November 2023

Thank you to all who participated in the recent GWAA conference. We had a lovely day talking all things WW1 Africa. We trialled a small-scale hybrid system which seemed to work – the outcome of which is that our 2024 conference will be a slightly bigger hybrid event. I’m not sure of the date yet, but will announce it early in the new year. In the meantime, if you would like to contribute a paper to the next There Came a Time which will include the papers presented at the conference, please get in touch for details – expected deadline for article submission is April 2024.

Apologies for bombarding your inbox recently with new books – it was not my intention, I pressed the wrong button. However, it does provide an opportunity to let you know that GWAA is making some of its books available electronically. For a one-off fee a title can be accessed online as though you’re reading a book (the book can’t be downloaded). I’m hoping this will be an easier option than an ebook for following through on references etc. More important though, I hope it will allow researchers in Africa to access material as getting books into the various countries is proving a nightmare (and very expensive).
New books include: Oliver Schulten, A humanitarian assessment of the First World War in Africa; Melvin E Page & T Cullen Young, Nyasaland Operations during the World War, 1914-1918 and Ludwig Boell’s The Operations in East Africa.

For a statistical comparative of German colonial forces at the outbreak of war: Kolonialismus has a section on German South West Africa during the 1914-1918 war and before
Archive listings for GSWA in the German archives (schutztruppe)
Imperial Schutztruppe collections for GSWA
Schutztruppe personnel files in the German archives
GSWA administrative bodies
There are also files for Cameroon etc.
In case you’re wondering, I came across these whilst trying to answer an obscure question for someone…

CFP Health care and the Second World War seeks to highlight research that raises new questions about Medical History and Southern Africans during the First and Second World Wars in the African theatre of war. Deadline for submission of abstracts: 8 January 2024

November 2023 Read More »

Naval warfare and shipping – Africa 1914-1918

There were various naval actions around Africa, most notably in East Africa on Lakes Nyasal and Tanganyika. There were other actions such as that concerning the Konigsberg and HMS Pegasus on the East Africa coast. Less well-known are the West Africa encounters around Duala. In addition to the war on water, shipping played a significant role in moving troops and goods to the various theatres and home. None of the colonies/dominions had their own navies at the time and were reliant on the imperial country for naval support. There were however, tugs, whalers and other smaller vessels which each territory galvanised for war service and men from the different territories often served in the imperial naviws or British Mercantile Marine.
Locating who served on the seas can be quite challenging for the 1914-18 years, not least because documents were purposefully not kept, such as the crew lists of the Merchant Navy – only those for 1915 – and it was only if a merchantile crew member’s death could be directly attributed to military action that they were added to the CWGC listing, so for example, while the SANLC who lost their lives when the SS Mendi went down in 1917 are listed on the CWGC database, those of the crew are not.

List of vessels and other transport vehicles used in Africa during the war, includes developing chronology of port visits with links to source

Crew Lists of the British Merchant Navy – 1915:

Naval-History Log books of British World War 1 Navy vessels:
Army Despatches with naval mentions:
An invaluable starting place for researching British ships involved in the First World War, including in Africa, is Naval History which covers the Royal Navy (support vessels).

At least 150 vessels, including blockade runners, are listed as having been in the African theatres of war: on the lakes and oceans. The spreadsheet contains details of the nationality, captain, capacity in which the vessel served, and references where known.
Crew names, where known, are on the relevant theatre of war name index spreadsheet which can be downloaded. In the British forces, men were either in the Royal Navy or Royal Naval Volunteer Regiment. Some served in the Royal Naval Air Service.

To prevent German reinforcements getting through to the various fronts, the Royal Navy implemented blockades of certain coastlines.
1 March 1915– Blockade of German East Africa started
23 April 1915 – Blockade of Cameroon (more detail

A description of the various ports on route around Africa – Union Castle Line

UK National Archives – ADM series

Publications including memoirs See the Bibliographic listing for more details and further publications.
GWAA – The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914-1917: A primary source chronology (vol 1: 1914-1915; vol 2: 1916-1933; vol 3 Index and biographical info)
Max Looff – Kreuzerfahrt und buschkampf, mit S. M. S. “Königsberg” in Deutsch-Ostafrika

2017 – Fred Khumalo – Dancing the Death Drill
2009 – Alex Capus – A matter of Time
2007 – Christopher Dow – Lord of the Loincloth: The Adventures of the Royal Naval African Expedition and its Intrepid leader, Commander Geoffrey Basil Spicer-Simson
2005 – Giles Foden – Mimi and Toutou go forth: The bizarre battle of Lake Tanganyika
1984 – Alan Scholefield – Kanonenboot auf den Tanganjika-See
1976 – Alan Scholefield – The Alpha Raid
1968 – Wilbur Smith – Shout at the Devil
1966 – Hugh Wray McCann – Utmost Fish
1940 – Christen P Christensen – Blockade and Jungle: From the letters and diaries etc of Nis Kock
1937 – Christen P Christensen – Sønderjyder forsvarer Østafrika 1914-18
1935 – CS Forester – The African Queen
1916 – Percy Westerman – Rounding up the raider: A naval story of the Great War

Something missing?
If you know of a resource others might find useful on this topic, please add it to the comments or let Anne know.

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October 2023

The next GWAA conference will be in London, at the Africa Centre in Southwark, on Saturday 18 November 2023, 10am-3.30pm.
The fee for attending is £32.00 to cover costs, which includes refreshments and a light lunch.
To book your place, you can make a payment to (or email me for other means of registering/paying).

Draft programme for GWAA conference:
10.00 – doors open
10.30 – start
11.00 – Robert Coyle: Researching the African Carriers of WW1 – Recent experiences of a Master’s student at Cambridge University
11.30 – George Hay: discusses archives and findings related to the CWGC Non-Commemoration project
12.00 – tbc Anna Rindfleisch: Memorials to the War Dead: How Institutions and Individuals Altered Scripts of Mourning and Enacted them within and outside of their established Communities of Mourning
12.30 – Tayo Agunbiade: Researching the role of Nigerian women in the First World War
1.00 – Lunch
2.15 – tbc Charlotte Wood: The National Natural History Museum, Arusha, and its coverage of the First World War
2.45 – Jeffrey Schultz: Supporting the Kaiser’s Askaris: Adaptation and Improvisation in the East African ‘Ice Cream War,’ 1914-1918
3.15 – concluding comments
3.30 – end

The University of Nairobi has some Colonial Office documents available online covering the war period: Search on German East Africa

CWGC has started a ‘For Evermore: Stories of the Fallen‘ website. They’re asking people to contribute to World War 1 and 2 stories of individuals on their database.
In Africa, CWGC has announced the first stage of a partnership with Malawi: the memorial in Zomba is to be the official CWGC memorial for WW1 soldiers.

The 7th East African Remembrance Weekend, taking place on Friday, November 24th, and Saturday, November 25th, 2023.
**Friday, November 24th:**
– 16:30: Remembrance Service for the African Soldiers & Carriers (The African Memorial, Mwashoti)
– 18:00: The Last Post & Drinks in front of Taita Hills Lodge
**Saturday, November 25th:**
– 09:00: Remembrance Service for the Indian Soldiers (Maktau Indian Cemetery, Maktau)
– 11:30: Remembrance Service for all Casualties of the Campaign (Taveta War Cemetery)
– 13:00: Lunch at Grogan’s Castle (bookings essential through Guerillas of Tsavo)
During the weekend, you will have the opportunity to explore two new attractions in the region, both connected to the East African Campaign:
1. Indian Memorial: Visit to the new Indian Memorial, a project that is still in the process of completion. The ground-breaking ceremony for this memorial was held in November 2022. The Indian Memorial promises to be a significant symbol of remembrance, reflecting the deep historical ties between India and Kenya.
2. Maktau Railway Museum: Immerse yourself in history at the newly opened Maktau Railway Museum. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the role of World War I in shaping the railway infrastructure of the region. Entrance fees will be applicable.
For more info, contact Tom Lawrence

October 2023 Read More »

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