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Report on Lettow and the askari in GEA


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#1 mthatcher61

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 08:40 PM

I recently did some research on Lettow and the GEA askari. I received a lot of inspiration, information and direction from this board. If anybody wouldnt mind, I would appreciate any feedback on my little essay. Anything I may have missed, am I in the ballpark. I am not even sure if this is the appropriate forum to do this. I would like to be able to link to a website where I could post it but I dont have one. My apologies if I am in error.
Sincerely
Mark Thatcher

History and historians have traditionally treated Lieutenant Colonel Paul Emil vonLettow Vorbeck very well in relation to the other Schutztruppe commanders in World War I Sub-Saharan Africa. There were four separate German colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa and all of them put up an initial defense against Allied campaigns yet Lettow-Vorbeck and his campaign in German East Africa (GEA) are consistently singled out as exceptional in comparison to the rest. Lettow is hailed as a national German hero and the darling of cold war guerilla aficionados the world over. If tasked with questioning amateur historians or college students with what they may know about World War I in Africa, the most popular answer (If any) will probably be the African Queen (the movie with Humphrey Bogart) the second most popular answer would be Lettow-Vorbeck and his campaigns in GEA. This is not surprising considering that Lettow Vorbeck was never officially defeated in the war. He was still fighting two weeks after the Armistice in France had ended the war and still there was no foreseeable end to his campaign. Lettow-Vorbeck was prepared and determined to continue disrupting the allied lines of supply and communication for as long as he possibly could. Some historians claim he perfected guerrilla war tactics and is the model that other later twentieth century guerrillas are most compared against.

There is almost a cult of hero worship that surrounds Lettow Vorbeck, like he was one of the last of the great chivalrous Teutonic knights. There is no doubt Lettow was agood commander and he commanded excellent troops but he had a few advantages that the other commanders did not have. That Lettow was 'the last man standing' when it was all over and done with is probably the single most important reason that can be attributed to his lasting fame and notoriety. He was a good commander but not so much more deserving than the other Schutztruppe Commanders, at least the ones in the colonies of the German Cameroons and German South West Africa. Both of these colonies offered excellent defensive campaigns and did as well as they possibly could have with the resources they had available.

Paul Emil von Lettow- Vorbeck was born on the 20th of March 1870. He was groomed for a career in the German Imperial Army. His father was a General and he sent his son to the best military schools in Germany[1].Upon graduation Lettow was commissioned an officer in the artillery. He went onto lead a varied and illustrious career before he ever assumed the leadership of the GEA Schutztruppe in early 1914.

One of his prior assignments was with the German Expeditionary Force that was sent by Kaiser Wilhelm II to assist in the International peacekeeping force in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion in China 1900-1901. On July 27 1900 the Kaiser bade his troop's farewell in Bremerhaven before they embarked on ships for the Far East. He delivered an incendiary speech which would later be used by the British for propaganda purposes in WWI to show the 'true' barbaric nature of the 'Hun'. In the speech Wilhelm said "Should you encounter the enemy, he will be defeated! No quarter will be given! Prisoners will not be taken! Whoever falls into your hands is forfeited. Just as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one that even today makes them seem mighty in history and legend, may the name German be affirmed by you in such a way in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look cross-eyed at a German."[2] While in China Lettow served on the staff of General Lothar von Trotha, Brigade Commander of the East Asian Expedition Corps. Von Trotha had previously brutally put down native uprisings in German East Africa. Prodded on by theKaiser's speech Trotha needed no more urging to unleash the same tactics on theChinese.

After China, General Trotha was tasked with putting down another insurrection in German South West Africa (GSWA) in 1904. He requested Lettow to again be on his General Staff.[3] When von Trotha commenced putting down the rebellion he shocked Germany and the world with the ferocity and brutality of his methods. The genocidal tactics employed by Trotha and his troops were so shameless and ruthless that von Trotha was relieved of command and called back to Germany early. The administrative running of the colony was stripped from the military and handed over to the civilian diplomatic corps.

Lettow was a product of Prussian military schooling and an Imperial militaristic society that extolled the virtue of winning at war at any cost. Lettow learned his lessons well. Although never accused of the brutality ascribed to von Trotha, or the belligerent attitude of Kaiser William II, Lettow shared the same nationalistic beliefs; what was important was victory and only victory. Total war brought total victory. Had he the superiority in numbers and available resources as his enemies, no doubt he would have been every bit as ruthless in the pursuit of victory as von Trotha had been. Lettow never had the numbers but, although he couldn't deliver the blows on his assailants that von Trotha could against the Boxers in China or the Wahehe in GEA or the Herero in GSWA, Lettow still used every available resource, much to the detriment of the natives inhabiting the ground he fought over.

Lettow-Vorbeck is regarded in very different ways by some of the primary historians of the Great War in Africa. Byron Farwell andHew Strachan have conflicting views on Lettow. Farwell nearly idolizes him where Strachan makes a good argument that popular myths surrounding Lettow Vorbeck paint him in a picture that is more fiction than fact.

Farwell in his popular history "The Great War In Africa" extols how Lettow knew how to get the most out of those that served under him, "Strict but Fair, he inspired anexceptional loyalty in his African troops".[4] Hew Strachan however, goes out of his way to particularly dispute that very assertion. In his "The First World War in Africa" states "Of the 13,430 casualties which theysuffered throughout the war, 4,510 were reported as missing, 4,275 as captured,and 2, 847 as deserters. Sufficient indications of poor morale are present in these figures to give the lie to Germans claims of extraordinary faithfulness "[5].

Edward Paice in his account of the War in German East Africa agrees with Strachan and also addresses another misconception of the 'hard but fair' governing policy that Lettow and the Germans used on the native tribes which was supposedly validated by the lack of a native uprising which gave rise to the myth of the "unstinting loyalty' of the civilian populace during the war. The reason that the natives did not rise up and revolt after they had been so brutally repressed as short a time ago as less than 12years, was that Lettow's and the Allies armies had stripped the land of all available foodstuffs and labor, without paying, and their scorched earth policy left the natives too weak to do anything. [6]

Lettow himself attempts to address the loyalty of his African soldiers (askaris) in his own 'Reminiscences" when he states that "It was the transparency of our aims, the love of our fatherland, the strong sense of duty, and the spirit of self sacrifice which animated each of our few Europeans and communicated themselves, consciously or unconsciously to our brave black soldiers that they gave our operations that impetus which they possessed to the end."[7] Lettow fails to mention the high rates of desertion in the casualty figures and tries to paint a picture of the happy native, ruled by hard but just masters. Lettow too believes that by his shining example and the examples of the Europeans,they had inspired the Black Africans to fight for a cause larger and nobler than themselves. Just ten years earlier Lettow had been assisting von Troth in abrutal war of annihilation against the Herero tribe in German South West Africa,but by 1918 he believes that he is inspiring his native troops to greatness.

The Schutztruppe askaris in GEA did fight long, hard and well for Lettow-Vorbeck but it wasn't because of loyalty to Lettow or the Kaiser or because of inspiration by their European masters. There were very good reasons why the askaris fought so well but first one needs to know how and why the askaris were different in German East Africa than the other European Colonies.

The initial impetus for the colonization of German East Africa was in 1884 Dr. Carl Peters, a charter member of the Society forGerman Colonization, started making treaty expeditions into the interior of the continent from Zanzibar.[8] Peters believed that Germany, as a new world power needed room to grow, and it was time that she took her rightful place in the world stage of Imperialism and colonization. Chancellor Bismarck did not want to get embroiled in the European 'Great Game' being played out in Africa but the Kaiser over ruled him and granted Peters and his new organization the Deutsch Ost-Afrika Gesellschaft (German East Africa Company or DOAG), a letter of protection by the Navy should his ventures run into trouble. Peters was soon enmeshed in local tribal and native strife and had to appeal to the Kaiser and Reichstag for more military help. The Reichstag granted £100,000, which was not enough to hire European soldiers, but more than adequate to hire African mercenaries. The Germans wanted to model their force after how the British had with their ownaskaris, after they realized in the 1850's that African troops were less susceptible to the climate and local disease. The German soldier and Explorer Hermann Wisemann was recruited and tasked with finding suitable troops and putting down the unrest in GEA.[9]

In 1889 Wissmann hired an expeditionary force of 25 officers and 56 non-commissioned officers which he had seconded from the German Army, 600 African soldiers recruited out of British Sudan, and 100 Shagaan warriors from Portuguese East Africa. This expeditionary force reached GEA in May of 1889 and started systematically pacifying the country. Wissmann would occasionallysupplement his troops with native Rug-Ruga troops that would also fight but the core of the GEA askaris were the descendants of the Sudanese and Shagaan mercenaries. The Schutztruppe became official in 1891 when it was granted thestatus of Schutztruppe for the new German colony. [10]

The fact that none of the originally members of the Schutztruppewere native to GEA plays an important part to why they aligned themselves and their fates so closely with the Germans. The askaris originally brought their wives with them and developed their own communities around the Schutztruppe station that was separate and different from other neighboring blacks in the vicinity. They brought their own customs, and in the initial brutal taming of the various rebellions over the years the Schutztruppe alienated themselves from the native Blacks and more closely aligned themselves with the Germans. It is no wonder that they fought as well as they did, theirs and the German fates were intertwined, if the Germans fell so did the askaris. Later on necessity forced the German's to recruit from the local populace but they only did so from certain 'friendly' tribes that were felt could be trusted.

Between 1891 and 1914 the Schutztruppe participatedin over 75 punitive expeditions. During this time experience dictated that small unit tactics were preferable to European style war maneuvers. The Schutztruppe successfully adapted their tactics to the situation of tribal warfare in the bush. The askaris became very successful in tribal bush warfare which would later prove very effective against the allies in WWI. This is thesource of another myth surrounding Lettow Vorbeck, that he perfected a Guerilla type style of warfare. This is not the case. The Schutztruppe never fought a guerilla type war. It was a bush war. Guerilla warfare is characterized by ideas of national liberation. Lettow was never out to liberate anyone. His sole reason for waging the war he did was purely to draw allied resources towardshimself and away from the fronts in Europe where he believed that Germany would decidedly win the war. Lettow's war was purely one of service and self sacrifice to benefit the Fatherland.[11]Lettow was motivated purely by his dedication to the Army and duty as an officer in the war.

In contrast to to Lettow Vorbeck are the other two Schutztruppe commanders, Heyedebreck in German South West Africa, and Zimmermann in the German Cameroons. Both of these two officers were appointed to their positions by the military department of the Colonial Officer and their loyalties were to their respective colonies. It showed in the way they conducted their wars. All four of the German Colonies had drawn up defensive plans prior to 1914 in the event of 'Universal War'. All of the plans were similar; abandon the coastlines to minimize war damage on people's lives and property, retire to defensible positions in the interior, thereby drawing violence away from populated areas, and hold on long enough to still be able to lay claim to the colony after the war is won in Europe. Lettow, although that was also the initial plan in GEA, was determined not to fight to protect the colony but to utilize the colony as a means to an end, which was that thecolony's interests, both political and economic, manpower and resources were all secondary to military necessity. Lettow had no qualms about requisitioning whatever wherever with or without payment for use of the Schutztruppe. [12]

Early in the war, in November of 1914, an initial British Expeditionary force from India attempted to invade GEA at the port town of Tanga. Through a comedy of errors, incompetance and the fog of war Lettow won a decisive victory over a force of 8000 with a force of 1000 men. The British Expeditionary Force was beaten so badly that they retreated to neighboring British East Africa and stayed there until the other German Colonies were subdued and all available Allied resources could be diverted to GEA. This bought Lettow Vorbeck valuable time to develop a defensive infrastructure and detailed lines of supply and communication that would help later in 1916 when the Allies came back on a three pronged invasion to chase him around for the next twenty months until war's end.[13]

It is a shame that Heyedebreck and Zimmermann do not get the credit they deserve. Zimmermann in Cameroon fought from August of 1914 until February of 1916 when the lastoutpost at Mora fell. A prolonged defensive for 18 months, Heyedebrick fought overwhelming forces in a landscape entirely different from GEA. Both of these two Commanders minimized the damage on their own colony both in loss of property and life. Lettow maximized casualties, and it was the natives who bore the brunt of the suffering of the war in GEA. Also it was the defense of the other two commanders that bought Lettow Vorbeck valuable time all through 1915and into 1916 before any real concerted effort was taken to put a stop to him post. Once that did happen, Lettow-Vorbeck was essentially on the run for 20 months. He gained a new nickname by the allies – 'Lettow-Fallback'. He was not fighting a guerilla war, he was fighting a constant tactical retreat. Retreat or not, Lettow accomplished what he set out to do, he tied up Allied resources and denied their use in Europe. His elusiveness gave rise to a grudging respect and admiration by his enemies. Myths started to crop up about him that he was seen carrying wounded askaris off the battlefield and that he trained himself to go barefoot so he would be ready on the day when they no longer had shoes.[14]

When Lettow finally did surrender and was repatriated back to Germany he received a hero's welcome. Most German people still could not believe that the war had been lost. With soldiers like Lettow that had never been defeated, it made the bitter pill of surrender even more difficult to swallow. Lettow was idolized by the crowds desperate to find a hero after the surrender by the Generals and the abdication of the Kaiser. Eventhough he had never really won the battle for GEA, he had never lost it either.

After the war there was a plethora of first handreports by survivors from all areas and theaters of the war. Lettow wrote acouple of books, his chief of staff wrote one, many English Officers wrote, as did enlisted men on both sides. There was no shortage on accounts about Lettow and the East African Askaris. To this day Military War Colleges draw on these primary sources to teach whole courses on Lettow and his successful campaign against superior forces.

Lettow-Vorbeck was in the right time at the right place. The Schutztruppe and askaris were different in GEA than any other place which gave him a decidedly superior advantage. Their isolation and difference from all other tribes in the countrysince their inception in 1888 was ideal for utilization by Lettow. They identified and aligned themselves with the Germans. This was a resource that is usually attributed to Lettow's inspirational and leadership skills but the askaris ability and willingness to fight for the Germans was in place and functioning long before Lettow came to GEA. The initial British debacle at Tanga bought him much needed time to prepare suitable defenses. He was a good officer and he did what he was trained to do. The cards fell in line for him and he had the correct resources to sustain a lengthy defense for twenty months. He was a good officer and strategist but no genius. More credit is given Lettow than Zimmerman and Heydebrich which is not entirely fair. Their campaigns were equally as difficult and were conducted with less time to prepare and resources at hand.

[1] Farwell, Byron. The Great WAr InAfrica (1914-1918). New York NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986.p.106
[2] Görtemaker, Manfred. KAISER WILHELM IICHINA-BASHING "HUN SPEECH" BREMERHAVEN GERMANY JULY 27 1900. November 25, 2010.http://cambridgeforecast.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/kaiser-wilhelm-ii-china-bashing-hun-speech-bremerhaven-germany-july-27-1900/(accessed December 16, 2010).
[3]Paice, Edward. Tip & Run.London: Phoenix, 2007.p.355
[4] Farwell, Byron. The Great WAr InAfrica (1914-1918). New York NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986.p.107
[5]Strachan, Hew. The First World War In Africa.New York: Oxford University Press, 2004 p.103
[6]Paice, Edward. Tip & Run.London: Phoenix, 2007.p.356
7Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul Emil Von. My Reminiscences of East Africa. Kentucky:Forgotten Books, 2010.p. 325-6
[8]Herff, Michaelvon. "They walk through the Fire like the blondest German" :African Soldiers Serving the Kaiser In German East Africa (1888 - 1914).Master of Arts Thesis, Montreal: McGill University, 1991.p.7
[9] Ibid. p. 10
[10] Ibid. p.25
[11]Strachan, Hew. The First World War In Africa.New York: Oxford University Press, 2004 p.94-95
[12] Ibid.p.95
[13] KeKenneth J. Harvey,MAJ, USA. The Battle Of Tanga, German East Africa 1914. Thesis, FortLevenworth: US Army Command and General Staff College, 2003.P.81
[14]Paice, Edward. Tip & Run. London:Phoenix, 2007.p. 241

#2 bushfighter

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 10:51 AM

Mark
Well Done!
I think that you have made a fair crack at it - but then I keep learning more about that period in military history with each article that I research.

Don't get too attracted to academics who are looking for something new to say to sell a book or to put in a thesis. Often those chaps or chapesses ignore simple military facts of the time because they cannot relate to them.

I do not think that I can support your views on the Cameroons and GSWA campaigns - the Germans there should have done better and lasted longer.

In military history losers do not count. Von Lettow was not a loser. He was on his way to smash the Belgian-British copper belt and then move on into Angola, another land of plenty waiting for him like Mozambique (PEA) was.

You do not mention the military inexperience and incompetence of the Allied commanders facing von Lettow. Smuts cannot be removed from this list. By failing totally to consider logistical problems he played into his adversary's hands by starving the British forces to such an extent that the Germans were nearly always healthier and dominant.

Look at the air and naval power deployed against the GEA Schutztruppe as well as the ground forces. We all have flaws of one kind or another, but despite his, von Lettow displayed character, leadership skills, purpose and dedication to his aim that placed him head and shoulders above the British commanders.

Hoskins might have been able to match him, but Hoskins fell a victim to South African politics (Smuts again) and he was replaced by Van Deventer.

Please keep writing Mark - we need new insights all the time.

Harry

#3 mthatcher61

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 03:32 PM

Thank you Harry,
I value and appreciate your comments very much. I realize that the problems reading historians is everyone has an agenda. My humble effort is just a first stab at trying to sift through the historians to find out what was really going on and what people were really like.
Cameroons and GSWA are certainly open to debate and I would be a fool to set my opinion in stone, especially with the gentlemen here that have no doubt forgotten more than I will ever know about events in Sub-saharan Africa between 1914-1918. I am enjoying the learning process immensely though.
I did not address the inexperience and incompetence of the generals fighting Lettow in this report. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about it. I also believe the Allied commanders in west Africa made a lot less glaring mistakes then the commanders in East Africa. And as for Jannie Smuts, he was a better Guerrilla and politician than a commander of such a huge force. I think he was out of his element.
I also believe that Lettow was an excellent capable commander far superior to the majority of his adversaries. I don't know if I can buy into his military genius that some historians purport him to be. He played his cards very well. His initial success at Tanga was good, and pretty much set himself up for the next two years but in comparison to Tanenberg...Tanenberg was genius, Tanga, Lettow got very lucky in a couple of incidents. He was better by far than the commanders that went up against him but is that saying more for him or less than for his opponents. I do stick by my assessment that it appears ( I claim no authority, especially over the scholars and historians on this board), at least from what I have read so far, Lettow, through a combination of the unique characteristics of his 'loyal' askari, the logistical infrastructure that he had time to set up for himself, the incompetance of the commanders that went up against him, and his naturally good leadership and tactical skills that had been taught and bred into him through the excellent Prussian school of officer training, was a perfect storm that couldn't help but set him up for prolonged success. I also believe though, that much like the fate of some of the far superior officers of the south (as opposed to the majority of Northern Officers, not German) in the American Civil War, the combination of time and money and resources eventually would have destroyed him in an eventual war of attrition. Lettow could not replenish manpower. He was doomed from the beginning. Nonetheless though I admire the soldier. He was above all a professional soldier and a very good one. Germany seemed to have quite a few at the time. Lettow was in a position where he could shine.

Thank you again for your comments Harry. I dearly enjoy reading everything you write. I would be happy to be a fraction of the researcher and writer you are.
I will continue to research and write on the war.
Mark

#4 bushfighter

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 08:12 AM

Mark
If you want a field that the authors and thesesists appear to have overlooked, assess the competence displayed by the Royal Navy in the East African campaign.

Von Lettow received two massive boosts when blockade runners got through, and he gained a bonus when Koehle, his Bavarian gunner, persuaded him to salvage the Konigsberg armaments.

I suggest you examine:
a. The unofficial Naval truce that screwed up the first day of the Tanga landing.

b. The failure of HMS Goliath to appear at Tanga.

c. The failure to stop the blockade runner Rubens that beached in Mansa Bay (read page 18 of Hugh Boustead's The Wind of Morning).

d. The failure to destroy Konigsberg's armaments by the deployment of ground troops.

e. The failure to stop or then successfully bombard the Sudi Bay blockade runner Marie, who unloaded successfully and then escaped.

Successful generals need to make their own luck, but it always helps to have friends!

Good Luck

Harry

#5 mthatcher61

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 01:39 PM

Thank you Harry.

I appreciate the direction and I will do. That sounds very interesting.
Mark

#6 KONDOA

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 08:09 PM

A good read Mark, refreshing too.

Roop

#7 Olav

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 08:32 AM

Mark

like your essay

You described well why Lettow-Vorbeck became a Legend in after-war germany

As a real-life person and military leader he was probably no genius but an extremely capable leader, especially under the special circumstances

in Africa:

He consequently customized basic prussian military doctrines for african bush warfare (what was no matter of course for german military)

was cut off from any supplies outside the colony and lead the whole campaign personally all the time

But without any doubts the fiasco at Tanga enabled him to set up the campaign in his fashion

Before this members of the civil bureaucracy, settlers and even some Schutztruppe officers called him "mad mullah" for his plans to fight in the colonies




Perhaps it´s due my deficits in english language, but I missed your personal point of view in this essay

But after all: A nice piece of work I appreciate!




my little contribution to this

cheers

Olav

#8 mthatcher61

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 08:04 PM

Thank you Roop and Olav.

Olav you have paraphrased me perfectly. "As a real-life person and military leader he was probably no genius but an extremely capable leader, especially under the special circumstances
in Africa"


My own personal point of view is that he was indicative of the fine product of the prussian military schooling system. He was a credit to his schooling, his army and his nation. There are some things about him that I just dont understand though.

What I would like to know is under whose authority did he undermine and disobey Schnee prior to and including Tanga. Schnee was his superior officer even though he was a civilian Governor. I havent seen many instances where a Prussian officer undermined established authority like that. I would think usually duty came first but it seems that once Lettow stepped foot on GEA soil he was on his own agenda.

Also I would like to know why he was sent to Africa in the the first place. He did have a pretty stellar career and it seemed like he was being groomed for the top. Why wasn't he kept in Europe? Everyone knew at the time that Universal war was imminent. The pre-war plan for all of the colonies was protect the wireless stations as long as you can, then blow them before the allies get them, then retire to the interior to hold on till the war is over in Europe and then there will still be a claim in the colonies. This would minimize damage to the colonies and ensure there was something left when the wear was over. Lettow had different plans. He specifically wanted to draw as many allied resources from Europe as he could. Which he eventually did achieve, after he usurped control from Schnee. In doing so he also pretty much wrecked the colony'sacrificing all resources for his war effort. I know Ebermaeier and Zimmerman were soldiers in the colonial office, Lettow was direct from the Army. the other two worked closely and well with their respective governors, Lettow was in conflict with his.Could Lettow have been sent there by the Army with the plan to usurp power from the colonial office and wage the resistance he did, which was in contrast with the Colonial offices pre-war plans? Was this indicative of War department vs Colonial Office rivalry and antagonism? Or did Lettow just firmly believe that his patriotic duty was being shirked by following what he thought was a less than honorably or tactical approach to conducting the war? Or did he just see the possibility for glory and military achievement and vainly (and successfully) pursue it?

I realize that some of my questions might be silly and are probably easily answered by someone that has researched all this and is much better acquainted with Lettow's career. I just read what I can and entertain the possibilities and try to fill in the blanks with my own ill thought out theory's.
Respectfully to the Memory of Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
Mark



#9 james w

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 08:21 PM

Mark

I enjoyed reading your essay and can I also add how refreshing to see an alternative take on von Lettow Vorbeck which moves away from the unquestioning hero worship.

You pick up quite rightly on his service in German South West Africa during the Herero and Nama rebellion of 1904, a neglected part of his career. A recent book on the rebellion 'The Kaiser's Holocaust – Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Routes of Nazism' by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen makes for grim reading.

Coming back to your point about Lettow Vorbeck being idolised, Olusoga and Erichsen despite the evidence also see him as a hero as there is a marked reluctance to say much on his involvement in the rebellion. But even they have to admit he was there when von Trotha reads out his Extermination Order at Osombo zo Windimbe on 3 October 1904. He certainly wasn't back at H.Q. counting paper clips. Despite this criticism read the book and you will never look at either the Schutztruppe or Lettow Vorbeck in the same light again.

I need to put forward one correction. Colonel von Heyedebreck was indeed in charge of the Schutztruppe in German South West Africa at the start of the war and wins the action at Sandfontein on 23 September 1914 but on 9 November 1914 he is mortally wounded during a weapon's trial of rifle grenades. He dies of his wounds on 12 November 1914. He is replaced by the overtly cautious Major Victor Franke for the rest of the campaign, one of endless retreats, which lasts until 9 July 1915. I agree with Harry on his point that the Germans in South West Africa should have done better and lasted longer.

regards
james w

References
'The Kaiser's Holocaust – Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Routes of Nazism,' David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, faber and faber, London, 2010
'On Urgent Imperial Service – South African Forces in German South West Africa 1914- 1915,' Gerald L'Ange, Ashanti 1991

#10 mthatcher61

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 01:27 AM

James
Thanks for picking up on one of the cruxes of my dilemma about Lettow. He was adjutant for von Trotha. He would have been intimately familiar with von Trotha's daily schedule and involved in the events that were going on. There is no way Lettow can be disassociated from the brutality in GSWA against the Herrero and Nama. If Lettow disapproved he may have lodged a formal protest, but history is very silent about his involvement in those times.

Von Trotha was called back by the Reichstag when people rose in a furor over what was happening in GSWA. Lettow left not long after with his eye wound. Could some of von Trotha's 'taint' have followed him? Is that why he was sent back to Africa in 1914 instead of staying for the big show that was coming? Could he have purposely charted his own course against the wishes of the Governor to redeem his reputation and career? Sometimes 'one has to risk all to gain all'.
This is all wild conjecture and could be doing a disservice to a great warriors reputation. But what are we left to believe? I do not believe that it is irrelevant.

Oh, and thanks to you and Harry for correcting me on GSWA and Heydebreck. I agree. Franke kept retreating north up the Railroad till he was boxed in and surrendered.up by Otavi.
Mark

#11 Olav

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:22 AM

Mark, you started an extremely interesting discussion here

What I would like to know is under whose authority did he undermine and disobey Schnee prior to and including Tanga. Schnee was his superior officer even though he was a civilian Governor. I havent seen many instances where a Prussian officer undermined established authority like that. I would think usually duty came first but it seems that once Lettow stepped foot on GEA soil he was on his own agenda.


I will make some direct scans from Boell: Operationen in Ostafrika

There is documented a lot of official correspondence between Lettow-Vorbeck, Schnee and the Reichskolonialamt

describing in detail, how, why and relying on which military laws Lettow was opposite to Schnee

cheers

Olav

#12 Olav

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 09:54 AM

As promised:

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I will try a (humble) translation the next days

In short here is discussed the politics of "open places" by Governor Schnee, Lettows objections regarding to military needs AND laws and the response of the Reichskolonialamt
(who was mainly in favor of Lettow)
The main problem was, that for the Schutztruppe were only objectives for internal unrest but not for external treats
Obviously since 1912 there were plannings for changes but until August 1914 nothing happened
more later


cheers

Olav

#13 bushfighter

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 04:53 PM

Mark
May I suggest that you approach the issue of Von Lettow, and indeed the Schutztruppe as a whole, with caution when genocide is mentioned in German South West Africa.

What are regarded as atrocities and war crimes today were part of a normal and expected days' work for a colonial soldier a century ago. And the academics who linger over these emotive words never tell us about the similar or worse treatment meted out to colonial soldiers who were unfortunate enough to be taken alive by their adversaries.

The above words do not excuse anything, but I found that Olusoga and Erichsen
(see: http://1914-1918.inv...howtopic=160198 )
do not pillory the Schutztruppe for genocide during military operations.

The genocide occurred elsewhere in GSWA in special locations organised by the colonial administration.

Von Lettow appears to have fought in two engagements in GSWA, and in the last one he was wounded. Both engagements were normal military operations against insurgents.

No soldier a century ago, when 'Human Rights' had not been invented, would have acted against the hanging of colonial subjects when the authorities in the colony had decreed that execution.
That is the reality of how things were then, and many academics and others today fail to comprehend the logic of the time, however distressing it may be to discuss it.

Harry

#14 mthatcher61

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 05:07 PM

Thank you Olav, This is information that I would very much like to explore.
In Lettow's English translated 'Reminiscences' I have to wonder when her refers to Schnee as 'He who must be obeyed" how much of that is actual mocking contempt (it sounds it too me) and how much of it is possibly due to the translator.

I am very hindered in that I cannot read or speak German. The primary sources and documents that I would most dearly like to get a hold of and read, are useless to me without the aide of a translator. i have tried using Google Translator it I do believe I loses a lot in its translation.

Mark

#15 mthatcher61

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 07:18 PM

Harry,
I understand perfectly what you mean. Wise words and I will take them to heart.
I agree with what you are saying about soldiers duty at the time vs.what we term today as atrocities and war crimes should be taken into the context of the time and place it happened.


I do believe there is a difference between 'excesses', war crimes, atrocities and genocide. War is by nature brutal and horrible. To win, brutal decisions must be made. Sometimes it simply boils down to who can be the most brutal. I have to say I haven't read about atrocities visited upon the Herrerro or Nama's by the colonial Shcutztruppe, like that of Colonel Chivington's 'soldiers' towards the Cheyenne at Sand Creek in Colorado 1864.


I am trying to reconcile my opinion of Lettow. I do not believe he practiced genocide or his troops did. I agree the term 'The genocidal tactics employed by Trotha and his troops ' could have been omitted from my report for a something a little less offensive but I do think von Trotha's declaration of 2 October 1904
"I, the great general of the German soldiers, send this letter to the Hereros. The Hereros are German subjects no longer. They have killed, stolen, cut off the ears and other parts of the body of wounded soldiers, and now are too cowardly to want to fight any longer. I announce to the people that whoever hands me one of the chiefs shall receive 1,000 marks, and 5,000 marks for Samuel Maherero. The Herero nation must now leave the country. If it refuses, I shall compel it to do so with the 'long tube' (cannon). Any Herero found inside the German frontier, with or without a gun or cattle, will be executed. I shall spare neither women nor children. I shall give the order to drive them away and fire on them. Such are my words to the Herero people"


and the subsequent enforcement of those orders could definitely be construed as a 'genocidal tactic'. Then again, Von Trotha was specifically placed in GSWA because it was felt he was the right man for the job. He did what he was tasked to do and the war was less a 'turkey shoot' than some would believe. The Herrerro were a good fighting force. Von Trotha was simply not messing around. He meant to put down the revolt quickly and with authority. Which he did.


Mark

#16 bushfighter

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 09:11 AM

Mark
May I further comment on three points:

1. Von Lettow as a Guerrilla leader.
You rightly state that von Lettow was a good conventional leader. In German East Africa he constantly withdrew down interior lines of communication where supplies were stockpiled and waiting.

But in Portuguese East Africa he had to create everything from scratch.
He was situated very much as de Wet and his commando were situated during the concluding months of the South African War; and his troops had similarly been transformed from an army in the field into a mobile band of fugitive marauders, whose only objects were to avoid capture, to cause to their pursuers and to all connected with them the maximum amount of loss and trouble, and simultaneously to maintain themselves by seizing any supplies upon which, from time to time, they could contrive to lay their hands.

This rather long but apt sentence is from page 212 of Sir Hugh Clifford's The Gold Coast Regiment in the East African Campaign. This is freely downloadable at:
http://www.archive.o...gimen00clifuoft

2. The strength of character required to lead the Schutztruppe for over four years
A modern trendy UK TV historical programme presenter (and academic) has not been too kind to von Lettow, but who in this day and age, particularly someone living in a secluded and protected academic environment, can comprehend the working conditions experienced by the Schutztruppe once the Central Railway in GEA was lost.

To drive and lead his men onwards for vast distances through uncharted bush, despite setbacks and diminishing numbers of European subordinates, required an inner strength of character that appears sadly lacking in leaders today. I do not know of any Allied commander who had to experience the same conditions whilst exercising command.

3. The loyalty of the Schutztruppe Askari
Once the Central Railway was lost the Askari were not paid in coin but with pieces of printed paper.
Many Askari deserted when they had good reasons to do so, but many stayed fighting, and many carriers stayed carrying, until the end. Probably, in von Lettow's eyes, the weaker links were better out of than in the Schutztruppe.

Before crossing the Rovuma into Portuguese East Africa von Lettow drastically slimmed-down the Schutztruppe, and up to that point I do not believe that the Feldkompagnie suffered too much from desertion rates. Certainly the Schutztruppe structure remained intact whilst in German East Africa.

When the Wintgens-Naumann raid broke back into northern GEA many former Askari reported for re-enlistment, despite knowing that they would not be paid in coin. I think that comments on the loyalty of the Schutztruppe Askari should be tempered by caution. Those that wanted no other life than that of a warrior were content to serve for pieces of paper (which were finally redeemed by the German government in 1964, the year of von Lettow's death. See:
http://www.westernfr...ast-africa.html ).

Beware of trendy TV academics, read as much primary source material as you can, and try to visualise the theatre and the physical and mental problems that it presented to all participants.

Bahati Njema (Good Luck) Harry

#17 Olav

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 09:36 AM

Harry has stated it perfectly

(I would say the same, but I am no native english speaker)

especially the tremendous requirements to the "Character" (newspeak: soft skills)

Lettow had to face over the time are not imaginable for us chairborne generals

There a many descriptions in narratives of former Schutztruppe members who

refers to this

Now I will do my part and do some summary translation

although it will need some time as this kind of written german

is "out of date" since generations

cheers

Olav

#18 mthatcher61

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 05:50 PM

thanks Harry and Olav. I appreciate the direction.
I dont know of whom you speak in regards to the UK TV personality. I haven't seen any programs on Lettow other than that one episode of BBC's Hew Strachan production which was favorable to Lettow but did point out the high cost in lives for the people inhabiting the areas the Armies passed through.

"read as much primary source material as you can, and try to visualise the theatre and the physical and mental problems that it presented to all participants."


Words to live by Harry and I will do my best. I know I have much reading to do
Mark

#19 james w

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 09:21 PM

Whilst not wishing to get into a debate about what is and is not 'genocide' or judging the actions of the past by the standards of
the present I do feel that German actions against the native populations of both South West and East Africa stand out against the other colonial
powers.

No colonial power comes out with a clean reputation and I don't wish to defend some murky episodes in British history but the way in which
revolts in both German colonies were dealt with was both systematic and brutal and with perhaps the exception of the Congo unparalleled in its
extent.

Ironically it often takes the excessive abuse of power to bring about reform. Witness what happened when the Belgian Government finally
stripped King Leopold II of his personal fiefdom the Congo Free State. Similarly following the rebellions, and their crushing, in German East
and South West Africa the outcry this eventually generated back home in Germany led to the reassertion of civilian administration and an end to
the military states the colonies had become. Reform and investment floods in. The added irony is that by 1914 the German colonies were amongst the
more enlightened of colonial possessions.

I do feel that von Lettow Vorbeck's role in German South West Africa is glossed over and my view is that Olusoga and Erichsens continue this.
The Extermination Order produced in full by Mark above was drawn up and carried out by the Schutztruppe.

On a final point I would add that Olusoga and Erichsens lose their way with some heavy handed chapters towards the end of their book. There
are clumsy attempts to tar all colonial authorities with the same brush overlooking the extent of the anti colonial lobby in Britain, where contrary to popular belief the British people were not all jingoistic, and the very vocal movements to protect 'aboriginal' peoples. Their arguments about whether events in German South West Africa influence
what later happened in Nazi Germany is muddled. Maybe it all got a bit lost in the translation.

Thanks Mark for generating a healthy discussion on Von Lettow Vorbeck. I'm sure this one will rumble on.

james w


#20 bushfighter

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 01:11 PM

James
Greetings

Why not "lift" your last post from this thread and re-post it in the book thread:
http://1914-1918.inv...1

perhaps with your own review of Olusoga & Erichson's work?

(We lose too many interesting points in GWF because they are concealed under headings that do not sufficiently reflect the arguments or information.)

Regards Harry

#21 Olav

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:42 PM

Mark, I tried an translation of the first part

hope it´s not too false for understanding:

Your Imperial and Royal Majesty most humbly I report:
The Governor ordered to offer no resistance in the city and port of Dar es Salaam on 4th August 1914
and to hand over the town to the enemy without fighting on 8th August 1914
At that time the execution of this order was not applied because the enemy landed no troops.
On 15th August the governor ordered that even in case of a hostile occupation of the coast by the enemy
no military resistance should be offered.
My concerns regarding Schutztruppenverordnung §2, that here would be a violation regarding military
criminal code §§ 58, 62, 63
, the governor didn´t join.
Therefore it was necessary to lead the fights at Tanga against the explicit orders of the Governor.
Thereupon the governor changed his views regarding the coastal places and allowed that resistance may be provided for
DeS on Nov., 26th and on Feb, 10th for all other places.
My repeated reservations against interference in the conduct of war by the Governor were not accepted.
For proper warfare so there is no basis, the more so, as the Schutztruppenverordnung is based on other
conditions and it´s fundamental §§ 1 and 2 did not provide a fight against an external enemy.
I can not give details because there is a risk that this message falls into the hands of the enemy.

gez. Lettow-Vorbeck
lieutenant-colonel and commander of the protection force for German east Africa




Regarding to my limited time the next parts must be shortened summaries (but with some useful explanations)
Hope this helps a little

cheers

Olav

#22 Anne Samson

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 09:58 PM

Another very interesting discussion. Thanks for sharing your initial thoughts - a brave thing to do, but the best way to get clarification on different aspects.

I was reading somewhere recently (can't remember exactly where given the number of books that have passed through my hands in the last month or so, but it might be Marc Ferro's book on WW1) that the Kaiser had started putting steps in place pending the outbreak of war. To this extent, it was agreed that he would go on holiday as planned so not to give anything away. How long this preparation had been going on for, I'm not sure, but it does tend to support the feeling I've had that Lettow-Vorbeck was posted to Africa especially if there was a war in Europe. If my translation of U Schulte-Varnedorff, Kolonialheld für Kaiser und Führer: General Lettow-Vorbeck – Mythos undWirklichkeit (CH. Links, Berlin, 2006) is correct, the author implies the same.

In my recent research, I've come across the following articles on the fighting in EA which may be of interest/use. Being one of the chapesses I think Harry is referring to above, I'll leave you to draw your own military conclusions. I'm more interested in the politics around the fighting. They're all available on the web.

KP Adgie, Askaris,asymmetry, and small wars: Operational art and the German East Africa campaign1914-1918 (2001, Fort Leavenworth)

GL King, A studyof the operations in German East Africa during the World War 1914-1918 (May1930, Fort Leavenworth)

TA Crowson, When elephants clash: A critical analysis of Major General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck in the East Africa theatre of the Great War (2003, Fort Leavenworth)

I'm yet to read (my German dictionary is called for) Michels' biography on Lettow-Vorbeck but understand from a 'theory of war' historian I met the other day that it is the most authorative on him to date.

Interestingly, King claims that the zeppelin which was sent to Africa to resupply Lettow-Vorbeck was actually meant to take him back to Germany to take command. His source is first-hand account.

I agree with Harry about the need for someone to do an in-depth study on the naval aspect of the campaign, but also the air war. HA Jones' The war in the air seems to be the most complete to date (that I've found) and it was written in 1931.

Best wishes
Anne


#23 Olav

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 08:32 AM

If my translation of U Schulte-Varnedorff, Kolonialheld für Kaiser und Führer: General Lettow-Vorbeck – Mythos undWirklichkeit (CH. Links, Berlin, 2006) is correct, the author implies the same.


Your translation is correct, but some of the theses of the author are questionable at best
This means, his book is politically correct, but not historically, as he interpreted  facts in favor of his hypothesis

because he desperately wants to make LV some of the bad guys in german history (war criminal, mass-murder, etc.) at any price (whats currently politically very correct in germany)

Thus, you have to read his book with considerable caution because it is, let´s say ideologically contaminated in some ways




Interestingly, King claims that the zeppelin which was sent to Africa to resupply Lettow-Vorbeck was actually meant to take him back to Germany to take command.


This cannot be correct, as every source indicates that the journey of  L59 was organized as a one way flight

(When the Zepp returned to Jambul/Bulgaria, the fuel was nearly exhaustet)

#24 Jasta72s

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 12:41 PM

Niece, to see another, fresh look at Lettow-Vorbeck and his Askari in GEA!

Nevertheless, I would like to address and discuss the following paragraph in your article:

The fact that none of the originally members of the Schutztruppe were native to GEA plays an important part to why they aligned themselves and their fates so closely with the Germans. The askaris originally brought their wives with them and developed their own communities around the Schutztruppe station that was separate and different from other neighboring blacks in the vicinity. They brought their own customs, and in the initial brutal taming of the various rebellions over the years the Schutztruppe alienated themselves from the native Blacks and more closely aligned themselves with the Germans. It is no wonder that they fought as well as they did, theirs and the German fates were intertwined, if the Germans fell so did the askaris. Later on necessity forced the German's to recruit from the local populace but they only did so from certain 'friendly' tribes that were felt could be trusted.




Common knowledge is often referring to the important role of the Sudanese Askari in GEA and connects their "mercenary role" or "soldier of fortune" behaviour with the resistance of the black soldiers in GEA between 1914 and 1918. However, one or two years ago I read a German book (accidently I forgot the name) which finished off the legend about the role of Sudanese mercenaries in WWI. If I recall correct there was documental proof that the overwhelming majority of Germany´s black soldiers in GEA were natives from the own colony! The most of the originally serving Sudanese were already dead or had left service. Furthermore there was hardly a chance to get new Sudanese Askari during the fights of WWI. This is raising again the - for me unanswered - question why the most Askaris did continue to fight until EOW. They did not even get money after some time and there was hardly any real chance to win the war!


Inspite of many occuring desertions (L-V was heavily involved in creating the German "Legende vom braven Askari" which ignored this fact.) it seems so strange to me that Lettow-Vorbeck troops did not simply collapse long before the end of the war. Note, at the end were hardly white Germans left!


So, the description in the quoted paragraph above is not satisfying for me and deserves more research (admittedly this is hard to do). One could speculate about potential motives and I bet there was a bundle of different motives for different soldiers and tribal members existing. I could imagine very well that most black people in the borderland close to Belgian Congo would always prefer German colonial rulers if they have to chose between two bad things. The Congo cruelties by the Belgians do not have any match in Africa´s more recent colonial history and I wonder that even today nobody seems to take notice of this undisputable fact. We speak about millions of dead in Congo and not only 10 000 or 100 000. Furthermore, one should check if L-V´s claim that the black soldiers did especially hate the Portugese colonial administration is a justified one or only propaganda. As well the social image of black soldiers must have been very high among their fellow countrymen and an end of the war would reduce the importance of these soldiers. And how did the African soldiers react to Indian soldiers? Today many Africans do not like the Indian minorities or Indian traders on the Eastern coasts and progroms occure. How can one describe this situation in 1914 to 1918?

Lettow-Vorbeck was not only a good, he was a very good leader. He was smart enough to consider the advices of his black sub-leaders (NCO´s only if I recall correct) in his war councils. I agree he was also willing to fight to the last man and last resource without care for the natives (but which colonial power did ever care for them?). German gouvernor Schnee would have prefered another way or solution for GEA and the argument between both men is notable.

It was said he was idolized in Germany. Yes and no! Yes, the "offical" Germany and the right wing admired L-V. However, he was hated by the working class people and political left for the brutal actions of his officers and their troops in the civil war-like unrests in 1919/20.

Btw some time ago I saw two pictures of "White" (counter-revolutionary) troops in Munich which included also a black Askari. I think I remember he looked like being the automobil driver of the officers!


Hope, this gives some stuff for discussion.

#25 Makora

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 06:35 PM

Hi Mark



I can not pass comment on the methods used by Lettow Voreck, as the rules of engagement, at that time, differ greatly from today



All I would like to comment on the loyalty and respect to LV by the ordinary askari



In 1953 I was in Dar es Salam, the Union Castle ship was discharging passengers ,one was LV on his first visit to East Africa since leaving after the war

He was stopped by an elderly African and a conversation started, that went on for approximately 30 minutes, no rush to end the meeting, an ADC of the governor, and official car waited to escort LV to Government House where he was to stay



In Arusha, I worked with an elderly African , Mzee Mirinda, who in the Great War was an Askari in the Schutztruppe, his description was the Germans were kali (wild) and the discipline strict, he indicated that he was at the end when he Germans surrendered



I wonder if he was one of the askaries paid out there back pay in 1964



I understand that with no paperwork, the difficulty was ,if the askari was one of the original Schutztruppe,? the only test given, he had to present arms as the Schutztruppe would have done in 1914



Now my last piece of useless information LV on the first trip out to German East, the Danish Baroness Karen Blixen Was also a passenger on this ship .





Makora Capetown









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