A Lesson in the making
As the British had recently discovered in their South
Africa conflict with the Boers, the Germans were to now to
learn that wars in far off colonies place heavy and costly demands
on manpower and supplies. The embarrassment of the early defeats of
German soldiers by half naked blacks was the motivation for ' moving
in the big guns'.
A Time of Preparation: The months of May and June 1904 saw five ships
sail from Hamburg loaded with troops, their guns, horses and all the
supplies needed to wage war in a far off and hostile land. A total
of 169 officers and administrators, 2,185 men and 2,126 horses. For
the duration of the native uprising of 1904-1907 the little ports of
Swakopmund were to experience a steady inflow of troops
until the Imperial Colonial Army had swollen to a force of some
20,000 officers and men.
While the Hereros waited and tended their cattle herds
at the Waterberg the Germans laboured as teams of horses and oxen
moved the ammunition and supplies that would be needed to a chain of
carefully planned supply dumps. Communications networks were
established and fresh troops trained in bush warfare techniques. By
the mid July the German infantry battalions and field artillery
batteries were slowly, but steadily making their way along several
different paths towards the Waterberg where they would make their
final preparations for attack.
Chief: Lieutenant General L Von Trotha
Lt Colonel Muller
2nd Field Regiment
L von Estorff
1st, 2nd, 3rd
1st, 2nd, 3rd
|1 Section Batteries
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
2 Section Batteries
5th, 6th, 7th, 8th
2 Replacement Company
3 Replacement Company
1 Replacement Battery
Major von der Heyde
4th, 5th, 6th, 7th
4th, 5th, 6th
Machine Gun Detachment
1st Machine Gun Section
2nd Machine Gun Section
Marine Machine Gun Section
8th, 9th, 10th, 11th
7th, 9th, 9th
von Bodenhausen was sent with 10 men to scout the western slope of
the Waterberg. As they were returning to their base at Osondjache
they stopped to graze their horses when they were ambushed by Herero
who had been monitoring their movements for some time. Only 2 men
survived, the rest were killed and on discovery by the Germans had
been horribly mutilated.
The nights of 9 and 10 August -
Moving only at night Lt. Auer von Herrenkirchen with a contingent of
38 men scaled the north slope of the Waterberg and establish a
Heliograph station. The men, guided by a Herero, carried their heavy
supplies along with ammunition and equipment for about 12km along
the top of the plateau where they had a view that would allow them
to monitor the actions across the whole battle field below and then
signal the information to their colleagues below. The signalling
station was positioned about 100 meters inwards from the edge of
the plateau so that the Hereros below would not be able to spot the
light from the heliograph.
The night of 10
August was cold with the temperature being measured just above
The Battle of Waterberg - Aug 11
The scene was set. Von
Trotha had at his disposal a force comprising of 96 officers commanding 1,488
troops supported by 12 machine guns and 36 cannons.
Samuel Maharero had an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 armed warriors armed
with a variety of rifles having an assortment of calibres.
German movements from 02h45 - The start of a
General Von Trotha accompanied Major Von
Muhlenfels who was in command of the main force that
comprised 5th and 6th Field Batteries with 9th, 10th and 11th Field
Companies. The 20 officers, 219 rifles, 8 Field Guns and 6 machine
guns, began their advance from where they had camped at Ombatuatipiro.
Their objective: to take control of the waterholes at Hamakari. By 06h00 they had reached the
dry river bed of the Hamakari
with no sight of the enemy, but the Herero were watching them. The
Germans moved along the river towards Hamakari where the waterholes
were surrounded by sand banks. The bush in the area was dense and
the Germans were taken by complete surprise when the Hereros first
attacked them at 08h45. The 11th Field Company found themselves
embroiled in close bush fighting on three sides. Captain Gansser, in
command, was killed and all of his officers either dead or wounded.
What was left of the 11 Field Company had no alternative, but to
The German field guns had initially not been able
to identify the enemy target. Many of the grenades went over the
field of play and landed in the Herero camps causing death and destruction, but
by 09h45 the Germans were able to commence an effective bombardment. within
Samuel Mahareroordered his
warriors to attack the field batteries from the sides where they
nearly overwhelmed the Germans who had to use every available man to
defend the guns with fierce close quarter fighting.
12h45 to Sunset
Von Trotha's first communication with them was
made by Heliograph at 12h55 with the orders to advance on Hamakari.
Shortly following this the Main Section were completely surrounded
and attacked so fiercely by the Hereros that every man was called to
arms, even Von Trotha had to join in making use of a rifle. By 15h00
Von Trotha realized that whatever support was on its way, would be
too late and that his Main Section would have to secure the Hamakari
Waterholes on its own. At 16h00 Von Muhlenfels ordered the Heavy
guns and machine guns to open up a full fire that became so loud
that the Heliograph crew at the top of the Waterberg could hear the
explosions. The 10th and 11th Field Battery charged the waterholes
and managed to hold them. The Hereros again attacked the German Main
Section and once again every man was forced to take up arms and
fight for his life, but they held their ground. The Hereros then
attacked the wagon section, but failed to overwhelm it. The late
winter sun was now low in the sky and the Herero withdrew.
11 August Nightfall: The Germans
took stock of the situation and began to ready for the following
day. They formed a square and then hacked down thorn trees with
which they formed a defensive edge around the laager.
The 1st Day's Casualties: The Germans had lost 5
officers and 21 men and a further 7 officers and 53 men wounded.
They had no idea as to how many Hereros had been killed, but Von
Estorff counted 20 dead at Otosongombe and Von Trotha knew of 40
dead at Hamakari.
The day's battles had been hard fought and the
nightfall found a troubled Von Trotha. Information as to the various
sections was either not known, or not good. He was of the considered
opinion that the following day would be a difficult and bloody one.
Deimling's section consisting of 498 men had not
been heard from and instead of joining the Main Section at Hamakari
as ordered he had marched from Omuveroume to the Waterberg Station.
The Hereros, not wanting to engage this strong force fled east.
Von Estorff's section did as planned and ordered
and became embroiled in heavy fighting that morning at
Otjosongombehad where they defeated their foe.
Von der Heyde's section had been fiercely attacked
in the afternoon by large groups of Hereros who were in retreat from
the Main Fighting. It was only once the cover of darkness came that
they were able to make the final push-through to Hamakari.
While the General worried about the morrow,
Samuel Maharero had decided that he couldn't beat the Germans, and was
already fleeing eastwards from Hamakari. His plan was to seek the
asylum of the British in Bechuanaland, but his path would mean
negotiating the vast and remote area of the Omaheke Desert.
Acknowledgements and further reading: H6, H7, P1, P2,