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African Mutinies

1st Tanganyika Rifles Mutinie 1964

(Please note that we will cover the Kenya and Uganda Mutinies at a later date)

The alarm bells started to ring on the 12th January 1964: there was trouble in Zanzibar. It was a rising against the Sultan. The 2nd Scots Guards, who had made a previous visit to the island in the August of 1963 to supervise the elections, stood by to fly to the Sultan's aid. The British Government was against intervention and the Scots Guards flew instead to Aden. The Sultan was at the mercy of the triumphant revolutionaries. The safety of the British community was in jeopardy, The Staffordshire Regiment, standing by in place of the Scots Guards, flew a company to Mombassa, where they embarked in the frigate H.M.S. Rhyll just to wait and see what happened. As it turned out the Sultan made his escape by air, to Tanganyika, thence to be transferred to the safety of the UK.

The next call for help came from President Nyerere himself. The first alarm came from Kenya on January the 20th. The men of the 1st Tanganyika Rifles, quartered near the capital Dar-es-Salaam, had risen up against their British officers, had locked them up, seized the airport, and arrested the British High Commissioner. With the mutineers holding the airport at Dar-el-Salaam, they released the British officers and NCOs from both the 1st and 2nd Battalions-some 30 from each-complete with their families and sending them to Nairobi where they arrived safely. Nyerere retained control of the government and formally made an appeal to Britain for help. It had already been decided at HQ Middle East Command at Aden that it was a task for 45 RM Commando. Hastily embarked on the carrier H.M.S. Centaur with 815 Naval Helicopter Squadron, they set sail at midnight Jan 20th and on the 24th lay off Dar-es-Salaam. At first light on the 25th, Z Company made a helicopter lift to the football field next to the mutineers' barracks, while a gunboat put down diversionary fire to a flank.

ColitoWith all weapons blazing, the Commandos rushed and seized the barrack entrance. The mutineers were then called upon to surrender. The answer was a burst of firing, to which the Commandos retaliated by demolishing the roof of the guardroom with an anti-tank rocket. It produced a sad stream of Askaris emerging with hands up. The helicopters meanwhile were completing the lift of Commandos, so that the town could be dominated and the remnant of the mutineers rounded up. Since many of the mutineers had broken out of barracks this latter task called for extensive searching. One civilian Englishman, with total disregard for his own personal safety, brought back to the guardroom one fully armed Askari festooned with ammunition and grenades. Despite his menacing attire the Askari was only too delighted to surrender to the civilian. X Company was despatched to secure the airfield and the broadcasting station, while Y Company was sent into Dar-es-Salaam. This was designed to be a two-pronged advance, with X Company's move by helicopter. However it turned out to be a parade rather than an attack.

Vic Balsdon writes:
I have read several accounts of the suppression of the Dar es Salaam mutiny by 45 Commando but nowhere have I come across the mention of the fact that 45 took BLANK ammunition with them. The story that went around the Corps at that time was that the RSM was told that it was going to be an "exercise" and, quite understandably, assumed that the unit would only need blanks. Only later, when the unit was well under way on board HMS Centaur, did the error emerge. Lee Enfield No 4 rifles, together with the appropriate .303 ammunition (either 5 or 10 rounds per man) were hastily scrounged from the ship's company (seamen) to prevent what might have been a monumental disaster. The passage that states that 'the commandos went in with all guns blazing' seems, if the rumour was true, a trifle exaggerated! The rocket that hit the roof of the Guardroom, was a practice round, not HE, and dislodged some tiles, one of which hit a mutineer on the head, killing him.
The story goes that the RSM carried the can for the @#%$! up but whether it was a misinterpretation of an order, or the wrong order from the Adjutant, was never revealed.
I can understand why the story was hushed up. We all love to rant on about our "victories" but are a little less inclined to publicise our mistakes.
Anyway, job well done, Royal, blanks or no blanks!

The cover picture of the February 1964 edition of LIFE shows a Royal Marine conducting a small group of Africans and he is clearly holding a Lee Enfield No. 4 rifle. These weapons had been replaced by the 7.62mm Self Loading Rifle (SLR) in either late 1958 or early 1959, depending on the operational committments of the various branches of the armed forces. Some branches, such as the Royal Navy, were still using the No.4 much later. Hence, 45 Commando were able to borrow some from HMS Centaur's ship's company to avert a near disaster and many red faces.

Our thanks to Mr Balsdon for providing this piece of the story.
If anyone has a copy of this edition and can provide us with a scan of the Tanganyika piece from the edition we would be grateful.

LIFE February 1964 cover

The Europeans, Asians and many Africans gave the Commando an unexpected tumultuous welcome as they thronged the pavements. Elements of Y Company secured Army House whilst the remainder carried out local patrols. The second-in-command of 45 was to take command of Dar-es-Salaam. Z Company was to remain at Collito Barracks and the support company was landed soon after 12 noon. The Royal Marine detachment from H.M.S. Centaur landed by lighter with the Ferret armoured cars of 16/15 Lancers. A show of force was made through the town where again they received a great welcome.

Royal Marine Disarms MutineerTabora is some 400 miles west of Dar-es-Salaam and the 2nd Battalion of the Tanganyika Rifles stationed there had already mutinied, and after hearing of the events at Collito Barracks had agreed to hand in their rifles. All was quiet but this, however, was not confirmed and there was a distinct possibility that they could break out again and secure the airfield. Y and X Companies were earmarked for this task. In addition four Sea Vixens, armed with rockets, were attached to H.M.S. Centaur to provide air cover should the landing at the air strip be opposed. Personnel of Y Company, accompanied by the CO of 45 with his tactical HQ, arrived at Tabora at about five-fifteen; a flight of just over two hours. Lt-Col. Stevens remembers his arrival at Tabora as one of light comedy, despite being deeply concerned at the possibility of armed opposition. As the DC-4 came in to land, an Argosy suddenly appeared at the other end of the runway with the intention of also landing.

The Argosy won and the DC-4 hauled off to land a few moments later. The Argosy contained an Air Commodore and some men of the RAF Regiment, who had flown in from Nairobi. At six-fifteen that evening, the Beverleys arrived with the remainder of X and Y Companies. The mutineers' barracks, being about seven miles away, the Commando's commandeered some public works department vehicles to ferry the two Companies within two miles of the barracks. The Marines arrived at the barracks in the early hours of the morning and with great rapidity the guard room and weapons were secured. The contents of the stores and weapons of the mutineers were loaded on to the vehicles and the next stage was to arouse the sleeping battalion. This task fell to a Tanganyika Rifles officer, who with a bugler, the general assembly was sounded. The mutineers, informed that they were surrounded, fell in quietly and the ringleaders were marched off. The Tanganyika Rife mutiny was ended. Looking back on the whole operation from the start on the 25th, the operation had gone extraordinarily smoothly.

H.M.S. Albion

The final days were spent in consolidating positions and restoring the confidence of the population. The Royal Marine Band from H.M.S. Centaur was landed and concluded a heavy program by marching through the streets. The operation had been described as a classic and had been a resounding success. 45 RM Commando had virtually assumed military control over a country the size of Britain with a population of some six million all within 24 hours. 41 Commando flew out for Britain on Thursday the 30th January; H.M.S. Centaur had sailed for Mombassa the previous day, and 45 CDO embarked in H.M.S. Victorious to be transferred to H.M.S. Albion the Commando ship nine days later, prior to disembarkation at Aden later in February.


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