2 January 1917 – Rufini

Out in German East Africa, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces intends to hold the main enemy forces to the Mgeta front while he sends a flanking column to make a wide turning movement to the west. This column was to cross the Rufiji at Mkalinzo, where it is joined by the Ruaha, and then move south-west to join the Kilwa division coming from the direction of the Matumbi Mountains. These movements were designed to cut off the enemy forces on the Rufiji from those at Mahenge.

Rain on the Mgeta front delayed the opening of the operations from the 26th to the 31st of December 1916. A holding attack was delivered yesterday from the forward positions on the Dutumi front, while two columnsworked their way round the flanks.

The Tulo detachment (‘B’ Flight) of 26 Squadron RFC, which had been reinforced by two Henri Farmans from ‘A’ Flight at Morogoro, co-operated in the operations in this sector. Two aeroplanes, fitted with wireless, co-operated with the artillery and reported to ground stations enemy movements in their areas of operations.

The remaining aeroplanes of the detachment were to patrol continuously from 5.30 a.m. over the area Tulo-Kiruru-Kinyanguru-Behobeho- Wiransi-Kisaki-Dakawa-Dutumi-Tulo. The patrolling airmen were to report urgently any sign of the evacuation of Dutumi or Dakawa and also suitable bombing targets. As these aircraft had no wireless, they carried message which were dropped on the advanced headquarters on the Dutumi ridge. Only three officer observers were available, and eight air mechanics were impressed to do duty as observers.

Soon after 4.0 p.m. the evacuation of Kiderengwa was reported, and an aeroplane was at once sent out to bomb the retreating columns. The pilot discovered a large enemy detachment in the open bush and dropped one 100lb and five 20lb bombs, scattering the enemy. He returned for a second load and, when he got back over the front, found the enemy had taken up a position at Tshimbe, parallel to trenches occupied by the British easterly flanking column. The pilot dropped one 100lb and eight 20lb bombs on the enemy. The bombing was taken up later by another aeroplane and continued intermittently till dusk. Meanwhile the patrolling observers were able to keep the head-quarters informed of the progress of the local enveloping columns.

An early air reconnaissance this morning revealed no sign of the enemy troops in the positions they had held yesterday, and it soon became clear that the whole force had slipped away from the Mgeta front. Finding his retreat blocked by the enveloping columns, the enemy had in fact broken up his own columns and had taken to the bush: he eventually took up a new position on the Tshogowali river south of Beho-beho.


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