South West Africa Campaign
World War I in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa 1915.0422
South West Africa Campaign
Great War in Africa, East African Campaign, colonial campaigns (22 April 1915)
Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa
The defeat of the last of Maritz’s Boer rebels in early 1915 allowed the British dominion of South Africa to resume its offensive against German South West Africa. Approaching from several fronts, the South Africans overwhelmed the colony in just a few months.
John Chilembwe, a US-educated radical Baptist minister, led a rebellion against British colonial rule in Nyasaland from his church in the village of Mbombwe, to the south of Chiradzulu. On 23 January 1915 the rebels attacked the Alexander Livingstone Bruce plantation headquarters in Magomero, killing two white men with spears and decapitating manager William Jervis Livingstone (an alleged relative of David Livingstone); the women and children were briefly held prisoner but released unharmed. The British responded forcefully, defeating and dispersing the rebels in fighting on 25 and 26 January. Chilembwe himself was shot dead by a police patrol near the border on 3 February.
Conquest of German South West Africa
After consolidating at Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, South African Northern Force under the command of Louis Botha began its march inland against Windhuk, capital of German South West Africa. Within the next few weeks additional South African columns would move into the south of the colony from Lüderitz, Cape Colony, and Bechuanaland. Making good use of the railways, the South African advance was rapid, capturing Windhuk in May. The remaining German forces holding out in the north surrendered near Otavi on 9 July.
Conquest of Kamerun
In April 1915 the French and British troops in the west of the German Protectorate of Kamerun resumed their advance against the capital, Jaunde; a few days later, they also commenced their operation to capture the important northern town of Garua. Meanwhile the French and Belgian forces invading the protectorate from the south and east completed their conquest of the region of Neukamerun. Jaunde finally fell to the three converging fronts at the beginning of 1916, with the last German defenders surrendering at the besieged outpost of Mora, in the far north, the following month.
Facing advancing South Africans in German South West Africa, the German colonial government attempted to relocate Baster troops from their home region of Rehoboth to the north. In response, the Basters—a ‘mixed’ Afrikaner-indigenous ethnic group originating from the Dutch Cape Colony—defected from German service en masse with their weapons and fortified themselves in the mountains to the southeast of Rehoboth. German attempts to pacify the Basters failed and were ultimately aborted as the South Africans arrived.