Baron Eric von Otter won the Military Cross for taking Zuganatto Bridge...
At the end of the
Spring rains in 1916 British Columns under General Smuts pushed south down the
Pangani River and the Usambara railway line that ran from Moshi to Tanga.
One Column under Brigadier Hannyngton moved
east of the South Pare Mountains and then onwards down the railway, the other
columns turned more to the west to reach Handeni.
then ordered to also move to Handeni but to do so he had to capture an intact
road or rail bridge over the swollen Pangani River to his west. This task was allotted to 3 King’s African
Rifles (3KAR)and the King’s African
Rifles Mounted Infantry who were just north of Mauri.
Above:Mauri railway bridge, dropped by the Germans.
On 13 June 1916
the KAR Mounted Infantry were scouting ahead but as they approached Mauri, 15
miles west of Korogwe, the Schutztruppe rearguard Abteilung Kempner inflicted three
casualties. 3KAR moved up and reached
the railway bridge to find it demolished.
3KAR were now ordered to seize the Zuganatto road bridhe further east at Korogwe. The battalion crossed the Pangani by a villagers' foot bridge (a rickety swinging bridge and a few slippery tree trunks) a mile below Mauri on the night of 10 June, taking several hours to cross the fragile structure.
At dawn the CO, Lt Col T.O. Fitzgerald, decided to press on along the south bank with two companies that had already crossed the river.
The advance guard
met a 12-man Schutztruppe patrol at 0600 hours, one mile west of Zugunatti
Bridge. The enemy patrol dispersed
rapidly. Half a mile further on the
battalion came under fire from 2 machine guns and 25 riflemen entrenched either side of the bridge, taking 8 casualties, one of whom died
“A” Company and
half of “D” Company seized a hillock that commanded the bridge from 400 yards
distance and shot the Schutztruppe defenders out of their south bank trenches,
three dead bodies being found later.
A third company
came up to the bridge at 0700 hours causing the Schutztruppe to withdraw into
Korogwe. The wooden bridge had been
prepared for burning but the speed and
direction of 3KAR’s night advance had caught the Germans by surprise.
Above: The site of Zugunatti Bridge
today. An old pier support can be seen
on the far bank.The dominating high ground
can be seen in the background.
The capture of
this bridge was important as it was the only crossing point over the Pangani
that Hannyngton’s No 2 Column could use for moving to Handeni.
One 3KAR Signaller
was missing, believed drowned in the Pangani.
Charles Eric von Otter, 3KAR, was awarded a Military Cross for his actions at
“For conspicuous gallantry in action. In
face of heavy machine gun fire he carried a wounded man on his back across the
open to cover. He then returned to his machine guns, and silenced one of the
enemy’s guns which had caused many casualties.”
Right: Baron Eric von Otter MCHis Askari called him “Risasi
Moja” – “One Shot”, as that was all he ever needed.He died in 1924 whilst
serving as OC Troops in Turkanaland.
Earl of Lytton’s book “The Desert and The Green” contains an account of the
Zuganatto Bridge fight and detail on Eric von Otter.)