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The East Africa Campaign 1914–18: Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s Masterpiece - Smith and Turner

The East Africa Campaign 1914–18: Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s Masterpiece - Smith and Turner

David Smith (Author), Graham Turner (Illustrator)

Finally, a history book from an era that I know a little something about, though my knowledge is mainly centred on Europe during WW1.

This is a small book running just short of 100 pages which seems to be on par for Osprey books of this series but don’t let its diminutive size put you off.

The book is incredibly well laid out in a logical order but unfortunately has an interesting and important key to military symbols, as used on the included maps, tucked away where you might just miss it. It’s towards the bottom of the page facing the list of contents if you’re interested. I can forgive this though, as there is an excellent 2-page chronology of key events.

There are plenty of graphics included, and I found the maps useful, both as a simple orientation tool and as visuals for what was being reported in the text.

Also included are some great photographs and atmospheric artwork created by the illustrator. I also noticed a few illustrations from the era and a couple of ‘cartoony’ type drawings of the time created by von Lettow’s adjutant. I felt that the graphics used in the book added to its feel and authenticity.

It’s a very readable book that centres around von Lettow’s tactics to frustrate being pushed out of east Africa by a disparate set of forces from South Africa, Belgium, Portugal, India and, of course, the British.

Although most events are covered only at surface level, which is a given if you think about the size of the book, there’s a fair amount of detail within some of the text. For example, I was aware of the scuttling of the Konigsberg, but I wasn’t aware that the guns were recovered, and some were used as land-based weapons by the retreating Germans. Equally, I wasn’t aware that HMS Mersey and HMS Severn, the (monitor class) ships largely responsible for the demise of the Konigsberg, had originally been ordered by the Brazilian Navy, but the British had hung onto them because they saw a use for shallow draught, but heavily armed, warships for themselves. – They only had a draught of 6 feet.

Another little snippet I picked up was that the Goetzen had been built in Germany, then immediately broken up and transported in 5000 crates to Dar-es-Salaam and then onto Lake Tanganyika where she was reassembled and relaunched in 1915. At some point, she also benefitted from being armed with a recovered gun from the Konigsberg. Scuttled by the retreating Germans in 1916, she was recovered in 1927 by the British and is still working today as a ferry, the MV Liemba, on Lake Tanganyika. The only vessel from the Imperial German Navy still sailing anywhere in the world today.

This book is a sound introduction to the events in East Africa during WW1 and if you’re of an inquisitive nature it will provide plenty of leads to chase down via other sources. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t contain a bibliography which is a little disappointing.

Currently priced at £14.07 (a pre-order discount of 12%) on Amazon I think it is very fairly priced, and I’ll hand it 4 anchors for keeping me occupied for a week.

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