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Remembered Today:

Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa


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The Schutztruppe view from Gun Spur directly into the direction of the Royal Fusiliers’ attack from Karwazi.
Arab Ridge rises to the left.

The two mountain guns and four East Africa Regiment machine-guns gave direct fire support from the rounded treeless summit in the centre of the Karwazi ridgeline.

At roughly 1300 hours the 29th Punjabis arrived on Karwazi.

General Stewart also arrived and informed Lt Col Jourdain that two Loyal North Lancashires platoons (commanded by Lieutenants Leeb and Keays) from No 2 Company had been detached from Lt Col Jourdain’s command and placed under command of Lt Col Driscoll to support the Fusiliers attack.

This attack was developing towards Fusilier Knoll and Gun Spur but was slowing down as the Schutztruppe Arab Company was holding the vital ground of Arab Ridge.

(This was the first serious action for the 25th Royal Fusiliers. They had arrived in theatre untrained and had recently completed basic training at Kajiado and Nairobi. The Battalion was finding its feet on the battlefield.
This probably indicates why an attack was being developed across a valley before the high ground on both sides had been seized.)

General Stewart then ordered 29th Punjabis to secure Karwazi and the gunline, and 2nd Loyal North Lancashires (minus two platoons detached to the Fusiliers) to attack Arab Ridge and to secure the northern flank of the battlefield.

3 King's African Rifles was ordered to join the attack on the left flank of 25th Royal Fusiliers.

“C” Section 26th British Field Ambulance was located on Karwazi in a banana plantation 200 yards north of the guns.

“C” Section No 22nd Indian Clearing Hospital initially disembarked at the Main Landing but then was transferred to the area of the KAR and Force HQ landing.

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Looking northwest from Karwazi towards the head of Arab Ridge.
These children from an adjacent orphanage are going for water in the direction that 2 LNL took as it advanced to seize Arab Ridge.

Lt Col Jourdain positioned one platoon and a machine-gun on the north of Karwazi to secure that flank, and then ordered his remaining six platoons and three machine-guns to take Arab Ridge.

General Stewart had a problem to solve.
The Fusiliers were becoming tied down in an attack across the valley, and Arab Ridge was the vital ground that had to be taken.
But daylight hours were disappearing because the landing of the troops had taken far longer than the British plan had anticipated.

Cherry Kearton, an officer in 25th Royal Fusiliers, was employed to carry messages for his CO, Lt Col Driscoll, and General Stewart.
He later wrote in his book “Adventures With Animals and Men”:

“I was “Galloper on foot” to the Colonel and General Stewart and consequently saw more of the battle than I should have done if I had been in charge of a platoon or company. For all that, of course, I knew little at the time of what was happening outside my own immediate neighbourhood.

But I did soon discover that things had gone wrong – as was often the case – at the start.
It was to have been a surprise landing from ships which crossed the lake without lights . . .”
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View north up the broken ground of Arab Ridge from Gun Spur.

The mountain guns and East African Regiment machine-guns were deployed in support of the Fusiliers.

Lt Col Jourdain had only his own machine-guns to use to support his movements.
His No 1 Company was already involved in fighting westward.

The task of taking Arab Ridge was not technically difficult for an infantry battalion but the necessity for speed meant that the Loyal North Lancashires now had to cross the valley towards its head instead of contouring around it.

The enemy occupying Arab Ridge was the Schutztruppe Arab auxiliary company, and it fought skillfully and bravely, supported by well-positioned machine-guns that were as usual manned by Germans.
The broken ground and the height of the ridge gave the defenders a big advantage.
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The Loyal North Lancashires crossed the valley in the area of vegetation in the river bed.

Captain George Atkinson was commanding No 1 Platoon of the Loyal North Lancashires and he led the assault on Arab Ridge.

Extracts from his diary, which show that No 1 Company was in fact committed to attack Arab Ridge well before Lt Col Jourdain arrived, read:

1030 am Company formed up on cliff

11 am Formed firing line with remainder of our coy in support
Attacked ridge 500 yds to W of knoll & Royal Fus
Direction of attack Southwest

1130 am Under fire of enemy snipers from the S, W, & N

12 noon L/c Joyner hit in arm & side by MG while crossing muddy reed bed. Half platoon held up in mud

1230 pm Crawled through reeds & held small fold in ground at foot of enemy’s ridge, range 600 yds

1 pm Enemy’s MG held us up from SE. Sent Pte Swannick for reinforcements.

2 pm Reinforced by No 2 & 3 platoons

2.30 pm Covered advance of No 2 & then No 3 platoon with rifles on hillside

3 pm One of our MG came up & had to be stripped by Sgt Yale owing to jam. Pte Knighton killed behind us

3.30 pm Our MG in action. We advanced into rocks without suffering a casualty from enemy’s enfilade MG fire

4 pm Gained footing on ridge but were sniped from E, S, & W

4.30 pm Worked SW & turned enemy’s left flank
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The grandson of a Chief who served the Germans stands in the foreground.
Fusilier Knoll and Gun Spur can be seen just before the Lake Shore.
Arab Ridge is on the near right skyline.

Somewhere on the slopes behind the standing figure Private Frank Knighton, 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was Killed in Action.

Frank Knighton was probably buried where he fell.

He is commemorated on the Nairobi British and Indian Memorial.
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Looking in the direction of attack upon Gun Spur.

As Lt Col Jourdain's men outflanked their Arab enemies on the northern end of Arab Ridge the two Loyal North Lancashire platoons attached to the Royal Fusiliers assaulted and took Gun Spur.

In a conversation that evening General Stewart told Lt Col Jourdain that the Fusiliers' attack had stalled (doubtless due to the enemy controlling the high ground to the west and south), and that men had bunched together at the bottom of the valley, incurring casualties.

The two Loyal North Lancashire platoons had advanced through the Fusiliers and were the first troops onto Gun Spur.
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The Fusiliers' charge was probably made from this position.
Gun Spur rises to the right.

At this time the Fusiliers charged Fusilier Knoll and took it.

One Section of the East African Regiment’s machine-gunners had been deployed forward to assist the Fusiliers when they were held up, and this Section provided close machine-gun support for the assaults on Gun Spur and Fusilier Knoll.

Private Turner of the 25th Royal Fusiliers commented in his diary:

“ . . . 15-pounders on the boats covered our landing, it was a lovely place where we landed and went up a very steep cliff and then into big banana plantations.

As son as we got through the bananas we got into the fighting good and strong and we fought on until dark and took a position which we called Fusilier Knoll, and after putting out a screen of pickets prepared to rest, but we got no rest as they were sniping and shelling us all night.”

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Fusilier Knoll from the east, with Gun Spur behind it.
The South Downs are the far horizon.
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Absolutely stunning! Your best yet (but then I'm biased on the subject matter ;) )


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View east from Fusilier Knoll onto the lower southern slopes of Karwazi.
3 KAR secured this flank but that unit’s advance on the Fusiliers’ left was hampered by marshes and high reeds along stream beds.

As dusk was now approaching General Stewart decided to halt all his troops where they were for the night.

25th Royal Fusiliers concentrated in the area of Fusilier Knoll and Gun Spur. The East African Regiment machine-gunners joined them.

Half the Faridkot Sappers and Miners were with the Fusiliers, along with the Bombay Sappers and Miners Bridging Train, the remainder were with the ships.

2nd Loyal North Lancashires, still on the summit of Arab Ridge stayed there apart from the platoon and single machine-gun that had been holding the north end of Karwazi Hill. This party joined the Fusiliers on their Knoll.
The Companies badly needed ammunition and cooked food.
Captain Woodruffe and an ammunition party spent all night getting a resupply off the Rusinga.

The Section of 28th Mountain Battery, the 29th Punjabis Double-company and “C” Section 26th British Field Ambulance were ordered to move to the area of Gun Spur for the night.

3 King's African Rifles were spread between their landing beach and Gun Spur.

“C” Section 22nd Indian Clearing Hospital appears to have remained at the site of the KAR and Force HQ landing, near Lubembe Point.
The unit transferred casualties out to the Rusinga which doubled as a Hospital Ship.
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Looking south from the tip of Gun Spur. (Using a tele-lens.)
The Protestant Mission with its white tower is in the centre of the image, half way up the ridge named The South Downs.

The German field gun to the south of the town now opened fire on Gun Spur from a position 50 yards east of the Protestant Mission. (The Mission building was flying a Red Cross flag.)
The gun had been pulled up from the river mouth by a team of oxen.
After firing a few rounds the gun ceased firing for the night.

However General Stewart saw the gun as a threat to the next day’s operations and he ordered 2nd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment to advance next morning down Arab Ridge along Lancs Spur, cross the valley of the Kanoni River and Kyaka Road and seize the South Downs ridgeline to the right of the Protestant Mission, capturing the enemy gun if possible.
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The Indian Mountain Gunners at Bukoba in action on Karwazi Hill.
Arab Ridge is the skyline

There was general agreement that the Schutztruppe Arab Askari had fought well (even Meinertzhagen commented favorably on the Arabs’ enterprise and pluck) making maximum use of the broken ground to fight a skilful defensive action.

Once the Loyal North Lancashires had out-flanked them on Arab Ridge the Schutztruppe defenders made a fighting withdrawal southwards.

The German white machine-gunners as usual had fought well and professionally.

Cherry Kearton wrote:
“The machine guns were still troublesome . . . although every now and then we could see the gunners (presumably while their guns were cooling) come out on the top of the cliff and stand smoking and watching the fight.

Eventually one of them was shot in this foolhardy act, and a little later our men worked round and put both out of action.”

The deciding factor on the British side had been the professionalism of the Indian mountain gunners under Lt R.M.L. Dutton. Their firepower was skillfully applied against enemy positions, particularly machine-guns, on Gun Spur and the eastern slopes of Arab Ridge.

General Stewart’s tally of casualties during the day’s fighting was:
25th Bn Royal Fusiliers
3 Rank and File killed
5 Rank and File wounded (2 later died of wounds)

2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
1 Rank and File killed
5 Rank and File wounded

3rd King’s African Rifles
3 Askari wounded
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Fusilier Knoll from Gun Spur

Those who spent the night around Fusilier Knoll were not particularly comfortable.

Frederick Selous wrote:
“About 5 o’clock our whole force advanced across the open valley below the ridges we had taken nearly the whole day to clear.

To do this we had to get through a swamp, intersected by a small river, which was much more than waist deep. Having negotiated this we then took possession of two rocks, hills from which we drove the enemy just before it got dark. . . . .

We had had a very hard day, having had nothing to eat, and not even a cup of coffee before leaving the ship.
Provisions were to have been sent on shore for us, but if they were we never got them. . . . .
Most of our men were, I think, very exhausted. . . . .

We passed a most uncomfortable night. As soon as the dew began to fall it got very cold, so cold that we could not sleep at all.”
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Looking from Fusilier Knoll down the direction of advance of the 25th Royal Fusiliers into Bukoba town.
The South Downs, the objective of 2nd Loyal North Lancashires who were advancing on the right, is on the horizon.

At 0530 hours General Stewart ordered hot food to be sent forward to the troops.
(Presumably a Force Administrative Area was functioning at the KAR and Force HQ landing site, but the food may well have been cooked in the ships' galleys.)

The General then ordered 25th Royal Fusiliers to advance directly from their bivouacs along the flat ground into Bukoba.

Private Turner, 25 RF, wrote in his diary:

“Next morning we got off at daybreak to take the town and a devil of a fight we had.
It was at times too wicked for anything. Two or three times we got deadly machine-gun fire.”

Captain Angus Buchanan MC, then a private in 25th Royal Fusiliers, later wrote in his book “Three Years of War in East Africa”:

“We camped for the night on the hill, chilled and blanketless, and foodless; for no supplies followed us as it was a short undertaking. . . . .

At daylight a fighting line was formed across the flats, from the hills to the lake; and an advance began toward the town in face of steady rifle and machine-gun fire.”
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The swampy ground that the Fusiliers had to cross

Lt Col Driscoll sent his “A” Company to reconnoiter the road route into Bukoba. Frederick Selous, the company commander, advanced his men down through banana plantations until he reached a swampy area crossed by a bridge.

Suspecting an ambush he moved his men cautiously towards the left edge of the swamp.
The Schutztruppe opened fire immediately and pinned “A” Company down.

Meanwhile the Indian mountain gunners on Gun Spur engaged enemy troops observed digging trenches near the Rest House in Bukoba.
The German 2.9-inch gun just east of the Protestant Mission engaged the mountain guns, and the Winifred fired at the German gun.

(The guns on the British ships were tasked with supporting the British infantry advance, but as effective ship-to-shore communications were not functioning forward of Force HQ, the ships’ gun crews had to engage targets of opportunity that did not endanger the advancing infantrymen. As the ships could not see the infantry for a lot of the time the effectiveness of this naval fire-support was greatly reduced.)
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The southern end of Arab Ridge, seen from the west.
2nd Loyal North Lancashires fought down this broken ground.

Up on Arab Ridge Captain Woodruffe and the ammunition party arrived around 0700 hours and replenished each rifleman to 150 rounds of pouch ammunition.
(The ammunition party and carriers deserve credit, as do all ammunition parties everywhere, for working all night on this task over difficult ground.)

A platoon of 3 KAR arrived and took over the summit of Arab Ridge.
2nd Loyal North Lancashires started advancing down the ridge, No 1 Company on the right, No 2 Company and the machine-guns on the left and the one weak platoon of No 4 Company in reserve.

Immediately the 2 LNL men came into view the Schutztruppe engaged them with a machine-gun and snipers.
The advance became a fire-and-movement battle as platoons and sections provided fire support for others that dashed forward down the ridge in tactical bounds.
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The first scarp on Arab Ridge

These infantry drills slowed down the advance and irritated Force HQ (which was not under fire itself). Messages were sent to 2LNL to speed up the advance, but Lt Col Jourdain was careful with his soldiers’ lives and he maintained his own rhythm.

The spur at the southern end of Arab Ridge is described in the 2LNL War Diary:
“This spur turned out to be a succession of three scarps, the first of which was unclimable except at the sides. One of our Maxims went into position at the edge of the first scarp but had to be taken back as it could get no further.
Germans estimated at 30 – 40 rifles and one or two machine-guns.
Their Maxims were well-handled and fired at every exposure of our men.”

At 0830 hours Lt Col Jourdain received a message from the 3 KAR officer to his rear on the summit of Arab Ridge, stating that the enemy were advancing and that there were insufficient KAR Askari to hold them off.

Lt Col Jourdain reported this to Force HQ and got on with his own advance.
(This threat from the north is not mentioned again in any account of the operation.)

Then a heavy storm of rain fell for an hour over the whole battlefield.
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Looking east from Lancs Spur. Gun Spur is out of sight over the next ridge.
Karwazi Hill can just be seen on the horizon.
The Loyal North Lancashires were fighting their own battle with their own resources, as neither the mountain guns, East Africa Regiment machine-guns or the naval guns had line-of-sight to Lancs Spur.

George Atkinson’s diary for No 1 Platoon’s activities that morning reads:

6.10 am Advanced to locate German MG on spur 500 yds due S

6.30 am Retired & reformed with remainder of battalion

7 am Advanced to rocks overlooking enemy MG hidden in rocks

8 am Rained hard. Found we were on top of precipitous ledge of rock so had to retire under cover of No 2 Coy

9 am Reinforced No 2 Coy

9.5 am L/c Kelleher wounded in leg by MG

9.30 am Worked to our left under cover occupying small ridge on enemy’s right flank. Opened fire at 250 yds on enemy’s MG as they retired. Killed one askari & wounded several more but they got away. Our MG failed to support us & missed a splendid chance at the retreating askaris

10 am Occupied spur vacated by enemy, Pte Swannick leading half the platoon while the other half fired on escaping Germans at 800 yds
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This image was taken from a bridge across the swampy area where Selous’ men were ambushed

Down by the swamp the Royal Fusiliers also got wet.
Frederick Selous wrote:
“ . . . about 9 o’clock a terrific storm burst over the area of the fighting, accompanied by torrential rain and partial darkness. In a few minutes my men and I, and all who were exposed to its violence, were soaked to the skin. The rain, however, was luckily, if not exactly warm, not cold and gave us no sense of chill.”

Lt Col Driscoll then sent forward his “C”, “A” and “B” Companies to come into line with “A” Company and ordered a General Advance.

An East Africa Regiment machine-gun came forward and deployed to cover the Fusiliers as they crossed of the swamp. This gun opened fire on a house near the wireless station where an enemy machine-gun was thought to be located.
However the enemy gunners were alert and returned fire accurately, killing the No 1 on the British gun and wounding two others, one of them seriously.
The East Africa Regiment gunners withdrew into a reed-bed and re-organised.

The 25RF adjutant, Captain White, came forward and crossed the swamp with “C” Company and Selous and part of “A” Company. The water was just below shoulder height.

Having got across the swamp the enemy sniping was still being fiercely applied.
Serjeant-Major Bottomley of ‘C” Company came to Selous’ “A” Company position.

Private Turner later wrote:
“I was talking to Sgt Major Bottomly who was sitting beside me when he got his head nearly blown off by a dum dum bullet.
It gave me a bad turn for a few minutes. I heard the bullet hit him smack.”

Frederick Selous wrote his own account:
“ . . . my black boy Ramazani touched me and said: “Master, soldier hit, dead”.
I had never heard a sound but turning my head I saw poor Bottomly lying on his back stone dead, with a bullet through his head.
I noticed a large signet ring on his right hand, as his arm hung limp across his body.
His head and face were nearly covered by his helmet, but the blood was trickling down over his throat, and I knew that he must have been shot through the brain and killed instantaneously.”

The Fusiliers advance now stalled.
Selous later wrote:
“As the advance of the companies of our battalion on right seemed very slow and we did not know what opposition lay in front of us, Colonel Driscoll asked me to call for three or four volunteers, and crawl forwards in order to make a reconnaissance.”
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Colonial building in Bukoba town

Once in the town Selous estimated that the Schutztruppe had withdrawn, leaving only a few snipers to provide covering fire, and he returned and reported this to Lt Col Driscoll.
The advance was continued.

Frederick Selous later wrote:
“Almost immediately after I had parted from him (Lt Col Driscoll), my man, Private Mucklow (from Worcestershire), was shot dead alongside of Colonel Driscoll, as he had incautiously stood up.
This, I think, was almost if not absolutely the last shot fired by the enemy, and no opposition whatever was made to the advance upon, and occupation of the town by our battalion.”

Private Turner wrote:
“Eventually we got in the town and took possession of it.
This day I killed my first man . . . a black askari. He was up a tree about 40 yards from me and (I) did not know he was there until he fired. Goodness knows how he missed me.
I did not miss him, I hit him through the chest and fetched him out of the tree.
I got hold of his rifle and found that he was using bad bullets, and although he was not dead he went out alright with one of his own bullets.”

As the Fusiliers took possession of the town the Engineers and Faridkot Sappers and Miners commenced demolishing the German wireless station.
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The Protestant Mission viewed from the R.C. Mission to the south.
The white spire of the mission is in the hollow on the skyline.
The German 2.9-inch gun was fired from the knoll to the right of the hollow.

At 1110 hours the German 2.9-inch gun by the Protestant Mission limbered-up and started to withdraw over the South Downs.

The Indian mountain gunners engaged the gun, killing one of the draught oxen.

The Kavirondo had been firing ahead of the Fusiliers’ advance, and she now also engaged the German gun, preventing enemy attempts to rescue it.
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The second scarp on Arab Ridge

General Stewart sent the double-company of 29th Punjabis to join the 2nd Loyal North Lancashire’s advance along with an order to “Push On”. The Punjabis started to arrive from 1010 hours.

Lt Col Jourdain issued orders for half the Punjabis and one LNL Maxim to remain on Lancs Spur whilst the rest of his force crossed the Kanoni River and captured the Protestant Mission. The Loyal North Lancashires' advance resumed, No 2 Company leading followed by No 1 Company. The weak platoon of No 4 Company and half the Punjabis moved in the rear as a Reserve. Bn HQ moved with the Reserve.

Around noon Nos 7 and 8 Platoons, who were in the lead, were sniped from a ridge on the left flank. The two platoons deployed and took the ridge.

Colonel H.E.C. Kitchener (elder brother of Lord Kitchener) was a staff officer with Force HQ and he now arrived at Lancs Spur followed by the Brigade Major Captain Cuddell.

Colonel Kitchener said to Lt Col Jourdain:
“You must push on at once at all costs as 700 German reinforcements are coming up and the next ridge must be taken.”
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The third scarp on Arab Ridge, named Lancs Spur on the sketch map.

Captain Cuddell then arrived and advised that General Stewart wanted all of the Punjabis to now stay on Lancs Spur.

Lt Col Jourdain asked Colonel Kitchener to decide the deployment of the Punjabis, as half of them were already advancing. Colonel Kitchener's decision was to keep all the Punjabis on Lancs Spur but without the LNL Maxim, which would now join the advance.

These interruptions slowed down the advance considerably, as Lt Col Jourdain had to halt the troops, hold an Orders Group and re-deploy the Punjabis.
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