The 3rd Battalion of 2nd King’s African
Rifles in German East Africa in 1917
2nd Regiment of the King’s African Rifles (1)
When the Great War commenced in August 1914
four companies of the Nyasaland- (now Malawi) based 1st King’s
African Rifles (1KAR) were stationed in British East Africa (BEA, now Kenya)
and employed on border security duties in north-eastern BEA. These four companies, half of 1KAR, were
retained in BEA and played a full but little-publicised part in defending the
Uganda Railway from German attacks. During
the spring of 1916 these companies took part in the advance into German East
Africa (GEA) where it was decided to increase the size of the unit to
full-battalion status and title it 2nd King’s African Rifles
(2KAR). Recruits were obtained from
Nyasaland and shipped up to Mombasa and then railed to Mbgathi Camp outside
Nairobi. There a full battalion was
raised but almost immediately a decision was made to form a sister
battalion. More recruits came from
Nyasaland and the two battalions were titled 1st Battalion and 2nd
Battalion 2nd King’s African Rifles (1/2KAR and 2/2KAR).
By the end of 1916 British commanders could
see that Indian and British troops were suffering severely in GEA from the
effects of the climate and from tropical ailments that their bodies could not
resist. In contrast the KAR battalions
could cope well with both the environment and the German Askari, so a
considerable expansion of the KAR was authorised. Major C.G. Phillips MC (2)
(West Yorkshire Regiment) toured Nyasaland and recruited men to meet the
casualty replacements needed by 1/2KAR and 2/2KAR and to form a new battalion
titled 3rd Battalion 2nd King’s African Rifles
(3/2KAR). Major Phillips was promoted to
command 3/2KAR and he trained his new battalion at Mbgathi until it was shipped
down the GEA coast and landed at Lindi on 4th June 1917.
On disembarkation the strength of 3/2KAR
British officers 29
· British senior ranks (RSM,
RQMS, OR C/Sgt (3) 3
African other ranks (Nyasas) 920
African clerks and
hospital dressers (Nyasas) 10
Machine gun porters (4) (Nyasas) 122
Syces (grooms for horses)
(Nandis from BEA) 10
Stretcher bearers (Wateita
from BEA) 23
Personal servants for
officers (from BEA tribes) 30
Cooks (from BEA tribes) 5
· Battalion porters (from
and Uganda tribes) 1320
Above - A KAR group in German East Africa
near Lindi in June 1917
Colonel Phillips had been hoping for time
to train his men locally in patrolling but the British commander in Lindi,
Brigadier General H. De C. O’Grady (52nd Sikhs), did not believe in
wasting either time or opportunities to act aggressively. An operation was mounted on 10th
June that involved 3/2KAR, 1/2KAR, the 25th Royal Fusiliers
(Frontiersmen) (25RF) (6), the
Indian 5th Light Infantry (5LI), two sections (4 guns) of 259
Company Machine Gun Corps (7),
one section (2 guns) of the Indian 27th (Bengal) Mountain Battery, a
company of the Indian 61st (King George’s Own) Pioneers and two
trench mortars manned by the 2nd West India Regiment. Various naval craft were placed in support of
Whilst O’Grady’s brigade held the coastline
around Lindi the Germans held the interior with seven field companies, and used
a gun salvaged from the German cruiser Konigsberg
to shell Lindi and British ships anchored off-shore. The Konigsberg gun was moved around on an
agricultural trolley line that linked plantations in the interior with a
landing stage at Mkwaya, where before the war produce had been loaded onto
light vessels. Whilst one British column
marched inland to cut off any enemy troops withdrawing from the area of Schaeffer’s
Farm, Colonel Phillips led an amphibious operation in the hours of darkness
that used a high tide to move 3/2KAR, 25RF, the pioneers and the mortar men up
the Lukuledi River to Mkwaya where enemy movement on the trolley line could be
Above- Map of Lindi area
Naval steam boats were used to tow six
barges and rafts carrying the troops up-river and an exciting evening was had
whilst the suspicious enemy fired illuminating flares, but the British troops
did not move or respond and they reached Mkwaya safely. An enemy picquet then fired on the barges but
Captain Spencer Tryon (East African Mounted Rifles) of 3/2KAR leaped ashore
with a platoon, scrambled up the muddy river bank and drove the enemy picquet
away. The battalion landed followed by
the other units and much credit was due to the professionalism of the Royal
Navy boat crews who had been operating under the direct supervision of Rear
Admiral E.F.B. Charlton, Commander-in-Chief, Cape Station.
Colonel Phillips advanced frpm Mkwaya at
2300 hours 10th June and reached the vicinity of Tandamuti Hill at
dawn. During this night-time advance
Lieutenant Charles Going (2nd Rhodesia Regiment) came across an
enemy rearguard and shot two enemy Askari.
Reconnaissance patrols were then sent out towards Schaeffer’s Farm and
Mrweka. During the morning 3/2KAR was
constantly bumped by enemy foraging parties looking for food, and prisoners
were taken from the German 16 Field Company.
Meanwhile after daybreak Brigadier General O’Grady changed his
operational plan and decided to advance directly on Schaedel’s Lower Farm in
order to get in touch with the enemy and to protect the Mrweka landing
place. A message was sent to 3/2KAR ordering
the battalion to conform with the new plan, but it was not delivered until 1130
hours when a British aeroplane dropped it on 3/2KAR’s location. Meanwhile 25RF occupied Ziwani Ridge and
attracted fire from several German machine guns that were positioned along the
trolley line. General O’Grady wanted
3/2KAR advancing on Schaedel’s Lower Farm before he attacked across very broken
ground to the same objective, but 3/2KAR, isolated near Tandamuti Hill, did not
know that its brigade commander had changed his orders.
Above - KAR Askari marching
Once the early morning mists had cleared
from Lindi Bay the Konigsberg gun was
directed by its observers to engage British naval vessels and the gunboat HMS Thistle was hit and badly
damaged. During the damage control
activities that followed the gallantry of members of the ship’s crew resulted
in the awards of a Distinguished Service Cross and three Conspicuous Gallantry
Medals. Two British cruisers, HMS Hyacinth and HMS Minerva joined in the battle, the latter ship being heeled over
12.5 degrees in an attempt to gain maximum range for her guns. However the
German gunners preferred to duel with the monitor HMS Severn who had assisted in the destruction of the Konigsburg in the Rufiji River Delta. But there were no more dramatic moments and
the gunfire from both sides did little or no further damage except to the
Up on Ziwani Ridge at 1330 hours the German
16 Field Company of Askari and the Tanga Company of mobilised European settlers
attacked 25RF, but General O’Grady brought up reinforcements including the
company of Indian Pioneers who counter-attacked with the Fusiliers and drove
the Germans back with the bayonet, capturing two machine guns in the process. Germans were not the only enemy as swarms of
infuriated wild bees heavily stung the British troops, leaving some men barely
able to see past their swollen faces.
Colonel Phillips, having finally received
his new orders by air-drop and having written and given his own new battalion
orders, advanced 3/2KAR through very thick bush towards Schaedel’s. Around 1430 hours the battalion was attacked
from the south-west by the German 19 Field Company and ‘S’ Company under
Captain Loof, the former Captain of the Konigsberg. Numbers 1 and 3 Companies of 3/2KAR
immediately charged the enemy without orders being given, and Loof’s men
hastily withdrew. It was learned later in
conversation that none of the 3/2KAR Askari involved wished to miss-out on a
close contact with the Germans and so they charged spontaneously.
Above - Sketch map of operations around Lindi
As dusk approached Colonel Phillips, having
not been able to locate General O’Grady’s headquarters or any other British
unit, decided to make for Mkwaya where much-needed water and food would be
available. As 3/2KAR changed direction
in the bush Loof’s men attacked the rear company, No. 2 Company, but did not
close with it. In the darkness and
confusion Lieutenant Frank Alcock (2nd Rhodesia Regiment) and two
machine gun teams became separated from No. 2 Company. The gun porters dropped the two guns and fled
from the incoming enemy fire, followed by the recent recruits in the gun
teams. Frank Alcock became separated
from everyone else and wandered in the bush for four days until he was found in
a very disturbed condition; he was then evacuated but he died in hospital a few
One of the guns was dropped beside a
wounded 3/2KAR Askari who dragged it into a nearby farmer’s hut where he lay
beside it for around ten days until he was found; this loyal Askari also died
in hospital. The second gun was picked
up by No. 3319 Lance Corporal Saiti Mwazungu, 3/2KAR, who walked in the
darkness until he heard the sounds of British troops. He hid the gun under bushes and went forward
to identify himself; unfortunately the sentry who challenged him was a 1/3KAR
Askari who fired immediately after his challenge, killing the very
conscientious Saiti Mwazungu. A few weeks
later local farmers found this second gun and it was returned to 3/2KAR.
By 12th June the Germans had
broken contact and withdrawn down their trolley line with the Konigsberg gun. General O’Grady occupied Schaedel’s Lower Farm
without a fight and then withdrew most of his troops to Lindi. Colonel Phillips had introduced his new
battalion to the complexities, frustrations and confusion of bush warfare;
3/2KAR had taken 25 casualties and temporarily lost two machine guns, but most
of the new Askari had shown that they wished to close with the enemy and fight. The battalion now occupied Schaedel’s Lower Farm
and Ziwani Ridge and actively patrolled the area. On 21st June a 3/2KAR
reconnaissance in force under Major Robert Cecil Hardingham MC & Bar (8) turned
the enemy out of their trenches at Schaedel’s Upper Farm; no British lives were
lost but Captain A.E. Evans and eight Askari were wounded.
Above - A KAR trench line in East Africa
For bravery and use of initiative whilst
patrolling near Upper Schaedel’s Farm No. 106 Sergeant Tom, 3/2KAR, was awarded
an African Distinguished Conduct Medal with
the citation: Whilst in charge of a standing
patrol of ten rifles he went forward with one man to investigate some talking
which he had heard ahead of him in the bush, he came upon an enemy party
passing along a winding path which would eventually lead them to his standing
patrol. He counted the enemy party of 3
German whites and 79 German askaris. He
then hurried back to his patrol by a short cut and arranged his men to receive
the enemy. He opened fire at close range
and knocked over one German white and 2 German blacks. He was then forced to retire 100 yards by the
enemy outflanking him. Just at this time
his relief of 10 rifles arrived, he thereupon advanced causing the enemy to
retreat, capturing 3 rifles, sets of equipment etc, and 400 rounds of
ammunition. This native NCO has
previously done fine work.
No. 415 Sergeant Edward, 3/2KAR, also
received an African Distinguished
Conduct Medal: 30/6.17 near
MKWAYA. For gallantry in action. At 1630 hours on 30th June 1917,
near Mkwaya, with 27 rank and file, he met and successfully engaged an enemy
Company with two machine guns. For one
and a half hours he fought the enemy and kept his men under complete control
throughout. He then advanced and forced
the enemy – three or four times his strength – to retire hurriedly.
fight for Tandamuti Hill
During the remainder of June and July
3/2KAR patrolled against German positions and mounted small operations during
which several junior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) displayed both
professionalism and the ability to use personal initiative. Other units suffered from aggressive enemy
actions, particularly 5LI which took 110 casualties in one fight, including the
commanding officer who died of wounds. But
General O’Grady wanted to advance from Lindi and the British theatre commander,
the South African General J.L. Van Deventer, sent reinforcements. These were the Uganda-based 3/4KAR, the
Indian Army 30th Punjabis, the 8th South African
Infantry, the 3rd South African Field Battery (two 13-pounder guns),
a mountain battery from the Indian Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, and
1,200 porters. 3/2KAR received an issue
of Lewis light machine guns and several British NCOs were posted into the unit
to work in the rifle companies.
General O’Grady mounted an operation on 2nd
August splitting his newly-enlarged command into four columns. The immediate objective was to advance up the
Lukuledi River to capture Tandamuti Hill which was occupied by the enemy; the
hill was overlooked on both flanks by other enemy machine gun posts. Colonel Phillips advanced on the British
right with the objective of attacking and seizing German defended locations
along the trolley line; his route lay through dense bush and rubber-tree
plantations. Contact was soon made with
enemy positions that had to be out-flanked before the Germans withdrew to their
next fall-back position.
At dawn on 3rd August 3/4KAR
attacked towards Tandamuti Hill whilst 3/2KAR continued its advance on the
right, but German machine guns on both sides of the valley fired effectively on
the Askari of both battalions. 3/2KAR
began to take casualties without being able to respond satisfactorily.
African Distinguished Conduct Medals were later awarded. To No.121 Company Sergeant Major Longalora,
3/2KAR: For gallantry under fire. Under heavy fire he walked up and down the
firing line of his Company encouraging the recruits especially of one platoon,
whose officers, British NCOs and senior native NCOs had all become casualties,
with the good result that the men remained all day steady under trying
And to No. 3565 Lance Corporal Matras
Dinali, 3/2KAR: He has set an excellent
example to his comrades at the actions at Lower Schaedels and Maumbika, by
running up and down the firing line giving encouragement regardless of
danger. For such a young soldier he has
set a fine example.
And also to No. 159 Quarter Master Sergeant
Mwenyedawa, 3/2KAR: Maumbika and Lower
Schaedel’s. Steadiness under fire, and
maintaining good control over the men of his platoon. By his excellent example he has improved the
bearing of the recruits under fire. He
has always done good work.
And to No. 636 Sergeant Abelu, 3/2KAR: For conspicuous gallantry on 3rd
August 1917 at MAUNBIKA. During the
advance of his platoon in the firing line, it came under heavy fire from in
front and cross fire from both flanks.
During the morning the British NCO and 35% of the platoon became
casualties (there was no officer with the platoon). Sergeant Abelu kept his men well in hand and
remained in action where he was. Two
hours later our rifle, machine gun and gun fire so shook up the enemy that they
tried to retire up a steep place. Sergeant
Abelu got his men into a kneeling position so that they could see and then
fired volleys into the enemy, causing casualties. He then remained in position until nightfall.
Above - German Askari signallers
The Kashmir Mountain Battery came into
action in support of 3/2KAR, firing 100 rounds at the enemy positions
immediately in front of the battalion. In
the centre 3/4KAR and 25RF fought up Tandamuti Hill but could not take the
German position near the summit (9);
the British artillery could not fire onto the hill as the opposing forces were
too close together. On the left the 30th
Punjabis became surrounded by German companies and fought alone, taking over
250 casualties until morale collapsed and the remnants of the battalion broke,
fleeing to the rear (10).
This was the final straw for the
terrified British porters in the vicinity who dropped their ammunition loads in
the bush and also fled rearwards. The
German 4th Schutzen Company counter-attacked and over-ran the
British advanced field hospital but respected it, removing quinine from the
hospital stores but protecting the patients from blood-thirsty German Askari. These Germans then met 1/2KAR advancing from
its position as force reserve, and prevented that battalion from becoming
involved in the main battle.
Running out of water on Tandamuti Hill,
hearing of the punishment inflicted on the 30th Punjabis, and
receiving a message from Colonel Phillips stating that 3/2KAR was hard-pressed,
General O’Grady broke off his action and withdrew his force in relatively good
order to Lindi. During the two days of
fighting 3/2KAR had lost 13 Askari killed, and 3 officers, 4 British NCOs and
45 Askari wounded. Lieutenant G.
Williams (Special List) and Sergeant Thomas Arthur Allen (2nd Bn
London Regiment), both attached to 3/2KAR, died of their wounds.
action at Narunyu
General Van Deventer had been an observer
during the fighting for Tandamuti Hill and before he left Lindi on 5th
August he instructed General O’Grady not to make further frontal attacks, but
to out-flank German defended locations and take up blocking positions in the
enemy’s rear. Such a plan was put into
operation on 17th September 1917 when the commanding officer of the
8th South African Infantry took out a column consisting of his
battalion, 1/2KAR, and 25RF. The column
moved covertly past German defences on the trolley line and Tandamuti Hill to
occupy a position further west at Narunyu.
General O’Grady had placed 3/2KAR in reserve but elements of the
battalion were used to escort supply convoys to Narunyu and to reinforce
The German theatre commander, General Paul
von Lettow-Vorbeck, concentrated two of his companies to attack the Narunyu
position but he could not break into the British defences. Meanwhile outside the defended position,
where it had been ordered to remain in reserve by the column commander, the
3/2KAR reinforcement company was suddenly attacked. Lieutenants T.E.
Robb (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) and C.O. Gilbert (East African
Mounted Rifles) and Sergeants J.C. Clark (20th London Regiment), H.A. Walker
(20th London Regiment), and B.H. Hubbard (Machine Gun Corps) were wounded. A recently arrived British officer had been
ordered to deploy a rearguard, but as he did not know what a rearguard was he
did not deploy it, and the Germans took advantage of that lack of action. This incident demonstrated the difficulty of
quickly familiarising new officers from Britain with the techniques of bush
warfare whilst a battalion was committed on operations.
Above - German strong point in East Africa
Meanwhile a 3/2KAR ammunition resupply
convoy under Major Hardingham, with two other officers, attempted to get through with ammunition
and supplies. The machine gun and company porters of 3rd/2nd KAR were
used to carry the loads with two platoons of No 2 Company provided for
escort. The convoy was badly ambushed near the Narunyu perimeter after
German Askari had misled it by calling out that they were KAR. Robert
Cecil Hardingham MC & Bar was mortally wounded, Lieutenant Charles Henry
Bernard Going (2nd Rhodesia Regiment) was killed and Lieutenant C.E. Lane
(King’s African Rifles) was wounded. The escort NCOs rallied their
men and fought back but most of the porters had by then returned to the 3rd/2nd
KAR camp with their loads; 13 loads that had been discarded were found in the
bush during the following day. For
gallantry displayed with the ammunition resupply column Captain Spencer Tryon,
3/2KAR, was awarded a Military Cross.
Two African Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded. To No. 627 Sergeant Malemu, 3/2KAR: Great gallantry under fire when his platoon
formed advance guard for a convoy of ammunition being sent through to Colonel
Taylor’s column, was ambushed by the enemy.
The three British officers all became casualties. This NCO at once took charge, got his men
into suitable formation and replied to the enemy’s fire. Through the action of this NCO the surprise
of the enemy’s ambush was quickly counteracted and the enemy driven off. Sergeant Malemu eventually helped to evacuate
a British Officer under fire.
And to No. 2907 Private Kalima,
3/2KAR: NARUNYU 18/8/17. Coolness under fire and though wounded, he
continued to fire his machine gun and helped to get it out of action until he
But despite the losses in
casualties the British tactics worked and the enemy companies on Tandamuti Hill
silently withdrew past the Narunyu position and moved to overlook it from the
west. The casualty figures for 3/2KAR
for the Narunyu action were: 1 British officer and 9 Askari killed, 4 British
officers, 3 British NCOs, 31 Askari and 9 porters wounded. The death of Major Hardingham from his wounds
on 18th September was a sad loss, as he was one of the original 1KAR
officers who fought in BEA from August 1914.
As death, wounds and sickness had depleted the officer ranks of 3/2KAR
six new officers led by Major A.L. Tribe (2nd Rhodesia Regiment)
were posted into the battalion on 6th October.
The NCOs of 3/2KAR were
involved in constant patrolling and No. 91 Sergeant Maliyire, 3/2KAR, received
an African Distinguished Conduct Medal: For
excellent work whilst in charge of a patrol to Mtua – behind the enemy’s lines
– during the operations from Lindi. He
brought back useful information and prisoners.
fighting in the Nengedi area
General O’Grady pushed his troops further
up the Lukuledi Valley and at the end of September 3/2KAR was in action
alongside the 3rd Nigeria Regiment (3NR). The Nigerians proved to be sound fighters who
were prepared to stand their ground with determination when attacked. During the fighting for Chirumaka Hill on 29th
September 3/2KAR worked in support of 3NR and 1/2KAR, and took around 20
casualties, most of them wounded. On the
following day 3/2KAR led an advance to contact and soon found German defended positions. At 1400 hours Colonel Phillips attacked
whilst the Nigerians were also fighting heavily on the other side of the hill.
By the end of the day Chirumaka Hill was in British hands but 3NR had lost over
60 men killed or wounded whilst 3/2KAR’s casualty figure was around 50
men. Captain Arthur Francis Rayner Dyer
(General List) and Company Sergeant Major Devrill (11),
both 3/2KAR, were amongst the dead.
Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to 3174 Private Jonathan Amnoni,
3/2KAR: Near Nyengedi on 30/9/17. Took
control of his section and advanced with them on the left flank of the enemy
causing them to retire at a time when the enemy was endeavouring to turn our
right flank. He has done very good work
as a scout.
No. 186 Company Quarter Master Sergeant
Yasini fought well during the action and was awarded a Military Medal.
Seven days later No. 1 Company of 3/2KAR
was ordered to advance and hold high ground that lay across the Nengedi stream
whilst the remainder of the battalion stayed in reserve. No. 1 Company achieved its objective and on 8th
October the Indian Bharatpur Imperial Service Infantry advanced beyond the
Askari and entrenched on a previous enemy position. The German Tanga Company and the Abteilung
von Liebermann counterattacked just as the Battalion Headquarters and No. 2
Company of 3/2KAR, plus a machine gun section, were moving up the high ground
to reinforce the position.
As Colonel Phillips moved up the slope he saw
that the Bharatpurs had withdrawn followed by two platoons of No. 1 Company,
3/2KAR. Discipline amongst 3/2KAR was
restored by Regimental Sergeant Major Madi and the fleeing Askari were turned
around and taken back up the slope. On
the crest Colonel Phillips found Lieutenant George Steinson Stewart (Seaforth
Highlanders) holding the position with 10 men.
Lieutenant Stewart was awarded a Military
Cross with the citation: For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
When almost all of our troops had been withdrawn from the high ground,
he remained on the ridge with a small party of men and maintained the position
against great odds and under the most trying circumstances until the arrival of
reinforcements. His great courage and
determination cannot be too highly praised.
Phillips used No. 2 Company to clear the high ground of enemy and he advanced
towards the plateau that lay beyond; with his 4 machine guns and 3 Lewis guns
he deterred further enemy aggression.
The fighting had been severe and intense and Sergeants Kachinda, Ngala
and Lipondo had been killed along with 11 Askari. Colonel Phillips and Lieutenant T.G. Malpas
(Reserve of Officers) were wounded along with 34 Askari. The officer commanding No. 2 Company, 3/2KAR,
Lieutenant Frederick Keith Campling, also received a Military Cross: For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
He led his company up to the high ground where the enemy were driving
back our troops by a strong counter-attack.
With the utmost disregard for danger he re-established our position,
walking up and down the firing line inspiring his men by his fine example. He showed splendid courage and coolness.
Two African Distinguished Conduct Medals
were awarded. To No. 2697 Private
Subairi, 3/2KAR: Nyengedi. 8/10/17. Handled his
Lewis gun with great valour and after his NCO and team had become casualties,
continued to fire his gun although several of his escort had retired (12).
to No. 223 Sergeant Misesa, 3/2KAR: 8/10/17. Nyengedi. Under exceptionally heavy
fire and when his escort had retired he advanced with his section and supported
Lieutenant Stewart who was left with very few of his company. His example was beyond all praise.
of the Military Medal were made to Regimental
Sergeant Major Madi, Sergeant Sumani, and to Company Sergeant Major Longolora
DCM. Colonel Phillips was evacuated as a
casualty and Major M.W. Whitridge took over as battalion commander.
this time serious personnel problems emerged in all three battalions of
2KAR. Many of the old 1KAR soldiers who
had been serving in BEA in August 1914 were now time-expired, and they wished
to be discharged and to return to Nyasaland before they became casualties. However these men were now mostly in senior
positions throughout the three battalions, and they were needed in their
military roles. The three battalion
commanders decided on a common policy that basically used compulsion to keep
the time-expired men serving. It was
expected that the war in GEA would be over soon, and as the November rains were
expected to curtail military operations the men were told that they must serve
on for a month but that they would be released on 15th November. This situation was accepted by the men
concerned who were soon to be preoccupied by battlefield activities.
Nyangao. The bloodiest battle of the East Africa
3/2KAR had just lost its commanding officer
but by now it was a combat-hardened battalion with excellent NCOs, ready for
anything that might be thrown at it; that was just as well as the most brutal
battle of the East Africa campaign was impending. British troops were advancing on the Lukuledi
Valley from Kilwa to the north-east, planning to work tactically with the
British forces operating from Lindi.
General van Deventer hoped that the German Schutztruppe could be finally
forced to stand and fight instead of, as usual, causing attrition to its
British opponents and then slipping away.
General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was of the same mind – he decided that
this was the correct moment to stand and fight, as by bringing the battle to
the Schutztruppe the British themselves could be significantly weakened; the
German commander was not wrong.
General Van Deventer sent another South
African, General P.S. Beves, to command the Lindi Force which was split into
two columns, titled No. 3 and No. 4.
General O’Grady commanded No. 3 Column that comprised 1/2KAR, 3/2KAR and
the Bharatpur Imperial Service Infantry.
General Beves’ operations lacked subtlety as he wanted to attack, attack
and then attack again. On 17th
October both his columns confronted enemy units near Nyangao. At 1445 hours 3/2KAR was ordered to support
1/2KAR and the Bharatpurs who were heavily engaged; Major Tribe went forward
with Nos. 1 and 3 Companies and held back enemy thrusts near the Nakadi River,
allowing the other two battalions to disengage and form a new defensive line. The remainder of 3/2KAR came up and the unit was
the centre of this line with the Bharatpurs on the left and 1/2KAR on the
right. The Germans attacked heavily
until last light, but the British line held.
At the end of the day 3/2KAR had taken 33 casualties, including the
officer commanding No. 3 Company, Captain J.L. Giffard, who was wounded. John Lawrence Giffard was later awarded a Military Cross for gallantry displayed
on the battlefield.
Next morning, 18th October, No.
4 Column quickly became heavily engaged and at 0830 hours 3/2KAR was ordered to
advance to attract enemy companies away from No. 4 Column. Major Tribe advanced with Nos. 2 and 3
Companies but after gaining 200 metres of ground heavy machine gun fire,
especially from the right flank, stopped the advance. There was no cover available either from view
or from enemy weapons, as during the previous night a fire had burned down the grass,
trees and shrubs. The Nigerians from No.
4 Column had been expected to appear on the right flank, and so Major Tribe was
concerned as to whether the machine gun fire coming from that flank was
25RF was located about 200 metres to the
left and two platoons of No. 3 Company were sent to plug the gap, but before
that could happen a fierce enemy attack on the Fusiliers overwhelmed that
battalion, which was now down to less than 50 men, and the surviving Fusiliers
withdrew rapidly. No. 1 Company, 3/2KAR,
deployed to the left to fill the now large gap, and two companies of 1/2KAR
moved to extend the line even further left.
No. 4 Company 3/2KAR had already been deployed onto the right flank, so
the battalion was in line without reserve companies behind it. That state of affairs could not last and
after close fighting had caused heavy casualties the left of the British line crumbled,
and 3/2KAR with the two 1/3KAR companies fell back to a line just in advance of
where Major Tribe’s advance had started from.
3NR and the Bharatpurs then advanced on the
left, taking some of the pressure off 3/2KAR; another Nigerian battalion came
up to reinforce 3NR and the left of the line was stabilised. At 1600 hours four shells from a British
mountain battery landed amongst the 3/2KAR Askari, causing 13 casualties and
shaking the men’s resolve; 5 NCOs were amongst the casualties. By 1700 hours the battle was dying down as
both sides had exhausted both their soldiers and their immediate ammunition and
supply stocks. 3/2KAR had lost 13 men
killed and 93 wounded, and at 1845 hours the survivors were formed into close
order and ordered to march back to Nyangao River; this was achieved without
incident. The remainder of No. 3 Column
and the Nigerians withdrew during the night.
During the two days of the Nyangao fighting
3/2KAR had done nothing particularly dramatic, but it had held its ground
whilst under very effective close-range enemy fire when other British units had
not been able to do so. The Nyasaland
Askari had shown that they were amongst the best of the excellent bush-fighting
infantry that Africa then produced, and the NCOs had been very effective in
taking over command and in restoring deteriorating situations when officers had
been killed or wounded. The 3/2KAR war diary
commented that both the Kavirondo machine gun and 1st Line porters
and the stretcher bearers had stayed in the fight and performed their arduous
tasks very bravely. It was doubtless
because of the courage and dedication of these porters and stretcher bearers, who
swiftly evacuated casualties, that the killed to wounded ratio did not reflect
British casualties in 3/2KAR included Lieutenant
Hans Gerald Hodgkinson (Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) and No. 701257 Sergeant
W. Ballard (1st Surrey Rifles) who were both killed in action. No. 20 Sergeant Chisali was awarded a Military Medal for displaying gallantry
in action at Nyangao. (13)
Perhaps the spirit of some of the young
Nyasaland NCOs is best illustrated by the citation for the award of an African Distinguished Conduct Medal to No.
3900 Lance Corporal Mwanaboye, 3/2KAR: This
NCO is a recruit who has now nine months service. He is an Awemba, for 200 soldiers of which
tribe only two old soldiers were available – one of them being his platoon
sergeant, who has proved useless in action.
L/Cpl Mwanaboye has proved himself exceptionally stout-hearted and has
in reality commanded the recruits of his tribe since he came into the field and
has led them on every occasion with great credit to himself and is causing his
men to follow his example with excellent result. He is good on patrol, doing exactly what he
is ordered to do.
As both 1/2KAR and 3/2KAR had taken heavy
casualties and could only man four rifle companies between them, on 21st
October 1917 the two battalions were amalgamated under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel G.J. Giffard DSO (Royal West Surrey Regiment), the
commanding officer of 1/2KAR. Major
Whitridge became second-in-command of the amalgamated battalion. However this temporary amalgamation was not
to last long, and soon new intakes of recruits allowed the reforming of 1/2KAR
and 3/2KAR; both battalions being destined to serve energetically in Portuguese
East Africa during 1918.
3/2KAR War Diaries (WO95
5323, 5324 and 5325). ·
King’s African Rifles by Lieutenant Colonel H.
Moyse-Bartlett MBE. ·
African DCM by John Arnold. ·
Award of the Military Medal to African Soldiers of the West African Frontier
Force & the King’s African Rifles from 1916 to 1919
by John Arnold, William Spencer & Keith Steward. ·
& Run by Edward Paice. ·
for the Bundu by Charles Miller. ·
London Gazette, Army Lists and Commonwealth War Graves Commission archives.
first unit titled 2KAR was a Nyasaland battalion that was disbanded at the end
of 1912 for economic reasons. Most of
the redundant Askari walked over into German East Africa and enlisted in the
Schutztruppe, as the local German army was called. The Germans were most pleased to recruit
these well-trained and experienced former British Askari and used many of them
in senior positions in the Schutztruppe.
Military Cross was awarded for gallantry displayed at Mbuyuni, BEA, on 14 July
1915 when covering the British withdrawal from a failed attack.
4) The machine gun porters had been trained as part of their gun teams and
they were promoted to Askari within the gun team when vacancies occurred.
(5) The most common tribe for portering duties was the Kavirondo from the Lake
(6) The 25th Royal Fusiliers had just returned from medical
recuperation in South Africa and was only 250 men strong.
(7) 259 Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps, had been formed from the
remaining fit men in the 2nd Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire
Regiment before that battalion was re-deployed to Egypt on medical grounds.
(8) The first MC was probably awarded for gallantry displayed at Jasin, GEA,
in January 1915 and the second one was probably for similar conduct at Kibata,
GEA, in December 1916.
(9) The Germans had planted sharpened ‘panji’ stakes around a concealed redoubt,
with thorn branches entwined within the stakes.
(10) The Punjabis had lost most of their experienced men through medical
evacuations earlier in the East Africa campaign, and the battalion consisted
mostly of recent recruits.
(11) No further details known.
(12) Private Subairi was destined to receive a second DCM before the East
African campaign ended.
(13) Several 3/2KAR officers received awards during the next few months, and it
is more than likely that some of these reflected gallantry displayed at
Nyangao. However a lack of both
citations and detailed entries in the unit war diaries prevents attribution of
these awards to specific actions.