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Baron Eric von Otter won the Military Cross for taking Zuganatto Bridge...

 
 At the end of the Spring rains in 1916 British Columns under General Smuts pushed south down the Pangani River and the Usambara railway line that ran from Moshi to Tanga. 

One Column under Brigadier Hannyngton moved east of the South Pare Mountains and then onwards down the railway, the other columns turned more to the west to reach Handeni.

  Hannyngton was then ordered to also move to Handeni but to do so he had to capture an intact road or rail bridge over the swollen Pangani River to his west.  This task was allotted to 3 King’s African Rifles (3KAR) and the King’s African Rifles Mounted Infantry who were just north of Mauri.

Above: Mauri railway bridge, dropped by the Germans.

On 13 June 1916 the KAR Mounted Infantry were scouting ahead but as they approached Mauri, 15 miles west of Korogwe, the Schutztruppe rearguard Abteilung Kempner inflicted three casualties.  3KAR moved up and reached the railway bridge to find it demolished.

3KAR were now ordered to seize the Zuganatto road bridhe further east at Korogwe. The battalion crossed the Pangani by a villagers' foot bridge (a rickety swinging bridge and a few slippery tree trunks) a mile below Mauri on the night of 10 June, taking several hours to cross the fragile structure.

At dawn the CO, Lt Col T.O. Fitzgerald, decided to press on along the south bank with two companies that had already crossed the river.

  The advance guard met a 12-man Schutztruppe patrol at 0600 hours, one mile west of Zugunatti Bridge.  The enemy patrol dispersed rapidly.  Half a mile further on the battalion came under fire from 2 machine guns and 25 riflemen entrenched either side of the bridge, taking 8 casualties, one of whom died later.  

“A” Company and half of “D” Company seized a hillock that commanded the bridge from 400 yards distance and shot the Schutztruppe defenders out of their south bank trenches, three dead bodies being found later.

A third company came up to the bridge at 0700 hours causing the Schutztruppe to withdraw into Korogwe.  The wooden bridge had been prepared for burning but the speed and direction of 3KAR’s night advance had caught the Germans by surprise.
Above: The site of Zugunatti Bridge today.  An old pier support can be seen on the far bank. The dominating high ground can be seen in the background.

The capture of this bridge was important as it was the only crossing point over the Pangani that Hannyngton’s No 2 Column could use for moving to Handeni. One 3KAR Signaller was missing, believed drowned in the Pangani.



Lieutenant Baron Charles Eric von Otter, 3KAR, was awarded a Military Cross for his actions at Zuganatto Bridge.


His citation reads:


“For conspicuous gallantry in action. In face of heavy machine gun fire he carried a wounded man on his back across the open to cover. He then returned to his machine guns, and silenced one of the enemy’s guns which had caused many casualties.”

 

Right: Baron Eric von Otter  MC His Askari called him “Risasi Moja” – “One Shot”, as that was all he ever needed. He died in 1924 whilst serving as OC Troops in Turkanaland.

  (The Earl of Lytton’s book “The Desert and The Green” contains an account of the Zuganatto Bridge fight and detail on Eric von Otter.)

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