Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Anglo-Zanzibar War 1896 - The 40 Minute War

When it comes to the length of a war, none takes the title of a Shorter War than the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, which was part of the greater Scramble for Africa by the European Empires , it lasted all of 38 minutes.

Zanzibar is an Island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanganyika, today it forms part of the Tanzania. The main Island, Zanzibar, is under the nominal control of the Sultans of Oman since 1698. Prior to this, Zanzibar was a Portuguese colony from 1499.

The Island of Zanzibar and the United Kingdom, were allies in the Scramble of Africa, as the British had recognized the sovereignty  of the Island state in 1886, and were using it as a refuelling depot. The main challenger for East Africa to Britain was Germany. Sultan Khalifah granted the British land rights in Kenya and granted the Germans land rights in Tanganyika. This resulted in some unrest between Britain and Zanzibar. The Germans who did not show their respect of the Zanzibar Sultanate, refused to fly the Sultanate flag over their territory leading to armed unrest between German troops and local populations.

In 1890, Sultan Ali declared Zanzibar a British protectorate and appointed a British first minister to lead his cabinet.  This position gave the British a veto vote over any future appointments of sultans. The same year, a spheres of interest in East Africa, causing more unrest between the British and Germans. In 1893, Ali's reign as Sultan was over and Sultan Hamad was appointed Sultan, and was very pro-British.

On August 25th 1896, Sultan Hamad died suddenly, and his nephew Khalid bin Bargash, was pro-German and was suspected by some as assassinating Hamad. Barhash moved into the palace complex in Zanzibar, without British approval. The British preferred Hamud bin Muhammed over Barhash. The British issued an ultimatum to Barhash to leave the palace and respect the Treaty of Ali. At the same time the HMS Thrush anchored itself off the coast of Zanzibar to show British force in the area.

On August 26th, to increase the British presence off the island, the HMS Racoon, St. George, and Philomel anchored  with the HMS Thrush. The Sultan took posession of the HHS Glasgow and sent it out to sea to attempt and show his power, but just became surrounded when the HMS Sparrow arrived and the British increased their ultimatum to war if Barhash did not leave the Royal Palace.

File:Anglo-Zanzibar War without gunfire.svg

On August 27th, the Ultimatum expired at 9am local time and General Lloyd Mathews ordered the British ships begin their bombardment of the island. At 9:02, HMS Racoon, Thursh and Sparrow opened fire at the Royal Palace.  At 9:05, the Glasgow engaged the St. George which was futile, and once the St. George retaliated, the Glasgow sank.

38-Minutes after the battle began the British with 1000 troops  controlled the town and had installed Muhammed as Sultan. The British removed many of the powers the Sultan had prior to this conflict.

In the end more than 500 Zanzibarians were killed, 1 Royal Yacht was sunk, 2 other boats were sunk, and 1 shore battery gun was destroyed. The British casualty list included 1 wounded. This odd conflict was over as quickly as it started.

Remembering History - The Anglo-Zanzibar War 1896 - The 40 Minute War