The Battle of Mlali was fought during the East African Campaign of World War I. In mid-August 1916, the British General Jan Christiaan Smuts led three divisions from Kenya south into the Imperial German colony of Tanganykia in order to seize and disrupt their vital railway. The German Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was informed by scouts of the movement and sent Captain Otto to investigate. The Germans were forced to withdraw from greater British numbers. Despite several skirmishes, the British never succeeded in drawing out the German forces against their superior numbers, though the Germans lost several important supply locations. It was considered a British victory over the Germans, though, since they held the field.
Captain William Bloomfield of the 2nd South African Mounted Brigade received the Victoria Cross for rescuing a wounded corporal during the battle at great personal risk.