Lanarkshire Philatelic Society


"World War 1 in German East Africa"


Mr. Gordon Shepherd



Members of the Lanarkshire Philatelic Society enjoyed a wonderful evening on Friday, 20th January when Gordon Shepherd of Larkhall presented his display of "World War 1 in German East Africa".

He began by drawing a map to ‘set the scene’ - showing where German East Africa was at that time (now Tanzania + Burundi and Rwanda); – and surrounded then by British East Africa (now Kenya); Uganda; Belgian Congo; Nyasaland and Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique).

This was followed by a truly amazing display of historical postcards which helped illustrate this lesser known – and often forgotten - course of the First World War.

The postcards showed the railways which were used to bring in supplies – Mombasa to Kisimu: Tanga to Moshi: Dar-es-Salaam to Kigoma. Illustrations of some of the tribal armies which allied with Britain – Maasai; Kikuyu; Swahili; Kavirande – in tribal dress; The Commanders – both British and German – particularly General Paul von Lettow-Vorbek, Major General Aitken and Lieut.General Jan C. Smuts; The sinking of HMS Pegasus in Zanzibar Harbour in September 1914 by SMS Königsberg – and the retaliation the following year when the Königsberg was scuttled by HMS Mersey and HMS Severn in the Rufiji River in German East Africa. The course of the Battles was greatly hampered by a lack of maps – until the 6th Topographical Section was sent out to prepare maps. Many postcards detailed various battles happening between the British and German forces.


In 1916 a German gunboat sank a number of Belgian vessels on Lake Tanganyika, so now Congolese forces entered the war and fought against Germany in the Cameroons and gained much of the east of German East Africa. Portuguese East Africa was open for supplies to reach German troops but after Portugal entered the war this route was blocked. The Armistice was signed on 25th November 1918 – the Germans on unconditional surrender.

The final postcards illustrated jubilant troops – even General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck led his troops victoriously through the Brandenberg Gate in March 1919!

Ken Norris led members in thanking Gordon for showing such a magnificent collection and giving excellent information which brought the whole scene to life.

Our next meeting in the Caledonian Bowling Club, Motherwell Road, Hamilton, is on Friday, 3rd February, 2017, at 7:30pm when our guest will be Professor Ray Welland who will present displays on "World War 1" & "Netherlands and Colonies’.

Anyone with an interest in stamps, postal history, postcards etc is very welcome to attend.