East Africa August 1914–November 1918


Map Code: Ax00415

The German-led forces in East Africa, commanded by General von Lettow-Vorbeck, never exceeded 14,000. Lacking the resources to fight an offensive war, von Lettow aimed, instead, to tie down Allied troops and firepower: by these criteria, he was conspicuously successful. After an opening campaign of guerilla warfare, von Lettow confronted and defeated much larger British forces at Tanga and Mt Kilimanjaro in November 1914. By 1916, the British had gained control of the seas and the great inland lakes. They had also received reinforcements, and support, from Belgian forces arriving from the Congo. Nevertheless, von Lettow, vastly outnumbered, once again defeated the Allies at Mahiwa in 1917. He then withdrew to Portuguese East Africa, beating the colonial forces there at Negomano. Thereafter, he conducted raids into German territory and British Rhodesia until Armistice. Von Lettow never achieved his aim of diverting forces from Europe, but remained undefeated throughout the war.

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