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Remembered Today:

Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa


bushfighter1

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Swahili schoolgirls near the drainage ditch.

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The drainage ditch looking north.

This is the area of the junction, on the first day's fighting, between the 13th Rajputs (The Shekwati Regiment) & the three single companies of the 61st King Geoge's Own Pioneers which were General Tighe's only reserve.

The Rajputs were to the north & the Pioneers to the south.

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The drainage ditch is maintained towards its northern end but further south it disappears under a sports field.

A little further south 17 Feldkompagnie counter-attacked the 61st Pioneers. The Pioneers, despite fighting back gallantly against heavy Machine Gun fire were halted, & when they were attacked again by German reinforcements now arriving in Tanga the Pioneers withdrew.

The troops of Indian Expeditionary Force "B", after years of pleasant quiet postings, were confronting the realities of modern war.

The Schutztruppe had honed their Machine Gun skills in counter-insurgency battles in the interior of German East Africa.

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The Tanga German Hospital.

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The German Hospital from the northwest. Wounded from both sides were efficiently treated here.

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The German Memorial Cemetery Garden which is in the centre of Tanga.

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Inside the German Memorial Cemetery garden, Tanga.

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The well-carved German Memorial Stone in the garden at Tanga.

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The grave markers of the fallen Germans in the Memorial Cemetery garden, Tanga.

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The Signal Tower at Tanga, still in use as a signal tower today.

"B" Beach is behind the tower.

During the fighting staff officers observed from the tower, & signallers communicated with the fleet.

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The eastern end of "B" Beach.

The 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment landed from the SS "Karmala" onto this beach on 03 November 1914. Over 800 men landed, organized into four double-companies & the Bn HQ.

The Bn's first task was to dig a defensive line covering "A" Beach & the White House (which housed Force HQ). Later this defensive line was extended northwestwards to cover "B" Beach & the Signal Tower.

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The White House, which was used as General Aitken's Force Headquarters.

The building is on the northeast of Ras Kasone.

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Courtesy of the US Army Command & General Staff College

Map showing the landing beaches on Ras Kasone Peninsula.

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Courtesy of the US Army Command & General Staff College

Map showing battlefield landmarks.

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"C" Beach at Tanga.

The 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry, the 98th Infantry & the 101st Grenadiers landed here early on 04 November 1914 & all three units moved inland behind the defensive line established by the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires.

The six 10-pounder pack guns of the 28th Indian Mountain Pack Battery were not landed. They were mounted to fire from the deck of the SS "Bharata". However Forward Observation Officers were not deployed & the gun crews could see little of the battlefield.

This failure to appreciate the use of the pack battery on land was a crucial error.

Later in the campaign, when the mountain gunners man-handled their guns forward through bush to fire "SHRAPNEL ZERO", the pack batteries blew away enemy Machine Gun posts & their firepower was the decisive factor in many British successes.

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The red roofs of the German Hospital rise above the trees & Tanga Harbour.

"C" Beach is just to the left.

During its blind shelling of the Tanga area HMS "Fox", armed with two 6-inch & eight 4.7-inch guns, put a 6-inch shell into the German Hospital in error.

HMS "Goliath", armed with four 12-inch & twelve 6-inch guns, had escorted Indian Expeditionary Force "B" from Bombay & should have been at Tanga but she stayed at Mombasa for dockyard repair. The absence of the "Goliath" seriously weakened British firepower at Tanga.

"Logan's Battery" consisted of Lt R.H. Logan, one Serjeant, one Corporal & 13 men; all were from the 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Because of the shortage of artillery available for Indian Expeditionary Force "B" Lt Logan & his men travelled from Bombay to Mombasa on HMS "Goliath", & during the voyage naval gunners trained them in the use of two 3-pounder Quick Firing guns that the Royal Navy attached to improvised land mountings.

At Tanga Logan's Battery remained on board the SS "Barjorah" off "A" Beach, & did not come into action.

General Aitken's initial instructions on the use of naval & pack battery guns were that Tanga town & the railway should not be damaged because he wished to use them later.

HMS "Fox" & SS "Bharata" positioned themselves in Tanga Harbour.

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The comfortable & affordable Mkonge Hotel overlooks Tanga Harbour from a position inbetween "C" Beach & the German Hospital.

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The Mkonge Hotel garden overlooks Tanga Harbour to the north & "C" Beach to the east.

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Tanga Railway Station from the northwest.

Meanwhile the Moshi railway station bell was busy as Lettow despatched more & more troops down the Usambara Railway line towards Tanga.

A plan had been proposed in British East Africa to demolish a section of the Usambara line to prevent rapid movement southwards from Moshi, but nothing came of it.

The key to the German defence of Tanga was the Railway Station & the Railway Workshops just behind it. Here well-sited Machine Guns controlled the eastern approaches to the town.

The British command failed to appreciate the importance of this location, failed to devise tactics & fireplans to destroy it, & failed to provide an effective reserve force to use against it.

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The view looking northeast from the corner of the Railway Station & Workshops compound.

In 1914 the buildings seen across the railway line did not exist.

The start of the railway cutting curves away to the left rear.

German Machine Guns here dominated both sides of the railway cutting, as the ground was open.

6 Feldkompagnie had arrived at Tanga & been positioned to defend the west side of the railway cutting as it looped round to the port.

German European troops under Tom Prince now arrived from Taveta & occupied the west end of Tanga town.

The Schutztruppe was positioned & ready to meet the next British attack. Meanwhile more reinforcements were coming down the Usambara Railway line.

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Courtesy of the US Army Command & General Staff College

Map showing the opposing units on 04 November 1915.

The 2nd Kashmir Rifles, the half Bn of 3rd Kashmir Rifles & the half Bn of 3rd Gwalior Rifles had come ahore on "B" Beach.

The two half Bns were formed into a Composite Bn but three Gwalior Rifles companies were detached for beach security duties.

The only field engineers in the Force, the Faridkot Sappers & Miners, were not disembarked & so they stayed out of the battle along with their engineer resources.

A North-Western Railway Volunteers gun detachment destined for armoured train duties also appears to have been left out of the fighting.

Machine Guns were to decide the outcome of this day's battle.

The British scale of Machine Guns was two per Bn, but only the 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, the 101st Grenadiers & the 61st King George's Own Pioneers had possessed Machine Guns before the war started.

The 13th Rajputs & the 98th Infantry were hastily issued with guns before embarking in India, & the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry only received guns after it had embarked.

These three units landed at Tanga with inadequately trained & inexperienced Machine Gun teams.

The Imperial Service units, provided & financed by princely states, did not possess Machine Guns.

As the 61st Pioneers were in the rear as reserve troops, only the Loyal North Lancashires & the 101st Grenadiers were moving forward with well-trained gun teams - a total of 4 guns to face the strongly positioned & experienced Schutztruppe teams who had 15 guns in action.

The six gun teams from the Rajputs, Palamcottahs & 98th were going to have to learn battle-handling skills "on the job" - if the Germans allowed them to.

Another handicap was that most Indian riflemen in the Force had been using the obsolete long MLE Rifle but just before embarkation they were issued with short Lee-Enfields. Thus they landed at Tanga with an unfamiliar weapon in their hands.

The Schutztruppe were mostly using older black-powder weapons, but they were familiar & proficient with them.

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Railway line south of Tanga

Whilst the Schutztruppe fortified the Railway Compound & Tanga town, IEF "B" concentrated on organisation & administration behind the defended line on Ras Kasone dug by the Loyal North Lancashires.

On the night of 02 November The Patrol Company & the 13th Rajputs had patrolled forward, the latter locating two enemy Machine Guns on the railway cutting (the patrol report was dismissed by Brigade HQ), but there are no details of British patrols out on the night of 03 November.

(Some responsibility for this must lie with the supreme critic of the battle Captain Richard Meinertzhagen. As the Force Staff Officer Grade 3 (Intelligence) he was the man to task & co-ordinate a Force Patrol Programme. But he didn't.)

The Germans were patrolling though & bumped a Loyal North Lancashire position south of "A" Beach.

The British command ensured that the troops had a hot meal & then organised the attack using the only tactics they knew, simple drills based on experiences in the South African & North West Frontier wars, 15 years or more before.

An assault line was formed with the Kashmiris on the right with the harbour on their right & the Rajputs behind them.

Next came the Loyal North Lancashires with the 63rd Palamcottahs to their left & then the 101st Grenadiers on the left flank, echeloned back to protect the left flank.

The 98th Infantry were behind the Loyal North Lancs.

The 61st Pioneers were the Force reserve & positioned on the right rear.

The British deployed over 5,000 men against the German force of just over 900 men, but those figures are misleading. The number of men in action was not as significant as the amount of firepower effectively used.

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Colonial buildings in Tanga.

The Schutztruppe barricaded windows, doors & stairways, covering each fortified location with fire from other defended locations.

The Loyal North Lancashires had first been stung by bees the previous day when digging-in, as rubber trees cut down by another unit brought down hives that local African farmers had placed up in tree branches.

Now throughout 04 November 1914 the whole of IEF "B" & the Schutztruppe were constantly at risk from bee stings as bullets whipped through the trees, disturbing more hives.

(An operator from the Indian Telegraph Department, Sub-Conductor W. Preston, was awarded the DCM for gallant conduct at Tanga. He continued to work his field telegraph whilst being attacked by a swarm of bees. Later over 400 stings were removed from his head.)

As the assault line formed up the unit on the left of the Loyal North Lancs was in a bad way.

The 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry had embarked in India on 30 September, remained on board in extremely cramped conditions below decks for 16 days before sailing, & had just disembarked that morning after standing-to on deck all night.

When warned-off for East Africa nearly half (6 of the 13 on strength) of the British officers in the unit became unavailable. Six new officers were posted in from elsewhere, two joining on the day of embarkation, & none of these new officers did any training with the Bn.

To make the Palamcottahs up to strength a large draft from the 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry had just been posted in.

The issue of Machine Guns only after embarkation has been commented on.

This Bn needed recuperation & training, instead it found itself in the assault line of an attack on a strongly defended position, with the minus factor being that there was no effective artillery support.

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This sports field just west of the Tanga European Cemetery was an area of maize fields in 1914.

At noon the British assault line fixed bayonets & moved forward in the extreme heat of the day.

The Loyal North Lancs had two double-companies forward & two double-companies in rear.

Bn HQ & the two Machine Guns were in the centre.

Initially the going was through dense rubber plantations & soon open-order was the only practical formation as men ducked around trees.

The Palamcottahs on the left soon became exhausted & fell behind.

As gaps opened with the Kashmiris on the right the right rear Loyal North Lancs double-company was moved forward into the line.

The opening shots in the battle were fired in the harbour.

Some members of the crew of SS "Assouan" (which had transported the 63rd Palamcottahs) used their initiative & brought a boat into Tanga jetty to buy fresh rations.

German sentries promptly shot several of them & the survivors returned hastily to their ship, the boat being towed by three men swimming.

The Kashmiris on the right then encountered enemy patrols & drove them back towards the railway cutting.

The Loyal North Lancs moved out of plantations into an area of high maize fields & native huts where Askari from 6 Feldkompagnie engaged them.

The Bn also came under fire from the Railway Station, & on the left heavy firing signalled that the 101st Grenadiers were hotly engaged.

The two Loyal North Lancs Machine Guns were brought into action & the Bn fought forward to the railway cutting ahead.

By now the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry had had enough & retired, seriously disturbing the morale of the 98th Infantry as they retreated past that Bn.

The 101st Grenadiers were now left isolated without support on either flank, but they stood their ground & courageous men tried to charge down the Schutztruppe Machine Guns that were taking a steady toll of the Bn.

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