East African campaign (World War I)

The East African campaign in World War I was a series of battles and guerrilla actions, which started in German East Africa (GEA) and spread to portions of Portuguese Mozambique, Northern Rhodesia, British East Africa, the Uganda Protectorate, and the Belgian Congo. The campaign all but ended in German East Africa in November 1917 when the Germans entered Portuguese Mozambique and continued the campaign living off Portuguese supplies.[14]

East African campaign
Part of the African theatre of World War I

An Askari company ready to march in German East Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika)
Date3 August 1914 – 25 November 1918
Location6°18′25.2″S 34°51′14.4″E
Result Allied victory
German East Africa partitioned by Britain, Belgium and Portugal

 United Kingdom




Commanders and leaders
Jan Smuts
Jacob van Deventer
Arthur Hoskins
Charles Tombeur
Armand Huyghé
Ferreira Gil
João Teixeira Pinto 
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
Heinrich Schnee (POW)
Kurt Wahle
British Empire
Initially: 2 battalions[1]
12,000–20,000 soldiers
Total: 250,000 soldiers[2]
600,000 porters[3]
Regulars (Schutztruppe)
initially: 2,700[lower-alpha 1]
maximum: 18,000[lower-alpha 2]
1918: 1,283[lower-alpha 3]
Total: 22,000[lower-alpha 4]
Irregulars (Ruga-Ruga) 12,000+[7][lower-alpha 5]
Casualties and losses

11,189 soldiers killed
95,000 porters died
2,620 soldiers killed
15,650 porters died
5,533 soldiers killed
5,640 soldiers missing/ (POW)
unknown number of porter deaths
Total: 40,000+ military casualties

  • c.20,000 dead

16,000+ military casualties

7,000 porters died[6]

365,000 civilians died in war-related famines.[lower-alpha 9]

  • 135,000 in German Africa
  • 30,000 in British Africa
  • 150,000 in Belgian Africa
  • 50,000 in Portuguese Africa

The strategy of the German colonial forces, led by Lieutenant Colonel (later "Generalmajor") Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, was to divert Allied forces from the Western Front to Africa. His strategy achieved only mixed results after 1916 when he was driven out of German East Africa. The campaign in Africa consumed considerable amounts of money and war material that could have gone to other fronts.[2][15]

The Germans in East Africa fought for the whole of the war, receiving word of the armistice on 14 November 1918 at 07:30 hours. Both sides waited for confirmation, with the Germans formally surrendering on 25 November. GEA became two League of Nations Class B Mandates, Tanganyika Territory of the United Kingdom and Ruanda-Urundi of Belgium, while the Kionga Triangle was ceded to Portugal.