Southern Rhodesian involvement in the First World War
Southern Rhodesian involvement in the First World War lasted from the war's outbreak in 1914 to its conclusion in 1918. Southern Rhodesia,[n 1] then administered by the British South Africa Company, received the news that war had been declared with great patriotic enthusiasm—Sir William Milton, the Company administrator, immediately wired Whitehall that "all Rhodesia ... [was] ready to do its duty". Although it supported Britain, the Company was concerned about the possible financial implications for its chartered territory should it make direct commitments to the war effort, particularly at first, so most of the colony's contribution to the war was made by Southern Rhodesians themselves—not only those who volunteered to fight abroad, but also those who remained at home and raised funds to donate food, equipment and other supplies.
Starting immediately after the outbreak of war, parties of Southern Rhodesian volunteers travelled to England, paying their own way, to join the British Army. Most Southern Rhodesians who served in the war enlisted in this way and fought on the Western Front, taking part in many of the major battles with a myriad of British, South African and other colonial units, most commonly the King's Royal Rifle Corps, which recruited hundreds of men from the colony, and created homogenously Rhodesian platoons. Troopers from Southern Rhodesia were for the most part accustomed to big-game hunting, and became renowned on the Western Front for their marksmanship; many were designated snipers. Some served as combat pilots in the Royal Flying Corps, one of the two predecessors of the Royal Air Force; a Southern Rhodesian airman, Second Lieutenant D. G. Lewis, was the 80th and final Allied pilot defeated by the Red Baron.
Explicitly Rhodesian units served in the African theatre of the conflict. After the British War Office turned down the Company's proposal of a 500-man Southern Rhodesian expeditionary force on the Western Front, these men were sent to South Africa in October 1914 to help quash the Maritz Rebellion. This unit, the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, served briefly in South Africa and then fought alongside South African forces in South-West Africa during 1915. It saw little combat, and after it was disbanded most of its men joined the Western Front. The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, formed during early 1915, operated in East Africa until 1917. Some veterans of this campaign also latterly served on the Western Front. Large-scale recruitment of Southern Rhodesian blacks did not take place until white manpower was critically stretched in 1916; the Rhodesia Native Regiment, comprising Kalanga, Mashona, Matabele and other black soldiers led by white officers, was formed that year and fought in East Africa until the armistice of 11 November 1918. Elements of the British South Africa Police, Southern Rhodesia's paramilitary police force, contributed to both the South-West and East African Campaigns during the war. Because men from the territory were spread across dozens of regiments, small numbers of Southern Rhodesians contributed to many other theatres of the war with their respective units.
Though it was one of the few combatant territories not to raise fighting men through conscription, proportional to white population, Southern Rhodesia contributed more manpower to the British war effort than any other Imperial territory, including Britain itself. White volunteers numbered 5,716, about 40% of white men in the colony, with 1,720 of these serving as commissioned officers. The Rhodesia Native Regiment enlisted 2,507 black soldiers, while the 1st and 2nd Rhodesia Regiments also included a small number of black scouts. Including all races together, 783 Southern Rhodesians lost their lives in the First World War, with many more seriously wounded. Southern Rhodesians' service in the war latterly became a major entry in most national histories, and a source of great pride for the colony's settlers. It played a part in Whitehall's decision to grant self-government in 1923, and remained prominent in the national consciousness for decades. Amidst the political dispute with Whitehall regarding the terms for full independence, the colonial government deliberately timed its 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence to coincide with Armistice Day, 11 November, and signed the proclamation at 11:00 local time.
The First World War, also known as World War I or the Great War, was a global military conflict in which most of the world's great powers fought, assembled in two vast opposing blocs: the Entente Powers, or Allies (headed by France, Britain and Russia) and the Central Powers (led by Germany and Austria-Hungary). It was one of the largest wars in history, with more than 70 million military personnel mobilised. The major powers also directed their entire scientific and industrial capabilities into the war effort, making the situation one of total war. Over 15 million people were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts ever. The proximate cause of war was the assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria: the activation of various international alliances in the aftermath of this event led to most of Europe being embroiled in the conflict. As many European countries had overseas empires, much of the world was swept up in it as well. The largest concentration of British Empire and Commonwealth troops was on the Western Front, in Belgium and France, where soldiers manned trenches stretching from the North Sea to the Orne River in Lorraine.
Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company, established by royal charter in 1889 by Queen Victoria, acquired much of south-central Africa during the 1890s through a series of treaties, concessions and military engagements, most prominently overcoming the Matabele army in the First and Second Matabele Wars.[n 2] Empowered by its royal charter to form banks, to own and manage land and to raise and run its own police force, the Company governed and developed the lands it controlled. No all-encompassing name was adopted at first, but many of the first white settlers referred to their new home as "Rhodesia" (after Rhodes), and this name was made official by the Company in 1895. The two territories south of the Zambezi—Mashonaland and Matabeleland—were formally united as "Southern Rhodesia" in 1901, while those to the north became Northern Rhodesia in 1911.[n 1] That year, the white population in Southern Rhodesia stood at 23,606, while Northern Rhodesia had about 3,000 white settlers.
Southern Rhodesia's police force was the British South Africa Police (BSAP), first raised in 1889 and reconstituted into a more permanent form in 1896. This paramilitary, mounted infantry force was theoretically also the country's standing army. Organised along military lines, it operated on Britain's side in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 (alongside the specially-raised Rhodesia Regiment), and by 1914 comprised about 1,150 men (including officers). Reserves existed in the form of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers, an amateur force with a paper strength of 2,000 intended for mobilisation against local uprisings. Few doubted the Volunteers' enthusiasm, but they were not extensively trained or equipped; though perhaps useful in a Rhodesian bush skirmish, most observers agreed they would be no match for professional soldiers in a conventional war. In any case, the Volunteers' enlistment contracts bound them for domestic service only.
The Company's charter was due for expiry in late 1914, and most Southern Rhodesian public attention focussed on this issue during the first half of that year. The settlers were split between those who backed continued administration by the Chartered Company and those who advocated the introduction of responsible government, which would make Southern Rhodesia a self-governing colony within the British Empire. Still others favoured the integration of Southern Rhodesia into the Union of South Africa, which had come into being four years earlier.[n 3] The charter was ultimately renewed for 10 years in early 1915.
Outbreak of war
Announcement and reception
When Britain declarated war on Germany at 23:00 Greenwich Mean Time on 4 August 1914, the British Empire's dominions and colonies automatically became involved as well. Word of this reached the Southern Rhodesian capital Salisbury during the night. Early on 5 August, even before releasing the news publicly, Company administrator Sir William Milton wired Whitehall: "All Rhodesia united in devoted loyalty to King and Empire and ready to do its duty." A few hours later he officially announced to the populace that Southern Rhodesia was at war. The Rhodesia Herald and Bulawayo Chronicle newspapers published special editions the same day to spread the news; it took about half a week for word to reach the whole country, but jingoistic demonstrations began in the major towns almost immediately.
As historian Peter McLaughlin writes, Southern Rhodesians "seemed to out-British the British" in their patriotic zeal, so it was to the frustration of many settlers that the Company did not immediately commit to any martial action. While it sent supportive messages to Whitehall, the Company felt it could not raise any kind of expeditionary force without first considering the implications for its administrative operations; as a commercial concern, it was possible for the Company to go bankrupt. Who would foot the bill for war expenditure, its hierarchy pondered: the Company itself, Rhodesian taxpayers or Whitehall? As the local newspapers filled with letters from readers clamouring for Rhodesian troops to be mustered and despatched to Europe post-haste, the administration limited its initial contribution to posting a section of BSAP troopers to the Victoria Falls Bridge to guard against possible German attack from South-West Africa though the Caprivi Strip. In early September, an indignant letter to the Rhodesia Herald from Colonel Raleigh Grey, a major figure in local business, politics and military matters, accused the Company of bringing "a slur on a British country" by doing so little.
A few days after the war began, the Chartered Company formed the Rhodesian Reserves, an amorphous entity intended to accommodate the many men who were keen to put on uniform, as well as to make a start towards organising what might eventually become an expeditionary force. Eminent citizens and elected leaders formed their own platoons, each bringing 24 volunteers; three or four of these 25-man troops made a company. Units representing the Caledonian Society, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Society, the Legion of Frontiersmen and other local organisations mirrored the Pals battalions in Britain. Volunteers could opt to serve overseas, within Rhodesia or only locally; around 1,000 had volunteered in all by 13 August.
The Company suggested to Whitehall that it might despatch 500 troopers from the Rhodesian Reserves to Europe to act as an all-Southern Rhodesian unit on the Western Front, but the War Office in London replied that such an expeditionary force would be more practically deployed in Africa, within the South African forces. When the Company relayed this idea south, the South Africans said they were happy to take the Southern Rhodesians, but only if they enlisted independently in existing Union regiments. The Company found itself in the unusual position of having a prospective expeditionary force that nobody wanted. Unwilling to wait, some Southern Rhodesian would-be soldiers made their own way to England to join the British Army directly, as individuals or in groups—by the end of October 1914, about 300 were on their way.
In terms of fighting manpower, Southern Rhodesia's main contribution to the First World War was in the trenches of the Western Front. As Southern Rhodesians in this theatre joined the British Army separately, at different times and under their own steam (or were already connected to specific units as reservists), they were spread across dozens of regiments.[n 4] During the war's opening months, Southern Rhodesian volunteers who could not afford to travel to England to enlist were assisted by a private fund set up by Ernest Lucas Guest, a Salisbury lawyer and Anglo-Boer War veteran who also organised an accompanying recruitment campaign for European service. Guest stopped recruiting at the Company's request after it created the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, an expeditionary force to South and South-West Africa, in October 1914.[n 5]
A link developed during the war with the King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), whose Southern Rhodesian contingent—numbering a few hundred, in its 2nd and 3rd Battalions—was the largest on the Western Front. The connection with this particular corps began as the result of a chance conversation aboard the ship that took the first batch of Southern Rhodesian volunteers from Cape Town to Southampton in late 1914. The 16th Marquess of Winchester, who had links with Rhodesia dating back to the 1890s, was also aboard the ship, returning from a visit to the colony. Encountering Captain John Banks Brady, the Irish-born officer who led the volunteers, the Marquess asked where his party was headed. Brady enthusiastically replied that they were going to war together in France. The Marquess advised Brady that it would probably be difficult to prevent his men from being split up; he suggested that they muster into the KRRC, where he could keep an eye on them through his connections with the Winchester-based regiment. The Southern Rhodesian contingent duly attested into the KRRC on arriving in England. A designated Rhodesian platoon—No. 16 Platoon, "D" Company, 3rd Battalion—was formed under Brady at the KRRC training camp at Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
As a rule, Southern Rhodesians overseas combined stridently pro-British attitudes with an even stronger pride in Rhodesia. Many of them saw participation in the war, particularly in distinct "Rhodesian" formations, as a step towards forging a distinctive national identity, like Australia or Canada, and building a case for Southern Rhodesian self-government. The existence of No. 16 Platoon, informally known as "the Rhodesian Platoon", endeared the regiment to the Southern Rhodesian public, and attracted many of the colony's volunteers who arrived in England later in the war; as the war went on, the KRRC formed further Rhodesian platoons from the overflow of personnel. The regiment's original party of Southern Rhodesians won a reputation for fine sharpshooting while at Sheerness. "Life on the frontiers of the Empire had its advantages," McLaughlin comments: while the average Rhodesian colonial was at least casually acquainted with rifles, most Englishmen had never held one. At Sheerness, Brady's Rhodesian Platoon set a regimental record score at the shooting range.
Once posted to France in December 1914, No. 16 Platoon began suffering heavy casualties on a regular basis almost immediately. Southern Rhodesian volunteers continued to arrive piecemeal in England throughout the conflict, so No. 16 Platoon and other Rhodesian formations received regular reinforcements in small batches, but because casualties were usually concentrated in far larger groups it often took a few months for a depleted Southern Rhodesian unit to return to full numerical strength. A cycle developed whereby Rhodesian platoons on the Western Front were abruptly decimated and then gradually built up again only to suffer the same fate on returning to action. When the KRRC's Rhodesian platoons took part in British offensives, they were easily recognised by a distinctive battle cry that their men shouted as they went over the top. Sometimes the British and German positions were so close that troopers on each front line could hear what was said in the opposite trench; one group of Southern Rhodesians attempted to avoid being understood in this situation by speaking a mixture of Shona and Sindebele instead of English.
Trench warfare was a dreadful ordeal for soldiers, and the Southern Rhodesians, coming from the open veld of southern Africa, had a particularly difficult time getting used to the cold and the mud. Brady reported that some of his men had contracted frostbite within 48 hours of reaching the trenches. Despite this, the KRRC's Rhodesians acquitted themselves well in the eyes of their superiors; Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edward Hutton writes that the Southern Rhodesian contingent "earned for itself great reputation for valour and good shooting". Southern Rhodesians became especially valuable to the KRRC as designated snipers, grenadiers, Lewis Gunners and other specialists. While discussing a KRRC sniper section, Hutton singles its Southern Rhodesian members out for their fine marksmanship, commenting that "accustomed to big game shooting, [they] particularly excelled in this system of 'snipers', and inflicted continual losses upon the enemy". In their 2008 history of sniping, Pat Farey and Mark Spicer highlight the prowess of South African and Southern Rhodesian sharpshooters on the Western Front, writing that one group of 24 southern African colonials collectively accounted for over 3,000 German casualties and fatalities.
So many Southern Rhodesians were withdrawn from the trenches for officer training that in mid-1915 Brady appealed through the Salisbury and Bulawayo presses for more volunteers to replace those who had been commissioned. A platoon of Southern Rhodesians with the 2nd Battalion, KRRC took part in the initial offensive of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, charging the German lines early in the morning. There were 90 Rhodesians on the eve of the attack and only 10 alive and unwounded afterwards. Elsewhere on the Somme battlefield, Rhodesians were amongst those at Delville Wood, which began on 14 July: in this engagement, described by Sir B. H. Liddell Hart as "the bloodiest battle hell of 1916", the South African 1st Infantry Brigade faced the Germans for the first time.[n 6] Some of the colonials blacked up and imitated Zulu battle cries and war dances. Despite suffering casualties of catastrophic proportions—about 80% of the brigade's personnel were killed, wounded or captured—they took the Wood and held it as ordered until they were relieved on 20 July. By the time of its withdrawal, the South African Brigade, originally numbering 3,155,[n 7] had been reduced to 19 officers and 600 men. "God knows I never wish to see such horrible sights again," a Southern Rhodesian veteran of Delville Wood wrote home; "at times I wished it would come fast, anything to get out of that terrible death-trap and murderous place."
German gas attacks were amongst the most traumatic experiences for the Southern Rhodesians in Europe; one Rhodesian survivor of a gas attack described the sensation as like "suffocation, [or] slow drowning". The Germans used both disabling agents, such as tear gas and the more severe mustard gas, and lethal chemicals like chlorine and phosgene. Though generally not fatal, gas attacks caused extreme physical discomfort and pain, often to the point where soldiers lost consciousness. Mustard gas in particular caused blistering of the skin, vomiting and internal and external bleeding. The British Army issued gas masks, but Brady complained that these did little to help the men, whose noses and eyes still ran while they struggled to breathe, their mouths burning with the taste of the gas. Injuries sustained to the eyes, lungs and nasal passages in gas attacks were often extremely debilitating and lasting, remaining with the men for years after the war.
In July 1917, a KRRC Rhodesian platoon received lofty praise from a senior British officer, who described the colonials as "absolutely first-class soldiers and great gentlemen, every bit as good as soldiers ... as our old Expeditionary Force". Around the same time, a platoon of Southern Rhodesians in the KRRC took part in an engagement near Nieuwpoort in Flanders, where it and the Northamptonshire Regiment manned positions on the eastern banks of the river Yser. After a heavy artillery bombardment, German infantry and marines charged the British positions and surrounded the Rhodesian platoon. Brutal hand-to-hand fighting ensued in which most of the Southern Rhodesians were killed and some taken prisoner. The Bulawayo Chronicle ran a eulogy for them soon after, comparing their last stand to that of Allan Wilson's Shangani Patrol in 1893. Later in 1917, a Rhodesian platoon in the KRRC fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, near Ypres in western Flanders.
The Western Front continued to receive Southern Rhodesian troops right up to the end of the war, including veterans of the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment's campaign in East Africa. During the conflict's latter stages, the British Army sent some of its Southern Rhodesian officers to the Western Front to promote the colony's benefits, hoping to encourage emigration there by British servicemen after the war.
A platoon of 70 Rhodesians in the KRRC's 3rd Battalion was transferred from France to the Salonika Front in 1915. On this comparatively quiet front, they were slowly whittled down over the course of the war: 26 of them remained in January 1917, and by the end of the war so few were left that the platoon no longer existed. Most of the men had been killed in action, while others were prisoners of the Bulgarians.
Some Southern Rhodesians mustered into the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which merged with the Royal Naval Air Service in April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. The service of airmen from the dominions and colonies was observed in the RFC by the issuing of shoulder patches denoting the wearer's country of origin: Southern Rhodesians received labels simply marked "rhodesia". One of the territory's first military aviators was Lieutenant Arthur Richard Howe Browne, a fighter pilot from Umvuma in the Southern Rhodesian Midlands, who was attached to No. 13 Squadron, RFC. He was killed in action in a dogfight on 5 December 1915; his aircraft, donated by the people of Gatooma in western Mashonaland, was Gatooma No. 2, one of five aeroplanes purchased by Southern Rhodesian public donations. From the south-western border town of Plumtree—or, more specifically, from Dryden Farm—came Lieutenant Frank William Henry Thomas, an RFC combat pilot who won the Military Cross, as well as the French Croix de Guerre (with palms), before he died on 5 January 1918 from wounds attained on operational service.
Lieutenant Daniel Sievewright "Pat" Judson, born in Bulawayo in 1898, became the first Rhodesian-born airman in history when he joined the RFC in April 1916. He was severely wounded while bombing enemy positions in March 1918, but recovered and remained on active service until April 1919. The first flying ace of Rhodesian birth was Major George Lawrence Lloyd, nicknamed "Zulu", who joined No. 60 Squadron in April 1917, and won four aerial victories before transferring to No. 40 Squadron in July 1917, where he won four more. He received the Military Cross in March 1918 for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty", and also won the Air Force Cross later that year. Manfred von Richthofen, the German ace widely known as the Red Baron, won his 80th and final aerial victory against a Southern Rhodesian—Second Lieutenant David Greswolde "Tommy" Lewis, a born and bred Bulawayan whom he shot down just north-east of Villers-Bretonneux on 20 April 1918. Lewis' aircraft caught fire in mid-air, and when he crashed he was thrown from the wreckage. The Baron's bullets had hit Lewis' compass, goggles, coat and trouser leg, but Lewis not only survived, but was practically unhurt; having suffered only minor burns, he spent the rest of the war a German prisoner.[n 8]
Maritz Rebellion; formation of 1st Rhodesia Regiment
Apart from the capture of Schuckmannsburg in the Caprivi Strip by a combined force of BSAP and Northern Rhodesia Police on 21 September, the British South Africa Company's own armed forces and police remained almost totally uninvolved in the war until October 1914, when Southern Rhodesia's role was abruptly changed by developments to the south. The South African prime minister, the former Boer general Louis Botha, had told Britain that the Union could both handle its own security during the hostilities and defeat German South-West Africa without help, so the Imperial garrison had been withdrawn and sent to the Western Front. Lieutenant-Colonel Manie Maritz—an ex-Boer commander who now headed a column of Afrikaans-speaking Union troops—defected to the Germans, hoping to spark an uprising that would overthrow British supremacy in South Africa and restore the old Boer Republics. Botha immediately requested the 500-man column that the Chartered Company had raised, hoping to reduce the possibility of further defections by interspersing his own forces with firmly pro-British Rhodesians. The expeditionary force was promptly formalised in Salisbury, and named the 1st Rhodesia Regiment after the unit of Southern Rhodesian volunteers that had fought in the Anglo-Boer War. Apart from a small contingent of Matabele scouts, the unit was all white.
After six weeks' training in the capital, the 1st Rhodesia Regiment travelled south by railway in late October 1914. During its stopover in Bulawayo, it paraded in front of about 90% of the town's population; Plumtree, the last stop before crossing the border, provided the soldiers with a lavish parting banquet. But for these grand farewells, the Maritz Rebellion was all but over by the time the Southern Rhodesian contingent reached its destination at Bloemfontein. The vast majority of South African troops, including most of Boer origin, had remained loyal to the Union government, and the uprising had been quashed. The Rhodesians garrisoned Bloemfontein for about a month, then redeployed to Cape Town, where they underwent further training for the South-West Africa Campaign as part of South Africa's Northern Force, which Botha personally commanded.
1st Rhodesia Regiment in South-West Africa
During late December 1914, Northern Force travelled to the South African exclave of Walvis Bay, about halfway up the coast of German South-West Africa. The 1st Rhodesia Regiment disembarked on 26 December 1914.
Northern Force made up the northern prong of a pincer movement designed by Botha to encircle the German forces in South-West Africa. Two smaller South African columns came from the Cape and the Orange Free State (the latter coming over the deserts of Bechuanaland). The principal target was Windhoek, the colonial capital and martial and administrative centre of South-West Africa. The field of operations was arid and barren in the extreme; water was a precious commodity, so the South Africans and Southern Rhodesians brought thousands of tons of it with them. In the 100 kilometres (62 mi) of desert between Walvis Bay and Windhoek, tempatures could rise to above 50 °C (122 °F) in the daytime, then drop below freezing at night, all while desert winds blew sand and dust into every bodily and mechanical orifice. Germany based much of its defensive strategy in South-West Africa around the assumption that no enemy commander could feasibly attempt to directly strike Windhoek from across the unforgiving desert, but Botha resolved to do exactly that.
The South African offensive from Walvis Bay began in February 1915, when Northern Force took Swakopmund—the nearest German coastal settlement, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) north—without facing major resistance. The Germans almost immediately retreated, leaving behind explosive booby traps and other improvised weapons. The 1st Rhodesia Regiment first engaged the Germans while Northern Force moved east across the desert, taking part in a number of minor skirmishes and suffering its first two fatalities in a German ambush. To overcome the natural difficulties of the desert terrain, Botha used fast-moving mounted or mechanised troops rather than regular infantry, so the Southern Rhodesian contingent played little part in the main advance on Windhoek. The Rhodesians guarded the construction of a railway inland for the much of the campaign, but participated in Northern Force's victory over the Germans at Trekkopjes, losing Lieutenant Hollingsworth (killed in action) and five enlisted men (wounded). Windhoek surrendered to Botha in July 1915, effectively ending the South-West African front of the war; German guerrilla actions in the territory during the rest of the hostilities were minimal.
The 1st Rhodesia Regiment was soon posted back to Cape Town, where the dissatisfied troopers called for the unit's dissolution: they wanted to see proper action, and thought they might find it in Europe. Superiors assured the men that they would see action in East Africa if they stayed, but failed to convince most of them. The majority boarded ship for England to enlist in the British Army, while others mustered into South African units already billed for European service.[n 9]
German East Africa, acquired by Germany during the 1880s, covered roughly 900,000 square kilometres (350,000 sq mi), and by 1914 was home to about 5,000 white settlers, most of whom were of German origin, with white males far outnumbering their female counterparts. The local black population was over 7,000,000, the majority of whom inhabited the north-west of the colony; the southern areas bordering Nyasaland and Mozambique were sparsely populated. German East African soldiery at the outbreak of war comprised 216 German officers and enlisted men, and 2,450 askaris (native soldiers); police numbered 45 whites and 2,154 askaris. Because of the British Royal Navy's domination of the Indian Ocean, German East Africa was largely isolated from outside help, and therefore fought a war of improvisation, judicious resource management and unorthodox strategy. During the conflict, its military strength grew to a peak of 3,300 whites and anywhere between 15,000 and 30,000 askaris, all commanded by Generalmajor Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.
The plan Lettow-Vorbeck devised was based not around defending German East Africa's borders, but around attempting to force the Allies to send as many troops against him as possible; in doing so he hoped to lighten the burden shouldered by Germany in the far more important European theatre. He fragmented his forces into compact, fast-moving units of askaris led by white officers, which he had periodically raid the border areas of Mozambique, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, hoping to lure the Allied forces deep into German territory. This he did with considerable success, eventually compelling the British to commit about half a million personnel to the campaign, despite the prevailing view amongst the British General Staff that East Africa was an essentially irrelevant sideshow to the European war.
2nd Rhodesia Regiment
Based around the overflow of volunteers for the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, a core of personnel for a second Southern Rhodesian expeditionary unit was in place by November 1914. This was built into the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment (2RR) during December 1914 and January 1915. The 1st Rhodesia Regiment's lack of combat experience thus far influenced those men in Southern Rhodesia who were yet to enlist; many Rhodesian colonials were keen to fight on the front lines, and some resolved that they might have to travel to Europe to be sure of doing so. Aware of this competition with the Western Front for the colony's manpower, recruiters for the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment took great care to assure potential inductees that they would definitely see combat, in Africa, if they signed up for the new unit. The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment ultimately had a paper strength of 500 men, the same as the 1st. Thirty black scouts, recruited in Southern Rhodesia, were also attached to the regiment.
Because it was raised with less urgency, the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment received far better training than the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, though the men were far from comfortable as the preparation period coincided with the Rhodesian rainy season. The course lasted eight weeks, a fortnight longer than the original regiment's training period, and focussed heavily on route marching, parade drill, and, in particular, marksmanship—all recruits were trained to accurately shoot at ranges up to 600 metres (2,000 ft). The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment left Salisbury on 8 March 1915 to an exuberant reception reminiscent of that given to the 1st, heading east to the port of Beira in Portuguese Mozambique, from where they would sail for Mombasa in British Kenya, on German East Africa's north-eastern flank.
Travelling aboard the SS Umzumbi, the battalion disembarked in Kenya less than a week after leaving Salisbury. British troops in the area had suffered a number of recent setbacks, so the Southern Rhodesians received an enthusiastic welcome. They were immediately sent inland to the operational area around Mount Kilimanjaro, within sight of which they set up camp. On 20 March, the regiment was inspected by General J. M. Stewart of the Indian Army. "I had expected to see a regiment that would require some training," Stewart said; "I will pay you the highest compliment by sending you to the front today." So began the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment's contribution to the East African Campaign.
The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment operated with some success during its first year on the front. It usually defeated German units that it encountered, but the Germans, using proto-guerrilla tactics, tended to retreat before they could be overrun. Though generally outnumbered and outgunned throughout the campaign, the Germans did have the advantage early on of having longer-range artillery than the British; from July to August 1916, 2RR was prevented from moving out of the Kenyan town of Makindu for nearly a month by German bombardment. The huge marching distances, difficult terrain and uncertainty of surroundings meant that the regiment's men were forced to develop enormous stamina and resilience if they were not to be invalided home.
Tropical disease killed or rendered ineffective far more 2RR men than the Germans did; at times the regiment was reduced to an effective strength of under 100 by the vast myriad of potential ailments, including trench fever, blackwater fever, dysentery, pneumonia, sleeping sickness and many others. The 1,038 personnel who served with 2RR in East Africa collectively went into hospital 2,272 times, and there were 10,626 incidences of illness—in other words, the average 2RR soldier was hospitalised twice and reported sick 10 times. In January 1917, only 91 of the regiment's men were considered fit for duty; it was no longer an effective fighting force, and the white Southern Rhodesian manpower did not exist to continue reinforcing it. It was therefore withdrawn from East Africa that month. Those men who were healthy enough to return home arrived back in Salisbury on 14 April 1917, receiving a tumultuous welcome, but the majority of 2RR remained in medical care overseas for some time afterwards.
The Company briefly considered sending a revived 2nd Rhodesia Regiment to the Western Front, but the British Army promptly rejected this idea, saying that the unit would be impractical for trench warfare because of its small size. The battalion was thereupon dissolved, but most of its remaining men went to war in Europe anyway, generally with South African units.
Rhodesia Native Regiment
By late 1915, British forces in the border areas of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, on German East Africa's south-western flank, were severely stretched. Disease was a constant curse, interminably decimating the ranks. At the suggestion of administrator Francis Drummond Chaplin, the British South Africa Company proposed to provide a column of between 500 and 1,000 askaris, and Whitehall approved this in March 1916; however, there was then disagreement regarding who would foot the bill for the organisation of this enterprise. After this was resolved in April 1916—the Company agreed to pay, conditional on reimbursement by the British Colonial Office—recruitment began in May.
Initial recruitment efforts principally targeted the Matabele, who made up about 20% of the colony's black population, because they enjoyed a popular reputation amongst whites for being great warriors; the unit was therefore originally called the "Matabele Regiment". This was changed to the more inclusive "Rhodesia Native Regiment" (RNR) on 15 May, as the ranks proved to be more diverse than expected, including large numbers of Mashonas and other ethnicities. In particular, a disproportionately high number of volunteers came from the Kalanga tribe, a numerically diminutive community in the colony's south-west.
Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel A. J. Tomlinson, the RNR, comprising 426 askaris and about 30 white officers, left Salisbury in July 1916 for Beira, from where they continued to Zomba, in Nyasaland, where they were to receive further training closer to the field of operations. When they arrived, the local situation had shifted significantly, so the RNR instead went to New Langenberg, in German East Africa, just north of Lake Nyasa. At New Langenberg the regiment went through a short training course, and was issued with six machine guns. The unit's training period ended in October 1916, when it was divided; one company of RNR men went to Buhora, about 250 kilometres (160 mi) north-east, while the rest went 250 kilometres (160 mi) south to Weidhaven, on the north banks of Lake Nyasa, from where they moved 160 kilometres (99 mi) east to Songea, which they were ordered to "hold ... until reinforced". Apart from a company of men sent to patrol the road back to Weidhaven, the RNR proceeded to garrison Songea.
The Germans, who had left Songea only a few weeks before, sent two columns to retake it during early November 1916—250 askaris marched from Likuyu, and 180 more (with two machine guns) set off from Kitanda. The latter German column spotted the RNR company that was patrolling the road, and at Mabogoro attacked the advance guard, which was commanded by Sergeant (later Lieutenant) Frederick Charles Booth. The Rhodesians were caught by surprise, and many panicked, running about and firing randomly, but Booth calmly restored discipline and led the defence until reinforcements arrived. The Germans then retreated and continued towards Songea. Amidst this contact, Booth advanced towards enemy fire to rescue a wounded scout who was laying in the open, and brought him back alive; for this and similar subsequent actions, he received the Victoria Cross in June 1917.
The German column from Kitanda reached Songea early in the morning on 12 November, and unsuccessfully attempted a frontal assault on the well-entrenched Rhodesian positions. Excited by their success, many of the RNR askaris began elatedly firing into the air, but the officers immediately ordered them to stop this as it wasted ammunition. After the German column from Likuyu arrived in the afternoon, the Germans laid siege to Songea for 12 days before retreating towards Likuyu on the 24th. The Rhodesians were relieved the following day by a South African unit. The RNR then moved back to Litruchi, on the other side of Lake Nyasa, from where they sailed on to the German East African town of Mwaya, where they reunited with the RNR contingent that had gone to Buhora. This second column had ambushed a group of Germans, who were moving towards Northern Rhodesia with a naval gun salvaged from SMS Königsberg (which had been sunk at Rufiji Delta about a year before); after pocketing the Germans, the Rhodesians captured both them and the naval gun.
In Southern Rhodesia, Company officials adjudged the RNR to have been a success so far, and so decided in January 1917 to raise a second battalion (the unit already in the field was at this time designated 1st Battalion, abbreviated to "1RNR", while the new formation was called 2nd Battalion, or "2RNR"). Recruitment was soon under way; conscious of the difficulty that had been found in persuading rural Mashona and Matabele to join the 1st Battalion in 1916, organisers for 2RNR principally targeted foreign blacks, in most cases migrant workers from Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia—Nyasalanders in particular eventually made up nearly half of the regiment.[n 10] By the start of March, about 1,000 recruits were training in Salisbury. Meanwhile, 1RNR was instructed to guard the Igali Pass, near the border with Northern Rhodesia, to prevent a column of Germans from threatening the settlements of Abercorn and Fife. When the Germans slipped through, the Rhodesians were pulled back to a position between the two towns, and instructed to defend either one as circumstances dictated, but the Germans did not launch an attack, instead setting up camp in their own territory at Galula.
The Southern Rhodesian commanders formulated a plan to destroy the German column by taking advantage of the regional geography; the Germans had Lake Rukwa to their back, and the rivers Songwe and Saisi on their respective left (eastern) and right flanks, effectively hemming them in if they were attacked. The plan was that elements of 1RNR would hold the Saisi while a battalion of the King's African Rifles (KAR) manned the Songwe; the rest of 1RNR would then push the Germans back towards the lake. But Tomlinson interpreted his orders as requiring immediate action, and attacked before the two flanking lines were in place on the rivers. The offence was at first somewhat successful, even though Tomlinson was outnumbered, but the 450 Germans, armed with three Königsberg field guns and 14 machine guns, soon withdrew to the higher ground at St Moritz Mission. The Germans counterattacked over the following week. Colonel R. E. Murray, who commanded a column of BSAP men about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away, did not assist Tomlinson, and 1RNR took great losses while repulsing the attack: 58 RNR men were killed, and three machine guns captured. Tomlinson was blamed by most for the debacle, but he insisted for years afterwards that he had only been following orders from Murray to hold his ground. He expressed incredulity at Murray's failure to reinforce him. An enquiry into the matter was avoided when Tomlinson was wounded and invalided home soon after the battle.
On 5 April 1917, 1RNR crossed the Songwe River; it then moved up the winding Lupa River, crossing it at each turn, for 53 days, before marching the 420 kilometres (260 mi) back to Rungwe in 16 days. Several scholars highlight the distances marched by the RNR, and comment that their physical endurance must have been remarkable, particularly given the speed at which they moved. "One can only marvel at the hardiness and fortitude of these men who matter-of-factly marched distances unthinkable to modern Western soldiers," historian Alexandre Binda writes. McLaughlin contrasts the RNR's black troopers with the white soldiers of the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, commenting that the former proved far more resilient to tropical diseases (though not immune), and amazed white observers by not just adapting to the difficult East African conditions, but marching an average of 50 kilometres (31 mi) a day.
The 1st Battalion harassed the constantly moving German flying column during August and September, and two Military Medals were won by RNR soldiers during this time: in late August, Sergerant Northcote rescued a wounded askari under German fire, and a few days later Corporal Suga, himself lightly injured, dragged his wounded commanding officer, Victoria Cross winner Lieutenant Booth, out of the open and into cover. The 2nd Battalion, comprising Major Jackson at the head of 585 askaris and 75 whites, left Salisbury on 16 September 1917, and joined the front on 16 October, when it arrived at Mbewa on the north-eastern shore of Lake Nyasa, intending to ultimately merge with 1RNR. After 1RNR spent two months garrisoning Wiedhaven and 2RNR underwent further training, the two forces joined on 28 January 1918 (becoming known as the 2nd Rhodesia Native Regiment), and immediately made their way south in pursuit of Lettow-Vorbeck's Germans, who were by now down to an effective strength of less than 2,000, and moving through Portuguese Mozambique. At this point the two-year service contracts signed by the original 500 RNR volunteers expired, and the majority of those who had not already been discharged—just under 400 men—went home. While passing through Umtali on their way to Salisbury, the soldiers encountered the RNR's original commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tomlinson, whom they promptly mobbed, excitedly chanting nkosi, nkosi (which roughly means "chief" in Sindebele).
In Mozambique, the RNR encountered Lettow-Vorbeck's supply column near Mtarika on 22 May 1918, and wiped it out (capturing two German officers, two German askaris, 34 Portuguese askaris and 252 carriers), but the supply column had been marching between the main German column and its rearguard, so Lettow-Vorbeck was then able to attack the RNR from both sides. The contact lasted until darkness fell, and the RNR held its position. Lettow-Vorbeck then moved further south, with the RNR following. This pursuit continued for the rest of the war, with Lettow-Vorbeck avoiding contacts so far as was possible and constantly resupplying his men by briefly occupying isolated towns. The RNR chased the German column for over 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) around Mozambique and the eastern districts of Northern Rhodesia, but never caught up with him.
Lettow-Vorbeck's men were still active in the field when the armistice was signed in Europe on 11 November 1918. He learned that the war was over on 14 November, on the road between the Northern Rhodesian towns of Mpika and Kasama, when Hector Croad, a Company magistrate based at Kasama, handed him a telegram from the South African Lieutenant-General Jacob van Deventer, telling of the armistice.[n 11] As instructed by van Deventer's telegram, the German marched his undefeated troops the 250 kilometres (160 mi) north to Abercorn to formally surrender. It took him 11 days to reach Abercorn, so the ceremonial surrender of Germany's forces in East Africa took place on 25 November 1918, a full two weeks after the European war ended. The RNR thereupon returned to Salisbury, where the regiment was disbanded.
Home service and conscription debate
Southern Rhodesian troops during the First World War were all volunteers. Particularly during the war's early stages, not all colonial men of fighting age were expected to abandon their civilian lives for service abroad. Many settlers were in vital industries like mining, and the Company administration did not grant financial allowances to support the families of married soldiers, so, at least at first, only bachelors in non-essential positions were generally considered to have any moral obligation to sign up. The 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, raised in early 1915, explicitly barred married men from its ranks to preempt the tribulations that might befall their families in their absence. Men of service age who remained at home were pressured by the national and local press to contribute to local security by joining the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers or the Rhodesian Reserves; editorials told readers that men who failed to do so were not fulfilling their patriotic duty, and warned that conscription might be required if not enough joined up.
The idea of conscription ran contrary to British political tradition—indeed, its use by Germany before 1914 was argued to have contributed to the outbreak of war—but the sheer scale of the Western Front led to the institution of the draft in Britain in January 1916. The Rhodesia Herald and Bulawayo Chronicle newspapers broadcast the news in special editions. Though some settlers supported the extension of the same system to Southern Rhodesian whites, it was also opposed in many quarters. The British South Africa Company feared that the loss of skilled white workers might jeopardise its mining operations, crucial to the colonial economy, while the Rhodesian Agricultural Union contended that white farmers had to stay on the land for similar reasons. Some, mindful of John Chilembwe's anticolonial uprising in Nyasaland in early 1915, felt that it was necessary to keep a core of male settlers in the colony to guard against a repeat of the 1890s Mashona and Matabele rebellions.
By late 1916, most settlers in the colony who were inclined to volunteer had already done so. To free up white manpower, some suggested that older men be recruited for local service so younger volunteers deployed in Rhodesia could be sent overseas. In 1917, the Chartered Company set up a committee to consider the question of national defence both during the war and thereafter; its report, released in February 1918, described reliance on volunteers as inefficient, and recommended the institution of compulsory service, even after the war. The Company published proposals the following month to register all white males aged between 18 and 65 with a view to some form of conscription, but this provoked widespread and vocal dissent, particularly from farmers. In the face of this opposition the administration vacillated until it quietly dropped the idea after the armistice.
The British South Africa Company's reluctance to commit Southern Rhodesia seriously to the war effort was motivated in part by its desire to keep the colonial economy operating. There was indeed tightening of belts in the Rhodesias during the war, but not on the same scale as in Britain. The retail sector suffered, prices for many basic day-to-day items rose sharply, and exports plummeted as much of the white male citizenry went overseas to war, but mining, the industry on which Rhodesia's economic viability hinged, continued to operate successfully, despite occasional difficulties in sourcing manpower. The Company administration posted record outputs of gold and coal during 1916, and began to supply the Empire with the strategic metal ferrochrome. A flurry of new prospecting ventures led to the discovery of another strategic metal, tungsten, near Essexvale in southern Matabeleland in May 1917.
Southern Rhodesia's other main economic arm, farming, did less well out of the war, partly because the Chartered Company prioritised the strategically important mines at the behest of British officials. Southern Rhodesian farmers were optimistic at the outbreak of war, surmising that the Empire would become desperate for food and that they would be essentially immune to inflation because they grew their own crops. While all this was on the whole accurate, logistical complications made it difficult for Rhodesian food to be exported, and as in mining there was often a shortage of labour. There were a number of drives to increase agricultural yield with the hope of feeding more people in Britain, but because Southern Rhodesia was so far away it was difficult for the colony to make much of an impact. One of the main culinary contributions the territory made to the British wartime marketplace was Rhodesian butter, which first reached England in February 1917.
Propaganda and public opinion
Mass media on both sides in the conflict tried to motivate their respective populations and justify the war's continuation by creating an image of the enemy so grotesque and savage that surrender became unthinkable. Like the major newspapers in Britain, the Rhodesia Herald and the Bulawayo Chronicle became key propaganda tools, regularly printing stories of German atrocities, massacres and other war crimes alongside articles simply entitled "War Stories" that told of British Army soldiers carrying out deeds of Herculean bravery. Anti-German sentiment abounded in the territory throughout the conflict, but periodically intensified, often concurrently with the reporting of particularly unsavoury incidents.
During the initial peak of Germanophobia, which lasted the first few months of the conflict, many German and Austrian men of military age who lived in Rhodesia were arrested (officially as "prisoners of war") and sent to internment camps in South Africa. Gertrude Page, one of the colony's most famous novelists, wrote an open letter in response, vouching for the loyalty of a young German in her employ, and received a number of replies accusing her of being unpatriotic. The second period of intensification began following the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat on 7 May 1915. The Rhodesia Herald ran an editorial soon after calling on the Company administration to inter all remaining German and Austrian residents and to close their businesses. A town assembly in Umtali sent the administrator a resolution asking him to confiscate all property in the colony owned by subjects of Germany and Austria within 48 hours "in view of German barbarity". Most of Southern Rhodesia's remaining German and Austrian residents were soon sent to the camps in South Africa.
Further pangs of escalated fury in the Rhodesias followed the execution by the Germans of the British nurse Edith Cavell in Belgium in October 1915 ("the Crowning Crime", the Bulawayo Chronicle called it), the intensification of bombing raids by German Zeppelins on British cities during 1917, and the reporting the same year by British media of the alleged existence of the kadaververwertungsanstalt, a factory where the Germans supposedly rendered down battlefield corpses from both sides to make nitroglycerine, lubricants and other products.
A small elite of urbanised black Southern Rhodesians, mostly raised and educated at Christian missions, existed by the time of the war, and these generally identified themselves strongly with settler society and, by extension, the war effort. But the vast majority of black people in the colony retained their traditional tribal lifestyle of rural subsistence farming, and for most of them, as McLaughlin comments, the war "could have been fought between aliens from different planets for all their connection with events in Europe". Some felt obliged to "fight for their country", seeing the travails of Rhodesia and the Empire as their own also, but the great bulk of tribal public opinion was detached, seeing the conflict as a "white man's war" that did not concern them. Those who favoured the latter line of thinking cared not so much about the conflict itself but more about how it might affect them specifically. For example, widespread interest was aroused soon after the outbreak of war when rumours began to fly between the rural black communities that the Company planned to conscript them. News of the Maritz Rebellion prompted a fresh rumour amongst the Matabele to the effect that Company officials might confiscate tribal livestock to feed the white troops going south. None of this actually occurred.
The Chartered Company's native commissioners began to fear a possible tribal rebellion during early 1915. Herbert Taylor, the chief native commissioner, believed that foreign missionaries were secretly encouraging rural blacks to emulate the Chilembwe revolt in Nyasaland, and telling them (falsely) that British forces were in the process of exterminating the natives there. There were few actual attempts to topple the administration in Southern Rhodesia, but the Company still took precautions. Aware that Mashona svikiro (spirit mediums) had been instrumental in inciting and leading the anti-Company insurgency of the late 1890s, the native commissioners enacted new legislation designed to imprison any svikiro who gained significant popularity.
The only real threat of a black rebellion in Southern Rhodesia during the war occurred in May 1916, immediately after the Company instructed native commissioners in Matabeleland to start recruiting for the Rhodesia Native Regiment. Most Matabele chiefs were friendly with the Company and the commissioners attempted to make clear that the unit would be made up only of volunteers, but rumours spread that blacks were going to involuntary drafted en masse. Maduna, a chief in Insiza district, briefly threatened insurrection, and to that end issued rifles to 100 men, but he backed down after a few weeks, once it had become self-evident that conscription was not occurring. There were still attempts in both Matabeleland and Mashonaland to dissuade potential RNR recruits from signing up voluntarily: in July 1915, a black man in Bulawayo was found guilty of spreading a rumour around the city that the Germans had slit the throats of all the black Southern Rhodesian transport drivers who had gone to East Africa. The following year, Matthew Zwimba, founder of the syncretist Church of the White Bird in Mashonaland, received six months' hard labour for advising blacks not to join the RNR on the grounds that, because of alleged crimes against God he did not specify, "wrath of God is poured on the English".
As is common in frontier societies, the Southern Rhodesian settler community was mostly male: at the time of the First World War, white females were outnumbered by males almost two to one. Because white women were so marriageable and cheap black labour was easily available to handle domestic duties, most female settlers did not work and spent most of their days supervising the household and family. The average white woman in the colony continued to live this kind of life during the war, at marked contrast to her British counterpart, who in many cases went to replace the male factory workers and farm labourers who went to war. In Rhodesia little of this sort occurred: there were no munitions factories, and the idea of women working down the country's mines was not considered practical. Some white farmers' wives took over management of the land in their husbands' absence, but this was quite unusual.
The contribution to the war made by Southern Rhodesia's white female population generally comprised organising and running donation drives, comforts committees and other similar enterprises. Prominent amongst their activities was their posting to the troops of comfort parcels, which contained balaclavas, mittens and scarves that they had knitted, as well as newspapers, soap, food and minor luxuries. These packages did much to raise the morale of the men, particularly those who were in German captivity. Women were also largely responsible for handling mail between Rhodesian soldiers and their relatives and friends back home. After the armistice, they organised financial assistance for those discharged Southern Rhodesian men in England who could not afford to come home, and arranged visits for those convalescing in English hospitals.
Like in Britain, some Southern Rhodesian women during the war presented men not wearing military uniform with white feathers (symbolising cowardice). This campaign often went awry, as many of the men presented with the feathers were not in fact shirking from service. In 1916, hoping to save them further harassment, the Rhodesia Herald and other newspapers began publishing lists of men who had volunteered only to be deemed medically unfit by the army doctors.
Donations and funds
Southern Rhodesian settlers set up a myriad of wartime funds, including funds to aid war victims, funds to provide the troops with tobacco and other supplies, funds to assist orphans and widows, funds to buy aeroplanes, and others. These funds raised about £200,000 in all.[n 12] Much of this went to the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in England, which was founded when the war started; Southern Rhodesian branches of the fund were promptly organised in several towns and ultimately consolidated into the Rhodesian War Relief Fund. This body donated 25% of its takings to the Prince of Wales Fund and 75% to local concerns.
The Tobacco Fund, set up in September 1914, was particularly successful. Public donors bought Southern Rhodesian tobacco, cigarettes and pipe tobacco to send to the British forces. The products were intended to not only comfort the men, but also to advertise the prospect of post-war emigration to Rhodesia. The labels on the tobacco tins depicted a map of Africa with the sun shining on Rhodesia, accompanied by the slogan "The World's Great Sunspot". In a similar vein, "Sunspot" was the name given to the Rhodesian cigarettes that British soldiers received. During the war, British and colonial soldiery collectively chewed and smoked 59,955 two-ounce (57 g) tins of donated Southern Rhodesian tobacco, 80,584 two-ounce tins of equivalent pipe tobacco, and 4,004,000 Sunspot cigarettes (in packs of 10). Another similar undertaking saw six tons (roughly 6,100 kg) of local citrus fruits sent to wounded British Army personnel in South Africa and England.
Starting in July 1915, Southern Rhodesians began fundraising to buy aeroplanes for the Royal Flying Corps. The colony ultimately bought three aircraft, each of which cost £1,500—they were named Rhodesia Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Residents of the town of Gatooma also set up their own drive, which funded the purchase of two more planes, Gatooma Nos. 1 and 2.
The predominantly mission-educated black elite donated to the settlers' patriotic funds and organisations, and also up their own. A war fundraising tea organised by black Salisburians in early March 1915 boasted entertainment in the form of a black choir, as well as the presence of Taylor and a junior native commissioner, each of whom gave speeches in English, Sindebele and Shona. Rural blacks, by contrast, did not generally understand the concept of donating money to war funds, and misinterpreted encouragement to do so as being threatened with a new tax. When the Matabele chief Gambo began collecting war donations from his people in early 1915, also urging other chiefs to do the same, he took care to thoroughly explain the war fund's purpose and the voluntary nature of contributing, but some villagers misunderstood and came to believe they would have livestock confiscated if they did not give money. The Company ultimately sent officials around the countryside to clarify the matter.
The Kalanga, a small community in the south-west that provided a disproportionately large number of volunteers for the Rhodesia Native Regiment, also proved conspicuous for their extremely generous financial donations; in June 1915, they collectively donated £183—"a staggering sum", historian Timothy Stapleton comments, with the purchasing power of about £12,000 today—to the Prince of Wales Fund.
End of the war, aftermath and statistics
News of the armistice on 11 November 1918 reached Southern Rhodesia the same day, and was announced to the town of Salisbury by the repeated blowing of the klaxon at the Castle Brewery. Hysterical street parties started almost immediately, and in the evening the people let off fireworks and lit a huge bonfire on Salisbury kopje. Bulawayo celebrated with a public street party that continued uninterrupted for over 48 hours. Smaller towns marked the armistice with their own celebratory functions and events.
Once the frivolities had ended, minds turned to post-war policy, and particularly how soldiers returning from Europe would be reintegrated into society. The Company had already, in 1916, set aside 250,000 acres (100,000 ha) of farmland to be given free of charge to war veterans; in early 1919, it set up a government department to help returning men find work. Many former soldiers failed to find jobs, however, and some remained unemployed for years after they returned home. Some of the more seriously wounded from the European theatre never came back at all, instead remaining in England because of the better medicial facilities and public benefits. Demobilised Western Front veterans began to arrive back in Rhodesia in January 1919, and continued to do so for nearly a year afterwards. On 30 May 1919, the Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council passed a resolution thanking the territory's veterans:
Proportional to white population, Southern Rhodesia had contributed more personnel to the British Army in the First World War than other part of the Empire, including Britain itself. About 40% of white males in the colony, 5,716 men, put on uniform, with 1,720 doing so as commissioned officers. Black Southern Rhodesians were represented by the 2,507 soldiers who made up the Rhodesia Native Regiment,[n 10] as well as the few dozen black scouts who served with the 1st and 2nd Rhodesia Regiments in South-West and East Africa. Southern Rhodesia's war dead (counting all races together) numbered 783.
Accounts of Rhodesian soldiers' wartime experiences started to be published in the 1920s; their service ultimately became a key entry in most national histories. Southern Rhodesian settlers, both at the time and latterly, took great pride in having had the highest enlistment rate in the British Empire during the war. Southern Rhodesia's contribution to the British war effort played a part in Whitehall's granting in 1923 of responsible government, which made the territory a self-governing colony, just short of full dominion status.[n 13] Charged with its own defence, Salisbury introduced the selective conscription of white males in 1926, and reformed the Rhodesia Regiment the following year. The territory's association with the King's Royal Rifle Corps endured in the form of affiliation between the KRRC and the Rhodesia Regiment's new incarnation, which adopted aspects of the KRRC uniform and a similar regimental insignia.
In the Second World War, Southern Rhodesia again enthusiastically supported the UK, symbolically affirming the British declaration of war before any other part of the Empire. Over 16,500 Southern Rhodesians served in the Second World War, making the colony once more the largest contributor of manpower, proportional to white population, in all the British Empire. Like in the First World War, Southern Rhodesians were distributed in small groups throughout the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Dedicated Rhodesian platoons again served in the KRRC, and the Rhodesian African Rifles, raised in 1940, were in many ways a resurrection of the Rhodesia Native Regiment.[n 14] Military aviation, already associated with the colony following the First World War, became a great Southern Rhodesian tradition during the Second, with the colony providing No. 44, No. 237 and No. 266 Squadrons to the Royal Air Force, as well as training in Southern Rhodesia for 8,235 Allied pilots.
By the 1960s, Southern Rhodesians' service on Britain's behalf in both World Wars was an integral part of the colony's national psyche; the territory had also latterly contributed to British counter-insurgency operations in Malaya, Aden and Cyprus, as well as Operation Vantage in Kuwait. The Southern Rhodesian white community in 1965 numbered about 228,000, over half of whom were post-Second World War immigrants, including many veterans of the British forces who had emigrated after leaving the military. Despite the close links between Britain and Southern Rhodesia, relations between Whitehall and the colonial government disintegrated amidst the shifting international attitudes and rising black nationalist ambitions of the late 1950s and early 1960s, often collectively called the Wind of Change. With Britain insisting on black majority rule as a condition for independence, the two governments failed to agree terms for the granting of full dominion status. Having shortened the colony's name to Rhodesia in late 1964,[n 1] Salisbury unilaterally declared independence in November 1965. Intending to juxtapose the collapse in Anglo-Rhodesian political relations with the colony's prior war record on Britain's behalf—in McLaughlin's phrase, "to conjure up the ghosts of 1914–18 for one last sortie"—the Rhodesian Cabinet deliberately timed the declaration to coincide with Armistice Day, 11 November, and signed the proclamation at 11:00 Central African Time, during the customary two minutes' silence to remember the fallen.
Notes and references
- Southern Rhodesia was the official name of those territories administered by the British South Africa Company south of the Zambezi, while those to the north were called Northern Rhodesia. The name "Rhodesia" formally covered both north and south, but was often used to refer to the southern territory alone (the names of almost all Southern Rhodesian military units omitted the word "Southern", and soldiers from the country generally described themselves simply as Rhodesians). Southern Rhodesia's government dropped "Southern" from the country's name in late 1964, when Northern Rhodesia became independent and adopted the name Zambia. Rhodesia subsequently renamed itself Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979, then Zimbabwe in 1980.
- The Ndebele people's term for themselves in their own language is amaNdebele (the prefix ama- indicating the plural form of the singular Ndebele), whence comes an exonym used in several languages, including English: "Matabele". Their language is called isiNdebele, generally rendered "Sindebele" in English. The area they have inhabited since the late 1830s is called Matabeleland. For clarity, consistency and ease of reading, this article uses the term "Matabele" to refer to the people, and calls their language "Sindebele".
- The South Africa Act 1909, passed by the British government, created the Union of South Africa in 1910. The Cape, Natal, Orange River and Transvaal Colonies respectively became the Union's Cape, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal Provinces. Section 150 of the South Africa Act explicitly provisioned for the accession of Company-administered territories to the Union as new provinces.
- The largest concentration of Southern Rhodesian residents in a non-Rhodesian regiment during the war was in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. Smaller groups of Southern Rhodesians existed in several dozen British regiments, including the Black Watch, the Coldstream Guards, the Grenadier Guards, the Royal Engineers and the Royal Marines, as well as in many South African and other colonial and foreign units. These included (amongst others) the Australian Infantry, the Australian Light Horse, the Cape Mounted Rifles, the Eastern Ontario Regiment, the Indian Army Cavalry, the Kimberley Regiment, King Edward's Horse, the King's African Rifles, the Natal Light Horse, the New Zealand Contingent, the Nigeria Regiment, the Royal Irish Rifles, the South African Infantry, the South African Sharpshooters, the Transvaal Contingent, the Uganda Rifles and the United States Army Signal Corps.
- Guest himself joined the 1st Rhodesia Regiment as a commissioned officer. After serving in South-West Africa, he fought on the Western Front from 1916 as an officer in the South Lancashire Regiment.
- The South African Brigade was split into four battalions: 1st South African Battalion (Cape), 2nd South African Battalion (Natal & Orange Free State), 3rd South African Battalion (Transvaal & Rhodesia) and 4th South African Battalion (Scottish). Most Rhodesian members were in the 3rd Battalion.
- 123 officers and 3,032 other ranks
- Richthofen was killed in action the following day, 21 April 1918. Lewis survived the war and returned to Rhodesia after the armistice.
- A 23-year-old bugler from the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, Arthur Harris, who had arrived in Rhodesia from Gloucestershire in 1908, returned to England following the regiment's dissolution and joined the Royal Flying Corps. Rising through the ranks over the following decades, he became internationally famous during the Second World War as "Bomber Harris", head of Royal Air Force Bomber Command.
- Evidence regarding the exact composition of the Rhodesia Native Regiment's enlisted ranks is scanty and inconclusive, but historians generally agree that while most of its men were Southern Rhodesian residents, only about a third were originally from the colony. Historian Timothy Stapleton, basing his figures on regimental nominal rolls and anecdotal evidence from officers, gives a total number of 2,507 rank-and-filers attesting into the RNR, of whom at least 117 were previously in the BSAP, 35 were veterans of the King's African Rifles, and 20 had been scouts with the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment. He estimates that 44.5% of the regiment's enlisted men were Nyasalanders, 29% were Southern Rhodesians, 17.5% were Northern Rhodesians, 8% were Mozambicans, and less than 1% were from elsewhere. The RNR's contingent of Kalanga soldiers made up a far larger proportion of Southern Rhodesian recruits than their numerically diminuitive community in the colony's south-west was expected to yield, contributing about 40% of the Southern Rhodesians in the RNR (or around 12% of the whole regiment).
- The exact spot has been marked since 1953 by the Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial.
- Using the calculations of current value devised by MeasuringWorth.com, a sum of £200,000 in 1918, the year of the war's end, equates to £7,968,000 on the basis of the retail price index, and £43,550,000 on the basis of average earnings.
- Responsible government was granted following the 1922 government referendum, which offered voters a choice between joining the Union of South Africa at the termination of the British South Africa Company's charter, or instead becoming a seperate self-governing colony. The latter option prevailed with just under 60% of the vote. A substantial degree of autonomy was extended to the new Southern Rhodesian government, which was empowered to run its own affairs in almost every regard, including defence; the exception was foreign affairs, where, as a British colony, it came under Whitehall's purview. This situation was unique amongst British colonies, and was devised to allow the territory to govern itself without having to shoulder the cost of independent diplomatic missions overseas. Company rule endured a few more months in Northern Rhodesia, ending in early 1924 when control transferred to the Colonial Office in London.
- Like the RNR, the Rhodesian African Rifles comprised black soldiers and warrant officers led by white officers; it included a number of ex-RNR personnel, and reprised several RNR traditions. It took part in the Burma Campaign, and successfully requested permission to emblazon its regimental colours with the RNR's First World War battle honours in 1952.
- Art Printing Works 1918, p. iii
- McLaughlin 1980, p. 2
- Willmott 2003, p. 10
- Willmott 2003, p. 15
- Keegan 1998, p. 8
- Willmott 2003, p. 307
- Willmott 2003, pp. 26–29
- Perry 1988, p. 27
- Marston 2010, p. v
- Encyclopædia Britannica 2012
- Brelsford 1954
- Brelsford 1960, p. 619
- McLaughlin 1980, p. 84
- Palley 1966, pp. 742–743
- Smith 1997, p. 305
- Wessels 2010, p. 273
- Walker 1963, p. 664
- Walker 1963, p. 669
- Keppel-Jones 1983, p. 512
- McLaughlin 1980, p. 4
- Keppel-Jones 1983, p. 578
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Newspaper and journal articles
- Brelsford, W. V., ed. (1954). "First Records—No. 6. The Name 'Rhodesia'". The Northern Rhodesia Journal (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Society) II (4): 101–102.
- Ferris, N. S. (1959). "Military Pot-Pourri: A Rhodesian Green Jacket Looks Back". The King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle (Winchester: Warren & Son): 111–118.
- Gore-Browne, Stewart, ed. (1954). "The Chambeshi Memorial". The Northern Rhodesia Journal (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Society) II (5): 81–84.
- House, John (1976). "Aviation in Rhodesia". Rhodesia Calls (Salisbury: Rhodesia National Tourist Board): 33–45.
- McAdam, J. (1967). "Pat Judson: First Rhodesian-born Airman". Rhodesiana (Salisbury: The Rhodesiana Society) 16: 1–16.
- Moorcraft, Paul (1990). "Rhodesia's War of Independence". History Today (London: History Today Ltd) 40 (9). ISSN 0018-2753.
- Brelsford, W. V., ed. (1960). Handbook to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (First ed.). London: Cassell. OCLC 503844634.
- Binda, Alexandre (November 2007). Heppenstall, David, ed. Masodja: The History of the Rhodesian African Rifles and its forerunner the Rhodesian Native Regiment. Johannesburg: 30° South Publishers. ISBN 978-1-920143-03-9.
- Chanock, Martin (1977). Unconsummated Union: Britain, Rhodesia and South Africa, 1900–45 (First ed.). Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-0634-0.
- Chant, Christopher (May 1988). The Handbook of British Regiments. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-00241-7.
- Clements, Frank; Harben, Edward (1962). Leaf of Gold: The Story of Rhodesian Tobacco (First ed.). London: Methuen Publishing. OCLC 4751337.
- Corum, James S. The RAF in imperial defence, 1919–1956. in Kennedy, Greg, ed. (2008). Imperial Defence: The Old World Order, 1856–1956. London: Routledge. pp. 152–175. ISBN 978-0-415-35595-7.
- Farey, Pat; Spicer, Mark (2008). Sniping: An Illustrated History (First ed.). Minneapolis: Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-3717-2.
- Franks, Norman (April 2000). Nieuport Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-961-4.
- Gale, William Daniel (1973). The years between 1923–1973: half a century of responsible government in Rhodesia. Salisbury: H. C. P. Andersen. OCLC 224687202.
- Gale, William Daniel (1974). History of Coghlan, Welsh & Guest. Salisbury: Coghlan, Welsh & Guest. OCLC 4465148.
- Gann, Lewis H. (1969) . A History of Northern Rhodesia: Early Days to 1953. New York: Humanities Press. OCLC 46853.
- Gibbons, Floyd (1927). The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron von Richthofen, Germany's Great War Bird. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing. ISBN 978-0-405-12167-8.
- Hodder-Williams, Richard (1983). White Farmers in Rhodesia, 1890–1965: a History of the Marandellas District. London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-0-333-27237-4.
- Hutton, Edward, ed. (1917) . A Brief History of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1755 to 1915 (Second ed.). Winchester: Warren & Son. OCLC 558551241.
- Jackson, Ashley (2006). The British Empire and the Second World War (First ed.). London & New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-4049-5.
- Keegan, John (1998). The First World War. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-180178-8.
- Keppel-Jones, Arthur (1983). Rhodes and Rhodesia: The White Conquest of Zimbabwe, 1884–1902. Montreal, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-0534-6.
- Liddell Hart, Basil H. (1970) . History of the First World War (Fourth ed.). London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-93653-7.
- MacDonald, John Forrest (1947). The War History of Southern Rhodesia 1939–1945. Salisbury: S. R. G. Stationery Office. OCLC 568041576.
- Marston, Roger (January 2010). Own Goals – National pride and defeat in war: the Rhodesian experience. Northampton: Paragon Publishing. ISBN 978-1-899820-81-8.
- McLaughlin, Peter (1980). Ragtime Soldiers: the Rhodesian Experience in the First World War. Bulawayo: Books of Zimbabwe. ISBN 0-86920-232-4.
- Palley, Claire (1966). The constitutional history and law of Southern Rhodesia 1888–1965, with special reference to Imperial control (First ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 4668978004.
- Perry, Frederick W. (1988). The Commonwealth armies: manpower and organisation in two world wars. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-2595-2.
- Schwarz, Bill (2011). The White Man's World (First ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-929691-0.
- Smith, Ian (June 1997). The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith. London: John Blake Publishing. ISBN 1-85782-176-9.
- Stapleton, Timothy (2006). No Insignificant Part: The Rhodesia Native Regiment in the East Africa Campaign of the First World War. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press. ISBN 978-0-88920-498-0.
- Strachan, Hew (February 2003). The First World War, Volume I: To Arms. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-160834-6.
- Tawse Jollie, Ethel (1971) . The Real Rhodesia. Bulawayo: Books of Rhodesia. OCLC 772131.
- Uys, Ian (1991). Rollcall: The Delville Wood Story. Germiston: Uys Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9583173-1-3.
- van der Byl, Piet (1971). From Playgrounds to Battlefields. Volume 1. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. ISBN 978-0-86978-002-2.
- Wake, Hereward; Deedes, William F. (1949). Swift and bold: the story of the King's Royal Rifle Corps in the Second World War, 1939–1945. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. OCLC 558551278.
- Walker, Eric A., ed. (1963). The Cambridge History of the British Empire, Volume Four (Second ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 560778129.
- Wessels, Hannes (July 2010). P. K. van der Byl: African Statesman. Johannesburg: 30° South Publishers. ISBN 978-1-920143-49-7.
- White, Luise. The Utopia of Working Phones: Rhodesian Independence and the Place of Race in Decolonization. in Gordin, Michael D.; Tilley, Helen; Prakash, Gyan, eds. (August 2010). Utopia/Dystopia: Conditions of Historical Possibility. Princeton: Princeton University Press. pp. 94–116. ISBN 978-1-4008-3495-2.
- Willmott, H. P. (2003). World War I. New York: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7894-9627-5.
- Willson, F. M. G., ed. (1963). Source Book of Parliamentary Elections and Referenda in Southern Rhodesia, 1898–1962. Salisbury: Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. OCLC 219295658.
- Wood, J. R. T. (June 2005). So Far And No Further! Rhodesia's Bid For Independence During the Retreat From Empire 1959–1965. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4120-4952-8.
- Rhodesia and the War, 1914–1917: A Comprehensive Illustrated Record of Rhodesia's Part in the Great War. Salisbury: Art Printing Works. 1918. OCLC 38773295.