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NAMIBIA HISTORY THE BATTLE FOR FORT NAMUTONI ETOSHA. At 11h30 on the morning of 28 January 1905 Chief Nehale's warrior Captain Shivute with a force of men, of whom it was reported that 300


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Namibia History. The battle of Fort Namutoni at Etsoha on 28 January 1905


The small water fountain at Namutoni - an introduction:

The explorers Charles John Andersson and Francis Galton were the first Europeans to 'discover' the Etosha-Pan passed by the Water-Hole at Namutoni on 29 May 1851, Galton wrote, "passing a reedy, boggy fountain (Namutoni), we came an hour after to Omutchamatunda, which was thronged with Ovampos and their cattle. We were received very hospitably, and had a tree assigned to camp under."


In 1897 the Rinderpest swept through Southern Africa decimating the vast cattle herds. The proactive response of the German authorities was establish quarantine stations at Okaukuejo and Namutoni and to draw a quarantine cordon between them bordering the southern edge of the Etosha-Pan. All known of animals that crossed the line were shot. The original constructions at Namutoni were built of reeds. The small garrison consisted of a non-commissioned officer, a medical orderly and two troopers. The huts were situated near to the reedy, boggy water hole. Convenient, but accompanied by the threat of malaria, living conditions were primitive.


Following the end of the cattle plague the little frontier post served the purpose of monitoring trade with the Ovambo. The movement of firearms and ammunition was of concern to the German authorities. The previous fifty years had witnessed a brisk trade in fire arms within the territory.


In 1901 the first German Schutztruppe military presence was established at Okaukeujo. A tall round lookout tower (not the one that can be seen today) was built, and by 1903 it was decided that the post at Namutoni should be upgraded, militarised, and a more substantial building of stone and mud-brick was erected that measured 24m x 10m as can be seen below.


Rumblings from the South:

The vast area of land running south of the Etosha to the approximate latitude of the Swakop River was inhabited by the Damara and Herero tribes. The German colonial administration's oppressive expansionist policies had been the cause of ongoing frustration to the Hereros for nearly twenty years. 1896 had witnessed a liberation uprising that was brutally suppressed by use of the Schutztruppe, but had not dampened the will of the people. On 11 January 1904 Chief Samuel Maharero gave the order for the Herero tribes to take up arms and declared war on the German occupiers. The Herero had invited the Ovambo to join them in the native uprising, but had received no response from the Ovambo leadership. The Ovambo tribal lands laid roughly from the southern edge of the Etosha-Pan northwards into Angola and were not under German administration. The Ovambo Chiefs had maintained a relatively cool, but diplomatic relation with the Germans.


Chief Nehale Mpingana

Chief Nehale Mpingana:

The one exception was Chief Nehale Mpingana of the Ondonga tribe, a man who had a proven track record of opposition to any form of white colonialism from when in 1886 had attacked the Dorsland Trek-Boers and killed their leader and scattered the survivors on to Angola or back to the Transvaal.


The Station at Namutoni


The 'Seven'

The Attack On Fort Namutoni

At 11h30 on the morning of 28 January 1905 Chief Nehale's warrior Captain Shivute with a force of men, of whom it was reported that 300 were armed with Martini-Henry rifles, plus about 200 other men armed with traditional weapons attacked the fort. At the time, the fort at Namutoni was manned by four regular schutztruppe and three reservists. The Germans fought and managed to hold off the attack until about 15h30 when the Ovambo warriors withdrew into the bush leaving behind 70-80 dead and wounded warriors, but taking with them their spoils of war that included horses, cattle and other small livestock. The German garrison's ammunition store had held 450 rounds for the Mauser 71 models rifles and 1100 rounds for the model 88s. Of this only 150 rounds of  were left, so the seven took the opportunity to abandon the post and flee, assisting their comrade Albert Lier who was incapacitated due to a bout of malaria (one report states rheumatic fever). Basendowski and Becker were settler-farmer-reservists who were familiar with the area

and it was to their farm (Sandhup) about 40km south east of Namutoni that the men made an overnight trek of 14 hours arriving at dawn.

Four days earlier, and in the anticipation that Namutoni may experience an attack the German authorities at the Schutztruppe Fort at Grootfontein had dispatched a patrol to relieve if necessary, and withdraw the Namutoni garrison. On 1st February the patrol arrived at the farm Sandhup where they found the survivors of Namutoni and learned of their ordeal.


The Aftermath:

On the morning of 29 January 1904 the Ovambos returned and finding the building deserted ransacked it and then burned it to the ground. A Finnish missionary later reported to the magistrate at Outjo that the Ovambo had lost  68 dead, 40 missing and 20 wounded. During the raid the Ovambos had driven off with the livestock a prize pedigree stud bull. When the Germans in later negotiations with Chief Nehale requested that the bull be returned to them, the chief had it shot dead in their presence to demonstrate his authority. The Germans never were able to get either and apology or any form of restitution for the losses incurred. Chief Nehale died in the early months of 1908, and is today honoured as being one of Namibia's Heroes who resisted colonialism. The water hole at Namutoni is today referred to as being Chief Nehale's Waterhole. On the left hand gate post entrance to Fort Namutoni is a plaque that reads:


"On 28 January 1904, 500 Ovambo attached the station NAMUTONI. Seven brave me victoriously repulsed the attack."

IN HONOURABLE MEMORY OF: Lance-Sergeant Fritz Grossman, Medical Orderly Bruno Lassmann, Lance-Corporal Richard Lemke, Lance-Corporal Albert Lier, Reserve Lance-Sergeant Jacob Basendowski, Reserve Lance-Corporal Franz Becker,

Reserve Lance-Corporal Karl Hartmann


The Second Fort:

The German authorities were quick to replace the sacked building with a larger and more easily defendable fort in 1906. The basic structure stands to this day having been converted into accommodation units.




The new Fort Namutoni 1906

The 'New' Fort Namutoni 1906

A photo for home

A photo for home

Cavalry the north tower

Cavalry by the north tower

checking the  map

Checking the map

Heliograph crew

Heliograph crew

Field bakery

Field bakery

Servicing a feild gun

Servicing a field gun

Smoke Break

Smoke break

smoking club

Smoking club 1900

A day at the races

A day at the races


The Fort served little purpose following the end of the Herero - Nama uprising of 1904 - 1907. Apparently it was handed over to the Police on 1 September 1910 and was manned by only five officers and for economic reasons was closed  on 1 April 1912. The fort did serve for the further period of the First World War in South West Africa and was occupied by the Union of South troops from 24 August 1915.


Between the 'War Years' the fort was sporadically used as a Police outpost. It was renovated in the early fifties and again in 1983, and improvements to suite the needs of tourism are on-going.


Acknowledgements and further reading:  H6, H9, H12, H18, P2

Etosha Area Attractions & Articles of Associated Interest:

Etosha Game Park


Herero Uprising

Entry Fees Payable

Map of Etosha



Schutztruppe Fort

Accommodation Map & Directions

Of Interest:  The eastern entry to the park is called the Von Lindquist Gate and is named after the German Governor who proclaimed the area a Game Reserve in 1907

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