Sunday, 27 August 2017

The shortest war

On 27th August 1896 the British Empire fought the shortest war in its history when it took on and defeated the Sultanate of Zanzibar in less than an hour.

On 25th August the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini died, and was replaced by Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, who resented British interference in the ruling of Zanzibar. The British wanted Hamud bin Muhammed, who was favourable to British interests, to become the new sultan. According to a treaty signed in 1886 the British consul was supposed to agree to the accession of the new sultan, and as Sultan Khalid bin Barghash had not bothered to obtain this agreement, this was seen as being tantamount to an act of war. An ultimatum was sent to Sultan Khalid that demanded that he leave the sultan's palace with immediate effect. His response was to bring troops into the palace and the area surrounding it, and the building itself was barricaded.

The ultimatum expired at 9.00am on 27th August, and two minutes later a force of Royal Navy warships commanded by Rear Admiral Harry Rawson opened fire on the palace. When firing ceased thirty eight minutes later, over five hundred Zanzibaris were dead and wounded, the palace was badly damaged, and Khalid had fled. (He later sought sanctuary in German East Africa.)

Later that day the new Sultan Hamud bin Muhammed took over, and British influence over Zanzibar was restored.

8 comments:

  1. Robust action by the British Government!
    If only we could get away with it today, eh? :)

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    1. Nobby,

      The Royal Navy's bombardment of Zanzibar was conducted by three cruisers; we would be doing well to send a single frigate nowadays!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Although the Frigate might be able to achieve the job with slightly less carnage.

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    Replies
    1. Stephen Briddon,

      I suspect that it would inflict the same amount of carnage in a much shorter time!

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. True, but they would only need to use one precisely guided Tomahawk cruise missile on the palace, rather than lay waste to the entire metrop, which is what I think happened.

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    3. Stephen Briddon,

      I suppose that you are right, although I suspect that the number of casualties would have still been high even if the damage to the surrounding buildings would have been less.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. You might enjoy this for some background on Zanzibar from a different angle. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sultans-Spymaster-Judy-Aldrick/dp/9966757201

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    Replies
    1. Nigel Drury,

      Thanks for the link. It looks as if it might be worth getting hold of a copy of the book.

      All the best,

      Bob

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