British Attack Near Kilimanjaro Repulsed
Scenes from British forces near Sulaita Hill.
February 12 1916, Sulaita Hill–Despite Kitchener’s objections, the British were preparing a fresh offensive into German East Africa [Tanzania]. A new brigade had arrived from South Africa. General Smith-Dorrien, tapped to head the offensive, had contracted pneumonia on the way to Africa and had been replaced by General Smuts, victor in South-West Africa. While Smuts was on the way north to Kenya, General Tighe planned a preliminary attack in advance of his arrival.
The target was Salaita Hill, on the plains below Kilimanjaro near the border with German East Africa. Tighe believed that the Germans only had 300 men defending the hill, and planned to attack from two sides: beginning with the crack Kenyan troops on the center and following up with the green South African troops on the right–committing all 4000 of his men and leaving little reserve. However, the Germans in fact had 1300 defending the hill, with several hundred within easy reach.
The Kenyans and then the South Africans were stopped at least 1000 yards short of the German positions by heavy fire. German reinforcements arrived from the north and south, hitting the South Africans from three sides. They essentially broke, and fell back in considerably disarray. The Germans pursued; they were only stopped by heavy British artillery fire and the resistance of an Indian battalion. The British, despite their still-substantial numerical advantage, had been relatively easily repulsed and suffered far more casualties than the Germans. The casual application of reinforcements from across the Empire would not be enough to take German East Africa, it seemed.
Today in 1915: Kitchener Shown “Clay-Kicking”
Sources include: Ross Anderson, The Forgotten Front; Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War.