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Railways and the Campaign in German South West Africa


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#1 james w

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 08:25 PM

'Railways and the Campaign in German South West Africa'

A photograph posted on 10/02/11 by Kevin on Harry's Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa page (Post 943) showing a railway line being blown up in German East Africa generated a number of responses from Carl and myself. We were keen to point out this is in fact German South West Africa and not German East.

To avoid confusing the two campaigns any further, and apologies to Harry for inadvertently doing this, we have created a new post to cover railways during the Campaign in German South West Africa.

The railways had a pivotal role in German South West Africa providing vital supply lines for both sides. Then there are the two actions at Gibeon and Trekkoppies (Trekkopje) stations in April 1915 not to mention the final surrender at Kilometer 500 on 9 July 1915.

As a starting point the photograph of the railway line being blown up is reproduced below followed by the posts on its location.

Attached File  Railway line being blown up in GWSA.jpg   41.18KB   1 downloads

As stated this photograph is not German East Africa but German South West Africa. In Gerald L'Ange's book 'Urgent Imperial Service - South African Forces in German South West Africa 1914-15' the photograph appears under the caption "As they retreated along the railways the Germans destroyed the line behind them to prevent the South Africans from using it. This photograph of a section of line being dynamited was taken near Karibib."

The photo can also be found in 'The First 100 Years of State Railways in Namibia' by Brenda Bravenboer and Walter Rusch although they caption it "German troops blowing up the railway line in the south of the country." Karibib is in the middle!

There are two versions of this image in the Library at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.

This is from the description for image 037-0600-45:

"the Schutztruppen destroying a section of the Lüderitzbucht – Aus railway line between Garub and Tschaukaib on the 25th March 1915".

This is of course in the south.

http://www.ub.bildar...hauptframe.html

On the balance of evidence the photograph would appear to be in the south between Garub and Tschaukaib. Curious though as to how the photograph could be captioned for locations so far apart.

The problem was that the Germans were destroying the two northern lines and the southern railway line.

And then there are the names which were transliterated from the indigenous language/s into German (those weird fonts again), Dutch, Afrikaans/English and probably back again.

The 1904 German military map on the front and rear end papers of L'Ange predates the construction of the southern railway and a detailed plan / diagram of this line has not been seen. Pool's "Pionierspoorwee in Duits-Suidwes-Afrika 1897-1915" has comprehensive data only on the two northern lines.

The 1904 map shows Kubub south of Aus while about 100 km east of Garub there is/was a station / post office called Kuibis / Guibes / Guibis; about another 30 km further east there is/was another station called Goageb.

So this is the point we've now reached.

There is much of interest relating to the history of the railways in German South West Africa and just as a taster Carl lists the following:

- the construction of the original German lines (State Railway, OMEG and the other links)
- forced labour and the camps like Shark Island at Luderitz (Lüderitzbucht)
- Retreating German forces under the command of Lieutenant Münstermann blow up small sections of the railway line from Lüderitz to the interior. Dismantled material is
brought inland to the Tschaukaib station.

- 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 armoured trains (Artillery, Engineers, Railways)
- the construction of the link from Walvis Bay and the link from South Africa
-
rebuilding the original (destroyed) German lines and bridges and converting from 600mm gauge to 3'-6" gauge
- WW1 history of the South African Engineers Corp and the Railway Regiments

Contributions of course welcome.

Carl and James


#2 centurion

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 10:45 PM

From the Allied and the German side
attachment=138454:sgeschichtebild77.jpg]

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#3 bushfighter

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 07:45 PM

James
Thank you.
I am very interested in identifying the amount of African labour that was moved into GSWA from South Africa and Bechuanaland to work on re-building the railways and other tasks.

I would also like to learn as much as possible about the working & living conditions for this labour in GSWA, and any details of recruitment and remuneration.
(This black effort was rather taken for granted in South Africa and few details were published.)

If you come across any relevant details then please let me know.

Harry

#4 centurion

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 07:48 PM

Destroyed bridge

Attached File  rail36.jpg   66.53KB   1 downloads

#5 james w

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 08:57 PM

Hello Centurion and Harry

Centurion, thanks for adding the splendid photographs. I particularly liked the one of the little narrow gauge train packed with members of the Schutztruppe. Do you know where the photograph of the train laden with South Artillery was taken? It looks like it maybe in Cape Town with those mountains in the background. More photographs greatly appreciated.

Harry, I agree the use of African labour is an interesting and largely unrecorded topic. I hope we will be able to shed some more light on this.

regards
james w


#6 james w

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 09:18 PM

Before going onto look at the role railways played in the campaign in German South West Africa it is helpful to understand a little of their development, not least because it is a confusing history of state and privately built lines and different gauges. The latter is important in the light of the South Africans relaying track to a standard 3' 6" gauge (1067mm).

The following table provides a summary of the different lines, gauges, ownership and their construction dates. It comes from the former website of the late Klaus Dierks and grateful acknowledgements to him for his hard work in compiling the original table.

Attached File  Railway development GWSA v1.jpg   91.07KB   0 downloads

#7 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 05:33 AM

. . . a confusing history of state and privately built lines and different gauges.


James

Thanks for that.

Here are the details of Pool.

The lines between Swakopmund and Windhuk are dealt with in exquisite (some would say excruciating) detail but there is almost nothing on the remaining lines.

I will attach a scan of Pool's Map 1 and maps of the North-South, Luderitzbucht-Seeheim and the South African connection lines.

Carl

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#8 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 05:36 AM

. . . a scan of Pool's Map 1

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#9 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 07:18 AM

James.

The usual struggle between resolution and size.

Calvert has good background.

I have uploaded his Plates 228 and 229 which show a lot of the places.

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Carl

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#10 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 12:58 PM

From the Allied and the German side


Centurion

The top image is familiar but I cannot find the source.

It was possibly taken from a position in a siding (3’-6” gauge) close to Fort Wynyard which is very near to the Cape Town stadium built for the 2010 World Cup™ ® © on Green Point Common. This siding would have been connected to the Sea Point suburban line. Green Point Common was also used during the Anglo Boer War. http://www.flickr.co...oda/3895843195/

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/



The South African Heavy Artillery had moved their Depot from Rondebosch Common to Green Point Common at the end of 1916 or beginning of 1917 embarking from old Monument Station on the now long gone Sea Point suburban line. See http://mikes.railhis...n.net/r025.html for more information on the Sea Point line



Pool has a list of the wagon numbers used on 3’-6” gauge lines in GSWA with the series 5000-6000 being allocated to live stock trucks.
1. The GWSA rolling stock was marked “D S W A E”
2. South African (“Union”) rolling stock was marked “SAR”
3. South African wagons seem generally to have higher sides.



Here is an interesting article on the field artillery giving some more detail

http://www.sacktrick...in the lake.htm

The equipments shown seem too “heavy” for field artillery. The BL 5-inch (“cow”) guns used heavy wheels similar to the wheels on these guns but then were not used in GSWA; the bore of the barrels looks too small, the length of the tube too short; without a view of the carriages these guns will require a real expert for identification.

Carl

#11 bushfighter

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 04:47 PM

Here's an extract from a transcription of a letter that the Society of Malawi kindly sent me:

03/06/17

Private Joseph ER Lorraine
Regiment Number 89
BSAP Service Column
German East Africa
Via Nyasaland
South Africa

Dear aunt (written to C W Blackwood, Southwood Peebles)

As I have nothing else to do this morning I am taking the opportunity of writing you a few lines.

I might have written to you before as I think I promised to write when I saw you in Peebles. I wrote Willie several times. I get Peebles papers up occasionally from Major Thorburn who is at Zomba and am well supplied with Peebles news. After returning in the Lasstephen? Castle I went through German West Africa in the African engineer corps that was in the beginning of 1915 and when things finished there I went up to Salisbury Rhodesia and joined the BSAP on the 14th August 1915.

My time in German West was interesting, been working on repairs of the railway. I went 35 days by Oxwagon to Keetman Korp. The worst thing we had to contend with there was scarcity of water. Up here it has been entirely different. . . . .

Harry

#12 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 06:36 PM

. . . German West Africa in the [South] African engineer corps . . . German West . . .


Harry

Very interesting.

"German West" or "Duits-Wes" was a common South African useage and meant GSWA not the real West Africa.

Carl

#13 centurion

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 07:46 PM

Not sure if this German narrow guage is in the same theatre. Where picklehaubes worn in GSWA? Note the officers first class carriage at the front!

Attached File  G narow g.jpg   87.48KB   1 downloads

#14 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 07:15 AM

. . . in the same theatre. Were picklehaubes worn in GSWA?


Centurion

The loco is an "Illing" ("single" as in one half of a "Zwilling" or "twin") and these were common in GSWA - see the image from Pool below. The caption reads "Zwilling with high wooden sides. The seats for the brakemen are clearly visible. Swakopmund station is still under construction."

A large portion of the 600mm track had been destroyed during the German retreat in the 1914/1915 campaign.

Large numbers of troops from the German Empire were brought to GSWA during the Herero / Nama wars of 1904 - 1908 and this could be the source of the picklehaubes thus dating your image to this period.

Carl

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#15 james w

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 09:01 PM

The late Klaus Dierks very helpfully produced a chronology of events relating to the railways during the campaign in German South West Africa and the table below for 1914 and 1915 is based on this. This can be usefully used in conjunction with the excellent maps and photos posted by Carl and Centurion above.

Attached File  Chronology 1914.jpg   95.67KB   1 downloads

Attached File  Chronology 1915.jpg   70.51KB   1 downloads

#16 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:14 AM

James

Thanks for that.

And then there was another railway line of 2’-6in gauge (760 mm) in that portion of Namaqualand that lies south of the Orange River and which was ‘destroyed’ (I think only very partially) by the Germans on 30 October 1914 after the Battle of Sandfontein (Zandfontein) at the end of September 1914.

Chris Boonzaaier has a comprehensive article at http://www.imperial-...sandfontein.htm

This map is from Frank Jux’s article on the Port Nolloth - O’okiep (now Okiep) railway line to the copper mines http://www.irsociety...2_the_Well.htm. Steinkopf is about 50 miles east of Port Nolloth.

The construction of the railway line from Prieska via Upington to Kalkfontein Süd (Karasburg) by the South Africans is also another untold story.


Carl

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#17 james w

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 09:14 PM

Thanks Carl for the all information on the Port Nolloth line and its role in the Battle of Sandfontein. I must admit I hadn't realized it was so important or that the Germans crossed the border and attacked the line. The construction of the line from Upington is indeed another good story.

For anyone interested, Clara, the last remaining mountain engine of the Port Nolloth line survives (see link below).


http://steam-locomotives-south-africa.blogspot.com/2007/11/brief-visits-to-clara-locomotive-in.html


Moving back up into German South West Africa the following photograph is captioned (my rough translation):

"Schutztruppe gunners with their mules on the way to the South."

Attached File  German artillery and mules on train GWSA.JPG   79.78KB   2 downloads

There looks to be some sort of fort in the background. Any suggestions?


james w


#18 centurion

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 11:15 PM

[/font]Moving back up into German South West Africa the following photograph is captioned (my rough translation):

"Schutztruppe gunners with their mules on the way to the South."

Attached File  German artillery and mules on train GWSA.JPG   79.78KB   2 downloads

There looks to be some sort of fort in the background. Any suggestions?


james w

This is probably them entraining
Attached File  rail33.jpg   58.49KB   0 downloads

#19 Anne Samson

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 09:06 PM

I can't add anything in terms of photos on the railways, however, the importance of the railways to the SA war effort can be seen by the appointment of Sir George Farrar (proprietor of ERPM - East Rand Proprietary Mines) to manage the railway construction as part of Sir Duncan McKenzie's force. Smuts and Botha asked Farrar to help during the parliamentary sitting in September 1914. Having survived the bombs dropped by German planes, Farrar died on 20 May 1915 following a freak accident when his trolley collided with another - he apparently insisted on doing his own reconnaisance.
According to his personal papers (Rhodes House Library, Oxford), he was really grateful (as grateful as one can be) that the rebellion happened only because it gave him a head-start in organising the railways.
There is no mention of Farrar in the Official History of the campaign.
Best wishes
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#20 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 09:04 AM

Anne

Here is a link to the ERPM memorial and Sir George Farrar's grave.

http://www.allatsea....rpmmemorial.htm

Carl

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#21 Carl Hoehler

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 03:34 PM

Destroyed bridge


Thanks for the image

From http://www.worldrail...c.php?f=2&t=921 these are D.K.E.B.& B. (Deutsche Kolonial-Eisenbahn Bau- und Betriebs-Gesellschaft) Lüderitzbucht Eisenbahn (1067mm - 3ft-6in gauge) tank locomotives (2-8-0T oOOOO) probably built by Orenstein & Koppel.

The details of the tank locomotives captured in GSWA are at http://www.sarsteam....ed.php?locoid=3

The locomotives in GSWA often had dust covers to protect the motion.

Carl

#22 KHA

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 02:11 PM

I was just in southern Namibia (SWA) and saw the area where the photograph was taken. It is on the Lüderitzbucht to Aus line, very near to present day Aus.
You can also see some of the German fighting positions in the hills to the west of Aus where the railway cut through the hills.


The Allied POW internment camp was located about two kilometers east of Aus.
Remnants of the camp are still there, as is the cemetery, which is better cared for.

Attached is a photo of the POW camp area.

VR


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#23 Story

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:50 PM




Moving back up into German South West Africa the following photograph is captioned (my rough translation):

"Schutztruppe gunners with their mules on the way to the South."

Attached File  German artillery and mules on train GWSA.JPG   79.78KB   2 downloads

There looks to be some sort of fort in the background. Any suggestions?


james w


Windhoek's Alte Feste?

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Alte_Feste

http://greensleeves....e-clues-co.html

The rail line does run close to it
http://steam-locomot...waggons-at.html

#24 KHA

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 06:57 AM

Although it looks like the late Fest. it is probably not. The Fest lies on a higher elevation and is about 1500 meters from where the rail line was / is.
And, if they are going South, the Fest is on the wrong side. It lies East of the rail line.
Another fortification in Rehoboth or ???

VR
James

Windhoek's Alte Feste?

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Alte_Feste

http://greensleeves....e-clues-co.html

The rail line does run close to it
http://steam-locomot...waggons-at.html



#25 Story

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 04:21 PM

Although it looks like the late Fest. it is probably not. The Fest lies on a higher elevation and is about 1500 meters from where the rail line was / is.


I'd noticed the disparity in perspective, but what maps are you basing this on?

Wouldn't it have made sense for a spur line to take supplies and troops as close to the Fest as possible?



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