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bushfighter

THE DEATH OF LANCE CORPORAL OTTO FABER

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bushfighter

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I recently wrote this article for the local English-language newspaper (titled The Brit) and I hope that it may be of interest to some Members.

Harry

THE DEATH OF LANCE CORPORAL OTTO FABER,



2nd Rhodesia Regiment.

8th May 1915

On the outer front wall of the Holy Trinity Church, Funchal there is a plaque commemorating the sad deaths of two brothers during The Great War. Lieutenant Walter L. Faber, aged 38, was killed in France during the Battle of the Somme on 24th August 1916 and his brother Lance Corporal Otto Faber, aged 36, was killed in the British East Africa Protectorate (now Kenya) on 8th May 1915. A Regimental History of Otto’s regiment, The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, written by the Commanding Officer provides some details of Otto’s death.

The 2nd Battalion of The Rhodesia Regiment was raised from Europeans in Southern Rhodesia in November 1914 and Otto enlisted there on 1st December 1914. When initial training had been completed the battalion entrained for Beira in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and on 10th March 1915 sailed on board a liner to reach Mombasa, British East Africa, four days later. The enemy commander in adjacent German East Africa (now Tanzania), Lieutenant-Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, was energetically pushing raiding parties across the border with the aim of placing demolitions on the British Uganda Railway that ran from Mombasa to Kisumu on Lake Victoria.

A favoured route for the Germans was to march from the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro eastwards down the Tsavo river in British East Africa. Although the Tsavo valley did not have any roads in it and was covered in dense bush that was home to many wild animals, the river provided a sure supply of drinking water for the raiders. In mid-April 1915 the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment was deployed into the Tsavo Valley to block enemy advances. However life in the valley was tough for white troops (the vast majority of German troops were African) and within two months a quarter of the Rhodesians were in hospital with malaria, rheumatism, dysentery, bush-sores and other ailments.

The main Rhodesian base in the valley was at Mzima Springs. Six miles northwest of Mzima was a hill named Signal Hill occupied by a small British force from the 130th Baluch Regiment, Indian Army. On a sunny day the Baluch could use a heliograph (a device using a moveable mirror) to signal & receive information. A British foot patrol went each day at 0600 hours from Mzima to Signal Hill, using the only available track which led through a solidified lava flow containing many places where ambushers could lie in wait. The enemy observed this regular patrol and made their plans.

On 8th May 1915 the German 3rd Feldkompagnie both attacked Signal Hill and ambushed the Rhodesian patrol, of which Otto Faber was a member, whilst it was in the lava flow. To quote from Lieutenant Colonel Capell’s book:

“The men had no chance in the narrow gulch; they fought where they stood as the empty cartridge cases testified, but Private Townsend, Signaller Wells, Privates Potts and Nelson died there, shot through and through, bayoneted, beaten to death with rifle butts, and stripped of their clothing. (British white troops were often initially astounded at the ferocity and ruthlessness with which the African troops on both sides fought.) Corporal Faber was missing: it later transpired that he was wounded, but knowing a little of the German language had been placed on a stretcher and taken to the German camp at Rhombo, where he subsequently died of his wounds.”

So Otto Faber fought in a savage little action so typical of the fighting during the East African Campaign, and he lies in an unmarked and unknown grave in the Kenyan bush. However his name is inscribed on the British and Indian Memorial in Nairobi South Cemetery, Kenya.

SOURCES:

The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment in East Africa by Lieutenant-Colonel A.E. Capell.

Official History. Military Operations East Africa August 1914 – September 1916 by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Hordern.

Mombasa Headquarters War Diary for May 1915.

Die Operationen in Ost Africa by Ludwig Boell

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athelstan

Harry

Thanks for turning this one up. Always interesting to see where memorials to men from Rhodesia are. Were Faber's parents living on Maderia or is there another explanation for it being where it is?

regards

james

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bushfighter

James

Thank you.

It appears to me that the family home, or at least the parents' home, was in Madeira.

Best Regards Harry

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Carmania

The Bulawayo Chronicle of 27 August 1915 has a letter from a Mr R Palmer of The Poplars, Shangani under the heading 'Corporal Faber English Gentleman'. It includes the following extracts:

' During the short time he was in Rhodesia he was on the Trevello[e] Estate, Shangani, in the capacity of assistant or pupil and it was his intention of settling here and eventually taking up farming.'

Also:

'He left with the 2nd Rhodesians for German East and the next we heard of him was to the effect that he was wounded and taken prisoner "subsequent to the engagement at Mzima on May 8". Now we read that his grave has been located and "the little mound of earth was covered over with stones, and on it a board, bearing an inscription which, translated into English, is in effect: "Englishman Faber died while being bought here". When I read those words I thanked those Germans!'

Aled

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Cowshed

I realise there has been over 2 years since any activity on this thread, but I came across it by accident and as soon as I saw the name "Otto Faber" it rang a bell as this incident is referred to in my grandfather's journal of his experiences during the first world war:

"Our C Company had been at Mzima, a camp ten miles further on, for a fortnight before we had arrived at Crater Hill. Five of them had been killed in an ambush[1] on May 8th. Six miles from Mzima there is a large hill called Signal Hill where we had a signalling post. The Germans found this out and laid an ambush for the returning signalling party. They chose a good place for their object with hills on one side of the path and an immense lava bed on the other. As soon as our party came along they let rip. Their shooting was pretty bad as there were about two hundred of them and only ten of us. Our men who were not killed by the first volley lay down and started replying when Corporal Blamay[2] shouted: "Get into the lava." Accordingly five made a rush for the lava and got away. Five were left behind. We found the grave of one of them afterwards in a German camp. He evidently died while they were carrying him back to camp severely wounded. On his grave was written in German:

"O. Faber[3], Englishman, died while being carried here", with a date.


[1] See page 20 of The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment in East Africa. Privates Nelson, Pott, Townsend and Signaller Wells were killed outright, and Corporal Faber was captured and died of his wounds.

[2] Private William Blamey, died of malaria at Voi, 20th June 1915, aged 41.

[3] Private Otto Faber, no. 787, attested 1st December 1914, killed 8th May 1915.

My grandfather was Thomas Otho Shearburn White, private 886, attested in the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment on 24th December 1914.

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bushfighter

Thanks Cowshed

Somewhere deep inside my long thread on the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa there's a photo of the lava flow.

Harry

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Cowshed
On 28/11/2013 at 18:47, bushfighter said:

Thanks Cowshed

Somewhere deep inside my long thread on the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa there's a photo of the lava flow.

Harry

Thanks Harry

I take it you are referring to the Shetani lava flow on your post #92

Simon

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bushfighter

Simon

ROGER that - well spotted!

H

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stevebecker

Mates,

Interesting,

Since his (Otto's) grave was found, why didn't they relocate to a central cemetery ?

I surpose they are many graves all over Africa of these poor sods lost to us.

S.B

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Cowshed

Mates,

Interesting,

Since his (Otto's) grave was found, why didn't they relocate to a central cemetery ?

I surpose they are many graves all over Africa of these poor sods lost to us.

S.B

Steve

It sounds like the grave was a fairly ad-hoc affair and it subsequently got lost, broken up or forgotten about. According to the CWGC website his memorial is at the Nairobi British and Indian Memorial. The website goes on to explain: The Memorial consists of eleven stone panels, carved with the names of over 1,200 British officers and men and the Indian officers. The central panel is inscribed with the words:

"Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in East Africa before the advance to the Rufiji in January, 1917, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death."

Simon

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