East and Central Africa

Summary of the campaign

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Records and interesting facts on the East Africa Campaign

Conference 2012


Summary of the campaign

When war was declared on 3 August 1914, the British Empire was put on alert resulting in the action on 5 August which was in accordance with the Naval Blue Book regarding the destruction of enemy wireless stations when war was declared.

On the British side, four governors (Uganda, BEA, Nyasaland, SA), one High Commissioner, three departments in Whitehall (War Office, Colonial Office and India Office) and the Viceroy of India were all involved in aspects of the campaign.

Greater unity and cohesion of command was achieved in the theatre when Jan Smuts, commander in chief from 1916, and Edward Northey. commander of the Rhodesian Field Force (1916) agreed to work in close co-operation, liaising about their movements. Following Northey’s appointment as Governor of British East Africa and the assumption of command by van Deventer in 1917 the campaign finally came under a single commander and less disparate. This was to remain the situation until the end of the war.

Britain was supported by its allies Belgium and, from April 1916, Portugal.

The German forces under Paul von Lettow Vorbeck fought to detract as many allied troops away from the European theatre as a means of assisting the motherland. Due to British control of the seas and radio stations, the German force in East Africa was cut off from the motherland although two supply ships were able to get through the blockade. The Germans surrendered on 25 November 1918 as required by the armistice signed in Europe.

Twenty-eight countries were involved with twenty-three directly affected by sending troops, supplies or fighting. Most of the fighting forces were volunteers or standing armies whilst the carriers and porters were often coerced. Over a million people are judged to have lost their lives during the campaign, mostly from disease and malnutrition.
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3 thoughts on “East and Central Africa”

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