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The EK1

The 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment (Nyasaland) of the King’s African Rifles in action during 1917


In January 1917 the Nyasaland-recruited 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of the King’s African Rifles (2/2 KAR) was patrolling in the Mchemera area south-west of Kilwa in German East Africa.  The battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H.S. Filsell (Royal Warwickshire Regiment), and although his unit had been involved in the fighting around Kibata to the north his mostly young Askari had not yet experienced serious bush warfare.  That situation was shortly to change, and 2/2 KAR was to spend 1917 combating ferocious rear-guard actions prepared by the withdrawing German Schutztruppe. 

Operations out of Kilwa

In January 2/2 KAR moved to Kilwa and from there a detachment under Colonel Filsell was deployed to Kiwambe, north-west of Kilwa and south of Utete.  This detachment included 250 rifles of the 40th Pathans (Indian Army) and a section of the 22nd (Derajat) Mountain Battery (Indian Army).  Some serious patrol skirmishes occurred and several Askari were killed, but it was not until later that the British realised that the German commander, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (Right), was conducting an orderly withdrawal of his Schutztruppe from the Rufiji River area to locations south-west of Kilwa. 

On 9th February a German detachment surprised and charged a 2/2 KAR position and the Germans recovered a machine gun that the battalion had captured at Njinjo on 9th October 1916.  During February Corporal Binnon and Private Jacobi of 2/2 KAR appeared before a Field Court Martial for allowing prisoners to escape from a Quarter Guard; Cpl Binnon received two years’ imprisonment with hard labour and reduction in rank to Private, the findings for Private Jacobi are not known.  

The Nambanje action

On 13th March reports were received of a German position located at Njambanje and Brigade Headquarters ordered a combined attack to be made by 2/2 and 2/3 KAR.  Captain T.J.W. Weld (Lovat’s Scouts) was sent with 80 rifles from No 4 Company and 20 rifles from No 3 Company plus 2 machine guns.  Lieutenants Findlay and Champion accompanied Weld but Findlay had to return because of an attack of fever.

Weld’s men approached the enemy position during the night but could not make contact with the 2/3 KAR company allocated for the attack; it later transpired that this company bumped the enemy during its approach and withdrew, but the contact had warned the Germans that British troops were on the move.  Nevertheless Weld attacked at first light.  However von Lettow’s men included a 40-strong unit of Europeans, and they were well prepared.  The British attack was broken up by well-sited defensive fire; German counter-attacks down both flanks captured one of 2/2 KAR’s machine guns and killed or wounded all of the other gun team.  Weld withdrew with difficulty having taken 18 casualties.  Nine wounded men were captured by the enemy; one of them was Lieutenant Sydney George Champion (Royal Fusiliers) who died of his wounds.

After this action three men received the African Distinguished Conduct Medal.

  428 Company Sergeant Major Isaac, 421 Sergeant Robin and 1420 Lance Corporal Faraji Bin Salim had similar citations:  In recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty in the field.  Date of action 13/3/17.  

407 Sergeant Binnon also received the medal for gallantry displayed on 12th March when in contact with an enemy patrol at Nkula. 

Two Askari, 1769 Private Iback and 2431 Private Mbetewa, received the Military Medal for gallantry displayed at Nambanje. 

Above: A 2 KAR Quarter Guard using a German sentry box

The action at Rumbo

By April 1917 German units were threatening Kilwa from the south-west and a British camp was established at Rumbo, with a forward post on the Ngaura River.  The 40th Pathans were ordered to advance over the river and defeat the enemy troops positioned to the south; attached to the Pathans were two man-packed mountain guns of the Gold Coast Regiment escorted by 30 Gold Coast (now Ghana) infantry, a Royal Navy Lewis Gun (light machine gun) detachment, and 140 Askari and 2 machine guns from 2/2 KAR.  The 22nd (Derajat) Mountain Battery supported the operation from Rumbo camp.

Major W.T. Gregg (Royal Irish Rangers) commanded the Askari who were drawn from Nos 1 and 3 Companies of 2/2 KAR.  On 18th April Gregg crossed the river and advanced on his own through bush up a spur on the British left whilst the Pathans and Gold Coasters pushed down the main track across the river, which was at this time only knee deep.  However rain was falling up-river.   As the fighting on the spur developed one of Gregg’s Askari, 2394 Private Saidi, received an African Distinguished Conduct Medal18/4/17 Rumbo.  For gallantry and devotion to duty.  This man succeeded in extricating a wounded British NCO from a position swept by enemy machine gun fire, and carried him to a place of safety.

Right: Schutztruppe signaller

The Pathans soon ran into a German defence occupying higher ground, and although the Indian infantry fought bravely an enemy counter-attack over-ran two of the Pathan machine guns, shooting down the gun teams.  The German defenders were the 11th and 17th Field Companies commanded by Captain von Liebermann and Lieutenant Bueschel; the former opposed Gregg’s advance whilst Bueschel attacked the Pathans.

After their one field officer and the advance guard commander were killed confusion reigned amongst the Pathans as many of the sepoys were new arrivals, and a withdrawal was ordered.  By this time the river was visibly rising and the Gold Coasters, supported by 50 of the 2/2 KAR Askari, had to fight hard against German attacks whilst the mountain guns were carried across the river.  The Pathans lost another machine gun as they crossed.  Panic-stricken porters dropped many loads of ammunition and supplies into the river or abandoned them on the enemy bank.

Downstream Gregg fought his own battle against 17 Field Company as he got the remainder of his Askari back across the river, and even then one wounded man, 23 Lance Corporal Lufani, had to be left on the enemy bank.  Two more African Distinguished Conduct Medals were won.  399 Sergeant John was awarded his:  For conspicuous gallantry in the action of Rumbo on 18th April 1917.  He behaved with great bravery under heavy continuous machine gun fire at close range, and maintained excellent fire control throughout the day.  He was severely wounded towards the close of the engagement.  This NCO has always shown initiative and self reliance when in command of small patrols in the enemy’s country.    

464 Sergeant Yessow’s citation read:  18/4/17 Rumbo.  For conspicuous gallantry in action.  He has always behaved with marked gallantry in action, and particularly so at the action at Rumbo on 18th April. 

2101 Private Waziri Simba was awarded a Military Medal.

Gregg was one of the last to swim back across the river.  During this fighting Major Denys Walter Reynolds (York & Lancaster Regiment) was severely wounded.  The other 2/2 KAR casualties were 4 Askari killed and 12 wounded.  Major William Thornton Huband Gregg was later awarded a French Croix de Guerre with Palms

Left: A 2 KAR officer at a river crossing.

Patrolling from Rumbo

Three days later 2/2 KAR concentrated at Rumbo and remained there for two months, regularly fighting small actions against enemy raiding parties that targeted British supply dumps in the area.  2/2 KAR fighting patrols laid ambushes on enemy approach routes.  During this period reinforcements of British officers and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) arrived in the battalion, along with drafts of Nyasaland recruits from the battalion depot at Mbagathi, Nairobi.  The new British arrivals started receiving language instruction in Chinyanja or Kiswahili.  Sets of webbing equipment and 450 new Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifles were issued to the battalion.  Those Askari not patrolling were given instruction in weapons and tactics, whilst selected Askari were sent to Morogoro on courses in Lewis and Stokes (mortar) gunnery.  Courts of Enquiry were held to determine that Askari missing in action should be classified as killed in action. 

Around this time two African Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded.  1609 Sergeant Ishmael received his: For conspicuous gallantry in action and devotion to duty on all occasions.  He has always shown the utmost disregard of personal danger under heavy fire, and by his example has done much to stimulate the morale of his platoon.

 98 Sergeant Pambika received his:   For consistent bravery and consistent good work on patrol and in action. 

The advance of No 1 Column

In July the British fighting units in the Kilwa area were formed into three columns and offensive action commenced.  2/2 KAR was in No 1 Column commanded by Colonel G.M. Orr, (Indian Army), along with the Gold Coast Regiment, the 8th South African Infantry and the 33rd Punjabis (Indian Army).  On 4th July 2/2 KAR advanced down the Lindi road at the head of No 1 Column; the column marched throughout the night which was marked by the eclipse of the moon.  Enemy picquets engaged the column but did not impede it until 6th July when Mnindi was reached.

Above: Map showing the route of No 1 Column during 1917

Here at least two German field companies under Captains von Lieberman and Spangenberg were entrenched, and at 0820 hours their machine gun fire halted 2/2 KAR when it reached a cropped millet field.  The sharp stalks in the field prevented fast movement through them.  Nos 1 and 2 companies engaged the enemy whilst Major Gregg’s No 4 Company was sent to attack the German left flank.  The fire fight was brisk, in the first 90 minutes 2/2 KAR lost 25 men including both the British machine gun NCOs who were wounded.

Colonel Filsell asked the column commander to send up the Stokes mortars which came into action effectively and surprised the Germans, who received the bombs on their positions without hearing the base-plate thumps as the rounds were fired.  Concurrently half of the South Africans moved to attack the enemy’s right flank.  The Gold Coasters and two guns of the Derajat Mountain Battery came forward to support 2/2 KAR but Filsell did not use them.  Gregg’s company attacked the enemy left flank, and when a South African attack was made on their right flank the Germans made a tactical withdrawal at around 1400 hours.  2/2 KAR had fought well in its first battalion attack.  No 1 Column had taken 80 casualties, 66 of whom were from 2/2 KAR; the high casualty figure was due to the proximity of the two firing lines.

Two men received the African Distinguished Conduct Medal: 56 Sergeant Matola For gallantry and able leadership during the action at MNINDI on 6/7/17.  He was practically in command of the right centre owing to the British officer’s ignorance of Kiswahili.  He is self-reliant and has done continuous good work on patrols.

The second citation refers to work performed during Major Gregg’s flanking manoeuvre:  463 Lance Corporal Akim:  This NCO was sent with a small party of signallers to lay a telephone wire from Battalion Headquarters to the right flank company during the action at MNINDI on 6/7/17.  This work he carried out with great determination under a close and accurate fire.  Three men of the party were killed and wounded on the way.  This early communication greatly added to the value of the flanking party. 

Right: A German Colonial Stamp

The battle of Narungombe

No 1 Column continued its advance, 2/2 KAR often acting as advance guard and fighting its way through enemy ambushers or stragglers, until on 18th July the column reached the vicinity of Narungombe.  Here a strongly entrenched German defence under Captain von Lieberman was denying vital water holes to the British advance.  2/2 KAR had to fight an action against a German rearguard during which 670 Sergeant Yohanne (Machine Gun Section) gained the African Distinguished Conduct Medal  For conspicuous gallantry when in charge of a Machine Gun when in action on the NARUNGOMBE Road on 18/7/17.  This Non Commissioned Officer served his Maxim with great coolness throughout the whole day and materially assisted in keeping down the enemy fire at each successive position.  This NCO was also recommended for similar gallantry at the action at MNINDI on 6/7/17 when nearly all his escort was killed or wounded.   

Two Machine Gun Porters, D.A.R. 709941 Ali Abdullah and M.C.H 122579 Fez Chugga, received Monetary Awards of Rupees 15/- each: For gallantry and coolness under fire when bringing up ammunition and water to the machine guns.  

On 19th July the British advanced to attack with all three columns.  The battlefield is best described by quoting from Moyse-Bartlett’s The King’s African Rifles:  ‘At daybreak on 19th July No 1 Column advanced with the Gold Coast Regiment leading and 2/2 KAR in reserve.  The enemy’s main position was reached before 0700 hours.  It proved to be a series of breastworks and redoubts, occupying the upper slopes of two hills, one on either side of the road, and extending for a distance of two miles.  The Germans had eight companies, two guns and 48 machine guns, and were evidently determined that this time there should be no rapid withdrawal.  The three British columns totalled about 1,700 men with 20 machine guns.’

Whilst No 1 Column attacked in the centre, No 2 Column attacked on the right and No 3 Column attempted to turn the Germans on the left.  The battle lasted all day in intense heat.  No 2 Column was halted until No 1 Column fought forward to take the pressure, but the defence held.  Then No 3 Column broke under an enemy counter-attack.  British Stokes mortar bombs ignited the dry grass and bush, burning to death wounded British Askari, Gold Coasters and Sepoys who had not been evacuated because of the effectiveness of the German defensive fire.  The flames ignited ammunition in the casualties’ pouches, causing further suffering before death by burning overtook the unfortunate wounded men.

No 2 Company of 2/2 KAR was called forward to support the 33rd Punjabis.  Captain Howard Thomas Griffiths (South African Imperial Light Horse) was the company commander and the citation for his immediate award of the Military Cross describes the company’s fight:  For conspicuous gallantry and leadership in the field.  At NARUNGOMBE on 19/7/17 he attacked the enemy position in conjunction with one company of Gold Coast Regiment, 33rd Punjabis and one company of 1/3 KAR.  He manoeuvred his company into a position to enfilade the enemy’s main position and by his example and gallantry held his position until the morning of 20.7.17, although short of ammunition, and by his action caused the enemy to retire from the key to the main position which could otherwise have been held.  

An African Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to 40 Company Sergeant Major Disi:  For conspicuous gallantry in the attack on the enemy’s position during the action at NARUNGOMBE on 19/7/17.  He led the right of his company with marked ability and by his example enabled the objective to be attained.   

Throughout the day the British had made little progress and the action would have ended in defeat but for a heroic charge made by 1/3 KAR (British East Africa, now Kenya).  This met the German counter-attack head-on and drove it back, but 1/3 KAR lost 6 British officers killed and 200 Askari killed or wounded; the surviving officers all had bullet holes in their clothing.  During the night the enemy resolve faded and a withdrawal was ordered, to the displeasure of von Lettow who was marching from the south to reinforce the German defence.  Finally the British troops could drink from the water holes that had been so stubbornly defended by the Schutztruppe.

After the battle No 1 Column occupied Narungombe and 2/2 KAR patrolled aggressively.  When not patrolling or ambushing the companies trained in advancing and attacking in thick bush; machine gun and Lewis gun specialist training was held, and one officer and 12 Askari attended a Stokes mortar course held by the Column mortar officer.  Twenty six new British NCOs arrived in the battalion from Nairobi; they were quickly taught bush tactics and words of command in Chinyanja and Kiswahili by Major Gregg.  At the end of July the 2/2 KAR War Diary noted:  ‘No reliable maps of the locality are available.  Owing to the thick bush map making has been practically impossible.

Left: A 2 KAR company officers mess at the Mbgathi Depot

The action at Mihambia

During September the Bishop of Uganda arrived at the front and he consecrated the Narungombe cemetery.  A Field General Court Martial awarded 3400 Private Darkiya a sentence of two years imprisonment; the offence was not recorded but it could well have been related to dereliction of duty whilst under fire.  Major Gregg was posted to take over temporary command of 2/3 KAR. Very active patrolling continued, mainly towards and around the enemy position at Mihambia, and on two occasions Askari were killed by buried German mines that detonated on being stepped upon.  Machine and Lewis gunners and Stokes mortar men trained intensely.

On 26th September at 0500 hours No 1 Column advanced south-westwards towards Mihambia.  2/2 KAR led the advance with Stokes mortars and the 27th (Bengal) Mountain Battery (Indian Army) in support.  Diversionary parties went out on both flanks led by 2/2 KAR British NCOs, these were in action by 0800 hours and took casualties.  By 1145 hours the main body was through the enemy picquets and in contact with a German screening force.  A firing line was made up with a company of Gold Coasters in between companies of 2/2 KAR Askari, No 2 Company being on the left and No 4 Company on the right.   The German screen gave ground and swung backwards, leading the British advance onto the main German defensive position at 1430 hours.

Enemy fire was effective against No 4 Company and was intense against No 2 Company, and Lieutenant A. Green (Royal Fusiliers) was killed.  No 3 Company came forward under Captain Barclay and Lieutenant Dunman, fixed bayonets and advanced; but this advance attracted the fire of two German machine gunners and many riflemen.  The advance was stopped in front of the enemy position.  Lieutenant V.W. Dunman, (East African Mounted Rifles), Captain A.V. Barclay (East African Mounted Rifles) and Major H.E. Green DSO (KAR direct enlistment) were hit.   

918 Sergeant W. Baxter (Rifle Brigade) won an Imperial Distinguished Conduct Medal with the citation: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When touch was gained with the enemy he led his scouts with great determination, and later, on his platoon coming under heavy machine-gun fire, he showed marked courage, continually moving about the firing line. It was largely due to this N.C.O.'s work that the position was maintained without the need of reinforcements.   

No 1 Column then ordered that no further advance was to be made, and 2/2 KAR dug-in where it was.  Efforts were made to recover the wounded and the battalion Padre, Chaplain 4th Class Reverend Elijah Cobham MA, Army Chaplains Department, recovered Major Green, and it appeared that the Germans observing this act held their fire.  Elijah Cobham returned to the battlefield to evacuate other casualties but he then attracted enemy fire and was mortally wounded.  For his gallant conduct on the battlefield Elijah Cobham was awarded an immediate Military Cross.  The statement accompanying the medal that his family received read: "He met his death in attempting to bring in wounded under heavy fire. He had already rescued two men and was shot whilst bringing in a third.  An officer who excercised a great power for good over all ranks, and one who could ill be spared."

An African Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to 1418 Sergeant (Acting Sergeant Major) Yonam:  For conspicuous gallantry in action.  He showed marked ability and initiative in command of men at action of Mihambia 19/9/17 when the majority of officers of his company were wounded.  He has done good work on patrol.   

Privates 1424 Chikaola and 1731 Matheo Angoma received the Military Medal.  

Right: 2 KAR signallers in training

The fight at Mpingo

The enemy withdrew during the night and the following day No 1 Column resumed its advance at 1200 hours.  2/2 KAR led with No 1 Company as Advance Guard.  When half-way up Mpingo Ridge an enemy picquet was encountered and easily driven in, but then an entrenched field company with a machine gun engaged No 1 Company.  Fierce fighting went on for an hour during which 14584 Sergeant W.T. Scriven (Northamptonshire Regiment) was killed and 3409 Sergeant Ernest Alfred Hancock (Rifle Brigade) was mortally wounded.  No 4 Company was brought up into the firing line and the enemy withdrew hurriedly, leaving a dead European on the position.   

For gallantry displayed in this action Lieutenant Herbert Julian Brooke (19th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers) received a Military Cross with the citation:  For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He crawled out to a dangerously wounded NCO under heavy fire, and carried him on his back to a position under cover where stretcher bearers could reach him when they arrived.  He showed splendid courage and devotion to duty.   

An African Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to 2360 Private Sowera of No 1 Company but the citation was not recorded; later in the campaign Sowera was to receive a Bar to this award.  

Because of a local water shortage No 4 Company under Captain Weld remained on Mpingo Ridge whilst the remainder of the battalion returned to Mihambia.  Water was not plentiful there but Army Service Corps cars shuttled supplies forward from the Narungombe water holes.    

The action at Nahungu  

No 1 Column continued putting pressure on the withdrawing German rearguards.  On 27th September 2/2 KAR was leading an advance from Dandawala towards Nahungu with No 3 Company as the Advance Guard.  From 0700 hours until noon fighting took place over four successive ridges and then at 1300 hours a defensive position was encountered at Nahungu.  One enemy position was north of the Mbenkuru River and another was south of the river; each position held a Portuguese 7.6- centimetre mountain gun from the booty that had been captured at Newala in November 1916.  (See HERE )

No 1 Column attacked the northern position from the east whilst Nigerian troops approached from the north.  No 3 Company 2/2 KAR became heavily engaged and No 1 Company reinforced it on both the left and the right.  Both enemy guns opened fire but the northern gun aimed towards No 1 Column’s porter transport whilst the southern gun aimed towards the Nigerians.   At 1400 hours a German machine gun on the northern hill got the range of the column’s transport and caused consternation amongst the porters until either the Gold Coast mountain guns or the Stokes mortars compelled the enemy machine gun to move.  Two companies of Gold Coasters came up on the left of the firing line, whilst a platoon of No 1 Company 2/2 KAR was sent to strengthen the right flank as the Nigerians had not yet come up.  The Germans counter-attacked the 2/2 KAR left and for a time the situation was critical as the column porters now fled to the rear, discarding their ammunition loads as they ran.  

An African Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to 1248 Corporal Namati:  For conspicuous gallantry in action at Nahungu on 27/9/17, he dismantled two Lewis Guns which were temporarily out of action and repaired them under heavy maxim and shell fire.  His work in action has been consistently good.  Namati was to win a Bar to his award later in the campaign.  

 Captain Frederick Arthur Batchelor, (East African Maxim Gun Company) the 2/2 KAR Machine Gun Officer, gained an immediate Military Cross:   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He moved two machine guns to a threatened flank under heavy enfilade fire, and by his personal example and skill succeeded in beating down the enemy’s fire and preventing any further attack from that direction.  On another occasion he repaired two machine guns under heavy fire.  He has continuously done excellent work as a machine gun officer.  Sadly Frederick Batchelor was mortally wounded in this action; he died two months later whilst being evacuated to England and was buried in King Tom Cemetery, Sierra Leone, West Africa.  (Frederick had previously been seriously wounded at Bukoba, see: HERE )  

The Gold Coasters moved more men forward, and along with the 2/2 KAR left flank held their ground.  Also the gunners of the Bengal Mountain Battery scored a direct hit on the northern enemy gun and flames burst out from the gun position.  As dusk approached two enemy field companies supported by machine gun fire launched a violent counter-attack, but the Gold Coasters and Askaris stood firm and drove the enemy back.  During the night the enemy withdrew from both positions, leaving the wrecked Portuguese gun behind.   

During the action Lieutenant Thomas William Cundle (Northumberland Fusiliers – Tyneside Scottish) was killed.  Apart from Captain Batchelor, one officer and 8 Askari were wounded and 4 Askari were killed; the battalion, now battle-hardened, had come through a hard fight with light losses.  2/2 KAR bivouaced along the Mbenkuru River and enjoyed unlimited water; the battalion had taken 159 casualties during September.  

The advance to Lukuledi

At the beginning of October the strength of 2/2 KAR in the field was:  British officers 16, British Other Ranks 26, African Other Ranks 248, Machine Guns 8, and Lewis Guns 7.  At this time the battalion was operating with 1/3 KAR, the Gold Coast Regiment, the 129th Baluchis (Indian Army) and the 22nd Derajat Mountain Battery.  For the remainder of 1917 2/2 KAR was active in every engagement that No 1 Column had, but the battalion was not in the forefront of the fighting; this allowed a re-building of strength as new drafts arrived from Mbagathi.  

During October, whilst the bulk of the British forces manoeuvred from Lindi towards the greatest and fiercest battle of the campaign at Mahiwa, No 1 Column operated further to the west against enemy supply dumps.  During these operations the 25th Cavalry (Indian Army) was a useful addition to the column.  On 10th October a large German dump was captured at Ruponda, and 17 enemy Europeans and 45 Askari were captured.   By now many of von Lettow’s weaker-minded Europeans wanted to be out of the war, whilst others who were carrying wounds could not soldier on.  Ruponda had been an important German base workshop, and there mechanical tools retrieved from the sunken cruiser Konigsberg had been used to manufacture items such as rifle butts from locally grown wood.  

The capture of the Ruponda dump eased the food re-supply situation but the column was still short of water that was needed not just by the soldiers but also by the cavalry horses and the porters.  On 18th October a fierce action was fought at the Lukuledi Mission against three German units.  The Gold Coasters lost men during an initial assault over open ground that was halted, and 1/3 KAR had its hardest fight of the campaign when von Lettow himself marched six companies directly from the Mahiwa battlefield to retake the Mission.   However the 1/3 KAR defence held, but an enemy company got in amongst the 25th Cavalry camp.  Several soldiers and the tethered animals were killed and the regimental baggage was captured.  2/2 KAR was held in reserve and was not committed to the fight.  (See: HERE )    

By the end of the month No 1 Column was back at Ruponda as the British logistical system could not support it at Lukuledi – there were just not enough porters available.  During the month the battalion had lost 24 Askari and 7 porters killed, wounded or missing, but the numbers medically evacuated through sickness were 12 British officers and NCOs, 20 Askari and 37 porters; as usual sickness caused more attrition than fighting did, especially amongst the Europeans.    

The end of offensive operations in 1917  

Early November saw 2/2 KAR at Ruponda training and administering itself effectively by holding the required parades, inspections and Boards of Officers; this was the mark of a professional unit, and by now the battalion was acknowledged to be one of the best British battalions in the field.  Then news arrived of a German airship on its way to East Africa with supplies for the Schutztruppe; this was airship L59 that had flown from Bulgaria but which was recalled when it was over the Sudan.   

The remainder of the month was spent in pursuing the withdrawing Schutztruppe up onto the Makonde Plateau and down through Newala to the Rovuma River which was the boundary with Portuguese East Africa (PEA, now named Mozambique).  Again 2/2 KAR was active but was not engaged in serious fighting.  Hundreds of German wounded and faint-hearted Europeans were captured in hospitals, as by now von Lettow only wanted his best men to fight alongside him.  A major British success was the capture of a column of enemy troops under Captain Theodor Tafel that had fought its way southwards from the western end of the Central Railway.  Tafel was out of supplies and he could not link up with von Lettow, so he surrendered his 110 Europeans and 1,300 Askari to No 1 Column on the Rovuma.  

A general re-organisation now took place in the British forces.  The remaining white British and Indian Army units were repatriated on medical grounds, along with the Nigerian Brigade which had taken heavy casualties at Mahiwa.  The only infantry now in the field was African – the King’s African Rifles, the Gold Coast Regiment, the Rhodesia Native Regiment, the Northern Rhodesia Police and the Cape Corps.  But across the Rovuma River in PEA a slimmed-down Schutztruppe of 2,000 picked men, under the command of one of the best and toughest generals that the war produced, waited to offer the British another year of tough uncompromising fighting.  

The 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of the King’s African Rifles marched back to Masasi where it joined up with the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 2nd Regiment to form the 1st KAR Brigade; on future operations this brigade was to be named KARTUCOL.  In late December the brigade marched to a campsite at Schaedel’s Farm near Lindi, received fresh drafts of recruits, and prepared for whatever 1918 was going to offer.  

In the 1918 New Year’s Honours Lists Lieutenant Colonel Harold Stuart Filsell and Temporary Major William Thornton Huband Gregg were both awarded the Distinguished Service Order.    

African Distinguished Conduct Medals

Four more Askari received the African Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of their services during 1917, and as their awards cannot be directly related to an incident the details are listed here.  These citations are a tribute to the high standard of the KAR senior ranks in the Nyasaland battalions:  

631 Sergeant Amenon: For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on all occasions when in contact with the enemy.  He is an excellent patrol leader and has been severely wounded twice.  

99 Sergeant Bakiri:  For conspicuous gallantry in action and devotion to duty.  He has done fine work on many occasions when in command of native patrols and in action with his Company as a platoon sergeant.   

645 Sergeant (Acting Sergeant Major) John Kamanga:  For conspicuous gallantry in action.  This NCO has consistently shown himself to be a gallant and capable leader.  He has proved invaluable in steadying his men and maintaining a high standard of fire control in his platoon.  He has repeatedly done good work on patrol. 

424 Company Sergeant Major Soloman:  For conspicuous bravery and coolness under fire throughout operations.  He has assisted operations on several occasions by collecting men and pushing the attack home.   (Where possible citations have been taken from the unit War Diary, as such citations are usually more descriptive than gazetted ones.)  


Ø     The King’s African Rifles by Lieutenant Colonel H. Moyse-Bartlett MBE, MA, PhD.

Ø     2/2 KAR War Diary (WO95/5341, WO95/5321 and WO95/5322).

Ø     My Reminiscences of East Africa by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.

Ø     The African DCM compiled by John Arnold.

Ø     East African General Routine Orders (WO123/288).

Ø     The 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 with William Spencer MA & Keith Steward FRGS.

Ø     Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal 1914-1920 compiled by R.W. Walker.

Ø     The Gold Coast Regiment in the East African Campaign by Sir Hugh Clifford KCMG.

Ø     Honour The Officers. Honours and Awards to British, Dominion and Colonial Officers during the First World War by Michael Maton.

Ø     The London Gazette, Army Lists and Medal Index Cards.  

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