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On to Kilimanjaro: The Bizarre Story of the First World War in East Africia
On to Kilimanjaro The Bizarre Story of the First World War in East Africia Author:Brian Gardner illus., ports., maps. 22 cm.; Bibliography: p. 273-274. — In August 1914, in East Africia and far from the bloody conflict in France, the same but uniquely different was began with a flutter of bizarre campaigns. When it was all over this deisease-ridden side show of the First World War proved to be ont he greatest, most glossed over fiascos in ... more »military history.
For four frustrating years a polyglot army of unacclimated Allied troops, under a weary succession of British commanders, chased a tough little force of German colonials one-eighth its size up and down, inconclusively, over on thousand miles of desperate bush country. The war was marked on baoth sides by an outlandish blend of heroism, endurance and plain foolishness, but the Allies were dogged by shocking mistakes in judgement, military ignorance and tactical blunders.
In contrast, the German Commander, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, even when confronted by the no-nonsense opposition of General Smuts, emerged an acknowledged master of strategy and organization. Cut off from supply sources, he improvised with the ingenuity of a Swiss family Robinson. Broken glass bottle tops bacame communication-wire insulators; motor fuel of a sort was produced from coconut, and quinine from wood bark; a sunken cruiser provided artillery. Von Lettow's hit and run tactics, deigned more for harassment than defense, suggested the technique Rommel was to employ in the desert twenty years later.
Although the significance of this litte-known war defies measurement, the author's account of it abounds with tales of bravery, adventure, inland sea battles, stampeding wild animals, humor, and a curious old world courtesy. It was Smuts who informed von Lettow that he had been awarded the Pour le Merite award by the Kaiser.
Many of the survivors returning from Africa at the end of 1918 were congratulated on having "missed the war." However, the evidence presented by Brian Gardner shows that the war in East Africa was one of the most fascinating and unusual military campaigns of the century.« less