Africa and, until the end of 1915, frequently raided the railway connecting Mombasa, the principal port of the colony, with Nairobi, the capital. An enemy attack on Mombasa early in October, 1914, was repulsed, and our attempts on Tanga early in November failed with nearly 1,000 casualties. The whole of the campaigning season of 1915 was taken up with raids and counter raids across the various frontiers.

After several changes, Lt.-Gen. J. C. Smuts from South Africa, succeeding Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien who, owing to ill-health, had resigned on his way out from England, was appointed commander in February, 1916, and started a vigorous offensive. In March the German position at Taveta was outflanked and seized, the Latema — Reata ridge was forced and Kahe was captured. Kondoa Irangi was seized by General Van Deventer on 19th April. While a large body of the enemy was engaged in checking our further progress to the south of the latter place. Smuts turned south-east from Kahe, cleared the Usambara district and occupied Tanga and Pangani. Belgian and British troops by July drove the enemy from the district between Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, and at the same time Van Deventer reached the central railway at Dodoma. The Germans, who had retreated to a strong position in the Nguru Mountains, were out-flanked and driven south in August, on 3rd September Dar-es-Salaam fell and by the end of the month the coast as far south as the Portuguese frontier had been occupied. During the autumn the Germans under General Wahle were driven out of Tabora and nearly surrounded, but, with the loss of more than half their numbers, managed to break through and join the main body on the Mahenge plateau.

Our losses from sickness were very heavy. In one week in September there were 9,000 in hospital, of whom 4,000 were whites, and between October and December from 12,000 to 15,000 patients, mostly malaria cases, were evacuated from the hospitals along the central railway alone. The wastage among animals for two months from the middle of September was, horses 10,000, mules 10,000, oxen 11,000, donkeys 2,500.

In January, 1917, when Lettow-Vorbeck had been hemmed in in the south-eastern part of the colony, Smuts was recalled to take part in the Imperial Conference, and about this time all white infantry and mounted troops were withdrawn. He was succeeded by General Hoskins who, in May, was succeeded by General Van Deventer. At the end of the latter month a sortie to the north-west was met and driven back by the Belgians who, during the summer, continued their advance and in October drove a German force from Mahenge. Van Deventer, working from Lindi on the coast, defeated the Germans in several engagements in November, captured some 5,000 prisoners, and forced Lettow-Vorbeck with the remnants of his troops across the Rovuma into Portuguese territory. In 1918 the British, with assistance from the Portuguese, carried out active operations in Portuguese territory against the Germans, who sometimes made daring raids but more often fled further and further afield. One detachment under General Wahle returned northward into German East Africa and was captured. The main body eventually got into Northern Rhodesia and was there at the conclusion of hostilities when, in accordance with the Armistice, Lettow-Vorbeck was ordered by his Government to surrender.

G. A. Hogg (R.N., Tram.), gunlayer on board H.M.S. Severn, received the D.S.M. for his devotion to duty during the destruction of the Konigsberg in July, 1915. A. W. Henderson (R.N., L.F.B.) was killed by an explosion on H.M.S. Mersey which was taking part in the attack.


Cameroon was a German colony on the west coast of Africa just to the north of the equator. It has a coast line to the Bight of Biafra of 200 miles, extends inland for an average distance of about 400 miles and has an area of nearly 200,000 square miles, with a population of about 3 1 millions of whom only a few thousand are Europeans. Along the coast is a belt, 150 miles wide, of almost impenetrable forest, fringed by mangrove swamps; the interior is higher and more open. Incessant tropical rains, the absence of roads, and the dense undergrowth made active service very trying, and caused much of the fighting to be along the railways. Of these there were two, both running from Duala, the capital, one towards the east and the other towards the north. British Nigeria Hes to the north-west, French Congo to the east and the latter and Spanish Guinea to the south.

Duala was occupied on 27th September, 1914, and by the end of the year the districts along the northern railway and towards Edea, which was attacked along the partly navigable rivers Sanaga and Njong, were subdued by the British and French respectively. Early in 1915 an attack on Yaunde, to which the Germans had transferred their administration, failed, and a counter-attack upon our lines of communication forced us back. Heavy rains put an end to further fighting until August when a second attack on Yaunde was organised. Allied troops captured Sende on 25th and Eseka on 30th October. French troops at Bertua and "Dume and Belgian troops from the south-east co-operated, and on 1st January, 1916, Yaunde fell. Many of the enemy made their way to Spanish territory, isolated districts in the north were cleared, and by the middle of February all fighting had ended.