The First World War was a truly global conflict, with some of the first and last actions of the war taking place in Africa.
In 1914 Tanzania was a German colony – part of what was known as German East Africa. When war broke out, Tanga’s sea port became strategically important to the British, who decided to capture it.
An Expeditionary Force, numbering some 8,000 men, was sent to East Africa from India. The majority of the force was made up of Indian troops.
On 2 November 1914 the British cruiser HMS Fox arrived at Tanga. Its captain went ashore to seek the German surrender. The Germans gladly entered into negotiations to buy time for reinforcements to arrive and used the delay to organise their defences.
The British began landing troops during the night of 2/3 November but it was not until 4 November that the order was given to advance. Almost immediately, the British and Indian troops came under heavy fire from the well prepared German positions.
Local conditions also played a part. Hanging from the branches of trees were bee hives that were disturbed by rifle and machine gun fire. The bees swarmed angrily and stung both friend and foe alike.
One British soldier is reported as saying afterwards, "We don't mind the German fire, but with most of our officers and NCOs down .... and bees stinging our backsides, things were a bit 'ard."
The British were forced to retreat – leaving behind their dead and huge quantities of arms and supplies.
British and Indian losses numbered nearly 400 killed, with a similar number wounded or taken prisoner. German casualties were believed to total less than 150.
Tanga was eventually occupied by a Commonwealth force, almost without opposition, on 7 July 1916.