A Polish cemetery in Tanzania – Really! and the outbreak of World War 1

Whilst most people were commemorating the outbreak of World War 1 on Monday 4 August, I took a bit of a break as events in Africa kicked off on 6 August in Togoland and on 8 August in Dar es Salaam. All going well, I should be in Kenya for a special commemoration there on 15 August, the day the first soldier of the war was killed in East Africa. Ed Paice, though, fittingly published a piece on the Great War in East Africa in remembrance of the conflict which began 100 years ago yesterday.

I turnedto World War 2 and a Polish cemetery a friend told me about on my last visit to Tanzania. Your reaction might well be the same as mine was, especially when you realise, if you know Tanzania at all, where the cemetery is – in a little village just outside Arusha called Tengeru. Had the cemetery been on the coast, or possibly even in Moshi or Arusha, it would still have been surprising but made more sense.

Nevertheless, it is this village of Tengeru, about 24km outside of Arusha, where the Polish cemetery dating back to World War 2 can be found. The camp was formed by Polish refugees who were fleeing from Russian occupation of Poland on the one side and Hitler on the other. About 24,000 (18,000 according to Kresy-Siberia Foundation) found themselves in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania with the biggest settlement being at Tengeru. They were en route to the UK, US and other destinations. This spot at Tengeru was apparently chosen because of its climate – this may well be, but it is not the easiest place to get to and there were other white settlements around the slopes of Mount Meru [this is going to require some further investigation in the British archives in due course]. Despite the challenge of getting to the cemetery, it must be acknowledged that it is a beautiful setting.

After the war, about 1,000 refugees remained in East Africa with a number remaining in the Arusha area. They contributed to the local community building schools, an argicultural college, clinic and other facilities – all of which are still used in some form today with the agricultural college being their main legacy. There is one remaining refugee, aged 97, still living in Arusha and when it comes time for him to leave this earth, he will be laid to rest amongst his fellow Poles in a little corner of Africa.

The cemetery is striking in its similarity to the Commonwealth War Graves. Most of the head stones look the same and are lined in the same way. Frangipani trees, a common feature of the German African graves, provide shade. The garden is tended by Simon Joseph who has taken over the work from his father who tended the graves for 32 years. He is supported financially by the Polish Embassy and donations from the many visitors who come to see this little bit of Eastern Europe in the heart of Africa.

No matter what war one talks about, there are always those who are displaced, and it seems fitting, that on the day when most people are remembering the horrors the declaration of war started 100 years ago, we remember all those who were and have been displaced from their homes due to the national and other localised conflicts.

Woody Allen and a WW1 ship in Africa

Who would have thought that Woody Allen would feature in a blog on WW1 in Africa? I certainly didn’t but in doing a search on the word Konigsberg, Woody Allen’s name popped up third on the search results. So, where does Konigsberg fit in with Woody Allen, I hear you ask? Well, according to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Woody Allen’s real name is Allan Stewart Konigsberg. And that, it appears, is where the link with Africa ends (other than his appearance in African newspaper articles and his banning any showing of his films in Apartheid South Africa in 1986).

The ship under discussion, was the German cruiser SMS Konigsberg which arrived in German East Africa (Tanzania) shortly before the outbreak of war was to sink the first British merchant ship of the war, the City of Winchester which had the season’s tea harvest, and HMS Pegasus which was being repaired in Zanzibar harbour. After one of the longest naval battles of the war, she was finally sunk in the Rufiji Delta but continued to plague the force in East Africa as her 10 ‘big guns’ were rescued and adapted for land use. One of the surviving guns can be found at the car entrance to South Africa’s Union Buildings in Pretoria, another is in Mombasa (Kenya) and a third in Jinga (Uganda). And, amazingly, there’s a record of what happened to some of the ships and items linked with the Konigsberg.

Kevin Patience’s account of the Konigsberg during World War 1 can be read here and if you’re in Lisbon on 14 July 2014, Christopher Hill will be giving a talk on The fate of the Konisgberg att he Great War in Africa Conference.

For readers interested in seeing what else is named Konigsberg, Wikipedia’s disambiguation page comes to the rescue.

So, thanks to Woody Allen, aka Allen Stewart Konigsberg, I’ve made a few more discoveries on the SMS Konigsberg and shared them with you.

The numbers game: how many men fought in Africa

Trying to work out how many men saw action in Africa during World War 1 has been rather a challenge as there is no one source which confidently covers this. The same goes for the number who were injured, fell ill or lost their lives. When an opportunity arose to concentrate on locating the various figures, I jumped at it and thought it worthwhile sharing with others.

The forces are split into where they originate from and then the theatre served.  The figures have been listed to provide a more coherent picture of what information is available. If you have different numbers for any of the campaigns or forces, please share them as we know that accurate records were not kept by all administrations. It is hoped that in time these figures will be supported by the names on the ‘In Memory‘ lists which are being compiled by the Great War in Africa Association.

Overall totals are still to be determined, although a rough calculation using the figures below suggests that the British Empire contributed 846,026 men to (and from) the East and Central African theatres. An analysis of the results below will highlight some gaps such as female non-combatants (nurses, camp followers), medical staff and other non-combatant support services (YMCA) and naval forces other than those who served in the German Army in East Africa. Another group missing is the Chinese who were contracted and paid for their labour in East Africa. A clearer picture of the extent of the forces and numbers involved in the African theatres is definitely starting to materialise.

Brief references are included – it is assumed that most readers will know that Paice refers to Ed Paice’s Tip and Run, etc. However, “Statistics” refers to Charles Lucas; Statistics of the Military effort of the British Empire during the Great War 1914-1920 (available online)

British Forces serving in East Africa
Jamaica – total = 507
from the British West Indian Regiment which went to Egypt, 500 men and officers (300 1st battalion, 100 2nd battalion, 100 3rd battalion) were sent to East Africa. They joined the 2nd battalion West Indian Regiment of the Regular Army. In addition to the men above, there were 7 officers. They returned to Egypt in 1917.
Reference: With the Jamaicans in East Africa

Nyasaland (Malawi)
population at outbreak of war:
approx 1,150,000 natives (male and female),
799 Europeans (540 male, 259 female)
Fighting force:
267,060 natives (70% of population of military age):
9,819 soldiers,
125,194 carriers,
132,047 non-combatants eg labourers but not carriers
Losses: 3,001 combatants including
1,256 dead,
1,745 wounded ;
3,360 non-combatant dead mostly in the carrier corps due to disease and exhaustion
Reference: Sir HL Duff memoirs at IWM

195,652 – Porters/carriers/bearers
1,262 – Labourers
5,000 approx – special porters
15,000 troops were recruited
Reference: Geoffrey Hodges Carrier Corps

Nyasaland Field Force
455 – Total
158 – armed forces
180 – various capacities along lines of communication
51 – commissioned into KAR/NFF
Reference: Peter Charlton

British East Africa (Kenya)
Total population on outbreak of war:
25,000 Indians
5,000 whites
4,083,000 blacks

145,967 – Porters/carriers
16,611 – special porters
10,961 – casual labourers
14.6% = death rate
10,500 approx – Black Troops
Reference: Geoffrey Hodges

Zanzibar & Mafia
1,000 – troops
3,542 – total non-combatants
4 – gun porters
107 – medical staff
3,404 – carriers
27 – casual labourers
Reference: Hodges Manpower statistics

182,014 and approx 120,000 for Belgian service – Porters/carriers
989 – special porters
1,243 – casual labourers
10,000 approx – Black Troops
Reference: Geoffrey Hodges

776 – carriers (Hodges)
1/3 did not return home (Paice)

Sierra Leone
5,005 – carriers
9 – casual labour
Reference: Hodges

6,216 – troops
812 – gun porters
3,087 – carriers
Reference: Hodges

380 – troops
37 – carriers
Reference: Hodges

Gold Coast
3,976 – troops
177 – gun porters
204 – carriers
Reference: Hodges

population at outbreak of war – 315 million (Charles Lucas, Empire at war)
77,000 British and 159,000 Indians in Army at outbreak of war
1,500 British and 10,250 Indians went to East Africa in 1914
928 British officers
4,681 British other ranks
848 Indian officers
33,835 Indian other ranks
13,021 Indian non-combatants
Reference: Lucas (Statistics)

South Africa
population in 1911 (census): Total 8,973,394
white population 1,276,242

1,065 white officers to East Africa
29,558 white other ranks
18,845 coloured other ranks
Reference: Statistics

103 white officers to Central Africa
1,970 white other ranks
Reference: Statistics

South Africans to Egypt
76 white officers
1,244 white other ranks
1,962 coloured other ranks
Reference: Statistics

White South Africans to Egypt in 1916:
160 officers
5,648 other ranks
Reference: SA Official History of the war

Total South African losses for Africa (East, Central and Egypt)
2,361 whites died
211 coloureds died
1,374 whites wounded
10 whites missing
1 white prisoner
99 Union Imperial Service details (it’s not clear who these are as they should be included in the numbers above and France as all, other than GSWA, were Imperial service troops)
Reference: Statistics

South Africans served in German South West Africa 1914-1915
43,402 whites including 3,397 in administrative roles
295 whites died
318 whites wounded
Reference: statistics and Official History

South Africans who rebelled in 1914 = 11,472 of which some 52 joined the German forces
190 rebels were killed
300-350 rebels wounded
30,000 loyal South Africans, of which
132 loyal South Africans killed or died of wounds
242 loyal South Africans wounded
Reference: SA Official History of the war

7,267 coloured South African troops remained in South Africa
Reference: Statistics

Southern Rhodesia
30,000 approx – white population
750,000 approx – black population
550 whites
600 Black
850 – European reserve
525 white men served in South West Africa
500 white men served in East Africa
Reference: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/366822.html

Northern Rhodesia
2,000 approx – white population on outbreak of war
850,000 approx – black population on outbreak of war
Reference: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/366822.html

Total British troops – 126,972 (Reference: Paice)
Deaths: 11,189
total including deaths, missing, wounded etc = over 22,000
Total British carriers – over 1million of whom no fewer than 95,000 died (includes 41,000 carriers recruited in GEA) (Paice)

187,369 non-combatants (excluding black and Indian)
397 white officers and 9,051 white other ranks killed/died
480 white officers and 7,294 white other ranks wounded
30 white officers and 911 white other ranks missing and prisoner
286 Indians killed
Other numbers should be visible in an original copy
Reference: Statistics

1,297 white officers in King’s African Rifles
1,916 white NCOs in King’s African Rifles
29,137 black soldiers in King’s African Rifles
Reference: Statistics

Belgian Congo
West Africa
570 Congolese soldiers support French troops against Cameroons

East Africa
1,415 Congolese
55 Europeans
support the British in Katanga from June to November 1915

719 officers
11,698 soldiers
invade Rwanda in 1916

over 260,000 bearers are recruited over the course of the war of which 20,000 accompany the soldiers all the way of which 6,600 lose their lives
no numbers are kept of the other bearers who lost their lives
Reference: Belgian Royal Military Museum Lisolo na Bisu 1885-1960: our history – the Congolese soldier of the Force Publique (2010)

over 260,000 bearers are recruited over the course of the war
of which 20,000 accompany the soldiers all the way of which 6,600 lose their lives
no numbers are kept of the other bearers who lost their lives

East Africa – before Portugal declared war in 1917, the country sent out 1,527 men from Portugal to protect the colony.
3,000 approx – 10 native companies each with 250 native soldiers and at least 4 Europeans and 3 batteries (no numbers quoted. These consisted of black and white)
Reference: Peter Abbott Armies in East Africa 1914-1918

19,438 – Total number of men and officers sent from Portugal to East Africa during the war
Deaths – suggests 1/2 the number Correira does below; Correira’s breakdown is more recent
8,000 approx – Levies
60,000 approx – Carriers service Portuguese troops and approx 30,000 service British forces = 90,000
Paice notes that records were not kept
Reference: Edward Paice

13,872 – Total losses East Africa
4,811 – dead
1,600 – disabled
5,500 – missing
1,283 – injured
678 – prisoners
2,133 – Total losses Angola
818 – dead
683 – disabled
200 – missing
372 – injured
68 – prisoners
Reference: Sylvia Correira
The Germans who fought in Angola invaded from GSWA whilst the South African rebellion was under way.

German East Africa
3,526 – white males on the 1913 census
At start of war:
218 – European and German NCO (130 combatants)
55 – European officers and NCO paramilitary police
1670 – European reservists and sailors in port
192 marines from Mowe,
322 marines from Konigsberg

Total served:
2,700 approx Europeans
12,000 approx askari soldiers
losses: 20% died, killed, missing in action

2,542 – Askari (Schutztruppe)
2,160 – Askari paramilitary police at start of the war

6,308 Schutztruppe (soldiers) died, killed or missing in action
References: Boell & Edward Paice Tip and Run

Porters/carriers/bearers – 191,719
special porter – 44,031
casual labourer – 125,817
Reference: Geoffrey Hodges

8 – casual labourers serving in British forces (Hodges)

German South West Africa
Population in 1912 = 14,816 Europeans of whom 9,046 were of military age
Native population = 80,900

Germans surrendered: 204 officers and 3,166 other ranks
Reference: Official History

West Africa
Combined West African force: 4,300 black troops (Gold Coast/Ghana = 800 civil police, 320 Northern Province constabulary, 400 Customs Preventative Service, 900 volunteer corps)
increased to 9,700 including Indian troops
roughly equal French and British split
2,000 carriers and labourers
150 Senegalese
Reference: http://www.naval-history.net/WW1Battle1409Cameroons.htm & http://kaiserscross.com/188001/300143.html

See above for West African forces who served in East Africa

German forces in Togoland
800 armed police
200 German civilians

German forces in Cameroon
200 German soldiers
3,200 Black soldiers
Reference: http://kaiserscross.com/188001/207901.html


Building bridges

A bridge I regularly cross in Tanzania is Himo Bridge near the Tanzania-Kenya border. This is the new Himo Bridge, an older one can be seen to the left if you are heading towards Kenya and a little further on is the original bridge/crossing  where a battle, or rather skirmish, was fought in 1916 when the British forces led by Jan Smuts pushed the Germans back on Moshi.

Bridges played a very important part in the campaign in East Africa as there were many ravines and rivers to cross. Apart from the bridges such as the one at Himo, the four major railway lines in East Africa at the time were feats of engineering as can be discovered in The man-eaters of Tsavo by JH Patterson. Harry Fecitt discusses some of the early struggles around bridges in his article The advance into German East Africa.

For the advance party, destroying a bridge once they were across meant that those chasing were delayed as they would either have to rebuild the bridge or find another way across. The other way across water usually meant wading across which was not something you did light-heartedly knowing crocodiles and hippos frequented the waters. Otherwise it was rope-type constructions.

On other occasions, such as with the Lake Tanganyika Naval Expedition, there was no option but to build bridges to get the motor boats across the dry ravines. Seeing some of the photos of bridges, I often wonder what they would have done today as the number of trees which had to be cut down to fill the ravine was astronomical – and some 200 ravines, of different depths and widths, had to be constructed. Apart from the trees being cut, the number of men and man-hours it would have taken is beyond comprehension (as far as I am concerned). Yet, they did it and within a record time too. The best told story of this expedition is that by Giles Foden, Mimi and Toutou go forth, although a more contextualised account can be found in Ed Paice’s Tip and run.

I think I’m rather pleased I’m able to travel on the bridges we can today, although they do have their own challenges, as many who travel in East Africa are aware.

A meeting with the Unknown Soldier: Tanzania Day Service – 24 April

A special service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate Tanzania Day (26 April) was the catalyst for this first encounter with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Warrior, although being the body of a soldier from the Western Front, is completely fitting for the African campaigns. We will never know whether the soldier served in Africa, or any other theatre, prior to his demise in Europe.  French West Africans and British citizens of all colours from South, Central and East Africa served in Europe whole many from Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal amongst others) served both in Africa and Europe.

The Abbey being the church linked with the British Parliament again links with Africa, as although many of Britain’s decisions about Africa and the war were made by the Cabinet meeting at Downing Street, and the various department offices scattered across Whitehall, Lord Curzon ensured a debate or two in the House as little information of what was happening in East Africa was getting through to the British public. Josiah Wedgwood, Member of Parliament, served in East Africa for a short time in 1916.

Another fitting link is Parliament Square where statues of some of those most involved in the British aspect of the campaign are to be found. David Lloyd George who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister of Munitions and then Prime Minister from December 1916 was keen for the war to be extended to East Africa (and even considered offering the territory to America as part of the peace discussions). Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty involved in sanctioning the monitors which were to sink the Konigsberg and was in post when the Lake Tanganyika Expedition was approved. Churchill also offered to lead the forces in East Africa in 1916 but was overlooked in favour of General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. The latter only got as far as Cape Town before he had to turn back as his ill-health provided the opportunity for General Jan Smuts to be appointed commander in February 1916. A statue of Smuts is to be found on Parliament Square not too far away from that of another South African, Nelson Mandela. Although Mandela was only born in 1918, his being there is another Great War reminder – that of the porters, labourers and Askari who often went unnoticed in the historical accounts but who contributed so much to the successes of all participating countries.

It was therefore fitting that Tanzania had a special service at the Abbey, bringing people from all over the Commonwealth (Empire) and Europe together, linking the past with the present, sacrifice with celebration. It was also fitting that the hymn, Good Christian men rejoice and sing! (Gelobt sei Gott) was written by a German, Melchior Velpius (c1570-1615). And talking of the Commonwealth, it is appropriate too to remember today (25 April) those who were involved in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles campaign as Australia commemorates ANZAC Day.

Happy Birthday Tanzania!

Danish raiders in World War 1

A post-concert (JS Bach’s St John Passion in English at St Mary Abbott, Kensington) chat with viol player Jenny Bullock brought to mind the Danes and their involvement in African wars. Jenny was off to Denmark to perform the same in German over the Easter weekend.

I first came to hear about Danish involvement in the East Africa campaign when Bjarne Bendtsen offered to present a paper on the German blockade runners to East Africa. Bjarne’s papers are still to be published, but Harry Fecitt provides an overview of what the blockade runners did. What piqued my interest was that Denmark was supposed to be neutral during the war, so how did they manage this? Quite simply, the map of Denmark was slightly different to what we know today as Schleswig was part of Germany.

Some of the Danes who ran the blockades recorded their experiences which helped ensure the Danes have a place in the centenary commemorations of the 1914-1918 war years. Nis Kock’s memoirs Sønderjyder vender hjem fra Østafrika written in Danish in 1938 were used by Christen P Christiansen for Blockade and Jungle: From the letters and diaries etc of Nis Kock (1940). This is the only known English version. Knud Knudsen published Farht nach Ostafrika in 1918 and Anker Nissen, Sønderjylland Afrika tur retur: oplevelser som tysk soldat i Afrika under den første verdenskrig in1962.

To get a feel for what the blockade runners faced, The Wolf by Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen, although a novel of a raider, is highly recommended. And for something a little lighter and from the other side is Boys-Own writer Percy C Westerman’s Rounding up the raider (1916).

Many of those who served on the blockade runners remained in East Africa joining the German forces in their struggle against the Allies, although Karl Christiansen of the Kronberg (aka Rubens) returned to Germany through neutral Portuguese East Africa. Although the blockade runners (that is the ships) lost their lives, their contents was rescued by the Germans despite the British Navy’s patrolling of the coast. To find out what remains of the blockade runners, Hans-Martin Sommer has some of the story in his History of Manza Bay, 1915-1945

Previous posts concerning the Danes (in case you were wondering) are linked below.