One of the strangest battles of the First World War!


During the writing of African Vengeance, I have been lucky enough to visit Tanga a harbor town on the North Eastern corner of Tanzania, pretty much on the border with Kenya. Tanga was the site of one of the first battles between British and German troops in the First World war. The Battle was known as the Battle of Tanga or sometimes also know as the Battle of the Bees.

The Battle of the Bees went down in history as a very unsuccessful attack by the British. HMS Fox was a British Cruiser which arrived at the port of Tanga on the 2nd November 1914. She was Captained by Francis Wade Caulfield. He went ashore and was met by Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, who was later know as the Lion of Africa. Caulfeild demanded that Vorbeck hand over the town of Tanga to him. Caulfield gave Vorbeck one hour to surrender and take down his flag. As he left the arrogant Captain demanded to know if the harbor was mined; It was not, but he was assured that it was. This gave Vorbeck precious time to get more reinforcement form Dar-E-Salaam.


When the battle started the two sides were pretty evenly matched. But when they were fighting on the outskirts of the town the British somehow manged to destroy some huge beehives. The bees attacked the soldiers with such ferocity they had to withdraw. The bees pushed them right to the beach where they decided to return to HMS Fox. The bees also attacked the German and African Soldiers who ran to the hills surrounding Tanga. The town was left empty for most of the night as both sides tried to reorganize.


Vorbeck was the first back and claimed the prize for German once again.

The successful defense of Tanga was the first of many for Vorbeck and he became a hero for the Germans during the First World War.  For the British the battle was considered a complete disaster and recorded in the British Official History of the war as “One of the most notable failures in British Military History”

This part of a forgotten history is one of the reasons I love Africa so much. Who would have thought that back in 1914 British and German troops fought over a tiny town in the backwaters of Tanzania? I visited the Tanga Memorial Cemetery where some of the soldiers were buried. It was a sobering moment for me thinking about these soldiers so far from home fighting for land that was not even theirs. I decided then and there I had to have this story in African Vengeance as I found it so interesting.

Here a few links if you would like to dig deeper into the story:

Battle of Tanga Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tanga

Battle of Tanga You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNsGViL_or8

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_von_Lettow-Vorbeck

Tanga Memorial Cemetery https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/142602/Tanga%20Memorial%20Cemetery

I hope you found this snippet of history interesting let me know what you think, just drop me a line on [email protected]