Battle of the Bees

Just a quick one today–I’m reblogging this from Futility Closet’s post here.


In Africa, World War I dawned with a buzz and a howl. The British Indian Army was trying to sneak up on an eastern seaport held by the Germans when they disturbed huge hives of aggressive African bees, which drove them into the sea. “I would never have believed that grown-up men of any race could have been reduced to such shamelessness,” said a British officer. One engineer was stung 300 times.

The Times wrote that the bees had been sprung by the German commander, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. When asked about this, he merely smiled and said, “Gott mitt uns [God is with us]”.

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2 Responses to Battle of the Bees

  1. This was at the Battle of Tanga, at the beginning of the campaign in German East Africa. One British sergeant had been shot 5 times and lay unconscious on the beach, the bee stings were so painful that they brought him back to consciousness and he got up and ran into the sea to escape the bees. And yet this was far from being a noteworthy event in what was an extraordinary campaign. For example, the British had 2 monitors dragged hundreds of miles overland to fight a couple of German vessels on Lake Victoria. The British naval commander was a heavily tattooed transvestite who wore the dresses his wife made him. The film ‘The African Queen’ was based on those events. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was undoubtedly the most successful guerrilla commander in history, he and his few thousand Askaris were pitched against over 300,000 allied troops and remained undefeated at by the end of the war. In fact, they had recently invaded British territory… For those reading this who are interested I can strongly recommend Charles Miller’s book ‘Battle For The Bundu’ as a highly entertaining introduction to one of the most incredible campaigns ever fought. This snippet may give you an idea of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s character. The author Charles Miller was interviewing the nephew of a marine who had served under the general and they were discussing the time Hitler had offered him the job of Ambassador to Britain. “I heard he told Hitler to go fuck himself” said the author. “That’s right” agreed the marine’s nephew, “except that I don’t think he was that polite!”


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