Well, someone gets a thought and the British decide to annex German East Africa comprising of the current Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. With a German force of 3000 German of which only 1200 are active soldiers supported by 11000 African(wholly Askari?), it should have been a cakewalk for the British to take down the colony. The German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, though, turned out to be tough nut to crack. He remained on field till the end of the war and tied up almost 300,000 British soldiers helping the German war effort in Europe considerably.

The British invasion always assumed that the rumour of their presence is sufficient to scare off the Germans and made on attempts to hide the target. Crates clearly marked Mombassa were loaded in Bombay giving the Germans ample time to understand what needs to be done. The commanding officer was Arthur Aitken whose first showdown turned out to be the Battle of Tanga. Tanga, being one of the major ports, was an obvious target from day one. The British decided on an amphibious attack on the port and as an advance note, sent HMS Fox to demand Tanga’s surrender on 2 Nov 1914. The Captain, Francis Caulfield demanded that German flag be brought down in an hour. As a foolish act, he asked if the port is mined. The obvious answer, even if it is not mined – it’s mined. It waited for three hours and since the flag was not brought down even then, it went to the convoy of Force B with 14 transport ships and 8000 soldiers. The three hours was sufficient for Lettow-Vorbeck to bring in more soldiers to place them at a point of his convenience. Still believing the port is mined, the British effected a landing three miles from the port while the port was actually unmined and the German commander removed forces from the port to effect a stronger defence.

The actual order to advance came from Aitken on 4 Nov. 3 British units advanced through the swamps, without facing any resistance. Suddenly, 250 Askari soldiers rose out of the water firing on the unwary British units firing upon them which forced them to break ranks and flee. Brigadier Tighe, leading them, unnnerved, signalled that he was being attacked by 2500 Askaris as against the 250 he is actually facing. The British has already lost 300. Somehow, they grouped again and under the North Lancashires and the Gurkhas, the British advanced till the Customs House and Hotel Deutscher Kaiser, boxing the Germans to a corner. Suddenly, the Askari advanced as if because of an insult towards the British lines which resulted in destruction of British force in that section. But their mad rush left a gaping hole in the German lines which the British failed to use simply because Aitken was still cozily settled in his ship, not interested to muddy his boots.

Also, seeing the Gurkhas being mowed down in the Askari mad rush supported by German fire, intelligence was carried to Aitken as to the position of German heavy guns. However, an indecisive Aitken was not able to order a bombardment ending the German show for good. The field commanders, as an act of desperation, started shooting into the bushes which forced the Germans to stop firing. But, the shooting disturbed hundreds of hives of honeybees and it’s the turn of the bees to attack the British while the Germans were happily watching the show. The British soldiers threw away their guns and ran headlong towards the sea, trying to save themselves from the bees, Indians and Britishers alike. An angry Aitken ordered bombing of Tanga, which resulted only in destruction of the hospital flooded with British wounded and the rest on his retreating troops. Final tally was 70 Germans killed and 800 British killed. Germans had 1000 and British had 8000 on field that day. And Germans got much needed weapons to continue the war.

Aitken ordered a retreat to Mombassa and the news of this unexpected defeat shocked Britain. To assuage their hurt pride, they came up with stories related to Germans boobytrapping the swamp with honeycombs filled with trained bees and the unwitting British were trapped in that fiendish plan.

The result is that the war dragged on for four long years trapping hundreds of thousands of badly needed in Africa to chase a ragtag guerilla force. A private Arnull, who died in the same campaign in 1917 as a sargeant was given a military cross because he braved the trained warrior bee army of Lettow-Vorbeck and stood his ground. The formal citation record, though doesn’t mention the bees.

For gallant conduct on 4 November 1914 during the attack at Tanga (East Africa), and for general good work performed under a heavy re. The 2nd Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was the only British infantry battalion to serve in East Africa during the Great War. On 2 November 1914 HMS Fox went into Tanga early in the morning to break the truce which had been previously in existence, and demand surrender, which latter was refused. As a result of this, later that evening and early the next morning a landing was effected, with the Loyal North Lancs, 61st Pioneers and 13th Rajput’s all making their way to the shore. They were met with only a desultory sniper fire, and no casualties occurred. At about 4am four companies of the 13th Rajputs were sent towards Tanga to occupy the town and clear up the situation. In the event they did not make it as far as the town, as they met a fierce resistance and suffered heavy casualties whilst retreating. On the following day, 4 November, the order was given for an all-out attack on Tanga. The Loyal North Lancs, along with their Indian counterparts, advanced towards the town over difficult terrain, encountering little resistance. It was not until they reached some huts near the railway on the outskirts of town that suddenly a strong opposition was encountered. Here they were met with a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire and as a result suffered many casualties. After a confused close quarters pitched battle, they were forced to accept the inevitable, and the order was given to withdraw. The enemy made no attempt to follow up their success, allowing them to retreat to the trenches near the sea, where they were picked up by HMS Fox, thus ended the attack on Tanga. The next morning the wounded were embarked under a flag of truce, and that evening the transports left Tanga Bay. Sergeant Charles Arnull was born and enlisted in Northamptonshire.

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