'We Don’t Want to Die for Nothing': Askari at War in German East Africa, 1914-1918

Title'We Don’t Want to Die for Nothing': Askari at War in German East Africa, 1914-1918
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsMoyd, Michelle R.
EditorDas, Santanu
Book TitleRace, Empire and First World War Writing
PublisherCambridge University Press

The First World War initially came to East Africa as a rumour. German officers of the Schutztruppe commenced an ‘intense’ military training programme to whip the veteran soldiers back into shape after years of garrison life, and to train a new generation of recruits. A seasoned veteran of East African warfare, Mzee Ali, a senior askari, nevertheless felt great anxiety about this war's potential ‘scale and horror’ which ‘had magnified out of all proportion in [the askaris’] minds'. Waiting to go into battle against Allied forces in East Africa in April 1915 and struggling to overcome his fear that he would mishandle his weapon in battle, he experienced agitation and sleeplessness. Finally, he pulled himself together: ‘Breathing deeply to control my nervousness, I determined to put my faith and indeed my life in my training and in our officers.’ Relying on his officers and comrades renewed his resolve, and he found that he could sleep again, even while waiting for battle to commence.

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