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South African Armed Forces of World War One (1914-1918)

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  • Pte Cyril William Arnot 3rd SAI. Killed in action near Frezenberg on the 20th September 1917 (Ypres Menin Gate Memorial). Recommended for a mention in despatches for his conduct at Delville Wood (no retained).


  • Pte Robert Norman Barnes 4 SA Infantry KIA 25 Mar 1916 Age 18 Voi cemetery Kenya
  • Henry Daniel Maxwell Barnett, Served in the Cradock Commando during the campaign in German South-West Africa as Sergeant from 19 August 1914 to 8 April 1915, and thereafter as Regimental Sergeant-Major until 17 May 1915.
  • Pte William August Birkigt He served with the 2nd South African Infantry. He may be burried at a Commonwealth War Cemetary or was one of thousands whose bodies were never found or identified and named on the Menin Gate Memorrial. Died 20 September 1917 (19-20) Ypres, West Flanders, Flanders, Belgium.
  • Gerald Warren Bolus, Rfn, 2nd Battalion Rhodesia Regiment, Killed in action in the battle for Latema-Reata Nek, 3 November 1916, buried in Taveta Military Cemetery, Kenya.
  • Walter Bolus, 2nd Lieutenant, 2nd Bn King Edward's Horse, Served in Ireland and in France, 1914-1922.
  • William Borcher, Private, South African Infantry 4th Regt., Service No.: 9970. Died in Brighton, England from nephritis, following wounds.v
  • Gen. Louis Botha
  • Cpl Charles Revel Bredell Killed in action, on the night of the 10th/11th July at Delville Wood, Longueval, Somme. Grave I.G.8 in Peronne Road Cemetry, Maricourt, Somme, France.
  • Lieutenant Douglas Bayley de Bruyn Royal Lancaster Regiment, transferred to 35 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Killed in a flying accident in Thetford, 27th May 1916, aged 20.
  • Stanley Dominic Burke, Rank: Private, Service No.: 13579, 3rd Regt., South African Infantry, b.1895 - 13-01-1917 in Tanzania.


  • Alan Hains Campion, Private, 4th Regiment, South African Infantry, Service No.: 2042, killed in action in France
  • William Andrew Cary , 1865 - 1918, Rank: Private; Service No: 10668; Regiment/Service: South African Infantry, 5th Regt.
  • Walter Arthur CLARKSON , 1896 - 1973. Despatch rider in East Africa, taken prisoner.
  • Albert Bennett Crouch, Service No: 8922, 1st Regt, South African Infantry, Battle of Delville Wood
  • John Currie, L/Sergt; Service No 15679; SA Medical Corps; Campaign: Europe; Joined: Durban 14 May 1917 Age 22; Discharged: Cape Town 19 Jan 1920; Service: 2 years 251 days.


  • Charles Godfrey Marie de Marillac St Julien Rank: Private, Service No. 6605 Enlisted 27 Nov 1915 - 2nd Brigade SA Expeditionary Forces. Joined 9th Regiment SAI (South African Infantry) Kondoa Frange, Tanzania, German East Africa
  • Charles Louis Marie de Marillac St Julien 1914 Oct 16- Enlisted in Carnavon Commando . Rank: Private. Service No 94. Served in German South West Africa. 1917 Feb 07- Enlisted into the South African Expeditionary Forces. Rank:Private. Reg Service No. 11414. (Draft no. 46.) Ist Reserve Brigade/battalion of the South African Infantry, Regiment : 'C' Company 3rd SAI regiment and later 4th SAI. regiment. 1917 Aug 18- Posted to B Company in Rouens until Dec 1918. Awards: 1914–15 Star
  • Captain Ernst Anton Marie de Marillac St Julien Rank: Captain. Service No. 1505. Enlisted 26 Oct 1914 in 2nd I.L.H (Light Horse) German South West African Forces with the rank of Private. (G Squad), at the age of 25 years and 4 months. Re-inlisted Roberts Heights with the South African Expeditionary Forces , on 21 Dec 1915, Joined the 2de ZA Ruiters/3rd S.A.H.(Horse), regiment with the 1ste Bereden Brigade on 24 Dec 1915 in the Unions East and Central African Expeditionary Force, with the rank of Private. Promoted to Corporal. Contracted Dysentry at Kondoa Frange, East Africa.
  • Fritz Marie de Marillac St Julien Rank: Gunner. Service No. 189 Participated in German South West African War campaign. Aged 18. Enlisted Aug 09 1915, aged 19. South African Expeditionary Force and South African Heavy Artillery Corps in Western Front, 72 Motorised Brigade. Served in France.
  • Eric Gilbert Dold Rank: Private, Service No: 15070. Killed in France on 30 Mar 1918 aged 19..
  • Pvt Albert Doubell fell in France on 21 March 1918 aged 23 in a German attack on Quentin Redoubt and Gauche Wood.
  • Pvt William James Doubell Service No: 12649. South African Infantry1st Regt. Killed in action, 20 Sep 1917 at Third Battle of Ypres (Battle of Menin Road)
  • Frederick Sidney Dryden, born 1892, 1st South African Infantry Brigade, Rank: Private
  • Fritz Joubert Duquesne 1877 - 1956
  • "'Private Cornelius Petrus Herculaas Du Preez"' 1st South African Infantry, B Company. Killed in action at Warlencourt, France on 18th October 1916, aged 34.


  • Leonard William Entress, Private, 1st Regt., South African Infantry, Service No.: 13483, he died of wounds as a POW aged 19 on 13 April 1918


  • John Henry Ferguson, 5th Mounted Brigade, Botha's Scouts(GSWA). Killed in German South West Africa on 17th June 1915, aged 29. One of four brothers to serve in WW1, and one of two to have died on active service.
  • Arthur William Ferguson-Bennett, Rand Rifles(GSWA), 1st, 3rd and 4th South African Infantry(France). Killed in France, on 24th March 1918, aged 27. The second of four brothers to serve in WW1, and the second to have died on active service.
  • James Thomas Ferguson, 11th(East Africa) and 1st South African Infantry(France). Injured and captured as Prisoner of War on same day as the death of brother Arthur. The third of four brothers to serve in WWI.
  • Harry William Ferguson, 11th South African Infantry(East Africa). The fourth brother to serve in WWI, later serving in WWII, along with five more siblings that served in Armed Forces.
  • Frank Richard Franks b. 1869. Died during battle of Menin Road , 21st September , 1917


  • [Johannes Jacobus Goss] Private in the 2nd South African Horse (part of the 1st SouthAfrican Mounted Brigade) . Killed in action on the 11th of April 1916.


  • William Alfred Hampshire, Company Sergeant Major, South African Railway Corps., Service No.: 541
  • Pte Frederick William Harvey Service No: 21473.South African Infantry 2nd Regt. Died 1918-10-2, Age: 18 of influenza
  • Dudley George Hedding Lance Corporal 7th Regt, South African Infantry, Service No: 3639, killed in action at Telarta/Tarlela? Hill on 12/3/1916, British East Africa.
  • James Harold Hedding Service No. 1492 2/6 CYC Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment then Regiment Number: 119016 Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
  • James Lawrence Hedding Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. Died of wounds caused by rifle grenade, Bethune, Pas de Calais, France
  • Sylvia Hannah Hedding Service number:14365, Rank: Chief Section Leader, Women's Royal Air Force
  • Glynn Rupert Hitzeroth, enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 5 Nov. 1915; killed in action in France on 19 July 1916; Private, 59th Battalion, Regt. No.: 4800
  • Donald Stewart Honeybun Private No, 96, South African Medical Corps (S.A.M.C.) (O/S)
  • William John Robert Hoskison Pte. 2760, 2nd Regt. South African Inf. Died of wounds 25th January 1916 at age 25. Son of Mrs. M. A. C. Hoskison, of Malvern, Natal. Born at Bellair, Natal. Q. 472. Buried Alexandria (Chatby) War Memorial & Cemetery, Plot N472, Stone 2127.


  • Leslie Wodehouse Impey 3rd Regiment South African Infantry. Lance Corporal. Service Number 14230.Killed in Action around Leper, West-Vlaanderen. on 1917-09-19.Memorialised on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
  • Leonard Inggs Joined the 4th South African Transvaal Scottish in 1916 and served in France where he saw his brother-in-law Harry killed in front of him. He was wounded at Butte de Walincourt (Battle of the Somme) and after recovering, was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps on 20 May 20 1917 and qualified as a pilot on DH 6 aircraft in Salisbury England. Saw service over France with 52nd Squadron flying Bristols until the end of the war. Was one of the first to join the Royal Air Force and was demobilized in 1920 when he returned to South Africa.
  • Raymond Herbert Inggs Served in East Africa for "one year 111 days", attested Uitenhage 26 Sep 1916, Certificate of discharge 14265, Wynberg, 14 Jan 1918: "Being permanently unfit for tropical Service", L/Cpl, 5th SA Infantry


  • Frederick Wall Jacobsen 1891 - July 23,1916 Died from wound injuries Buried: La Neuville British Cemetery, Corbie, Somme, France - Plot I. Row D. Grave 44. 4th Regiment South African Regiment # 5427
  • Christoffel Johannes Jooste
  • Herbert Allen Joseph, 2nd Lieut; 3rd SA Infantry. Died 08 June 1917 of wounds. Buried at Aubigny en Artois Communal Cemetery.



  • Dudley Eric Laver (c. 1898 - 24 Marach 1918); Private 15829, 1st Regiment, South African Infantry; died, aged 19, at Marrieres Wood (missing in action); no known grave but remembered at Pozieres Cemetery, Somme, France.
  • Lt. Thomas Arthur Letters 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. Died on the Western front in 1915.
  • Harry Longbottom, Private in the 4th Regiment of the South African Infantry; service no.: 21530; he died of pneumonia in Hampshire, England in 1918.
  • Oswald Lovegrove,. Corporal in A Company of the 4th Regiment of the SA Infantry Regiment (Cape Town Highlanders). Signed up as a volunteer 1915. Fought South West Africa and wounded at Delville Wood, The Somme offensive, July 1916. Gassed 17 October 1918 at Le Cuteau but survived. Discharged Oct 1919.


  • "LCpl Ernest Mcloughlin"
  • 2LT Melville Leopold 'Cuckoo' Melvill Second Lieutenant in 108 Bty., Royal Field Artillery. He died on Wednesday,31st October 1917 near Ypres, & is buried at Popering in the Liessenhoek Cemetary.
  • Henry Meise, In Memory of Private H MEISE 7137, 2nd Regt. (Inf.)., South African Infantry who died age 20 on 20 September 1917 Son of J. G. A. and Ida Amelia Meise, of 16, Symons St., East London, Cape Province. Remembered with honour YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (website has closed) - Name: Meise, H. Force Number: 7137 Unit: 2SAI Rank: Pte Serial Number: 7677 Cause Of Death: KA Date Of Death: 20 September 1917 Source Document: Military Veterans' Administration Source Type: World War I and II Roll of Honour Source Location: For any further information on these people please contact Alettie at Collection: World War 1 + 2 Honour 1914 - 1948 Collection Name: World War 1 + 2 Honour records 1914 - 1948
  • Frederick George Miller rank & regiment unknown, came back from France wounded and needed to be hospitalised in SA.
  • William George Miller Service No:1794,Regiment/Service:South African Infantry 1st Regt,Date of Death:25/03/1918 France.
  • Charles Alfred Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Lieutenant, 6th Battalion Rifle Brigade, gazetted 2nd Lieutenant 15 Aug 1914; went to the Front Nov 1914, and was killed in action at Kennel, Belgium, 13 Jan 1915. He is buried in Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, and is commemorated on the Minstead War Memorial, in the New Forest, England.
  • George Frederick Arthur Pigot-Moodie, the First South African-born Recipient of the Military Cross (gazetted on 1 January 1915). See Research Notes on Brigadier George Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) by Ross Dix-Peek for further details.




  • Charles Joseph Pattison † (1893 - 24 October 1916) Died of wounds received in action in France - a Delville Wood Casualty
  • Capt. James Humphrey Allen Payne † Headmaster of Jeppe Boys' (1905 – 1917) Capt. JHA Payne passed away on 28 July 1917 of Blackwater Fever while on active service in East Africa
  • Frantz Johann Preiss Pitout 1918-1945 Sergeant † in Egypt South African Rank: Sergeant Regiment/Service: Regiment de la Rey, S.A. Forces Age: 27 †17/07/1945 Service No: 31302V Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: 9. A. 3. Cemetery: KHARTOUM WAR CEMETERY
  • Richard Farre Pfohl Killed in action, February 6th, 1917. He served with the South African Mounted Rifles in South West Africa, and after the campaign was over, remained there to police the country.The S.A.M.R. were ordered to quell a native rising in Ovamboland, and it was in a fight against the natives that he met his end. His younger brother, Fred, died on active service in East Africa. His aged father, broken up by the death of Fred, died four days after hearing of the death of his second son.
  • Frederic Wiltse Pfohl † Died on active service in WW1 in Nairobi Kenya (formerly British East Africa)



  • Bevil Gordon D'Urban Rudd First served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and then the newly created Tank Corps. He was awarded the Military Cross, when as officer commanding six tanks, "his courage and skill he saved a critical situation" (Gazetted 18/7/1918).


  • L Cpl Russell Smith † 1 SA Infantry Killed in action at Battle of Arras 9 Apr 1917 Age 25 Roclincourt Valley Cemetery France
  • Pte Stafford Smith † 1 SA Infantry KIA 7 Jul 1917 Age 28 Richmond Cemetery, Surrey United Kingdom
  • Gen. Jan Smuts
  • Percival Francis Swemmer Private, 5154, 4th Regiment South African Infantry, died 18 July 1916 aged 19, formerly Celliers Scouts #5139


  • Douglas Price Trollip , 1896 - 1918, Rank: Lieutenant; Regiment/Service: 57th Sqdn. Royal Air Force.
  • Noel Roland Price Trollip , 1894 - 1915, Rank: Trooper; Service No: 10668; Regiment/Service: 8th Mounted Rifles (Midlandse Ruiters). Killed in action at Lutzputs 18 January 1915. Age 21. Son of Roland James William Trollip, of Mount Prospect.


  • Ernest Cameron Wason, L/Cpl 3rd Reg of South African Infantry, service no 8124. Died 14 October 1917 in Boulogne, France.



SA in World War I

When the World War I broke out in 1914, the South African government chose to join the war on the side of the Allies. General Louis Botha, the then prime minister, faced widespread Afrikaner opposition to fighting alongside Great Britain so soon after the Second Boer War and had to put down a revolt by some of the more militant elements before he could send an expeditionary force of some 67,000 troops to invade German South-West Africa (now Namibia). The German troops stationed there eventually surrendered to the South African forces in July 1915. (In 1920 South Africa received a League of Nations mandate to govern the former German colony and to prepare it for independence within a few years.)

Later, an infantry brigade and various other supporting units were shipped to France in order to fight on the Western Front. The 1st South African Brigade – as this infantry brigade was named – consisted of four infantry battalions, representing men from all four provinces of the Union of South Africa as well as Rhodesia: the 1st Regiment was from the Cape Province, the 2nd Regiment was from Natal and the Orange Free State and the 3rd Regiment was from Transvaal and Rhodesia. The 4th Regiment was called the South African Scottish and was raised from members of the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders; they wore the Atholl Murray tartan.

The supporting units included five batteries of heavy artillery, a field ambulance unit, a Royal Engineers signals company and a military hospital. The most costly action that the South African forces on the Western Front fought in was the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916 – of the 3,000 men from the brigade who entered the wood, only 768 emerged unscathed.

A day by day summary of the main actions of the South African infantry brigade on the Western Front are provided by Brian Conyngham of New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal on his website:

Another tragic loss of life for the South African forces during the war was the Mendi sinking on 21 February 1917, when the troopship Mendi – while transporting 607 members of the 802nd South African Native Labour Corps from Britain to France – was struck and cut almost in half by another ship.

In addition, the war against the German and Askari forces in German East Africa also involved more than 20,000 South African troops; they fought under General Jan Smuts's command when he directed the British campaign against there in 1915. (During the war, the army was led by General Smuts, who had rejoined the army from his position as Minister of Defence on the outbreak of the war.)

South Africans also saw action with the Cape Corps in Palestine. More than 146,000 whites, 83,000 blacks and 2,500 people of mixed race ("Coloureds") and Asians served in South African military units during the war, including 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps.

Southern Africa's Birdmen of World War One, 1914-1919 - A List of Southern Africans in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force

The total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed – more than 4,600 in the European theater alone.

The following article by Fleur Way-Jones is shared here with her consent.

The call of the Empire and First World War soldiers

This study concerns the enlistment and casualties from the Eastern Cape and effects of war casualties on genealogy. The number of young men from the Eastern Cape who joined the European War as it was first called, remains astounding. Looking at the baptismal records of the baby boys born between 1890 -1896 and those who enlisted, many of these young men lost their lives. Edgar Knight born in Grahamstown in 1892, educated at Kingswood College, died in France in 1916 aged 24 years. The 1912-3 matriculation and senior young men enlisted from Eastern Cape schools: in Grahamstown, from St Andrew’s College (123 killed – the highest for any College – 1:10 enlisted), Victoria Boys’ High (now Graeme College: 52 killed) and Kingswood College (61 killed) hundreds lost their lives.

There were many theatres of this war: England (for training), German South West Africa (Namibia), German East Africa (Tanzania), Egypt, India and France. A wooden memorial inside Hilton Anglican church about 30 km from Grahamstown gives a snapshot of Eastern Cape involvement in all these theatres of the Great War (so named after 1918). These local men and women participated:

  • GG (Gerald Grant) Cumming 4th South African Infantry wounded
  • GL (Leslie Charles?) Cumming 8th Mounted Rifles
  • EA Ford Trooper 1st South African Horse
  • Graham Jones Trooper 8th Mounted Horse
  • Russell Jones Lt 2nd Imperial Light Horse
  • Eustace Jones, Royal Field Artillery Killed no age given (Mont Huon Military Cemetery)
  • GD (Gordon Douglas) Cumming, Lieutenant Machine Gun Corps
  • AH Smith (Vaalkrantz farm Grahamstown) Private Motor Cycle Corps Died aged 32 years (Iringa Cemetery Tanzania)
  • FC Smith Lieutenant Royal Air Force
  • EB (Edward Bensted) Smith (Vaalkrantz farm, Grahamstown) Private 4th South African Infantry Killed aged 26 years (Ypres Memorial)
  • TC (Thomas Charles) White Trooper 9th South African Horse (First City)
  • HC (Hubert Carlisle) Currie (brother of JL)Sergeant Kalahari Horse
  • JL (Joseph Lorraine) Currie Trooper 9th South African Horse
  • PW Bennett Private 4th South African Infantry Prisoner
  • DF Duthie Trooper 4th South African Horse
  • WA Smith (son of WB Smith of Graaff Reinet) Corporal 2nd South African Infantry Killed aged 23 years (Moshi Cemetery Tanzania)
  • D D Damant Captain Imperial Light Horse Wounded
  • JC Cumming Private 2nd South African Infantry
  • GS Dell Gunner 8th African Heavy Artillery
  • T Tamplin Hoole Trooper Cradock Commando Prisoner
  • Denis C Hoole Trooper 8th Mounted Rifles Wounded
  • AL (Arthur?) Lawford Trooper 8th Mounted Rifles Wounded Prisoner
  • OF Currie Corporal 2nd South African Infantry Wounded
  • DJ (D’Urban John) Tywhitt-Drake (son of John of Grahamstown) Lieutenant Household Battalion Killed aged 21 years (Arras Memorial, France)
  • FE (Francis Eyton) Spurling Captain 12th Rifle Brigade Killed aged 32 years (Nine Elms British Cemetery)
  • EE (Eric Edward) White Lieutenant MGC 48th Canadian Royal Flying Corps Killed aged 29 years (Harlebeke British Cemetery)
  • HD (Harold Damant) White Lieutenant King’s Royal Air Force Wounded
  • Helen M White, Violet A White, Phyllis Currie: South African Medical Nursing Service

Of the 30 names from this farming community, 7 lost their lives; 6 were wounded and three taken prisoner. There are many stories and a few letters from Eastern Cape soldiers: Richard J Elliott South African Motor Transport died in 1918 and is remembered on the Somerset East Memorial. John Hutton Wilmot died at Delville Wood on 19 June 1917 – he was 21 years old. Charlie Dugmore, a farmer’s son, died aged 29 years; “We saw his noble character at its best” wrote his tent mate, Archie Eaton. The youngest local soldier was Sidney Garnet Tarr who at 16 years was initially rejected and then ran away from his Grahamstown home to join the Potchefstroom train leaving to German East Africa. His last letter to his mother read:

“My dearest and loving mother, just a few lines to let you know that I was dangerously wounded today in the stomach. I have been operated upon and the doctor told me my case is hopeless and it is a case of hours. Well, mother, forgive me for all my sins and ask God to help you to bear this great trouble, to look over you and father and the children. Tell them their soldier hero brother died like a man from a treacherous German shell. With love to all at home. I remain, your fast sinking son. Garnie.”

Sadly, Sidney Garnet Tarr died from shrapnel wounds in August 1916.

Understanding the call of the Empire during the early Twentieth Century seems foreign to present generations. War seems remote; military conscription is no longer part of life of a young man’s future. Yet in 1914 the newly formed Union of South Africa was involved; Jan Smuts, a Boer hero became a soldier for World peace and joined the British Imperial War Cabinet and was instrumental in founding the Royal Air Force.
In conclusion, if one looks at a photographic study on Children of the First World War by Thomas E Lewis, South African children who were photographed between 1911 -13, were those who survived the war; many of their older brothers did not. The casualties in World War 1 took the fittest of the young men, family members died and a whole generation suffered.

Fleur Way-Jones 17 April 2016

African theatre of World War I

East African Campaign
The African Theatre of World War I comprises geographically distinct campaigns around the German colonies of Kamerun, Togoland, South-West Africa, and German East Africa.

The British Empire, with near total command of the world's oceans, had the power and resources to conquer the German colonies when the Great War started. Most German colonies in Africa had been recently acquired and were not well defended, with the notable exception of German East Africa. They were also surrounded on all land sides by African colonies belonging mostly to their enemies, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and, later in the war, Portugal.

West Africa

Germany had two colonies in West Africa, Togoland (modern-day Togo and the Volta Region of Ghana) and Kamerun (modern-day Cameroon). The small colony of Togoland was quickly conquered by British and French military forces. The German troops in Kamerun fought fiercely against invading British, French and Belgian forces, but in 1916 (after many soldiers had escaped into Spanish Guinea, which was neutral territory) the fighting ended with the surrender of the remaining German colonial armed forces (Schutztruppe). Strategic assets in the German West African colonies included: 4 high power long wave transmitters (one in Togo, the remainder in Kamerun) port facilities containing coal refuelling depots The British Atlantic Ocean colonies of Ascension Island and Saint Helena played no part in the West Africa campaigns except in their role as shipping re-supply points.

South-West Africa

German South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia) was a huge and arid territory. Bounded on the coast by the desolate Namib Desert, the only major German population was around the colonial capital of Windhoek, some 200 miles (320 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The Germans had 3,000 soldiers and could count on the support of most of the 7,000 adult male German colonists. In addition, the Germans had very friendly relations with the Boers in South Africa, who had ended a bloody war with the British just twelve years before. The British began their attack by organizing and arming their former enemies, the Boers. This was dangerous, and the proposed attack on German South-West Africa turned into an active rebellion by some 12,000 Boers.

Boer leaders Jan Smuts and Louis Botha both took the British side against Christiaan Beyers and Christiaan De Wet. In two battles in October, the rebels were defeated and by the end of 1914, the rebellion was ended. General Smuts then continued his military operations into South-West Africa, starting around January 1915. The South African troops were battle-hardened and experienced in living in this type of terrain. They crossed the hundreds of miles of empty land on horseback in four columns. The Germans tried to delay this advance, but without success. Windhoek was captured on May 12, 1915. Two months later, all the German forces had surrendered. South Africa effectively ruled South-West Africa for the next 75 years.

Even before the official declaration of war between Germany and Portugal in March 1915, German and Portuguese troops clashed several times on the border between German South West Africa and Portuguese Angola. The Germans won these clashes and were able to occupy part of southern Angola, until the surrender in July 1915.

German East Africa

In German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda) the British were unable to fully subdue the defenders of the colony despite four years of effort and tens of thousands of casualties. The German commander, Colonel (later General) Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla campaign for the duration of the Great War. His achievement became the stuff of legend, although in military terms his epic campaign had only a small impact on the course of the War. German forces staged raids, hit-and-run attacks, and ambushes. The British army often laid traps for Lettow-Vorbeck's troops but failed to catch him. The German forces ranged over all of German East Africa, living off the land and capturing military supplies from the British and Portuguese military.

In 1916 the British gave the task of defeating the Germans to the Boer commander Jan Smuts along with a very large force. His conquest of German East Africa was methodical and moderately successful. By the autumn of 1916, British troops had captured the German railway line and were solidly in control of the land north of the railway, while Belgian–Congolese troops under the command of General Tombeur had captured the Eastern part of the colony, including Ruanda-Urundi and Tabora. However, Lettow-Vorbeck's army was not defeated and remained active long after Smuts had left to join the Imperial War Cabinet in London in 1917. The German forces moved into Portuguese East Africa in November 1917, and later back into German East Africa, finally ending up in Northern Rhodesia when the war ended. Lettow-Vorbeck's small army agreed to a cease-fire at the Chambeshi River on November 14, 1918, after receiving a telegram informing them that Germany had given up fighting on November 11 (see Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial). The formal surrender took place on November 23, 1918 at Abercorn. Lettow-Vorbeck's army was never defeated in battle, and he was welcomed in Germany as a hero.

// Reference South African Theatre of World War 1 Information shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License - see Creative Commons Licenses


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