The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted around 40 minutes, and is the shortest war in history. The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash.
|Sayyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid, |
GCSI, (1857 - August 25, 1896)
|Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid |
(1874 – 1927)
The British authorities preferred Hamud bin Muhammed, who was more favourable to British interests, as sultan. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886, a condition for accession to the sultanate was that the candidate obtain the permission of the British consul, and Khalid had not fulfilled this requirement.
|Sayyid Sir Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said, |
GCSI, (1853 - July 18, 1902)
(ruled August 27, 1896 - July 18, 1902)
The British considered this a casus belli and sent an ultimatum to Khalid demanding that he order his forces to stand down and leave the palace. In response, Khalid called up his palace guard and barricaded himself inside the palace.
|The Sultan's harem after the bombardment.|
|Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson|
|Zanzibaris were commanded by Brigadier-General |
Lloyd Mathews of the Zanzibar army
(who was also the First Minister of Zanzibar)
The sultan's forces sustained roughly 500 casualties, while only one British sailor was injured. Sultan Khalid received asylum in the German consulate before escaping to German East Africa (in the mainland part of present Tanzania). The British quickly placed Sultan Hamud in power at the head of a puppet government. The war marked the end of the Zanzibar Sultanate as a sovereign state and the start of a period of heavy British influence
|Sayyid Majid bin Said Al-Busaid (1834 - October 7, 1870) |
was the first Sultan of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar was an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanganyika; today it forms part of Tanzania. The main island, Unguja (or Zanzibar Island), had been under the nominal control of the Sultans of Oman since 1698 when they expelled the Portuguese settlers who had claimed it in 1499. Sultan Majid bin Said declared the island independent of Oman in 1858, which was recognised by Great Britain, and split the sultanate from that of Oman. The subsequent sultans established their capital and seat of government at Zanzibar Town where a palace complex was built on the sea front. By 1896, this consisted of the palace itself; the Beit al-Hukm, an attached harem; and the Beit al-Ajaib or "House of Wonders"—a ceremonial palace said to be the first building in East Africa to be provided with electricity. The complex was mostly constructed of local timber and was not designed as a defensive structure. All three main buildings were adjacent to one another in a line, and linked by wooden covered bridges above street height.
|Beit al-Ajaib or "House of Wonders"—|
a ceremonial palace said to be the first building
in East Africa to be provided with electricity
Britain had recognised Zanzibars's sovereignty and its sultanate in 1886, after a long period of friendly interaction, and generally maintained good relations with the country and its sultans. However, Germany was also interested in East Africa and the two powers vied for control of trade rights and territory in the area throughout the late 19th century.
|Sayyid Khalifa I bin Said Al-Busaid, |
GCMG, (or Chalîfe) (1852- February 13, 1890)
Sultan Khalifah had granted rights to the land of Kenya to Britain and that of Tanganyika to Germany, a process resulting in the prohibition of slavery in those lands. Many of the Arab ruling classes were upset by this interruption of a valuable trade, which resulted in some unrest. In addition, the German authorities in Tanganyika refused to fly the flag of the Zanzibar Sultanate, which led to armed clashes between German troops and the local population. One such conflict in Tanga claimed the lives of 20 Arabs.
Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar
Sultan Khalifah sent Zanzibari troops led by Brigadier-General Lloyd Mathews, a former Lieutenant of the Royal Navy, to restore order in Tanganyika. The operation was largely successful, but anti-German feeling amongst the Zanzibari people remained strong. Further conflicts erupted at Bagamoyo where 150 natives were killed by German military forces and at Ketwa where German officials and their servants were murdered.
|German garrison of Bagamoyo|
Khalifah then granted extensive trade rights to the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) who, with German assistance, ran a naval blockade to halt the continuing domestic slave trade. Upon Khalifah's death in 1890 Ali bin Said ascended to the sultanate. Sultan Ali banned the domestic slave trade (but not slave ownership), declared Zanzibar a British protectorate and appointed Lloyd Mathews as First Minister to lead his cabinet. The British were also guaranteed a veto over the future appointment of sultans.
The year of Ali's ascension also saw the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty between Britain and Germany. This treaty officially demarcated the spheres of interest in East Africa and ceded Germany's rights in Zanzibar to the United Kingdom. This granted the British government more influence in Zanzibar which they intended to use to eradicate slavery there, an objective they had held as early as 1804.
|Hamad bin Thuwaini stamp|
Sultan Ali's successor was Hamad bin Thuwaini, who became sultan in 1893. Hamad maintained a close relationship with the British but there was dissent amongst his subjects over the increasing British control over the country, the British-led army and the abolition of the valuable slave trade. In order to control this dissent, the British authorities authorised the sultan to raise a Zanzibari palace bodyguard of 1,000 men, but these troops were soon involved in clashes with the British-led police. Complaints about the bodyguards' activities were also received from the European residents in Zanzibar Town.
Sultan Hamad died suddenly at 11:40 EAT (08:40 UTC) on 25 August 1896. His 29 year-old nephew Khalid bin Bargash, who was suspected by some of his assassination, moved into the palace complex at Zanzibar Town without British approval, in contravention of the treaty agreed with Ali. The British government preferred an alternative candidate, Hamud bin Muhammed, who was more favourably disposed towards them. Khalid was warned by the consul and diplomatic agent to Zanzibar, Basil Cave, and General Mathews to think carefully about his actions. This course of action had proved successful three years earlier when Khalid had tried to claim the sultanate after the death of Ali and the British consul-general, Rennell Rodd, had persuaded him of the dangers of such an action.
|Sir Basil Shillito Cave|
Khalid ignored Cave's warning and his forces began mustering in the Palace Square under the command of Captain Saleh of the palace bodyguard. By the end of the day, they numbered 2,800 men armed with rifles and muskets. The majority were civilians but the force included 700 Zanzibari Askari soldiers who had sided with Khalid. The sultan's artillery, which consisted of several Maxim machine guns, a Gatling gun, a 17th century bronze cannon and two 12 pounder field guns, was aimed at the British ships in the harbour. The 12 pounders had been presented to the sultan by Wilhelm II, the German emperor. The sultan's troops also took possession of the Zanzibari Navy which consisted of one wooden sloop, the HHS Glasgow, built as a royal yacht for the sultan in 1878 based on the British frigate Glasgow.
|His Highness' Ship Glasgow was a royal yacht |
belonging to the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Mathews and Cave also began to muster their forces, already commanding 900 Zanzibari askaris under Lieutenant Arthur Edward Harington Raikes of the Wiltshire Regiment who was seconded to the Zanzibar Army and held the rank of Brigadier-General. 150 sailors and marines were landed from the Pearl-class protected cruiser Philomel and the gunboat Thrush which were anchored in the harbour.
|Arthur Raikes (right) with |
Sultan Ali Bin Hamud
The naval contingent, under the command of Captain O'Callaghan, came ashore within fifteen minutes of being requested to deal with any rioting caused by the general population. A smaller contingent of sailors under Lieutenant Watson of Thrush were put ashore to guard the British consulate, where British citizens were requested to gather for protection. HMS Sparrow, another gunboat, entered the harbour and was anchored opposite the palace next to Thrush.
|Mohun in the Congo c.1895|
Cave continued to send messages to Khalid requesting that he stand down his troops, leave the palace and return home but these were ignored and Khalid replied that he would proclaim himself sultan at 15:00. Cave stated that this would constitute an act of rebellion and that Khalid's sultancy would not be recognised by the British government. At 14:30, Sultan Hamad was buried and exactly 30 minutes later a royal salute from the palace guns proclaimed Khalid's succession. Cave could not open hostilities without government approval and telegraphed the following message to the Foreign Office of Lord Salisbury's administration in London: "Are we authorised in the event of all attempts at a peaceful solution proving useless, to fire on the Palace from the men-of-war?" Meanwhile, Cave informed all other foreign consuls that all flags were to remain at half mast in honour of the late Hamad. The only one that did not was a large red flag flying from Khalid's palace. Cave also informed the consuls not to recognise Khalid as sultan, to which they agreed.
|Old Diplomatic Quarter in Stone Town|
|HMS St George and HMS Philomel|
in the harbour
Cave attempted further negotiations with Khalid but these failed and Rawson sent an ultimatum, requiring him to haul down his flag and leave the palace by 09:00 on 27 August or he would open fire. During the afternoon, all merchant vessels were cleared from the harbour and the British women and children removed to St. George and a British-India Steam Navigation Company vessel for their safety. That night, Consul Mohun noted that: "The silence which hung over Zanzibar was appalling. Usually drums were beating or babies cried but that night there was absolutely not a sound."
At 08:00 on the morning of 27 August, after a messenger sent by Khalid requested parley from Cave, the consul replied that he would only have salvation if he agreed to the terms of the ultimatum. At 08.30 a further messenger from Khalid declared that "We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us"; Cave replied that "We do not want to open fire, but unless you do as you are told we shall certainly do so." At 08:55, having received no further word from the palace, aboard St George Rawson hoisted the signal "prepare for action".
|The palace complex following the bombardment|
At exactly 09:00, General Lloyd Mathews ordered the British ships to commence the bombardment. At 09:02 Her Majesty's Ships Racoon, Thrush and Sparrow opened fire at the palace simultaneously, Thrush's first shot immediately dismounted an Arab 12-pounder cannon. 3,000 defenders, servants and slaves were present in the largely wooden palace and even with barricades of crates, bales and rubber, there were many casualties from the high explosive shells. Despite initial reports that he had been captured and was to be exiled to India, Sultan Khalid escaped from the palace. A Reuters news correspondent reported that the sultan had "fled at the first shot with all the leading Arabs, who left their slaves and followers to carry on the fighting", but other sources state that he remained in the palace for longer. The shelling ceased at around 09:40, by which time the palace and attached harem had caught fire, the enemy artillery had been silenced and the Sultan's flag cut down.
|British sailors pose with a captured |
cannon outside the sultan's palace
During the bombardment a small naval engagement occurred when, at 09:05, the obsolete Glasgow fired upon the St George using her armament of 7 nine-pounder guns and a Gatling gun which had been a present from Queen Victoria to the sultan. The return fire caused Glasgow to sink, though the shallow harbour meant that her masts remained out of the water. Glasgow's crew hoisted a British flag as a token of their surrender and they were all rescued by British sailors in launches. Thrush also sank two steam launches whose Zanzibari crews shot at her with rifles. Some land fighting occurred when Khalid's men fired on Raikes' askaris, with little effect, as they approached the palace. The fighting ceased with the end of the shelling. The British controlled the town and the palace and by the afternoon Hamud bin Muhammed, an Arab favourable to the British, had been installed as sultan with much reduced powers. The British ships and crews had fired around 500 shells, 4,100 machine gun rounds and 1,000 rifle rounds during the engagement.
|The Harem after the bombardment|
|Around 500 Zanzibari men and women were |
killed or wounded during the bombardment
|The palace of the bombardment|
Sultan Khalid, Captain Saleh and around forty followers sought refuge in the German consulate following their flight from the palace, where they were guarded by ten armed German sailors and marines whilst Mathews stationed men outside to arrest them if they tried to leave. Despite extradition requests the German consul refused to surrender Khalid to the British as his country's extradition treaty with Britain specifically excluded political prisoners. Instead, the German consul promised to remove Khalid to German East Africa without him "setting foot on the soil of Zanzibar". At 10:00 on 2 October, SMS Seeadler of the German Navy arrived in port; at high tide, one of Seeadler's boats made it up to the consulate's garden gate and Khalid stepped directly from consular grounds to a German war vessel and hence was free from arrest. He was transferred from the boat onto the Seeadler and was then taken to Dar es Salaam in German East Africa. Khalid was captured by British forces in 1916, during the East African Campaign of World War I, and exiled to Seychelles and Saint Helena before being allowed to return to East Africa, where he died at Mombasa in 1927. The British punished Khalid's supporters by forcing them to pay reparations to cover the cost of shells fired against them and for damages caused by the looting which amounted to 300,000 rupees.
|Khalid escape route|
Sultan Hamud was loyal to the British and acted as a figurehead for an essentially British-run government, the sultanate only being retained to avoid the costs involved with running Zanzibar directly as a crown colony. Several months after the war, Hamud, with British prompting, abolished slavery in all its forms. The emancipation of slaves required them to present themselves to a government office and proved a slow process—within ten years only 17,293 slaves had been freed, from an estimated population of 60,000 in 1891.
The badly damaged palace complex was completely changed by the war. The harem, lighthouse and palace were demolished as the bombardment had left them unsafe. The palace site became an area of gardens whilst a new palace was erected on the site of the harem. The House of Wonders was almost undamaged and would later become the main secretariat for the British governing authorities. During renovation work on the House of Wonders in 1897 a clocktower was added to its frontage to replace the lighthouse lost to the shelling. The wreck of the Glasgow remained in the harbour in front of the palace where the shallow waters ensured that her masts would remain visible for several years to come; it was eventually broken up for scrap in 1912.
The British protagonists were highly regarded by the governments in London and Zanzibar for their actions leading up to and during the war, and many were rewarded with appointments and honours. General Raikes, leader of the askaris, was appointed a First Class (Second Grade) member of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar on 24 September 1896, a First Class member of the Zanzibari Order of Hamondieh on 25 August 1897 and later promoted to Commander of the Zanzibar armies. General Mathews, the Zanzibari army commander, was appointed a member of the Grand Order of Hamondieh on 25 August 1897 and became First Minister and Treasurer to the Zanzibari government. Basil Cave, the consul, was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 1 January 1897 and promoted to Consul-General on 9 July 1903. Harry Rawson was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for his work in Zanzibar and would later be Governor of New South Wales in Australia and receive promotion to Admiral. Rawson was also appointed a first class member of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar on 8 February 1897 and the Order of Hamondieh on 18 June 1898.
|Rebuilding of House of Wonders|
Perhaps due to the effectiveness shown by the Royal Navy during the bombardment, there were no further rebellions against British influence during the remaining 67 years of the protectorate.
|Masts of the Glasgow still sticking out|
The war, lasting around 40 minutes, is considered the shortest in recorded history. Several durations are given by sources, including 38, 40 and 45 minutes, but the 38 minute duration is the most often quoted. The variation is due to confusion over what actually constitutes the start and end of a war. Some sources take the start of the war as the order to open fire at 09:00 and some with the start of actual firing at 09:02. The end of the war is usually put at 09:40 when the last shots were fired and the palace flag struck, but some sources place it at 09:45. The logbooks of the British ships also suffer from this with St George indicating that cease-fire was called and Khalid entered the German consulate at 09:35, Thrush at 09:40, Racoon at 09:41 and Philomel and Sparrow at 09:45.
Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zanzibar_War [27.08.2013]
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