ARG wounded at Yangwani, April 1917

ARG was seconded to the 1/2 KAR in October/November 1916, by which time they were fighting at Kibata, near the port of Kilwa, south of Dar-es-Salaam. He was promoted Temporary Captain on 10 November 1916:

Haccy Fecitt’s article on 1/2 KAR paints a useful background to the battalion’s movements:

The Battalion sailed from Tanga on 5 October 1916 and disembarked at Kilwa Kiswani, a harbour south of Dar Es Salaam, forty eight hours later.

Kibata

On 10 October 1/2KAR along with 250 sepoys from 129 Baluchis marched towards Kibata, a hilly region northwest of Kilwa, to seize the area from the German Schutztruppe who violently contested it. The fighting centred on Kibata Fort and the hills around it and most actions were fought from entrenched positions where artillery and machine guns dominated the battlefield.  The young Askari of 1/2KAR were often shaken by the ferocity of the fighting and enemy shelling but they took part in many of the operations and performed well under the direct leadership of their officers. The Kibata campaign ended in mid-January 1917 and 1/2KAR’s casualty figures were 3 officers killed or died of wounds, 2 officers wounded, 17 Askari killed, 46 wounded and 1 missing. Also 1 porter was killed and 16 were wounded. This new unit had come through its first serious trial by enemy fire but ominously the officer casualty figures had been high, and as yet the Askari had not encountered the savage and swift attacks that well-led German troops could mount through thick bush.

After minor operations inland the battalion was withdrawn to Kilwa during the last week of February 1917 and there re-equipped, with the old leather belt and pouches being replaced by webbing items.  Four new machines guns were issued. Lieutenant Colonel Soames had returned to Nyasaland to command the Depot and recruiting activities of 2KAR as a third battalion, 3/2KAR was to be formed, and Lieutenant Colonel Giffard became the new CO.

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

And according to ARG’s MOD service record and handwritten record, he was promoted full Captain on 23 February 1917. This promotion may have been for his participation in the operations at Kilwa and Kibata but I have found no mention of him in the Battalion History for this period. And he does not list Kibata in his handwritten record or cigarette case.

However, I have been lucky to discover mention of ARG in the Battalion War Diary and War History during the events around Yangwani & Lutende in April 1917 – near the port of Lindi where the battalion had moved in March – and where it is recorded that ARG was wounded in the thigh. Yangwani is mentioned in ARG’s cigarette case in which he recorded all his postings but he made no mention of being wounded, neither in his handwritten service record nor in subsequent conversation, and this discovery is news to the family. [Actually, I see that ARG’s handwritten service record does mention that he was wounded during his service in East Africa: here]

I have gathered together the various primary sources for the 1/2 KAR’s action at this time and set them out below, together with Harry Fecitt’s very readable summary.

I found this map in Moyse-Bartlett showing Yangwani and Lutende just to the north of the port town of Lindi,  on the coast in the south of Tanzania (then called German East Africa) close to the border with Mozambique (then called Portuguese East Africa (see here for a contemporary map).

Harry Fecitt sets the scene:

“Lindi

1/2KAR were now deployed by sea further south to Lindi, a major German trading harbour where a long tidal creek ran 15 miles inland.  Large agricultural estates and areas of bush surrounded Lindi town and the ground rose into ridgelines further inland.  The Germans had 600 men in the area and they intended to resist any British attempts to advance from the coast.  A 4.1-inch gun salvaged from the destroyed German cruiser Konigsberg was being fired at British ships in Lindi harbour with some success.

Lindi Force, the British garrison at Lindi that 1/2KAR joined on 5 March 1917, consisted of troops from the 2nd West India Regiment (2WIR), Indian sepoys from the 5th Light Infantry (5LI), the Arab Rifles – a unit recruited from Yemenis working on estates in British East Africa, and the Indian 27th Mountain Battery. More Schutztruppe units moved towards Lindi and they contained, as was the German practice, a high proportion of European officers and NCOs. By comparison 1/2KAR was suffering from wastage of its few European personnel and its present ratio was one European for every 70 Askari. At this time the battalion received a draft of 180 young Askari.”

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

The official dispatches record the activities at Yangwani very briefly:

“Lindi Area.

At Lindi, Brig.-Gen. O’Grady carried out several local offensive enterprises. His patrols did well, and got the upper hand; the hills south of the harbour were secured; and a well executed surprise attack on a German post west of Nguru Mahamba on March llth [1917] resulted in the dispersion of the garrison and the capture of a pompom. The enemy had mounted a 4.1-in. gun in the neighbourhood of Mrveka, and with it they kept up an intermittent and comparatively harmless tire on our picquets on Kitulo Hill. On the 23rd April [1917] our troops surprised an enemy camp at Yangwani, the Germans retiring in confusion, and leaving many stores behind. On the 24th our small post at Sudi Bay was attacked by a couple of companies, who were driven off, leaving a dozen dead. On the 25th there was a smart engagement between the King’s African Rifles and an equal number of the enemy. The result was satisfactory, and but for the lack of white personnel might have been a decided success. By the end of April several fresh companies were reported in the Lindi area, and a considerable number, including Kraut’s command, were at or about T’unduru. The latter force had re-crossed the Portuguese border towards the end of March. Nothing further of importance took place in this, area until the 19th May, when a strong reconnaissance towards Mrveka met the enemy in considerable. force just west of Ngurumahamba.”

[13559-60 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 27 DECEMBER, 1917

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30447/supplements/13559

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30447/supplements/13560]

The Battalion History written by Colonel Giffard gives a much better account:

[p11]

“IX.

                The whole battalion left Kibata for Kitambi, arriving there on the 7th [February 1917] where it remained until the 18th, resting and generally cleaning up. The Brigadier inspected the Battalion on the 14th, and on the 19th the until left for Kilwa. Kilwa was reached on the 23rd [February] and the whole Battalion was re-equipped. Here the old leather equipment was discarded and the battalion issued with web equipment. Four new machine guns were also drawn.

Orders were received on the 28th [February] that the battalion was to proceed to Lindi and on 3rd March, embarked on H.M.T’s “Barjora” and “Motrose”. Lindi was reached on the night of the 4th [March] and disembarkation took place on the 5th.

Lindi is situated at the mouth of the estuary formed by the Lukuledi and Mwreka Rivers, the creek formed being some 15 miles long. The camp was formed some 2 miles outside Lindi on the slopes of the Kitule Hills.

On the 9th [March] Lieut. Reymolds left and crossed the creek to garrison the Twin Hills at Nyanda, a position which overlooked Lindi completely. The German force was encamped roughly in the line Mkwaya–Mingoyo–Schaedel’s Farm–Schaeffer’s Farm, and no movement of any importance was made for some time after the Battalion’s arrival. The enemy, however, were soon shelling and the Battalion Camp and the village received much attention from another of the “Konigsberg” guns, which the enemy were able to move very easily, there being two trolley lines in this area, one running from near Lindi to Ntua, the other joining this line in the vicinity of Mingoyo, from Mkwaya. However, they never managed to do any damage with this gun, either to the camp or the village. On the 13th of the month [April] six men volunteered to endeavor to find the gun, but eventually returned having been unable to get through the enemy picquet line.

At this time the Battalion formed the nucleus of what afterwards became the Lindi Force, and all troops were now under the command of Brig. General O’Grady.

The nature of the country demanded the most extensive patrolling and these with the various posts fund by the Battalion continuously employed over the whole Company. Many roads led into this village and the district was of some importance before the war and was a source [p12] of much revenue to the German East Africa Company, who had a district manager there. The main road from Lindi to Massassi was one of the old slave routes used by the Arabs.

It was now decided to make some sort of demonstration against the enemy positions, and on the 20th [March] Lt.-Col. Giffard flew over the enemy lines in the hydroplane. Air reconnaissance in this neighborhood was, however, not of much use owing to the very thick bush which covered the whole district. Flights were only possible too in the early morning as with the close proximity of the sea, air currents and pockets were very dangerous and frequent.

Major Hardingham left on the 24th [March] to take over Mtanga Post from the West Indians. An enemy patrol was encountered on the 28th [March] and our men effected the capture of the German white leading this party.

A demonstration was made against the enemy position at Schaeffer’s Farm on the 1st April [1917] supported by our 4” naval gun and a 15-pounder. April continued quiet until the 22nd, when the Battalion, together with the West Indian Regiment and Light Infantry with one gun of the 27th Mountain Battery left for Yangwani arriving there after a night march in the heavy rain at dawn on the 23rd [April].  The enemy position was attacked at 10am and after half an hour’s engagement, the enemy retired. The battalion remained at Yangwani and patrols were sent out to reconnoiter the enemy’s ground and on the night of the 24th [April] the Column moved towards Lutende. The enemy were encountered at 6.50 am on the 25th [April] and were driven back slightly but bringing up strong reinforcements they counter attacked vigorously and a heavy engagement ensued and at 6.30 pm the column retired some 1,000 yards into the bush, the enemy being in strong force. At the time there were very few whites with the Battalion, and two days before the action a large draft of 180 recruits arrived, and it is undoubtedly due to the lack of white leaders that the men did not do at all as well as was expected. “A” Company had to be sent into action without an Officer at all, Lieut. Gray of this Company, having previously not returned when the Company retired. Captain A.R. Gill was wounded, and Lieut. W.J. Woods was so dangerously wounded that he died the following day in Lindi. It was useless remaining out in these conditions and the whole Column accordingly retired to Lindi marching on a compass bearing through the bush in torrents of rain, arriving in camp about 10 am on the 26th [April]. In addition to the European casualties the Battalion had 8 rank and file killed, 45 wounded and 6 missing. A follower was killed, 5 wounded and 1 missing. In the course the action we captured 10 German porters with medical stores and quantity of S.A.A.

This action was not as successful as it should have been though the enemy probably received casualties as heavy as our own.”

[War History – 1st/2nd King’s African Rifles, National Archives ref: WO 161/75 N484]

Harry Feccit summarises:

“Yangwani and Lutende

The British commander in Lindi, Brigadier General H de C O’Grady, heard of new German arrivals nearby at Yangwani and Lutende and, on 22 April, he dispatched Lieutenant Giffard with 4 machine guns of 5LI, 2 machine guns and 50 rifles of 2WIR,  2 Stokes Mortars and a section of 27th Mountain Battery  to attack the enemy positions that were manned by Abteilung Rothe. Lieutenant Colonel Giffard made a successful night march and drove the enemy troops off Yangwani on 23 April after an action lasting 30 minutes. Patrols then went out to locate the German base camp at Lutende. This was found after 24 hours of reconnaissance patrolling and Giffard again made a night march in heavy rain, attacking at 0630 hours on 25 April.  The Germans (4 Schutzen Kompagnie, a predominantly white unit) were prepared and after conceding some ground they vigorously counter-attacked with 400 men and 6 machine guns. 1/2KAR lost sight of Lieutenant C V Gray commanding “A” Company, and this left that company without an officer. Two other officers, Captain A R Gill and Lieutenant W J Woods were wounded and evacuated, the latter dying at Lindi the next day.

The remaining handful of officers could not now control the young Askari, confusion reigned due to lack of leaders, and the ability to manoeuvre was lost. Most men wanted to fight but did not know what to do. The battalion swiftly retreated 1,000 yards.  Out of contact with the enemy Giffard got a grip over his men and marched them back to Lindi having lost 8 Askari killed, 45 wounded and 6 missing. The transport detachment sustained 8 casualties. The enemy did take casualties, 1 German and 3 enemy Askari were seen bayoneted to death. Two bombers from 1/2KAR repeatedly crawled through the long grass to bomb enemy positions, and they also brought in the badly wounded Sergeant Njasa under heavy fire. These two Askari, 2864 Private Mataka and 2620 Private Makama, were awarded Military Medals for their gallant conduct.  Lieutenant Gray was taken prisoner and not released until 18 November 1918.”

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

The most detail is given in the Battalion War Diary (see below), which mentions that ARG arrived on the night of the 24th April. This must have been after the night march from Lindi and the subsequent skirmish at Yangwani. ARG arrived with two junior officers, the Medical Officer, 20 rank & file and rations – so I assume he arrived from Lindi. Was he joining the battalion for the first time, having spent the previous months training at the KAR depot at Nairobi? I have not found any mention of ARG in the Battalion War History prior to Yangwani, but ARG’s fishing diary written later in life mentions an incident with the KAR on the Rufigi river, which is up near Kibata.

Or had ARG just rejoined the Battalion after a short absence from sickness? His fishing diary, mentions time spent on sick leave at the KAR training camp at Mpagathi just outside Nairobi. But this could have been after he was wounded at Lutende. Or there could have been multiple periods of sick leave. From the accounts of the sickness that plagued the European officers and NCOs, this would make perfect sense.

Or had he been with the Battalion on arrival in Lindi and was merely re-joining the main force, bringing out a body of men who had not been able to leave immediately when Colonel Giffard had made the emergency night marches through the bush from Lindi to Yangwani on the nights of the 22nd and 23rd April?

I shall try to find out more on my next visit to the National Archive.

1/2 KAR Battalion War Diary

APRIL 1917

[p4]  …

14th         A coy takes over following picquets from 5th L.I.

GUN:                     35 rifles

NOTO ROAD:     16 rifles

BARE HILL:           20 rifles

15th         Enemy shell (20, 4 1/3) neighbourhood of camp between 16.30 & 17.30 less. No damage.

16th         Sgt Msusa’s patrol returned from MCHINGA. He encountered small German patrol which was driven out of RUAWA by him.  Two local natives acting as scouts for German patrol were shot by our patrol.

Practice embarkation on shore by B, C & MGs.

17th         B Coy taken over picquets from A Coy.

18th         Lieut Turner relieved at NYANDA by detachment 5th L.I.

Following patrols left

a.            1&6 to YANGWANGI- LUTENDE

b.            1&6 NGURUMAHAMBA-KATUTU-NGAPA

c.             1&6        DINANA-KIHANGA (S of LUKULEDI)

d.            1&3 (bombers) to back of Schaefer’s Farm

[p5]

19th         (d) patrol returned 10.15 hrs reported trenches at back of Schaefer’s w[?]ed.

G.O.C. inspected M.G. detachment at 7 hrs.

20th         Nil

21st         JANGWANI patrol returned reporting enemy (about 7&50) at that place.

Lt Woods & 75 rifles left for NAMEMBO at 6.30 hours.

22nd        Lt-Col Giffard with whole 1/2nd KAR, WIR TM Bty, 45th LI mgs + 1 gun 27th MB left for NAMEMBO at 2.30hrs. Reached NAMEMBO at 7.30hrs and moved off at 17.30 hrs.

23rd        Night marching, arrived close to YANGWANI at 5hrs. Patrols sent out reported at 8hrs. Attacked enemy 10 hrs. A Coy + 2 mgs from S, B Coy 4 mgs, 2TM’s from NWW. Enemy  fled after ½ hr, putting up negligible resistance: hence we were prevented from inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. The remainder of the force was in reserve. A few sniping shots in the afternoon, 1 white + 1 black seen.

Casualties            1/2 K.A.R.            Lieut W.J.Woods dangerously wounded

1 r&f killed, 9 wounded

[some comments in the margin – obscured in my copy]

Enemy              1 Askari & 3 porters killed, 4 porters captured

Wounded sent in at 14 hrs with M.O.

All quiet during night 23/24

24th         All quiet

Patrols to LUTENDE & RUAWA during day. Former failed to reach LUTENDE owing to enemy picquets.

Capt Gill’s party arrived 16hrs, consisting of Lts Longworth & Anderson, 1 M.O. 20 r&f  & rations.

[p6]

25th                         Patrol sent off 17 hrs to locate LUTENDE camp.     returned  8 hrs, having failed to locate camp. All quiet night 24/25.

Heavy rain; enemy 4.1”gun fired during night. Target [?]

At 16 ½ hrs advanced guard under Capt Wilson came into contact with the enemy and drove him back about 100x. Enemy, reinforced, vigorously attacked the right flank with 4 mgs; opposed by A Coy, 2 mgs & T.Ms. Capt Gill & C.S.M. Chibwana wounded; Lt Gray alone left to command 4 platoons. Touch impossible. Attack not driven home, “A” Coy outflanked at 17.30 hrs. Enemy now had at least 6 mgs in action; KAR mgs almost useless owing to being officerless and having many N.C.O.s hit. C Coy then withdrew 200x and [?] gun & 5th LI mgs swept the bush to our rt flank. Enemy moved more to our right & B Coy moved up to the right of the 5th LI mgs. Lieut. Gray, ordered to withdraw ‘A’ Coy, disappeared in bush & was not seen again

At 17.45 hrs firing opened on our left. “A” Coy was sent, without an officer, to protect our left. 18.30 hrs Battle over,  the column withdrew 1000x south and reorganized. B Coy acting as covering party.

A party under Lt Anderson, accompanied by the M.O. returned to YANGWANI camp, to find it occupied by men who had come back with wounded. The wounded with transport  & escort had already left for LINDI. The M.O. & 40 rifles followed them up along the YANGWANI-LINDI Road. The remainder returned with Lt Anderson to the [?] place of the column. B Coy was then [p7] recalled.

Owing to lack of officers,  medical arrangements, ammunition and transport, the column night marched through the bush on a compass bearing to the YANGWANI-LINDI Road. Excessively difficult march, pitch dark, torrents of rain, two land fords, water ankle to knee deep along whole line of march, mountain battery mules continuously in trouble.

26th                         Joined road 6 hrs 26th, Lead of column reached LINDI 10 hrs.

Presence of ample supply of officers & white N.C.O.s would undoubtedly have converted a drawn battle into a victory.

Casualties            1/2 KARifles

Capt A.R.Gill       Wounded in thigh (not serious)

Lt C.V. Gray        Missing

r&f                       8 killed  36 wounded       6 missing

followers             1              5                              1

Recommendations for award

2084 Pte Mataka & 2610 Pte Kamana were recommended for DCM on account of their gallant behavior in rescuing Sgt Njasa.

27th         C. Coy relieved the 5th L.I. at

NOTO Road        30 rifles

BARE HILL            20 rifles

A Coy relieved the 5th L.I. escort to the

4” Gun                  35 rifles.

28th         Draft posted to their companies.

Flag of Truce learns officially that Lt CV Gray is in enemy hands unwounded.

[Battalion War Diary 1/2 KAR, National Archives, ref: WO 95/5325, Lindi Column Mar-Jul 1917]