World War I The African front

Edward Paice

Book - 2008

The definitive history of World War I's forgotten front: Britain versus Germany in East Africa to secure the belly of a continent. On August 7, 1914, Britain fired its first shots of World War I not in Europe but in the German colony of Togo. The campaign to eliminate the threat at sea posed by German naval bases in Africa would soon be won, but in the land war, especially in East Africa, British troops would meet far fiercer resistance from German colonial forces that had fully mastered th...e tactics of bush warfare. It was expected to be a "small war," over by Christmas, yet it would continue bloodily for more than four years, even beyond the signing of the Armistice in Europe.--From publisher description.

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New York : Pegasus Books : Distributed by W.W. Norton 2008.
1st Pegasus Books ed
Item Description
"An imperial war on the African continent"--Cover.
Physical Description
xxxix, 488 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Edward Paice (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Early in World War I, Britain and South Africa easily captured Germany's African colonies, with the exception of modern Tanzania. There, in then-German East Africa, they encountered a commander rated highly by historians of the war: Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. Paice's chronicle of the four years that von Lettow-Vorbeck's outnumbered force eluded Allied pursuit should reinforce the German's military reputation as it illuminates for readers the factors in his success. Disposing of German officers and men numbering a few thousand, von Lettow-Vorbeck depended vitally on African soldiers and porters for his guerrilla-style campaign. Capitalizing on his advantages, such as interior lines that enabled him to concentrate his force, and great space in which to retreat, von Lettow-Vorbeck also benefited from annual rainy seasons that mired military operations. A thorough researcher, Paice attends to Allied exertions to defeat the Germans with a pointed comparison of the suffering entailed by prosecuting an African war (more than  100,000 died) with dubious strategic significance to a war that would be decided in Europe. Without doubt, Paice has written the benchmark book on WWI in East Africa. Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This very detailed history of the World War I African campaigns focuses on the Allied efforts—ultimately unsuccessful and at great human cost—to root out a stubborn German colonial force. Numerous historians have examined the remarkable exploits of Gen. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, commander of the German East African campaign, who outthought a series of Allied commanders with many times his own force and denied masses of matriel and men to the European front. British historian Paice (Lost Lion of Empire: The Life of 'Cape-to-Cairo' Grogan ) manages to bring into focus the immense logistical problems, hostile terrain, startlingly high casualties, and political disruption of a battleground that stretched from South Africa to Somalia. Readers will be particularly interested in the complex situation faced by General Smuts, Britain's South African commander, both in the field and on the highly charged home front, where the Boer War had not been forgotten. The author does an excellent job of untangling tactical issues while not losing sight of the big picture. Highly recommended for most libraries with interest in Africa or military history.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS [Page 81]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Paice, a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, has written what is by a significant margin the best book to date on the Great War in East Africa. Paice integrates an impressive spectrum of archival and printed sources into a comprehensive analysis based on the premise that, for economic and emotional reasons, "Africa mattered to the European powers." Paice accurately and evocatively describes a campaign in which modern technology was consistently frustrated by terrain, climate and disease. He acknowledges the tactical brilliance of German Gen. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. He demonstrates as well that the Germans sustained their operations through systematic brutality that has led too many historians to mistake Africans' fear for loyalty. In that respect there was in practice little difference among the combatants. In East Africa horse transport was ineffective; supplies had to be moved by humans. Among more than a million Africans recruited by Britain alone, at least a tenth died. Subsistence economies were wracked by famine and disease, culminating in the influenza epidemic of 1918. While the voices of East Africa's Great War remain largely Western, the burdens were disproportionately borne locally. 16 pages of photos; maps. (Aug.) [Page 38]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Documents the battles fought in East Africa during World War I, tracing Britain's elimination of German naval bases in the region and the tragic and costly land war that extended beyond the signing of the Armistice in Europe.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Documents the lesser-known course of World War I as it was fought in Africa, tracing Britain's elimination of German naval bases in the region, the tragic and costly land war that extended beyond the signing of the Armistice in Europe, and the role of imperialism in East Africa.