This appeared in TA issue 34 (Sept 1989)


The pages of the Tanganyika Standard (TS) from September 3, 1939, the date of the outbreak of the war, to the end of the year were dominated, as were those of most of the world’s press, by news from Europe. Little was published about what was going on in Tanganyika itself because most of the country was relatively untouched by the war. The following extracts give an idea of the atmosphere at the time.

This was the main headline in the Tanganyika Standard (TS) of September 8, 1939. 80% of the German males in the territory had already been rounded up and were on their way to an internment camp in Dar es Salaam – they eventually totalled about 1,000 – and ‘reports were awaited from certain remote areas.’ A correspondent wrote about what happened in Moshi. ‘Herr Ernst Troop, the ‘Fuehrer ‘ of the Tanganyika Nazi Bund, not believing to the last moment that Britain would go to war, was on his way to Moshi from Lyamungu in his car on Sunday afternoon when he was ‘halted by a picket of administrative officers and special constables at Karanga Bridge outside the township. He was astounded when he was taken into custody. Some of his lieutenants, including Dr. Mergner and Herr Kageler, the latter leader of the Hitler youth, were also arrested. So far, 208 Germans have been temporarily interned in the commodious German-owned premises of the Kilimanjaro Coffee Works pending the erection of a permanent camp. Most Germans gave themselves up in good humour and many are helping to erect barbed wire entanglements around their camp’.

Interestingly, in the same issue of the Standard, in the classified advertisement column, under the heading ‘Where to Stay’ the following appeared: ‘German Boarding House. Daily rate Shs 10/-. First class cuisine. Cleanliness assured. Above Kassum’s stores.’

By December 316 of the enemy aliens had been repatriated. They were sent home on an Italian ship and given their expenses for the journey all the way back to Germany.

Vehicles were requisitioned, air raid practices were held in Dar es Salaam, no currency was to be exported (TS Sept 22), the price of foodstuffs was controlled (TS Oct 11) and farmers were exhorted to ‘produce to the limit and export what you can’ (TS Dec 22). It was announced that income tax would be introduced in 1940.

A ‘Tanganyika Naval Force’ had come into existence legally on August 26 but it then consisted of only one officer. Two weeks later there were six officers, 12 petty officer’s and 76 African ratings. Its main function was to sweep Dar es Salaam harbour for mines every day.

Dhows began to return (TS Oct 20). ‘Dhows are again being favoured for coastal transport of goods between Rufiji and Dar es Salaam. The lack of motor lorries during the recent requisition of power trucks for the war has turned the eyes of traders to dhows and dhow ports have not been so busy since 1929. Mr. M. Graui the Kilwa merchant, is said to own a fleet of 100 and Mr. Jaffer Alladin of Mbwera has brought from India a new fast sailing dhow of fine lines and accommodation’.

The first Donkey Company of the East African Pack Transport Corps was raised in Tanganyika (TS Dec 15), ‘The unit comprises two Europeans and 100 Africans with 500 donkeys. Personnel have been drawn from Mbugwe, Arusha and Meru areas. Thanks to the patriotism of the Africans, requisitioning of donkeys proved unnecessary. Although donkeys are not normally sold the owners took the view that if they were needed for the war then they (the owners) were prepared to sell them. Each carries a load of 100 lbs and the donkeys can cover a good 15 miles a day. It is the desire of the military authorities to avoid the use of porter transport and to make as much use as possible of mechanical and animal transport.’

Constructive effects of the war were the start of publication of a newspaper in Swahili – Baraza – and the first Swahili news broadcasts, in both cases emanating from Nairobi. All householders were requested to allow their staff to listen to the broadcasts which came out every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 pm to 5.15 pm. (TS Sept 15).

African participation in the war effort received little attention in the press. But on September 29th the Standard referred to a message sent by King George VI to the Sultan of Zanzibar thanking him for the assurances he had sent of the full support of the Sultanate ‘during the struggle in which the empire is engaged’. And on December 1st the Standard wrote ‘The fighting days of the Chagga tribe have been recalled in Moshi where Chief and people have offered a proportion of their harvest as their contribution to the war effort. It was customary in olden days when the tribe went to war for those remaining at home to contribute foodstuffs. The foodstuffs were to be used for feeding troops of the King’s African Rifles stationed at Moshi’ .

Reference was made often in the press of the time to the fact that the Allies and Germany seemed to be fighting a war only of words and propaganda.

As early as September 29 a reader’s letter in the Standard said: ‘Many of us with past war experience who feel that we ought to volunteer to serve in a military capacity …. feel justified in taking no step which might mean abandoning our families and being sent off into the blue on some relatively unimportant job while no actual hostilities are in progress in East Africa. If such hostilities should break out there would be no lack of volunteers’.

In a column by ‘Exile’ headed ‘Random Talk of the Day’, the following appeared on September 22. ‘The British take their war news (like their pleasures) sadly. At a time when there is so much to do and so great an example to be set the sight of a number of Britons listening to a radio news bulletin is about one of the worst pieces of propaganda that can be imagined. For studied gloom and pessimist ie resignation there is nothing to beat their expression and attitude. I should think that bar waiters who attend with eyes that miss nothing will be able to spread to the Native population the very worst interpretation of mass gloom.’

The first indication of the kind of news which was going to dominate the media for the next five years came in the Standard on October 29th. ‘Among those lost in the sinking of H. M. S. Royal Oak in Scapa Flow in Scotland was 18 year old Travis Hanch, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Hanch of the PWD, Tanga. He is thought to be the first man from Tanganyika to be lost in the war. A memorial service was held in Tanga Church.’

Then, on November 24th Tanganyikans felt the war again. A British ship, the 700 ton Africa Shell, was sunk by a German cruiser just south of Tanganyika, off the Mozambique coast. The crew managed to reach land and were found by Portuguese officials.

Towards the end of the year the Standard was prepared to write about the lighter side of the war.

It described how army manoeuvres in Namanga district had included a full scale ‘invasion’ of Kenya by Tanganyika. The Standard’s correspondent observed however that he was ‘killed’ before the campaign really began as an enemy aeroplane dive-bombed his car. He was impressed most by the skill with which the two KAR armies camouflaged themselves. It was hard to see how the dual purpose of the manoeuvres – to give the well-trained and enthusiastic African troops practice in modern warfare and to obtain practice in the operation and control of mechanical units was being achieved – as he could rarely see them! And, just after the main battle, with Kenyan troops retiring to Kajiado, the correspondent was ‘killed’ again by an enemy scouting aeroplane!

The Standard also found it possible to give considerable prominence on its main page to an important news item. (October 6): ‘There have been many cases of chicken stealing in Dar es Salaam recently. The Police have now arrested an African who is alleged to have been concerned in at least one of the thefts. He was found by an Askari on patrol with seven fowls in his possession. Mr. Henin, who claims that he disturbed someone attempting to steal fowls from his compound, was unable however to identify some of the fowls found in the possession of the accused African’

And, finally, there was the inevitable ‘The day war broke out’ anecdote (November 17): Special constables from Dar es Salaam had been immediately mobilised and sent on duty to various key posts up country. One such key area was the fictitious place called ‘Asante’;

The specials both sat at Asante
Waiting for things to begin
From dawn to sunset, hard at it,
Drinking the D.O’s gin.

The D.O. kept calm in the crisis
He said there was nothing to fear;
His greatest trouble at this time
Was that the specials would finish his beer.

As last light appeared on the sky-line
When the office looked just like a bar
And the booze was very near finished
The specials were called back to Dar.


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