In mid-1903 the British Government, having already spent
millions of pounds on three unsuccessful campaigns in Somaliland,
needed to maintain its prestige by producing a visible return to show for this
cost. A fourth campaign was sanctioned and a new theatre commander, Major
General Sir Charles C. Egerton KCB DSO, Indian Army, was appointed. Many of the troops used during the Third
Campaign remained in-country but notable exceptions were the South African
Burgher Mounted Infantry Company that returned home having completed its
six-month contract, and the Punjab Mounted Infantry Company that was disbanded. General Egerton was permitted to request
reinforcements from Aden and India that raised his force to a total of 6,400
men; in Egerton’s opinion the effective use of Indian Army units would solve
the Somaliland security problem and he had
little faith in Somalis. A political
limitation placed upon the General was that he was not to cross into Italian
territory without prior approval.
During the Fourth Campaign there was only one major land
battle (at which the Mullah himself was not present), a successful amphibious
landing, and a serious mounted skirmish.
However two Victoria Crosses were awarded for gallantry and at the
conclusion of the campaign the Mullah and his men were outside British
territory, and so victory was declared. This
perhaps was politically necessary at the time but it was a somewhat premature
Right: A 7-pounder gun of the KAR Camel Battery
Organisation of the British forces under General Egerton
The previous commander, Brigadier W.H. Manning CB, the
Inspector-General of the King’s African Rifles (KAR), was retained in theatre
as commander of the 1st Brigade that contained:
-1st KAR from British Central Africa (BCA), now Malawi (360
African Askari - half a battalion).
-2nd KAR also from BCA (600 African Askari and
Sikhs – a full battalion).
The BCA Indian Contingent (110 Indian riflemen employed by
the BCA government).
-3rd KAR from British East Africa, now Kenya (one
company of 100 Sudanese riflemen).
-5 th KAR
from Uganda (one company of
103 Indian riflemen in the employ of the Uganda government).
All the 1st Brigade units were already in
Brigadier General C.G.M. Fasken, Indian Army, commanded
the 2nd Brigade that contained:
-1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment (a
half-battalion of 300 British Army soldiers from Aden);
-27th Punjabis, Indian Army, (a complete
battalion, five companies from India
plus the three listed below);
-52nd Sikhs, Indian Army, (a complete battalion,
formerly titled the 2nd Sikhs and already in theatre).
A Moveable Column was commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel A. Wallace, 27th Punjabis, containing three companies of his
27th Punjabis and two companies of the 107th Pioneers,
Indian Army, (already in theatre).
The Line of Communication was commanded by
Lieutenant Colonel J.C. Swann who had under him his own 101st
Grenadiers, Indian Army, (formerly the 1st Bombay Grenadiers - the
half-battalion from Aden came to join the other half that was already in
theatre); and the 6th KAR, a Somali battalion commanded by Major
A.G.G Sharp, Leinster Regiment.
The artillery units did not change, but the two 2.5-inch
guns of the section of the 28th (Lahore)
Mountain Battery (Indian Army) were replaced by two 7-pounder guns, and the
section handed-in its mule transport and was re-equipped with camels and
purpose-made gun cradles and saddles sent from India. The KAR Camel Battery of two 7-pounder guns
remained in the field manned by Indian gunners from the BCA contingent. Other
similar guns of the Camel Battery were positioned in posts along the Lines of
Communication. To allow rapid deployment
when action was imminent all the mobile guns could be pulled in draught (and
the mountain gunners retained 7 mules for this task, as their camels could be
unsteady under fire). Lieutenant H.E.
Henderson, Royal Artillery (RA), commanded the mountain guns and Lieutenant
J.A. Ballard, Royal Field Artillery, commanded the Camel Battery.
The most noticeable reinforcement for General Egerton was
Mounted Infantry (MI). One British MI
company (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) was already in the field and two more
British MI companies and two Indian Army MI companies arrived from India, whilst a
second Somali MI company was formed, the 6th (Somali) KAR camelry being
disbanded in order to provide the horsemen.
The numbering and composition of these companies was:
-1st Company, British, from The King’s Royal
Rifle Corps (KRRC) and commanded by Captain G.C. Shakerley, KRRC. This experienced company had arrived earlier
from the South African War theatre. -2nd Company, British, mobilised at Fategarh, India,
from the Rifle Brigade, Norfolk
and Green Howard regiments. Commanded by
Captain M.G.E. Bell, Rifle Brigade. -3rd Company, British, mainly consisting of
officers and men who had just completed a MI course at Bangalore, India. Commanded by Brevet-Major J.R.M. Marsh, Lincoln Regiment. -4th Company, Somali, commanded by Captain T.N.S.M.
Howard, West Yorkshire Regiment and 4th KAR. -5th Company, Somali, Commanded by Major P.B.
Osborn DSO, Oxfordshire Light Infantry and 3rd KAR. -6th Company, Poona Mounted Infantry, six
detachments of sepoys from Indian infantry regiments. Commanded by Captain W. Mitchell, 124th
Baluchistan Infantry, Indian Army. -7th Company, Umballa Mounted Infantry, eight
detachments of sepoys from Indian infantry regiments. Commanded by Captain H.B. Ford, 31st
Punjabis, Indian Army.
The 1st to the 5th Companies were placed in I
(MI) Corps commanded by Lieutenant Colonel P.A. Kenna VC DSO, 21st
Lancers. The 6th and 7th
Companies were placed in II (MI) Corps commanded initially by Brevet Major J.E.
Gough (his VC was not yet gazetted), Rifle Brigade, and later by Major R.G.
Brooke, 7th Hussars.
The Bikaner Camel Corps of 500 mounted infantrymen from
the Princely State
of Bikaner in India remained in the field,
commanded by Captain W.G. Walker VC, 1st Battalion 4th Goorkha
Rifles. This excellent unit used the
Silladar system whereby the men brought their own camels or purchased them by
instalments from a regimental fund. The
bulk of these men were Rahtor Rajputs with a few other Rajputs, Sikhs and
Kaimkhani Mohamedans; all the men were recruited in Bikaner territory and there was keen
competition to join the unit.
Above: The Sudanese company of 3rd KAR
Mounted and Foot Levies
Two Somali units were raised to be used as levies, the
strength of each was 500 horsemen and 50 dismounted men. Their training did not approach the MI
standard but they could perform useful roles on ground that they knew. These two units were The Tribal Horse,
recruited from the Dolbahanta, Ba Idris, Habr Unis and Midgan tribes and
commanded by Major G.T.M. Bridges, RA, and The Gadabursi Horse, recruited
almost entirely from Gadabursi men and commanded by Major Honourable J.G.H.H.
Beresford, 7th Hussars.
A foot levy of 280 men was also raised from the Musa
Aboukr tribe. This force was commanded
by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel C.J. Mellis VC, 101st Grenadiers, and
was employed on protection duties within and around its tribal area.
Three hundred and fifty Somali mounted scouts named
Illalos were recruited to be the eyes and ears of the British Intelligence
Other units and
logistical resources sent to Somaliland
New engineer resources included the greater part of the 19th
Company, Bombay Sappers & Miners, commanded by Captain W.H. Chaldecott,
Royal Engineers (RE), that came from the Aden hinterland to join its detachment
already in-country under Lieutenant A.L. Paris RE; the 17th Company
of that corps was already in theatre under Captain W. Bovet RE. Also Major E.P. Johnson, RE, brought an Engineer Field Park
(specialist stores) from the Madras Sappers & Miners. General Egerton concentrated the efforts of
his sappers on the development of water supplies and the supervision of road
construction. Major R.F. Allen, RE,
commanded all RE units.
The 107th Pioneers, commanded by Colonel P.T.H.
Aplin, was in theatre and apart from the two companies on the Moveable Column was
employed on road construction and maintenance, concentrating on the section
running up to and over the Sheikh
Pass. The Pioneers were assisted by labour details
from Indian regiments.
No 1 Telegraph Section was already in theatre but for the
Fourth Campaign it was reinforced to a total strength of 3 officers and 108
men; the personnel were Royal Engineers.
The Section held 600 kilometres of airline, 320 kilometres of cable, and
8 vibrator and 3 sounder offices plus spares.
Captain G.B. Roberts, RE, commanded the Section.
Above: Askari gathering fuel for cooking at a camp site
The high mortality rate of transport camels had been a
major logistical problem on previous campaigns, and before General Egerton
arrived 2,843 camels organised into four Silladar Camel Corps were sent from
India, and 700 Arab camels arrived that had been purchased in Aden. Indian camels could carry much more load but
could not last as long without water as Somali camels did. Somalis on the whole were unwilling to part
with good camels, as the beasts represented wealth, and so Indian camels had to
be imported to meet the military transport requirements; these Indian camels
adapted and in the words of one senior British officer “saved the day”. In October a hired Camel Corps of 972 camels
arrived from Baluchistan, but these beasts were from cold regions and were
long-haired, and unsuitable for work in Somaliland. Just over 5,000 camels were employed during
the campaign and just over 3,000 of them were to die in service.
Numbers 15 and 22 Companies, Army Service Corps, with 80
buck wagons, 4 water carts and 900 mules came from South
Africa with their Cape
Boy (mixed-race) drivers, and 100
camel carts arrived from India. For light transport 1,000 ponies and a
similar number of ekka (pony) carts came from the Indian Punjab. Neither the big buck waggons nor the light
pony carts were a success. Hundreds more
mules were sent from South Africa
and India. Lieutenant Colonel W.R. Yeilding CIE DSO,
Indian Army, was the Director of Supply and Transport.
The main Base and port at Berbera was equipped with a
tramway and rolling stock and a 500-man labour corps was sent as a port
workforce from Rawalpindi, India, whilst a 200-man labour corps came from Aden. The Indian labourers proved to be of little
use on port duties and were employed on well sinking, telegraph line work,
grass cutting and as mule attendants.
Many of the Indians were unfit to labour, and it appeared that at Rawalpindi younger fitter
men had obtained the vacancies and then sold their identities to older and less
fit men. Water supply plant was shipped
and was installed with satisfactory results at the various posts on the line of
communication. Major E.M. Woodward,
Leicestershire Regiment, was the Base Commandant.
When delivering supplies forward to the troops General
Egerton favoured the convoy system whereby a convoy went straight through from
Base to the required location, and as stores were not transhipped there was
less wastage and pilferage. But unloaded
convoys returning to base spent many unproductive days on the road, and could
cause congestion around the available water when halting at a post for the
night, especially when that post contained a loaded up-country convoy that was
also over-nighting there. Lieutenant
Colonel Eric Swayne, Indian Army, military commander of the first two
expeditions, had always preferred the staging system as it was less expensive
in transport animals and more easily manageable. A convoy practicing staging would only take
stores forward to the next staging post; there it would unload them and return
empty to its own post and load for the next stage forward. In the end the Fourth Campaign used a mixture
of convoying and staging.