World War I – the African Front


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Two Loaves of Bread
(2 out of 4 rating)

This book covers the allied attempts to hunt down a small German army in East Africa during the First World War; the campaign lasted from the start of the war until the armistice. Some naval history is also included: the commerce raiding and battles of the SMS Konigsberg and both sides’ attempts to control Lake Tanganyika. It has been a couple of years since I read the book, but as far as I remember it does not cover the (much shorter) operations in South-West Africa, Kamerun, or Togoland.

The author had an incredible amount of material to work with; any one of the following historical events could form the basis for a dramatic story with interesting characters:

  • German soldiers and militiamen retreating into the African bush to carry out hit-and-run raids against British forces.
  • Sailors of a trapped German warship removing its guns and bringing them along as they join the German force.
  • British sailors dragging boats overland to challenge German naval supremacy on Lake Tanganyika.
  • A zeppelin flight from Europe in a desperate attempt to resupply the German troops.
  • Interactions between the white officers and soldiers, the black “askari” forces, and the black civilian porters.
  • Interactions between the British forces of English, Afrikaner, Kenyan, and Indian origin.
  • Mistrust among the British, Belgian, and Portuguese allies concerning their postwar goals in Africa.

The author covers all of the above stories, giving the reader every pertinent fact and detail, but somehow manages to do so without bringing the story to life or giving the reader the sense that they were experiencing these events in person. He also makes frequent use of military history clichés; I can’t remember the exact ones he used, but if you’ve read much military history you’ve seen these types of phrases: “they beat back the attackers” or “retreated in good order”.

Ultimately, if you’re a military history enthusiast, or you want to know everything about the First World War, then this book will give you the facts you need. If you’re a more casual reader who enjoys the occasional history book, you’ll probably want to wait for an author with a different writing style to pick up these topics and breathe life into them.

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2 comments

  1. Hi, I was looking for a blog where I could find reviews of non-fiction books! It seems I found it today! 🙂 I am waiting for more reviews! Good luck!

    1. Thanks. I’ll get back to my non-fiction reviews some day, but it may be a while…

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