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Left: Major Max Bayer in 1916-17

Hamakari 1904

At 1:00 a.m. We crawled out of our blankets an icy wind blowing through our camp. In the flickering light of the lanterns the men gathered their kit and saddled their horses. Orders were whispered and we felt the tension build as we readied for the coming day. By 2:30 a.m. We were on the road heading northeast. The 11. Komp. with a few machine guns formed the vanguard, ahead of them the Witbooi scouts.

We advanced as silently as possible but the enemy soon noticed our progression. Less than an hour after our departure a flare shot up in the direction of Hamakari signalling our advance. There is little that plays on the nerves more than a night march through the bush towards a waiting enemy. In the pale moonlight every shadow comes alive, the heightened sense of hearing picks up every sound... the branches swaying in the wind, the soft crack of twigs, the fluttering of birds. Slowly the column advances. Hour after hour the tension mounts. If only the first shot would sound...

Ahead of us there was a flash on the horizon, then another. Volkmann´s column had a signal lamp set up by Leutnant Auer. His group of signallers had scaled the Waterberg and advanced to the southern ridge. They now stood above the enemy encampment, their morse signals informing us of the events of the previous day. The signal station on the Waterberg had a perfect position. Itcould relay messages among the Abteilung v. Estorff, Abteilung v.d. Heyde, Otjosondu and with the stations behind our column (the Hauptabteilung) all the way to Okangawaberg. It formed an important addition to our communications network. From his perch on the mountainside Auer had been able to observe a meeting of the Herero chiefs after which messengers had left in all directions carrying orders for the enemy. Large groups of enemy riders had arrived at the Waterberg and unsaddled their horses. The enemy was preparing to meet our advance.

The sun was rising as we reached the bushes flanking the river, a blood red fireball on the horizon. For some of us it was to be our last sunrise. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

The enemy would be laying in wait, ready to engage our vanguard from their hidden positions. For this reason the Abteilung fanned out, the 11. Komp. in front, the 10. Komp. to the right. The headquarters followed with the 9. Komp. in reserve. Spread out along the road were the artillery, machine gunners and the medical section. Progression was hampered by the thick bush on either side of the trail however and soon most of  the column was forced back onto the path. We arrived at a sandy river bed which had a width of about 100 paces. We turned right following the curving river bed towards Hamakari which lay to the southeast.

At this point Oberst Müller fell from his horse while galloping to the front of the column, suffering a bad concussion. Major v. Mühlenfels took over the Abteilung. Cannons rumbled to the east, then from the north. The Abteilung's v.d. Heyde and  Deimling had encountered the enemy.

In front of us the bush was still silent. We passed through abandoned settlements, fresh footprints and scattered possessions indicating a rapid flight. We stopped for a moment to allow the Abteilung to regroup. On the ground in front of us lay native jewellery (made out of lead rings) and a child's shoe. The commander in chief picked it up to examine it. Not only the warriors were on the move, but the whole population was fleeing from us.


Right:Teske's award document for the Military Medal 2nd class

We heard the cattle herds in the distance and saw rising clouds of dust, Where they were headed we could not know. We continue forward, the skirmish lines pushing forward along the snaking riverbed. I was keeping the heaquarters war diary and had just picked up my pencil and checked my watch (it was 8.45 a.m.) when the first shot rang out. A volley of shots followed. They came hissing, whizzing over our heads. Instinctively we ducked. One laughs when one reads of men ducking their heads. Once one hears the shot it is too late to duck, but we did it all the same. The intensity of the fire increased. Machine guns were rushed forward. The skirmish lines had already suffered heavy losses.

The Witboois and 11. Komp. had come under heavy fire as they approached the wells at Hamakari. The 10. Komp. took up position to the right of the 11. Komp. The left wing then stormed towards the wells but they came under fire from three sides. Hauptmann Ganßer fell with a bullet to the face and Leutnant Leplow and two men died with  him. Oberleutnant Streccius and a number of soldiers were wounded.

The 11. Komp. had no officers left and retired to join the 10. Komp. lines. Here on the right flank the 10. Komp. was also under heavy fire. The Hereros were hidden in a group of huts and the men of the 10. Komp. were not able to see their enemy. Hauptmann Wilhelmi sent Leutnant Strödel forward with a section. At that moment two fieldguns (of the 6. Batterie) took their place on the right flank and began to fire shrapnel rounds into the enemy positions at a range of 250 paces. Leutnant Strödel´s section then broke through the thorn fence and drove the enemy from the huts. The firing died down and it was decided to postpone the attack on the waterholes. The losses would be too heavy. We would wait for v.d. Heyde to attack from the east, drawing enemy troops away from our sector.

The headquarters took its place behind the lead company and sent up a balloon antenna. With this we hoped to make contact with v.d. Heyde and v.. Estorff. Rückforth set up his heliograph and began to exchange signals with Auer on the Waterberg. Auer was able to report about all he was able to see below him.


A soldier came running back to the H.Q. and reported that the 11. Komp. has been obliterated. This proved to be exaggerated. In all probability the men to his left and right had been hit causing him to panic. To be sure the commander in chief sent a couple of machine guns forward, and soon their steady chattering confirmed that the line had held. Streccius arrived from the front line on horseback, a bullet wound in his shoulder, blood soaking through the bandages. The enemy was trying to work his way around our left flank. The 9. Komp., our reserve, was already on the right flank so a hastily formed group of horse holders, clerks and messengers was sent to reinforce the left wing of the 11. Komp.

A group of Herero had set its sights on the staff, the command flag attracting their bullets but Lettow and Bosse charged forward into the bush chasing them away.
The first aid post was also a target and as a result even the doctors went about their work with a rifle in hand. Hauptmann Dannhauser was constantly under way, first here then there collecting information for his report. For a while the heliograph on the Waterberg had sent no signals. They had been under attack. At 1.00 pm Auer signalled that he had beaten off the attack. From his position he could observe clouds of dust at the Omuweroumue pass (Abteilung Deimling) and hear cannon fire from Otjosongombe where Estorff was engaged.


Right: the Headquarters column is surrounded

In the meantime a telegraph from Abteilung v.d. Heyde had arrived saying we could count on his arrival. All seemed to be going according to plan.
More good news arrived from Auer... Abteilung v. Estorff had taken the wells at Otjosongombe and Abteilung Deimling was through the Omuweroumue pass.

Further news indicated that the enemy was congregating at the foot of the Waterberg. It was decided to encircle them and push them against the Waterberg. Due to the exhaustion of the column however it was deemed not possible to achieve the objective that day. The final push would have to be delayed until the following morning. The Abteilung v. Estorff and Deimling were to be informed that they should advance no further that day. Upon receiving the orders v. Estorff broke off his advance. Deimling, faced with strong opposition continued his attack, not receiving the orders until 5 pm.

We (Hauptabteilung v. Mühlenfels) found ourselves under constant pressure as the Hereros tried to break through the flanks. The attacks on the left flank were weaker but that afternoon a strong attack tore into the right flank. The 9. Komp. and two machine guns went into action. Officers and men of the Headquarters joined joined (dele) the fight. They were our last reserve. The 10. And 11. Komp. managed to push their way forward.

Bullets were coming from all directions. It is unsettling to have bullets arrive from the flank and from behind and it has an extremely negative effect on the moral and spirit of the troops. v.d. Heyde´s Abteilung had not yet made it´s presence felt on our corner of the battlefield. We simply had to take the Hamakari wells by nightfall or our men and animals would have died of thirst. The burning sun and blistering sand were dehydrating us very rapidlly. The commander in chief decided to continue the attack without waiting for v.d. Heyde´s Abteilung. I went in search of my horse, I was to ride to fetch major v. Mühlenfels back to the H.Q. to receive his orders for the attack. I discovered that my two men had disappeared, leaving my horse. The native horse holders informed me that they had fixed their bayonets and had advanced with the 9. Komp. Two hours later they arrived  with large smiles on their faces. They had taken part in the fight and had been able to fire their rifles. For forms sake I had to give them a bollocking, but at the same time I was happy for them.


The battle continues here.

 
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