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German Success in the East Africa Campaign

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  • German Success in the East Africa Campaign

    This thread is a spin-off of the African Fronts one, where attention seemed to focus on the success of the Germans in East Africa, so far without identifying the secret behind his success. This of course warrants a new thread


    To what factor would you attribute the German success in East Africa?
    • To the person of Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (PLV), the Prussian General Staff trained commander, who like a twentieth century Gylippus (search in 'Ancient History for details) worked miracles with inferior troops and seemed to be able to produce victory out of the most adverse conditions?
    • To the 'askari' who formed the lion share of the Schütztruppen in German East Africa? They seem to be ideally suited to the type of warfare the PLV is waging. These are seasoned veterans, raised acclimatised and partially immune to malaria, who can move safely and quickly through African terrain. in other words: it was the Germans who had to and did adept in order to succeed in Africa.
    • Is it a combination of the above factors
    • Another factor not mentioned yet
    • The whole theory is complete bollocks
    31
    The person of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
    38.71%
    12
    The unique abilities of the indigenous askari
    3.23%
    1
    The combination of the above
    54.84%
    17
    An other factor not mentioned yet
    0.00%
    0
    This is all bollocks
    3.23%
    1
    BoRG

    You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

  • #2
    Not to undermine the above postulation, but one reason why one could vote 'other' or God forbid, 'bollocks' is that you think the Allied opponents were second rate troops led by incompetents
    BoRG

    You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

    Comment


    • #3
      The troops sent in by the British and Commonwealth were not always first rate. Some of the Indian Army and Indian State Forces had not seen combat before. The South African troops were sent into a Malaria and Tsetse Fly belt. The Horses of course fared worse then the men. Then they had to face the Tanganyka Askaris. The only troops that did well were the Kings African Rifles. One group raised by the British did surprisingly well. They raised a Battalion of older troops (mostly over 50) that had been to Africa and been exposed to the diseases. They marched harder and further than the young European males who got sick.

      Lettow von Vorbeck used the British and other Colonials to arm and supply his men. The landings at Tanga supplied the Germans with machine guns and thousands of modern rifles and hundreds of thousands of cartridges. He mobilized his native residents to make cloth and grow food. This was done in spite of a Civilian Governor that insisted HE was in charge!

      Lastly for most of the first couple of years, the Germans had the use of interior lines and a good railway system.

      Pruitt
      Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

      Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

      by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

      Comment


      • #4
        Hello Pruitt,

        on some points I would agree.

        However the approx. 4000 Germans in East Africa suffered theoretically more than those almost 45,000 Boer's that went initially into this war - having already African experience - both in regards to guerillia warfare and diseases.
        The German Askaris were no different from being Black Africans as those almost 35,000 from the African Rifles.
        I haven't been to the bushes or jungle of East Africa - but is there a big difference to where those Indans came from? but AFAIK lot's of east Africa is not jungle but bush and steppe (Steppe in English? - sorry)



        The single track German railway proofed to be of good use in regards to sending troops to Tanga- but had no effect on fighting capabillity. And AFAIK that rail was already in British hands by mid 1915.



        Regards
        Kruska.
        Attached Files

        Comment


        • #5
          Krushka,

          The terrain is not what you see on TV. Much of the fighting was done in thick brush where the German Askaris could and did set up many ambushes. The vegetation was over head high. Up around Kilamanjoro there was even a bit of trench warfare. Once Lettow von Vorbeck quit trying to fight "European", he gave the British fits.

          All he really had to do is bloody the British and keep moving ahead of them. The British troops would get sick and the draft animals would die. It took several years for the British to start relying on Black troops and manpower to move supplies. The Askaris even brought their wives and children with then on campaign! Some wives gave birth one day, cleaned the kid up, strapped them on their back and then marched off!

          German civilians were interned and lost their property. How were they abused worse than the Boers?

          Pruitt
          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
            Krushka,

            The terrain is not what you see on TV. Much of the fighting was done in thick brush where the German Askaris could and did set up many ambushes. The vegetation was over head high. Up around Kilamanjoro there was even a bit of trench warfare. Once Lettow von Vorbeck quit trying to fight "European", he gave the British fits.

            All he really had to do is bloody the British and keep moving ahead of them. The British troops would get sick and the draft animals would die. It took several years for the British to start relying on Black troops and manpower to move supplies. The Askaris even brought their wives and children with then on campaign! Some wives gave birth one day, cleaned the kid up, strapped them on their back and then marched off!

            German civilians were interned and lost their property. How were they abused worse than the Boers?

            Pruitt
            Hello Pruitt,

            Yes - off course a part of the fighting took place in the jungle - especially after 1916 - were L.v.V. moved in to conduct a guerilla warfare - since he could not have survived for long against overwhelming British forces in the bushland. However most of Tansania is AFAIK bushland - and most war photos I have, seem to document this.

            I did not forward that the Germans were abused worse then the Boers.

            I forwarded that IMHO, the Boers had previous experience in jungle and warfare in regards to Africa -which the vast majority of the Germans did not have. And as such the Boers would also have been more resistant to diseases then the Germans.

            Regards
            Kruska

            Comment


            • #7
              Kruska,

              The Boers had a lot of experience with Mounted Infantry warfare. They were not immune to the diseases found in Tanganyika. There are three different types of Malaria worldwide and I am guessing two of them are found in East Africa. West Africans are a better fit for the East African Theater.

              There are also other diseases that are not present in South Africa so much, like Encephalitis. This was spread by the Tsetse Fly and kills many domestic animals like the Horse. The Sleeping Sickness Belt extends to South Africa. The authorities used to kill off the wildlife to keep the line further away. The wildlife has some immunity and carry the disease.

              The terrain I was referring to was a thick Brush that was over head high in the higher rainfall areas. South Texas has a similar area where the Mesquite grows. Only very large animals can create trails in this Bush and the smaller animals can penetrate in fairly easily. The Askaris would every now and then stop, leave a machine gun or two and some supporting rifleman to stop British pursuit. Then once the British were confused, they would pull out and catch up to the main column. Once in the Short grasslands you describe, it would be easier to set a defense behind a river and wait for the pursuing British. The British were very attached to their artillery and it would take time for it to catch up.

              Pruitt
              Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

              Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

              by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

              Comment


              • #8
                I got a question in regards to the British landings at Tanga.

                AFAIK only two "old" british crusiers accompanied/protected the landingforce. Where was the S.M.S. Koenigsberg at that time?

                Would it be reasonable to asume that a Koenigsberg could have devastated the British landing force in addition to destroying or dissenabeling the two British cruisers?

                Regards
                Kruska

                Comment


                • #9
                  The German cruiser ended up in the Rufiji River Delta. That is about the only thing that could have made the landing worse. Lettow von Vorbeck did haul around several of the 4.1" guns they landed until they ran out of ammunition. The crew was the only real reinforcement that would reach LvV.

                  Pruitt
                  Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                  Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                  by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                    The German cruiser ended up in the Rufiji River Delta. That is about the only thing that could have made the landing worse. Lettow von Vorbeck did haul around several of the 4.1" guns they landed until they ran out of ammunition. The crew was the only real reinforcement that would reach LvV.

                    Pruitt
                    Hello Pruitt,

                    thanks - I am aware about the above - but do you know were the S.M.S. Koenigsberg was at the time of the British landings at Tanga?

                    Could the Koenigsberg have taken on sucessfully the two British cruisers -one of them was the Astraea. The cruiser "Pegasus" IIRC had already been sunk by the Koenigsberg on 20th of September.

                    Regards
                    Kruska

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Kruska,

                      The Tanga landings were on November 3, 1914. One would have to find a map of the ship's voyage or a diary. November 2, three RN cruisers showed up at the mouth of this Delta. The German cruiser had bombarded Zanzibar and sank a RN ship there, before running for the Rufiji.

                      Pruitt
                      Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                      Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                      by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Kruska,

                        Here is a rough time line of the SMS Konigsberg:

                        June, 1914- arrives in East African waters

                        July 31- slips out of Dar es Salaam

                        August 6- sinks SS City of Winchester

                        September 20- sails into Zanzibar and sinks HMS Pegasus

                        October 30- HMS Chatham finds her in the Rufiji Delta, HMS Dartmouth and Weymouth arrive.

                        The RN buys a seaplane and recruits the former owner to fly it. The aircraft flies to Mafia Island and is based there. Famed White Hunter Pieter Pretorius is hired to recon the Rufiji Delta. Pretorius captures two porters that are "persuaded" to show him where the ship is hid. Pretorius then finds the battery of torpedoes. Pretorius then maps and sounds the various channels of the Delta.

                        June, 1915- RN monitors Severn and Mersey arrive off Rufiji

                        July- first attack by monitors is driven off. Five days later, the monitors find the range and set the Konigsberg on fire. The 4.1" guns are removed and put in wheeled mounts. These cannon are bigger than any other cannon the British have.

                        The Konigsberg had to go up the Rufiji to refit. It could outrun the British cruisers in the area, but needed clean boilers and clean hull.

                        Tanga is on the coast west of Zanzibar. While the Rufiji is nearby down the coast, the three RN cruisers keep her in the Rufiji.

                        Pruitt
                        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Kruska View Post
                          I got a question in regards to the British landings at Tanga.

                          AFAIK only two "old" british crusiers accompanied/protected the landingforce. Where was the S.M.S. Koenigsberg at that time?

                          Would it be reasonable to asume that a Koenigsberg could have devastated the British landing force in addition to destroying or dissenabeling the two British cruisers?
                          Kruska, I always like these posts which put your mind at work

                          I gave it some thought and here are my reflections.
                          • IMO the Köningsberg would have been better employed by continuing in cruiser warfare and remain the scourge of Entente merchant shipping in the Western part of the Indian Ocean, causing the Royal Navy to over commit in this theatre.
                          • I can imagine that such piratical/maritime guerrilla behaviour would go against German preferred course of action, while looking for a decisive battle in the German navy was held as the preferred maritime strategy. (I covered this hypothesis, invoking Robert Citino's 'German Way of War' in some more depth in the WW1 thread 'African Fronts')
                          • I get this impression that, like the Peloponnesian War, we should consider the campaign in East Africa as a conflict between a whale and an elephant. The British' forte in this line of thought was with coastal warfare and they were content just to occupy a strip of land as deep as their naval artillery could cover. To go beyond would only weaken their position w/o giving them anything in return. The Germans (the elephant in this comparison) OTOH were equally content to remain in control of the hinterland, thus neutralizing the initial British advantage in heavy artillery. If the British dared to come out of their cover, would be met on far more favourable conditions. That could be part of an explanation why there was no rerun of Tanga.
                          BoRG

                          You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Jeroen,

                            The reason why the Konigsberg needed a refit was they had a broken engine part. On one of the main engines a piston-rod crosshead broke. The part could be made in Dar es Salaam, but the cruiser could not sit in that port while the part was made. It was easier to slip into the Rufiji and lie low until the part was replaced.

                            Reason two was the Konigsberg was down to only about 200 tons of coal. Since Tanganyika does not have any coal mines, it had to come from an outside source. If the cruiser had left the Rufiji and steamed away, there is no place they could re-coal.

                            The curious thing is the ship bringing more coal was captured by a Royal Navy ship that damaged its engine coming up on it. If they had just sailed away, the RN ship could have never caught them.

                            Pruitt
                            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hello Pruitt and MajorSennef,

                              thanks for the replies. Indeed it is just as Pruitt forwarded it - that the Koenigsberg was in no good situation to roam around the Indian Ocean due to coal - Dar es Salaam was no more option and Tsingtau was too far or had already fallen by the time the Koenigsberg could reach it.

                              As such - only by bringing up other vessels could it have replenished it's coal bunker.

                              That is why I was wondering that the Koenigsberg did not engage into a naval battle at Tanga, with a maybe good chance of scoring before having to be scutteled against an overwhelming force - which was foreseeable.

                              I am very surprised to hear about "three" british cruisers at Tanga. All the literature I cam across so far states two - one being the HMS Astraea commisioned in 1895. The other ship I am aware off would be the HMS Hyacinth. HMS Pegasus was destroyed earlier on by the K. The Koenigsberg was commissioned in 1906 and outclassed or out gunned the Astraea by far IMHO - the HMS Hyacinth might have been a tough nut to crack - but I am by no means some naval educated person.

                              Anyway the amount of ships needed to curb in onto the Koenigsberg was amazing. AFAIK it was 5-6 cruisers, a battleship HMS Goliath, two monitors brought al the way from England plus some IIRC 5-6 aircraft.

                              Regards
                              Kruska

                              Comment

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