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Remembered Today:

Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa


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The memorial plaque to the dead of the 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
The plaque is in Nairobi Protestant Cathedral.
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Hello Harry,

I have been following the cemeteries and memorials as you travel from Uganda to Kenya. Is this Cathedral the All Saints Cathedral? If so I was married there!



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21st – 23rd June 1915

After the British defeats on the coast at Tanga (November 1914) and Jasin (January 1915) Lord Kitchener had banned offensive activity in the East African theatre.

However General Tighe in Nairobi continued his demands to take some action within the theatre, and eventually the War Office agreed that a raid, limited in scope, could take place against Bukoba where a strategic German radio mast was located.

Bukoba was an important German port on Lake Victoria located just south of the Uganda border. It was the supply base for the Schutztruppe units facing the British and Belgian forces along the Kagera River.

The British plan involved using the Royal Navy Lake Flotilla to mount an amphibious raid from Kisumu in British East Africa.

Simultaneously the British units along the Kagera River would demonstrate in an attempt to tie down the German troops facing them.
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Unit War Diaries reflect different details of movements of troops but this sketch offers a broad outline of British activity at Bukoba.
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This was taken from the shore east of the R.C. Mission.

The port is in the left foreground.

Arab Ridge lies above the port and the left-hand white beach.

Gun Spur lies above the second white beach from the left.

Fusilier Knoll is difficult to see but lies just to the right of Gun Spur.

Karwazi Hill stretches along the right-hand skyline.
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British units deployed on the Bukoba raid

Brigadier-General J.M. Stewart commanded the operation, and the above image from his post-action report lists the British troops involved.

(There are some small omissions – eg: “Z” Signals Company provided a detachment that successfully used flags, heliographs, lamps and heavy cable to communicate.
The 3 KAR detachment took at least one machine-gun, as that can be seen on a photograph in Meinertzhagen’s “Army Diary – 1899-1926”.
Also transport mules were brought in from the training school at Nakuru.)

Unit War Diaries record strengths at Bukoba as:
25th Royal Fusiliers: 18 officers and 449 men.
2nd Loyal North Lancashires: 12 officers and 253 men, 3 interpreters, 46 machine-gun porters.
29th Punjabis Double-company: 2 British officers, 4 Indian officers and 179 Sepoys.

Other estimated strengths were:
3rd King’s African Rifles: 350 all ranks
Section 28th Mountain Battery: 91 all ranks and 2 guns.
East Africa Regiment Machine Gunners: 37 all ranks.
Faridkot Sappers and Miners: 91 all ranks

The German troops positioned within 3 days march of Bukoba were estimated to total 1,500 men, however most of them were actively involved in operations along the Kagera River and less than 300 of them garrisoned Bukoba. An Arab auxiliary company formed part of the Schutztruppe force in Bukoba.
(The Schutztruppe used auxiliary troops supplied by friendly local Sultans wherever these could be raised.)
Major von Steumer commanded the region, having been the German Resident there in pre-war days.
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Mounds of dried fish, a staple food, for sale outside Bukoba Port
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Looking north along Bukoba beach from the Port area.
Karwazi Hill is on the skyline and Lubembe Point extends to the right well into the Lake.

The Schutztruppe had defended this beach with trenches and strong-points.

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The British boat plan for the Bukoba operation

The staff work for moving troops by rail to Kisumu and then embarking them was professional.

25th Royal Fusiliers, 29th Punjabis and the Royal Engineers Bridging Section were moved from Kajiado.
The Faridkot Sappers and Miners were moved from Voi.
The Mule Train was moved from Nakuru.
The 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, 3rd King’s African Rifles, East Africa Regiment Machine Gunners, 28th Mountain Battery section, “Z” Signals Company detachment and the Ambulance Train were moved from Nairobi.

The loading plan is shown above.
In addition the Winifred and Rusinga both towed lighters carrying artillery and transport mules, and the Usoga carried slaughter cattle for rations along with supplies and supply personnel.

The Senior Naval Officer of the Lake Flotilla was Commander G.S. Thornley RN. On arrival in January 1915 he had tightened up naval discipline and organization on the Lake.
(Prior to his arrival the Army, the Uganda Railway who owned the vessels, the Navy and the Government authorities had all been involved in managing the Flotilla.)

Naval gunfire support was an important part of the British plan, and the vessels were armed with:

Winifred (Flagship and command centre): one 4-inch Quick-Firing gun, one 12-pounder 12-cwt, one Maxim.

Nyanza: one 4-inch Quick-Firing gun, one 6-pounder, one Maxim.

Usoga: one 15-pounder on field carriage, two 3-pounders,.

Rusinga: unarmed as it was commandeered only for this operation.

Kavirondo: one 12-pounder 8-cwt, one 3-pounder, one Maxim.

Percy Anderson: one 3-pounder.

Ten Loyal North Lancashire gunners, Logan’s Battery, manned the Usoga’s 3-pounders, which the Royal Navy had supplied en route from India.
The 12-pounder 12-cwt was manned by eight men from the North West Railway Volunteers who had brought this armoured-train gun out from India with Indian Expeditionary Force “B”. (The OC of this unit, a railway engineer, improvised most of the gun mountings for the Flotilla at Kisumu.)
Royal Navy Bluejackets and a Marine, all sent up from Mombasa, manned the remaining weapons.

The 4-inch guns and the two single 3-pounders had been salved from HMS Pegasus in Zanzibar harbour.
The remaining guns had been sent up from the coast by HMS Goliath and HMS Fox.

The two tugs Kavirondo and Percy Anderson were tasked to act as despatch vessels and were required to cover the landing and to assist in handling lighters.
The Kavirondo carried a small guard force of Sepoys from the 98th Infantry.

The Germans had the Muansa, an armed tug carrying two guns believed to be 7-pounders, operating out of Mwanza port.

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This was the Bukoba town general store in German colonial times.

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The German Cemetery in Bukoba
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Busira Island from Bukoba Beach

The British Flotilla left Kisumu around 1300 hours 20th June 1916, arriving off Bukoba 12 hours later.
The moon was shining brightly.

A German OP (Observation Post) of one white NCO and two Askari was positioned on Busira Island just outside Bukoba bay.
This OP saw the flotilla and fired signal flares to warn the Bukoba garrison.

(Meinertzhagen states that General Stewart forbade the Flotilla to turn off its lights, despite naval assurances of nautical competence, in case the ships steamed into each other, but this could well be untrue.
F.C. Selous later wrote: “We had been going very slowly and quietly for some time before nearing the island . . .”
The Royal Navy account states: “The squadron made a somewhat premature landfall”.)

The flotilla then withdrew eastwards and in the darkness the Rusinga lost contact with Winifred.


Busira Island from the ridge named the South Downs by the British raiders, above the port
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Lubembe Point protrudes from the right with Busira Island to its left, behind the tall tree.
This photograph is taken from the south end of Karwazi Hill, the first British objective.

The British plan was for a Main Landing to take place just north of Lubembe Point whilst 3 KAR landed near the R.C. Mission.
(A Royal Navy account states that the KAR were not meant to actually land south of the port but just to pretend to do so, thus hopefully confusing the German defenders as to where the Main Landing beach actually was.)

The first objective of the Main Landing was to seize the south end of Karwazi Hill that stands above Lubembe Point.
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Main Landing Beach from the south

In the event the Winifred and Usoga approached the shore at first light about 2,000 yards north of Lubembe Point, where an area of flat cultivated land lies under the steep slopes half-way along Karwazi Hill.

Ships’ boats and lighters were used to get men, mules and supplies ashore, starting at 0515 hours. The disembarkation took longer than anticipated.
25th Royal Fusiliers landed their “A, “C”, “D” and “B” Companies in that order, and then the East African Regiment machine gunners followed by the Faridkot Sappers and Miners.
Schutztruppe OPs above them fired flares and occasional rifle shots, but the Fusiliers determinedly and quickly climbed up the eastern slopes of Karwazi Hill seizing the ridge-line without meeting serious opposition.

OC “A” Company 25th Royal Fusiliers was Captain F.C. Selous, the famous explorer and big-game hunter. He later wrote:

“My Company, A, was the first to land, a somewhat slow process as the heavy rowboats travelled only slowly and our ship was further than it looked from the shore. From within a few yards of the water’s edge to the base of a precipitous slope some 200 yards distant, which in places was a sheer cliff some 300 or 400 feet high, the ground was covered with bush and large banana-plantations, amongst which were scattered a few large and comfortable-looking native huts.

Had the Germans only known that we were going to attempt a landing at this spot and brought a machine-gun to the top of the cliff, or had they even lined the top of the cliff with riflemen, they would probably have been able to kill every man in the closely-packed boats, and sunk the latter before they reached the shore.

Luckily they did not know where we were going to land until too late, for once on shore we worked our way as quickly as possible through the banana plantations, and gained the top of the cliff unopposed.

We were only just in time however, as we were soon engaged with the enemy’s forces . . . . ”

The Sappers immediately started work on improving the beach landing points and on making a mule track up the slope.
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SS Winifred photographed at Kisumu
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Looking north down the steep track to the Main Landing beach.
All men, mules, guns and supplies had to use this ascent.

At 0615 Rusinga joined Winifred and Usoga but had to wait until ships’ boats were available for disembarkation.
(The Percy Anderson had grounded upon a rock and so was unable to assist with moving lighters to and from the shore until she had refloated herself.)

Then the two mountain guns were disembarked in lighters followed by the nine platoons and 4 machine-guns of the Loyal North Lancashires. The Punjabis were the last to disembark.
The CO of the Loyal North Lancashires, Lt Col Jourdain, left the Rusinga at 1150 hours with the last group of his men. Because of the difficult ground here he ordered Quartermaster Serjeant Worthington, in charge of the Battalion’s supplies, not to unload stores or mens’ kits from the boat until ordered to do so.
This decision was to create problems later.

As he climbed the slope of Karwazi Hill Lt Col Jourdain came across artillery mules in difficulties on wet ground.
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SS Usoga
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The Roman Catholic Mission located south of Bukoba Port

Meanwhile the Nyanza, carrying 3 KAR, had turned south of Busira Island (where she spotted a dummy German gun position) and approached the shore near the Customs Shed.

A German 2.9-inch field gun positioned near the R.C. Mission engaged the Nyanza. The Nyanza was ordered to stand-off and a duel then commenced between the Nyanza’s gunners and the Germans.
Although the German gunners were using black powder that signalled their position, the Royal Navy gunners did not hit their target but did make it cease firing for a time.

At the same time Winifred had opened fire on the southeastern slopes of Karwazi Hill where enemy movement was reported.

Now the German field gun moved to near the mouth of the Kanoni River (southeast of Bukoba Fort) and engaged the British vessels that it could see. The Winifred, Kavirondo and Nyanza now fired back, temporarily silencing the enemy gun.


The Kanoni River near its mouth. The Lake is just beyond the buildings.
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3KAR beach and crags

The attempt to land 3KAR south of the port was now abandoned and Nyanza was ordered to disembark 3KAR on a beach just north of Lubembe Point and south of the end of Karwazi Hill ridge-line. The KAR started getting ashore at noon.

After Nyanza had completed this disembarkation Winifred used the same beach to disembark General Stewart and his HQ and signallers at 1300 hours.
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The craggy southern end of Karwazi Hill occupied by 3KAR.

Once ashore 3KAR were deployed on the southern end of Karwazi Hill, linking up with the left company of 25th Royal Fusiliers to the north.
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View south onto Karwazi Hill.
The second rounded summit, bare of trees, is where 25th Royal Fusiliers had deployed.
The nearer summit with buildings was where No 1 Company 2LNL was securing the northern flank.

Lt Col Jourdain reached the Karwazi ridgeline to be met by Lt Col Driscoll, CO 25 RF, and Captain Powell, a staff officer.

Neither could describe the current situation precisely to Lt Col Jourdain, but it appeared that the Fusiliers had been drawn into a premature attack before all British troops had concentrated, and before General Stewart’s HQ had arrived.

Meanwhile No 1 Company of 2LNL had been ordered to move north and secure that flank.

Lt Col Jourdain moved to inspect No 1 Company’s location, leaving No 2 Company with the Fusiliers.
No 1 Company, commanded by Captain Stokes, had sent No 1 Platoon to gain a foothold on the ridge to the west (Arab Ridge).


Royal Fusiliers, facing Bukoba, on Karwazi Hill
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The broken ground of Arab Ridge seen from Karwazi Hill

Opposite Karwazi across the valley to the west was a rocky ridgeline that was the vital ground on the battlefield.

This was named Arab Ridge.
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Gun Spur is the cliff in the right centre and Fusilier Knoll is the rounded lower hillock to the left.
The ridgeline on the horizon was named The South Downs.

As the Fusiliers looked south towards Bukoba they could see Schutztruppe defenders on Gun Spur and Fusilier Knoll.

As the Germans looked north and saw the Loyal North Lancashires moving north they quickly sent their Arab company to defend Arab Ridge.
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The Schutztruppe Arab Company quickly moved from left to right up the ridgeline of Arab Ridge, occupying sniping and defensive positions in the broken ground.
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