Front Page
Whats New
Search the Site!!
For Sale
Guest Book
The Kaisers Cross
Fake Documents.
Which Unit?
Uniforms + Militaria
The Raiders
In the Trenches
Mobile warfare
The Casualties
The Battles
The German Army
Bavarian Army Photos
The Weapons
Photo Corner
The Croix de Guerre
The Men
German DSWA
South Africa: WW1 in Africa
Harry's Africa
Who is Harry
The Jebu War
Angoniland Rebellion
Gambia 1866
Egypt 1882
Sierra Leone 1887-88
Witu 1890
Gambia 1891-2
Juba River 1893
Bronkhorst Spruit
Bechuanaland 1896-97
Rejaf 1897
Taita Hills 1898
East Africa Police
British East Africa, 1913
Baganda Rifles
Ross's Scouts
Lake Chad area 1914
British East Africa 1914
Tunduru GEA
Nyasaland 1918
Narungombe GEA
Zuganatto GEA
Mafia Island GEA
Kikarunga Hill GEA
Cameroon 1914
Kisii 1914
Tanga 1914
2LNL in East Africa
Kamerun 1915
Lubembe Point, 1915
Advance into GEA 1916
Blockade Breakers GEA
Wienholt, the Bush Scout
Darfur 1916
Kibata, GEA 1916-17
Bweho-Chini 1917
Lukuledi GEA 1917
Narunyu GEA 1917
Longido West 1915
Somaliland 1884-1898
Somaliland 1901
Somaliland 1902-1903
Somaliland 1903-04 A
Somaliland 1903-04 B
Somaliland 1903-04 C
Somaliland 1903-04 D
Somaliland 1905-13
Suez Canal 14-15
Suez Canal 15 cont.
Sikhs and the Senussi
Magadi Defence Force
The Gambia Company
The Uganda RVR
Capt. Bloomfield VC
Shimber Berris
Northern Rhodesian Rifles
Northern Rhodesia 14-15
BSAP Special Reserve
Cole's Scouts
Togoland 1914
Jasin 1914-15
Yabasi, Kamerun 1914
Uganda Volunteer Reserve
EA MG Coy 1915-16
Malangali 1916
Lake Victoria Ops
Portuguese East Africa, 1918
Lioma, PEA, August 1918
Somaliland Camel Corps
Somaliland 1915-19
Southern GEA, Oct 1916
Cape Corps in Action
Rhodesia Native Regt.
Uganda 1902 - 1913
Portuguese Ops, GEA 1916
Mounted Infantry Coy
2nd KAR in GEA 1917
Rumbo to the  Rovuma
The "Mad Mullah"
Mad Mullah - The End 1920
Loyal North Lancs MGC 1
Loyal North Lancs MGC 2
African Odyssey
Tug Argan
Initial Encounters Sudan 1940
Somaliland 1940-41
MiD - West Africa
MSM to WAFF - West Africa
MiD to WAFF - East Africa
WAFF East African DSO
Kenya - June 1940
Operation Line: 1942
The Somalia Gendarmerie
Northern Rhodesia 1918
Tunisia 1943: 1st Loyals
Awash Gorge 1941
Harry's Sideshows...
Stars and Hearts
Freikorps Documents
French Colonial Awards
GSWA History 1914-15
The Boer war
British Groups
Research Links
Assorted maps/Photos
Whats New to end mar
GMIC Newsletters
The EK1

Indian Expeditionary Force "B" at Tanga, German East Africa, November 1914

In the early months of the Great War Britain decided to send Indian Expeditionary Force ‘B’ (IEF ‘B’) across the Indian Ocean to deliver a knock-out blow to the enemy forces in German East Africa (GEA), now Tanzania.  The assumption was that British Indian Army troops were more than a match for the German Askari that defended GEA.  In the event the reverse occurred and after two days of fighting the British ignominiously withdrew, leaving masses of weapons, ammunitions and stores behind in GEA, plus many soldiers dead or taken prisoner. 

This defeat need not have happened as at the end of the first day of combat the German troops had withdrawn, and Tanga town could have been easily occupied and defended by IEF ‘B’.  But a succession of incompetent decisions by British Naval and Army officers had led to the demoralisation of some infantry battalions and of support troops and porters working on the beaches; this greatly influenced senior British officers who lost belief in victory.  The British superiority in naval firepower was never used effectively, but the German superiority in the number and effectiveness of their machine guns was decisive.  The Germans also had a commander who knew how to fight a battle.

The British defeat was concealed from the public and the blame was placed on the shoulders of the Indian Army sepoys involved in the battle.  That was an unfair criticism.  Some men ran away but many stood and fought and took the battle to the Germans.  Ross Anderson has written an excellent account of the political background in Delhi and London and of the ineptitude of British naval and army commanders, so this article concentrates on the details of the fighting on the ground as experienced by the British units involved.

Above: A photo of the beach today, and one of the re-embarkation of sepoys at tanga

The composition of Indian Expeditionary Force ‘B’

On the declaration of World War I the government of India undertook to send two Expeditionary Forces to East Africa; many thousands of Indian troops were also sent to France, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and China so the African IEFs did not necessarily contain the best troops in the Indian Army.  The first East African Force to arrive was IEF ‘C’ which provided defence for the Uganda Railway that ran from Mombasa inland to Lake Victoria.  The despatch of IEF ‘B’ was a much larger operation designed to assist the Royal Navy by seizing the German port of Dar Es Salaam; IEF ‘B’ was then expected to either isolate or defeat the German local defence force named the Schutztruppe.  The mission of IEF ‘B’ was later changed to seize the smaller port of Tanga which lay just south of the border between GEA and British East Africa (BEA), now Kenya.  IEF ‘B’ was then expected to deal with the bulk of the Schutztruppe that was stationed in the Moshi area, up a small railway line from Tanga.  British troops in BEA were to act aggressively against German forces near Moshi to prevent the Tanga defences from being reinforced during the landing of IEF ‘B’.

IEF ‘B’ was commanded by General A.E. Aitken and it comprised Force Headquarters, two infantry brigades and a large number of attached and Line of Communication troops.  The ration strength of the Force was 7,972 soldiers plus 2,550 Followers and porters and 343 pack mules.  Twelve troopships were needed to transport the Force. 

27th (Bangalore) Infantry Brigade (Brigadier General R. Wapshare) contained:

§  2nd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (the only British Army unit)
§  63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry
§  98th Infantry
§  101st Grenadiers

The Imperial Service Infantry Brigade (Brigadier General M.J. Tighe) contained:

§  13th Rajputs (The Shekhawati Regiment)
§  61st (King George’s Own) Pioneers
§  2nd Kashmir Rifles
§  a half battalion of 3rd Kashmir Rifles
§  a half battalion of 3rd Gwalior Infantry

Attached troops included: 28th Mountain Battery; an Armoured Train gun detachment from the North Western Railway Volunteers; two Sappers & Miners Railway Companies; one company of Faridkot Sappers & Miners; Field Ambulances; and specialist engineer and signal troops.

Line of Communication troops (Brigadier General W.A. Malleson) included: Hospitals and medical support units; Post Offices; and engineer, ordnance, finance and labour units.

IEF ‘B’ contained a balance of teeth arm and supporting troops but it was weak on artillery.  The Indian battalions had been brought up to mobilisation strength by the posting-in of drafts of sepoys from linked units.  Regrettably the Force was a composite creation whose constituent parts had not worked with each other operationally, and whose senior officers were totally unprepared mentally for the shock of modern warfare.  Many sepoys were strangers to machine guns (1) and in fact the 63rd Palamcottahs only received its allocation of two machine guns after it had boarded its transport ship. 

Most sepoys were suddenly issued with the short Lee-Enfield rifle just before embarkation and they were unfamiliar with the sighting and mechanism systems; the Imperial Service units did not have machine guns, pistols or telephones.  Some units had new European officers posted-in who were unknown to the sepoys, and many sepoys had not travelled by sea before.  Very few of the officers and men in the Force had recent operational experience.  The sea voyage itself unsettled many sepoys especially when difficulties were experienced in providing suitable ethnic food from the transport ships’ galleys.

Spalte 2

The German Schutztruppe

The Schutztruppe was commanded by Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, a tactically sound and vigorous leader who had experienced tough operational activity in China and German South West Africa, now Namibia.  On the outbreak of war the GEA Schutztruppe consisted of 14 Field Companies that were dotted around the massive colony on internal security duties.  Each company had around 180 African Askari and 20 European officers and Non-commissioned Officers.  The force was strong in machine guns, some companies possessing four guns; all the guns were fired by Europeans.  But half of the Askari still used 1871-pattern black-powder rifles that produced dense smoke clouds when fired in volleys, as the Schutztruppe’s rifle modernisation programme had been interrupted by the declaration of war. 

By November a large Askari expansion programme was underway and hundreds of German, Austrian and Hungarian civilians had been mobilised, many into all-European companies.  The Askari were recruited from warlike tribes and most had recent experience of internal security operations.  Since war had been declared Von Lettow had been using his troops on cross-border raids into British territory.  In early November 1914 the coastal area near Tanga was defended by four field companies and a European company, all under the command of Captain Paul Baumstark.

Approaching Tanga

IEF ‘B’ left Bombay on 16th October 1914, meeting up with ships from Karachi two days later.  Escorted by the battleship HMS Goliath that was armed with four 12-inch guns the Force anchored below the horizon off Mombasa on 30th October.  At a conference in the port on the following day the navy announced that it had made a truce, not ratified by London, and that the German authorities in Tanga should be advised that the truce was cancelled before hostilities commenced.  This destroyed the element of surprise that General Aitken had planned on but he meekly acquiesced to the naval officers present.  Additionally HMS Goliath broke down off Mombasa, but as minimal German opposition was expected the decision was made to carry on with the operation without Goliath, and during the evening of 1st November the convoy approached Tanga Harbour.

Above: Tanga Great War aerial photo

To quote from the Official History:

“For the Indian troops the voyage was a misery.  Unused to the sea, and in some cases without their usual food, they suffered considerably from sea-sickness on the days when a slight swell marred otherwise good weather.  Their ships were small and crowded, with so little deck space that even physical training was only possible for a few squads at a time.  Efforts were made to keep the men fit, and to carry out such military training as was possible; but as the convoy neared the Line the great heat below decks and the general discomfort became intensified.  There can be no doubt that the fortnight’s (2) voyage under such conditions told heavily on the whole force, both morally and physically, and was at least a predisposing cause of the failure which was to come.”

  Initial landings

The first men ashore were two uniformed intelligence officers, Major A. Russell and Lieutenant H.P. Ishmael (3).  They landed at 2100 hours on 1st November near a prominent building known as the Red House and went separate ways to gain information.  Ishmael went towards the German hospital and was soon seen by an enemy sentry and shot; he died in the hospital shortly afterwards.  Russell avoided contact and collected information from African civilians; he re-embarked as planned having waited an hour for Ishmael. 

During the 2nd November a naval farce ensued as the Germans in Tanga were informed of the cancellation of the truce and invited to surrender; the invitation was declined and the German commander mobilised effectively and requested reinforcements from Moshi.  Meanwhile the Royal Navy, concerned about the threat of mines, searched for and swept channels for safe access to Tanga Harbour.  Eventually the plan to land troops in the harbour was abandoned and and a beach was selected on the headland of Ras Kasone.

As the sun began to set disembarkation of the 13th Rajputs began on Beach ‘A’ which was near the Red House, followed by the landing of four companies of the 61st Pioneers; the sepoys had to walk through chest-high water to reach the beach.  These landings were completed by 0230 hours and a defensive line was established.  German patrol activity was minimal and was dispersed by two rounds of fire from HMS Fox’s 6-inch and 4.7-inch guns.  The scouts of the Imperial Service Brigade (IS Brigade), under Lieutenant J. Ferguson, moved forward and spotted enemy machine guns on the road whilst a Rajput patrol under Captain C.R.F. Seymour observed machine guns along the railway cutting facing them but the report of these weapons does not appear to have been taken seriously by Brigade Headquarters. 

Above: Tanga Battle Map (from Wylly)

The first advance on Tanga on 3rd November

At 0430 hours on 3rd November half of the 13th Rajputs advanced as a vanguard with two machine guns along a road towards Tanga town; Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Stewart commanded the vanguard.  On either side of the road were plantations, clumps of trees and bush and farmers’ fields.  On the outskirts of the town a semi-circular and deep railway cutting faced the Rajputs, and the German 17th Field Company defended the cutting from the town side.  The Germans allowed the Rajputs to approach the cutting before opening machine gun fire; the sepoys deployed but could not advance across the open ground ahead of them.  A further complication was that untrained African porters had been dragooned into carrying the Rajputs’ own machine guns and ammunition, and on the commencement of German fire the porters rapidly shed their loads and returned to the beach.

On hearing the heavy firing ahead Brigadier Tighe left one company of Pioneers to secure the beachhead and advanced with the remaining half of the Rajputs battalion and three companies of Pioneers.  On reaching the firing line the four Rajput companies were deployed to extend the line to the left.  Lieutenant Colonel H.W. Codrington, commanding the Rajputs, climbed a small knoll with his Adjutant to view the battlefield.  Another officer ran up the knoll to deliver a message and was seen by the enemy.  German machine guns raked the knoll, severely wounding Codrington and mortally wounding the other two officers.  This incident shook the Rajput sepoys, and it was quickly followed by the death of a company commander, Major B.A. Corbett.  Captain R.H. Waller, Staff Captain, was also killed whilst delivering a message.

Brigadier Tighe then put the three Pioneer companies into the line on the left of the Rajputs; the advance of these sepoys was hindered by dense vegetation and a consequent lack of visibility.  The leading Pioneer officer, Captain B.E.A. Manson, led a rush on an enemy machine gun but he and all the men with him were killed.  A second Pioneer charge was beaten back with heavy losses.  At this time enemy reinforcements from Moshi began appearing on the battlefield; they halted at a railway station out of sight of HMS Fox’s guns and rapidly marched towards the battle, commencing an attack on the British left flank.

The German Askari attacked sounding horns and bugles, pushing the exhausted Pioneers and Rajputs back towards the Red House where the sepoys rallied and a British defensive line was established again.  During this retirement Subadar Bakhtawar Singh of the Rajputs was severely wounded in the leg but he continued to rally his men and cover the withdrawal; he was later awarded the Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class.

 The British reverse was halted by the appearance of two newly-landed companies of Pioneers who stood their ground and stopped the German attack.  Brigadier Tighe was by now as shaken as his sepoys were, and he reported to General Aitken that his two battalions were unreliable and that four more battalions should be landed before the advance was resumed.  Out of 1,100 men on the battlefield the IS Brigade had lost 140 sepoys and 9 British officers.

Two men of the IS Brigade Signals Section had displayed great courage during the German attack, standing their ground from time to time during the withdrawal and shooting down several enemy Askari.  Captain E.D. Carr-Harris, Royal Engineers, was killed in action but Private N. Lobb survived and was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Meanwhile on the German side the local commander, Baumstark, felt outnumbered and withdrew outside the town to the west and awaited further reinforcements.  General Aitken landed at this time but neither he nor Brigadier Tighe ordered a reconnaissance to be made into Tanga town, which was empty of defenders except for a few scouts.  This situation was changed later that night when von Lettow arrived from Moshi and ordered the re-occupation of the town defences; sadly the British were too involved with licking their wounds and landing more men and they missed the chance to quickly occupy an undefended Tanga.

  The advance on Tanga on 4th November

Disembarkation of the remaining infantry units continued throughout the night of 3rd-4th November and into the morning; Beaches ‘B’ and ‘C’ were used.  The mountain battery was left afloat, tasked with firing from the deck of its transport as General Aitken considered the bush to be too thick for effective use of artillery on land.  None of the sapper units were disembarked, nor was the gun detachment from the North Western Railway Volunteers.  The 63rd Palamcottah sepoys had a very bad night, being loaded into lighters at 2300 hours then stood down and re-loaded onto their transport until dawn when they got back into their lighters.  After all the sepoys were ashore Aitken disembarked his large number of Followers and porters; this was a mistake because as soon as the fighting started these non-combatants panicked and clogged-up the beach heads.

General Aitken, seemingly unaware of the carnage that enemy machine guns might cause, mounted a traditional type of attack on Tanga at noon, after the sepoys had breakfasted.  In the centre of his extended line was the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires (North Lancs) tasked with controlling the direction of the attack; to its left was the 63rd Palamcottahs and on the left flank was the 101st Grenadiers.  The 98th Infantry was in left reserve.  To the right of the North Lancs were the 3rd and then the 2nd Kashmir Rifles with the 13th Rajputs in right reserve, and in the rear the 61st Pioneers was the Force reserve.  The Gwalior Infantry was tasked with beach protection.

Right: The Railway Workshops

The British line advanced under a very hot sun through rubber and sisal plantations, but the Germans had not been idle and stay-behind snipers engaged the line causing troops in the rear to fire upon their own comrades further forward.  By 1400 hours many men had consumed the water they were carrying and were thirsty.  Gaps were opening in the line as the Kashmiris inclined towards the harbour shore; in turn the North Lancs inclined right, the exhausted Palamcottahs began to straggle and the 101st Grenadiers became isolated on the left.  The Grenadiers were advancing directly towards a German strongpoint as the concrete railway workshops ahead of them housed several machine guns.
On reaching the railway cutting the defensive fire increased heavily, and whilst the Kashmiris and North Lancs engaged the enemy and skirmished forward the Palamcottahs broke and ran to the rear.  The North Lancs machine guns were well handled and suppressed the fire of the German machine guns.  Lieutenant Colonel C.E.A. Jourdain, commanding the North Lancs, requested that the 98th Infantry move forward to support him, but the sepoys of that battalion refused to advance although some men of the draft from their linked battalion, the 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry, under Lieutenant W.G. Proctor, showed courage and advanced to the cutting where most of them were killed.  On the left the Grenadiers were moving well but were receiving heavy fire and were totally unsupported.

At this point in the battle rifle and machine gun fire broke open a number of African wooden beehives suspended from trees, and the bees violently attacked both sides, rendering some men unconscious with the ferocity of their stings.  Sub-Conductor W. Preston of the Indian Telegraph Department continued taking a message whilst being attacked by bees and afterwards over 300 stings were removed from his head; he later received a Distiguished Conduct Medal. 

But the North Lancs, the Kashmiris (who wrapped puggarees round their heads as an anti-bee measure) and many of the 13th Rajputs crossed the cutting and entered the eastern side of the town where heavy house-to-house fighting ensued.  The Kaiser Hotel was reached and Captain Seymour of the Rajputs got onto the roof and hauled down two German flags.  Naik Girdhari Singh and Sepoy Daulat Singh of the Rajputs later received Indian Distinguished Service Medals for recovering Captain Seymour after he had been shot.  At one point Captain Seymour fainted and was thought to be dead but he was revived by bee stings.

The Kashmir Rifles fought in the town with gusto and Subadar Randhir Singh, 2nd Battalion, was awarded an Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, for charging and capturing a German machine gun.  Lieutenant Colonel Durga Singh, 3rd Battalion, later received an Indian Order of Merit, 1st Class, for conspicuous courage and leadership despite receiving two head wounds.

In the thick scrub on the left flank the Grenadiers came up against four enemy Field Companies and despite charging valiantly the battalion could not progress.  By then half of the forward Grenadier companies and all the British officers in them were casualties.  When a German counter-attack was mounted the surviving Grenadiers were compelled to fight an independent withdrawal action.  Many individual acts of bravery were observed such as that of Sepoy Fazal Khan who received an Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, for attempting to prevent the death of the Adjutant, Lieutenant R.P. Hughes.  Sepoy Sabdal Khan went forward to recover his wounded Jemadar and for that act of gallantry he was later awarded an Indian Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The mountain battery did not have forward observation officers accompanying the infantry, nor did the Royal Navy.  General Aitken had not wanted the naval guns to fire onto Tanga town as he required the buildings to be left intact for his use, but at around 1600 hours he changed his mind.  But both the mountain and the naval gunners could only fire blindly towards the sounds of the actions and their fire sometimes hit the positions of their own infantry. 

Colonel Jourdain had not crossed the cutting with his battalion and he remained near to General Aitken, perhaps at the General’s request.  By 1700 hours German counter-attacks with fresh troops were being mounted in the town against the North Lancs and Kashmiris, and the North Lancs companies became concerned about the withdrawal of the Grenadiers on their left flank which could be monitored by the sound of the firing.  The North Lancs company commanders, apart from one whose company was pinned down in view of the railway workshops, held a council-of-war and decided to withdraw back across the railway cutting.  This manoeuvre was made in conjunction with the Kashmiris but the North Lancs lost many men in the railway cutting who were hit by the enemy machine guns in the railway workshops.

A new shortened British defensive line was established east of the cutting and when a German counter-attack was put in from the railway workshops against the North Lancs left flank, the steady fire of the North Lancs riflemen, supported by the machine guns of the 61st Pioneers, defeated the attack.  At that point the Royal Navy was requested to heavily shell the town, which it did, causing considerable structural damage, but the Germans had withdrawn to regroup at the western end. 

As the sun set the British line was defended on the left and left centre by the North Lancs, the remnants of the 101st Grenadiers and some of the 98th Infantry; on the right and right centre the Kashmiris held firm with groups of 13th Rajputs and 61st Pioneers intermingled amongst them.  Many of these men, especially the North Lancs and the Kashmiris, were determined to fight on and had no thought of quitting, however behind them on the beaches were demoralised rabbles of frightened, panicking sepoys, Followers and porters who had fled the battlefield, and whose fear infected the support troops and beach staff. 

Above: The German Hospital

The withdrawal from Tanga on 5th November

During the evening of 4th November General Aitken expressed his intention of mounting a bayonet attack on Tanga town during the night as there was a full moon, but his Brigadiers did not support it.  Tighe continued to believe that the Rajputs and Pioneers were too shaken to fight aggressively (4), Wapshare could not get over the behaviour of the Palamcottahs and the 98th which had led to the decimation of the gallant Grenadiers, and Malleson was not controlling the beachheads effectively because of the growing mass of demoralised and malingering sepoys there who would not return to the battlefield.  The North Lancs and the Kashmiris were regarded as sound but they had suffered many casualties (5).  After deciding that staying where the Force was on the Ras Kasone headland could not be contemplated because of a lack of water and reinforcements, Aitken ordered an evacuation by sea.  Meanwhile the diversionary operation mounted by IEF ‘C’ near Moshi had absolutely no effect on the Tanga landings as the Germans continued to send men down the railway line to Tanga without hindrance.

No plan existed for an evacuation from Tanga as that event had not been envisaged, but the Royal Navy produced one.  The navy insisted on day-time activity, only ‘A’ Beach to be used, and the abandoning of any weapon or piece of equipment larger than a rifle so that boats would not be damaged (despite the fact that boats had not been damaged during the initial landings).  IEF ‘B’ formed a perimeter line and spent a jittery night waiting for the dawn.  Once again there was no British attempt at reconnaissance into Tanga town; if that had happened Aitken would have learned that once again the Germans had pulled out of the town for the night and were awaiting more reinforcements that were coming down the railway line from Moshi.

As soon as the tide allowed on the 5th November the Followers and porters were re-embarked followed by the sepoy battalions, the last of which were the Kashmiris.  The North Lancs formed the final cordon around the beach head and then embarked in good order; the Germans had been unaware of what was happening and did not interfere apart from shelling one of the transports that caught fire and left the harbour.

The 2nd Loyal North Lancashires had been the backbone of IEF ‘B’ during the Tanga operation and later 10 men of the battalion were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallant acts such as bringing machine guns abandoned by other British units back into action, rallying sepoy stragglers and fighting bravely in the town against German counter attacks.

The Red House at ‘A’ Beach had been used as a British hospital and by agreement with the Germans when they re-occupied Ras Kanone headland the Quartermaster of 2LNL, Lieutenant R.L. Rowley, took a party of his soldiers in lighters and recovered 74 of the wounded, 49 being left behind because they could not be moved (6).  Other British wounded were left in the care of the staff of the German hospital located east of the port.

Also left behind were 10 machine guns, several hundred rifles, tons of ammunition, tents, kit bags, medical panniers, signals equipment, rations and cooking utensils (7).  The abandoning of weapons and ammunition was bitterly resented by the units that still wanted to fight and the North Lancs sea-dumped its ammunition and the machine gun breech blocks; however the German railway workshops in Dar Es Salaam fabricated new blocks and had 8 of the guns back in action very quickly.  Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck had not only won a battle against superior odds but his adversaries had departed gifting him weapons, ammunition and equipment that considerably enhanced his Schutztruppe expansion programme.


IEF ‘B’ sailed to Mombasa (8) where it was amalgamated with IEF ‘C’ and used for the defence of British East Africa and Uganda.  The Tanga debacle was covered up and General Aitken was returned to Britain.  Blame was unfairly placed on the shoulders of the sepoy battalions instead of on the lack of tactical ability, man-management and nerve of the senior commanders.  It was decided that as a mark of official displeasure British officers were not to be considered for gallantry awards.



1.    Indian Order of Merit, 1st Class.

Lieutenant Colonel Durga Singh, 3rd Kashmir Rifles.

Promoted to the 1st Class.  This gallant officer, who was suffering from fever at the time, was conspicuous for his courageous behaviour in leading his men on the 4th November 1914 at Tanga.  He was shot across the face and again through the back of the head.

  2.    Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class

a.   Subadar Bakhtawar Singh, 13th Rajputs.

For gallant behaviour in the action at Tanga on the 3rd November 1914.  Although severely wounded, he continued to rally his men and to cover the retirement.

  b.    No. 1222 Sepoy Fazil Khan, 101st Grenadiers.

For gallant behaviour in the action at Tanga on the 3rd November 1914.  He remained with Lieutenant Hughes, the Adjutant of his regiment, and two other men until they were all killed.  He refused to leave Lieutenant Hughes until he was assured that this officer was dead and then he brought away the latter’s sword with him.

  c.    Subadar Randhir Singh, 2nd Kashmir Rifles.

For his gallant behaviour in the action at Tanga on the 4th November 1914, when in command of a detachment which charged and secured the enemy’s trenches and captured a machine gun.  In leading his men, he was severely wounded.

  3.    Indian Distinguished Service Medal

a.    No. 1870 Naik (then Sepoy) Girdhari Singh, 13th Rajputs.

b.    No. 1566 Sepoy Daulat Singh, 13th Rajputs.

c.    No. 905 Sepoy Sabdal Khan, 101st Grenadiers.

  4.    Distinguished Conduct Medal

a.    Sub-Conductor W. Preston, Indian Telegraph Department. For gallant conduct on 4th November, 1914, during the attack at Tanga (East Africa), and for general good  work performed under heavy fire.  

b.    No. 1073 Private N. Lobb, No. 31 (Divisonal) Signal Company, Sappers and Miners (ex-1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry). For conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire on 3rd and 4th November, 1914, at Tanga (East Africa), when he was largely instrumental through his courage and determination in checking the enemy's advance.  

c.    No. 8966 Lance Corporal W. Wylde, 2nd Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. For gallant conduct under heavy fire in rallying parties of men on several occasions during the action at Tanga (East Africa) on 04 Nov 14, & thereby checking the enemy’s counter-attack  

d.    No. 10033 Private A. Allan; No. 10073 Private C. Arnull; No. 7035 Private T. Boyle; No. 8541 Private J. Cunningham; No. 9499 Private M. Lawlor; No. 9732 Private J. Ridgeway; No. 9141 Private T. Smith; No. 9877 Lance Corporal W. Taylor; No. 10351 Private R. Woodward; all of the 2nd Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. For gallant conduct on 04 Nov 1914 during the attack at Tanga (East Africa) & for general good work performed under heavy fire.      

Zeile 2



1.   Killed or Died of wounds. British officers    20 British soldiers    26 Indian officers    11 Indian sepoys     302                                  Total:                359  
  2.   Wounded. British officers    16 British soldiers    62 Indian officers    16 Indian sepoys     216                                  Total:                310  
  3.   Missing. British officers    3 Indian officers    2 Soldiers & sepoys       143                                  Total:                148  

                                                                                         GRAND TOTAL: 817

Twenty two British soldiers were missing, all of them being taken prisoner, 18 of them being wounded.

Of the sepoys missing the Germans subsequently reported taking 56 of them prisoner, 30 being wounded.

The 101st Grenadiers lost 6 British officers, 6 Indian officers and 172 sepoys killed, and 38 all ranks wounded and missing.

Details of the numbers of casualties amongst the British Followers and porters are not available.

The British and Indian dead were buried in ditches by the Germans near where they fell.

The Germans lost 16 Europeans and 55 Askari Killed, and 24 Europeans and 52 Askari wounded.  One European was taken prisoner.  


As was the custom at that time, upon the British capture of Tanga in 1916 the British and Indian units involved in the 1914 battle subscribed to a memorial which was a small stone pyramid.  It lay where the 101st Grenadiers had fought fiercely and many human remains were found nearby.  In later years the Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected a wall behind the pyramid and attached name panels to it.  


Very little has changed on the Tanga battlefield during the last 102 years.  The railway cutting and workshops and the German Hospital are untouched and the three beaches are easily located.  A new structure occupies the location of the Red House.  If any reader has an opportunity to visit Tanga then a walk or drive around the battlefield is strongly recommended.

1) Only the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, 61st KGO Pioneers and the 101st Grenadiers had been armed with machine guns prior to 1914. 2) Some units had in fact boarded their transports a week or more in advance of sailing.
3)      Ishmael, a Ugandan, was the only officer in the force with personal knowledge of Tanga.
4)      Tighe was perhaps being over-pessimistic as well-commanded sub-units of both the Rajputs and the Pioneers had operated effectively that day, despite some of their comrades sloping off to the rear.  The constant drifting to the rear of leaderless men affected all units and at one stage an officer of the 61st Pioneers had to grip around 30 demoralised men from the North Lancs and make them pull themselves together.
5)      British casualty figures for the Tanga operation are listed in Annex 2.
6)      This incident was falsely described by Colonel R. Meinertzhagen on page 101 of his book Army Diary as “a lighter full of half-naked men of the North Lancs came inshore from a transport and commenced to bathe”.  The men were in fact swimming to push the lighter on-shore as the navy boat that had towed it towards the beach had cast off and departed.  Sadly Meinertzhagen’s account of his experiences as an intelligence officer during the Great War East African campaign is constantly flawed by falsehoods and exaggerations.  This subject is fully explored in Brian Garfield’s book The Meinertzhagen Mystery. The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud.
7)      Also abandoned were the wine stocks of the 2LNL officers’ mess, and correspondence about reimbursement for this loss went on throughout the years of the Great War.
8)      At Kilindini Harbour, Mombasa, the BEA customs authorities attempted to levy duty on the stores and equipment being unloaded by the North Lancs.  A squad with fixed bayonets was marched to the customs shed where the customs authorities were encouraged to be more understanding about the war.


·         Ross Anderson. The Battle of Tanga 1914. (Softback 2002, Tempus Publishing).
·         Rana Chhina. The Indian Distinguished Service Medal. (2001, InvictaIndia).
·         Ann Crichton-Harris. Seventeen Letters to Tatham. A WWI Surgeon in East Africa. (Softback, 2002, Kennegy West, Toronto).
·         Peter Duckers. Reward of Valour. The Indian Order of Merit, 1914-1918. (1999, Jade Publishing Limited).
·         Charles Hordern (compiler). History of the Great War. Military Operations East Africa, Volume I, August 1914-September 1916. (Reprint 1990, The Battery Press, Nashville).
·         General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck. My Reminiscences of East Africa. (Reprint by Battery Press, Nashville).
·         Colonel R. Meinertzhagen. Army Diary, 1899-1926. (1960, Oliver and Boyd).
·         Charles Miller. Battle for the Bundu. The First World War in East Africa. (1974, Purnell Book Services Ltd).
·         Edward Paice. Tip & Run. The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in East Africa. (2007, Weidenfeld & Nicholson).
·         Colonel H.C. Wylly. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1914-1919. (Softback, Reprint 2007, The Naval & Military Press Ltd).
·         War Diaries: War Diaries: 2nd Loyal North Lancashires (WO95 5339/2); 13th Rajputs (WO95 5318); 98th Infantry (WO 95 5333); 101st Grenadiers (WO95 5369).
·         Correspondence in the National Archives and Imperial War Museum from officers who had been at Tanga serving in the 2nd Loyal North Lancashire and the 61st King George’s Own Pioneers.
·         Articles on the battle available in the National Archives and Imperial War Museum and others taken from Naval and Regimental journals, the Tanganyika Notes and Records journal, and German sources.
·         London Gazette award announcements.